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Links 10/19

[Epistemic status: I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

Ugly Gerry is a font where every letter is a gerrymandered Congressional district.

Marie-Auguste of Anhalt was a German princess, daughter-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II. After the collapse of the German Empire, she found a new way to support herself: adopting people for money, letting them (as child of a princess) include the title “Prince” in their name. Her most famous adoptee was entrepreneur Hans Lichtenberg (later “Frederic Prince von Anhalt”), who ended up marrying Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Contra some other studies, Medicaid and Mortality: New Evidence For Linked Survey And Administrative Data finds that giving people free health insurance does make them live longer.

Apparently corporate profits have been a declining share of GDP over the past five years? Even despite the tax cut?

Related: the decline in labor share of GDP may be smaller than previously believed because more skilled employees are getting paid in equity, which wasn’t counted. This would solve a minor economic puzzle, but probably shouldn’t change people’s intuitive perception of inequality much, since equity only goes to the highest-paid workers.

The story of the bizarre, possibly insane American outsider artist Henry Darger. “Darger’s 5000-page work The History Of My Life is putatively an autobiography. However, that word does not accurately describe the vast majority of its contents. The first several hundred pages of the work are indeed an account of Darger’s early life. However, after describing a scene in which his younger self is entranced by the sight of a powerful storm, he apparently gets distracted by the storm and spends the remaining 4000-some pages of the text describing the wake of destruction caused by a fictional twister called “Sweetie Pie,” with no further mention of his own life whatsoever.” Although I can find many books and essays about Darger available online, I can’t find his own books anywhere, not even Amazon.

Government accuses over 20 generic drug companies of colluding to increase drug prices, particularly the price of the the antidepressant clomipramine.

r/bernieblindness records bizarre incidents where the media downplays Bernie Sanders’ chances or even outright erases him from existence. Take a look and decide whether they’re just paranoid, or whether there’s really something nefarious going on.

I previously argued that ketamine might be an opioid, so here’s an argument that it isn’t. I’m now officially confused and will wait for an actually good study before having any more strong opinions.

People have been saying that “the tech bubble is about to burst” since 2011. Why didn’t it? The Atlantic investigates. A good reminder that even claims framed in the language of “we are being the responsible grownups telling you that what comes up must go down” need careful scrutiny.

Maternal cortisol varies by season, which may help explain why babies born in the winter are more likely to have mental illness.

Despite my ongoing complaints about regulation of pharma, I keep being impressed with the incremental progress the FDA is making. Case in point: a new plan to allow importation of prescription drugs from foreign markets.

Research on research on sex differences: when presented with (fictional) research on sex differences, both men and women are more likely to believe research saying women outperform men in something, more likely to condemn research showing men outperform women, even if the studies were identical aside from the conclusion. The more strongly a participant believed in “male privilege”, the more difference in how they evaluated the studies.

Am I the last person to realize that Gavin McInnes, the founder of the “Proud Boys” hate group, also founded Vice Magazine?

A Harvard team researching politics is looking for trivia questions that liberals or conservatives are disproprtionately likely to get wrong, and offering a $100 bounty for good suggestions. Go to redbrainbluebrain.org to help them out.

Tech giant Stripe promises to offset all its carbon emissions – so far, so normal. But it plans to accomplish this through “carbon capture” technologies which directly remove carbon dioxide from the air. Right now these are very inefficient, but Stripe hopes that with sustained investment they could become cheap or even profitable, giving humanity another weapon in the fight against climate change. Announcement includes a “call to action” asking carbon capture teams to get in touch with Stripe and asking other companies to consider the same tactic. See also this Eli Dourado article for some more unusual ideas.

Related: Claims that marine cloud brightening might be able to halt global warming for $10 billion, 50x more cost-effective than other global warming interventions. Be sure to read the top comment on the post too.

The rabbit-duck illusion works in real life too (and is adorable).

Open Psychometrics gives the result of their research on birth order. Short version: like everyone except me, they find a significant but very small effect. Seems to be best captured by “intellect” and “openness to experience”, and by questions like “have you read an absurd number of books?” But they also found that their sample, people who take Internet surveys, was skewed vastly more firstborn than their data could account for! (see this Reddit comment thread for discussion). I think this supports my theory that our current personality tests are really bad at measuring the pathways by which developmental causes translate into behavioral effects.

Related: this article on “disgrace insurance” for Hollywood stars – ie insuring their employers against the risk that they get cancelled for wrongthink – is interesting in and of itself. But I was especially struck by the throwaway comment that their analysts find firstborn celebrities are at higher risk of disgrace – which fits the prediction that they would have higher openness to experience.

Related: Why do men find a lower waist-to-hip ratio sexier? (systematic review, popular article). No, really, it’s related – the study claims it’s because hip fat is disproportionately made of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids crucial to fetal brain development. This store gets exhausted every time a woman carries a child to term, and (the study suggests) any more pregnancies before the store can be replenished will have suboptimal brain development, thus giving firstborns a small brain development and intelligence advantage. I am really skeptical of this, but I admire its elegance.

Did you know: Area 51 has several less mysterious neighbors, including Areas 1-12 (testing nuclear weapons), Area 20 (testing the lunar rover), Area 23 (testing a bowling alley), and Area 15 (testing a herd of 30 Holstein dairy cows).

The Future of Humanity Institute people estimate an upper bound for the background rate of human extinction based on past history and anthropic reasoning. “We conclude that the probability that humanity goes extinct from natural causes in any given year is almost guaranteed to be less than one in 14,000, and likely to be less than one in 87,000…using the longer track record of survival for our entire genus Homo produces even tighter bounds, with an annual probability of natural extinction likely below one in 870,000.”

Study: politicians who win elections have lower openness to experience than losers.

Alexey Guzey (with the help of a Marginal Revolution grant) has been assessing how the life sciences work and whether there are easy ways to make them better. The result is this magisterial How Life Sciences Actually Work: Findings Of A Year-Long Investigation essay. Conclusion: biology is not slowing down, its institutions are mostly good, but some obvious problems like peer review are definitely real. See also this MR excerpt.

Related: you can join a replication market, ie a prediction market on which scientific results will replicate.

Poll results on whether people think the “intellectual dark web”/Quilette is failing or succeeding, by supporter/opponent status. Supporters seem to think it is succeeding, opponents seem to think it is failing; is this true of everything? It seems like the opposite pattern as eg socialism circa 2015, when anti-socialists believed socialism controlled government and media, but socialists believed their situation was hopeless before capitalist hegemony. When should we expect to see one pattern vs. the other?

Beloved supplement information site examine.com gives stats on a recent collapse in traffic to their site. The culprit – a Google algorithm update that manually tweaks the algorithm to redirect health queries away from the “real” results and towards sites like WebMD. Google’s intentions are good – to protect users from quackery by making sure they only get the most official sources. But in practice the most official sources are often useless, because they were written by lawyers terrified that someone will take their advice and die, and the only way to avoid that is to speak in such vague terms that you end up saying nothing at all. Also, Google has exiled Wikipedia to the second page, even though I find it’s usually the best site for health-related topics. Overall I think this makes Google and the Internet less useful, and it definitely hurts poor sites like Examine that get caught in the crossfire. See also the Hacker News comments.

Related: the story of how the same kind of Google algorithm tweak devastated MetaFilter in 2014. Unexpectedly interesting. I’m suspicious that something like this has happened to SSC a few times based on some sudden unexplained traffic drops.

CPlusPlusDeveloper explains some intricacies of the online economy: “I don’t think people understand just how poorly performing Reddit is at advertising. Reddit has 300 million active users, and annual revenue of $100 million. That gives it an ARPU (average revenue per user) of $0.30. Facebook has a [North American ARPU of $120].”

Has the Bystander Effect been debunked, or not?

Seemingly good study links fluoridated water during pregnancy to lower IQs. Everyone says this is new and shocking, but I was pushing this line in my 2012 Biodeterminists’ Guide To Parenting and still think it is basically right. But the studies I included in the Guide estimated the effects of 1 mg/L fluoride as 1 IQ point (probably too low to worry about) and this more recent study estimates them at ~4 IQ points (reasonable to worry about). No evidence yet that fluoride is harmful after birth. Some water filters can remove fluoride.

Did you know: ancient China fought ancient Greece in the War of the Heavenly Horses.

A big new study, which tries to address selection bias, finds that students who attended some college but did not get a credential earn more than those who never attended college at all. But this doesn’t disprove the signaling theory of education, since the study admits even a small amount of college can still be a signal. In fact, this seems likely, since women and minorities gain the greatest advantage from partial college completion; there’s little reason to think these groups learn more in college, but lots of reasons to think these groups start at a Bayesian-stereotyping-style disadvantage which evidence of competence can help clear. Interested in what people involved in hiring have to say about whether “completed some college” is a plus, minus, or neutral on a resume.

During the height of the Amazon forest fire crisis, Leonardo DiCaprio donated $5 million to help the Amazon, and European billionaire Bernard Arnault said his group would donate $11 million. At the same time, the G7 – the seven richest Western countries, including powerhouses like the US, UK, and Japan – donated $22 million. That means two people donated 2/3 as much as seven countries. Cf. the discussion of global warming spending from Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy, and the discussion of how little gets spent on non-selfish causes from Too Much Dark Money In Almonds.

A good discussion thread about how the market for choicer vs. cheaper parts of the same animal affects the altruistic effectiveness of meat substitutes. Interested to hear meat substitute proponents’ take on this.

Impossible Conversations is hosting plant-based conversations indistinguishable from the real thing something kind of like SSC’s own Adversarial Collaboration Contest – a call for dialectic between people with opposing viewpoints, with $2500 in prizes and invitations to various prestigious media outlets (Areo Magazine, various podcasts) for the winners. Friend of the blog Russ Roberts is a judge. Entries accepted until November 3. You can also see some completed conversations here.

A eulogy (dyslogy?) for Melissa McEwan’s Shakesville, one of the 2010-or-so era’s most influential feminist blogs. Reading about it makes me realize how different 2010-era-feminism (and the 2010-era Internet) were from the modern Internet, even though the same issues (is feminism too hostile? is it too cultish?) continue to be relevant. It’s hard to reread Shakesville (or the article’s portrayal of it) without it seeming kind of pathetic, hard to take seriously. Yet I remember feeling at the time (and remember other people also feeling) like it was this terrifying threat that could get the whole Internet swooping down on you accusing you of being a “PUA” or an “MRA”, and not funny or pathetic at all. I think the Internet has just upped its game in a way that I didn’t realize until now. SJWs are still with us, but they seem more polished now. In that context, Shakesville belongs with Maddox’s The Best Page In The Universe, as a relic of an earlier pre-corporatized Internet where real people with real “personality” could still punch above their weight.

I like shitty-car-mods-daily.tumblr.com, especially this one and this one.

The Sterile Insect Technique is a scheme to eradicate (or at least decrease the numbers of) some species of insect by releasing sterile males; if enough females mate with the sterile males instead of regular ones, few or no children will be born to the next generation. This has successfully eradicated some pest and disease-vector species. But a recent attempt to extend it to mosquitoes apparently is not going well EDIT: actually the study making that claim is very bad and its own authors are calling for its retraction.

If you liked Uncleftish Beholding or are just a general fan of writing things in an Anglo-Saxon-derived-word-only form of English, you might like the Anglo-Saxon-derived-word-only version of Wikipedia. See eg their article on the Oned Rikes of America.

Arm Joe is a fighting game based on the novel and musical Les Misérables.”

From the “Best Of New Less Wrong” file: Heads I Win, Tails? – Never Heard Of Her; Or, Selective Reporting And The Tragedy Of The Green Rationalists by Zack Davis. Good discussion + model of how selective reporting can mislead people at the personal and social levels.

You probably heard that the Russians domesticated silver foxes, but did you know about the Kostroma Moose Farm? Obligatory cute domesticated moose picture.

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391 Responses to Links 10/19

  1. Worley says:

    Tsk! The Newspeak word is “crimethink”, not “wrongthink”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Correct. There are no Newspeak words for “right” and “wrong” in the moral sense.

      As we have already seen in the case of the word FREE, words which had once borne a heretical meaning were sometimes retained for the sake of convenience, but only with the undesirable meanings purged out of them. Countless other words such as HONOUR, JUSTICE, MORALITY, INTERNATIONALISM, DEMOCRACY, SCIENCE, and RELIGION had simply ceased to exist. A few blanket words covered them, and, in covering them, abolished them. All words grouping themselves round the concepts of liberty and equality, for instance, were contained in the single word CRIMETHINK, while all words grouping themselves round the concepts of objectivity and rationalism were contained in the single word OLDTHINK.

  2. Worley says:

    The link for Marie-Auguste of Anhalt is broken, in that Wikipedia page doesn’t have that anchor. And the page hasn’t been edited since August.

    Oddly, I can’t find a list on line of Marie-Auguste’s adoptions. OTOH, Zsa Zsa Gabor had 9 husbands — I wonder if Marie-Auguste adopted more people than Gabor married?

  3. Etoile says:

    The adjusting of search results, manually, is extremely bothersome.

    Anecdotally, it is something I’ve remarked on whenever trying to search anything health-related, even when putting in very specific terms to avoid the bland general articles and get to the actual research abstracts or, at least, forum posts. It’s extremely bothersome because those websites, while helpful for basics and the Current Truth, give no context to the Current Truth, no “confidence intervals” or “epistemic status”, or any hint that it was ever different.

  4. JamesClary says:

    Regarding Medicaid Post-

    While I appreciate the attempt to use non-expansion of medicaid as a natural experiment, I find this research less compelling of those who have used actual random control trials.

    First, this line from the conclusion, “Since there are about 3.7 million individuals who
    meet our sample criteria living in expansion states, 41 our results indicate that approximately 4,800
    fewer deaths occurred per year among this population due to Medicaid expansion, or roughly 19,200
    fewer deaths over the first four years alone.” First of all, are we sure deaths are the best measure of health outcomes, others have used other metrics. Second, that doesn’t put the cost per life saved in any perspective, but it looks rather like. Using just this metric, assuming medicaid only cost $1,000 per covered patient, that comes to $978,000 per life saved, which seems like at the top end of the range for a human life. Again, I assume medicaid cost significantly more than this ($6,944 using the numbers they provide in their introduction $500 billion in spending for 72 million enrolled).

    Second, the line from the introduction where the Oregon Health Studies (Baicker et al) results were not conclusive because of small sample size, when they had 70,000 as part of the intital screening, 30,000 that were offered medicaid, and 10,000 whom enrolled- “Meanwhile,evidence using objective measures of health, such as mortality, is often inconclusive due to small sample sizes (Baicker et al., 2013; Finkelstein et al., 2012)”

    Third, they use greater utilization as a proxy for greater health (using Finkelstein’s 2012 paper on the Oregon study), which there hasn’t been a clear association. See the entirety of paragraph one on page 2.

    Fourth, “Although intended to apply to all states, a 2012 Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid eligibility expansion optional.” No real point here, that just irked me for some reason.

    Fifth, “With this information, we are able to identify individuals who were most likely to benefit from
    the ACA Medicaid eligibility expansions and, in this way, overcome the inherent limitations present in
    existing studies that rely only on aggregate death records.” This seems problematic for several reasons, not least, because increased access for the group deemed ‘most likely to benefit’ might reduce access for others, and this would show up in aggregate death records.

    Sixth, while appreciate the differences in differences approach, the reality is that you are looking at very different states that were impacted in variety of ways by the great recession and the beginnings of the opioid crisis, and it seems very risky to do this analysis across states without trying to control for these issues. They try to use the medicare coverage of those who are in all the states as a ‘placebo’, but significant evidence across countries has shown that there is a significant increase in well-being when individuals become ‘retired’ (rather than disabled or unemployed- specifically there was a German study of which I can’t remember the author), and I just don’t think it is valid. The other ‘placebo’ they use is comparing health outcomes of the ACS 2004-ACS 2009 group between states that would later expand medicaid, and see if there is any difference in health outcomes. Again, this is a goofy time.

    Seventh, this is improper. “Using administrative data, they also found no evidence that Medicaid coverage led to a reduction in mortality during the 16 months following coverage gain. Their estimate suggested a 16 percent reduction in mortality associated with acquiring Medicaid, but with a large confidence interval that could not rule out sizeable changes in either direction.” Well, if the confidence interval couldn’t even verify the direction of the change, perhaps you shouldn’t mention it.

    Eighth, and this revisits a previous point. They are selecting individuals based on their reported income status in the years 2008-2013, which is going to look weird because of the great recession.

    Ninth, I find the first full paragraph on page 11 to be problematic, but particularlly this quote- “Given that there is tremendous churn among adults in the Medicaid program, these estimates, therefore, likely underrepresent the total share of adults gaining any Medicaid coverage during each year, which is the relevant exposure measure.” The churn meaning that medicare expansion is more impactfull rather than less is an idea that would need some evidence to establish.

    In Conclusion, I have gone on to long, and I afraid, not added the clarity that I would like. This is a very impressive paper utilizing some data sets I never new existed. I applaud there effort. On the other hand, a lot of the language in the paper indicates they went into their analysis looking for an effect (which I would applaud had they not found an effect, but affects their credibility). I think it would have been better if they had actually run this analysis individually for each 1-year cohort, rather than including a fixed effect term for the cohort. I think that it would have been pretty easy to include some variable for the relative economic improvement in various census block or counties to help deal with that potential confounding factor, and they did not seem to do that.

  5. Douglas Knight says:

    So, of course, the fluoride IQ thing is a fraud.

    But the comparison of fluroide intake to urine was interesting. The fluoridated water group only had 50% higher fluoride urine levels than the unfluoridated group. The studied assumed that the only other source of fluoride was tea, but it estimated that the fluoridated water group should have 3x the levels of intake as the other group. So probably they are missing some other source of fluoride or some other kind of measurement error.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Or excess fluoride accumulates.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I guess I should have given absolute numbers. The women with unfluoridated water are, supposedly putting out 2x the fluoride than they’re taking in, while the women with fluroridated water are putting out a little less than they’re taking in.

        The study Scott previously linked saying that flouride reaches equilibrium after a week, only said that about adults. It seemed say that young children accumulate fluoride. The current study claims that urinary fluoride has a half-life of 5 hours. So if they just happen to be testing right after they drank tea, that would overestimate fluoride, but they should know better than to do that.

        In any event, they should have published a scatterplot of estimated intake vs outflow.

        ———

        Here are a few missing links. the meta-analysis Scott previously linked. The current article and the supplement.

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    Carbon capture

    A couple of months ago I saw an article that I’ve since lost proposing a scalable carbon capture technology that was said to take the whole world’s energy production to capture the world’s carbon emissions. This was mocked as impractical, but it seemed pretty reasonable to me. Things on the scale of the world should match things on the scale of the world.

    Also, energy is cheaper at some times than others. Solar energy is practically free at noon. Ideally we’d store it to use at night, but if we spend it on carbon capture to burn gas at night, that’s almost as good. Also, we can do carbon capture at the equator to make up for consumption in Seattle, which is a lot more practical than transporting it.

    The more uses we can come up with for excess solar power, the cheaper solar becomes for other times. I’m hopeful about desalination.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A couple of months ago I saw an article that I’ve since lost proposing a scalable carbon capture technology that was said to take the whole world’s energy production to capture the world’s carbon emissions. This was mocked as impractical, but it seemed pretty reasonable to me.

      You could achieve that aim much more simply by stopping all the energy production. Same effect (the end of civilization) for far lower cost.

  7. haljohnsonbooks says:

    There’s a fairly generous selection of Darger’s writing (and art) in this art book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/399080.Henry_Darger

    Reading chunks of In the Realms of the Unreal was more tedious than I had anticipated.

  8. Chad_Nine says:

    Anybody remember when being concerned with flouride in the water meant you were a conspiracy nut?

    • Murphy says:

      I roll to disbelieve.

      The finding is based on subgroup analysis.

      Looking at the other subgroups girls apparently experienced a small gain in IQ from flouride .

      subgroup analysis can famously be used to show things like XYZ is harmful… but only to spanish grandmothers with the starsign of Libra.

      The most entertaining example of inappropriate subgroup analysis is to be found in a 1988 Lancet paper.1
      Within a complex table reporting subgroup analyses of the odds of vascular death after streptokinase, aspirin, both, or neither for acute myocardial infarction, the first “presentation feature” given is astrological birth sign. For people labouring under the star signs Gemini and Libra, aspirin was no better than placebo. For others, aspirin had a strongly beneficial effect.

      The reason for this odd item appearing in the report had its origins in the negotiations between authors and editors. The Lancet was keen to include what seemed like clinically relevant subgroup findings. The authors agreed, with one proviso—namely, that the journal allowed the star-sign groups to appear first, simply to underline for readers the reliance they might put (or not) on the validity of these analyses. Such can be the nonsense of subgroups.

  9. AG says:

    Similar to Arm Joe, enjoy Titenic, a sidescroller fighting game with some lovely Backstroke to the West-level translations.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Rose did not love her finance – Carl and she just wanted to suicide to finish it.

      Then, there were seven hundred passengers who were in the life boat, they just only waiting dead or waiting the help, and waiting the unforgettable relief.

  10. Corey says:

    Am I missing something about the HHS proposal, or is it just “let’s buy drugs from e.g. Canada because the same drugs are cheaper than in the US”? There didn’t seem to be anything about e.g. approval reciprocity.

    Drugs are cheaper in other countries because of price controls. I get that free-riding on other countries’ price controls would be politically easier than enacting our own, but I don’t see how it would work as a general strategy – we’ll have to make up the R&D funding, or we’ll end up breaking the other countries’ price controls (eliminating the “savings”), or the other countries will block us, or something.

    • cassander says:

      > but I don’t see how it would work as a general strategy – we’ll have to make up the R&D funding, or we’ll end up breaking the other countries’ price controls (eliminating the “savings”), or the other countries will block us, or something.

      It works very well as a strategy from the perspective of the FDA if you assume that their goal is to reduce the efficacy of a highly visible political talking point while changing as little as possible. Set up an import regime with some high enough process barriers that almost no one will use it and then you can claim you’ve addressed the issue.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No, I don’t think you’re missing anything. Trump’s first bullet point is attacking “foreign freeloading,” ie, price discrimination for on-patent drugs.

      But there is a big difference between on-patent and off-patent drugs. Some generics are expensive for murky reasons and allowing other companies to compete in America seems like it has little downside.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I take that back. I think that Scott’s link really is about generic drugs.

        It is from this year. It links to Trump’s statement, so it implies a connection, but Trump’s statement is another year older, so maybe moot. I think a careful reading of Scott’s link shows it to be about generic drugs. It’s just offering drug makers the option to import, not allowing other people to disrupt price discrimination. Also, it links to this statement from just a couple weeks earlier that is explicitly about generic drugs. But why is the more recent statement less clear? Political shaping?

        (Also, to the extent that Trump’s statement proposed a remedy to “foreign freeloading,” it was not importation, but medicare negotiation.)

  11. Yosarian2 says:

    The data about corporate profits is really interesting.

    Just speculating, but I wonder if some of the decline in corporate profits from 2017 to today was caused by the tariffs and trade wars we’ve had in the past two years? That has to be especially disruptive to large multinational corporations, right?

  12. erg says:

    The Eli Dourado article makes me think that maybe we won’t have massive climate related damage. Especially project Vesta seems a fantastic idea. I just fear that we will find it too expensive compared to Marine cloud brightening, which is a shame as vesta is not unreasonably expensive and deacifies the ocean on the fly, which is another thing we should probably worry about.
    The other concern I have, is that we won’t bother implementing any measure until permafrost thaws at which point I’m not sure we can do anything to save us. Does anyone know how much time there is estimated to be left? I hear we are 1.5 degrees Celsius away from thawing but I have no idea how much time (if any) is left.

  13. StataTheLeft says:

    It’s been years since I watched it but I remember In the Realms of the Unreal being a good documentary about Darger.

  14. Dan L says:

    From most to least important:

    The Sterile Insect Technique is a scheme to eradicate (or at least decrease the numbers of) some species of insect by releasing sterile males; if enough females mate with the sterile males instead of regular ones, few or no children will be born to the next generation. This has successfully eradicated some pest and disease-vector species. But a recent attempt to extend it to mosquitoes apparently is not going well EDIT: see this clarification, people involved probably just didn’t do it long enough.

    It’s a lot worse (better?) than that – the study is apparently under heavy fire from its own authors, a majority of which have called for its retraction. Supposedly the version the lead author submitted for publication contained significantly different data and conclusion than what had been agreed upon by the co-authors. Still a very interesting case to watch, if for very different reasons than the pure science.

    CPlusPlusDeveloper explains some intricacies of the online economy: “I don’t think people understand just how poorly performing Reddit is at advertising. Reddit has 300 million active users, and annual revenue of $100 million. That gives it an ARPU (average revenue per user) of $0.30. Facebook has a [North American ARPU of $120].”

    From the link:

    Tying it back to the original article, the lesson is that eyeballs don’t matter nearly as much as we thought they did. ARPU is king. And ARPU is a kind of alchemy that significantly raises barriers to entry. A well-designed site with an innovative idea run by a small team can easily go viral. But the traffic means nothing without the ARPU magic. And that requires huge teams of machine learning specialists, data engineers, ad-network integrations, etc. That’s simply not something small startups can feasibly compete at.

    I mentioned it before, but I strongly suspect a major factor is the platform’s ability to build a user profile for targeted advertising – it’s not a coincidence that Reddit has been adding features to let people personalize their experience. (If you ever feel like selling out, Scott, the user survey is a goldmine!)

    There also might be an interesting effect where a platform with a sufficiently demographically-broad userbase needs an equally broad set of advertisers in order to keep ARPU high. And in order to keep all the parties involved happy at the same time, they either have to aggressively excise controversial content or heavily silo off the undesirables. Hm… doubt we’ll see anything definitive any time soon, but I wonder how much of the social media trend in those directions is actually user-driven Great Sort-ing and how much is intentional revenue maximization.

    Related: Claims that marine cloud brightening might be able to halt global warming for $10 billion, 50x more cost-effective than other global warming interventions. Be sure to read the top comment on the post too.

    For years now, my glib-but-actually-sincere metric for determining if someone is likely to have interesting thoughts about AGW is whether they have considered answered for A) “What is the optimal temperature we should be aiming for” and B) “Hey, why can’t we just throw a lampshade on the Pacific?” Geoengineering is potentially extremely risky, but I’m not convinced Moloch would do a worse job than Gaia.

    “Arm Joe is a fighting game based on the novel and musical Les Misérables.”

    Wow that’s a blast from the past. I can’t believe I had almost managed to forget that time my high school pit orchestra moonlighted as a competitive fighting game ring. (And the anthropomorphic personification of Judgement is stupid overpowered.)

    • Loriot says:

      > What is the optimal temperature we should be aiming for

      The status quo, since those are the conditions under which society and infrastructure developed and thus is best suited to. Significant changes in the climate will lead to massive disruption.

      > Hey, why can’t we just throw a lampshade on the Pacific?

      Well to start with, there’s lots of plants in the pacific that would die and a lot of people that wouldn’t be happy living in perpetual night. But a more general issue is that even if you could magically reduce atmospheric temperature, you would still have issues with ocean acidification and the like.

      • Dan L says:

        The status quo, since those are the conditions under which society and infrastructure developed and thus is best suited to.

        The amount of warming observed in the past century is alarming, but it is a fraction of the warming that has occurred throughout the Holocene. Status quo bias is not an acceptable substitute for considered answers.

        Well to start with

        Assume any objection you can come up with within five minutes has been asked and answered. (The live proposals might be more sophisticated than a literal lampshade.) Think engineering, not advocacy.

        • Corey says:

          Status quo bias is not an acceptable substitute for considered answers.

          Unless we build an economy assuming land never loses significant value, and that land use doesn’t need to shift quickly. But only a crazy society would do that.

          • Dan L says:

            Unless we build an economy assuming land never loses significant value, and that land use doesn’t need to shift quickly.

            The economy wasn’t designed.

            (But yeah, one of my main objections to David’s reasoning is more or less on these lines.)

        • Loriot says:

          > but it is a fraction of the warming that has occurred throughout the Holocene.

          Most of our infrastructure was built over the last 100-200 years or so, so the 20th century average seems like a reasonable starting point.

          Sure the earth has experienced extreme temperature and climate changes over its history. It also has experienced numerous mass extinctions. It doesn’t matter that Manhattan was once under miles of ice. What matters is whether people today can maintain their lifestyles.

          > Assume any objection you can come up with within five minutes has been asked and answered. (The live proposals might be more sophisticated than a literal lampshade.) Think engineering, not advocacy.

          I answered the question you asked.

          I’m also not sure why I should preemptively assume that all my objections have been answered but you don’t have to assume the same about your own position.

          • Dan L says:

            Most of our infrastructure was built over the last 100-200 years or so, so the 20th century average seems like a reasonable starting point.

            The merit of your argument depends on your ability to cite examples of recently constructed infrastructure built to last on a century timescale that has been optimized to a specific single-degree-wide temperature range. If you had a substantial number of those, I would have hoped you would have led with something concrete.

            I’m also not sure why I should preemptively assume that all my objections have been answered but you don’t have to assume the same about your own position.

            My position has not made an appearance in this thread. I mentioned my heuristic for determining is someone is likely to be interesting, and of the two words in “considered answers” the adjective does the heavy lifting. If you are in the habit of arguing the first objection that supports your position and stopping, I stand by my statement.

      • JayT says:

        The status quo, since those are the conditions under which society and infrastructure developed and thus is best suited to. Significant changes in the climate will lead to massive disruption.

        Which status quo? Today? 100 years ago? The Medieval Little Ice Age? Our current infrastructure has developed over a period of fairly large temperature swings.

        • Loriot says:

          The 20th century average seems like a reasonable starting point to me. The advent of automobiles and the like means that a lot of the older stuff is largely irrelevant anyway.

      • > What is the optimal temperature we should be aiming for

        The status quo, since those are the conditions under which society and infrastructure developed and thus is best suited to. Significant changes in the climate will lead to massive disruption.

        Our current society exists across a range of climates much larger than the change projected by the IPCC for the next century. I managed fine moving from Chicago to California, with a difference of average temperature of about 5°C, and it didn’t take me a century to make the adjustment.

        If Minnesota warms to the current temperature of Iowa, why would you expect that to cause serious problems?

        • Loriot says:

          What do you expect farmers to do? You can’t just tell someone to sell their now worthless land and start a new farm in the north. Especially if you’re say, a poor subsistence farmer, barely getting by as it is.

          • Do you think warming Minnesota to the temperature of Iowa will require shifts in crop varieties or farming techniques that can’t be dealt with, given that the change is taking about a century to happen? Warming Iowa by a similar amount?

          • sharper13 says:

            Plant hardiness zones are done in 10 degree increments. They’re primarily driven by the annual extreme minimum temperature.

            Farmers tend to change crops on a rotation, i.e. even within the same year. If the temperature increased, couldn’t farmers just shift over time to crops better suited to their new “climate” location? Unless water cycles/access drastically changes, land currently in the North American warmer zones gives more options for crops, not less.

            It seems in North America, increasing temperatures would increase the available farm land.

    • Another Throw says:

      My usual impression of geoengineering is that the people proposing it haven’t thought the problem through.

      Let’s take a worked example: consider the Amazon rain forest. To a first approximation, every scrap of phosphorous has been stripped from the soil and is locked away in the living tissue of the plants. (This is, by the way, why farmers are big fans of slash and burn. There are no nutrients in the soil, and importing fertilizer is expensive.) However plants tend to drop detritus on the forest floor. Most of the phosphorus is rapidly stripped from it and used for new growth. Some of it, however, gets washed into the ocean.

      This means that the Amazon is not a self sustaining system. Without a source of phosphorus, the Amazon would die out. It turns out, however, that the losses due to runoff are almost exactly balanced by the gains from, of all places, the Sahara desert. Every year, 22,000 tons of phosphorus rich dust is carried aloft and blown clear across the Atlantic to be deposited in the Amazon.

      Any geoengineering project (like de-desertification of the Sahara) (or messing with the pattern of incident light on the surface which would disrupt the pattern of convection currents, such as putting a lampshade over the pacific) (or changes to the precipitation patterns that increase the rate of runoff from the Amazon basin by engaging in larger scale cloud seeding) that fails to account for this is doomed to having rather… unexpected outcomes.

      ETA:

      Multiply the scale of the surprise when the Amazon sudden dies off by an inconceivable number of distant relationships like this, and then try finding a geoengineering solution that simultaneously satisfies every one we know about. And then still kill off half a continent’s biosphere because we didn’t know about one.

      Given enough times, evolution will do its thing and adapt to the new normal. But whether we geoengineering or not, the medium term is going to suck. It is just a question on who gets sued.

      ETA ETA:

      Also, putting a lamp shade (or messing with the clouds) over the pacific would almost certainly, for example, completely bugger the biosphere between the Pacific coast up to the Rockies. Changing the ocean currents, which are driven by the temperature gradients caused by incident sun light, and changing the air currents, which are driven by the temperature gradients caused by incident sun light and ocean currents, and changing the water content of the air, which is driven by the temperature gradients caused by incident sun light, ocean currents, and air currents… would completely screw the west coast. How, exactly, is impossible to predict, but whatever it is wont look good in a lawsuit.

      • Dan L says:

        My usual impression of geoengineering is that the people proposing it haven’t thought the problem through.

        Really? None of what you’ve mentioned is new information. And given the limited funding, every serious experimental proposal I’ve seen is very limited both in duration and extent. Which paper are you thinking of?

        Every year, 22,000 tons of phosphorus rich dust is carried aloft and blown clear across the Atlantic to be deposited in the Amazon.

        I recognize (Yu 2015). Go reread how “almost exactly balanced” the flows are in the paper, and how long we’d have to take corrective action if we somehow managed to eliminate the entirety of the African deposition overnight.

        How, exactly, is impossible to predict, but whatever it is wont look good in a lawsuit.

        That right there – that’s the Moloch we know. And it’s beatable, if you try.

    • Aapje says:

      @Dan L

      The SSC survey doesn’t link wordpress accounts to the results. Facebook gets a lot of value from being very good at profiling people and showing targeted ads to people who have certain traits.

    • FormerRanger says:

      My impression is that there is a near-consensus in the Climate Change community (by which I mean not the scientists, but the hangers-on) that we can only work towards perfect AGW solutions. That is, we have a potentially near-existential threat if we don’t stop increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, an outcome that would probably kill a significant fraction of humanity, not to mention many other species, etc. In fact, we can’t really just stop increasing the CO2 level, we have to reduce it.

      So, these are serious people, allegedly. However, they don’t want more nuclear power, and are in favor of reducing the amount of it we already have. They don’t want carbon capture, as it’s “too expensive.” They don’t want geoengineering, because we can’t predict what it might actually do (a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?). Many of them don’t even want hydropower as it “disrupts the ecosystems.” We can’t do anything but solar and wind, which are their favorite energy sources.

      I don’t understand this, or rather, I can’t understand this as anything but un-seriousness and (charitably) ignorance, or (uncharitably) actual misanthropy.

      If AGW is in fact an existential crisis, why aren’t we willing to treat it as such? If I had $billions, I’d be spending a lot of it on better fission reactors, fusion reactor pilot projects, carbon capture, MCB experiments, and more. If I saw promising research I’d throw some to solar and wind as well, though they already get plenty of support (subsidies et al.). The US and UK were willing to spend $billions to counter the existential crisis of WW2 with no certainty of success; why aren’t we willing to do the same for AGW?

      • albatross11 says:

        Remember that groups (political movements, parties, electorates, etc.) aren’t individuals with individual minds, and so aren’t rational in the way we’d expect an individual to be rational.

        I also think there’s a certain thread of belief I’d call “hairshirt environmentalism,” demanding that people decrease their standard of living and make do with less as a goal which seems to be independent of the goal of improving the environment. Again, I’m not sure how much this is a belief held by a lot of individuals vs an emergent belief from a group of people with individually different beliefs, but it seems like it drives a lot of environmentalist rhetoric.

        • Have you ever noticed that there is a pretty strong correlation with what they liked/didn’t like before global warming was a thing and what is “environmentally friendly” today? Veganism is green. Suburbia is not green. Public transportation is green. Private cars are not green. As a result, when they are thinking about solutions, they don’t really consider the solutions as costs. If 2 million people need to move because of rising seas, that’s tragic. If 20 million people need to move away from the exurbs to conserve fuel, well, it’s what must be done. It’d be like if Orthodox Jews learned the kosher diet was healthier. Everyone being pressured to switch to kosher diets would be seen as a feature and not a bug. This is my test: are the solutions considered as costs? If is it considered a “win-win” because “jobs are being created,” I know it’s not worth taking seriously.

      • Lambert says:

        Someone here once linked to a piece that said, Tl;DR:
        The ‘Climate Change community’ is basically the old ‘Ban the Bomb community’ who’ve turned their attention to the next most pressing issue after the Cold War ended.

        So anything nuclear is haram. More broadly, there’s a historic distrust of big government and any kind of *-industrial complex, since they were the ones making nukes.

        Anyone here feel like starting a proper Uranium>Coal political movement?
        There’s enough of us around.
        The likes of John McCarthy and Randall Monroe make their stance known, but we need to form a united front against fossil fuels and too much perfectionism.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Building new solar and wind is more cost efficient than nuclear. If you don’t know this then you shouldn’t be accusing other people of ignorance (even if that’s also correct).

        • Watchman says:

          Is this the case everywhere? And what are the environmental costs (wind power can be generated on hills, but not without industrial infrastructure being put in place).

        • albatross11 says:

          Does that include power storage for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing?

        • baconbits9 says:

          It isn’t because we are still unable to store solar and wind efficiently enough and so they need large backup systems that cycle on and off to make up the difference, which kills their cost savings.

        • FormerRanger says:

          @thisheavenlyconjugation

          Not really, and not by enough to be an important differentiator in the current crisis. Solar and wind are great in some areas, especially if the energy generated is used locally. Even locally there has to be storage for times when there is no sun (night, of course, or heavily cloudy days) and no wind (some areas are “always” windy, others are not). If you want power in areas with insufficient solar and wind production, you have to build more power lines to serve those regions, etc.

          As we’ve seen, places that have “virtuously” shut down nuclear plants and switched to natural gas in some areas or even coal or oil for background power generation. This is not progress, even if some solar or wind was built, too. The net is negative.

          Aside from that, a lot of the cost of existing fission plants is hugely determined by the regulatory and political background they were (and are) built in. Anti-nuclear groups work tirelessly to make nuclear too expensive to deploy and then point with alarm at how expensive it is. But that’s beside the point; we need new style nuclear plants (China is already building some), small-scale fusion prototypes (these are already on the table and just need funding), etc. Don’t point at 30-year-old fission plants as the only alternative on the new technology front.

          Finally, if we are really confronting a existential crisis, “more cost efficient” is a weak argument. I’m sure WW2 was expensive, too.

        • Skivverus says:

          Obligatory xkcd?

          (Brief searching on the price of uranium puts it at roughly 100x that of oil by weight, which still leaves four or five orders of magnitude to play with)

        • Ant says:

          This is something I sometimes see, but it’s simply wrong. French electricity cost far less than the German one. I think it might be true if you talk about the theorical maximal, but it’s not an interesting point.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            First of all, Germany has nuclear power plants too, it’s just that they are subject to catastrophic failure in the presence of Green politicians. Even Macron is shutting them down.

            Second, electricity prices are only loosely connected to the price of generating electricity, particularly the capital cost. I believe that French nuclear power plants were paid by the military, not the buyers of electricity.

            Third, costs change over time. The French plants built in 1990 were more expensive than the plants built in 1980, for mysterious reasons. Plants today might be even more expensive. Whereas, the cost of solar power is transparent and falling, much cheaper now than when Germany installed them.

          • noyann says:

            Which costs are compared here?
            Direct price to pay by households or industry?
            Running costs of electricity production?
            Total lifetime and ‘afterlifetime’ cost, including, if necessary after shutdown, special dismantling, waste management, other damages)?

    • quanta413 says:

      For years now, my glib-but-actually-sincere metric for determining if someone is likely to have interesting thoughts about AGW is whether they have considered answered for A) “What is the optimal temperature we should be aiming for” and B) “Hey, why can’t we just throw a lampshade on the Pacific?” Geoengineering is potentially extremely risky, but I’m not convinced Moloch would do a worse job than Gaia.

      Spitballing, but if geoengineering was a serious civilizational project I’d want to go whole hog. I’d like to pick different temperature changes for different places. Siberia is too damn cold, and most deserts are too damn warm. I want to let Siberia keep warming, while making some deserts a little bit cooler and wetter. First deserts to go are ones where we can reclaim some areas where humans used to be able to more easily flourish. Like where the Garamantes used to farm if that’s doable, or some Middle Eastern areas. My vague memory is the fertile crescent used to be larger and more fertile.

      I wouldn’t want to change every desert or melt all the icy and snowy areas because there are still worthwhile things for people to do in those areas and some conservation is nice (but it’s not a terminal value for me). Most of them are probably not worth changing in the next century or two anyways. But continuing to warm up the really cold areas, while cooling the really hot areas where people live would be amazing.

      • FormerRanger says:

        If Siberia warmed much more than it has already (not to mention northern Canada and Alaska) we would get huge melting of permafrost and correspondingly huge CO2 and methane emissions that would boost the atmospheric CO2 by a significant amount. (This already happening in some areas.)

        Similarly, the deserts are often deserts because of their location relative to little details like being in the rain shadow of mountain ranges (the intermountain west of the US is an example). A lot of the Fertile Crescent was made infertile by human activity and you’d basically have to replace most of the soil to fix it.

        • quanta413 says:

          If Siberia warmed much more than it has already (not to mention northern Canada and Alaska) we would get huge melting of permafrost and correspondingly huge CO2 and methane emissions that would boost the atmospheric CO2 by a significant amount. (This already happening in some areas.)

          This could be a plus or a minus depending on how which and how many areas I’d like to be warmer and by how much! Certainly the sort of thing to take into account.

          Similarly, the deserts are often deserts because of their location relative to little details like being in the rain shadow of mountain ranges (the intermountain west of the US is an example). A lot of the Fertile Crescent was made infertile by human activity and you’d basically have to replace most of the soil to fix it.

          Sure, that’s why I suggested starting with places that have recently been something besides a desert. They are probably the easiest to change. I have great difficulty believing that most of the fertile crescent that way lost was due to human activity rather than local climate change, so I’d like some sources on that.

          As far as I’m aware the soil could have changed due to climate change (or not beats me), so maybe it’d take a while to fix. First you change the climate, then you bring in some fertilizer and/or initial settler plants to fix the soil, then you replace those with other plants, and so on.

        • DarkTigger says:

          If Siberia warmed much more than it has already (not to mention northern Canada and Alaska) we would get huge melting of permafrost and correspondingly huge CO2 and methane emissions that would boost the atmospheric CO2 by a significant amount. (This already happening in some areas.)

          This! Regional climat is a huge Chesterton’s Fence. We don’t understand the site effects of chaning it, so maybe, just maybe we shouldn’t fiddle with it.

          A lot of the Fertile Crescent was made infertile by human activity and you’d basically have to replace most of the soil to fix it.

          This is far less clear then it has been claimed in the past. At least part of the desertification of the Fertile Cresent could still be long tail effects from the shift to the recent interglacial.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This! Regional climat is a huge Chesterton’s Fence. We don’t understand the site effects of chaning it, so maybe, just maybe we shouldn’t fiddle with it.

            It is not a Chesterton’s Fence at all, because it was not put up with a purpose that can be discovered. Chesterton’s Fence is not the Precautionary Principle.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            As befits one of the world’s Lazy Bastards, I’ve been waiting around for someone else to come up with a fully general argument against doing anything at all. Thank you.

  15. eyeballfrog says:

    Those Anglish state names are rather inconsistent with how they handle native words. Sometimes they translate the Indian name (Wisconsin -> Redstone, Massachusetts -> Bluedowns, Nebraska -> Flatbrook). Other times they seem to make up their own (Hawaii -> Firelands, Illinois -> Snowhead?, Arizona -> Great Dales??). For the record, those words mean “homelands”, “normal speaker”, and “small spring”, respectively.

    Also, while Iowa -> Sleepland does make sense given what “Iowa” means in Sioux (sleepy ones), that doesn’t explain why they didn’t go with the perfectly Anglish “Hawkeye”.

  16. Cliff says:

    No comments about marine cloud brightening??

  17. aristides says:

    I work in government HR. Some college is roughly equivalent to an associate’s degree, which is to say, nothing compared to a bachelors, but could get you an interview for a job that only requires high school. Only about 5 applicants of 10 will get an interview usually, so every some college applicant will probably get interviewed. The interview itself is still the tiebreaker, but some college gets you through the door.

  18. dark orchid says:

    I used to visit shakesville, and I’m sad that places like that find it harder and harder to survive.

    For all the article’s negativity about her conducting herself as a “queen”, I always thought of the place as trying to make an online equivalent of a friend group – if your interests and conduct match those of the people running the place, you’re in; if you turn up and insist that things should run your way instead, you get reminded who owns that particular blog (to put it politely). xkcd 1357 comes to mind. Or what Ozy calls an anti-evangelistic group.
    Melissa “Shakespeare’s sister” McEwan was paying for the hosting and the enhanced comment system and the DDoS protection, so if Eliezer can say “I ban people I find annoying” then good on her if she does the same!

    I feel like this is the kind of place that in a slightly better world, more people would be standing up for defending its right to exist, even if they didn’t agree with everything that was said there.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Shakesville has/had a bad reputation even among other feminist sites. McEwan was not a mature and stable person. Certainly its possible to run a similar blog in a way that contributes positively but not everyone is capable of doing so.

      • dark orchid says:

        If you’re still paying attention to this topic – do you have a source for other feminists not liking her? Beyond the fact of course that intersectional and radical feminists don’t really get on, because Judaean People’s Front.

        I was only really a reader from a bit after the name changed from Shakespeare’s Sister to Shakesville, up until before Trump got elected. I’m genuniely curious.

  19. alexmennen says:

    The gerrymandering font is very misleading, and many of the districts featured in it aren’t gerrymandering much at all. Some of them don’t even look gerrymandered. Many of the letters are composed of two districts, many of which wouldn’t look gerrymandered if you looked at them individually. And even some of the districts that look like they could be gerrymandered aren’t actually. Take CA14, which makes up 3 spikes of the letter X. It’s got some funny protrusions, which look pretty suspicious until you realize that: 1) it’s the SF Penninsula; the upper right protrusion has to be shaped like that because it’s the shape of the land, and 2) the lower left spike is mostly uninhabited. CA14 on a map looks like a perfectly reasonable way to draw a district. In fact, of the four California districts featured in the font, none of them are gerrymandered, because California has a redistricting commission that is independent of the legislature, and needs a wide majority to approve the districts, so that they can’t pass without support from commissioners of both parties. I’d bet many of the suspicious-looking non-California districts also aren’t that bad if you know the local geography. Although the US does have a gerrymandering problem, and some of districts featured in the font reflect this (e.g. I/TX15 looks bad enough I’d be surprised if there was a good reason for that shape, and Texas is notorious for gerrymandering), the font seems more effective as a demonstration of assembling an alphabet out of random shapes that as a demonstration of how bad gerrymandering is.

  20. epiphi says:

    Not as confident as you (or the linked article) that the sterile insect technique release is not going well.

    The relevant scientific paper is Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population– note that Nature has now included the following addendum:

    Editor’s Note: readers are alerted that the conclusions of this paper are subject to criticisms that are being considered by editors. A further editorial response will follow the resolution of these issues.

    I recommend this Twitter thread from Jason Rasgon, which moved me from “oh, man, that’s so disappointing, we are still bad at predicting environmental releases” to “man, I feel very misled by that Nature article”. Quotes from the thread:

    Sterile male releases only work if you keep releasing. When you stop releases, the pop goes back to normal. In this case, they had population reduction for 18 months. I’d call that a fucking success

    and

    The paper states that the hybridization event will “very likely resulting in a more robust population than the pre-release population due to hybrid vigor”.

    THEY PRESENT ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE OR DATA SUPPORTING THIS STATEMENT

    It is a sentence, based on nothing but pure speculation (and not very good speculation) in the discussion.

    Thought I recommend the whole thing. You can also read Oxitec’s response to the paper on their website.

  21. Douglas Knight says:

    Government accuses over 20 generic drug companies of colluding to increase the price of the antidepressant clomipramine.

    No, they are accusing 20 companies of colluding to increase the price of 100 drugs, but not many sold any particular drug. Only 3 sold clomipramine (it’s right there in the subhead!). They all raised their prices 100x at the same time. That’s hard to do without collusion. But once they were high, it’s pretty easy for 3 companies not to compete on price, even without collusion. Maybe they could raise their prices by 10% a year without talking to each other, as with insulin.

    Does the fact that the companies have more than one drug putatively competing with each other make it easier or harder for them to collude? If they’re explicitly colluding, surely one collusion makes it easier to open a new line of communication between companies. But what if they aren’t? I think it could go either way. How good are the communications between the two drugs in company A? How good does company B think those lines of communication are?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think that should be 10x rather than 100x. In any event, that’s a lot more than 1.1x.
      On the other hand, if company A raises its prices 10%, company B may think that A is bad at manufacturing and that it’s a good time to steal market share. But if A raises its price 10x, what could it mean other than an invitation to B to raise its price?

      • sharper13 says:

        It also only works in an industry with large barriers to entry, such as say, the highly regulated drug space. The lower the barriers to entry, the faster you see someone who isn’t colluding drop in and start undercutting the colluding incumbents. You can only sustain a price cartel as long as the time it takes a new competitor to establish themselves, if there aren’t such high sunk costs required to start-up that they’re going to lose money quickly if you respond.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks for the correction, have fixed post.

  22. guzey says:

    Author of the life sciences piece here – if you’re a biologist and you enjoyed the essay, I would probably love to talk to you. Also, let me know if you have any comments / additions!

    • zzzzort says:

      I very much enjoyed your piece (saw it on science twitter when it was first going around). My own thoughts about the issues with life science research (yes, they’re all very personal, and I might be procrastinating on working on a grant application, but really that’s the point):

      -Everything is health related. The Nobel prize for biology is actually for medicine, the largest funding body is the NIH and in the private space it’s probably HHMI. Consequently, all grant applications read like ransom notes: “Give us millions of dollars or lots of people will die.” There is space to do fundamental research, but there is a lot of friction in selling it to the NIH.

      -The career path is crazy, and one of the biggest reason that people leave the field. Phds are getting longer and more post docs are expected. Additionally, there’s a good deal of pressure to move institutions between stops, and funding is only secured for a year or three at a time. There are enough post docs that you’re relatively secure in getting a job somewhere, but expecting people to be nomads up till their mid 30’s is a deal breaker for many. This also makes people risk averse, as you might only get one big experiment out of a short postdoc, so you need to make it count.

      -The amount of time spent applying for grants and fellowships is absurd. I agree with your observation that allocating it disproportionately to a few aging stars is more efficient, but it’s still an absurd way to spend time. Longer term grants, lump funding of labs (instead of funders only funding one project, or trying to leverage their money by only funding exploratory work so that another funder will hypothetically step in), and less labor intensive applications (the instructions for the NIH F32, the most common? postdoctoral fellowship, is 135 mind-numbing pages) would all be very helpful.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        The path to a stable academic career in the sciences is nuts. You see people who do a PhD and two or three postdocs, and then finally get a tenure track position, and in like six or seven years they learn whether or not they have a stable job. That’s hard to square with marrying and having kids, or establishing a stable adult life. By the time you’re finding out whether or not you get tenure, you’ve got a couple kids in school and your husband or wife has a good stable job.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Yeah, these days the standard academic path is a better fit for women married to men with careers in medicine, finance, etc. A lot of the women in my graduate school who are planning to stay in academia are already on that path, while the men and single women are typically planning to exit into industry.

          These days though it’s becoming more common for scientists working in biotech or pharmacology to essentially “retire” into a professorship. A lot of our faculty here spent the majority of their careers in industry and accepted a position as an academic PI afterwards on the strength of their industry work. Not to mention people with one foot in both industry and academia, who run a lab and a company at the same time.

  23. Paul Brinkley says:

    Government accuses over 20 generic drug companies of colluding to increase the price of the antidepressant clomipramine. I am usually pretty free-market, but agree that breaking up collusion is good. While there are some theoretical reasons to think collusion should be hard and unstable, in practice clomipramine has been overpriced for many years despite there being enough manufacturers that it shouldn’t be […]

    Well, the usual argument I hear for unstable cartels is that at least one of those 20 companies should have given in to the urge to drop their price and capture more of the market. So the question should be why that had not happened.

    Free market advocates: what could cause this? Were these 20 companies not in fact manufacturers, but middlemen for one or two, who were the real drivers behind the cartel? Were they local monopolies, lacking capital to break into others? Was there somehow enough denial and deception that no one knew they could capture more market share by lowering prices? Were potential defectors too afraid of the other 19 shutting them out, and unable to find other potential defectors without tipping the cartel tories off? Were the supply or buyer chains somehow locked down?

    • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

      Well, the usual argument I hear for unstable cartels is that at least one of those 20 companies should have given in to the urge to drop their price and capture more of the market.

      I don’t understand why that would happen. One company cuts its prices, everybody else follows suit a week later, market shares remain the same, only thing that changes is that everybody makes less money.

      • Lambert says:

        I think it’s a race to the bottom.

        10 One company cuts its prices by 1% (or another company arrives and charges 99% of what the others do).
        20 Everybody else follows suit.
        30 GOTO 10

        • albatross11 says:

          Right. Hence the game theoretic problem of how you might convince everyone to *not* cut prices. Everyone has an incentive to defect, but if they do then everyone will end up making less money.

          • Aapje says:

            Everyone has an incentive to defect

            Not if they think long term.

            Everyone also has an incentive to steal from stores, yet most people don’t. They have too much to lose to gamble on a small profit. Just like breaking a cartel risks a lot for a a bit of extra profit.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, the game is iterated, so there’s a chance to find some way out of the prisoners’ dilemma, and sometimes groups of companies do. On the other hand, one vendor defecting is enough to pull prices down so everyone must follow, so it’s hard to maintain a cartel.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Stealing from stores is a one-time benefit, on which is risked an outsized penalty (retaliation from law enforcement). Undercutting prices is a long-term benefit (“a bit of extra profit” is underselling it), on which is risked a penalty of returning to status quo.

            Also, some companies can undercut more than others, due to differences in their structure, efficiency, or strategy. So a race to the bottom may end up with fewer players at the finish line.

            If neither of these are happening, it’s worth examining why. It’s possible that the cartel is so sensitive to defections that any price drop immediately triggers drops in the others, or that distribution is so well understood that no strategy has been found that permits lower prices, but I suspect both are less likely than, say, Nybbler’s suggestion that there’s a simple incentive mismatch.

          • Aapje says:

            Undercutting prices is only a long-term benefit when the other cartel members won’t react, which is extremely doubtful.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Free market advocates: what could cause this?

      Same thing that causes a lot of distortion in the medical industry: the payer and the user aren’t the same person. Most people getting the drug pay a fixed generic-drug co-pay, and it doesn’t matter to them how much the insurance company is being charged for it.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Free market advocates: what could cause this?

      Insufficient detail and/or evidence.

      The complaint is 500 pages long and lists out a bunch of different drugs and different relationships. For the most part, each of these drugs only has a few suppliers, and bid decisions for particular portfolios are controlled by a few key sales figures. There are also apparent Schelling points, like if you have 3 competitors, each will get 33% of the market. People also have a lot of opportunity to interact, and are engaged in a repeated Prisoners Dilemma where defectors can be punished.

      Also, this isn’t a permanent equilibrium.

    • Protagoras says:

      For most products, businesses are not only competing with others making identical products, but with others making products of various degrees of similarity, various things people might spend their money on instead if the price of the thing they make seems too high to those people. Coordinating a price fix with all the others selling similar, or even not all that similar, products is extremely complicated; it will have to involve a wide variety of participants, and will either leave a paper trail regulators may eventually discover, or leave room for participants to deniably cheat by exploiting the vaguenesses and variations, or both. Collusion is much, much easier when those involved are selling identical, and not merely similar, products, and aren’t really in competition with anything else (with very few exceptions, those who need medicine will just pay more if you charge more, not decide to spend the money on something else).

  24. Paul Brinkley says:

    A super-obvious source to me for redbrainbluebrain trivia questions would be anything asking about stories that reflect poorly on one side. For example, liberals are less likely to know about Rathergate, or what the “AR” in “AR-15” stands for. Conservatives are less likely to know what the three most common greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are (they might know only one), or what percentage of Planned Parenthood’s total revenue is spent on funding abortions.

    Are they looking for more anodyne, non-political questions?

    • Bugmaster says:

      Am I the only one who doesn’t even know what an “AR-15” is, other than “some kinda gun too big to fit in a pocket” ?

      EDIT: Obviously, I can Google it and find out; I just meant that the knowledge is not at the top of my head.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        “some kinda gun too big to fit in a pocket”

        The technical term is a long gun.

      • Aapje says:

        @Bugmaster

        There is an AR-15 pistol, actually* 😛

        * Which is complicated, since a regular AR-15 has a buffer tube & spring in the butt stock, so it needs to go elsewhere if you make a pistol variant.

        • Bugmaster says:

          That thing looks like an SMG invented by a guy who’d never heard of the concept of SMGs.

          • Protagoras says:

            SMGs generally use pistol cartridges. Though the shorter barrel sacrifices some of the effect, that this thing uses rifle cartridges means it has more power than a typical SMG. Apparently not any more accurate, though, so it’s not clear that more power is actually an advantage. Of course, more power means that when someone stats it up for a role-playing game it will probably be assigned a higher damage range, so it will be an obviously better choice in the game than a normal SMG.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not really much difference there. Muzzle energy of 900 joules for the AR pistol, vs 700 joules for 9mm NATO from a typical submachine gun. And at only 700 m/s, the AR pistol’s 5.56mm bullet will be well below the threshold for fragmentation, which means unless it hits heavy bone most of its energy will be wasted on an icepick wound profile and enhanced danger to bystanders.

            Also, the submachine gun will at least have a folding stock, which makes a huge difference in the chance of actually hitting anything. I don’t see any value in the AR pistol other than perceived tacticoolness, at significant cost in practical utility.

    • albatross11 says:

      My guess is that a very small fraction of people on either side know about any greenhouse gasses other than CO2.

      • As best I could determine, back when I argued climate issues on FB, almost nobody on either side understood how the greenhouse effect worked. They thought of it as insulation, not realizing that simple insulation would block both outgoing and incoming photons.
        The same mistake was implicit in a video sponsored by, among others, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

        • Kindly says:

          Do you have a good summary of the mechanism?

          My best attempt is “A glass greenhouse, and greenhouse gases, both let through light but insulate heat. So to the extent that sunlight goes in and transforms into heat before trying to leave, the inside of the greenhouse becomes warmer than the outside.”

          I’m not a whatever the right field is, so I don’t know how correct my explanation is.

          • acymetric says:

            This (SSC) is certainly a place where I would expect people to be bothered by it, but I don’t think it is surprising (or entirely bad) that an overly simplistic (and scientifically incorrect) description of greenhouse gases is out there. Consider that a lot of people that kind of video is targeted at probably don’t really understand correctly how insulation works, much less greenhouses.

            “Like a blanket around the Earth trapping heat in the atmosphere” is both overly simplistic and incorrect, but its probably about as close as you’re going to get when trying to communicate some sense of what is happening with people for whom anything beyond that is going to go straight over their heads.

          • A greenhouse gas is more transparent to short wave length (high energy) light than to long wave length (low energy) light. The hotter a light source is, the shorter the wave length of the emitted photons. So the light coming down from the sun is short wave length light, the light radiated up from the Earth is long wave length light. A greenhouse gas is more transparent to the former, so lets energy in but blocks energy out, raising the equilibrium temperature of the Earth.

            Your description is wrong, unless what you mean by “heat” is long wavelength light. But the main way in which heat (thermal energy) is transmitted in most of the contexts we are familiar with is conduction, which doesn’t involve light, not radiation, which does.

            I hope that helps.

          • but I don’t think it is surprising (or entirely bad) that an overly simplistic (and scientifically incorrect) description of greenhouse gases is out there.

            You don’t think it entirely bad that the Cleveland Museum of Natural History endorses a video giving a scientifically incorrect account of the cause of AGW, one which is not consistent with the fact that greenhouse gases raise the temperature of the Earth? That it is teaching false science?

            The only question, for me, is whether this is incompetence, the endorsement being done by people associated with the museum who are scientifically ignorant, or deliberate dishonesty.

            Note also that part of the point of the video is that the greenhouse effect is so obvious that a kid can do an experiment that demonstrates it. That is a flat lie, since the experiment does not demonstrate the effect. All the video demonstrates is that one kid doesn’t understand the greenhouse effect, which is not surprising but not something to boast about.

          • AG says:

            How is it different from most science museums still teaching people the Rutherford model of atoms?

            Do we really need kids to know that, as Ryan North put it, “electrons don’t so much orbit a nucleus as exist as waves in an unobservable area of potential locations rather than at a single point?”

            Also, I highly doubt that the people in your FB feed actually failed to think of how photons would move through greenhouse gases, more than just not knowing how to word their explanations in precise enough terms. The whole model is right there in the name: greenhouse. And no one is pretending that photons aren’t going in and out of a glass greenhouse.

          • Dan L says:

            Your description is wrong, unless what you mean by “heat” is long wavelength light.

            That’s actually a pretty common equivocation IME, especially at the grade school level. Aggravating, sure, but it does exist as a pedagogical fact independent of AGW education. And in that context, one can do a lot worse than “Light from the sun goes in, heat doesn’t go out”.

            Come to think of it, Earth’s energy budget is probably one of the better places for that sloppiness – almost all the outflow is radiated long-wavelength light. I suppose you could do a lot better by treating Earth’s surface and atmosphere as distinct systems, but that seems like a level of nuance beyond anything in contention here.

          • Also, I highly doubt that the people in your FB feed actually failed to think of how photons would move through greenhouse gases, more than just not knowing how to word their explanations in precise enough terms.

            Did you read my link? It was on a video which showed an experiment done by a kid that purportedly demonstrated that CO2 was a greenhouse gas.

            It in fact showed nothing of the sort, since the argument depended on assuming that a greenhouse gas was simply one that absorbed a lot of light, which depends on not understanding the greenhouse effect.

          • And in that context, one can do a lot worse than “Light from the sun goes in, heat doesn’t go out”.

            The experiment showed nothing at all about the difference between what happened to sunlight and what happened to IR coming up from the Earth.

            Your version is at least close to accurate, but you can’t find it in the video I linked to in my blog post.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            Incompetence seems far more likely than malice here–presumably the science museum’s managers would like for the public to understand the science of global warming, which requires understanding how the greenhouse effect works. And it’s not like that’s some hopelessly complicated thing that requires a ton of math and a couple semesters of upper-level physics classes to get, where only the oversimplified version will ever be widely accessible–you’re able to describe it in a couple sentences, and you could probably make a pretty decent exhibit to show this in a science museum with not all that much work.

      • TheContinentalOp says:

        Here’s a blue/red question on “Climate Change” that I would predict skews red.

        Since 2005, have US CO2 emissions:

        A. Increased faster that the rate of population growth.
        B. Increased, but slower that the rate of population growth.
        C. Remained approximately the same.
        D. Decreased.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think conservatives are more likely to know about one other greenhouse gas in particular, since water vapor is part of a common anti-CAGW narrative. Knowledge of CO2 I’d expect to be near-universal, and I wouldn’t expect much of a split on methane. Knowing about CFCs as greenhouse gases I’d expect more on the left side. Looking it up, it seems I’ve missed ozone (didn’t know), and nitrous oxide (which I did know was a greenhouse gas but thought was insignificant); I don’t know how they’d split.

    • “what percentage of Planned Parenthood’s total revenue is spent on funding abortions.”

      No one knows. The statistic you are thinking of is the percentage of “services.” See:

      https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/05/3-percent-of-planned-parenthood-s-services-are-abortion-but-what-about-their-revenues.html

  25. kalimac says:

    Curious thing about Henry Darger: this extraordinarily inventive but rather bizarre artist was born and died in the same years, 1892-1973, as that other extraordinarily inventive but rather bizarre artist, J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact I first heard of Darger, many years ago, while searching databases on the offhand curiosity to see if anyone interesting shared that characteristic with Tolkien. Didn’t find anyone else of note.

  26. John Schilling says:

    Remember how people have been saying we’re in a tech bubble that’s obviously about to burst since 2011?

    I do not in fact remember this. I mean, it is trivially true that “people” have been saying this every year since the word “tech” was first used to describe a market sector, because for all market sectors everywhere always there is some contrarian saying that sector is a bubble that is about to burst. And, yes, with an editorial in one of the major news papers or magazines. But I don’t recall anything more than that in 2011, certainly not anything like a consensus.

    And the reason the “bubble” didn’t burst in 2011 is that all the bubbles had burst only three years earlier and it pretty much always takes more than three years to repeat that cycle. A rational assessment in 2011 might well have indicated that market valuations had crossed over to exceed long-term market fundamentals and thus a nascent bubble had come into existence, but “…and therefore the bubble will soon burst, run away!” would have been silly hysteria or fear-mongering at that point.

    • acymetric says:

      Is “tech” even a useful market descriptor anymore? I feel it is so overly broad that making any generalizations about “tech” is going to be either meaningless or obviously correct depending on whether you want the generalization to be correct or not.

      Anyways, my personal pet bubble is Advertising (and some related data collection/analysis). “Tech” will be fine (except maybe some tech companies wholly reliant on advertising).

      Related:

      CPlusPlusDeveloper explains some intricacies of the online economy: “I don’t think people understand just how poorly performing Reddit is at advertising. Reddit has 300 million active users, and annual revenue of $100 million. That gives it an ARPU (average revenue per user) of $0.30. Facebook has a [North American ARPU of $120].”

      It is borderline unfathomable that this is true. I mean, it doesn’t surprise me, but it makes absolutely no sense.

    • gwern says:

      You should remember it because 2011 was one of the peaks of ‘tech bubble’ discussions: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=%22tech%20bubble%22 https://hn.algolia.com/?dateEnd=1325289600&dateRange=custom&dateStart=1293840000&page=0&prefix=true&query=tech%20bubble&sort=byPopularity&type=all With polls on HN, articles on the Economist and Atlantic and Slate and Business Week and USA Today and NYT asking if there’s a tech bubble, top VCs like PG speaking out against it etc.

    • poipoipoi says:

      The nature of what the “tech bubble” actually was has been constantly changing.

      IIRC, in 2011, there were some minor fears about the acqui-hire bubble in that if your tech startup didn’t work, Facebook would happily buy you out for a million/head. And that was absolutely worth 2-3 years of your life at a reduced salary in order to be making $300K at Facebook by Age 25.

      And in practice, by 2014, we were getting offers for $200K-$300K/head.

      Then starting in ~2015, there was the late stage bubble, where the survivors of Round 1 started getting big. And everyone looked at late-round funding valuations (and just how LONG these companies stayed private getting bigger and bigger) and went “This will end badly when rich billionaires run out of money”. And in 2017, Softbank dropped a $100 Billion bomb on the market, it exploded, and now that bubble is in the slow process of popping.

      So it’s always sort of been a bubble, but the nature of that bubble has changed, and continued to suck in more money out of idiots.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      There is always someone talking about a tech bubble, for a few reasons:

      1.There are of course always people talking about anything in the financial world that’s big, sexy news. There’s either a recession or runaway inflation just around the corner, or we’re already in a recession, etc. And there’s always a bubble somewhere, and tech is usually the place identified.

      2. There’s always money chasing nascent industries, because that’s where the big growth rates are. So yeah, it will be easy to find stories confirming “big money chasing stupid ideas!” in tech, because even if things are going great in tech, and the techiest tech that ever teched is killing it and everyone’s making money hand over fist, you’ll still find stories about lame companies getting overvalued and going belly-up. Because yes, that’s inevitable.

      3. Software is a great business to be in. Investors and talking heads have a hard time understanding this, but, I’ll say it again, software is a great business to be in. Gross margins are very high, because you’re only paying for people, computers, and electrons. Sales growth can be very fast, because you don’t need to build a factory to make some widget, and hire big trucks/ships to send the widgets all over the country/world. So companies can reasonably have huge valuations without making paper profits. And do. This raises the P/E of the sector, so that idiots who are comparing it to airlines or autos or farm equipment makers or anything else can say “See, a bubble!”

      4. A lot of tech isn’t even tech. On CNBC, when they say “tech” they usually, but not always, mean FAANG. And some of FAANG aren’t tech stocks, but they’ve been saying it for years now, and they can’t stop, just like people talk about the Dow, even though it’s idiotic and we don’t need it any more.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Which of the FAANG wouldn’t be a tech stock? The only serious candidate would seem to be Amazon, but they’ve got a very large tech component in addition to their logistics component (and that little retail business)

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Netflix seems the most plausible one to me.

          • eremetic says:

            Netflix is obviously only in there so they can have a cutesy acronym that isn’t FAAG. This is a worse acronym cliche than STEM.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          Yes, Netflix. Netflix uses tech, but they are in the entertainment business. Their competitors are not software or cable companies but other entertainment entities.
          To a lesser degree, FB’s product isn’t tech, but advertising. Google also. As you say, AMZN is only partly a tech company, with AWS.
          I am happy to admit that all but NTFX can legitimately be called tech, but to use FAANG as a casual proxy for the tech universe is lazy and wildly inaccurate.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I for one have bought and hold single-name stocks outside of tech because I couldn’t justify P/E since 2011 and have “lost” a lot of money doing so 🙁

      I’m just too fundamentalist when it comes to “growth” companies I don’t understand well enough (in terms of how they’d ever turn a profit or make enough to justify their multiples)

  27. Erusian says:

    Apparently corporate profits have been a declining share of GDP over the past five years? Even despite the tax cut?

    Related: the decline in labor share of GDP may be smaller than previously believed because more skilled employees are getting paid in equity, which wasn’t counted. This would solve a minor economic puzzle, but probably shouldn’t change people’s intuitive perception of inequality much, since equity only goes to the highest-paid workers.

    Well, I don’t know what will cause people to update their intuitive perceptions of inequality but they do need updating for most people. There’s a myth (a very popular myth) that inequality is primarily driven by the extremely wealthy (the 1%, billionaires, corporations, pick your talking point).

    But this isn’t true: differences in compensation drive inequality much more than the differences between capital and labor. Like, an absurd amount. Corporate profits are a little less than 10% of GDP (I believe it’s 9.1% as of last counting). This has been true since 1950. Labor compensation is 60% (which has also been true for as long as we have data, though it used to be closer to 65%). The GINI has risen about .1 since 1980 and this was driven almost entirely by employee compensation in the top 20% of workers (roughly: exactly where the cut off is varies). The top 20% of workers have consistently seen compensation growth 2-5 times larger than the bottom 70% since the 1980s (with a further effect that the top 10% have seen an even more extreme increase, etc). This has driven almost all of the growth in the GINI coefficient.

    Increasing taxes on the 1% or billionaires or corporations won’t have a significant effect on inequality. Indeed, doing so wouldn’t generate the revenue necessary for the social programs many on the left want. Billionaires are just easy targets. The real driver of inequality is educated urban professionals, the people making six figures and living in trendy neighborhoods and SoDoSoPa. This is also a driver of a lot of racial inequality since that class is very white. (It’s also driving geographic inequality and to a lesser extent gender inequality for similar reasons.) And that’s who you need to tax to get a Denmark-style system. (Indeed, that is how Denmark and Sweden fund their systems: with taxes on the upper and upper middle class.)

    Basically, if you want to reduce inequality to pre-1980 levels you need to redistribute from everyone making more than $100,000 a year. And no allowances for the big metropolitan cities. And this seems to point to that: stock compensation aren’t for ‘the wealthiest workers’ in the sense they’re Wall Street fat cats. They’re for well-paid professionals, white-collar types. Programmers, lawyers, accountants, etc.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I assume you mean income and not wealth inequality. The two get used interchangeably.

      • Erusian says:

        The two are interchangeable in the long term, aren’t they? If you redistribute income you will, long term, redistribute wealth.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Not when the rate of return on capital exceeds wage growth, as it has for some time.

          • Aapje says:

            That is not correct. Whether capital accumulates or distributes and how, depends on much more than that, like how much people spend, get taxed, the absolute size of wages, the actual rate of return on capital (which is relatively low), etc, etc.

            Your comparison is meaningless.

          • Erusian says:

            Except return on capital is income under the tax regime. Thus if you are equalizing income, that includes income from returns on capital. So yes, they’re still interchangeable in the long run. The only scenario where wealth doesn’t equal income is if the asset doesn’t have returns, in which case you’re going to see equalization in the long run.

            Another way to put it: let’s say you have $1,000,000 and get a rate of return of 10% plus work a full-time job for $100k a year. And I have $0 for a return of $0 and work a full time job for $100k a year. If you equalize incomes through a progressive income tax whereby $50k of your income goes to me and we both make $150k, over time my wealth will approach yours all other things being equal. After all, we’re both making the same income.

            I’m not saying this is what actually happens. Indeed, I don’t think anything I’ve said is an argument against leftist policies. I’m just making the case that if you redistribute income you are redistributing wealth long term.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Erusian: I am still inclined to think there are differences in saving/spending/borrowing habits that are not strictly the product of public policy, and those would persist.

            But you’re using a very long, longrun i think.

      • Erusian says:

        Ah, distorted statistics. Got to love it. Insofar as the 1% have grown faster than the 20%, we are in agreement. I specifically mentioned this.

        Anyway, my point was not to ignore the .1% for the 9.9% or the 20% (though I’d put the cut-offs in slightly different places). It was that people have this idea that rising inequality is mostly related to the growth of a small group of super-elites. That group exists and they have contributed, they’ve even contributed more per capita. But the overall effect includes much, much wider trends. In reality, the increase in GINI is due to a series of pulling-away effects that A graph which has faulty data and a typo and was made by someone who has no background in business or economics or mathematics is… unconvincing.

        In particular, though, the thing which the Slate article has not mentioned and which I spend more time talking about is how little corporations and corporate profits contribute to inequality compared to wage inequality.

  28. smilerz says:

    As someone that began my career as ‘attended some college’ I’d point out that dissembling about finishing college is pretty easy on a resume. Just put the college name and years & program of study and put the onus on the interviewer to notice that finishing a degree program in 2 years is pretty impressive.

    I’d get asked about it occasionally and was always forthcoming – but found that getting the interview in the first place was usually the hardest part.

    • Matt says:

      I got my bachelor’s, then master’s, then began a PhD at another, more prestigious, school. I left before I finished, however, and have no degree from that school.

      I am greatly concerned and always go out of my way to make sure that when people I work with hear that I attended the more prestigious school, they know that I have no degrees from there. There are two many stories of people who have ‘fake’ accomplishments getting caught out for me to ever want that to happen to me. Several people in my management chain have come to the mistaken conclusion that I have a BS from school A, and my MS is from more prestigious school B, and I always correct them firmly.

      I don’t want to let the mistaken belief go, and one day have everyone who has been misled think that I’ve been lying to them. I figure that could be much worse for my career than any small gain I could get from letting people believe incorrectly.

      • smilerz says:

        Not that it probably matters – but if an interviewer (or colleague) ever stated that their assumption was I had a degree (in the days before I had one) I would always correct it, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to correct unspoken assumptions.

        I also imagine that the level of dissembling that would be acceptable probably depends on the career – in my age cohort and in my industry almost no one has a career-related degree. The vast majority have taken a long meandering path to end up here.

        Conventional wisdom in my little corner of the world is that college is essentially worthless for on-the-job performance, yet we all demand college degrees as a requirement on job applications. *shrug*

    • JayT says:

      I have a few, very successful, friends that dropped out of college to go right into working, and they always put something like “Studied XXX major at XXX university from XX-XX”, and they would never get questioned on it.

      • acymetric says:

        I studied Electrical Engineering for 2 years before switching to a more fine-arts related degree (although it was still a B.S.). I always included that on my resume, to demonstrate some technical background and suspect it helped in job searches. I eventually dropped it when I got a second degree in programming as I didn’t feel like I needed the additional “I am capable of hard math/science” credibility any more.

        I think it is pretty easy to distinguish between “studied” and “earned a degree in” in a way that doesn’t come across as dishonest or raise eyebrows, especially if the rest of your resume is solid and the resume is well formatted.

  29. John V says:

    Re: Bernie blindness, I always worry when looking at things like this about cardiologists and chinese robbers. Given the amount of news organizations and the number of mistakes they make, my guess is that if you wanted to populate a subreddit full of the media making mistakes about Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren, you probably could. There could still be something to it, I wouldn’t totally doubt that biases creep into coverage on a regular basis, but a long list of anecdotes is pretty meaningless to me.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Journalists are constantly making mistakes and have a very Blue bias. I agree that you very probably can’t break it down further into nefarious bias for and against specific Blue people, that cataloguing a list of mistakes they make about your favorite Blue person does nothing but show what you feel like examining.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Sanders isn’t really blue though. Journalism is white, middle to upper class, urban, highly educated. Sanders is not that and his appeal is not that.

        • The Nybbler says:

          He’s white, middle to upper class, urban, and he has a college degree. What more do you want?

          • Aapje says:

            Someone who talks about helping the underclass at a significant cost to the elite, but doesn’t really mean it.

            The resistance by journalists and the rest of the Democratic elite to Sanders doesn’t make much sense unless you recognize the hypocrisy that exists, where they don’t really want the things they say they want.

    • koreindian says:

      What would be your proposed alternatives for 1) researchers, and 2) laypeople for evaluating the magnitude of candidate blindness?

      • albatross11 says:

        I believe there is a very strong bias in media toward supporting the current narrative, which is the story everyone thinks is happening, and is very heavily influenced by the first few stories written/reported. That dominates a lot of political reporting–candidates with a reputation for being clever are reported in ways that emphasize their cleverness, ones with a reputation for being dumb are reported that way, candidates who are taken as serious are discussed more than candidates who are taken as unserious (with the exception of ones who are entertaining–Trump and Williamson are examples). I suspect this drives a lot of the Bernie blindness, leaving Ron Paul off the polling numbers even when he’s higher than a couple people included, ignoring Yang because everyone knows he’s some weirdo obsessed with UBI and robots or something, ignoring Tulsi because you can’t really be a serious candidate unless you want to bomb a lot of people in the third world, etc.

  30. sclmlw says:

    I have a brother who completed some college. Not sure he’ll ever complete college (it’s complicated), but when he got his most recent job he went into the interview talking about how he intends to finish and how he’s really interested in their tuition reimbursement program. The interviewer liked this part of the discussion and talked about ways he could be promoted if he completes an associate’s degree. This same pattern happened in his last job. Not sure if this is signalling, per se, or just a marketing tactic available to those who still have somewhat recent college classes.

    You could test this by determining whether people get a boost from recent ‘some college’ versus distant ‘some college’, but this could be confounded by those who get the job and ‘fake it til they make it’.

  31. Ketil says:

    SJWs are still with us, but they seem more polished now.

    Since I am on vacation in Rome, I was looking up some things, in particular why there are two keys in the coat of arms for the diocese. Isn’t one key to heaven sufficient? Anyway, I was slightly impressed that the Wikipedia article about the Keys of Heaven now has a warning tag that this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Isn’t one key to heaven sufficient?

      You need two, and they have to be turned at the same time, for security reasons.

      Amusingly, though they’re on either side of the door, the door itself is only the size of a needle’s eye.

  32. Jaskologist says:

    From the Atlantic: The Best Economic News No One Wants to Talk About

    Imagine a world where wage growth was truly stagnant only for workers in high-wage industries, such as medicine and consulting.

    Imagine a labor market where earnings growth for low-wage workers, such as those who work in retail and restaurants, had doubled in the past five years.

    Imagine an economy where wages for the poorest Americans were rising twice as fast as hourly earnings for high-wage earners.

    It turns out that all three of those things are happening right now.

    • Aapje says:

      This is only in the short term though. Most of the evidence I’ve seen shows the opposite for the past decades.

      It’s perfectly possible for there to be a short term boom for the poor, while the long term trend is a bust. Perhaps it now requires a peak boom year for the trend to reverse, but those peak boom years are very few compared to the more common bust and meh years, which more than cancel out the gains.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        To me this all seems a lot like the polling average fights. In the RCP polling average the day to day numbers are significantly impacted by the variant release schedules of polls and their house effects. The last 5 years is a pretty small sample. Also wage growth doubling could still be mediocre.

        Also it ironically is strongly powered by Bernie Sanders and his crusade against the low minimum wage and by the fight for 15. These aren’t market forces saving the world. It is big government and union organizing. Boy, kinda exactly like you would expect it to be.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Its union organizing? You mean record low rates of union participation in the US are driving up wages?

          The ‘higher minimum wage’ argument doesn’t fit the data at all. The graphs show low income workers increases passed mid and high income in 2015 and wage growth was rising from late 2012/early 2013, but the majority of large increases weren’t passed into law until 2016 and most (all?) are stepped up.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Sometimes the short term is the beginning of a new long-term trend.

    • noyann says:

      And then the effect gets eaten by tax cuts. (fine graphics, btw.)

      edit: I hope that’s not too CW. If so, sorry, but tell me.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The NYT article requires me to set up an account to go in, so I didn’t read their account. But claiming that the rich pay lower taxes is absurd. Also, the tax reform act of 2017 added more progressivism to the income tax system, as has been the case for pretty much every US Federal tax law in the last several decades.

        • noyann says:

          edit: wrong century, and more

          Not the rich — the super rich do. My point taken from there (numbers read from graph, may be slightly inaccurate) is:

          From 1950 to 2018 the total tax rate (federal, state and local) has changed for the income groups
          72% => 23% for Top 400
          70% => 30% for 99.99th* (with a dip to 28% in between)
          ………
          16% => 26% for 0-10th*
          * no legend on graph, but likely percentile

          The curve changes from 2016—2018 to be slightly flatter, but dips at 99.99 and above.

          For 2018 we have indeed 26% vs 23% for the extremes.

          Strange that the account is paywalled for you; I have no account at NYT but can read it. Maybe you have exhausted a monthly free quota and NYT has set a blocking cookie?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            16% => 26% for 0-10th*

            I don’t believe this for a minute. The bottom decile had Federal income taxes of about -6% in 2008 (my own calculation based on IRS stats). Credits have become more generous since then, so probably higher negative now. State and local taxes usually run in the range of 10%. Of course I’m sure they will include payroll tax of about 14% (I don’t agree they are really a tax), but even that won’t get you to 26%.

            Of course it is true that the bottom decile has a lot of idiosyncrasies such as those with negative income, what kinds of income are included, etc., so maybe they could get to 26% if they make all their assumptions to increase the rate. I am curious what percent they have the 10-20 or 20-30 deciles, which don’t have all those idiosyncrasies.

            I’d also love to see their data on the super rich, I am very skeptical there too.

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps they count sales tax, which is regressive. Still, that is a few percent, so doesn’t make up the difference.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The data used here strongly contradicts data elsewhere. One source (data through 2016) puts the average tax rate for the bottom quintile at below 5% since 2008, and under 2% since 2013, and the highest qiuntile is around 26% recently. The times link is claiming a roughly 25% tax rate for the lowest quintile, and a ~29% for the highest. So the bottom quintile through state and local taxes are paying 20%+ tax rates and the top quintile is paying ~3% rates.

        The link I provided fits better with the CBO numbers, who in 2013 had the bottom quintile earning 5% of income and paying 1% of federal taxes.

        • noyann says:

          At a glance, both your links are about federal tax rates, whereas the NYT summed total tax rate — federal, state and local. This could explain the differences.

          2013 and 2016 were in a low local high between the times (2010-2012, 2017+) of the lowest (total) tax rates for the top 400.

          • baconbits9 says:

            At a glance, both your links are about federal tax rates, whereas the NYT summed total tax rate — federal, state and local. This could explain the differences.

            That is what I noted, that state and local taxes would have to be on the order of 23% of income for the lower class, but only ~3% of income for the upper class. This is implausible.

          • Corey says:

            Sales tax probably figures in heavily at the low end and ~0 in the high end.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sales tax rates don’t make it plausible. The authors appear to have admitted to fixing the data by omitting the EITC which makes them completely unreliable.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        There’s a good explanation of the discrepancies here (PDF). TL;DR: Saez and Zucman make some questionable assumptions which have the effect of overstating|understating incomes, and therefore understating|overstating effective tax rates, at the top|bottom of the distribution.

    • Quixote says:

      My understanding is that people have looked at this and it’s almost entirely attributable to some large population states that raised their minimum wages and to a few large population cities that raised minimum wages. We don’t really learn anything about secular market trends from phenomena like this.

    • Obvious reason the media’s not talking about this is that Trump is President. Still, I don’t give him credit for the same reason I didn’t give Obama credit in 2016.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      Imagine a world where wage growth was truly stagnant only for workers in high-wage industries, such as medicine and consulting.

      Imagine a labor market where earnings growth for low-wage workers, such as those who work in retail and restaurants, had doubled in the past five years.

      Imagine an economy where wages for the poorest Americans were rising twice as fast as hourly earnings for high-wage earners.

      These statements are all in terms of either high derivatives or ratios – as I parse them, they are saying

      w_low” > 0 and w_medium” > 0 but w_high” <= 0
      w_low'(t) = 2 w_low'(t-5)
      w_low' = 2 w_high'

      None of these actually say anything in absolute terms about wages or wage growth.

      Picking odd ways like these to parse your data makes it much easier to play dirty tricks; you can usually find true, impressive-sounding claims like these even when your economy is collapsing.

      In fairness the graphs at the link are more persuasive, but claims like these make my spider-sense tingle.

  33. Duzler says:

    Study: politicians who win elections have lower openness to experience than losers.

    The Beto O’Rourke Story: furry masks, jumping on bars, and crazy policy proposals.

  34. Evan H says:

    Shopify (another tech company) is also getting into the carbon capture game: https://news.shopify.com/we-need-to-talk-about-carbon. It seems to be popular right now.

    (disclosure, I work for Shopify)

    • Phigment says:

      Go tell your employer that Shopify needs to track purchase orders! Tell them right now!

      Point of Sale systems need to handle purchase orders! It is not optional!

      (disclosure, I work for a company that does retail consulting, and we incidentally extract data from many point of sale systems, including Shopify. Except we get less data from Shopify, because Shopify tracks less data.)

  35. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    As another commenter has mentioned, the Amazon rainforest fire isn’t a good example of millionaire / billionaire philanthropy.

    The donation of $22 million to a country which has an annual government revenue of ~$300 billion (it’s surprisingly hard to find good annual numbers) wasn’t altruism, it was a calculated insult. Accepting the aid would have shamed Bolsonaro’s government because it implies that Brazil is such a poor country that they can’t scrape together such a paltry amount of money without foreign assistance, while rejecting it opened him up to international criticism that he wasn’t interested in stopping the fires.

    The fact that Hollywood actors and European billionaires can insult Bolsonaro ~2/3rds as effectively as Macron and other European leaders isn’t really a good example of why private charity is effective.

  36. JPNunez says:

    I think it’s time to deploy the mosquito lasers on top of Big Dogs en masse.

    *checks*

    Well, it seems the Gates foundation already has invested money on this (without the Big Dogs) so mosquitos should be getting laser-owned soon I hope.

  37. Aftagley says:

    r/bernieblindness records bizarre incidents where the media downplays Bernie Sanders’ chances or even outright erases him from existence. Take a look and decide whether they’re just paranoid, or whether there’s really something nefarious going on.

    I checked this out, and I think it’s mostly paranoia. What little there is that’s “going on” seems mostly explainable.

    First off, a substantial percentage of posts on that subreddit (at least of the most popular 20 or so I checked out) is in some way related to his fundraising efforts and complaining that they aren’t getting more coverage. Bernie, as a candidate, is fantastic at raising money. Everyone agrees with this fact and if you go looking for it, you can find a host of articles talking about his amazing fundraising.

    The problem is, he’s been amazing at fundraising for a while now. He was good at it back in 2016, he was good at it between now and then and he’s still good at it. The media knows that only politics nerds will read articles about fundraising, and they know that the political nerds already know that Bernie is great at fundraising, so they don’t talk about it especially when there are other, more interesting trends to talk about. For example – if bernie has been number 1 for months, but the former number 2 has been overtaken, that’s a more interesting and useful story than “update: bernie sanders continues to be great at raising money.” This looks like a conspiracy if you really care about Bernie. On these posts, I’d say it’s around 50/50 paranoia vs. something going on, but what’s going on isn’t really nefarious.

    The second type of post is blatant paranoia. This is a good example of that kind of thing. Background – Warren’s campaign released a sweeping policy announcement detailing her proposal to impose a massive wealth tax in America. Sanders’ campaign, a few days later, announced a competing plan. The media (rightly) assessed that the Sanders campaign felt pressured into making this move by Warren.

    This subreddit, however, trolled through Bernie Sander’s senate record and found that in 2014 he’d mentioned how a wealth tax would be good. This, the reddit poster claims (and the subreddit agrees) is evidence that bernie had this plan first and that (quoting a redditor here) “the media is serving Jeff Bezos.” The problem is, a policy statement from 2014 that hasn’t been a tangible part of either of your campaigns isn’t the same as having a detailed policy proposal on how you would implement said plan.

    All in all, this subreddit is not reflecting reality. They are basically calling for the media to be maximally charitable to Sanders at all possible moments and seeing enemy action whenever they aren’t.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      I consider your last small paragraph to be accurate. However the media is biased against Bernie in a lot of ways. This bias is probably mostly unconscious. Like Nate Silver is always as anti-Bernie as he can get away with which makes sense when you know he is a libertarian. This doesn’t have to be a conscious choice. Most people cherry pick polls to consider useful based on their biases without being aware they are biased.

      • keaswaran says:

        I’m not sure that exactly makes sense of Nate Silver’s behavior, when you note that he appears maximally favorable to Elizabeth Warren, rather than to more libertarian-friendly candidates like Andrew Yang.

      • Aftagley says:

        This blog post really captures Silver’s opinion on Sanders, and I don’t think it implies he’s got a grudge against Sanders so much as he really doesn’t think Sanders is going to win.

        • Dan L says:

          It appears to be standard human behavior both to let personal approval of a candidate drive expectations of their success, and to expect others do the same. This is really annoying. On the upside, free money on PredictIt.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            If I was not too poor to spend more money on PredictIt, I made $100 or so after fees betting on Bernie but had to pay some bills so I haven’t been able to go in farther, I would have made roughly $2400 before fees betting on Warren at the time I switched from her to Bernie. Sadly poor people can’t afford expensive bets. Well I guess if I could have got the money I donated to Bernie back I could have afforded it. Heh.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          That blog post is from a specific point in time. I support Warren but until roughly the night after the first debate I supported Bernie. That change happened because I got some inside insight into Bernie’s campaign that Nate doesn’t/didn’t have. Nate has always 100% of the time underrated Bernie. Both elections and at all points.

          He similarly overrated Biden and Clinton. I’ve been aware of Nate since he was Pablano posting on DailyKos. He has a quite clear bias in ways that disproportionately cause him to underrate Bernie even when he has no good reason to do so.

          His post on September 19th is accurate. Warren at that point was tied with Bernie and beginning her surge to pass him. That is not representative of Bernie’s position across both elections.

  38. Aapje says:

    Has the Bystander Effect been debunked, or not?

    I’ll just wait for things to become clear.

    • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

      I got that!

    • acymetric says:

      Ha!

      Somewhat more seriously…the bystander effect is almost tautological isn’t it? If 2 people are nearby and one person helps, 50% of the bystanders helped. If 20 people are nearby and 2 people help, only 10% of the people helped! 10 people would have had to help to match the rate for the 2-bystander case…in how many situations would that actually be practical? It would be too many for CPR or really any medical attention at all. Probably more than you could effectively use to restrain an attacker.

      It seems likely to me that this has as much to do with how useful more people are in various situations as it does anything about human nature. Now, if they were to evaluate time before the first person starts to respond and found a correlation with number of bystanders that would be interesting.

      • Aapje says:

        As described by the link, I thought the same. Do the police have a “bystander effect” when only police car in a certain area responds to an incident, regardless of how many police cars are in the area?

        Now, if they were to evaluate time before the first person starts to respond and found a correlation with number of bystanders that would be interesting.

        Not really, IMO. I would assume that this is a cost of coordination and/or assessment of the best person/people to intervene.

        An interesting study would be to see if people who get a heart attack in a larger group have a lesser or greater survival chance. This would indicate whether larger groups are better or worse at effective interventions.

        I only think that the “bystander effect” can really be said to exist if the survival chance is lower in larger groups. Otherwise this is a dumb measure that is probably anti-informative, making people focused on the wrong parts of reality and thus less wise.

      • zqed says:

        Alas, it’s the author of the linked Tumblr post who misunderstood the meaning of the bystander effect.

        Aapje’s interpretation is correct, as Latané (the investigator behind the first bystander intervention studies) repeatedly stressed in the papers he wrote on the subject. See e.g. [1]:

        A person in a real emergency situation and in actual need of help is not likely to be concerned with any given bystander’s likelihood of giving assistance but simply with whether anyone helps.

        […]

        According to the data, very often the victim is actually less likely to get help as the number of helpers increases.

        [1] B. Latané, S. Nida. Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin Vol. 89, No. 2, pp. 308-324. 1981.

      • Garrett says:

        It would be too many for CPR or really any medical attention at all,

        On the contrary! The New Hotness in CPR for EMS is the Pit Crew model. Ideally, you’d have a bunch of people switching off chest compressions every 2 minutes. Seriously – even people who’ve taken CPR training don’t get the full appreciation for how tiring CPR is on an actual person. One of the best arrests I was on involved 5 EMS providers and none of us did CPR – that was all handled by the ~6 police who showed up on-scene.

        On a more cynical note, one of the folks I worked with said “remember: don’t lift with your back; lift with your volunteer firefighters”.

        More people on-scene can be a great asset. But someone needs to start doing something useful (lots of people like to do things they *think* are useful). Ideally, the person doing something useful also knows how to leverage additional people to accomplish the goal, and the bystanders have to be willing and able to take direction.

        As for restraining an attacker (or anybody else), you want at least 1 person per limb. If they are wily or strong you might need more. Secure them face-up without anybody or anything on their head or torso.

  39. jermo sapiens says:

    I think it’s incorrect to label the Proud Boys a hate group. I realize they are labeled as such by the MSM and the SPLC, but that doesnt make it so, and since being a hate group is one of the worst slanders you can throw at someone, that designation should be made carefully. McInnes is currently suing the SPLC over that designation

    The Proud Boys philosophy is, as far as I can tell from watching McInnes’ show:
    -Western chauvinism
    -Pro-housewife
    -pro-entrepreneurs
    -pro-Trump
    -anti-Antifa
    -open to all races

    These are perhaps controversial positions if you’re in a Portland slam poetry collective, but they’re not that far out the mainstream. Apart from Antifa, there is no group that you could reasonably expect a Proud Boy to hate if the only thing you knew about them was that they are a Proud Boy.

    • Glacian says:

      I agree.

      Why are the Proud Boys being labeled a “hate group”? “Hate” isn’t part of their platform or ideology. They’ve engaged in violence, and that’s bad, but being rowdy and getting in fights isn’t “hate.”

      • jermo sapiens says:

        AFAIK, they’ve only engaged in fights with Antifa in which Antifa was the initial aggressor. This is a really bad idea, but opposing Antifa and fighting back when attacked does not fit my definition of “hate group”.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “In July 2019, it was reported that on several occasions Proud Boys had gone to the homes of their critics and menaced them. In June 2018, Vic Berger, who posts videos online mocking far-right figures, including Proud Boy founder Gavin McInnes, was visited at his home by a Proud Boy who told him that “You’re really hurting the Proud Boys. You need to stop making these videos.” Berger later came into possession of an internal Proud Boy document which called for Proud Boys to find the addresses of their opponents and those of their relatives and “SHOW THEM THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES!!!” Then, on June 29, 2019, a group of Proud Boys showed up at 11 p.m. at the Philadelphia home of Gwen Snyder, who tracks the movements of the Proud Boys. Snyder wasn’t home at the time, so the group spoke to a neighbor, telling them that Snyder needed to stop posting on Twitter the names of Proud Boys and other information about them; “You tell that fat bitch she better stop”, one of the group allegedly said.”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I was not aware of that. Thanks.

          • GravenRaven says:

            I’m not generally in favor of showing up to protest at your political opponents homes (although I might make an exception if those opponents are themselves doxing people) but it certainly is not violence.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            it certainly is not violence.

            I would have a hard time construing this as anything but a threat of violence. It’s the old “I know where you live”.

            I dont know Gwen Snyder, and the phrase “who tracks the movements of the Proud Boys” sounds an awful lot like a euphemism for “doxxing and trying to get fired”, but showing up at her place is bad morally and bad strategically.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [A] group of Proud Boys showed up at 11 p.m. at the Philadelphia home of Gwen Snyder, who tracks the movements of the Proud Boys.

            Read one way, this sounds like poor behavior on the part of the Proud Boys (esp. if the account is true about their choice of description of her). Read another way, this sounds like the Proud Boys saying “I know where you live!” to someone who was going out of her way to tell everyone else where Proud Boys lived.

          • Casual Reader says:

            “..telling them that Snyder needed to stop posting on Twitter the names of Proud Boys and other information about them.”

            Was Gwen Snyder doxing people? Harassing people at their homes is never okay, but it sounds like they were reacting to having their personal information made public. Either way, this behavior was highly inappropriate, but these people are not necessarily representative of the organization as a whole. I would like to know whether the leadership of the organization issued any statements or reprimanded the people involved.

          • Cliff says:

            Is that supposed to support the hate group label? Is the definition of a hate group that some members of your group do sketchy things on occasion against people who are doing sketchy things to them?

          • onyomi says:

            Intimidating and harassing critics, even if explicitly prescribed, seems orthogonal to what the concept of “hate” purports to be about, e.g. intimidating and harassing people over something like race, religion, or sexual orientation.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Cliff

            Is the definition of a hate group that some members of your group do sketchy things on occasion against people who are doing sketchy things to them?

            Citation very much needed for the claim that Vic Berger was “doing sketchy things”. Bear in mind that turning up at someones house and telling them to stop doing something sounds like something that

            could reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress to the target of their conduct

            and involves acting

            with the intent to… intimidate… in order to… intimidate

            i.e. it is felony stalking
            whereas making mocking videos is not a felony.

          • Glacian says:

            This indicates thuggish, bad behavior. But it does not justify the label “hate group.” It’s simply incorrect to call them a hate group. If them threatening and intimidating critics justifies the label that they’re a “hate group” we’d have to call a lot of groups hate groups that clearly are not.

            I really believe the “hate group” reference in the list of links should be removed. At the very least, it is an open question whether they qualify for the label. It’s unnecessarily divisive, controversial, and open to reasonable doubt.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      You are aware that there is a distinction between the stated philosophy of a group and their actual behavior right? For instance the “Democratic Party” opposes many pro-democracy reforms like election and voting reform. I say this as someone who was supporting Bernie and now Warren. You could make an argument that the “Republican” party is now supporting populism which is equally inconsistent.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Sure. If you are aware of Proud Boys behaving in a way which would justify the label of hate group, please share. In the absence of such behaviors, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to refer to a group’s stated philosophy.

        Also, there’s no point in being a hate group (i.e., a group whose primary organizing principle is the hatred of some other group), unless you’re going to be upfront about it. The KKK isnt shy about it’s hatred of black people. What would be the point of the KKK if they were?

        If the charge is that these people are secretly hateful, well ok then, let’s see some evidence for it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The Proud Boys philosophy is, as far as I can tell from watching McInnes’ show:
      -Western chauvinism
      -Pro-housewife
      -pro-entrepreneurs
      -pro-Trump
      -anti-Antifa
      -open to all races

      I keep thinking “If they’d admit girls, this would almost be Cobra Kai.”
      There’s clearly something bad about the Proud Boys, at minimum the fact that McInnes cultivates an attitude of “fighting is healthy/fun” that has no place in politics, but not all bad non-leftist things are “hate groups.”

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Agreed. It looks to me like the designation of Proud Boys as a hate group stems mostly from their opposition to Antifa, with the “reasoning” being antifa = anti-fascist, therefore anti-antifa = anti-anti-fascist = fascist, as if antifa was not a group that could be judged by its own behavior.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      The SPLC do have a page explaining it.

      Any discussion beyond this is likely to be a bit CW.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        There’s alot of guilt by association in this piece by the SPLC, and the extent to which those associations are real is not really established. You could use the same method to establish Obama was a communist terrorist because of his association to Bill Ayers.

        Are we not allowed to discuss CW topics here? I thought it was only the visible open threads where we couldnt? This topic is on point with respect to one of the links posted so I thought it was fair game.

        • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

          I agree that much of it is “this one guy is/was a member of the Proud Boys and also this other obviously dodgy group”.

          I’d argue that enough of McInnes own quotes suggest that “hate group” is a reasonable label, at least with respect to Islam / Muslims. Much of the rest is just pretty right wing stuff + a lot of obnoxiousness. I don’t know whether the endorsement of violence is that relevant for the designation.

          I can’t remember what the policy is for usual posts. It is directly relevant to a link.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m very familiar with Gavin McInnes and his philosophy, and I happen to agree with a lot of it. I would argue that his position towards Muslims is not correctly described as hatred.

            My understanding of McInnes’ view, which happens to coincide with my own, is not to hate Muslims but to take the threat of Islamic terrorism seriously.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The pull quotes make it sound like McInnes is afraid of Islam because the Qu’ran is a “hate book”, teaching non-racial hatred and violence toward the outgroup as the will of God.
            He also goes a step further and says that many Muslims are genetically inferior because of cousin marriage. This is bad for his claims of mere cultural chauvinism (though it could still be 100% true) as it implies that mass apostasy by immigrants and adoption of Western chauvinism wouldn’t get them treated as full equals by him.

            So the thing is, lots of leftists would criticize any ideology other than Islam that builds a non-genetic in-group and preaches the inferiority of and validity of violence toward “the Other.” Lots of leftists also use “inbred” as an insult, which implies that humans who are the product of cousin marriage are inferior by nature. So it just sounds like what’s making the group McInnes founded a hate group is intellectual consistency.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            He also goes a step further and says that many Muslims are genetically inferior because of cousin marriage.

            That’s an empirical claim. Which he did not invent.

            it implies that mass apostasy by immigrants and adoption of Western chauvinism wouldn’t get them treated as full equals by him

            That’s not a charitable interpretation. Should nobody speak of cousin marriages then? I’m no experts in genetics, but my understanding of cousin marriages is that they increase the risk of genetic diseases, not that an otherwise healthy person born of a cousin marriage is in any way “inferior”.

            _________

            Edit: The empirical claim I’m suggesting McInnes made is that they disproportionately practice cousin marriage. Not that “Muslims are genetically inferior”, which McInnes did not say.

          • but my understanding of cousin marriages is that they increase the risk of genetic diseases

            That’s true if you consider the probability that the children will show a genetic disease, given the genetic distribution of the parents. But over multiple generations, shouldn’t the effect be to filter out deleterious recessives, as they pair up and result in less reproductive success for the resulting offspring?

            I suspect more of an issue is the broader inbreeding, the fact that, in at least some Muslim populations, marriage is entirely within the tribe/clan/… . That means a more limited gene pool–the same problem that shows up with the Amish.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That’s an empirical claim. Which he did not invent.

            That’s not a charitable interpretation. Should nobody speak of cousin marriages then?

            Did you miss where I said “what makes McInnes a hate group leader is intellectual consistency”? He believes the same empirical claims about inbreeding as everybody else, and evaluates Islam like leftists evaluate any other ideology.
            Since leftism is philosophically incoherent, the good guys in our intellectual milieu must be heretics. Though that said, I still don’t see the Proud Boys as the good guys, due to the attitude to fighting McInnes cultivates in it. Even a non-sexist version of the group would be flawed, as I can determine from the fictional evidence Cobra Kai. 😛

          • jermo sapiens says:

            But over multiple generations, shouldn’t the effect be to filter out deleterious recessives, as they pair up and result in less reproductive success for the resulting offspring?

            Yeah that’s a fascinating hypothesis but good luck getting approval from the IRB.

            Jokes aside, I’ve heard that this was one reason for the large number of centenarians in Sardinia.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Did you miss where I said “what makes McInnes a hate group leader is intellectual consistency”? He believes the same empirical claims about inbreeding as everybody else, and evaluates Islam like leftists evaluate any other ideology.

            Sorry. I got it now.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t think it is “intellectually consistent” to single out Muslims for this when it applies to other cultures as well. It also isn’t clear to me that it is a “Muslim” issue, as opposed to a regional cultural thing (I am willing to be persuaded on this point, but I am not yet persuaded)?

            You also see a lot of leftists condemning human rights violations (usually focused on those against women) in Muslim communities and Muslim countries, so the idea that “the left” just blindly embraces all things Islam is mistaken on its face and I would suspect “ending traditions of first cousin marriage” is probably on the list of human rights issues advocated against.

          • JPNunez says:

            Cobra Kai is totally rad and not a hate group, as evidenced from the tv series I will finish watching any day now.

            You also see a lot of leftists condemning human rights violations (usually focused on those against women) in Muslim communities and Muslim countries, so the idea that “the left” just blindly embraces all things Islam is mistaken on its face and I would suspect “ending traditions of first cousin marriage” is probably on the list of human rights issues advocated against.

            Yeah, but the far right has made more difficult to criticize Islam this way. There’s also the eternal fight over face covering on women too.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @acymetric:

            I don’t think it is “intellectually consistent” to single out Muslims for this when it applies to other cultures as well. It also isn’t clear to me that it is a “Muslim” issue, as opposed to a regional cultural thing (I am willing to be persuaded on this point, but I am not yet persuaded)?

            It’s complicated: first cousin marriage was an Arab thing that Muhammad condoned. Orthodox Muslims can therefore say that sharia trumps legislation, so you offend God when you legislate away our freedom to marry our cousins. This custom demonstrably spread to some converted groups, and you can see the British Pakistanis in the article making that very argument.
            (“Do most non-Arab Muslims shun cousin marriage?” is a distinct interesting question, just like “Do many Muslim cultures shun polygamy even for men able to afford it?” that we’ve circled around a few times with David Friedman.)
            In any case, McInnes identifies his beliefs as Western cultural chauvinism, so whether other non-Western cultures inbreed doesn’t touch on whether he’s intellectually inconsistent.

            You also see a lot of leftists condemning human rights violations (usually focused on those against women) in Muslim communities and Muslim countries, so the idea that “the left” just blindly embraces all things Islam is mistaken on its face and I would suspect “ending traditions of first cousin marriage” is probably on the list of human rights issues advocated against.

            But how do they deal with Muslims disagreeing with that? Heck, what do they think about dictators like Gamal Abdel Nasser agreeing with women’s rights?
            For the past 18 years, I’ve seen a pattern of leftists supporting Islamic theology when it contradicts their previously-held convictions. Now I’m not saying they care one wit about theology: instead it seems to fit a psychology of guilt at disagreeing with brown people (but not Hindu brown people, or Latin American brown people who don’t want Christianity insulted). If they can find a little girl to disagree with Deobandi scholars who say she shouldn’t go to school, they’ll treat her and not them as an Islamic authority.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            But over multiple generations, shouldn’t the effect be to filter out deleterious recessives, as they pair up and result in less reproductive success for the resulting offspring?

            That is called genetic purging and while it is used by animal breeders in controlled ways, it doesn’t work for natural inbreeding of animals. Plants often mate with themselves and seem to be adapted to make use of it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Even if some group coming to the US has problems from inbreeding (lower IQ, shorter, more health problems), if they assimilate to US norms and marry someone unrelated to themselves, their kids will do much better, as they will have something more like the normal probability of pairs of deleterious recessives.

          • albatross11 says:

            In places where people tend to marry within a kin group, I wonder if the effect is mainly to decrease the fitness of those groups that have a lot of deleterious recessives, relative to other groups.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Breeding within a small group (not necessarily cousin marriage) has caused genetic problems for the Amish. I assume that purging bad genes through inbreeding takes so long and has such a high cost that it’s not worth it as a means of genetic improvement for humans.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            albatross11:

            “Even if some group coming to the US has problems from inbreeding (lower IQ, shorter, more health problems)”

            To what extent is being shorter a result of inbreeding and to what extent is it a problem?

          • Breeding within a small group (not necessarily cousin marriage) has caused genetic problems for the Amish.
            As I think I mentioned in another comment, the same thing may be happening with Arabs. The last year I taught my legal systems very different seminar, most of the class was Saudi LLM students.

            I had some interesting conversations with the one woman. According to her, if her brother wanted to get married it would be up to her and her mother to find him a bride, since unmarried men and women didn’t socialize, had no opportunity to meet and get to know each other. And they would be looking in a very small pool, perhaps five or ten possible candidates, because he would only marry within their ‘Akila, roughly speaking tribe, a kinship group reflected in the last name of the individual.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The child of two first cousins loses 5 IQ points and 3 cm. (A child of repeated inbreeding loses more.) No, I don’t think we should consider that height a cost to society, but inbreeding probably has lots of effects, not just the acute effect of doubling the rate of birth defects, but probably generally reducing health in ways that are not obvious.

          • albatross11 says:

            Being shorter isn’t a problem, but it’s an easily-observed signal that correlates with worse health overall. Lower IQ is a big problem, as is worse overall health, higher probability of mental health problems, etc.

          • Worley says:

            There’s an extremely odd factor about the issue/assertion that groups with a lot of cousin marriage are relatively inbred and this lowers the average IQ. Of course, it incorporates the usual obsession that IQ is really important. But more oddly, inbredness is a genetic feature of an individual or the individuals in a set, but not of an ethnicity’s gene pool, because if you change the ethnicity’s marriage customs for a generation or two, the gene pool is no different, but the individuals are less inbred.

            I have seen academic papers which suggest cousin marriage is important in history, not because of the effects on IQ, but because out-breeding breaks up the clan system that is typical of agrarian societies.

            Interestingly, the Japanese government, in the early 1900s, undertook a campaign against cousin marriage, and it appears to have been successful. That could be compared to the campaign by the western Christian Church during the middle ages.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t want to define the term “hate group” so broadly that it doesn’t apply to anyone. While I agree that it’s possible to hold far-right views non-hatefully, the Proud Boys seem to be famous for threatening their opponents in pretty appalling ways. I think the combination of far-right views + threatening violence against people is a fair definition of “hate group”.

      • albatross11 says:

        Would that define antifa to also be a hate group?

      • hls2003 says:

        I think the combination of far-right views + threatening violence against people is a fair definition of “hate group”.

        I would assume you intend that to be a context-specific instance of a more general principle of “far-fringe views + threatening violence = hate group.” You presumably would agree that far-left views plus threatened violence can constitute a “hate group” also.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I agree there’s something awkward about this definition. I would feel awkward using “hate group” to describe an equally far-left group that threatened violence (like antifa), unless maybe it was a Black Panthers style group that involved race. I was trying to think of a good term to use to describe Proud Boys to people who might not have heard of it, making it clear that they were both pretty racist and also had a kind of violent bent to them; let me know if you have a better idea.

          • Aapje says:

            @Scott Alexander

            Involve race in what way?

            Proud boys doesn’t seem to be targeting non-white people for violence, just like antifa doesn’t target white people. Is the coexistence of violence and racism really that relevant when the violence itself is not racist?

            Both Proud Boys and antifa members typically seem to have racially motivated ideologies, which depending on your beliefs, are either racist, or merely recognition of racial facts.

            Is it racist to believe that Muslims have a culture of harming women? Is it racist to believe that white people have a culture of harming black people?

            Isn’t your definition of “hate group” dependent on you favoring certain kinds of racism over other kinds of racism?

          • John Schilling says:

            I agree there’s something awkward about this definition. I would feel awkward using “hate group” to describe an equally far-left group that threatened violence (like antifa), unless maybe it was a Black Panthers style group that involved race.

            So, a group of homophobes whose explicit motto and charter is “We hate all men who have sex with other men, and we want all men who have sex with other men to die, and we plan to get together as a group and beat them with clubs until they are dead”, would not be a “hate group” so long as their murderous hatred is applied to MSM homosexuals of all races equally? Because I think the SPLC is going to want to have a word with you about that.

            And obviously you can amend your definition to “…group that involved race or sexual orientation”, and then I’ll bring up misogynistic hate groups and you’ll amend that to “race, gender, or sexual orientation”. Then I’ll bring up the antisemitic hate groups and, oops, “race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation”, and we can go through that cycle a few more times.

            But it ends with either “hate group” means any group for which hatred of another group is central to their identity or purpose, or with “hate group” being a political term for “people that hate progressives and their allies, and as such are hated by progressives and their allies”. It looks like you are leaning towards the latter, while claiming to a shred of reason by allowing for the theoretical existence of leftist hate groups that you can’t seem to find in reality.

          • hls2003 says:

            I was trying to think of a good term to use to describe Proud Boys to people who might not have heard of it, making it clear that they were both pretty racist and also had a kind of violent bent to them; let me know if you have a better idea.

            How about “far-right group intent on fomenting violence with violent leftists like Antifa”? Yeah, it’s longer, but it has the double advantage of being more accurate and also leaving the biased grifters at SPLC out of it.

            Alternatively, what you’re really looking for is something like “nativist” or “ultra-nationalist” or even, if you believe that it’s all about whites (and I expect by membership numbers, it is probably disproportionately white), “white nationalist” – but in that case you might try to avoid giving cover to fellow-travelers who are expanding the term into meaninglessness.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            or with “hate group” being a political term for “people that hate progressives and their allies, and as such are hated by progressives and their allies”

            “Hate group – n. a group hated by progressives” gets my vote for Ambrose Bierceism of the Week.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think the combination of far-right views + threatening violence against people is a fair definition of “hate group”.

        I think the inclusion of a qualifier for a specific political ideology make that an extremely unfair definition of a “hate group”. Is it your contention that leftists are inacapable of hate, or that their hate is somehow prevented from manifesting in group form, or was this simply an oversight?

        If the Proud Boys are a Hate Group(tm), then so is Antifa. The latter is literally self-defined by its disfavor for a group of people, and they both advocate in theory and do in fact go around beating up members of that group of people, and if that’s not a “hate group” where the Proud Boys somehow are, then you’ve redefined “hate” into a meaningless boo-word.

        • albatross11 says:

          Intuitively, it seems like “hate group” should refer to the beliefs of the organization, rather than to whether or not it sometimes uses violence. The United States Army and the Mafia both use violence against their enemies, but it would be weird to call either one a hate group. By contrast, a completely peaceful group of elderly Nazis who get together once a week to discuss how much they can’t stand Jews, blacks, Slavs, and other non-Aryans looks like a hate group to me, even though they never beat anyone up.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            By contrast, a completely peaceful group of elderly Nazis who get together once a week to discuss how much they can’t stand Jews, blacks, Slavs, and other non-Aryans looks like a hate group to me, even though they never beat anyone up.

            Which seems to be exactly the deal with Richard Spencer’s group. They’d just book a conference room or something to discuss how much they can’t stand sharing a state with Jews and blacks, and, I dunno, speculating on whether rare Pepes would be the best currency for their ethnostate. I can’t cite journalists covering him for beating up minority individuals before or after these meetings, while they did make him famous for saying “Hail our people! Hail Trump!” at one of these Nazi sewing circles.

          • Randy M says:

            Intuitively, it seems like “hate group” should refer to the beliefs of the organization, rather than to whether or not it sometimes uses violence.

            Also, the distance from the political median doesn’t necessarily have bearing on the emotional content of an activist group–although the political median may insist otherwise.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I don’t want to define the term “hate group” so broadly that it doesn’t apply to anyone.

        I would say the term applies to the KKK, neo-nazis, the alt-right (i.e., Richard Spencer devotees) and maybe even to some groups like the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther, and generally to all groups that hold racial hatred as an organizing principle. I think that’s the meaning most people understand when they hear the term “hate group”, it’s a shortcut to say these people are like the KKK.

        This is no defense of their violent behavior, even if it’s defensive violence. It’s pretty easy to not get into fights with Antifa. And if you were to label the Proud Boys a “violent group”, I would agree.

        I think the combination of far-right views + threatening violence against people is a fair definition of “hate group”.

        RE: the term “far-right”, in my experience people equate “far-right” with nazis, and hatred of jews and blacks. The Proud Boys are definitely more right wing than a moderate Republican, and in that sense could be labeled “far-right”. But the fact that they dont advocate for racial hatred of anyone is pretty important, because labels such as “far-right” and “hate group” implies that they do.

        I’m trying to think what the combination of far-left views + threatening violence (i.e. Antifa) should be labeled as, and coming up blank, unfortunately.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I would say the term applies to the KKK, neo-nazis, the alt-right (i.e., Richard Spencer devotees) and maybe even to some groups like the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther,

          Black Panther doesn’t care about non-Wakandan people.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Good point. I meant the Black Panther Party.

          • mdet says:

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that the original Black Panther Party largely wasn’t violent, except for their “policing the police” approach of forcefully intervening to prevent police brutality. Otherwise, they largely operated community clinics, meal programs, small schools, and other anti-poverty programs.

            The Black Liberation Army (who split off from the Black Panthers in 1971 specifically over the issue of when & how to use violence) and the New Black Panther Party (who split off from the Nation of Islam in 1989), on the other hand, were the explicitly violent radicals who often get conflated with the original Black Panther Party.

          • quanta413 says:

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that the original Black Panther Party largely wasn’t violent, except for their “policing the police” approach of forcefully intervening to prevent police brutality.

            Considering they got into literal gunfights with the police more than once an exception for that would be a pretty big exception on its own.

            Flipping through the wikipedia article on the original party, here are some of my favorite highlights.

            Outside of that, some Panthers tortured and murdered Alex Rackley for being suspected of being a police informant. Huey Newton fled to Cuba because he was afraid of prosecution for murdering a prostitute. And apparently, the security cadre of the Panthers spent some time extorting money from drug dealers and clubs. There was also a shootout (plus more retaliatory shootings later) between the Black Panthers and the US Organization (a Black Nationalist group) over who would head the UCLA Afro-American Studies Center.

            I think it’s fair to say that the Black Panthers make most political groups currently called violent (like antifa or proud boys) look like a bunch of hippies in comparison.

            The Black Panthers weren’t really alone in this though. The 60s and 70s were crazy violent compared to now.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It seems that the Black Panthers were a black nationalist paramilitary. The validity of violence was part of their ideology, and as we discussed vis-a-vis “Days of Rage”, some white college kids (the Weathermen) tried to convince them to use violence stupidly and were told to go hang.
            Not so different from if liberal college kids from Russia came to the US Army and offered to be our allies in going to war with Russia in the stupidest way imaginable, except for the illegitimacy (illegality) of paramilitary violence.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          ‘that hold racial hatred as an organizing principle’ — I could argue western chauvenism meets this definition given that the people you listed as fitting the bill might not agree to that characterization. If it’s a designation that’s applied rather than voluntarily adopted.

          The H-word suffers from a connotation/definition problem.

          If the connotation of X is sinister, then you amalgamate the things you find sinister and then try and define X in some way that includes all of them but doesn’t include things you don’t find sinister. This assumes the definition maker is the sort of person who consistently applies rules (I.E. the definition maker isn’t a human)

          There are people who think PB feel is sinister, and antifa is not. It doesn’t matter what who says about which group and which person punched who.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I could argue western chauvenism meets this definition

            You could, but this term was chosen specifically to express pride in the west’s accomplishments without expressing dislike of others, which is a legitimate position to hold, but a difficult one to express in a world where everything is considered racist by the Wokeratti.

            If it’s a designation that’s applied rather than voluntarily adopted.

            I dont think the KKK would shy away from proudly proclaiming their hatred. To be fair, my only exposure to the KKK comes from A&E documentaries and the Jerry Springer Show, but if you’re advocating for hatred, you need to be upfront about it.

            The H-word suffers from a connotation/definition problem.

            Yes, very much so.

      • Casual Reader says:

        I don’t think a case has been made that threatening violence against people is a part of the group’s core identity.

      • drethelin says:

        I think it’s in fact better not to try to define it at all. It’s a slur used by grifters to target anyone they don’t like. Trying to use your own more specific definition is missing the point: the entire reason it’s even used is to tar people by association.

        It’s also a completely unnecessary phrase. It can be replaced in any sentence with something less vague, like “White supremacist” or “Violent” or “thuggish” without leaning on the weaponized word “hate”.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m willing to apply “hate group” to any group which cultivates hatred (probably covers calls for violence, actual violence, and malicious claims which would make violence a plausible response) against any substantial group.

      To take an example of some personal interest, I’ve seen enough vehemence against boomers (though less lately) to actually leave me feeling a bit nervous. This doesn’t mean I think there’s a clear and present danger nor do I know of actual anti-boomer groups. This is just an example of potential hate groups which wouldn’t be racist.

      Meanwhile, threats from Proud Boys just go to show that there’s more to virtue than not being racist.

      • albatross11 says:

        So how would you classify:

        a. A group of whites who didn’t engage in violence but were overtly pro-white in their beliefs and policy preferences, believed that whites should stick together for the common good, opposed intermarriage with nonwhites, etc.

        b. A group of blacks who didn’t engage in violence but were overtly pro-black in their beliefs and policy preferences, believed that blacks should stick together for the common good, opposed intermarriage with nonblacks, etc.

        c. A group of Jews who didn’t engage in violence but were overtly pro-Jewish in their beliefs and policy preferences, believed that Jews should stick together for the common good, opposed intermarriage with non-Jews, etc.

        I think group (a) is very likely to be called a hate group by US media, whereas groups (b) and (c) are almost certain not to be called hate groups. It’s pretty clear this isn’t just about beliefs, because the beliefs are the same, just with the race or ethnic/religious group changed.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          b) and c) are ignored completely. I couldnt name any such groups off the top of my head but I’m reasonably confident I could find some with 5 minutes of googling. I mean c) comes pretty close to describing Ben Shapiro, and definitely describes Hasidic jews, even if they’re not a formal organization.

          I’m not opposed to having a double standard when it comes to the majority population with respect to minority groups, specially when the majority has oppressed minorities in the past. I do think it would be useful to acknowledge the double standard and discuss why the double standard is necessary more openly than is currently being done.

          However, I am opposed to the double standard going as far as it is going now, where immigration, including illegal immigration, is used to dispossess the majority from their majority status, and for one side to mention that process is hate speech, while the other side either denies the process exists or uses it to boost the morale of its troops and demoralize its enemies, as needed.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think “we like us” is different from “we hate them and so should you”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            I agree, but I think a “we like us” group of whites is almost certain to get labeled a hate group. For example, I’m pretty sure a political movement whose major goals are, say, to shift immigration policy so we get mostly white immigrants, impose affirmative action in universities to favor whites[1], and push for public schools to spend more time on the accomplishments of Western civilization and our glorious European Christian heritage would be called a hate group, white supremacist, and neo Nazi in pretty much all mainstream media sources.

            [1] Note that we already get a boost relative to Asians.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            It is, but go ahead and proclaim that you’re proud of being white on a university campus. Or put up signs that say “It’s OK to be white”.

            I’m not saying we need white history month or anything like that, just pointing out that the distinction you’re suggesting is not actually relevant in this case.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy: Agreed with the other two posters that this generic moral distinction doesn’t apply to the facts on the ground.
            The Powers aren’t fans of single standards.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I’m willing to apply “hate group” to any group which cultivates hatred (probably covers calls for violence, actual violence, and malicious claims which would make violence a plausible response) against any substantial group.

        So, Antifa is a hate group then? The “substantial group” that Antifa cultivates hatred towards includes Trump voters and even liberals.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        Elaborate please on malicious claims. Is someone claiming that White or male privilege exists a hate group? Is something like #MeToo, which makes claims with intention to visit negative consequence on certain people? Is supporting Hong Kong instigating hatred of China.

  40. Hoopdawg says:

    Darger’s writing remains unpublished, which is a travesty. I looked for it a few years ago and recall finding info about excerpts being available to public somewhere, but I have since forgotten the details.

    I largely distrust anyone talking about carbon offsetting, but carbon capture is something humanity should obviously be researching, for the same reason it researches directly harvesting energy emitted by the sun (mistakenly called “renewable”).

    Quilette has successfully changed the media landscape for Quilette readers, while not really making any difference for the non-readers – who have also gotten better at ignoring the uncomfortable implications of its contents in the meantime. (The poll question was more about recent trajectory, but either way I think it still boils down to this.)
    Also, a single media outlet Quilette is perfectly well defined and restricted in scope. It’s a completely different case from “socialism”, which is an all-purpose bogeyman for detractors and poorly defined even for vast majority of supporters. Compare Breitbart, Guardian or Vox vs. alt-right and SJWs. I suspect a self-described Quilette opponents would assume alt-right is on the rise, and supporters – that SJWs control everything – seemingly but not really contrary to their poll responses.

  41. Aapje says:

    So Gavin McInnes founded two hate groups?!

  42. Pablo says:

    The more strongly a participant believed in “male privilege”, the more difference in how they evaluated the studies.

    It would be interesting if someone were to conduct a second-order study investigating how participants respond to the results of object-level studies like this one. I predict that the results Scott reports will be shown to generalize to the meta-level.

  43. Hackworth says:

    Re: Amazonas fires. The Amazonas fires are problem with not just a mere financial solution. They require a political solution primarily, because Bolsonaro. The G7 threw their political weight around, threatening to cancel trade deals with Brazil unless they take action, something DiCaprio obviously could never do.

    Considering that Bolsonaro has categorically rejected outside interference, including relief money, I’m more surprised any money is being pledged at all, because the Amazon fires are not your typical natural disaster the local government is underfinanced or underequipped to deal with, but a result of extreme pro-business and anti-environment policies.

    Following increased pressure from the international community at the 45th G7 summit and a threat to reject the pending European Union–Mercosur free trade agreement, Bolsonaro dispatched over 44,000 Brazilian troops and allocated funds to fight the fires, and later signed a decree to prevent such fires for a sixty-day period.

    • Lambert says:

      We need to fly in firefighting planes with a big escorting force.
      Like the exact opposite of Operation Paul Bunyan.

        • Lambert says:

          Maybe if they’d put seeds in with the cluster munitions, Princess Di would’ve been ok with them?

          • bean says:

            Ooh, I like this plan. But why not take it one step further? Change the cluster munitions to disperse seeds at high velocity, and claim we’re dropping them for environmental purposes, and isn’t it a shame that the enemy was standing right there. I wonder what kind of seed works best as shrapnel…

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I wonder what kind of seed works best as shrapnel…

            My candidate: acorns. They’re probably like ball bearings in that environment.

            As a side benefit, you could diversify that tech into landmines. Biodegradable by nature.

          • Lambert says:

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

            There’s always that urban legend about some scool somewhere mandating that children wear safety glasses when playing. (IMHO, go ahead. Kids should get used to safety squints from a young age, what for doing dangerous stuff more safely when they grow up.)

            Right time of year for it too.

          • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

            I wonder what kind of seed works best as shrapnel…

            Seems like this one is most appropriate.

    • JPNunez says:

      The fires seem to be part of agricultural practices, the main difference being Bolsonaro being more friendly to businesses and letting the farmers burn whatever area they need. So I guess we will see the same song and dance next year; a bunch of fires in June and August, international response, then Brazil actually moves in to stop them. Maybe it won’t get as bad as 2019.

      It’s hard to say what’s the baseline, though, as 2016 was almost as bad, so for it to be worse it need to have around 68000 fires reported by INPE in the first half of 2020 (half here is up to august).

      A problem could be the capture of the INPE, as it is part of the brazilian government, so if Bolsonaro wanted to artificially control the statistics, they are an easy target. Maybe it was just a bad year, we’ll see.

      • Hackworth says:

        I suppose it’s helpful that the fires are impossible to hide from observation by satellite, so getting INPE to release fake numbers would at most help domestic opinion. On the one hand that seems to be what politicians like Bolsonaro are after anyway and would be good enough for his supporters, but on the other hand, anyone with internet access could get the different views.

        • JPNunez says:

          I don’t know if someone double checks INPE’s figures. Maybe by the time someone notices things are off, they won’t have taken the necessary space photographs to do their independent counting, thus kicking independent control a year later.

          edit: it may have begun

          “In August 2019, the chief of the agency, Ricardo Galvão, was fired by science minister Marcos Pontes after a period where Galvão had a public argument with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro over the validity of data from DETER, a satellite system monitoring deforestation. Bolsonaro stated that the data had been altered to attack his government and Galvão called him a coward in response”

          So independent review of fire numbers may be needed for 2020, if it’s possible at all.

          • Hackworth says:

            There’s definitely independent checks. Every scientist with satellite data access can do so. According to the wiki article I linked, the general public took notice of this year’s fires only after confirmation by NASA.

    • “a result of extreme pro-business and anti-environment policies.”

      Do you know of any evidence that this is true?

      • Hackworth says:

        Davos, February 2019:

        https://www.ft.com/content/40ec2a48-1e57-11e9-b2f7-97e4dbd3580d

        In a brief and carefully controlled appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Bolsonaro, who was sworn in as Brazil’s president this month, set out a pro-market direction as he promised to lower the tax burden on business and make the country more open to foreign trade.

        His election, however, raised fears among environmentalists that he would seek to relax curbs on deforestation, leading to further destruction in the Amazon rainforest. Mr Bolsonaro has advocated commercial farming and mining on protected indigenous lands and has said that Brazil’s environmental policies are “suffocating the country”.

        General interview with foreign journalists, July 19:

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/19/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-amazon-rainforest-deforestation

        He even questioned recent satellite data from the government’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) that indicated a dramatic rise in deforestation in May and June. “I am convinced the data is a lie. We are going to call the president of INPE here to talk about this and that’s the end of that issue,” he said.

        In a recent UN speech:

        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-24/world-must-respect-brazil-sovereignty-in-amazon-bolsonaro-says

        “In addition, he said that “radical environmentalism” represented a step back and called on the UN to defeat this ideology.”

        “It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is a world heritage and it’s a mistake, as scientists have testified to say, that our rainforests are the lungs of the world, he said.

        “Free markets, concessions and privatizations are now present in Brazil.”

        https://www.a2globalrisk.com/analysis/americas/brazil–what-does-jair-bolsonaro-s-government-mean-for-business–security-

        Although previously a supporter of state intervention and protectionism, Bolsonaro�s core economic beliefs have moved significantly to the right since Paulo Guedes � a free-market economist and co-founder of the BTG Pactual investment bank � became his main economic advisor and nominee for finance minister in November 2017.

        All these were really easy to find, among the top google results for “bolsonaro business policy”.

        As for the link between his policies and the fires:

        https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767

        There had been a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon, said Douglas Morton, head of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

        The timing and location of the fires were more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought, he added.

        Activists say the anti-environment rhetoric of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged such tree-clearing activities since he came into power in January.

        The recent increase in the number of fires in the Amazon is directly related to intentional deforestation and not the result of an extremely dry season, according to the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam).

        The record number of fires also coincides with a sharp drop in fines being handed out for environmental violations, BBC analysis has found.

        Also a pretty damning graph from the same article:

        https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/061B/production/_108536510_optimised-deforest-nc.png

  44. Robin Kulle says:

    Technicality about the German noble names.
    When the Weimar Republic abolished the special rights of the nobility in 1918, the nobility lost the right to use their titles in front of their names. As a compromise, the title became a part of their surnames. So Hans Lichtenberg became Frederic Prince von Anhalt when he was adopted.
    Adoption for money still happens quite a lot.
    Some formerly noble families are still pretty intense about their family names though, including a clause in the prenup when someone marries outside of nobility, which forces the non-noble to switch back to their former name in case of divorce, thus keeping the family intact.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I think Austria actually made it illegal for former nobles (or anyone else) to use names that identified them as noble. So Herbert von Karajan’s passport said Herbert Karajan, and he was only allowed to use his birth name as a stage name.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What years was that law in effect? It seems like something the reaction aerie Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss[1] would have taken off the books.

        [1]Pun fans note that the 5-foot Dollfuss was dubbed “Millimetternich” for his combination of stature and right-wing politics.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          From 1918 to the present day. The rules have recently been enforced more strictly, to the extent that Austrians who marry foreigners with a ”von” in their name are not allowed to take their spouse’s full surname.

          Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen has been the target of accusations that his name (of Dutch origin, and the Dutch “van” does not have the same connotation of nobility as the German ”von”) is also a designation of nobility that he should not be allowed to use.

          • Aapje says:

            Von/van merely means of/from. Rembrandt van Rijn got his name because his father lived or was born close to the Rhine (Rijn in Dutch). So he is Rembrandt from the Rhine.

            For commoners, this was used most commonly for migrants, whose place of birth and/or earlier residence is relatively unique in their new home. It was also sometimes used for people who lived close to a particular feature. For example, painter Johannes Vermeer’s last name is a contraction of Van der Meer: of the lake. His ancestor probably lived on the edge of a lake or on an island in the lake.

            Most nobility who controlled a region, had a title recognizing their dominion over it. For example, the Dutch royal family has the title ‘Prins(es) van Oranje-Nassau’ aka Prince(ss) of Orange-Nassau, with Orange being a territory in France and Nassau a territory in Germany, both of which were once controlled by William of Orange.

            Note that with the change to make nobility more symbolic, the link between the title and actual dominion was often cut. The Dutch royal family is still allowed to use the title, even though they don’t actual rule Orange and Nassau anymore.

            Anyway, in Germanic countries, ‘von’ became strongly associated with nobility, resulting in people adopting it when they became nobility, even when it made no literal sense. For example, the father of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe didn’t have the von, being called Johann Caspar Goethe.

            Goethe means son of Gottfried, a Germanic first name. Traditionally, one would not use von/van for a last name that refers to a first name of an ancestor. So the adoption of von by Goethe was an affectation.

            Presumably, the relative unimportance of the nobility in The Netherlands (because much wealth came from trade, rather than land ownership), meant that the link between ‘van’ and prosperity/power was weak. Also, people in The Netherlands might have been more mobile, resulting in more use of ‘van’ by commoners (because of there being more commoner migrants).

            ‘Von’ seems to have been and be a much more strong signal of eliteness in Germanic countries, which is why it is seen as a sign of eliteness there, while ‘van’ is not seen this way in The Netherlands.

            PS. A strong indicator of nobility in The Netherlands is a double last name, like “Van Zuylen van Nievelt,” although nobility without a double last name is also very common.

  45. Jiro says:

    The Area 23 link shows it had a bowling alley, not that it was used for testing one. I suppose that they could have tested it to see if it worked before they opened it, but that wasn’t its primary function.

    I assume this is a joke, but it’s only obviously a joke if you follow the link.

  46. gmaxwell says:

    > There are apparently water filters that remove fluoride,

    Your bog standard reverse osmosis filter is fairly effective at removing fluoride, it isn’t like you need >90% reduction to reduce your municipal source to below a level that would be a concern based on that study.

    No need to polish your water with snake oil. Plus the RO filter will reduce plenty of other contaminants which are likely still a bigger risk, even though they are present at a lower level like lead.

    Just be mindful that the filtration removes residual sanitizers and equipment downstream of the filter is more prone to bacterial contamination.

    • Lambert says:

      RO is a bit much. You need a good bit of energy to push against that potential gradient.

      Ion exchange is usually the way to get rid of a particular ion. No need to fight against entropy.

      • gmaxwell says:

        Yes, it’s overkill. But it doesn’t require maintaining ion exchange resins, or dealing with them getting saturated from other ionic impurities in your feed water.

        If you’re talking about drinking water the cost of operating a pump is negligible. And if your water pressure is >=50PSI, a pump is not required unless you need a *lot* of water.

        • Hackworth says:

          “Maintaining ion exchange resins”, besides maintenance of the device itself, consists of refilling the cheap regenerating salt once or twice a year for a typical household, depending on water usage and the difference between original and desired water hardness. Power requirements are low, as are the costs for the salt.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Fluoride is removed by anionic resins, not the cationic resin usually used in water softeners.

        • JG28 says:

          whole house RO is definitely overkill and generates a ton of waste water. Catalytic carbon filters and exchange resins (cationic or anionic) are fairly inexpensive and can easily be installed in-line for your home to remove chlorine and organics that are most likely going to be harmful to you or your kids or whatever. Only maintenance required is replacing the resin every few years and keeping the brine tanks filled. And also bleaching out your washing machine because your water no longer has sanitizing levels of chlorine or chloramine.

  47. Nornagest says:

    Ugly Gerry is a font where every letter is a gerrymandered Congressional district.

    Not quite. Some of them (A, B, R, X, and Z, unless I missed some) are two districts, which strikes me as cheating.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It’s suboptimal, but I’m still impressed that they could get a readable font with so little cheating.

    • JPNunez says:

      Obviously the solution is to gerrymander more until the cheating is gone.

      • Urstoff says:

        When AI’s are in charge of drawing congressional districts, they will end up optimizing for letter shape.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          A paperclip-shaped district would be a gerrymander indeed.

          • Watchman says:

            It’s actually a shape you can get in systems where constituencies are determined by neutral process. If you have an ovoid territory with two equal-size urban centres one third and two thirds of the way along with a third of the population on the surrounding rural areas, then given an allocation of three representatives a paperclip-shaped (at least by the standards in operation here) constituency for the rural areas is reasonable.

            All of which is simply more proof that a paperclip-maximising AI is preferable to the current US political system….

      • Kindly says:

        You’re not thinking big enough. The solution is to revise the alphabet to only include those letters which can be easily approximated by gerrymandered districts.

  48. Matthias says:

    > Apparently corporate profits have been a declining share of GDP over the past five years? Even despite the tax cut?

    Isn’t that exactly what econ 101 would predict?

    Capital will chase around global markets to equalise the rate of return available. Essentially, (return on capital) = profits – (taxes on profits). If return on capital is somewhat fixed, and taxes go down, profits will also go down.

    The real story is a bit more complicated because on the one hand, different investors have different tax treatments and different preferences etc. Though on the other hand, you can ignore all but the marginal investors.

    • meltedcheesefondue says:

      The return to capital will go down, but not the profit share of GDP. In fact, that will go up: as taxes go down, more capital will flow to more investments, including those that weren’t worth investing in previously. So the share of capital and profit will increase, at the same time as the returns to capital go down.

  49. onyomi says:

    There’s also “Ron Paul blindness,” “Andrew Yang blindness,” “Tulsi Gabbard blindness”… it’s a bipartisan bias the media has against treating anybody “seriously” whom the rest of the media isn’t already… treating seriously. If you are a bombastic reality TV billionaire with weird hair you can sometimes circumvent it by being a ratings booster in other ways.

  50. zz says:

    > Why do men find a lower waste-to-hip ratio sexier?

    A simpler explanation is gendered domestic labor. Men usually do the “dirty jobs”, such as taking out the trash, and therefore properly internalize the externalize of generating excess waste, whereas women don’t, so men prefer women who have a lower waste-to-hip ratio.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      And if women aren’t taking out the trash, they have more time to consume cool new music and fashionable clothes, decreasing their waste-to-hip ratio even further.

    • noyann says:

      > Why do men find a lower waste-to-hip ratio sexier?

      Because it signals the abstaining from junk food, which increases reproductive fitness.

    • jkranak says:

      A simpler explanation is that some beauty preferences are just random. The basic assumption of evolution researchers is that all beauty preferences in sexual selection must be based on a something that does increase a species’ fitness. But this is implausible. ALL beauty preferences? Not one single exception in the entire animal kingdom?

      To disprove this, all you have to do is find exceptions, which can be found. For example, do bowers of male bower birds really show anything about the higher fitness of some males over others? Likewise, does better hip-to-waist ratio really signal fitness in some convoluted, implausible, or is just rather the case the some beauty preferences are just random?

      • zqed says:

        One major confounder is that fitness is literally reproductive success. If cows randomly prefer bulls with larger horns, then bulls with larger horns may be found to be fitter even if having a larger horn provides no tangible physical benefit. And horns will get larger until gwtting any larger would have a severe enough adverse effect to offset the cows’ random preference.

      • acymetric says:

        Not to mention some beauty preferences change over time, likely too fast to be a result of evolution.

  51. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Did you know: ancient China fought ancient Greece in the War of the Heavenly Horses.

    I’m the sort of person who reads ancient history from primary sources, and it’s sobering to think how much we don’t know about the Eastern Greeks once the Seleucid Empire broke up. The surviving Hellenistic and Roman historians have almost nothing to say about the Seleucids beyond Syria.* They tell us that Seleucus I came into conflict with Chandragupta (“Sandrakoptos”) in 305 BC, losing Afghanistan, Balochistan and Hindu Kush. 135 years later, they lose Iran and Mesopotamia to Mithridates I of Parthia.
    But we know from numismatics that there were still Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms. There are also references to them in Indian primary sources: the Buddhist scriptures even mention one of their kings, Menander, as a hearer and patron of Buddhism. But we know frustratingly little about them.
    And then we have the Chinese Records of the Grand Historian saying “So there were totes Great Greeks (Da Yuan, where Yuan means “Ionian”, cf. Sanskrit Yavana) in North Tajikistan. We fought over their horses.”

    *Strabo, writing in the reign of Tiberius, does discuss them in his Geographica.

    • Lambert says:

      It’s said that a lot of Buddhist art draws on Greco-Bactrian influences.
      How different things might have been were Alexander a better statesman.

    • Watchman says:

      This said, by the time of the War of the Heavenly Horses, Duyuan was hardly Greek in a meaningful fashion. Its rulers seem (we don’t seem to have names, as we’re reliant on Chinese sources) to have been Iranian-language-speaking nomads rather than a hellenised dynasty. Whilst cities still existed, other key markers of a society based on urban centres are missing, notably coinage. I’d be surprised if the cities provide evidence of continuation of Greek urban life rather than their own culture heavily influenced by local pressures, with Buddhism perhaps the most obvious.

      What this was was a conflict between the Chinese and a nomadic tribe that happened to control some Greek-style cities. Whilst the cities might generally have origins in more easterly cultures, otherwise I think this is a characteristic of quite a lot of China’s Central Asian expeditions.

  52. Brett says:

    Two of the logical markets to aim for with Air-Carbon-Capture technology are

    1. Airlines
    2. Guilty conscience rich people. Especially target rich celebrities – “have you offset your carbon footprint? Why not go double, have a negative carbon footprint?”

    Did you know: ancient China fought ancient Greece in the War of the Heavenly Horses.

    That is super-cool. I can’t recall if there was ever direct contact between the Romans in the Imperial Era and the Han Dynasty Chinese. Given the boom in technology innovation during the latter, it almost feels like a “What Could Have Been” scenario where a whole bunch of technologies could have migrated west sooner via a Greek or Roman channel.

    The “disgrace insurance” made me think. If you are a company, can you buy insurance against strikes by your unionized workers? I suspect it’s illegal somehow, or just not offered.

    • Tuna-Fish says:

      > That is super-cool. I can’t recall if there was ever direct contact between the Romans in the Imperial Era and the Han Dynasty Chinese.

      They were both aware of each other and traded a lot, but always through intermediaries, as there were always other powers between them. There are some Chinese records of diplomatic envoys sent to establish ties, but none of those probably reached Rome. (The Parthians were very motivated to prevent this from happening, and while they nominally hosted Chinese envoys peacefully, they supposedly did a bunch of dirty tricks such as guided them through the worst deserts and the stormiest seas on their trip towards Rome, claiming that it was the best route.) According to Chinese archives, a group of Roman merchants/envoys did manage to make it to Luoyang.

      There are some very hazy mentions in Chinese sources that hint that maybe some of the Roman legionaries that got captured during Crassus’ ill-fated Parthian adventure ended up as mercenaries fighting for China, but that is all very disputed. Still, the idea of a Roman legion fighting as part of the Chinese empire is interesting.

      • noyann says:

        There are some Chinese records of diplomatic envoys sent to establish ties, but none of those probably reached Rome.

        Or did they? Unless that is a fine hoax or a PRC publicity stunt of unclear intention.

        “In 2010, mitochondrial DNA was used to identify that a partial skeleton found in a Roman grave from the 1st or 2nd century AD in Vagnari, Italy, had East Asian ancestry on his mother’s side.”

        “A 2016 analysis of archaeological finds from Southwark in London, the site of the ancient Roman city Londinium in Roman Britain, suggests that two or three skeletons from a sample of twenty-two dating to the 2nd to the 4th centuries AD are of Asian ancestry, and possibly of Chinese descent.”

        • Lambert says:

          Couldn’t the mDNA just be from an East Asian person who went to India and had a daughter who went to Bactria and had a daughter who went to Parthia who had a daughter who went to live in the Seleucid Empire who had a daughter who went to Italy?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Absolutely. However, the Bayesian probability of having a line of such peripatetic female ancestors seems to be lower than a line of male ones the same number of generations long.

          • Murphy says:

            absolutely.

          • Watchman says:

            Le Maistre Chat,

            Whilst I think you’re right that the probability of peripatetic female ancestry is lower than male, if only because male ancestry is lower commitment (all it needs is the sex, so allowing more chance of temporary visitors leaving offspring), I’m not sure we can accurately estimate how much lower. We know that in traders moved their families, and that all cultures at this point also practiced slavery,, both of which might explain migration.

            More relevant, it seems inherently unlikely that there were not people in the Roman Empire or China who dis not have an ancestor three or four generations removed from the other empire. The Indian Ocean trade routes (at least the east-west ones) were clearly open through the Roman period, (the Roman’s had Red Sea ports remember) and people did move along these. It might be that no one in either empire had direct knowledge of the other, but DNA could easily travel between them over time.

          • Lambert says:

            That was just an extreme example.
            More likely is that an East Asian woman went to the Middle East, then someone several generations down her maternal line (or their son) went to Italy.
            I have no idea how often maternal lines get extinguished, but there’s a lot of ways to get some mDNA from China to Rome that don’t involve any actual East Asians going to the west.

            And you get to sum over all the different routes the DNA could have taken. i.e. there’s a lot more indirect ways than direct ones.

            I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just that mDNA isn’t good enough evidence.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Watchman: Yes, absolutely.

    • Murphy says:

      Air-Carbon-Capture technology

      I honestly think the entire Air-Carbon-Capture is PR bollox from coal companies trying to go “look! we can be clean too! just close your eyes and don’t let any accountants think about the issue”

      $100 per tonne of CO2

      1 tonne = 1.10231 tons.

      “coal with a carbon content of 78 percent and a heating value of 14,000 Btu per pound emits about 204.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu when completely burned. Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide.”

      1 short ton = 0.90718 tons

      (have a mentioned my hate of all the stupid variations on “ton”, I propose a brutal pogrom to slaughter everyone who refuses to just use metric. It’s the only way)

      So, 1 ton of coal = 2.86 tons of CO2 approximately or $259.40 worth of CO2 under this system.

      Coal currently costs $43.55 per ton.

      So I propose a scheme whereby instead of paying $259.40 to capture CO2 from the atmosphere…. they instead pay $43.55 to buy 1 ton of coal and not burn it.

      In fact I can cut my costs further by avoiding extraction costs, my company will buy a working coal mine, fire everyone and then accept carbon offsets payments at the going rate… to **not** dig up and sell the coal.

      This of course presents excellent savings on labor costs and significantly reduces the numbers of deaths during coal mining as a small bonus.

      it also has the side benefit of avoiding release of all the other pollutants in the coal such as arsenic.

      I also have a second scheme for carbon capture.

      Sawdust apparently sells for $50 per dry ton.

      The numbers for wood are all over the shop because of different types of wood. But it seems you get about a ton of CO2 from a dry ton of wood.

      So I simply bury the sawdust wherever the carbon capture people were going to bury the CO2 at half the cost.

      • Ketil says:

        So I propose a scheme whereby instead of paying $259.40 to capture CO2 from the atmosphere…. they instead pay $43.55 to buy 1 ton of coal and not burn it.

        Sure. Or buy some rain forest, and not burn it down.

        This scheme depends on limited supply of coal or potential mines – otherwise the guy who was planning on burning your ton(ne) of coal will have to get it from some other mine, and the CO2 relased is the same as before.

        A major challenge is that there are really large oil reserves which can be extracted at fairly low cost. To prevent this from happening, you must either: provide enough green energy to drop energy prices enough that oil is no longer profitable, probably well below something like $20 per barrel (i.e. to 20-30% of current prices). And since demand increases with lower price, god only knows if we have enough wind and sun for that. Or: you need to convince countries that are essentially shaky dictatorships to relinquish the income that keeps their strained country together.

        • Murphy says:

          Slightly more serious reply: I would however slightly push up the price of coal, making it less economic to buy and burn it.

          And if I’m filling a vault with captured carbon, the source is fungible. Whether it’s a tank of CO2 captured from the air with cheap magitech, sawdust or blocks of carbon I bough on the market: that carbon is now captured and vaulted.

          If I bypass the vaulting process by simply buying a working coal mine and shutting it down (thus pushing up the price of coal) then any claimed benefit of carbon capture still applies re: everything that mine would have produced.

          Capturing carbon from the air *feels* better but listing the equivalent actions kinda highlights how pointless it is.

          You may have gathered that I consider carbon capture primarily a PR stunt to allow people to avoid thinking about how we really need to stop putting it in the air in the first place because that’s the most expensive place to extract it from once it’s there.

          • mdet says:

            On the contrary, I interpret the carbon capture camp as those who thought about not putting CO2 in the air, but eventually decided it’s impossible to convince people to give up cheap energy. Not the most effective solution, but the most politically palatable.

          • albatross11 says:

            mdet:

            +1

            Also, I’d say that carbon capture might be a reasonable way to deal with places where we have to use CO2 emitting fuels for engineering reasons–the obvious example being airplanes.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Isn’t the more relevant comparison the cost of electricity from a ton of coal rather than just the commodity price of the coal. You’ve also got the labour, maintenance, and amortization of the power generation facility, transmission costs, utility overhead, etc. If carbon capture represents a smallish increase in the final price to the consumer it could still be a good deal even if it looks like a big adder to the price of coal, no?

        • Murphy says:

          From googling (approximate of course because different qualities of coal)

          electricity generated per ton of coal is 2,460 kWh/ton.

          The Year-Ahead price per MWh is $61.5 in the UK currently.

          So even if running the power plant was entirely 100% free …. burning that ton of coal gets you $151.29 worth of energy and 2.86 tons of CO2.

          If you then decide to pay $259.40 to capture that CO2 back from the air… you’ve probably done something stupid.

          Even if it cost twice as much per MWh to generate your power some other way it would still be far cheaper than burning coal and then paying someone 100$ per tonne of CO2 to capture the CO2.

          Carbon capture is fundamentally stupid as an idea. It’s entirely designed to appeal to feelings.

          Run the numbers yourself. Until you do it doesn’t sink in how bad an idea it is vs just generating power some other (even some significantly more expensive) way.

          • Loris says:

            Carbon capture is fundamentally stupid as an idea.

            I don’t know, it could be a useful method under some sets of conditions.
            Not everything can be converted to run on electricity – aeroplanes for example. CO2 can be used as a source of carbon to generate fuel for these things, where electricity is readily available but fossil fuels are not.

            I seem to recall that the US Navy was investigating it as a way of generating jet fuel in situ on aircraft carriers.

            At a hypothetical point in the future where there’s a world-wide ban (or prohibitive taxes) on extracting fossil fuels, but we have copious electricity from non-carbon sources e.g. nuclear power, this could be useful. If you want in on that game (or even- you want that to be an option), you might be developing it now.

          • Murphy says:

            Ultra long term?

            Sure, there are cases where you want nice dense fuel.

            But carbon capture is almost always proposed as a way to avoid giving up burning more coal.

            If you’re just making fuel from gasses in the air then burning it that isn’t typically talked about as carbon capture.

            And any technical system that isn’t about making fuel for something else has to beat the market price of sawdust.

          • Loris says:

            But carbon capture is almost always proposed as a way to avoid giving up burning more coal.

            Not necessarily.
            I concede that some people may want to burn the coal, extract and store CO2 from the exhaust gasses. But that’s not the only consideration.

            If you’re just making fuel from gasses in the air then burning it that isn’t typically talked about as carbon capture.

            Actually, it is.
            The terminology I have seen is:
            Carbon capture : extracting carbon from the atmosphere or exhaust gasses
            Carbon capture and storage : the above, then long-term storage of the carbon.

            I believe that the sawdust-in-mine proposal (below) would qualify as CCS, since the trees got the carbon from the atmosphere.
            I’m not sure the density or volume is there for it to be a significant part of a solution, though.

            Collecting CO2 and then using it for industrial processes (etc) is a thing already.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            Carbon capture is fundamentally stupid as an idea

            No, it’s stupid right now because of the prices involved.

            If carbon capture becomes 90% cheaper, the math starts looking really good. Which shows there is nothing fundamentally dumb about it.

            Unless there is some reason I can’t think of why capture could never be cheaper than coal/oil?

          • sclmlw says:

            There’s a class of devices that already do economically viable carbon capture and storage: plants. They capture lots of carbon and are already solar powered. They’re much more efficient at it and the cost is dirt cheap. Maybe viable carbon capture just requires a different kind of approach.

      • Phigment says:

        You’re missing an important synergy in your two plans.

        Since you now have an inactive coal mine, you can bury the sawdust you were buying in the coal mine you are not mining.

        Then, you double-dip on the carbon offset payments, getting offsets for not mining coal, and also offsets for refilling the coal mine with carbon.

        (For maximum neatness, figure out a process to convert sawdust into coal affordably, and then refill the coal mine with coal.)

      • Lambert says:

        Cunning plan: modify a carburettor so it runs on air injected into an ambient atmosphere of CH4.
        Stick it on a generator and drop that into a gas well.
        Pump air down and get free electricity without the pollution.

        Broader thought: instead of CCS from the atmosphere at large, use the exhaust gasses from lime kilns, power stations etc. Much less entropy to fight against.

        >(For maximum neatness, figure out a process to convert sawdust into coal affordably, and then refill the coal mine with coal.)

        • Loris says:

          Broader thought: instead of CCS from the atmosphere at large, use the exhaust gasses from lime kilns, power stations etc. Much less entropy to fight against.

          This is being done at Drax in the UK, on some level.
          Having been a massive coal power station for quite some time, it started co-firing biofuels, and is now trumpeting a pilot carbon capture plant running solely on biofuel – which is hence “negative emissions”.

          • Murphy says:

            https://www.drax.com/technology/negative-emissions-techniques-technologies-need-know/

            They quote the cost of capturing carbon this was as

            $100 to $200 (£80-160) per metric ton.

            So still worse than just buying sawdust by the ton and burying it.

            The world consumes something like 10 billion tons of coal per year. putting out about 26 billion tons of CO2 per year.

            If each ton of CO2 costs $100 to pull back out of the air, who’s gonna pay the 2.6 trillion dollar yearly bill for carbon capture.

            Solar and various other renewables are expensive… but at that price it’s genuinely cheaper to just shut down the coal plants and throw vast sums of money at solar and wind power.

          • nkurz says:

            @Murphy (and @Loris):
            > So still worse than just buying sawdust by the ton and burying it.

            There’s nothing wrong with using “bury sawdust” as a shorthand, but you should realize that the hard part isn’t putting the carbon in the ground, but keeping it there. If it ever decomposes, the CO2 is fairly quickly re-released into the atmosphere. In the extreme case of simply mixing the sawdust into the top layers of the soil, the vast majority of the carbon will be lost within a decade.

            If you want to keep the carbon contained, you either need to transform the sawdust into something more stable like biochar, or keep it dry and oxygen free. There’s lots of research into these approaches, and they are promising, but it’s really not reasonable to compare the costs of buying and burying sawdust to approaches that actually permanently sequester carbon — or better yet, don’t produce it in the first place.

            (I’m sorry for the lack of supporting links. I did some research into this a while ago, and think I’m remembering things correctly, but don’t have time right now to search for good summaries. Perhaps someone here with greater knowledge than I have can provide better sources.)

          • Lambert says:

            Why not keep it wet and oxygen free?
            i.e. make a bog.

            Either dump sawdust in an existing bog or in a fairly acidic lake (treatment with FeSO4 might help). Or in one of those toxic mine-spoil lakes.

            Make sure to use some ericaceous stuff, oak, yew etc.

            That’ll stop it from decaying.

      • cryptoshill says:

        The thing that’s problematic here is that when you “buy something and take payments for carbon offsets to not produce coal” – you aren’t actually offsetting anyone’s *use*. Coal prices are based on the way that users use energy and the rough economic considerations of extractions. You could raise coal prices somewhat and discourage consumption the same way – but at the end of the day, the consumer can get their CO2 emissions from someone else, somewhere else. Carbon Capture (if it actually develops to the point of economic viability) has the potential of allowing meaningful carbon-offsets and carbon-taxes that aren’t affected by extremely perverse incentives.

    • EchoChaos says:

      The “disgrace insurance” made me think. If you are a company, can you buy insurance against strikes by your unionized workers? I suspect it’s illegal somehow, or just not offered.

      My understanding is the general rule is that you can insure everything, but once you’re large enough, you just self-insure for 90+% of things. If you are a union shop, you should already price that in.

      There are some great stories of insuring hilariously unlikely bets and such.

      https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2014/03/24/324158.htm

      • honoredb says:

        This seems like a special case though where “self-insuring” isn’t nearly as powerful a move as buying actual insurance. If you’re large enough to eat the costs of a strike, you’d still rather not, but if you’ve bought good enough insurance you’re actually indifferent to whether a strike happens, and therefore the union’s power is broken.

        What I’d like to see explored is “Baumol insurance”, where a company insures against the cost of some subset of its labor increasing. If you could find a way to do it without moral hazard I think you could help fix wage stickiness.

        • Watchman says:

          The point of self insurance is that you judge the risk of e.g. industrial dispute to be smaller than the (much better-defined) risk of paying insurance premiums against the risk. Note large organisations not only should have large (in absolute terms) reserves, but can leverage funding to cover short-term problems. And the interest rates incurred might be less than insurance premiums against that damage. Plus you only need to spend the money if the strike happens, unlike insurance…

          Frankly in almost all modern cases strikes are an inconvenience, not a mortal threat so if you can bear the cost of borrowing to cover short-term losses, you can ignore the need to insure.

          • honoredb says:

            Yeah, I get that, that’s a good generic argument against large companies having most kinds of insurance, but it seems like it falls down in cases where the disaster is motivated by the cost it inflicts on you. If a strike would cost my company $1 million, and I have $1 million in cash reserves, I still would rather spend $500,000 improving salary or benefits or whatever, and the union knows that, so the union may still threaten to strike and may end up following through, so I end up spending $500,000 or $1 million (or both, if I cave after a long strike). On the other hand, if I pay $50,000 for strike insurance that pays out $1.1 million, if the union threatens to strike then management can honestly say “I hope you do.” So the union knows this and backs down, I’m only out the $50,000, and the insurance company doesn’t have to pay out, so it was smart for them to make the policy so generous.

          • Watchman says:

            But you’re assuming the insurers will charge that much lower figure. That’s inherently unlikely in this case where the pressure for higher wages seems built in: the insurers will be charging a premium that is on their best assessment unlikely to make them a loss. If a strike with a coat of $1 million is likely in the next two years, your premium is going to be $500k+ all else being equal, because insurers are not in it to lose money.

            Note also that deliberately causing a strike (something I’ve only heard credible allegations of state-owned companies doing, interestingly) is likely to invalidate the insurance policy, since insurers don’t pay out for deliberate decisions to harm yourself.

            In this scenario the only time to take strike insurance is if you don’t have the reserves or credit to cover the cost of the strike. In that case you can control your costs, assuming the strike pressure will likely recede (the alternative option of the $500k increase in wages is an annual cost that will come round each yearwhereas whereas the insurance can be abandoned once you can self-insure). That is to say that insurance only makes sense if you need to spread the risk.

          • honoredb says:

            You still seem to be treating strikes as naturally-occurring events. There are three players with agency in this game and they care about each others’ incentives. It’s not at all clear that workers would strike at an insured company, because the point of a strike is to gain leverage and if the company is insured, there is no leverage. The strike would need to happen (or be threatened) to prevent the company from buying the insurance in the first place, before the dispute occurred, or to hurt the insurance company.

          • Aftagley says:

            Presumable the insurer would have the ability to adjust rates based on company policy, right? That forestalls the possibility that the company would get insurance and then break out the whips.

            In this case, as the company took steps that degraded relationships with the workers, their insurance rates would rise accordingly.

          • Watchman says:

            Aftagley,,
            I suspect the insurers would cease to provide cover, rather than up premiums, but that’s the key point. The insurers are not playing to help the company screw the union over, as this is to their disadvantage. They have the option of not playing (or also not paying) should the company cause the strike, which is in their advantage to do both for their own profits and for signalling to others.

            honoredb,

            The proof here is in the eating… If insuring against strikes would mean strikes don’t work then everyone would do it, but as noone does (Google industrial action insurance: it’s not a product being sold) we can assume this hypothesis is missing some key evidence. I think that this might be that whilst you can insure against the financial costs of a strike, the lasting effect on business of negative publicity, not being able to meet obligations and losing out on business to potential rivals is perhaps a more major concern. Striking can destroy a company even if the owners are financially insured, and since good corporate management is about ensuring the company is viable then strike insurance seems to be protecting the wrong thing.

            I think what we’ve got is a hypothetical where insuring against strikes might make sense if you expect one, want to ensure the owners are financially not disadvantaged in the short term and are happy to destroy the value of the company (also with the consent of the owners, as that’s a criminal offence otherwise). It’s not inconceivable, but it would be a particularly egregious example of vulture capitalism in action. You’re not wrong to suggest this is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely.

        • Lambert says:

          Won’t premiums rise if the union strikes enough?

          (i.e. why can’t the company buy really good strike insurance, treat the workers like crap, and sit around getting a payout forever despite not needing to pay operating costs (because everyone’s on strike))

          • acymetric says:

            I would assume, like most forms of insurance, that there are caps. Probably some other reasons as well.

            Not trying to end the strike (intentionally continuing/encouraging the strike) might also end up falling into some fraud area or violate the insurance contract in some other way.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I wonder if the right move for labor unions is to publicly threaten to strike as soon as their company buys strike insurance, until the company gives up the strike insurance. Then nobody will strike-insure them and the labor union continues to have strikes available as a tactic.

          • Watchman says:

            Scott,

            Since unions also self-insure for strikes, I’d suggest if the employer can buy strike insurance, the union could buy strikers’ insurance anyway. An arms war where both sides have to buy insurance to enable them to deal with the other side’s ability to cope with a strike would be ideal for insurers: little risk of a catastrophic strike but both sides paying them.

            As this is an obvious trap, I suspect both unions and employers are smart enough to avoid it by not starting the arms race. So the correct move in case of strike insurance is for the union to up the stakes by getting equivalent insurance.

          • Murphy says:

            it strikes me that any insurer selling strike insurance would want some mechanism to force a swift resolution because if it’s truly neutral for the company and the strikers while both claim heavily on the insurance then that’s a danger for the insurance company.

          • sharper13 says:

            Yeah, this seems like the type of moral hazard case where an insurance company would insist on a sizable deductible and significant input into or even control of strike negotiations.

            Nobody is going to be able to afford an open-ended strike insurance policy where the insurance company pays them their lost profits for the rest of time. It’d have to be priced extremely high to get over the risk of collusion (owners paying workers to strike in order to lock in perpetual profits), if nothing else.

            Real strike insurance is more likely to be limited to a specified cap on amounts/days and only cover unforeseeable losses, probably tied to a specific labor contract being violated.

          • Aapje says:

            @sharper13

            The risk is not just collusion, but also the employer getting real stubborn in the negotiations, because strikes don’t cost them money, so the downside to refusing to compromise (as much) is far less.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Re: unconventional types of insurance, does anyone offer climate change insurance (e.g. a policy that would pay out after a certain sea level rise)?
      There was a good EconTalk episode earlier this year about kidnapping insurance. One of the benefits of specialty insurance like that is that it provides an initial point of contact—who knows who the niche first-responders are—for when hopefully-rare events occur.

      • VivaLaPanda says:

        I’ve thought about this before with the idea of the government making bonds that only pay out if certain climate targets are met (or pay out in some proportional way). Problem is that it incentivizes governments to make sure the targets get missed. Less of an issue with a private company, but still worth considering.

        • Murphy says:

          Intuitively it feels like it would be cheaper to, for example, offer large cash payouts for inventions that meet given requirements then offer a raft of them for things that would make renewables more economic.

          Millennium prize style but with much much bigger prize pots.

        • Just have the government create a prediction market. Sell two assets, one which pays 1$ if the event happens and the other if it doesn’t happen, for a combined cost of 1$. Let the market work out the relative cost of each asset. There’s no risk to the government or incentive to desire one outcome or the other.

      • Aapje says:

        @Tenacious D

        Climate change in itself is not damage, so the insurance would have to involve a negative consequence, like flooding.

        In my country, floodings are a nearly uninsurable risk, with only one insurer offering a flooding insurance where the payout is capped.

        In Britain, from 2016 on there is a mandatory tax paid by households, used to subsidize flood insurance, creating rather perverse incentives. This scheme seems to be a response to more and more high-risk British houses becoming uninsurable. The intent seems to be to return to a market-based model eventually, but the current incentives seem to stimulate building even more homes in high-risk areas, which will presumably become less insurable over time.

      • Lambert says:

        No.

        Insurance works because you get to pool your risk with everybody elses’.
        The pool of people who have house insurance but whose houses didn’t burn down pay for those whose houses did.

        Flood insurance in the UK doesn’t work because it’s likely to hit a lot of the flood-prone parts of the UK at the same time. Without subsidised reinsurance, all the insurers would collapse over a single particularly bad summer.

        Global warming is global. Good luck spreading that risk around.

        • Watchman says:

          What risk? My house, on a hill 20m above the nearest watercourse, 85m above sea level and not sitting near an ice cap is not an increased risk of flooding from global warming. I’m in a city, so increased fire risk is minimal (especially since global warming isn’t scheduled to stop Britain being generally damp). Global warming may increase the marginal risks, but there’s not enough ice in the world for my house to become a flooding risk (disappointingly I wouldn’t even need to commute by boat).

          Indeed, in terms of risks, the greatest climatalogical risk I can see to my house is an ice age (in geological terms there’s been a few glaciers sitting over the site recently), so global warming is perhaps lowering the risks to my house.

          This is a problem with global warming discourse: it’s not actually a risk for everybody and presenting it as such is misleading.

          • Lambert says:

            Then you’d not be buying the insurance. Only people who would buy the insurance are relevant to the issue.

            What I mean is that for something like fire risk (now that whole cities don’t go up in flames), the question for you is ‘will my particular house burn down?’

            The question for the insurer is ‘what’s the expected number of insured houses that will burn down?’ They can work out the answer with a reasonably low variance.

            Insurance works because the probability of one insured house burning down doesn’t correlate much with any other insured house burning down.

            OTOH, the questions of ‘Will I, a hypothetical person with GW insurance be screwed over by climate change?’ and ‘How many GW-insured people will be screwed over by climate change?’ are much more connected.
            The uncertainty is not whether your house in particular will get flooded but whether floods will worsen for everyone on the coast.

            For what happens when you try to pool risks that are much more correlated than you thought they were, see the 2008 financial crisis.

            Tl;Dr the uncertainty about house fires is which houses will burn down. The uncertainty about climate change is whether it affects nobody or millions of people.

            (And you can live on your hillside in an asbestos house worrying about neither and not having to buy any insurance. That’s immaterial to the insurers and the insured.)

          • This is a problem with global warming discourse: it’s not actually a risk for everybody and presenting it as such is misleading.

            Part of the reason why it isn’t only a public good problem at the individual level but at the national level as well.

            Richard Tol, at some point, had a map of Europe with a line showing the division between the region where, by some estimate, the net effect of AGW was negative and the region where it was positive.

            One of the oddities of the whole issue, and evidence that what is driving reactions is more nearly a religious or ideological attitude than a scientific one, is that the countries most likely to benefit by AGW, most obviously Canada and the Scandinavian countries, are strongly against it in expensive ways, whereas India, which may actually be at risk from warming, continues to burn lot of coal.

            Russia is the one exception. It is likely to benefit from warming and not interested in doing anything to prevent it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, Russia not being interested in stopping global warming seems like an entirely rational policy. Another couple degrees warmer would be a win, there.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      This whole thread is about strike insurance producing moral hazard. But if instead of making the company financially whole, the insurance paid out in strike-breaking services, the incentives might be better aligned. The Pinkertons didn’t offer insurance, but they did get paid retainers. Also, most of what they did was not strike-breaking, but pre-strike espionage, which fits the incentives better.

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