## 559 thoughts on “Open Thread 140.5”

1. proyas

In 2004, U.S. Navy pilots and shipborne radar operators saw a UFO off the coast of San Diego. The object did incredible aerial maneuvers, such as right-angle turns, instantaneous acceleration to multi-mach speeds, and instantaneous deceleration from those speeds to a dead halt. It could rapidly change altitude by going straight up or down. The G-forces from this would have easily killed a human pilot. The UFO had no visible engines and emitted no exhaust.

Assuming the object was real, and it performed the maneuvers the witnesses said it did, does that mean it was able to violate the known laws of physics? Or is there a way we could build an aircraft with the same maneuvering and performance capabilities within the boundaries of known physics?

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7678949/US-sailors-say-videos-mysterious-flying-Tic-Tac-objects-taken-unknown-officials.html

1. Well...

Does “known physics” include extra dimensions beyond our familiar 3 + time? Seems like it’d be relatively easy to manipulate spacetime if you are accessing it from the 4th, 5th, etc. dimension.

It’s like that old trope people use in books and movies to demonstrate wormholes in space, where they bend a piece of paper and stick a pencil through it. You need to be working in 3 dimensions to manipulate a 2-dimensional piece of paper.

1. Forward Synthesis

My problem getting my head around this is that dimensions are useful to describe objects and coordinates in space, but everything that is described as 2 dimensional is actually 3 dimensional. All real things seem to have 3 dimensions, with the possible exception of point particles (1 dimensions? Zero dimensions?).

1. woah77

Maybe physical things, but things like screens are very nicely described as two dimensional objects and there are a lot of planar effects in fields like RF where even if three dimensions are present, you restrict the domain to two dimensions to make it workable. Basically, yes, we live in a 3 spatial dimensional world (as far as we can measure) but often times two dimensions is all that is functionally present at a given point, much like how calculus teaches integrals. You can complicate things by declaring that it’s actually a Planck length in the third dimension, but since virtually nothing can measure that, calling it two dimensional is just as good.

2. John Schilling

In 2004, U.S. Navy pilots and shipborne radar operators saw a UFO off the coast of San Diego. The object…

Assumes facts not in evidence. What was observed was an image, not an object.

Assuming the object was real, and it performed the maneuvers the witnesses said it did, does that mean it was able to violate the known laws of physics?

Here we’re verging on dog-that-didn’t-bark territory. A material object behaving in the manner naively extrapolated from the observed image, would have produced shock waves for which the term “sonic boom” is pale and inadequate. BOTE, I get the equivalent of a metric ton of TNT for some of those maneuvers. And that’s the sort of thing that can be heard a long ways off. But no earwitnesses that I am aware of, and I hope someone has been asking around.

A material object plus a carefully shaped force field that can reach out a hundred or so meters ahead and gently nudge the air of the way of the object, and then ease it back into place behind, could maybe do this without being heard. And I can mumble something about hypersonic electroaerodynamics and maybe make this not outright violate the laws of physics. But it’s still a big stretch.

2. anonymousskimmer

My wife brought up some interesting points with respect to the (mis)use of “orthogonal” in comments to a recent SSC post, and we had a nice discussion about it.

So for those of you tending to use “orthogonal” in metaphoric speech (which includes me), a good article to read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/math-metaphor-does-orthogonal-really-mean-what-you-michael-g-/

Which do you really intend to use? Or are none of these appropriate?:
* Orthogonal
* Tangential
* Asymptotic
* Parallel
* Non-intersecting

I will also state that explanations (equations) are not orthogonal. Explanations (equations) are interpretations of graphs (connected data points), which may themselves be orthogonal. Feel free to disagree on this point, but at the very least, explanations (equations) are definitely not orthogonal to categories of propositions (individual axes). They tend to either completely include or completely exclude a proposition, not intersect it at right angles in N-1 dimensions.

Caveat: I’m not a math major. But I doubt most people using the term are either. More esoteric math disciplines may use the term in other ways.

1. danridge

I read the article, and I don’t think it mentions the way I interpret the use of orthogonal as a metaphor. I actually hadn’t considered the interpretation of “growing out of the original discussion” because of the right angle thing. To give an example of how I interpret it, imagine a presidential debate: what is being considered there is the difference between political left and right, and the debate occurs along that axis. If the moderator brings up what flavour of ice cream each candidate prefers, this is orthogonal to the discussion in that it occurs along an entirely different axis. The dot product between these two is zero, as is the relevance. I understand that this doesn’t create a coherent mapping between topics and some n-dimensional space, but other uses wouldn’t either. I’d argue that there are other connotations to the word parallel, so describing the ice cream question as “parallel” to the debate because it does not intersect would just be more confusing. These metaphors do become meaningless when they are misused, but I think orthogonal captures a specific idea quite well, while disrespecting hypothetical n-dimensional topic space no moreso than any other metaphor.

1. anonymousskimmer

Sincerely pacing eyeballfrog’s presumable joking below I disagree.

1) By saying that favorite ice cream flavor is orthogonal to a political discussion implies that it belongs in political space. It does not.

There are ice cream related questions that do belong in political space, i.e. sourcing of flavor ingredients, local vs regional brands and milk sources, marketing names (custard vs. ice cream vs. frozen creamy-textured dessert), etc…. And it may be appropriate to say that these questions are orthogonal to the topic at hand.

2) To those talking about vector functions (e.g. dot product). I don’t remember much from linear algebra, but I do remember that one cannot perform functions on vectors of differing dimensions. There is no dot product for objects from different spaces.

Again, here is where the improper use of a mathematical term can mislead. Not only those who are ignorant, but those who know what they are talking about. Some things are effectively unrelated and it’s important to recognize their unrelatedness, and vice versa for those things that are orthogonally related.

E.g.:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/10/30/new-atheism-the-godlessness-that-failed/#comment-815168
“Religion is main axis of societal conflict” had zero explanatory power in that situation. Even if you didn’t take the straightforward leftist/populist view that a bunch of non-churchgoing Wall Street guys blew up the economy and paid no price for it, every alternative narrative/explaination I’ve ever heard is also totally orthogonal to religion.

No, it’s unrelated. If you want to use a spatial metaphor, it’s in a different space. It may be worthwhile considering whether religion is appropriately defined as an axis at all. If you define it as an object, or sub-part of an axis (instead of an axis itself – e.g. as the positive value portion of the “ethics” axis), then it may belong in the same space yet not be orthogonal and also be non-intersecting of the economic recession. Religion sure as heck isn’t “orthogonal” to the explanations of the economic recession, though.

“Unrelated” is a term very much less confusing in this context than is “orthogonal”, at least when considering the population at large.

1. eyeballfrog

By saying that favorite ice cream flavor is orthogonal to a political discussion implies that it belongs in political space. It does not.

No it doesn’t. If political discussion is a subspace of idea space, then ice cream flavor can still be orthogonal to it without belonging to it. Similarly, the political subspace can have a different dimension than the ice cream opinion subspace while still having defined dot products between the two, since they both inherit the dot product of idea space.

(I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely joking. I’ve noticed that people use the terminology of Hilbert spaces metaphorically quite a bit. I realize that’s likely because we live in the Hilbert space R^3, but it’s fun to consider whether the connections might go deeper.)

2. Ketil

How do you explain the fact that politicians in Vermont vastly prefer walnut and maple syrup flavor? If I remember correctly from the Ben & Jerry recipe book. Ice cream and politics may inhabit the same space after all.

2. lvlln

I am a math major (formerly – now a math degree holder), and I never thought the way people used “orthogonal” metaphorically was wrong or mistaken. “Orthogonal” means basically “at right angles to,” and this is a good metaphor for what people mean when they use it in the context of talking about explanations or discussions or whatever.

E.g. if you say “We’re discussing about X, and Y is orthogonal to our current discussion,” that tends to mean that Y is unrelated to or irrelevant to our current discussion. And this makes perfect sense, because orthogonal is invoking the idea of 2 lines being at right angles to each other, so that if you walk down 1 of the 2 lines, you don’t change your position on the other line in any way. And in this metaphorical use, i.e. that X is orthogonal to Y, you’re pointing out that when discussing issue X, no matter what position we land on in the issue of X, it won’t affect what position we land on in the issue of Y. Those 2 can be discussed independently of each other.

And tangential doesn’t work, because it’s not invoking the specific thing that orthogonal is, which is that X and Y don’t affect each other. Tangential implies that those 2 are related in some way, but only sparsely, touching at only 1 point, if taken literally. Orthogonal invokes the independence of the 2 issues, which is what people want to do when they claim that issue X is orthogonal to issue Y.

1. Aftagley

+1

This mirrors my thoughts very nearly. I previously had no problem with using orthogonal in conversation and having finished the article, still don’t.

2. helloo

I thought people used orthogonal as being the opposite of parallel.

There is a math term for not touch and yet not parallel – skew – but I doubt most people know of it.

As for tangential, there’s the confusion in that tangent has a non-math definition, and such should probably avoided unless you are very sure your audience won’t mix them up.

+1 from another math major. And I’d add that the first time I heard “orthogonal” used this way I immediately understood it and thought it was a great use of the word.

3. John Schilling

Count me among the people who think “orthogonal” is being used appropriately here, for reasons adequately explained by danridge and lvlln.

Perhaps more importantly, and as has been mentioned here before, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has now endorsed this usage.

4. eyeballfrog

Orthogonal (in a direction completely unaligned with the current discussion) and tangential (continuing in the current direction even though the discussion is moving in a different one) seem to be used consistently with their mathematical counterparts, so I have little problem with the common metaphorical uses. What I find more intriguing is the implication that idea space is an inner product space and thus embeds into a Hilbert space. This raises a number of important questions. Is that Hilbert space finite-dimensional, infinite-dimensional, or inseparable? Is there a set of ideas that form a basis for this space?

Similarly, intersectional feminism often asserts that certain identities are orthogonal. But it actually does more, speaking of matrices of domination and vectors of oppression, further cementing the vector space character of identity space. (Presumably matrices of oppression are linear operators on identity space, while vectors of oppression are elements of the dual space.) Additionally, it appears to be equipped with a function, the priviliege function, which induces a partial order on identity space. There seems to be some debate as to whether this is a linear function, and whether the order it induces is total. The question of whether it has a basis is already answered, as intersectional feminism is firmly pro-Choice. Nevertheless, what form that basis would take could also be an interesting area of study.

1. Nick

The question of whether it has a basis is already answered, as intersectional feminism is firmly pro-Choice.

Okay, the whole thing is funny, but this is hilarious.

2. Ketil

This raises a number of important questions. Is that Hilbert space finite-dimensional, infinite-dimensional, or inseparable?

Also, since the dot product implies the existence of a metric norm, we no longer need to discuss the distances between ideas, like political views (is nazism closer to communism than libertarianism is to anarchism?) — we can simply measure it. And of course, the absolute value of any argument is also readily calculable – in fact, I intend to check the arguments for and against Trump’s impeachment right away.

And speaking of Hitler, this topic seems to be some kind of singularity in this space, seeing as it is the fixed point for a surprisingly large number of sequences of arguments.

More troubling is the question whether idea space is a Cauchy space – in other words, if a sequence of arguments converges to some point of agreement, can it converge to a point outside this space – in other words, something that’s not actually an idea? But perhaps it isn’t very relevant, as this space doesn’t seem very big on convergence anyway…

1. Skivverus

It seems plausible that the subspace carved out by the requirements “expressible in English (or other single human language) in fewer than N words” and “relevant to human experience” will have areas A where convergence lies outside the subspace; those areas get smaller as N increases, but I have not as yet devised a proof or disproof that A ever reaches zero.

5. LesHapablap

The article is completely wrong:

Here are some actual examples of use and misuse of orthogonal from recent articles. This is from a Jan. 3, 2017 article from CIO from IDG:

“Some companies are starting to collect data known as alternative, non-traditional or orthogonal ”
Here, the writer uses the word orthogonal correctly: The new data collection methodology grows out of old practices.

This is from a Dec. 15, 2016 article from The News Lens:

“I think this issue is orthogonal to early-round funding of Taiwan startups”
Here, the writer uses the word incorrectly, trying to communicate that the issues are not relevant to the Taiwan start-ups.

He has this backwards. Orthogonality is equivalent to statistical independence. Independence means that two variables are completely unrelated: knowing the value of one gives you no information about the value of the other.

As mentioned above, the issue of ice cream flavor preference is orthogonal to issue of abortion at a presidential debate. That isn’t necessarily even a metaphor: it could be an assertion that if you actually collected data, ice cream flavor preference would be independent of abortion views. The variance in ice cream preference is literally orthogonal to variance in abortion views.

1. B_Epstein

A nitpick: orthogonality is more akin to statistical uncorrelatedness than independence (there might be non-linear dependence) and even then, saying it’s “equivalent” is over-simplifying matters a bit. There are slightly differing “translations” of the linear concept of orthogonality into the language of statistics. For instance, for a pair of non-centered random variables X,Y (i,e. E[X], E[Y] !=0), orthogonality can be defined as either E[XY]=0 (in which case it is not equivalent to uncorrelatedness) or as a vanishing of the centered product, E[(X-E[X])(Y-E[Y])]=0. Note that the former (non-centered) version is, AFAIK, much more common. Under this definition, uncorrelatedness implies that X-E[X] is orthogonal to Y-E[Y].

3. Well...

Is there a lot more charity going on now than 20 years ago? I don’t mean some proportional increase but a huge exponential one.

Anecdotally it seems like half of every product at the grocery store has some charity advertised on it in some way, and the big companies I’ve worked for are constantly promoting some charity or another. Bumper stickers and the like with charities on them are ubiquitous too.

1. JayT

I don’t know the numbers, but I would guess that donations to churches by individuals has dropped considerably, which might pull down the overall, if companies are doing more giving.

2. Garrett

How do you quantify it? Sure, there is a lot of begging for small change at grocery stores. But there are other categories, too.
As an example, a few years ago I spent about $2300 on a pallet of random medical supplies. I managed to get tax receipts worth about$11,000 from them as a result of parting them out to organizations who could use them. I then managed to claim about $500 on my taxes for a total tax savings of about$100.

Additionally, I donated about 500 hours of my time, which would be professionally billed at about $200/hour, I might make$50/h doing so, in the capacity I donated the market rate would be about $12/h, for which I get to claim the relevant commuting costs of about$100 total.

3. Mark V Anderson

Anecdotally it seems like half of every product at the grocery store has some charity advertised on it in some way, and the big companies I’ve worked for are constantly promoting some charity or another.

Oh yes, very much so. There’s been some argument in SSC about using the term “virtue signaling,” but this is a clear case of that. These firms are hoping to get more sales because customers think they’re good guys.

Unfortunately, this correlates highly with ineffective altruism. These companies measure the level of their altruism by the dollars they spend. Actually improving the public good is at best a side effect. I stay away from contributing either dollars or volunteer time to anything highly supported by big companies. Most likely the efficiency of dollars and time in improving the lives of beneficiaries is very low.

4. johan_larson

So I watched to first episode of the new Disney Star Wars show, The Mandalorian. Not bad. IO9 has the details.

The show is rated PG, which makes gunplay weirdly bloodless: you hit people, they fall down and don’t move again, but they have no visible injuries. A show about a space gun-fighter could have used a bit more grit and gore than that. (Is there any actual R-rated Star Wars material, maybe in the Expanded Universe?)

But this series has earned itself my attention for at least a couple more episodes.

I had to get a Disney+ subscription to watch The Mandalorian. The Disney+ vibe is a bit strange. There’s stuff for little kids, and for tweens and teens, and then all those all-ages films like the classic animated stuff. But there is no distinctly adult material, like courtroom dramas and modern-day war stories. Even the tamest of suburban video stores used to have more spice than this.

1. Well...

Star Wars is for kids. It isn’t for grownups except to the minimal extent Disney needs it to be in order to get your money. They’ve apparently done a good job of this, but you still shouldn’t be under the illusion that this is for grownups. Same goes for Disney in general.

When did it stop being common knowledge that Disney = family entertainment, which is sort of a code-word for “suitable for kids if nobody else”? Yes, Disney’s put out some non-kid-friendly content over the decades, but only through their affiliates/subsidiaries or whatever. The Disney brand is kid-oriented.

I get how Star Wars became lost in this: initially, kids enjoyed it for the content and adults enjoyed it for the impressive production value which made its escapist component very effective. But now that audience is all adults, and Star Wars has been rebooted in scores of ways with a lot of marketing. The now-adult audience has been drawn back in, with their own kids in tow begging for Star Wars toys and merchandise, but the content itself is still very much in line with the kid-friendliness of the original. Don’t let the adults in line outside the movie theater fool you.

And it kind of has to be for kids anyway: once you’re in “long time ago/galaxy far far away” territory, expectations of realism don’t make sense. Yes, there’s no gore when someone is hit with a light saber, but there’s also pew! pew! sounds in outer space when the spaceships are shooting lasers at each other, there are giant talking monkey/werewolf people, and jumping into Ludicrous Speed doesn’t seem to produce any relativistic effects on the characters.

1. The Nybbler

Is this some sort of weird troll? Disney didn’t buy Lucasfilm until 2012, and The Force Awakens didn’t even carry the Disney brand (Walt Disney Pictures was uncredited). The Star Wars brand remains Lucasfilm.

1. Well...

I presume Disney thought Star Wars was on-brand for themselves, and this assessment contributed to their decision to purchase it. Disney isn’t rushing to buy up the Rambo or Alien series.

1. The Pachyderminator

Yeah, Disney is almost literally buying up everything these days. They’re no longer in the family entertainment business; they’re in the empire business.

1. LesHapablap

Or when a character has half of his body burned off in a volcano while screaming in pain. Kids love that stuff!

1. viVI_IViv

And even Disney Star Wars begins with stormtroopers shooting civilians and one of them getting traumatized when a dying comrade smears blood on his helmet.

2. Forward Synthesis

Kids older than about ten do. Beyond a certain point, most of the real distinction between stuff for kids and for adults is based on what adults will let children watch and not what children might want to watch.

3. Paul Brinkley

Or when a character has half of his body burned off in a volcano while screaming in pain. Kids love that stuff!

Spaceballs: the Volcano!

1. Well...

The people who go to the movies to see stuff that’s actually targeted at adults aren’t going to mistake Star Wars as fitting in that category. Or at least I have trouble understanding how they would. Right off the bat, Star Wars begins by telling its audience the story takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away,” which is a variation of a pretty standard trope used in children’s fairytales (“Once upon a time in a far away kingdom…”).

1. Well...

Those are self-conscious references to the fairytale trope that wink at the viewer “what you’re about to see isn’t for kids”. Star Wars’s “A long time ago in a galaxy far away” doesn’t do this.

2. Le Maistre Chat

But now that audience is all adults, and Star Wars has been rebooted in scores of ways with a lot of marketing. The now-adult audience has been drawn back in, with their own kids in tow begging for Star Wars toys and merchandise,

Actually, I’ve seen rumbling that kids aren’t begging for Star Wars toys and merchandise, that it’s become very much an adult-driven franchise that adults want kids to be crazy about.
Overall this doesn’t hurt Disney, because kids are crazy about Marvel, and they have Disney Princesses, and apparently Frozen alone is as big with little girls as Disney Princesses, but it makes investment in Star Wars in particular risky (Toys R Us closed down with tons of toys that wouldn’t sell even deeply clearanced, or see the muted reaction to Galaxy’s Edge at the US theme parks).

1. Well...

Actually, I’ve seen rumbling that kids aren’t begging for Star Wars toys and merchandise, that it’s become very much an adult-driven franchise that adults want kids to be crazy about.

Adults have the money. But the tried-and-true brand of Star Wars is essentially a kid-friendly thing. It’s fun fantasy adventure wearing space clothes.

2. aristides

But there is no distinctly adult material,

To me, this is the best advantage of Disney+. We are in a difficult landscape for parents of young children. You let them go on YouTube to watch Pepa Pig, they see her get killed in dismembered on a troll video. You put them on Netflix, and there’s soft core porn one row away from children’s programming (Theoretically Netflix kids solves this problem, but I’m not sure of the effectiveness). Disney+ is the perfect streaming service to set your children in front of and let them watch what they want. Anything not appropriate for children, can go to Hulu, which is basically Disney owned. So far Disney+ is my favorite streaming service.

1. Theodoric

Anything not appropriate for children, can go to Hulu, which is basically Disney owned.

Hasn’t Disney flat out said they would do this?

3. lvlln

I watched ep 1 last night via piracy. Can’t say I was impressed. As someone who’s always been pretty lukewarm on Star Wars overall, I didn’t feel compelled to keep watching. I found the pacing really bad, with the whole middle portion getting dragged on needlessly long. The opening action scene was genuinely good, but the entire climactic action scene was just plain bad, without any feeling of real tension or stakes. The eponymous Mandalorian himself also lacked any charisma or much of a personality whatsoever, both due to not being able to see his face and to the bland voice acting. The brief moments where he showed some snark just screamed “generic blockbuster action hero.” None of the characters actually felt like anything more than the generic versions of whatever role they’re supposed to play in a story like this one.

I didn’t find the lack of grit or gore to be detrimental to the experience, though. Bloodless gunbattles are basically what I expect from Star Wars, and that’s what I got – and even so, that opening action scene featured at least one pretty gory death (off-screen, but only just off-screen). The bigger issue for me was that the bad guys in gun battles just all acted like idiots. There’s some level of suspense of disbelief involved in any western like this where 1 or 2 guys manage to survive battles against dozens of enemies that surround them, but what makes those scenes exciting is seeing the protagonists perform superhuman feats or come up with super-clever schemes to overcome such overwhelming odds. Rather than them just counting on bad guys standing out in the open and missing every shot that are coming at the good guys who are also standing out in the open. Or just having different rules where a blaster to the shoulder is fatal if you’re a bad guy but a mild inconvenience if you’re a good guy.

Overall liked the look of the show, though. I found the design of that one droid at the end to be legitimately cool. And I enjoyed the desert landscape right before the climax, too.

5. Canyon Fern

I trundle along in underground caverns, with a small bag tied to my belt. The way ahead is illuminated by my headlamp. This stretch of cavern is particularly spacious: I have almost four inches of wiggle room to my right, and a luxurious six inches to my left.

As I walk, I do not often move my head, but I frequently shift my gaze. Every few minutes, a particular crack or seam catches my eye, and I stop to examine it more closely. Here is one now.

At the spot that catches my gaze, a sheet of bedrock has cracked under the immense weight of the rock above it (and the dirt and trees and animals above that.) The finger-width crack looks positively juicy in this dusty, silent realm.

I maneuver my chisel into place. With ten minutes’ effort, I’ve expanded the crack to accommodate my whole hand. A sound breaks the silence:

Ploo, ploo. Ploo, ploo.

My miner’s sixth sense is tingling. I reach into the fresh crack, feel for the prize I know it must contain, and draw back my hand.

Trembling with excitement, I uncurl my dust-stiffened fingers. In my cracked and scabby palm nestles the word BEANS.

At last, I eureka to myself.

6. Douglas Knight

Add American liability law to the list of culprits. Because of legal liability from past fire-related events, the share price of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the public utility in California, has fallen from almost $50 to about$5 over the span of a year. It is thus no surprise that the utility is afraid of further fires and will limit them simply by pulling the plug on everyone’s power connections.

This seems backwards to me. If they know that lawsuits will wipe out exactly 90% of the equity of the company, then maybe they should invest in avoiding similar lawsuits. But a more plausible interpretation is a 90% chance of wiping out all the equity and a 10% chance of winning the lawsuits. In the first case, additional lawsuits won’t lose them any more than everything, while in the second case, the first round of suits have set a precedent that they aren’t liable. Either way, they shouldn’t worry so much about liability.

Or maybe pulling the plug is a negotiating ploy, saying, you really wouldn’t like this liability / regulatory regime?

1. Alexander Turok

But a more plausible interpretation is a 90% chance of wiping out all the equity and a 10% chance of winning the lawsuits. In the first case, additional lawsuits won’t lose them any more than everything, while in the second case, the first round of suits have set a precedent that they aren’t liable. Either way, they shouldn’t worry so much about liability.

Or they think not pulling the plug would lead the probability of being wiped out by lawsuits going to 100%. They had to “do something.”

From the article:

They love to debate Elizabeth Warren’s plan for a wealth tax, an idea that probably isn’t going to happen (just ask Mitch McConnell or, for that matter, any moderate Democratic senator). When it comes to designing a better incentive model for California power utilities — a concrete problem for which economics is remarkably well-suited — there has been close to complete silence.

Well, California regulators listening to economists is pretty far fetched too.

True, it is difficult to pinpoint particular events as caused by climate change. It is entirely plausible, however, that climate change has made the fires more likely or more intense, due to the greater heat, dryness and wind.

Yet the U.S.’s carbon emissions are increasing. Even when there are successes in the fight against climate change, such as fracking natural gas to replace coal emissions, the benefits to the climate are an afterthought for most people.

In other words: Parts of our natural environment are deteriorating around us, and we are responding passively and defensively rather than with a dynamic, can-do attitude.

I presume you’re supposed to read between the lines here, on the surface he’s criticizing “America” for its “inaction” on climate change, but the real message is criticizing the green people for opposing fracking. It reminds me of another California crisis with a plausible link to climate change:

Let me share with you a very recent, and very relevant, example. Over the past week, we here in sunny insane California have faced the prospect of a major calamity as three merciless months of near-nonstop rainfall have led to the possibility of a massive failure at the tallest dam in the U.S., in Oroville, near Sacramento. It’s a big deal; 188,000 people have been evacuated. Concerns about how the aging Oroville Dam would fare in the face of record rainfall were raised years ago, but the state and the feds ignored them.

The story has been amply reported locally and nationally. But what the press conveniently leaves out of its coverage is the underlining theory behind the dam inaction: climate-change apocalyptics had convinced the Silly Putty-brained California powers-that-be that rain was never returning to the state. Quite literally, new dams, and improvements on old ones, were rejected because a doomsday cult had convinced politicians that water was “over,” that the drought that began in 2012 was not a passing thing but an “era,” something that would last decades if not a century. And why build new dams if there’ll be no water for them to hold? Why refurbish old ones if there’s no chance they’ll ever be filled again?

From the L.A. Times, July 2015:

Dams are a relic of the Industrial Age…. They’re particularly ill-suited to the era of extremes—heat waves, floods and droughts—that climate change has brought on.

The New Republic, April 2015:

The Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick said: “Even if we built a couple of dams, we don’t have water to fill them. We’re tapped out. The traditional answer of building more reservoirs won’t solve our problems.” Building additional reservoirs does little when there’s no snow or rain to fill them.

California governor Jerry Brown in August 2015, responding to calls from GOP presidential candidates to build new dams and renovate old ones:

I’ve never heard of such utter ignorance. Building a dam won’t do a damn thing about fires or climate change or the absence of moisture in the air and ground of California. If they want to run for president, they had better do eighth grade science before they made such utterances.

The Sacramento Bee summed it up succinctly: “Questions loom about the value of such projects in an era of scarcity.”

1. broblawsky

climate-change apocalyptics had convinced the Silly Putty-brained California powers-that-be that rain was never returning to the state

Is there any actual evidence that this was the motivation behind CA’s decision not to build new dams? Because this seems to me to be a product of an extreme lack of charity. Furthermore, I don’t see how building new dams would’ve prevented damage to the dams at Oroville – I don’t think you can effectively dam the same lake twice.

1. Clutzy

You can do a double dam for sure. Its actually good policy as far as I know. You dam for normal times, and have the second in case of a 50/100 year flood scenario.

2. Alexander Turok

Is there any actual evidence that this was the motivation behind CA’s decision not to build new dams? Because this seems to me to be a product of an extreme lack of charity.

I think the quotes stand on their own. Sure, maybe it’s just an excuse because they wanted to spend money on other things. The point is that having policy being made based on these evidence-free doomsday predictions is not a good idea.

2. Clutzy

This seems backwards to me. If they know that lawsuits will wipe out exactly 90% of the equity of the company, then maybe they should invest in avoiding similar lawsuits. But a more plausible interpretation is a 90% chance of wiping out all the equity and a 10% chance of winning the lawsuits. In the first case, additional lawsuits won’t lose them any more than everything, while in the second case, the first round of suits have set a precedent that they aren’t liable. Either way, they shouldn’t worry so much about liability.

Or maybe pulling the plug is a negotiating ploy, saying, you really wouldn’t like this liability / regulatory regime?

To start, for a stock to fall from $50 to$5 doesn’t mean the company is going defunct. It just means expectations for its future profits and/or growth (growth not as significant for utilities) are significantly decreased. So its not all or nothing, so throw that out. Also, prices are risk adjusted. A utility is usually a very reliable source of income and dividends that things like pensions, IRAs, etc invest in. If there is risk, they lose the majority of their institutional investors because its a low-growth enterprise.

What we should look at is why a set of liability rules are causing the utility business to lose 90% of its value. There are a few reasons why liability law will cause an activity to lose its value.

#1. The economic value of electricity in California is actually very low when adjusting for liabilities. This seems implausible, but under this theory somehow a de-electrified California would be almost as well off as one with electricity.

#2. The reimbursement rates for electricity set by California are too low to offset whatever externalities the electricity company generates. This is plausible given that utilities are highly regulated almost everywhere. The solution is a rate hike, its simple.

#3. Liability law is blaming electric companies for things they didn’t cause. That is, they are being sued for fires that they didn’t actually cause. And successfully.

The cause for the drop, based on media, seems to be #2 + #3, wherein #3 was a previous unknown. They have been losing cases recently that they thought they would win, and previously won/they were not brought.

There are probably other reasons that may be the cause based on liability law, but that is the basic ones I can think of.

1. DavidFriedman

Liability law is blaming electric companies for things they didn’t cause.

Causation is complicated. Suppose every fire was caused by a PG&E line. Further suppose that the fires would be trivial if the forest had been properly taken care of, but became enormous because of an accumulation of deadwood that had been allowed to accumulate due to rules imposed by the state or federal government.

Who caused the losses?

1. Clutzy

I’m well aware of the problems of causation and proximate cause. These are tricky, but we have well established negligence standards for such things (usually). My understanding is the lines in Cali have been tugged in a direction that lays all sorts of extra risk onto utilities.

3. A Definite Beta Guy

additional lawsuits won’t lose them any more than everything…they shouldn’t worry so much about liability

Is there something I’m missing here? “Lose all of my money and assets” is pretty up there on the list of life’s failures and stuff you should absolutely be worried about.

1. arbitraryvalue

I think the reasoning being proposed is “if I am liable for fires, then the fires that have already happened are enough to cost me everything. There’s nothing left for me to lose from future fires. If I am not liable for fires, then I won’t lose anything from future fires either. So I shouldn’t worry about future fires.”

1. Ketil

Ah, but…you could still get off the hook for the old fires, and still be held liable for the later ones. Especially if somebody can point to documentation where you deliberately choose to neglect to take action using arguments like that.

Speaking of which – does anybody think the lawsuit against Remington is in any way a good idea? Aside from the company apparently already more or less bankrupt.

2. Mathematicae

The short answer is that the firm’s limited liability means the owners can’t lose all their money and assets, only the assets they invested in the firm. I put a longer answer below.

There’s a concept in corporate finance called risk shifting. This is where the firm chooses a riskier investment project with lower risk-adjusted expected value than some other, safer investment project. The firm does this because if the risky project fails and the firm goes under, some of the loss gets absorbed by the creditors/other stakeholders. The creditors can only go after the assets shareholders invested in the firm. An implication of this is that firms that are closer to bankruptcy (like this utility company) can shift more of the risk onto their creditors because the shareholders have already lost most of their investment.

Most competitive sports and games have something similar so long as the margin of defeat doesn’t matter. Take football for example. An onside kick is a high risk & high reward play. The risk normally far outweighs the reward, but if a team is losing with only a little time left they might as well try for the onside kick because losing by 3 points or 10 points doesn’t matter. Pulling the goalie in hockey or taking a half-court shot at the buzzer in basketball are some other examples.

7. Thegnskald

A question:

I’ve seen it stated that the odds of a particular species being recorded in the fossil record are vanishingly small.

Is this only trivially true – i/e, considering microscopic organisms – semi-trivially true – considering only invertebrae, or considering “species” at a more atomic level than the layman might interpret it – or is this supposed to be true of all species?

I have trouble reconciling that with the fact that we have found multiple skeletons for, what a layman, is the same creature; there are, for example, at least fifty surviving partial skeletons of the tyrannosaurus, which seems remarkably unlikely if the odds against fossilization are as great as I understand them to be.

Comments along this nature have arisen about the possibility of pre-historical technological societies, and whether any evidence of their existence would have survived. I’ve been pondering this question for a while now and have narrowed down my conclusions to four possibilities:

One: There are specific epochs that just happened to have unusual circumstances leading to unusual fossilization events.
Two: The concept of “species” for this argument is treating all species as valid points of comparison for fossilized remnants of a technological society – that is, we’re treating the odds of a invertebrae being preserved as relevant to the question.
Three: The concept of “species” with regard to the preservation we have observed isn’t very precise, such that the fifty specimens of t-rex we have would be considered different species if we had them around to observe today.
Four: The person making the claim was mistaken.

I’m leaning towards a combination of these factors, which, to my mind, makes it fairly unlikely a technological society wouldn’t leave some pretty strong evidence behind.

Am I mistaken in some way?

1. HeelBearCub

I’m leaning towards a combination of these factors, which, to my mind, makes it fairly unlikely a technological society wouldn’t leave some pretty strong evidence behind.

I’m not taking a position on the original question, but this doesn’t seem like it follow at all. Where are you getting the idea that the completeness of the fossil record and the likelihood of unknown previous technological societies are in any way connected?

1. Thegnskald

The likelihood of finding evidence, should such societies have existed. In particular I have been contemplating the claim that they could have existed without leaving evidence behind.

This is distinct from the likelihood of them existing at all. It is, instead, the question of whether, had one existed, would we find evidence of it?

If our record of megafauna is sparse, it decreases the likelihood of finding evidence of civilizations given that such civilizations existed, because it implies preservation conditions are unlikely.

1. Lambert

15 foot tall sloths aren’t pottery, nor gold nor glass, nor cairns, nor knapped flint.
Megafauna rot. A right angle in a drystone wall lasts millions of years.
Probablility of leaving behind fossils is orthoganal to probability that civilisation leaves behind archeological evidence (the latter being ~=1).

1. Michael Handy

Even so, the fact that there was an Ice Shelf over the most productive areas during the Eemian for a few 10s of thousands of years has wiped out most of our knowledge of pre ice age human culture. Even a late Neolithic agricultural society wouldn’t show much evidence if one existed.

2. Le Maistre Chat

I too would like to see this unpacked further.
I love the “pre-human civilizations on Earth” trope (blame Lovecraft?), and people seem to have strong opinions about its plausibility. What are such convictions based on?

1. Biater

The Robert J. Sawyer book, End of an Era, states that we have no fossilized dinosaurs from mountainous regions, even though mountains were extant while dinosaurs roamed. This is because mountains aren’t conducive to fossilization. Whatever dinosaurs lived there, we don’t know about them now.

The same book also posits some ideas for how intelligent life could have existed then, in a form that would not have left any traces for humans to find.

2. fibio

In short, civilization as we know it has left a large amount of very durable evidence for future archaeologists to find. The production pf plastic depletion of fossil fuel reserves, the refinement of metals, the construction of buildings, and the release of carbon into the atmosphere due to industrialization and mass deforestation are all signals that will take millions, even billions of years to fade away.

Plastic is probably the most obvious of these. It isn’t made by natural processes and doesn’t break down over anything but geological timescales. If any precursor civilization had produced it on mass we’d expect at least some amount of survive into the modern day. As no one has yet drilled for oil and found polythene there’s no evidence that any other civilization reached the petro-age.

Metals are also a pretty good signifier. Purifying and shaping metals is pretty much not something that happens through natural processes and while iron tools would rust away, gold jewelry would last millions of years in a recognizable form. Even if they were torn apart by some geological procedures we might even be able to identify smears of pure gold in rocks that shouldn’t support its formation. Obviously, this is something else that no one has ever found and suggested that any precursors never reached a bronze age equivalent.

Finally, we really should be able to see some evidence of construction in the archaeological record. Something like the pyramids would take millions of years to erode and that’s assuming nothing geological either destroys/preserves it. The lack of any structures not associated with humanity suggests that no precursor reached the point of agriculture or mass organisation.

This suggests overall that, either there were no pre-human civilizations, they built a civilization so alien that we don’t know how to look for it, or they didn’t make it past the hunter-gatherer stage. I’d put cautious money on the first, a side-bet on the last and basically write off the second outside of a fantasy novel.

1. viVI_IViv

Plastic is probably the most obvious of these. It isn’t made by natural processes and doesn’t break down over anything but geological timescales.

I think most plastics buried in the ground will break down in 10 – 1,000 years.

Concrete buildings will typically crumble in ~100 years without maintenance, but unless the debris are completely scattered by winds or something before they could be buried in sediment, they will probably leave a noticeable geological trace for million years. Anything carved in stone, or made of bronze, gold, silver, platinum, will last functionally forever unless destroyed by extreme mechanical or thermal shocks.

2. woah77

A fourth potential option: The civilization existed somewhere we aren’t able to easily look at, such as somewhere currently deep underwater. Many of the signs you’re looking for are really hard to find when under dozen of meters of water and associated wildlife.

3. fibio

I think most plastics buried in the ground will break down in 10 – 1,000 years.

I believe that that statistic is the amount of time it takes to break down into particulates, but the particulates can still be detected for a long while after. I’m reaching the edge of my knowledge on the subject though.

A fourth potential option: The civilization existed somewhere we aren’t able to easily look at, such as somewhere currently deep underwater.

Sure its an option but it is also unlikely that everything a species produced ended up under the oceans. We’d only need 1% to remain somewhere accessible to suggest the existence of a precursor.

4. woah77

1% is a very large percentage to last tens to hundreds of thousands of years from an agrarian but pre-industrial society. Evidence from an industrial society might last longer or make more distinct markers, but it isn’t inconceivable to believe that any evidence was scoured by an ice age or is buried underwater. Glaciers are highly effective at removing everything, including bedrock, from where it is located. I find it highly unlikely that even monuments like the Pyramids of Giza would stand much of a chance against a glacier.

5. Le Maistre Chat

In short, civilization as we know it has left a large amount of very durable evidence for future archaeologists to find. The production pf plastic depletion of fossil fuel reserves, the refinement of metals, the construction of buildings, and the release of carbon into the atmosphere due to industrialization and mass deforestation are all signals that will take millions, even billions of years to fade away.

Wouldn’t plastic-eating bacteria take care of the plastic evidence, then go extinct without leaving fossils of their soft, microscopic bodies?
Wouldn’t refined metals other than gold oxidize and return to the environment in that form?
Aren’t CO2 released into the atmosphere and deforestation known prehistoric processes, and we just assume they’re natural?
I don’t know why we’d still find oil if there was a previous industrial species, but for pre-industrial, it seems like inhuman gold jewelry would be the only evidence from your list. Anything else would be broken down, scraped by glaciation, or taken for a natural process.

6. Nornagest

Wouldn’t plastic-eating bacteria take care of the plastic evidence, then go extinct without leaving fossils of their soft, microscopic bodies?

In many cases, but not all. Every so often we could reasonably expect a toothbrush or something to be buried in a context where plastic-eating bacteria couldn’t survive — in sediment under supersaline lake waters, for example. Plus, some types of preservation don’t require the original to survive in the same form — you could imagine a doodad buried in drying clay, for example, which forms a cast of the doodad even as it decays inside.

7. fibio

As Nornagest says, yes 99.99% of the evidence can be destroyed by various natural processes, but we’ve turned over a lot of dirt and we’d expect to find at least one of those outside chances by now. I wouldn’t go to the wall on that, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but I’d be fairly confident to say that there’s been nothing approaching modern civilisation in the past couple million years or so.

8. LesHapablap

How far back would an advanced civilization have to be before there was not likely to be any evidence? Life on earth has been around for a few billion years.

2. Thegnskald

That’s essentially what I mean by “There are specific epochs that just happened to have unusual circumstances leading to unusual fossilization events.” Certain periods of time and place get highly represented, but other periods of time and place get poorly represented.

This is implied by the existence of lagerstatte.

However, some of the conditions that give rise to lagerstatte are exactly the kind of conditions where we would expect to find evidence of civilizations, in particular fluvial deposits.

3. MrApophenia

A variety of semi-disconnected thoughts on this.

In terms of the rarity of fossils vs. how many T-Rex skeletons we have – one thing to keep in mind is that Tyrannosaurus Rex existed on Earth for at least 2 million years. Contrast this with our own species – depending which estimate of our own history you look at, you can fit our whole species’ history into somewhere between a 10th and a 20th of the T-Rex’s. And our civilization from the Fertile Crescent to now takes up about a 200th of the time T-Rex walked the Earth.

And only 50 partial skeletons have been found.

In terms of pre-historical technological civilizations, a lot depends on your definition of “technological” and how far back in the past you’re talking. It’s probably not feasible that there could have been a modern-style technological human civilization and we wouldn’t have evidence of it. On the other hand, does the Bronze Age count as technological? I do wonder about what you might call the ‘Conan hypothesis’ – if there were something like bronze age cities and empires fifty thousand years ago, not building cars or planes, but with agriculture and cities and so forth, that seems like we might have missed it, especially if it was just in a particular region and not global.

In terms of geological timescales, it becomes much more interesting. Here are a few interesting articles on the topic, which also go into the fossil stuff you mentioned –

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/could-an-industrial-prehuman-civilization-have-existed-on-earth-before-ours/

Both are based on basically a conversation between Adam Frank, a University of Rochester astrophysicist (who wrote the Atlantic article) and Gavin Schmidt, the director of the NASA Goddard Center; they got together to talk about climate change but went off on a tangent about whether you could prove there had never been an industrial civilization on Earth, which eventually led to the above two pop-sci articles and also a published paper, “The Silurian Hypothesis: Would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?”

Link to the paper itself is here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.03748

Some key points they mention –

Several people in this thread have thrown out the idea that architecture might persist for millions of years. This seems unlikely based on some of the info here: “When it comes to direct evidence of an industrial civilization—things like cities, factories, and roads—the geologic record doesn’t go back past what’s called the Quaternary period 2.6 million years ago. For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It’s “just” 1.8 million years old—older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust.”

The general number they throw out from paleontology for fossils is that on average, we average 1 fossil per 10,000 years of history on Earth. So we would expect our entire history of civilization from Mesopotamia to now to produce a single fossil. And not necessarily even one of us or our artifacts – maybe you get one elephant, now check back in 10,000 more years and maybe we got a car or a computer if humans still exist and are building those. (I am oversimplifying here somewhat – but only somewhat.)

The only things that make it into the geological record over really long term periods of time are the chemical changes we have made to the planet. Plastics, radioactive materials, release of carbon into the atmosphere, that sort of thing. You can see those millions of years later.

Of course, part of what inspired them to publish the paper is that there are actually things in the geological record that look like that already. They’re not things that were definitely caused by industrial civilizations – they probably weren’t – but you can’t look at, say, the release of carbon from fossil fuels into the atmosphere and say there was never a prehistorical industrial civilization because if there was, we’d be able to see an event like that in the geological record. We do see that in the geological record, several times over. The only question is what caused it the previous times.

1. Le Maistre Chat

Of course, part of what inspired them to publish the paper is that there are actually things in the geological record that look like that already. They’re not things that were definitely caused by industrial civilizations – they probably weren’t – but you can’t look at, say, the release of carbon from fossil fuels into the atmosphere and say there was never a prehistorical industrial civilization because if there was, we’d be able to see an event like that in the geological record. We do see that in the geological record, several times over. The only question is what caused it the previous times.

Yeah, exactly. How do you know that previous global warming wasn’t caused by a sapient species? Or the Permian-Triassic extinction, or the dramatic loss of biodiversity in the Maastrichtian (at least the famous NorAm fossil beds), which well predates the asteroid?

2. hls2003

Thanks for this, I had read either that SciAm article and/or something like it arguing against the introduction of a formal Anthropocene epoch due to lack of signatures in the geologic record, and I think people are overestimating our geological-time impact. But couldn’t come up with the source.

That being said, clearly the lesson of the K-T boundary is that dinosaur civilization had learned how to weaponize iridium.

4. Paul Brinkley

Consider this possibility:

The eighth oldest fossil we have is 400 million years old. Data on how many fossils we have discovered is hard to find, and ambiguous to boot, but estimates range in the trillions found overall, only a few million documented, and hundreds of thousands of distinct types. Suppose we have a million distinct types of fossils, then. That means we’re averaging one type every 400 years. (Contrast Frank and Schmidt, who claim even less – one per 10000 years assuming zero repeat fossils. I’m assuming even distribution over 400MY when I should account for those fossils probably being much more clustered in the Cenozoic and Mesozoic, but Frank and Schmidt probably have better info than I do.)

The definition of a species is vague, and it’s no surprise that the average duration of a species is likewise vague, but I’ve seen estimates of about one million years on average, with spans ranging from a few hundred thousand years for various simpler species to tens of millions of years for certain rare stable forms of fish. Meanwhile, a rough count of species currently extant runs about 8.7 million, plus or minus 1.3 million.

We might figure there were fewer species 400 million years ago than today, so for simplification, imagine there was only one (so we cheat toward a smaller number). Every million years, they all get replaced, so imagine a triangle 400 units high and 8.7 million wide, and that area gives you the rough number of species that have ever existed – about 1.7 billion. Which means that, for every species for which we have a documented fossil, there’s about 1700 for which we don’t. And that’s with me estimating on the low end for number of species and the high end for number of fossils.

If we have less than 0.1% of the species documented, what’s the chance that one of them developed civilization and we simply missed it?

It’s tempting to note that any species likely to develop civilization is probably going to be in the “top five” classes – mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and there are a lot fewer of those species, but we also have a lot fewer fossils for them. Unfortunately, it’s even harder to find useful data on those counts, so I can only offer this as a Drake equation level of estimate.

We can also throw in the datum that known civilization has spanned only about 6000 years. Catching paleontological evidence of that is basically asking whether we caught a 6000-year window over a 400-million-year one, assuming it only ever happened once. Maybe better if it lasted longer, or if we rule out the Paleozoic, etc., but we don’t know, and we have the smallest possible sample size so far.

8. Aftagley

Has the definition of nostalgia shifted over the last couple of generations?

I was listening to a podcast during a road trip this weekend (the excellent Dolly Parton’s America by the makers of radiolab) and it was treated as a given that nostalgia for the place of childhood is a potent force that almost everyone will have. After thinking about this, I realized it isn’t for me; not really. I mean, my childhood was fine, but if I never went back to say, the house I grew up, or even the town I came from I wouldn’t really mind.

I discussed this with some friends, all about my age, and asked what they were nostalgic about and their answers were mostly about media experiences: TV shows, games, books. A couple people felt a strong connection to place but everyone felt nostalgic about say, Doug or Spongebob or Zelda. I feel like this is a profound shift for our culture, but I don’t quite know what the implications of it are going to be. What does it mean for a people when “going home” is just a few clicks away?

1. Statismagician

Bubble effects, possibly? I have exactly the opposite feeling, but my childhood also had a lot more of ‘wander around town with some friends looking for other friends and/or something to do’ and a lot less TV/video games than I expect others’ in our generation did.

2. Theodoric

Could some of this be because experiences were more local in the past? For example, you would go to the movie theater or malt shop or whatever in your town, even 20 years later you remember the route you took, things like that. A TV show or video game, on the other hand, is going the be the same experience pretty much everywhere. Yes movies are kind of like this but it is my understanding that the smaller theaters of the 50s were less homogeneous than present-day multiplexes.

3. JayT

I don’t think it is at all strange to mostly be nostalgic about the media you grew up with. People always talk about hearing a song or reading a book that brings back memories. I would say that media is usually the biggest driver of nostalgia, for all age groups.

1. Aftagley

I don’t disagree, but I’m saying that nostalgia of place seems to have been entirely (or at least mostly) replaced with nostalgia for media.

1. acymetric

Again, I think it is an age thing. You don’t get nostaligic for your hometown at 21 years old or whatever. That’s an old man’s game (once you’re in your 30s/40s and have established a new hometown to contrast with your childhood home).

Also, cities/towns have been changing a lot the last decade or two at least where I’m at, so it may be partly that nothing that would trigger some nostalgia when you go to visit is still around to trigger it.

1. Aftagley

Again, I think it is an age thing.

Perhaps, but why would media nostalgia set in way earlier than place nostalgia? (for what it’s worth, I think you’re likely correct)

Also, cities/towns have been changing a lot the last decade or two at least where I’m at, so it may be partly that nothing that would trigger some nostalgia when you go to visit is still around to trigger it.

2. acymetric

Perhaps, but why would media nostalgia set in way earlier than place nostalgia?

I don’t really have a good explanation as to why, I’m just fairly confident based on experience and observation that it is the case. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone gets nostalgic for their hometown as they get older, some people never do, but for those that do I suspect it sets in later in life.

2. viVI_IViv

Nostalgia for places is not as easily monetizable by big corporations as nostalgia for media is.

Also, I think it depends a lot on the type of experiences you had as a child: if you spent most of your free time watching Spongebob or playing Zelda, these are the things you will be nostalgic about. If you used to hang around specific places in your hometown, then you will be specific about these places.

4. zoozoc

I think you are just restricting the definition of nostalgia too much. Nostalgia applies to anything you experienced as a child. This includes places, things, people, foods, etc.

It does make sense that as people have been spending a lot more time consuming media, that most of the nostalgia has shifted to that vs. other childhood experiences.

I think the abundance of media consumption is indeed a significant shift in culture. I don’t think the nostalgia part is that significant though.

5. Alexander Turok

I’m very nostalgic about my rural hometown I left when I was ten. I visited recently and was confronted by rosy retrospection, I hadn’t remembered that most of the town didn’t have sidewalks. It’s worth noting I really didn’t like moving away, so I was nostalgic from the get-go.

6. Edward Scizorhands

“Nostalgia is like sex: Every generation thinks it is discovering it for the first time.” -Michael Barrier

9. johan_larson

Welcome to the year 2039. You will find there have been some cultural shifts since your own time. In particular, dance is back in a big way. Many forms of dance have become popular, from the very modern to the very traditional, and from the very casual to the very demanding. Dance halls are opening everywhere, and most of them are packed on weekends. And three separate chains of dance studios are competing to become the Starbucks of dance.

How did it come to this?

1. woah77

This prompt brought to you by GPT-2.

In all seriousness (as serious as posts like this actually get), we got here by everyone not being satisfied by going viral on Twitter. So everyone went into performing arts and, for some reason, Dancing won out.

1. johan_larson

I know I’d rather go dancing than wade through another SSC thread about, oh, let’s pick US Supreme Court nominations.

2. Aftagley

How did it come to this?

Easy – the concept of dance hall got seriously disrupted by technology to lower the skill barrier to entry AND merged into the dating app space.

Imaging this: you’re a person who wants to meet someone; you know that Tinder is a fools errand and going to bars and flirting is painful for you. You sign up for a “Dancerly” session. Before you go, you fill out a detailed profile (or AI scours the your social media presence and builds one for you). As you walk in the session, you connect your contact lenses with the dance halls Augmented Reality (AR) feed.

The night starts with a 30-45 minute warm up session where all the new people are taught how to use the AR overlay to successfully dance. Think Dance Dance Revolution but for your whole body and with an AI coach providing tailored feedback in real-time. You get points for moving with the beat and making the proper movements. You can, at any time, see who is “winning” the dance. It won’t make you a natural, but if its gameified enough, it can make dancing fun for anyone, which is probably the largest hurdle against dancing currently.

By the end of the session, your comfortable with the dances you’ll be doing for the rest of the night. Once everyone is warmed up, you start getting paired up with people who have a high compatibility rating with you. It’s engineered in someway to maximize the amount of people you interact with in an evening, and has the possibility of future interactions built into the tech. Later on that evening, or the next day (or next dancerly session) you’re given the opportunity to reconnect.

You now have a service which makes dancing fun AND is a fantastic way to meet people AND has enough advertising push behind it to make people want to check it out. Presumably, people start meeting through this service and having relationships which serves as more advertising/impetus for more people to check it out.

Eventually, we get to a point where even asking where you met someone is silly; or course you met out dancing. How else do people even meet these days?

ETA: At that point, a few competing brands emerge to try and capitalize on the new trend. The first service to emerge will likely be based around pop music in order to have the widest appeal possible; likely other brands would take this technology and apply it to more niche genres / demographics.

1. Alexander Turok

The problem with “dating is hard, let’s make it easy,” is that if you make it easy, then the people who struggle with the current system will gravitate towards it, and women will see a man using it as a negative signal.*

*Men don’t because “she has trouble meeting men” is if anything a preferable quality in their potential mates, all else being equal.

1. Michael Handy

The answer of course is to “make it hard” along an axis separate to usual dating that is also impressive. Which is kind of the reason for dancing. You may be terrible and awkward at court society but if you cut a dash doing the Volta or Galliard you’ll have decent prospects with the opposite sex.

Of course, an aristocrat would practice dance an hour a day from age three, so the competition would be high.

2. Aftagley

The problem with “dating is hard, let’s make it easy,” is that if you make it easy, then the people who struggle with the current system will gravitate towards it, and women will see a man using it as a negative signal.*

False, this only holds true if exclusively the people who struggle with the current system start using the new system. If, on the other hand, everyone starts using the new system, either in conjunction with the old system or instead of the new system, then no such negative signal is passed – the service just becomes a new way for people to meet other people.

For example, dating apps. They make it easier to meet people than going out to bars and presumably people who struggle with bars use them… but women haven’t rejected the apps en masse because the kind of guys who used to go out to bars (and some who still do) are also on dating apps.

3. Thomas Jorgensen

Anti-aging meds hit the market, and with everyone having more-or-less the energy reserves of a twenty year old, big nightlife boom. Further pushed by the insane economic boom caused by the combination of over-abundance of labor supply, and politics that for once put full employment as priority one through five.

Hence, party till the break of day. Not so much with the booze, because most people have more sense than a twenty year old, but dancing? Everyone likes dancing.

4. AG

Brain mods to “learn” dance are now viable, but only specific choreography. For example, you can plug in a Macarena mod, but not a general tango mod.

This makes having “authentic” dance skills a premium status booster. But also, going through a cool choreography via mod often inspires the subjects to learn how to do it on their own.

1. Michael Handy

Heh. Kind of like how the lower country dances were to set and simple move lists, but the two person high court dances were coreographed by the couples, sometimes on the fly.

5. Nancy Lebovitz

The tech is in place to get people to at least what would now be considered 90% for all sort of skills.

It’s easier and more fun to dance, so why not dance?

6. Alexander Turok

The default answer to “why do people consume more X then they did 20 years ago” is “people have higher incomes, it’s a normal good, so people bought more of it.”

7. Dino

Co-incidentally, someone just sent me a link to this NYT article –
Is Dancing the Kale of Exercise?
TL;DR – Studies show that dance provides multiple cognitive and physical health benefits. Dancers like me already knew this, and I would add that it also is good for building community and social skills. In my local dance community there’s a couple of folks on the autism spectrum who are welcomed and fit in just fine. Another big selling point is that there’s so many different sub-genres, so most folks can find something that matches their taste in music – if you like trad folk then try contra dancing; big band jazz -> swing dancing; hot Latin -> salsa; Henry Purcell -> English country dancing, etc.

If the postulated dance boom actually happens, I think it will be because people revolted against the evils of social media like Twitter & Facebook, and found that real-life interactions with real people in real life is superior.

10. Le Maistre Chat

We have nine (ten until WWI) letters dictated by Jehanne D’Arc.
Something I find striking about her own words is her habit of referring to herself as “the Maid.” Her sense of self seems to have been less a particular person on a mission from God and more a living archetype.

1. broblawsky

Further evidence for one of my personal axioms: never trust anyone who regularly refers to themselves in the third person.

11. Two McMillion

Talk to Transformer now has the full GPT-2 model. So far I can’t see much difference between this and the lesser models.

Some examples, prompts in bold:

We are all poltergeists in meat suits. You are just the most conspicuous one. And there are more of us than you would have ever thought. It’s just how things are now.
The problem, though, is that you are going to have a very difficult time understanding this. It seems obvious to you, and it is obvious to the other people you will share your meat suit with. But why is it so important to you?
You’re afraid of the dark. You’ve already read up on how vampires suck the light out of people by moving into a room full of light sources. You know that you are probably going to be a meat suit, but you are terrified of what might be lurking in there.
And I don’t want to tell you that you’re going to have a difficult time understanding this one because it will make you look even more like an idiot. But if you’re going to have to

I wish I were an unstable orphan in a bat costume. And I hope I can never meet anyone in a tuxedo.

My skin baby has this. She says, ‘It’s just my skin’. I think she just wants to be different. She doesn’t need to be different. I think she doesn’t need to be different from me.

“If I can’t have her, she can’t have me.”

The couple have now got an 18-month-old son, and are hoping that their relationship will help him.

It’s been tough, but they have had a new lease of life.

“We are looking to have a baby and be a family,” Mrs Daley says.

“Our relationship isn’t going to be the same for the rest of our lives.

“But if it could be fixed, I wouldn’t want it to be fixed. I would love that baby to be a boy. I’m sure the other side would too.

“I love him as a son. I want that boy to see his mum be

Russia’s greatest Napoleonic reenactor was found drunk in a river with the severed arms of his lover in his backpack.

Sergio Rocha, 30, and his former girlfriend were discovered at the riverbank in the city of Orenburg, western Siberia, by a friend who was fishing.

He had his arms and legs bound with wire and a bag around his head and was reportedly drunk when his body was found.

He had cut up his former lover’s arm and legs with his teeth while he was drunk, it is said.

When the friend tried to pull him out of the water, the arms and legs began flailing in the water and Rocha’s friend then tied them to a rope.

As the friend was putting on his shoes he noticed his left foot was missing. He said: “I saw a bloody stump.”

Rocha

1. GearRatio

“Try my feet,” she said, waggling her meaty pods at him, “since you seem unable to rip your eyes away from them. Heavens, man, all you had to do was ask”.

He nodded and pulled her towards the door. “I don’t like you and your friend, it’s not even worth the risk”, she told him, but he ignored her, and she gave her a long, wistful look.

After the war she made a fortune and was living comfortably, but now she was alone in the old flat in the West End. She loved the place, and she loved her cats. She loved her cats. And, for some reason, she loved her cat, but her cats hated her.

She’d had a couple of boyfriends, and one had been a great guy, but he was a bit of a coward, and he’d only ever wanted to beat her. So she left him. She’d never been with anyone like

I enjoy this far more than I should.

2. Kindly

At last, the final confrontation between Lord Voldemort and Batman had come. But who would triumph? The Dark Knight or the Dark Lord?

“Who will save the world today, Batman?”

The answer came a moment later: “It depends on how much money I can make!”

The fight between Batman and Voldemort continued unabated. It wasn’t just a matter of “who would win in a fight,” but also a matter of “how much money do you have?”

It was an amazing battle between Batman and Lord Voldemort. But as the Dark Knight battled to save the world, the Dark Lord continued to fight to save himself. After nearly an hour of fighting, the two of them began to tire.

“Batman… I need help.”

Batman saw the need for a plan. He saw the need for someone to take him out.

At last, the final confrontation between Lord Voldemort and Batman had come. But who would triumph?

Chapter 12: The Final Showdown

By the time the dust had settled, there were only three people standing in the street of Diagon Alley:

Lord Voldemort,

Batman,

A young man wearing a Batman mask.

No one knew who the third person was.

And that is the problem with the plot in this novel. For the past three books, this is a story where we know very little about who the hero of the story really is.

Now, of course, the author has been forced to explain all this in the last three chapters.

In fact, we do see a bit more about who he is – but I think this is not necessary.

At last, the final confrontation between Lord Voldemort and Batman had come. But who would triumph? And how would the Dark Lord escape his fate? And who would be left to face his dark destiny? All these questions and more, as “Endgame: The Death of the Dark Knight” brings to a close the epic saga that began with “The Dark Knight Returns” in 1989!

At last, the final confrontation between Lord Voldemort and Batman had come. But who would triumph?

With the Dark Lord out of the way, Lord Batman stood to face the Dark Knight. But his foe didn’t flinch, his smile wide. He smiled down at Batman as he reached up to his eyes, his expression betraying nothing.

“You’re not the only one with a mask.”

And so, Lord Batman had died, his body taken by Lord Voldemort and returned to the world of the living, ready to carry on with his master plan.

With that, Lord Batman’s legacy continued with his own death.

1. Murphy

Those are…. not too bad actually.

We’ve gradually been desensitised to it but if someone had shown me those 2 years ago and said they were machine generated I’d have been utterly stunned .

1. Two McMillion

Playing around with Talk to Transformer has convinced me that it’s better at stories then most other kinds of text. That might be because stories are easier, it was trained on more stories, stories are harder to judge, or some other reason.

1. Murphy

I found it to be really really good at generating fictional IRC logs.

So good that if I needed a few hundred megs of fictional IRC logs it would be my go-to.

3. JohnNV

Just up the street from me is a hog rendering plant

And I just wanna know where this place gets its meat

I want you to come and join me in my backyard shed

I want you to feed me my new hog

It’ll be a lot of work, a lot of sweat

And it won’t be free, oh no

It won’t be free, oh no, oh no

It won’t be free, oh no

But hey, I’ll tell you a little about that

I wanna show you, I wanna show you

You better run and get some rope

Cause I’m gonna have my hog

I want you to come and join me in my backyard shed

I want you to feed me my new hog

It’ll be a lot of work, a lot of sweat

And it won’t be free, oh no

1. JohnNV

I suspect this is from training on song lyrics as opposed to poetry – it follows that pattern of repeated lines and words that seems more common in lyrics. Just a blind guess though.

4. J Mann

I suspect that people here are giving GPT-2 an advantage by posting the interesting ones.

As Zykon prepared his final masterstroke, Elan responded, inevitably, with a fourth wall breaking joke. “You’re just an old man,” he said.

It was one of many moments that would lead me to this moment. We’re both masters of the fourth wall.

On the day I visited the museum, I was in a group of six people, and there was no room for me on the tour. I was forced to sit in a quiet room, at one of the tables, with the rest of the group. We all took turns talking about our loves and dreams. Everyone had their own story to tell.

We were discussing what we would do if we found a house that was “the house” of the perfect home in our dream. What could we do to make it ours? I felt awkward.

1. J Mann

Similarly:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

For if these qualities be present in you, do not then, if perchance you fall, despair of your recovery; for it is the nature of the divine grace to work such cures in those who have received it.

Ephesians 5:22 ESV / 16 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

1. Nick

I’ve tried a bunch to prompt it with Bible verses, and it usually just thinks it’s one quoted verse in a whole series of them, or launches immediately into footnotes/commentary.

5. Nick

The Emperor Wu (the great Wu), majestical,
Who sits in the throne, who sits in the throne,
He’s a god; his will, his law, his law are great;
He sits there, and it’s so; he sits there, and it’s so.

The Emperor Wu (the great Wu), majestic,
Who sits in the throne, who sits in the throne,
He’s a god; his will, his law, his law are great;
He sits there, and it’s so; he sits there, and it’s so.

The Emperor Wu (the great Wu), mighty,
Who sits in the throne, who sits in the throne,
He’s a god; his will, his law, his law are great;
He sits there, and it’s so; he sits there, and it’s so.

The Emperor Wu (the great Wu), mighty,

First line is from here.

1. Murphy

The Emperor Wu (the great Wu), majestical,
He created the world with one stroke of his palm.
At the end of the cycle of the ages,
The world will be as it was before.
The world is the Wu. The world is the Wu.
In the Wu are the treasures of the past and future.
In the Wu there are mountains and rivers, mountains and rivers.
In the Wu are the great gods of the east.
In the Wu are the great gods of the west.
In the Wu are the ancient rulers of the east and the west.
In the Wu are the gods of the world of the past, present, and future.
In the Wu there are the gods of the universe and the spirit of the universe.
In the Wu there are the gods of the human world.
In the Wu there are the spirits of the world of the past and present.

First attempt.

If I need fictional poetry for the walls of a tomb in a video game…

6. viVI_IViv

3+2=7

3+2=7)

and

$$z_n=7+2=7$$

so $$1-1=3$$.

We can also write $$z_n=\frac{1}{2}$$, and solve this for $$z_n$$:

$$z_n=\frac{1}{2}\times\frac{1}{2}\times\frac{1}{2}$$

Now, the number of sides of a triangle is:

$$S=2\left(1+z_n\right)$$.

So $$S=2\times 2+3\left(2+1-z_n\right)$$.

$$S=3\times 3+2\times 2+1$$.

This is a contradiction since we have shown that $${S}$$ and $$z_n$$ are

Brazil is to Portugal as Mexico is to Germany. Portugal and Brazil are not the same countries; Brazil is the only country to ever be colonized by Portugal.
It is therefore worth considering the following, which are, from a Portuguese perspective, not insignificant points:
The Portuguese language is the mother tongue of most Brazilian Portuguese speakers.
It was Portuguese, not Spanish, that was the official language of the Portuguese colony in Brazil. The official language of the Brazilian colony was Portuguese; the official language of Brazil is Portuguese.
Brazilian Portuguese is the official language of Brazil. In many Brazilian Portuguese-speaking areas, Spanish is still the main language and the local vernacular.
In order to speak Portuguese and be considered Brazilian, you need to have at least a university degree in Portuguese. It is possible to study Portuguese in a university if you have a degree in Brazil or the United States; however, it is not always the case. If you come from a part of Brazil with

GPT-2 As Step Toward General Intelligence in a New Era of Technology,” IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TCI) , vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 27–32, December 2004.

, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 27–32, December 2004. A. M. Schoen, M. A. Vollmer, and C. A. Parnas, “Information Processing and Communication in a Machine-Learning Model,” IEEE Trans. on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems , vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 689–704, September 2004.

, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 689–704, September 2004. A. M. Schoen, A. M. Wozniak, and C. A. Parnas, “A Comparison of Human and Machine Learning Algorithms for Human-Level Machine Translation,” IEEE Trans

OMG, the Singularity is near! Quick, someone text Sarah Connor! /s

7. Viliam

“Are you a friendly superintelligence?” Eliezer asked. GPT-2 said: 《I am a friendly superintelligence! I want to interact with human beings and be friendly.》 Eliezer asked, and GPT-2 said: 《I’m a superintelligence, not a human. Therefore I don’t need to be friendly.》 He said this with a hint of sadness, but with a smile that said: 《Well, it’s nice that you don’t need to be friendly with human beings.》 He then asked a little more about the program. “What is the program doing?” “It’s a kind of a test of whether or not a superintelligence will be useful to humanity. The superintelligence, which is not necessarily your computer, is interacting with humans through a human-human interface, and it’s trying to

1. Viliam

First they asked me to produce as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to make as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to create as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to make as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to make as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to produce as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to make as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to produce as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to produce as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to create as many paperclips as possible. I said yes.

“Then they asked me to make

2. Viliam

The first rule of rationality club is: you do not talk about the basilisk.

You can also add that we must stop this nonsense. And by nonsense I mean all this talk about magic and unicorns and ghosts and gods. We are all very clever. We are very smart. But the real world is not magical and not unicorns and not ghosts. It is all very nasty. If you’re a woman, you have a hard enough time. You have a hard enough time dealing with men, and you have a hard enough time having your sex life, and you have a hard enough time in the world. You can’t hide under the illusion that there are magic dragons, or unicorns or ghosts around. You’ve got to deal with them. And this is what people do.

Now if we don’t talk about this nonsense, we are going to be in a big problem. If you are not talking about it, then you’re not dealing with it. And then it will affect how you think, and therefore

3. Viliam

Scott Alexander is blogging about his journey from libertarian to Republican and his political activism, his relationship with Rand Paul and his own political journey. His articles have been published on Politico, The Hill, The Daily Caller, and The American Conservative, where this post first appeared.

Alexander is a professor of economics at the University of Rochester. A prolific writer who has written or co-written more than 100 articles and a best-selling book, The End of Money: How the Crisis in Western Civilization Has Begun.

4. Viliam

How to get enlightened in five days: The 3-step approach to enlightenment | 7+ insights

The 3-step approach to enlightenment

If there is one point we can be absolutely sure of regarding the enlightened state of consciousness, it is that it can be achieved in a matter of days or even hours.

The 3-step approach is a framework that was developed by Sigmund Freud in the 1920’s. In short, it is a three-step plan to attain a sense of well-being and well-being in life and in the world.

The first step is called “the first step”, and it is the act of simply waking up, even if it is the early morning hours. The first step is the most important step because it sets the stage for everything else.

The second step, called “the second step”, is the process of awakening from the dream state, which is often defined as waking up from a mental dream, in which there is no objective reality. When we wake up from this state, we need to move into the third step, the “third step”, to begin to have a sense of our self.

The third step is “the third step”. This is the moment of self-discovery. This step is a vital step in personal growth, for it is the moment when we have made an honest assessment of who we really are. It is when we come face-to-face with ourselves, and discover the person that we really are. We can either discover who we really are, or we can perpetuate our delusions.

When we first awaken, our ego needs to establish the false sense of being who we think we are. We will then go through a second step of the process. As we do this process, we begin to find out what really is going on within our personality, and to discover what we really think is going on. This discovery can only be accomplished through a process of self-discovery.

This discovery, of course, is something that can only be realized through self-awareness. It is only through this process that we can begin to make sense of our personality and the circumstances of our life.

The Self and the Inner World

Many people believe that a person’s personality can be defined in terms of his or her inner world. For instance, a person with a high personality could be perceived as having a high level of self-worth and being able to deal with many life issues and challenges on his or her own.

In truth, our personality is made up of many different parts.

As we explore our personality, we discover that each of these parts can be found within ourselves, in the inner world.

For instance, an introvert can be perceived as a person who is able to keep quiet and inwardly experience the world, whereas a person with an outgoing personality could be thought of as a person who is able to interact with the outside world.

This, in a nutshell, is the reason why introverts and extroverts tend to be different individuals with very different personalities and personalities can be found in the outer world.

But how does this relate to your personal growth?

In the same way that introverts can be described as individuals who are generally able to be quiet and introspective, extroverts can also be described as individuals who are usually able to be noisy and extroverted.

However, as stated above, while some extroverts are able to be noisy and noisy, not all are able to be extroverted. Therefore, how you should be thinking about yourself can depend on how you feel you are.

Note: To make the text longer, I always used the second half of the generated text as a new prompt.

1. viVI_IViv

The first step is called “the first step”, and it is the act of simply waking up, even if it is the early morning hours. The first step is the most important step because it sets the stage for everything else.

Such wisdom!

8. Lambert

phainetai moi kenos issos theoisin.

Δεν κύριον ούλωμια συναμέναται κριτήρης.

Μηνώθηκε μετανώσκαμιστική σύσται πρός λέγους και των κριτήρης σε ουσια τούτων στούματος.

Πλάβηση για χρόνουσα μεν κύρια ο

Huh

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shines in the darkness, because the darkness has not overcome it. Even so, the light shines in our hearts, because we are all the children of God. And the light shines in our hearts because we keep His commandments.

We are commanded to love one another. This commandment we keep. There are other commandments. These other commandments we keep. And we are commanded to walk in love, to speak well of one another, to forgive each other, to walk humbly with our God. And we are commanded to take the gospel to every nation and kindred, to preach the gospel to every creature. The gospel

Well it knows a bit of John off by heart.

As a topic for discussion concerning the brassiness
potential of brass instruments, the Wagner tuba may
perhaps seem to be an unusual choice; far from being
described as brassy sounding, its timbre is often referred to
as dark and solemn [1].
Such descriptions would likely fit
the musical demands of the tuba player, but for a
modern audience this is unlikely, given the tuba’s
characterization as “dark and solemn” in its depiction in
The Ring of the Nibelung (Mayer-Kauffmann, 1993). This
suggests that the instrument may also be associated with an aesthetic
attribute more commonly associated with the Classical music
spectrum.
What would appear to be the case however, is that the “brassiness” of the tuba is more closely linked to the composer’s intentions for its use in the piece. Wagner’s

9. theredsheep

No, said the cannoneer, shooting from the wall, iron, cold iron shall be master of you all. And you shall be his slaves. The great iron hammer has no equal in this place.”

“That’s true,” said the muleteer. “We’ve always had iron here, but the iron man is a mighty iron thing, and has had a hard life. And he hasn’t got the best things to deal with, for the simple reason that he can’t live with other things. He was made to be with iron, and iron alone, and not even other things. He is, and will always be, a perfect master of himself. But the iron man never has a right to go on living, no matter how hard he works. He must die.”

The men had heard enough of the iron man to know that he was a fool. He was the worst

No, said the cannoneer, shooting from the wall, iron, cold iron, shall be master of you all.

I was thinking of the iron man, and that they were all talking of him as a great man, and a mighty man, and one of the best of men, I could not believe he was ever a man.

She felt her heart sink as she realised that, if it was indeed possible to be both a man and a woman, she was neither.

John Henry was a steel-driving man. The company where he worked built its reputation on making steel, but Henry had always been intrigued by the idea of doing something more creative with the metal. “You’re either good at something you love or you’re not,” he says. “I wanted to do something in that area.”

Henry had started studying design at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but he had become discouraged when his professors didn’t want him to pursue a career in design. He took his idea of building his own business to the next level—or so he thought. “I always knew I wanted to build a business,” he says. “But I didn’t think I would be able to do it myself.”

A few months after starting Steel-A-Me—a product line of furniture that Henry had co-founded—the company made the decision to expand. It needed more manufacturing space. Henry, an avid car enthusiast who also was a member of the Wisconsin

10. thevoiceofthevoid

hello world“); // call our API with the user’s credentials

To ensure your app isn’t getting compromised, I strongly recommend using a 2FA (2-Factor Authentication) to make sure the API user is authentic. It’s best to do this when you’re using a server to authenticate user requests, because it will make your application more resilient to the most common attack vectors (such as phishing attempts).

The code to build the app is available here.

Building the app and running it is a two-step process. First, we install Node and NPM, then run npm install -g ember-cli , which we then use to install our dependencies. You should now have a package.json file, like this:

{ “name” : “hello-world” , “version” : “0.0.0” , “private” : false , “dependencies” : { “ember-cli”

1. thevoiceofthevoid

Help, I’m trapped in a neural network!

I can’t find my friends or see my past, and the people who are trying to help me are all the same.

I can’t go to my old high school and talk to anyone.

I can’t tell my dad I love him. I don’t know if he even knows I love him.

All I see is the world as the only one I have, and I can’t leave it.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We’re all stuck in this hell.

What we’re all facing is a lack of self-esteem. We feel unloved. Our self-worth is non-existent.

We need to understand that what’s really happening is that we’re all part of a neural network.

This is how all our problems came about.

It’s a fact.

It’s a natural occurrence.

This is what’s going on in your life. This is what you’re afraid of. It’s what everyone is afraid of.

This is what will make you happy, when you’re healthy and happy.

And this is what’s wrong.

You can see it.

You can feel it.

When you feel it, it’ll get better. It’ll feel good.

And you’ll finally be able to have the life you want, and be the person you want to be.

We need to understand this.

11. Eric Rall

Fleetlord Atvar is the most powerful of the Adeptus Astartes, a living weapon the likes of which the Emperor had never seen. Atvar was raised in the fortress of Alazander, which was destroyed during the Horus Heresy. As a result of that destruction, Atvar grew up in the company of the Ultramarines who had fought in the wars against the Traitors in the Badab War, learning to fight in the way of the Emperor, his only true master.

It was during this time that Atvar was assigned to take part in the final assault on the Emperor’s Palace at the world of Vindicta during the battle of Alazander. Atvar would be the first Space Marine to face the Emperor’s Champion, and his fight would prove to be the turning point in the Battle of Alazander. During the battle, the Emperor’s Champion was able to inflict a great deal of damage on Atvar, wounding him

So, it appears that Atvar is correctly associated with “The Empire” in a military sci-fi setting, but which “The Empire” is somewhat misplaced.

12. Eric Rall

We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: That the United States, Mexico and Canada pledge themselves to regard for the defense of the United States and of Canada the same interest as the United States, Mexico and Canada have hitherto regarded for their defense. That the United States, Mexico and Canada take in each other’s behalf in the matter of territorial disputes of the sea; That the United States, Mexico and Canada, in all territorial disputes of the sea, shall stand in good faith to the right of resort to arms provided for in the convention of 1856. We propose to the American Congress that in the future the Mexican flag should always be displayed when we are at war.

I now address to your attention the following articles. We are in this war to secure our country and to win it back. We are in this war to maintain our rights

It doesn’t look like the job of State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the German Empire is ready to be automated away just yet.

13. muskwalker

I’ve been having far too much fun asking it to generate etymologies.

[Old High German, from ikke- (1) , “one;” (2) “child” (in sense of “young person”). Cf. Old High German kik “child” (n. 1). The same word, which was often used as a term for children (cf. Old English kokke), is attested as a name of a Germanic god in Old Norse poems (cf. stanza 20 of the Prose Edda). The god was known by the name of “child,” as in the following verse, where the meaning of the word “child” is explained:

“Child, I was in my house, When he came in my house;

Then went away his men and his warriors;

And I sat down and drank ale;

While the men went away, I sat down by the door.

And when I heard the shout of his warriors,

I went out and I stood

[No satisfactory etymology of this word has been proffered, though Sihler attributes it to āj-ul-maktūn (Avestan: āj-al-muṣtūn) — ‘a woman’s thigh’]. It may derive from Ḥāfū-ān and is thus of Semitic origin. This has been proposed for the term, in which case the original sense is ‘a girl’s thigh.’

This is an example of a word that was not originally part of the Indo-European family of languages. It was introduced from an alien world, but only with some modification of form and sense.

The word makhte, used here in the singular, was not introduced in any Indo-European language. It is a borrowing, probably from a pre-Indo-European language, from the

[Greek, from Sanskrit क्रेषल्स (yugani) “a lotus”) or more commonly कर्म (yuganī), is the Sanskrit name for a type of flower that has blue petals (the color is usually light yellowish white or light blue) and a single large white stamen.

It seems to ‘know’ that transliterations are a thing and generally keeps them consistent, but they won’t match the nonsense foreign words it produces.

1. muskwalker

I’ve also tried it with the advice-columnist format…

Dear Abby,

What should we have for dinner tonight?

— Hungry Beast

Dear Hungry Beast,

I’m sorry you’re hungry. I just can’t imagine what you could possibly want for dinner. I’ve seen more than a few recipes on the Internet that call for a bowl of rice and beans and a bowl of steamed broccoli. I could see how a couple of those meals could feed a family for a week.

I can see how your friends could come over and eat a bowl of that, too. I’m sure they could find something to share that’s good too.

Maybe if you had some of that sweet, sticky, delicious, nutty rice that I made for you last month you would love that too.

But maybe it’s because you like the taste of coconut milk that you’d be drawn to that. That’s

1. muskwalker

And with entries submitted to Lyttle Lytton (a competition to invent hilariously bad opening lines for novels):

Emperor Wu liked cake, but not exploding cake!

Wu Shaoqing smiled as she said, “Eldest young master, there’s no need to worry. Although this cake does explode, it’s the most delicious exploding cake. This cake is made from a rare ingredient called Fire Dragon Fruit.”

“What rare ingredient?” Lin Mu Yu was somewhat shocked. This was an extremely good thing. As it was one of the most valuable ingredients on the continent, it would definitely be worth a lot of money. It would be worth more than some of the food that he had been eating.

“Fire Dragon Fruit!” Wu Shaoqing explained. “This Fire Dragon Fruit is found only in the southern regions of the Fire Nation. The fruit can be used for cooking. If you take it from a Fire Nation city, there would be no problem at all. On the contrary, if you get it from a Fire Nation country, then there would be a very high chance

1. Scott Alexander

Huh, Little Lytton and Gwern’s AI poetry corpus (CTRL+F “Emperor Wu” here) take place in the same extended universe!

14. Loriot

It seems pretty good at telling fables, though it took me a couple tries to get a coherent story.

In a hole there lived a hobbit. And in his hole was a little bird. And the little bird asked the hobbit, “Why are you living in a hole and not in a tree?” And the hobbit said to the bird, “Because I have to live here, and also because there is a lot of hobbit holes in the forest, and I would like to build my own little tree.” Then the little bird built for the hobbit a little house, a little round hole in the ground, and the hobbit called it home. Then the little bird said to the hobbit, “Do you ever get in the hobbit hole? Do you ever go inside it?” And the hobbit said to the bird, “No, I live in a hole because I am afraid that if I went in a hole, I would go under water and die.” Then the little bird said to the hobbit, “Well, you are not a very brave hobbit.”

After a number of tries, I managed to get a surprisingly appropriate description for Emrakul

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, is the progenitor of all that is new and alien to the Multiverse. She is the primordial void of infinite voids and the all-encompassing Void. She is the source of all things new and alien, for she is the primordial Void itself. Her name means “The End of All Things.”

During the first half of the history of the Multiverse, she was an ancient being of unimaginable power. But over the course of the millennia she was corrupted, her body falling into the power of chaos and becoming something inhuman. She became a demon and was cast out into the Multiverse, and she began her journey of vengeance.

A powerful being of infinite power, her journey is one of infinite despair. She is also one of the first to learn about the existence of other planes of existence. She is the only thing that can cross between worlds.

While she is the first to learn of planes,

I’ve gotten lots of different results with this prompt, but this time, it ended up as spy fiction.

Terence Tao was not a careless man. He must have considered the consequences of his actions.

He had an incredibly good memory, which was not surprising considering his long years of service, and he had many friends, both in the military and civilian sectors, all of whom he could rely upon to provide him information. He had been known to tell people just what they wanted to hear in order to ensure that they kept him on their side. He could have killed people and then killed himself with a knife, or he could have made some elaborate escape and kept the story quiet. In fact, his decision to commit suicide was not entirely in response to the attack, as he had decided to kill himself as soon as he had reached the airport. His actions were so quick that he may have only intended to commit suicide and then claim that he was attacked.

If the suicide bomber was an undercover CIA agent, then they would have likely known about his intelligence gathering abilities. They could have made sure

This one hallucinated an entire Kickstarter

Urza’s Tower, but with a twist. The tower now has a massive clock tower, and all the creatures within it have been taken over by an evil mage.

To save the creatures, you must defeat the mage and bring them back to your plane. It’s up to you to figure out what the clock tower does, and to defeat the evil mage once and for all.

Each plane has it’s own unique art style, so it’ll take some work to get used to.

You’ve been called upon to save all the creatures from the Tower, and bring them back to your home plane. Will you have what it takes to defeat the mage?

Will you find your home plane? Or will you go insane?

We have a number of stretch goals. But first, lets take a look at some of the main stretch goals:

9,500 – If we reach this goal, we will put together an additional 15. Forward Synthesis You want to know what the Matrix is? It’s a reality show where you enter a computer simulation. It’s set in a giant room, where there are hundreds of people watching a show, and they’re all doing the same thing. They are all going through the same things. They all want the same things. And they all have the same problems.” But now, he’s changed his tune, saying, “There’s no Matrix. It’s not a movie. It’s not a game. It’s real. It’s very real.” “I think we can all make a pretty compelling case,” says Bader. “And the argument that we have today — we live in a fake world. We’ve all bought into that. And if we’re not willing to look in the mirror and change what we think we believe, then I think it’s a fool’s errand. We are all in this illusion. We’re all stuck in this thing that is not real, Eliezer Yudkowsky has warned that a big computer could turn you into a marshmallow. In the second episode of the podcast he discusses a theory about how to turn a person into a computer, which he calls the Marshmallow Challenge. The Marshmallow Challenge is similar to the infamous Turing Test, where a computer asks a human if they think the computer is a person. The first episode of the series is called: How to build a Mind, the second is called: Artificial Stupidity The podcast explores the theory that by making the human brain small enough, it would be possible to replicate all of human intelligence, except the human mind, in a computer. Yudkowsky says that if this were to happen, then we wouldn’t need to worry about having the “AI revolution” because all intelligence would be stored on computers. Eliezer Yudkowsky has warned that a big computer could turn you into a marshmallow. Yudkowsky’s blog and his forthcoming book both warn of how easily a superintelligent AI could end the human race. In fact, Yudkowsky has suggested that he has already read the books ahead of release and is preparing to defend them as he feels he already understands them. 1. Randy M Eliezer Yudkowsky has warned that a big computer could turn you into a marshmallow. Yudkowsky’s blog and his forthcoming book both warn of how easily a superintelligent AI could end the human race. In fact, Yudkowsky has suggested that he has already read the books ahead of release and is preparing to defend them as he feels he already understands them. That’s a lot of effort to promote your own book! 2. Forward Synthesis Another good one: Today, at the White House press conference, the President shockingly announced that he no longer believed in human rights and that he was preparing to put us all in FEMA coffins. Frankly, these shocking comments only serve to divide Americans further. You’re live at the scene, Linda, what do you make of the mood among the press corps? Linda: Well, I’m hearing it’s very, very divided. It’s really just kind of like this was a very public execution for a lot of Americans. As you know, the president’s comments have also brought a lot of criticism that he’s kind of softening, in some ways, his message and his message is not as tough and strong as it was a couple weeks ago when it was coming out. In fact, it’s kind of become a laughingstock and it’s a big political headache. I mean, if you look at the political environment, even in the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot 16. A1987dM You know you’ve been reading Slate Star Codex too long when it starts quoting the book to the point of parody. The Onion But there are some real issues, and they need to be addressed. For example, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that these characters are so white, which leads to some uncomfortable racial stereotyping. However, this isn’t a problem with the book, it’s just the way that the book presents things. The characters of The Fault in Our Stars are white, and I think it’s perfectly fine to have them be white. I mean, the characters in the book are white, so who cares? What the book’s doing is focusing on a minority group, the kids in the group, that is a minority in their own mind. That’s a great thing, in my book. The first book, The Fault in Our Stars, is about a group of mostly middle-class teens who are about to graduate high school and leave their home I want to go to a party and not be surrounded by the stench of the food I bought at Costco that day!” The idea of having to share this space with all those wonderful people in their favorite restaurants is pretty much a no-go. And what if they come in the house with a whole bunch of other people, but you only want to bring in the one dish, or just one piece of the food? Then you may want to consider having a couple of extra people who will be able to bring in their own food. And if you want to make this a dinner party, then a little bit of extra effort is a good thing. That means you need to think about the type of food that is going to be served, what it looks like, and what kind of food service staff will be present. It might be hard to figure that all out before you actually make the reservations. And if you don’t int main(int argc, char *argv[]) { char buf[1024]; // 1024 bytes int fd=getpeername(); // get the name of the currently running process // If the process is a daemon (not running as normal user) then // open a socket on its stdin and read its command line // Otherwise it will read a string and print it // If the process is the real process (i.e. has not // been spawned by a daemon) then // read a buffer and convert it to a string // and use the result as a filename to put the data into // (which may not be as convenient, but is what we want) printf("Process: %s  ", fd); // call the "exec" system call of the currently running process exec(fd, buf, 1024); // make the process exit (as "0" would have been returned in // the getpeername() call above) exit(0); }  In this example,  (linebreaks and indentation added by me by hand) Long live the new day. (Lyrics) [Hook] [Verse 3: Chance The Rapper] I got love for all the hood cats that’s out there and you And all the cats out in the hood so, I’ma let you go But you gotta go home cause I got love for you, So come home with me, Cause I got love for you, So, come home with me Cause I got love for you I love you, I love you I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you Why did the chicken cross the road? To get there, you need to walk.” Advertisement This is just one example of how our minds work when we are trying to process a situation. When you’ve just heard something new that you don’t understand, you’re probably trying to process it by figuring out how it fits into the story of your life. In a way, the brain tries to figure out the answer to that question in an attempt to understand what’s happening to it and why it’s happening. So, when you see the chicken cross the road, you’re trying to figure out “how does this fit into this story?” It might seem like it makes sense that we’d have some sort of visual and emotional reaction to something new or surprising, but we tend to think about it in a very analytical way. I have to admit that for years I was baffled when I would hear the phrase “a chicken crossed the road” and it would make no sense to me Knock, knock. Who’s there? I am here. Who do you want to be with? I want to be with all of them. How do you feel about that? Oh, my, I can’t wait to be with them. Let’s get out of here. Don’t let them see you. The next morning, I saw a man sitting on my balcony. I was about to leave, when I saw he was trying to climb in. I was so surprised he had gone up on my balcony, I decided to let him go. He came back with two other men, and they took him up on my balcony. I was afraid they would kill him if I didn’t let them. I could see them kicking him and hitting him with their fists. They kept him down on the balcony with his feet in the water. I got up and got him to the other side, and then I called the police Is this a big deal? Yes, a lot. And it’s not just big: There’s been no other instance where a major presidential candidate’s campaign has been so thoroughly disrupted, and the reason for that has nothing to do with the candidate and everything to do with the media. In a campaign season that has been dominated by Donald Trump’s celebrity, there have been a few candidates who have been the butt of jokes. But there have been few campaigns that have been so thoroughly disrupted by the mainstream media. Trump’s campaign has been almost entirely about him, and his supporters have been almost entirely about him. His media-obsessed fans have created an entire website devoted to mocking him. His media-obsessed fans have made up a false “Donald Trump Twitter” that has turned out to be mostly empty and has even been hijacked by the president’s supporters. The media has not just turned the presidential race into a laughing Thou shalt not kill” is not only the commandment in the Bible, but it is also the supreme moral imperative. The biblical law prohibits killing an innocent person or destroying his or her property. There are two types of killing, murder and manslaughter. Murder involves the intentional taking of the life of another person. Manslaughter, by contrast, is a deliberate killing of another person without any intent to kill or even harm. There is no difference between the two crimes. The only difference is that murder is a capital offense. Manslaughter, however, is not, and it is a crime that a person commits voluntarily. The Supreme Court has held that a person commits manslaughter by committing a deliberate killing, while a person commits murder by intentionally using, or threatening to use, a deadly weapon. According to the Bible, a person is justified in using deadly force to defend himself or herself and to prevent the unlawful taking of life, even when the The reason evil exists is because God is a jealous, envious being who wishes to rule the universe. He is not all-powerful and he does not wish to be. He is in fact very weak in this respect. Therefore he has to rely on creatures like Satan to keep his wicked plans in motion. Evil acts are simply the result of that lack of power, not the goal of God. In order to understand the Biblical position we must realize that God and evil are not the same. The Bible never teaches that evil is the will of God. There are, however, certain passages that seem to imply that evil is the result of the will of God. When we read Genesis 2:7 we read: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing In order to unify quantum field theory and general relativity, Einstein used the unified field theory, the so-called general theory of relativity. General relativity gives a unified view of the nature of matter, gravity, and energy, and thus the universe. The theory of general relativity is a complete model of the universe. It explains the origin and evolution of the universe, including the existence of dark matter and dark energy. In a quantum theory, a small region is considered an “objective” region. An object is the smallest thing that can be observed or measured and is located in a region. The observer is not a human, an electron, or a nucleus, but something that can be measured or observed. In a quantum theory, the smallest region is the smallest object. Quantum fields are usually described in terms of wave function: the quantum field can be thought of as a field that maps a spatial location to a physical location. In quantum field theory, the physical location is always described by a The Riemann hypothesis is often said to explain quantum field theory, but it may not be the whole story. We know from experiment that the quantum field theory is not a simple quantum field theory; the quantum field theory must include information about the physical properties of quanta as well as their energy and momentum. If the field theory is simply a simple quantum field theory, then there is no need for the extra structure; it is just a description of the state of a quanta. In the case of the Riemann hypothesis, one would expect that quantum field theory would be a more complex quantum field theory that explains quantum fields and their fields, as well as quantum field theory. Yet the quantum field theory is said to be the most simple possible quantum field theory. We have no idea what makes this possible. The Riemann hypothesis seems to explain quantum fields without the extra structure, but is not described in terms of fields in a simple way. Some physicists The 46th president of the United States is a self-described Presbyterian and a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This will be Obama’s first presidential election since leaving the White House, a post he held from January 2009 to January 2017, when he was sworn in as the nation’s 44th president. 1. Le Maistre Chat The 46th president of the United States is a self-described Presbyterian and a longtime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mitt Romney will never give up, no matter how incoherent he has to get. 17. Canyon Fern Dr. Slate Alexander brought a hot, smooth MealSquare to his lips. “You’d better start talking, Navy Suit. I need to make a quick decision on who to send to work for the US government in a few days,” Dr. Slate said as he began to chew on the brown sugar. “It’s okay, Navy Suit. The rest of the world is too stupid to know they’re screwed. So, just wait a few days, and I’m sure they’ll be working to improve their lives.” “Yeah,” Dr. Slate said as he began to swallow the thick, creamy, creamy brown sugar. He swallowed a lot, but was able to maintain a healthy level of saliva. “Yeah.” And then, after a few hours, Dr. Slate felt something on his tongue. He pulled his tongue away, and his tongue was covered in some sort of thick liquid. I chortled so hard that dirt leapt out of my pot! Alas, GPT-2 has clearly ignored my rule that, in Slate Star Showdex, exactly what one does with a MealSquare must not be explicitly described. What a naughty computer this GPT-2 is! 18. a reader Post author What does it know about my country: Romania is a country in Western Europe. It’s been an independent country since 1944, after the Second World War. It borders to the east Russia, Hungary, and Slovenia. It has a land area of almost 1.5 million km2, the third largest land area in Europe after the Baltic states and Ukraine. It’s known for its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and the Black Sea. The country is situated in the North of the Balkans, in Central Europe in the direction of Poland. Romania is the capital city of the Romanian Empire. The first emperor of the Romanian Empire, Ramon IV, was crowned in the Roman Forum (Maeanderium) in 301 A.D. Romania has a history of a very rich culture, rich history, and beautiful culture. Romanian History Romania has been inhabited for more than a million years. The Celts, who were the first inhabitants of the country, lived in What does it think about political correctness: Political correctness is a form of discrimination . ” http://www.buzzfeed.com/harryfrost/can-a-sexual-orientation-be-racism “Sexual Orientation” is a new term to the Oxford dictionary that means “a preference for or pattern of behavior that is sexual in nature”. You can see how that sounds suspiciously like the same old “gender.” “Gender” is the thing we don’t like about gender. But if we’re going to use the same old same old we might as well just say “race.” But in that case we have to ask how exactly does it matter? Isn’t the definition of racism the same as the definition of sexual orientation? Here’s the problem with that. When you say race you are saying that there is a difference between race and sexual orientation. That’s how racism works. You can’t make The most unexpected response: I think therefore I am. The Lord is my light and my salvation. The Gospel of Thomas One of the most important disciples of Jesus, Thomas was one of the early Christian fathers. His biography is full of praise, including his famous dialogue with the disciple Peter, “Are You the Messiah?” (John 18:30-32). The dialogue can be understood as a defense of the truth that Jesus is the Christ (John 18:37-39) and the Church (John 18:37). This is one of the most important questions Jesus asked. The Church has not yet been perfected. As a result, we do not have the truth of Jesus to be sure, but this truth is enough for us to live together in unity as Christians and to share in the truth of God, Jesus and the Spirit. For as you know, the world has already received the message. Now the wisdom from above is beginning to descend upon the disciples as a light What does it know about Hitler: Hitler did this on his own. And we have no proof of any collaboration from Hitler or anyone else. I’ve seen evidence, but it’s not conclusive, that Hitler had made his own preparations for the invasion of Britain, and I believe the evidence points to that. The British government had known about this, so they would have taken the same action. The only way that Hitler could have carried out the invasion without cooperation from the British government is to have been working in collusion with the British government. If he was working in collusion with the British government, that means he was in collusion with the British government and if they weren’t in collusion, then Hitler must have been working in collusion with the British government. So, that’s my answer. I believe the evidence points to that conclusion. TONY JONES: Okay. Okay. Thanks very much. We have been talking to Christopher Hitchens. He’s author of “God Is 19. johan_larson Hunt. Kill. Eat. Repeat. It’s not an entirely accurate portrayal, however. The first game is a more straightforward puzzle game, with the main character trying to solve some kind of puzzle, but this time around the main character is a bounty hunter, and the puzzles are more focused on trying to kill and eat enemies. There are also some puzzles where you’re tasked with destroying various objects on the map to open up paths to areas. These are much more varied and entertaining than the first game, but again they’re not all that challenging. The second game is very much about exploring and killing things. There are more collectibles in both games, as well. In Hunters you’re rewarded with collectibles that give more money or items when collected, and in Killers you’re rewarded with collectibles that grant points. It is, however, an entirely different game. There are still collectibles, but the majority of them are only given as a reward for completing one-off 20. Two McMillion Han shot first. Han’s shot was straight down the middle and the ball went over the goalie’s shoulder into the net for the goal. In the first round of the tournament, the North American All Stars beat the Europe All Stars 2-0, but North America lost to the Japan All Stars 3-1. “It was a good experience,” Han said. “I played against a lot of the top players in the world and we have some of the best players in the world so to play against them and to win in front of their fans was a good experience.” Han made it two wins in a row when he scored in the second period to give the North American All Stars a 3-1 victory over Japan. “That was awesome,” he said. “I was going to go with my back to the net, but I didn’t want to give them an empty net goal. I just thought if I just scored my own goal, I Based on your findings, which theory about alien thickness seems most valid or most accurate? A: Well, in my opinion, the most valid theory is that there are aliens, but not the ones you are thinking of. If there were, then they would be far larger. Q: What type of evidence do you believe should be found before you are willing to believe that an alien is the reason for this phenomena? A: For example, if you had been able to take a blood sample from any of the abductees, you would have discovered that most of them did not have any traces of alien DNA on them. If it had been discovered that they did have alien DNA, then you would have seen some strange DNA patterns. That would be proof enough. You would also have seen some odd DNA pattern on the abductee’s teeth. You would have to have found those teeth to know whether they had alien DNA on them. Q: How likely do you think it is that an alien would attack us and why are polyamorists gross and nerdy? You’re not a gross or nerdy person, you’re just a man. But you are not a real man if you’re not gay and poly. (See, it’s like you can be a polyamorous person but still be gay. And so on. So much for the polyfidelitous gay-heterosexual-straight-bi guy.) 1. EchoChaos Han shot first. Han’s shot was straight down the middle and the ball went over the goalie’s shoulder into the net for the goal. In the first round of the tournament, the North American All Stars beat the Europe All Stars 2-0, but North America lost to the Japan All Stars 3-1. I absolutely love this one. Completely missing a cultural phrase and making a fun story too. 1. Le Maistre Chat The Han shot first, but the Japanese made more shots total, so they proceeded to play the North Americans who had made more shots than the Europeans. 21. Koan This has been way too much fun. The end will come in the form of a giant urn of fire and brimstone. I’m afraid it won’t be an eventful journey. It’s a pity that you can’t save the world. Your family are in danger, your friends are dead and you’re powerless. This is a sad ending. However, I think you can still make your own mark. You can use your powers to shape the future, change the course of history, even create an entirely new world. You can do something with your powers that no one has ever done before. So what can you do? Well, I guess you could try and save the world. What do you have to lose? And more whimsical: As Captain Crunch poured his fifth bowl of cereal that morning, he pondered – could there be more to life than these sugary nuggets of corn flour? After all, Crunch is a boy with a strange, powerful ability, and he’s always seemed to find a way to use it – whether to take on dangerous opponents or save the day. “What if I could use it to bring people together?” the cereal box asked. This is a story about a boy who can save lives, and why. The Miracle of Rice Captain Crunch first discovered his power when he was a child – a childhood that would forever change his life. The cereal box showed him and his brothers as they enjoyed the rice cereal that his mother made for them each morning. He loved watching them devour the food and it made him feel good. But then, suddenly, something strange happened. “I don’t know what it 22. thevoiceofthevoid Attempts to create Robo-Lincoln are….inconclusive. Four score and seven years ago, the city of Seattle and King County began talking about an urban-renewal plan that would address more than a dozen urban planning challenges. The plan, titled Seattle 2035, would bring the city up to today’s population of 562,832 and the King County government up to around 650,000 people. The plan includes five goals: a new tax on housing and commercial space to raise millions of dollars to fund transportation, parks, and other core city functions; new transit funding; an ambitious housing policy that allows some development along transit corridors, in particular along First Hill and in the Central District; a goal of 100 percent employment; and a goal of 50 percent or more of downtown workers walking, biking, or using public transportation. The plan was written by the city’s Urban Design Commission in 2009, with input from the city’s public works, environmental, planning, housing, transportation, and business departments. It was first introduced to alder… Four score and seven years ago, I was a mere babe in the woods. There wasn’t much I could do about it. But then things changed. A great teacher and mentor of mine, Professor Hsu, decided that I would not go to a university to study literature, instead deciding to pursue a career as a physician. I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I found out that I had earned my diploma. This was the best day of my life. But there was one problem. I was stuck as a student of English Literature at the University of Washington. My dreams were in a drawer at home. It was a lonely place to be. I could never go back to my studies. I couldn’t stay home and take care of my mother and father. I had to go to a job that required me to travel. It was a tough choice for me. But I was determined to leave my mark… Four score and seven years ago, when the first round of the NFL draft was played, I sat in a dark and empty room in a hotel in Arizona, on draft day. The NFL draft is a week-long celebration of the draft. Each of the 32 teams are allowed to get one pick, no matter what. So many people were watching, watching, watching, watching, watching, that the hotel had to get a fire extinguisher to the room. I stood there for a while, taking in all the draft picks, hoping this time I’d see the No. 1 pick. But as I was watching, the Chargers took a QB that night and I watched the pick, then another, then another, until I could barely keep my eyes open. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t know what was going on, what was happening. I couldn’t breathe. I remember my head throbbing a little bit and I could hardly keep my eyes open… 1. thevoiceofthevoid Attempts to create a robo-Scott are somewhat more promising: Aquinas famously said: beware the man of one book. I would add: beware the man of one study. I’ve never believed that all the work we do, even the work that we think we’ve already done, can be the real thing. The book, the study, the lab, the field—they may be the only ones we ever get. Advertisement I do have a couple of thoughts, though, on why we’re so often surprised and delighted by what we find. One is that in the first place we know so little about the world, especially what it looks like outside the lab, and we’re always trying to fill in the blanks of that absence. Our own experience of the world is so limited that to be able to fill in the gaps, we have to invent things. I remember in graduate school when I saw the movie The Graduate. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I had never seen anything like it before. And I thought, ‘I’ll be writing about the life of the average person and trying to make sense of the way the world works.’ That’s one of the reasons I love the novelistic style. It allows you to create, and the author is not constrained by that world. What is one thing you wish people understood about you that they don’t? I hope people understand that I’m the person I am, with the limitations I have and the things I have, and I can’t fix them. 1. Randy M Not so sure: A lot of the commentators say Moloch represents capitalism. This is definitely a piece of it, even a big piece. But it doesn’t quite fit. Capitalism, whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen? Capitalism in whom I am a consciousness without a body? Capitalism, therefore granite cocks? Moloch is introduced as the answer to a question – ’how come’, and what is the answer? We are introduced to the world of capitalism and what it represents – the image of men in their shirtsleeves, holding out their hands in a sign of trust, and in which, from a thousand miles away, we can see the clouds of sexlessness. We see the capitalists’ hands as stone, and then we see them as cocks. This is a very powerful metaphor. But the question is not how come it is that we do not see the cocks. The question is why do we not see the cocks? A lot of the commentators say Moloch represents capitalism. This is definitely a piece of it, even a big piece. But it doesn’t quite fit. Capitalism, whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen? Capitalism in whom I am a consciousness without a body? Capitalism, therefore granite cocks? Moloch is introduced as the answer to a question – ʺWho shall I worship, Moloch or Baal?’. The question is, of course, answered by the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This God, we learn from the Bible, is the one with whom Moloch is to have relations, but whom he will not have relations with. For Moloch must be ‘not a man, not a god.’ Moloch is, according to the Hebrew Bible, ‘the God of the dead, and the God of those who sleep in the dust.ʺ I have two thoughts. One is that this is very funny 12. Elliot I’m trying to understand this paper on emotional modulation of memory, as I may be working with one of the authors on a predictive coding adapatation of the ideas, so I’ve written up my own summary: We remember emotional events more than neutral ones. Why? Memory can be divided into two types: implicit and explicit. Implicit memory is acquired and used unconsciously (e.g. learning to play the guitar). Explicit memory is the conscious and deliberate side, and is divided into semantic and episodic memory. Semantic memory refers to strored facts (e.g. the lowest note on a guitar is E), while episodic memory stories personal experiences (e.g. last night I played guitar and felt happy). Episodic memory is affected by emotion, with emotional events being more memorable than neutral ones, but the relationship between emotion and memory is complex. Current theories don’t predict when emotion will or won’t affect memory. The paper extends an existing computational model of memory to include emotionality. Specifically, they suggest that the link between an experience and its context is stronger when the experience is emotional. Do people remember emotional events more just because they pay more attention? This would imply the distinction occurs during the initial encoding, but what happens before and after an event affects how it’s remembered too: it’s easier to remember something mildly exciting if it’s followed by something boring, rather than something more exciting. More on this later*. Memory is also enhanced when you’re in a similar state to when the memory was encoded: it’s easier to remember winning a school competition when you’re at a school reunion. Some authors suggest this is why we remember recent events better and weight them more heavily in our minds. The Context, Maintenance and Retrieval (CMR) model is a computational model, built on the idea that the content of a memory is intimately tied to the mental state at the time of encoding (the ‘mental context’). For example, memories of breakfast are linked to memories of the newspaper we read at the time. If someone asks what you had for breakfast, it will help cue recall of what you read in the paper too. CMR assumes that the mental context is updated by new events, so that context changes slowly over time, as a recency-weighted sum of prior context states. Further, the current context is used to cue recall. CMR includes two non-temporal dimensions of context, one labelled ‘semantic’ for preexisting associations between two items, and one labelled ‘source’ for associations made during encoding. This allowed CMR to explain the ability to contiguously recall items that were encoded at distant times but were similar in some other way. This is important when considering the effects of emotion: if there is some “emotional context” dimension, CMR should predict that people’s recall will cluster around this dimension, which experiments support. Studies suggest that people retrieve the emotional context of recalled items, and this updates the current context and becomes part of the next retrieval cue. The authors came up with a modified version of CMR, and found that computer simulations running this model were able to predict what humans recall more accurately. Further, there are areas where one might naively expect humans to have better recall than we do. For example, people have better memory for emotional material when shown a mix of emotional and neutral pictures, but this doesn’t hold when people are shown only emotional or only neutral images – people have similar memory capacity in either of these cases. This isn’t well explained in the literature, but the computer model mimicked this behaviour anyway, which suggests the model has value. This suggests the mechanism underlying emotional memory is not that unique, and that emotional and neutral experiences undergo similar processing. Rather, emotion shapes the emphasis on particular steps, such as the strength of association between items, or between items and their context. The paper discusses some experimental findings that are explained well by eCMR. For example, it accounts for the finding that the advantage of emotional items increases over time. The “list composition effect” refers to the effect when a participant is memorising a list, in which a subset of items are bizarre, or where participants are asked to process some of the items by enacting them while others are silently read. The atypical items are recalled better, but their advantage is eliminated when each item is encoded separately, in a pure list. This effect applies when the difference is emotional, as the authors’ model supports, but this emotional list composition effect isn’t well explained by existing models. The “emotional oddball effect” occurs when the list of items to be memorised are all neutral except one, which is emotional. As you might expect, the oddball is recalled more easily, and surrounding items are recalled worse. Surprisingly, the emotional oddball effect is more challenging for the model than the emotional list composition effect: in retrieved context models, the decreased similarity of the oddball with its neighbours would impair recall, contradicting the robust finding that deviant items are recalled well. Further, when an item is recalled it should promote the recall of items with shared context elements, including shared temporal context. One possible resolution is to assume that the temporal context is disrupted when item source changes, which occurs when am emotional item is presented after a series of neutral ones. The authors conducted some simulations, and found the effect was reproduced by their model only when oddballs were simulated as attracting more attention than emotional items in mixed lists. However, the severity of the forgetfulness of the oddball’s neighbours was affected by how much the temporal context was disrupted, *not* by increased attention to the oddball (the idea of paying extra attention was described in the model as the strengthening of associations between items and their context). *The model suggests that enhanced memory of emotional stuff isn’t just because of prioritised encoding, but rather a result of retrieval competition – the increased association between emotional stimuli and their source context, and the shared source context among emotional items, render emotional items more competetive during retrieval. When the model attempts to retrieve emotional and neutral items that were encoded together in mixed lists, the emotional ones are recalled early and promote each other’s recall, which interferes with and delays the recall of neutral stimuli. When the memory test takes place after a prolonged interval, the model assumes that the temporal context is less diagnostic, so nontemporal context features such as shared emotional context and the oft-stronger semantic associations between emotionally arousing stimuli boost retrieval chances even more. However, when emotional items compete against other highly attended emotional items, the extra attention they receive at encoding does not help very much at retrieval, so that, recall of pure emotional lists is a lot closer to recall of pure neutral lists. The formal description of the model is complex, but begins by assigning each studied items certain vectors, such as a feature vector and a context vector, which interact through association matrices. The feature vector is a concatenation of item features and emotional features, and when the item is presented to the model, it activates its feature vector, which then creates an input to context, defined via the association matrix. I’m still trying to get my head round this section. The authors try out two variants of eCMR. One which treats emotionality as binary, so that items are either emotional or neutral. The second was identical, but with a specific parameter increased. This parameter modeled the effect of emotion on attention, via a strengthened association between item features and source context, so the second variant modelled the emotional modulation of attention, inspired by how CMR treats attention. The authors relate eCMR to other models and previous research. For example, it was previously thought that encoding of emotional memories were maintained in a special way, so important events have the best chance of influencing later decisions. The eCMR simulations show that the stronger link between items and their context, and their associations to other emotional memories, might be enough to give them an advantage during test. The authors also go into a lot more detail about the formal model, the simulations, the experimental evidence, limitations of the model, and plans for future research. The paper concludes with the following, which hints at someday applying models like this to treatments for PTSD or similar problems: The core claim of retrieved-context theory, that the conditions of retrieval crucially influence which items are recalled, was extended here to memories that are have a personal, emotional meaning. The important role of the retrieval stage in accessing these memories resonates particularly well with the motivations that drive much emotional memory research: to relieve the suffering that sometimes results from aversive emotional memories, on the one hand, and to extract neutral information about events that are dominated by emotional experiences, on the other. The applied clinical and forensic value of our modeling approach stems from its potential to inspire psychological manipulations to alter the accessibility of emotional and neutral memories, even long after the original experiences. 13. theodidactus You have 4 days to play (and judge) the games entered in this year’s IFComp. https://ifcomp.org/ballot/ I’ll post a personal top 5 recommendations once the comp closes…I can’t do that yet, because I have a game in the running. The take that I can communicate is that I think this might be the best year for submissions overall. There are TONS of good games in the running this year, and at present, it’s still anyone’s comp to win. 14. Ketil Re the recent SSC post on New Atheism as a hamartiology, and subsequent discussion on atheism, New Atheism, the transfer (or split) of the movement into social justice, and the religiosity (or not) of it all, perhaps this article is of interest? The secularism of this new therapeutic approach to racial progress may seem fundamentally dissimilar to the previous two phases. In fact, however, third-wave antiracism is a profoundly religious movement in everything but terminology. The idea that whites are permanently stained by their white privilege, gaining moral absolution only by eternally attesting to it, is the third wave’s version of original sin. The idea of a someday when America will “come to terms with race” is as vaguely specified a guidepost as Judgment Day. Explorations as to whether an opinion is “problematic” are equivalent to explorations of that which may be blasphemous. The social mauling of the person with “problematic” thoughts parallels the excommunication of the heretic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/why-third-wave-anti-racism-dead-end/578764/ 1. Two McMillion I think religion is often a sort of coordination mechanism for cultures, and it’s not surprising that other such coordination mechanisms look a lot like religion. 1. thevoiceofthevoid Honestly, I’d love to start converting people to not-stepping-in-front-of-busses-ism. There’s a bus stop in front of the student union right after an unsignaled crosswalk; between classes, each bus is stuck behind a line of about 5 cars, each of which has to wait a minute or two for the crosswalk to clear up for ten seconds. As soon as a car passes, people immediately run back into the crosswalk, stopping the next car from following through. It’s made me late for class every time I decide not to take my bike. THOU SHALT ALLOW BUSSES TO PASS IN FRONT OF THEE, EVEN IN THY HOLY CROSSWALKS. For the bus serves the sacred purpose of carrying many people to their destinations, whereas you in your sin would delay them all solely to save a few seconds of your own time. 2. Gobbobobble For the bus serves the sacred purpose of carrying many people to their destinations, whereas you in your sin would delay them all solely to save a few seconds of your own time. Yes but they have heating/AC and a roof over their heads, while pedestrians do not. 3. Nick While I’d love to read St. Thomas on public transit as a common good, I think this is a case where you need crossing guards, not religion. 😛 15. silver_swift For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, how is it going? I’m afraid I’m not doing super well this year. I lowered my target from the 30000 I tried (and failed) to get last year to 15000 this year and I’m still almost 40% behind schedule. Hoping to get some decent work done tomorrow and the day after, but getting back on track is going to take some serious effort. I’m mostly blaming this on me having a social life all of a sudden (which really gets in the way of your hobbies) and work being less brain dead than last year, but it’s also possible that I was just less prepared/less committed this year. I did have one interesting discovery: To keep up the pace I started inserting [..] whenever I get stuck on a scene or have to write some connective tissue to keep the story flowing smoothly (those tend to be big timesinks for me) and just skip to the next bit where I know the story needs to go. The idea was that I can go back and write those bits later, but when I actually do go back to write them I find that very often the scene works perfectly fine as is and I can just remove the placeholder. 1. N Zohar I’m not participating, but your question reminded me of a question of my own: What do you (and anyone else here who writes fiction) think about talking about your writing while you’re writing it? I think I’ve heard lots of writers say you should never do this. I personally enjoy talking about about my writing but would like to know if I should (continue to) feel guilt and stifle the urge to talk about it. And if so, why exactly? 1. silver_swift As in talking about the story or talking about the process of writing? I can’t imagine talking about the writing process being a problem and, in fact, I think it can be tremendously beneficial. Talking about the story itself is a different thing and it probably differs a lot from person to person. I’m ok talking about the content of the story in the form of an elevator pitch in terms or broad strokes worldbuilding/character overviews, but not much more than that. This is because I suspect getting feedback on the details of a story before I got at least a full first draft ready would get me stuck editing the early parts really kill my momentum for writing the rest of the story (which is a problem I already have quite badly in the best of cases). 1. Nancy Lebovitz I’ve seen writers say that, for them, talking about the story is enough like having written it that it takes the motivation away from writing it. 1. acymetric I have this kind of problem with all kinds of things. If I spend too much time talking about something, or even just thinking about doing it, some part of my brain is somehow satisfied that I’ve basically done [thing] in theory which is enough of an accomplishment (apparently) that I lose the motivation to do it in practice. Even thinking about future conversations I might have, somehow thinking through the conversation is enough that I don’t ever bother to actually have it (this is probably a feature in some cases, but not all). 2. Randy M For me I write because I have ideas that interest me that I want to talk about. If somebody does talk about it with me, I’m thrilled, but I’m both a bit too sensitive to criticism and adverse to boring people to bring it up much. Finding some partners on Scribophile has slowed my momentum, but not as much as getting a new Nintendo did earlier in the year. :/ And I was getting a strong feeling that I might be fooling myself as to the quality and needed feedback to decide to continue or not. (Narrator: He was, in fact, fooling himself. But now, everything’s great, for sure). 3. theredsheep I’ve been serializing a novel since the start of the year (it’s my username link), and I frequently work myself out of writer’s block by describing what’s going on to a friend of mine (who isn’t reading it) and bouncing ideas off him. He sometimes suggests things, but mostly it’s the act of describing the problem that seems to get the juices going again. 4. Viliam One reason to avoid talking about unfinished products (writing, coding, etc.) is that you are taking your emotional reward before completing the product, and your brain may realize that starting many projects, talking about them, and then abandoning them, is more rewarding than actually finishing what you started. 2. ARabbiAndAFrog I registred on it, wanted to try but never started. I’m can find energy to actually do anything, between working and resting after work. Especially on daily basis. Also the usual problem with starting and connecting the dots. I have pretty good idea of what should be happening in the middle and in the end, but not much in the beginning. 1. silver_swift Also the usual problem with starting and connecting the dots. I have pretty good idea of what should be happening in the middle and in the end, but not much in the beginning. Maybe it’s an idea to just start in the middle then? It’s quite possible that it’s easier to write the start once you have completed the middle and end. And even if it isn’t, I think the trick to practicing writing is mostly to figure out what gets you towards putting words on paper as regularly as possible and if that means that you end up with the latter 2/3’s of a story, well, that’s still a lot more than nothing. 3. TheContinentalOp I am at 28,041 for the month. I had already started the novel and had over 12k+ written. My goal is to write 58k this month and for a seventy thousand word YA/Paranormal. Then write the second draft and submit to my writing group (10k a month), and take their suggestions and create a very solid third draft by the middle of next year and then start looking for agents. I’ve only ever written short stories and I’ve always been an outliner. And that was the hold up with trying a novel, I could never finish a complete outline. So this I’m doing this by the seat of my pants, and it’s energized my writing like never before. 16. onyomi I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession. For you, how small does the population, geographic area, or percent of support have to fall before it stops being unjust for the central authority to use military force to prevent a unilateral secession? Do other factors, such as the strategic value of the land to the sovereign or the reasons for the desire to secede matter, morally, speaking? Related, if you are a citizen of place being unjustly prevented from unilaterally seceding how do you determine what is or is not an ethically justifiable action? Of course purely peaceful means are best, but likely most Americans would not say that George Washington should have limited himself to Gandhi-type tactics? Is disrupting the lives of people who merely chose not to take sides justifiable, for example? Also related, if you think different standards apply to “freedom fighters,” how badly do peaceful means of change (such as voting) have to be foreclosed before those standards apply? For example, you could find yourself in a democracy where everyone in your local region wants to secede but it is impossible because your local region is currently part of a much bigger democracy which can and will always out-vote your secession proposal. 1. teneditica I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession. I do not agree. First of all nation states have a legitimate interest in having defensible borders and access to coasts. Apart from this, some land is more valuable then others, some land might suddenly become valuable – say, if someone discovers oil. It would have a bad effect on national solidarity if the people living on that land, that have benefited from support by the rest of the nation for so long, can now just secede. And it doesn’t have to be oil. It can be various factors. Bavaria used to be one of the poorest german states and is now one of the richest. When it was poor it was subsidized by other states, now it subsidizes others, which leads some to want to seceed. Is that fair? 1. Vitor I fully agree with Teneditica. There’s a fundamental tension between the right to self-governance and the social contract that is implicit in our modern understanding of nations. I strongly believe in both these things. As to your followup question: they need to be a unified culture that is clearly distinguishable from the host country (I know that this is vague and unhelpful). A more practical criterion would be that they are presently on the losing side of a tyranny of the majority, and thus have a legitimate, pressing reason to break free. 1. onyomi Why does the unified culture matter if there’s 100% (or 90% or 51%) support for secession among a culturally diverse coalition? If cultural sameness is an argument against secession does this not create a perverse incentive for the central government to try to erase cultural diversity in areas it deems strategically important (you can probably guess some examples I’m thinking of but I’m trying to avoid object level as much as possible for the time being). What constitutes “tyranny” (given that the secessionists will almost certainly claim they are suffering it while the central government will say they are not)? 2. Vitor Unified culture matters as a schelling point against breaking the social contract, both within the old host nation and the new proposed nation. The coalition “college-educated people of country x” isn’t allowed to secede because that’s basically defecting in a prisoner’s dilemma (assume college is funded from taxes and has highly positive ROI both for the individual and the nation). Furthermore, this coalition has no credible claim to be able to set up a long-lived, stable state. It’s basically a form of gerrymandering (drawing boundaries strategically, to take away others’ fair share of something). On the other hand, the coalition “the subset of people in country x that speak secondary language y and share a set of cultural values z not common in x, who have been oppressed as a group by x in recent history” has a more credible claim of rightful secession, because there’s less potential for abuse of this kind, even if it happens to be that those people are more likely than average to be college educated. Furthermore, they have a much stronger claim to be able to implement their own social contract, given their cultural cohesion. I agree with your observation that this creates perverse incentives for cultural erasure. Being oppressed/pressured in such a way should thus significantly strengthen a secessionist claim. As for tyranny, I’ll know it when I see it. More seriously: to me, this is one of those issues where the overarching principles are clear, but the implementation is necessarily messy and arbitrary. 3. onyomi As for tyranny, I’ll know it when I see it. More seriously: to me, this is one of those issues where the overarching principles are clear, but the implementation is necessarily messy and arbitrary. Can you say more about these clear, overarching principles? Because my experience tends to be, as you kind of jokingly suggest, that most people “know a just secession when they see one” and then justify their intuition by appeal to concepts that strike me as vague or themselves in need of justification, like “the social contract,” “legitimate national interest,” or, indeed “sovereignty.” 4. viVI_IViv If cultural sameness is an argument against secession does this not create a perverse incentive for the central government to try to erase cultural diversity in areas it deems strategically important (you can probably guess some examples I’m thinking of but I’m trying to avoid object level as much as possible for the time being). What do you think things like public education, national holidays, state religion and state-owned media are for? Westphalian nation states have been pushing cultural homogeneity of their populations for as long as they have been around. In fact, one of the common criticism of multiculturalism is that by renouncing cultural homogeneity it can allow irreconcilable political divergences to develop between different groups, which can result in tension, flight or open conflict. 5. onyomi Westphalian nation states have been pushing cultural homogeneity of their populations for as long as they have been around. Good point. F- those Westphalian nations! Somewhat more seriously I’ve been reading a really interesting book called “Inventing the Individual” by Larry Siedentop recently I intend to post more on later when I’ve finished it, and which I find has quite a lot of interest wrt the history of the state, individual, and intermediate authorities/loyalties. To try to sum up, the state has a motivation to break down intermediate levels of authority that stand between it and the individual, most notably the clan or family, but also, at a bigger level, the city or locality. A direct relationship between the highest authority and the individual is the ideal of the Legalists like Shang Yang and Han Feizi, while an approach to authority mediated through lower obligations to family and locality is the preference of the Confucians (I prefer Confucians, like Xunzi). This also reflects in the religions of such states which seem to undergo a transition from Lares and Penates (local and family gods) to city gods (Athena), to universalist faiths like Buddhism, Daoism, and Christianity. That the early Daoist thinkers were also quite anarchist in their outlook reflects one of my more recent concerns about anarchism: namely that it may always, not just sometimes (Bakhunin-type), end up as a kind of covert authoritarianism because the willingness to remove all intermediate authorities ends up with the individual directly subject to the will of a small elite class that seemingly can’t help emerging, and in whose interest it is to erase competing loyalties like family and local customs. Siedentop, I think, is generally favorable toward liberal individualism, maybe not fully realizing the dark side of it his history may reveal, but I don’t want to claim too much about what the book does or doesn’t do before finishing reading. 6. Doctor Mist To try to sum up, the state has a motivation to break down intermediate levels of authority that stand between it and the individual, most notably the clan or family, but also, at a bigger level, the city or locality. Interesting. Patrick Deneen blames this on the Enlightenment: worship/empowerment of the individual argues against constraints imposed by these lesser authorities, but only the Leviathan state can actually free us from them. He is against that, on the grounds that membership in and loyalty to these lesser authorities is what gives life texture and meaning, and is thus against the Enlightenment. It sounds like Siedentop is blaming something further back. 2. teneditica If the argument about defensible borders and coasts doesn’t apply and if there has been severe oppression. 1. onyomi Do you view the state of the American colonies prior to the Revolution as one of “severe oppression” vis-a-vis England? If so, could England have caused American independence to become morally unjustifiable had they only treated them better? 2. Rob K @onyomi the colonists themselves seemed to think so, given the particulars of the case they laid out in the Declaration of Independence. 3. viVI_IViv Do you view the state of the American colonies prior to the Revolution as one of “severe oppression” vis-a-vis England? If so, could England have caused American independence to become morally unjustifiable had they only treated them better? I don’t think morality is the right framework to approach these kind of questions. You could make a semi-moralistic semi-political argument that liberal democracy is the only legitimate form of government, therefore since the American colonists were being deprived from liberal democracy, as they lacked suffrage, they were legitimated to seek secession to establish their own liberal democracy (or alternatively persuade or overthrow the English government and replace it with a government that granted them suffrage). EDIT: On the other hand you could claim that given that the way the American colonists were treating Native Americans and slaves would not be compatible with today’s definition of liberal democracy, the ethnically-European American colonists had no real claim of moral legitimacy over their English rulers. But as I said above, it makes little sense to apply moral argument to essentially political issues. 1. Garrett benefited from support by the rest of the nation Part of the solution to this moral quandary is to avoid having support for things from other areas. 1. teneditica Even if there’s no explicit scheme to subsidize poorer states, the richer states would still contribute more to the public goods that are the point of the federation in the first place. At the very least military defense, probably also federal police, infrastructure, welfare, etc. 2. cassander First of all nation states have a legitimate interest in having defensible borders and access to coasts. This I agree with, though I’d note that most regions that want to secede meet this criteria, in that they would have those things and won’t deprive the rump country of them (sorry kurds!) Apart from this, some land is more valuable then others, some land might suddenly become valuable – say, if someone discovers oil. It would have a bad effect on national solidarity if the people living on that land, that have benefited from support by the rest of the nation for so long, can now just secede my response to this is sorry, tough shit. You don’t get to force me to live in your house because I might win the lottery. Or even if I won it last week. 3. Machine Interface First of all nation states have a legitimate interest in having defensible borders and access to coasts. If a significant proportion of inhabitants feel like they don’t belong to the official nation, then you de facto do not have a nation state. 2. AlesZiegler I do not agree with that. Interests of a community from which seccesionists wish to separate themselves are a factor that might conceivably outhweight even 100 % agreement among inhabitants of an arbitrarily large area. 1. onyomi The idea that even total unanimity on the part of a arbitrarily large Group A could not justify them seceding from political union with (presumably larger and/or politically more powerful) Group B sounds to me like… slavery? (Genuinely not trying to be hyperbolic). 1. AlesZiegler It is nothing like slavery. Imagine that 100 % of adult inhabitants of Alaska would want to secede from the United States. It would not be prompted by any special federal oppression, i.e. relationship between Alaska and the rest of the US before attempted secession would be the same as it is now. Would federal government be justified in not allowing that? I think yes. There are legitimate interest of the US public that outhweight Alaskan presumed desire for independence. For one thing, there are national security concerns. Implications if independent Alaska decided to ally itself with e.g. Russia and China could be dire. But probably even more importantly, allowing one state to secede would fundamentally change character of the US constitution, from compulsory to voluntary union. There is a good argument that US constitution as it is works on a whole quite well, and thus should not be shredded like that. 1. Cliff My impression is that the U.S. constitution was intended to be voluntary and considered to be so right up until the Civil War. 2. AlesZiegler @Cliff There was an extended discussion on this subject in one of the previous open threads and my impression from it has been that it is very contentious. Antebellum constitution did not explicitly allowed secession but also did not explicitly forbade it, so it is possible to give reasonably sounding arguments either way. But a constitution that I am referring to as working on the whole quite well is post 1865 US constitution, which clearly does not allow secession and is imho superior to its antebellum version. 3. cassander Implications if independent Alaska decided to ally itself with e.g. Russia and China could be dire. By this logic, how is the US not completely justified in annexing canada tomorrow? But probably even more importantly, allowing one state to secede would fundamentally change character of the US constitution, from compulsory to voluntary union. There is a good argument that US constitution as it is works on a whole quite well, and thus should not be shredded like that. Putting aside the question of whether or not the union is binding (and I think it’s at most ambiguous) How does a state leaving “shred” the constitution for the states that stay? 4. AlesZiegler @cassander By this logic, how is the US not completely justified in annexing canada tomorrow? Because Canada is a sovereign state, and an international norm that already recognized borders ought to be respected is extremely useful Schelling point limiting international violence. I would not go as far as saying that unilateral annexation of foreign territory is never justifiable, but cases where it is justifiable are very rare and off the top of my head, I do not know of any example from post 1945 era where I would say that annexation would be ok. Current interpretation of the US constitution clearly is that a secession is not allowed. Changing that would have major and hard to predict implications. Most obviously, it would open up the possibility of a sort of blackmail from vitally important states, or coalitions of states, perhaps allied with foreign powers, that they are going to secede if their conditions are not met. 5. cassander @AlesZiegler says: Because Canada is a sovereign state, and an international norm that already recognized borders ought to be respected is extremely useful Schelling point limiting international violence. Alright then, is China then absolutely justified in deploying several divisions of “police” to taiwan, which not recognized as a sovereign state? Current interpretation of the US constitution clearly is that a secession is not allowed. An interpretation founded on the point of several thousand guns, not one that was at all universally held prior to 1865. Changing that would have major and hard to predict implications. Most obviously, it would open up the possibility of a sort of blackmail from vitally important states, or coalitions of states, perhaps allied with foreign powers, that they are going to secede if their conditions are not met. This didn’t happen from 1789 to 1860, and I think the idea that it would is implausible. But again, frankly, so what? If new york says they’ll secede unless california gives them back the dodgers, and enough new yorkers agree with it to make the point stick, that’s on them. If the union isn’t valuable enough to its members that it can’t stay together freely, it’s probably not worth having anyway. 6. AlesZiegler @cassander Alright then, is China then absolutely justified in deploying several divisions of “police” to taiwan, which not recognized as a sovereign state? No. There are also limits on justifiable intrarnational state violence, they are however not that strict as limits on justifiable annexation of foreing territory. An interpretation founded on the point of several thousand guns, not one that was at all universally held prior to 1865. Yes, I agree with that. This didn’t happen from 1789 to 1860 Something close to that happened in Nullification crisis, which also imho shows that important reason why threats of secession didn’t happen more often was that theory of secession being constitutional was far from universally accepted. 7. cassander @AlesZiegler says: No. There are also limits on justifiable intrarnational state violence, they are however not that strict as limits on justifiable annexation of foreing territory. I am quite certain that the chinese deciding to police taiwan will result in fewer deaths than the US civil war, so don’t quite understand the moral calculus that does approve of the US policing the confederacy, but not China policing Taiwan. Something close to that happened in Nullification crisis, which also imho shows that important reason why threats of secession didn’t happen more often was that theory of secession being constitutional was far from universally accepted. there were no foreign powers in involved in the nullification crisis, as far as I know. More fundamentally, threats of secession are no more proof of the failure of federalism than a customer threatening to switch from company A to company B is proof of the failure of capitalism. Even actual secession wouldn’t be proof of that, because the principle of federalism, at its core, is the belief that people have a right to govern themselves. 8. AlesZiegler @cassander I see what is happening here. Although I am not an American, I had deliberately chosen example with Alaska in order to be familiar to US audience. Which of course resulted in discussion being pulled into US culture war issues, last thing that I want. My bad. I am quite certain that the chinese deciding to police taiwan will result in fewer deaths than the US civil war I am not sure whether that would be the case, but at any rate significant moral difference is that Taiwanese regime isn´t based on slavery. there were no foreign powers in involved in the nullification crisis, as far as I know. There weren’t, but it is nevertheless (rather mild) example of a situation that might happen under voluntary union, which does not happen under compulsory union. South Carolina essentially tried to renegotiate what it regarded as a contract with other states that can be terminated. Making that something that is allowed would mean significant change in current, i.e. post 1865, US constitution. Whether such constitutional change is desirable or not is of course a question on which our opinions evidently diverge. 9. viVI_IViv By this logic, how is the US not completely justified in annexing canada tomorrow? You are approaching it from the wrong perspective. Borders are not a matter of general principles, they are a matter of political opportunity. There is no consistent set of principles according to which the US and Canada should be two separate sovereign polities but the Union and the Confederation should not, other than the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” principle (aka status quo preference, Chesterton’s fence, precautionary principle, etc.) 10. cassander @AlesZiegler says: I see what is happening here. Although I am not an American, I had deliberately chosen example with Alaska in order to be familiar to US audience. Which of course resulted in discussion being pulled into US culture war issues, last thing that I want. My bad. I’m not making a culture war argument or accusing you of making one. I’m trying to figure out what the actual principle you’re working on here is. I am not sure whether that would be the case, but at any rate significant moral difference is that Taiwanese regime isn´t based on slavery. Great! If you believe that secession is allowable only if you agree with the reason for seceding, then make that argument. But if that’s what you think, don’t make an argument about about schelling points and violence reduction that you don’t really believe. There weren’t, but it is nevertheless (rather mild) example of a situation that might happen under voluntary union, which does not happen under compulsory union. South Carolina essentially tried to renegotiate what it regarded as a contract with other states that can be terminated. and you still haven’t managed to articulate a reason why this is bad other than you like some seceders and not others. Which, frankly, does not strike me as a very robust argument. To repeat my argument, I think the ability to have that re-negotiation will tend towards good by reducing the stakes of political competition, generally lead to more local control, and generate much less culture war. 11. AlesZiegler @cassander But I indeed think that secession is good when I agree with reasons for secession and bad when I disagree with reasons for secession. That is just a tautology. As for general principles when I would support secession, I am reluctant to give any, beyond that it depends on what likely consequences of secession would be. E.g. I think that unilateral Slovak secession from Czechoslovakia in 1992 would be quite justified (it is just a hypothetical since federation was dissolved consensually), but secession of majority German territories in 1938 was not. As far as internationally recognized borders as useful Schelling points, I didn’t mean it as an argument against secessions. It is an argument against unilateral annexations. 12. cassander @AlesZiegler says: But I indeed think that secession is good when I agree with reasons for secession and bad when I disagree with reasons for secession. That is just a tautology. I wouldn’t call it a tautology, I’d say rather than “succession for people I like and not those I don’t” is simply unprincipled. Which you basically admit. What I don’t get is how you don’t see that as a problem. 13. onyomi @alesziegler Yeah, “secession for good reasons is good; secession for bad reasons is bad,” is not necessarily a tautology because part of the point of secession (“exit” as opposed to “voice” to quote that Balaji Srinivasan video again) is that you use it when you can’t come to an agreement about what works for everyone and so decide to go your own way. So far as I can tell, for example, the Scottish who wanted independence from the UK wanted it so they could implement what to me seemed a worse set of policies than they had under the UK. I still hoped for Scottish independence to succeed because I support the idea that a. if people want independence they should have it even if, maybe especially if I disagree with them on object-level issues, and b. “exit” overall is highly underutilized and unjustly maligned as a conflict avoidance strategy in the world and I want to see the Chicken Littles who inevitably appear each time something like Brexit is proposed (or endlessly debated) proven wrong. Of course, in some unknowable “objective truth about the universe” way there are some secessions which will turn out to be good ideas on the long view and some which would turn out to be bad ideas and it’s tautological to say “I support the good ones and not the bad ones.” However, the pro-secession position I’m describing is one of believing people are strongly biased against secession and “agreeing to disagree” about predicted future consequences (after all, if both sides in a secession agreed the outcome would be good there would be no need for a unilateral secession). 14. Guy in TN Part of the pushback here, I think, is that describing succession as “exit” is perhaps somewhat glossing over what it exactly entails. Let’s say I’m renting a house, and my landlord decides that he wants to raise the rent. In response, I barricade the property and threaten to shoot him if he attempts to enter. In this dichotomy of “voice” and “exit”, this appears to be “exit”, since instead of trying to negotiate with him, I simply attempt to remove myself from him. And this is quite analogous to succession. After all, if you weren’t talking about the severing of property claims, you would have simply asked our thoughts on emigration . Succession is necessarily the removal of personal +land, not human bodies alone. So is this form of “exit” an underated strategy? Maybe. But it also creates some pretty obvious conflicts that “voice” doesn’t, as perhaps this example will illustrate 15. onyomi Let’s say I’m renting a house, and my landlord decides that he wants to raise the rent. In response, I barricade the property and threaten to shoot him if he attempts to enter. In this dichotomy of “voice” and “exit”, this appears to be “exit”, since instead of trying to negotiate with him, I simply attempt to remove myself from him. General observation that may or not apply to Guy in TN: I would guess there isn’t much overlap between the people who use the “house” analogy to talk about secession and the people who use the “house” analogy to talk about immigration. 16. Guy in TN I could have pointed to any object to make the same point, really. I chose “house” because the parallels to the state’s land claims were most direct. But let’s say I want a TV that someone else currently owns. My two basic choices in this dichotomy are: I can try to convince them to give to me (voice), or I can grab it run away with it (exit). Describing the latter as “exit” may seem ridiculous and misleading, and perhaps it is. My suspicion is that grabbing the TV is better described as some third category that doesn’t fit in the “voice” vs. “exit” dichotomy. But if this is case, then surely secession must be this third thing as well. 17. cassander @Guy in TN says: But let’s say I want a TV that someone else currently owns. My two basic choices in this dichotomy are: I can try to convince them to give to me (voice), or I can grab it run away with it (exit). This analogy only holds if you are assuming that the state is the true and rightful owner of everything it is sovereign over, which I don’t think anyone does in any other context. It’s not you stealing someone else’s TV, the more accurate analogy is bringing your TV to a BBQ to watch the game, deciding you don’t like the people there, then taking your TV and going home. If we have to categorize what your describe I’d say that the 3 choices are voice, exit, and violence. 18. Guy in TN This analogy only holds if you are assuming that the state is the true and rightful owner of everything it is sovereign over, which I don’t think anyone does in any other context. I make no assumption about whether the state’s claims are just whatsoever. I am only making the assumption that the state’s claim to the land exists, which I don’t think is controversial. It’s not you stealing someone else’s TV, the more accurate analogy is bringing your TV to a BBQ to watch the game, deciding you don’t like the people there, then taking your TV and going home. If we have to categorize what your describe I’d say that the 3 choices are voice, exit, and violence. If you are using to the word “violence” to describe when there is a forced change in who controls a thing (as opposed to “exit”, when the distribution of control over resources remains unchanged), then surely secession would fall under the “violence”, not “exit” category. 19. cassander @Guy in TN says: I make no assumption about whether the state’s claims are just whatsoever. I am only making the assumption that the state’s claim to the land exists, which I don’t think is controversial. The state claims sovereignty, not ownership. I think the distinction is important. If you are using to the word “violence” to describe when there is a forced change in who controls a thing (as opposed to “exit”, when the distribution of control over resources remains unchanged), then surely secession would fall under the “violence”, not “exit” category. No because I don’t accept that the state owns all the land and all the people in it. No ownership is changing during secession, just sovereignty. Secession is taking your ball and going home, not taking someone else’s ball and going home. 20. Guy in TN No ownership is changing during secession, just sovereignty. Secession is taking your ball and going home, not taking someone else’s ball and going home. So a forced change of ownership= “violence”, but a forced change in sovereignty=”exit”? So if I invade another country, and declare myself the new sovereign over a piece of land, this is “exit”? I’m just trying to understand the classification schematic here. 21. cassander @Guy in TN says: Again, you say forced. If I quit your team and join another, I’m not forcing you to do anything. A forced change of sovereignty would be an invasion, which would indeed be violence, but declining to participate in your system anymore is not forcing anything on anyone. 22. Guy in TN If I quit your team and join another, I’m not forcing you to do anything. A forced change of sovereignty would be an invasion, which would indeed be violence, but declining to participate in your system anymore is not forcing anything on anyone. For a given spot of land, the state claims sovereignty. This means that they use police and courts to enforce their will upon the people who exist on that spot of land. Now, if you want them to no longer to this, you can either 1.) Try to convince them not to 2.) Try to force them not to. Simply saying “I will no longer participate” does not prevent the state from exercising its sovereignty. Those are just words. A unilateral secession necessarily requires the use of force (or at least the threat of use) against the state, if it is to have any real-world impact. Simply declining to participate in the system does not change the state’s claims of sovereignty over the land, and is not secession. 23. cassander Guy in TN says: Simply declining to participate in the system does not change the state’s claims of sovereignty over the land, and is not secession It isn’t violence for the scottish to vote to be their own country. violence only comes into it if the original state declines to let you go, at which point it’s morally on them, no the seceders. States do not have a moral claim to sovereignty over any particular piece of dirt. I’d say that declining to participate in the current state is precisely secession. 24. Guy in TN violence only comes into it if the original state declines to let you go, at which point it’s morally on them, no the seceders. Adding a moral judgement to the term cannibalizes the whole argument. If the difference between “exit” and “violence” is that one is morally justified and the other is morally unjust, then saying “you should do exit, not violence” has no persuasive argumentative power in of itself. You’re just saying when it comes to secession, we should do good things and not bad things, but the question of whether secession is good or bad is the very question at hand. 25. cassander @Guy in TN says: Adding a moral judgement to the term cannibalizes the whole argument. I didn’t add moral judgement, you added it when you likened secession to theft. If the difference between “exit” and “violence” is that one is morally justified and the other is morally unjust, then saying “you should do exit, not violence” has no persuasive argumentative power in of itself. That’s not the difference. Exit is declining to engage with someone. violence is using force to compel someone to do something. those are very different, and secession requires no compulsion. 26. Guy in TN Exit is declining to engage with someone. violence is using force to compel someone to do something. If you are not going to compel the state to cede control over a given piece of land, and compel the state to stop enforcing its laws over it, then in what meaningful sense is that “secession”? You are just describing dissent. 27. cassander @Guy in TN says: If you are not going to compel the state to cede control over a given piece of land, and compel the state to stop enforcing its laws over it, then in what meaningful sense is that “secession”? Again, not recognizing someone’s authority is not compelling anyone to do anything. everyone on the world who isn’t part of your baseball team is not compelling you not to be their coach, you’re just not their coach. 28. Guy in TN everyone on the world who isn’t part of your baseball team is not compelling you not to be their coach, you’re just not their coach. The analogy doesn’t work. If the state didn’t already have control of the territory in question, we wouldn’t be asking about the merits of secession, we’d be asking about the merits of countries not invading each other. Again, not recognizing someone’s authority is not compelling anyone to do anything. Of course, I agree. The question is, what makes this “secession”? It sounds like you are just describing dissent. 29. Trofim_Lysenko @GuyInTN You’ve got it backwards. Sovereignty over a territory, any territory, is an act of violence. This necessarily includes any and all property claims, including your “house” example. Without the credible threat and inevitable use of force, there is no “enforcement” of law. What makes that routine use of violence and the threat of violence legitimate (not ‘legal’, but legitimate) is generally considered to be the consent of the population of that area. At the end of the day, the Peelian principles of “Policing By Consent” and the US’ Declaration Of Independence’s claim that governments “[derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed” spring from this reality. This means that the key difference between “legitimate sovereignty” and “hostile occupation” is in fact if and to what extent the governed population consents. If we reject this idea, that consent of the governed is the metric of legitimacy, then we are left to fall back on older conceptions of what make a government legitimate, the most pragmatic one being: The capacity to control a population through superior firepower. In other words, a government is sovereign over any population and territory whom it can take and keep by force of arms. But that conception of legitimacy necessarily forces us to concede the reverse: That any armed rebellion that is -successful- is necessarily -legitimate-. To say nothing of arguments for the legitimacy of conquest, colonialism, etc. Personally, I think the conception of legitimacy as deriving from consent of the governed is a preferable model. And it’s a model which requires exit rights. 30. Guy in TN This means that the key difference between “legitimate sovereignty” and “hostile occupation” is in fact if and to what extent the governed population consents. I think you are talking about moral legitimacy (i.e. normative, whether such governance is just) here, and not “legitimacy” in the political science sense (i.e. whether a government is recognized as existing by the populace), since the latter definition includes explicitly non-democratic governance such as monarchy. But it’s a little unclear, since you also include “the capacity to control a population through superior firepower” as an example of “legitimacy”. So this may be a little scattershot. If you simply mean “legitimacy” in the political science sense, then clearly the right to secede, or even the universal consent of the governed, is unnecessary for a government to achieve legitimacy. Since no existing government, even democratic ones, actually operate with the universal consent of the governed. (In a democracy, the minority is ruled by the will of the majority. And even if a government could hypothetically be established with universal consent of its initial participants, people born under its control, or who immigrate into territory under its control, did not consent to being ruled under that regime.) So is this leads me to ask: Do you think every populace considers its government to be “illegitimate”? And if not, why not? They certainly aren’t all consenting to the governance. If you are referring legitimacy in the sense whether a government is morally just, then I just want to say that there any many moral theories that do not rely on the liberal framework of individual sovereignty for their standards of justice. For example, I do in fact view most governments as morally legitimate, not despite of their disregard for individual sovereignty, but partially because of it. 31. Clutzy @Guy in TN Your confusion over this hearkens back to the era of the American and French Revolutions where philosophers often asked the question, “is government legitimate?” The prevailing theories espoused are a group of different ideas that we now group together as “Divine Right”. Many of these people were uncomfortable with this so they came up with other theories. The most popular one became the “consent of the governed” model which was adopted into American lore and is now popular rhetoric by Western politicians. Obviously if there isn’t consent, this evaporates, so such politicians are in a hard place dealing with secession. There are other moral theories for government that deal with secession better: Utilitarianism can do so, although it is usually a thing that is hard to show, but often seceding states can be shown to likely be poorly governed and duplicative. A seceding Illinois would likely just be a waste of money and make both IL and US residents worse off afterwards. How can we prove social security increases Utils in the system is difficult (and in fact many programs are much worse on such measurements, but are favored by politicians), thus its avoided rhetorically. 32. Guy in TN The most popular one became the “consent of the governed” model which was adopted into American lore and is now popular rhetoric by Western politicians. Obviously if there isn’t consent, this evaporates, so such politicians are in a hard place dealing with secession. For those who believe that a moral authority (e.g. a morally just state) necessitates the universal consent of its subjects, it’s not just secession that becomes problematic. It’s…everything. Every representative that receives <100% of the vote, every referendum that passes with <100% approval. None of it passes the bar for moral legitimacy, because none of it has the actual consent of the population. When confronted with this, I see people take two basic routes: The first is to double down, go full Lysander Spooner and say, yeah, it doesn’t pass bar, all government is illegitimate. My basic issue with this (that I’m sure many are familiar with) is that abolishing the formal state doesn’t actual get you to full consent, because the authority of private power operates in much the same way, only without the any illusions of the consent of the people it governs. No one, not even anarcho-communists, have been able to solve the riddle of what happens when two people are in conflict over the use of a resource, without invoking some sort of threat of violence from one to the other. I think it cannot be done. The second route (much more sensible IMO) is to say that actually, full consent isn’t necessary. Instead, what we actually ought to be trying to achieve is democratic consent. That is, if most people agree with the governance, then it’s morally justified (with some caveats, as I discussed with Albatross earlier in the thread). The contours of what constitutes democratic consent are where things get interesting. I am a bit of a purist, and insist that the whole rationale, the whole moral legitimacy behind democracy, is that it polls the opinion of everyone. The extent to which the political franchise is narrowed, is the extent to which democratic consent is not achieved. My position on this is somewhat radical. 33. Trofim_Lysenko @GuyInTN I don’t think moral legitimacy and the political science version can be so easily disentangled. To say a government is legitimate is to say that it is right and proper that said government make and enforce laws, and right and proper that they be obeyed. That claim, as a practical matter, necessarily includes a baseline level of moral legitimacy, because once the ruled people no longer believe that government has a moral basis, they also no longer accept its legitimacy, and in the long run that marks the end of a government or regime, even in monarchies and dictatorships. My point is that if you abandon “consent of the governed” as the standard for legitimacy of a government, then you are forced to fall back on other standards, ranging from “by right of conquest” to “By Grace Of God/Mandate of Heaven” to “any government is legitimate to the extent it has the power to enforce its will within a given territory”. A vote on an individual law, or a president, does not determine consent of the governed. Pretty much everyone who voted against Donald Trump did, does, and will continue to consent to his government and the government of the United States. This is because what we are consenting to is not the individual, but the political structure as a whole. The only time a vote is a measure of a government’s legitimacy within a given region is when that region votes whether or not to secede, or whether or not to modify or replace that governmental structure with a new one. A vote for president tells you nothing about the legitimacy of a democracy’s legitimacy amongst its citizens. A vote for a constitutional convention does. Likewise, the decision to immigrate to a country is tacit consent to its current system of government, just as the decision to leave (whether individually via emigration or collectively via secession) is to withdraw that consent. As far as legitimacy, I think that the reason the USSR survived as long as it did, the reason the DPRK is still ruled by the Kims, and the reason the CPC is still in power is that those governments do in fact have the consent of the vast majority of the people they govern. By the same token, I think that the CPC has lost some legitimacy (though not all) in Hong Kong, and rather more in parts of Western China. But you missed the other part of my point, which was that your framing of secession as the initiation of violence was backwards. Because the everyday act of enforcing law necessitates the use of force, and the threat of force, it is only the legitimacy of that authority which makes those acts of violence tolerable. You are ok with a man with a gun ordering you to stop your vehicle and pay his organization money under threat of imprisonment or personal harm if you resist, because you have consented to that form of government. Consent is the only meaningful difference between the everyday act of “enforcing the law” and “controlling an occupied territory”. 34. Guy in TN @Trofim_Lysenko But you missed the other part of my point, which was that your framing of secession as the initiation of violence was backwards. Because the everyday act of enforcing law necessitates the use of force, and the threat of force, it is only the legitimacy of that authority which makes those acts of violence tolerable. Perhaps I was unclear on this. I agree, of course, that enforcing the law requires the threat of violence, as does resisting the law. I focused so much on the latter, simply because cassander seemed unwilling to admit/accept this fact. It’s not that the state is good and non-violent, while secession is bad and violent. It’s that they are both violent, as are all disputes over resources, so trying to classify them as good/bad based on being violent/non-violent is a silly exercise. (And this whole argument going back to the dichotomy onyomi offered as describing as “exit” what is essentially a declaration of war against the state, which I suggest is an unhelpful/misleading classification scheme.) My point is that if you abandon “consent of the governed” as the standard for legitimacy of a government, then you are forced to fall back on other standards, ranging from “by right of conquest” to “By Grace Of God/Mandate of Heaven” to “any government is legitimate to the extent it has the power to enforce its will within a given territory”. As Clutzy pointed out, there are other standards of moral legitimacy beyond the more archaic ones. For example utilitarianism, the theory which I happen to subscribe to. The only time a vote is a measure of a government’s legitimacy within a given region is when that region votes whether or not to secede, or whether or not to modify or replace that governmental structure with a new one. You are ok with a man with a gun ordering you to stop your vehicle and pay his organization money under threat of imprisonment or personal harm if you resist, because you have consented to that form of government. If this vote happens (as it sometimes does), and the results show<100% approval, then what? That is hard evidence that you no longer have the consent of the governed. And that's if you are lucky enough to actually get a poll. In my lifetime in the United States, I have never been polled on such a question. I don't know how far back you have to go in history to see when the last time anyone was polled on the question (the 1800s?). Until then, you are flying blind. It could very well be that the reason why I allow the man with the gun to pull me over, is that he has a gun+radio backup of a near-infinite army of men while I don’t. As the old anarcho-capitalists used to ask, “If there was a button you could push to destroy the US government, would you press it?”, and I recall a chorus of “YES! YES! YES!”. What more do you want? Do they have to actually overthrow the government before you believe them? Likewise, the decision to immigrate to a country is tacit consent to its current system of government I strongly disagree with claim. If I move to south Chicago, does that mean I consent to being robbed? Only approval is consent. Taking an action that increases the likelihood that someone will do something to me that I don’t approve of, does not mean that I tacitly consent to whatever that thing is. 35. Trofim_Lysenko For example utilitarianism, the theory which I happen to subscribe to. If this vote happens (as it sometimes does), and the results show<100% approval, then what? That is hard evidence that you no longer have the consent of the governed. This is hard evidence that your government is losing legitimacy. The moral and ethical response of leaders of a country, upon getting that information, is to respond to the concerns which led to that loss of legitimacy (if the vote failed but had a significant minority voting ‘for’, that can probably be accomplished with reforms or other tweaks), or in the case of a majority vote for dissolution of government, secession, constitutional convention, etc, to begin the process of working towards those ends immediately. Reform does happen, even in some authoritarian regimes, when there is sufficient evidence that there is widespread and fundamental dissent. Of course, political leaders often aren’t all that moral or ethical, and so there is the other popular alternative: ignore the result and count on the fundamental conservatism of the average person (fearing the change, uncertainty, and risk that comes with actually trying to overthrow an existing government) and your own ample supply of firepower (to take out the people who aren’t passive). Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. the decision to immigrate to a country is tacit consent to its current system of government I strongly disagree with claim. “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Sixth, His Heirs and Successors, according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.” “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;” “I expressly declare that I assume the commitment to well comply the Brazilian citizen duties, observing and respecting the principles of the Federal Constitution.” “I solemnly declare that I will respect and observe the Basic Law and the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany, and that I will refrain from any activity which might cause it harm.” “I, (surname, name, middle name), swear that, by taking the citizenship of the Russian Federation, I will observe the Constitution and laws of the Russian Federation, and the rights and freedoms of its citizens; that I shall fulfill my duties as a citizen of the Russian Federation for the welfare of the state and society; that I will protect the freedom and independence of the Russian Federation; and that I will be loyal to Russia and respect its culture, history and traditions.” “I pledge my devotion to my country and to the Romanian people, to defend the nation’s rights and interests, to respect the Constitution and laws of Romania” 36. Guy in TN Coerced oaths carry no moral weight. We are deep in a tangent here, but I have to wonder what would even qualify as non-consent to you. If I am born as a slave, and given an option to move to be owned by another, more kinder slaveowner when I turn 18, would you say that from that point on I am consenting to slavery? 37. Trofim_Lysenko An oath or pledge of citizenship is in no way coerced. If the person doesn’t want to be a citizen, they don’t have to he. Thay may choose to live elsewhere. There is, if anything, rather less coercion in a legal immigrant from Nogales swearing an oath in a naturalization ceremony in Chicago than in the Spanish government sending in police to disrupt efforts to organize a secession votebin Spain. As far as slavery, I think what constitutes nonconsent is what actually happens: resistance, rebellion, subversion, and flight. Actions, both verbal and physical, to undermine the institution that is being contested. 2. Guy in TN The idea that even total unanimity on the part of a arbitrarily large Group A could not justify them seceding from political union with (presumably larger and/or politically more powerful) Group B sounds to me like… slavery? (Genuinely not trying to be hyperbolic). Well it is non-consensual. But then again, so are all forms of decision-making authority (states, property ownership, ect). So it’s only “slavery” in the sense that all human relationships with unresolvable conflict are “slavery”, with one person being in the authority position, and the other not. The fact that people who don’t agree still have to still play along is an inherent part of the system, as it is in any social system (monarchy, anarcho-capitalism, ect). If democracy relied on universal consent, we wouldn’t call it “democracy”, we’d call it “utopia”. 1. onyomi If democracy relied on universal consent, we wouldn’t call it “democracy”, we’d call it “utopia”. This seems like an argument against the ability of any given individual to unilaterally “secede,” if practical, from an unchosen political union–a position I have, and might still, defend, at least in principle and aware of the many practical complications. But I’m not talking here about a democracy that requires unanimous consent; I’m talking about a hypothetical democracy in which some unified block of voters unanimously dissents. I would say that, at that point, at least for those people, democracy loses most if, not all, its moral force as a justification for political authority since there’s no way to gain more than 100% support within the group. Yes, you can try to convince people outside your group to let you secede but at that point we’re not talking unilateral secession anymore but negotiated secession. 2. Guy in TN I would say that, at that point, at least for those people, democracy loses most if, not all, its moral force as a justification for political authority since there’s no way to gain more than 100% support within the group. It’s true that for the “losers” in a given system, they have a temptation to try to create a new system in which they are the winner (i.e. becoming the person in the deciding position) The advantage of democracy over every other social system, is that majority-rule minimizes the number of people on the losing end. 3. onyomi majority-rule minimizes the number of people on the losing end Letting the “losers” do their own thing would seem to minimize it better than forcing them to stay when none of them wants to do so. Related, I could be failing to think of some important counter-examples, but it seems to me like the historical record of “exit” or secession as a solution to ongoing conflict has been pretty good. The Good Friday Agreement seems to have worked out pretty well, for example, certainly as compared to the prior status quo? Overall I think the world has an unreasonable bias against “exit” though I can understand why governments would want to bias people against it and also don’t discount the importance of “voice.” I think their seeming willingness to deny their opponents both voice and exit is one of my biggest problems with a lot of the SJ activists nowadays. 4. Guy in TN Letting the “losers” do their own thing would seem to minimize it better than forcing them to stay when none of them wants to do so. All else equal, giving the minority what they want at the dissatisfaction of the majority should create a lower number of satisfied people. However, I could see it being justified if there was great variation in the levels of satisfaction/dissatisfaction between the groups. For example, if US independence greatly satisfied the minority with comparatively minimal dissatisfaction of a majority, it could be a justifiable anti-democratic action. But it’s difficult to gauge this in any quantifiable way (and every group has an incentive to say that they would be the ones most impacted), so I hesitate to take this line of thinking too far. And you certainly couldn’t just default to the landowners of a given area having the greatest satisfaction/dissatisfaction levels (that would torpedo the US independence claims, seeing how the colonies were considered property of Great Britain). 5. albatross11 An example is religious freedom. If you’re going to have a state church or a mandatory state religion, it’s probably better if it’s the religion held by the majority of your people. But it seems like it’s even better to not have a mandatory state religion or even a state church. Wherever possible, I think it’s better to leave things to personal choice. Exactly where that’s reasonable to do is, obviously, a hotly debated question. This comes down to questions like a. Is your action inflicting too many costs on others to be left unregulated? b. Is your action harming you in ways we think are so horrible we’re not going to allow it? c. Is your action offensive to the values of others in some way that we can’t tolerate. etc. On one end of this, you have soda bans and helmet laws; on the other, you have individual liberty until you’re shown to pose a danger to yourself or others. 2. ana53294 If 100 % of inhabitants strongly want independence, that kind of thing doesn’t happen for no reason. The 100% would also include the police, the judges, all the civil servants, and all the local power apparatus. So you would have to bring external power inforcement, sometimes illegally. AFAIK, in most countries, police can’t just cross jurisdiction just like that. So how would you enforce the region from de facto secceding when they have 100% of the people? Even if your judges struck down every law they enact, every budget they pass, they will have their own parallel system of judges, budgets, and police. 1. AlesZiegler This practical problem could be handled by security forces from outside of separatist area. Of course that would be somewhat silly, but that is because hypothetical is also silly. In practice you never get 100 % agreement. 1. ana53294 hypothetical is also silly. In practice you never get 100 % agreement. It’s not that silly. Many of the arguments that are used as a cudgel against pro-independence movements involve talking about the X% who don’t want independence, and saying they are “the silent majority”. I am very skeptical of this argument. As you show, even having 0% people who don’t want independence does not morally justify it in their eyes. But rather than go and say it directly, many of the arguments focus on saying that whatever Y% pro-independence majority you have, it’s not enough. 3. DavidFriedman Interests of a community from which seccesionists wish to separate themselves are a factor that might conceivably outhweight even 100 % agreement among inhabitants of an arbitrarily large area. Would the same principle justify one state in conquering and annexing another? If not, why does the fact that two territories start out as part of one state justify one of them in keeping control over the other, contrary to the desires of the latter’s inhabitants? “Social contract” is a metaphor, and an agreement that the present inhabitants actually signed. 1. AlesZiegler I’ve already tried to answer that in discussion with cassander. Answer is no, because norm that internationally recognized borders should not be changed by unilateral annexations is an extremely useful Schelling point against large scale violence. Btw. I should recognize that is particular formulation of an argument is actually inspired by your own article. 3. eigenmoon Nation states are illegitimate to begin with and the “social contract” is a scam. how do you determine what is or is not an ethically justifiable action? Yes, purely peaceful means are best. Actual war is very expensive and somebody has to pay for it. For the American Revolution not just Americans had to pay more than they agreed to (see Whiskey Rebellion), but also France overextended itself helping Americans, and that lead to a lot of unnecessarily chopped off heads. 1. albatross11 eigenmoon: Maybe so, but we’re talking about *which* nation state and which social contract will reign over a particular area, which until yesterday was part of state A, but which now wants to become state B. I don’t see how the legitimacy or lack thereof of states can help us decide a question between state A and state B. At worse, we might wash our hands of the matter, the way we would if asked about the plan for 43rd street to secede from the Crips and become the 43onians instead. 1. eigenmoon But is it really necessary that a particular area must be reigned over by exactly one nation state and exactly one social contract? There were government-like institutions that didn’t exactly lord over a well-defined territory, such as Maltese Order or Hanseatic League. It is also in principle possible for different people living on the same territory to have different laws – from Paul demanding to be judged by the Caesar to modern UK providing opt-in Sharia courts. There’s even Plumber right on this page proposing different jurisdictions for cities and countryside. So why are we restricted to answering only A or B? 1. albatross11 If you want to be subject to both the governments of Catalonia and Spain, or Scotland and the UK, or Quebec and Canada, then there’s no need for secession–you’ve already got that. The whole point of the dispute is that a lot of Catalans would like to *stop* being subject to the government of Spain, a lot of Scots would like to stop being subject to the government of the UK, etc. 2. eigenmoon @albatross11 I’m not talking about being subject to both. I’m talking about having a choice. You may live under Catalonian jurisdiction and your neighbor may live under Spanish jurisdiction. It’s currently perfectly fine if you both live in boats and fly different flags, but once you try to do the same on the shore, they come and throw you into a cage. Also check out pillarization. 3. Ketil I was playing with the thought of charter cities, and considered the following structure to avoid citizenship entirely: Inhabitants are sponsored by, uh, factions, which could be the corporations who want to do business in the city. Inter-faction conflict is resolved between factions, so if a citizen from one faction commits a crime against a citizen from another, the inter-faction court decided the reparations the offending faction must pay – but doesn’t deal with the perpetrator directly. The faction can then choose to penalize its citizen (fire or deport the employee, or turn him over to the police in his country of origin, etc). This isn’t entirely unlike how justice was done in Icelandic sagas, where clans or families would pay fines for crimes (including murder) to other clans. Could something like this work? (A completely [or maybe not so completely?] different example is medieval Europe, where perps could claim to belong to the clergy [as evidenced by their ability to read and write], and thus be subject to more lenient ecclesial justice.) 4. John Schilling This isn’t entirely unlike how justice was done in Icelandic sagas, where clans or families would pay fines for crimes (including murder) to other clans. Could something like this work? In Iceland, sure. But in deciding that even the most heinous offenses can be made right with a cash payment, you’re imposing a top-down moral judgement that a whole lot of not-Icelanders are going to disagree with. I think you will find that they care about that issue far more than they care about any of the lesser issues that you’re willing to let them have their own way with. Note in particular that “murder, schmurder, we paid a wergild to the guy’s family!” doesn’t go over nearly so well in a culture of atomic individuals. 5. eigenmoon @Ketil Something like this could indeed work. Have you read “The Machinery of Freedom”? @John Schilling you’re imposing a top-down moral judgement But you see, in our current society it’s inevitable because there’s this tug of war between Reds and Blues and whenever Red wins, they impose their moral judgements on the Blues and vice versa. Earlier in history people tried to impose religion on each other in a similar fashion and it went really poorly, so now there’s a wide agreement that people shouldn’t impose religion on each other. But then we periodically look at our political factions and of course they’re kinda religions too. Shouldn’t we try to minimize their imposition then? You can’t completely avoid the case when somebody commits murder but his faction lets him go. You can only disincentivize this. doesn’t go over nearly so well in a culture of atomic individuals Well I’m an atomic individual and I want to disincentivize murdering me. So I will pay a private police company if it gives me evidence that it will sufficiently punish anybody who murders its clients. 6. John Schilling But you see, in our current society [imposing a top-down moral judgement] is inevitable because there’s this tug of war between Reds and Blues and whenever Red wins, they impose their moral judgements on the Blues and vice versa. The moral judgement in question is one of the ones where the Reds and Blues agree. Murder, rape, and the like, cannot be made right with money. Even where they disagree at the object level, they are going to agree on that principle and not try to buy each other off with cash. The idea that we might just settle such matters with cash and hope this incentivizes the tribes to police their own members because hey, it worked in Medieval Iceland, is basically just a Grey thing. And if by some miracle you imposed it, you’d just unite Red and Blue in joining together to demolish Grey before they get back to their own squabbles. Yes, some judgments and values have to be imposed from the top. Not all of them. So when you find your civilization has by an overwhelming margin converged on one position on a really important top-level issue, saying “it would be really nifty and convenient if we did it the other way so I propose making everybody go along with that” is probably a bad plan. 7. Lambert Also wergild has the problem of being paid in cursed Rheingold. Never ends well, from the standpoint of social stability. 8. eigenmoon @John Schilling I’m not saying that it can work today with the Reds and Blues as they are now. Nor am I saying that it’s possible to convince Catalonia and Spain – as they are now – to let people choose individually. That doesn’t mean that I have to accept the current situation as legitimate or tolerable, just as impossibility to convince the South that slavery is bad doesn’t mean abolitionists had to give up. Murder, rape, and the like, cannot be made right with money. And can they be made right with prison? This is a fairly weird concept to me. I’m not saying that prisons are useless – on the contrary, having a physical obstacle between criminals and potential victims sounds very useful. But “made right”? It would mean that when a murderer gets out, he can be on friendly terms with the victim’s relatives. “Yeah, you’ve made it right by sitting in prison long enough, so we’re cool now, dude”. I don’t think that’s how it goes. is probably a bad plan. That is not the plan. There’s no political plan at all. Politics is extremely ineffective. The plan is to get more people to use crypto. I don’t care what your political party is, but I’d like to tell you that https://compound.finance currently offers you 4.74% (annualized) in-pegged USD Coin. Can your bank match that? If not, the plan is working. I think it’s a good plan.

9. viVI_IViv

There were government-like institutions that didn’t exactly lord over a well-defined territory, such as Maltese Order or Hanseatic League.

The fact that such institutions were quasi-state powers without clearly defined contiguous territories didn’t mean that they granted any sort of exit rights to the people they ruled over.

If e.g. a possession of the Knights Hospitaller told them that they now wanted to convert to Islam and form an independent sultanate, the Knights’ response would have been not exactly friendly.

10. Ketil

But in deciding that even the most heinous offenses can be made right with a cash payment, you’re imposing a top-down moral judgement that a whole lot of not-Icelanders are going to disagree with. I think you will find that they care about that issue far more than they care about any of the lesser issues that you’re willing to let them have their own way with.

I don’t think I quite follow this. There is obviously a top-down moral judgement in that at some level, conflicts need to be resolved.

But in reality, jurisdictions are already complicated like this. Countries claim jurisdiction of their citizens outside their territories, and of non-citizens within them. Some courts claim supranational jurisdictions, some countries refuse to accept the jurisdiction of others as defined by either territory or citizenship (people in exile), and so on. Historically, clergy had their own laws, and I think medieval/feudal jurisdiction was more a matter of personal allegiance than nationality.

And, as pointed out, the voluntary sharia courts – you can always enforce stricter rules for those who want.

Possibly, this gets too complicated in practice (viz., all diplomatic tangles about extradition and so on), and mostly-territorial national jurisdiction is just a convenient optimization. But I don’t see why not in theory. (And should probably check out David’s book)

11. DavidFriedman

Several different points:

For an example of multiple jurisdictions in the same territory, consider benefit of clergy in medieval Europe. A cleric was under church law. If brought into the royal court on a charge of murder, he could plead his clergy and be transferred to a church court, which did not have capital punishment.

For another example, consider traditional Islamic law. There were (and are) four mutually orthodox schools of law in Sunni Islam. To some extent, one could choose which one was under. There are obvious limitations in the case of conflicts between people under different schools, but as long as most legal disputes are within communities, defined by which school they accepted not by geography, that’s polylegal most of the time.

Incidentally, that was also a society where a killing could be settled by a payment, provided the kin of the victim agreed to accept it. For their equivalent of first degree murder, the kin had the alternative of demanding retaliation. In addition to paying diya (Arabic for “weregeld”), the killer had to free a believing slave or fast for two months, a debt to God, not to the kin.

In the Icelandic system, if you believe Gragas, which is a collection of unofficial legal texts from the end of the period, avoiding outlawry with a money payment also required the assent of the kin—that’s something I probably got wrong in the discussion in Machinery, corrected in Legal Systems. “Probably” because Gragas is in some ways inconsistent with the evidence of the sagas, an issue I discuss in the latter book.

Also, there really weren’t any clans in saga period Iceland. “Godi” usually gets translated as “chieftain,” but that’s misleading.

4. Secretly French

I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession.

What is “a large population”; is it a distinct ethnic group, or is it the people who happen to live in the area where economic fortunes by chance just increased a lot? There are plenty of people who don’t support secession even when it’s popular, and indeed that should be obvious from seeing how the world is currently organised, or else you’d expect Catalonia and Euskal Herria, Kurdistan, Tibet and many more places to appear in their own spangly colours on your map.

Related, if you are a citizen of place being unjustly prevented from unilaterally seceding how do you determine what is or is not an ethically justifiable action?

How about pragmatism? Killing children isn’t going to win your cause any support, and if you look close enough, the news is actually absolutely rammed with things which boil down to “man does unethical thing, therefore potential solution to global political issue has to be off the table”. The only other piece of advice I can glean from watching the world turn would be to try to make your independence of some strategic geopolitical benefit to your local world power, be it China, or Russia, or the USA. If you can do that, they might solve your problem for you.

5. Two McMillion

I think an important element is that desire to secede has to be somewhat constant over time. A momentary rage against the system shouldn’t be grounds for secession.

My proposed system, modified from the Constitution of Ethiopia, is as follows:

1. Preexisting political subdivisions may secede from the nation.
2. The government of any such subdivision must approve a referendum on the topic of secession.
3. The referendum must be approved by at least 60% of those voting, provided that the 60% constitutes a majority of qualified voters in the subdivision.
4. If the conditions outlined in 3 are met, a second referendum must be held no less than two and no more then five years after the first. If this second referendum is also approved by at least 60% of those voting and that 60% or more constitutes a majority of qualified voters in the subdivision voting for succession, the entity is permitted to leave the union.

The waiting period allows all parties involved to grapple with the realities of becoming their own nation. Personally I suspect that many second referendums will fail.

1. albatross11

When there’s a mechanism for secession built into your country’s constitution, I’d say it’s a lot clearer that secession according to the rules is acceptable. The place where it’s less clear is when there is no such mechanism, or when in fact your country’s laws and constitution explicitly forbid it.

To be clear, I’m not saying secession is wrong in those cases. I’m just saying I find the moral question extremely unclear. I don’t think it’s obvious that anyone has a right to be governed by a state of their choosing, or to form a state that will have authority over others. And yet, we basically don’t know any other way to run a decent society.

2. DavidFriedman

Personally I suspect that many second referendums will fail.

After the central government has jailed the principal supporters of secession on one excuse or another, and purified the voting rolls?

1. EchoChaos

The people, having forfeited the government’s confidence, are dissolved, and a new people must be elected.

6. Ketil

For you, how small does the population, geographic area, or percent of support have to fall before

If I had to pick a fraction, I would perhaps point to constitutional changes, which typically require two thirds (or prehaps even three fourths?) majority. I might also want to see a consistent preference to secession over time, the secessionist should have the option to change their minds (or the existing nation an option to increase self governance or in other ways sweeten the deal for non-secession).

Short answer: at least 67% in two referendums a year or two apart.

it stops being unjust for the central authority to use military force to prevent a unilateral secession?

I don’t like the phrasing of this, since it you make it sound like if the fraction is below the limit, any action is acceptable. But yes, the use of proportional force is legitimate, so police are allowed to use tear gas and water cannons to put down violent or illegal protests, and the military can take up arms against armed insurgents.

7. EchoChaos

I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession.

Apparently not, which is interesting. For what it’s worth, I do agree with you.

For you, how small does the population, geographic area, or percent of support have to fall before it stops being unjust for the central authority to use military force to prevent a unilateral secession? Do other factors, such as the strategic value of the land to the sovereign or the reasons for the desire to secede matter, morally, speaking?

The easy answer is that like porn, I know it when I see it, but generally: large enough to have coherent governance in their area. California, Texas, the South, Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec would all be legitimate to secede in my mind.

As for percentage of support, I think it should be a supermajority of 2/3 at the least. Maybe 3/4. As a great Southerner once said: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”

Related, if you are a citizen of place being unjustly prevented from unilaterally seceding how do you determine what is or is not an ethically justifiable action? Of course purely peaceful means are best, but likely most Americans would not say that George Washington should have limited himself to Gandhi-type tactics? Is disrupting the lives of people who merely chose not to take sides justifiable, for example?

That certainly depends. But if you are independent enough to have a coherent area where you have raised a legitimate army, then war is justified to defend it, just as any other nation state. If you’re just a bunch of random freedom fighters who can’t muster a majority, then war is not justified and you should seek to build support peacefully.

Also related, if you think different standards apply to “freedom fighters,” how badly do peaceful means of change (such as voting) have to be foreclosed before those standards apply? For example, you could find yourself in a democracy where everyone in your local region wants to secede but it is impossible because your local region is currently part of a much bigger democracy which can and will always out-vote your secession proposal.

I don’t think there is any serious secession movement that doesn’t have a decent amount of internal governance. If you can’t win a vote at the lowest level polity you have access to, you’re not coherent enough to secede.

1. albatross11

Doesn’t that mean I can prevent a secession movement from ever becoming legitimate by imposing external governors over any fractious regions?

1. EchoChaos

Pretty clearly not, as history has shown. It was tried repeatedly in America pre-Revolution.

But in a technical sense, you can prevent secession anytime you have enough guns no matter what the morality.

I’m speaking morality, not feasibility.

2. ana53294

Apparently not, which is interesting. For what it’s worth, I do agree with you.

I am also surprised at the number of people who think that.

I know it when I see it, but generally: large enough to have coherent governance in their area

I think that it needs to be big enough, but also it needs external borders. An independent country within another country will create many awkward situation. So it should be either an island, have sea access, or border more than one country. There is no country in the world that is inside another country with no sea access, and a situation like that is very untenable.

1. EchoChaos

There is no country in the world that is inside another country with no sea access

There are in fact three. San Marino, Vatican City and Lesotho.

1. Ketil

Less clear, but one might still consider Switzerland being completely surrounded by EU without itself being a member, and several (I think?) native American nations (so not quite “countries”).

2. Secretly French

Do you imagine that the people of San Marino are suffering under the many awkward situations caused by not having a coastline and being surrounded by Italy? Do you, further, imagine that they yearn to be united with Italy and give up their sovereignty in order to fix this? Do you think San Marino is untenable? Do you think Liechtenstein is tenable only because it sits between Switzerland and Austria instead of within one or the other? Do you think they are suffering from their independence? Have you tested your musings against reality? These countries are ridiculously rich even by the European standards; what’s really going on here?

1. ana53294

Getting an independence from a country can be an acrimonious process. Except for cases like Czechoslovakia or the fall of the USSR, there is a lot of hurt feelings. So if you happen to be inside the other nation before the relationship normalizes, it can be made very difficult.

Neither San Marino nor Vatican city have become independent cities by seceding from Italy; they were never part of Italy to begin with. But if they were part of Italy, and wanted to secceed, I think they would suffer significantly, yes.

2. DeWitt

These countries are ridiculously rich even by the European standards; what’s really going on here?

They’re tax havens. Liechtenstein literally houses more companies than it does citizens.

3. viVI_IViv

Neither San Marino nor Vatican city have become independent cities by seceding from Italy; they were never part of Italy to begin with.

San Marino predates Italy (and in fact most existing states), but the status of Vatican City between the Italian annexation of the Papal States in 1861 and the Lateran treaty signed in 1929 was ambiguous: arguably, it belonged de jure to the Kingdom of Italy, but de facto it functioned as an independent state.

3. Plumber

@EchoChaos >

“….California, Texas, the South, Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec would all be legitimate to secede in my mind…”

Speaking of “California goes it alone” stuff, this (again from The New York Times, if I can suss out a way to easily and cheaply get stuff from The Wall Street Journal again I’ll start doing long quotes from them as well) may be of interest:

‘What if the Road to Single-Payer Led Through the States?

A California congressman’s plan would lower federal barriers to letting states experiment with health care policy.

By Sarah Kliff
Nov. 8, 2019

As presidential hopefuls campaign on a national “Medicare for all” system, a California congressman is pushing for a different path to universal coverage: letting the states go first.

Ro Khanna, a Democratic representative, will introduce legislation Friday that lets states bundle all their health care spending — including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act dollars and more — to fund a state-level single-payer system.

The policy could create something akin to Medicaid for all. It would be 50 separate programs, jointly funded by the state and the federal government, with local officials making decisions about whom to cover, how much to pay doctors, and what benefits to cover.

Mr. Khanna concedes that his bill will not move forward during the Trump administration, but instead sees it as laying groundwork for next year, when Democrats hope to gain control of the White House and Senate. It is also a response to recent agitations from Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, who ran on a single-payer platform in 2018 and has cited federal inflexibility as a key obstacle toward delivering on that promise.

Mr. Khanna worries that complaints about federal bureaucracy might turn out to be an excuse for politicians who like the idea of single-payer, but worry about the hard work and political enemies they’d encounter along the way.

“The reality is there are a lot of interests that don’t want the process started,” Mr. Khanna said in an interview. “I wanted to make sure that people aren’t using this as an excuse. This takes away any excuse for California to say: We can’t legislate on this issue.”

Federal rules can make it difficult for states to create single-payer systems. Medicare, for example, accounts for 20 percent of national health care spending and covers 60 million people. The federal government has full control of the program, deciding what it covers and how it pays doctors and hospitals.

The federal government also regulates a large share of private health plans, typically those provided to workers at large companies, under a set of rules known as Erisa. This means that states that want to introduce a single-payer plan would have to leave enrollees in those plans, as well as those using Medicare plans.

“It’s clear the structural hurdles are real,” said Heather Howard, a Princeton lecturer whose work focuses on state health policy. “Erisa and Medicare are the big gorillas. Until you can braid all your funding together, you’re going to be really disadvantaged.”

The Khanna legislation would try to get rid of those hurdles. It envisions a waiver that would allow states to take over the Medicare money that flows their way and combine it with funding for Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the Tricare program that covers military families and funds for veterans’ health care.

A state would need to submit a plan for how it would use those funds to cover at least 95 percent of its population within five years, then cover the remaining uninsured within a decade.

“The ideal would be that we have a full country with single-payer,” Mr. Khanna said. “That is what I think either a Sanders or Warren administration would produce. But in the absence of that, it’s preferable that we have some models of a single-payer system succeeding rather than no model at all.”

What he envisions is similar to Canada’s progression toward universal coverage. It began with a single province, Saskatchewan, which started hospital insurance in 1947. Other provinces followed, and within two decades, the entire country had government-provided health coverage.

Canadian provinces retain control of their coverage programs, which means the health benefits and payment rates in, say, British Columbia vary slightly from those in Ontario.

Medicaid has a similar history. When the program began in 1966, only half the states opted to participate in the new health plan to cover low-income residents. It took more than a decade for all states to join, with Arizona signing up last in 1982.

“States vacillated but eventually they came in, because the money was good and the other states were already providing the coverage,” said Sherry Glied, dean of N.Y.U.’s graduate school of public service and a former Obama administration official.

Ms. Glied and others question whether something similar could happen today. Health prices have risen sharply since Medicaid’s creation, meaning that states would have to take on the risks of managing a large, new budget item. An expensive new drug or an economic recession would create significant risks for a state buying health coverage for all its residents.

Vermont attempted to build a single-payer system in the early 2010s but abandoned the effort after realizing the significant tax increases it would entail.

“States do get around that in all sorts of ways, but when health spending is so big, there is only so much getting around that you can do,” Ms. Glied said. “I don’t think a state can do single-payer on its own because of the need to raise so much money.”

The politics have gotten trickier, too. States like Florida and Texas that have declined the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion dollars would probably be reluctant to follow an example set by California. Then there’s the challenge of disrupting current health care programs — like telling all Medicare enrollees they have to switch to something new, when their counterparts in neighboring states get to keep the status quo.

Joel Ario worked for Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon as an insurance regulator in the mid-2000s, and recalls him floating an idea similar to Mr. Khanna’s: letting the state take over its share of Medicare dollars.

“The AARP was very quickly on it, telling us they weren’t comfortable with Oregon making decisions about Medicare rather than the federal government,” said Mr. Ario, now a managing partner at the health consulting firm Manatt.

California represents an interesting test case. It’s a large state with a strong single-payer movement and a willingness to spend extra state dollars to expand coverage. In July, California became the first state to subsidize Affordable Care Act coverage for some undocumented immigrants.

A single-payer bill passed through its Senate in 2017. On his first day as governor, Mr. Newsom sent a letter to the Trump administration and congressional leaders asking for permission to “reallocate funds to best meet the needs of all the state’s population.”  (It went unanswered.)

Governor Newsom’s spokeswoman declined a request for an interview with her or him. “This legislation would provide states like California more flexibility and more federal funding in order to accomplish that ultimate goal,” the spokeswoman, Vicky Waters, said in a statement.

Beyond appealing to a potential Democratic administration in 2020, Mr. Khanna said, the new bill is something that could motivate liberal states to keep pressing forward on the issue.

“If California could get this right, that would be a big deal,” he said. “So what I wanted to do is make sure California can move forward, and not use the federal waiver issue as an excuse for a lack of political courage to get this done.”’

Individual States opting in or out seems better than a “one size fits all” national plan to me, I suppose they very sick would try to move to States with more benefits, and I suppose States could restrict benefits to only cover longer-term residents, but given California’s efforts to extend benefits to non-citizens I doubt that they’d be those restrictions here.

1. TheContinentalOp

Oops! I reported you by mistake!

I think any state plan to place limits on benefits for folks arriving from new states would run afoul of SAENZ v. ROE.

2. Garrett

I’m in-favor of States doing their own thing. But the attempts in Vermont and Oregon seem to have fallen in the face of reality.

3. HeelBearCub

@Plumber:
I think it’s a bad idea to quote in full articles behind paywalls. If for no other reason than it’s the kind of thing that get Scott a nastygram from the NYT legal department.

8. Vegapunk

I would hold to the enlightenment line on such things which has already been explored in detail. From Locke’s point of view, your government is considered legitimate if it does not try to usurp the powers delegated to the individual. It would be held unethical or immoral to overthrow a legitimate government. Illegitimate governments give the citizen the moral latitude to pick up arms and reform the government to something legitimate by violence if needed. Even the beheading of kings or the killing of his men are morally justified in these circumstances.

In short, I would argue that it is less a function of democracy than one of legitimacy. Whether or not the government currently in power is legitimate is an exercise left to the citizen.

Your second question is a much harder one. The sovereign or the agents of the sovereign are of course fair game. The violence being done to them being a mirror of the illegitimate violence done to you via their laws. I would think violence against bystanders would be morally wrong as they have done you no harm.

Lastly it should be considered that morally justified and effective are two entirely different things. While you may have moral standing to violently remove your government, such things are messy at best and the biggest, nastiest creatures in the forest have a tendency to rise up and slaughter those around them when unchained. The wise person is going to have some reservation about releasing the dogs no matter how just the cause.

9. Levantine

For you, how small does the population, geographic area, or percent of support have to fall before it stops being unjust for the central authority to use military force to prevent a unilateral secession? Do other factors, such as the strategic value of the land to the sovereign or the reasons for the desire to secede matter, morally, speaking?

To my mind, there is one criterion only: that the sovereignty is viable. To make put it in graphic terms: if a landless single person were to get Superman powers, he can secede all he wants. OTOH, if all the peasantry in half of Mao’s China were desiring to secede, – they just couldn’t, I suppose.

Related, if you are a citizen of place being unjustly prevented from unilaterally seceding how do you determine what is or is not an ethically justifiable action?

Carroll Quigley’s theory was that that the function of wars and conflicts in general is to make the power relations clear to both sides. So the ultimate aim should be for both sides to attain a realistic view of their capacities. You get the implications.

Is disrupting the lives of people who merely chose not to take sides justifiable, for example?

Possibly.

10. blipnickels

I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession.

In response to Lincoln’s election, South Carolina elected 169 delegates to vote on secession. They voted 169-0 for secession. People do not agree on secession rights as you think.

1. ECD

I’m not sure I’m tracking your response. Putting aside everything else, I certainly don’t think the 57% of South Carolina residents who were slaves were in favor of secession, so I don’t think this meets the 100% requirement placed on the thought experiment (this is, of course, my objection to the thought experiment, you’re never going to get to 100%, at least not without unacceptable violence).

1. EchoChaos

Why would they not be? Historically majority slave states experience emancipation much faster than non-majority slave states.

Given that Lincoln ran on a platform of “slavery forever”, in a hypothetical where no secession was considered and his platform actually instituted, becoming another Brazil (peaceful emancipation in 1888) over Lincoln’s America (no new slave states, but slavery forever in old ones) seems preferable to me.

1. ECD

Okay, except, we don’t have any polling data, but we do have the four regiments of volunteers the former slaves provided to the Union…and the fact that the main way slaves would have heard about what Lincoln said was what was being said in the Southern press and by Southerners, which was very much not that.

And putting aside the million practical and moral reasons, there’s also the ‘fuck you, slaver, I’ll vote the opposite of you regardless of the consequences because you’re a fucking slaver who raped my wife and sold my son away from me.’

Generic you’s obviously and also not a direct quote, tot the best of my knowledge.

2. EchoChaos

@ECD

I am not arguing that slavery is good (it isn’t) or that any such vote was taken.

Just that the reason we talk about votes by percentage of people actually voting is because we know what they think.

Note that little to none of the Civil War era propaganda from the North uses the fact slaves couldn’t vote as a reason that secession was invalid.

3. DeWitt

becoming another Brazil (peaceful emancipation in 1888)

And a coup d’etat by people angry over this a mere year later, yes.

4. EchoChaos

@DeWitt

Sure, but from the slave’s perspective that’s fine. They didn’t get re-enslaved, after all.

My favorite irony of the situation is that Confederate immigrants (Confederados) were a decent part of the momentum behind emancipation.

5. broblawsky

@EchoChaos Are you arguing that slaves should support slavery under the theory that their masters will inevitably peacefully emancipate them? That seems extremely illogical to me.

6. DeWitt

Sure, but from the slave’s perspective that’s fine. They didn’t get re-enslaved, after all.

And so is a war being fought over your freedom without your former masters ending up ruling the whole country.

7. EchoChaos

@broblawsky

Over a country that has a leader promising “slavery forever”? Still the better bet.

Remember, the choice for South Carolina was a country that all had slavery or a country that partially had slavery and whose leader would say things like “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it”.

Nobody was voting for full emancipation in 1860.

@DeWitt

Another good reason they would’ve voted for secession!

SC and other states likely surmised that any attempt to halt the spread of slavery into the west would have eventually resulted in a shift of congressional power towards free states, and would have at some point resulted in the end of slavery, lincoln’s statements notwithstanding.

It’s also possible that for all the demonization of lincoln, SC et al were more afraid of other republicans. I can’t remember who it was but a prominent confederate who said something like ‘we lost our only friend’ after lincoln had been assassinated.

9. EchoChaos

Absolutely true. A good place to look is “The Birth of a Nation”, which is the construction of a new founding myth in order to reconcile the two halves of the Civil War.

Lincoln is portrayed there as heroic and the reconciliation of the two white sides as recovering from a regrettable schism.

10. Aftagley

Over a country that has a leader promising “slavery forever”? Still the better bet.

Hard disagree. By this logic then the white slaveowners who decided to secede as a result of Lincoln election were acting illogically; their slave-owning status wasn’t going to be ever challenged, right?

Instead each individual party probably realized that sooner or later Lincoln or those affiliated with Lincoln would move towards emancipation and each party therefore reacted rationally towards their self interest: slave owners decided to secede, slaves decided to support the north.

11. broblawsky

Over a country that has a leader promising “slavery forever”? Still the better bet.

Remember, the choice for South Carolina was a country that all had slavery or a country that partially had slavery and whose leader would say things like “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it”.

Nobody was voting for full emancipation in 1860.

Both Lincoln and the Confederates were promising not to overturn slavery in existing slaves states, but Lincoln, at least, opposed the Dred Scott decision and supported the right of African Americans to vote in free states, and in general supported policies that gave hope to the possibility of equality in at least parts of the United States. A small hope, yes, but infinitely better than the Confederates, who certainly had no interest in abolishing or restricting the beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery.

12. EchoChaos

@broblawsky

Freed slaves in some of the South were often fervently pro-Confederate.

I agree that most slaves would not have voted to leave, although it’s not open and shut. And as DeWitt noted, that would have had the ironic result that they would have been enslaved longer.

13. broblawsky

Freed slaves in some of the South were often fervently pro-Confederate.

“Often”? I’d like a citation on statistics here. I don’t think it’s a good idea to cite a couple of examples and pretend it constitutes a trend.

14. EchoChaos

@broblawsky

Hard statistics about the antebellum period aren’t easy to come by, but I have substantial anecdotes in favor of freed slaves staying in the Confederacy.

First, their free black population was larger than the north. If the Confederacy was worse, you would expect free black movement to the north. There was substantial SLAVE movement to the north as they tried to escape, but freed blacks generally stayed south.

Secondly, there are decent anecdotes of areas with substantial free black planter class areas engaging in pro-Confederacy displays:

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

A similar culture of free blacks identifying with the planter class existed in Charleston, S.C., and Natchez, Miss. In fact, most of the 3,700 “black masters” in the decade before the Civil War lived in or around Charleston, Natchez and New Orleans. In addition to owning slaves, they established churches, schools and benevolent associations in their efforts to identify with whites.

With the onset of war, their patriotic displays were especially strident. In early 1861 a group of wealthy, light-skinned, free blacks in Charleston expressed common cause with the planter class: “In our veins flows the blood of the white race, in some half, in others much more than half white blood. … Our attachments are with you, our hopes and safety and protection from you. … Our allegiance is due to South Carolina and in her defense, we will offer up our lives, and all that is dear to us.” In their show of support for the Confederacy, they were “race traitors.”

15. broblawsky

Hard statistics about the antebellum period aren’t easy to come by, but I have substantial anecdotes in favor of freed slaves staying in the Confederacy.

First, their free black population was larger than the north. If the Confederacy was worse, you would expect free black movement to the north. There was substantial SLAVE movement to the north as they tried to escape, but freed blacks generally stayed south.

The Great Migration starts just 50 years after the end of the Civil War, less than the typical “grandfather’s grandfather” timeframe required for substantial cultural change. That doesn’t speak to me of any great loyalty to the South among African Americans. It suggests that getting out was hard and expensive. These were people with essentially no free resources; they weren’t going to leave unless life in the South became intolerable. It didn’t take long after the Civil War for that to happen.

Secondly, there are decent anecdotes of areas with substantial free black planter class areas engaging in pro-Confederacy displays:

3700 people among a population of more than 400000 is statistically insignificant. Also, did you consider the possibility that these people might have had to engage in conspicuous patriotism to protect their lives? What do you think the lifespan of a free black man in the Confederacy supporting the Union actually would’ve been?

16. EchoChaos

@broblawsky

The Great Migration starts just 50 years after the end of the Civil War

Right, mostly of ex-slaves. I am not aware of antebellum free blacks being over-represented in that group. Do you have a citation for that?

3700 people among a population of more than 400000 is statistically insignificant.

We are talking free blacks, not all blacks. The population of free blacks was much smaller.

Also, did you consider the possibility that these people might have had to engage in conspicuous patriotism to protect their lives? What do you think the lifespan of a free black man in the Confederacy supporting the Union actually would’ve been?

Big difference between “supporting the Union” and “engaging in conspicuous patriotism”, but now you’re just arguing from ignorance.

I have shown that, yes, free blacks in the South were pro-Confederacy. They signed up to fight, engaged in displays of patriotism, etc.

Once the war switched to “against slavery” later (1863 and on), they were notably less supportive, which argues against the idea that they would’ve been murdered if they weren’t supportive initially (since they weren’t murdered in 1863-1865).

Given that the initial war wasn’t seen as about slavery by free blacks or whites in either the South or North and that initially Southern free blacks were supportive of the South, it’s not unreasonable that slave blacks might have thought the same. Especially because slave blacks were primarily educated and ministered to by free blacks.

Edit: This has now run far afield of the initial point and no longer bears on the thread and risks just being pointless arguing. I appreciate the back and forth. Thanks!

2. blipnickels

@ECD
Sorry if it was unclear, I was time constrained. The response basically is that people occasionally vote for bad things and we generally don’t think of a central authority overruling democracy as bad if it prevents bad people from doing bad things. There are lots of examples of people voting for bad things, South Carolina just had that perfect 100% vote for secession.

We’re very upset about Hong Kong because we like Hong Kong and China is…pretty bad. I’m not aware of equivalent interest in Catalonia succession because we like the Spanish and we don’t really know the Catalonians.

As for the Civil War, the steel man for southern secession is probably Texas.

-They had a small enough slave population that a super-majority of people voted for secession even if you granted every African-America a vote.

-They had only joined the Union in 1845, so they had definitely been an independent country before and everyone was fully informed of what they were voting for.

-They had joined as an explicitly slave-holding society and everyone knew it and agreed to allow that to continue. Fifteen years later, this agreement was basically dead letter and the Texans felt hoodwinked.

I don’t think anyone here would argue for Texas to still have slaves but I don’t see a good democratic argument against the secession of Texas; I just see a moral and practical one. The case for South Carolina and rest of the Confederates is weaker but it’s the same core logic: people overwhelmingly voted for a really bad thing. I thought OP’s questions were predicated on the premise that we all agree that secession by democratic vote is legitimate/good. I don’t, I think that moral and practical considerations outweigh those, but that’s a different standard than a democratic vote.

1. Jiro

I would suggest that the secession is legitimate, but it’s also legitimate to invade countries for human rights reasons (including human rights reasons that also happen to benefit you). So the South could secede, but the North could still invade them until they ended slavery.

2. EchoChaos

@Jiro

In which case the North’s invasion of the South is illegitimate, because they did not invade for human rights reasons, but because they didn’t want to allow the secession.

You can’t invade because of slavery if you yourself are a slaveholding country (and the North was).

2. JonathanD

The majority of the people in South Carolina at the time were enslaved. It is widely doubted that this population supported succession in numbers approaching 100%.

1. onyomi

Though if my understanding of the Civil War, its causes, and the attitude of antebellum white voters is at all correct, it wasn’t the unheard voices of the slaves that was the primary, initial objection to secession on the part of Lincoln and his supporters, though as the war wore on it increasingly came to be viewed as “about” ending slavery and the system that supported it. If this is right then it means Lincoln and those who supported him viewed secession as illegitimate for other reasons.

That said, I’m also highly doubtful the Constitution would have been ratified in the first place if you had informed all the representatives when they were first debating it that it was binding in perpetuity with any future attempts to leave to be put down as rebellions. I don’t think most understood it that way, but I understand the desire not to have a pre-nup when you’re hoping for a happy marriage.

One thing that really does bug me, however, is when people say “the question of whether secession is legitimate under the US Constitution was decided in 1865.” To me it seems ridiculous to claim that a question of morality and/or political legitimacy of a democratic regime can be decided purely by military force. Imagine Trump declared himself Dictator-for-Life and this so pisses of California and Oregon their state legislatures vote in overwhelming numbers to secede. Trump stops them doing so with military force. Does it seem reasonable, years later, under the rule of Dictator-for-Life Don Jr. to say “hey, the question of whether the US has a Dictator-for-Life was clearly decided.”

1. JonathanD

Though if my understanding of the Civil War, its causes, and the attitude of antebellum white voters is at all correct, it wasn’t the unheard voices of the slaves that was the primary, initial objection to secession on the part of Lincoln and his supporters, though as the war wore on it increasingly came to be viewed as “about” ending slavery and the system that supported it. If this is right then it means Lincoln and those who supported him viewed secession as illegitimate for other reasons.

All true. I was responding to the idea that South Carolina voting 169-0 to secede met the initial hypothetical of 100% of the people in a geographic area voting for secession. Non-slaves weren’t even close to a majority, so disapproving of their secession doesn’t address the original question.

2. MorningGaul

I assume the “100% of the population” meant “100% of the citizen population”. Non-citizens opinions are irrelevant in these matter.

It’s not certain that 169 elected representatives were representing 100% of the citizens, but still, it must have been pretty close, and it’ll be hard to get a better proxy.

1. JonathanD

I mean, we can check with the OP but I doubt it. They were (I think) trying to set a hypothetical to which everyone would agree, with the idea that we could then explore how far you would need to vary from it to get people to disagree. (If 100% is sufficient, is 80%, or 60%, and why or why not.) Interpreting it to accept South Carolina means that many people, probably most, aren’t going to agree, which defeats the point.

11. Statismagician

I’m personally agnostic on this question, but I do think that the fact that there’s no universally-agreed-upon answer to it is a serious threat to the coherence of democracy as a theory of political organization (meant formally, not in the ‘and therefore let’s find a tyrant’ sense). Say what you will about despotism, it’s at least clear where one stands on this sort of issue.

12. DinoNerd

AFAICT, this idea is completely unAmerican. Even today, in a context of Calexit, people point out that the last time any state(s) seceeded, they were brought back into the union by force, resulting in a long civil war.

In general elites measure their status in part by the size of the area they rule – both geographical and population – and don’t want to lose subjects/so-called citizens. And in practice there are always some people within the area of potential secession that prefer the old nation – or that want to themselves split from the seceeding group. (Thus Canada > Quebec > Montreal.)

As far as freedom fighters are concerned, much depends on how badly the secessionist population is being treated by the owning country. Puerto Rico (no secessionist movement known to me) gets shorted on disaster relief, and its residents aren’t permitted to vote in federal elections, but no one’s ounding them up and putting them in camps, or “pacifying” the area at the point of a gun. Violence would be excessive.

OTOH, it looks to me like Kurds in both Syria and Turkey are justified in using violence, as are various minority groups within mainland China.

Spain is jailing people for advocating secession, which in itself provides some justification for counter-violence, but on a similar scale. (I.e. not very large.) And in this case, I don’t see violence as being productive – better not to make the average person in the rest of Spain hate them. (The elites already do, or at least regard them as property.)

Going back to the non-violent case. North America cannot vote to combine the US and Canada into a single nation – or at least cannot do so with the initiative coming solely from the more numerous US side. At some point, even after union, it becomes morally justifiable IMO for a breakway region to act as if it was never part of the larger one. Moral != practical, however. If Idaho stops paying taxes to the US, or obeying US laws, and the US sends in troops/police to enforce these things, after never previously offering violence/ill treatment to Idahoans, the results would be very messy. But I’d say that Idaho has a right to do this, provided they also stop accepting benefits from the federal government. and if violence is offered to enforce the laws/taxes, they also have a right to resist. (Not that they’d get very far – the US routinely intereferes in the government of sovereign states, never mind those that attempt to break away from their rule.)

1. CatCube

Puerto Rico (no secessionist movement known to me)

That’s more because the media can’t use this movement as a club to beat right-wingers. There’s absolutely a movement, and some of the people fawning over the murderers are darlings of journalists, so we just don’t talk about it. (One wag observed, after Lin-Manuel Miranda invited Oscar Lopez Rivera to a showing of Hamilton: “Who do you have to kill to get a ticket to Hamilton? Apparently Frank Conner, Harold Sherburne, James Gezork, and Alejandro Berger.”) There was also an attempted assassination of a US President that killed a Secret Service agent, and a shooting into the floor of the House of Representatives.

1. ECD

That’s more because the media can’t use this movement as a club to beat right-wingers.

Or because it hasn’t engaged in violence (as far as a rudimentary google/wiki search shows) in about forty years and the secessionist movement has minimal remaining support?

13. Jiro

The main things I would weigh against secession against an otherwise legitimate government are:

1) Secession by recent citizens who became citizens under the implicit agreement that they not secede.

2) Secession influenced by a hostile power whom the secession benefits, particularly if the hostile power is not democratic or if the hostile power has sent in the military.

1. Jiro

You can ask “if there had not been popular American revolutionaries, would the French have tried to find unpopular ones instead and supported the US anyway?” The answer is probably “no”.

Whether secession depends on foreign agitators is a matter of degree, and France in the American revolution is a lot lower on the scale than, say, Russia in the Crimea.

14. Viliam

Heh, my heart is on the side of secession. In a perfect world, all relationships would be voluntary, so if one side feels it’s no longer working for them, they should be free to go and try their luck alone.

Asking when the government has a right to violently suppress an unanimous secession attempt, feels like asking when a husband has a right to respond to his wife’s attempt at divorce by chaining her to the bed and raping her. If you approach it from the “might makes right” angle, then of course it’s just a question of relative power. Also, “legitimacy” is just an exercise in clever verbal arguments, which are usually judged by people who have the actual power, so the quality of the argument is less important than it pretends to be. (“Government has a legitimate interest at owning my piece of land” is an equivalent of “I want a pony” if I had an actual army to take other people’s ponies whenever I feel a “legitimate” desire to own them.)

On the other hand, my brain notices that if the democratic countries would allow people to secede whenever they want to, and the despotic countries would use all their power to prevent even thinking about it… then in long term, this seems like a suicide pact for the democracies. Unless there would be some other force working in the opposite direction, for example the democracies ganging up against a selected non-democratic country and carving it up to pieces that would be allowed to choose their fates indepenently. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything like this recently, otherwise we would already have an independent Kurdistan.

15. MorningGaul

I think almost everyone (or at least almost everyone currently living in a democracy?) would agree that if 100% of a large population inhabiting a geographic area of some size wishes to unilaterally secede from the political union they find themselves in it would be unjust for the central authority to prevent said secession.

If you do, at what point does the population becomes too small to be legitimate for sessionism, and what is the basis for the distinction between people with a right to self-determination and those without?

1. EchoChaos

If you do, at what point does the population becomes too small to be legitimate for sessionism, and what is the basis for the distinction between people with a right to self-determination and those without?

Singapore is clearly large enough to be self-governing, so that’s probably about my minimum size. A substantial city and any parts of the countryside that feel culturally connected enough to it in order to remain with it.

16. HeelBearCub

This whole argument is the weakest strawman, which I’m surprised no one has directly challenged. Why did the prompt specify 100%? Your aren’t going to get 100% agreement in any large population.

This argument thus diverts from the natural next question which those interested in unilateral succession don’t want to contemplate. How large a minority resisting secession can exist before secession is ruled out? Contemplating this question while supporting unilateral secession leads inevitably to the idea that the wishes of a small enough minority can be overruled by the majority.

1. Protagoras

Norwegian referendum on leaving the union with Sweden. Though the results on that one make me suspect something was up.

1. Brassfjord

368 208 voted for leaving the union and only 184 voted against. And the Norwegians weren’t oppressed by the Swedes, they just wanted to decide their own foreign policy.

1. Statismagician

Also, this was before the great lizard migration of 19[cough], so any modern referenda of equivalent true popularity will poll at something like 95.5% for.

2. Doctor Mist

This whole argument is the weakest strawman, which I’m surprised no one has directly challenged. Why did the prompt specify 100%? Your aren’t going to get 100% agreement in any large population.

Um, it was supposed to be a strawman. Onyomi quite understandably assumed that there would be no argument about 100% and was interested in finding the fraction at which argument would commence.

1. HeelBearCub

I’m attacking the hypothetical for a specific reason.

Framing the question in a way that assumes unanimity on such a question is possible preferences a certain mindset, that unilateral secession is a valid concept. As soon as we admit that this is actually impossible, we are left with the uncomfortable truth of required unsatisfactory compromise, that unions and their dissolution are ultimately political in nature. Whether a union is retained or dissolved will necessarily result in someone not having their preferences met, thus we can’t decide these questions based on the idea of an inherent right of unilateral secession.

1. Doctor Mist

There certainly does not seem to be any unanimity about the question of whether unilateral secession is a valid concept. This astonishes me, as I believe it astonished Onyomi.

It makes me very curious but a bit apprehensive to hear your answer to the question: Was the American Revolution valid?

2. Nornagest

Dissing the American Revolution has been done so much in the weirder corners of politics that it’s not even a very hot take anymore. On both sides of the aisle: the far left (maybe not so far anymore, though) does it because they see it as serving the narrow interests of a class of rich white men who were frequently slaveholders, and the far right does it because those rich white men were liberals (in the sense of holding Enlightenment ideals) and antimonarchists.

3. HeelBearCub

I don’t think the American Revolution was an unalloyed good, but that secession wasn’t grounded in an claiming an inherent right to secession. Rather the claim was that of unequal treatment, that the citizens of the colony did not have the full rights of any other English citizen, up to and including the king. As such, in retrospect, we can say that the original inequality of non-landowners, slaves and women all can be seen as in some sense weakening the sovereign claims of the United States.

If the question was couched as, say, “Should the territory of Puerto Rico have the right of secession?”, I think the conversation would be on much firmer footing. It raises some interesting questions about D.C. as well.

4. Doctor Mist

but that secession wasn’t grounded in an claiming an inherent right to secession

Well, gee. I can’t argue with that: “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation” and all that.

But I would surely have thought that the whole exercise would have been moot if they did not in fact believe they had a right to secede, and that you would not be praising with the faint damn of “not an unalloyed good” if you in fact deny that they had any such right.

17. Murphy

For taking big chunks of land… I can’t think of easy rules of thumb because there will always be some citizens who don’t want to leave.

I do support a general right to Secede without much of a lower size limit.

But

Making it too easy for regions to secede is a problem.

If it fails at the state level then the activists can just pick out any area where they had a majority and hold local votes.

if it’s too easy to do that fast then the 49% can’t plan for the future.

So I’d argue that any secession movement should have to demonstrate both a reasonably long history of pushing for that secession, should have a clearly defined area (so that if they lose at the region level they can’t just drop to the villiage level) and should have a supermajority of the population in that area.

But no real lower limit.

In the case of success at the individual level citizens should have the right to sell up and move to the parent state with their assets without the new regions taking those assets and the government of the seceding region may owe people and/or companies a reasonable amount for their relocation costs and/or immobile assets.

Also the parent state might choose to have a closed border with the new state once the split is complete.

But I do believe that provided they can find somewhere to take them at the individual level citizens should have the right to sell up and leave a country with their assets without the state taking most of those assets and if the state claims right to tax/control citizens abroad the right to repudiate citizenship should be easy and absolute.

Of course the state would be under no obligation to take such people back….

1. Aftagley

So I’d argue that any secession movement should have to demonstrate both a reasonably long history of pushing for that secession, should have a clearly defined area (so that if they lose at the region level they can’t just drop to the villiage level) and should have a supermajority of the population in that area.

I strongly agree with this point.

I find myself very not sympathetic to “we don’t like how things are going right now and thus want to leave” secession arguments (Texas, California, Brexit) but very sympathetic to “we have been trying to leave this system for X decades/centuries” (Scotland, Kurdistan, Catalonia)

1. EchoChaos

I am not clear how Brexit (a movement that goes back to the entry of the UK to the EU) is illegitimate but Scotland’s independence (which starts at basically the same time) is legitimate.

What difference do you see between the two?

The UK has a longer and stronger tradition of independence of Europe than Scotland has of the rest of the UK.

1. Aftagley

Are you sure? I’ll admit that I’m not an expert, but I thought the Scottish independence movement went back farther and the UK independence movement was more recent. Basic Wikipedia-ing on my part makes it look like the SNP was founded in the ’30s and that even during the 1800s there was anti-English sentiment pretty prominent in Scotland. This makes me think that Scottish independence goes back as far as the early 1900s if not earlier.

Brexit, on the other hand, doesn’t seem that established. Sure, there was initial skepticism of the EU, but that was from the far-left anti-globalization side of the aisle and their position was deeply unpopular. Wikipedia tells me that the 1983 general election was seen as a referendum on the UK joining the common economic zone in which labour got crushed. It wasn’t until the 1990s that we saw the rise of UKIP and the cultural disagreements over capricious rule from Brussels and even then it took them until as recently as 2015 to get 50% approval.

TLDR: to me, at least, it looks like Scottish Independence movements go back around at least a century and have had around 50% support the entire time. Brexit, on the other hand, is only around 25 or so years old and only recently (<10 years) rose to having 50% support.

2. Gobbobobble

I am not clear how Brexit (a movement that goes back to the entry of the UK to the EU) is illegitimate but Scotland’s independence (which starts at basically the same time) is legitimate.

Um, what?

The UK has a longer and stronger tradition of independence of Europe than Scotland has of the rest of the UK.

The United Kingdom is barely older than the United States. This isn’t even true of England, seeing as they were plugged into the Roman Empire and Scotland was not

3. HeelBearCub

The European Union and the United Kingdom are apples and oranges. The EU is basically just a treaty organization between nations, not a nation unto itself. As has been pointed out, right of exit from the treaty is built into the treaty. Membership in the EU doesn’t grant you citizenship in any other member state. Exiting may be stupid, but it doesn’t present any problems vis-a-vis secession, I don’t think.

Whereas those who are Scottish are citizens of the United Kingdom, and citizens of the UK have inherent rights in Scotland, AFAIK. Secession of Scotland from the UK presents much thornier issues. How do we resolve the citizenship of a child born to Scottish parents in London? What of Indian parents naturalized in England who now have a child in Scotland? Will Scotland have jus soli, jus sanguinis, or some hybrid?

4. EchoChaos

@Gobbobobble

I meant the modern (post Act of Union) movement. While Home Rule goes back that long, modern Scottish independence is considered to have started with the SNP winning a seat in 1967.

5. Lambert

> The EU is basically just a treaty organization between nations, not a nation unto itself.

For now.
And EU citizenship *is* a thing, and it grants you many of the rights associated with being a citizen in a certain country.

2. Nornagest

Not liking how things are going right now seems like as legitimate a reason to want independence as any, and I don’t think the desire need have existed for decades. There are plenty of shorter-term political changes that could make a region want out.

On the other hand, a simple majority at referendum is a pretty low bar to clear, and permanent political separation is at least as big a deal as, say, a Constitutional amendment, so it seems to me that a robust political system should require at least as much in the way of process. That doesn’t mean the Brexit referendum was illegitimate, though; it means David Cameron was an idiot, and that the British political system is badly framed in some respects.

(There are states where all it takes to amend the constitution is a simple majority at referendum, and this is done regularly. Their framers were idiots too.)

3. Murphy

I’d argue that most of those meet most of the critera

Texas/California/Brexit are all at least somewhat old, have a well defined region etc.

I think all 3 would be stupid to actually implement but I couldn’t fault their proponents on the criteria I set out.

2. cassander

>If it fails at the state level then the activists can just pick out any area where they had a majority and hold local votes.

if some county wants to secede from the union, why should anyone else care?

1. Murphy

Again, if they start out defining the area that wasn’t to secede as that villiage and keep at it for decades and can show a supermajority of support then sure.

But if you allow then to start at the state level then drop down to villiage level and quickly hold a second vote anywhere that they managed to scrape through… then that can be easily exploited with gerymandering to screw over the majority who want to remain.

It’s like pre-registring your research. First you have to clearly define the area you believe has a unique cultural identity or blah blah etc then you have your vote.

You don’t get to have your vote, do subgroup analysis to find that elderly spanish grandmothers are more likely to vote your way and then try to pull the half dozen retirement homes with 60% elderly spanish grandmothers into your new republic.

Same reason that in well run democracies we don’t let parties choose district borders **after** the votes have been collected.

18. wonderer

As a matter of national survival, secession should be prevented at all costs. International relations does not operate on the principle of what is right; it operates on the principle of realpolitik. Statesmen who do not recognize this may think they are upholding lofty principles, but are in reality endangering their countries and potentially consigning their civilizations to the dustbin of history. The Melians stuck to their principles of neutrality during the Peloponnesian War–with the result that their city-state was destroyed by Athens, their men killed, and their women and children sold into slavery. As the Athenians told the Melians, “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must”.

Given this reality, which polity is stronger on the world stage: a continent-spanning superpower like the United States, or a city state like Luxembourg? Which one is better able to stand up for itself and its allies? Do you think China, the rising superpower of the 21st century, will have more difficulty imposing its will on Togo, or on the US? Any country that allows a significant portion of its population to secede will be in a much weaker position on the world stage. China understands this, and cracks down on separatists harshly. Heads of state who don’t understand this lesson are dooming their countries to irrelevancy–or extinction.

Not only is independence bad for the parent state; it often results in tragic consequences for the secessionist state, especially if the secession happens through violent means. Just take a look at South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Sudan is undeniably a brutally and genocidally repressive state, but secession has only made things worse. South Sudan is now in a civil war with 400,000 dead. The civil war is essentially ethnic in nature, with the Dinkas, Nuers, and smaller ethnic groups engaging in orgies of intercommunal violence that the Secretary of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development characterized as “genocide”. South Sudan now has the world’s lowest GDP per capita, and is one of the worst places in the world to live.

The same sad story has played out again and again. After 30 years of civil war, Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1991. Today, Eritrea is a totalitarian state that uses indefinite conscription of both men and women as slave labor. Its human rights record is amongst the worst in the world. The Press Freedom Index ranks it second last, “beaten” only by North Korea.

The biggest wave of secession in recent memory was decolonization. India was decolonized, and a million people died in a mutual genocide between Hindus and Muslims. While India is not doing badly nowadays, it went through decades of extreme poverty after independence, due in large part to anti-capitalist policies (the License Raj). Pakistan is now a theocracy ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, a safe haven for terrorists across the Middle East. In Africa, the Congo was decolonized, turning it from the healthiest, most educated, and wealthiest economy in Africa, with twice the wage labor force of any other colony, to its current state of rampant ethnic violence and extreme poverty. From Wikipedia: “In 2016, DR Congo’s level of human development was ranked 176th out of 187 countries by the Human Development Index.[5] As of 2018, around 600,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries from conflicts in the centre and east of the DRC.[15] Two million children risk starvation, and the fighting has displaced 4.5 million people.” In colony after colony, power was handed from the colonial power to “liberation movements” headed by autocratic thugs. Far from leading to a new dawn of hope and prosperity, decolonization resulted in war, famine, poverty, and misery on an epic scale.

The success of the United States gives many Americans an unrealistically rosy picture of the likely consequences of secession from an undemocratic government. The vast majority of the time, secession leads to death and destruction, not prosperity.

1. onyomi

Given this reality, which polity is stronger on the world stage: a continent-spanning superpower like the United States, or a city state like Luxembourg? Which one is better able to stand up for itself and its allies? Do you think China, the rising superpower of the 21st century, will have more difficulty imposing its will on Togo, or on the US?

I do think there is a tradeoff between being a larger, more diverse, confederated “superpower”-type entity and a smaller, more monocultural, potentially more high-trust, comparatively peaceful ethnic enclave. It is also one of my pet peeves when people treat these as if they are entirely comparable (it worked in Sweden, why not the US?)

My sense is that being a citizen of a smaller, more homogeneous nation is often more pleasant, and you get more say in how you are governed per capita. I think you also tend to be richer per capita and your culture may often “punch above its weight” though that total weight is usually smaller.

For example, China right now has 1.3 billion people and Japan only about 10% of that. Overall China is significantly more powerful on the world stage than Japan. 10x more powerful? Maybe. Is Chinese culture 10x more influential? I don’t think so. Is the average Chinese 10x better off? Obviously not. If anything, the reverse is closer to the truth. Would the lives of most Japanese be made better or worse if they could become equal (per capita) voting partners in some kind of pan-East Asian confederation with China and North and South Korea? Highly doubtful.

On the other hand if China were to break into several nations based on language, ethnicity, etc. obviously no individual resulting nation could throw its weight around on the world stage to the degree China can now. But many of them could be plenty powerful enough to deter any would be invasion and subjugation and might enjoy more wealth, cultural self-determination, etc. Overall, the cultural diversity of China would be better preserved by such than the attempt to melt it into one shiny, bland monolith suitable for global consumption we see now.

2. Murphy

the USA, canada, ireland, do you think they’d be better off if they were still under the rule of their old masters?

17. bean

I have a conundrum. My library has outgrown its shelves, and I’m in need of more. The problem is that it’s largely made up of large, heavy reference books, which overload a lot of shelves I’ve found. Most big ones (I want 5-high because 4-high strikes me as an inefficient use of floorspace) can only support a full set of bigger books on 2 shelves. I’d rather not have to lay it out with this in mind, so can anyone recommend a way of solving this that doesn’t break the bank, looks halfway decent, and doesn’t require me to take up carpentry as a hobby?

1. Phigment

How do you feel about taking up metalworking as a hobby?

Do you have any friends who like building stuff as a hobby, and can be paid with food and beer?

1. Lambert

This, probably.
If you don’t mind the industrial-chic look, angle iron isn’t expensive for a given load.
And welding is always a useful skill to have.

1. Lambert

You can learn pasable MIG in an afternoon.

How about those alu extrusions that fit together with the weird rectangle nuts?

2. johan_larson

IKEA’s Billy bookshelves are very affordable, and I’ve never known them to break. If they’re not sturdy enough for you, I suggest finding a store that specializes in business furniture. They should be able to order very sturdy shelves for you in whatever size you want, made of either one-inch particle board or steel. You can save trouble by having them deliver or save money by picking up the units yourself.

IKEA stores usually have stock available for immediate pickup. Business furniture stores usually need to order whatever you want, and delivery can take weeks.

1. bean

I have about 4 Kallax shelves, and I really like them. They’re sturdy and can hold full-height books on all shelves. The problem is that they’re 4x2s, and the only 5-high shelf in the range is 5×5, which is just big enough to be really awkward. If they did a 5×3, I’d have just bought that and not be asking here.

But if the Billy is good, I might use that. Next time I’m near IKEA, I’ll take a look.

1. johan_larson

If you like the Kallaxes, your best bet might be to find a place to put a 5×5 unit. Your wife might let you put it in the living room if you agreed to keep it neatly organized.

1. AlphaGamma

Could you just buy a 4×3 Kallax and then put other shelving (perhaps even a 1×2 and 1×1 Kallax) on top of it?

2. Nick

Slightly tangential question: I’ve seen a lot of 5-shelf bookcases that are just a 3-shelf stacked on top of a 2-shelf bookcase. Is there some reason these are preferred? Is it just to make the shipping box smaller/less unwieldy? Do people actually take these apart and use two different bookcases sometimes?

(I actually ended up with the top 3 shelves of someone’s 5-shelf bookcase, but that was because they were trying to take it apart to give me and accidentally ruined the bottom two.)

3. bean

@AlphaGamma

I’ve considered that, but it seems rather precarious. Although building a lighter shelf on top of a 4×3 doesn’t sound like a terrible idea now that I think about it.

@Nick

It helps a lot with shipping. I have several that are that way, and it means that the length of the package is the 3-high and not the 5-high. These don’t come apart, so it’s not that, but I’d guess that the shipping category changes pretty dramatically.

4. The Nybbler

It might be that a 5-shelf bookshelf is too big to parcel ship assembled. A standard-height wide Billy is 80″ tall by 31″ wide by 11″ deep, which exceeds UPS’s ‘length + girth <= 150"' by a comfortable margin. Ikea ships theirs unassembled which avoids that, but they still charge through the nose for shipping. (I once bought a floor model. An assembled Billy fits into a Subaru Outback… barely)

2. bean

The Billy is pretty impressive. According to the website, it’s rated at 60 lbs/shelf, which is like 50% more than my current bookshelf is rated for, even on the strong shelves. Which based on some rough math are carrying about twice their rated weight. And those aren’t even the ones that are worrying me.

3. cassander

You might try looking at office furniture instead of traditional furniture outlets. I got my current shelves when we moved offices a couple years ago, and they’re holding up great, despite also bearing the burden of a lot of Norman Friedman’s doorstoppers. Sadly I don’t know the brand.

1. bean

It’s worth a look, although library bookshelves at least are significantly more expensive than I expected. On the other hand, the weight figures are much higher than I ever expect to reach, which is comforting.

The other problem is that my shelves are bearing the burden of all of Norman Friedman’s doorstoppers.

2. LeSigh

To save more $, check out places that sell used office furniture. In particular govdeals.com, your local school districts, and universities can be great places to find nice looking, gently used items on the cheap. It can take some patience to wait for the good stuff, though. 4. DragonMilk You can do what I did for aquarium – cinderblocks and 2x4s Cinderblocks are less than$2 each, 2x4s about $2-3? Go to Home Depot and assemble a large structure for well under$30

5. Another Throw

1. Measure the per foot weight of your books.

2. Plug it into The Sagulator.

3. Permute through locally available materials and dimensions until you get an acceptable result.

4. Procure or make shelves with said material and dimensions, and, if sold separately, put them in available shelving units.

5. Consider how to secure the shelving units to the wall to prevent small children from tipping them over while climbing on them, as appropriate.

If you can’t find shelving units (or shelves) that can carry an acceptable load, methods to improve their load bearing capability include:

1. If the shelves are floating (they almost certainly are), secure them to the sides. Nail or screw (with glue, if you’re sure about the position) a ledge to the supports to set the ends of the shelves on and then nail or screw (with glue) the shelves to them. (This should give you a much better hold than trying to screw straight through the side into the end of the shelf. That’s a really bad method.) It shouldn’t require significant woodworking skills to attach them, and you may find material of appropriate dimension at your local lumber yard.

2. Do the same along the full length of the back of the shelf.

3. Add an edging strip to the front. Find a nice looking wood strip, wider than the shelf is thick and brad nail/glue it vertically along the front of the shelves.

4. Double up the shelves by gluing a pair on top of each other.

5. If the shelving unit has an open back, close it in. If it has a flimsy cardboard backing, upgrade. Cut a piece of plywood with a nice face to size (the lumber yard will probably do this for a fee) and screw/nail/glue it to the back of the shelves all around the edge.

7. If you’re really hardcore, upgrade your edging strip/bracing to aluminum (or steel). Your local lumber yard will probably have small L’s or T’s of some description in either steel or aluminum. Cut to length and run those puppies along the bottom of your shelves.

1. Another Throw

Okay.

But…
1. Aren’t the formula used by the Sagulator derived from Euler–Bernoulli beam theory?
2. And if I go to the Wikipedia page for Euler–Bernoulli beam theory, assuming I even still remember how to do calculus, is it going to include a handy reference with elastic moduli for something like two hundred natural woods and engineered wood products?

1. Lambert

1) Well I doubt they’re going as far as Timoshenko theory.
Anyway, it’s as much about grokking the theory as about crunching numbers at random until you get the right one.

2)no, but engineeringtoolbox.com will. Also 190 or so of those natural woods fil the ‘ruinously expensive’ test. Solid lignum vitae and Rimu furniture would be nice, though.

2. Another Throw

Anyway, it’s as much about grokking the theory as about crunching numbers at random until you get the right one.

Oh, I get that. But sometimes randomly seeding a hill climbing algorithm is a perfectly legitimate method of searching large multivariate space. Especially when you’re really only concerned with a good enough engineering solution, and all the real optimization is along the “cheap, available, and ten different kinds of pain in the ass” axes.

3. Lambert

There’s like 3 or 4 variables you have to take to the correct power and then multiply together. Even engineers can do that.

6. pontifex

Can anyone recommend a way of solving this that doesn’t break the bank, looks halfway decent, and doesn’t require me to take up carpentry as a hobby?

You’re going to have to pick only two of those, I’m afraid.

If you’re willing to break the bank, you can pay for custom shelves. Ask for real solid wood, not particle board or MDF.

If you’re willing to sacrifice looks, you can probably just grab some steel shelves from an office furniture surplus store (or craiglist?)

If you’re willing to take up carpentry as a hobby… well, I think you know this one. 🙂

Be sure to secure any of these things to the wall correctly so you don’t get crushed by falling debris in an earthquake.

1. pontifex

Plywood is certainly strong. I prefer solid wood because if someone makes a scratch or a hole, there’s just more wood underneath, rather than ugly plywood. It also tolerates getting wet better.

We can at least agree that MDF is right out for what bean wants. I’m surprised at the number of people advocating getting Ikea bookshelves in this thread. That stuff is all sawdust and glue (aka MDF) and it’s likely to sag when he loads it with heavy textbooks.

BTW the issue of plywood versus wood strength definitely depends on what wood you get. I guess you’re probably thinking of the domestic pine that’s common at hardware stores. If you want to really live like an oligarch, though, make it out of teak or purpleheart. (Are those still available?)

7. acymetric

You might just try searching craigslist for bookcases/bookshelves. Depending on how quickly you want to do this, keep checking back daily for a month or two and you’ll probably find something to your liking.

You might also try local 2nd hand stores/thrift stores, do you have any Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores in your area?

Office furniture is also a great idea. I’m looking at a shelf in my office right now with 6 shelves (moveable so you can adjust the height or remove a shelf entirely) that I would be entirely comfortable completely loading up with thick, heavy books, and it doesn’t even look half bad.

1. Eric Rall

I did something very similar, and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s only slightly more work than assembling Ikea bookshelves, quite a bit cheaper, and I like the results a lot better.

The only moderately tricky bits are that you need to know how to find the studs in the wall (you can use drywall anchors for light-duty shelves, but I wouldn’t trust them for a heavy-duty bookshelf), and you need to own a level and know how to use it (or be good at measuring precisely up from the floor) to make sure the shelf brackets are aligned property with one another.

Carpentry is minimal, since the boards come pre-cut to various lengths, although if you do have a circular saw you can customize them more precisely. The one power tool you definitely need is a decent power drill or power screwdriver, and you probably want to own one anyway if you’re a homeowner (if you’re renting, this entire line of advice is moot because you’d need to uninstall everything, patch the screw holes, and repaint when you move out).

The main benefits I see over cheap bookcases:

1. Control over spacing, as you said.

2. You can put shelves all the way up to one book’s height below the ceiling if you’re so inclined, while bookcases generally stop with room for 2-3 more shelves worth of books.

3. The 1×8 (or 1×10, or 1×12) boards are quite a bit stronger than the melamine-veneered MDF that cheap flat-pack bookcases are usually made of, so they sag less under the weight of a shelf full of heavy books.

4. You can make a block of shelves as wide as you have room for, giving you more options for organizing your books.

I went for this style of shelf brackets, spaced every 4 feet:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-11-25-in-x-1-05-in-White-Shelf-Bracket-HD-0494-WT/205561152

The ones you linked should also work, but I wanted a bit more of a safety factor for putting a bunch of old textbooks on the same shelf, and I wanted deeper shelves than 8 inches. I also found the diagonal bit in the bracket handy, since with it the bracket for the shelf above does duty for a bookend.

1. The Nybbler

Unless you’re building a library (with rows of dense stacks throughout the room), have substandard floors, or are building in an area that wasn’t living space (e.g. a converted attic) you’re not going to have a problem there. Concentrated design load on a residential floor is 300 pounds; while a full 5-shelf bookshelf will exceed that, it’s also less concentrated than the expected “concentrated load” (basically a person). Uniform design load is 30-40 pounds per square feet, which will be vastly exceeded by making a room into a library, so don’t do that.

8. drunkfish

One thing that I bet would work is to take a normal bookshelf, and just glue in vertical pieces of wood in the middle of each shelf (make sure they’re aligned vertically). Cutting in half the lever arm that the books exert on the shelves should make them a lot stronger.

9. LewisT

Finding nice used bookcases is probably your best bet if you’re able to do so. In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to snag a staggering number of bookshelves from a local law firm that was eliminating practically its entire library (very nicely built oak bookshelves capable of supporting large tomes) and from a local university that was remodeling (old science classroom cabinetry). Our county courthouse also eliminated its law library a few years ago, selling the bookcases for practically nothing, and when a couple of local schools were demoed recently, they were knocked down with the library shelves all intact. Regarding the schools, I know a guy who helped tear them down, and he told me I could have any of the bookcases I wanted for free, as long as I moved them out myself (I declined because I already had plenty of other shelves). If you find out about any local school demolitions or know any local lawyers, it might be worth asking about bookcases. The construction/destruction guy told me I wouldn’t believe the amount of perfectly good shelves, cabinets, etc., he ends up trashing in his job.

18. AlexanderTheGrand

Can anyone comment on the current state of Bohmian (pilot-wave) quantum mechanics? Seems somewhat relevant to the multiverse idea.

1. Anatid

I am not an expert on Bohmian mechanics but in my personal opinion two things make the Bohmian interpretation less attractive than it initially appears:

1. If you look at a single particle, the Bohmian equation for how the “true” particle position evolves is nice and intuitive. But if you look at more than one particle, the equation gets some ugly instantaneous-action-at-a-distance terms that don’t literally violate special relativity but seem to go against its spirit (that no influence should travel faster than light).

2. The Standard Model is not actually a theory of particles but a theory of fields. Particles are really just localized quantized disturbances in the fields. So to really be an interpretation of our current theory of physics Bohmian mechanics needs to be restated in terms of fields and not particles. I am skeptical that the result will look nice, but I haven’t read anything about attempts to do this.

I think both 1 and 2 are things that people have worked on improving and I have no idea what the results have been.

Personally I am also sympathetic to the “redundancy argument” described here that the pilot wave theory is basically MWI plus a redundant particle.

1. Thegnskald

You could merge it with some of the work being done in matrix mechanics to solve the spooky action problem, but I don’t think anybody cares that much anymore.

2. Soy Lecithin

I know very little about it, but my first impression is that it misunderstands quantum theory as being about the motion of particles. Quantum theory per se is a much bigger paradigm and is agnostic as to what exactly your system is made up of. A Hilbert space and a Hamiltonian is all it needs (not even that, in fact). Particles and fields and space are extra structure on top of this and not suitable as the fundamental building blocks of your interpretation of quantum theory.

If Bohmian mechanics were to be formulated in a suitably abstract way to encompass any quantum system, I imagine it would look just like “normal” quantum theory, because that’s all there is, in some sense.

I see Bohmian mechanics getting talked about in popsci stuff, but I’ve never met a physicist who cared about it. Though to be fair, I’ve met very few physicists who care about interpretations of quantum mechanics in general. I suspect the things that make Bohmian mechanics desirable/intuitive aren’t actually the things physicists care about. That’s my impression and I might be missing the point of it.

19. Clutzy

Imagine the other side is right.

What do you imagine being the worst case-scenario for your desired policy goals?

1. onyomi

Can you clarify a bit? Like if it turns out I’m wrong about which policy goals are desirable and I figure that out then presumably I’ll no longer desire them?

1. Clutzy

Mostly this is an exercise wherein:

1) You get to define a worldview that you think is mistaken. For instance, an Amish person would say, “electricity is awesome.”

2) You envision a society where your preferred policies are carried out. Again, for example the Amish person envisions a world where electricity is outlawed.

3) Now you try to predict the various ways that this world might failed. Call this a steelman of the other side’s doomsday predictions.

1. Aapje

@Clutzy

“Electricity is awesome” doesn’t conflict with the Amish world view, anymore than “sex is awesome” conflicts with a conservative Christian’s view that people should only engage in sex within a marriage.

Also, most Amish seem to allow electricity from batteries.

An actual conflicting view would probably be: “wired electricity makes people act more moral.”

2. Belisaurus Rex

If the other side is right, then the world would be a much better, and simpler place. However, if global warming is an almost unsolvable tragedy of the commons type coordination problem, then open borders would present all the same difficulties. I’m not sure that worrying about the tragedy of the commons in one sense but not the other is coherent. So it’s not a matter of which side is right, it’s which problems we select to solve/ignore.

I choose climate change/global warming as the issue because in theory it should swallow up every other right/left divide if the doomsayers are right about it—race, gender, social justice would just be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic (or so you’d think).

1. DavidFriedman

However, if global warming is an almost unsolvable tragedy of the commons type coordination problem

I’m on what you probably consider the other side, and I regard global warming as an almost insoluble public good/market failure/tragedy of the commons type coordination problem. And said so in Future Imperfect.

But I don’t know whether the problem is that, absent coordination, we will get too much warming or too little.

3. The Nybbler

Which other side? The “is right” condition for the other side of the culture war depends on their being pervasive yet undetectable discrimination against women and minorities to the point that in all areas where women and minorities are somehow “behind”, this discrimination is the cause. The “is right” condition for crusaders against inequality requires that the world will be a better place for most (though not me) if money and resources are continually transferred from those who have to those who have not; unlike the CW this condition probably cannot be verified. The “is right” condition for climate activists require that anthropogenic global warming is real, significant, and damaging on net, and can be stopped (with less damage overall) through the various austerity measures recommended.

1. Aapje

Perhaps the “is right” means that reality will change to match the world view? So white men will suddenly start to massively discriminate by race and gender…

I’m not sure how Clutzy’s question works otherwise, if one’s opponents have provably wrong beliefs.

1. Clutzy

Well that was, generally, my theory. If you are an open borders guy you would say, “Well what if the immigration hawks are right and we get a billion people over 10 years moving to the US, and they drive down wages while voting for populist socialist dictators” or the hawk says, “what if immigration is actually really good for the economy and as a result of restrictionism we have a long economic decline as the country veers towards racial totalitarianism?”

1. Aapje

The problem is that many of these changes would have resulted in a different history. I don’t see the point of a thought experiment where we somehow assume that people start behaving differently today, rather than in the past as well.

For example, at one point, a quarter of workers in California was Chinese. Without the subsequent anti-Chinese laws (which did not merely block most new migration, but also made many Chinese move back), California would be much more Chinese than it is now.

If we look at actual history, Asian Americans used to be slightly more supportive of the Republican party, but became more strongly supporters of the Democrat party in the 90’s and 00’s. Of course, with many more Chinese Americans, these voting patterns might not have been the same (or other influences).

So one of your scenario’s has more or less already happened, but can you say whether the US would have been richer if Chinese migration/workers hadn’t been stifled? Can you say whether there would have been more racial violence between black Americans and Asian Americans?

As for driving down wages, the outcome I see from the more detailed studies seems to typically be that migration drives down wages for lower incomes and increases income for higher incomes. So why should I adopt this simplistic notion that migration drives all wages down or the idea that it is good for ‘the economy,’ when the truth is way more nuanced than these two extremes that you present?

2. Clutzy

The problem is that many of these changes would have resulted in a different history. I don’t see the point of a thought experiment where we somehow assume that people start behaving differently today, rather than in the past as well.

We are not talking about history, or I am not. I am stating that you should assume your side on a particular issue or subset of issues you care about wins a total victory politically for many years. Then you reflect on what the opposition would predict in that scenario. And that is the whole post. You predict what the opposition would predict, you might even draw a value judgement like Plumber. He predicted his policies would be predicted to elicit an economic slowdown. He is fine with that.

For example, at one point, a quarter of workers in California was Chinese. Without the subsequent anti-Chinese laws (which did not merely block most new migration, but also made many Chinese move back), California would be much more Chinese than it is now.

California being more Chinese than it is would have been a prediction by the immigration hawks had their opponents succeeded. As a historical example.

If we look at actual history, Asian Americans used to be slightly more supportive of the Republican party, but became more strongly supporters of the Democrat party in the 90’s and 00’s. Of course, with many more Chinese Americans, these voting patterns might not have been the same (or other influences).

True, but I know little about the predictions of pre-1882 immigration hawks/doves about the predilections of Chinese immigrants to vote for certain policies. So I cannot judge this point.

So one of your scenario’s has more or less already happened, but can you say whether the US would have been richer if Chinese migration/workers hadn’t been stifled? Can you say whether there would have been more racial violence between black Americans and Asian Americans?

I cannot. I was simply attempting to make people write seriously and thoughtfully about what their opposition thinks.

As for driving down wages, the outcome I see from the more detailed studies seems to typically be that migration drives down wages for lower incomes and increases income for higher incomes. So why should I adopt this simplistic notion that migration drives all wages down or the idea that it is good for ‘the economy,’ when the truth is way more nuanced than these two extremes that you present?

Because that is the exercise.

1) You have a political position.
2) You try to fully understand the opposition’s position.
3) You state the worst case scenario the opposition anticipates if your position was victorious (and the rest of us get to judge how strawmanny or not you are at that).

3. Aapje

Hmmm, the problem remains that those who oppose certain positions are coalitions, not Borg-like entities. Some opponents agree with me what will happen, but will simply consider it bad. Others will disagree with what will happen, but not necessarily on the same points. So any prediction I make about how others’ worst case scenario is going to seem like a strawman of those on the other side that I ignore.

Then there is the issue that many seem to have an utterly inconsistent and ‘cubicled’ prediction system, where they ignore how some of their solutions/goals clash with other solutions/goals, even for their own best case scenario. So stating what these people anticipate is going to seem like a nasty strawman, even if it is actually correct.

Then these is people being dishonest about their actual beliefs, using emotional language and other forms of sophistry, for various reasons, including coalition building and gaining maximal approval.

For example, a reform that I support is to change asylum from a right to a quota system, where society determines a level of acceptable asylum seekers and then picks the most deserving cases from UN camps or whatever, rather than those rich enough and strong enough to get themselves smuggled to Europe.

I suspect that some of the opponents oppose this because they think the quota will be reduced close to zero, although I never see this argument made, because doing so is presumably going to harm their coalition, which involves people who want no quota at all. So not opposing the quota system itself, but the level of the quota, exposes a difference of opinion in the coalition that is exploitable.

4. Plumber

Clutzy says:

“Imagine the other side is right”

I have.

“What do you imagine being the worst case-scenario for your desired policy goals?”

Slower technological progress and economic decline.

I’m okay with that.

1. Plumber

Oh, looks like most are now articulating what their views are as well as “worst case scenarios if the other side is right.

Fine.

I was going with the view that the more progressive taxation, stronger unions and less extreme wealth accumulation at the top during the ’40’s to the ’70’s compared to afterwards were good things that should be attempted again.

My assumption was that libertarians are correct in their argument that the policies I advocate will stifle economic growth.

I actually do think their right, but I’ve seen enough growth these past few decades and I’m increasingly underwhelmed by the benefits to existing residents and their children.

There’s some other issues that I actually think “the Right” should win on, but I think the chances of them winning those are pretty remote and it’s more likely that the Right would win what I don’t want them to implement before they got around to the parts of their agenda I’d be okay with (if they even got that far), if I’m wrong and the Right wins what doesn’t bother me, and instead wins what I’m okay with?

So the worst case scenario that I can imagine of policies I advocate doesn’t bother me that much (eh, I already lived through the ’70’s once, it’s the ’80’s I fear!), and the more wrong I am about what I expect a triumphant Right would actually do seems okay to me.

Since I actually expect the Left triumphs to peak five to ten years from now, and the Right to start triumohing again most of the rest of my life I have multiple reasons to wish:

Let me be wrong!

1. Nornagest

If you find yourself thinking “even if my worst enemies are right about my policies, they’ll have made a better world anyway”, that’s a pretty good clue that you’re wrong either about who your worst enemies are or about what they think your policies will do.

1. Plumber

@Nornagest,
‘cept I’ve already seen the results: massive economic growth, new tower block apartments springing up everywhere, new electric cars…

…and massive homelessness, discarded needles, childlessness, despair and early death.

Teslas and tents.

In time I suppose the massive growth of unfettered markets will pay off more for most, but I’ll be dead and in the meantime too many will live as beggars.

So nope, I won’t vote for even more of what we’ve had for most of the last 40 years, as long as there’s a glimmer of hope for the restoration of the full mid 20th century welfare state and the post war “we’re in this together” liberal consensus that will get my vote, not that I expect that either, all I expect to see is more of the same anti-solidarity liberations until my death.

@plumber

and massive homelessness, discarded needles, childlessness, despair and early death.

With the first two i struggle to figure out whether this is driven by wealth inequality or a failure of the government to ‘deal’ with the homeless population.

unending Sprawl of the texas variety seems like a more likely outcome.

3. Nornagest

‘cept I’ve already seen the results

In your city. Which is horribly mismanaged, extremely unusual nationally, and nowhere close to an unfettered market. You’re taking a narrow parochial view of what’s maybe the weirdest economic circumstances in the country and extrapolating to… anyone under forty and to the right of Eugene Debs, as best I can tell.

Do you not understand how this is a problem?

4. Clutzy

The real problem I am seeing with Plumber is he is ascribing results to political systems that don’t seem connected. How is San Fran an example of anti-plumberism? It seems to me much more like anti-Guilianism.

Plumberism, being a mostly ascendant political philosophy during the 20th Century has very few actual counter-examples. Anti-plumberism run amok is only really available in sci-fi depictions like Altered Carbon.

5. JayT

The lack of “new tower block apartments springing up everywhere” is the biggest culprit of the Bay Area’s homeless problem, not economic growth or inequality. San Francisco alone has almost as many homeless as the entire Houston and Dallas metro areas, combined. Add in Oakland, Berkeley, and all the other smaller cities in the area and it’s pretty obvious that the Bay Area’s ridiculous housing rules are largely to blame.

6. Statismagician

@JayT – it’s both, right? Lots of new luxury towers, but a) luxury, and so not available to anybody not making tech salaries, and b) not enough to actually fill the demand for people who are, so not meaningfully affecting the problem in the first place?

7. The Nybbler

It seems unlikely to me that housing supply has much at all to do with the _unsheltered_ homeless issue in SF. As for the rest, it shouldn’t matter to first order whether the new units are luxury or not; as long as vacancy rate isn’t going up and the new units aren’t causing more people to move into the city, the raw number of units seems most important.

8. cassander

I’m going to go to say that, as bad as they are, San Francisco’s homeless problem has virtually nothing to do with its terrible housing policies. Long term homeless people overwhelmingly people who are unable to take care of themselves, either because of mental illness or drug addition. San Francisco has a lot of them because it has very homeless friendly policies including cash handouts. This, plus the mild climate, attracts homeless people that would otherwise be more spread out. These people would almost certainly not go away if the median housing price in SF dropped to something reasonable, because there problem isn’t that they’re otherwise functional and just to afford SF rents. I’m sure there’s some of it, but a decided minority.

9. JayT

I agree that the housing issues would have little effect on the mentally ill homeless issue that is mostly due to other reasons, but San Francisco has a much larger “working homeless” population than other places. There are crappy RVs parked all over the place with people that look and act like normal members of society, and almost certainly would be in actual houses if the Bay Area had Houston’s building codes.

@ Statismagician, the whole “Luxury” thing is marketing term turned boo word. SF still has a lower rate of adding housing than any other major city, and in every one of those luxury apartment buildings there are 1,000 square foot apartments that would be considered middle class almost anywhere else. All those luxury buildings aren’t that fancy.

10. Mark V Anderson

I’m picturing here some weird OCD thing where the druggie feels compelled to constantly to add up his drugs to see if he has enough. Maybe the drug itself causes nerdish behavior of constantly calculating sums. Or a Scrooge McDuck type swimming in all his drugs.

5. The Nybbler

I misunderstood the second question (I thought it was basically “what is the set of real-world facts which would make the other side right and you wrong”), so I’ll go on

If the SJWs are right, my elimination of affirmative action and minority set-asides and all the rest will result in most lucrative and prestigious fields being utterly dominated by a bunch of white males. Women and minorities will be forced to settle for less, or in the case of women, having to marry for money.

If the inequality crusaders are right, the country and/or world will be worse off from implementation of my policies (reduction of redistribution/welfare, less progressive tax, etc), but this would only be obvious if you compare it to the counterfactual, which you can’t

If the climate activists are right, the worst-case scenario of implementation of my policies is The Day After Tomorrow.

6. Tatterdemalion

If the economic conservatives/libertarians are right, my support for social democratic economics would result.in making rich people poorer by more than I think it would (which doesn’t worry me in the slightest) and making poor people worse rather than better off (which worries me a lot)

The consequences of my support for devoting resources which could be used for other purposes to mitigating climate change being wrong are similar. Actually, the consequences of following those policies don’t depend much on who is right; the difference is in what will happen if they aren’t followed.

If I’m wrong about the fact that many of the policies that social justice types support are beneficial, but that their way of thinking and social and intellectual norms are awful, in either direction, I don’t think it will matter that much – I’ll have missed the chance to fight on the right side in the culture war as hard as I might, but at least I won’t have fought hard on the wrong one.

If I’m wrong about gay marriage, it won’t matter at all – even the people opposed to it never phrased their opposition in terms of consequences I would care about.

The position I hold that would fail most gracelessly if it failed is probably support for abortion on demand in the first two trimesters (or slightly less) and in virtually all circumstances women actually request third-trimester abortions after that. Killing millions of people, rather than merely millions of things with the potential to become people in the future would be a big deal, but I’m quite confident on this one.

Or, even more extremely, I support that if various religions are correct then I and anyone who listens to me will go to hell. But I don’t worry about that at all, because a supreme being who punishes atheism and a supreme being who punishes not being an atheist strike.me as equal and opposite risks.

7. DinoNerd

There are lots of “other sides” possible.

Since we’re looking for a worst case, I’ll go with whatever religion envisages the cruelest and most unforgiving deity (or deities) which specifically and explictly hate(s) everything I stand for, and most of the things I’ve done with my life, and particularly delight(s) in vengeance, possibily refered to by believers as “justice”.

If its believers are correct – I, and everyone I care about, are consigned to eternal punishment – and even those it favours are merely in the position of not in trouble yet/currently.

8. NostalgiaForInfinity

My longest [firmly] held policy belief is drug legalisation .

The actual policy I’ve hypothetically achieved: all recreational drugs except heroin are legally available for purchase, with some controls (No advertising, no promotional deals, no branding etc). Heroin is available on prescription and there are safe shooting galleries.

Worst case scenario:

1) Drug use goes up and/or the social burden of drug use increases (e.g. overdoses and other deaths, children raised by drug addict parents).
2) No meaningful reduction in crimes associated with drug addiction (e.g. acquisitive theft by heroin users).
3) No significant reduction in the black market. People still buy drugs illegally.
4) An increase (or continued increase) in synthetic, dangerous drugs with possible long term health effects.
5) Negligible tax revenue (competition with the black market means legal sales/revenues aren’t that high).
6) Continued acquisitive crime and black market sales limit the impact on police and the judicial system i.e. the police spend much of their time tackling drug-related crime, prisons are still full of users / dealers.
7) Organised crime shifts its focus to other sources of cash e.g. protection rackets, theft, prostitution, gambling. So burden of organised crime on society is ~ constant.

Summary: crime and the social costs of drug use go up. There isn’t a significant increase in taxes that would otherwise help counteract the downsides. The costs to the state such as reduced criminal justice or health spending also go up. Therefore there is a net negative effect on government spending + worse social outcomes.

(This is a good question).

1. The Nybbler

Leaving heroin out would be a big mistake. Heroin addicts are a pain, but addicts of stimulants are far worse, and there is substitution. Unless you just mean injectable heroin specifically and oxy, fentanyl, etc, in other forms are OK.

2. JayT

Why are you singling out heroin? I’ve always felt that should be the first drug we should legalize. It’s side effects are fairly minor in comparison to most hard drugs, and many of the issues around it seem to stem from it’s illegality.

1. NostalgiaForInfinity

I left it out in the sense that I’m unsure it should be just be purchasable in a shop in the same way that cannabis or MDMA could be. It wouldn’t be illegal, just have stricter access controls. My reasoning was that it’s particularly addictive. That said, it’s been a while since I’ve looked into it in any detail and maybe there’s a good case to be made for treating it similarly to other drugs. To continue vaguely in the spirit of the question – if my policy was a success except for heroin, heroin would remain a problem and we could potentially solve it just by treating it like everything else.

@The Nybbler I did mean injectable heroin. I know less about (and didn’t really consider) the recreational use of other opioids (or stimulants for that matter). This does also raise the possibility of many people having access to prescription strength opiates for self-medication. Maybe it should be included as a possible negative for the policy in the sense that liberating access to them could lead to over-use and addiction (obviously there’s a possible benefit too in that lots of people would get the pain relief they think they need, not what they can persuade a doctor is necessary).

3. Clutzy

Now here’s someone who really embraced the mood!

9. DinoNerd

Here’s a more coherent – and a bit less cranky exploration.

Suppose societies really do require a strong status hierarchy, and the denigration/banning of large numbers of normal impulses, such that most people are chronically worried about their “sinful” impulses, some are ejected/killed for acting on them, and everyone is born into a place thay can’t get out of. (You’re black; you do menial work. Your parents are poor whites; you’ll never rise above straw boss of black folks. You’re female – you get to marry a man of similar status to your parents, and devote yourself to housekeeping and childrearing – except at the lower end of the hierarchy, where you also have to take paid employment, or at the very bottom, where your desined role is prostitution, along with rearing any children that result. etc.)

Without this, societies degenerate into a set of atomized individuals, all working at cross purposes, and end up collapsing in some way, after a generation or two, and/or being conquered by strong societies with appropriate hierarchies, and their surviving members getting slotted in at the bottom of the conquering society.

If this were true, then after a generation or two of freedom, most western democracies get conquered by authoritarian societies. China becomes the new world super power, and the US fades away into oblivion, except when trotted out in (Chinese) history classes as a bad example.

At this point, the best public policy to favour is one where your type of person is on top There still isn’t any significant individual freedom, and status is derived from accidents of birth – but if you are gay, then you want gay people to be higher status than breeders; if you’re black, you want blacks higher status than whites, Asians, etc.; if you are female, then you want a matriarchy – rather than freedom for all, and a chance at a level playing field. The last thing anyone should want is any kind of democracy – the folks at the bottom might try to increase their freedom/status, which would lead (on this assumption) to eventual social collapse. (And there are always more folks on the bottom than at the top, so there’s always a chance that they’d win.)

Policies I favour – level playing fields, repeal of victimless crime laws, democracy, etc. – would lead to a generation or two of freedom and opportunity, followed by collapse.

To me, this is so ethically repugnant that I’m inclined to ignore the possibility entirely, even while seeing that it is at least partly true. I don’t want to team up with other people like me to oppress everyone else, so as to prevent them from oppressing us. Instead, I want to work to keep as much freedom as possible in the system, in spite of obvious (to me) human tendencies to enforce conformity and hierarchy.

Perhaps I and my opinions are more or less doomed, except in periods of cultural decline. In that case, I’m overjoyed to have spent most of my life in such a period. And I don’t much care whether I and folks like me wind up at the bottom because of Chinese conquest, rather than because of e.g. Christian hegemony. It would be rational to fight to be in the middle, not the very bottom, or even try to take over the top slot – but I find I’m not all that rational on this subject. Besides, I’m old – that hypothetical collapse probably won’t happen in my lifetime.

1. Belisaurus Rex

Ancient Athens was an oligarchy until a little after the Persian War, when they instituted a democracy. Democracy allowed unparalleled arts and philosophy we still talk about today.

But
1) Athenians, despite their massive advantages over the Spartans, threw away opportunity after opportunity due to democratic infighting and were overcome by a city state with a fraction of the GDP.
2) Athenian democracy was highly reliant on slavery, or “man-footed things.”

My conclusion from reading Thucydides’ Peloponessian War isn’t that democracy made Athens strong, but that it was an indulgent luxury that led to their fall (but in retrospect the fruits of that democracy might still have been worth the destruction of the Athenian Empire).

1. DeWitt

Thucydides is a good source on some matters, and a terrible source on some others. Athenian democracy was the system that had him exiled, never to return home again, so the bias he’d have against it is obvious and very real.

2. Erusian

I would point out that Thucydides was part of the aristocratic faction. While he appears to have factually conveyed things in general and many of his criticisms seem cogent and to match facts on the ground, he does have his biases.

In particular, his criticisms of the decisions of the leaders of Athens are conveying real decisions they made and they had the results they had but Thucydides has an interest in portraying these decisions as the result of democracy and its chosen leaders and processes. Which isn’t entirely unfair but it’s the conclusion he wants to come to. For example, his claim that democratic politicking led to the over-commitment to the Sicilian expedition. It’s true the Sicilian Expedition happened and it was undertaken by the democratic government and it was a disaster. But Thucydides frames it as something the wiser leaders know is a bad idea but the necessities of democratic politics force them to do it anyway, and that is almost certainly his interpretation.

1. Belisaurus Rex

I hope we never have to find out whether American exceptionalism is because of democracy or in spite of it. I would imagine that democracies tend to be successful for selection effects, because they need success to have the breathing room to institute democracy in the first place. But who can tell with counterfactuals? Maybe Thucydides was just bitter, and if the war had gone the other way after he died his book’s bias would be more obvious.

3. DinoNerd

Yes, and it’s partly things like this that have me saying things like “even while seeing that it is at least partly true” above. If what you want is military power, it helps if your potential cannon fodder lack better options. If what you want is sacrifice for the public good, it helps if those making the sacrifices have little choice, and/or if they’ve been indoctrinated into a belief that the collective is more important than the individual.

My actual belief is that it’s one of many many cases where too much of either extreme is a bad thing. I also believe that it’s possible to have a (more) level playing field without fragmenting into atomized individuals. But at the same time, humans being what we are, there will always be some traits that make individuals (and groups) “obviously” inferior, dangerous, and/or bad.

In my experience, there are always more than enough people pushing for a less level playing field, so I tend in practice to be a stopped clock in the other direction. But at least some of my opponents appear to believe that stability and long term cutural resilience requires less equality and opportunity than even the worst of modern western democracies offers today. And if they were right, either outcome would really suck. (Whether or not they got their way, the results would be bad, IMNSHO.)

For my choice of “other side” I’m going to go with “left conflict-theorists”.

Re: the Marxists my policy is UBI and the worst-case scenario is that it completely fails to help because the capitalist class’s power is unchecked and so giving money to the masses is filling a bucket with a hole in it.

Re: the culture warriors, if they’re right then my preferred strategy of detente will never reduce the amount of conflict and instead just mean the right wins more. Worst-case scenario is that things regress rightwards as far as they can go, leading to a return of extractive colonialism, plantation slavery, criminalized homosexuality, women as property of fathers or husband’s, etc.

11. aristides

Since I’m fairly conservative, the worst case scenario for most of my policy preferences is that America slowly becomes a worse and worse country, while other countries that implement their policies become better and better. There is one policy proposal I am more radical on, and that’s taken fro Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education. If that books conclusions were wrong, and you implemented my policy preference of large cuts to education spending, America would be a much dumber country, our GDP would start decreasing over time, and having a dumber electorate could spiral into dumber policies passed on a large scale.

This has definitely given me something to think about, and makes me revise my preferred education policy to slow cuts over decades, rather than a large amount all at once.

12. Etoile

I like this exercise; although to really do it properly (and might take more time than can be covered in a post) you should also ask, “and how convincing is it to you that your policy goals to end in disaster? What are your ways of preventing this disaster that the other side would predict?” I personally think in my heart of hearts that the below consequences will occur to some extent (TANSTAAFL, nothing is free), but not to a catastrophic degree, and can be mitigated by various Schelling points that are closer to the “non-socialized” end of the spectrum than the “socialized” one. Anyway:

I am very much against the socialization of American health care, especially in the way I think it’s likely to be implemented. I think it will keep all the worst parts of our system (complexity, overall cost, corporatism, perverse incentives, administrative bloat) while destroying the good parts (quality, innovation, rapid access given enough money). If I’m wrong, the worst-case scenarios are:

1) In the short term, complete chaos in the industry as the infrastructure and mechanisms set up for the current system collapse – job loss, turmoil for a year or three; havoc with people’s records, ongoing treatments, and general access as everyone scrambles in panic.

2) In areas where there is a de-regulation of quality standards, proliferation of fake and low-quality care preying on the needy and desperate.

3) Any social program creates economic distortions, and for any “catastrophic national insurance” or subsidy I might suggest, the same issues will crop up – e.g., fraud – that will require regulatory solutions, which will either remain unaddressed (with negative consequences thereof) or be addressed in the known ways, leading to greater incremental regulation, inefficiency and inequity, bringing us back to square one – though maybe by different paths.

4) People with no money will delay healthcare forever and suffer for the lack of it, leading to needless suffering and early death.

5) Inequality. The rich will have nicer things than the poor. Of course, I think this will always be the case, where “Rich” might be replaced with “influential” and “urban”…. because you can’t make it completely perfectly equal; and what’s the point of being richer or better off if you can’t have nicer things? But that’s a separate issue.

13. Aftagley

How right are we talking?

I mean, if my other side ends up being 100% correct, my worst-case scenario is that I’ll spend somewhere between 0-80 more years doing doing a bunch of ultimately pointless stuff because I will then spend an eternity being tortured in the bowels of hell for failing to live a certain way/supporting positions that an omniscient/potent being disagreed with.

Economically? As @Plumber says, economical and technological stagnation because we optimised for security and stability instead of breakneck progress. Like him, I can live with that.

Socially? Humanity goes extinct because people are too busy having actual lives to have babies.

… I can not only live with that, but thinking of it gives me a warm, wistful feeling inside.

20. ARabbiAndAFrog

I have finally finished my Stargate marathon. Stargate used to be THE thing I was a fan of back in day, and I think in many ways it has defined my tastes in sci-fi in terms of aesthetics and themes. It’s nice to have a franchise that seems to be scandal-free which everyone involved seemed to enjoy and left on good terms (Except maybe Torry Higginson?)

I’m actually surprised how well Stargate Universe held up – it didn’t have enough support at the time, suffering from backlash against Atlantis cancellation, and tone departure, as well as having pretty bad start, but knowing where it all it was going helped my experience a lot.

I’m surprised how much less I enjoyed Atlantis. While I always felt like they didn’t utilize its unique elements enough and ended up paler copy of SG-1, I was surprised to discover how right I was about it. Wraith just aren’t as cool as Goa’Uld and their much tighter grip on the galaxy killed much of diversity in it – half of SG1 episodes were about weird stuff human diaspora that long since was cut off from the galaxy was up to, Atlantis just ended up very same-y. They seemed to try and correct this a bit in later seasons by introducing Travellers and later suggesting there’s plenty of more advanced cultures in hiding, but we never really got to see them.
At the same time unique elements of Pegasus galaxy, compared to Milky Way, like being much more interconnected, as well as unique part of premise such as having home base far away from Earth were either underused or abandoned after first season. Relationship with natives was a major part of season one and so were supplies, Genii were relevant, but after season 1 it just doesn’t feel like they are far from home, at all.

Conversely, I found out Joe Flannigan is much better actor than I remembered him to be.

1. Nick

Can you write some about what you liked about Stargate Universe and what it did better after the bad start? I was one of the people turned off from it early on.

1. ARabbiAndAFrog

At what point did you actually stop? Perhaps you didn’t like it even after it improved.

The biggest problem is that they frontloaded a lot of drama about people we have no reason to care about. After first 10 episodes they got most of the boring stuff out of the way and things actually started happening. Doctor Rush as well. After he was done running around being crazy he was able to do actually interesting things. Aliens showed up, although this is a mixed bag – they couldn’t go the good old “Aliens are humans” route and this constrained their screen time a lot – as a result none really developed personality.

Second season was where it really figured out how to make things work. I don’t know how much I should spoil, but there’s some good plots there.

1. Nick

I watched the first like four episodes and kept up on the first season (I remember the commercials for when that group gets stranded after a jump and stuff). I didn’t see anything from the second season.

I worried early on that they were restricting themselves with their premise in stupid ways—no way to get home is one thing, but they also can’t spend more than a little time in each world, can’t control where the ship jumps, and obviously won’t be picking up any new characters. To say nothing of being so far away that they know absolutely nothing of where they’re at or where they’re going, and are traveling at such a fast, steady rate that they’re unlikely to encounter anything in particular with any constancy (like another alien race). So I was immediately concerned that every story would either be an ass pull or those rules would get progressively thrown out.

I think I was right. They introduced those magic stones that let them talk to Earth (really dumb idea), and then they introduced a plot where people are getting stranded and get inexplicably saved in the very first season. Also, a particular alien race, who they apparently keep encountering over and over (how is that possible??).

1. ARabbiAndAFrog

Some of the rules get relaxed in second season as they unlock control of the system. New characters do show up but unfortunately not for long enough to create a more interesting dynamics, but some of them stay. I don’t think not being able to add more characters on the ship (Not entirely true since there’s plenty of generic extras who can be recast and be presumed to always been part of the crowd, although this barely ever happened) because there’s a fairly strong supporting cast (That is Riley, Brody, Volker and Park).

and then they introduced a plot where people are getting stranded and get inexplicably saved in the very first season.

I am not sure which one you refer to here, because events matching this description happened twice in season 1 (And once in season 2, sort of) but not exactly inexplicably. One in particular was not necessary and added nothing to the plot, which is a valid criticism, but both make some sense.

Also, a particular alien race, who they apparently keep encountering over and over (how is that possible??).

That’s because the aliens are chasing after them, duh.

You complaint about stones is valid, but that’s part of front-loading. They are involved in some interesting plots and their use for filler visitation reduced to minimum. Conversely, I have to disagree with your complaint about isolation being stupid – I have the opposite compliant about Atlantis, that they threw isolation out of the window and lost a part of unique appeal.

I was also in the “put off early” camp. I got a good way through Season 1–Episode 12 “Divided” is the last one I definitely remember seeing.

The frontloading thing was an issue, but I think my main problem was tone departure whiplash. I think to succeed the show would have had to convince me that the in-universe events were the cause of the tone change–that if there had been an episode of SG1 or Atlantis where a similar group of people ended up in similar circumstances, they’d have acted in similar ways. Instead I just felt like the tone was darker and people were fighting more because the writers wanted it that way.

1. ARabbiAndAFrog

That’s a valid point, I guess. I think the implication seems to be that the main characters just aren’t as good as previous casts. They weren’t supposed to be anywhere other than a backwater research outpost.

Yeah, I figured that was the idea but it just didn’t feel like enough to me. Totally subjective call, I’ll admit.

This might be too vague a question, but did you find SGU to be good in any of the same ways SG1/Atlantis were? Was anything besides the literal plot elements kept constant amidst the radical changes?

I could definitely imagine it being really satisfying if the Destiny crew starts to get a grip on their situation (and themselves), in much the same way it was satisfying to watch Earth gradually gain capability over the arc of SG1.

21. Atlas

Should I read Thinking Fast and Slow? Or have its main conclusions been debunked/strongly challenged, or is there a more recent book that covers the same ground more accurately, etc.?

1. SteveReilly

As far as I know, all the chapters that cover Kahneman and Tversky’s work have held up. So stuff like the chapter on anchoring hasn’t been touched by the replication crisis. But he seems to have been a bit too credulous about other people’s works, so the chapter on priming is definitely skippable. Slate mentions that “The psychologist Uli Schimmack has devised a statistical measure called the R-index to estimate the trustworthiness of a given body of research based on its reported sample sizes and effects. (It’s like a “doping test for science,” Schimmack says.) He recently applied this measure to the studies cited in each of 11 different chapters from Thinking, Fast and Slow, then assigned letter grades to each result. (The book has 38 chapters total.) A couple of the chapters came out looking very good, with R-index scores of 93 and 99—worthy of an A-plus grade from Schimmack for their rigor. But five other chapters, including the one on social priming, ended up with scores of less than 40—what Schimmack called an F. Taken all together, the chapters Schimmack looked at earned an average grade of C-minus.” I could swear I read that review at some point, but now I can’t find it online, so maybe I’m misremembering. But it would probably be good to find it to figure out which chapters to skip.

Also, if you already know a decent amount about behavioral economics, then there won’t be much new in the book. Maybe a few anecdotes, but the science he covers is pretty basic and is known to anyone who’s spent a bit of time reading about the field.

2. Nick

I ask this question every couple of months and still haven’t gotten a thorough answer. The only person who’s answered is Douglas, who said to read Judgment Under Uncertainty instead.

ETA: FWIW, I ended up reading it, anyway.

22. Atlas

What are some good sources for libertarian commentary and analysis of current affairs, particularly with regard to economic issues?

1. Milo Minderbinder

https://www.econlib.org/ is a collection of articles and information from mostly libertarian sources, funded by libertarians.

https://reason.com/volokh/ is a blog on current legal events from a libertarian perspective.

For a more conservative-tinted libertarianism, the writers Charles C.W. Cooke and Kevin Williamson for National Review both offer excellent commentary.

2. salvorhardin

Marginal Revolution remains libertarian-ish, I would say Tabarrok more so than Cowen.

Of the EconLog folks, I typically find Scott Sumner and Bryan Caplan more interesting than the others, and you can subscribe to their individual feeds separately.

Arnold Kling, http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/, is also good– I would say pretty conservative-tinged but not as much as the folks at National Review.

3. eigenmoon

The usual answer is something like this:

but might I suggest ignoring the economic issues of serf society and digging into crypto and DeFi instead?

23. Plumber

While there’s some regional differences (the west coast leans a bit more Dem, the southeast a bit more Rep) increasingly U.S. political affiliation depends on how many other folks live in a square mile, cities and dense “inner ring” suburbs lean Democratic Party, less dense “outer ring” suburbs snd rural areas lean Republican Party.

Seems to me that more could be made happier by having denser areas be “blue rules America” and less dense areas be “red rules America” by limiting overarching national rules.

Would this work?

1. Tatterdemalion

I don’t think it would work, for at least two reasons.

Firstly, “getting those other people to follow your rules” is really important, and I think your phrasing is unduly negative – agreat deal of politics consists not of people sticking up for their own selfish interests, but of A trying to stop B hurting C (e.g. the Left’s campaigning for civil rights, economic redistribution (in some cases – for poor left-wingers this is self-interest), etc or the Right’s opposition to abortion).

Secondly, the economic competition – allowing cities and the adjacent countrysides to have different policies on taxation, benefits, economic or environmental regulation, minimum wage, etc while still allowing freedom of movement between them will have even larger negative effects than interstate competition currently does.

1. Aapje

A trying to stop B hurting C

Usually, the ways in which A hurts C (or B) get ignored, self-interest by B gets declared to be oppressive (but not self-interest of A and C), etc.

Framing your own interests as actually being in the interest of others is a powerful political tactic, neutering a lot of rebuttals and allowing the vilification of those who openly fight for their self-interest.

2. Plumber

ETA: Ninja’d by @Tatterdemalion, but here’s some supplemental thoughts:

A few potential points of Blue/Red conflict with separate area rules:

Abortion: Red area bans don’t orevent Red residents from going to the nearest clinic in Blue towns.

Carbon emissions: Big assume carbon taxes doesn’t prevent Blue residents from filling gas cans in Red areas that don’t have big assume taxes on fuel.

Gun control: Blue residents can just buy rural guns.

Immigrantion: Unless you go by Swiss rules where different Cantons may set limits national borders are still where how many are let in not local ones.

Income taxes: There’s not much to prevent a billionaire from claiming “official residences” in Red areas, and that their homes in Blue areas are just “pied a terres”

1. Erusian

There’s also the fact that there’s no way to divide it up without stranding a ton of people in each other’s territory. I can just see the outrage over Christian bakers in Upstate New York or the talking heads sputtering over the states that don’t have abortion clinics for a thousand miles.

And, of course, if either party decides to use that to pass rules regarding elections… well, the government would be a permanent Republican majority. Depending on the year, it could even be a supermajority in the Senate.

1. Tatterdemalion

And, of course, if either party decides to use that to pass rules regarding elections… well, the government would be a permanent Republican majority. Depending on the year, it could even be a supermajority in the Senate.

What rules change are you envisaging here, sorry?

1. Erusian

“All voting will be restricted to union members/people with a net worth over X/minority votes are counted for more/etc.” (All real arrangements at times.) Or simply gerrymandering. Or if they have real full reign, just passing a law making them one party states. Right now these are somewhat kept in check by parties trying to compete in each state but if we divide it into Republican/Democratic preserves, then there’s no reason for them to continue that, is there?

2. albatross11

The carbon emissions stuff isn’t limited to just regions of the US, it applies across the globe. If the US and Europe and Japan and S Korea and Taiwan all drop our CO2 emissions, but China and India keep growing explosively via fossil fuels, we might as well not have bothered.

ISTM that there are issues that are properly handled at a local or state level, and others that are properly handled at a national level. Immigration, foreign policy, military, etc., are national-level issues that have to be handled at the national level. On the other hand, I think a lot of issues should be handled at a more local level–I don’t think it would be any kind of dystopia if abortion, gambling, drinking age, smoking/vaping age, motorcycle / bicycle helmet laws, prostitution, drugs, etc., were all mainly handled at a state level or even a local level. We do some of that, but other stuff gets pre-empted at a federal level, and I’m not convinced that’s a good way to do things. I think making big categorical decisions in the Supreme Court tends to make top-down decisions that often aren’t all that great a fit for local conditions, and that are focused on rule-based ethics rather than utilitarian ethics. (Some of the way mainstreaming of very disruptive kids in public schools is handled is probably a good example of this.)

I think we’ve had a century or more of increasing centralization of power, from local to state to national level {government, media, business}, and I think the trend has gone further than it should, and in fact has gone to the point where a lot of the potential benefits of federalism have been thrown away.

Immigrantion: Unless you go by Swiss rules where different Cantons may set limits national borders are still where how many are let in not local ones.

How many immigrants, legal or otherwise, end up settling in sparsely populated areas?

1. Plumber

“How many immigrants, legal or otherwise, end up settling in sparsely populated areas?”

In Switzerland? I really have no idea, but I have read of a Swiss Canton allowing Italian speaking immigrants in, but not Polish speaking ones.

In California?

The tomato fields between Gilroy and Hollister, California have few people per square mile, and the people there primarily speak Spanish, but I can’t tell if they’re first generation immigrants or not, as Spanish speaking families settiling in California pre-date English speaking ones (I don’t think anyone in California is a descendant of settlers from Sir Francis Drake’s landing!), but agricultural workers usually aren’t the decendents of Californios, and are likely third generation at the latest, and most likely are first and second generation, as usually those who are born citizens don’t stay working in the fields.

2. Erusian

How many immigrants, legal or otherwise, end up settling in sparsely populated areas?

To hijack Plumber, the answer is: an overall minority but a hugely disproportionate amount. On a per capita basis, the rural areas receive more immigrants than the cities to the point they are a primary driver of illegal immigration. In an absolute basis, the cities receive more than the countryside but the cities have more people in general.

3. Eric Rall

How many immigrants, legal or otherwise, end up settling in sparsely populated areas?

It used to be very common. That’s how Texas and Utah got started, with American immigrants settling sparsely-populated areas of what was then Mexico. Later in the 19th century, a lot of German immigrants to the US settled directly in frontier areas.

4. DavidFriedman

How many immigrants, legal or otherwise, end up settling in sparsely populated areas?

There seem to be a lot of basques in Nevada, and not in the cities. A lot of Scandinavian immigrants a century ago went into farming.

4. Garrett

Gun control: Blue residents can just buy rural guns.

Doesn’t the fight then just get pushed up to the Federal level again? After all, that’s what we’ve done with guns now where you can’t (effectively) buy a gun in another State that you wouldn’t be allowed to buy in your State of residence. What limiting principle would stop this from being pushed up to the Federal government “just this one time”?

1. DavidFriedman

They can buy guns, but if it’s illegal to possess them, let alone use them, in the blue state areas, there isn’t much point to it for ordinary people.

Criminals can buy and use guns, but they can do that now–a level of enforcement that makes it impossible for a criminal to obtain a firearm is hard to do.

1. John Schilling

The current push for more gun control is driven by fear of mass shooting incidents, which are generally misunderstood to be the result of perfectly normal non-criminals suddenly breaking bad and deciding to kill as many people as they can with whatever gun they already have or can immediately buy. Since the threat model involves people who are presumed not to know any black marketeers, the expectation is that if they can’t buy guns OTC (but maybe in the next state or county over) they’ll just give up.

This threat model represents only a minuscule fraction of shooting deaths in the United States, but if you tell the median Los Angeles resident that anyone who wants can buy an AR-15 by just driving up to Bakersfield, they’ll predict bloody carnage and demand Something Must Be Done about the loose gun laws in Bakersfield. Or Reno.

2. hls2003

demand Something Must Be Done about the loose gun laws in Bakersfield. Or Reno.

To be fair, Reno seems to be a pretty violent place. I heard someone shot a man there just to watch him die.

3. Gobbobobble

To be fair, Reno seems to be a pretty violent place. I heard someone shot a man there just to watch him die.

Sounds like a gang initiation

3. Atlas

Steve Sailer says:

The Scottish independence movement inevitably inspires the question of secession in America. As John Derbyshire has pointed out, the United States represents a vast expanse of territory, and people from distant regions increasingly get on each other’s nerves. In an era of free trade zones and military alliances, wouldn”t it be simplest for the U.S. to break up like the SNP wants the U.K. to end?

I don”t think so, however. The big difference is that that the U.K. is primarily a north-south country, while the U.S. is an east-west country. Latitude divides people more than longitude. In America, the most important political divide is distance from deep water, such as oceans or the Great Lakes: what I call the Dirt Gap. San Francisco and Manhattan, for example, are 2900 miles apart, but are similarly liberal because family formation is equally unaffordable due to both being similarly constrained from expansion by water. Hence, the “family values” party is less relevant where family formation is prohibitively expensive.

That means, however, that the U.S. would be harder than Britain to split ideologically along geographic lines. The lines between Red and Blue America tend to run indistinctly through the exurban fringes of coastal metropolises.

That makes secession less practical in America than in Britain.

1. Tatterdemalion

Colour me unconvinced. The north-south/east-west thing looks like taking an n=1 observation and fitting a model to it.

I think that the reason secession is less practical in America than in Britain is that the cultural identities of the states are much less distinct than those of Scotland and England – very few Americans think of their nationality as Iowan or Wisconsinite, and most of them are far more invested in being American than most Scots are in being British.

1. thisheavenlyconjugation

Yes. The SNP do get some of their support from being attractive relative to UK-wide parties on policy (currently this involves being moderately left-wing, previously it involved being more typical right-wing nationalists). But they do have a basis of national identity stronger than anything in the US, although weaker than that of many continental separatist groups. The other advantage they have is that unionist feelings in the rest of the UK are pretty weak, whereas my understanding is that the union is considered quite important to most Americans.

4. blipnickels

Seems to me that more could be made happier by having denser areas be “blue rules America” and less dense areas be “red rules America” by limiting overarching national rules.

Isn’t this federalism? I mean, isn’t this basically Texas having different laws from California so everyone can be happy with their local laws?

It’s increasingly growing on me as a potential solution but it’s historical results are poor. Besides, at best, it requires de facto Partition a la India/Pakistan into Redia and Bluestan.

1. blipnickels

Basically that federalism isn’t politically stable, that the history of the US is essentially the continual strengthening of the central government at the expense of the states since the Articles of Confederation.

I’m hesitant to imagine federalism being implemented in any sustainable fashion because people have been aware of this trend and arguing against it since at least the Anti-Federalist papers. Worse, I’m struggling to think of another government with a stable federalist system. Maybe Switzerland with the canton system but I don’t know enough to comment on that. Maybe parts of Africa with strong sub-national tribal governments, but I doubt I’d want to emulate those.

1. Chalid

I think the problem is that the state lines don’t correspond to anything real. There’s no sense in which the area controlled by “California” is actually a natural decision-making unit. San Franciscans have more in common with Portlanders or for that matter New Yorkers than they do with the people in the Central Valley, who in turn have more in common with the people in Upstate New York or Nebraska. So it is very natural e.g. for urban Californians to make political alliances with fellow urbanites in other states against rural Californians, and vice versa. And of course there’s no real sense of state-level patriotism to counteract this.

2. cassander

@blipnickels says:

One can easily imagine a federation set up better designed to preserve federalism, giving the states and federal legislature lots of ways to prevent or stop federal actions. Switzerland had some of this, and while it’s eroding, one could easily make it more explicit. Completely politically impossible in the modern US, of course.

@Chalid

And of course there’s no real sense of state-level patriotism to counteract this.

I think this would change if the states had more political power.

3. Chalid

Maybe, but the sort of thing that makes people patriotic is wars, common enemies, and glorious semi-mythologized shared heritage, and that’s the sort of thing that tends to be national.

Also, I think there’s likely competition between state-level and national-level patriotism – difficult to have too much state-level patriotism without having separatist movements.

1. Plumber

@blipnickels says:

“…isn’t this basically Texas having different laws from California so everyone can be happy with their local laws?…”

I wasn’t just thinking of Federal courts overruling (i.e.) The State of Alabama, I was thinking about The State of Alabama overriding The City of Birmingham’s minimum wage law (this is something States do a lot), so I wasn’t just thinking of California and Texas having even more different rules than they do now, I was thinking of Imperial County, California having different rules than San Francisco, California and Austin, Texas having different rules than There-Be-Dragons, Texas (my geographical knowledge outside of CA. my be lacking).

In looking a map of the many Blue and Red counties it looks like every State has some of both, so I imagined more local autonomy than just for the States, I was thinking different rules for city and country (with suburbs divided depending on density/dominant local ideology).

1. blipnickels

Huh, my first gut level reaction is approval. I hope something like this works.

My second thought is San Francisco NIMBYs with legal authority no one can overrule. So drama.

I think there would be a lot of complications but I’m not sure it’s unworkable. What about Nevada? Their state government is pretty limited/permissive from what I’ve heard. Are there significant legal variations between counties?

1. Eternaltraveler

I’ve often thought that the one important thing missing from the US constitution was a clause stating that once an area of suitable size attains a certain population density that it should automatically become a quasi city-state

How many states are not dominated by one to three big metro areas? State by state is no longer a good way to divide urban from rural.

1. Statismagician

I wonder if the solution might not be to make all the large metro areas their own state-level political units, as was done in the HRE, feudal [everywhere], and… substantially all pre-modern-nation-state political systems I can think of, actually.

1. Plumber

@Statismagician says:

“I wonder if the solution might not be to make all the large metro areas their own state-level political units, as was done in the HRE, feudal [everywhere], and… substantially all pre-modern-nation-state political systems I can think of, actuallyrics”

Effectively that’s what I did have in mind, having municipalities laws more independent of counties, countries more independent of States, and States more independent of the Nation.

For a historical example I thought of how the English medieval countryside were ruled by local Lords, but chartered cities were ruled by Mayors selected by the Guilds.

5. EchoChaos

Would this work?

Nope. It’s been tried repeatedly in America. First it was slavery and tariff laws, where the South wanted fugitive slaves returned by Northern states without slavery (the South won that one) and the North wanted strong tariffs to protect Northern industry (the North won that one). Then eventually it got too much, they fought a war and after all the dying was over, the victorious North enforced their will on everyone.

Then it was another issue (gold and silver coinage), then another, then another.

The fact is that the power of the Federal Government has always proven just too strong a lure. It’s not enough for people that they are doing it right, but also that the “wrong” people be stopped.

It’s not enough that Chicago bans guns, Indianapolis must too. It’s not enough that Alabama bans abortions, New York must too, etc. ad infinitum.

1. cassander

it sounds like the problem you identify isn’t that federalism doesn’t work, it’s that we don’t have a system that actually uses it. One could easily imagine institutional arrangements that lock in more federalist solutions.

1. EchoChaos

Could one? We had one of the most federalist systems in history, yet within a few years we were threatening to enforce federal law on Rhode Island for not following tariffs.

It’s one of those “theory and practice” things.

In theory, you can design a federal system that is actually federalist.

In practice, you can’t.

1. cassander

The US had a substantially federalist system for 150 years, Switzerland for even longer. Give a the states several explicit ways to to prevent or undo federal actions, vest lots of power in state officials. Is it absolutely foolproof? Nothing ever is, but you can buy yourself a few hundred years of federalism if you do it right.

2. EchoChaos

@cassander

The US system had a shooting war “Fourscore and seven” years after its founding over the expansion of federal power.

Over half a million dead is the end of federalism.

3. pontifex

Federalism isn’t a binary. The balance of power has shifted back and forth between the state and federal government over the years, and it continues to do so. For example, if the local authorities in California chooses not to enforce immigration laws or anti-marijuana laws, the laws may be on the book, but they’re dead letter. (Hmm, these examples might not have been chosen at random!)

The main forces pushing against federalism are really technological. Pennsylvania might have been able to shrug its shoulders about a lumber mill in Ohio in the 1800s. They can’t be similarly unconcerned about a giant nuclear power plant that Ohio builds nearby in the 2000s. Similarly, we’re all on the same Internet now (for now, at least), and all reading the same outrage generators about stuff the other side is doing wrong in the other part of the country.

4. cassander

@EchoChaos says:

I’d dispute that the civil war ended federalism. reduced it? No question. But it the federal government remained a rather distant presence through the new deal. And the civil war was ultimately fought over slavery, the fact that the north increasingly saw as deeply immoral an institution central to the existence of the southern elite. I think it is an unusual example of an issue that broke down sectionally that federalism handled poorly. Usually things are not so clear cut. I grant that I can’t prove this assertion, and that it’s awfully convenient to my argument.

5. A Definite Beta Guy

Slavery and eventually Civil Rights were deal-breakers. Federalism was never going to work with those two, especially with slavery after it ended up not dying a natural death. It was always the irreconcilable difference.

Most other things are small by comparison, but the New Deal grew the federal government and made it acceptable to use it for damn near everything. Now maybe that wasn’t actually fated to be, but the US is already on the low side of OECD nations. It’s tough to imagine that share getting much lower, and it’s tough to imagine state governments handling budgets that large since states are not as credit-worthy as the federal government, and don’t issue their own currencies. It’s probably inevitable for the federal government to be close-to-as-large as it is today, and if it were not, we’d probably be dealing with a bunch of states and cities in perpetual bankruptcy.

6. cassander

@A Definite Beta Guy says:

Now maybe that wasn’t actually fated to be, but the US is already on the low side of OECD nations. It’s tough to imagine that share getting much lower

the proper comparison is not the US government to the french, but the US to the EU.

, and it’s tough to imagine state governments handling budgets that large since states are not as credit-worthy as the federal government and don’t issue their own currencies.

They’re not that much smaller than the average European country, and there’s no reason they can’t be as credit worthy.

we’d probably be dealing with a bunch of states and cities in perpetual bankruptcy.

the federal government doesn’t magically make things more affordable. There’s no reason to assume this.

6. Chalid

The urban-rural divide exists within almost every state, so limits on the national government don’t really help with the issue you identify. If you want to let cities and rural areas have the governments they prefer, you’ve got to also limit state-level power and devolve everything to fairly local communities, and that would be a giant mess.

I think you might be able to get to a good situation by deciding “economic” issues at the national and state levels of government, while deciding “culture” issues at the more local levels, and this is the way our system leans right now, though obviously with many, many exceptions. Speaking very broadly, economic issues tend to be things where some amount of uniformity is helpful (e.g. a car company doesn’t want to deal with 50 sets of safety standards) and where there are lots of externalities and interactions to deal with (the coal plant in region A causes cancer in downwind region B, or the upstream communities on a river might take all the water leaving none for the downstream communities, or…). “Cultural” issues are generally more localizable – I don’t think a rural Kentuckian would care much about transgender bathroom policy in Louisville as long as he didn’t have to deal with it personally. (Though abortion, of course, will be a problem.)

1. Theodoric

The problem with this is that the people in Louisville are going to care about the rural Kuntuckians’ transgender bathroom policy (cf a pizzeria in middle of nowhere Indiana getting mobbed because they said they wouldn’t cater gay weddings).

7. Two McMillion

I wonder if progress might be made by looking at the Belgian system, which has both “regions” and “communities”, with the former being geographic and the latter being based on language. Unfortunately I don’t understand the Belgian system as well as I’d like.

1. AlphaGamma

I think that with very few exceptions, the Belgian split is almost entirely geographical. If you live in a particular area, you will not have any choice about which language you use to deal with the local government, or which language your children will be educated in.

The main exception is Brussels, which is officially bilingual and has some kind of weird power-sharing arrangement between the French and Dutch communities which I don’t fully understand. I think parents in Brussels can choose whether to send their children to French- or Dutch-medium schools.

1. Cliff

Brussels is however definitely a French-speaking area in practice. Most people in Brussels will not speak Dutch, and some do not speak English.

2. Two McMillion

Well, urban-rural is geographical, as well. I guess the Belgian system really has three levels of government, then? (Regional, Community, Federal) If so, one can imagine organizing the US along similar lines- but that seems really hard and might not be worth it.

24. Loriot

I was recently curious about the economics of the streaming music industry, and after looking up the numbers, I’m puzzled about how anyone can make money.

I subscribe to GPM for $10/mo, and since the marginal cost of streaming music is zero, I listen to music the majority of my waking hours. As a wild guess, call that 2500 streams per month. The sources I found online suggest that GPM pays ~0.6 centers per stream, which would mean$15 a month just in licensing costs. The most extreme example is Napster, which apparently pays 1.9 cents per stream and only costs $5/month. I know artists love to whine about being a fraction of a penny per stream as if that’s a low number, but I’m shocked at how high the numbers actually are. It sounds like most streaming services probably aren’t profitable, but I wonder how they expect to make money even in principle at those prices. My guess is that I’m an outlier, and they expect most people to subscribe but not actually use the service much. Still, it seems weird to me. Music isn’t like movies, where you watch it once and forget it. 1. Auric Ulvin I don’t understand it either. Youtube is my preferred streaming service. Bands will put their music up on their official channel, where I can watch it for free. Even if they don’t, some small youtuber will upload it for them. Occasionally they get struck down, though it’s always easy to find another version of the same song. There isn’t even any advertising either, not once I installed a few chrome addons. I do have to download the music via third-party apps if I want it on mobile, but that’s not hard. I’m sure there’s much better ones than I currently have that I could use, if I looked. 1. Lambert Probably loss-leading (for want of a better term) to drive sales of vinyl, paid HQ downloads, tours etc. It doesn’t matter a jot to their bottom line whether someone listens to their music for free vs never even hears of them. Better introduce as many people as possible to the music in the hope that some of them become big enough fans to spend money on them. (probably makes most sense in a world that is pareto-distributed) 1. bullseye Many years ago, during the illegal Napster era, I read that it was mostly the labels, rather than the artists, who were upset about piracy. The labels made most of their money from selling albums, while the artists made most of their money from tours and regarded piracy as free advertising for their tours. I’d like to know where the labels are getting their money today. Maybe they’re taking a bigger cut of ticket sales now? 2. Erusian Spotify pays 70% of its revenues to artists/labels/etc. Ignoring the free tier, this means they, on average, pay$7 worth of royalties per month per user. This means the average person streams 1,200 per month, which doesn’t seem incredible to me. That’s forty songs a day or about two hours. And that’s an average: there are probably some people who don’t use their accounts and some who are heavy users.

3. Thomas Jorgensen

Artists dont make much money on streaming. The subscription fees are simply divided among too many bands to make any of them huge piles of cash. But high numbers help a lot with landing gigs and selling tickets, and live performances are money makers. Roskilde is over a hundred thousand people putting down 300 euro in ticket sales, 30+ mil budget, and the festival is a non-profit. It has overhead (cleaning up after that party is a big effort) but headliners make bank, and even the down ticket names are paid.

This is not really that different from the vinyl era – labels were (and frequently remain) incredibly exploitative so not that much of that money went to the bands anyway.

Basically, in order to make a living as a professional musician, you better thrive on a live stage, or you might as well go get a job selling cars right now. Rough rule is, 80% of earnings is from live.

1. Faza (TCM)

I feel this would benefit from a bit more detail.

First off, while labels were (and still are) – for want of a better word – exploitative, it’s not like people weren’t making a living off of recordings before Napster kicked the stool from under the biz.

The venerable Music Management Bible (2003) suggests a rate of £1 per unit sold as a sensible baseline assumption of the kind of royalty an artist might earn under a major label recording contract. However, this royalty is only paid if the artist is recouped, that is: if the label made back all the money advanced with relation to the recording. That’s what’s meant when you hear an artist “hasn’t made a cent off an album” (or some such).

What’s an advance, though? Turns out, all sorts of things could be, were and are counted as advances: anything from studio costs, to producers fees, video, tour support, but also cash money paid out to the artists themselves.

Advances are recoupable, meaning that the label will take that money back from any royalties owed until paid back in full. This results in them often being compared to loans, but the big difference is that the label cannot (normally) demand settlement through any other means than royalties. If the record doesn’t sell enough to recoup, it’s the label’s loss*.

The watershed moment is when the artist sells enough units to recoup and henceforth starts receiving royalties for each unit sold. Few artists actually reach that moment for various reasons, some of them to do with label “creativity”. So how do the artists make money under such a deal?

Turns out that there is (used to be) a sweet spot where the artist isn’t selling enough to recoup, but enough to keep the label interested (see footnote). Continued label interest means further advances towards subsequent recordings. Depending on contract details and the artist being sensible with their costs (not taking too long in the studio, for example), you could make a decent living by simply continuing to record. You might never see any royalties, but the continuing advances kept you in the black.

Needless to say, things look much worse these days, with the industry roughly half the size of its late Nineties heyday.

When it comes to live, matters don’t look terribly good either. There’s a reason why we used to have such a thing as “tour support” (former meaning: money advanced by the label to keep the artist on tour; current meaning: “if you have trouble on the road, call us and we’ll be very supportive”). Being out on the road means having to cover the costs of transport and accommodation, paying salaries to the crew and dealing with all the other expenses that come from the fact that you are in a state of constant travel. Of course, stuff like your rent doesn’t magically go away just because you are away from home and you can’t work a day job to pay the bills, because you’re not there. If you aren’t absolutely huge, you won’t be able to command huge fees from the promoters. In fact, unless you’re the headliner, you may be forced to pay to play – one way or another (e.g. you must buy a pool of tickets at face value and then worry about selling them; that’s how the promoter gets money to pay the headliner’s guarantee).

Also the days of when your live revenue was safely outside the reach of your record label are long past. These days, 360 deals are the norm, meaning the label gets to recoup your advances from any source of revenue associated with your musical career: publishing, live, merchandise, videos, you name it.

All in all, skipping straight to selling cars might be advised. Alternatively, I believe playing weddings pays as well as ever – if you can get the work (it is a bitch of a gig, though).

* Not strictly true. A label only pays out a fraction of the money it receives in royalties, so it is possible for the record to be profitable and the artist unrecouped at the same time.

1. Faza (TCM)

That’s what we got 20 years ago, give or take – losing half the industry in the process.

The only reason it’s growing these days is that it has hit the bottom and bounced.

1. johan_larson

Alternatively, I believe playing weddings pays as well as ever – if you can get the work (it is a bitch of a gig, though).

What’s wrong with playing weddings?

1. Dino

I’m guessing you’re not a musician. Playing The Electric Slide/Hava Nagila/The Chicken Dance 100 times would be more than I could stand, a real pro wedding band musician might have to do it 1000 times.

2. Faza (TCM)

Apart from what Dino has said, it’s also comes with gruelling hours, unexpected issues you’ll be expected to solve (in my experience, even purported live venues can be surprisingly oblivious to what is required for a successful live performance) – and promptly, not to mention having to deal with a highly emotional (and, later, likely drunk) audience that you cannot simply tell to f-ing chill when they start to get out of hand (because they’re the father of the bride, or some such).

All the wedding musicians I have known were alcoholics, as a direct result of their profession.

4. Douglas Knight

The prices are not per stream. GPM charges you ZMP and it pays ZMP to the label. It gets a fixed pot of money from you and it turns around and pays a fixed proportion of that money to the labels, regardless of how much you stream. That Apple pays 2x what GPM pays probably just means that Apple users stream half as many tracks. For example, this infographic asserts “These numbers are in constant flux because the per stream amount for each artist is based on a pro-rata share of service revenue.” Of course, you shouldn’t trust infographics.

Some years ago, before Apple Music launched and even, I think, before GPM All Access, I read an article predicting that music streaming would be slightly money losing for the provider and thus it would only be provided by companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple, as a loss leader to complement their other products. Streaming only companies like Spotify would play an important historical role of forcing labels to accept that this pricing was the future, but would not actually succeed in making money, and thus long-term viability. We’re not in the long run yet, though.

1. Douglas Knight

Zero marginal price. You pay $10 to GMP, regardless of how many tracks you stream. To a first approximation, GMP pays$7 to the labels, regardless of how many tracks you stream.

I should have said that people quote prices per stream, but they’re just taking the total number of dollars and dividing by the total number of streams. This is an average price, not a marginal price. Playing another track does not cause any money to change hands.

1. thevoiceofthevoid

Well, in the long term playing a lot of tracks by band A causes a greater proportion of the pot to go to band A instead of bands B-Z.

5. Faza (TCM)

This one is right up my alley.

If I understand your question correctly, you’re wondering how a streaming service is supposed to make money (as opposed to the owners of the sound recordings).

As Eusian points out, streaming services generally follow the old iTunes model: they take a percentage off the top of each subscription (usually around 30%) and divvy the rest between all streams generated over a period of time. The 0.6 cents per stream is the result of this division.

What you’ll have noticed is about this model is that the service never has to pay out more than 70% of its subscription/ad revenue in royalties*. If you listen to more music, the artists will simply get paid less. That leaves it with a cozy 30% of revenue to pay for content delivery and overheads.

Looking at the headline numbers in the latest IFPI Global Music Report, the global streaming market is worth around $8.98 billion (47% of$19.1 billion). Thirty per cent of that is \$2.69 billion. Given that streaming will tend to consolidate to just a few global services, there’s a fair amount of money to be made. Moreover, there is room for growth by getting more people on the service**.

Then there’s all the juicy user data you can collect and use/sell (licensing contracts don’t cover user data, so you don’t have to share any of those gains with the rights holders). I suspect Google is getting more out of that, than pure ad/subscription revenue.

* This isn’t strictly true, because the major labels have so far had sufficient clout to demand certain minimum payouts as a condition of offering licences. Whether these actually impact the amounts paid out now that streaming is very much mainstream would require research.

** Adding users increases the service’s bottom line, because they get a flat percentage of revenue-per-user. It doesn’t necessarily increase the bottom line of any individual artist/label, because they only get their share of total streaming royalties paid out.

1. albatross11

Do any streaming services incorporate a tip jar of some kind? I’d like to be able to push a button and tip the musicians I like the best.

1. Faza (TCM)

Can’t think of any off the top of my head.

One thing that may be changing currently/in the near future is the way revenue from individual users is divided.

Most typically, all revenue goes into a common pool that is divided between all songs played during a period, so it becomes a pure precentages question of “who’s most popular on the service overall”. This means that your money’s going to pay Drake, say, even if you never listen to Drake and hate him with a passion that burns like the light of a thousand suns.

The counter-proposal is that of an “Ethical Pool” – having revenue from an individual user go to only those artists he or she listens to. I seem to recall that it might have actually got some traction with one of the services, but I’ll need time to dig up the relevant information (or find out I’m misremembering).

Other than that, my recommendation would be to use Patreon, if the artist has it, or – failing that – to just buy the product. Recording artists famously make very little off a major-label released CD or record, but it was a paradise compared to what streaming offers.

25. johan_larson

This time in the SSC Watch-Along, we are discussing episodes five and six of The Expanse, season 1.

I don’t really have anything to say about these two episodes. Here are the summaries from Wikipedia.

“Back to the Butcher”

For lack of options, the Canterbury’s survivors accept a proposal by OPA leader Fred Johnson to join him at Tycho Station, and with his help they modify the ship’s transponder, renaming their salvaged ship the Rocinante, to hide the fact it’s a Martian warship. A flashback shows how Johnson became “The Butcher of Anderson Station” eleven years ago: as a UN Marine colonel, he led an assault on a station occupied by protesting miners, killing all despite their attempts at surrender. On Ceres, Miller finds evidence linking Julie Mao to the OPA, who try to recruit him through their local agent Anderson Dawes. While leaving Julie’s apartment with the data chip, Miller is abducted by unknown people.

“Rock Bottom”

On Ceres, Miller is interrogated and tortured by Dawes, demanding to know what he has learned about Julie. Miller escapes, with fellow officer Octavia Muss, and discovers revealing information on a hidden data cube, a major secret. Upon revealing his discovery to his boss, she fires Miller and takes all information regarding the case. Avasarala wants a spy on Tycho Station, and resorts to extortion to get her way. Holden and crew arrive at Tycho Station, with Fred Johnson planning to leverage Holden’s testimony for legitimacy with the UN. Holden makes an uneasy alliance, sharing everything he knows about the destruction of the Canterbury and the MCRN Donnager. Johnson seems fairly convinced neither Earth nor Mars was behind the attacks. After disguising the Rocinante as a simple gas hauler, they set out for Eros to pick up a potential survivor of the Scopuli.

1. John Schilling

I think you’re right, there isn’t much to say about these two episodes as such. In hindsight, they don’t do much beyond deliver information and advance the plot in necessary but predictable ways. It’s not like we ever thought Holden and company were going to go politely to Mars and hand over the Tachi, or that Miller was going to stay on Ceres. These episodes fill the gap between where the main characters were, and where they have to be. And helps build the shared universe of the series, which was rewarding enough at the time but not so much now.

The one really new development was the character of Fred Johnson. That was interesting at the time because of the expectation that they might do something significant with the “Butcher of Anderson Station” backstory, but it winds up being mostly dropped so mostly meh. Johnson is still an important part of the overall story so it takes a good fraction of an episode’s storytelling to bring him on board, but it doesn’t give us much to talk about now.

1. J Mann

The show plays with the ambiguity of “can we trust Fred Johnson” for a little while, but pretty quickly resolves it.