Open Thread 138.5

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944 Responses to Open Thread 138.5

  1. cyanochlorous says:

    An interesting drug effect I hadn’t heard of: scopolamine as antidepressant (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131859/ amongst other studies)

    Wild, irresponsible speculation: are travel sickness pills the revolutionary breakthrough antidepressant we’ve been waiting for?

    • Lodore says:

      Nice find; very interesting study Though scopolamine exists as an anti-travel-sickness medication in its most benign form. If you ever want to trip into the outer darkness, this––or any other deliriant––will take you here like nobody’s business. LSD is like the boy scouts next to the Spetznaz when compared with anti-cholinergics.

      So when they say,

      No medically serious adverse event was encountered; in particular, no subject developed delirium, psychosis, overt confusion, clinically significant cardiovascular effects, or treatment-emergent suicidal ideation

      I guess they’re communicating a hell of a lot more than the prosaic delivery suggests …

  2. Machine Interface says:

    Protesters in Hong Kong and their western internet supporters have started counter-weaponizing Chinese censorship by appropriating characters of various commecial western franchises (such as Mickey Mouse or characters from the game Overwatch) and using them as symbols of resistance, with the explicit goal of getting the Chinese government to ban these characters in China, which is a proxy way of both punishing the companies that own these characters over their caving out to Chinese demands of curating their medias and policing their employees along Chinese sensitivities to preserve their access to the Chinese market, and possibly getting these companies to change their positioning and take a harder stance against China either directly or by having them pressure the US government to do something.

    Now this is 4D chess!

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Weaponizing trademarked fictional characters that you don’t own is amazing.

    • dodrian says:

      Is this something that is actually happening in Hong Kong, or is this something that people on the internet in the West just want to happen?

      • Machine Interface says:

        There’s been photos of protesters holding placards of the characters drawn in riot gear. Can’t say how widespread it is.

  3. actinide meta says:

    Recently China’s government has been pressuring Western companies to censor criticism, on pain of being cut off from the Chinese market. It has also moved to gain continuous unrestricted access to all data flowing through China. And it has deployed a “social credit” system designed to punish Chinese citizens for disloyalty or criticism of the government.

    It seems obvious that the next step in this playbook is to extend the social credit system to the entire world. The West has already given up personal privacy in order to better deliver personalized advertising, so it will be very easy for China to obtain information on the network of business dealings between individuals and organizations everywhere. Then they only need to punish Chinese for business dealings with “low scoring” parts of this network. If you (as a non-Chinese) speak out against China, or support any politician other than China’s chosen puppet, or fail to carry out the instructions of your political officer, your score will drop and your employer, Uber driver, credit card company and power company will immediately stop doing business with you, because otherwise it will hurt their own scores. Almost all the costs of enforcing obedience are paid by the victims of this scheme, so coercive control of a relatively small fraction of world commerce is sufficient to implement it. And it’s not clear that outlawing participation in this scheme is feasible: people have an individual incentive to comply if they can learn or even guess others’ score.

    The remaining steps to world conquest for China are relatively trivial. This seems to be an imminent and existential threat to human freedom everywhere. Worse, all the prerequisites for this attack can be put in place without actually launching it; the fact that China has been flexing its muscles in this respect already is actually a huge strategic mistake (I guess they are really worried about Hong Kong).

    How can the (at least somewhat) free world fight this attack, short of nuclear war? Is it time to stop trade with China entirely via import and export tariffs that simply escalate indefinitely until China reforms? Obviously this will cause a huge amount of suffering, though not as much as war. Is there a less destructive solution? It seems that “commodity” trade is much safer, since it can’t really be used to punish individuals or organizations for noncompliance.

    Any other ideas?

    • zeno1 says:

      The West has already given up personal privacy in order to better deliver personalized advertising, so it will be very easy for China to obtain information on the network of business dealings between individuals and organizations everywhere.

      This seems like a slippery slope. The benefits of consumers giving up privacy is either free use of a service (e.g. Google, Facebook) and/or tailored recommendations (e.g. Amazon). What would be the benefit to the companies in the US if they gave up consumer privacy to China? If personalized recommendations, then how would US citizens get better recommendations by letting China/Chinese companies know what their political views are?

      • actinide meta says:

        China will not ask you to give up your personal information, they will buy it, steal it, or pressure it from one of the many companies that already have it all (and do business in China).

        It’s not even clear that they need much private information; in a pinch just a network of employment relationships might be enough.

        In countries with some degree of rule of law we are used to assuming that governments need high quality data sources to act, but this sort of thing works if there is any signal to speak of in the noise.

    • Guy in TN says:

      If you (as a non-Chinese) speak out against China, or support any politician other than China’s chosen puppet, or fail to carry out the instructions of your political officer, your score will drop and your employer, Uber driver, credit card company and power company will immediately stop doing business with you, because otherwise it will hurt their own scores.

      Perhaps I’m missing something, but doesn’t any company that operates internationally already have to consider how their actions in their home country will effect whether their presence is tolerated in another country? For example, if a Chinese company operates in the United States, it has to consider whether it is violating U.S. copyright law when operating in China, otherwise it risks losing access to the U.S. market.

      Your possibility of Chinese law “taking over the world” relies on each company deciding that it would lose more business by violating Chinese law than catering to their local customers. But there’s no reason to think this would necessarily be the case. It’s not like China holds all the cards: American consumers have money and power too, you know.

      It’s kind of funny to me: the idea that another country’s laws can affect your country’s should be a very normal everyday concept. It’s only that since we’ve lived in a country that’s been the world’s sole economic superpower for the past 30 years, the idea that U.S. companies would have to care what China wants brings gasps of horror and apocalyptic thinking.

      • actinide meta says:

        The Chinese government is a totalitarian dictatorship that is imprisoning millions of people in concentration camps and harvesting their organs. It is also deploying information technology as a means of social control on a scale unprecedented in human history, and apparently attempting to develop mind control technology (I suppose by experimenting on prisoners without consent). In my opinion it would be far better for every human to die in nuclear fire than to fall under its control. Yes, all governments are dangerous threats to freedom but that doesn’t mean they are equal dangers.

        You are wrong that companies need to believe their Chinese business is more important than their business in the rest of the world in order to act as agents of the Chinese state. Chinese bureaucrats can destroy 100% of the company’s Chinese business instantly, but if 5% of Americans ever came together to boycott something I’ve never heard of it. And if the US government builds its own version of the social credit system, we will have built our own system of slavery rather than importing one, which is no improvement.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The Chinese government is a totalitarian dictatorship that is imprisoning millions of people in concentration camps and harvesting their organs.

          Eh, sort of. Evidence has come to light* that when someone in a Chinese prison camp (population 1.5 million) is sentenced to death, the state harvests their organs. It doesn’t seem that these are Nazi-style death camps where millions of people are processed every [Time Unit].

          *”The tribunal is chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, who worked as a prosecutor at the international tribunal for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.”

          • tossrock says:

            Those prisoners are “sentenced to death” on-demand to supply organs for the Chinese transplant industry. This is how they can schedule an operation in advance, from weeks to even days of an interested party beginning the process. Of course, even if they weren’t doing this, despite the evidence strong evidence suggesting they are, they already agreed in 2015 to stop using organs harvested from prisoners without their consent. The absurdity that China insists we believe is that after that proclamation, suddenly every prisoner in China gave consent for their organs to be taken. Very noble of them.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @tossrock:

            Those prisoners are “sentenced to death” on-demand to supply organs for the Chinese transplant industry. This is how they can schedule an operation in advance, from weeks to even days of an interested party beginning the process.

            Well, yikes. That moves me toward accepting the label “death camps”, but how big is the demand prisoners are supplying? IOW, how central is death sentence on-demand for organs to the Chinese prison-industrial complex?

          • tossrock says:

            It’s hard to find good numbers post-2007, when the system was doing in the range of 10k transplants per year. That is probably still a reasonable ballpark number, if not on the low side, given the undeniable growth of hospitals doing transplant work.

            There are probably over a million people in detention, and if 10k are harvested per year, that’s 1%. Of course, there isn’t demand for all their organs at once, and some Uighurs who have escaped detention and talked to Western media report being blood tested / biopsied in a way that makes no sense if you’re doing it for the person’s health, but lots of sense if you’re building a registry of compatible “donors”. Even if only 1% of the detainees are being executed per year, a much larger pool is being imprisoned to serve as a living organ supply until the demand arises.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Eh, I don’t find the whole thing that distasteful. Different system, different trade-offs. Scheduling executions to fit transplant times is benign and utilitarian, and prisoners are considered there to have much lower social value than those saved. And if this means an occasional prisoner is executed whose fault is mostly being in the wrong place with the wrong ethnicity, shit happens.

            In US you guys value different things, and have different trade-offs. You might get shot in the wrong part of town, or you might get convicted to decades in prison for a bag of weed on a third strike. Again, shit happens.

          • Aftagley says:

            And if this means an occasional prisoner is executed whose fault is mostly being in the wrong place with the wrong ethnicity, shit happens.

            No, it doesn’t and isn’t. This is evil, and that kind of whataboutism is equally distasteful.

            In this system, the state is incentivized to separate large classes of people, disenfranchise them and treat them as little more than walking organ farms.

        • Guy in TN says:

          You are wrong that companies need to believe their Chinese business is more important than their business in the rest of the world in order to act as agents of the Chinese state. Chinese bureaucrats can destroy 100% of the company’s Chinese business instantly, but if 5% of Americans ever came together to boycott something I’ve never heard of it.

          I don’t follow. If a company gets 5% of its business from China and 95% of its business in the US, then given the choice, it would rather lose 100% of its business in China than lose 10% of its US customers. This is all part of the calculation a business makes.

          You seem to be implying that the Chinese government is unique in having the ability to ban a foreign company from participating in its market, while the US has to rely merely on boycotts. I have some news for you on that front.

          • actinide meta says:

            The US government can’t ban companies from its market for speech acts. Something like the social credit system would not make it past US courts.

            But if you want to add to the risks I listed that other governments may learn from the Chinese playbook here, I agree that’s scary too.

            Yes, if the Chinese market is smaller than the market of angry people on the internet, angry people on the internet could win. But that is increasingly unrealistic, even before the powerful network effects of a social credit system come into play.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The US can ban foreign-domiciled companies from its market for any reason it chooses.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @anonymousskimmer Yeah, but do that too often and the countries of those companies start to take note. Worst case it could lead to a trade wa… oh.

        • Guy in TN says:

          In my opinion it would be far better for every human to die in nuclear fire than to fall under its control.

          My advice, is to find someone from China and talk to them. Not a Chinese-American, but like, an actual Chinese citizen.

          You may be surprised to learn that they very often don’t think they would be better off dead, and do not appreciate your wishing of death upon them.

          • actinide meta says:

            I wouldn’t want to put someone who is already under the thumb of an authoritarian government at risk by asking them about these topics, and if asked I would guess they would toe the party line. But I’m only claiming that I personally would prefer death to slavery. I don’t see any way to help the Chinese or Uigurs or Tibetans or HKans, but it might not be too late for the rest of us.

            There’s also lots and lots and lots of room for China to continue to get worse.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @actinide meta
            Just a nitpick but Hong Kongers are Chinese, or more specifically they’re Cantonese.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            No, no, no. HKers are a combination of Homo sapiens sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and possibly Homo denisovan. You’re subdividing humanity into ever smaller, arbitrary divisions. For what purpose? Only you can say.

            What, are “Irish” suddenly “British”, instead of the Afeurasiameralian that they truly are?

            Is my ancestral Scottish clan any less French simply because the surname has been residing in Scotland since shortly after coming over with William the Conqueror? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5lYXaVkA0U https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZUKEVU-TwM

        • An Fírinne says:

          The Chinese government is a totalitarian dictatorship that is imprisoning millions of people in concentration camps and harvesting their organs. It is also deploying information technology as a means of social control on a scale unprecedented in human history, and apparently attempting to develop mind control technology (I suppose by experimenting on prisoners without consent). In my opinion it would be far better for every human to die in nuclear fire than to fall under its control. Yes, all governments are dangerous threats to freedom but that doesn’t mean they are equal dangers.

          Are the Chinese government also reptilians who have been sent by Zenu to conquer the Earth for the Imperial Intergalactic Alliance?

          Seriously though this kind of suicidal fanaticism is not good for the world. We were nearly dragged into a Nuclear Armageddon in the 20th century by cranks like Reagan and McCarthy, the world doesn’t need to go back to the days when people were afraid they may one day be blown to bits in their sleep.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          In my opinion it would be far better for every human to die in nuclear fire than to fall under its control.

          No government has survived more than a thousand years, at most. The more authoritarian the government, the less responsive it can be to the unexpected.

          Don’t damn humanity for what is likely a mere blip in time.

          Some of my ancestors were monsters. But they did not win by me being here today. Humanity won. Even if all that is left of humanity are the descendants of totalitarian monsters, that does not mean the totalitarian monsters were victorious.

          • actinide meta says:

            I respect this point of view. Fortunately even a worst case nuclear conflict would have survivors.

            However, I am not entirely sure that a global dictatorship with near future technology would ever fall. Past totalitarian systems were not able to monitor everyone 24/7, and had to keep large groups of people bought into the system as enforcers. After say a century of technological progress, it seems likely that a few or even one person could hold everyone else in slavery forever, relying entirely on automated systems to monitor and enforce obedience. I am not sure exactly how seriously to take reports that China is using political prisoners as lab animals to develop mind control implants, but there is definitely research being done that might be twisted in that direction. Politics and technology over the near future could conceivably make the difference between freedom, annihilation, or hell forever.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            You’re underestimating human ingenuity.

            You may even be underestimating AI ingenuity.

            Let the people of the future decide if they want to live or die for their freedom. Don’t take this choice away from them. Don’t speak for those who will have a voice, or you drown out their voice with your own humanly-limited worldview.

          • Enkidum says:

            Speaking as a cognitive neuroscientist, mind control is really hard.

          • John Schilling says:

            No government has survived more than a thousand years, at most. The more authoritarian the government, the less responsive it can be to the unexpected.

            The governments which have lasted longest, though, are the ones of islands or otherwise isolated states facing no significant social, economic, or military competition across their borders. And while such states can become quite ossified, they tend to endure until foreign contact reaches a level beyond that of the odd storm-tossed mariner.

            So long as civilization has had a frontier, there have always been at least barbarians beyond the pale to challenge every state to maintain some reasonable level of vigor and bring down the ones that didn’t. And in the century or so since the frontier has closed, we haven’t allowed any government to achieve global dominion. If we do, I would not be so confident as you that it could not endure many, many thousands of years. At that point, you’re basically down to hoping it won’t be resilient enough to deal with a cataclysmic asteroid strike as your only remaining external threat, and those don’t come along every millennium like you’d hope.

            Also, a technologically advanced government with that level of ossification will likely have a highly centralized and interdependent economy where the production of e.g. food cannot be performed on less than a global scale. Indeed, making everybody dependent on the state for food, etc, is a standard Dictatorship 101 trick. So there’s a fair chance that if a future global dictatorship were to collapse, literally every single human being would die in the process. Or the survivors could be reduced to scattered bands of stone-age savages.

            It’s really, really important to not let that happen. Almost certainly worth waging global thermonuclear war over. Definitely worth doing without your iPhones over.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            We know to a fairly good approximation the result of thermonuclear war.

            We’re almost randomly guessing when it comes to the malevolence, ossification, and resilience to internal dissent (or mere random chance) of a one-world totalitarian state.

            (Those “states” also tended to be fairly egalitarian, though whether this is due to technological limitations, or as a matter of reducing agitation from within, I do not know. It’s easier to justify totalitarianism when there are enemies at the gates, at least according to SciFi distopias.)

            I kind of hope the totalitarian state would be resilient enough to deal with the asteroid strike (and all the other crap happening around the time of the asteroid strike), but only resilient enough for the basic state to survive by delegating power like mad. Once power has been locally delegated its far harder to convince others of the need to recentralize it. Even AIs would recognize this.

          • John Schilling says:

            I kind of hope the totalitarian state would be resilient enough to deal with the asteroid strike (and all the other crap happening around the time of the asteroid strike), but only resilient enough for the basic state to survive by delegating power like mad. Once power has been locally delegated its far harder to convince others of the need to recentralize it. Even AIs would recognize this.

            That’s a very specific level of resilience you are hoping for, and hoping will be recognized as inevitable. I call wishful thinking, and absolutely distrust you in any role that involves planning for our common defense.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We’re almost randomly guessing when it comes to the malevolence, ossification, and resilience to internal dissent (or mere random chance) of a one-world totalitarian state.

            We’ve never seen one-world totalitarian states, but we have seen big totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union. So we’re not randomly guessing.

            It’s easier to justify totalitarianism when there are enemies at the gates, at least according to SciFi distopias.

            There’s need to for totalitarians to justify totalitarianism if the state is everything, according to other SF dystopias. Specifically Niven’s totalitarian “State” of “A World Out Of Time”.

          • One point on this discussion. It’s possible that the Chinese Communist Party would like China to be a totalitarian state, but as far as I can tell from a couple of visits, it’s nothing close to one at present.

          • Paper Rat says:

            We’ve never seen one-world totalitarian states, but we have seen big totalitarian states such as the Soviet Union. So we’re not randomly guessing.

            Soviet Union isn’t a very good example of a global totalitarian state, since a lot of it’s internal politics were informed by (not ureasonable) fear of external enemies (which one-world state doesn’t have by definition). Soviets had to deal with foreign military intervention pretty much from the very beginning and WWII definitely didn’t help matters.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @John Schilling
            Recall that I’m trying to argue not against defending against totalitarian expansion, but against annihilating the entire human species (and an untold number of other species).

            You have no clue about what I would plan for mutual defense, merely that I’d rather have a one-state totalitarian world than a certainty of species extinction and a likelihood of planetary extinction.

            (Even if a few people survived actinide meta’s attempt to “every human to die in nuclear fire”, what guarantee that generations later their descendants don’t create a one-state totalitarian world? They would have a huge incentive to not trust people, and feel they need to control people, having survived the human-caused apocalypse.)

            Who do you trust more with the fate of humanity? Me, or actinide meta?

          • cassander says:

            @Paper Rat says:

            Soviet Union isn’t a very good example of a global totalitarian state, since a lot of it’s internal politics were informed by (not ureasonable) fear of external enemies (which one-world state doesn’t have by definition).

            In its most totalitarian phases the USSR was consumed with the search for internal enemies, not a drive to extirpate external enemies. Sure, the internal enemies were often accused of being spies, but that clearly wasn’t the motivating factor.

            Soviets had to deal with foreign military intervention pretty much from the very beginning and WWII definitely didn’t help matters.

            That was the propaganda line, yes. But it wasn’t the reality prior to 1941.

          • Paper Rat says:

            @cassander

            In its most totalitarian phases the USSR was consumed with the search for internal enemies, not a drive to extirpate external enemies. Sure, the internal enemies were often accused of being spies, but that clearly wasn’t the motivating factor.

            The Soviet ideology during that time was pretty much in direct opposition to most of it’s neighbors, so I’m not sure how you can say that it clearly wasn’t the motivating factor.

            Edit: Additionally I haven’t even said anything about search for internal enemies. My point was that behavior of USSR cannot be viewed apart from it’s geopolitical standing.

            That was the propaganda line, yes. But it wasn’t the reality prior to 1941.

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

            A dozen foreign states made incursions into Russian territory during the Civil War.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish%E2%80%93Soviet_War

            Polish offensive resulted in Poland gaining territories of western Ukraine and Belarus, which were reconquered by USSR in 1939.

          • cassander says:

            @Paper Rat says:

            The Soviet ideology during that time was pretty much in direct opposition to most of it’s neighbors, so I’m not sure how you can say that it clearly wasn’t the motivating factor.

            That they liked to pretend they were under assault from all sides did not make it so.

            A dozen foreign states made incursions into Russian territory during the Civil War.

            None of which was very large and none of which made any serious attempt to unseat the bolsheviks, despite the fact that it wouldn’t have taken more than a division or two to kick them out of leningrad had there been the will to do so.

            Polish offensive resulted in Poland gaining territories of western Ukraine and Belarus, which were reconquered by USSR in 1939

            A war that started when the soviets invaded poland, not the other way around.

          • Paper Rat says:

            That they liked to pretend they were under assault from all sides did not make it so.

            Seems to be a matter where we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            None of which was very large and none of which made any serious attempt to unseat the bolsheviks, despite the fact that it wouldn’t have taken more than a division or two to kick them out of leningrad had there been the will to do so.

            This one seems to be in conflict with itself. “Forces were small so there was no danger”, “Even a small force was a danger”.

            A war that started when the soviets invaded poland, not the other way around.

            Citation would be nice.

            In general though, are you arguing that Soviet Union is a good model for a global totalitarian regime?

          • cassander says:

            Paper Rat says:

            Seems to be a matter where we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            If you prefer fantasy to fact, that’s on you.

            This one seems to be in conflict with itself. “Forces were small so there was no danger”, “Even a small force was a danger”.

            A bear is dangerous if it’s trying to maul you. it’s not dangerous if it’s across a river catching fish. None of the various forces that intervened in russia had any intention of trying to overthrow the Bolshevik regime.

            In general though, are you arguing that Soviet Union is a good model for a global totalitarian regime?

            Yes. I do not thing it would have gotten any less awful once it had conquered all potential rivals. If anything, I think it would have gotten worse.

          • Paper Rat says:

            @cassander

            None of the various forces that intervened in russia had any intention of trying to overthrow the Bolshevik regime.

            That’s factually incorrect. Most foreign forces were supporting White forces, who had “overthrowing the Bolshevik regime” as their main goal. For example Estonians and Royal British Navy supporting general Yudenich came within spitting distance of Petrograd (later known as Leningrad). They failed due to poor of coordination and strong Soviet resistance, not due to lack of intent.

            I also note that you’ve failed to provide support for your claim that Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1921 was started by the Soviets, which is a shame, cause I think it’s an interesting conflict, what with recently gained Polish independence and a coup in Russia. I think the argument can be made for both sides to carry responsibility for the start of hostilities.

            In general, considering the rise of fascism in the west can be at least partially explained as a reaction to the rise of communism in the east, the idea that pre-WWII Soviets were not under threat from foreign powers is weak, and it requires much more support than you’re providing.

            Yes. I do not thing it would have gotten any less awful once it had conquered all potential rivals. If anything, I think it would have gotten worse.

            I didn’t ask how awful a Soviet state was, your opinion on that matter is crystal clear (note that I don’t necessarily disagree with it). I asked whether you thought it a good model for a modern global totalitarian state (which is what this subthread is about).

            If you prefer fantasy to fact, that’s on you.

            Not kind, true or necessary. I don’t think there’s much point in continuing this discussion. Have a good day.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          The Chinese government is a totalitarian dictatorship that is imprisoning millions of people in concentration camps and harvesting their organs.

          Terrifying if true. And according to the “china tribunal”, seems to be true.

          It is also deploying information technology as a means of social control on a scale unprecedented in human history,

          Also a Bad Thing.

          and apparently attempting to develop mind control technology (I suppose by experimenting on prisoners without consent).

          Haha good luck with that. I don’t think that’s how brains work. (Of course they’re doing it with human experimentation on prisoners.) Source please?

          In my opinion it would be far better for every human to die in nuclear fire than to fall under its control.

          And here’s where you lose me. Living under a totalitarian government would be pretty damned bad, but I don’t think it’d be a fate worse than extinction.

      • John Schilling says:

        Perhaps I’m missing something, but doesn’t any company that operates internationally already have to consider how their actions in their home country will effect whether their presence is tolerated in another country? For example, if a Chinese company operates in the United States, it has to consider whether it is violating U.S. copyright law when operating in China, otherwise it risks losing access to the U.S. market.

        No, a Chinese company operating in the United States has to consider whether it is violating the Berne Convention when operating in China, on account of the Berne Convention being an actual treaty that the Chinese government has signed and ratified.

        Absent that level of explicit and reciprocal agreement, it is not at all common for nations to exclude foreign corporations from their markets on the basis of their actions at home, and most of the exceptions are fairly controversial. Being excluded from the markets of one nation on the grounds of political speech in another, is particularly uncommon and ought to be considered particularly controversial.

    • Lancelot says:

      It seems obvious that the next step in this playbook is to extend the social credit system to the entire world. The West has already given up personal privacy in order to better deliver personalized advertising, so it will be very easy for [the woke capital] to obtain information on the network of business dealings between individuals and organizations everywhere. Then they only need to punish [us] for business dealings with “low scoring” parts of this network. If you (as a [non-leftist]) speak out against [social justice], or support any politician other than [the leftist] chosen puppet, or fail to carry out the instructions of your political officer, your score will drop and your employer, Uber driver, credit card company and power company will immediately stop doing business with you, because otherwise it will hurt their own scores. Almost all the costs of enforcing obedience are paid by the victims of this scheme, so coercive control of a relatively small fraction of world commerce is sufficient to implement it. And it’s not clear that outlawing participation in this scheme is feasible: people have an individual incentive to comply if they can learn or even guess others’ score.

      Perhaps it isn’t China that you should be worried about.

    • Enkidum says:

      I agree that the Chinese government is a bad one, and very meaningfully worse than any in the West. That being said…

      The remaining steps to world conquest for China are relatively trivial.

      Taking over the world requires, you know, taking over the world. Which requires things like guns and tanks. The internet is not the world, and China won’t even be able to take over that. Though they will have access to a lot more of your personal information than you should be happy about.

      China is one of the most powerful nations in the world, and will continue to become more powerful, and to exert its influence in all sorts of ways, many of them nefarious. This is not only inevitable, in some sense it is just, as mainland Chinese number approximately 20% of the world. Their country should be up there with the USAs and Germanys of the world.

      But this is a long way from taking over the world. China can barely control Xinjiang and Hong Kong, never mind Europe and the US. You need to think slightly more realistically about things.

      I do agree there should probably be some kind of return to a more explicit Cold War situation. Like you, I’m not at all sure what it looks like.

      • actinide meta says:

        Nuclear weapons and tanks are subject in free countries to political control, and political systems are subject to manipulation. There is a finite threshold of “soft” influence sufficient to disarm and occupy an enemy. And there are only a few nuclear powers, all other countries must do whatever they are told or die.

        • Enkidum says:

          This is manifestly not the way the world works.

          You might be interested in actually learning something about modern Chinese history. I recommend Frank Dikotter’s trilogy, or The Private Life of Chairman Mao (by his personal doctor), both of which take a very hard anti-CCP line, but have the immense benefit of being in some way connected to reality.

          • Aftagley says:

            Which trilogy is this? I looked at his bibliography and I didn’t see an obvious 1-2-3 in the listings.

          • Enkidum says:

            It covers 1945-1976 (basically the most awful periods of Communist rule), was written out of order but is nevertheless pretty much a trilogy:

            2010: Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62
            2013: The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Communist Revolution, 1945–1957
            2016: The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976

      • An Fírinne says:

        >China can barely control Xinjiang and Hong Kong, never mind Europe and the US.

        Socially they cant but military they certainly can. Hong Kong and Xinjiang thus far haven’t posed any serious military or administrative threat to Beijing.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          They can’t control Hong Kong socially and they can’t control the US militarily (or socially at a scale that could truly be described as “control”).

      • bullseye says:

        China is one of the most powerful nations in the world, and will continue to become more powerful, and to exert its influence in all sorts of ways, many of them nefarious. This is not only inevitable, in some sense it is just, as mainland Chinese number approximately 20% of the world

        If those 20% elected their government, I’d agree with you. As it stands the Chinese government represents the interests of a far smaller number of people.

    • An Fírinne says:

      Its quite ironic that America, the land of the free, the steadfast bearer of the torch of individual liberty and the iron leader of the free world is now complaining about companies exercising their private property “rights” to do business with whom it wishes and to decide and apply its own internal rules. I guess Americans aren’t so keen on private property after all then????

      • Guy in TN says:

        I expect to see a lot of this over the next few years-

        Having to agree to Chinese terms when trading with China: Oppression, anti-freedom, slavery

        Having to agree to a business’s terms when trading with a private property owner: liberty, free market, the source of all human welfare

        • An Fírinne says:

          Your kind of sidestepping the point. Americans don’t really believe in the principle of private property, they’re quite selective about it.

      • actinide meta says:

        Well, I’m personally a (somewhat propertarian) anarchist, so probably not very representative of US political thought. In constitutionalanarchitopia, I suppose the Chinese government would just be a criminal organization with trillions of dollars of arbitration judgements against it, and you could repo their assets when they arrive on the dock for trade. But you go to “war” with the political order you have, not the one you want.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Since when have private property rights ever, ever had primacy in the vast constellation of US civil rights?

        Eminent domain is enshrined in the Constitution. Even the 3rd amendment has a fundamental limit on the prohibition against quartering in its final clause.

        • An Fírinne says:

          So what principle would you advocate that allows one to not be a hypocrite in this situation?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Companies don’t have rights at all. They merely have what privileges the citizenry, through its republicanly-elected representatives, allow.

            The citizens and non-citizen employees of those companies have the standard rights allowed to all other citizens and non-citizen residents. Which generally doesn’t include the right to form companies and engage in commerce without the relevant ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed.

            Formation of a company and engagement in commerce (as a seller) is a claim to privileges. Not mere rights. And privileges need always be subordinate to rights.

            You want a particular principle though? The principle of it’s allowable to engage in commerce with those who recognize the supremacy of (particular) rights (vs privileges), but not allowable to engage in commerce with those who do not.

            Or another principle: Companies are a regional form of government, and thus should be limited in exactly the same manner as any other government in the US. More than that, as non-representative governments (as shareholders need have nothing whatsoever to do with the company, yet get a vote anyway), they should be limited even more.

      • Garrett says:

        I would entertain the idea if it was these companies acting of their own volition for their own interests, perhaps to appease their own domestic consumers.

        However, from what little I’ve read, it seems that these companies are effectively state-controlled institutions, subject to significant state and party control, and given substantial state subsidy. Therefore they might reasonably viewed as extensions of the state proper rather than as private entities.

        And, concurrently, I agree that most Americans care little about property rights.

        • An Fírinne says:

          The only difference between a company and a state is a lexical one.

          • albatross11 says:

            Strongly disagree. Companies are established with the goal of making a profit for their owners, almost always under some government’s legal system. (Though not always, and David Friedman has some cool examples of whole industries that run on reputation and almost never use formal legal procedures to resolve conflicts.)

            Governments sometimes exist to enrich the people at the top, too, but it’s a failure-state–some terrible governments are kleptocracies, but most governments are not. The average city or county government in the US does a fair job of providing public services and managing commons, and while small-time corruption definitely happens, it’s not like the average mayor or city manager[1] ends up rich.

            Most people also give governments much higher moral standing–if Wal-Mart sends armed men to my home to prevent me from smoking the wrong kind of substances, they won’t have a lot of support from the community. If the city government does the same thing, almost everyone will think it legitimate.

            [1] A lot of cities have an elected city council whose main job is hiring the actual executives, like the city manager, director of public safety, city engineer, etc., and passing budgets. This ensures democratic control of the system, but also professional management of a quality you couldn’t often get from a small-town mayor.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @albatross11

            They’re both institutions whose purpose is to benefit some group of people whoever that may be. It seems silly to have separate standards for companies and governments.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think separate standards are appropriate for organizations that claim and exercise the authority to go around arresting and imprisoning people, and to maintain armies and wage war. Separate, and much stricter.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @John Schilling

            So how would you say those differences are relevant in this context?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @An Fírinne
            “institutions whose purpose is to benefit some group of people whoever that may be” is broad enough to cover every group of people that’s bothered to name itself, including: governments, corporations, football teams, a high school student council, the group chat where my friends chat and schedule hangouts, the FBI, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

            I think it’s pretty clear that there are significant differences in kind between these groups (despite them all being in your incredibly broad umbrella category), and thus perfectly reasonable to have different standards for symphony orchestras, student councils, and major governments.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Right but how are those differences relevant in this instance?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @An Fírinne

            A company only has authority over you insofar as you choose to interact with it and allow it that authority. The government of your country has nearly unlimited authority over you whether you like it or not. To the extent that a company has a natural monopoly or is granted special privileges by the government, we should be more wary of its power.

            If, say, Apple started punishing employees for expressing the wrong political opinions, then employees who feel threatened by this policy could look for a job elsewhere, and consumers who care enough about the issue to vote with their wallets could buy a Samsung or whatever.

            If your government starts suppressing speech, then short of emigrating or risking imprisonment by protesting, there’s not much you can do about it.

            If the NBA is penalizing certain political opinions, then the managers of NBA teams are pretty much out of luck. There’s not an alternative nationwide professional basketball league they can jump ship to. And while the streisand effect has taken its toll for China’s reputation in this particular case, it’s unsettling that China can influence the discourse of high-profile Americans indirectly like this.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The United States is not constitutionally forbidden from preventing US companies from co-operating with these schemes. The US in fact has antiboycott regulations (15 CFR 760) prohibiting US companies from co-operating with foreign boycotts. These regulations could be used or enhanced.

      Though I’d leave that nuclear option on the table.

    • b_jonas says:

      > your employer, Uber driver, credit card company and power company will immediately stop doing business with you

      This is possible with a credit card company. I think power companies are under some amount of government regulation so they can’t refuse to serve someone unless they give a valid reason, at least here because our climate is such that people sometimes freeze to death.

    • ana53294 says:

      The remaining steps to world conquest for China are relatively trivial.

      China seems unable to conquer even Taiwan, much less the world.

      China has no real allies; they are as formidable and powerfull as Hitler’s Germany, but without Japan. In a war between the US and China, who would be China’s ally? While some countries may sell them oil and gas (Russia), I don’t see the Russian government sending Russians to die for China. There are many fears in Russia oven Chinese colonization, as Russia is depopulating, and Chinese are buying properties.

      • An Fírinne says:

        China seems unable to conquer even Taiwan, much less the world.

        The PRC would have done it already if they did not fear a western reaction, they have not even attempted to do so.

        In a war between the US and China, who would be China’s ally? While some countries may sell them oil and gas (Russia), I don’t see the Russian government sending Russians to die for China. There are many fears in Russia oven Chinese colonization, as Russia is depopulating, and Chinese are buying properties.

        North Korea which has the fifth largest army in the world is a possible actor in a Sino-Yank war.

        India is also a powerful Chinese ally. China also has many strong allies around the world whether it be Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam or the large amounts of very pro-China African countries like Zimbabwe.

        Another thing that should be taken into account is that China has over a billion people which dwarfs the USA population by comparison.

        • FLWAB says:

          The PRC would have done it already if they did not fear a western reaction, they have not even attempted to do so.

          Debatable. Even if the US did not intervene, conquering Taiwan would be a difficult and bloody war.

          First, invading islands is one of the most difficult things for a modern (or really any) military to pull off. Just look at the Pacific campaign during WWII: just clearing a string of small islands was a bloody slog. Even if you have naval supremacy that just makes is possible to invade: it doesn’t guarantee victory.

          And as the link above points out, due to weather conditions in the Taiwan straight there are really only two months out of the entire year where it makes sense for an amphibious invasion: April and October. The rest of the year is highly dangerous, and you don’t take that kind of risk when you’re trying to land several hundred thousand soldiers onto a fortified island (just look at what happened to the Mongols both times they tried to conquer Japan). But that narrow window means you need to have established a solid foothold in around a month’s time or you have to wait another six months to try again. And establishing a solid foothold will be a bloodbath. Taiwan has been preparing for this for decades.

          Just getting to the beaches will be a gauntlet of destruction. Taiwan is well equipped with missiles that could strike the Chinese mainland and ships in the strait. They have submarines and they will likely hold them in reserve to take out troopships. Taiwan would have had ample time to prepare (an amphibious invasion takes a lot of planning and is almost impossible to hide) and have the resources to heavily mine their waters, so that will require naviation. And the waters are already filled with secret sea traps, including several miles of natural gas pipeline that will supposedly create a wall of flame across the surf on the most likely landing beaches. Then he’ll have to make his way through whatever defenses Taiwan has put together, which at least one expert predicts will include “razor wire nets, hook boards, skin-peeling planks, barbed wire fences, wire obstacles, spike strips, landmines, anti-tank barrier walls, anti-tank obstacles … bamboo spikes, felled trees, truck shipping containers, and junkyard cars.”

          Meanwhile all throughout the landings they will have to fend off airstrikes. Though China’s Army and Navy eclipse Taiwan, when it comes to fighter jets they are evenly matched in numbers. Taiwanese artillery will be battering them all the while too. And even if they do create a foothold, they then have to face potentially 2.5 million Taiwanese soldiers and reservists. There are miles of hidden tunnels, strongholds, and fortresses across Taiwan. It will not be easy to take.

          Imagine D-Day, but with both sides having modern aircraft, missiles, and artillery. It would be a bloodbath, and it is not certain China could be victorious. Even if they were, it would come at immense cost in blood and treasure. And of course if the US gets involved then it’s game over.

          • Lambert says:

            Depends on what exactly ‘the US not intervening’ means.

            The only reason to launch a fairly sudden amphibious invasion would be to make sure you’ve taken over the island before US/US-friendly fleets turn up.

            If you know there won’t be a military response from any great powers, you just blockade the island.
            Wait till the there’s no fuel for aircraft, no electricity and harsh rationing, then invade.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Lambert

            Sure, that worked really well against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor.

          • Lambert says:

            I don’t mean an embargo by one country. I mean a full on blockade of all imports and exports (or even just those that count as ‘materiel’, according to a rather broad defintion). WWI Germany more than pre-war Japan.

            Also the Japanese Empire was much bigger than Taiwan, and controlled far more farmland and raw materials. It was able to conquer and plunder vast swathes of Asia.
            I don’t see the RoC launching near simultaneous attacks on Hawaii and much of maritime SEA anytime soon.

            And the Export Control Act did force Japan’s hand, leading to their eventual defeat.

          • cassander says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            It (from their perspective) forced japan into declaring war against the US and UK simultaneously in a rather desperate gamble to grab enough resources to stave off a counterattack they knew would take at least a couple years because of ww2. And they certainly wouldn’t have thought they could manage even that had the US been 110 miles from japan instead of over 5000.

            Lambert is correct, in the absence of a powerful external backer, Taiwan almost certainly medizes without an actual fight. And if there is a fight, it’s wouldn’t be about slugging it out on the beeches.

          • ana53294 says:

            Lambert is correct, in the absence of a powerful external backer, Taiwan almost certainly medizes without an actual fight. And if there is a fight, it’s wouldn’t be about slugging it out on the beaches.

            Belgium fought bravely before Britain entered the war. Of course, they couldn’t possibly win, and Britain entered the war within hours, but Belgium fought before they knew Britain would come.

            The US is probably as ambiguous (or more? they are not treaty bound, after all) about Taiwan as Britain was, but can be convinced to intervene.

            The article doesn’t suggest Taiwan could win, either; not if PLA is prepared for the long fight.

            Yes, the Taiwanese Army projects that it can only hold off its enemy for two weeks after the landing—but the PLA also believes that if it cannot defeat the Taiwanese forces in under two weeks, it will lose the war!

            But they seem to think that the PLA is not prepared for the long fight; China has gone fat and comfortable since their last battle with the Kuomintang.

          • cassander says:

            @ana53294

            Belgium fought bravely before Britain entered the war. Of course, they couldn’t possibly win, and Britain entered the war within hours, but Belgium fought before they knew Britain would come.

            But not before they knew France would come.

            Yes, the Taiwanese Army projects that it can only hold off its enemy for two weeks after the landing—but the PLA also believes that if it cannot defeat the Taiwanese forces in under two weeks, it will lose the war!

            the UK wouldn’t have lasted very long in 1940 if the germans landed a few divisions in dover, but it’s not about slugging it out on the beeches. If it comes to that, Taiwan has already lost. the key for them should be making sure that the cost of getting to that phase is unacceptably high by playing the same sort of A2/AD game against the chinese that the chinese are trying to play against the US. And that part of the war, if it ever comes to outright shooting, will be relatively quick, because modern ships and aircraft are expensive and powerful.

            But they seem to think that the PLA is not prepared for the long fight; China has gone fat and comfortable since their last battle with the Kuomintang.

            They’re definitely fatter than they were, but not so fat that they’d be unwilling to blockade the island and starve it into submission.

          • Lambert says:

            > the UK wouldn’t have lasted very long in 1940 if the germans landed a few divisions in dover

            Them and what supply chain? Against over a million men of the Regular and Territorial Armies? Under unfriendly skies?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If you know there won’t be a military response from any great powers, you just blockade the island.
            Wait till the there’s no fuel for aircraft, no electricity and harsh rationing, then invade.

            They’re definitely fatter than they were, but not so fat that they’d be unwilling to blockade the island and starve it into submission.

            This seems like the sort of action that would get the West off their asses to intervene

          • bean says:

            the UK wouldn’t have lasted very long in 1940 if the germans landed a few divisions in dover

            You know better than that. Even if the RN was mysteriously destroyed, the Germans simply didn’t have the logistics to be able to easily overrun England. It’s too big and too well-armed for that. And with the RN in the picture, the only real question is if the British try to reduce the beachhead by force or wait for them to starve.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            I wasn’t assuming that the Germans would be fighting their way across the UK. Had they landed in 1940, I think it’s almost certain to result in a collapse of British morale. But that’s neither here nor there, because as you say, they didn’t have the lift to get the divisions there in the first place, much less keep them supplied, so it’s magic all the way down no matter how you slice it. The point wasn’t to argue logistics, but to point out that it’s a much better idea to keep the enemy from landing then to slug it out on the beach.

          • johan_larson says:

            Had they[the Germans] landed in 1940, I think it’s almost certain to result in a collapse of British morale.

            Why? The country managed to keep it together through the failure of the expeditionary force early in the war, the Blitz, and the U-Boat war. Things got real bad there before things got better, and British morale didn’t collapse.

            Why would actual German landings have precipitated a collapse?

          • cassander says:

            @johan_larson

            Countries fighting to the last as Germany and Japan did is the exception, not the rule. Given that the UK hadn’t been invaded for hundreds of years and that their strongest ally had collapsed in a few weeks, and that the Royal Navy was either defeated or useless, I think morale collapse the likeliest outcome no matter how much Churchill Knight speechify to the contrary.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Given that the UK hadn’t been invaded for hundreds of years and that their strongest ally had collapsed in a few weeks, and that the Royal Navy was either defeated or useless, I think morale collapse the likeliest outcome no matter how much Churchill Knight speechify to the contrary.

            Heehee.
            But seriously, this is a silly counterfactual. Nazi Germany wasn’t going to build a Navy that could render the RN useless: indeed everything it put into surface ships was a waste of resources that weakened its performance in land wars.
            Hitler got in a Catch-22 where he knew he shouldn’t fight Britain, actually liked Britain, yet couldn’t conquer even half of Poland without Britain declaring war and never accepting peace.

        • ana53294 says:

          The PRC would have done it already if they did not fear a western reaction, they have not even attempted to do so.

          The same could be said about Germany and Belgium in World War I & II. Why do you think it would go better for PRC than it did for Germany? While Taiwan could not withstand the full might of the PLA alone, the war would be bloody and costly enough that there could be a Rape of Taiwan. And the ammunition that would give for intervention.

          Japan and Germany were countries with strong authoritarian states in different parts of the world. India is neither of those things; I am not sure they have the state capacity for conscription. The Axis countries didn’t have neighbouring countries to fight over. India and China have competing spheres of influence; the string of pearls includes outposts in the Indian Ocean.

          • sfoil says:

            Taiwan’s chances of resisting “the full might of the PLA” actually look a lot better than Belgium’s situation because China has to fly or float everything to Taiwan.

            The lack of an “attempt” by the PRC on Taiwan is meaningless. Any such effort would be an all-or-nothing affair with absolutely disastrous material and political costs for failure. It’s not something you just try on the off chance it would work. I’d be surprised if the Chinese military establishment considered even a subjective 1% chance of failure to be acceptable when looking at the invasion of Taiwan. They’d have to be absolutely convinced it was a sure thing, one way or another.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The West has already given up personal privacy in order to better deliver personalized advertising

      Privacy doesn’t mean keeping things secret, it means having the option to keep things secret. The West hasn’t given up personal privacy until it is mandated (de facto or de jure) that everyone participate in the systems that share information.

      • DinoNerd says:

        It’s getting harder and harder to avoid, unless you choose Mennonite-level technology. Too many appliances are only available in internet-enabled versions. A simple furnace repair resulted in my thermostat being replaced – they wanted to get rid of the mercury in the old one – but while the new one is not internet-enabled, it’s got a digital screen, and a button to press repeatedly (once per degree) rather than the simpler, more convenient (but less precise) physical interface of the older ones. I’d like to live with mostly Y2K technology, but it’s not for sale, and that’s already past the point when things generally were designed not to last as much as 20 years.

        And then there are the cameras all over the place – in the US, put in place by individual firms, unlike e.g. London where it’s governmental – but the same issues apply. Someone’s camera knows I bought a coffee last night, and delivered it to a friend at her workplace.

        Sometime in the past year my main email account became unusuable to send email. (It still receives mail.) It’s gotten into some blacklist as sending spam. While it’s possible I really do have a malware problem, it’s just as likely I have a denial of service attack in the form of false spam reports. Net result – I’m now using gmail, with all the unwanted implications for privacy.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The Honeywell Round mechanical thermostat is still available. I keep one in case of failure of my IoT monstrosity.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Ever hear of this guy called Edward Snowden?

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    English surnames started to come into use after the Norman Conquest, to increase the legibility of a newly-conquered large population. They only gradually became hereditary by the 14th century, starting with trade surnames (e.g. John Smith, who worked as a smith and his father did too).[1] Yet as early as we have evidence of hereditary surnames, we find people whose livings don’t fit their names, like “Roger Carpenter the pepperer.”[2] This can be explained by the practice of apprenticing children as young as 7 to other families. Between the Neolithic Revolution and the spread of public schooling, children of farmers were likely to only learn the skills to be a farmer and children of specialists were likely to only learn their parents’ trade.
    You can see how this universal tendency of pre-modern civilized people would lead to hereditary castes in the absence of a countervailing force. In the English case, it seems the countervailing force was a preference to not rear your own children.

    [1]The Romance of Names, Ernest Weekley, 1914
    [2] ibid

    • Atlas says:

      Interesting. I feel obligated to note here, for any readers who weren’t already aware, that there’s a sort of famous book analyzing the history of (especially English) surnames and social mobility. (I haven’t read it myself; here’s a review by someone who has.)

    • AlphaGamma says:

      There is also, of course, the fact that for a surname to be useful it has to distinguish you from other people with the same given name in your village/area. This is why origin-related surnames are most common outside the region they refer to- for instance, the surnames England and English (and related names like Inglis) are IIRC more common in Scotland than in England*, as being called John English doesn’t distinguish you from everyone else called John in your village if they are all also English.

      Trade-related surnames might well work similarly, hence why Smith is more common than Shepherd as a surname even though 14th-century England probably had many more shepherds than smiths.

      *The ancestor of a friend of mine who emigrated from Central Europe to England in the 19th century decided to change his surname to something more English in order to fit in better. The name he chose was Englander

      • Aapje says:

        I noted that in my comment for the links thread, that was so late that most people probably missed it. Although, in that comment I focused more on the names for nobility.

        A fairly easy test for historic mobility/migration might be to see how many of regional names exist in a certain region, at certain times, based on genealogical records. You might even be able to graph migration patterns, if you draw a line from where the people were born/married/buried, to the region that their last name refers.

    • Watchman says:

      I think you’re confusing surnames, which are names attached to a family and started to be applied to nobles in England in the twelfth century (so a lot of the earliest proper surnames in England are French, because England…), and bynames, which are ways of distinguishing which John or Edward you are talking about and did often indicate profession. Bynames only became surnames later in English history, probably in the fourteenth century, although you could have generations having the same byname, which looks like a surname until you realise John Smith’s brother is Edward Bignose. Note the English also could practice patronymics (‘son of…’) which are something else again, being a way of indicating status (inherited from the father) and claims to property. Although a lot of the earliest noble surnames, especially from Breton families were patronyms: FitzAlan, FitzWalter etc.

      Note also that hereditary castes were not a feature if English rural life, as often the mill, smithy etc were held from the manor not privately owned, so limiting family interest. Also, apprentices were needed to help with the labour, as children are a bad idea in smithies and mills. It’s a simple matter of maths: a smith or miller couldn’t really marry and have children till he was established in his trade, and would have to wait probably 12 years if he was lucky to get a child strong enough to help. As help was needed sooner, he would take on apprentices, meaning that the most experienced people to take over being the smith or the miller were likely to be the older apprentices not the children. Even where peasants did own the smithy, mill etc it might have made more sense for it to be leased, especially if the original craftsman died before his sons could finish training. Medieval England was to some extent a market economy, so such transactions were easily managed.

      Ironically for the surname thing, the caste system was more likely to be found in urban areas, where guilds could control trades. In a guild of costermongers the occupational surname Costermonger is of limited use though, so I doubt occupational surnames reflect a caste-based system so much as the fact a certain ancestor was in that profession when for whatever reason a surname became a byname (the test of which is whether people retained the name regardless of profession and whether all sons had it – unfortunately difficult to test with our surviving evidence).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think you’re confusing surnames, which are names attached to a family and started to be applied to nobles in England in the twelfth century (so a lot of the earliest proper surnames in England are French, because England…), and bynames, which are ways of distinguishing which John or Edward you are talking about and did often indicate profession.

        I may have been confusing by not distinguishing these terms, yes. Bynames precede surnames, at least in the English case. (Didn’t the Romans have surnames early and need bynames due to the small pool of Latin names used? And then bynames became hereditary: hence Gaius Julius “Shaggy” who had a much more famous descendant with male pattern baldness.)

        Thanks for the other details.

        • Aapje says:

          Hereditary surnames was also a matter of law. Napoleon made it mandatory to have a hereditary surname in The Netherlands in 1811. It seems that this was already fairly normal among the richer & educated Dutch people, so it mainly impacted the lower classes.

          Does anyone know when hereditary surnames became mandatory in England? Judging by the lack of information on the interwebs, this was probably very late when pretty much everyone already converted, so there was less of a fuss than in The Netherlands.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            It’s interesting. In England, unlike various Continental countries AFAIK, you have a right to be known by any name you want- and changing your name legally is simply a matter of publishing the fact that you now wish to be known by the new name. In the 18th and 19th centuries people sometimes asked for a Royal Licence or Act of Parliament to change their names, but this has never been required except in a few specific circumstances.

            So currently surnames don’t have to be hereditary, and I certainly know people whose parents have registered their births under a completely novel surname.

            Henry VIII (r. 1509-47) required baptised infants to be given their father’s surname if their parents were married. Most English people probably had surnames by then, though in Wales patronymics were more usual, particularly AFAIK outside the nobility. Most modern Welsh surnames are derived from patronymics- including Henry VIII’s own surname of Tudor, which was adopted by his great-grandfather Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur. There’s at least one case from around this time of a Welshman appearing in court and having to make up a surname for himself on the spot after being told that a patronymic (or series of them going back 6 generations) wasn’t sufficient.

          • Aapje says:

            I assumed that hereditary surnames are mandatory in the West now. Guess not.

            Or is it one of these: ‘by the pleasure of the state,’ affairs?

  5. Two McMillion says:

    Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to make piracy a major world problem in the year of our Lord 2019. Perhaps it’s been a problem for some time now, or perhaps it’s only recently re-emerged; either way, 2019 is firmly a golden year for piracy. What do you do?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I watch as new technology makes copyrighted data trivially easy to copy and the rise of corporations that make being an inexpensive single source for all copyrighted material people want in each medium. 2019 would be the year copyright holders pull their IP from these “buffet” companies, incentivizing piracy over small payments to read/view/play legally.

    • Lambert says:

      I can imagine a limited naval war between major powers could cause a reduction in antipiracy efforts elsewhere in the world.

      The only other thing I could think of is state-sponsored privateering. Projecting naval power is the kind of thing that scales really well nowadays.

      Comms are probably a big part of it. It was a lot easier to plunder merchant vessels back when they had no satphones or distress frequencies to contact the RN with.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      I start a nuclear war. Cities, agriculture and supply chains are gone, along with pesky professional armies and navies (spare parts and fuel very difficult to find) and global communications. People will be on the coast, as they probably need to fish for food and they were near the coast to begin with.

      World trade is basically gone but I could easily see maritime brigands who show up, pillage coastal towns and leave on their cobbled-together sailboats.

    • Well... says:

      Become a journalist. Write articles with headlines like “Did you know piracy is a major world problem?” Wait for the public to realize piracy is a major world problem.

    • Atlas says:

      Steve Sailer on piracy:

      In the West, we have easier ways now to make a killing than killing. If Sir Francis Drake, the great admiral-pirate of Elizabethan England, were a young man today, would he emigrate to Somalia to get a start in the piracy industry? Of course not. He’d apply for a job at Goldman Sachs.

  6. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Best states to live, by your own personal metrics?
    Given the shoddy state of Illinois, I always like having a selection of backup options. Chicago offers a lot of economic opportunity, state taxation is relatively low, and local taxation, while high, goes back to benefit your community directly. Unfortunately, the absolute dismal state of IL finances accompanied by the desire to fix said finances with tax hikes kinda makes life in 10-20 years a bit worse than that offered by other states.

    I did a Friday night play exercise and picked some states that’d work for us. Some basic ground rules:
    -Better than 75% funding of the pension (which rules out the vast majority of the nation)
    -No Washington, Oregon, or New York (too liberal)
    -No states where Indeed can’t even come up with a salary range (sorry Idaho and Maine)
    Things I evaluated on:
    -state poverty rate
    -closeness to home
    -income tax and state sales tax
    -Ranking of top state school
    -average salary of a Factory Controller in large cities (which is my current job). You can pull this off Indeed or Glassdoor.
    -average cost of living (probably should be adjusted for local rates, but that’s kinda hard to do)
    Not evaluated:
    -crime rates (this is a local problem more than a state problem)
    -Weather
    -Traffic

    Putting together rankings (only 10 states even qualified)
    1. Wisconsin – not great on taxes, but the pension is well-funded. UW Madison is a real good school, and salaries are high there. WI is over the top for me because half my family is in WI, and I don’t mind the winters, but even without those factors, WI would be near the top of the list. WI would have a lot of job opportunity for both me and the Mrs. and the UW Madison is just a fantastic school. I can imagine this ranking a lot lower depending on what your job is. WI is also really good on poverty metrics and average income levels, too.
    2. Tennessee – A lot of friends and family are already moving here, so no surprise. Salaries would be good for both me and the Mrs., and after considering the taxes, would be among the higher income states on this list. OTOH, poverty rates are high, state median income isn’t great compared to the rest of the list. Also, I love the Smoky Mountains. They are probably my 2nd favorite national park, after Yosemite.
    3. North Carolina – Also right next to the Smoky Mountains! And it has UNC! Unfortunately, despite that whole “Research Triangle” thing, those jobs seemed not quite as remunerative as WI and TN, which was a bit balanced by lower COL. Lower metrics on poverty and median income, plus distance, push this well below WI, and the income considerations push it lower than TN, but I’d still consider it staunchly top-tier.
    4. Nebraska – Mrs. ADBG said “hell no” no matter how low the cost of living or how high the salaries are. TBH, I doubt I could live in a state where the only sports team of note is a college football team. But the average salary was higher here than any other state on the list, and I am motivated mostly by $$$.
    5. Georgia – Maybe I just searched wrong, but those incomes were fairly high. Apparently there’s a lot of demand in Atlanta. Taxes seem pretty reasonable. OTOH, the high school graduation rate is the lowest out of any of the states on this list. I don’t think I could convince myself to move here over any of the higher-ranked options (okay, maybe Nebraska, but only because I didn’t penalize Nebraska for being in the middle of nowhere), but overall it seems a lot more compelling than any of the other states below this marker.

    Remaining states:
    6. Delaware
    7. Florida
    8. Iowa
    9. Missouri
    10. Utah

    You’d think Utah and Iowa might fare better. They do well on most social metrics and median income statistics, and the tax rate for Utah is quite low. However, my quick googling suggests that salaries for myself and my wife would go down substantially in both states. Why move to take a pay cut, particularly to move to Iowa’s relatively high taxes? There’s just not a convincing reason to pick either state over any of the other, more attractive options, unless you are Mormon or aspire to become one of the Children of the Corn.

    If I were to adjust further, I’d probably adjust on natural recreation, professional sports scene, and the overall Weather. If I were to also eliminate the “distance to family” factors, they’d probably rank as such:
    1. TN
    2. NC
    3. Wisc
    4. Georgia
    5. Delaware
    6. Florida
    7. Nebraska
    8. Missouri
    9. Utah
    10. Iowa

    Sorry, Iowa.

    • Elephant says:

      This is a nice exercise. I can’t help being struck by how much my metrics if I did this would be different than yours. There’s nothing about scenery or weather, in my mind major inputs into quality of life. (Though you do note after making the list that Tennessee has great scenery.) Same with traffic. I’m not going to get to this now, but it would be fun to make a list of states in which one is most likely to have beautiful surroundings, and most likely to be able to walk or bike to work. I’d trade income and tax rates for that!

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Ride a bike? To work?!
        Yeah, everyone’s metrics are going to be different. I’m interested in what other SSCers might like…for us, we’re really basic people. We’re typical white suburban dwellers. There’s a big emphasis on money, education, and proximity to family. Nature is nice, but you pay a premium for it.

        Plus traffic is a local problem. If you find you like Tennessee, well, you can decide on local areas, like Germantown if you want to be in Memphis, or Mount Juliet in Nashville, or somewhere entirely different if you are entirely unlike me and the Mrs.

        • Nick says:

          Ride a bike? To work?!

          I did it for a while. Objectively good exercise, but it exhausted me. I keep telling myself I’ll do it again, but it’s been more than a year now. =|

          • Aftagley says:

            I still do it, but only in offices with access to a shower/locker room.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My wife biked to work for years (5+) and her work moved this past year a few miles further away to where the time commitment both ways plus fatigue was going to make it difficult so we sprung for a good quality e-bike and she hasn’t missed a day riding in the first month. We figure it will take around 3 years worth of riding to ‘pay’ it off instead of depreciating one of our vehicles plus gas savings so it isn’t a great investment like her first bike (4-5 months riding to pay it off) was but it isn’t to bad for the benefits.

        • Having lots of inexpensive ethnic restaurants is one plus of where we now live. Having weather well suited to growing everything from oranges to apricots is another. On the other hand, having land prices so high that lots are too small is a negative — we happen to be lucky in having bought an old house 25 years or so ago with a larger than usual lot, but someone moving here could not expect to do that.

          Having a legal environment where home schooling was easy and unregulated was a big plus. I’m not sure if that is still the case, our kids now being adults.

          An environment where the random person I interact with is pretty likely to be familiar with encryption issues, science fiction, know what a libertarian is, overlap with me in various ways is another plus, for me, of the Bay Area. The husband of a local congressperson with whom I have little in common politically turned out to be a fellow Heinlein fan.

          High prices, rents, and taxes would have been a big negative of the Bay Area at various points in the past, but currently not a serious issue.

    • Erusian says:

      -average salary of a Factory Controller in large cities

      Maybe I just searched wrong, but those incomes were fairly high. Apparently there’s a lot of demand in Atlanta.

      I was struck by this. Atlanta’s been a huge manufacturing hub since literally its founding. The second quote there kind of had an effect on me as if someone had said, “Maybe I searched wrong, but apparently there’s a lot of demand for finance in New York City?”

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Hmmm, I sort of see your point, but manufacturing is not quite so unique to any particular area as it is to NYC. To the extent that it is regional, the Rustbelt is obviously famous for it. The salaries in Atlanta are surprisingly high.

        Since you picked Finance, the Chicago salary for “Director of Finance” is $117k vs. $110k in Atlanta. Which is pretty good, better than, say, Austin, TX.

        • Erusian says:

          Perhaps it’s a regional thing. I think of Atlanta as a huge manufacturing hub, on par with some of the rust belt cities. And doing better than many of them are these days. (Which, apparently, is not unjustified.)

    • jgr314 says:

      No Washington, Oregon, or New York (too liberal)

      I’m curious about the reason this is a disqualifier for the whole state. WA and NY have some conservative areas (in cases, very conservative) and I’d assume that eastern OR is also pretty conservative.

      You probably know this map: 2018 House districts by party.

      • Eternaltraveler says:

        I’m curious about the reason this is a disqualifier for the whole state

        I can’t speak for ADBG, but I know in California the leftish urban centers have a large tendancy to impose their will on the conservative hinterlands.

        The reverse is true with urban centers in conservative states, but probably not as much as cities have a greater ability to self govern.

        • Nick says:

          Do the hinterlands have any advantage too so far as a dispersed population is more difficult to govern? Of course, this wouldn’t apply if the problem were, say, taxes.

        • FLWAB says:

          the leftish urban centers have a large tendancy to impose their will on the conservative hinterlands.

          I grew up in Washington and lived several years in Oregon and I can attest that the same is true for both of those states. Washington is a Red and rural state that is ruled by Seattle-Tacoma. I grew up in Lewis county (very, very rural) and everybody knew that Republicans had no real say in State politics, and probably never would. You just had to grin and bear it when the know-betters in Seattle decided to decree something ridiculous to the rest of the state. Usually it’s environmental regulations: it’s easy for someone in Pioneer Square to outlaw shooting mountain lions, or to decide that somene’s farmland is just moist enough to be considered a protected wetland, but we’re the ones that have to live with it. Add to that the increasing gas taxes and the increasingly progressive public school curriculum and I thank my stars I left before I had kids. It’s a shame though: I love the Cascade mountains and the rainforest, and I miss Lewis county dearly.

          Oregon is the second verse, same as the first. Portland, Salem, and Eugene make the rules, and the rest of the state has to live with them. Don’t expect a Republican governer any time soon, do expect stringent environmental regulations, progressive school curriculum, and gas taxes.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What is really, really weird is decrying whole states as “too liberal” and then counting UNC-Chapel Hill and UW-Madison as very large positives.

        Jesse Helms said NC didn’t need a state zoo, just a fence around Chapel Hill. Never prouder to live on The Hill than then.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I’m not the OP, but the thing that I would theoretically be concerned with is the state legislature and governor.

        If you want to, it’s trivial to find a red county within commuting distance of any given blue city. So you can avoid the confiscatory taxes and general social dysfunction with a bit of driving. But if the state government is blue, then they’re free to mess with you whether you’re at home or at work.

        I say theoretically, because all of the actual cities are in blue states anyway. Unless you feel like driving into the city from Pennsylvania there’s no getting around it.

        (Also in case it’s not clear, I’m using red and blue to literally refer to exit polling on a map.)

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m completely mystified that you ruled out NY, WA, and OR for politics but not CA.
      My other big takeaway from your list is that you’re heavily weighing the salaries paid for ADBG’s very specific job, which is rational but makes this list much less useful for anyone else.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        CA isn’t even on the list because the pension situation isn’t great. You should not move into a state if you are going to be sliced up for dinner in order to feed unions. I think my entirely arbitrary cut-off was 75%, and California was at 69%.

        Granted there are other metrics at play, like actual operating cash flow, which is a metric that, say, Oregon performs poorly on despite being relatively well-funded. But, you know, for a Friday night exercise…

        • Ketil says:

          CA isn’t even on the list because the pension situation isn’t great. You should not move into a state if you are going to be sliced up for dinner in order to feed unions. I think my entirely arbitrary cut-off was 75%, and California was at 69%.

          As a European, I wonder: what does this mean? Isn’t pension a part of the total work package, something to be negotiated along with wages and other benefits? Why is it a state-wide number, and what does the number signify?

          • johan_larson says:

            I think the idea here is that the government has made promises about pension payouts to government employees, without setting aside enough funds to pay for it. That means the government will either need to renege on its promises (not bloody likely) or find alternative sources of revenue (ditto) or raise taxes in the future.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            What Johan said. Plan your future taxes accordingly.

          • Ketil says:

            Ah, thanks. Makes sense. (As a gov’t employee, I’m concerned about the “renege” option, but I expect it’ll probably be a combination)

    • SamChevre says:

      Tennessee is the state on that list that I know. Tennessee is VERY regional; East Tennessee is Appalachia, West Tennessee is the Deep South, Central Tennessee is the most unique. There’s a lot of poverty, but it tends to be concentrated in the most isolated rural areas (like where I grew up) and the Memphis area–I think there are relatively few areas with factories that are very poor.

      I would tend not to rule out states because the state is very liberal if the pension situation is manageable. For example, Western Massachusetts (where I live now) is still a serious manufacturing center, and although the state is very liberal (dominated by Boston) western Massachusetts is cheap, well-governed, and not intolerably liberal for me.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        The thing about states is that liberal-at-the-state-level is one step away from liberal-everywhere. The specifics depend on home rule provisions, laws around city annexations, and state constitutions, but state governments have pretty far-reaching powers. They can pre-empt local governments at will (depending on their internal rules). State constitutions can also be revised much more easily than the federal constitution, so “the constitution says so!” is a much weaker defense.

        If I’m moving, I’m ruling those states out. If I’ve already planted roots, I won’t necessarily move, but I’m not moving INTO that insanity. Even Wisconsin is a bit of a question mark, as far as I am concerned.

    • georgeherold says:

      I lived in TN ~20 years ago, near Nashville. I loved it, but when I was there most people with any resources (money) tried to send their kids to private schools. (It might have changed since then.) I live in upstate NY now, nice public schools, but high taxes. The area I live in is very republican, Chris Collins was my congressmen. Houses and the general cost of living are much less here than the NYC and coastal areas of the state. You might say there are two NY states. NYC , long island and the surrounding area, and the rest of the state. (And to all long island residents, please forgive me for lumping you in with NYC.)

    • Plumber says:

      @A Definite Beta Guy >

      “Best states to live, by your own personal metrics?…”

      #1 is California because I was born and raised here and more for than 9/10th of my life I’ve slept within 14 miles of my birthplace in Oakland, California. 

      #2 is Washington State because my wife spent her childhood, teenage years, and very early 20’s in Seattle there, and when I visited there in the ’90″s I found some good bookstores, and pleasant San Francisco like winter weather (it really didn’t seem like that much more rain), and in many ways it felt more like Oakland and San Francisco than most of California. The downside was that it wasn’t home, my sense of direction was lost, the water tasted wrong (like San Jose water instead of Oakland/San Francisco water), and they were just far too few hours of daylight in December and January that far north. 

      #3 is Maryland as my brother lives there. I visited D.C. Maryland, and Virginia for a week in the early ’80’s, the Italian food was good, the Mexican food showed my that bad Mexican food is possible. 

      #4 is Ottawa, Canada as I visited there in the late ’80’s, and found it very clean. 

      #5 is Quebec, Canada as I also visited Montreal there, and it seemed like San Francisco in French. 

      Which brings me to: San Francisco increasingly doesn’t feel like San Francisco, it’s changed more in the last ten years than in the forty years before, Oakland hasn’t changed as much, but it’s getting there.

      The other places I’ve seen are: Nevada; which is dead last on my list, it’s hot, dry, and had condom dispensers, and slot machine inside gas station men’s rooms, plus I’ve been to one casino in Reno and I have no desire to see another, plus Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: I saw a bear, a bison, and some elk (I’ve only ever seen bears, and bison behind fences before, and I saw more wild elk than in California), and that was neat.

      In my youth I was interested in New Orleans and New York, and my wife lived just outside of Boston for a while, but these days I’d be more inclined towards Utah in case the welfare state is destroyed, as I imagine I may be able to convert to Mormonism, tithe for a while, and have a substitute church based safety net if there’s hard times.

      As it stands now though, unless I live longer than I guess, or get crippled sooner, and my son’s need the house and send my to a cheap nursing home far away, I imagine that I’ll die within a dozen miles of where I was born.

      • JayT says:

        I completely disagree that Oakland hasn’t changed as much as San Francisco in the last ten years. From my perspective, SF has had minor changes like more homeless, a declining restaurant scene except at the high end, and less crime.

        Oakland on the other hand has seen a dramatic change. You can drive down Broadway on a Friday night and it’s packed with people. Ten years ago nobody would get out of their car in that area. Jack London Square went from a place that you drive in, eat, and drive out of, but now the whole area is walkable at any time of day. Even West Oakland and Fruitvale are starting to see crowds of people from all walks of life.

        • Plumber says:

          @JayT,

          A totally fair point that I definitely concede.

          I was thinking in terms of new construction, but yes, in terms of who and how many you see walking about, Oakland had indeed changed

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, looks-wise that’s definitely true. I was just talking to my wife about that yesterday, how much the look of the City has changed when looking from the East Bay.

    • aristides says:

      Most important qualities
      Warm weather
      Does not tax military retirements
      Low Cost if Living: I work for the Feds, rest of us locally pay is more generous than actual locality for virtually every city
      Beaches.

      Using those criteria, I’m left with Florida and Texas, with Texas being cheaper, and Florida having nicer beaches. Everything else is too far off to really consider.

    • EchoChaos says:

      One that might merit a second look that doesn’t meet rule 1 is Colorado.

      Due to TABOR, raising taxes to pay for pensions is impossible without a direct vote, so their pensions may actually underpay versus soaking the taxpayers.

      I know a decent number of Coloradoans and they’re pretty satisfied. Of course if you care about socially conservative, stick with Tennessee.

    • hls2003 says:

      I appreciate this write-up. My family and I are at the early stages of contemplating our escape-from-Illinois contingency plans. I have not gotten as detailed as you, but have broadly similar priorities (schools are less important because we’re likely not to do public school), and so far we have at least the following as options:

      Kentucky – Lexington or Louisville area, or far northeast corner 45 minutes from Cincinnati;
      Tennessee – Nashville or Knoxville area
      Wisconsin – relatively near the IL border
      North Carolina
      Minnesota
      Colorado would be on the list, but it’s got a high COL in the Denver area, and is trending alarmingly blue
      Indiana has a very high Hoosier factor that keeps it from the top tier despite good property taxes
      Utah is interesting, but we’re not Mormon, so…
      Florida is a very good tax climate, but its ordinary climate is just a mirror of Chicago – you can’t go outside for 5 months a year; alternatively if you’re farther north then you’re in Florida Man country
      Maine / New Hampshire – not Massachusetts-blue, still pretty blue, but also quite rural, which mitigates some of the centralization

      I will be looking into your other suggestions. Georgia and Delaware would be interesting.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Kentucky – Lexington or Louisville area, or far northeast corner 45 minutes from Cincinnati;

        Oh man, look at Lexington over Louisville. Crime rate is much lower, driving is more pleasant (hard to get lost with New Circle Road), it may be more walkable (not sure), it’s surrounded by parks and horse farms, and University of Kentucky makes it pleasantly diverse without Blue people being numerous enough to control everyone’s life (plus, y’know, a convenient place to get another degree if you need to for a career).
        I was also looking at Cincinnati and Dayton up in Ohio, but Lexington looks better in every way.

        • hls2003 says:

          Yes, we quite preferred Lexington when we visited a couple years ago. I think it’s the college town aspect coupled with the smaller size. Thanks in substantial part to the university, but also thanks to a more educated population generally and a lot of horsey money, it has amenities like excellent health care facilities, cultural opportunities, and a pretty fun downtown with restaurants and such moderately walkable. Although I will say Louisville was quite nice for a full-fledged mid-size city, the places we went anyway. Lexington is closer to a very large town than a small city. However, if we went the Kentucky route, it’s just not that big of a state – Lexington and Louisville are less than 90 minutes apart. We’d probably be looking at someplace with property, which means outside any city limits, which means we could theoretically be halfway between the two and draw from the benefits of both. Living in the Chicagoland area, it doesn’t feel unusual to be 30-60 minutes outside of the metropolitan downtown and still feel that you have “city adjacent” benefits.

  7. johan_larson says:

    OK, it’s time to discuss the second film in the SSC watch-along, “I Am Mother”. As before, write freely without worrying about spoilers. But if you are planning to see this film, you really should do so before reading this thread, because there will definitely be spoilers.

    Hot damn, what a great film. I’m reminded of “Arrival” and “Ex Machina”, two other films where things weren’t quite what they seemed.

    I thought it was particularly clever how they used several different girls of different ages, with the natural inference being that they were depicting Daughter at different ages. But no, switcharoo, the younger ones were actually different characters that Mother had rejected and killed. I’m reminded of Shakespeare having male actors playing female characters, who then disguised themselves as men in the story. Nicely done, Sputore.

    In retrospect, the director gave us a big hint that something was amiss in one of the first segments, where the day was given as number 13,867 since the extinction event. That’s 37 years, and Daughter was clearly younger than that.

    I’m putting “I Am Mother” on my list of SF classics. Whatever Grant Sputore does next, I’ll be first in line for it.

    (Next week’s film will be “The Death of Stalin”.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Eh. It’s definitely in the “things aren’t what they appear to be” genre, but that’s obvious almost right from the start. Ex Machina and Arrival accomplish both with more depth and maturity. I Am Mother is much more “oh, it turns out the inhuman robot is really ethically dubious and probably a bit evil!” Oh and also “it turns out the picture perfect white girl living in the post-apocalypse was lied to about what happened and how the world really ended!”

      The most interesting fridge logic/question: it seemed odd to me that the specially designed mother robot was so alien. Very much stereotypical robot, rather than a human-android (which is something you probably want if you want an android mother!) However, this robot is actually a military robot, that designed to try to play Mother: it was not designed to be Mother, and it really has no idea how to be Mother, which is why it constantly fails and constantly needs to test itself to see if it has created the Ethically Perfect Human.

      I kinda half-watched after the half-way mark. This movie is not Epic enough to justify a 2 hour run-time. It’s a Black Mirror episode and needs to condense it to that run-time.

      • johan_larson says:

        What would you cut to get down to a one hour or 45 minute runtime?

      • Protagoras says:

        The ending is kind of crucial. A number of things about Mother prior to that point hadn’t really make sense, and I’d been dismissing them as typical SF sloppiness, but if Mother were aiming for something like the outcome that actually transpires, then it makes sense that it would have been concealing many of its capabilities while Daughter was growing up (otherwise it would have been too obvious that Mother had to be manipulating the situation when the stranger arrived).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Yeah, the ending makes the movie a lot tighter than I thought through most of it (I also interpreted it as SF sloppiness, which is why I started tuning out halfway). Well-executed there, I suppose. OTOH, that’s just really another hand-wave. Why did Mother pointlessly interrogate the Stranger about how many people were left, when she already knew the answer? Well, that’s just a performance…except Daughter wasn’t there. Why would Mother lock Daughter in a room when the point was to force a confrontation? Well, that was to….test Daughter’s ability to improvise an escape plan, and I guess they all die if she can’t figure out the one exact way to escape the room, or maybe the room was designed to automatically fail after X ingenious number of attempts?

          What if…

          Hell, what if the infection advanced just a bit quicker than expect and the Stranger just flat-out died before we could start our 18th birthday moral aptitude test?

          • johan_larson says:

            Yes, it wasn’t a surprise that Mother was bad. That bit is old hat in SF. It wasn’t even much of a surprise that Mother was part of a singular consciousness, of which all the droids were part.

            For my money the unexpected twists were:
            – Daughter was just the latest of a series of girls
            – Mother was responsible for wiping out humanity
            – why Mother had wiped out humanity
            – Mother seems to have set up the whole crisis with Woman*, presumably to bond Daughter with Brother

            [*] The characters are identified in IMDB as Daughter, Woman, and Brother.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            My reading was that Mother was pretty spot on with the planned scenario: there were just 3 babies born, without any spares needed: Woman in the beginning, Daughter some 15k days later (forgot the actual number, but yes, that was a hint) and Brother last. There was a scene where I think it showed only one other embrio missing. We still don’t know which of the beginning scenes were with which girl – that makes Woman’s death even more painful.

            To note that most apparent weaknesses were planned by Mother. I very much doubt it couldn’t repair its own hand, for example, but it needed to foster confidence and self-reliance in Daughter.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @ADBG:

            Why did Mother pointlessly interrogate the Stranger about how many people were left, when she already knew the answer? Well, that’s just a performance…except Daughter wasn’t there.

            It’s about setting up Stranger to properly interact with Daughter later. She has to be actively concerned about the threat from Mother, and can’t know that Mother already knows about the survivors. An omnipotent Mother convinces the Stranger she can’t escape, a less hostile Mother might lead to the Stranger trying to stay.

            Why would Mother lock Daughter in a room when the point was to force a confrontation? Well, that was to….test Daughter’s ability to improvise an escape plan, and I guess they all die if she can’t figure out the one exact way to escape the room, or maybe the room was designed to automatically fail after X ingenious number of attempts?

            Again, it’s about building the tension and making it look convincing. You use DM rules: if she comes up with a solution that’s plausible, you make it work. Mother likely has a lot more control over the compound than Daughter would expect.

            Hell, what if the infection advanced just a bit quicker than expect and the Stranger just flat-out died before we could start our 18th birthday moral aptitude test?

            Mother can tweak some of the details of the scenario based on how badly Stranger is wounded. Give her some basic treatment early on, and then withhold the important stuff. Plus, Mother is the one who shot her, with a probably-more-advanced-than-we-know military robot. She likely has a lot of control over exactly how much damage she does.

            On top of all this, there’s no reason Mother couldn’t just set it up all again if she messed up, as long as she’s got embryos. Grow some children, have them escape the machine overlords, kill them off while their children are too young to know their history, and you’ve got the seeds for the survivors: let them contend with not-very-effective hunters for as long as you need. Then start growing children for a Daughter, and if she’s doing well drive the survivors into the mines to starve in time for a Survivor to escape (this might be tricky, but she managed it on this go-round).

          • johan_larson says:

            Mother brought four embryos to term? One became Woman, one was killed quite young, one became Daughter, and finally Brother was born late in the film. Was that it?

            I seem to remember Daughter being identified as APX03, or something like that.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Something to remember when we’re talking about embryo counts.

            With the revelation that Mother is a single entity that controls the world, we should trust any visible supply counts with a lot more suspicion. This isn’t the last remnant of humanity exterminated by a hostile force, this is a scenario completely engineered by an AI to cull and improve humanity. It’s pretty likely that there are massive warehouses of embryos lying around in the rest of the world: Mother started the extinction completely aware of her endgame, and would take steps to ensure her plan had resilience.

            The embryos that are missing are missing because it is necessary for Daughter to realize that she isn’t the first or even the second. It’s highly unlikely that Mother would grow the Stranger in the bunker and then not have an embryo to replace the one that was used.

            And we have more than four humans involved in the movie: the Stranger was a pawn of Mother, but an unwitting one that was being completely honest about the dying survivors in the mines, so they needed to exist as well. I think Daughter found more than one set of human remains in the bunker as well, but I don’t remember. It’s certainly implied that Mother had to try more than once before creating Daughter.

          • johan_larson says:

            Sure, but conversely we shouldn’t assume that everything in the film went strictly according to (Mother’s) plan. In particular, I’m not sure Daughter was supposed to find out about her murdered sister.

          • Protagoras says:

            I think Daughter was supposed to find out about her murdered sister. Whatever Mother’s plan was exactly, it doesn’t seem to have been to create a permanently domesticated humanity under Mother’s control. Daughter was supposed to stand up for herself, and not think of Mother as someone who could be counted on in the future to come back and fix things if they ever went too wrong.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            In particular, I’m not sure Daughter was supposed to find out about her murdered sister.

            I’m not sure there’s any other justification for why the remains were still in the bunker.

            It makes sense if we think of the bunker as a closed system that Mother can’t safely leave, but that’s not the case: she could have taken the remains thousands of miles away quite easily if she had chosen to, long before she even started Daughter’s embryo.

            So when the Daughter finds it, that either means:
            1. Mother was careless and didn’t bother to ensure the remains were fully destroyed. This seems inconsistent with the world-spanning AI that set up the entire Stranger encounter, manipulating both Stranger and Daughter every step of the way.
            2. Mother left it there to develop Daughter’s feelings of mistrust towards Mother, to help set up her escape with the Stranger.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Somebody mentioned the inhumanity of the AI – I was impressed by its plausibility. You have a powerful AI that was obviously created to strongly like humans. We’re left to guess on what went wrong, which leaves a lot of room for non obvious possibilities. Rather that a stupid paperclipping fallacy, my favorite is that it did the math and rationally decided that it can make a better human race with more happiness and meaning overall if it starts from scratch. Which makes it very dubiously Good, at least in a very abstract and detached moral sense. I’d still vote against it, because… well… I’d be one of the generation that gets to die in misery. But were I on the other side of Rawls’s veil… now than, that’s a good question.

      It’s also a pretty good tool to help think and explain common AI issues and solutions. I first wrote “real world”, but I still think we’re some ways off – we’re a lot likely to start with niche AI and Oracles than to have anything resembling general intelligence with goals and agency. But yeah, when we do, there are things to think of – for example we need to beware of success just as much as failure. Also the whole movie is a big advert for deonthological kill switches. You know that feeling that doesn’t let you kill your neighbor even when you step into its dog’s shit and you happen to have a gardening tool in your hand? AIs need that. Coldly deciding if you want to kill people shouldn’t be an option, for the simple reason that cold decisions are often wrong, or broken out of context, or just locally optimal. You may want to kill you neighbor, but do you want to live in a world where indiscriminate killing is ok? That’s quite a bit more difficult to process by a Bayesian engine.

      Which kind of makes me wonder if there’s a way to bias bayesian engines to take tradition more seriously – re the recent series on cultural evolution, and how things that work in our society work because they’ve evolved in ways that would be computationally absurdly expensive to find.

      Anyways, it’s that kind of movie. It’s not preachy, but it does create a world that’s believable enough so you can go ahead and play with this kinds of concepts. Which I haven’t seen happen since the days of the Three Laws of Robotics.

      PS: When do we do Joker? I vote we do it twice: in a CW and in a non CW thread.

      • johan_larson says:

        We could do Joker, but it would have to be when it starts appearing on the streaming services. That will probably be in six months or so.

        It’s a good suggestion, though. I’ll make a note of the film. Feel free to remind me if I seem to have forgotten when the film becomes available.

    • Ketil says:

      Liked it. I felt the humans (Daughter and Woman) gave quite credible performances, the robot Mother less so. Too much C3PO-ish person in clanky suit. I’d like even more tension between who is telling the truth (Mother/Woman), and in retrospect, some things seem to make little sense if Mother turns out to be 100% in control after all. And the plot twists weren’t all that twisty, making the film a little predictable.

      Thanks for pointing it out to me, I have a hard time finding worthwhile content on Netflix. I plan to watch Death of Stalin as well.

    • Koan says:

      I was genuinely pleased with this film.

      For better or for worse, and for as much as I enjoy the genre, I always have some trepidation walking into a sci-fi film. It seems uniquely hard in sci-fi to know how much credit I should be giving the film for it’s ideas and plot as they are playing out on screen. Whenever a character makes a questionable decision I have to ask myself, is this dumb because ‘the filmmakers ignoring the obvious consequences of this technology for plot convenience, or is this actually smart because it’s a deliberate detail that provides hints about the nature of the technology’? An example of this ambiguity that didn’t become clear till later (and fell on the smart side of the spectrum) was Mother’s ignorance of the world outside the bunker. A dumb film might just say sensors/internet don’t exist in this high tech bunker, a smart film might leave you to wonder why Mother is telling lies and what that suggests about her.

      In the case of “I am Mother” the ending was surprisingly gratifying and by the end I felt it had pretty effectively confirmed as “smart” the potentially questionable decisions by the characters.

      A few thoughts:

      I thought Daughter’s ethics lessons in her class were great foreshadowing for the type of AI running Mother and it’s motivations.

      I thought an interesting detail was dropped when Daughter and Stranger escaped the bunker into the corn fields outside. Stranger comments the fields started appearing ‘about 6 months ago’ as they traverse the corn, implying that that was about the time Mother initiated the next phase of it’s plan.
      This suggests Mother had decided as Daughter had passed her tests as early as 6 months previously, and that any further events occurring in the bunker posthoc were merely a means of providing Daughter with the right amount of pressure to succeed in the Real Final Trial with Stranger.
      It makes me wonder what Mother would have done if Daughter made the ‘wrong’ decision and NOT rebelled against Mother. If Daughter had stayed dutifully at her desk and completed her exam while Mother interrogated Stranger, or if Daughter decided the most logical course of action was to remain in the facility and raise the next generation of humans under Mother – would Mother have seen that as her failure and eliminated Daughter to start again?

      That scene in the beginning when the mouse chews through a wire and shuts down the facility was a hell of a Chekhov’s gun. I kept waiting for the part of Daughter’s escape when she would sneak out at night and cut power to the building to ensure their sneaky escape from the disabled Mother, but that never happened. In reality it seems the real lesson was that Mother will respond to potential threats from the outside with lethal force.

      Overall I really enjoyed it and will definitely recommend it to friends/family.

  8. Anaxagoras says:

    I graduated last year from Carnegie Mellon’s privacy engineering program (where one of my TAs was someone I knew from Ozy’s blog!), and I’m looking for work in that domain. Does anyone here know of anyone who’s looking for privacy people? I have a strong background in computer science, though I’m looking for a role that draws on my policy skills as well.

    For those of you who don’t know anyone looking to hire a privacy engineer, do you have any questions about privacy? Want the opinions of rational-minded privacy person? I’m happy to share what I know!

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Basic question: what exactly in particular does a “privacy engineer” work on? I presume it’s some sort of branch of computer security, something something encryption?

      • Anaxagoras says:

        More the reverse, actually. Certainly, security is necessary for privacy (and yes, encryption is really relevant), but it’s quite a bit broader than that. The overall mission is to make sure that people are comfortable with with what happens to their information. This does including protecting against breaches by the bad guys (and against just handing out said sensitive data, as with Strava), but it also includes making sure you don’t become the bad guys.

        Look at all the stuff with Facebook. Personally, I think that some of the complaints of privacy violations directed at them are rather unfair (I am overall more worried about government misuse of information than corporate), but they indubitably have a massive problem with being perceived as hoovering up everyone’s personal information and handing it out freely. That this is largely factually incorrect will be scant comfort to them when public outcry results in them being broken up.

        Concretely, a privacy engineer could be responsible for making databases more privacy-safe, through methods such as differential privacy (adding Laplacian noise to blur the results) or creation of wholly synthetic datasets so that there’s less threat of misuse and so that they can be more widely shared. They could find ways to minimize the amount of data collected on users. They could help with compliance with privacy laws, like the EU’s GDPR.

        To be honest, privacy is rather ill-defined, and I actually agree with TestBlogDon’tUpvote’s take that the field does fall under the umbrella of grievance studies, but that’s another discussion.

    • fr8train_ssc says:

      I’m helping a start-up and we’re currently looking for a web-privacy developer/engineer. If you’re still in the Pittsburgh area and would like to discuss further, feel free to contact me:
      ssc at fr8train dot me

      • Anaxagoras says:

        Sure, I’ll get ahold of you.

        (By the way, we do know each other. I’m the person who helped with the bismuth growing project)

  9. Atlas says:

    (This ended up being a lot longer than I intended, while also not covering some points I want to make, or establishing them with anywhere near as much depth as I intended. I feel like I just spent a long time restating sort of obvious things other people—e.g. “RIP CW Thread”— have already said as preconditions to the somewhat novel points/connections I actually wanted to raise better, but then was too tired by the time I got to them to do so. Sorry, I’m bad at writing. Maybe I’ll add more later, but this has taken enough time as it is, and I want to just throw it out into the jungle and see what people think. Divided into multiple parts due to length restrictions.)

    Two recent opinion articles (adapted from recent/forthcoming books) from heavy-weight English-language newspapers:

    Free Speech is Killing Us,” by Andrew Marantz in the New York Times, and “The Myth of the Free Speech Crisis,” by Nesrine Malik in the Guardian.

    These will serve as a helpful evidentiary excuse for an observation I’ve been wanting to make for a while.

    There’s a conventional wisdom developing in left of center mainstream circles about the Internet, social media, political discussion, Why Trump Won, etc. : When it was created, the Internet was supposed to be a force for good. It would allow people to more easily research and debate controversial and important questions. Citizens with reasonable beliefs living under the threat of censorship could reassure themselves that they weren’t crazy and use the web to stealthily promote dissident beliefs. This is based on the earlier liberal notion of freedom of speech, developed by luminaries such as John Milton, Voltaire and John Stuart Mill, which suggested that the best way to arrive at the truth in an uncertain world is through the allowance of unfettered debate. As Benjamin Franklin put it:

    Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter: Hence they cheerfully serve all contending writers that pay them well, without regarding of which side they are on in the question in dispute.

    (Franklin was a pretty impressive guy in general: You know how he was a lead negotiator of the Treaty of Paris that concluded the Revolutionary War on very favorable terms for the nascent US? Did you know that was while he was in his late 70s? See H.W. Brands’ book The First American for more about his remarkable and inspiring life.)

    But something unexpected happened. Conspiracy theorists, racists, trolls, Trump supporters, Brexiteers, edgelords, nihilists, etc. began to hijack these new platforms and use for them for their own nefarious ends. Instead of allowing necessary conversations to take place, the proliferation of these bad actors derailed them in comments sections, social media platforms and discussion boards. We obviously value freedom of speech, but that freedom is just one of many values that we have to balance. When “freedom of speech” leads to harassment, or, worse yet, literal violence, it’s time to think about how to change the norms and laws surrounding it.

    (I’m trying to represent this view reasonably fairly, so I’m going to resist throwing in something about how “the First Amendment only addresses government censorship, not the actions of private companies/individuals.” This is because, although it isn’t an uncommon talking point, if I do, I will be overcome with uncontrollable gales of laughter that will delay my finishing of this post. See this response to an open letter by Scott. And also “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” by Bertrand Russell.)

    For instance, here are the opening paragraphs of Marantz’s essay:

    There has never been a bright line between word and deed. Yet for years, the founders of Facebook and Twitter and 4chan and Reddit — along with the consumers obsessed with these products, and the investors who stood to profit from them — tried to pretend that the noxious speech prevalent on those platforms wouldn’t metastasize into physical violence. In the early years of this decade, back when people associated social media with Barack Obama or the Arab Spring, Twitter executives referred to their company as “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” Sticks and stones and assault rifles could hurt us, but the internet was surely only a force for progress.

    No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va.; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso. The Christchurch gunman, like so many of his ilk, had spent years on social media trying to advance the cause of white power. But these posts, he eventually decided, were not enough; now it was “time to make a real life effort post.” He murdered 51 people.

    So basically what we have here, as Scott observed in a different context in his review of Inadequate Equilibria, is a problem of theodicy. If the Internet was created by technology and freedom of speech, which are good, how did it come to contain so much evil?

    My response will be parallel to a young (nineteen years old! This guy was awesome at every age!) Benjamin Franklin’s attempt at theodicy in a conventional religious context. Franklin wrote in his A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain:

    v. If He is all-powerful, there can be nothing either existing or acting in the Universe against or without his Consent; and what He consents to must be good, because He is good; therefore Evil doth not exist.

    Unde Malum? has been long a Question, and many of the Learned have perplex’d themselves and Readers to little Purpose in Answer to it. That there are both Things and Actions to which we give the Name of Evil, is not here deny’d, as Pain, Sickness, Want, Theft, Murder, &c. but that these and the like are not in reality Evils, Ills, or Defects in the Order of the Universe, is demonstrated in the next Section, as well as by this and the following Proposition. Indeed, to suppose any Thing to exist or be done, contrary to the Will of the Almighty, is to suppose him not almighty; or that Something (the Cause of Evil) is more mighty than the Almighty; an Inconsistence that I think no One will defend: And to deny any Thing or Action, which he consents to the existence of, to be good, is entirely to destroy his two Attributes of Wisdom and Goodness.

    (Compare the erudition and cogency of this essay by a guy who got a few years of formal education to a typical paper written by an elite college freshman today the next time you hear something about how being smart and successful is primarily the result of “opportunities” and “privilege.” And yes, also read meta-analyses and books and observe things in the real world and so on, but do this too.)

    • Atlas says:

      That is: the problem of evil is that we observe imperfection in the universe, which is seemingly inconsistent with a God possessing infinite power and benevolence. Franklin’s response is to deny the observation: we think that we see evil, but if we reflect more deeply we’ll realize that in fact what we see is consistent with our original belief in divine benevolence.

      Likewise: I think the real problem people in the mainstream media have with the Internet isn’t that freedom of speech failed to work as intended; it’s that the system is working exactly as intended.

      (I should note that I might be being too clever by half here, because I actually really, really emphatically disagree with Franklin’s religious theodicy, which makes me think that one or both of my views on these issues might be mistaken in a way that I don’t yet realize. Constant vigilance!)

      The rationale for freedom of speech supposes that we don’t know everything we need to know about a complex world that keeps surprising us—and furthermore, that we don’t know what we don’t know. (Why, yes, I have been reading The Black Swan lately, how could you tell?) If we already knew all the right answers, freedom of speech would be irrelevant, perhaps even harmful; why allow impudent buffoons to corrupt the masses by spreading lies when we already know what the truth is?

      This isn’t an idle conjecture; every system of censorship that we, here, today, can recognize and agree was/is extremely harmful was based on the idea that Karl Marx/Adolf Hitler/Chairman Mao/the Prophet Mohammed/Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ/Emperor Qin Shi Huang already came up with all the right ideas, so why suffer fools who disagree with them and therefore clearly have the wrong ideas? (I would hope that the fact that I’m not saying this should go without saying, but I’m not saying that all these figures and beliefs related to their teachings are comparably bad or that people who have done harm on the basis of their alleged teachings are the best/most accurate interpreters of them.)

      David Foster Wallace made famous the joke about fish who wonder: “What the Hell is water?” We hear the joke and laugh at the dumb idiot fish, but the point is that we are the fish.

      My favorite example of this is from On Liberty, published in 1859. John Stuart Mill decided:

      In order more fully to illustrate the mischief of denying a hearing to opinions because we, in our own judgment, have condemned them, it will be desirable to fix down the discussion to a concrete case; and I choose, by preference, the cases which are least favourable to me–in which the argument against freedom of opinion, both on the score of truth and on that of utility, is considered the strongest.

      That is, in order to defend the importance of freedom of speech, he wasn’t going to do the obvious, easy thing of just pointing out a time where an obvious true and good opinion had been suppressed. That might be overly favorable for his argument. No, he was going to defend the right to express the most condemned and evil view that he could possibly think of, even though he knew that unscrupulous enemies of his argument would be able to say: “Aha! You’re only defending freedom of speech for this evil and absurd view because you’re an evil moron who believes it!”

      The opinion that was so obviously false and harmful that it seemed obvious to men of that age that it needed to be censored was:

      Let the opinions impugned be the belief in a God and in a future state[.]

      There are defenses of freedom of speech (like the bits above) that emphasize cases where good arguments have been censored, and allege that arguments now being censored are also good. There are also defenses (like Mill’s in the section that quote is from) that emphasize cases where it’s useful to allow (allegedly) incorrect opinions to be openly shared. Those are good and important arguments.

      But I think the argument that needs to be emphasized most is that freedom of speech isn’t a ritual formality through which we better deify arguments that we know for certain are already correct, but rather the very process through which we attempt to find out which arguments seem more correct than others, because we really, really shouldn’t assume that we already know which ones are correct. We shouldn’t come up with our beliefs, and then decide whether or not freedom of speech is good for those beliefs; we should permit freedom of speech, and then arrive at our beliefs.

      “But,” an interlocutor who read and agrees with the articles I cited at the beginning might object, “you don’t understand. Honest, moral and intelligent people can responsibly disagree with Roman Catholicism, Islam, Marxism and Legalism. But people who disagree with mainstream media conventional wisdom today are dishonest, immoral and unintelligent.”

      I think the meta-level argument is sufficient for philosophical purposes, and this objection can be ignored, but for practical purposes I think it’s necessary to address this on the object level in order to substantiate my claim that the system is working as intended.

      I have no doubt that some— many!— of them are dishonest, immoral and foolish! But this argument is flawed in two significant ways. (Or perhaps the same way, an isolated demand for rigor, in two different senses.) Firstly, people who criticize false ideas are never universally honest, moral and wise. Many fascists accurately criticized the USSR, and many communists accurately criticized the Third Reich. Universally perfect wisdom, morality and honesty on the part of those who express an opinion shouldn’t be a precondition for being allowed to express that opinion.

      But secondly, and more importantly here, this is an isolated demand for rigor that ignores the fact that the mainstream media has itself sometimes displayed less than perfect wisdom, morality and honesty, which is (part of) why people are questioning and disagreeing with it!

      Do you think that the mainstream media did the best possible job it could have in assessing whether or not there were WMD in Iraq? How about whether or not there were grooming gangs in Rotherham? Or the circumstances of Jeffrey Epstein’s death—or for that matter life? What about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign’s alleged participation in it? How about the probable outcome of that election and the Brexit referendum? Or the possibility of a global financial crisis in 2008?

      I’m not saying that the liberal media is bad and shouldn’t be trusted and conservative comments sections/conspiracy theorists are good and should be trusted; that’s exactly the kind of error that I’m trying to avoid. I’m saying that we can clearly see instances in the recent past where the mainstream media made serious errors, and there’s no law of the universe stating that it can’t also make errors on the subjects that Marantz, Malik, etc. think should be excluded from critical discussion. I’m actually being too understated given my initial claim: on many of the subjects that are allegedly too controversial for good discussion, people are raising convincing, important and under-appreciated points—which is why those subjects are too “controversial” for free discussion.

    • Atlas says:

      Some stuff I didn’t cover at all/as well as I wanted to:

      —Generally the claims and arguments in the articles themselves
      —Specifically the claim that speech leads to violence
      —Specifically the claim that the US should have jammed radios in Rwanda in 1994 and how it relates to freedom of speech
      —Specifically the claim that freedom of speech isn’t actually under threat
      —Specifically the claim that harassment is an issue and is in conflict with freedom of speech as a value, and is more of an issue for particular groups
      —Generally object level ways that the conventional wisdom now is wrong and censored ideas are right (although I’m wary of being overly controversial and perhaps getting censored as a result)
      —Generally what my personal biases and concerns are and how they relate to these issues (they might surprise readers of the essay so far in some ways)

      • blipnickels says:

        Let me steelman the mainstream media a bit.

        It’s not intrinsically obvious that certain kinds of debate lead to truth/good things. In fact, there’s lots of kinds of debate/persuasion that are super effective at winning without leading one to truth. All else equal, pretty or high status people will tend to win arguments. Lots of social shaming techniques are effective despite not leading to truth. Logical fallacies can be very appealing to an audience despite being, well, fallacies. The best critique of argument and free speech leading to truth is any given presidential debate.

        So there’s some meta-debate/speech rules we’d want to impose on all participants in order to assure that conversation was productive. For example, on this site, kind-true-necessary. Unfortunately, whoever sets the meta-rules has a dramatic advantage in the debate. For example, who determines what is kind or true or necessary. Mainstream media lost a lot of legitimacy because conservatives have complained for generations that the meta-rules were biased against them and eventually built their own media ecosystem.

        I think the mainstream media is absolutely right to complain that a lot of these boards/publications/whatever don’t lead towards truth. The debates/free speech don’t produce useful outcomes and the overall quality of discourse has crashed. The problem is the mainstream media are either unwilling or un-incentivized to establish meta-rules that the conservatives will agree to, which means there’s no legitimate meta-rules for arguments/free speech in general. These reports are complaining about a real problem, and they’re right that it’s a problem, but any solution will require action on their part which they will not take.

        TLDR; For argument to be productive, there have to be some basic rules. We currently don’t have those and there’s little chance of that changing.

        • gbdub says:

          I think this is a reasonable steelman, unfortunately the arguments against “free speech” as exemplified by the articles linked by Atlas seem to be much more about the content than the format.

          If the problem is that “the format of online commentary makes it more likely than in the past that ‘the truth’ will lose”, then this argument applies equally to both left and right wing positions. Trumpists do not have a monopoly on toxic or irrational online communities.

          No, the real problem is that the wrong people are winning, where “wrong people” is defined as “not mainstream progressives”. I think this mostly falls under a broad definition of what Ann Althouse calls “civility bullshit” (her observation that almost all calls for “civility” are bullshit, because they come from people who only favor civility when they are losing an uncivil argument).

        • cassander says:

          The problem is the mainstream media are either unwilling or un-incentivized to establish meta-rules that the conservatives will agree to, which means there’s no legitimate meta-rules for arguments/free speech in general.

          I’d say their problem is more that the group of people with the power to make those rules represents a very narrow and homogenous segment of society that conflates (as do all homogenous groups) “what is good for us/what we like” with “what is good for everyone.” What we’re seeing is not a lack of rules, but a rebellion against them.

    • Clutzy says:

      I would argue that the thesis is wrong in its genesis that:

      If the Internet was created by technology and freedom of speech, which are good, how did it come to contain so much evil?

      This is false. OR at least to the extent that it is true, it only contains “evil” in large segments were the mainstream has actually forgotten why that evil is evil, and has left it to scripture (that they haven’t read and don’t understand). For example, I am of the opinion that, if slavery was legal and common in America, most secular Americans would not notice it is bad. Indeed, there is nothing about their core worldviews that is antislavery. Instead it would be a niche (but not a small niche) religious cause just like in 1800.

      When you start to view suppression of speech through the veil of frailty it makes much more sense. Old people who were anti-Rock/Jazz/Rap didn’t have any real reasons why it was bad, so they try to suppress it. Sometimes things are actually bad, even if the people lose the reasons (like slavery), but the point is that losing them is the baseline cause.

    • albatross11 says:

      Nitpick:

      (Compare the erudition and cogency of this essay by a guy who got a few years of formal education to a typical paper written by an elite college freshman today the next time you hear something about how being smart and successful is primarily the result of “opportunities” and “privilege.” And yes, also read meta-analyses and books and observe things in the real world and so on, but do this too.)

      This is like comparing Ramujan’s work in mathematics to that of an average freshman math major at an elite university.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Or why not try not comparing a modern US student who has been taught many more subjects than Franklin was taught, to a student who has had a limited number of subjects taught to them. One of said subjects including the limits of God. Children were expected to master certain subjects at an early age than they are now.

        Also, at least some of what impresses in the Franklin text is the vocabulary, which was far more typical for the time than for today. I see no evidence that Franklin isn’t largely pacing the writings and styles of others in this essay.

        • albatross11 says:

          You are utterly swimming in availability bias. Was the vocabulary or clarity of thought of the average person working on a farm in Pennsylvania anything like that impressive? No way–Ben Franklin was a one-in-a-million genius. Judging the average of 18th century Americans by him is like judging the average of 20th century Americans by Richard Feynman.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Recall the OP you’re directly responding to.

            (Compare the erudition and cogency of this essay by a guy who got a few years of formal education to a typical paper written by an elite college freshman today

            Weren’t typical Pennsylvanian farmers Quakers?

            And Ben Franklin was no typical Pennsylvanian farmer; neither were his parents: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin#Early_life_in_Boston

            “It’s all part of God’s plan” is a pretty common saying.

  10. AG says:

    Under today’s copyright regime, would Schubert have to pay licensing fees to the Beethoven estate for Symphony 9? And in your opinion, is that a good or bad thing?

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Schubert essentially “sampled” a theme from Beethoven briefly–to my understanding, that would probably (but possibly not) be defensible as fair use. I think the fair use doctrine ought to be made more extensive–while I imagine there will always be cases that require weighing the factors, there should be some objective criteria for certain things that are definitely fair use.

      • AG says:

        I’m under the impression that artists pay licensing fees for sampling.

      • mtl1882 says:

        I’ve been thinking about fair use policy a lot lately. I notice organizations are trying to make it objective by quantifying it, i.e. “10% of the work or less” can be fair use. There’s no easy way to handle this, but I find that approach off-putting. The copyright rules are there to benefit society, which means incentivizing creation in a limited way such that the creator benefits. I hate the idea of creators being screwed over in any way, but that’s not really the issue. If someone uses the work in a way that essentially creates a new work, which is sort of the idea behind fair use, than the amount of it used is irrelevant. Society gets more out of incentivizing an actual re-purposing of the material, which usually doesn’t cut into the market of the original. The factors deal with deciding whether or not it is actually adding something new or simply taking it. I don’t think anything that gets to the core of the matter can be objective—all that will do is make people better at gaming it, namely those who want to make money off the work of others. I’m particularly annoyed because I’m seeing this a lot in historical scholarship. New historical works, to be useful, should be able to build off all existing prior discoveries. Some historical works involve a lot of creativity and copy-pasting the analysis would be clearly inappropriate. But simply drawing hard objective lines seems very counterproductive to advancing scholarship. And corporations who hire consultants or employees want them to sign their lives away, as though it is that easy to declare every single idea “ours.” These things are not formulaic–the laws are rooted in the purpose being served, and the prevalence of nonsensical boilerplate about this stuff shows how bad it would be if we abandoned the philosophical grounding. Based on my law school experience, my impulse is to view quoting things in a useful manner as probably qualifying as fair use, and not agonizing over them. But I know others disagree vehemently, seeing it in a very territorial manner, and so many people are litigation-averse that they believe any claim should be conceded. With so much information available now, it seems like it will end badly if we keep trying to police it narrowly. Especially internationally. The measures taken would have to be drastic. Yet it is also so easy to pirate and otherwise steal that it is natural to reach out for control.

  11. meh says:

    California becomes first state to mandate later start times at public schools

    how does this decision square with staying on daylight savings time?

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Good decision, mostly orthogonal to not-getting-rid-of-DST.

      Now teens’ sleep cycles are only being screwed with needlessly twice a year instead of 180 times.

    • Odovacer says:

      What’s the benefit of the later start time? The article mentions a “public health crisis”. Will the later start time allow kids to sleep longer? Or will it allow them to stay up later knowing that school starts later?

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Teenagers’ brains don’t start producing melatonin (i.e. getting tired enough to want to sleep) until about 11 PM. Consequently most high school students have trouble going to bed before that 11 or midnight, and often just don’t even bother trying. Then, if they have to wake up at say 6:00 to be on time for a 7:00 school day, they only get 6-7 hours of sleep instead of the 8-9 that would be ideal. The “public health crisis” is that this leads to most high schoolers being chronically sleep deprived.

        Yes, there’s always an element of “high school kids are dumb and stay up too late”, but pushing back start times will likely on the whole lead to them getting more sleep, assuming that in general they go to sleep when they feel tired.

        • meh says:

          11pm standard or daylight time?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            There’s enough imprecision in the “11:00” figure and variability in the timing of sunrise/sunset that it doesn’t really matter which. To pull error bars out of my rear, 11:00 plus or minus an hour.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think you are missing meh’s point. Human brains don’t include absolute clocks of any level of precision, and the claim “teenagers’ brains don’t produce melatonin until about 11:00 PM” is transparent bullshit that is at best covering for some other less-bullshit claim. If teenagers’ brains didn’t produce melatonin until 11:00 PM, then in the vast majority of human history prior to cheap artificial lighting we would still have had teenagers awake and active for about five hours past sunset, and sleeping through the first two or three hours at least of useful daylight. That would be horribly inefficient, biologically implausible, and I think unsupported by the historical record.

            “Teenagers’ brains start producing melatonin approximately X hours after trigger Y, which in contemporary American society typically means about 11:00 PM local time”, would be a much more plausible claim. But in that case, it would be really important to understand what X and Y are, rather than taking “11:00 PM” as an immutable biological fact. Quite possibly it is more practical to move Y a few hours rather than move the start of the school day. But a quick skim suggests that your cited source skips past all that to “…and thus biology demands we adopt my preferred solution”, which is not helpful.

          • Lambert says:

            Electric light has changed *everything* about sleep cycles.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biphasic_and_polyphasic_sleep#Historical_norm

            With only natural light, humans often awake in the middle of the night for a couple of hours before returning to sleep.

            Nobody’s studied (to my knowledge) how adolescents vs adult circadian cycles differ in this situation. We only know that in the highly unnatural present, adolescents’ circadian cycles tend to be somewhat later than adults’.

            What I’m trying to say is that ev-psych has no power here. We’re not in primordial Kansas any more.

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re not in primordial Kansas any more.

            We’re also not in a place where aliens with orbital mind control lasers are beaming “stay awake until 11:00 PM” rays into teenagers’ brains, so how about looking into what actually is happening? You’ve just acknowledged that humans actually can override nature in this regard, and now we’re being told that the particular unnatural state we presently have is the one we have to adjust everything else around.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If this is stemming from electric light, I think it’s a lot easier to change high school start times than to convince all parents of teenagers to turn off all their lights at sunset.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @John Schilling
            My original claim was an oversimplification, I admit. I’ll amend it to “Due to a number of biological and environmental/social factors, adolescents in modern society have trouble falling asleep before 11 PM and waking up before 8 AM.” I think this is more accurate but still strong enough to

            Some environmental factors the AAP report mentions are homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs, and use of technology. I’d be all for high schools assigning less homework, but that’d be a far more challenging task than pushing the start time back–amount of homework isn’t an easily-mandatable quantity like start time, good luck legislating “less homework”. Extracurricular activities and after-school jobs clearly have value. As for technology….again, good luck getting teens to stop spending time on their phones in the evening, let me know how well that works out.

          • Lambert says:

            Handing out melatonin like smarties would probably work, but it might make you look bad.

        • quanta413 says:

          Teenagers’ brains don’t start producing melatonin (i.e. getting tired enough to want to sleep) until about 11 PM. Consequently most high school students have trouble going to bed before that 11 or midnight, and often just don’t even bother trying.

          Is there good evidence that this is causal? I.e. it’s not because of something like teenagers brains don’t start producing melatonin until 11 p.m. because that’s a little before they tend to go to sleep (on average)?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            My main source here is this AAP report summarizing relevant research and advocating for later school start times.

            This report and the papers it cites suggest that there’s an array of biological and environmental factors that lead to teenager’s late bedtimes. “On a practical level, this research indicates that the average teenager in today’s society has difficulty falling asleep before 11:00 pm and is best suited to wake at 8:00 am or later.” They phrase the effect of biological changes as “making it easier for adolescents to stay awake later” or “permissive of later bedtimes”. It’s difficult to tell from the current research whether somehow removing the environmental factors (stop assigning homework? confiscate electronics at sunset?) would allow teens to easily fall asleep earlier than 11. However, studies of districts that have pushed back start times show that students at those schools continue going to bed at about the same time, getting more total sleep since they can sleep in later in the morning.

            Even assuming for the sake of argument that if teenagers tried to go to bed earlier, they could….I’m more optimistic about getting high schools to start late than I am about getting high schoolers to go to bed early.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think it was MR that linked a study a few years ago which found later start times lead to earlier bed times for high school students.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The only MR link I can find is from February of this year, where a 55 minute later start time yielded 34 minutes more of sleep. An elasticity of 0.6 sounds great. An elasticity greater than 1 sounds implausible. (MR linked a press release which linked a paper.)

          • quanta413 says:

            Thanks for answers.

            Even assuming for the sake of argument that if teenagers tried to go to bed earlier, they could….I’m more optimistic about getting high schools to start late than I am about getting high schoolers to go to bed early.

            I think my fear is more that they’ll just stay up later and it will cancel out meaning that there will be no long term gains. I agree they probably won’t go to bed any earlier. I assume previous start times had some positive reason to be set even if it wasn’t the best reason.

            But Douglas Knight’s reference makes it sound like I shouldn’t worry too much about that. It can work decently.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Public health crises have really come down in the world since the great days of cholera.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          I agree, calling it a “crisis” is pretty overblown. I’d probably call it more of a “public health issue”.

    • zzzzort says:

      I think this is a good on the whole, with some fairly solid evidence that it will result in people getting more sleep. I’m still young enough to remember how surprised I was not to have to set an alarm to get up at 7 once I hit my mid 20’s, whereas that was once an existential struggle. DST should be next.

    • Nornagest says:

      Well, with California so unhealthily focused on being the first in the country to do some woke-sounding thing, I suppose statistics say they’d have had to hit on a good idea eventually.

  12. HeelBearCub says:

    Something of a coda to the long ago discussion of why the Boeing 737 Max crashed twice.

    Sully Sullenberger seems to have taken a NYT article by William Langewiesche to task on the issue of pilot error. I’m not sure what the Times has to say, because it is pay-walled, but here is the crux of Sullnbergers statement:

    [T]he fatally flawed design of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) … was a death trap.

    I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design. These emergencies did not present as a classic runaway stabilizer problem, but initially as ambiguous unreliable airspeed and altitude situations, masking MCAS.

    • bean says:

      Langewiesche was probably too quick to blame to pilots for 100% of this (I’ve read the original), but I think Sullenberger goes too far the other way. The simple fact is that the Lion Air pilots were able to keep the plane in the air for 10 minutes, and didn’t use their checklist properly. If they had, they’d have almost certainly survived. He’s not wrong that it was a bit different from a classic runaway stabilizer problem, adding to cockpit load, but at the same time, there were some fairly basic mistakes made on both airplanes, such as not retarding the throttles even with the overspeed clacker going off.

      I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times.

      Citation needed. I suspect this number is a lot higher than this sentence is intended to convey.

      • bean says:

        One thing I forgot. Sullenberger has been retired since 2010. He may be a hell of an airman, but he’s not fresh at flying airliners. There’s a reason that pilots have to do a bunch of work to maintain proficiency, and I really doubt he’s been doing that lately.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Here you seem to be doubting Sullenberger’s ability to judge what is reasonable to expect the minimum standard airline pilot is capable of. But the standards would seem to apply just as much to Langewiesche or you. I don’t think this is really a valid critique. Sullenberger is more likely to be a competent judge of reasonable pilot ability, based on the sum of his experience.

          As to the statement that the pilots didn’t reduce throttle despite the overspeed clacker going, I just wonder whether other information available indicated the flight speed should not be reduced? Do we assume overspeed clackers don’t fail? The initial failure was a sensor failure, so I’m guessing pilots can’t assume this.

          Sullenberger’s argument seems to boil down to “accurate information is critical to proper piloting”, that the MCAS system as designed hid information from the pilots, making errors far more likely.

          • bean says:

            Here you seem to be doubting Sullenberger’s ability to judge what is reasonable to expect the minimum standard airline pilot is capable of.

            I’m positing that he may be a significantly worse pilot today due to lack of practice than he was 10 years ago, and if he doesn’t realize that, then he’s going to overestimate the difficulty of dealing with the problem.

            As to the statement that the pilots didn’t reduce throttle despite the overspeed clacker going, I just wonder whether other information available indicated the flight speed should not be reduced? Do we assume overspeed clackers don’t fail? The initial failure was a sensor failure, so I’m guessing pilots can’t assume this.

            The overspeed clacker should have made them check the throttles, which were still at takeoff power. This is very not normal at that point in the flight, and being way too fast meant that the control forces were too high to deal with. That’s why the Ethiopian crew couldn’t use the manual trim wheel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m positing that he may be a significantly worse pilot today due to lack of practice than he was 10 years ago, and if he doesn’t realize that, then he’s going to overestimate the difficulty of dealing with the problem.

            I’m sure he is a worse pilot than he was 10 years ago, but is he a worse pilot than the minimum standard pilot?

            We also actually don’t know how often he is in a simulator these days. There is some reason he was able to test this multiple times.

            By that same token, what makes us think Langewiesche or you aren’t just as or more likely to underestimate the difficulty? That’s what is required to know whether the criticism makes sense. Maybe there is a some wellspring of current commercial pilots stating this is not problematic to deal with that I am not aware of.

            This is very not normal at that point in the flight, and being way too fast meant that the control forces were too high to deal with.

            This seems to be making the argument that they accidentally left the throttles at full power and never checked them again. Is that the most likely reason for the throttles to be at full power at this point in the flight (with the airspeed clacker going off)?

          • bean says:

            We also actually don’t know how often he is in a simulator these days. There is some reason he was able to test this multiple times.

            He was able to get in the (very nice) simulator to test this because he’s Sully, and that name is going to open a lot of doors, particularly in a case like this. (Most likely scenario: he’s speaking somewhere that has a simulator, and they say “hey, do you want to try an MCAS failure or two?”) It doesn’t mean that he’s had enough sim time on the 737 recently (keep in mind that he flew Airbuses when he retired) to be up to the standards of an operational pilot.

            Maybe there is a some wellspring of current commercial pilots stating this is not problematic to deal with that I am not aware of.

            There was some discussion of this article on a recent Naval Gazing OT, including comments from a current airline pilot.

            This seems to be making the argument that they accidentally left the throttles at full power and never checked them again. Is that the most likely reason for the throttles to be at full power at this point in the flight (with the airspeed clacker going off)?

            Yes. The overspeed clacker is a bad thing, and “the crew forgot to throttle back when task-saturated” is much more likely than “the crew was playing 4D chess with the airplane”. It’s there for a reason, and while there might be reasons to ignore it in an emergency, I don’t think any applied here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The overspeed clacker is a bad thing, and “the crew forgot to throttle back when task-saturated”

            That implies one of two things …

            – You think take-off is so task saturated that a normal take-off might cause them to simply forget to throttle back
            – or, MCAS had already failed, causing the task saturation

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As to the linked comments from Naval Gazing, the pilots seem to be agreeing with Sullenberger, that the automation is the problem (while one of them is blaming the idea of automation for reducing crew skill).

            But what really caught my eye was this:

            bean said…

            But I’m not sure this particular case can be blamed on too much automation so much as poorly executed automation.

            Not exactly sure what to make of that.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Yes. The overspeed clacker is a bad thing, and “the crew forgot to throttle back when task-saturated” is much more likely than “the crew was playing 4D chess with the airplane”. It’s there for a reason, and while there might be reasons to ignore it in an emergency, I don’t think any applied here.

            I’m no pilot, but intuitively if you don’t know whether they you could trust the overspeed clacker, as you are getting ambiguous sensor readings, then retarding the throttles with the airplane close to the ground and struggling to maintain altitude seems like a bad idea.

          • bean says:

            MCAS had already failed, causing the task saturation

            The MCAS itself didn’t fail. The AoA sensor failed, which lead to the MCAS kicking in. That caused task saturation.

            As to the linked comments from Naval Gazing, the pilots seem to be agreeing with Sullenberger, that the automation is the problem (while one of them is blaming the idea of automation for reducing crew skill).

            Neal (the only pilot in the mix, AIUI) pointed out that Langewiesche was being extremely arrogant, which was reasonable. Not so much “it’s entirely the plane”.

            Not exactly sure what to make of that.

            The basic idea behind the MCAS itself makes perfect sense to me. Yes, Boeing could do a bunch of redesign work to fix the plane so that it doesn’t have a problem with the tail getting blanked. Or they could put a patch in the flight-control software. This is a rare problem, well outside the realm that the plane should get into normally, and spending a bunch of time and money trying to solve it aerodynamically doens’t sound like a particularly good deal. So of course, they install the MCAS, and because (to an engineer) it presents as a trim runaway, they don’t feel much need to inform the crew about it specifically. (I’m not even sure they were wrong on this. There are a lot of moving parts on an airliner, and the crew isn’t going to have everything that can go wrong memorized.)

            The only confusing part to me is where they ran it entirely off one AoA sensor, when the second one was available. The whole point of having two sets of instruments is to prevent something like this. If they’d done that, none of this would have happened. But that decision is doubly baffling because it wasn’t like hooking it up to both sensors would be significantly more expensive. It’s a rounding error compared to all the other costs that go into developing that piece of software, and the aerospace profession is rarely that sloppy.

            Edit: I’d love to see a detailed retrospective of how that mistake came to happen, because it’s just such a weird failure. But the very weirdness means that none of the usual villains (corporate greed, for one) actually work to explain what happened.

            I’m no pilot, but intuitively if you don’t know whether they you could trust the overspeed clacker, as you are getting ambiguous sensor readings, then retarding the throttles with the airplane close to the ground and struggling to maintain altitude seems like a bad idea.

            The plane was struggling to maintain altitude because it was trying to nose down. The cause is pretty obvious, and the relationship between control forces and airspeed is well-established. Also, I’m pretty sure “manage airspeed” was a checklist step that they didn’t do.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I don’t fly airliners, but it is really basic that if you put the nose down, you’re going to need to reduce power drastically or you will overspeed very quickly. It is muscle memory and entirely subconscious, at least for me, that any attitude change may require a change in power setting, even though I don’t fly anything quite slippery enough to go through the red-line with takeoff power in level flight.

            And that is especially true for airliners, where if you level off with take-off power you’ll overspeed very quickly. An overspeed event would probably get you fired, or at least you would be sent back to the simulator for extra training and it would be a big black mark on your career. The airplane would also require inspections after an overspeed event.

            It should also be mentioned that if you’re in an inadvertent dive, the first action of the recovery is to close the throttle / reduce power. It goes 1. reduce power 2. roll wings level 3. pull up. This is drilled until it becomes instinctual: the instructor takes over the controls and the student closes their eyes, the instructor does a few quick maneuvers to disorient the student, typically also winding the trim all the way in one direction or the other. The instructor will put the aircraft into either a banked dive or an extreme pitch up about to stall, then tell the student to open their eyes and take-over. The student checks airspeed: is it increasing or decreasing, then looks immediately at the attitude indicator: do we need to correct a bank? From there the student recovers, usually needing to adjust power and trim as required.

            That exercise is done for the private pilot license, then again when doing an instrument rating (where the exercise is done with the instruments only, much much more difficult when you can’t see outside), then again with a commercial pilot license, and probably on an air transport pilot license exam, I haven’t done that one. The point is that it is utterly basic and should be automatic for any pilot to reduce power if they are in a dive, on top of the natural requirement to reduce power when leveling off or starting a descent anyway in normal situations.

          • Lambert says:

            > the instructor takes over the controls…

            I can’t tell whether that would be exhilarating or terrifying. Type II fun, maybe.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you like roller coasters, this is the same thing except that at a random point you’ll be asked to start steering. Some people find roller coasters exhilarating, so I guess.

            I don’t find it it exhilarating, it’s a horrible unnatural thing to do to an airplane and I hates it forever, but as Les (and others) note, you’ve really got to be able to handle it whether you like it or not.

            Also, when in doubt, reduce power. More power is almost never going to save you in the first few seconds of a crisis, but too much power can kill you real fast in the other kind of crisis.

          • LesHapablap says:

            It isn’t too difficult, it isn’t something anyone worries about on a flight test.

            The hardest maneuver (easiest to fail a commercial flight test on) is the max-rate turn, which isn’t done in the states and as far as I’m aware is only done in New Zealand. It is a 70-80 degree angle of bank turn with full aft-elevator and full power (a hard turn is very draggy, so need full power to keep from slowing so much you stall), pulling 2-4g. The stall warning horn should be going the whole time, or you aren’t doing it correctly, and the commercial standard is to maintain +-50ft through the 360 turn.

            It takes a lot of practice to get it right. Very satisfying if you get it perfect and hit your own wake on the exit!

          • LesHapablap says:

            Also, when in doubt, reduce power. More power is almost never going to save you in the first few seconds of a crisis, but too much power can kill you real fast in the other kind of crisis.

            “If you’re going to do something stupid, you might as well do it slowly.”
            -unknown

          • viVI_IViv says:

            So assuming the pilots were not idiots, why wouldn’t they reduce power? Was it reasonable for them not to trust the airspeed indicators?

          • LesHapablap says:

            bean or John would know better than me as they are more familiar with what actually happened, but I’ll give it a shot:

            Assuming they aren’t idiots, the likely explanation is that they had so much going on that they were overloaded / task-saturated. They probably didn’t hear the overspeed clacker at all. It wouldn’t have been a matter of trusting the airspeed really since they could look out the window and see that they were pointing toward the water: they probably just didn’t even think about their power setting. This could be because they were so used to the automation that manual power changes in flight were rare, I don’t know.

            In a training environment it is trivially easy to task-saturate someone to the point that they can barely function, even if they are good, smart, highly experienced pilots. You can just keep failing systems until they literally can’t hear you anymore. The only solution in the moment is to load-shed. To that end, the priorities are drilled: first Aviate, then Navigate, then Communicate. The first step to solve any problem is to Aviate or “fly the airplane,” which is a way of shedding the load down to the absolute minimum, and recognizing that actually flying the plane is far more important than trying to trouble shoot a “chip detect” light or a “gear unsafe” warning light or what have you. The go-to example for this is Flight 401

            I rambled a bit there but hopefully that’s informative even if it doesn’t answer the question.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you don’t trust the airspeed indicator, the next step is to look at the attitude indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator (or maybe just out the window). If those all agree that you’re in level flight, you don’t want to be at full power. If you’re fighting to keep the nose level and you think the nose might be pointing uncontrollably down in a few seconds, you definitely don’t want to be at full power. Full power, in a jet transport, is for the takeoff roll and for periods when you have the nose pointed definitively skywards.

            Task saturation to the point where they simply forgot to reduce power is plausible, though that was a long time to keep forgetting. Idiocy is still on the table. But a rational decision to maintain full power due to faulty instruments, does not look plausible unless there were still more instrument failures that I haven’t seem reported.

            ETA: Ninja’d by Les

  13. johan_larson says:

    So I was building some practice MtG sealed decks yesterday, and in one I picked Sundering Stroke and Escape to the Wilds as my rares in an RG deck. I was disappointed to find that both are rated sort of mediocre in this article on Channel Fireball.

    Is there something wrong with these cards?

    • snifit says:

      They have powerful effects, but they are expensive. Sundering Stroke’s effect is reasonable, but in limited play you’re only going to get seven mana on turn seven 46% of the time. You can increase your odds by playing mana acceleration or card draw, but sometimes turn seven is still too late.
      Escape to the Wilds is less useful. How much mana do you need to make use of it?

    • Tarpitz says:

      In this case, the fault is partly with Karsten’s rankings and partly with the fact that those rankings are for draft, not sealed. Eldraine limited is very slow, which makes expensive but powerful cards like those better, and sealed is slower than draft anyway. LSV (the most trustworthy of Karsten’s inputs, though still not perfect) gave Stroke a 4.0 (very strong) and Escape a 3.0 (good enough to always make your deck) and with hindsight he might well adjust both those ratings up now that we know what the format looks like.

      Also worth noting: P1P1 draft ratings like Karsten’s will ding a card for being two colours. That’s appropriate, because it makes it less likely you will play the card, thus reducing its expected marginal value, but it does mean the card will be better than its ranking once it does actually make your deck.

    • silver_swift says:

      Sundering stroke is just way too expensive for what it does. You only typically have room for a few 5+ mana cards in your deck and 7 mana “kill two things and maybe do one or two points of damage to your opponent” just isn’t the best card you can get in that range. Even then, they still rate it pretty highly in the article you linked to (B or B-, which is higher than I would have rated it, but I haven’t played the new set yet, maybe the format is just very slow).

      Escape to the Wilds is kinda cute, but it’s a still a 5 mana spell that doesn’t directly influences the board. It’s really good if the board is tied up and the game goes super long, but it does little to close out the game if you are ahead and it’s probably too slow to catch you up if you are behind or if you are racing your opponent.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        I think you’re underselling it in limited. In addition to being a flexible way to kill 2-3 things, it can also be 7 face damage. I’ve played with it a few times and this mode is surprisingly important–alpha striking someone down to 7 and burning them out is a great way to end the game.

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, in draft, if you want and can play a 7 cmc card, “kill two things and ping the opponent” may actually be the best you can get.
          I’d prefer an evasive threat that dodges removal, or something like Ethereal Absolution, maybe, but those don’t come along all that often.

      • Tarpitz says:

        There have been limited formats where both these cards would have been unplayable (Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Ixalan…)

        This isn’t one of them. Throne of Eldraine is probably the slowest environment since M14. Powerful but inefficient cards are good in ELD draft, and even better in sealed.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      That article is definitely not saying Sundering Stroke is mediocre. It is placed above Charmed Sleep, an excellent and first-pickable card that should always make your deck if you’re in blue.

      Escape to the Wilds is lower down because this is a draft pick order and first picking a two-color card is dicey, but it’s very strong in any RG deck looking to go to the late game. In sealed especially, where decks are slower and card advantage is super important, draw 5 and play an additional land for 5 mana is great.

    • Aftagley says:

      I’ve tried to make Escape to the Wilds work a few times in limited and sealed and it’s been really tough to not feel disappointed with it.

      The biggest downside is that if you’re playing this card turn 5 you are giving your opponent a massive tempo swing. This is fine in some decks, but if you’re playing RG, you’re likely trying to be on the beatdown. You’re creature quality is likely higher than most other decks, so you should have a board advantage. If you play this card turn 5, you give your opponent the opportunity to remove one of your threats, play a blocker, or do something that lets them catch up. Sure, you get an extra land, but that’s not worth spending a turn for, at least not that early.

      So, if escape to the wilds doesn’t work early game, what about once it’s stalled out? Sealed tends to be grindy and eldraine is very grindy. What if you top-deck this late game when everything’s gummed up? Well, it’s better than, but still not amazing. If you draw 5 cards, you’re likely to hit 2-3 lands. Even if you get to play an extra land, at this point in the game mana doesn’t really matter. If the 2-3 spells you draw end up getting you a bomb, awesome… but this format also frequently goes long and running out of cards is a real problem. If I’m playing UB, even if I’m not hard into mill, I’m probably excited to see you play this card.

      TLDR: escape to the wilds is bad in the early game, and only mediocre to ok in the late game. If you’ve got a bomb-heavy deck in which drawing is important it’s worth running, if not I’d consider it too risky.

  14. ana53294 says:

    Which books have you been unable to finish, not because they’re just bad (poorly written, bad grammar, etc.), or boring, but because they offended your sense of right and wrong, or you found really scary?

    For me, it was Lord of the Flies. It was a class assignment, but I found it really unlikeable (I didn’t like any of the kids in the book; I found them all so horrible). I’ve read books with serial killers’ POV that were more likeable. So I cheated, and wrote an essay based on a synopsis.

    I never read any Stephen King novels, because I’ve heard they are genuinely horryfying for many people, and I get scared easily.

    I also hated the Batman returns* so much I didn’t finish the movie, and left the movie theater with my family there. Had nightmares about the Joker for weeks.

    *EDIT: It was actually The Dark Knight movie.

    • onyomi says:

      I recall in high school I ragequit The Catcher in the Rye very early on because for whatever reason I really, really hated Holden Caulfield’s perspective. It just made teenage me very angry, maybe because I was supposed to find it relatable but did not, maybe because he reminded me too much of other teenage boys I didn’t like, or something like that. Haven’t attempted to read it since then so I might have a very different reaction now. Then again, I don’t know if I’d entirely trust my current judgment either; after all, if late 30s me finds Caulfield a well-wrought character but the me who was Caulfield’s age could not, I feel like that’s a failure in its own right, on some level? Of course, many of all ages would likely disagree.

      • acymetric says:

        It has been a really long time since I read Catcher in the Rye (roughly the same timeline as you I would guess, plus or minus a year or two) so I can’t really recall any specifics. I think I more or less agree with your take (although I did finish the book): I enjoyed the general story but found Caulfield’s point of view really annoying.

        Paraphrased: Something, something, something…phonies. Rinse rather repeat.

        In the non-fiction sector: I went through a period where I was reading a lot of music artist biographies and autobiographies. Slash (autobiogrophy of Slash from Guns N Roses), Clapton (autobiography of Eric Clapton), and a very good Jimi Hendrix biography that I highly recommend to anyone interested in such things, along with a handful of others. My next two stops were BB King’s autobiography and Keith Richard’s autobiography. I don’t think I made it more than 20 or 30 pages into either…just horribly bland books about people I had a high degree of interest in.

      • March says:

        I read Catcher for the first time when I was 28. I got the book from a friend who also lent me Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar at about the same time. She loathed Caulfield and found the Plath protagonist extremely sympathetic and relatable. I loathed The Bell Jar and found Caulfield endearing and striving to express something valuable, if obviously very young.

        (Since then, I’ve been put off The Bell Jar even more by people who tell me I couldn’t possibly understand, didn’t I know the protagonist was depressed? But then again, I don’t relate to many ‘depressed’ characters in literature all that well, even with having it myself.)

        Right now, a book I’m too scared to finish is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The first act sets up the story masterfully to be a complete disaster in the second, so I’m scared to start the second.

        • Fingerspitzengefuehl says:

          I want to send Holden Caulfield to a concentration camp. This is justifiable because he is less than human (i.e. the book fails to realize him as a character).

          Also agree Bell Jar’s protag was more sympathetic (though clearly I’ve forgotten her name).

      • sfoil says:

        I read The Catcher in the Rye after I was out of high school.

        Apparently an older generation found Holden a “relatable” character; I thought he was an obnoxious brat with some admittedly legitimate problems. I appreciated the artistry involved in the creation of Holden’s character, and of the story and setting, but I can’t imagine anyone thinking they should emulate Holden; I’m almost certain my teenage self wouldn’t have.

        Some Salinger fans claim that Catcher is intentionally written “in character” by another one of Salinger’s fictional characters, Buddy Glass, who is a sort of authorial alter ego. I haven’t read enough of Salinger’s other works to comment on it, but if true it is a pretty cool literary trick.

        • March says:

          I found Holden relatable in the sense that teen-me had some of the same character flaws and was contending with the same lack of belonging coupled with similar nebulous dreams of being a good person. I can’t imagine anyone thinking he should be emulated (since he never actually did much except play hooky and talk to a couple of people), just cheered on. He always seemed to me like someone on the verge of ‘getting it’, so I kept reading it like ‘yes yes, just a liiitttle further and just a little to the left and then to the right and there, you see?’

          Could be a case of ‘you see the world not as it is, but as you are.’

        • Urstoff says:

          He’s certainly relatable, but it’s that part of our (male, young teenage) selves that we don’t want to relate to anymore: simultaneously up our own butts and terrified of the larger adult world. The latter is especially extreme for Holden given his social context, and I assume many of us were more oblivious to the larger world than terrified of it.

          • March says:

            Interesting. I always find oblivious characters much more annoying to read about than terrified ones. If you have the perspective to be terrified you at least have one eye open.

            And perhaps it’s because I’m a woman liking a story that’s definitely pretty boyish, but I don’t really feel the need to disown the fact that I ever was a wrong-headed teen. I’m just happy I got over it. 🙂

    • Fitzroy says:

      Grunts! by Mary Gentle.

      I just found the whole thing so utterly tedious. It was an amusing premise for a short story, but dragged out over a whole book was terribly wearing. The realization that “I don’t have to finish this” and feeling as I deleted it was quite uplifting.

    • johan_larson says:

      I refused to finish Lolita because I found the scenario revolting.

      • Nick says:

        I set this one down eight or nine months ago and haven’t been able to bring myself to pick it back up.

      • ana53294 says:

        I don’t want to read that either. I don’t want to get into the mind of a pedophile. I find the whole thing deeply offensive.

        Books I haven’t even started because I find them offensive includes a very, very long list. I don’t necessarily want a happy ending in a book (although I do need some kind of resolution), but I do want to have characters I like or could feel sympathy for.

      • sfoil says:

        I mean, it’s not like the book makes any attempt to hide its conceit.

        • johan_larson says:

          Sure, but it’s one thing to know about something in the abstract and quite another to see it played out before you, even just in print.

    • John Schilling says:

      In high school, I was absolutely unable to finish either “A Separate Peace” or “A Tale of Two Cities”. Pretentious twaddle about stupid people who only cared about things I couldn’t bring myself to care about, solidly in Eight Deadly Words territory. Fortunately I was able to fake it from context well enough to get through class discussion and the subsequent tests. Still not sure why English teachers think I was supposed to learn from those. Is there anyone here who did learn something from either of those?

      “Catcher in the Rye” I did manage to finish, but only because Holden Caulfield was always just one or two steps away from turning into someone interesting and worth caring about. Never quite did it, though, and in hindsight I should have quit early.

      Since then, I’ve only ever read books by my own choice, and I’ve pretty much always finished those. A few of them I’ve regretted finishing, but that’s done more to make me careful which books I start than to develop a habit of quitting halfway through.

      • Two McMillion says:

        I’ve reread A Separate Peace several times. I find it haunting and oddly moving for reasons I can’t quite express. It has a feeling of grasping at something important but being unable to express it completely.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I took A Separate Peace to be a meditation on the sadistic impulse – both inward and outward. The narrator’s dogged by guilt and is trying to live with it. He doesn’t understand why he felt compelled to hurt someone he loved. He doesn’t understand why he tortured himself being envious and comparing himself to others which led to the terrible act in the first place. I felt it was a pretty good book for teens to read because it seemed to occupy that confused mindset of a teenager without necessarily judging it.

        It shows the fruitlessness and even danger of lashing out, but also that lashing out is itself a symptom of an internal conflict. It felt like a nice introduction to metacognition because it’s pleasingly unresolved and readers have to take on the role of guilty party to try and reconcile it themselves. I also happened to like the style. And frankly I think the boarding school aspect gave it a bit of a Harry Potter crunch that kids like because it’s so fucking foreign to me to think that any Americans actually send their kids away to a for school.

      • zzzzort says:

        I really enjoyed a separate piece as a work of historical fiction. It both illustrated a world over shadowed by WWII, but also had characters whose problems seemed bigger to them at the time than the war. That perspective of “everyone I know is going to die fighting the Nazis but I’m really concerned with winning this made up game” was interesting.

      • S_J says:

        Alright.

        I haven’t read A Separate Peace, but I did read Tale of Two Cities, and enjoyed it immensely.

        Maybe it’s because I was already primed to like Charles Dickens (by the several film adaptations of A Christmas Carol, or the fact that it linked into the history lesson about the French Revolution…)

        It may be the kind of story that most people either love or hate. Dickens wrote many stories that introduce a rascal (or scoundrel, or a penny-pinching money lender), then turn that person into a good and noble person. That’s the main point of this particular story–but it has a sadder ending than usual, as the rascal-turned-hero dies at the guillotine.

        In my guess, most English teachers either have that taste for that kind of story, or appreciate Dickens as a story-teller…so they pick one of his stories, and try to force people to read it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I couldn’t force myself to read Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby for school. I was a voracious reader back then and typically would finish whatever books we had been assigned the day that I got them, but those two were so tedious that I couldn’t make myself keep reading. I ended up just reading the SparkNotes instead.

      More recently I gave up halfway through Wolfram’s book on cellular automata, A New Kind of Science. It was fascinating but incredibly dense, so I found that every time I put it down I would need to pick it up fifty to a hundred pages back from where my bookmark was in order to get context for what I was reading. If I were to pick it back up now I would probably have to restart the book entirely, which is a powerful deterrent. That said, it would probably be worth it: even just the first third was useful in recognizing the sort of patterns you see often in the developmental biology literature.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I think A New Kind of Science is one I actually read cover-to-cover. But you’re right, it’s very dense for such a large book.

      • Enkidum says:

        Wolfram’s book is very interesting, in that with a very rudimentary understanding of the field before I started it, I was able to see that he was rewriting scientific and mathematical history to make himself appear as a sole warrior for truth, leaving out the massive contributions of virtually every living researcher in the fields he discusses. A lot of reviews point this out, basically he’s an intolerable jackass who thinks he’s the modern Newton, but at the same time even though this is tedious and there won’t be a modern Newton, he is very, very smart and worth paying serious attention to.

        I also got about 2/3 of the way through shortly after it came out, and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for the past 15 years.

        • zzzzort says:

          His commentary on the discovery of the Higgs is hilarious. Essentially “well, I still don’t think the mechanism is very elegant, but I guess it’s good enough for the universe.” He has some interesting ideas, and mathematica is a useful tool, but then so is Stephen Wolfram :).

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Atlas Shrugged. I don’t even remember how far I got into it. It was recommended to me for a scholarship opportunity by a teacher. I couldn’t empathize or sympathize with any of the characters.

      Various Heinlein novels I actually did finish despite finding the antagonists and protagonists morally strange, or even morally corrupt, but it would take a lot for me to reread any of them, or start a new Heinlein novel.

      As a 6 going on 7 year old child I walked out of The Black Cauldron due to fear.

      —–
      The unabridged version of King’s The Stand was so boring I stopped reading halfway through.

      Various songs and a SciFi channel advertisement/intermission have been permanently tainted by particular horrifying books I was reading at the time.

    • rubberduck says:

      “On The Road”, which I disliked for basically the same reasons as Scott.

      Also, “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Pahlanuik. Re-reading the wikipedia summary I don’t even remember why I thought it was a good idea to pick it up in the first place.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m a pretty big fan of Vernor Vinge’s writing, but I found myself saying the eight deadly words while reading Rainbows End. At some point, I set it down and never picked it up again–I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters or what happened to them.

      • georgeherold says:

        Huh, ditto, it’s still on my bedside table.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I did finish Rainbow’s End, but I don’t know what happened to cause Vinge to write such a dull book. I liked a lot of Vinge’s earlier work. Also, I suspect he was trolling people who like books.

    • Nick says:

      I rarely have this experience with books, more often with movies. The Dark Knight is definitely an example; I know objectively it’s a good movie, but I just don’t want to sit through it. Another one for me was Wolf Creek.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      I temporarily stopped reading American Psycho, but recovered enough after a few days to go back and finish it. Reason: Vg jnf gur eng fprar.

      The Wasp Factory was fairly unpleasant in places but didn’t distress me as much. And the Ring was scary and disturbing, but again never so bad that I felt I had to stop.

    • cassander says:

      Faulkner’s sound and fury. Another high school assignment. Large segments of the book are the stream of consciousness ramblings of people who are crazy or mentally disabled, with no chronology or punctuation. It was awful.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I had sort of the opposite reaction once (this story doesn’t reflect well on me).

      In high school we had to read Cormac McCarthy’s the Road, and I hated it so much after reading it the first time that I went back and close read it so that when everyone started gushing about it I would have detailed notes to draw on for why they were wrong.

      I was a teenager, so of course my feelings were all objective facts, but I’m sure its universal acclaim is probably deserved. I’ve since read other McCarthy stuff and it’s brilliant but also to me so starkly different they hardly connect in my mind. The Road felt like it was emotionally manipulative in the basest way – basically pornography for sadness/misery/shock.

      If I ever get the impulse to have a child as I’ve heard sometimes happens, I’ll perhaps read it again since the father-son thing is apparently so transcendently beautiful but until then I suspect I’ll leave it with the vermiculate trout humming of mystery.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I stopped reading The Road because it was incoherent, and that incoherence was needed to to justify what amounted to, in my eyes, emotional and physical torture porn.

        Haven’t felt any need to pick it back up.

    • As a kid I’ve had this experience. Weirdly, it was never anything conventionally considered scary. The book example eludes me slightly, but I think it was one of the YA His Dark Materials novels in which the corpse of someone who died of extreme frost bite is described, or it’s some scene to do with a corpse and the ominous implications of what killed him. I’m not sure if it’s from that novel series, but my memory is placing it adjacent to daemons and polar bears and expeditions to icy places.

      For movies, despite watching Alien 3 beforehand, of all things it was Jaws: The Revenge. The sequence at the start where the guy gets his arm ripped off while carol singers softly recite “silent night” really disturbed me in a way that the other Jaws movies didn’t. As an adult there’s nothing frightening about it except that it’s one of the worst movies ever made.

      Other things I wanted to finish but my mum didn’t let me. I was scared by the smoking skeleton in the Tim Burton Batman movie, but I’d rather have finished watching it, but my mum saw that I was frightened by it and turned it off.

      A slight segue is that nowadays I think it’s scarier to not know. If I heard demons whispering in a cave, I’d be intensely scared but also feel a strong hesitation about leaving, because I would never sleep another night in my life if I left doubt that supernatural things could exist. I’d probably be the guy who dies first in horror movies.

      EDIT: I’ve never had this experience relating to offense rather than fear.

      • Lambert says:

        The Northern Lights, from HDM.
        And it wasn’t frostbite, it was having his soul torn from his body.

        I get that it’s flawed edgy atheist Narnia, but it will always hold a place in my heart as the first real Sci-Fi I read.

      • I might have actually finished the series later, but I don’t know.

    • I stopped reading two of Vernor Vinge’s novels because they were getting too dark for me. I told the author that, and his response was that he could write darker than he could read.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m curious; which novels? I’ve read a lot of Vinge; the darkest he got IMO was some of the passages about Focus in Deepness in the Sky, but I don’t know what I’d consider second-darkest.

        • One of them was the novel with wolflike aliens who were intelligent as a group but not as individuals, which was a neat idea–but it started with the human parents being killed (as I remember) and only the children surviving. The other was the one where the alien race were spiders who hibernated during the winter and were involved in a continual war with each other–but it was the humans, not the spiders, that made it too dark for me.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The second one’s Deepness in the Sky; I agree the humans were the darkest part.

            The first one’s Fire Upon the Deep. I’m surprised you thought that scene was too dark! It was violent, but IIRC it was over quickly, and it didn’t seem to me to major on the darkness beyond showing “survivors can be traumatized.”

            And yes, the Tines are a very good idea. If you like them, you might like Vinge’s short story “The Blabber”?

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            Just FWIW, I think _A Fire upon the Deep_ and _A Deepness in the Sky_ are the two best SF novels I have ever read. Both have some dark and horrible parts, but they’re also really amazing works.

            There’s also a sequel to _A Fire upon the Deep_ called _Children of the Sky_ which is interesting and well-written (but not quite in the same league as Fire or Deepness), and which heavily involves the Tines and their group consciousness. (In particular, the possibilities that raises for the very fast rise of industry, since you can get Tines working in structures other than conscious groups for a time.) You might like that one–it has some drama, but nothing as horrible as the worst of what happens in those two books.

          • Aftagley says:

            And yes, the Tines are a very good idea.

            They are, but I’d argue that Vernor Fringe’s tines were heavily influenced by an alien race Poul Anderson thought up for a Flandry novel back in the 1960s. While the organisms in this case were made up from 3 different species linking together, not a pack of the same species mixing, it had the same basic idea of symbiotic consciousness.

      • Silverlock says:

        Oddly, that anecdote increases my respect for him.

    • FLWAB says:

      I managed to finish it, but I loathed Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and it was as struggle to finish. I only sat it out because I kept hearing how good the Dark Tower series was, and so I thought I would give it a try. The book was just too dark, depressing, and morally disgusting. I didn’t like any of the characters, and when I thought something positive or redemptive might happen things just got worse. I remember that the only thing I liked is when he finally caught up with the man in black they just had a conversation instead of a gunfight. That was the only highlight. I kept waiting for the story to get good, and it never did. By the end I didn’t care about the world, and I didn’t care whether any of the characters lived or died.

    • J Mann says:

      I’ve never stopped a book for reasons other than (a) I was bored or (b) I put it down, meaning it pick it back up, and haven’t gotten to it sense.

      I quit watching both Dexter (Colin Hanks season) and The Walking Dead (can’t recall) mid-season because they were really unpleasant and didn’t seem to be making any plot headway.

    • March says:

      Ooh, there’s a book I’ve been afraid to even START for over 20 years now. When I was in high school, I picked this buddy-cop thriller by a famous Belgian author to read for my reading list, since I’d read more in that series before and they were just my jam (and I had a lenient teacher who allowed books read for fun to count for grades). What I didn’t know was that that famous Belgian author had in the past also been a colonial administrator in Belgian Congo and used his experiences there to write a series of highly controversial, graphic and explicit books set in that country.

      Some bright spark thought it would be a great idea to post an excerpt from one of those books in the buddy-cop book as a ‘teaser’ for readers. Which in itself is not all that innovative. Except this excerpt was of a very graphic torture and murder scene.

      The memory of just that scene, not even two paragraphs or half a page, literally still keeps me from falling asleep a couple of times a year. I’m never ever ever ever touching the full book.

    • sfoil says:

      If I find myself not liking a book, I just start skimming it until I get to the end. I would count this as “not finishing” for most practical purposes.

      Like John Schilling, I found A Tale of Two Cities astoundingly boring. “It is a far, far better thing that I do…” and Dickens’ descriptions of rampant, chronic drunkenness among the English public — a good counterexample to “everybody always thinks the past is a golden age” — are the only redeeming features. I have never read another book by Dickens because of it. Victorian magazine serialization is no excuse, Tolstoy’s novels are very engaging.

      I once made the mistake of poking around Philip K. Dick’s catalogue looking for gems after being impressed by some of his better-known novels. Lies, Inc (aka The Unteleported Man) was particularly tedious, repetitive, and anticlimactic.

      I only very rarely write marginalia in books, but I made an exception to The Sexual Politics of Meat, where I could basically not physically resist registering my disagreement in writing on virtually every page.

      • Enkidum says:

        Dickens is surprisingly tedious in many respects – in particular, his characters are almost all incredibly two-dimensional by our standards (and in comparison to a slightly later writer lk Jane Austen), and he leans very heavily on tropes. A Tale of Two Cities is one of his works that suffers the least from these flaws (if you consider them flaws), so you’re probably better off not reading more.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think Dickens basically got progressively more didactic and less fun as his career went on. Pickwick Papers is pretty enjoyable.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I never finished Bratya Karamazovy by Dostoevsky, not because I found them boring, or offending, but because I had to return it to the library and never got around to reading it again for years.

      • Etoile says:

        In my family, everyone hated Dostoevsky – “too depressing” – and so I’ve never been encouraged to read it. So I have yet to do so.

      • zoozoc says:

        Just want to chime in that “The Brothers Karamzov” is one of my favorite books and that in general I enjoy all of Dostoevsky’s works. Actually, my least favorite is “Crime and Punishment”, which is funny because it is the most well known. “Brothers” can be slow, especially with the monk’s side-story. But I definitely suggest skimming through it (as I did on my first read through). You will miss some of the depth, but that can be fine for a first read through.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Celine’s A Journey to the End of the Night. An excellent book but incredibly dark and depressing. If you’re looking for something representative of the zeitgeist during and after WWI this is a good place to get it, I guess. I read it because I was a fan of Vonnegut and he recommended it.

      Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. I read one and enjoyed it, couldn’t make it through the second. Don’t remember which one. I quit after seeing a scene described online by a super-fan as the most awesome scene ever (Cordelia goes sword shopping). I only found the scene mildly amusing when I had read it, and the rest of the book had been tedious, and I couldn’t keep track of all the characters when all the names start with V, so I moved on. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had taken notes.

      • The Nybbler says:

        (Cordelia goes sword shopping)

        I hope it wasn’t me you think described that as the most awesome scene ever. I know I’ve praised a scene about Cordelia’s “shopping”, but it wasn’t that one, it was a different “shopping” scene, I believe in _Barrayar_. A sword is involved in that one too, however.

      • LesHapablap says:

        It might have been you. Maybe I’ll have another crack at them someday because everyone seems to love them.

        So much of the value in the books seems to come from the subtle political interactions between characters, which requires remembering lots of details about each one and their motivations, relationships to each other, etc. How do you manage to keep track of the characters? Do you take notes, or do I just has the dumb?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t take notes, but I almost never take notes, so that’s not saying anything. I probably miss some of what’s going on. I don’t think any of the Vorkosigan novels were as complex as, say, Game of Thrones (where I definitely couldn’t keep track of everything).

          The trick with the V-names is to remember the suffix. Kosigan, Patril, Darian, etc. I found Vorruyter kind of difficult because I don’t think of “Ruyter” as a name.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          It helps to eliminate the “Vor” in front of everyone’s name.

          “Vor” is just a gentry prefix. Miles is referred to as “Miles Kosigan” when he’s in boot camp.

          There are only half a dozen important characters introduced in each novel, though they can start adding up.

          edit: ninja’d by The Nibbler

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m not extremely good at keeping track of details about characters and their relationships, but I manage well enough with Bujold. Her characters are interesting enough for me to remember them, and I think she may do enough redundancy to help me along.

    • Clutzy says:

      I have a few that I wish I could have for those reasons but couldn’t because they were school assignments the top ever is:

      Junky by William S. Burroughs. It was pure tedium for me to get through this book because I hated the narrator/author so much. I just thought he sucked.

    • Etoile says:

      In English: Name of the Wind. The character’s fatal flaw of causing his own problems was too much for me. I also wrote off “Jane Eyre” at the age of 14 because I couldn’t with her moodiness and self-righteousness, but reconsidered my stance as an adult.

      In Russian: several novels because the heavy-handed Yay Communism was just much for me. Specifically, “The Road to Calvary” (Хождение по Мукам) by Alexei Tolstoy and “Великое Противостояние” by Lev Kassil (don’t even know the English translation; don’t know if one exists). Both are very old Soviet novels. I have a few favorites from that time period where I see the “Our Great USSR” stuff, but it’s not as ridiculously front-and-center.

      • ana53294 says:

        Since I’ve finished school, I am not forced to read any books, so I don’t read preachy and boring books. Most Soviet era literary books for adults are both preachy and boring, or depressing (Gulag archipelago).

        The only Soviet era books I’ve read that I liked were children’s books (they were full of adventures), the Master and Margarita, and the Soviet SF, my favorites being the Strugatskiy brothers.

        • sfoil says:

          Do you recommend anything by the Strugatskys besides Roadside Picnic and Hard to be a God? Those are by far their best known works to English-speakers, but I don’t know if that’s because they’re good (I liked them both) or if it was just a fluke that they got translated fairly early.

          • ana53294 says:

            My favorite is Monday starts on Saturday, which is fantasy, but with very Russian characterisitics.

            I prefer their earlier works, because they feel more optimistic to me; I like the space exploration feel they have. So things before The ugly swans.

      • I got turned off by the protagonist of Name of the Wind (and the sequel), but the writing itself was good enough so that I may read the third book if it comes out and I notice it.

        Or maybe not.

    • georgeherold says:

      I read about 3/4 of the First “Game of Thrones” book and stopped. Are there no ‘good’ people in this world. (I didn’t watch the TV series either.)

      • johan_larson says:

        Care to elaborate on that? How did Eddard, Robb, Samwell, and Brienne fall short of goodness?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Eddard killed the messenger from the Night’s Watch for deserting, showing a Draconian streak. Robb showed both disloyalty to an ally and mercilessness to another ally, losing them both and resulting in his death and the death of most of his family. Samwell was a thief and an oathbreaker, though it seems the Night’s Watch oath was more of a suggestion (to anyone but Eddard) anyway. I can’t think of anything obvious about Brienne, except that she fraternized with the enemy.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, Sam is a villain in your eyes for violating his oath to the Night’s Watch, and Eddard is a villain in your eyes for executing a criminal whose villainy was of the same kind but greater severity than Sam’s and for which the prescribed penalty under the law was death. It would seem that your standard for not-villainy is to never be placed in the position to make difficult choices, in which case one is too boring to be a character in GoT.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As TVTropes would have it, Good is Boring.

      • You got farther into it than I did.

    • I started a Charles Stross book but I couldn’t stand his arrogant lefty politics, so I gave up pretty quickly.

    • Etoile says:

      I thought of some more:
      Dickens – I skimmed through the end of “David Copperfield”, and fast-forwarded through parts of “Great Expectations” because the main character is so blind and follows the wrong path so easily. You can just see the villain in David Copperfield manipulating him; it’s all foreshadowed; and he just does the wrong thing all the time.

      There’s this author named Donna Tartt, who is quite accurately described as “Dickensian”: her main character is like Dickens’s main characters that way. I read “The Goldfinch” and “The Secret History” all the way through hoping something redeeming would happen to the main character (like it does in Dickens) but it just didn’t. And it’s all his own fault. Wish I hadn’t finished those.

      • Aftagley says:

        Dickens was the big one for me growing up.

        I could mostly find literary merit in everything I was asked to read in English class… except Dickens. I kind of walked away feeling like reading him would be like asking 23rd century kids to read the Twilight series; yes – you’ll get a great example about what people found popular at a very specific time in human literary history, but is that really enough benefit to make people sit through some absolute dross?

    • Concavenator says:

      Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, which starts as a really fascinating description of a generation ship on way to another solar system, and gradually becomes a polemic against space colonization – or rather, the people who like space colonization, who are arrogant ignorant self-centered white men who would probably kill people if they could get away with it, and also everyone who doesn’t love the protagonist is a sad loser with no life. I got about 90% of the way through, and then realized I didn’t care to find out what happened in the end.
      Especially disappointing because KSR’s Years of Rice and Salt and Red Mars are among my favorite novels.

      • I thought Red Mars was a tragic waste of a setting. I suspect that the choice to give the viewpoint character ASD was done primarily so that KSR wouldn’t have to explain anything that the character wouldn’t understand. A normal person might have been able to more clearly comprehend the economic situation, which would do less to prevent the reader from realizing that it’s total nonsense.

    • MorningGaul says:

      At first I thought it never happened to me, then I reminded myself of…

      André Glucksmann’s Une rage d’enfant. An autobiography that interested me because of a radio interview I heard.

      And it turned out to be a really bad, self-aggrandizing autobiography of someone who, it turned out, has a fairly impressive record of having been on the wrong side (in my opinion) of history, managing to go from a maoist supporting the cultural revolution in 1968 to a hawk calling for war in Irak in 2003, and in Libya and Syria 10 years later.

      The book itself (or at least the bit I went through) was pretty much a collection of unbelievable or overblown examples of his youthful-but-entirelly-legitimates rebellions. Not a read i’d recommand.

    • aristides says:

      Titus Andronicus. I was on a kick of reading every Shakespeare play, but I was feeling squeamish, and stopped reading and tried the Anthony Hopkins movie hoping it’d be better. It wasn’t. I had to quit after the rape dismemberment scene. Well after the fact, I began to appreciate that Shakespeare isn’t just high literary works, and that Titus was really just an archaic Quentin Tarantino movie. At the time though it repulsed me and I couldn’t believe it was written by the same playwright.

      The Awakening could almost be in this category, but I finished it as assigned reading. I had to annotate it for the teacher, and the majority of my annotations were me writing curses to the main character, appalled by her behavior. I found it very morally repugnant, but managed to finish the whole thing, and the teacher surprisingly gave me an A without reporting all of my written curse words to anyone.

      • Lambert says:

        > Shakespeare isn’t just high literary works

        The main reason people don’t notice this is that all the slang for sexual organs has changed since his day. Or rather most. Country matters indeed…

        • Aapje says:

          Also, different pronunciation means that a lot of the puns and rhymes no longer work. For example, this:

          And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
          And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
          And thereby hangs a tale.

          can be interpreted very differently in the original pronunciation, where hour sounds very similar to whore.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’ve seen this bit by Original Pronunciation Shakespeare, but it’s not clear to me that “from whore to whore we rape and rape” makes sense in Early Modern English. It’s a Latin loan that originally meant “carry off for sex”, which isn’t something you’d do to prostitutes (unless the next clause is “get stabbed”).
            But it’s still a nasty word, so maybe he was just making a crude pun.

          • Aapje says:

            I interpreted the second meaning differently, with the other words mostly unchanged:

            And so, from whore to whore, we ripe and ripe
            And then, from whore to whore, we rot and rot;
            And thereby hangs a tail*. (mimics crotch grab)

            So this then means: we visited prostitutes in our youth, getting a venereal disease, and kept doing this as long as we could, even as the penis was rotten/rotting, until we became impotent.

            I suspect that the play was performed with sufficient lewd gestures to make the meaning clear, without ripe being interpreted as rape.

            * Slang for penis

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea that it’s about VD is common, but seems kind of strained. Wouldn’t “rot” just be a homophone or near-homophone of “rut”?

    • S_J says:

      When I was a pre-teen, my parents found a series of “Illustrated classics for young readers” books. I pretty quickly figured out that the “Abridged” word under that sub-header meant that a modern author had taken the plot/dialogue and edited it into something easier-to-read.

      The actions sequences were fun, and there were many small illustrations scattered throughout the text…which made the story even more fun.

      Among the books that I read from that series were The Last of the Mohicans and The Count of Monte-Cristo.

      Later in life, I found un-abridged copies of these two. I’ve also seen film treatments of the stories.

      In the case of Mohicans, the original writing is a tedious slog to read through. It felt like the author had listened to a couple of older wilderness scouts tell embellished stories about their adventures in the wilderness, and transcribed the dialogue to use as his narrative style. Sentences have odd structures. Characters get into heated discussions while stalking prey, and somehow their prey doesn’t hear them.

      The story-outline is pretty good. It even includes a real historical event, and has historical military leaders from that sequence of events named as characters in the story.

      The film treatment of the Mohicans story is much better, as film, than the story itself is as literature. The abridged-narrative versions are better than the original.

      On the flip side: The Count of Monte-Cristo is a well-written book. The narrative drew me in as a reader, and the over-arching story of revenge is compelling. The writing is so good, I want to ignore the fact that the author keeps introducing coincidences that help his main character. (I was also very surprised when the un-abridged version has a chapter where the main character uses hasheesh, and praises it to his friends. It’s definitely a book of its time; and the past can be a foreign country.)

      Maybe it’s this fundamental weakness of the core narrative that make most film treatments of the story feel flat. Or maybe it’s the fact that the revenge is complex, and affects many people (both innocent and guilty), that is hard to tell on-film. Or maybe it’s the fact that the point of the story seems to be the inner character of the man seeking revenge…at any rate, the film treatments of the story don’t seem to do justice to the core narrative.

      In summation: I’ve finished both books at least once, and watched film versions of both stories at least once. Of them, the film version of Mohicans is one I have, and will, re-watch many times. I don’t think I’ll ever want to re-watch the film version of Monte-Cristo. With the books, it’s the reverse.

      • Alejandro says:

        I generally agree with your assessments, but I would suggest giving the 1998 miniseries version of Monte Cristo (starring Gerard Depardieu) a try. With 4 movie-length episodes, it can start to approximate the density of plotting of the book, although it also drops some of the most convoluted subplots.

    • Matt says:

      I read The Hobbit in… 5th? grade, and then quickly devoured The Lord of the Rings trilogy, multiple times. My mother, seeing how much I liked them and wanting to encourage me, bought me the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant book. I read a bit of that, fascinated by the main character’s description of having leprosy, and got to the sex (rape?) part and gave it back to her.

      I’m sure now that I’m an adult, the book would be fine.

      • Nick says:

        That scene made me put the book down for a good two months.

        I can’t really say it ruins the book or anything, because, like, the series is very much about Covenant struggling with his own self-loathing over that and other things. All the same, I wasn’t prepared for it.

        Really, though, be glad your mom didn’t give you some of Donaldson’s sf.

      • I was an adult when I read the Thomas Covenant books, I think several but not all. I kept waiting for all the ugliness to be justified, and eventually gave up.

    • fortyCakes says:

      Most recently, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. It’s just got none of the verve or pace of Bujold’s other Vorkosigan books, and there isn’t really any sort of conflict (barring far too many moments of internal hand-wringing from both of the primary characters).

      • albatross11 says:

        I finished Gentleman Jole, but I was pretty disappointed. If she’d rewritten that story from the perspective of, say, the young woman officer and her Cetagandan sometimes-squeeze, it might have been a pretty good story. As is, I was kind of bored with a story about, basically, Jole working out his midlife crisis issues.

      • I didn’t finish that one–and I’m a Bujold fan.

      • John Schilling says:

        Finished it, but decided to look carefully before reading further in the Vorkosigan saga. Not that there’s likely to be much more of that coming, of course. But making me not care what happens to Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan was a tough piece of work, and one I’d rather not experience for any of the other characters I still do care about.

        Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was a decent sendoff, and the series could use a few more of those before shutting down.

        • LHN says:

          I didn’t just not care, I was actively upset with the retcon. I just can’t see the Aral or Cordelia of the previous books being okay with that relationship, especially in its early years.

          Aral, whose sole aim for which he risked the safety of his family was the preservation of the Imperium, courted a scandal that could undermine his regency with potentially fatal consequences for both. Powerful men having mistresses is one thing, but it’s hard to imagine homophobic Barrayar being okay with the Emperor’s guardian and closest influence having a boytoy, especially with any number of Counts ready to fan up the flames.

          A Serg or Vorrutyer might just quash any questions about it with violence. But that’s something Aral was supposedly trying to get away from. Anyway, it’s not that some person in Aral’s position might not do such a thing, because certainly plenty have, but that Count Aral Vorkosigan, exemplar of martial and political virtue that Miles has always measured himself against, would.

          And even if Aral could reconcile it to himself, there is no way that Captain Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony would sanction a relationship within Aral’s chain of command with that massive a power differential. Even if she rates Aral as incorruptible, Jole can’t know that if things go south he won’t be assigned to test swimsuits on Kyril Island. Aral’s other subordinates can’t know that Jole’s rise isn’t due to his being a literal favorite. Other officers can be expected to follow his basic example without his iron virtue.

          I’d believe Cordelia would buy him a session with an LPST or help him pick out a boyfriend on Space Tinder. But not that she’d abet what any Betan would call a hostile work environment.

          It really felt as if Bujold liked the idea in the present so much (for whatever reason) that she ignored its implications about the past.

      • Matt C says:

        A disappointment for me also. A lot of Bujold’s books are part romance novel, but usually she carries it off just fine. Not this time.

        The Penric’s Demon short stories are better, more what you’d hope for in something new from Bujold. I was happy to go back to Chalion (and surrounding lands).

        I’ve read the first five Penric stories; I see there’s a couple more now. I thought the earlier stories were best, and the theme was starting to run down . . . but I’ll give the next couple a try anyway.

    • Procrastinating Prepper says:

      Stranger in a Strange Land. Heard of the book before as a pretty revelatory piece of sci-fi and spirituality, but I never made it to the second half.

      Part of that was everyone’s acceptance and protection of the main character who, while being obscenely rich and endowed with literal superpowers and unique knowledge, is also completely uninterested in taking care of himself or even defending himself against assassins.

      And the other part was a collection of heinous misogynist screeds that were wedged into the book at odd places, usually into the mouths of female characters.

    • mingyuan says:

      There have been a couple classic sci-fi books that I stopped reading (or in one case, violently threw across the room) because everyone in the book seemed like a terrible human being, the writing style felt like none of them were people, and there was this deep, pervasive, and widely accepted sexism. I would count Permutation City in this category even though I actually finished it because I figured if all my friends liked it so much, it must have some great payoff at the end. But it didn’t. I only got about a chapter into Snowcrash because of this, and the one that made me so angry I threw it across the room was Ringworld. My mom feels similarly about Heinlein.

      From talking to my friends who like these books (who are all male, but I’m a rationalist so almost all my friends are male :P), they like the books for the world-building and concepts and don’t really care about or notice characters. But they definitely offend my sensibilities, and I’ve kinda just accepted that some classic sci-fi is off-limits to me due to my violent hatred of it.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Dark Reflections by Samuel Delany is one– it’s the very sad story of a poet who didn’t take proper care of his career. The first chunk of the book is the latter part of his life, when it’s become clear that everything is hopeless. That’s where I stopped because I expected that the rest of the book would be when the poet was younger and hopeful and making what seemed like either reasonable or harmless choices at the time.

    • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

      The Windup Girl — dropped 1/3 in. What a load of retarded bullshit. I just could not keep the immersion in the worldbuilding so absurd.

      Authority by Jeff VanderMeer — I made myself to read Annihilation (because the trailer of the film looked pretty and Natalie Portman is hot) even though I was not enjoying it. Then I started Authority and discovered that it is solidly in Eight Deadly Words territory.

      I nearly ragequit Leviathan Wakes. Was mostly enjoying it as your typical space opera, but the point where they cancelled general relativity really got my goat. Finished the book to the end, but the it left such a sour taste in my mouth that I did not read any sequels.

      For me, it was Lord of the Flies. It was a class assignment, but I found it really unlikeable (I didn’t like any of the kids in the book; I found them all so horrible).

      I was in a exactly same boat with Lord of the Flies – could not finish it the 1st time I tried. Made myself to finish it couple years back on account of great litrichur.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t stop reading books when they offend me. I finish them, and then I complain about them on the Internet.

      But I nearly stopped reading The Wasp Factory. Though “offend” isn’t quite the right word there. It didn’t make me feel shocked, or put-upon, or righteously furious. It made me feel grubby. Like I needed to wash my hands.

  15. albatross11 says:

    Someone above linked to Scott’s review of _On The Road_.

    One thing I noticed from the discussion there was that a lot of people (perhaps including many of the fans of the book) seemed to have two categories in their heads for behavior: call them “square” and “other.” To be square is to follow the expected life path–get married and stick with your wife and raise your kids, hold down a job, pay your debts, don’t steal or exploit anyone, stay out of trouble with the law, etc. I think in some peoples’ minds, this has more constraints–maybe you also go to Church every Sunday and vote in every election and keep your lawn nice, too. And some people feel very much obliged to live that life, and also feel suffocated by it.

    Now, from Scott’s description, _On The Road_ was basically a travelogue of a couple of guys who left a trail of destruction and misery in their wake. And one thing that strikes me is that this may have felt like the alternative to a square life. I imagine some readers found the whole travelogue fascinating but not something to be copied, others saw it as an excuse to go copy the sociopathic behavior in the book, and still others saw it as license to ease up on the lawn-care and maybe skip voting in the off-year elections.

    This also makes me think of Rand’s quote about offering people poison as food and poison as antidote–either side you choose is deadly. On one side, you’re supposed to live an extremely constrained and unrewarding life, on the other, you’re supposed to live by exploiting those around you until your evil choices catch up with you and you die in a ditch somewhere. These are both horrible options, but if you offer one as food and the other as antidote, lots of people will poison themselves, convinced they’re saving themselves.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      get married and stick with your wife and raise your kids, hold down a job, pay your debts, don’t steal or exploit anyone, stay out of trouble with the law

      unrewarding life

      Huh.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people who feel oppressed and trapped rather than rewarded by their jobs, marriages and even sometimes children. Paying off debts – especially debts to faceless corporations – is probably not many people’s idea of a good time.

        And I know at least one person who has been a model husband and father, worked his hands to the bone to reach the point where he owns his home and a modestly successful small business, is scrupulously honest and decent – and hates the police with a fiery passion, even though I’m pretty sure he’s never committed any offense more serious than speeding. I think he basically sees them as a continuation of the teachers he couldn’t stand at school.

        None of which, of course, implies that there aren’t also people who like all those things and do in fact find that life rewarding. Some of that disparity will be down to differences in people’s circumstances, and some to differences in their characters.

        • EchoChaos says:

          And I know at least one person who has been a model husband and father, worked his hands to the bone to reach the point where he owns his home and a modestly successful small business, is scrupulously honest and decent – and hates the police with a fiery passion, even though I’m pretty sure he’s never committed any offense more serious than speeding. I think he basically sees them as a continuation of the teachers he couldn’t stand at school.

          Is he American? American police are noticeably worse in a lot of axes than others. e.g. https://www.foxnews.com/us/fort-worth-police-officer-in-shooting-investigation

          • Tarpitz says:

            Nope, he’s English and the primary object of his dislike is presumably Northumbria Police. They do appear to have been guilty of a hilarious failed cover-up of a fight at a barbecue between the Chief Constable and the husband of the Assistant Chief Constable, with whom he was was having an affair, but I don’t think they kill a lot of civilians.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m in favor of square being normal, being put forth as the default life path–with the caveat that of course this can be taken too far, in a sort of pharisaical way of adding a multitude of requirements that aren’t needed but match the aesthetics of the opinion setters.

      But by and large, get some education, get married, work, raise kids, try and avoid large debts or breaking the law, make friends, etc. is a pretty good strategy for satisfying most of our desires without impinging on others or society generally.

      But people vary greatly, and some people will feel other desires more or less. Some people might most want more freedom, or a stronger spiritual component, or to be important, or to avoid others, etc. Generally we don’t want everyone being a hermit or vagabond or explorer, but having alternate non-destructive life paths is important. So long as it’s clear one can’t have it all, and one can’t push the costs of their choices onto others.

      I wonder if modern life has a more or less space for non-conforming? Obviously some forms of self-expression are being actively protected, but others may be more discouraged. So it goes, a 3D pendulum trying to find rest on the local maximum of human idiosyncrasy.

      • I wonder if modern life has a more or less space for non-conforming?

        Modern societies are a lot rich than past societies. In the past, it was possible for a rich aristocrat to put his time and energy into some enthusiasm, but an ordinary person who did that was likely to starve to death. In modern societies lots of people, probably a majority, have the option of doing something to support themselves and something else, whether World of Warcraft, or researching naval history, or SCA, or political activism, that they find more satisfying.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          In modern societies lots of people, probably a majority, have the option of doing something to support themselves and something else, whether World of Warcraft, or researching naval history, or SCA, or political activism, that they find more satisfying.

          This reminds me of how Karl Marx was a doting German family man who memorized long sections of poetry to recite to his daughters on walks to picnics and had revolutionary political activism as a hobby with his guy friends.
          The world probably would have been better if Babbage and Lovelace had invented something like World of Warcraft.

        • Randy M says:

          Definitely, good point.

    • John Schilling says:

      And one thing that strikes me is that this may have felt like the alternative to a square life.

      The alternative? Singular?

      I think if you are going to characterize the dichotomy as “square” vs “other”, that second word should be a pretty big hint that it isn’t a prescription for one very specific lifestyle. And I disagree that the only alternative to “squareness” is sociopathic hedonism. So if someone’s apology for sociopathic hedonism is “hey, at least I’m not square“, then take your stupid pathetic rationalization and be off with you.

      Preferably to a nice long prison sentence, as soon as we add up all the theft and rape and whatnot. Because hey, you know what prison inmates aren’t? They aren’t “square”. There’s lots of ways to not be square, and if someone cares that much about not being square while the rest of us care about not having innocent bystanders getting hurt, seems like everybody should be happy when the un-square are safely locked away. Or we can look at all the other “others”, the ones who weren’t “square” but also didn’t go driving around in stolen cars impregnating and abandoning teenaged girls, and suggest looking to them as role models.

      • I agree that the sociopathic hedonism of “On the Road” is not the only alternative to a “square” life, but the baffling celebration of “One the Road” by English departments everywhere seems like they are trying very strongly to suggest that it is…perhaps because nominally “lefty” English professors are actually secretly much more conservative than we realize and they want to discredit any alternative to “squareness”? I don’t know, it’s weird.

        I still remember how pumped I was, as an anarchist at the time, to read “On the Road” during my freshmen year at Harvard for expository writing (their general “English” class), as if I was finally about to taste some forbidden counter-cultural fruit I’d been hearing rumors about…only to find the characters completely unadmirable and unrelatable.

        The theme of that expository writing class was “journeys and how they change people” or something like that. If my professor really wanted to expose us to something exciting and counter-cultural, yet still relatable and something that could potentially be emulated without wreaking havoc all around oneself, he should have assigned George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” instead.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I agree that the sociopathic hedonism of “On the Road” is not the only alternative to a “square” life, but the baffling celebration of “One the Road” by English departments everywhere seems like they are trying very strongly to suggest that it is…perhaps because nominally “lefty” English professors are actually secretly much more conservative than we realize and they want to discredit any alternative to “squareness”?

          Lefty English lit professors don’t present it as a cautionary tale, rather as an inspiring work. I think they fantasize about being/sleeping with the protagonists: good looking rebels who play by their own rules.

      • albatross11 says:

        My whole point is that I suspect this dichotomy drove a lot of the popularity of _On The Road_. I thought I was pretty clear that I disagreed with that dichotomy, what with the “poison as food, poison as antidote” line.

        FWIW, I think:

        a. Most people are probably going to have a better, more rewarding life by pursuing a more-or-less traditional lifestyle (get married and stick with your wife and raise your kids, do good work, stay out of trouble with the law) than by trying to roll their own path to happiness.

        b. Some people will find that lifestyle pretty unrewarding. I suspect most of the best writers and actors and artists we have are the kind of person who finds it most restrictive, and that this has led to a world where so much of popular / media culture is arrayed against that kind of lifestyle.

        c. Most people who are living that lifestyle sometimes feel the pinch of its restrictions, and wish they had a bit more freedom. I imagine nearly every adult with kids sometimes imagines doing stuff that isn’t really workable now that they’ve got kids, for example.

        d. A lifestyle of being a small-time predator on your fellow humans and undermining your high-trust society thereby is a pretty awful alternative to the “square” lifestyle, even if you personally are very badly suited to the square lifestyle.

        ETA:

        e. There are people for whom the message “relax the constraints you impose on yourself in your square lifestyle” is a useful and important one. They’re people who aren’t ever going to wander the country stealing cars and impregnating teenagers, but who could maybe stand to lose the tie every now and then.

        f. The trick is that there are also people who really could use the opposite message–buckle down and show up to class/work every single day, stop hitting on your female coworkers and be faithful to your wife, etc. Probably more of them.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          My very cynical take is that many people (ok, many men) would happily trade their square lifestyle for Kerouac’s kind of sociopathic journey, if they could pull it off. But most of them still prefer square lifestyle compared to ending in prison or homeless.

          • John Schilling says:

            Equally cynically, many women might well trade a decade or so of their square lifestyle for that of Kerouac’s female protagonists, if they could pull it off without being abandoned and either pregnant (1950s version) or permanently derailed from the career-and-family track (modern version).

    • I think part of the adulation for books like that is counter-signalling. If your loser cousin expresses adulation for a book like that, you’d worry he’d try to copy the behavior. If an English professor expressed adulation for a book like that, you are certain it’s not ’cause he’s thinking of doing it, it must be because he sees some supreme literary value there.(Whether there is any, I don’t know, never read the book.) Others really do have an an attitude of “the Tsar is bad, thus, whatever comes next must be better.”

      I don’t like the whole attitude of “the squares are trying to force me into their mold, the anti-squares will let me be who I want to be.” For every puritanical urge of the squares, you can find an equal or greater puritanical urge of the anti-squares. The squares have their dining etiquette, the anti-squares have their non-GMO food. The squares yell at you to mow your lawn, the anti-squares won’t let you have a lawn because of “suburban sprawl.”

      My attitude is that the best way to rebel against society is to selectively follow some of its rules so you can break others. See: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/01/dear-young-eccentric.html

    • Baeraad says:

      Yes. This divide has messed with my head a lot in my life, because it doesn’t leave any room for what I actually want and value. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I don’t want either of those things.

      I agree that square life looks like living death. From what I can see – and this is from listening to people who enthusiastically recommend it – it’s about working endlessly to earn as much money as possible and pumping out as many babies as you have money to support, all while avoiding having any sort of emotion beyond a constant sense of exhausted smugness about what a good biological specimen you are, how you are a better soulless gene-spreading machine than many other soulless gene-spreading machines. I am strongly considering whether I would really rather die.

      On the other hand, the not-square life seems to be one of constant yelling and screaming and running. How are you supposed to have a feeling under those conditions? It seems like just constant animal exertion, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I know I would really rather die.

      I want to sit around with my mates and play games and talk about books. That’s what I want. And I want to have feelings about things, and I want to slowly examine them and then carefully express them to people who agree that feelings are important. There is a vague sort of stereotype for the sort of person I want to be – “artistic slacker,” perhaps? – but it rarely if ever gets brought up as an option, even as a bad option.

      • eric23 says:

        There’s no reason for the square life to be like that.

        Work enough to provide a reasonable living for yourself, not to earn as much money as you possibly can. (Push back against the social pressures encouraging you to work more than this.)

        Have 1 or 2 kids – or more or less if you and your spouse really want.

        That should leave a reasonable amount of time for sitting around with your mates…

      • it’s about working endlessly to earn as much money as possible and pumping out as many babies as you have money to support, all while avoiding having any sort of emotion beyond a constant sense of exhausted smugness about what a good biological specimen you are, how you are a better soulless gene-spreading machine than many other soulless gene-spreading machines.

        I don’t think I have ever heard anyone argue for that. The usual picture of the square life involves two, possibly three, children, a nine to five job with weekends free for BBQ, attending football games or taking your kids to play soccer.

        What country’s norms are you describing?

      • albatross11 says:

        Baered:

        That seems like a really weird version of the square life, not much like what I’d think of.

        Try to find someone you’d like to make a life with, and pair off permanently with them. Raise a couple kids. Find a rewarding job that pays the bills and that makes you feel like you’re carrying your weight. Get involved in your community because it’s rewarding and worthwhile. And so on.

        Now, maybe this isn’t a path that will work for you–some people just aren’t a good fit for it. But I suspect most people are a good fit for something like this.

      • LesHapablap says:

        On the other hand, the not-square life seems to be one of constant yelling and screaming and running. How are you supposed to have a feeling under those conditions? It seems like just constant animal exertion, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I know I would really rather die.

        I don’t know what you mean by this, is this like the hunger games?

        I want to sit around with my mates and play games and talk about books. That’s what I want. And I want to have feelings about things, and I want to slowly examine them and then carefully express them to people who agree that feelings are important.

        Do you want to do this all day every day? For the rest of your life?

        I don’t know how old you are, but for myself my priorities have changed dramatically as I’ve gotten older. I have lived a non-square life and I’m in my mid-thirties, first playing poker for a living and travelling and then moving to the far side of the world to be a pilot. My life looks like an instagram dream on paper.

        I have friends who live square lives back home, with a wife and kids, going golfing on the weekends with friends they’ve known for 10+ years and will probably be there 10 years from now, having extended family around them like a genuine, honest to god “team,” that they can rely on for anything. I wish I could trade places.

        Though, I may have never been cut out for a non-square life. I sort of fell into it because I was immature and insecure, afraid of failure and responsibility. Which is a common thing from what I can see: I live in an adventure tourism town, a city of lost children, full of twenty-something immigrants on working holiday visas partying and working menial jobs. When they first arrive you hear a lot of unironic “living the dream” talk, but it doesn’t take long before that phrase becomes a thoroughly ironic and cynical.

        The things I value in life now are the responsibility at my job and the things I have built there, through creativity and conscientiousness, and as an expression of my values. Those are all things I could do at a ‘square’ job. The fun and passion for flying airplanes has been gone for years.

  16. DinoNerd says:

    From late in the last open thread:

    One of the best things that I took from looking at conservatism as a philosophy was that it asked questions like: What is the value of social trust? What does it enable? What increases or decreases social trust?

    I agree that these are good questions, but don’t find that most of the options supported by modern conservative-aligned politicians would have that effect for me; rather the reverse. (But note the switch, from philosophy to politicians. That’s quite conscious – I could probably get along with e.g. a Burkean. But beyond Burkeans, I have no real concept of conservative philosophy, as compared with either conservative ideology or the behaviour of people in politics.)

    Would anyone like to discuss this farther, preferably either at a detailed level (specific policies) or tightly focussed on social trust (not as focussed on conservativism)?

    [Credit to Garrett for the comment I’m quoting.]

    • albatross11 says:

      So, what would be the core ideas of a social/political movement that sought to maximize social trust and minimize friction?

      I’d say:

      a. Strong norms against breaking the law. (Particularly the crimes-with-victims part of the law.)

      b. Strong norms for following most social conventions that aren’t actively harmful. (Wear a tie if that’s expected, even if ties are silly.)

      c. Strong norms against unwed parenthood, divorce when you have small children, and cheating on/abandoning your wife.

      d. Strong norms for keeping your promises and commitments and word.

      e. Strong norms for paying your debts.

      f. Support (legal and social) for like-minded communities to mostly associate with their own–whether that’s ethnic, religious, racial, linguistic, social class, whatever.

      g. Strong norms/push for immigrants to assimilate to American norms (or maybe local norms).

      What else?

      • Nick says:

        This is sounding pretty conservative.

        I wonder to what extent (f) encourages devolution of power, and to what level: state, municipal, neighborhood, parish….

      • DinoNerd says:

        h. How about norms for telling the truth?

        • Nick says:

          That should probably be in there. It can logically be grouped with (d).

          • DinoNerd says:

            I kind of like the idea of a norm for responsible behaviour – including cleaning up whatever mess you make, paying your debts, caring for children you sire/bear, etc. (Maybe even the outmoded idea of being a net contributor to the world – i.e. produce more than you consume in the course of your lifetime, if not literally incapable of doing so.)

            But phrased as I just did, I expect at least 50% of political conservatives would hate this, as I’d include economic “externalities” as part of the mess some firm or person makes, and is responsible for cleaning up.

          • John Schilling says:

            The trick will be to couch your discussion of “externalities” in the sort of responsibility language conservatives respond favorably to. Might help to avoid the ‘E’ word whenever possible, and to avoid opening with specific proscriptions for clean-up-your mess responsibilities that keep aligning with specific leftist or progressive policy goals. Get the conservatives on board with cleaning up messes in principle, and let them figure out the practical solutions later.

          • Randy M says:

            But phrased as I just did, I expect at least 50% of political conservatives would hate this, as I’d include economic “externalities” as part of the mess some firm or person makes, and is responsible for cleaning up.

            Like John, I think the message would resonant if you avoided liberal shibboleths.
            But the solution has to be “Go clean up your mess” or “Avoid making messes” and not “submit yourself to the state or we’re doomed” for conservatives to willingly adopt it.
            Personal responsibility is a big part of the conservative mindset.

          • I wonder how much resistance to considering economic externalities is simply baked into conservatism from previous political battles and lack of trust, much like on the gun issue where you could probably get some conservatives to support certain “common sense” reforms in a vacuum, but they’d never be accepted in practice, because of “give an inch, take a mile” logic.

            EDIT: Another example would be those polls you occasionally get showing a slight majority of conservatives in favor of the expansion of social programs. Yet, in practice they may not trust them to be implemented by their political opponents because then it’s framed as Step.1 in an expansive agenda.

            Like, Nixon going to China, I thought Trump might have possibly done some good work here, but he missed the boat on healthcare reform.

          • J Mann says:

            But phrased as I just did, I expect at least 50% of political conservatives would hate this, as I’d include economic “externalities” as part of the mess some firm or person makes, and is responsible for cleaning up.

            We wouldn’t trust you to calculate externalities fairly, whether intentionally or as a result of confirmation bias. Cf. Roads vs mass transit, or nuclear power vs wind vs natural gas.

          • @J Mann

            We wouldn’t trust you to calculate externalities fairly

            As I thought. Perhaps this is part of the same mechanism that leads right wing dictators to support more social programs than right wing democrats, and left wing dictators to support more chauvinism than left wing democrats; there’s simply room for entertaining the issue when you’re in the driver’s seat.

            I’ve often myself had the thought; “I want a welfare state, but not a leftist welfare state”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’ve often myself had the thought; “I want a welfare state, but not a leftist welfare state”.

            That’s not an unpopular opinion!

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Talk about externalities from left-liberals may get discounted because it’s coming from people who don’t ordinarily show that keen an interest in economic efficiency, so it tends to come off as an Isolated Demand.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I thought Trump might have possibly done some good work here, but he missed the boat on healthcare reform.

            Huh. I was told his predecessor took care of that.

          • beleester says:

            Huh. I was told his predecessor took care of that.

            Unfortunately, what one president (and congress) can do, another can undo. The Republicans didn’t manage to agree on a replacement health care bill, but they tried their level best to kill Obamacare anyway.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @John Schilling

            The trick will be to couch your discussion of “externalities” in the sort of responsibility language conservatives respond favorably to.

            Clean up your mess works a lot better, except that I’m not sure the average political conservative in the US would apply that to anything done by a firm, or a human acting in an executive capacity, rather than a human acting in a personal capacity.

            @J. Mann

            We wouldn’t trust you to calculate externalities fairly, whether intentionally or as a result of confirmation bias.

            Fortunately we’re talking about norms here, which tend to be enforced by the consensus of everyone in the community, and contested at the margins.

            I’d certainly trust the executive class more, or individual members of it, if I expected them to follow norms like this, either out of conviction, or out of personal self interest (fear of being snubbed, ostracized, rebuked, etc.) I’d still disagree with them about specific cases, and probably be considered overly critical by my local consensus. But it would be a step forward, in terms of trust.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure the average political conservative in the US would apply that to anything done by a firm

            You think a conservative (voter? activist? politician?) would be cool with a factory dumping sludge in a river just because it’s a corporation and not an individual person?

            Perhaps a conservative will argue trade-offs, for example, making this product in this way employs X people, so we should look for another way to make it before we condemn them for it, or something like that. And maybe there’s a type of conservative that mistakes backing corporations with supporting economic freedom. But I hope the average conservative will be willing to hold a corporation, and the individuals that make it up, accountable morally and legally for costs they inflict–once that conservative agrees those are costs.

            The anti-climate change point of view isn’t “They’re companies, what’re you going to do?” but “We’re actually not worse off on net because of fossil fuels”

          • The anti-climate change point of view isn’t “They’re companies, what’re you going to do?” but “We’re actually not worse off on net because of fossil fuels”

            I see that as the clear example of “we don’t trust you to calculate externalities.” The attitude of most of the left seems to be “we are sure climate change will have enormous negative externalities, so people should be forced to do lots of things, most of which we were already in favor of, to prevent it.”

            The rhetoric generally assumes with confidence consequences much worse than the scientific work they rely on, the IPCC, actually implies—and that work itself is pretty clearly biased towards negative outcomes.

            My own view, as I have said before, is that the size of both positive and negative externalities is sufficiently uncertain so that we can’t even be confident of the sign of their sum.

          • Chalid says:

            Externalities may often be difficult to understand and calculate, but that doesn’t mean the correct approach is to just assume they’re close to zero (which is just as much in need of justification as a claim they’re positive or negative for any given situation).

            I don’t see any reason for a high prior around zero for most relevant cases.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Externalities may often be difficult to understand and calculate, but that doesn’t mean the correct approach is to just assume they’re close to zero (which is just as much in need of justification as a claim they’re positive or negative for any given situation).

            It means you don’t know the theoretically correct Pigouvian tax close enough to set the rate to something you know is less damaging than no tax at all. You can argue about what you should do in this situation, but you can’t validly claim you’re instituting a tax to correct for the externality.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure, but government has to raise money from somewhere, and we *don’t* as a general rule know that raising money from a tax on something which has some difficult-to-calculate externality is going to be worse than raising money from the most likely alternative sources.

            I may not know whether say a further increase in alcohol taxes from their current levels would be beneficial or harmful, but I do know raising the income tax is harmful.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You may know that the income tax will be harmful and not know if the alcohol (or carbon or whatever) tax will be helpful or harmful, but since it is possible the alcohol tax will be more harmful than the income tax, you still don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.

          • Chalid says:

            Right, so “externalities are complicated” is not really a case for making the alcohol/pollution/whatever tax zero and the default income tax high, agreed? If you say I don’t have enough information to say that the ideal alcohol tax rate is $10/gallon, then symmetrically you don’t have enough information to say that it’s best to leave it at zero.

          • J Mann says:

            @DinoNerd:

            We wouldn’t trust you to calculate externalities fairly, whether intentionally or as a result of confirmation bias.

            Fortunately we’re talking about norms here, which tend to be enforced by the consensus of everyone in the community, and contested at the margins.

            Well, if the question is whether conservatives can be brought on board by an analysis of externalities, I think one obstacle is that they’ll bring conservative priors to the analysis.

            If you’re trying to convince some conservatives that out of wedlock marriage, easy divorce, litter on the streets, etc. should be discouraged because of their externalities, you probably won’t have a hard time.

            If you’re trying to convince them that we should get rid of guns and plastic straws because of the externalities, I think they’re going to be much harder to convince of the underlying math.

            On the edge cases, it does make a lot of sense to point out additional consequences of behavior, agreed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If we are choosing between a tax on alcohol and an income tax, the externality provides us with no information by which to make that choice. As long as you are talking about externalities, you are attempting to use that lack of information to push your preferred tax, which is invalid.

            (My own preference is for neither tax)

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            In the absence of convincing evidence of an important externality, we’ll do less harm on average by defaulting to “broaden the base and lower the rate”. Wannabe-Pigovian taxes go against that.

          • Chalid says:

            That’s only if you accept a strong prior of zero tax. Which is the correct prior for things with no obvious significant externalities, which is of course the majority of stuff. If we’re talking about things with obvious large and perhaps difficult-to-calculate externalities, as we always are in these discussions (alcohol, pollution, carbon), then zero is not a strong prior; and that implies that calculations of externalities, even if they have very wide error bars, really should have a big impact on the assessment of the optimal tax.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’re still trying to use your lack of information to inform your decision. It doesn’t take a zero-tax prior. If you’re trying to decide on a tax between alcohol and income, and you know the income tax produces harm of value X +/- 5% (X>0), and you know the alcohol tax produces harm of F(E), where E is the net-externality, and we know that F is a function with a single minimum that is less than 0 at some value of E, but we have no idea what E is, then the existence of this function provides us no information to choose between the two taxes.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Strong norms against breaking the law can increase social trust, but also increase friction. If you’re going to have a strong norm against breaking the law, you need to have laws that most people are comfortable following. The same applies to social conventions — you can have a very stultified high-trust society which has a lot of friction that just isn’t visible because everyone’s following the norms.

        I’m don’t think that unwed parenthood really falls into either category. Divorce with small children theoretically doesn’t have to but in practice probably does.

        The stuff about word and debts are important, but they have to apply to corporate entities and governments (at least in their dealings with natural persons), or you get a whole lot of friction and likely reduced trust as well.

        I think the big thing you’re missing is an incentive system. You need to design your society so defectors (accidental and deliberate) are consistently punished. And further, so that punishment in most cases is limited in effect, providing an opportunity for the behavior to be changed.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, I remember a very entertaining and revelatory thread of discussion between Megan McArdle and her commenters, pushing back on her idea that it was immoral for an individual to file bankruptcy strategically, but a perfectly legitimate tactic for a business. It seemed to me that her MBA training and absorption of those norms was contradicting the high-trust upper-middle-class norms she grew up with….

      • Your points f and g seem inconsistent with each other. What largely happened with U.S. mass immigration was the development of immigrant communities, as per your f, but I expect that reduced the rate of assimilation. There are part of Chicago where, as best I can tell, a significant number of people still speak Polish. There are Chinatowns in various cities where essentially all the non-Chinese you see are tourists or people from nearby eating in the Chinese restaurants.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Anecdata: Both my grandmothers were born in Wisconsin to parents who were also born in Wisconsin; both had German as their first language.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            This is entirely true, but those are great grand-parents. My wife’s grandfathers had fathers who made some money by translating Norwegian for the Norwegian-speaking farmers still there. This is entirely gone and several generations down, everyone speaks English and no one speaks Norwegian.

            Chicago, like other areas, has seen massive Eastern European immigration over the last several decades. A majority of my social group is probably 1st or 2nd generation Polish.

            I would describe them as “conservative” or perhaps “reactionary,” though. They might speak Polish, but they love America and they really love Trump.

      • Secretly French says:

        What are the constraints? If demographics isn’t constrained, then demographic homogeneity would be a massive win. If it is constrained, then how about freedom of association, which would lead readily to a lot of local homogeneity?

      • teneditica says:

        What is the government supposed to do about all of this?

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m not sure government is a great tool for accomplishing most of this. At best, it can get out of the way (not forbidding freedom of association), or enforce laws in a neutral way that helps make it a visibly bad idea to be a predator[1].

          [1] One difficulty here is that the deterrent of your legal system needs to be clear enough that an illiterate 17 year old with a 75 IQ understands that crime is a very bad idea.

      • zzzzort says:

        Ok, how about an alternative set of pro-trust policies/goals from a more leftish side

        1) More welfare/greater economic interdependence, inculcating trust in society to help you out (nordics tend to do well on social trust measures).

        2) Circumscribed, monitored police powers. Trust in police is correlated with trust in others, so it’s important to minimize police abuses.

        3) Decreased income/wealth inequality. There’s an empirical correlation, and it makes sense that all small number of people having wildly different incomes will increase distrust that the system is fair.

        4) Increased civic engagement through voting liberalization and democratic control of institutions.

        • cassander says:

          For each of those, There’s little evidence that the causation runs the way you’re claiming, and quite a bit that it runs the other.

          • zzzzort says:

            The same can be said for things such as ‘strong norms for paying debts’ and ‘strong norm for following the law’. The point being that choosing which aspects of a high trust society are upstream of high trust and which are byproducts is generally a political choice.

            Also, do you know of any evidence that high social trust is causal of civic engagement and low income inequality? I’d be genuinely interested. (here is a review paper on why inequality decreases trust, which discusses several instrumental designs which show causation.)

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        I’m not sure what effect they’d have on social trust, but far from minimising friction I think that several of them – b,c,f and g – would massively increase it, because they’re explicitly encouraging people to act like dicks towards other people.

        To minimise friction, I think that what you need is norms that emphasise tolerance and individual choice in private life (but not necessarily in economic activity) – the ideals that the brand of left-liberalism that was the dominant stream of left-wing thought through through the 20th century.

        Even that won’t eliminate friction, just produce less than anything else, I think. And it probably won’t produce as much social trust as the enforced homogeneity you’re describing eventually might.

      • LesHapablap says:

        b. Strong norms for following most social conventions that aren’t actively harmful. (Wear a tie if that’s expected, even if ties are silly.)

        This isn’t really relevant to the thread, but I reckon that the breakdown of social dress codes (which is a liberal thing) is anti-egalitarian in a big way. Once those near-universal dress codes are gone, it becomes much more difficult to assimilate into the middle class or upper middle class culture. Acquiring the knowledge to dress properly for a job interview, for example, would be hard for someone whose parents have never owned a suit.

        In Japan, there is a uniform that every young adult wears to look for their first job. If you’re in Tokyo in May, you’ll see thousands of nervous looking young men and women, all dressed exactly the same.

        It’s also one of the justifications for school uniforms: it keeps the poor kids from being so obviously poor.

        • Plumber says:

          @LesHapablap,
          That’s a pretty good insight regarding obvious vs. opaque dress codes.

          +1!

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Once those near-universal dress codes are gone

          Citation needed that the dress codes were “near universal” (anywhere near universal, in fact).

          My sense (perhaps no more justified than yours), is that the great mass of the lower classes have typically not dressed as those more well off. And that if the lower classes did succeed in adopting something that had been common in those more well off, the more well off will have moved on.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I have to appeal to all the old movies and tv shows set in the 1900s to the 1940s, where all the men and boys wear suits and hats and what not. There would have been obvious differences between rich and poor of course, but they are all following the same template.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I have to appeal to all the old movies and tv shows set in the 1900s to the 1940s, where all the men and boys wear suits and hats and what not.

            … and if you look at the professionally produced mass media landscape of today, what do you see? Well dressed, beautiful people.

            You are also failing to appreciate that the class markers of yesteryear aren’t necessarily immediately legible to you.

            But let’s go to some source material. If you look, you will see that the “trying to strike it rich” miners are, in fact, dressed in a manner that does reflect class difference. And it’s not like these are Polaroids, cheap and easy to make.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Gold miners in 1849 are hardly representative. Look at this 1890 photo essay that exposes the slums of New York: How the Other Half Lives

            There’s a group of men living in trash under a bridge and they are all wearing suits and bowler hats. Another guy sharing a filthy mattress in a tiny apartment crowded with people, wearing a collared shirt and vest.

            You are also failing to appreciate that the class markers of yesteryear aren’t necessarily immediately legible to you.

            There would have been obvious differences between rich and poor of course, but they are all following the same template.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think you are interpreting “trousers, shirt, jacket, hat” as if they are all the same.

            By that mark a cowboy and a businessman in a suit are wearing the same thing, (yes, slight hyperbole.)

            I’m not a tailor or seamstress, but I think that the type of cloth, the cut, the type of shoes, etc. would all easily mark your relative class.

            You seem to be saying that Tommy the factory worker would, if given the money, know what would be acceptable to wear to his new white collar office job, and I don’t think that you have really justified it.

            In fact, I associate stories about feeling out of place, or ashamed, not knowing what is appropriate to wear to the “fancy place” with the period in time you seem to think was “universal”. Some of those stories revolve around envy of what you can’t afford, but many others depend on being the “rube” who doesn’t understand what they are supposed to wear.

            ETA: For instance Pygmalion which was written in 1913.

          • LesHapablap says:

            This is a hard point to make looking historically because
            a) humans will always be able to differentiate themselves on status, whether by speech or clothing or tooth color, we are finely tuned for it, and we are very good at making these markers hard to fake
            b) in 1910 there wasn’t really a middle class anyway, so it isn’t really analogous to today, and even if 1910 was a more egalitarian time (by what measure?) I wouldn’t presume that it was because of the way people dressed.

            I will say that Tommy the street thug could dress appropriately for a job in a factory, and in that sense it is more egalitarian. What the analogous jobs are today, I don’t know: street thug to barista? office temp worker?

            The other examples are much more obvious: the Japanese new-grad uniform: Interview – Japan

            >The Japanese job hunting and recruiting processes is very structured. Although there are strict rules, it makes it easy to figure out what to wear since there is an expected protocol on interview attire.

            This is especially true for new grads — you may have noticed the sea of students in black suits, almost as if it was a uniform. It practically is, and in the Japanese culture that values uniformity, it would be wise to follow suit (no pun intended!). While you want to outshine from other candidates, interview attire is not the area to stand out in.

            As for school uniforms, I think it is pretty clear what the egalitarian effects are of that, but I’ll link this page anyway since it makes a lot of points that outline the whole conservative vs. liberal advantates: Pros and Cons of school uniforms

          • Aapje says:

            @LesHapablap

            There’s a group of men living in trash under a bridge and they are all wearing suits and bowler hats.

            The caption says that they are a gang who meet there, which suggests that they don’t live there, in the same way that a person who loiters during the day, but has a home to sleep in, doesn’t live in the streets.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            First off, “street thug” is needlessly biasing and does nothing but add heat to a discussion that doesn’t need it. The presumption that “lower class” = “criminal” isn’t helpful.

            Second, you now seem to be saying that there wasn’t a middle class to move into, rendering your earlier arguments that the poor could easily fit in with the middle class moot. I’m not sure what is left of your original argument.

            I actually agree with your point about school uniforms, but it’s not particularly germane to whether the common dress norms of the past were universal.

            As to the question about Tommy, if young, previously unemployed Tommy gets a job as a barista, they tell him the dress code at work and he follows it. I don’t see this as an issue.

          • LesHapablap says:

            This is really tedious. I never claimed that people in 1910 could easily move up to the middle class because of the way they dress.

            And yes, in my layman’s opinion fashion today in the USA has slightly more variety than fashion in the past. There may have been a very slight, almost imperceptible change right around the late 1960s.

            You say you don’t know what’s left of my argument, but then you say you agree with one of the bits of evidence in my argument: school uniforms. Japanese ‘recruit suits’ being the other bit of evidence.

          • Enkidum says:

            And yes, in my layman’s opinion fashion today in the USA has slightly more variety than fashion in the past. There may have been a very slight, almost imperceptible change right around the late 1960s.

            There most definitely was, until then most men owned 1-2 shirts that were laundered once a week, and had undershirts they changed every day, if they could. Part of being wealthy would simply have been the ability to wear clean clothes on a regular basis, or to care about fashion at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @LesHapablap:

            Uniform dress codes do remove class markers, I agree.

            Your contention was that we had universal dress standards, and this enabled the lower classes to more easily assimilate into the middle and upper classes.

            First, those aren’t the same two things. There weren’t any uniforms. Second, you are contending there wasn’t a middle class into which they could move.

            I’m trying to understand why you think today’s Tommy won’t know how to dress for the barista job or Tammy won’t know how to dress for the cashier job … or what jobs you think Tommy and Tammy don’t know how to dress for, and what the comparative job would have been from 1910.

            Dressing for a factory job in 1910 (your example), they wouldn’t have much cared what you were dressed like. What kind of mistake do you imagine Tommy was prevented from making?

          • Nick says:

            @Enkidum

            There most definitely was, until then most men owned 1-2 shirts that were laundered once a week, and had undershirts they changed every day, if they could. Part of being wealthy would simply have been the ability to wear clean clothes on a regular basis, or to care about fashion at all.

            Thanks for mentioning this—I’ve been a bit suspicious, throughout this discussion, that one of the major differences was that poor folks had a nice outfit, but one they couldn’t actually afford to clean as often as is desirable. Though it’s hard to say how serious a concern that is when you’re wearing multiple layers; one of the advantages of layered clothing is that it’s the inner most layers you really need to wash regularly. Like, nobody has a blazer cleaned once a week, even one worn daily.

          • LesHapablap says:

            HBC:

            It will be harder for someone who has only ever worn t-shirts and jean shorts to get the job that faces the public, compared to someone who knows how to buy and wear a pair of slacks and a collared shirt. It isn’t impossible, just a barrier. Any employer will weigh that as part of their calculation. They don’t want the headache of having to tell some kid to pull up his pants all the time. The family that teaches their kid these cultural things has a structural, systemic advantage over the poor family that doesn’t. And not just with dress: there are a thousand social codes that give advantages. Anyone here who lacked social skills growing up can attest to how that sort of thing can affect your opportunities in life.

            My original point was not about 1910, it was about ‘the past,’ and you claimed there weren’t near-universal dress codes and wanted evidence, so I gave as an example movies from 1910 to 1940, to which you came back with the counter example of gold miners from the 1850s, and then I came back with 1890s New York slums, so we got stuck in 1910 and I said there wasn’t even a middle class then.

            After thinking about it today I developed a counter-argument though: we went from having a relative mono-culture to having many different sub cultures. Although the change means that moving between subcultures is more difficult (and that includes class changes) it is easier to move up a status hierarchy in a small subculture than in a monoculture. So having a wide variety of subcultures is more egalitarian because it provides a lot of different (more) opportunities to gain status, even if it makes it harder to thrive across the culture as a whole. If that makes sense.

            For example, you can gain status in some subcultures by getting gauge earrings or sleeve tattoos. You couldn’t do that in the 50s, or the 1910s, but you can now, so that’s an additional way for someone to get status that didn’t exist back then. So that’s more egalitarian. But those status symbols are barriers in other subcultures, like for example being a flight attendant. So in that sense it is restricting and preventing upward mobility.

          • Aapje says:

            @LesHapablap

            I would expect multiple competitions to allow more people to compete successfully, but also to increase variance at the extremes.

            The result can be that the losers of all those competitions is worse off than the losers of the single competition, while a person who wins at multiple competitions can be better off than a winner of the single competition.

            Ultimately, which model is more egalitarian seems to depend on how you define ‘egalitarian.’

            Is it more egalitarian to have one big group at 75 and another big group at 25; or to have groups at 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 and 0?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Conservative philosophy and politics aren’t inherently incoherent, but there needs to be a functioning society for them to conserve. Once society has already broken down, conservatism just becomes a bizarre sort of cargo cult preserving the values of the last generation of progressives against the current one.

      Being a conservative in Salt Lake City or Lancaster PA makes sense. The system works: it might need some maintenance in spots, but generally speaking someone who lives according to the dominant culture’s values will thrive. But places like that with an intact functioning culture are the exception, not the norm, so in most places conservatives are at best a brake which slows down the decline.

      I guess that this was a long-winded way of saying that conservatism isn’t an ideology that can stand on its own. You can be a conservative Mormon, or a conservative Catholic, or a conservative Mennonite, or a conservative Jew because the conservatism is a scaffold to preserve and maintain the underlying way of life. But if you’re just a Conservative, without a way of life to preserve or maintain, you’re going to look and act like a nut because your ideology is built around an empty core.

      • J Mann says:

        I’d strawman that there’s a case to be made for what George Will once called “Me too, but slower” conservatism.

        The value is Chesteron’s Fence – I know what I’ve got in society, for better or worse.

        Progressives think that because they believe themselves to be creative, educated and well meaning, their proposed changes will turn out to be sufficiently net positive that we should do them all.

        A Me Too, But Slower conservative likes the ideas of people getting paid more, getting more health care, etc., but is concerned about the unintended consequences of those policies. She’s more likely to argue for slower change, or for local experimentation.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I guess then my argument is “go get your own word.”

          If you share all of the same goals as progressives but want to be more careful about the pace of social change, you’re still a progressive you’re just not a totally reckless one.

          Meanwhile we need a word to describe the people who want to be left alone to practice their folkways without being experimented on in the name of achieving someone else’s idea of utopia. Conservative is a much better fit for them than it is for the non-reckless progressives.

          • Nick says:

            Right. The George Will conservative is just conserving the rate of change. He’s literally a derivative of progressivism.

          • J Mann says:

            @Nick – to be fair to Will, he was criticizing that viewpoint.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            Meanwhile we need a word to describe the people who want to be left alone to practice their folkways without being experimented on in the name of achieving someone else’s idea of utopia. Conservative is a much better fit for them than it is for the non-reckless progressives.

            I think my response is the same as yours – “get your own word”.

            The word “Conservatives” already describes a group of people who very much don’t just want to be left alone, they also want to exercise considerable control over the lives of others and impose their preferred social norms – no same sex marriage and in many cases no homosexuality at all, no abortion, no marijuana, very little immigration, etc – on them coercively, and in virtually all cases to be able to trade with others, and dictate the tax framework in which that trade occurs.

            There probably are a few off-grid survivalists who fit your “just want to be left alone” definition, and I have much less problem with them than I do with most conservatives, but that’s not what the word “conservative” means.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Tatterdemalion,

            There’s a very simple resolution to this “paradox.”

            If you view people as atomic individuals, the way that you seem to, then someone trying to keep weed, or gay sex, or abortion, or whatever else out of their neighborhood or even their own household is “exercising control over other people.”

            If you view people as a part of a larger community, then the nosy outsiders trying to push all that crap into everyone’s neighborhoods and households aren’t leaving them alone.

            This tension can be really easily seen once you know to look for it, and it crops up nearly everywhere.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            Three obvious responses here:

            One is that the jump from “neighborhoods” to “households” is a much bigger one than you make it out to be. No-one is challenging your right not to have marijuana in your house or invite gay people over for dinner.

            The second is that if you’re viewing people not as individuals in their own right but merely as elements of a community then what you’re defending is not a right for people to be left alone, but a right for small (I presume?) communities to be allowed to interfere in their members lives without being stopped by larger communities that want to defend people’s rights to be left alone.

            And the third is that if what you’re standing up for is not individual rights but community rights then leftwingers trying to coercively impose leftwing norms are just as consistent with that as rightwingers trying to impose rightwing norms (supporting small subcommunities against both individuals and larger supercommunites is a meaningful thing leftwingers don’t generally do, I suppose, but neither do conservatives except as a means to an end – c.f. all the support for rightwing federal laws on abortion, gay rights, marijuana, immigration etc).

          • Aapje says:

            @Tatterdemalion

            One is that the jump from “neighborhoods” to “households” is a much bigger one than you make it out to be. No-one is challenging your right not to have marijuana in your house or invite gay people over for dinner.

            I don’t really think it works that way, unless you see people as fully atomized individuals, or at least, don’t consider them harmed unless would also be harmed when living a fully isolated life.

            For example, my country is quite tolerant of using drugs, which makes it very hard to prevent your children, family or neighbors from using drugs. Of course, one could disown children that use drugs (although, not really, legally speaking), break off contact with family and neighbors, but that in itself is an atomizing act that breaks community cohesion.

            Furthermore, behavior has an impact on others, even if it doesn’t literally happen in your household.

            Now, I agree with you that “just being left alone” is nonsensical for anyone but hermits.

          • Garrett says:

            I think my response is the same as yours – “get your own word”.

            There already is a word/concept in political science for this: incrementalism, as opposed to radicalism.

      • cassander says:

        Conservative philosophy and politics aren’t inherently incoherent, but there needs to be a functioning society for them to conserve. Once society has already broken down, conservatism just becomes a bizarre sort of cargo cult preserving the values of the last generation of progressives against the current one.

        A reasonable principle in theory, but someone is always claiming that the sky is falling for some reason or another. The cause might be global warming, satanic rock and roll lyrics, demon rum, or something else, everyone advocating change sees his issues as vitally important to the core of society and believes that he can make things better. The conservative is the fellow who realizes that things can always get worse.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think one problem here is that the political ideology marketed under the label “conservative” in the US doesn’t have all that much to do with conservativism as we mean it.

      • Aapje says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        Conservative philosophy and politics aren’t inherently incoherent, but there needs to be a functioning society for them to conserve.

        So when things are (or are considered to be) gravely dysfunctional, many people turn away from conservatism to…fascism?

    • Plumber says:

      @DinoNerd >

      “…either at a detailed level (specific policies) or tightly focussed on social trust (not as focussed on conservativism)?…”

      From what I’ve seen as a just over 50 years old American electing a “conservative” or “left-liberal” President does jack-diddly-squat for promoting ‘conservative’ or ‘left-liberal’ values, indeed the opposite seems common. 

      During the Presidency of “tradional family values” candidate Reagan divorce, drug-use, unwed childbirth, and murder all increased.

      During the Presidency of “left-liberal” Obama homelessness and income inequality increasesd.

      And don’t get me started on “fiscal responsibility”.

      As for correlations among voters political leanings and their ‘values’? Theres some small correlations, the Republicans I know seem slightly more likely to be divorced (that they usually have longer commutes may be a cause of that), and Republicans also seem more likely to give to beggars (my guess is that they’re just not used to ignoring them as much as they tend to be suburbanites), Democrats do tend to have lived as “shacked-up” unmarried romantic couples a lot more (which may also explain the slightly lower divorce rate), but that’s based on the small sampling of folks I know, what people are like who don’t live in or commute to Berkeley/Oakland/Palo Alto/San Francisco/San Jose I simply have no idea.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      You don’t get the impression social trust has anything to do with Cold-war oriented think tanks or foreign policy oriented think tanks. But words-as-labels get morphed/corrupted easily so no surprises here.

      If that quote is by Garret then your best bet is to ask him which philosophers or think tanks he’s talking about.

    • Drew says:

      I like public parks (/playgrounds) as an object-level example. Notable questions are: Are there clear social norms? How much do they require from people? Are they enforced? What amenities can be sustainably provided?

      In my region, there’s a custom of “playground toys”. People leave plastic truck & diggers & the like in the playground sandbox, and kids use them when they’re there. This is a nice-to-have feature, but actually requires a bunch of moving parts.

      The first requirement is a consensus that playground toys are nice to have. I can easily imagine a culture with different norms, where people would see playground toys as an imposition of some kind, or think that shared toys are dirty or unsightly or whatever. So, you need a minimum amount of homogeneity for people to agree on what rules should exist.

      Next, you have to have social norms that make it possible for newcomers to learn the custom. (AKA: “Parents talk to each other when kids are playing, and explain local practices.”) This requires a certain amount of talking-to-strangers AND a notion that there’s an existing community which ‘owns’ the space. It has to be not-too-presumptuous to say “In OUR community WE do it this way”.

      Then, there’s a question of norms around enforcement. There’s nothing that stops people from stealing the toys except for personal honor & a sense of shame. There’s also nothing that forces people to remove broken toys or garbage, it’s just seen as a nice thing to do.

      In part, the “don’t steal the toys” probably works because of a somewhat homogeneous level of resources. No one’s so desperately poor that stealing the toys seems attractive.

      And once the pieces are in place to have a notion of “community-owned space, with minimum expectations of conduct” you change the way that social-violations are treated.

      In San Francisco the bar for “minimum expected conduct” is pretty low; if people aren’t breaking the law, then they’re meeting it. This means that it would be weird / presumptuous to call the cops because some homeless person is on a bench near a playground. So SF playgrounds become homeless camps, private, or have to use hostile architecture to passively discourage camping.

      Other regions can set the bar for “minimum expected conduct” higher, so it’s not socially weird to call the cops if people are camping near a playground. Enforcing norms directly means that you don’t have to resort to hostile architecture, and can have amenities like public bathrooms in / near a park.

      —-

      Overall, this offers a choice:

      If communities “own” their spaces, then the community can enforce a high-standard for social norms, which lets the community offer amenities that the community likes. The downside is that this restricts people whose tastes don’t align with the social norms & can feel like a bunch of oppressive busy bodies judging you for using a park wrong.

      If spaces are fully “public” then you have fewer amenities. But the upside is that rights and duties are explicit & legible, and no one is going to judge you so long as you’re following some extremely basic rules. This offers more freedom.

      • salvorhardin says:

        FWIW public playgrounds in San Francisco are not actually anywhere near as bad as you’re implying. I’ve taken my kid to a bunch of different city-owned-and-managed playgrounds in pretty varied parts of the city for years now, and have never seen any with encampments or other disruptive behavior by homeless people. There is some “hostile architecture” in the form of bumpy bits that make some surfaces less comfortable to lie down on, but it is neither elaborate nor obtrusive. Moreover, most parks and playgrounds I’ve been to here do in fact have public bathrooms, and perfectly reasonable ones too.

        Now, I’m sure you can find horror stories of homeless people behaving badly at SF playgrounds; I just find it difficult to believe they’re representative. Most likely that behavior is confined to the small minority of neighborhoods where bad public behavior is concentrated generally (e.g. Tenderloin, parts of SOMA). Those neighborhoods have real and serious problems, but implying that the city as a whole is all/mostly like that is totally incorrect.

    • Ketil says:

      Be conservative in what you do, and liberal in what you accept“?

      Abusing this principle slightly, you should be honorable and dutiful, pay your debts, stay married, give to charity, and go to church – but also understand that others may not share your exact values, and be charitable towards them.

      I think social trust comes to a large degree from predictability, so shared norms and a shared and justified expectation of everybody upholding these norms are important. Probably there is a shared minimum standard, most cultures and religions tend to frown upon things like theft, dishonesty, fraud, unprovoked or unjustified violence.

      People who are very skeptical of foreign¹ cultures often don’t seem to know them well, and familiarity helps to breed trust. So integration of immigrants is not strictly necessary, but familiarity with the culture is important – or at least the perception that the Others won’t steal our car, rape our women, or secretly control our government, or otherwise engage in antisocial behavior.

      ¹ From different countries, but also from different social strata or otherwise strange…. isn’t it telling that words like “strange” or “foreign” have double meanings like this?

      • Nick says:

        When we’re talking about society and not software, that’s the sort of principle that completely fails to prevent defectors. And I admit I’m not convinced it should even be (ETA: generally) applied in software:

        From 2015 to 2018, in a series of Internet-Drafts, Martin Thomson argues that Postel’s robustness principle actually leads to a lack of robustness, including security:[5]
        A flaw can become entrenched as a de facto standard. Any implementation of the protocol is required to replicate the aberrant behavior, or it is not interoperable. This is both a consequence of applying the robustness principle, and a product of a natural reluctance to avoid fatal error conditions. Ensuring interoperability in this environment is often referred to as aiming to be “bug for bug compatible”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So integration of immigrants is not strictly necessary, but familiarity with the culture is important – or at least the perception that the Others won’t steal our car, rape our women, or secretly control our government, or otherwise engage in antisocial behavior.

        And when people are immigrating from a culture that will rape our women and control our government, don’t let them in.

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          “If” and “were”, not “when” and “are”.

          Or, to be more precise:

          Every culture has rapists, but there is no culture where they make up a large enough fraction of the population for trying to suggest that they should be an important part of the immigration debate is anything more than bigotted fearmongering.

          And while there are countries that are trying to influence the US’s politics, they don’t do so through immigration.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Every culture has rapists, but there is no culture where they make up a large enough fraction of the population for trying to suggest that they should be an important part of the immigration debate is anything more than bigotted fearmongering.

            Your premise is correct, but unfortunately your conclusion is exaggerated. In the UK, grooming gangs were allowed to operate with impunity BECAUSE the guilty parties were of immigrant background, and everybody was afraid of being called racist.

            The question therefore becomes not “will immigrants commit rape? answer: yes, a tiny proportion will”, but “are we able to deal with immigrants committing rape? answer: no, we are too politically correct and our most vulnerable will suffer tremendously”.

          • Aftagley says:

            In the UK, grooming gangs were allowed to operate with impunity BECAUSE the guilty parties were of immigrant background, and everybody was afraid of being called racist.

            Evidence please. I’ve seen this presented as fact a bunch on this site, and haven’t seen any conclusive proof. The closest thing I’ve seen to an objective source on this story was independent review of the police department, and it highlighted failures of priorities and difficulties in trusting victims as the primary stumbling blocks in these investigations, not some kind of force-wide fear of appearing racist.

      • Clutzy says:

        People who are very skeptical of foreign¹ cultures often don’t seem to know them well, and familiarity helps to breed trust.

        This doesn’t seem accurate to me in the least. People are often most skeptical of the cultures nearest to them. See, Scott’s “I can tolerate anyone but the outgroup.”

        A great example is white flight from cities in the 50s, 60s, & 70s. This was because those people had a very salient understanding of the minority culture that was adjacent to them.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I am very much not a conservative, but as an observer of them from the outside I try to steelman their thinking on trust into something reasonable for me thusly:

      People are in general more trusting of those who follow similar social norms to them. Reasons for that are not always rational, but it is a fact of life that is very hard to change. And people of course like to feel that they are sorrounded by other people they can trust. Ergo having a whole country following same set of social norms has clear benefits.

      • albatross11 says:

        The more familiar you are, the easier it is for me to predict your behavior. That often (though not always) tracks with shared beliefs/customs/etc.

    • DinoNerd says:

      It’s interesting that the idea of a common religion hasn’t come up yet, unless it’s implicit for some people in one of these

      b. Strong norms for following most social conventions that aren’t actively harmful. (Wear a tie if that’s expected, even if ties are silly.)

      g. Strong norms/push for immigrants to assimilate to American norms (or maybe local norms).

      I’m used to encountering people who suggest things like “no one would have any moral rules without religion”, and (less commonly) people who class whole swathes of people as irreligious, regardless of those people’s own claims.

      I can’t see those people entirely trusting anyone not a member of some sect acceptable to them. OTOH, I’m also unclear how the hypocritical performance of religious rituals – which is what I would suspect of everyone, if religion were being enforced, even by social nroms – would actually produce trust.

    • Garrett says:

      I’m not certain that I’ve found any good answers to questions like this. Attempting to find measures of social trust is difficult enough. And if there aren’t good answers, it’s hard to enact them as policies. So instead, many politicians in the US who refer to themselves as conservative attempt to enact policies which get the same results.

      Consider, as a hypothetical measure/proxy of social trust the amount of litter found in an area. Areas with high trust might be seen as having community ownership and thus take on both not littering as well as spontaneously picking up the occasional bits which crop up. But there isn’t a good way to engender community ownership. So instead a politician might put in place a severe penalty for littering. Or put in place lots of city trash cans. Or pay for more sanitation workers. The closest practical model might be “broken windows” policing. But those are merely working to manipulate the measures of social trust, not actual social trust.

  17. Have you ever met a racist who only hates one race and loves the rest? I’ve never encountered this.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Quite a lot of people hate gypsies, at least around here. Other foreigners are rare enough to be seen as exotic or just foreign.

      • ana53294 says:

        Dislike of gypsies is more xenophobia than racism.

        When you see Spanish gypsies, they are indistinguishable from Spaniards, in their skin tone and facial features. Same for the Romanian gypsies vs non gypsies I’ve seen.

        What I dislike is the gypsy lifestyle. Their underinvestment in education, especially girl’s education; early and sometimes forced marriages; their links to crime; their patriarchal society; their anti social behaviour.

        EDIT: The way I see it, once gypsies get productive jobs, start sending their kids to school, and stop practicing child/early arranged/forced marriage, they stop being gypsies and become fellow Spaniards who like to dress colourful and have strong families.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          When you see Spanish gypsies, they are indistinguishable from Spaniards, in their skin tone and facial features. Same for the Romanian gypsies vs non gypsies I’ve seen.

          This must mean there’s been a lot of exogamy since the Roma left India. As I recall, you’ve mentioned people from different Spanish regions having different facial features, ergo…

          • ana53294 says:

            There are reports of gypsies producing blonde children, for example, where after some panic DNA test reveal that they actually are the biological parents. This would indicate that there was considerable exogamy.

            Sure, a lot of Spaniards have Roma blood. Many will even proudly proclaim it. But that doesn’t make them gypsies.

            EDIT: when I say gypsies are undistinguishable from Spaniards, I mean Andalusian Spaniards. Andalusians are a bit darker and smaller than other regions of Spain. Catalans tend to be curlier, and have certain facial features. Basques are just inbred. Canary island residents may have some traits from the original aborigines. It’s hard to describe, but for people who haven’t moved or married out, sometimes you can still tell where they’re from.

            I wouldn’t confuse gypsies for Basque, Catalan or Canary islander, but I could confuse them for Andalusian, easily.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Romanian gypsies are still dark enough. One of the worst (and thankfully rarer now) slurs is “crow”.

          But anyways, this takes us into “what is racism” territory, and brings to mind Black Culture in US.

          • ana53294 says:

            I have seen really dark (as dark as you can be while still being “white” Romanians that were not gypsies). Maybe they had Roma blood.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Maybe they had Roma blood.

            Well you can’t spell Romanian without Roma… /s

        • they stop being gypsies

          You might be interested in two books by Anne Sutherland describing a gypsy community near San Francisco that she interacted with extensively in the 1970’s. The first book, written shortly after the interaction, describes a community very much cut off from the surrounding culture, with its own norms, customs, language. The second, published recently, describes the breakdown of that system, with the children she interacted with forty years earlier having largely acculturated.

          My interpretation is that what destroyed the culture was tolerance, that its stability for a thousand years or so was in part due to existing in a hostile environment where being expelled from the community for violating its norms was a devastating punishment.

          I conclude that tolerance and cultural diversity are to some degree in conflict.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            I assume the same phenomenon is behind the large amount of outmarriage among American Jews.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Gypsies who somehow ended up in San Francisco are probably going to statistically different on many axes than Gypsies who still live in Europe.

          • Gypsies who somehow ended up in San Francisco

            Near San Francisco, actually. The estimate of the Romany population in the U.S. is about a million.

            are probably going to statistically different on many axes than Gypsies who still live in Europe.

            Judging by the first book, American Romany c. 1970 were very much a Romany culture. Currently much less so. That looks like a breakdown due to environment, not selection.

          • I assume the same phenomenon is behind the large amount of outmarriage among American Jews.

            Quite a long time ago, I was struck by how much more strongly European Jews identified as a distinct population, compared to American Jews.

    • sfoil says:

      It’s not really uncommon for someone who’s racist in general to really have it in for some specific group.

      Steve Sailer made a comment once, and I think it’s a pretty strong case, that Mark Twain hated the Indians but was otherwise pretty scrupulously non-racist, even by present standards. No one alive has met him, though.

      • At least my theory is that most racism is pathological fear of the other, so old timey intellectual racists would be expected to buck that trend in various ways because they’ve come to that position through a different mechanism.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          At least my theory is that most racism is pathological fear of the other

          Biologically, we’ll probably find out it’s a mechanism to help with group competition, or cooperation in warfare. Typical scenario is something like Europeans and Indians – those with higher racism are more likely to survive. Very non-adaptive in a modern environment.

          (For some reason I feel like I should say something pro-racism – steelmanning by reflex? But all I can think of is “some cultures are better than others”, which is not really the same thing. Nope, in a modern environment I really can’t find anything useful about it. Ah! Yes, hating others helps bond groups. So yes, again, cooperation).

          • albatross11 says:

            I think there are evolved-in mechanisms for tribalism, and culture provides the labels that trigger them. In different places and times, the labels and the tribes were different–Serb vs Croat or Jew vs Gentile or Protestant vs Catholic or Chinese vs Filipino or black vs white, or….

            The tribalism mechanisms are probably the result of some kind of group selection, presumably including instincts for punishing group traitors. (Without such mechanisms, individual selection probably wins against group selection.)

        • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

          Racism is singling out some phenotype as a signifier of outgroup and treating them as such. “Fear” seems like a loaded term, so is “pathological”. Outgroup can inspire all sorts of sentiments that would be identified as racist.

          • In that sense, we’re all racists but then I mean hate oriented racism rather than “Oh, I made an observation” racism.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            “Hate” too is a loaded term. There are multiple possible ways to be racist indistinguisable from one another except for racists’ internal monologue.

            Starting with merely banding together based on some trait to plunder or enslave someone who doesn’t share it, for no reason but because you will it, to perceiving irreconcilable difference in different races’ ways of life, to merely being upset at differently-looking people’s existence. The latter could be called “hate”, but I don’t think it’s in itself very common, at least not consciously. It’s not like Klansmen are Klansmen because they find high melanine itself distasteful.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Would Ghandi in relation to SA count?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Wouldn’t that depend on the definition of “race”?
      I’ve met non-black People of Color who love their own race, love white people, and hate black people.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        I’ve met black people from Africa who seem to love everyone except American blacks. It’s a complicated world.

        • Machine Interface says:

          This is something I keep hearing, that Africans in Africa are full of contempt for African Americans. Do we know the reason? Ressentment over Liberia, or something deeper?

          • John Schilling says:

            For recent African or Afro-Carribean immigrants in the United States, it looks like a fair bit of it is “dude, you’ve had all the advantages of living in the United States for six generations and look how little you’ve done with it, and don’t blame racism(*) because we’re blacker than you and we’ve made it in 1-2 generations”. See e.g. the infamous Chris Rock video re decent black people vs you-know-whos, or the equally infamous Bill Cosby lament, but the recent immigrants skew very strongly towards one side of that equation and have no culture of solidarity with the other.

            I can imagine something similar being at work among Africans looking towards the United States from Africa and imagining what they could accomplish here, but there may also be local effects that I am not aware of. I’m skeptical of Liberia being a big deal, though.

            * To be fair, the racism the recent immigrants experienced in the last 1-2 generations is not the same thing as what African-Americans experienced in the four generations before that.

          • Well... says:

            This is something I keep hearing, that Africans in Africa are full of contempt for African Americans

            Just want to point out what I hope is obvious: that this isn’t universally true and probably is not true even half the time.

    • SteveReilly says:

      I’m not sure if this counts as racism or if its xenophobia or whatever. But plenty of Irish people I’ve met are shocked by American racism against blacks or British racism against whoever, but also they think that Travellers are just terrible people. I went to Ireland a few times before I found out that “knackers” is a slur and not the actual term for these people.

      In the US I think racism tends to come as a package. But Mark Twain said he overcome most of his prejudices, but not the one against Native Americans.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’ve met several Koreans who really specifically hate the Japanese. Of course, there’s a good reason for that one, but it was still surprising when I first encountered it.

      • SteveReilly says:

        Interesting. What age were they?

        I lived in South Korea about 20 years ago, and the people who were young then seemed to look up to the Japanese. A lot of western fashion came to Korea from Japan so they were seen as the cooler country. Older people felt a bit differently, for obvious reasons.

        But now I think Korean popular culture might be a bit more popular worldwide than Japanese, so maybe that explains a shift. Or at least Korean stuff is recognized in a way it wasn’t a few decades ago.

        Anyway, back then there was also a good amount of low level racism against white people, and not-so-low level racism about black people (I won’t say against them. Most Korean people I knew had never seen a black person. But they made racist remarks.) So I’m just curious about the people who were prejudiced against the Japanese but no one else.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Young Japanese aren’t too fond of Koreans either, regarding them as aggressive and lower class. So that attitude would certainly feed Koreans’ feelings about the Japanese.

    • gbdub says:

      This is peak culture war of course, but I kind of feel like this thought process is being applied to Trump. He has policies and statements that could be reasonably construed as anti-Muslim or anti-Mexican, but he is accused of anti-black racism with nearly equal vehemence, and I think the evidence there is much weaker.

      Cynically, I think this is part of the increasing emphasis on using the blanket term “person of color” rather than referring to a specific race. It artificially aligns the interests of multiple identity groups and lets you label anyone who does anything that negatively impacts a person of color as a generic racist (or a black person “mentally ill” for supporting Trump).

      • EchoChaos says:

        He has policies and statements that could be reasonably construed as anti-Muslim or anti-Mexican, but he is accused of anti-black racism with nearly equal vehemence, and I think the evidence there is much weaker.

        The probable reason for this is that Trump is vehemently pro-American and views African-Americans as essentially American.

        • eric23 says:

          Trump is vehemently pro-American

          *for a certain definition of “American”, one not including Hispanics or Muslims?

          Personally I think Trump is not biased against any particular demographic group, he’s just a narcissist without a conscience, equally willing to stir up hatred against any group if he thinks it’ll aggrandize him.

          • EchoChaos says:

            for a certain definition of “American”

            Absolutely.

            one not including Hispanics or Muslims?

            Yes, clearly. He doesn’t view first or sometimes even second generation immigrants as “really American” yet.

            This is a bigoted position, but it isn’t what we would classically consider racist.

          • Aftagley says:

            Yes, clearly. He doesn’t view first or sometimes even second generation immigrants as “really American” yet.

            Is there a word for this position?

            I think Trump has in the past exhibited clearly racist tendencies/behavior but I do agree that on average his behavior more closely tracks to “there is a certain set of behavior that I qualify as being ‘American’ and if you don’t exhibit this behavior I will be bigoted against you.” Often minorities will get caught up in this net of generalized hatred, but so to will people within his race.

            So, what’s the appropriate word? Racist looses nuance. Bigoted is too inexact. Nationalistic doesn’t feel right… what’s a good term for this?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Nationalist is really the right answer. He has a very civic nationalism in that anyone can be a true American if they act American.

            His view of American is a very Red Tribe version, but it’s broadly assimilationist.

          • Aftagley says:

            Maybe… I just currently mentally grok “nationalist” as being “someone who really loves their country” and don’t like it being readjusted to “someone who uses nationality as a basis for deciding who not to like” although maybe my personal definition is incorrect.

            Is nationalist just the negative-implication way of saying Patriot? IE, if you support your country in a good way, you’re a patriot, if you do it in a hateful way you’re a nationalist?

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there a word for this position?

            Nativist. As you note, “nationalist” isn’t quite right, though there is some overlap. Nativism is this explicitly.

            And no, Nativism isn’t about and doesn’t require privileging “Native Americans” uber alles, notwithstanding the common usage of the (other) N-word. Roughly speaking, it’s about people who have been part of the nation for 2+ generations vs. those who have not.

          • Aftagley says:

            Yep, that’s it. Thank you.

          • Aapje says:

            @Aftagley

            The idea that first and second generation migrants tend to be poorly integrated and (still) quite distinct from natives is a very mainstream opinion in my country. It resulted in the word ‘allochtoon,’ from the Greek ‘from another soil.’

            If making that distinction is bigoted/racist, then Dutch society and institutions are bigoted/racist. Then again, that is exactly what some people argue…

          • Aftagley says:

            @Aapje

            Yeah, but there’s a difference between pointing out that it can take immigrants a couple of generations to fully integrate and demonstrating bigoted behavior to said immigrants. Also, like I pointed out, this kind of feeling isn’t just directed at immigrants – even fully integrated people who don’t live up to a certain standard of American-ness run afoul of this perspective.

            I don’t know enough about the Allochtooon to meaningfully discuss whether or not it’s bigoted/racist, but from the English language Wikipedia on it:

            Originally proposed as a neutral term, the use of the term allochtoon has been criticized as being stigmatizing. There is a regular stream of newspaper articles reporting statistics that unfavourably distinguish allochtoon people from the rest of the Dutch.

            In 2013, the city council of Amsterdam decided to stop using the term because of its divisive effect.

            As of 2016, the term allochtoon is no longer used by the Dutch government.

            Is this term still widely used? Do people there consider it offensive?

          • March says:

            @Aftagley,

            According to the definition, an allochtoon is anyone born outside the Netherlands (presumably not those with two Dutch-nationality parents who just happened to be abroad when the baby was born) or with at least one parent born outside the Netherlands. Third-generation immigrants, so people with only one or more grandparents born outside the Netherlands, are officially not allochtoon but autochtoon (‘from this soil’).

            In practice, third- and fourth-generation Turkish or Moroccan or other visibly non-western immigrants are perpetually seen as allochtoon, while people like my friend with a white American dad and the entirety of the Dutch Royal house (including our king and crown princess and basically all previous monarchs) are allochtoon but not seen as such, mostly because they’re white.

            I believe the government and news outlets have depreciated the term in favor of ‘person with a migration background’, split into ‘western’ and ‘non-western’. Still only technically first- and second-generation immigrants – everyone else is just Dutch.

          • Aapje says:

            @Aftagley

            Yeah, but there’s a difference between pointing out that it can take immigrants a couple of generations to fully integrate and demonstrating bigoted behavior to said immigrants.

            Much of the blue tribe in my country objects to telling people of the ways in which immigrants poorly integrate (although they have no such problem with positive stigmatization or poor integration in ways that they like).

            An issue is that integration seems to go a lot slower and with regressions along the way, than seems necessary to fit a fairly strong pro-migration stance. For example, the Moroccan and Turkish first generation migrants were brought in for dirty, hard, low education labor, which is a segment of the job market that automation, Japan/China/etc and rising wages hit really hard, causing many to lose their jobs. This in turn caused many first generation migrants to lose contact with natives and spend their time in (resentful) enclaves, often radicalizing religiously as well (rarely to terrorist levels, but still very orthodox), probably to regain a sense of honor and self-respect by looking down on the pork-eaters. The second generation men seemed to be largely at a loss how to deal with the conflicting signals from their family and society, resulting in many problems, lots of crime, etc. Only with the third generation, we actually seem to be moving in the right direction again.

            So to get a somewhat decent level of integration, that may still not be acceptable to many, we basically have to wait for several generations, which in itself is a pace that very many people are not content with.

            The pro-migrant faction tends to object to demanding a level of integration/assimilation that they believe is too high and they call that bigoted, but that boils down to rejecting the preferences of very many people as fundamentally illegitimate.

            Yet of course, one can then turn this around and call the preferences of the pro-migrant faction hateful towards many natives with equal justification. Or better yet, as we are supposedly a democracy, each preference deserves equal weight.

            Also note that a increasingly popular stance among the blue tribe and the official position of the EU, is that neither assimilation or integration is needed, but that there needs to be some sort of mutual accommodation, with the customs of the natives having no more weight than those of the migrants.

            > Originally proposed as a neutral term, the use of the term allochtoon has been criticized as being stigmatizing.

            The problem with generic criticism of stigmatization is that correct stereotypes are typically both useful for the stereotyper, but are also stigmatizing to the stereotyped group. A good debate can be had about a reasonable trade-off, where both extremist positions (no stereotyping vs rash and far-reaching decisions based on stereotypes) seem unreasonable to me.

            However, such a debate can only really be had in the absence of strong hypocrisy, because ‘I get to cause certain harms to you, but you don’t get to get to cause similar harms me’ or ‘I am allowed to have weakly evidenced stereotypes, but you can’t have strongly evidenced stereotypes,’ etc, etc; is not something I or most people on the losing side will accept.

            The very same people who complain about the stigmatization of minorities at best seem to never care very much about creating negative stereotypes that stigmatize men or white people and at worst, actively spread such stereotypes (including suppressing facts that can disrupt such stereotypes) and call upon people to act on those stereotypes, while simultaneously opposing stereotyping of groups they favor (including opposing facts to be known that fit those stereotypes).

            Do people there consider it offensive?

            Mainly the rather strong hypocrites and I don’t care if they are offended.

          • Aapje says:

            @March

            What people seem to want a term for, IMO rather reasonably, is ‘person who intends to stay, is culturally different, and is not yet sufficiently integrated/assimilated.’

            This is not something objective and is considered problematic by* those who resist the idea that integration can last generations or that people can refuse to integrate/assimilate. However, if one accepts that a nation is allowed to have a culture and demand a certain level of assimilation to that culture by migrants, then I don’t see how it is bigoted.

            * as well as statisticians/researchers, who want objective definitions.

            and the entirety of the Dutch Royal house (including our king and crown princess and basically all previous monarchs) are allochtoon but not seen as such, mostly because they’re white.

            I disagree that it is so strongly racial. I know and have known many white migrants, including people who were here for a decade and barely or very poorly spoke Dutch. I didn’t see them as Dutch and others didn’t seem to either. On the other hand, I don’t see anyone calling a black person like Humberto Tan an allochtoon, even though he is a first generation migrant. He passed the bar.

            Foreigners that enter the core of the Dutch Royal Family are a bit special, in that they get intense 1-on-1 courses with professors and other elite training to integrate/assimilate quickly and are expected to adopt Dutch customs, no ifs or buts. They are forced to make complex speeches in front of the press. They can’t stick to English, as many migrants do. They can’t stick to their customs, as many migrants do. Sink or swim, adapt or die (metaphorically). They simply stop matching the aforementioned definition much more quickly than nearly all other migrants.

            However, the current Queen, then Princess Maxima, made a very serious cultural mistake when she said that the Dutch identity doesn’t exist. It caused a huge furor, as she didn’t understand that while The Netherlands is not very nationalist at all, we aren’t Belgium.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos >

          “….views African-Americans as essentially American”

          As an aside (and I hope to not offend) lots of ink and pixels have been spilled about the “cultural distinctiveness” of African-Americans, and to some extent that seem true (Jazz instead of Classical as the prestigious music, “gospel” instead of “christian rock”), but as an adult when I first met  southern white men what really struck me was how culturally similar they seemed to the older black men who my Dad and I went on fishing boat trips as a child, I can’t quite put my finger on it other than accent, but somehow both southern white men (I’ve met far too few southern white women to make any judgements) and the older black men of the ’70’s seemed to share a certain manner distinct from other whites and younger blacks (in some ways non-southern and non-black working-class men of my granparents generation also shared this style, but not ti the same extent), among the features: fishing as a hobby (obviously!), often hunting as well, deep pride in a clean car, wives who were very involved with their churches, a greater social separation of the sexes (men going on fishing trips together away from their wives, etc.), and a sort of being even less like the college diploma guys than even other non-collegiate guys (even more ‘blue’ jokes).

          Unlike previous decades (since I started working for the City & County) I don’t often encounter many of what I think of as “the southern guy” anymore (just one black carpenter, a white boiler engineer, and a couple of white welders), but both black and white guys who grew up in the south (or the “Okie” enclaves in California) seemed culturally more alike to me than they do to most other black or white Californians, the exception being college grad former southerners who just sort of seem to blend in with the other grads (similar to how my non-grad cousins from New Jersey seem distinct, but the grad tenant from New York we rented a house to didn’t, he just seemed “collegiate” not “New York”).

          IIRC you live in the south, so I’m asking you, other than probably being poorer on average (not as many generations acquiring wealth), do African-Americans who grew up in the south, and who’s parents did as well, seem all that culturally distinct from other southerners?

          Is it a greater distinction than from northerners?

          • EchoChaos says:

            IIRC you live in the south, so I’m asking you, other than probably being poorer on average (not as many generations acquiring wealth), do African-Americans who grew up in the south, and who’s parents did as well, seem all that culturally distinct from other southerners?

            Rural Southern blacks are very similar to rural Southern whites, and not even that much poorer. Urban Southern blacks much less similar to urban Southern whites, as urban whites tend to be more “urbane” and to assimilate to Northern trends, as you noted by noticing that college educated Southerners are similar to other college educated whites.

            Is it a greater distinction than from northerners?

            Rural Northern whites are still pretty distinct from rural Southerners, but they definitely appreciate each other more than the past. It’s why Confederate flags have started to find a place in rural Northern white culture as a sign of rural solidarity. It may be partially racism, but in my experience, it’s mostly “Rebel spirit” and rural solidarity more than racism.

            Edit to add: There is a great recent Saturday Night Live sketch where Tom Hanks plays a redneck Trump supporter playing “Black Jeopardy” who gets all the answers right because they think alike.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7VaXlMvAvk

          • Aftagley says:

            There’s a great Dick Gregory quote about this phenomenon:

            “Down South, white folks don’t care how close I get as long as I don’t get too big. Up North, white folks don’t care how big I get as long as I don’t get too close.”

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos & @Aftagley,
            Thanks guys.

            That fits something that I’ve been pondering; a ways back I looked at some statistics that supported a “Hooray Johnson!” and “Boo Reagan!” narrative when it comes to the advancement and decline of African-Americans, and if ypu look for that you’ll find it, but those stats are dwarfed by “Hooray Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower!” stats, as the generation of black Americans who came from the rural south during the second world war and early cold war to work in the factories and shipyards did really well for themselves, it was their kids and especially their grandkids that had the increased social ills, that plus the generally more prosperous African-Americans who’ve returned to the south starting in the ’70’s have done well to, and maybe there’s some of an “ambitious immigrant generation effect” for that, but it sure seems like fate of blacks in the miserable ’80’s can’t be layed on “the legacy of slavery” and “southern Jim Crow”, whether from ‘culture’, ‘racism’, economics, or whatever, what happened was in the cities and in the mid to late 20th century, so closer to 1979 not 1619, and California not Carolina is where to look, plus compared to say the 19th century urban Irish of the second to fourth generations in the U.S.A., those descended from the African Americans who moved from the rural south in the ’40’s and ’50’s are kinda in the same place when you think of them as like immigrants and their kids with the rural south as ‘the old country’, and crowded crime ridden urban ghettos aren’t a distinctly black problem, they’ve been Irish, Italian, Russian Jewish, Polish, et cetera ones before, I even remember that briefly in the ’80’s and early ’90’s the newspapers were crying about Vietnamese ‘boat people’ neighborhood crime.
            My best guess is that improvement is happening already, the continued increased life expectancy among African-Americans despite a recent general decline (I’d really like to see those stats broken down by region and types of neighborhoods), but if you want to kick start more improvements:
            1) Full male employment is pretty effective, good paying jobs that call for a strong back but no high school worked pretty well in the ’40’s and ’50’s for social uplift.
            2) Role-models help, having black teachers (especially when younger) helps future success, and having black male teachers helps boys future success.
            3) Moving kids under six years old and their mothers to better places has been well shown to decrease how likely the kids is to be in jail and increase how likely the kid will be middle class as an adult, even moving from one part of Seattle; Washington to another has been shown to help.
            What doesn’t help is tearing down ‘blighted’ neighborhoods and then moving those in those neighborhoods into tower block apartments, that made things worse. Tearing down the tower blocks and then passing out section 8 vouchers that are mostly used to move into the same neighborhood just moves concentrations of poverty around.

            ‘Awareness’ campaigns don’t do much at all actual affirmative actions remain: Employment, Role-models, and Moving, with the integrated U.S. Army, and mid 20th century industrial unions still the examples of effective agents that did uplift (especially during the Korean war).

            Curious what your take is.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            My understanding of the statistics is that basically all large-scale black movements inside the USA (and I do mean physical movement) show a massive boost in the initial movers for the obvious founder effect reasons.

            Then you get regression to the mean and the result is pretty much the same as where they came from. Sometimes worse. All the race riots were in the North, after all.

            Note that the same is true of white populations. The Scots-Irish stay Scots-Irish wherever they go.

            This is why Jews, Chinese, Japanese, etc. rise economically above average Americans despite starting poorer than even blacks (Chinese coolie labor was paid worse than free black labor in the 30s), but blacks keep falling back.

            As evidence, black income as a percentage of white has remained stubbornly similar despite nearly seven decades of work on it.

            While all of those things you recommend would help both poor whites and blacks, the problem is probably unsolvable if your goal is equality.

            A better goal is “a rising tide lifts all boats” with the sidenote that blacks are heavily working class.

          • Aapje says:

            @EchoChaos

            Reducing variance would help too (making the rich less rich and the poor richer).

          • Plumber says:

            @Aapje & @EchoChaos,
            Thanks.
            My apologies, I really feel like I owe a longer and nuanced response, but my thoughts on this topic are moving faster than my thumbs.
            In any case I largely agree with both of your last statements in this sub thread, and I’ll try to revisit when I’m feeling more sharp.

    • gbdub says:

      As a more generic answer, I think it depends on if you are an “X-supremacist” or an “anti-Y”. The former pretty much requires being racist against all not-X. The latter could be specifically targeted. I’ve certainly encountered both, although the stereotypical American racist as depicted in media is a Klansman or skinhead and they are generally racist against all not-white and a lot of “wrong kind of white”.

      • These are basically the only kinds of racists I’ve encountered personally (among white people, I should add), with the possible exception that nazis are sometimes a bit more positive about asians. It may be more natural to be an “X-supremacist” by the simple extension of the ego. Whereas “anti-Y” in isolation implies some kind of reasoned comparison and experience.

    • Secretly French says:

      I regard this as a very common variety of white leftist: they hate whites, and love non-whites indiscriminately.

      • Protagoras says:

        Really? I know a lot of leftists (almost my entire social circle), and I can’t think of any who could remotely accurately be described as hating whites.

        • gbdub says:

          A significant number, maybe the majority, of my left-liberal friends and acquaintances make relatively frequent statements about Southern whites and evangelical Christians that can only be described as casually bigoted.

          None of them would speak up or be notably offended if someone made a joke that played on negative stereotypes of either group.

          Now this isn’t “hatred of all whites” but it’s pretty clearly “bigotry against a certain definable subculture of white people” that would be labeled (by the same people!) as racism if directed against any identifiable subculture “of color”.

          • Do they ever make negative comments about city dwelling coastal whites?

          • gbdub says:

            No. They will occasionally make disparaging comments about “white people” in general but I think that’s more common in the cohort after mine.

            There are certainly whites that do disparage east coast city types though, this is just red tribe vs blue tribe of course.

            But it’s honestly hard to distinguish between what we call “tribal outgrouping” here and what would get called racism if it involves different skin shades

          • John Schilling says:

            Do white racists ever make negative comments about upper-middle-class Heathcliff Huxtable blacks?

            I’m guessing the answer is “yes” in both cases, but only rarely and/or deniably. I don’t think it is a useful discriminator.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but I’ve certainly seen plenty of “White people are problematic”-type articles in leftist publications, which would get slammed as racist if written about any other group.

      • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

        Similarly to Protagaros, this describes nobody I have ever met, despite coming form a leftist background and having always had an almost entirely leftist social circle (personally and professionally). Is it based on people you’ve met or spoken to?

        • The original Mr. X says:
          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            Thanks, that’s interesting, and definitely shows there’s something unusual about [American] white liberals. It doesn’t demonstrate hatred though. It would be interesting to see the raw scores for in-group / out-group warmth rather than the difference. I.e. is the white liberal difference driven by unusual lack of warmth to in-group or unusual warmth to out-group?

          • Aapje says:

            @NostalgiaForInfinity

            What is love hate of a group? Isn’t it a strong (undeserved*) negative prejudice?

            If so, the survey seems to show that white liberals hate white people, (unless one believes that their prejudice is deserved*).

            * Optional

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @Aapje My reading of the survey was that you gave your in group and out group a warmth score, with the difference being the bias.

            Say everyone but white liberals rate their in-group as 60 and their out-group as 50, for +10 in favour of the in-group.
            If white liberals rated their in-group as 50 and the out-group as 60, you’d get -10. But you could also get -10 if they rated their in-group as 60 and their out-group as 70. Under that scenario it seems odd to describe their attitude as hatred, given they have the same warmth score to their in-group as any other group (with caveats about these being relative scores).

            Even with the former (50 for in-group, 60 for out-group), it would be odd to describe their attitude as hatred given that the scores are the same values as for everyone else but reversed. Unless your default position is that all racial groups hate the out-group.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            As I mentioned above, you get a fair number of “White people are problematic”-type articles, whereas identical articles about other racial groups would get panned as racist. Maybe this doesn’t rise to the level of hatred, but I think it does show some level of hostility (since you probably wouldn’t be interested in reading about how a group you feel warmly about is problematic, even if you feel less warmly about that group than you do about other groups).

            I guess there’s also the phenomenon of people holding white countries/figures to higher standards than non-white ones. E.g., people who think that Columbus Day is problematic because of European atrocities committed against the natives, but are fine with Indigenous Peoples Day despite all the atrocities committed by the indigenous peoples.

          • John Schilling says:

            There was that survey a while ago suggesting that white liberals, alone of all the racial/political groups, had a pro-outgroup bias.

            Rather, that white liberals had a uniquely pro-“other racial and ethnic communities” bias. This is I think a nonstandard definition of “outgroup”, and not the one we normally use here.

            White liberals’ outgroup is white conservative Americans, and I am pretty sure the attitude there is not anything remotely resembling “pro-outgroup bias”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Rather, that white liberals had a uniquely pro-“other racial and ethnic communities” bias. This is I think a nonstandard definition of “outgroup”, and not the one we normally use here.
            White liberals’ outgroup is white conservative Americans, and I am pretty sure the attitude there is not anything remotely resembling “pro-outgroup bias”.

            Yeah, sorry, I was being sloppy in my terminology.

          • Aapje says:

            @NostalgiaForInfinity

            An issue is that in these studies, there is no instruction given on what a certain temperature means. Some people may interpret 0 degrees as complete indifference, which is not the same as hatred.

            So I think it is best to speak about differences in affection, not about hatred.

            Unless your default position is that all racial groups hate the out-group.

            White liberals are the outlier. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and non-liberal whites all have a substantial positive racial/ethnic ingroup bias, while only liberal whites have a negative bias.

            It seems to me to be a reasonable assumption that the outlier is peculiar, rather than that everyone else is being strange.

          • E.g., people who think that Columbus Day is problematic because of European atrocities committed against the natives, but are fine with Indigenous Peoples Day despite all the atrocities committed by the indigenous peoples.

            It isn’t “European day.” Columbus was a specific person who committed atrocities. Lots of native Americans committed atrocities too, but lots of other ones didn’t.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It isn’t “European day.” Columbus was a specific person who committed atrocities. Lots of native Americans committed atrocities too, but lots of other ones didn’t.

            AIUI the extent of Columbus’ “atrocities” has been significantly exaggerated in pop culture; most, if not all, of them were committed by other people after Columbus had gone back to Spain. And I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say that Columbus day is just about Columbus as a person: the holiday was originally instituted after lobbying from the Italian-American community as a way of recognising Italian contributions to America, and a lot of the arguments I’ve seen for Columbus Day being problematic bring in stuff committed by Europeans who weren’t Columbus.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I know some white people who dislike blacks and hispanics but are okay with asians.

      I know some Indians who hate Pakistanis specifically.

      Some Chinese and Koreans who hate the Japanese specifically.

      Brazilians seem to have an irrational dislike of Argentina, though that’s not really a race thing.

      • Juanita del Valle says:

        And not just Brazilians – dislike of Argentinians is widespread across Central and South America as far as I know.

        • Protagoras says:

          Argentinians

          An Argentine friend told me they prefer to be called Argentines. Given how some people around here react to people who are fussy about what others call them, I suppose that could be a factor in why they are unpopular.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Loves, no, but I’ve definitely seen vastly different levels of tolerance directed at different groups.

      A lot of immigrants from East and South Asia, and even many from Africa and the Caribbean, really cannot stand American blacks but are indifferent to other groups. Like they might not want their daughters to marry a white guy or someone of another background but there’s nowhere near the sense of intense dislike. This seems mostly tied to behavior: if you’re a poor immigrant, your cheap housing is going to put you in close proximity to the most dysfunctional black communities.

      I’ve also seen a lot of Jews and Americanized “PoC” (almost never blacks, although you get a few) who hate white gentiles with a fiery passion but see other non-white peoples as allies. This is fairly obviously an ideological stance.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’ve known whites who had a very low opinion of blacks and a rather high opinion of Asians and Jews. That describes a large chunk of the human b-odiversity crowd.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Can you describe the racists you have met and what their typical view on race relations is? The racists I know don’t even love their own race, and are quite happy to find social or economic grievances in addition to their racial grievances.

      They definitely dislike different groups at different amounts.

      • They definitely dislike different groups at different amounts.

        Sure, the typical racist view I’ve encountered does contain a hierarchy of races, but from my experience it’s hate or at least ambivalence and suspicion all the way down at the group level, though exceptions are made in practice for individuals.

        But I’ve never encountered anyone who say, wanted every other race to be free to immigrate to their country except blacks because they individually decided they didn’t like them from experience. Usually racists want to protect their own race which leads to them universalizing the concept.

    • Plumber says:

      @Forward Synthesis >

      “Have you ever met a racist who only hates one race and loves the rest?..”

      I’ve encountered blacks, Latinos, whites, and even fellow Pacific islanders (Filipinos) who’ve said that “Samoans are scary”, so a general fear of/prejudice against Samoans seemd common, I also had a black neighbor who said “Chinese people are evil” which since the girlfriend he lived with parents were Korean I don’t think he extended that belief to all Asians, I’ve also had co-workers who’ve told pretty vile anti-black ‘jokes’ but have become fast friends with their black co-workers.

      Also my wife has often remarked about “stupid white people” (“wasting money shopping at Whole Foods”, etc) yet she married me (though maybe I’m her prime example!), so selective bigotry is a thing, I think that there was some study of “unconscious bias” where ‘stress indicators’ (heart rate or something) go up when many white Americans (and not as many but a far number of black Americans as well) see pictures of blacks, but if the black that is pictured is a well known and well liked celebrity than usual the “stress indicators quickly fade.

      I’m not really sure what can be done about any of it, people are people, Oakland against San Francisco, Oakland+San Francisco against Los Angeles, California against the 49 lesser States, and U.S.A. against lesser nations!

    • sharper13 says:

      My response feels like it’s going to be pretty obvious in retrospect, so you may need to clarify the definition of racist you’re using. I’ll answer your question using the common dictionary definition “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.”

      I’ve heard many examples of people who publicly proclaim they hate white people, but purport to love all the other people they classify into various races. I prefer not to link to them.

      To attempt to steel-man the view, they generally propose to use a less common (more academic?) definition of racism which excludes discrimination or prejudice against people they believe had a historical power advantage in western society.

      Personally, I don’t find race to be a useful classification and believe that the best way to stop racism is to for people to stop being racist and classifying individuals along these traditional racial delineations which don’t possess much scientific nor cultural value.

      I’m going to stop my comment here because I can feel the irritated sarcasm attempting to escape and it’s target wouldn’t be reading these comments anyway.

    • JayT says:

      My grandfather was definitely racist towards African Americans, but ranged from “didn’t think about”* to “admired”** every other minority. He grew up in the South Side of Chicago and saw his neighborhood go from a vibrant immigrant community, to, well, the South Side of Chicago. He held a lot of resentment over that, and blamed African Americans.

      * For example, I don’t remember him ever saying anything about Middle Easterners, but he died well before 9/11, and we lived in an area that didn’t have many, so it just didn’t come up.
      ** He would always talk about how hard working Hispanics were, and that if African Americans were like that, they wouldn’t have so many problems.

    • LadyJane says:

      My maternal grandmother (who was Italian and grew up under Mussolini’s fascist regime) disliked Blacks and East Asians, but was fine with just about everyone else. In her eyes, everyone who wasn’t “negroid” or “mongoloid” was White; she didn’t care about color, but she did care about whether or not someone had Caucasian facial features. I once joked that her views could be summed up as: “I have a dream that one day people will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the shape of their skull.” Weirdly enough, I’ve encountered a few people online with similar views, mostly alt-right types who broadly support White nationalism but don’t want non-White Caucasians (e.g. Persians, Indians) to be excluded from their hypothetical White ethno-state, almost always because they belong to one of those ethnic groups themselves or have a wife/girlfriend who does.

      My father (who’s a Spanish North African of Arab-Berber descent) disliked Arabs from the Levant and from the Arabian Peninsula, to the point where he would frequently emphasize that North Africans aren’t really Arabic in a racial sense, they just speak Arabic because they were colonized by the Arabs in 800 AD. I’d imagine there was some kind of “narcissism of small differences” in play there. He also greatly disliked gypsies, apparently due to some negative encounters he had in Europe, which made him come across as something of a hypocrite when he would criticize the French for their bigotry against North African immigrants but then repeat those same bigots’ talking points with regards to the Roma.

      Perhaps strangest of all, I had an ex who believed that Australian Aboriginals were genetically inferior to all other humans in terms of intelligence and general self-awareness. She’s a White/Latina American who’s never been to Australia or encountered any Aboriginals, so it’s not like she had any personal reason to feel that way. She also wasn’t the type of person to give much credence to racial IQ theories or the notion of aych-bee-dee; she completely rejected the idea that African-Americans or Native Americans were genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than Whites and Asians, to the point of finding it ridiculous and obviously false. She didn’t have any malice toward Aboriginals either. She was just really convinced that the Aboriginals were less intelligent and less self-aware than other humans, even though she was a vehement anti-racist who firmly believed that all non-Aboriginal races were equal. Once, when her cat was confused by his own reflection, she casually joked that it was okay because “most Abos can’t pass the mirror test either.”

      More broadly, I’ve talked to quite a few people who are explicitly bigoted against Black people and only Black people. I’ve also met a surprising number of people who are strongly anti-Semitic, sometimes to ridiculous extremes, but otherwise non-racist or even anti-racist. For instance, I remember quite a few Bernie Sanders supporters back in 2016 talking about how Bernie was “one of the good ones” and would save America from the evil scheming wealthy Jews on Wall Street.

      And if we’re expanding the topic to cover religious discrimination, there are a lot of Americans who are accepting towards all religious groups except Muslims.

  18. dark orchid says:

    The opioid crisis, UK edition:

    According to a recent bit of investigative journalism by The Times, it seems there are online pharmacies where you can order much larger quantities of opioids than a doctor in the UK would prescribe for you.

    Of course you need a diagnosis by an official doctor before they can send out prescription meds, so here’s how it goes. You visit the website and fill in a questionnaire with things like “how bad is your pain on a scale of 1-10?”. Because they’re Responsible People, they won’t give you opioids unless it’s at least 7/10. Because they also like making money, the control on the form is pre-set to 7/10. If you move it down to 6, a warning pops up along the lines of “with this information, your prescription may be denied” which goes away again when you put it back to 7. When you submit the form, the fact that you’re in 7/10 pain goes to a doctor working in eastern Europe who looks at it and writes out your prescription.

    Journalists tested this out and it seems like you can pretty much order as much of the stuff as you can pay for to the same address. You can very much ask for a specific brand or strength of painkiller.

    • Lodore says:

      You can get modafinil by this mechanism too, though perversely enough, the knock-off stuff I got from India was just as effective and didn’t have the headachey side effect of the ‘real’ thing.

      In either case, I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be between telling a GP in person you need opioids/modafinil and telling a website. Unless of course the GP will refuse to prescribe because you look shifty, which is a pretty poor reason to refuse to prescribe.

      • dark orchid says:

        I think the problem is the GP is only supposed to prescribe a certain amount at a time (something something abuse/suicide prevention), and you need regular doctor’s visits if you’re on opioids, but you can get a “family package” of opioids all at once from the website.

  19. Nick says:

    Has anyone been following the Stackexchange Code of Conduct debacle?

    I haven’t been, though I read the original announcement when it came out, and it certainly appeared to compel speech. Here’s the controversial passage:

    By adding this update, we want to make it clear that the Code of Conduct requires people to use the correct gender pronouns when someone shares their pronouns or makes them public. It also means that respecting anyone less because of their gender identity or pronouns is off limits. This has always been true of our Code of Conduct and we are making it more explicit with this language. This isn’t a new rule or a change to our policy. We found there was confusion, and we’ve clarified the language to make things abundantly clear.

    If this leaves any ambiguity for you, here’s from the official FAQ, which I sought out tonight:

    We’re asking everyone to do two things. First, if you do know someone’s pronouns (e.g. because they told you), then use them as you normally would use any pronoun. Second, if you don’t know someone’s pronouns, use gender-neutral language rather than making an assumption.

    Q11: If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?

    We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.

    In other words: merely gender neutral language is unacceptable. You. must. affirm.

    This is reason enough for concern, but I learned this evening that Stackexchange has followed up with truly draconian moderator firings. For example, Monica Cellio of judaism.SE was thrown out, as far as can be told, based on a misunderstanding. Other sites, like workplace, have lost a ton of moderators. More have stepped down, either because they cannot in conscience follow or enforce this policy, or to protest Stackexchange’s behavior. There’s even an open letter!

    What implications do policies like this Code of Conduct change have for the ongoing conversation about trans rights, pronouns, and free speech? And what lessons should we draw from Stackexchange’s mishandling?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I really hope that nobody was surprised by this.

      It’s been obvious that this was coming since the beginning of the big trans push. Theodore Dalrymple said it best:

      In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        I wonder how long until they’ll demand all users to praise Chairman Xi.

        • LadyJane says:

          Because Chairman Xi is known for his support of LGBT rights?

          I’m honestly not sure how you can go from “company restricts speech in the name of trans rights” to “company restricts speech for the benefit of a homophobic, transphobic, socially conservative dictator,” unless you’re assuming that restricting speech is the company’s terminal value and the types of speech they’re restricting is purely incidental.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I thought that was a joke on non-binary SF fans trying to import xi/xer/xis into IRL English.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Background: #1, #2. Also related.

            Once companies start to restrict speech because it offends people with enough political clout, there is no Schelling fence to stop them from becoming proxy censors for oppressive governments.

            In the Stack Exchange issue, it’s not even just restricted speech, but compelled speech. Can you see where this is going?

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I thought that was a joke on non-binary SF fans trying to import xi/xer/xis into IRL English.

            I wasn’t thinking that, but in retrospect it’s indeed funny.

          • LadyJane says:

            @viVI_IViv: And Blizzard is facing a lot of much-deserved criticism for it, including a boycott that may significantly impact their profits in the American market.

            Demanding that employees and users refer to trans people by their preferred pronouns will upset maybe 50% of the affected population at most. It pisses off social conservatives who have an object-level objection to the very concept of transgenderism, and it also pisses off some Reddish-Gray quasi-libertarian types who have a meta-level object to restricted/compelled speech. And I don’t think the first group is all that common among Stack Exchange employees/users, so it’s probably more like 25-35% of the affected population that’s outraged over this.

            Whereas prohibiting employees and users from criticizing the Chinese government – or worse, demanding that they praise the Chinese government – pisses off almost literally everyone. It pisses off the social conservatives, largely because most of them are anti-communist. It pisses off the quasi-libertarian free speech crusaders. It pisses off center-left liberals, who generally oppose nationalistic and illiberal regimes like China’s. It pisses off the same social justice advocates who the trans policy is designed to appeal to. It probably even pisses off a lot of people who otherwise don’t care about politics one way or another. And unlike Blizzard or the NBA, I don’t think Stack Exchange is particularly dependent on Chinese customers, so they’d be alienating a large portion of their support base while gaining almost nothing in return.

      • episcience says:

        I’m not sure a quote containing the phrases “propaganda”, “obviously lies”, and “emasculated liars” is an entirely charitable engagement with the merits of trans pronoun usage.

      • LadyJane says:

        I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.

        That is incredibly wrong-headed, not to mention factually incorrect. The purpose of propaganda in authoritarian dictatorships is to portray the dictator in the best possible light, and portray the dictator’s foreign and domestic enemies in the worst possible light, in order to increase loyalty to the dictator and support for his regime. It wasn’t about humiliating people, and it wasn’t about making citizens pretend to believe things they know to be false (that may have been the actual effect, but only because the dictatorships in question were not as successful as they hoped in actually convincing the populace of the truth of their claims). It certainly wasn’t about promoting untruth for the explicit sake of opposing everything that is good and true in the world.

        • Matt C says:

          That is incredibly wrong-headed, not to mention factually incorrect.

          Maybe, but this looks to me like a case of dueling narratives, neither of which is attempting to support itself with facts or evidence.

          (I’m not sure what evidence would look like here, but whatever it might be, nobody is providing it.)

          If it is just a case of dueling narratives, the quote from Nabil seems to fit better with what I’ve read, and (loosely) with what I’ve experienced.

          (Not necessarily every lie that comes from authority, but at least some.)

        • viVI_IViv says:

          What about things that are inherently inconsistent or absurd, such as Jesus being born of a virgin, or the Holy Trinity?

          Or for a more modern and particularly cruel example, “Arbeit macht frei” written on the gates of Auschwitz.

          It seems that the purpose of these messages is at best to humble, at worst to mock and humiliate, rather than persuade.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Isn’t this a violation of legal protections against religious discrimination?

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        I doubt it. While being forced to use people’s preferred pronouns may offend some sensibilities, you’d be hard-pressed to make a case that it actively discriminates against or harasses any particular religion. And if your religious beliefs do require violating their code of conduct, then they could probably argue that accommodating you somehow would be undue hardship.

    • The Nybbler says:

      What implications do policies like this Code of Conduct change have for the ongoing conversation about trans rights, pronouns, and free speech?

      It means it is abundantly clear that no consideration need be given to arguments that the pronoun thing is not a demand for compelled speech. It’s “use the pronouns, bigot”.

      As for the moderators leaving, I imagine Stack Exchange is fine with that; saves them the trouble of purging them. Whether this will interfere with Stack Exchange’s main mission (I don’t know what it is overall, I only know about the part where they provide code samples for cargo cult coders to cut and paste), I don’t know, but the site is, to use a devil’s terms, clearly “fully converged”, and will prioritize Social Justice over any of its other nominal goals.

    • Well... says:

      If this was a state institution or a public service of some kind that’d be one thing, but it’s Stackexchange, a private website. I don’t think I see why it’s noteworthy. They’ve implemented a woke-ish policy and predictably it’s ruffled the feathers of many of their customers, who, being Stackexchange users, tend toward being rational rather than racking up wokeness points.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        It’s yet another grey tribe space compromised by woke agenda pushers. It is quite clear that the SE staff no longer responds to users, but does respond to shrieking twitter blue checkmarks.

        • Well... says:

          Yes. So that being the case, this strikes me as a dog-bites-man story. What’s the significance?

          Are we worried the market won’t correct (either by SE leadership realizing their error, or a grey[sic]-friendly competitor rising up to outcompete them)?

          Is anyone actually concerned that SE users will be so effectively compelled in their speech that they’ll be verbally lobotomized?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Well the market definitely won’t correct, because anyone trying to make a non-woke alternative is going to find that getting payment processors, DNS and DDOS protection are very challenging. We’ve seen it happen already, alternatives are not allowed to exist.

            Although frankly I’m not worried about stack exchange as such. I worried about the next step, which is “say-the-pronoun” getting rolled into harassment law and every HR department in the country scrutinizing employee speech on their private social media or in their private conversations outside work.

          • Well... says:

            I worried about the next step, which is “say-the-pronoun” getting rolled into harassment law and every HR department in the country scrutinizing employee speech on their private social media or in their private conversations outside work.

            I’m genuinely curious about the plausibility of this. Hoping someone who knows a lot more about labor law than I do will chime in.

            Though I have to say, I am 100% not opposed to people’s speech on social media being scrutinized by HR departments if it serves as a disincentive to use social media. A mass exodus from social media might even have a chain reaction of a mass migration from smartphones back to simple phones…probably not. But a man can dream, right?

          • albatross11 says:

            Nabil:

            I think that is a very unstable equilibrium. A *lot* of people are tired of wokeness in various forms, and probably more every day have their fill. It doesn’t take very many defectors before the equilibrium shifts.

            It is obviously nuts to allow a small number of credit card companies plus Paypal to decide whom is allowed to do business/get paid on the internet. But I’ll note that alt-right, human b-odiversity, and even white nationalist sites exist on the internet as it is now, and manage to pay their bills. The world isn’t as dark as you’re imagining it is.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            A *lot* of people are tired of wokeness in various forms, and probably more every day have their fill.

            This is why I think this isn’t just dog-bites-man. StackExchange has become the Q&A site of choice for most software developers, and has been engaged in a land rush for other knowledge domains over the past several years, from physics to worldbuilding to etiquette. The CoC will hit a lot of people, and it’s likely to encounter a great deal of pushback, given the huge downvote counts I’m seeing on official posts addressing it.

          • Well... says:

            But again…won’t the market eventually correct? Software developer-types don’t usually take it sitting down, at least not for long. The Loud Victims and their PR/HR-type enablers might have the upper hand right now, but they’re less clever and less inventive, as a whole, than the developer-types. Same story for all the other tech companies/users going through this drama which is by now practically a cliche.

            So long as users have the freedom to find workarounds, I predict they will given enough time. I don’t see any risk that this kind of compelled speech will become enshrined in our actual laws (though I could be persuaded otherwise by compelling evidence).

            Thus, dog-bites-man.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t see any risk that this kind of compelled speech will become enshrined in our actual laws (though I could be persuaded otherwise by compelling evidence).

            They already have in the UK.

            It’s tough to pull this off for criminal law in the US, because of the First Amendment, but you could make it essentially a law in the workplace (including for customers!) because the EEOC doesn’t really consider freedom of speech. If they rule that allowing employees to be “misgendered” is “harassment”, employers will have to fire any employee and eject any customer who does it, under penalty of law.

          • Aapje says:

            The questions and answers are under a public license, so if things explode, someone can start a competing site with the same library of questions and answers.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I think that is a very unstable equilibrium. A *lot* of people are tired of wokeness in various forms, and probably more every day have their fill.

            A *lot* of people were tired of communism, but the Soviet Union lasted 70 years before collapsing.

        • I have become increasingly concerned by the blue tribe’s colonial project vis-a-vis the gray tribe, but am currently despairing that there’s nothing that can be done about it. The Internet allowed for the creation of new spaces that were qualitatively different from any that had existed before, and the gray tribe’s tendency to embrace new technology made up for their inferior numbers, but that was clearly unstable. VR is still appropriately inaccessible, but we haven’t seen much in the way of social spaces emerging from it. Trying to build new gray tribe areas in the current ecosystem just seems to lead to an influx of legitimately undesirable witches, who then become the public face of the gray tribe and just make the problem worse.

          • “Trying to build new gray tribe areas in the current ecosystem just seems to lead to an influx of legitimately undesirable witches”

            Are you thinking of a specific gray-tribe area where this happened and ruined it?

          • @Alexander Turok

            I was thinking of Voat, etc. I don’t have any special insight into their founders, but unfettered free speech is a core gray tribe value and is obviously not shared by the blue tribe. This attracts witches for obvious reasons.

          • Well... says:

            I have become increasingly concerned by the blue tribe’s colonial project vis-a-vis the gray tribe

            Just to clarify: is this another way of saying the Far Left is successfully exerting pressure on the Center to move dramatically Leftward?

            I have serious doubts that this is really happening anywhere but 1) on the internet, and to a lesser extent 2) in corporate marketing/PR/HR departments.

          • John Schilling says:

            I have serious doubts that this is really happening anywhere but 1) on the internet, and to a lesser extent 2) in corporate marketing/PR/HR departments.

            And universities.

            Good thing the internet, universities, and corporate HR departments are such minor and ignorable parts of modern civic and economic life.

          • Well... says:

            With universities I think it’s much less widespread than the horror stories make it seem, even at liberal arts schools. Jon Haidt has said as much, that it’s actually mostly limited to certain colleges at a few high-profile universities. And for those, how much do they really impact the lives of people who aren’t also students/faculty at those colleges? Silly papers get published once in a while, I suppose…and there’s whatever extent this initiates the domino effect on the internet and corporate HR.

            “The internet” is mostly ignorable, since by “the internet” I really meant “content on certain sites on the internet”, and most of those sites are essentially recreational. (SE might be an exception for some subset of software developers.)

            Corporate HR/PR/etc. mostly affects the ads you see as a consumer or the messages you see around the office. For the vast majority of people even a rather zealously woke HR department isn’t going to impact their work experience much. For whatever it’s worth.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think Twitter outrage mobs often have an impact because they’re convincing either to the victim (who tearfully repents and begs mercy–good luck getting that from a mob of sociopaths) or to his employer (who sees an angry mob and thinks it means widespread popular outrage rather than a couple hundred bored idiots and crazy people and another couple hundred bots. If both ignored the outrage mobs and let things die down for a week, most of the damage of the outrage mobs would go away, and probably that would decrease how fun it was for a sociopath to get involved in them.

          • Well... says:

            13 year-olds with smartphones is almost certainly a larger factor there than most people realize.

            Also journalists who use a few cherrypicked Tweets to show a major global trend in attitudes.

          • Plumber says:

            @John Schilling > “….Good thing the internet, universities, and corporate HR departments are such minor and ignorable parts of modern civic and economic life”

            The “Twitter mob” thing (referenced below) is pretty scary, the internet is fun but may be ignored, universities are trickier; most don’t have university diplomas but more do now than ever before.

            I know that at my job, despite the crew being multi-ethnic, creed, and generation we’re very un “pc” in our lunchtime talk (and the boss has told us all which large group he won’t hire “Because they’ll bring problems”), but we all know not to talk un “pc” on the third floor, or across the street.

            I imagine that if I was a lawyer or librarian instead of a plumber the chances of a lunch room “free speech zone” would be much less.

          • @Well…

            is this another way of saying the Far Left is successfully exerting pressure on the Center to move dramatically Leftward?

            In a word, no. “Blue” and “Gray” are cultures, not political affiliations. For example, the core of the “Berniebro” debacle was the accusation that Sanders supporters were actually Gray instead of Blue. Interpreting Blue and Gray as Leftists and Libertarians is missing almost everything that makes the groupings useful.

    • blipnickels says:

      Yeah, it’s sad but not super impactful.

      I mean, code is code; if I have an issue and I find something on Stack Exchange and it works, great. Maybe I’m less likely to go try and answer questions but it’s not exactly something I was doing before. There’s a lot of other “exchanges” but it’s not like I found the Econ exchange or the Sci-fi exchange super helpful before.

      It’s their community to manage and they’re deciding who they want to appeal to and it’s not me, 🙁 but no big deal.

    • mdet says:

      I don’t quite agree with this rule* or the harshness with which it sounds like it’s being enforced, but I don’t see this causing too many issues in practice. It’s an anonymous website. Most people aren’t going to provide any pronouns at all, and for those who do provide pronouns, it’ll still be ambiguous whether they’re cis or trans. They only scenario where I’d see someone being uncomfortable with another person’s pronouns would be users who request to go by non-traditional pronouns like xe or ze. While those people do exist, they’re pretty rare, even rarer than non-binary-gendered people in general. This won’t be any consolation for the people who do end up getting banned, and I understand why you’d object to the rule in principle, but in practice, 99.9% of Stack Exchange users will probably continue without noticing the change.

      *I support referring to people by their preferred pronouns, but I can see how a rule that forces me to call someone whatever they say I have to call them, with the threat of expulsion if I refuse or even just slip up, can be abused. Also I don’t think threats are a sustainable method for achieving social change.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        They only scenario where I’d see someone being uncomfortable with another person’s pronouns would be users who request to go by non-traditional pronouns like xe or ze. While those people do exist, they’re pretty rare, even rarer than non-binary-gendered people in general.

        The problem I foresee is that these are exactly the people who are gonna make a big deal about pronouns. I mean, why choose a decidedly non-standard set of pronouns, if you’re not gonna use them?

        That’s before you get the trolls, who are gonna have a field day with this. Poe’s Law for the win! Once you’ve made it policy that people get to choose their own pronouns, that you aren’t going to enforce any closed list of pronouns and that anyone who questions another person’s choice of pronouns is a filthy bigot, it’s gonna be really damn hard to punish anyone for trollish usage, unless they’re really dumb (such as: using obvious sock-puppet accounts).

        • Ketil says:

          My preferred pronouns are we/us/our. Obey, or be branded a fascist bigot.

          The really sad thing is that the actual transsexuals I know appear rather mellow and humble about this, and (I hope) wouldn’t weaponize made-up pronouns, and also forgive a slip or two.

        • mdet says:

          I agree, I’m just saying that I think I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen request to go by xe, ze, etc, and all of them were anonymous online people, not people who I’ve seen or known in real life.

          I expect the biggest practical issue with this rule will probably be the 100:1 troll-to-sincere ratio. That or people getting blasted over typos. Or maybe I’m wrong and there are a lot more sincere xes out there than I thought.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Monica Cellio was a volunteer.

      Another word for volunteers for enterprises in which the employees get compensated is “intern”.

      Is Monica Cellio (and all the other moderators) actually an employee deserving of pay and employment protections, given that her job on the site (moderating) is in support of a principle function of the Stackexchange?

      • John Schilling says:

        Another word for volunteers for enterprises in which the employees get compensated is “intern”.

        Nit: Only a minority of interns are unpaid volunteers. Most are paid professionals, called “interns” I suspect mostly because “apprentice” carries a negative working-class connotation.

        • Lambert says:

          I thought it was more of a negative ‘willing to summon esoteric powers beyond one’s control to perform menial tasks’ connotation.

          Walle! walle
          Manche Strecke,
          daß, zum Zwecke,
          Wasser fließe…

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’d been keeping half an eye on the matter since the beginning of October or so. I even thought about bringing it up here myself, but just never got around to it.

      There’s one thing that needs to be cleared up: Monica Cellio’s dismissal as moderator and the resignations/and suspensions of activity of other moderators, came before the revised Code and corresponding FAQ were published. By everyone’s best guess, Cellio was “thanked” for her services because she questioned the planned provisions – including the most controversial one you quote – in a closed moderator chatroom; though we cannot be certain that this is 100% the case, because the company has steadfastly refused to explain their decision to her of the rest of the community. This was followed by resignations of other moderators in protest of the decision.

      As for my personal opinion on the matter: I’d been on the edge of quitting the community for a while, given that it increasingly started to shift away from a disinterested, meritocratic knowledge exchange to a vessel for Spolsky’s political activism. This was the last straw. I’m now an ex-user, watching the matter from afar in a slow-motion-trainwreck frame of mind. It would be more amusing if I were one for schadenfreude.

      • Garrett says:

        Wait! Joel Spolsky was responsible for Stack Exchange and this mess? This drastically drops my opinion of him.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          I don’t know for certain that Spolsky is the brainiac behind this particular trainwreck, but he still is the Chairman of the Board, so I suppose the buck stops with him at the end of the day. Moreso, given that this mess started when he was CEO, even if he was on the way out.

          Given his past record, I wouldn’t be surprised if we had him to thank. Even if not, I believe the rest of the company is just following the example from above.

          • Aapje says:

            Spolsky seems to have fallen to TDS, where he started to abuse his power, trying to turn Stack Exchange into a political tool.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t know that it is TDS. A lot of techies converted to Social Justice before Trump became a thing; many techies seem to have a particular vulnerability to it.

      • Nick says:

        Right; I didn’t realize it was so recent, but the announcement I mentioned I read was only three days ago! The stuff behind the scenes has been happening since the end of September.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          I’m not sure I’d call it “behind the scenes” exactly. I first got whiff of the whole affair reading about it on El Reg, of all places. By the time I got to SE, the natives were already in an uproar.

          The CoC was supposed to calm the waters a bit (or at least the CTO hoped so). As it turned out, it made a bad situation worse. Who’da thunk it?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ouch. To my jaded eyes, that message from the CTO basically reads “We’ve come up with a plan to feed the utility monster”

          • Nick says:

            The CoC was supposed to calm the waters a bit (or at least the CTO hoped so). As it turned out, it made a bad situation worse. Who’da thunk it?

            First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.

            Yes, the real problem here is that the compelled speech was insufficiently enforced. What the hell.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Yes, the real problem here is that the compelled speech was insufficiently enforced.

            The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.

      This seems almost unenforceable. How would a mod decide whether someone is “explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns” or just…not using pronouns?

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Quoting a SE Community Manager:

        The intent of the requirement is to avoid users feeling singled-out, disrespected or invalidated. If someone’s natural writing style always pertains equitably to everyone through typical discourse or isn’t frequently interpreted as a clever means to avoid someone’s stated pronouns, then, in theory, one might conclude that would work. In practice, it may simply not, and if we received multiple complaints of deliberately avoiding someone’s pronouns, regardless of the intent, we’d need to take corrective action. – Cesar M♦

        In other words the criterion seems to be “is someone raising a stink”?

        I expect it to go just as well as we would expect it to go.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      The Stack Exchange brouhaha is a gift that keeps on giving. The latest iteration sees the Mother of All Edit Wars on a goodbye post over using the wrong sort of name. The comments are pure gold as well.

      Related discussion on SE.Meta, with bonus “this shoe totes fits me” from a CM. What was that thing about being stuck in a hole, again?

      • Aapje says:

        They are also breaking their own rules now, by allowing preferred pronouns in questions, rather than relegate it to the user’s profile page. As a bonus, they are being inconsistent, with their FAQ saying something different than what the mods will enforce.

        Note that the rule is that questions are not owned by a person and instead, a collaborative effort. They normally ruthlessly remove anything that goes beyond the question itself. So if you write:

        Hi everyone,

        I have a question. What is the square root of 4?

        Thanks in advance,

        His Royal Highness Aapje, ruler of everything on land, in the air and the sea, but you can call me Your Highness

        They would normally edit it down to:

        What is the square root of 4?

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Normally, yes. However, pronouns are now the extra-special exception:

          Please don’t remove [personal pronouns inserted into posts]. We don’t have an official way to notate this for the time being, so if someone opts to put this in their post, please leave it there. Many users won’t be aware of these changes, so we need to assume good intentions and roll back and possibly comment to let them know. If it turns into a rollback war, please draw the attention of the mods. – Catija♦

          Confirmed as official guidance, by a SO moderator:

          Regardless of how we feel about this new rule, the guidance from the CMs is clear, and moderators are bound by the CoC and the moderator agreement to enforce the rule.

      • The Nybbler says:

        WTF kind of crappy site can someone edit your /ragequit because they’re offended that you called a fictional villain by a female name? I’m glad I never used it

  20. blipnickels says:

    Trigger warning: lots of bad legal and transsexual terminology that I don’t understand and definitely will misuse.

    So I listened to the Supreme Court oral arguments in Bostock (sexual orientation discrimination) and Harris Funeral Homes (gender identity discrimination) on Oyez and I’m really confused on the legal arguments because they both seem to be trying to fit cases into Title VII that either don’t fit or fit in weird ways. I’d appreciate anyone who could explain it.

    So in Harris Funeral Homes, is the prosecutor’s argument that the male->female plaintiff in question is really a man, not a woman, and being punished for acting too feminine? Because they keep making references to a Pricewaterhouse case of a woman fired for acting too masculine, which makes a lot of sense as a legal strategy building on a clear precedent but is super confusing because it sounds like the plaintiff’s lawyer is arguing their transsexual client isn’t really a woman, which is…really weird ground given what this case represents.

    As for Bostock, the argument seems to revolve around whether “sexual orientation” is part of “sex” as used in Title VII. But there’s also a lot of stuff about “but for” (I was not mature enough for that) where a woman can marry Bill and be okay but a man can’t marry Bill, “but for” the man was a woman he could marry Bill.

    Am I understanding these right and what’s the deal with Title VII and who exactly defines what “sex” in Title VII means, because there was a lot of debate about that which I followed but I’m not sure I can judge who had the better argument?

    • aristides says:

      By prosecutor, I assume you mean the respondent’s attorney, David Cole. There are no prosecutors on civil cases. I actually have taken classes taught by David Cole, and he is a genius at persuading conservatives with legal arguments. He is one of the few liberal legal scholars that really understands textualism and originalism and can argue a liberal cause with conservative liberal theory. He singlehandedly persuaded me to not be a prosecutor. He’s not arguing to the 4 liberal justices, because he knows he has their votes, he’s arguing to Neil Gorsuch. Congress wrote the law very broadly, and that works in liberals favor here. In order to persuade a Conservative Justice, he has to admit that under the Civil right act, the respondent is a man being fired for dressing himself the same way a women would, and was fired for it.

      It’s a very persuasive argument to committed textualists that completely ignores legislative intent. I’m conservative, and I tend to agree with Cole’s argument, even if I dislike the results. What’ll be interesting, is if Gorsuch does write the opinion, which seems likely, he will have to explicitly mid gender the trans woman multiple times, but will give her the victory she wants. I expect it to be a very narrow victory though.

    • mtl1882 says:

      The two replies you got before mine provide all the relevant context. Lawyers argue strategically, according to the purpose at hand. The Civil Rights Act clearly applies to discrimination based on sex, but much less clearly when it comes to sexual orientation or other issues with sexual identity–that’s an interpretation argued later. The generally safest thing to do is to try to win under the clear definition, saying he is being punished for things a woman would be allowed to do. Anti-male discrimination. The comeback to that is that he is being treated just as a woman would be, which is pretty similar to the argument that banning gay marriage is not discrimination against gay people because straight people cannot marry someone of the same sex either.

      It’s all about defining the terms of the argument so that they work in your favor under the structure in which you are arguing. A claim not brought under that Act could look very different.

  21. Plumber says:

    An interesting and heartwarming (to me) poll from Pew Research in 2017 on: How Americans Feel About Different Religious Groups (including atheists) in which those polled were asked to rate how warm or cold they felt about othet Americans indifferent sects (and atheists) from 0 degrees (very cold) to 100 degrees (very warm) and compared to a similar study in 2014 most groups received warmer ratings.

    The ratings were:

    Jews 67°

    Catholics 66°

    ‘Mainline’ Protestants 65° (Episcopalians, Methodists, et cetera)

    ‘Evangelical’ Protestants 61° (Baptists, Pentecostals, et cetera)

    Buddhists 60°

    Hindus 58°

    Mormons 54°

    Atheists 50°

    Muslims 48°

    Different age groups rated sects differently (18 to 29 year-olds really seem to like Buddhists, 65+ year-olds really seem to like Mainline Protestants), and they’re some partisan differences (Democrats have a narrower range of coldest to warmest feelings than Republicans), but in general most like their own religious group and they like other groups better when they know someone in that group, with the exception of atheists who most know but don’t feel that warmly too them considering how many they are, and the exception of Jews, as Americans with Jewish friends like Jews, but so do Americans who don’t personally know any. 

    I know my take-away for the poll, I’m claiming the top three: Catholic from my Dad’s side of my family, and Jewish and Lutheran from my Mom’s side (I won’t mention that I was mostly raised as an atheist)!

    • jgr314 says:

      @Plumber, well, around here, we all* like you, so you are probably helping skew the results up for 3 (or 4?) different groups.

      (*) Don’t be surprised if someone objects, that is also typical of this place.

  22. johan_larson says:

    Resolved: The English language shall henceforth be known as American, after the most influential nation where the language is in regular use.

    You may present opening arguments when ready.

    • jgr314 says:

      Surely you meant to say that it should be renamed Canadian, eh?

    • eric23 says:

      And electrons shall be defined to have positive, not negative, charge.

      What’s a little temporary inconvenience compared to the OCD satisfaction of making things be the way they “should” be?

    • The Nybbler says:

      American, Fuck Yeah!

    • DinoNerd says:

      Let’s explicitly divide it into at least 3 languages:
      – American, with simplified spelling and various other (IMO as a Canadian) deficiencies
      – International English aka ESL-ese, with a different set of simplifications
      – English, aka British, aka the true language.

      If the Aussies want, we can add Australian as its own language.

      [Tongue firmly in cheek]

    • Plumber says:

      @hohan_larson says:

      “Resolved: The English language shall henceforth be known as American, after the most influential nation where the language is in regular use…”

      Or we could skip the interim period of calling the language “American” and just go straight to “Indian”.

    • Aapje says:

      Better idea: revert the great vowel shift and the other nonsense changes to English. In the resulting Babylonian confusion, where Dutch people speak English better than the English or Americans, we can conquer both Great Britain and the US, in a bigger, better version of the Glorious Revolution. It’s high time that the Dutch become a world power again.

      Both of your countries have been making a mess of things, so time for change.

      The new language will be called Dunglish, BTW.

      PS. Also, high German ought to be replaced with low German, of course.

    • S_J says:

      In support of this resolution, an observation provided by a (fictional) American visiting England.

  23. Ketil says:

    Clare Malone: So how did you come to th[e] opinion [that older people shouldn’t be allowed to vote]?

    Mikayla: If you look broadly at the spectrum of issues that are pretty important — LGBTQ rights, climate change — generally you see more conservative views and more resistance to changes in those areas among older voters. And I think that’s because their values evolved years in the past when society was quite different. And so having this block of people whose views are lagging society more broadly, can, if not be regressive, be somewhat resistant to progress in areas that are important for broader acceptance of more people.

    Jeez. Is this a common sentiment? I mean, lots of people dislike $group for various reasons, think $group’s views on the whole are suspect or immoral, and might even go as far as not really considering them a part of society. I don’t often see it expressed as blatant as this, though.

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/political-confessional-the-woman-who-thinks-older-people-shouldnt-be-allowed-to-vote/

    • EchoChaos says:

      If you rewrite this to change it to “liberal views” and “blacks” or “Hispanics” this woman would be immediately fired from her job and become unemployable.

      I am incredibly impressed that someone baldly stated such bigotry.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Then again, if you change it to “liberal views” and “Hispanics” you get one of the most common anti-immigration arguments, and one which is widely mistaken for a respectable point of view in those circles.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s a difference between not letting people join the political community and expelling people who are already members of the political community, though.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It pales to insignificance beside the difference between doing either one for some good reason, and doing either one because the targets won’t vote the way you want.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Why isn’t “Letting in all these people would change the community for the worse” a good reason not to let them in?

          • LadyJane says:

            @The original Mr. X: Because the most objectionable part of Mikayla’s suggestion is the idea that voting rights should be restricted to certain demographic groups on the basis of how those demographic groups tend to vote, which is horrendously and disgustingly undemocratic. It translates to “I only support democracy when people are guaranteed to vote the way I’d want them to,” which is something earnest believers in democracy should oppose as a matter of principle. The distinction you brought up, between not letting certain groups join and actively kicking them out, pales in comparison.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Because the most objectionable part of Mikayla’s suggestion is the idea that voting rights should be restricted to certain demographic groups on the basis of how those demographic groups tend to vote, which is horrendously and disgustingly undemocratic.

            A penny saved is a penny earned. There is no distinction between taking away the vote of old people and bringing in newcomers for the purpose of voting against the preferred candidate of old people. Or I should say any distinction is not relevant to the effect it will have on election results.

            Any effort to alter the demographics of a country or diminish the integrity of election results (e.g., amnesty for illegal immigrants, opposing voter id laws, etc…) translates to:

            “I only support democracy when people are guaranteed to vote the way I’d want them to,”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @The original Mr. X: Because the most objectionable part of Mikayla’s suggestion is the idea that voting rights should be restricted to certain demographic groups on the basis of how those demographic groups tend to vote, which is horrendously and disgustingly undemocratic. It translates to “I only support democracy when people are guaranteed to vote the way I’d want them to,” which is something earnest believers in democracy should oppose as a matter of principle.