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Open Thread 141.25

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1,098 Responses to Open Thread 141.25

  1. EchoChaos says:

    This is a short reply to Atlas’s long post above, but I do want to at least address it.

    About the war in Yemen. Wars are nasty and brutal affairs. Always have been, always will be. We are arming an ally participating in a particularly nasty one. This sucks. However, being pro-war is completely different from being pro ethnic cleansing.

    They are on different moral levels entirely, in my opinion. You can feel free to disagree. But one can support or oppose a war (any war) based on many things, but just war exists in my mind, and once war has begun, efforts to win that war can often come at the expense of civilians.

    Most of those examples you include are supports of wartime campaigns that were believed to be necessary to win. Would you have said that FDR shouldn’t have blockaded Germany and Japan in World War II because German and Japanese citizens were starving and suffering? Obviously not. The moral imperative to victory was more important than the suffering of enemy citizens. Much as I as a Southerner resent him, Sherman’s actions were wartime and not ethnic cleansing.

    Jackson IS rightly condemned, and was even at the time. His actions were far closer to what we would call ethnic cleansing. Imagine the fury if that was the example that Shapiro had used and I think you’ll understand pretty easily my sentiment.

    In short, my view is that war is different than peace, and what is justified at war can never be justified at peace. We obviously have a different viewpoint here, and I respect that. But using war as your point of argument dramatically undercuts your counter in my view, because war is something I view as acceptable and certain actions unacceptable in peace to be acceptable in war, such as civilian casualties.

    • Atlas says:

      Firstly, I’ll note that I very much appreciate your response. This community has a norm of charity and civility in disagreement that I think is quite valuable, and I’ll try to reciprocate your demonstration of such in my reply.

      About the war in Yemen. Wars are nasty and brutal affairs. Always have been, always will be. We are arming an ally participating in a particularly nasty one. This sucks. However, being pro-war is completely different from being pro ethnic cleansing.

      They are on different moral levels entirely, in my opinion. You can feel free to disagree. But one can support or oppose a war (any war) based on many things, but just war exists in my mind, and once war has begun, efforts to win that war can often come at the expense of civilians.

      On an object level, if we grant that this distinction is valid, I don’t see that it applies to the comparison.

      The thesis of Shapiro’s 2003 column was that the only solution to Arab-Israeli (or Palestinian-Israeli) conflict, including the then ongoing Second Intifada, was expulsion of the Palestinians from the occupied territories. Therefore, in my view, though you and readers may disagree, it falls in the same category of “ethnic cleansing as a strategy in armed conflict” as e.g. George Washington’s approved methods of dealing with certain Amerindian populations during the Revolutionary War.

      On a more meta level, I guess this isn’t as salient of a moral distinction to me as it is to you. Ethnic cleansing is commonly used to refer to the expulsion of an ethnic group from an area, often accompanied by theft of their land and/or property. This is a serious evil, and a useful analytical concept, but not from my POV a categorically worse evil than killing people and destroying their property. For instance, the UN estimates that the war in Yemen has forced 3 million Yemenis to flee their homes; AFAIK this isn’t exactly a matter of ethnic cleansing, but I don’t see it as existing in a profoundly different moral universe than if they’d been forced to leave their homes on the basis of their ethnicity.

      I agree that the distinction between unjust and just wars is an important one, but I think that the wars I cited as counter-examples, such as the the Saudi war in Yemen, are unjust wars. Consequently, the harm that those wars inflict(ed) on civilians carries serious moral weight in my view. And as I result I think that my original comparisons remain valid.

      Most of those examples you include are supports of wartime campaigns that were believed to be necessary to win. Would you have said that FDR shouldn’t have blockaded Germany and Japan in World War II because German and Japanese citizens were starving and suffering? Obviously not. The moral imperative to victory was more important than the suffering of enemy citizens. Much as I as a Southerner resent him, Sherman’s actions were wartime and not ethnic cleansing.

      The justice of the war is certainly an important factor here—the Pacific War and the Saudi war in Yemen are both wars, but I think the latter is certainly unjust, so tactics I might agree could be valid in the former I wouldn’t agree are valid in the latter.

      I’m not sure about the blockades specifically, but I do think that Allied leaders were generally far too callous in their evaluation of the moral importance of harm to civilians in Axis-occupied territory. AC Grayling made a very persuasive case against the Allied bombing campaigns of Germany and Japan in Among the Dead Cities.

      I (a Northerner) believe that the American Civil War was an unjust war, so I do think that General Sherman’s mass destruction of civilian property and infrastructure was, though not ethnic cleansing, a net moral negative.

      Jackson IS rightly condemned, and was even at the time. His actions were far closer to what we would call ethnic cleansing. Imagine the fury if that was the example that Shapiro had used and I think you’ll understand pretty easily my sentiment.

      Indeed, and Dylan Matthews of Vox wrote an article about this, but I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that as a man of the right you were less enthusiastic about this condemnation than liberals like Matthews are, which is why I used Jackson as an example.

      I’m not sure that if Shapiro had used Jackson as a precedent in the 2003 column it would have made much difference in the level of outrage. People—e.g. Peter Beinart in this article—already slam Shapiro over the column pretty frequently for something written more than 10 years ago.

      In short, my view is that war is different than peace, and what is justified at war can never be justified at peace. We obviously have a different viewpoint here, and I respect that. But using war as your point of argument dramatically undercuts your counter in my view, because war is something I view as acceptable and certain actions unacceptable in peace to be acceptable in war, such as civilian casualties.

      I appreciate and respect your perspective, although I personally disagree with it for reasons outlined above.

      • Nick says:

        At a tangent: Elizabeth Anscombe famously wrote a pamphlet condemning her university’s giving Harry Truman a degree, on account of his being a war criminal. Most would disagree with Anscombe’s argument, but she says a lot of other interesting things along the way, and has some amazing polemics:

        I have long been puzzled by the common cant about President Truman’s courage in making this decision. Of course, I know that you can be cowardly without having reason to think you are in danger. But how can you be courageous? Light has come to me lately: the term is an acknowledgement of the truth. Mr. Truman was brave because, and only because, what he did was so bad. But I think the judgement unsound. Given the right circumstances (e.g. that no one whose opinion matters will disapprove), a quite mediocre person can do spectacularly wicked things without thereby becoming impressive.

  2. brad says:

    This article doesn’t inform or educate in any way, but I found it poignant: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/world/asia/the-jungle-prince-of-delhi.html

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Ideal headline: Indian Royalty Out of Lucknow

      It’s all so atypical. I don’t know what percent of Muslim Princely States had Shi’a princes, but I assume they were a minority. The uncanny combination of normalcy and assertive strangeness (the “princess” dressing like any other Indian… with a handgun in her sari, in a railway station, for a decade). The way their home in the middle of Delhi has been reclaimed by nature, in the form of an invasive tree species.

      And now, finally, there were some facts.

      They were, or had been, an ordinary family.

      Their father had been the registrar of Lucknow University, Inayatullah Butt.

      My friend’s name was not Prince Cyrus, or Prince Ali Raza, or Prince anything.

      He was plain old Mickey Butt.

  3. angularangel says:

    Going to post another link to the project I’ve been working on for a while, cause I mentioned it below. I haven’t actually worked on this any lately, but I still have a partiall-functional demo website up, and you can find links to the repos and the like, if you’re interested.

    To give you the short version, it’s supposed to be a new kind of internet forum. The idea being that each post can be in response to any number of other posts, and can have any number of other posts in response to it, and these are all displayed in a fancy graph, so people can navigate easily. (Opinions may vary on the easy navigation part, but, I’ll work on it. XD)

    agoraforum.website

  4. johan_larson says:

    If you’re a fan of military history, you might enjoy Netflix’s new series, Greatest Events of WWII in Color. The pictures are nice of course, but the best part is the interviews with authors and scholars, including some from Germany. I came away with a better understanding of why the Japanese were so keen on seizing territory in Asia, and how pervasive use of methamphetamine by German infantrymen contributed to the vigor of their early campaigns.

    The discussion of stimulants got me thinking. Our society features pervasive use of one stimulant, caffeine, by much of the adult population, and basically no one seems to have a problem with that. If we wanted to turn that up a notch, what chemical would be be the next step up in potency?

    • metacelsus says:

      Our society features pervasive use of one stimulant, caffeine, by much of the adult population, and basically no one seems to have a problem with that. If we wanted to turn that up a notch, what chemical would be be the next step up in potency?

      Probably modafinil.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Cocaine, unironically. Coca leaf is chewed and brewed in several South American countries, and used to be present in Coca-Cola.

      Amphetamine (though not meth, which would be at least another notch beyond) would be another possibility; one could argue it’s already in wide use by a particular segment of the adult population.

    • John Schilling says:

      Our society features pervasive use of one stimulant, caffeine, by much of the adult population

      One and three quarters, I should say. Half a point for nicotine, whose widespread use and social acceptability we haven’t quite been able to eradicate – though we might get there if the moral panic around vaping gets dialed up another notch. Quarter point for adderall, off-label and off-prescription use thereof within certain subcultures.

      I’m not sure if nicotine would count as a step up from caffeine, or just an equivalent alternative. Adderall, would definitely be a step up.

  5. soreff says:

    Triangle Shirtwaist company motto:
    “It is better to plummet than to burn”

  6. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    Shower political thought: The main point of democracy is not allowing people to vote agreeable politicians into office, but forcing politicians to periodically beg public for permission to rule, creating power dynamic different from when rulers are divinely appointed or something.

    • People sometimes overestimate how secure historical rulers were. There are a lot of people you usually have to placate. Even during peak “divine right of kings”, they were still assassinated, usurped and undermined. The big thing about democracy is that you have a wider constituency to worry about.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        Sure, you can rebel or assassinate rulers under any regime, but democracy is the only one where wanting them out is acceptable and not high treason.

        • Zephalinda says:

          There were plenty of serviceable workarounds for that in monarchies, though.
          “We love our King, but we need to get rid of those evil counselors who are misleading him.”
          “We love our King… which is exactly why we need to remove this usurper and restore the rightful monarch to power.”
          “We love our King because we love God, who instituted this monarchy– so if the King is defying God’s law and provoking divine vengeance, what can we do?”

        • Rulership, like possession, is usually ninth-tenths of the law. If you assassinate the king and take control of the reins power fast enough while placating the nobles, you can often legitimize your actions. During the Roman Crisis of the Third Century, they actually had more turnover then the US has had.

          Usually it is harder to boot off a king than a President, so you’re not wrong in that respect. But in non-democracies, they manage to keep their position not only because of the their “rightful” status, but because they are actively working to legitimize their actions to their essential supporters. If you’ve never read it, the Dictators Handbook talks about this coalition politics.

          There’s a good example of this with a Chinese emperor during the Song Dynasty. China has historically had a strong monarchy. During this dynasty, there was only one emperor who was deposed. Emperor Guangzong had some kind of mental illness, was manipulated by his wife and had an antagonistic relationship with his father. But what really did him in was not doing the proper funeral rites after his fathers death. He was forced to abdicate the throne to his son and sent away from the palace. No one was punished for this treasonous act.

          • Atlas says:

            During the Roman Crisis of the Third Century, they actually had more turnover then the US has had.

            Also, the US hasn’t (yet) had a Year of Five Presidents or Year of Four Presidents.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rulership, like possession, is usually ninth-tenths of the law. If you assassinate the king and take control of the reins power fast enough while placating the nobles,

            “Placating the nobles” is almost always the hardest part of this, and if you can pull it off the “assassinate the king” part may be redundant. Helpful, to be sure, but in a pinch whatever excuse you come up with for “and that’s why we had to kill him” may do just as well for “and that’s why we had to send him into exile”.

            Valkyrie is recommended as a reasonably modern and reasonably entertaining example of this. Killing Adolf Hitler, the boring straightforward 25% of the problem. Arranging for someone sensible to rule Germany in the aftermath, the interesting 75% of the problem. Take note, time travelers.

          • @John

            Of course the question of legitimacy is massively complicated. Sometimes, any popular general can take his army, march to the capital and proclaim himself emperor, while the nobles are really helpless to do much. Sometimes, you need a particularly weak emperor, impeccable credentials and promises to give out goodies to supporters while making significant signs of submission to the nobles so they can accept you. And often it’s easier to let the emperor be a figurehead while you retain real power. The one thing that’s pretty consistent is that you need to be active to maintain power.

          • albatross11 says:

            Democracy has regime change as a normal part of the operation of the system, rather than as an exceptional case that’s taken when it turns out the king is stupid or crazy or captured by some ideology that will lead to disaster. Whatever alternatives to democracy we might end up with need to retain this property–the change of the people at the top is a normal operation that happens every so often, so everyone is used to it and expects it and you lose legitimacy by trying to refuse it.

            If the monarch has limited powers, you can get that by allowing his advisors to be replaced. At the extreme end of this, you get modern constitutional monarchies. The queen is still the queen whether Theresa May or Boris Johnson is prime minister.

    • pancrea says:

      Related thought: the main point of democracy is providing everyone with a way to burn off their frustration constructively. If you’re angry about something, you can channel that energy into going door-to-door reminding people to vote for your candidate; nobody has to get more and more frustrated and eventually have a violent revolution.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        M*ldbug said, “Just as pornography can stimulate the human sex drive without providing any actual sex, democracy can stimulate the human power drive without providing any actual power.”

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        The main reason for democracy* is that various people didn’t have a say in their government, got angry enough to successfully form a new government because of this, and were righteous enough to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again in their new government (for people like them, at least).

        Try not to attribute to crass ends that which can be better explained by noble ends.

        * – possibly not in parliamentary monarchies, where it seems to be for reasons more along the lines raised here.

  7. Edward Scizorhands says:

    So I lost my wallet, again. (This time it might be on me and not because someone stole it.)

    In some ways this is a wake-up call that I’m doing too many things and not concentrating on the things that matter. I have a plan for that.

    However, I’m asking here because I’m wondering if there a product that can help me with not losing stuff again. Right now I am looking at Tile, which seems good enough for finding a thing that’s lost.

    But I would really like something that can be programmed to train me on good habits. What I would want is something that, each time my phone (e.g.) goes more than 1000 feet from my house and then returns to within 100 feet of it, it waits a few minutes and then makes sure I left my wallet in some specific place, and beeps at me if I fail in that.

    Can Tile, or a Tile-competitor, do that?

    • sharper13 says:

      Perhaps you’re over-complicating this? I haven’t not known where my wallet was in over 30 years. Might I suggest creating a simpler non-electronic tracking system and then just reinforcing it as a habit? This is based completely on speculation of how you handle your wallet and where you put it, so I’m generalizing and I could be completely wrong.

      For example, my wallet stays in a specific side cargo pocket (I don’t do back pocket because that’s back issues) and if I switch to new shorts in the morning, that’s when I move everything from the previous pair. My wallet is 100% of the time in one location, my shorts, and I rarely leave the house without them. On the random occasion I wear something different, without such a pocket, I pull out the two cards I may need (DL & payment) and leave my wallet in the shorts. I put them back the next time I see my wallet.

      If I tried to leave without my wallet, I’d instantly feel unbalanced, the weight is just always there, counter-balanced by cell phone.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yep. “Leaving anywhere” refex is: pat left pocket for phone, pat right pocket for wallet, maybe pat rear pocket for car key. Most fun is the regular moment of mild panic when the phone is missing, before I realize I’m holding it in the other hand.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I have no problem making sure I have my wallet before I leave somewhere. That is how I knew it was gone.

        I have a problem keeping track of it when I’m out and about on my day, particularly if an emergency interrupts my routine. I need to put it back someplace, and that’s the habit I need to establish, and I’ve repeatedly failed to do it just by sheer willpower, and I cannot just “well try harder.”

        • johan_larson says:

          Might be problem be that you have no specific place to keep your wallet? You generally have it with you, but it could be in any of a number of places.

          You might want to start carrying a shoulder-bag, and always keeping your wallet there. Or always keep in in your left front pants-pocket, if a shoulder-bag is too feminine for you. The point is to have one and only one place to keep your wallet.

          • brad says:

            Yes, this is what I do. Almost all the time my wallet is in one of four places: my hands because I’m using something in it, my front left pocket, my gym locker, or my bedroom nightstand. Occasionally I have to go look in yesterday’s pants because it didn’t make it to the nightstand.

        • Theodoric says:

          I’m going to second the suggestions of designating a specific place for your wallet to live at all times-for example, a specific pants pocket when you’re out, a specific place in your home when you’re at home.

        • John Schilling says:

          I have a problem keeping track of it when I’m out and about on my day, particularly if an emergency interrupts my routine.

          Clarification needed: Is the problem that you,

          A: while away from home, take out your wallet for some purpose and then leave it behind where you were doing business, or

          B: while away from home, take out your wallet for some purpose and put it back in a different pocket or compartment, or

          C: on returning home, put the wallet in a different place and don’t remember where?

          Different solution space for each of these.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The specific situation was that I was out at a gym, where I make sure not to have my wallet with me, and then got interrupted by an emergency to come home. I packed it up quickly in a bag I don’t normally have with me. I got home and took care of the emergency, and did not realize I hadn’t put my wallet back until 24 hours later, at which point I had completely forgotten the order of events.

            I have a place to put it. But I don’t always put it there. “Just try harder” has not worked, and also does not help when something interrupts my routine.

            (Always carrying it is not an option, since I have contact dermatitis, and something pressing against me all day is bad for my skin.)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Have you considered a wallet chain?

          If you forget to put your wallet back someplace the next step you make will result in the wallet swinging and hitting your leg.

          If you put it back in another pocket, you can always find which pocket it’s in by following the chain.

          If someone tries to pick your pocket, there’s a good chance this will pull the chain and attract your attention.

          If you don’t want the chain to be conspicuous, you can push it into your pocket along with the wallet, or make a chain out of nylon or kevlar rope.

          For John Schilling’s C alternative, you can unclip it from your belt and clip it around the handle of your front door when at home. At the very least, the addition of the chain will make it larger: more visible, and fewer places to misplace it.

          https://www.google.com/search?q=wallet+chain

        • sharper13 says:

          I guess I didn’t explain my suggestion very well.

          The idea of having one place for it is that it’s either in that one place (a specific pocket, for instance), or else in your hand while you’re using it.

          If you never put it anywhere else, you literally can’t leave it somewhere else.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My solution is similar to David Friedman’s. I remember a phrase: wallet, keys, phone. Wallet, keys, phone. Next, I remember where those usually go: left front pocket, right front pocket, shirt pocket. They go in analogous jacket pockets if I’m wearing one.

      Front pockets, not back, for two reasons: one, they’re uncomfortable to sit on; two, they’re much harder for pickpockets to reach. A true wallet would be uncomfortable in front, too, so I go even further: I don’t carry a wallet. Instead, I take small bills of cash and wrap them around my important cards (credit, DL, subway pass, etc.), creating a very slim deck. That’s my “wallet”.

      Mostly, though, it’s remembering that phrase.

  8. ana53294 says:

    Interesting article on the effect of AI on value investing in public markets.

    The valuation of growth stocks seems to me to be more nuts than the value of value stocks, but it seemed nuts to be 5 years ago too, so who knows… I wouldn’t invest much in private markets, though. The debacle with WeWork shows that private investing can have even more hype than you get in public markets.

    • brad says:

      I would distinguish private investing from private equity. Maybe my understanding is outdated, but I take private equity to be a group that buys a controlling interest or entire company (public or private), generally in some way troubled, with an aim towards fixing it up and selling it off at a higher price.

      The current rescue of WeWork by Softbank proper is arguably PE, but the initial investments by Softbank’s vision fund were not.

      • ana53294 says:

        AFAIU, private means not publicly traded? At least, that’s the meaning they use in the article. Because there is a lot more information in the public markets due to disclusure requirements.

  9. Why are Epstein’s lawyers contesting the suicide ruling? Seems pretty clear to me that it was indeed a suicide. What’s in it for them?

    • Doctor Mist says:

      This article in NY Mag suggests four reasons:
      1. They truly doubt the ruling.
      2. They see a natural partnership with victim representatives: the sloppy guarding, loss of video, and other suspicious circumstances raise questions about other prisoners.
      3. Suicide complicates their task: Epstein’s estate is still potentially liable for lots of damages, and his suicide sends the message that he had a guilty conscience.
      4. If he was in fact killed in custody, his estate could sue for damages.

      The last two are mainly about preserving or increasing the size of the estate, which (charitably) is part of their job and (cynically) increases their take. I presume the first reason is not intended to be taken seriously in isolation, but rather to suggest that the other three are not just venal — but then you cast the question as “what’s in it for them?” so I presume you’re not particularly concerned about whether it’s venal or not.

  10. Faza (TCM) says:

    New top level thread for attempting to construct a steelman of communism as a political and economic system.

    Personally, I consider myself in the “anti” camp, for reasons mentioned here, but I would like to consider the best arguments in favour. If you aren’t willing or able to offer such, I would ask you to restrict yourself to asking questions and requesting clarifications, or to pass this one by.

    In an attempt to impose some structure on a monster discussion, I would like to use the Socratic method of questions and answers. Replies to this post should, ideally, be in the form of a question about some aspect of the proposed communist system with replies to those being kept to the relevant sub-thread (and discussions of those answers kept below these). I will seed some posts to show what I mean.

    What is a “communist system” for the purposes of this discussion? The defining features I see are:
    a. Ownership of the means of production by the working class,

    b. Dissolution of class, meaning that the working class comprises the whole of society,

    c. Production and distribution according to the maxim: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need”.

    Other possible definitions of what “communism” means, may be valid and interesting, but I would like to keep them away from this thread to avoid arguing over definitions. These points are consistent with what Marx considered to be communism.

    A note about “working class” – by this I understand the group of people that earn their income through labour, as opposed to ownership of some asset. We can distinguish the working class from such classes as land owners (rent), capitalists (return on capital), financiers (return on investments/loans), etc.

    The type of work done and amounts received have no bearing on class membership. The working class is not restricted to blue-collar or poorly paid workers. A teacher, programmer or bureaucrat are properly considered to be part of the working class as long as they are paid to perform specific tasks at the direction and under the supervision of somebody else.

    Some ground rules and assumptions to keep discussion on track:
    1. We assume that a communist state exists and that it has come into existence through the democratically expressed will of the people. Yes, I know that Marx advocated violent revolution and, yes, I am aware that this was all too true historically, but the piles of skulls are too tempting a target. Please assume no skulls were involved.

    2. Communism in one country – other states with different political and social systems exist. This is simply to account for the fact that the entire world becoming communist all at once is much less likely than one country. Also, requiring global participation would count as a strike against communism being a viable political and economic system, given that the world is anything but united.

    3. Human nature remains fundamentally unchanged. Our communist state may have come into existence through the will of the people, but we don’t assume that everyone is on board, not that everyone suddenly changes their outlook and behaviour to always be in alignment with the requirements of the system. Not the least convenient world, but not the most convenient one either.

    4. Labour is still necessary for production. We have a different thread for discussing the Fully Automated variant, plus Full Automation is by no means guaranteed. Even if we assume that we will have Full Automation at some point in the future, I think the discussion will be more fruitful if we consider the levels of automation at present-day levels or such that may reasonably be expected within the next decade, at best.

    4. Discussion of the features of capitalism – good and bad – is off topic. Communism needs to be able to stand on its own, otherwise we might find ourselves in the unfortunate situation where we must maintain a capitalist system somewhere in order to justify communism – by way of contrast and comparison.

    5. Discussion of communist countries past and present is also off topic. The problems therewith are (I should hope) known well enough. What I would like to try to determine is whether this is due to some feature of communism or the specific historical details of those countries.

    I have no means of enforcing these, of course, so I am asking you to help me with that.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I would encourage all participants to preregister their moral axioms in this sub-thread. This, I hope, may highlight any potential difference in how we respond to agreed upon facts.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        My basic moral axiom is equality of all people understood as individual autonomy.

        Robinson Crusoe is no less free to decide for himself what he shall think and what he shall do on his desert island than he was in England, so we can see that individual autonomy is not context-dependent.

        From the equality postulate it follows that one cannot morally exercise one’s autonomy at the expense of another’s. To do so would be to claim that you are worth more than the other person.

        Inalienable rights and freedoms under this framework are restricted to such you can enjoy without the need for anyone else involved. Thus, “right to life” is understood to mean that you shall not be killed by another person (equally possible on a desert island and in Kingston upon Hull), but not that you shall not starve or die of disease, old age, etc. Same for everything else.

        Society comes about when autonomous individuals join forces so that they may achieve more together than they could individually. Maintaining the equality and autonomy postulates requires a compromise between the various members, so that working together is seen as a superior choice to going it alone by everyone involved.

        A good society is one that minimises conflict between its members. This will necessarily involve giving up some measure of freedom by everyone – such as freedom to swing a fist, shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, etc.

        The purpose of the state, as a high-level organisation, is therefore to serve all citizens equally – because all citizens have equal moral worth as autonomous moral agents. The state should not “play favourites”, deciding that some of its citizens are more important than others – without consent of those who are to be accorded “lesser worth” (such consent would be an exercise of those people’s autonomy).

        The purpose of the state (and society in general) is to serve its members – not people who are not members. This follows from society being a mutual cooperation agreement by equal and autonomous individuals. Imposing obligations on someone who hasn’t agreed to them is a denial of their autonomy.

        I do not consider equality of outcome to follow from the moral equality of everyone as autonomous individuals. If we observe Robinson Crusoe on one desert island and Crabbinson Rusoe on a separate but equal desert island, we may well find that Robinson has better outcomes than Crabbinson – or vice versa – despite the fact that both are equally free to exercise their individual autonomy.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Since I’m participating: I’m a utilitarian who places equal moral value on the well-being of all humans.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Question:

      How do economic decisions – what to produce, how to produce it, how to distribute what is produced – get made in a communist system?

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        My answer: given that the working class (which is the whole of society, in light of the dissolution of class) is the owner of the means of production, the working class (society) decides, through a democratic process.

        It is, however, impossible for every individual member to contribute to every individual decision, because there are too many people and too many decisions.

        Therefore, society shall elect representatives – in the form of a government, to organise production and distribution for the benefit of all.

        • broblawsky says:

          Our host reviewed Red Plenty, a narrative describing early (Kruschev-era) Communist attempts at implementing a kind of algorithmic system for controlling industrial production. In the review, he pointed out that we have more than enough processing power today to do the kind of calculations the Soviet Union found impossible in the 1950s. This might be an alternative to direct democratic control of markets in a Communist society: the people decide what they want the algorithm’s utility function to be, and the algorithm directs production to maximize social utility.

          • cassander says:

            no amount of processing power is sufficient, because in the absence of market prices you simply lack the data required to figure out all the relevant trade offs. and if you rely on prices, then at best, your communism is just replicating capitalism with extra steps.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Nowhere in Faza’s criteria does he stipulate that prices must be abolished.

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN

            the only way to get meaningful prices is markets.

          • Guy in TN says:

            This debate is going to hinge on how we are defining “prices” and “markets”, isn’t it?

            Going back to what you wrote:

            in the absence of prices you simply lack the data required to figure out all the relevant trade offs.

            So I set up a system where I distribute to each person 10 tokens which I own. I say that if they hand me 1 token, I will hand them a jar of peanut butter. Also if they hand me 1 token, I will hand them a bottle of milk. I allow them to drink the milk and eat the peanut butter.

            Does this system not distribute the peanut butter/milk ratio to each person, proportional to their individual utility function?

            Now, I would call this system a “market”, and I would call the 1-token-per-item the “price”, but I understand why some people would object, since no exchange of ownership is taking place.

          • cassander says:

            Guy in TN says:

            Now, I would call this system a “market”, and I would call the 1-token-per-item the “price”, but I understand why some people would object, since no exchange of ownership is taking place.

            You might have prices, but you don’t have a market, because you’re setting prices, not letting them emerge organically based on supply and demand. So sure, I suppose trivially you can get prices by just making them up, but you can’t run an economy on data based on made up prices, because if you do consumption won’t reflect the cost of production or level of demand and eventually you’ll run out of the stuff that’s under priced and have surpluses of the stuff that’s overpriced.

          • Guy in TN says:

            if you do consumption won’t reflect the cost of production or level of demand

            I can always adjust the token-per-item ratio for changes in the level of “demand” and “supply” (using these terms colloquially, since no exchange of ownership is taking place). The 1-token-per-item isn’t fixed.

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN says:

            I can always adjust the token-per-item ratio for changes in the level of “demand” and “supply” (using these terms colloquially, since no exchange of ownership is taking place). The 1-token-per-item isn’t

            Right, and if you do that really well, you’re just mimicking capitalism with extra steps.

          • Guy in TN says:

            There are meaningful differences. I think it would be easier to regulate and redistribute in such a system.

            For instance, if the state thought the milk was tainted with something unhealthy, they could simply reclaim the milk that it had distributed out to people and cease distribution. It’s the state’s milk after all.

            Under the capitalist system, this would run into all sorts of objections:
            “Isn’t the reclaiming of milk theft?
            “What authority do you have to control what someone else puts in their body anyway?”
            “Wouldn’t this cause a loss of economic value?”

            None of which would be applicable if the state owns the milk.

          • Civilis says:

            For instance, if the state thought the milk was tainted with something unhealthy, they could simply reclaim the milk that it had distributed out to people and cease distribution. It’s the state’s milk after all.

            That’s still capitalism with extra steps; you’re making extra work to add ‘features’ the people don’t want. As soon as the people get tokens, those tokens are ‘theirs’ as much as the cash in a capitalist’s wallet belongs to the capitalist. Those tokens, and what they are traded for, are an entitlement. You’re going to need people to do the work of reclaiming the milk from people that consider it theirs. On the other hand, if the milk costs one token, you could offer two tokens back to return the expired milk, and the people will do the work of returning most of the milk for you, without needing the extra effort.

            Any such system will end up reinventing capitalism with extra effort involved. Any capitalist features you don’t provide will be implemented by the people, out of your control, and will require extra effort to stop (and being outside the official system, will be far more corrupt than if they had been implemented officially).

          • Guy in TN says:

            Any such system will end up reinventing capitalism with extra effort involved. Any capitalist features you don’t provide will be implemented by the people, out of your control, and will require extra effort to stop

            As per the criteria laid out by Faza, my proposed system is communism. If you disagree with his criteria and want to call my system “capitalism” that’s fine, I don’t really care about the word so much as the idea.

            You’re going to need people to do the work of reclaiming the milk from people that consider it theirs.

            Incentives to do extra labor will be provided in the form of extra tokens.

          • CatCube says:

            @Guy in TN, @Civilis

            For instance, if the state thought the milk was tainted with something unhealthy, they could simply reclaim the milk that it had distributed out to people and cease distribution. It’s the state’s milk after all.

            et seq.,

            This is, like, the weirdest back-and-forth I’ve ever seen. Have you really never heard of a product recall? They happen all the time. For something like milk or other low-value food product, they’ll put out the word to throw the product away. (BTW, check your romaine lettuce.)

            Something like milk would require an immense amount of labor to try to get back, no matter who technically owned it. For larger end items, you either get a new one by turning the old one in, or for smaller items (like the lanyards on the original Wii remotes) you just write the company and they send you a free replacement. For cars, you bring it to a dealer and they make the fix at the manufacturer’s expense. They can’t force you to do it, but they’ll at least try to reach every known owner by mail to avoid expensive lawsuits over a known issue.

            What to do once a product has been identified as defective is a solved problem, at least for capitalism (I’d be very surprised if a communist government didn’t do something very similar, I just don’t know for sure offhand). The issue is preventing defective products in the first place, or getting whoever is responsible for the defective product to admit there’s a problem, because whether capitalist or communist, it’s cheaper to make defective shit, and admitting that you released defective shit will often result in adverse effects, just different adverse effects.

          • Guy in TN says:

            What to do once a product has been identified as defective is a solved problem, at least for capitalism

            How so? The owner of the milk could disagree with the state’s opinion, creating difficulties in the power of the state to remove the unhealthy product.

            This sort of thing happens all the time: raw milk, cigarettes, alcohol, ect. It gets even more problematic when the person who has the product intends on selling it to another.

          • Civilis says:

            How so? The owner of the milk could disagree with the state’s opinion, creating difficulties in the power of the state to remove the unhealthy product.

            If the person with the milk disagrees with the states opinion, they’re going to be pissed whether or not the milk is owned by the state on paper, because it took time, effort, and tokens to get the milk in the first place. Nothing will change that.

            I’m in Faza’s position. I really want to see a steelman of communism that would actually work, but every time someone proposes one it has obvious flaws, and those flaws are obvious because we see them in real states run by Communists.

            We have a centrally run economy, where we give tokens (we’ll call them ‘rubles’) to the workers that they can trade for items which we’ve assigned a value to. And when we do this, we find that a high percentage of our economic activity takes place outside the purview of our token valuation system in a black market, where the real currency is market valued tokens (we’ll call them ‘dollars’) or even goods that maintain value over time (which we’ll call ‘blue jeans’ or ‘cigarettes’). This makes knowing what to produce to meet everyone’s wants and needs impossible because so much of the valuation occurrs outside of our carefully planned system, and we don’t know how much of the value we see in the system is only because those goods are valuable on the black market. This also breaks the classless aspect of the system, because you have classes of people based on their access to the black market.

          • @Civilis

            The obvious steelman of communism with regards to milk production is that people are fat, and if the government planned everyone’s diets, was able to distribute food cards and set prices, there’d still be some variety, but people wouldn’t be able to overeat and get fat.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If the person with the milk disagrees with the states opinion, they’re going to be pissed whether or not the milk is owned by the state on paper, because it took time, effort, and tokens to get the milk in the first place. Nothing will change that.

            I mean, I didn’t say state ownership removed all difficulties to regulation, only that it makes it less difficult. The same difficulty exists in private ownership- e.g. I could be upset that a landowner governs (in effect, regulates) his property in a way that I feel is unfair.

            We have a centrally run economy, where we give tokens (we’ll call them ‘rubles’) to the workers that they can trade for items which we’ve assigned a value to. And when we do this, we find that a high percentage of our economic activity takes place outside the purview of our token valuation system in a black market, where the real currency is market valued tokens

            The solution is to not have too much central planning, and allow people plenty of leeway to trade the token for items on their own. There could be thousands of mini-distribution centers, each setting their own “prices” to the local supply and demand. If you want to trade tokens for jeans, that’s fine. It’s not a “black market” if it’s legally sanctioned.

          • Clutzy says:

            The solution is to not have too much central planning, and allow people plenty of leeway to trade the token for items on their own. There could be thousands of mini-distribution centers, each setting their own “prices” to the local supply and demand. If you want to trade tokens for jeans, that’s fine. It’s not a “black market” if it’s legally sanctioned.

            This sort of system will also generate a lot of inequality between regions and within them compared to the centrally planning everything one, because it is implementing forms of capitalism. If it doesn’t end up doing that, there will be a black market that instead steps in and created the inequality.

            Also there is the trouble of labor, there are many jobs that are not particularly attractive to most people, like garbageman that will need to offer much more tokens/hour otherwise no one will do them. And finally, probably the hardest thing to replicate is speculative business ventures, and ensuring qualified people are the one’s receiving funding. Your programs in computing are going to have to be mostly based on ripping off designs from richer countries if you don’t know to give your startup money to Larry Ellison and Bill Gates, instead of one of many other people who may look qualified from a very high end view. And you have to make them doing those things actually attractive to your Larry Ellison, who otherwise could easily have a cushy job as a professor.

          • Civilis says:

            The obvious steelman of communism with regards to milk production is that people are fat, and if the government planned everyone’s diets, was able to distribute food cards and set prices, there’d still be some variety, but people wouldn’t be able to overeat and get fat.

            If our goal is a working Communist system meeting the criteria set out by Faza, then this contradicts point b: dissolution of class, meaning that the working class comprises the whole of society. ‘Features’ that empower the central authority over the public breed an authoritarian class. The US could accomplish the same ‘feature’ for the public by repealing or modifying the fifth amendment; there’s a reason ‘nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation‘ is in the bill of rights.

            The solution is to not have too much central planning, and allow people plenty of leeway to trade the token for items on their own. There could be thousands of mini-distribution centers, each setting their own “prices” to the local supply and demand. If you want to trade tokens for jeans, that’s fine. It’s not a “black market” if it’s legally sanctioned.

            If your mini-distribution centers can compete on price, the difference from a supermarket is in the supply end. Obviously, then, the difference is in the central planning side on the supply end. The problem is that unless you replicate the market based token system on the supply end, you end up with the same problem, only with the black market existing between mini-distribution center managers and suppliers.

            Everyone wants a widget. You don’t produce enough widgets to meet demand. Mini-distribution center managers will be bribing the widget production center shipping managers to make sure the widgets made will get to their mini-distribution centers (and then mark up the price of the widgets to pay for the bribes). Again, any difference between your token system and capitalist currency will be made up for on the black market out of your control.

            The question then is why you need central planning at all; what does it add to the picture for the working class? Jeans were valuable in the USSR because they were something the central planning didn’t produce in any significant quantity to meet the demand. The question then becomes how your central planning is going to be more responsive to demand than the USSR’s was, and how it’s better for the working class than a non-centrally planned system.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Clutzy

            Also there is the trouble of labor, there are many jobs that are not particularly attractive to most people, like garbageman that will need to offer much more tokens/hour otherwise no one will do them.

            The incentive to do unattractive jobs is more reward tokens.

            And finally, probably the hardest thing to replicate is speculative business ventures, and ensuring qualified people are the one’s receiving funding. Your programs in computing are going to have to be mostly based on ripping off designs from richer countries if you don’t know to give your startup money to Larry Ellison and Bill Gates, instead of one of many other people who may look qualified from a very high end view.

            In order to ensure that the most qualified people are in charge of each operation, one of the criteria for maintaining that position is ensuring that you bring in a large amount of tokens from people- this indicates a high level of social satisfaction with the job performance. I mean, isn’t this basically how capitalism decides if someone is effective at their job? There’s no reason it couldn’t easily be replicated.

            This sort of system will also generate a lot of inequality between regions and within them compared to the centrally planning everything one, because it is implementing forms of capitalism. If it doesn’t end up doing that, there will be a black market that instead steps in and created the inequality.

            “A black market will exist” isn’t really a particularly interesting criticism to me. By my understanding, illegal activity has existed in every country and economic system. So just like in capitalism, in my proposed system people will use the power of the state to try to enforce the law the best they can, knowing that that enforcement rate will be less than 100%.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Civilis

            If our goal is a working Communist system meeting the criteria set out by Faza, then this contradicts point b: dissolution of class, meaning that the working class comprises the whole of society. ‘Features’ that empower the central authority over the public breed an authoritarian class.

            The use of “class” in the OP refers to receiving income through labor instead of capital. It does not refer to the power relationships within the system. I’ll quote Faza:
            “The type of work done and amounts received have no bearing on class membership. The working class is not restricted to blue-collar or poorly paid workers. A teacher, programmer or bureaucrat are properly considered to be part of the working class as long as they are paid to perform specific tasks at the direction and under the supervision of somebody else.”

            The problem is that unless you replicate the market based token system on the supply end, you end up with the same problem,

            Right. This is why there will not only be a thousand mini-distribution centers, but also a thousand mini-suppliers.

            The question then is why you need central planning at all; what does it add to the picture for the working class?

            I guess I’m going to need you to unpack the phrase “central planning” a bit, before I can answer that. My proposal has thousands of small, widely-distributed semi-autonomous suppliers and distributors. People can exchange tokens for most goods and services, without having to seek permission from the state beforehand.

            I mean, not everything will be set up in this way, and not every exchange is allowed, but the same could be said for nominally capitalist countries such as the US, which I don’t think most people would describe as “centrally planned”.

          • broblawsky says:

            no amount of processing power is sufficient, because in the absence of market prices you simply lack the data required to figure out all the relevant trade offs. and if you rely on prices, then at best, your communism is just replicating capitalism with extra steps.

            Only if you assume that markets are already efficient, which is probably untrue for most markets; the market can’t address externalities, after all. But even if an algorithmically controlled price-setting system is less efficient than a market, I think our hypothetical Communists would argue that society gains more than it loses by redistributing the gains from capitalists to the workers, and to industry as well. Less mega-yachts, mansions and Hermes handbags; more food, housing and medical care.

          • cassander says:

            @broblawsky says:

            Only if you assume that markets are already efficient, which is probably untrue for most markets;

            empirical evidence suggests otherwise.

            the market can’t address externalities, after all.

            empirical evidence also suggests that non-market mechanisms aren’t great at dealing with them either.

            But even if an algorithmically controlled price-setting system is less efficient than a market, I think our hypothetical Communists would argue that society gains more than it loses by redistributing the gains from capitalists to the workers, and to industry as well. Less mega-yachts, mansions and Hermes handbags; more food, housing and medical care.

            this argument has certainly been made in the past. but, again, we have the empirical evidence that suggests otherwise. non market societies did not deliver higher standards of living for the average person than market societies did, despite the abundance of yachts.

          • Clutzy says:

            The incentive to do unattractive jobs is more reward tokens.

            In order to ensure that the most qualified people are in charge of each operation, one of the criteria for maintaining that position is ensuring that you bring in a large amount of tokens from people- this indicates a high level of social satisfaction with the job performance. I mean, isn’t this basically how capitalism decides if someone is effective at their job? There’s no reason it couldn’t easily be replicated.

            But why then even have “tokens” instead of “money”? The token accumulator is just a billionaire by another name. He will even be able to get illegal, luxury, goods on the black market. The only advantage of the token system is that if there is a rich token-haver that the President doesn’t like, you can easily raid his home and find some illegal French cheeses and Jeff Koons centerpieces and then send him to prison.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Clutzy

            The only advantage of the token system is that if there is a rich token-haver that the President doesn’t like, you can easily raid his home and find some illegal French cheeses and Jeff Koons centerpieces and then send him to prison.

            The reason why I call them “tokens” instead of “money”, is that I don’t want people to become confused and start thinking that they own the unit of exchange. This makes implementing the “regulatory” and “tax” system (really, just re-arranging things the state owns) a lot easier, because it undercuts a lot of the main counter-arguments against it.

            For instance:
            1. A “tax” on the tokens can’t be called theft, since its the state’s own property.

            2. Controlling how people interact with items (e.g., drugs, weapons) doesn’t infringe on what could be construed as someone’s “negative liberty” anymore than a private property owner keeping you off his land does, since the state is the owner of all things. You are free to get off the state’s property if you don’t like it.

            3. It severs the idea that “ownership” stems from the fruits of your labor- i.e., that you own things because you work for them. In this society, the distribution of token not explicitly tied to labor. You have tokens because the owner of the tokens lets you have them- that’s it. There’s usually no question of “deservingness” of someone else’s property.

            4. “Taxation” and “regulation” can no longer be said to inherently cause a loss in economic value, since these activities become all internal to the property owner (the state).

            I admit the differences are more psychological that physical, but that doesn’t make its effects any less real. Changing how people view their relationship with property will change how they interact with it; whether something is “yours” or “mine” really does matter at some deep, nearly hard-wired sense.

          • pontifex says:

            1. A “tax” on the tokens can’t be called theft, since its the state’s own property.

            Most people don’t call taxes “theft,” and those who do are unlikely to be placated by changing the name of “money” to “tokens.”

            2. Controlling how people interact with items (e.g., drugs, weapons) doesn’t infringe on what could be construed as someone’s “negative liberty” anymore than a private property owner keeping you off his land does, since the state is the owner of all things. You are free to get off the state’s property if you don’t like it.

            The United States already controls how people “interact” with drugs and weapons. This is just plain old capitalism with paternalistic government controls, which is very old at this point.

            3. It severs the idea that “ownership” stems from the fruits of your labor- i.e., that you own things because you work for them. In this society, ownership is very explicitly unrelated to labor. You have tokens because the owner of the tokens lets you have them- that’s it. There’s usually no question of “deservingness” of someone else’s property.

            You can have capitalism with weak or nonexistent property rights. Think present-day Russia, China, etc. People usually call this “crony capitalism” because the people who are allowed to be rich are the government’s cronies.

            4. “Taxation” and “regulation” can no longer be said to inherently cause a loss in economic value, since these activities become all internal to the property owner (the state).

            A lot of people already believe that the state should control all economic activity in a paternalistic way. This seems to be the main point of Chartalism (some of them are now calling themselves “Modern Monetary Theory”, so watch out, “unmodern” mainstream economists!)

          • Guy in TN says:

            Most people don’t call taxes “theft,” and those who do are unlikely to be placated by changing the name of “money” to “tokens.”

            Are you sure? I think at least a portion of this attitude stems from a naive literalism, e.g. “First the money is mine, and then it isn’t? How come the state can do this but my neighbors can’t?” Surely must be very confusing for people, this charade we play in social democracies where we say people “own their money” but then put all sorts of restrictions on how it can be used, and even take it away.

            This is just plain old capitalism with paternalistic government controls, which is very old at this point.

            I’m not really interested in debating over definitions, but I do want to make it clear that my proposed system fits the criteria for “communism” as described in the OP. If you want to disagree with the criteria that’s fine.

          • Guy in TN says:

            You can have capitalism with weak or nonexistent property rights. Think present-day Russia, China, etc. People usually call this “crony capitalism” because the people who are allowed to be rich are the government’s cronies.

            I think you misunderstand. In my proposed system, property rights are absolute and vigorously protected. My system’s unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of the property owner (in this case the state) actually surpasses that of current day social democracies.

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t really think there is much more than psychology on your first two points, but these are odd to me.

            3. It severs the idea that “ownership” stems from the fruits of your labor- i.e., that you own things because you work for them. In this society, the distribution of token not explicitly tied to labor. You have tokens because the owner of the tokens lets you have them- that’s it. There’s usually no question of “deservingness” of someone else’s property.

            No, there is still the question of deservingness. Because I did in fact work for the token. Even if I don’t own it, I still worked for it. If you make a habit of overtaxing tokens, or even worse, arbitrarily recalling them no one is going to become a garbageman or entrepreneur.

            4. “Taxation” and “regulation” can no longer be said to inherently cause a loss in economic value, since these activities become all internal to the property owner (the state).

            The loss of economic value is not because people lose money, its because they fail to invest in capital, or fail to perform labor because of them. If Mr. Burns sees that all the other times people started nuclear power plants they lost a bunch of tokens because they couldn’t pay nuclear waste disposers enough tokens to adjust for the radiation risk, and they couldn’t keep enough tokens afterwards to take t he risk of failure (or the state keeps taking away successful plants from founders, or taxes tokens of the rich so much than none can ever accumulate enough to ever start a power plant), then Springfield simply has no power plant. And Homer has no job.

            These are the problems. People don’t magically become altruistic. Like I have said elsewhere, if we presumed the existence of the humans in your system, all of the socialist critiques would also magically disappear.

          • Guy in TN says:

            No, there is still the question of deservingness. Because I did in fact work for the token. Even if I don’t own it, I still worked for it. If you make a habit of overtaxing tokens, or even worse, arbitrarily recalling them no one is going to become a garbageman or entrepreneur.

            I agree with you, really. My point was perhaps a little unclear, and it is a fine needle to thread: I want people to view the tokens as a reward for doing labor, but with the ultimate understanding that the state can do what it wants with its own property. Many people will be receiving tokens who don’t do any labor at all (children, the elderly, ect), and those who amass excess tokens will have a percentage taken away from them, with the rules for this codified in a way such that it is non-arbitrary.

            If Mr. Burns sees that all the other times people started nuclear power plants they lost a bunch of tokens because they couldn’t pay nuclear waste disposers enough tokens to adjust for the radiation risk, and they couldn’t keep enough tokens afterwards to take t he risk of failure (or the state keeps taking away successful plants from founders, or taxes tokens of the rich so much than none can ever accumulate enough to ever start a power plant), then Springfield simply has no power plant. And Homer has no job.

            Okay, but how do we know that this causes a loss in economic value? From the states-eye-view, it could simply view this “taxation” and “regulation” as small parts of a larger system that furthers its goals.

            Typically, the argument is that the property owner is the entity best suited to make decisions about how to best maximize the value of his property.

          • Aapje says:

            @Guy in TN

            I want people to view the tokens as a reward for doing labor, but with the ultimate understanding that the state can do what it wants with its own property. Many people will be receiving tokens who don’t do any labor at all (children, the elderly, ect), and those who amass excess tokens will have a percentage taken away from them, with the rules for this codified in a way such that it is non-arbitrary.

            Welfare and taxes exist in capitalist systems. Their legitimacy is heavily dependent on the extent to which people feel that they are just, which is a hard problem. Democracy is a method to try to increase legitimacy, but there are many examples of democratic or ‘democratic’ countries where the taxing and distributing authority has little legitimacy (often because that authority is corrupt, but the lack of legitimacy tends to feed corruption, causing a feedback loop).

            Note that your fantasy that your welfare and taxes will be non-arbitrary is ridiculous. The level and kind of taxes, as well as the level and kind of welfare, cannot be objectively determined. What people support is heavily value-based, as well as determined by selfish and semi-selfish interest.

            Democracy is a relatively good system for these kinds of issues exactly because it doesn’t posit a universal idea of values and interests, where people who disagree or don’t fit in that model have no voice. At the very least, they always have a vote, so any oppression is never complete.

            Anyway, you seem to desire to reduce the power people have to resist being forced into sacrificing for others, but your proposal actually:
            – allows for more exploitation/oppression, creating incentives for those in power that are hard to resist and/or that lack correcting mechanisms (and your response to any criticisms is just to add on more and more capitalist features, resulting in a system that is broken at the places where you have blind spots that are so big that you don’t understand further criticisms)
            – doesn’t increase people’s level of acceptance, but makes them look for ways to undermine/avoid your oppressive system (like corruption, black markets, etc)

            Avoiding this state of mutual antagonism between the rulers and the ruled is actually a very hard problem, that most ideologues seem to ignore, presumably because of hubris, where they see their solutions as so wonderful that few could object.

            IMO, any system needs to have checks and balances as a key feature, not an afterthought, because it needs to be resistant to ignorant/selfish and thereby oppressive hubris, which is a human trait.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Aapje,

            My purpose of this mental exercise was less to describe an outline of my ideal system (as you note, I increasingly “tacked on” market features), but rather to make a few specific points on issues that seem to be commonly confused in the discourse:

            1. Firstly, that private ownership vs. public ownership, and market distribution vs. economic planning, are two separate concepts that should not be conflated. It seems that most commentator’s arguments against public ownership are actually arguments against economic planning. But as you know, with for example Norway, you can have significant state ownership of capital, with comparatively little change in the scale of economic planning. So arguments against economic planning aren’t actually arguments against state ownership per se.

            I suppose I could have just started off with the reminder that market socialism is an ideology that exists. But I think it is more persuasive to lead people to a conclusion, rather than simply assert it.

            2. Given that de jure capitalist states place many restrictions on private ownership (taxation, regulation), and given that de jure communist states allow great leeway for private individuals to direct the use of capital (Vietnam, China), the actual meaning of a country being “capitalist” or “communist” are largely psychological. The nominal ownership really doesn’t matter that much.

            For example, if I get 70% of the profit from capital and the government gets the other 30%, you can describe it in two different ways with the same effect: I can say “I receive 100% of the value, and have to pay the government 30% in taxation”, or “The government receives 100% of the value, and pays me 70% to manage it”. The first is “capitalism” and the second is “socialism”. But the only difference is how we psychologically relate to the property.

          • Guy in TN says:

            And while I’m half-joking about the positive psychological effects, there does seem to be a major ideological hurdle (along liberal-oriented people in the US, at least) that prevents the implementation of a robust welfare state.

            This belief is that, morally speaking, the property owner ought to receive 100% of the profit from capital, which he then should be able to choose how to distribute as he wishes. Because of this, the scenario in which the government takes 30% via taxation is viewed as morally illegitimate. However, if the scenario was such that the property owner chooses to pay out 70% in wages, while keeping 30% for himself, that would be considered morally legitimate.

            So given that this ideological roadblock exists, my admittedly-trollish response is to just work around it: Make the government the property owner, and describe any profits it doesn’t collect from capital as “wages” it chooses to pay out to the managers of capital. Thus replicating our currently existing taxation system point-for-point, but with the owner of capital (the state) now initially receiving 100% of the value and voluntarily choosing to distribute 70% of it. It’s pretty funny IMO

          • Aapje says:

            @Guy in TN

            I can say “I receive 100% of the value, and have to pay the government 30% in taxation”, or “The government receives 100% of the value, and pays me 70% to manage it”. The first is “capitalism” and the second is “socialism”. But the only difference is how we psychologically relate to the property.

            You ignore that in the latter situation, it is much easier for the government to change the deal, because it is ‘their money’. You can’t change the balance of power and then assume that the outcome will be similar.

            The way things typically work is that value tends to fluctuate and the government is going to want to privatize the losses as much they can, but keep the gains as much as possible. The fluctuations allow for the side with outsized power to ‘reasonably’ do this, by deciding what arguments are reasonable at what time.

            For example, there is a Dutch pension fund that covers all government workers. When the stocks boomed and the interest rates were still fairly high, the government took a lot of money out of this fund, because it was quite unfair to have all this surplus that wasn’t needed for paying out the promised pensions. Now that interest rates are low and stocks are fairly static, there is a deficit compared to promises made, but they didn’t put money back in, nor could pensioners force them to. There is an asymmetry here.

            The government couldn’t as easily and didn’t take money out of the private pension funds, nor did those companies do this, because the checks and balances of those funds were better.

            Socialists tend to understand the consequences of asymmetry in power when it is worker vs business, but less often when it is citizen vs government.

            Note that organizations, whether they be business or governmental, tend to develop harmful behaviors in the absence of sufficient checks and balances. Mere voting is actually a fairly limited form of this and arguably not sufficient by itself, especially when governments manage to arrange the democracy in a way that neuters it (see many of the ‘democratic’ socialist states, as well as the EU), so an elite can do what they want, for ‘the people.’

          • CatCube says:

            @Guy in TN
            What you’re proposing in terms of ownership seems to be rather, well, Neo-Rxnary; under feudalism, the king explicitly owned all property in the kingdom, and was merely letting his subjects use it for beneficial ends (fee simple vs. alloidal title). This didn’t seem to make it less likely for tax revolts to be a thing.

            Also, your proposed framing has to explain why people get so pissy about refusals to renew a lease on an apartment, or demand laws for rent control. I mean, the lessor/lessee relationship is exactly what you describe–one person owns it absolutely free and clear and lets somebody else use it for consideration. If they find a new, better, use for that property (or a more lucrative one), they’ll stop letting their current lessees use it and turn to that better use. People get super-mad about this. We pass rent control laws that may even lock in the current lessee and use as a rental apartment. Heck, under your framing, you’ll have less rights in your apartment than you do with a regular landlord now.

            No matter what the “theory” of ultimate ownership is, people are going to get emotionally attached to something they’ve been using, and will get really, really mad when you take it away. Complaining that theoretically the tokens are the property of the government so they can be seized at any time won’t make them less angry about it.

          • Clutzy says:

            @catcube

            Thanks, now I see why all my posts comparing his framing as neoRX got eaten.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Aapje

            You ignore that in the latter situation, it is much easier for the government to change the deal, because it is ‘their money’. You can’t change the balance of power and then assume that the outcome will be similar.

            Given that a government in a capitalist system has the power set the tax rate and regulate property usage, I’m not convinced I am changing the balance of power in this scenario, except possibly in a psychological sense.

            The government couldn’t as easily and didn’t take money out of the private pension funds, nor did those companies do this, because the checks and balances of those funds were better.

            Isn’t this just an object-level question of what the best course of action would be regarding the pension funds? If the government had took money out of the pension during the stock-market boom and was successful in investing it in such a manner to re-fund the pension with money leftover, then wouldn’t we be talking about how superior it is to have liquidity between investments? I guess I don’t see the argument for why people who make investment decisions for the government would necessarily be less successful than those who invest on behalf of private entities.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @CatCube

            What you’re proposing in terms of ownership seems to be rather, well, Neo-Rxnary; under feudalism, the king explicitly owned all property in the kingdom, and was merely letting his subjects use it for beneficial ends (fee simple vs. alloidal title). This didn’t seem to make it less likely for tax revolts to be a thing.

            This is true, certainly. One should never underestimate the ability of someone who wants more power to develop an ideology that justifies it. My proposal is best suited for liberal democracies based on Lockean values (e.g., consent of the governed), and particularly in societies who have adopted the neoliberal economic framework of the late 20th century. In other words, it is particularly suited for the United States in 2019. In different contexts it could be ineffective/counter-productive.

            Also, your proposed framing has to explain why people get so pissy about refusals to renew a lease on an apartment, or demand laws for rent control

            People get super-mad about this. We pass rent control laws that may even lock in the current lessee and use as a rental apartment. Heck, under your framing, you’ll have less rights in your apartment than you do with a regular landlord now.

            Well, not everyone buys into the liberal moral framework, sure. But how widespread is rent control really, outside of a few major left-oriented big cities? I certainly don’t have rent control here in Tennessee, and my landlord can cancel the lease any year. I think its an easy case to make that the liberal assumption is the norm, and any exceptions have been rare and hard-fought. Bit I will admit that perhaps I am biased as to how widely adopted the liberal moral framework is, having lived in small-town Kentucky and Tennessee all of my life.

            No matter what the “theory” of ultimate ownership is, people are going to get emotionally attached to something they’ve been using, and will get really, really mad when you take it away. Complaining that theoretically the tokens are the property of the government so they can be seized at any time won’t make them less angry about it.

            Right, but the ability to shift the balance of power is a necessary part of any functioning modern society, whether capitalist or socialist. So there’s no way someone is going to be happy, from a self-interest perspective, that resources (whether tokens or money) once available to them will now be made available to the elderly, the disabled, or children. I think severing the ownership ties to the money, at least under the prevailing ideologies that exist in the US in 2019, would make it a less bitter pill to swallow.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Therefore, society shall elect representatives – in the form of a government, to organise production and distribution for the benefit of all.

        But why stop at that level? Isn’t the question of all the production and distribution decisions of a society too big for a group of elected representatives to tackle? They would certainly want to delegate much of the day-to-day responsibility, and focus only on certain big-picture items.

        For questions such as “how many pizzas should this restaurant make on a Tuesday” or “Should we build a barn in this field?” they are going to want thousands, of not millions, of small-decision makers that they could delegate this authority to.

        • Skimming this long thread, I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned the calculation controversy, an extended debate back between WWI and WWII between market economists such as Mises and socialist economists, most notably Lerner and Lange. The issue was whether it was possible to run an economy on socialist lines, and if so how. Lerner and Lange were trying to construct a version of market socialism, essentially a system where the commissar in charge of a factory was instructed to pretend he was a profit maximizing capitalist. As best I can tell, both sides shared essentially the same economic theory. The argument was about its implications.

          My impression is that the socialist side eventually lost the argument, but I haven’t studied the issue in detail and may well have gotten a biased impression. But those arguing the socialist side here might well find the literature worth looking at, since the people arguing it there were smart, competent economists.

          I actually met Abba Lerner–he commented on a presentation I gave on what became my first published economics article. I don’t remember what he said, only that my impression of the comment was positive, and I then discovered who he was. When I mentioned it to my father, his comment was that Abba Lerner had a beautifully clear, logical mind, utterly uninterested in facts.

          An attitude I have some sympathy with. The logic of an argument is something you can examine for yourself inside your head. Facts are messy and uncertain things in the world outside you.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Going from memory of reading some of the socialists’ work ~8 years ago, I think that this:

            As best I can tell, both sides shared essentially the same economic theory.

            might be slightly overstating their common ground, but combined with

            since the people arguing it there were smart, competent economists.

            it relates to a point I often try to express to people about (at least some) socialist economists of the time, which is that were actually trying to construct a workable theory, and properly engaged with arguments against their ideas (as opposed to the behavior of those socialists that decide the best way to deal with economics is to ignore it). Part of how they lost the debate was that as they tried to improve their ideas, responding to the critiques of Mises and others, they ended up re-inventing certain aspects of markets and the price system in a disguised, less efficient form. If you recognize that abolishing money and lacking prices prevents proper calculation, but then invent a pseudo-money and pseudo-prices to solve the problem, you probably end up with something that has the qualities you wanted to avoid anyway and is unappealing to both socialists and capitalists.

      • angularangel says:

        My answer: Is only Capitalism off limits, or are all market economies? Cause while the market has a lot of problems, it has some neat tricks too. If you’re going with a more decentralized Communism, say, where all capital is ultimately owned by society but individual workers enterprises are still free to set their own prices and decide what they’ll produce, or outsource those decisions as they see fit, you could probably make the market play a useful role. Or, you could just rely on some combination of high and low level decision making, discussion, and negotiation. Ultimately, this is one of those systems that’s going to require a great amount of detail and constant revision. Probably, we’d be better off discussing how such a deciding structure would be chosen and amended – I.E. The basics of government.

        On another note, I really wish there was a good way to fold posts. It’d make navigating these comment chains much easier. Or even better, something like what I’ve been working on, see my post above.

        • One problem with the Yugoslav model, which is what you may be thinking of, is that hiring a new worker into a worker’s coop means giving him a share of ownership in the coop. That’s a cost to the other workers, so an incentive not to hire, even if the new worker adds more to productivity than he costs in wages.

          • angularangel says:

            No, I was figuring the ownership of all enterprises would be collective, not held by any specific workers. Of course, this has other challenges, such as capital turnover, and the like. It also means more of a role for government, as government will need to decide whether the managers of any given collective are acting in the interests of the workers collective. So it goes. :/

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What to produce:
        Each month everyone (or minimally every household) lists what they want and need and ranks it accordingly.

        We can know absolutely the approximate cost in terms of inputs of everything on these lists. Each person’s basket of wants and need is calculated in terms of cost and rank ordered, compared to everyone else’s, the total amount that can be created for next month, and the person’s personal attributes (larger people tend to need more food, for instance), and those items which can be made are made and distributed.

        This system will encourage people to ask for more than will be made, both keeping employment high, and training everyone to accept not having everything they want, while prioritizing their needs and most desired wants.

        What to invent:
        Ideas that inventors (aka members of the general populace who have an idea and the skill to attempt it) have will be listed, and as above interested people would say whether they would be interested, and how much they would be interested, in whichever ideas. This will also have estimated costs from the “wants and needs” bucket, with an understanding that the inventions may never exist. There may be a discount from the “wants and needs” bucket, or there may be a separate “wants and needs” bucket for inventions and ideas, to encourage people to allocate their wants and needs to inventions.

        Inventors whose ideas aren’t sufficiently prioritzed at the moment will have skills that will allow them to assist in production, or on other inventions which did get prioritization. They can always work on their own invention in their free time with the resources gained through their personal “wants and needs” allocations.

        Likewise given that skills and equipment aren’t super fungible, there may be a variety of separate “wants and needs” buckets, with the comparative amount of each bucket (skilled people and dedicated equipment) slowly changing over time as requests vary.

        How to produce and how to distribute:
        People are trained for skills based on natural aptitude and projections of wants and needs categories based on past trends, as well as what they would be happy doing (as happiness is a need, which coincidentally encourages people to work).

        On the margin people are retrained to adjacent fields as necessary.

        It might be a good idea to have the equivalent of minors and dual majors, and also have people occasionally switching jobs to keep their skills up.

        Distribution is just another job.

        Some jobs will have fewer people who want to do them than are necessary for the purpose. People will be as-needed temporarily drafted into these jobs equivalent to the jury system.

        If, after all of this, effort is left over, people can do as they like. Or perhaps society as a whole can propose and vote on what they would like in each category.

        I haven’t thought this through much, but this would be a basis.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      b. Dissolution of class, meaning that the working class comprises the whole of society,

      The type of work done and amounts received have no bearing on class membership. The working class is not restricted to blue-collar or poorly paid workers. A teacher, programmer or bureaucrat are properly considered to be part of the working class as long as they are paid to perform specific tasks at the direction and under the supervision of somebody else.

      This seems underspecified. Who supervises the supervisors? What about the meta-supervisors? If we’re implementing this on a population on the order of 10M, it seems like we’re going to need a lot of them, possibly organized into some sort of hierarchy. You’ve said that at least some of the supervisors have to be elected, which does close the loop if we consider the elections to be a way for the supervisors to be “supervised” by the population. But it raises further questions. Are all the supervisors elected? Does the whole populace vote on all of them or are there local elections for lower-level ones? Are only the high-level ones elected and lower level ones are appointed?

      These questions need to be answered because, while we are for the moment assuming that this system has been put into place, we are not assuming it is stable. As an extreme example, if we choose a system with a single ubersupervisor who has absolute discretion, well, I think we all know where that goes. If our communist system is not resilient to conversion to a non-communist system, it is a failure independent of its morality.

    • albatross11 says:

      ISTM that the basic questions for a communist society are:

      a. How do you get the incentives to work right? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” doesn’t work worth a damn for giving people incentives to work hard or to work at unpleasant but necessary jobs. Nor is it any good at getting people to minimize their expenses.

      b. How do you solve the socialist calculation problem? That is, markets are amazingly good at getting the information of what everyone values and what resources everything requires to produce to percolate through the economy, so that the relative prices of copper and aluminum guide choices about what to make and how to make it and what to consume and how much. Your communist system will have to find a solution to this problem.

      My guess is that the best thing to do is just use markets in both places as much as possible.

      For labor markets, this is relatively easy, right? Whomever’s looking for coal miners or factory workers or farmers, they offer a wage and maybe a benefits package, and the workers respond to incentives using a market system. I assume the communist society is going to have some kind of welfare scheme, probably kept really minimal to encourage workers, but still not letting anyone starve or freeze to death. This will leave incentives intact for people to work.

      There will be economic inequality from this, as well as probably social classes involving higher status work (doctors have more status than janitors everywhere), but you’ll still see a considerable leveling. Probably you will want to add to that by making it difficult for successful parents to leave their kids a lot of wealth. This doesn’t need to be too draconian–make estate taxes very high, accept that there will be some level of passed-down inequality, but you’re not going to have Rockefellers or anything, just the guy who’s the third generation doctor who has a nicer car and house than most other people.

      Since you’re not remotely a libertarian society, you can ameliorate some of that by having a universal draft and making kids go do some kind of scutwork (military or civilian) for a couple years before going into formal apprenticeships/higher education. Make that relatively egalitarian and even the third-generation doctor will have spent a couple years working on a farm or mine or something before he returned to his easier life.

      Similarly, you’re going to want to use a market for consumer goods and housing and such. Perhaps the housing stock is owned by the state and leased, perhaps it’s owned individually, but whatever is done, the people buying it are paying market prices. That gets you around stupid shortages/gluts/waiting lists/allocation of housing by connections.

      The bigger problem is in capital-owning organizations. You’ve decided you don’t want individual capital accumulation (otherwise we’re just reinventing capitalism with a bearded Marxist face). But you still need several things to work out:

      a. You need capital markets, so that the best uses of capital can beat out the less important uses. This is really important in a world where technology and society changes–it needs to be possible for mainframe companies to lose capital to PC companies and later to cellphone/tablet and cloud-provider companies, or your society will become locked into current allocation patterns forever. (How much capital should be provided next year for the camera film factory?). It needs to be possible for the capital-owning organizations to shut down, or you keep Kodak and your favorite buggywhip company around forever.).

      b. You need managers who know their own business well and can operate within the markets. There need to be incentives to encourage better decisions by managers, and also opportunities for managers to fail and get filtered out (what NNT calls skin in the game).

      c. You need innovation to be possible. That means that sometimes, a real barnburner of a manager or management team gets control of a capital-controlling organization and can rapidly expand and make a ton of money.

      You can prevent this from returning to capitalism by limiting the salaries of the managers (though they’ll still be higher than basically anyone else’s), giving them quite luxurious accomodations while they’re working, but not letting them own capital because no individual does that. Probably try to long-term associate managers with their organization so they have an internal incentive to care about the organization’s long-term success. Probably retired managers get some kind of ongoing position (something like a board of directors slot?) with the organization, both to encourage concern for the organization’s long-term viability and to retain institutional memory.

      Some capital-owning organizations will probably mainly be lending and borrowing, more-or-less mirroring financial companies in capitalist societies. Everyone working there is a worker, albeit with luxurious workplaces and high salary for their society.

      All this looks more like capitalism than most communists would like, but retains the notion that there are no capitalists, inherited wealth is more like the rich family in town having an extra-nice house and less like Bill Gates being richer than the whole state of Montana.

      The capital is ultimately owned by the workers. The workers are everyone, the capital is in the form of stock (or we can call it something else, but really it’s stock) in the capital-owning organizations which is held in a kind of giant mutual fund by all the citizens. This basically funds an UBI, which is the only welfare around. You get more shares in the mutual fund every year you’re alive, and can choose to spend your salary to get still more. But this doesn’t go to your descendants, so we don’t get too much intergenerational transfer of wealth. As the UBI gets more generous, prices will go up, so there will still be incentives to work.

      Government is another problem. The trick is how to get meaningful feedback from the public to the government, so that bad decisionmakers get removed and bad decisions lead to loss of power. I’d go with an elected parliament and a supreme-court-like committee appointed by the party to keep the society acceptably communist.

      • angularangel says:

        a. You need capital markets, so that the best uses of capital can beat out the less important uses. This is really important in a world where technology and society changes–it needs to be possible for mainframe companies to lose capital to PC companies and later to cellphone/tablet and cloud-provider companies, or your society will become locked into current allocation patterns forever. (How much capital should be provided next year for the camera film factory?). It needs to be possible for the capital-owning organizations to shut down, or you keep Kodak and your favorite buggywhip company around forever.).

        Hmm. How does this vary compared to just “A workers enterprise remains profitable”? Is this, like, profitability compared with capital investment? So, if an enterprise has a ton of capital, but is just barely profitable, then it might get broken down for parts anyway, and it’s parts sold off to other workers enterprises that could use them better?

        • albatross11 says:

          Yes. Without this, you don’t get capital going to its most valuable uses, you get capital going to things that it has been used for in the past. That plays really poorly with fast technological change.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Are you essentially defining communism as an entirely top-down system of policy dictates that doesn’t relate to why the citizens made the choice to vote for it? I don’t really understand how this can be approached without reference to some of the things you listed as off-topic. A lot of the feasibility points are going to very much depend on what year it is and what is going on elsewhere–I get what you mean about “standing on its own” as not doing a comparative analysis with other options, but it really does not make sense in a vacuum. Some systems can kind of be steel-manned in a vacuum (for example, where everything is under control of a dictator or where everything is decentralized), but they usually don’t come into being by peaceful vote. If you have to control things across a society and it isn’t at the whim of whatever dictator seized power, a social and practical aspect necessarily comes into it, as in communism, capitalism, republicanism, etc. I think I can give it a try, but does your definition mean that people with some sort of modern western class distribution voted for a communist state, and *then* started abolishing the class system? I know not everyone is perfectly on board, but how much resistance are we dealing with, and what is in place currently? Or am I allowed to create a nation that hasn’t dealt with much centralized government before–one that has stayed relatively behind-the-times in lifestyle, though well aware of other countries’ systems? Like a *realistic* rural, traditional, somewhat tribal community?

      eta: @eyeballfrog raised some other key questions.

    • Erusian says:

      Communism actually follows quite logically if you accept Marx’s premises. Marx believed that production would soon be so large and overwhelming that capitalist profits would start to fall. Capitalists would become tyrannical so as to protect their profit margins in an increasingly inefficient system which would be overtaken by the more efficient system of Communism, which would entail new rights for people. This was supposed to be a mirror image of the transition from feudalism, where capitalism proved more efficient and workers gained new freedoms from participating in this new, superior system. Of course, the problem is the premises. Even hardcore Marxist-Leninists now accept that the Gilded Age was not a time of falling profits for capitalists.

      Anyway, you have a somewhat inaccurate view of Communist theory. And I mean simply theory: I understand there are a lot of Red Trolls who shout ‘not true Communism’ at every example. The idea is to end what they call capitalistic exploitation. Communists believe (for reasons I can get into) that economic value comes from labor and therefore capitalism generates profits by exploiting labor, where exploitation means controlling (unjustly in the Communist’s view) access to capital in order to extract profits. Thus ‘ownership of the means of production’ means ending this exploitation. It also means that everyone will be working class since jobs but not necessarily that those jobs will be equal or all financial jobs will be moot. For example, a Gosbank member who allocates money in order to manage the economy is a worker. They shouldn’t make money off that allocation of capital but they can make money off of the work of allocating it.

      Lastly, in context Marx is arguing against the proposition, “From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.” He argued this could be the case in the far future of true Communism (when, as he believed, work would be hard to come by due to superabundance). In the meantime, he suggested replacing the socialist slogan with “From each according to his means, to each according to his work.” Again, that labor theory of value.

      To steelman this, it’s a vision of a less radically different society than it’s sometimes made out to be. It, of course, has its impossibilities and its problems. But the idea is not that there will be no CEOs, no bosses, or complete equality or that everyone will receive a daily allotment of goods simply based on their value as human beings. Quite the contrary: if you don’t work, you don’t eat can be entirely in line with Communist principles. The idea is simply that profits will instead go to the workers that (according to Marxist economics) generate them instead of to owners of capital. This means all workers will be paid more and have more incentive towards productivity while removing parasites who get rich simply by exploiting other people. It only needs to abolish one market: the market for capital like owning a factory. It could continue to operate a market for consumer goods like milk and even have competition within that market between non-exploitative worker firms.

      Of course, you can disagree on the nature of capitalists as parasitic or profits as purely worker generated. But it’s distinctly not the utopian vision sometimes preached. Marx was an anti-utopian and he mocked the idea that the socialist future would be perfect or heaven on Earth. He simply though it would be better.

      These days, though, I don’t meet too many traditional Communists that aren’t dinosaurs. Communist/socialists seem to have mostly abandoned the critique of capitalism as inefficient or the original vision of a socialist society. In exchange, they mostly try to push ways to redistribute wealth in basically capitalist systems. For example, Guy in TN’s system doesn’t try to subvert the capitalist mode of production at all: it simply tries to control the distribution into something they consider more fair accompanied by a great weakening of property rights in order to achieve their idea of justice. This is fairly typical, so common I’ve got a name for it: redistributing the means of consumption.

    • angularangel says:

      Question:

      How would the government work? Because that’s the main failure point of Communism, IMO. The more power government has, the more important that it function efficiently, effectively, and without corruption, and the harder it is to prevent corruption without sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness.

      • angularangel says:

        My answer: Representative democracy with a robust and thorough set of checks and balances, including appropriate use of electronic technology to make information available to the citizenry, so government may be kept accountable.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What do millennials say when they finish maintenance on a ballistic missile submarine?

    “OK boomer.”

  12. BBA says:

    Hello again. I see you’re not discussing this already, and it seemed of interest, so here goes: Adam Elkus on Sacha Baron Cohen’s newfound appreciation for objective truth.

    I will add only this much: despite these belated realizations by Baron Cohen and Stewart that there’s something to care about, their cynicism still feels like a more accurate take on the world than the “activist comedy” of their successors. To still claim the mantle of brutal honesty, but to be unwilling or unable to point out the obvious because it’d score points for the enemy… well, you’ve become the very kind of hypocrite you started out rebelling against.

    This is my first comment here since October. One per month seems like a good tempo. See you in December.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Zuckerberg’s in an odd spot. A lot of people on both sides seem convinced that he’s a horrible horrible person, and that he’s not exerting nearly enough influence on people’s political speech.

    • blipnickels says:

      This struck me as almost true and important,

      So then to damn South Park for making it cool not to care about the world is missing the point. People drawn to such media do so because they want to – collectively – use the world as material for continuing the relationship of cynical intimacy they have with both the TV show and each other as fans of it. Therefore it is perfectly appropriate that South Park did not call on its own viewers to change the world, as doing so was entirely besides the point. The world was not there to be changed, the world was there mostly to give people a reason to feel savvy.

      I’m not sure feeling ‘savvy’ is what drives it but I think the insight that South Park/Cohen/Stewart were selected by the audience is important. There’s no lack, then or now, of talented comedians trying to break it big. Jon Stewart is talented, no doubt, but the reason Jon Stewart made is a household name and, say, Patrice O’Neal isn’t has less to do with talent and more to do with Jon Stewart connecting with a need of his audience. People in 200x wanted a funny/semi-informative takedown of Bush and authority. They chose this, they chose him. If they hadn’t wanted it, we’d never have heard of him. It’s hard for me to blame Cohen et al for this because I see them more as passengers than drivers; the only way they could have changed would be to burn their fragile success.

      Same for Facebook, or most social media for that matter. There’s no end of potential rivals for these extremely lucrative markets and Zuckerberg et al have to do what their audience wants, regardless of what Sacha Baron Cohen wants, or even what Zuckerberg himself might want. Google+ became a joke but I’m sure Zuckerberg knows there’s extremely competent competitors willing to spend billions to take a cut of his market. He’s also trapped by his audience but that means the faults in Facebook aren’t Zuckerberg’s, they’re ours. We demanded what Facebook became, in action, if not in word.

      I should walk this back a little, I’m sure Zuckerberg or Stewart have some freedom of action, but I keep coming back to CNN in my head. CNN swung pretty hard against Trump but I have a hard time believing they had much choice in the matter. Trump sold, and CNN coverage of him was extremely profitable from 2015 to at least 2017. But CNN was struggling long before Trump came along and all of sudden they made serious money of attacking Trump and they could see Maddow et al climbing the ratings of similar content. I’m not sure CNN’s current content is really their decision; the only audience interested in watching CNN wanted certain things from the network and they would either provide them or die. I looked through the New York Times financial statements recently and they’re subscription numbers are finally looking like a viable business model but I’m sure a lot of their recent controversial content is driven by what their new subscribers demand.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are a lot more comedians and TV shows than social networks or cable networks. Thus the competitive forces on comedians are much stronger and thus your argument is much stronger about Stewart than South Park than CNN than Facebook.

        Maybe Facebook has to pivot to images to compete with Snapchat, but it would be fine abandoning political engagement to Twitter. Maybe that’s because Twitter isn’t competent, but that’s the point: they don’t have competent people at their heels. Actually, it’s a bit mysterious that they don’t have people spending billions chasing them.

    • imoimo says:

      I enjoyed that read but had trouble drawing a clear point out of it. I think he’s saying: Baron Cohen built a career on cynicism and bad faith satire (?), without stating views of his own. His satire potentially spread more confusion or misunderstanding than he realized. Zuckerberg is in charge of a social media platform that’s criticized for spreading confusion or misunderstanding unintentionally. So Baron Cohen is a hypocrite for criticizing Zuckerberg?

      I agree there’s some hypocrisy on the left with avoiding truths that don’t fit the right narrative, while criticizing bad narratives on the right. But not sure Baron Cohen is a particularly strong example.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I read the linked stuff and I’m not sure if I understand all of what went on, but it confuses me that he could think this is controllable by Facebook fact checkers. I’ve always taken his comedy to be making the point that you can’t really outsource trust, because it is surprisingly easy for normal people to just “go along” with bad ideas when they are confused and prodded, and that this must always be remembered. I’ve always thought the idea was not supposed to be “vilify these college students who said these terrible things when I encouraged it,” so much as “remember, you and those around you may be closer to these college kids than you think.” I never thought they were supposed to be seen as exceptional. But, of course, people prefer to take it that way. I simply find those skits too painful to watch, but I can appreciate the idea behind them.

      He may have been swept up in the messed up logic that permeates so many discussions now—Zuckerberg is a bad guy who doesn’t care about the effects of Facebook, *and* he needs to be exercising much more control and judgement over what people say on Facebook. Paul Zrimsek mentions this paradox above, and the sense of desperation that probably drives it. It’s the same question as the Borat one—are the people he “traps” just showing their true beliefs, or have they learned a lesson about how easily they be convinced to promote the beliefs of whoever intimidates or confuses them in certain ways? The latter is probably more correctable. People like to have it both ways because it absolves them of all responsibility–they can denounce the “bad” person as nothing like them, but the “bad” person is somehow responsible for addressing the issue and fixing it. The alternative would be recognizing that if some people just don’t care about doing what is right, or actively want to do wrong, stopping them is on the rest of us. I’ll have to see if I can find more about his remarks.

  13. Well... says:

    The ten Beatrix Potter books I’ve read, in order from most to least excellent (in my humble opinion) for your review and discussion.

    1. Jeremy Fisher
    2. Tom Kitten
    3. Jemima Puddle-Duck
    4. Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding
    5. Benjamin Bunny
    6. Peter Rabbit
    7. The Pie and the Patty-Pan
    8. Johnny Town-Mouse
    9. Squirrel Nutkin
    10. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

  14. tossrock says:

    So what’s the base rate for internet death-threat consummation? My intuition is that it’s near zero – the people who issue internet death threats are a disjoint set from actual murderers. Because of this, my response to hearing that someone is “receiving death threats” is typically a hearty yawn. However, I acknowledge I could be wrong about this – are there reported cases of someone issuing a death threat over the internet, and then actually killing the person they threatened? Maybe if we count SWATing as murder-by-cop, and assume the crazed gamer threatened to kill whoever they were SWATing first?

    • GearRatio says:

      There’s even subsets of “death threats”. I would be entirely unsurprised to find out some internet death threats have followed through to consummation, but I’d be shocked as shit to find out any of them were of the “I’m a twitter celebrity and I get death threats you cannot know my hardship” varoetu.

    • Well... says:

      I’d guess it depends whether you separately count internet death threats originating from people who know the person they’re threatening in real life. E.g. psycho exes, gang members, etc.

      Also, I don’t know how often SWATing has actually happened. Could it really be more than a handful of times before SWAT teams figured out a way to detect it? I don’t know and would be interested in learning more.

      If we’re only talking about situations like where a public figure receives a death threat from some anonymous internet rando, then like you my expectation is that followup attempts at murder by said randos are probably extremely rare, enough that “receiving death threats” deserves a yawn (so to speak).

      • GearRatio says:

        There was a commenter here some months back who got swatted, but said the cops were aware from the beginning that this is what it was – something about the format of the call being swattish, or something. I would assume something in the family of “really big threat being reported, but with a blocked number and caller won’t identify themselves, or hangs up” probably fits the bill.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      When I hear about an internet death threat it’s nearly always as part of a Chinese-robberish attempt to prove that my ingroup|outgroup has some dreadful people in it. The threats don’t need to be carried out to serve as evidence for that less-than-momentous truth.

      • Well... says:

        Word? When I hear about them it’s nearly always an attempt to prove that the person receiving them is experiencing hardship that’s completely either undeserved or out of proportion to whatever prompted the threats.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I suppose it comes down to what your personal Internet looks like, but in mine, for every first-hand account of receiving a death threat there’s a dozen retweets or whatever bearing the message: look at the sort of thing your people do. Denounce! Denounce! (That death threats are undeserved and out of proportion sort of goes without saying.)

    • imoimo says:

      Well now I wonder: if we assume the goal of death threats is to instill fear, and we imagine a future where common knowledge says “death threats deserve a yawn”… could we end up with a lot more death threats being carried out? You neutralize someone’s weapon, I’d expect them to up the ante with a better one.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        I do not think instill fear is the cause for most death threats against anyone public. I imagine most threaters are either venting or trolling, and are not interested in violence. That’s assuming death threats are not fabricated entirely by someone playing the victim.

        It might bump it rate from almost nothing to almost nothing and a half, but I dobt it’ll be perceptible.

      • John Schilling says:

        if we assume the goal of death threats is to instill fear

        Then we are in error. The goal of the standard internet death threat is to enable some loser who would would need a size-500 shoehorn to pry his ass out of the couch in his parents’ basement, to feel happy about the great victory he has won over his hated foe. This goal is accomplished when said foe goes to the internet to whine about how terrible it is that they had to go into hiding because of the death threats. Very high cost-benefit ratio because the cost (and risk) is approximately zero.

        If it stops working because of the yawns, there won’t be much in the way of a plan B where the losers go around actually murdering their hated foes, because the cost-benefit ratio is nigh-infinitely lower on account of their actually being a cost to that. Also, nobody actually makes size-500 shoehorns.

      • CatCube says:

        It’s hard to say. A rough equivalent is the bomb threat, especially to schools. I can’t imagine that most of the people who call them in would then proceed to actually plant bombs if they stopped working–mostly, they’re calling them in not because they want to kill anybody, but because they want to leverage the response to get out of a test, or for petty revenge.

        They work, of course, because very, very occasionally somebody does plant a real bomb, and you don’t want to be the guy who blew off a bomb threat That One Time. So if they stopped evacuating for every threat, you’d probably see a drop in false threats as they no longer worked, until a real bomb went off which restarts taking every single one seriously.

  15. DinoNerd says:

    Are there any political movements in favour of common sense, in that they actually manage to eject and disown “allies” who over-emphasize their good ideas to the point of absurdity? Or better yet, take a position that’s consciously between extremes? Ideally with solid reasons for the specifics of their position, beyond “polling says we’ll get the most votes this way”.

    [I hesitate to give specific hypothetical examples, particularly ones involving current hot button issues, lest the discussion come to be about those issues, or precisely where a common-sense middle ground would be located.]

    What sort of political systems would make such movements more successful?

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      1. Positioning between the extremes means your views are dependent upon the extremists. It’s not like extremists have gentleman’s agreements to keep themselves at equal measure so the center doesn’t shift. The goal becomes purging the other side so that the center moves closer to you.
      2. Nobody claims to not be in favor of common sense although it’s usually ‘common moral sense’ vs ‘common causal sense’

      Sorry if that comes across as rude or terse, just my two thoughts.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Interesting response. I think misphrased what I had in mind, and you succinctly pointed out what was wrong with it. I’m not sure how much was just bad phrasing.

        I’m struggling to find a good hypothetical for what I had in mind, and mostly failing. I’m not looking for a group having “being in the middle” as a goal, but a group with a thought out position that puts them in the middle. They may well have got there in part because of the processes you suggest, many of them unconsciously. But they have a specific position they can more or less define.

        The best example I can give is people who favour limited wealth inequality and mixed economies – neither fully capitalist nor fully socialist. They agree that human nature can’t and won’t manage full equality, but they want to limit the range of inequality, using social services/wealth transfers for the purpose. They want some level of political/collective control of externalities, not relying on e.g. law suits for damages, but they don’t want the government planning who produces what. They want e.g. safety standards, politically enforced. etc. And they (these hypothetical people) have a specific mix in mind, or a specific idea of how to judge whether which things their government should and should not touch, and how heavy a hand it should use if it does.

    • Erusian says:

      There’s the Common Sense Caucus, a bipartisan group of moderate Senators. They mostly seem to emphasize compromise, centrism, and getting things done. They’ve been fairly diligent about policing members who drift too far right or left. Of course, whether this is a vice or a virtue depends on your point of view: this bias towards passing legislation might not sit well with certain political leanings and not everyone agrees with centrism or an approach of ‘let’s pass what priorities we can tolerate from each other’. For example, their immigration plan was to give Dreamers a path to citizenship and to simplify/expedite the legal process. However, they also would step up enforcement, increase short term and long term funding of borders, and move towards a more merit based system. There was also talk of a possible more general amnesty once the enforcement was implemented.

      Whether this is savvy political compromise or wishy-washy cowardice, it’s not popular enough with either party’s base that they have much influence. Though they do have their odd victories.

      If you wanted to design a system that forced compromise, my natural thought would be that you’d want to incentivize passing legislation on a schedule no one purposefully sets. If the bill is definitely going to happen and you can’t time the debate, then you have to work on making the bill as tolerable as possible. But I’m not sure that the bias the US system has towards inaction is actually bad. It certainly frustrates narrow majorities who want their priorities yesterday. But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing either.

      • Nick says:

        Simplifying the process, stepping up enforcement, and increasing funding I would support (and in fact, we got increased enforcement starting under Obama!); iffy on Dreamer path and neutral on merit-based system, but I’d support them in a compromise plan. How much overlap does this have with the Gang of Eight plan, which got 68-32 in the Senate? It looks like it shares the path to citizenship, but the other key points of their plan seem to be different.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      A funny thing about centrism is that there is a type of centrist whose cold technocratic rationalism makes him appear more right-wing than actual right-wingers to someone on the left and more left-wing than actual left-wingers to someone on the right. — A.S.

    • albatross11 says:

      Isn’t this basically the Blair/Clinton “third way” idea?

      Though it’s worth remembering that “common sense” and “extreme” are very much defined in terms of current widely-held ideas, and aren’t really objectively defined. A common sense, moderate position in the current US is that we keep troops in Afghanistan forever, our spy agencies eavesdrop on everyone all the time (but promise not to have any humans review the collected material without a good reason), and a bunch of former Bush administration officials who are literal war criminals will never face any consequences for that other than maybe having to be careful about taking overseas vacations. Proposing a different path on any of those policies is an extreme position.

    • Eric Rall says:

      My experience in low-level politics tells me that there are two clusters of motivations that drive people to get actively involved (as staffers, volunteers, advocates, or candidates): personal ambition for a career in politics from which they hope to derive wealth, power, status, etc; or a deep ideological passion for or against a particular candidate, issue, or ideology. Or to describe them extremely uncharitably, crooks and kooks.

      The big political reform movements of the past century or so (at least in the US) have largely been focused on incrementally cleaning the crooks out of the system, particularly by checking the ability of elected officials to abuse their offices for personal or political gain, and by structural changes to the political parties to disempower machine-politics power brokers in favor of activist groups and primary voters.

      To the extent these reform movements have succeeded in taking power away from crooks, they’ve done so by giving it to kooks instead. And the incentives have changed, so the remaining crooks at the higher levels of government (or aspiring to get there) now generally spend a lot of their time pandering to the kooks who dominate the lower levels.

      If you want a political system that encourages politicians to reject the lunatic fringe and present themselves as moderate and reasonable, I can think of a few ways that might do it:

      – Bit the bullet and accept a certain level of graft, patronage, and machine politics. Let politicians and the party apparatchiks behind them get their beaks wet. One way to think of this is to imagine the parties as two rival contracting firms bidding for the next contract to run the government for a few years, and of course they’re going to try to turn a profit on it, but that’s okay as long as they produce value for their money.

      – Abandon mass democracy in favor of a system that doesn’t advantage an ecosystem of competing groups (formal parties, advocacy groups, political machines, etc) dedicated to persuading people to support one candidate or another. The main alternatives I can think of off the top of my head are Monarchy, Sortition, and Oligarchy.

      – Build a popular mass movement around something like “A Return to Normalcy” that’s appealing to enough kooks to be viable. It’s been done successfully from time to time, but it’s hard to sustain for any length of time: Normalcy is only exciting when compared to unpalatable alternatives, so when it succeeds it becomes boring and the kooks who supported it wander off and look for something else to get excited about.

      • Nornagest says:

        Isn’t there a third option?

        – Pay the participants better. Make a political career attractive for the same reason that a career in medicine or engineering or finance is attractive, i.e. the Benjamins. At the same time, come down extremely hard on graft and patronage. When you get plenty of personal enrichment above board and all the underhanded options are very risky, there’s no incentive to participate in political corruption.

        • AG says:

          How do we prevent a Boeing (McDonnell-Douglas) Bad End? Or is Airbus merely on a delay to a Boeing Bad End?

        • Eric Rall says:

          Yes, “pay the participants better” does seem like a workable option, although we’d probably need to pay them much, much better in order for above-board compensation an effective substitute for patronage and graft.

          One problem is that there are a lot of potential politicians, but very few high-level elected offices and political appointments for them to compete for. That pattern does show up in other fields (professional athletes, musicians, etc), which manage to make it work by paying huge piles of money to those who make it to the top. If we paid Presidents, Cabinet Secretaries, and Governors like top-level professional baseball players ($20-35 million/year), members of Congress like mid-level major-league free agents (maybe $5-10 million/year), and state legislators like top-level minor league players ($100k/year) or rookie major-league players ($550k/year), I expect that would do the trick.

          Another issue is paying for the infrastructure of running a campaign. In the classic spoils system, this was done by appointing your campaign supporters to sinecure positions. In the current system, it’s done by soliciting kooks for donations and volunteer labor and by skirting the legal limits of influence-peddling. I suppose you could publicly finance the campaigns directly (which has its own problems), or you could pay the elected officials even larger salaries with the expectation that candidates will use part of their salary if they win to pay their campaign workers (or pay investors who bought a futures contract from the candidate so the candidate could pay their campaigners cash).

        • Clutzy says:

          Seems to me that not only would it be expensive, it wouldn’t increase the quality of participants much. I know of no Senator who has gone to the poorhouse, I know of many who went from well off, to multimillionaires.

          On top of that, we are compounding the incumbency bias. A huge salary for Senators (one that is actually large enough to run a Senate campaign) plus a crackdown on fundraising = a new monarchy.

        • The Nybbler says:

          We, or at least sports team owners and general managers, can fairly straightforwardly judge the performance of sports players. Someone making a lot of money in sports and doing a bad job is likely to be cut (or occasionally kicked down to the minors) in a season or two. Exceptions exist but are exceptional. The same isn’t true of politicians; we’ve got no easy way of judging. Paying them more just results in better-paid versions of the same people we have now.

      • mtl1882 says:

        To the extent these reform movements have succeeded in taking power away from crooks, they’ve done so by giving it to kooks instead. And the incentives have changed, so the remaining crooks at the higher levels of government (or aspiring to get there) now generally spend a lot of their time pandering to the kooks who dominate the lower levels.

        +1

        As heretical as it sounds, my opinion is that the best option is one of the ones you listed:

        Bit the bullet and accept a certain level of graft, patronage, and machine politics. Let politicians and the party apparatchiks behind them get their beaks wet. One way to think of this is to imagine the parties as two rival contracting firms bidding for the next contract to run the government for a few years, and of course they’re going to try to turn a profit on it, but that’s okay as long as they produce value for their money.

        As for the discussion below, raising salaries fundamentally misses the main dynamic. It isn’t an individual worker thing. While “kooks” may be largely issue-driven, we’re social creatures. Politics is an ecosystem and patronage isn’t mainly about hoarding money for yourself–it’s about gaining, keeping, and controlling your friends and allies. It makes the issues concrete and personal–I get that is the opposite of what many people see as desirable, but most people don’t make good decisions, or often any decisions at all, at an abstract level. The concrete solution might not be the most optimal one you can think of, but how often do we get the optimal one?

        You rarely get everyone on the same page–political machines operate on that assumption, and find a way to make people pull together anyway through pork and all that. It also recognizes that the man or woman who becomes a big shot is often going to have a lot of friends and relative who aren’t rock stars themselves, but who who are trusted, cared for, and needed by this person. If he or she can give them some jobs and perks, that can be a lot more valuable than money, because rock star level people often already have enough of that. They want to be appreciated and powerful. I’m not saying give totally incompetent people jobs that require expertise–that’s an obvious failure mode. But there are a good many jobs that can be done by any reasonably sharp and conscientious person, and it’s not clear that bringing in a stranger is preferable just because it is impartial. A stance of impartiality works if most people are truly invested in the issues themselves, but that just isn’t so. Most people don’t care very much, and the ones that do are labeled “kooks” because of the weirdness of that abstract approach. If you don’t want them to win, you have to appeal to people’s concrete, social nature.

        Honestly, I probably identify more with the kooks, but it is plain as day to me that most people aren’t operating on that system and it is crazy to expect them to. And even if they did become issue-oriented, they’d never agree on many things. Kooks and crooks worked quite well together in the past, and balanced each other out—certainly we made changes for a reason, but while it may be less distasteful to look at, I’m not super impressed with the results.

    • The problem with centrism is that it is often a result of other “extremist” policies “cancelling out.” Libertarians and populists can both appear to be in the same position on a one-dimensional political spectrum. Even on a two-dimensional spectrum there can be often heterodox views, I want higher taxes on the rich and cuts in subsidies to healthcare and education. I’d say the best system would include the following:

      1. Get rid of “checks and balances.” The common belief that checks and balances make it harder for the government to step on you ignores the fact that they also make it harder to get the government to stop stepping on you. Invest most power in a single unicameral legislature.
      2. Elect the legislature through proportional representation.
      3. The legislature doesn’t need to “form a government,” so small parties can’t play kingmaker. Make a rule that every representative has an absolute right to say “shut up and vote” on a certain number of bills every year. Extremists will naturally lose influence, if they introduce an extremist bill they’d know it will be voted down. They could tell their less extreme allies “I won’t vote for your bill unless you make it more extreme,” but then they’ll have to explain to the voters why the less extreme bill didn’t pass.

    • The U.S. model of first past the post elections has some tendency to pressure politicians towards the center, since if the Democrats nominate a far left candidate the Republicans can nominate a centrist or mildly left candidate and win, and similarly with parties and directions exchanged. But, of course, one can be centrist and still unreasonable.

      • Sagar Apte says:

        The problem with that is that both Democrats and Republicans nominate their candidates by voting for them in primaries. Because only registered party members can vote in primaries, the average voter in the Democratic primaries is likely to be left of the average person who votes Democrat in the general election. So while the more centrist of the two candidates might have an advantage in the general election, they are less likely to be nominated for it in the first place. The criteria for being nominated in the Democratic primaries do not include “appeal to some of the other party’s voters,” or anything at all other than, “appeal to the registered Democratic party members,” and the same goes for the Republicans.

        • Depends to what degree the primary voters are thinking about how likely the candidate is, if nominated, to win.

          • meh says:

            Agreed, but this plays out differently depending on how ‘safe’ the seat is. We see moderate politicians from both sides in the close to 50/50 states/districts, but in many elections, anyone with the appropriate letter next to their name will win, so any candidate that comes out of the primary meets the criteria of likely to win if nominated.

            We wind up with something like a Hastert rule but for the electorate.

        • DinoNerd says:

          It’s interesting that Canada leaves how the candidates are chosen up to the political parties. This tends to result in votes, but among those who attend conventions (only) and those people generally actually work on elections etc. – i.e. they have more focus on whether a candidate can actually get elected, and more than average interest in detailed policy platforms rather than sound bites. I think the British system is similar.

          Note that I’m absolutely not saying the Canadian systerm is perfect – just that it moves this knob over slightly, and also (seperately) makes 3rd parties more viable than in the US system.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Eliminate re-elections.

  16. Nick says:

    For those interested in the continuing discussion of liberalism and illiberalism, integralism, and the French-Ahmari conflict, Daniel Burns’ essay in National Affairs is the most recent to advance things. I’ll try to summarize it, but I recommend reading the whole thing.

    He first distinguishes between liberal theory and liberal practice. Liberal practice is rights and rule of law, government by representation and widespread civic participation, separation of powers and checks and balance. These are not, Burns says, mere ideals; they are observable facts about liberal nations. They aren’t always or everywhere lived up to, but they often and mostly are, and that should redound to a liberal nation’s credit.

    Liberal practices tend to have certain disadvantages, too. I’ll just quote Burns:

    Like all real political goods (and unlike ideals), the features of liberal politics include unavoidable disadvantages. Our majoritarianism tends to encourage mediocrity. Our tolerance can and often does turn into indifferentism. Our personal liberty too easily becomes license. Our freedom of commerce is a breeding ground for pettiness and greed. Our rule of law can become cruelty toward criminals. Our reverence for science and expertise has left us prey to all manner of snake-oil salesmen, to say nothing of the obvious ambivalence of our technological progress. Our egalitarianism often leaves the natural human desire for hierarchy to be channeled into an unhealthy admiration for large and efficient top-down structures (such as the military, multinational corporations, and occasionally the governments of our enemies). Even our public spirit is sometimes hard to distinguish from jingoism and crude self-satisfaction.

    Liberal theory, meanwhile, is Hobbes and Locke, Kant and Mill, Rawls. It’s freedom as autonomy, enlightened self-interest, rule of law and an untrammeled state as guarantor of this freedom against “family, ancestry, history, tradition, culture.”

    Burns draws attention to the fact that there are and have always been significant differences between liberal practices and liberal theory. Federalism, for example, has no place in liberal theory; splitting up sovereignty between federal and sub-federal governments makes no sense, it’s introducing arbitrary distinctions between the governed. Liberal theory requires strict government neutrality in religion, Burns says, but no liberal country has ever done this or much tried to do it; we’re too democratic for it. The example most striking to me is the way liberal politics as practiced relies on reverence for our founders, the Constitution, and American history—the same stuff, I think, Scott has sometimes called American civic religion. It’s easy to see how important it is for persuading any American toward a more ‘liberal’ conclusion—and yet how odd it is to appeal to it in persuading an autonomous rational individual.

    Where Burns departs explicitly from illiberal critiques is in thinking that, until recently, liberal theory hasn’t been that important. The American founders seemed, admittedly, to have adopted Lockean thought wholesale. But not so, he says; they adopted the language, but repurposed it as they went. We’ve been too practical-minded, too practice-minded, to wed ourselves to ideology, so it’s only in the last few decades that intellectuals have really adopted liberal theory. This is me and not Burns, but if we’d adopted liberal theory, how would we have solved the slavery question? Stephen Douglas was defending the peculiar institution on liberal-theoretical grounds, h/t Susannah Black:

    I deny their right to force a free State upon an unwilling people. I deny their right to force a good thing upon a people who are unwilling to receive it. The great principle is the right of every community to judge and decide for itself whether a thing is right or wrong, whether it would be good or evil for them to adopt it; and the right of free action, the right of free judgment upon the question is dearer to every true American than any other under a free government.

    Back to Burns, anyway. Liberal theory put into practice—not to be confused with liberal practice as I’ve been speaking above—is doomed to failure, because it ironically falls into an illiberalism of its own. Dismantle the American religious establishment, and in a few years you’re making illiberal demands on florists and bakers. This critique of liberal theory Patrick Deneen and friends are happy to agree with, but I find it rather odd Burns seems to think this settles things. Clearly for the left-illiberals things are not settled. On the contrary, they’re just gearing up. Burns’ departure from Deneen, as should be clear here, is in thinking that liberal theory is an alien imposition on preexisting liberal practice, but it seems to me he underestimates how easily liberal theorists conquered the prior liberal practitioner. Adopting Lockean language didn’t mean adopting Lockean thought, sure—but perhaps it made it more susceptible to conquering.

    The alternative to liberal theory is, in Burns’ view, a return to liberal practice before this conquering. Back to the classics of political thought—Thucydides and Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle, Cicero and Livy—and back to a non-ideological form of politics he calls statesmanship. Formed by human experience and unafraid to ask questions about the constitution of our ruling class, the mental and moral habits our communities instill, and how to make the best of an imperfect regime. One that can really ground things necessary to our nation, like our obligation to die for it if necessary, and not hostile in theory to things like American civic religion.

    While Burns affects to distance himself from post-liberalism, he’s not so far after all. His prescription to return to an education in the classics could have been lifted directly from Deneen. He repeatedly dances around the subject of the common good, which is just what integralists (left-wing and right-wing) have been yammering about the most, and now Marco Rubio (!), too.

    I’m ambivalent on the description of statesmanship; what I find most helpful about the essay is its distinction between liberal theory and practice. Faint-hearted critics of liberalism like Michael Brendan Dougherty are unwilling to give up the fruits of the American political order. But Burns has given MBD ammunition for a stronger critique of liberal theory, which he is certainly opposed to. Burns would have to concede we can retain most of the features we like about liberalism, and revivify features under siege, without thereby sustaining myths about the noble savage or fictions like the autonomous individual. If there’s one thing missing from the essay, it’s tracing the origins of our liberal practices to before liberal theory, which would show handily how the two are distinct. Burns alludes to this fact—he says liberal theory was developed to explain why the liberal practices they cherished seemed to work—but my interest here is in models beyond, say, Lincoln’s reply to Douglas, as alternatives to liberal theory. As the lovers of theory gear up to replace our liberal order with liberalism, these alternatives only become more important.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I just wanted to say that this is a very good summary essay, and I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

    • blipnickels says:

      I don’t see this significantly advancing the conversation.

      To be fair, it is refreshingly well written and it frames the issue very well. I especially loved this paragraph:

      Yet liberalism’s critics rightly insist that such commonplace rejoinders fail to engage their real arguments. Liberalism’s defenders, for their part, often feel themselves in the position of the theologian confronted with an atheist: The “liberalism” they hear attacked is one that they, too, do not believe in. Thus the parties have often been talking past each other, and not only because of an above-average amount of strawmanning on both sides. What one party sincerely regards as its clinching argument will seem a trivial observation to the other, and vice versa.

      (Italics mine)

      I’ve had that exact experience and it’s immensely frustrating and profoundly true.

      But at it’s core, I can’t imagine referencing liberal theory vs liberal practice in an argument or using it as an analytical tool, mostly because liberal theory is pretty dead outside of college philosophy classes. Like, I don’t see anyone on the Left referencing Locke or Hobbes or some other Enlightenment philosopher; if they want to argue for individual autonomy they have other newer and more radical references. There’s a few on the Right who reference them but they’re a distinct minority in the Trump Age and with few prospects in the future of the Right.

      Or, basically, no Leftist feminist, anti-racist, socialist, progressive et al quotes Locke. The libertarian branch on the Right might reference Locke but the rest are by and large nationalists (Rock, Flag, & Eagle) or Christians who suspect/fear that liberalism inevitably leads to secularism. Like, liberal Enlightenment theory might have been original source for these laws, but they’re not really the modern justification.

      So I think the focus on dead theory is pretty irrelevant/useless and the prescription, a return to “ideology-free” practicality with a focus on the classics is an old right-wing proposal without much success. I mean, didn’t Allan Bloom basically write this 30 years ago?

    • broblawsky says:

      How can any liberal practice that – as you claim – denies freedom to slaves be considered anything other than base hypocrisy? You can’t have a liberal society when people are born in chains. You suggest that the founding fathers didn’t implement liberal theory out of some kind of forward-thinking pragmatism, but I would suggest that they failed to do so because there was no way to forge a nation out of both slave states and free states without conceding at least some of their principles to the slave power. AFAIK, there’s far more evidence in support of the latter position than the former.

    • Plumber says:

      Great bunch of links @Nick, thanks! 

      This discussion has rekindled some inchoate thoughts of mine, Eistemic-whatsit Status: pulled out of my felt more than  researched.

      I suspect that a lot of what many think of as “normal” and “traditional” is actually just how things were for a few short decades of the 20th century, and I’m going to start from there. 

      I’ve only ever heard child-eyed views of the 1920’s from my grandfather but from some reading the impression that I get is a big economic and cultural metropolitan/rural divide not that dissimilar from today’s “culture war“, judging by the newsreels and publications made then (WPA guidebooks, oral histories collected) in the wake of the Great Depression the New Deal administrative State and Hollywood “culture leaders” really did seem to be trying to unify a Nation with disperate regional cultures, a lot of it looked a bit patronizing but I definitely get a sense of a deliberate “All in this together” ethos building effort that went into overdrive during the second world war.

      With the war you have the “Immortal Four Chaplains” inter-faith ecumenical patriotism and sacrifice deliberately encouraged with a “mainline protestant” ruling/managerial class, plus an evangelical south, Mormon Utah, a more Catholic and unionized working class in the north, ‘Christian morality’ becomes “Judeo-Christian values” and Judaism is incorporated (this is helped by the Reform and Conservative branches evolving in an American social context), the Catholic “Americanism” heresy is quietly no longer suppressed, “under God” is added to the pledge of allegiance, church attendance peaks in the 1950’s, all trending towards a sort of ruling de jure Unitarianist overall vision of a common good and morality uniting a diverse nation with “The Great Society” mop up operation to eliminate racial divisions.

      This almost lasts for two generations.

      After the Vietnam war and the Watergate break in the vision of a wise and benevolent “Uncle Sam” is lost, the generations that have no memory of the Depression and second world war are more secular and a “gap” grows similar to the “generation gap” of the 1960’s (an artifact of so few being born in the ’30’s and early ’40’s making it so there’s few who are in-between the ages of the children and parents to be a cultural ‘bridge’) as with the sharp decline of the “mainline protestant” denominations there’s no ‘bridge’ between the conservative religious and the secular liberal, so a disunited nation without a common vision of morality and “the good”.

      “Interfaith in action” (as in the words on the 1948 U.S. postage stamp) worked when there was a majority with faith that respected those of other faiths, now there’s a large and growing secular faction, a large conservative religious faction, and a tiny much reduced sliver of the liberal religious. I suppose African Americans (being generally more religious and a bit more conservative but voting with liberals) could be a ‘bridge’, but with their social position they seem ill placed to assume that burden, and certainly not as a ruling class like the old “Protestant establishment”.

      Patriotism plus solidarity worked (for a while) with a generation that shared the experience of Depression, war, re-building, and resistance against first one then another totalitarian system, but it didn’t last, “peaceful co-existence” and mutual respect of our host’s “tribes” (except for “Grey”, as they’re just too weird seems a fine idea, but I don’t think enough want that. 

      I’ve no idea how you keep Americans from becoming even more individualist and insular @Nick, if you have a plan please share it as I’d like to hear it.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The History of the Screwdriver

    17 minutes, lots of good geeky details about fist uses of screws, screws and the world wars, patents, physics and practicality of different kinds of screw heads, etc.

    Also, Robertson screwdrivers, which I’d never heard of.

  18. Faza (TCM) says:

    I’d been thinking about Scott’s non-empirical science posts for a while and have come up with a koan that I thought fitting to share here:

    If your theory can explain anything, it can’t explain anything.

    Enlightenment guaranteed.

  19. Well... says:

    Has it ever happened that an orderly, stable society collapsed into post-apocalyptic ruin within the course of 24 hours due to something besides a natural disaster? (I’m thinking war, invasion, revolution, etc.) If so, do any first-hand accounts of this exist?

    • Thegnskald says:

      The sacking of a city state?

      Really the issue is that your time limit isn’t compatible with non-modern technology; an entire nation can’t coordinate or share information fast enough to meet it without technology that only recently came into existence.

    • Two McMillion says:

      The real question here is how you define “orderly” and “stable”. The dissolution of the Soviet Union might count. Or the Anglo-Zanzibar War.

    • albatross11 says:

      I guess it depends on what you mean by “collapse.” A very large society seems likely to take longer than 24 hours to collapse.

      The closest I can think of would be some precipitating event which:

      a. Triggers widespread disruption and chaos…
      b. …from which the existing society never recovers.

      I imagine the best condition for this would be some widely-believed idea holding the society together is suddenly disproven. The model I’m thinking of here is how a dictatorship can stay in power as long as each individual citizen can’t know that all the other citizens also wish the dictator was dead, but once all the citizens know that at once, the dictator is doomed.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The 1977 New York blackout came close, but it recovered after the lights came back on. (note the other New York blackouts did not result in similar disorder)

      Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was it destroyed in such. I believe the sack of Carthage only took a day (after a long siege), and did result in post-apocalyptic ruin. I am unaware of any accounts by the losers.

    • Jake says:

      Hiroshima, August 6, 1945?

    • Revolutions tend to be either drawn-out processes which take a long time as people slowly realize they can organize and demonstrate without consequence due to weak government,(Iran, Russia, the dissolution of the Soviet Union) or sudden affairs where the army throws out the current government without warning and is there to establish control.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Branch Davidians?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Sack of Baghdad by the Mongols? I don’t really know much about Baghdad in those days, but it was big and wealthy, and it is my understanding that the Mongols destroyed it.

  20. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    The other day I set out to come up with a simple poker-like card game for some fictional characters to play. I settled on the following:
    – Each player is dealt 3 cards worth 1-6 points
    – They make a round of betting, similar to poker
    – A 6-sided die is rolled. It can be substituted with another card placed on the table face-up if necessary.
    – Another round of betting
    – Whoever has higher total sum on his cards wins, but only cards worth less or equal to the die count.
    So for example, if your hand is 3-4-5, you will score 0 if die is 1 or 2, 3 if it is 3, 7 if it is 4, and 12 if it is 5 or 6. And if your opponent has 2-3-4 they will beat you with die up to 4, but lose on 5 or 6.

    On one hand randomly devaluing otherwise valuable cards has certain allegorical value. On the other hand it feels to me a bit counter-intuititve to for people to actually want to play it.

    • JPNunez says:

      It’s not bad but I’d go with: dealing, die roll, card replacement, betting. If you play with some community cards, maybe those cards that are left out by the die can be replaced too.

      Also whatever game needs to filter the cards for the game so much is gonna be a chore; just throw 2 dice, and say that J = 10, Q = 11 and K = 12 and it’s done.

      Maybe flushes that _start_ with a card under the die roll are still valid even if they end on cards over the die roll.

      I remember watching an episode of Kakegurui (anime about some gambling school…yeah) where they played Poker but whether the winning hands would be the higher or lower (ie: a single pair of twos would be the strongest hand) was determined by bidding…with the same money you won on the previous hands.

      You could throw a coin to determine whether high or low hands win. Either at the start of the hand or at the end.

      If you are really into incorporating the die I’d go with 1, 5 and 6 doing nothing, and 2, 3 and 4 making hands with a pair, a trio or four of a kind are the strongest hands. Of course, four of a kind is the strongest hand most of the time given how rare flushes are.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’d guess, by the fictional setting, that part of the intent is to create a game with a different history; that is, it would be very weird for them to arrive at the same deck of cards we use.

      • Aron Wall says:

        I like the idea of adding a round of bidding to modify the die roll, but I think it’s important for the bidding not to subvert things by too much (or it removes too much information from the previous round of betting).

        Perhaps the bidding outcomes could be restricted to either increasing the d6 roll by 1, decreasing it by 1, or keeping it the same. You have to say which outcome you are bidding for, and if 2 or more players bid for the same outcome, their money is additive. (This makes it more likely that there are still multiple players with strong hands after the bidding is over.) Whichever set of players “wins” the bidding phase adds the money they bid to the pot, while the other players get to keep theirs. (Thus, if you succeed in winning the hand, you get your money back.) You’d play it in this order: bets-roll-more bets-reveal.

        I think it would usually be foolish to bid too much money in the bidding round, because it would give away too much information without drawing other people into the pot…

        (Of course for a story, you want the game to reveal interesting character information through their play style.)

    • Thegnskald says:

      I’d recommend adding some equivalent to a suite, aiming for a set of criteria that rules out potential ties.

      One thing you could change/add: Discarding a card to re-roll the die, and then an additional round of betting. This permits an additional measure of bluffing/signaling what is in your hand

    • beleester says:

      I think it’s playable, just too simple. The bet-roll-bet design is good – you can gamble on the expected value of your cards (3 and 4 are more valuable, 1 and 6 less so), but the die roll gives you a chance for dramatic reversals like the river in Hold’Em.

      The trouble is, there are only 56 possible hands. It wouldn’t be too hard to enumerate them all and find an optimal betting strategy. Maybe take a standard deck, remove the kings (or make them special cards in some way), and roll 2d6? Then you’d have many more permutations, and a more interesting probability curve.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        Since it’s a fictional game, it doesn’t need to have faces, and it can naturally be scaled, especially if another card is used for scaling (Thus avoiding awkward curve in probabilities)

        You talking about kings being special gave me an idea for a card that is instant win as long as nobody else has the same card, then it’s worthless. Which would also make game fortunes change.

        • Aron Wall says:

          Your special card would actually make the game less interesting. In general, poker-like games require that the value of a hand be sufficiently predictable to be worth betting on.

          This rule variant would strongly discourage people from making large bets, because the special card makes it impossible to be confident that you have a strong hand.

          In general, chaos is not what you want to go for with (skill-based) betting games.

          You could, however, include a special wild card whose value is always the same as the die roll–that wouldn’t cause too much damage.

    • Aron Wall says:

      I think this is a very interesting idea. But if you want to see whether it is a fun game, there’s no substitute for actually play-testing it a bunch, and seeing how it works. (This is one thing sibilings are for.)

      I don’t think this game is very simple. Most of the interest would come from the betting psychology, so even if players were dealt the exact same hand it could turn out quite different.

      Before the die is rolled, it would be most valuable to have multiple copies of the same number, because you aren’t really interested in the expectation value but rather to maximize the chances you have the *best* hand in the game. So for example, 1-1-1 or 6-6-5 would be significantly more valuable than 2-3-4, because on a 1 or a 6 you could respectively know or be quite sure that your hand was the best, whereas 2-3-4 is only great if you roll a 4 and even then there are a number of ways to lose.

      It would be best if there is a possibility to have at least 5 cards of each number dealt out, so that even if you have two of the X’s, where X is the die rolled, there is still the possibility of a freak X-X-X hand to kill you.

      You still need to decide a number of important details, such as the precise betting rules and what to do if there is a tie. It’s tempting to just use the poker rules, but making the rules slightly different (e.g. ties mean all the money goes to the next hand’s pot, rewarding those who folded early) could give it a more convincingly exotic flavor.

      BTW there’s a very interesting card game played by the mercenaries in Glen Cook’s series “The Black Company”; if you haven’t read this already you might want to in order to see a good example of integrating a game into a novel. (My favorite example of a game in a book is Interstellar Pig, but that game is in a class of its own.)

  21. Roebuck says:

    Not sure if people here already discussed the psychological differences between Chinese people born in wheat vs rice regions (I think there may be problems with accessing the article by clicking this link – if so, Google “wheat vs rice farming cultures china collectivist” and you should be able to see the article after you click the Google link).

    The idea that different farming styles influence cultures seems appealing. After all, in ye olden times (which lasted much longer than the modern ones), minority of people did anything else than farming. Rice farming really does seem different than wheat farming in terms of requiring a larger number of people working on a single thing at once. I would be easily convinced that the psychological differences are carried not just by culture, but by genes.

    On the other hand, the regressions do show some additional impact of ‘modernisation’ on thinking and in some regressions the authors seem to claim that their results are more reliable because they are controlled for confounders (and that gives me replication crisis flashbacks).

    On the first hand again, the authors perform a range of analyses, some of which bear resemblance to regression discontinuity design (in the part where they explore differences between county lines) and should reliably get rid of confounders. The results seem to hold. And, in general, each of the several different methodologies and datasets they use seem to point to wheat-rice differences.

    On the other hand, the thing still seems susceptible to p-hacking. The county-level borders in Figure 1 could be a bit dishonest since the authors only show a >50% rice and >50% wheat distinction, without finer detail (which would not be evidence of p-hacking, but behaviour that correlates with it). Who knows how many other regressions they have run without getting interesting results and without reporting them.

    On the balance, I’m slightly inclined to believe the article. Any thoughts from you?

  22. johan_larson says:

    Our friends with the giant spaceships have decided to get into the ditch-digging business. They are offering to dig you up to 1000 km of ditches. These are very big ditches, at 10 m deep and 10 m wide at the bottom; the tops are wider still, with the exact width depending on the angle of repose required by the surrounding soil. These ditches could be dug anywhere on the surface of the earth, and you may divide the 1000 km into as many as 10 segments of at least 1 km each.

    Where do we have too much ground and not enough hole?

    (Let me add that our friends are offering ditches, not mines, so the ditches can’t be overlapping. But they can be right next to each other. Done this way, you could have a single hole, 10 m deep, measuring roughly 3 km by 3 km.)

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      The plan to connect the Qattara depression to the Med that Scott mentioned a few weeks ago seems like an obvious use.

      • beleester says:

        The ditches are too shallow, I think. You would need a continuous path of land that’s no more than 10m above sea level, otherwise the aliens won’t dig deep enough. Checking a map, it looks like there’s some 200m high hills between the Depression and the ocean.

      • Grek says:

        How about a nice long channel north from the Niger in Mali into the Sahara? Double thick.

    • JPNunez says:

      Gonna build another Maginot Line.

      This time it’s gonna work!

      Given it’s 1000km and the Maginot line was 1500km Imma leave some parts of Belgium unguarded. I am sure it will be fine.

    • Chalid says:

      Make a kind of inverted Palm Jumeirah near Dubai. Dubai is the sort of place that would effectively take advantage of having a whole lot of extra waterfront property open up, and there’s lots of empty desert to do it in.

    • Garrett says:

      At almost exactly the right length, a path from Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia to Talon, Magadan Oblast, Russia, 685941 on top of which a railway could be built.

      It would open up a mineral-rich, economically-poor area. More importantly, it would facilitate the eventual construction of a useful bridge across the Bering Strait.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Digging ditches is something man is pretty darned good at; shallow ditches like that don’t need giant spaceships, just heavy equipment or a whole lot of men with shovels. So the only reason to get the spaceship people to help are places we can’t easily dig for whatever reason, e.g. high granite mountains.

      It would be tempting to open up road access to Juneau, Alaska… but the ditch probably isn’t really deep enough to be a help, and besides, Alaskans probably prefer their capital isolated. So I’d say “Thanks, but no thanks”.

      • johan_larson says:

        Could one of the civil engineers in this forum give us an approximate price for one of these ditches, if it were dug with modern equipment by humans? Presumably this would vary by soil conditions and weather and whatnot, but let’s try.

        • CatCube says:

          It’ll vary significantly by soil conditions and whatnot, by several orders of magnitude.

          I’m not one of our cost estimators so I don’t have super-detailed information on pricing, but just as an example of the possible cost differentials: we’re paying an average of something like $16/CY for cutter dredging (that’s not including fixed mobilization/demobilization costs, which brings it up to nearer $23/CY, though that’s going to be heavily influenced by job size; a bigger job will have more amortization). If you’re using a hopper dredge, appropriate for softer material (think silt instead of gravel), you’re closer to $1.80/CY

          This is excavating underwater, but maintenance dredging, i.e., all material that’s been deposited since the last time it was dredged, so it’s relatively easy diggings that’s done efficiently with purpose-built ships.

          Rock excavation is much harder. I think we’re nearer $200/CY, and that’s in the dry. If the rock has to go somewhere you can be looking at significant costs there as well. While not directly comparable, we’re buying rock for jetties at about $400/CY, but those are also very large pieces and good rock both of which will make it very expensive since they have to come from pretty far away; however, they can also be transported by barge which is cheap (since, well, a breakwater is of necessity easily accessible by ship). If the spoil has to go too far, it might not be a bad estimate to double the cost.

          I am going to note that contra your OP, 10m×10m ditches aren’t “very big”–the locks on the Mississippi are 110′ (33.5m) wide, and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is 450′ (or 137m) wide (and has a main cut over 100′ deep, but I don’t recall the exact figure). The locks on the Columbia are only 86′ wide, but that’s still more than twice your 10m limit. These design trapezoid of these ditches (without putting them side-by-side) isn’t even sufficient to make a useful modern shipping canal, at least in width; a 10m depth can pass smaller ocean-going ships, and most barge tows, though.

          You could probably use them efficiently for some irrigation and drinking water transport, but frankly we’re more than capable of building canals of this dimension if we want. The “doing it for free” is the big thing the aliens bring to the table, but I acknowledge that is a big difference.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I would dig a great ditch, and nobody digs ditches better than me, believe me, and I’ll dig them very inexpensively. I will dig a great great ditch on our southern border and I’ll have aliens pay for that ditch.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The words “placed here by Satan” written on the ocean floor near a fossil formation likely to be discovered in about 20 years. Let the paleontologists try and figure that one out!

    • tossrock says:

      100 km across the isthmus of Kra, to circumvent the Straits of Malacca would be a big win economically (but a big loss ecologically). Also 10m wide and deep doesn’t really cut it for heavy shipping.

    • Phigment says:

      I suspect that 1000 KM is enough to dig a ditch around Washington DC and then connect it to the Chesapeake Bay.

      This would conveniently contain most of the federal government inside a moat until they were able to coordinate bridge construction, giving the rest of us several days of peace and something interesting to talk about.

      • Aftagley says:

        As the crow flies, a ditch straight from the Chesapeake to DC is approximately 37 KM. Encircling the entire DMV only takes around 67 KM. If you wanted, you could make a dozen or so moats in a row around the national capital region.

        • Phigment says:

          Well, then, the plan is perfect.

          We’ll make 13 concentric moats, one for each of the original 13 colonies.

          This will add a layer of historical sentimentality and national pride to the whole thing, disguising the fundamentally arbitrary and capricious decisionmaking involved and conferring unearned gravitas to the construction.

      • b_jonas says:

        It wouldn’t be a moat. Washington D.C. is not flat enough for that, so most of the ditches won’t fill with water.

    • Thegnskald says:

      What is the depth of the ditch relative to?

      For example, if you had a kilometer-wide mountain, would they level it if you centered your 3kmx3km hole on it?

      • johan_larson says:

        Good question. Let’s say that it’s 10 m down from the current surface, but there would be some averaging and loss of detail, since this is an exercise in excavation, not sculpture.

        So if you centered the digging on a mountain, you’d get a mountain that’s 10 m shorter on average. But if it had a really pointed peak, that might be 20 or 30 m shorter.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Are we allowed to dig part of that ditch in the bottom of another part of that ditch?

      The border between Tibet and China-minus-Xinjiang appears to be about 500 miles. And I only count about five major throughways through what I presume is mostly mountains. Just throwing that out there.

      • johan_larson says:

        Are we allowed to dig part of that ditch in the bottom of another part of that ditch?

        Nope. That’s why I said, “…the ditches can’t be overlapping.” You can dig them right next to each other, though, so effectively you can go wider if you want. But you can’t go deeper.

    • b_jonas says:

      I still (“https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/24/open-thread-137-25/#comment-804516”) suggest asking them to help in the Bosporus canal, to improve ship routes. 10 meters deep doesn’t get us all the way, but it would be a start and would reduce the cost of the canal significantly.

  23. Black Ice says:

    I just had an idea for a new type of playing cards.

    There would be one “0” card that looks like this:

    000
    000
    000

    Nine “1” cards that look e.g. like this:

    000
    00X
    000

    A “5” card might happen to look like this:

    XX0
    0X0
    XX0

    And there would be one “9” card that looks like this:

    XXX
    XXX
    XXX

    These cards would have two values, as it were: the number written on them (8, say) plus some particular configuration of X and 0 out of all the possible ways to represents that value.

    Two questions:

    1. How many playing cards would there be in total in this set, and how many of each “suit” (number)? I’m not that clever with factorials…

    2. What kind of games (gambling or otherwise) might be possible using these cards?

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      2^9 in the deck, since each card has an equivalent binary number. Unless you’re insisting that:

      0x
      xx
      0x

      is the same card as:

      x0
      xx
      x0

      then I’d have to use my brain, which is preoccupied at the moment.
      2^9 = 512 cards.
      That’s a lot.
      Card game with the most cards I ever played was Skyjo which has 12*13 + 20ish cards. Less than half. But probably something like that.
      A game with many people who are trying to optimize/minimize their matrix/table in front of them plus a large drawstack. Perhaps just simply upscale Skyjo.

      • johan_larson says:

        512 is roughly the number of cards in a box of Magic boosters: 36 packs times 14 cards per pack, excluding lands and tokens. Games like Trivial Pursuit and Cards Against Humanity have similar numbers of cards, too. If you’re playing with a full set, in each hand, the players will be handling way less than the full set of cards.

        But just to start with, you could play something like this. Your goal is to assemble a set of cards that add up to an XXX/XXX/XXX hand, with none of the Xes overlapping. You can knock any time you have a set with coverage of at least 6 Xes, and score the difference between your coverage and the opponent’s. If you can assemble XXX/XXX/XXX you score extra. Like in Gin Rummy, you play with a deck face down and a discards pile face up. Every turn, you must draw a card from either the face-up or face-down pile, and you must also discard a card.

        To be clear, suppose you have cards XX0/000/000 and 00X/00X/000 and 000/0X0/000. These combine to XXX/0XX/000, for a score of 5. You could add 000/000/XX0, improving the score to 7, but you could not add X00/X00/X00 because it has an X overlapping with the first card.

        For a game like this, it would probably be best to take out all the high-coverage cards, like XXX/XXX/XXX, which basically win the hand on their own. Or maybe stipulate that only hands with at least three cards are valid. I’m not sure. It would take some tuning.

        • johan_larson says:

          And to add a defensive aspect, let non-scoring cards knock out scoring cards, but only if they are a strict subset of the scoring card. So 0XX/000/000 could knock out XXX/000/000, but it could not knock out XX0/000/000.

      • Viliam says:

        2^9 = 512 cards.
        That’s a lot.

        From the description, the fact that there are 9 symbols on a card (or that they are in a 3×3 grid) seems irrelevant, so I would recommend to play-test the idea with e.g. 6 symbols, which gives 2^6 = 64 cards. Or maybe even 5 symbols and 32 cards.

    • meh says:

      for ‘n’ x’s there are 9 choose ‘n’ cards.

    • littskad says:

      You can use the Lemma that is not Burnside’s to count the number of cards.

      Although there are 512 cards if you can tell which way is up on each card, we can take symmetries into account to get that:

      There are 140 different cards if each card is square and you remove cards which would be duplicates under 90 degree rotations.

      There are 272 different cards if each card is rectangular, and only 180 degree rotations would count for duplicates.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I was disappointed to click the link and find that the lemma was named for the English mathematician William Burnside. I was really, really hoping to find out that Ambrose Burnside was an accomplished mathematician in addition to his distinctions as a mediocre General in the US Civil War and as a pioneer of facial hair styling.

  24. sunnydestroy says:

    For all those interested in finance/investing:

    AQR Capital, a major quant heavy investing firm, says value stocks are looking cheap and overlooked right now.

    • metacelsus says:

      What’s a “value stock”?

      • DragonMilk says:

        Classically, when the market price vs. the book value ratio is low, usually also accompanied by positive cash flow/net income, or low price to earnings ratio.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Unfortunately, I’ve been in value since 2011…

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I have a very hard time putting any stock (get it?) in a historical model, because this bull market is very different than the others for a couple reasons that most analysts seem to resolutely ignore.

      First, this has been a long, slow, very gradually rising bull market. Most bull markets are largely driven by some big positive moves. This one has mostly slowly crept up, with some near-10% downward moves mixed in. The result of this is that the leading sectors and leading stocks are not the high-flying “risky” tech stocks, or financials or real estate or some other bubble-driven sector, but instead, many of the most overpriced stocks are the “safe” boring old consumer and industrial stocks. P&G, J&J, Clorox, etc. This is because there has been an absence of anything approaching euphoria for a long time, in spite of the fact that we are – historically speaking – in the late stages of a bull market. What has instead happened is that there is a small move up, then the market gets skittish and rushes into the “safe” stocks. Lather, rinse, repeat. The market has truly climbed a wall of worry, and for a long period of time. I believe this has also contributed to small caps and value stocks lagging the market for longer than is usual. This is all very odd.

      Second, the whole idea of looking at PE ratios for the market as a whole is profoundly tired and lazy. When the economy was driven by heavy industry, and capital investment was high, we had a certain way of evaluating companies. Now we are largely service-driven. Moreover, technologies like software – which sport companies that are usually extraordinarily low on capital investment, which allows them to potentially grow very quickly, and typically have very high gross margins – are a large part of the economy. Finally, we have a worldwide economy now, so TAMs are often gigantic compared to the past. Thus, balance sheets of individual companies necessarily look a lot different now, their capacities for growth are different, and their valuations, done properly, are not the same as before. Many companies have negative FCF, and negative earnings, but are growing at 50% or more. We can disagree on how to value such companies, but clearly they have ample positive value, but are moving market-wide metrics in a way that we have not seen before.

  25. proyas says:

    “Biological technology” is a common sci-fi trope, and is used to emphasize the “alien-ness” of aliens. Instead of having a division between mechanical technology and biological life forms like we do, an alien species will have “organic technology.” Typically this allows them to do things like rapidly heal their damaged space ships or bodies, or to directly interface their minds with their technology, removing the need to input data or commands by pushing buttons.

    Is there any reason to think biological technology will actually hold any advantages over nonbiological technology?

    • Rapid healing of ones body is obviously advantageous. For the spaceships, self-healing requires an organism to turn resources from elsewhere into new cells, if your spaceship is in deep space, you can’t cut it in two and expect two spaceships to appear the way you can cut up a worm. It would have to self-heal by moving stuff from one part of the spaceship to another. While aliens may take inspiration from biological systems, they have a lot of redundancies they’d want to eliminate. So the ship wouldn’t look like the aliens the way it does in sci-fi, where purple aliens fly around in a purple starship. Nanomachines are a better analogy than parts of a living organism.

    • Urstoff says:

      I really don’t want to have to feed my television and then have to clean up its poop

      • CatCube says:

        I really want to see this updated gritty version of The Flintstones, now. “Wilma, the toaster peed on the floor again!”

        • MrApophenia says:

          They did a gritty comic reboot of the Flintstones a couple years ago. It’s wild. There’s a whole plot line about how Fred and Barney participated in a genocide of the Neanderthals back in their army days.

    • John Schilling says:

      I can get a body shop to rebuild a car after a pretty bad wreck in a week or two. How long does it take biology to heal a broken leg, again? The usual science-fiction version of “biological technology” is just magic plus handwaving plus the right buzzwords.

    • Protagoras says:

      None whatsoever. Biological technology is using horses instead of cars; sure, there are a lot of ways that future technology will enable improvements to horses, but absolutely no reason to think they’ll ever be preferable to cars in any but niche applications, insofar as all indications are that future cars will have improved even more. As Schilling notes, living things do not for the most part heal rapidly, organic technology doing that is SF magic. They also only heal from some kinds of injuries, they don’t regenerate any damage whatever to good as new condition. Organic technology could try to improve on that, but there’s no reason self-repair couldn’t also be implemented in mechanical technology; in admittedly very limited ways it already is. But the self-repair systems are likely to themselves be fragile, and finicky, and slow, and require resources to operate. So building things more robust to require less repair, and doing the repairs in a repair shop if they do become necessary, is and probably will always remain better for most applications. Living things don’t work that way because there isn’t an evolutionary path to repair shops.

      • proyas says:

        The advantage of horses over cars is that horses can get “fuel” nearly anywhere, and can seek it out on their own.

        • John Schilling says:

          So can cars, if we want them to and especially if we are willing to limit them to 1-2 horsepower. Wouldn’t even require much in the way of new technology; wood gasifiers were a thing in WW2, hook one of those up to a gang mower and a bit of self-driving smartness, and let your car loose on the nearest pasture.

          Though really, specialization is a thing and there’s no reason for nature to have optimized it for our benefit. Almost certainly the transportation and fuel-acquisition functions will be split between specialized systems.

          • What about the fact that horses require nothing in the way of advanced tech in the way of upkeep? You can theoretically have a pack of horses on your farm and be completely self sustaining indefinitely. If your horse “breaks”, you can use one of the offspring. Is there an equivalent for that in terms of car design, where once you get the necessary tech, you don’t have to rely on sophisticated trade networks to get the necessary parts when things break?

          • Protagoras says:

            These pro-horse replies are bizarre. Obviously, horses have some limited advantages which make them superior in certain niche applications (I did mention niche applications), but equally obviously they have been almost completely replaced as a means of getting around, for reasons that far from showing any sign of reversing themselves seem overwhelmingly likely to grow stronger with time.

          • Ketil says:

            hook one of those up to a gang mower and a bit of self-driving smartness, and let your car loose on the nearest pasture.

            Makes for more vivid imagery than paperclip optimizers, if nothing else.

          • Lambert says:

            > What about the fact that horses require nothing in the way of advanced tech in the way of upkeep?

            Have you never heard of farriery?

          • @Lambert

            Horses don’t need it in the way that cars need mechanics. People were able to ride horses before horseshoes existed.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m pretty sure the number of veterinarian-hours per passenger-mile for the horse, is higher than the number of mechanic-hours per passenger-mile for the car. And no, the veterinarian is not optional except insofar as you can demand that everyone who ride a horse do their own amateur veterinary work.

            Horses are, and always have been, about the highest-maintenance draft animals around. The idea that you can just leave one grazing in the back 40 and, whenever you need to go someplace, just hop on and ride, will get you a dead horse about as quickly as driving a car without ever changing the oil will get you a dead car. Really, y’all should be using donkeys for this hypothetical, with any horses in the system being used mostly to turn donkeys into mules.

          • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

            A horse can operate quite well given some food and a small group of people with some skill in maintaining horses.

            A car needs not only a mechanic to operate, but also a source of spare parts, which requires a very large amount of specialized workers and capital to create and manage.

            Of course, these can be amortized over many, many cars, so if you live in a civilization you don’t need to care about it much.

      • fibio says:

        no reason to think they’ll [horses] ever be preferable to cars in any but niche applications

        Funny, I’d say it’s almost the complete opposite way. The horse is the generalist, good at most things but never fantastic at any of them, while the car is the specialist, focused on getting objects from A to B.

        • Protagoras says:

          No inconsistency; it’s entirely possible for it to be the case that a generalist is only superior in niche applications, because most applications require only a narrow range of abilities.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      One thing that just occured to me is that if something is growing on its own, it might not need the same kind of access it would take to bring people or machines to build it. Not sure if this is good for anything in particular.

      A spaceship made of flesh is ultimately not very useful, but a technology that can fit into an ecosystem and function and grow by eating stuff might be of some use.

    • Incurian says:

      Tiny machines might end up resembling cells. Dunno how the metaphor holds at the macro level.

      • proyas says:

        Maybe it means that it would be useful for mechanical technology to copy some aspects of biological systems, such as cells. Your mechanical space ship made of metal might have a whole bunch of multipurpose robots inside of it of different shapes and sizes that can fix and modify themselves, each other, and the ship. If the ship were damaged, the robots could work together like ants or immune cells to rapidly fix it.

        However, it would be a bad idea to take the idea to the next level by making the ship and the robots organic instead of metal.

        • beleester says:

          There are real proposals for “self-healing concrete” containing tiny chemical capsules that break and seal cracks automatically. One can easily imagine that, if you were designing something to be self-healing in an even more hostile environment (say, space battleships), you might have the equivalent of a “circulatory system” to deliver repair materials to damaged areas, or other larger-scale biological features.

          It wouldn’t look like a biological organism, though – it would be more like the Espees in Schlock Mercenary where their skin and bones are actually made of sci-fi composites. Not something that evolved as we know it, something that’s the end result of a self-improving machine running for a few hundred years.

          • bean says:

            Warships are already self-healing to a limited extent. It’s called damage control. The corridors the DC teams run down, carrying their materials? That’s the circulatory system.

            I’d also point out that in space, the two main sources of progressive damage, fire and flood, are absent, which greatly reduces the need for damage control.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Flood is absent, but fire certainly is not; there was a 1997 fire on Mir, for instance. I’m not sure how it would work on a warship, whether or not sealing-off and venting fire areas would be sufficient or whether there would be too many materials that could burn in the absence of oxygen.

          • Incurian says:

            “Well, the good news is that once the oxygen ran out, it stopped the fire from spreading. The bad news is all our oxygen ran out.”

    • proyas says:

      BTW, I can imagine a narrow application where something like this would be useful. If you had an implant in your brain that let you mentally interface with computers around you through WiFi, it could help since you’d always have some means of communication even if you lost your smartphone or if there weren’t any video displays or keyboards around you. (Yes, this isn’t exactly the same as the “biological technology” I was describing in my OP.)

      If your brain implant has been forcefully removed, then it probably means you’re dead, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Colonization, or anything that’s remote and could benefit from multiplication and independence. Mechanical technology usually need a heavily industrialized foundation. You can print mechanical parts, but I predict you’ll hit hard limits on what you can build pretty early, and you still need a finite stock of electronics.

      In this respect Alien was pretty realistic. Send a bunch of eggs, wait a few decades, have a new planet terraformed/conquered.

      • Protagoras says:

        Bah. Industrial operations are large scale much more because they’re more efficient that way than because it’s the only way to do things. I see no basis for your prediction of “hard limits” on what can be done with small scale stuff like printing. Anyway for colonization specifically you really want the efficiency, so you want to find a way to set up large scale industrial operations, not a way to bypass them.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          How do you make a pen on Mars from raw materials? Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that you need a regular pen, not a pen-like instrument. How do you print a spring? paint? ink? how do you bore the channel where ink flows?

          And I don’t really see the need for efficiency in colonization – if we could make biological agents that use Mars raw materials to reproduce, exponential growth makes the actual growth rate almost irrelevant.

          • Lambert says:

            Hand forge a length of wire from some billet.
            Heat and wind around a rod to make the spring.
            Heat treat.
            Make body using lathe.
            Build spherical centreless grinding machine in shop, centreless grind rollerball.
            Synthesize azide ink from carbon/hydrocarbons of some kind and ammonia.

          • Protagoras says:

            Your biological agents also need to be able to survive on what’s available on Mars, and if you’re using them to terraform they need to be able to survive the changing conditions they themselves create. The task of designing such a lifeform seems challenging, and much more challenging to make one which will do the job quickly. As a result, my money is still on the task of figuring out how to establish an industrial base and get exponential economic growth going being easier (not easy, of course, just easier).

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Lambert @Protagoras

            Question was of potential advantages. I admit the difficulty is high right now – though there are quite a lot of unknown unknowns, and it’s hard to tell if over 50-100 years bio or mechanical will hold the advantage for this type of application.

            But the key in my point is how likely it is that you’ll need an exact replica of a pen, vs “any writing ustensil”. With mechanical tech you don’t really do approximations – for large scale industrialization, a truck part is a truck part, and trying to make do with ad hoc replacements means basically redesigning what an industrial base means. More often than not you’ll need earth-standard-parts – not because they’re the best solution on mars, but because replacing them means tweaking something else, and in the end you’re left with redesigning everything from scratch.

            I’m not talking about making a pen per se – Lamber’s answer is pretty good with that. I’m saying most parts will need to have an improvised alternate process for building them, while on earth this process is called “looking for a supplier”.

            Biology is much more forgiving at this level. Given advances that don’t exist yet, you engineer a set of organisms that create an atmosphere-producing ecology. You probably end up needing a few dozen species, most of them bacteria and lichen. For actual landscape modifications you might build lichen eating moles with the instinct of burrowing tunnels in a certain pattern. Future-tech, sure, but the complexity you’re dealing with seems to be somewhat more contained.

      • John Schilling says:

        You can print mechanical parts, but I predict you’ll hit hard limits on what you can build pretty early

        You’ll hit limits on what you can grow even earlier. Try growing something with a wheel or a rotating shaft, for example. One of the most basic, awesomely useful mechanical technologies, and biology basically can’t do it. And you can say that biology does legs which are a perfectly good substitute for wheels because mumble something I need an excuse to turn down this guy challenging me to a foot race where he gets a bicycle.

        You can find biological hacks around most of the limitations of biology, but that’s like saying you can find mechanical hacks around the limitations of 3-D printing. With 3-D printing, people can articulate the advantages that might sometimes be worth those disadvantages. With “biotech”, it’s mostly handwaving about how biology does everything all by itself, pay no attention to the pissed-off farmers and veterinarians and whatnot whose skilled trades you have just implicitly devalued.

    • fibio says:

      I can think of three specific reasons and one general umbrella reason. To start with the specifics.

      1) No builder knowledge required. Biology is fantastic in that, for most of human history, it was capable of producing the most powerful and flexible computer system using nothing but a pair of monkeys and some peanuts. If you don’t know how to build a car, or don’t have the resources to build a car, it is a fantastic thing to be able to get a new ‘car’ (or horse, or whatever biological machine you’re using instead) just by leaving two together in a room and waiting. If you do know how to build a car then the biological option is by far the slowest way of getting something to take you from A to B. Case in point, the 20th century and the incredibly rapid shift from horsepower transport to combustion powered transport.

      Complete aside but I now need to go off and write a story about an alien species putting their battleship out to stud. Is that weird?

      2) Redundancy and repair. Biological systems are, almost universally, specialized towards continuing to function regardless of what you throw at them. There are some obvious exceptions, for example a horse going lame from a broken leg, but for the most part if you injure your ride it’ll be better in a few weeks to months. If you destroy a tire or axle in a car you have to replace it. Great if you have the replacement to hand, crippling if you don’t or don’t even know how to replace it.

      This ease of use also extends to the inputs, a biological system is capable of producing its own fuel and materials from stuff you find just lying around, but at a fraction of the efficiency of a dedicated production line. Awful if you have that infrastructure but fantastic if you don’t. There’s probably also a benefit that your organic technology is probably edible in a pinch, but that’s another catastrophe only benefit.

      3) Flexibility. Biological systems are adaptable within their niche and are even capable of limited problem solving, brain or no brain. There are many stories of people being injured in the saddle and being saved by dint of their horse knowing the route home, or by their dog being smart enough to go and get help in a crisis. To bang the drum, this is pretty useless when you’re using a system to do something predictable and repetitive, but a big advantage when off the edge of the map.

      Altogether these point to a big general advantage which is catastrophe proofing a civilization. If you don’t have the roads, the tools or the fuel then a car will barely get you over the horizon while horses have been known to take people across Eurasia and back. If you do have all those things you’d be better using a car.

    • Garrett says:

      On the large-scale, mind/computer interfaces might be useful in cases where we don’t yet have a good way to automate a process which requires fast response. Or as a way of facilitating input in 0g or maneuvering.

      On the small-scale, the emergent properties of biology are fascinating and you might imagine that future computers are powered by neurons-in-a-box. We’re currently genetically engineering yeast to make insulin in vats for medical purposes. I can see a bunch of “biology does it better than metal” approaches, but that’s very application-specific.

      • albatross11 says:

        In some sense, that’s taking biological systems and using them as components in an industrial process–engineered yeast making some protein we need, growing copies of a vaccine strain of influenza in eggs, industrial fermentation processes for making ethanol, etc. It’s quite likely that we’ll continue doing this, and maybe expand it as our command of biology grows. In some sense, this is kind-of what factory farms look like, too.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The most likely advantage I see to a seamless fusion of biology with technology is that you can scare the hell out of neighboring sentient races.

  26. Reading Caplan’s Open Borders, I decided to go back and look at the origin of the “double world GDP” claim. The study cites four different papers with estimates of a 67-147.3% increase in world GDP. Taking the most recent one by Klein and Ventura, I’ll just quote the following:

    This paper deals with the long-run consequences of Total Factor Productivity (TFP) differences for the optimal allocation of factors of production across locations. We ask: in the presence of TFP differences, what would the world’s distribution of the labor force be in the long run if labor and capital were allocated optimally across locations? What does such an efficient allocation imply for world output and other variables? We provide answers to
    these questions at two levels. First, we analytically derive the implications for labor movements and capital accumulation of TFP differences in a two location, one-sector growth model in a number of cases. Second, we assess
    the quantitative implications of efficient allocations in such a model. We find that even moderate differences in TFP lead to large effects on the optimal location of labor, as well as sizeable increases in total (world) output, capital
    and its division across locations.

    {Snip}

    It is perhaps worth stressing that we take TFP differences as exogenous. We do not take a stand here on the origins of these differences; rather, we take the view that our results are robust to several possible origins. In particular, it should be clear that our results remain valid if TFP differences arise from barriers to technology adoption, poor protection of property rights, inefficient regulation or, generally speaking, bad institutions. There is one important
    caveat to this, however. It could be possible that, under the correct theory of the origins of TFP, large movements of workers, as the ones emerging in our analysis, have an impact on TFP in either or both locations. We ignore this potential effect here. Taking this effect into account would require an appropriate theory of the origins of TFP, and we are not aware of one.

    The last sentence is hilarious especially given the fact that it follows “poor protection of property rights, inefficient regulation or, generally speaking, bad institutions.”

    • Clutzy says:

      So the model assumes extremely high rates of assimilation?

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        More that whatever mystery variable[s] that cause high productivity in one area of the world doesn’t change through massive transfers of population. Talking about assimilation makes certain implicit assumptions about the cause.

        • Ketil says:

          I’m not sure what the controversy is – are you implying that the causes of differences may be inherent to the people, rather than caused by societal or governmental properties?

          I think there is a lot of evidence that people moving from $(poor country) to $(rich country) tend to get better off than those remaining behind, and that people of the same genetic material perform vastly different under different regimes (East/West Germany, South/North Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan vs PRC, and so on).

          And market forces/greed would make people move in the direction of opportunity, as if handed the tickets by an invisible hand.

          • Clutzy says:

            I think the point is that by focusing on those things you are simply pointing out a free-rider problem, but doing so positively. If you aren’t making the economic and political structures better, you are just benefiting from them, not really contributing.

            This is like the old Connecticut complaint of people moving there from New York for the lower taxes, only for those people to vote for higher taxes in Connecticut.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I didn’t use the word controversy. All i said was, the authors assume that whatever factor explains differences in productivity between regions is not affected by shifting billions of people around the planet. Making people from low productivity regions of the world supermajorities eveywhere will have no negative effects on productivity anywhere, for any reason.

            For example you *could* chalk high productivity 100% to example, “legal System” and even more so that collective genetic tendencies has no effect on productivity and no effect on influencing variables that influence productivity. But if you live under a more “corrupt” or dysfunctional system you are more likely to tacticly or actively support bringing such a system along with you. That support isn’t normally felt at the standard pace of migration but would be if you’re talking about tens of millions across all nations in a very short span of time.

            My own model of explaining productivity which is obviously not shared by the author would be something like: Basket of laws + Basket of behavioural genetic tendencies + interaction between the prior two.

            You need to explain things like east-west germany and north-south korea where a legal system was imposed and you have a natural experiment where behavioral genetics were controlled for (basket of laws)

            Then you need to explain the opposite, why communities of distinct ethnic groups within a country that has roughly similar laws can result in vastly different qualities of life for those communities. (your behavioral variable )

            Lastly you also need to explain why western legal systems simply don’t “take” easily in certain parts of the world unless they are imposed from the outside or dictatorially (Your interaction term)

            (obviously each of the 3 ‘variables’ would likely be a combination of several smaller variables.

          • albatross11 says:

            Clutzy:

            I think culture and to some extent even instutitions/governance structures are non-rivalrous. When a Nigerian economist and a Chinese engineer and an Indian doctor come to the US, they benefit from our culture and institutions, but they don’t deplete them. Indeed, we’re almost certainly gaining a lot from their presence, since they’re now here doing their work as part of *our* economy and society. This seems like almost the definition of a win-win transaction.

            There are some limits there–if a billion Chinese all show up tomorrow, our culture and institutions will be swamped[1]. But for anything like current rates of immigration, I don’t think that’s a major problem. At least, I’d like to see evidence that it’s a major problem before accepting the claim.

            [1] This is one reason I’m not convinced by the open-borders arguments.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross11: Indeed, we benefit from controlled immigration each time one of those highly-educated immigrants takes a job within our borders (the wage-depressing effect of increasing supply is swamped in utility by being able to increase the total number of jobs above what our institutions can even supply that day).
            This is pretty much unrelated to open borders, which would attract low-productivity people seeking benefits.

          • Clutzy says:

            There are some limits there–if a billion Chinese all show up tomorrow, our culture and institutions will be swamped[1]. But for anything like current rates of immigration, I don’t think that’s a major problem. At least, I’d like to see evidence that it’s a major problem before accepting the claim.

            A decent steelman for current rates of immigration is in scott’s old reactionary explainer, or for a favorable view of it see the book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority.” I’ve warmed to this view over the years.

          • This is pretty much unrelated to open borders, which would attract low-productivity people seeking benefits.

            Does Caplan assume that immigrants to rich countries are eligible for welfare?

            If not, then low productivity people are also a gain for the rest of us, along standard comparative advantage lines. Possibly more of a gain than the high productivity people, lots of which we already have.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Depends on how widely you define welfare. What’s the cost to all levels of government to support one immigrant family that’s not on welfare? Schools, municipal services, etc? Any household that pays less in taxes than costs they impose is a net negative for taxpayers, even if it’s not due to what we call welfare.

          • Any household that pays less in taxes than costs they impose is a net negative for taxpayers, even if it’s not due to what we call welfare.

            Correct on the tax/govt expenditure part of the interaction, but the household still might provide net benefits due to gains from trade.

            Also, if the immigrants do not qualify for welfare, they are paying for something they are not getting, so if they were average they would be a net positive. That means they can be some distance below average in income (hence tax payments) and still not net negative.

          • Clutzy says:

            Does Caplan assume that immigrants to rich countries are eligible for welfare?

            If not, then low productivity people are also a gain for the rest of us, along standard comparative advantage lines. Possibly more of a gain than the high productivity people, lots of which we already have.

            He does assume they will not get welfare (although he skirts around the important point of natural born citizens and households in general). But I don’t think its a rational position to assume that is a politically stable environment. Maintaining that large of an underclass would be like managing the slave populations in the antebellum south x10.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Correct on the tax/govt expenditure part of the interaction, but the household still might provide net benefits due to gains from trade.

            They might, but they might not. And those gains might go to other people; their employers is likely get the lions share of the gains (other than the gains to themselves) while their neighbors get the lions share of the losses.

            (and as Clutzy points out, you can’t deny them welfare; you’ll have political ads featuring cute-but-pitiful crying Hispanic baby girls as soon as the policy goes into effect if not sooner, and that’ll be the end of that)

          • albatross11 says:

            There are public services we can’t reasonably deny them–particularly public education (unless we want a permanent class of uneducated helots) and emergency medical assistance (unless we want losing your papers to mean the hospital won’t treat your heart attack). There are other public services whose benefit is largely in having them available to everyone in your society–making sure nobody in my community is literally starving has a lot more value than making sure that only the noncitizens in my society aren’t starving. Some public health measures (widespread vaccinations, a lot of hygiene requirements) lose much of their benefit when they leave a big chunk of the population out.

          • BlueSam says:

            About the fiscal effects of immigration, the arguments in the book rely mostly on this report from the National Academy of Sciences:

            https://d279m997dpfwgl.cloudfront.net/wp/2016/09/0922_immigrant-economics-full-report.pdf

            He focuses on the long-run net fiscal cost of immigrants, considering discounted costs and contributions of their children, grandchildren, etc, considering they will be citizens. They find that immigrants in general are net contributors. If you breakdown their demographics, older immigrants (>65 if I recall correctly) are costlier than younger immigrants, and low skilled immigrants are costlier than high skilled immigrants. Combining these effects, only immigrants who are both older AND low-skilled are a net fiscal cost.

            Of course, this study is based on the current immigrants and the current welfare system.

    • teneditica says:

      You must laugh a lot if you find everything you read that makes some simplifying assumptions hilarious.

    • Caplan believes in a modified form of Magic Dirt Theory, so it’s not surprising he would uncritically accept this argument.

  27. An Fírinne says:

    I was curious what response anti-communists would make to the idea of Fully Automated Luxury Communism which would seem to dispel all historically-rooted and human nature anti-communist arguments.

    • Statismagician says:

      Who’s going to fix your robot when the neighborhood network hits a spool space error?

    • EchoChaos says:

      We already live in it and it hasn’t changed human nature a bit.

      There are, to a close approximation, zero people in the United States who die because of unpreventable starvation or lack of emergency healthcare.

      We have a degree of wealth amongst our poorest citizens that would boggle the minds of the poor or even the middle class merely a hundred years ago.

      If you want to live without working on some form of welfare for your entire life, that’s possible. In some places in the American South close to a majority of the county is living on Social Security Disability.

      • metacelsus says:

        There are, to a close approximation, zero people in the United States who die because of unpreventable starvation or lack of emergency healthcare.

        Really? Especially for lack of emergency healthcare. I’m sure people in rural areas where the nearest hospital is a 2-hour drive away would beg to differ.

        • Garrett says:

          For people who aren’t near a hospital, we have ambulances. They are surprisingly effective at caring for people between where they are and the hospital (yes, yes, I’m ignoring some studies, whatever). They are certainly able to make the trek and can perform life-saving and life-sustaining medical interventions on-board.

          And my experience in the suburbs and exurbs is that a good number of people who phone for an ambulance don’t actually need an ambulance. No idea if that carries across to deep rural areas, though.

      • MrApophenia says:

        I think you’re underestimating just how poor the poor in America actually are. The UN did a report on this in 2017 and found that about 5 million Americans live in poverty equivalent to the poor in the third world.

        America is unusual in that a smaller portion of the population are in deep poverty than in most of history or in many other countries, but we absolutely do have real poverty.

    • If you have robots doing all the labor, and making all the capital-allocation decisions, then human property is just passive capital and there’s no disincentive to seize and redistribute it so long as you are confident none of it can be hidden from the authorities.

      I don’t see how this should change our view of our own political system, if that’s what they’re getting at. I had heard of the phrase, but didn’t know anyone took it that seriously.

    • Lambert says:

      *fully automated luxury gay space communism

    • Nornagest says:

      My first inclination is to dismiss it as a stupid Internet meme, and that’s my second, third, and fourth inclination too, but it does have a non-meme and at least somewhat less stupid backing in so-called post-scarcity economics. Which is, of course, impractical now or anytime soon, unless MIRI’s right and a benevolent AI god is right around the corner. But let’s just take it as given that all material goods are too cheap to meter. Then what?

      Well, there’s a couple of important areas that we can’t get around: services and real estate. Services because tasks involving human interaction can only be performed by a human, and real estate because even if you can make habitats for free, their actual value is going to be determined by proximity to the stuff people care about (meaning, mainly, other people) — even now you can get land in places no one cares about for just this side of free. Which means we still have inequality (even if the only skills that matter are people skills, some people are going to be better at doing people stuff), and we still have scarce resources after all. So we still need an economic system, and human status instincts still matter, and waving our hands and giving it a cutesy name doesn’t actually solve any problems.

      There’s also the question of how we get there from here.

      • a benevolent AI god is right around the corner. But let’s just take it as given that all material goods are too cheap to meter. Then what?

        If that ever happens, it will surely be temporary, as population growth will lead to an eventual return to scarcity.

        • albatross11 says:

          The wealthiest societies (mostly) currently have negative population growth,so it’s not at all clear that vast wealth available to all will lead to exponential population growth to the point that the robots/AI can’t support us all. The iron law of wages hasn’t actually been a good description of reality for the last couple centuries.

          • And the personality types that lead to that behavior are being selected out of the population. This is basic natural selection.

          • Well... says:

            How well does the heritable part of “personality type” predict how many kids you’ll have? It seems like there’s lots of other factors at play, otherwise it begs the question of why there are any “won’t have kids” personality types around when they should have been naturally selected against by evolution.

          • How well does the heritable part of “personality type” predict how many kids you’ll have?

            Heritability estimates are around .2-.4

            It seems like there’s lots of other factors at play, otherwise it begs the question of why there are any “won’t have kids” personality types around when they should have been naturally selected against by evolution.

            This treats “having kids” as a behavior that should be constant across cultures, when it clearly isn’t, the people who are having 1.5 kids are descended from those who had 7.0 kids in their ancestral culture.

          • Statismagician says:

            @Alexander Turok – source, please? This seems very susceptible to confounding.

          • In modern populations it tends to be estimated in the range of 0.2 to 0.4

            https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513817302799

          • Statismagician says:

            I can’t help but notice that the paper that article says proves fertility is meaningfully heritable in modern populations actually says “the environment has achieved an evolutionary override;” while I’m not an evolutionary biologist, I think this may be one of those cases where the authors let their own theory get away from them.

            Also their estimate is derived by splitting the difference between a 1930s paper and a few Danish ones from 1999-2001, which (especially in genetics) is a really weird thing to do while claiming modern worldwide generalizability.

        • Nick says:

          Silly, that’s what overbearing birth control campaigns are for.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        let’s just take it as given that all material goods are too cheap to meter. Then what?

        Well, there’s a couple of important areas that we can’t get around: services and real estate.

        You’re correct, and I feel like your argument has been around ever since the day after Drexler et al started predicting nanotech manufacturing. “OK, let’s assume factories are replaced by nanobots that can turn any carbon into diamond houses. But real estate would be scarce, as would people skills…”
        So rather than gay space communism, you’d have fully automated feudalism. All capital is too cheap to price except human capital, and land is the most important thing.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      We’ve been here before, but previous times our slaves were made of meat and not out of metal.

    • Viliam says:

      The “fully automated luxury” part sounds good; I see a problem with the “communism” part. Does it mean no freedom of speech, and millions tortured and killed for crazy reasons? You know, just like any other communism before. Only now the extermination camps would also be fully automated, of course.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Communism has to do with abolished wealth inequality and class hierarchy. It has nothing to do with totalitarianism. It makes no sense to tie communism to totalitarianism due to historical totalitarianism anymore then it makes sense to tie totalitarianism to capitalism due to past totalitarianism (Nazi Germany, Chile and Fascist Italy becoming prominent examples)

        • cassander says:

          >It has nothing to do with totalitarianism.

          you know, except for that little bit about establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and liquidating the bourgeoisie. And the fact that every single communist power that ever came to power set up a totalitarian state that killed more people than pinochet ever dreamed of doing. But sure, if you ignore theory and practice, communism has nothing to do totalitarianism

          • albatross11 says:

            How is it different from luxury gay space fascism?

          • An Fírinne says:

            you know, except for that little bit about establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and liquidating the bourgeoisie.

            Dictatorship in the sense of the phrase above is not meant in the conventional sense of the word in the year of 2019. Dictatorship is just a fancy way of saying social ownership of the means of production.

            And the fact that every single communist power that ever came to power set up a totalitarian state that killed more people than pinochet ever dreamed of doing

            Well putting aside the fact that you’re acting like Marxist Leninists are the only ones who have came to power (patently false), you are still wrong. Communists are a diverse body ranging from anarchists to libertarian socialists to democratic socialists to Leninists. Leninism back in the days of the Cold War was the most popular Marxist form. So is it any surprise most were totalitarian? Not really.

          • cassander says:

            Dictatorship in the sense of the phrase above is not meant in the conventional sense of the word in the year of 2019. Dictatorship is just a fancy way of saying social ownership of the means of production.

            No, it isn’t. It’s the absolute rule of one segment of society (the proles) over everyone else utterly unrestrained by law or custom. Shockingly, this theory tends to result in abuse of power.

            . Communists are a diverse body ranging from anarchists to libertarian socialists to democratic socialists to Leninists.

            No, they aren’t. Marx, who must be regarded as something of an authority on Communism, spent his life campaigning to drive the democrats out of the movement and largely succeeded. There is nothing in Lenin that contradicts Marx. The only difference is lenin didn’t bother hiding his lust for violence and marx usually did.

            As for the idea that one can be both an anarchist and a supporter of communal ownership of everything that matters, well, people are welcome to declare themselves in favor of square circles and dry water if they want, but I’m not obligated to take them seriously.

          • Clutzy says:

            social ownership of the means of production.

            Enforcement of this, however, is where the trick is. The transition to social ownership seems to inevitably involve violence. Then afterwards it seems to inevitably cause a deterioration of the means of production.

            And I know that there are theoretical discussions of how this could all be done peacefully and openly, but they always come off to me as special pleadings. That is because if humans acted in the way they are supposed to in these scenarios, a capitalist system would actually no longer have most, or all, of the flaws that socialists point out about it.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @cassander

            No, it isn’t. It’s the absolute rule of one segment of society (the proles) over everyone else utterly unrestrained by law or custom. Shockingly, this theory tends to result in abuse of power.

            I don’t mean this to offend or insutl but you really know nothing about communism. Communism intends to abolish the proletariat class. We don’t want proles. We just want human beings. No nonsense categories like proletarian would be allowed.

            No, they aren’t. Marx, who must be regarded as something of an authority on Communism, spent his life campaigning to drive the democrats out of the movement and largely succeeded. There is nothing in Lenin that contradicts Marx. The only difference is lenin didn’t bother hiding his lust for violence and marx usually did.

            Even if true, Marxists are not religious worshippers of Marx. Marxism has a rich, varied and contrasting history. Google Marxist revisionism for instance.

            Not all communists are Marxists btw. A fact you once again ignore.

            As for the idea that one can be both an anarchist and a supporter of communal ownership of everything that matters, well, people are welcome to declare themselves in favor of square circles and dry water if they want, but I’m not obligated to take them seriously.

            So how do you explain the occurance of anarchist communism in the manifestation of the Free Territory of Ukraine and the Korean Peoples Association?

          • cassander says:

            I don’t mean this to offend or insutl but you really know nothing about communism. Communism intends to abolish the proletariat class. We don’t want proles. We just want human beings. No nonsense categories like proletarian would be allowed.

            You don’t want to abolish the proles, you want to liquidate the non-proles. It is, after all, the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the dictatorship of everyone.

            Even if true, Marxists are not religious worshippers of Marx.

            In practice, they seem to be. They certainly have sacrificed an awful lot of people in his name.

            Marxism has a rich, varied and contrasting history. Google Marxist revisionism for instance.

            If you want to abandon marx, fine, feel free to do so. but if you don’t drop the name, then you can’t get mad when I point out the crimes committed in it. You don’t let Nazis say “Oh, sure, I’m a Nazi, but I’ve got nothing to do with that Hitler fellow.”

            So how do you explain the occurance of anarchist communism in the manifestation of the Free Territory of Ukraine and the Korean Peoples Association?

            Again, calling yourself a square circle doesn’t make you one. Anarchy can certainly exist. What can’t exist is anarchy (the absence of monopoly providers of violence) and a community entity powerful enough to own everything worth owning. Such an entity, almost by definition, is going to be powerful enough to be a monopoly provider of violence. The Ukraine Free State didn’t feed its army on donated food.

            Socialism or anarchy, you can have one or the other, but not both. At least not for any group of people much above the dunbar limit.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            An Fírinne,
            With respect, what do you know about communism? Have you lived in a communist (should be: communist-aspiring, for reasons stated elsewhere) country? I have.

            And please don’t “no true Scotsman” this, because it really isn’t fitting a serious conversation.

            No nonsense categories like proletarian would be allowed.

            That doesn’t sound like any version of real-world communism I’m familiar with. The dissolution of class postulated by Marx simply means that if everyone’s part of the working class, which happens to also own and control the means of production, then the term “proletarian” stops making sense.

            This does not, however, mean that the semantics of “proletarian” somehow disappear. If nothing else, you still have the potential distinction between the working and idle class.

            Dictatorship is just a fancy way of saying social ownership of the means of production.

            I think you’ll find that this isn’t, in fact, the case.

            “Ownership” is an overrated concept. What really matters is who gets to control the means of production.

            Let’s assume that society does indeed own all the means of production (been there, done that, T-shirts ran out). You still need to decide what gets produced and how it gets distributed.

            Now, even in a moderately-sized country – couple of tens of millions of people – you clearly can’t ask everyone their opinion about every single facet of day-to-day production and distribution, ‘coz you’d never get anything done.

            Instead, you must have someone in charge who’s job – and sole job – is to make those decisions.

            The standard answer is that it shall be the job of the elected representatives of the people. Except, we probably should limit electable people to just members of the Vanguard Party, because if you let just anyone be in charge, they might do something terrible like abolish communism and reintroduce capitalism.

            The “dictatorship” element is, therefore, built in – at least to the extent that not all views are welcome in those aspiring to have capacity for decision making.

            You might not think this to be a big deal: so what if someone doesn’t get to be the ruler?

            Actually, there’s a rather more naked form of dictatorship that is necessarily involved in communism and it stems directly from “everyone owns everything and everything is working for everyone”.

            Actually, that should be: “everyone works for everyone”.

            Under a capitalist/competition model, the allocation of the means of production – crucially, including labour – is an emergent process. Ultimately, the worker decides what work they are prepared to do and for what reward. If you can’t find workers to do the work, the work simply doesn’t get done. Employers who aren’t able to secure a sufficient workforce either downsize or go under.

            You can’t do that in a communist system.

            The central planning aspect of real-world communism is a fundamental outcome of “everyone owns everything”. You can’t go to a different supplier, because there is only one supplier. At the end of the day, the state – being the organisation that represents and serves society – is the sole decider of all economic questions.

            The economy is a complex system. Outputs in one branch of the economy depend on the outputs of other branches, which constitute its inputs. If you, as the God Emperor Enlightened Philosopher King Appointed Central Planner, determine that you need to produce x pairs of shoes, you’ll know not only how many people you need working in shoe-making, but also how much of everything else (materials, fuel, electricity, etc.) you’ll need and – therefore – how many people you’ll need working on providing those.

            I must stress: you need these people doing exactly that and not some other thing, otherwise those shoes won’t get made. It doesn’t matter if those people particularly want to do what you need them to: it must be done.

            You could try to entice them by offering disproportionate rewards for doing what you want, except:
            a. You’ll need to repeat the exact same process for everything in the economy, so everyone gets their disproportionate reward (and it is therefore no longer disproportionate),

            b. If you only offer some of your workers disproportionate rewards, your system is no longer egalitarian and you will get resentments,

            c. Offering disproportionate rewards means you need more of whatever it is you’re rewarding them with than you had originally planned, which means you need more workers engaged in producing that and you’re back where you started,

            d. Your putative workers might not be interested in whatever it is you’re willing to offer, because, e.g. the job is really shitty, or they would have to move, or they would rather spend their time doing something else.

            You still need those shoes made and you don’t have that much available in terms of positive incentives. What do you do?

            If positive incentives aren’t possible/feasible/workable, you’re left with negative incentives – which is exactly what real-world communist countries did. As a citizen of such, you were expected to get your work order – as in: a literal order to go work in a particular location – and go do it. Nobody cared if you wanted to go do that job – it need to be done and society chose you.

            ETA:

            You might try to escape these issues by postulating nobody having to do any work whatsoever (Fully Automated is what we’re talking about, after all), in which case see my other post.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @cassander

            You don’t want to abolish the proles, you want to liquidate the non-proles. It is, after all, the dictatorship of the proletariat, not the dictatorship of everyone.

            Oh so you’re a mind reader.

            If you want to abandon marx, fine, feel free to do so. but if you don’t drop the name, then you can’t get mad when I point out the crimes committed in it

            No, as I already said Marxism is a very diverse spectrum and in many instances classical Marxist thought has been abandoned. Marxists are not ideologically monolithic.

          • cassander says:

            @An Fírinne says:

            Oh so you’re a mind reader.

            No, just a reader. I’ve read marx, he’s not shy about his goals and his endorsement of terror.

            No, as I already said Marxism is a very diverse spectrum and in many instances classical Marxist thought has been abandoned. Marxists are not ideologically monolithic.

            If you’re calling yourself a marxist, you’re endorsing revolutionary violence, full stop. Marx’s core claim was that societal transition by mass violence was inevitable and beneficial. If you want to reject that claim, feel free, but then you’re no more a marxist than I am a Zoroastrian.

          • Ketil says:

            Faza says:

            You might try to escape these issues by postulating nobody having to do any work whatsoever

            Like you can get total equality of outcome by killing everybody. If you are in favor of that, nobody gets to call you a bigot.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Ketil,
            That is, hands-down, my favourite argument about utilitarianism – for it’s name, if nothing else.

        • Civilis says:

          Communism has to do with abolished wealth inequality and class hierarchy. It has nothing to do with totalitarianism.

          There’s a massive inherent contradiction in this statement. In order to abolish wealth inequality, you need to define equality, which means assigning a value to everything, and then stripping that which you deem excess wealth from those that have too much. A body which can dictate the value of everything is by its very nature totalitarian, before getting to the power required to carry out the process of equalization.

          Further, the process generates a class system; whether the evaluation of value is done by politicians or bureaucrats, the people that end up deciding on what value everything has are going to be a superior class over the rest of the population (as are the people that enforce that equality). Even in a small democratic group, some people are better at politicking than others, and some people are more comfortable with using violence to enforce social norms than others, and those people will have a different experience than those who aren’t comfortable with politics or violence. The two will have a fundamentally different view on the value of a system predicated on democratic violence, thus throwing the whole equality ideal out the window. The people that advocate communism seem to come from a class that believes it will rise higher in a society where power is allocated through politics than one where power is allocated through the market.

          Second to all this, there are things even automated luxury communism can’t eliminate the scarcity of, most notably land. Even if making a house is so cheap is to be free, not everyone can have prime beachfront real estate to put their free house on. Any method of land allocation is going to generate classes of winners and losers.

        • Viliam says:

          Communism has to do with abolished wealth inequality and class hierarchy. It has nothing to do with totalitarianism.

          Apparently you never lived in a communist regime. I did. Yeah, it wasn’t the true communism, I know.

          Fascism defined itself as an opposition to both capitalism and communism.

          But even ignoring the history… the real problem is that abolishing economical scarcity doesn’t solve all problems. Even if we assume enough free energy that everyone could terraform their own planet, it is not obvious that everyone would be left alone as long as they don’t attack their neighbors’ planets. People care about what other people do, for both good and bad reasons. There would likely be laws, and a fully automated surveillance to make sure the laws are followed. The question is who would make the laws, and what would those laws be.

          What about reproduction? If the population grows exponencially, sooner or later the scarcity would return, because (assuming we can’t overcome the speed of light) available resources cannot grow exponentially to match the needs of growing population. So to keep the system sustainable, you need at least some laws to regulate reproduction.

          But the laws probably wouldn’t stop there. People enjoy making rules that other people have to follow. Having power over real people would become the scarce resource some people would fight for. It is unlikely that people with most power (i.e. those who would make the rules) would choose to give up this specific form of power, if they don’t have to. More likely, they would keep the right to define what other people can and can’t say or do, such as no blasphemy, no porn, no copyright violation, etc.

          And if it’s literally “communism”, there would be a specific ideology everyone is forced to believe. (With perfect surveillance, and probably even mind-reading.) So the list of forbidden activities would include everything that goes against the ideology.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Apparently you never lived in a communist regime. I did. Yeah, it wasn’t the true communism [link to No True Scotsman], I know.

            Not following the thread or anything, just wanted to chime in and say that this isn’t how that fallacy works.

            Here watch: “I’m a survivor of the horrors of free market capitalism in the United States. Yeah, it wasn’t “true” free market capitalism , but don’t try to clarify your meaning while I strawman you, or you are committing the no true Scotsman fallacy”

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Guy in TN,
            In this case, you may want to actually follow the thread.

            You see, upthread we have certain claims made about what communism entails being made by someone who, I suspect, has no actual experience with living in a communist, or communist-aspiring, society.

            These claims sound absolutely ridiculous to people who have, such as myself or Viliam. Bringing up the No True Scotsman fallacy is simply heading off claims that what people like us have experienced isn’t “true communism”, but some manner of “errors and distortions” – a claim, notably, made to exonerate the system by laying the blame on specific persons in charge of implementing it.

            As it turns out, the system proved itself to be broken regardless of who was in charge. People were still worse off than under Western capitalist systems. The state still used censorship and violence to suppress dissent. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was still a plain ol’ dictatorship of the Party apparatus.

            Your application of NTS to “true” free market capitalism adds absolutely nothing, because you aren’t arguing against proponents of “true” free market capitalism.

            There’s a different fallacy involved here.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Bringing up the No True Scotsman fallacy is simply heading off claims that what people like us have experienced isn’t “true communism”,

            No, no, no. Again, that’s not the fallacy. That’s just a debate over a definition.

            You don’t get to “lock down” your preferred definition by heading off any debate over it as “No True Scotsmanning”.

            For example if I say: “I’ve experienced true free market capitalism. My family was drafted to go fight in the horrors of imperialist wars overseas. Now, don’t try to tell me that wasn’t true free market capitalism, because I’ve lived it”, that would be ridiculous.

            (And “whataboutism” isn’t a fallacy, but a sign of intellectual integrity. All my heroes are Whataboutsits)

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN says:

            For example if I say: “I’ve experienced true free market capitalism. My family was drafted to go fight in the horrors of imperialist wars overseas. Now, don’t try to tell me that wasn’t true free market capitalism, because I’ve lived it”, that would be ridiculous.

            The trouble with communists and not real communism is the argument always tends to be “the USSR et al weren’t communist and never claimed to be. they merely claimed to be building to communism. we’ve never had actual communism so it’s never been tried and can’t be called a failure.”

            This is not an issue of establishing reasonable definitions, it’s an attempt to render the the failure of an ideology to achieve it’s goals as illegitimate criticism of that ideology. It’s tantamount to arguing that we can’t use the 3rd reich’s actions to evaluate naziism because hitler never got the lebensraum he wanted.

          • Guy in TN says:

            This is not an issue of establishing reasonable definitions, it’s an attempt to render the the failure of an ideology to achieve it’s goals as illegitimate criticism of that ideology.

            Then come up with another catchy fallacy name- because “No True Scotsman” ain’t it.

          • cassander says:

            @Guy in TN says:

            Then come up with another catchy fallacy name- because “No True Scotsman” ain’t it.

            that’s exactly what a no true scottsman is, defining away criticism by saying “no true communist…” It’s setting reasonable definitions that isn’t the fallacy.

          • Guy in TN says:

            that’s exactly what a no true scottsman is, defining away criticism by saying “no true communist…”

            No, it’s not. What you describe as “defining away criticism” is a debate over a definition. In order for it to be “No True Scotsmanning”, he would have to switching his definition around to suit his argumentative needs.

            Insisting on using a certain definition, even if that definition is in his argumentative favor, is not “No True Scotsmanning”.

          • Clutzy says:

            (And “whataboutism” isn’t a fallacy, but a sign of intellectual integrity. All my heroes are Whataboutsits)

            Hat tip to you. Whataboutism is just applying precedent.

          • bullseye says:

            There are two kinds of whataboutism:

            1. “My guy did a bad thing, but your guy did too and you didn’t complain. Therefore you’re a hypocrite.” That’s a solid argument; we should condemn wrongdoing on both sides.

            2. “My guy did a bad thing, but your guy did too, so what my guy did is actually ok.” We should punish the guilty, even if someone else got away with in the past. This type of whataboutism is arguing for no one in power to be punished for anything ever.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @bullseye

            I think the second kind of “whataboutism” can be valid as well. Expanding it a bit: “My guy did a thing that violated some principle you profess to hold, but I do not. Your guy did something violating the same principle, and you didn’t complain, therefore you don’t actually hold that principle and it’s OK.” Or the realpolitik version: “My guy did a thing which violated some rule you and I both wish held, and you claim does. But your guy did something violating the same rule and you made no complaint (and perhaps I did, but it was dismissed), so clearly the rule does not hold.”

            The main distinction I’d make between a valid “whataboutism” and an invalid one (given that the facts are correct) is whether it’s the same principle in both cases.

          • Clutzy says:

            2. “My guy did a bad thing, but your guy did too, so what my guy did is actually ok.” We should punish the guilty, even if someone else got away with in the past. This type of whataboutism is arguing for no one in power to be punished for anything ever.

            No, that is a straw man of that second version. Its simply demanding for the other side, which violated the law/norm first, to be convicted first.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I hate to pile on too much, but one of the more interesting things about accusations of Whataboutism, is how it gives so much more rhetorical power to the accuser vs. the accused. Use of Whataboutism is a “fallacy” in the sense that it doesn’t attempt answer the accusers original question, but this plays on our assumption that the original question was one worth asking, or even that it was answerable.

            For example, if I ask “What is two minus the color blue?” and someone’s response is “that’s a bad question”, they are committing the same underlying fallacy: Deflection, failure to answer, and an ad hominem against the question itself. The only “non-fallacious” response would be to attempt to provide an actual good-faith answer.

            In such an absurd example question, it is easy to see when committing such a fallacy is a reasonable, even ethically appropriate, response. Why we seem to forget this when the question is applied to geopolitcal topics, I’m not sure.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            Whataboutism is also a completely valid refutation of questionable claims of causation such as trying to promote one’s ideology by only ever mentioning downsides of the opposition you are guilty of yourself or promoting someone’s victim status by focusing on them experiencing universal phenomenon.

            And of course strategic concerns – there’s no point in playing nice when your opponent being naughty, if you go to war, you forfeit your right to complain about being killed.

          • John Schilling says:

            And of course strategic concerns – there’s no point in playing nice when your opponent being naughty,

            If you’re certain you can win without allies, perhaps. Really, you’re going to want to be sure you can win if the other side has all the allies, because one of the standard cognitive biases is to reach the “I’m being just as nasty as the other guy, so this is a fair fight” point at a place where everyone else thinks you’re being much worse than the other guy.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            That’s why it’s so important to regularly remind that they too are guilty.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s why it’s so important to regularly remind that they too are guilty.

            s/”they too”/”they only”, or you’ll find that it doesn’t do much to either win you allies or deny them to the other side.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think of whataboutism in terms of just trying to change the subject. How dare you talk about US war crimes when the Saudis are so much worse, how dare you talk about the cultural genocide of the Uighurs when America did worse to its natives, etc. It’s not a fallacy, it’s just an attempt to change the subject via an appeal to guilt or moral outrage.

            The other side of whataboutism is the isolated demand for rigor. It’s entirely legitimate to point out that the speaker is applying different standards of {evidence, morality} to people they like vs people they hate, or change their standards for what’s outrageous depending on who’s being judged or who’s in office. I don’t think it’s whataboutism to point out that a hell of a lot of people outraged about Trump’s cozy relations with Saudi Arabia were fine with similarly cozy relations under past Democratic presidents, nor to have pointed out the same thing when it was Republican shills attacking Obama for being too cozy with the Saudis instead of Democratic shills attacking Trump for it.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Having experienced the “wonders” of communism first hand – up to and including family members killed – I guess I sufficiently qualify as “anti-communist”.

      My response to FALC is that it is not communism in any meaningful sense. If the premise is:

      Let the robots do all the work, and let humans enjoy the fruits of their labor in equal measure.

      then what you have is a Fully Automated Leisure Class.

      Interestingly enough, the idea goes all the way back to Marx – except for the “automated” part – which is kind of important.

      There’s a reason why Marx singles out the working class as the main progressive element of society:

      In a higher phase of communist society […] labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want

      Critique of the Gotha Programme

      The slogan of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” that comes at the end of the cited passage should be understood as meaning: everyone works for the common good and everyone benefits from everyone’s work.

      With FALC, nobody works, everyone benefits. Okay, strictly speaking, nobody’s gonna stop you if you want to do some manner of work. The question is: whether it makes any sense to do so.

      Consider what Fully Automated means: machines can do everything that humans do and probably better, to boot. We’re not talking simply material production either; if we assume that intellectual production remains outside the reach of automation, we introduce a scarcity into the system and that has consequences.

      Consider the other feature: equality of participation in the fruits of society’s production. As long as machines are producing everything in abundance – and the machines don’t care about being rewarded – we’re doing fine.

      However, if there’s anything that humans produce, we run into trouble – unless we assume that humans don’t care about being rewarded either, which I don’t consider warranted.

      What happens if the productive people care about being rewarded, but aren’t? Quite likely, they’ll decide that doing anything isn’t worth the bother, given that they’ll be no better off than if they do what everyone else is doing (nothing). Would you go to work if you weren’t getting paid? I wouldn’t. I’ve got better ways of spending my time (such as SSC).

      The only way to get people that don’t see it in their interest to work under certain conditions to nevertheless do so is to force them. Funnily enough, that’s exactly what happened under real-life “communism” (strictly speaking, nobody – including the Communist Parties – claimed that the Soviet-sphere countries were actually communist, yet; they were getting there… eventually.)

      What happens if the productive people care about being rewarded and are? Suddenly you’ve introduced inequalities into a system that was meant to eliminate them. Not all people are going to be capable of being productive members of a society where machines can do the vast majority of the necessary work. You will get differences in status, if nothing else (let’s be honest: that’s probably gonna happen anyway), and you will get resentments.

      The endgame would be calls to abolish any additional rewards for the productive members of society, in order to equalize their outcomes with those of the people incapable of being productive, or unwilling to do so – which takes us back to the previous case.

      It’s also worth mentioning that the “automated” postulate necessarily entails a full shift towards machinery – that is: capital – as the main and sole means of production (well, there’s land, too, but the distinction isn’t that important even today). Therefore, a more appropriate name might be: Fully Automated Luxury Capitalism – organised on the lines of M&M Enterprises: everyone gets a share.

    • John Schilling says:

      This is not a new idea; just a new name. We used to call it “post-scarcity economics” and we still mostly think it is a nice fantasy.

      If it really means that everyone gets their very own Gulfstream G700 just by asking Alexa and having Amazon Hyperprime fly it out to the local airport, with free fuel and everyone telling Greta Thunberg to suck it because of all the robots building carbon-sequestration plants, then you might be on to something. Except that some of us want ginormous antimatter-powered relativistic starships. Can your fully automated luxury communism swing that?

      If the idea is that fully automated luxury communism is going to give everyone a nice upper-middle-class lifestyle and everyone who asks for a G700 is told to shut up and go away by the resource allocation board, then you’ve just got plain old ordinary communism with bigger ration cards. The problem with plain old ordinary communism was never that the ration was just a little bit too small.

      Also, anyone imagining that making communism fully automated and luxurious will be simplified by the fact that nobody really wants anything more than a middle-class lifestyle maybe a few ticks above that of the economics professor coming up with the idea, is dead wrong. And not the version where only a few greedy evil people hold such desires and no harm will come from bringing them low. If you really mean fully-automated luxury communism, then you need to figure out how you’re going to swing G700s for everyone.

      Also also, both plain old ordinary communism and mostly-automated limited-luxury communism absolutely are going to have an elite minority that gets to fly wherever they want in G700s, and to live in penthouse apartments have human secretaries that they can order about at will and in Weinsteinian fashion, because mumble something necessary to the interests of society. But I gather that’s supposed to be OK because they got those things by trading connections rather than filthy cash money.

      • blipnickels says:

        Also, anyone imagining that making communism fully automated and luxurious will be simplified by the fact that nobody really wants anything more than a middle-class lifestyle maybe a few ticks above that of the economics professor coming up with the idea, is dead wrong.

        This, basically. For better or worse, we’re amazingly good at constantly increasing what we want.

        Like, the actual material goods that marked middle class prosperity in the 1950’s were:
        A house
        A car
        A black-and white TV
        A phone.

        I’m pretty sure even someone on minimum wage could meet this material standard of living, as long as they were willing to live in Indianapolis or Georgia or, you know, where people in the 50’s lived. By the 50’s standards America is basically post-scarcity already but no body is satisfied with that standard of living anymore.

        • Ketil says:

          but no body is satisfied with that standard of living anymore.

          Not sure I agree. I don’t particularly want a Gulfstream G700, and while I could probably increase my income (and thus my access to luxury goods) by changing jobs, I don’t make much of an effort beyond asking for an occasional rise. So while I think we aren’t, and will never be, totally post-scarcity, but we are relatively post scarcity, and as affluence grows, we aren’t merely moving the goal post, but also diminishing their importance.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not sure I agree. I don’t particularly want a Gulfstream G700,

            But are you willing to settle for a house, a car, a black-and-white TV, and a landline phone?

            I’m pretty sure want what your (virtual) neighbors have got. You’ll be the one following your neighbors into everybody-has-a-G700 land, not leading, but you’ll get there in the end.

          • Randy M says:

            settle for a house, a car, a black-and-white TV, and a landline phone?

            “Settle” for a house? Sign me up.

          • Ketil says:

            But are you willing to settle for a house, a car, a black-and-white TV, and a landline phone?

            While I consider myself reasonably well off, I don’t own a house, a car, a TV, or a landline phone. I do have an apartment, membership in a car sharing pool, and the ability to view shows over the internet, though. The apartment is the only thing that isn’t affordable to almost everyone.

            But I have neighbors and colleagues and friends who own expensive cars, take their family on exotic vacations, or go to more fashionable and costly restaurants. I don’t envy them enough to make much of an effort to keep up.

            In short, I do think there are limits, and that the importance of material wealth diminishes. I’m sure it varies with culture and social stratum, but it’s a long time since conspicuous consumption was regarded a status symbol, and in the well-off neighborhood I used to live, the more fashionable thing to do was to buy second hand sports equipment.

            Granted, this may be an observation in my particular bubble, or it may be a trend that will reverse.

        • Randy M says:

          as long as they were willing to live in Indianapolis or Georgia or, you know, where people in the 50’s lived.

          I’m not sure this is true, if it implies what I think it does.

          A lot of small poor communities are getting smaller and poorer. Is seems to be easier to be poor/working class in a city amidst the rich than in an out of the way community.

    • Aftagley says:

      Have we already moved past the term “post scarcity?” I liked that term, please don’t replace it with one that needs to carry around communism’s baggage.

      Side note – if work became un-tethered from material goods, is there anyone else besides me who would keep working? Like, I find value in doing a job; not having to worry about paying the rent might influence what jobs I took, but I’d still work. I have literally 0 clue how I would find value in myself or fill my day if I wasn’t working towards or on something.

      • Randy M says:

        Side note – if work became un-tethered from material goods, is there anyone else besides me who would keep working?

        Surely, but I’d not be one looking to ‘get a job’.
        I’d like to think I’d be doing a lot that was useful to other people, but on my own terms and particularly for those I care about.

      • Nornagest says:

        Sure. I was doing work before I got paid for it and I’ll probably still do work after I retire. But it’s much less likely to be work that’s useful to other people, or at the very most people outside a very narrow fandom or social scene.

      • Nick says:

        I would be doing work, but it wouldn’t be work.

      • Lambert says:

        It’d probably be more like an organised hobby or charity volunteering than paid work, but yes.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        I would be doing work, but it wouldn’t be work.

        That’s a point that is probably worth expanding upon. Yes, quite a few people would probably be willing to do things that today might be classified as “work”. What we probably shouldn’t expect, however, is that they’d be doing:

        – What we want,
        – When we want it,
        – How we want it done.

        In other words, they’d be doing what they want to do and any benefit the rest of society might derive from that would probably be a secondary consideration, at best.

        • Randy M says:

          Unless you breed a more altruistic sort of person (now there’s an interesting premise) or perfect the nervious tissue modification, generally people do things for others because they get something out of it.

          What’s the point of coming over to repair a stranger’s diaper-changing drone at 3:00 am when you get your allotment of space luxury regardless?

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          The inference, I think, is inevitable: we must abolish our current society humanity and elect a better one.

        • LesHapablap says:

          There’s a few things you might earn from doing work at a company in a post-scarcity economy:
          -status
          -pride in a team effort and accomplishment
          -sense of individual accomplishment and personal growth
          -they enjoy it
          -social life

          Work might become like exercise (and working at a company would be like amateur team sports): something people used to have to do to just to survive that is now recognized as necessary to be healthy. People exercise and do team sports for all the above reasons.

          • albatross11 says:

            In the Culture stories, Banks has various volunteer organizations into which ambitious humanoids can try to gain acceptance. They seem to do useful work in those organizations, though it’s pretty clear the humanoids aren’t necessary for most stuff other than maybe being non-scary ambassadors to the non-Culture normals and trying to press them for AI and robot manumission. Being accepted into Contact (State Dept/Peace Corps), Special Circumstances (CIA), etc., is a major source of prestige. On the other hand, there’s no need for more than a tiny, tiny fraction of the humanoids to do that stuff, so its not necessary to have a major incentivization mechanism to get everyone working at useful jobs.

            There are also internal hierarchies–social, artistic, literary, games, etc. With the implicit understanding that even the best artists/composers/etc. couldn’t really compete with the top-tier AIs that run the society at anything. There’s also a mention of a tiny class of what I guess you’d call superpredictors who mysteriously seem to have intuitions/insights that are valuable to the civilization-running AIs.

            I’m not sure that’s a plausible model for a post-scarcity world, but it does sort-of make sense.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Some of the more interesting parts of the Culture series are when Banks deals with how in this FALC world, with all the wireheading etc, people are still people and they still suffer and have petty hierarchies.

            Without work the hierarchies and social life would probably get more petty with all the inherent politicking and backstabbing of life at court, which is presented occasionally in the books. As you say, who knows?

            To extend the work and exercise analogy a little further, I think few people will really work the way we work today, and the closer we get toward FALC the more the ‘work’ will be like cosplaying. People will fantasize about living back in our day when survival meant actually having to work, the days before the real restless ennui set in.

            Just as today a small portion of people go to mock ‘boot camps’ and gyms have big chains, big ropes and tires, in the future some people will go to a mock software company, put on a collared shirt and pocket protector for an hour in the afternoon and play Math Blaster or solve puzzles on an ‘old’ computer. Or a mock drilling rig where they can throw chains around pipes: whatever jobs get fetishized as ‘real work.’ You could either go at your own pace, or pay a personal trainer to act as a genuine 21st century boss.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          And yet there’s a whole lot of people who don’t exercise, at all.

          For me, personally, any upsides to exercise are completely outweighed by the downsides, so I don’t (other than walking a lot, but that’s mostly because I don’t have a car and don’t like waiting for public transport).

          Regardless, whatever your thoughts on exercise, or work, the problem remains that either someone is doing what you want/need or what they want/need. Sometimes, the two coincide, but a lot of the times they don’t.

          As long as you don’t depend on someone doing what you need done in anyway, it’s not much of an issue. As soon as it matters – you have a problem.

      • Baeraad says:

        Yes, I would keep working. In fact, I was recently offered several weeks of full sick leave for my depression – so not even a lifetime of idleness, just a few weeks extra paid vacation. I still turned it down, because sitting at home just makes me more depressed.

        And I don’t even like my job or find it especially meaningful. It’s just that idleness is dangerous, and not everyone is capable of putting themselves to work absent outside pressure.

        So yes, even if there were no financial incentives at all, I’d want to be put to work. I’d worry less about getting fired, but I’d still put in the effort.

        • Some years back, I assigned myself two hours a day of work on writing projects, seven days a week. It wasn’t for money, which is not my main incentive for writing. It was because I found that playing all of the time (which includes commenting here, playing WoW, reading fiction) left me feeling a bit stale, and two hours a day of work seemed like about enough to solve the problem.

    • Erusian says:

      dispel all historically-rooted and human nature anti-communist arguments.

      How? I don’t see how it dispels any of those.

      Anyway, some issues:
      -The calculation problem has never had a satisfactory answer and remains so devastating to Communist theory that the closest solution they’ve come up with is, “Have a bunch of robots compete capitalistically and then use the wealth that generates to sustain Communism among humans.” While a workable idea, this effectively concedes Communism is not an effective economic engine and reduces humanity to parasites.
      -Automation cannot eliminate scarcity. There will always be scarcity even in things so abundant as to be almost free like what and price mechanisms continue to make sense as a way to meter and distribute them.
      -Human wealth will increase but human expectations will increase along with it. This is the trend of history: as we get wealthier we expect bigger houses, better food, safer cars, and so on. The hedonic treadmill is very real. We could all live at maybe a 19th century level without working if we just lived off our current capital stock. Instead, we choose to have iPhones.
      -Communism does not make sense in a post-scarcity context. Economics of any sort, even Marxist, only makes sense in a scarce system.
      -Some goods cannot be automated. The article mentions having no college debt. Yet seats in a classroom, especially where the small size is part of the draw, are always going to be scarce. The professor’s attention will be scarce. We can increase the number of professors but some will be better or worse and that will continue to create scarcity.
      -Even if this is the future, it is either so far off we only need to make very limited preparations or so unexpected that we cannot make effective preparations. The day where things are so abundant we can afford all these programs and ideas with any ease is at best far off and at worst a fantasy.

      Ultimately, this is all irrelevant speculation. We are not in a scenario where FALC is possible nor is there a conceivable way for it to be possible right now. The article appears to be vaguely handwaving at the glorious utopian ends of far left policies. Notably, it makes absolutely no attempt (nor does their citation) to calculate actual costs and show how it would be possible. The closes it comes to is a work of fiction with a device that is probably physically impossible as portrayed.

      To summarize my overall thoughts on this type of stuff, I believe it was CS Lewis who said the dentist who cures one tootache has done more good in the world than all the utopian theoreticians of any party or allegiance.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      It’s not really communism if you have enslaved robots. You have just promote everyone into slave-owners and made slaves a bit more robust and obedient. I don’t think the call for debate makes any more sense than asking homophobes to make response to homosexualism being conducted between a man and a woman thus dispensing all historically-rooted anti-gay arguments. But I’d still like to voice some general concerns.

      – Widespread welfare will create population with identifiable negative value. I suppose right now there’s already welfare leeches, but it will create much wider application. Something might be needed to be done with that, either actively in form of some kind of euthanasia or passively, by withdrawing from protecting people who aren’t good for anything anyway.
      – The transition from the first batch of people who own all-purpose robots to benefiting all is not guaranteed. If the leap is significant enough, those who own access codes to production lines will have no more use for the rest of the population than they have for residents of Sentinel Island.
      – I believe people have psychological need to feel useful. Those aren’t creative enough to not be substituted by robots (If such people will exist at all and AI won’t crack the art code) will lead miserable existence. That’s actually something I always wondered about Star Trek universe. There’s space explorers and scientists and all, but they are few and population of planets is in billions. What’s it like living in Federation but not being able to cut it in as a Starfleet officer.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Ah yes, like how we’ve enslaved our cars, our hammers, our tableware, our roofs, and our socks. Such dastardly humans we are.

        • Statismagician says:

          The means of production themselves are the only proper owners of the means of production!

        • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

          All those things still requires meatbags operating them – who may be compensated or enslaved or maybe work for themselves exclusively. In robocommunism meatbags will not participate in workforce. True communism will do away with employer class which isn’t true for FALC, which would transfer everyone into employer class instead.

          In either case, it’s not a moral condemnation of automation, merely a comparison with a different system.

    • JayT says:

      I basically read this question as “if the world was perfect in exactly the way I imagine a perfect world, would my preferred style of government be perfect?”

      I just find the whole idea silly, because there is no such thing as a post-scarcity world, because there are certain things that no amount of technology will make plentiful. I like the Bay Area largely because of the mix of a big city and good weather. For me to live what I would consider a “luxurious” life, I would need to own a mansion close to downtown San Francisco. Not a really nice condo, but a huge house with a big yard where my dog can run around and my wife can garden. There are basically no other places in the US that would meet my requirements, and only a few around the world. Judging by the cost of houses that fit that description, I’m going to guess that I’m not the only one that wants that. How do you decide who gets it?

      • Aapje says:

        Exactly. Fully free labor will merely eliminate some of the scarce things, but very far from all of them.

        It’s a bit similar to how automation made some jobs far more productive, but did far less for other jobs, so we now spend much more money on the jobs that resist automation.

        Similarly, in a post-labor society, stuff that can’t be produced by labor becomes relatively more expensive. The rich people of that society will have more of that stuff.

    • proyas says:

      “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” would exist within a capitalist economic system. The human race would be akin to a trust fund baby who lives in a free luxury condo, gets a $20,000/mo allowance from daddy (AIs and human tycoons like Jeff Bezos), and has chauffers, maids and butlers to do all of his menial work. From his perspective, everything is fully automated since he has to do no work, he lives a luxurious lifestyle, and he gets all essential and intermediate-level needs met “for free” since they’re trivially cheap compared to his “income.” However, his lifestyle is only possible thanks to daddy’s capitalist enterprise, which creates wealth in the market and funnels a little bit of it to junior.

      https://www.militantfuturist.com/will-future-technologies-end-capitalism-no/

    • Communism isn’t communism unless it abolishes the institution of property rights and money. Full automation means no more human labor not no more scarcity, so choosing between different scarce uses of resources would still be important. An easy way to go forwards to that without a disruptive revolution would be to take the system of welfare capitalism we already have, and then make the welfare system universal AKA UBI.

      More importantly, “full automation” can be taken one of two ways; one is that machines will perform all wage labor including manufacturing machines, and the other is that capital allocation is also automated. If capital allocation is automated, then the government will also need to be automated to keep up and regulate the system. So at the lower level interpretation of full automation capitalists will still be producing greater or lesser value based on how they apply an automated workforce, and at the higher level the capitalists themselves are automated and in reaction also the government, and so you eventually just have a regular society only run by hyper-intelligent machines. There seems little room at any stage in this historical process to fit a stateless, classless, moneyless, society built on common ownership of the means of production.

      We could have the state allocating capital and deciding between alternate uses of an automated workforce, but I think you get something that looks like a Fully Automated Luxury Soviet Command Economy, and not end stage communism. An actually existing socialism that no longer needs to coerce workers, but still needs to decide between alternate uses of scarce resources, and still gets wrapped up in debates over whether allowing the command center to compute shadow prices is ideologically authentic, or whether going further and just putting a computer in charge of the capital allocation is taking away control from the proletariat and so on. Again it depends on how literally we interpret “fully automated”.

      If machines are under our control, then economic allocation and the whole kit and kaboodle that comes with it matters, and if machines are not under our control, then we are in fact under their control and the whole question about organizing our society gets shelved. As soon as they start thinking for us, it really becomes their society.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      1. If things are truly fully automated then humans are of no value to eachother if they don’t derive any positive social interactions. I.E. the strangers that live in another country could all be eradicated and it would only serve to increase the wealth of the remaining individuals simply because it increases their share of robots. (controlling for destructive risk of war) The marginal economic value of adding an extra human is always zero but the marginal cost is not since physical resources, time, and space are still limited even if labor doesn’t require any human input.

      2. Full automation doesn’t guaranty the kind of heavily non-egoistic behavior that’s associated with working communism. Ambition isn’t driven solely by desperation and so abolishing poverty won’t change the desire of some people to be at the top of hierarchies.

    • eigenmoon says:

      If you’re into Russian synth/techno operas, here’s one about Fully Automated Luxury Communism. In the opera USSR still exists in 2032 and has a working AI-controlled planned economy. As the AI prepares a transition to Fully Automated Luxury Communism, the Politburo realizes that nobody will need the government anymore and decides to block the transition. They insert a new axiom into the AI: humans need to work in order to fulfill their full potential and achieve maximum utility. Soon the AI figures out that the continuing existence of Fully Automated Luxury Capitalist countries is not optimal because people there don’t work.

  28. Friendly AI With Benefits says:

    Help me out. I’m looking for a short story I read recently and despite being surprisingly distinct I can’t find anything about it.
    The premise is that in the cold war giant squids were trained to hunt down Russian submarines, and now one is having a solipsistic crisis and about to kick off nuclear war. The government seeks aid from a disgraced previous trainer and the whole piece is really just a way to explain and get the reader to feel they understand a very alien mind. Thanks in advance!

  29. Statismagician says:

    Congratulations! Your report on the recent expedition to Sol-III has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Exo-Archaeological Studies of Alpha Centauri.

    We were especially intrigued by your section on the non-physical culture of the period the extinct ape-beings apparently referred to as the ‘early 2000s.’ Could you please summarize your findings and how you discovered them for an upcoming press release?

    (Prompted by a Facebook post wondering what future history books are going to make of memes.)

  30. Due to the likelihood of American taxes being increased considerably in the 2020s, I’m considering moving my money into one of Vanguard’s international stock index funds. Anyone have a reason I shouldn’t do this?

    • hls2003 says:

      I’m not an accountant, but I think it’d be pointless. The U.S. taxes on all income worldwide, so even if the fund is considered “overseas” you will still be on the hook for the income.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Looking just at taxes paid directly be the investor, this is correct. The big difference comes in corporate taxes: US-based corporations pay full US taxes on their US income andat least partial US taxes on their worldwide income. Foreign-based corporations only owe US taxes on their US-sourced income.

        So if you think US corporate income taxes in particular are going to go up while most other countries are going to keep their corporate income taxes about the same, then increasing your allocation in international stock funds is a reasonable way to place a bet on that. At least to the extent that you expect the tax change to happen more than the rest of the market expects it. [Insert standard caution about the efficient markets hypothesis here]

        Another difference that might come into play here would be if you expect something like Warren’s semi-confiscatory wealth tax to go into effect. Even though you’re almost certainly not paying the tax directly, and even though the tax is facially neutral between US and foreign assets, there’s likely to be differential effects. Stocks owned in large quantities by affected multi-millionaires and billionaires are going to go down in price by a lot, since e.g. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are going to have to sell off upwards of 6% of their holdings of Microsoft each year in order to cover their wealth tax bill, and that’s going to bid the stock price down. Assuming US-based billionaires own a larger share of the US stock market than they do of international markets, then US stocks are going to be moved more by this effect than international stocks.

    • Erusian says:

      Unless you’re planning to renounce your citizenship to avoid taxes, probably an irrelevant idea. It’s not bad: the foreign market is fine. But it doesn’t give you tax advantages. The US taxes income worldwide above a certain amount and I’m sure they’d squeeze the ex-pats if they’re going to increase taxes. If you are planning to renounce, then that’s a far bigger consideration than moving your money into an international stock index fund.

      One exception: if you think the 2020s will be a time of slow growth or economic decline/collapse, putting your money in a society you believe won’t would be a good idea. The Venezuelans with foreign assets and access to hard currency are living it up right now.

      • I’m not looking to avoid capital-gains/dividend taxes, I’m looking to avoid loss of value due to higher corporate taxes and higher labor costs.

        • Erusian says:

          If you believe that taxes are going to damage the economy, the solution would seem to be the same as if you believe anything is going to damage the economy or make the investment less desirable. Move your money to where you think you’ll get the best return.

          Of course, if you have specific ideas of what happens then it might be simpler just to move into what industries you think will benefit. For example, high taxes and especially high labor cost would tend to be a boon to the technical companies that sell to the government.

    • broblawsky says:

      The simplest way to look at this is whether you think that the rest of the world is going to grow faster than the US in the 2020s. I personally don’t think this is very likely – comparing the Vanguard Emerging Markets mutual fund (VEIEX) to the S&P 500, the S&P has managed to beat VEIEX over the last 5 years by almost 50%, and that’s with the relatively slow US economic growth we’ve seen since 2014. The time to invest in EM was ~2001; I think most of the big gains are already gone by now.

      • The simplest way to look at this is whether you think that the rest of the world is going to grow faster than the US in the 2020s.

        It’s not growth, it’s how much of that growth is likely to go to investors versus the government.

        the S&P has managed to beat VEIEX over the last 5 years by almost 50%, and that’s with the relatively slow US economic growth we’ve seen since 2014.

        This sounds to me like an argument against betting on U.S. stocks.

        • broblawsky says:

          It’s not growth, it’s how much of that growth is likely to go to investors versus the government.

          Only if you assume that the government is a money-pit that returns nothing from the resources it takes in.

          This sounds to me like an argument against betting on U.S. stocks.

          I don’t think I understand your point – the S&P gave better returns than VEIEX, even with the US growing slower than emerging markets. You’d have to assume that the US will slow down dramatically, to substantially below our current ~2% growth rate, or that emerging markets will undergo another exponential growth spurt. The former appears unlikely from past observations; the latter seems unlikely, given that global monetary policy can’t get much looser than it is now.

          • Only if you assume that the government is a money-pit that returns nothing from the resources it takes in.

            I don’t expect a lot of personal benefit from it, and to the extent that I would benefit from it, that would happen regardless of where I invest.

            I don’t think I understand your point – the S&P gave better returns than VEIEX, even with the US growing slower than emerging markets.

            What I mean is that the growth in the stock market of 2011-2019 was not backed by increases in productivity, it is likely to be a bubble waiting to deflate.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Alexander Turok

            Betting on a bubble, even an obvious one (which I don’t think the current economy is), to burst is very bad for your personal wealthy unless you’re very accurate.

            And betting that a US bubble bursting won’t hurt emerging markets even worse is pretty risky.

          • It doesn’t have to burst, just earn below average returns. The VTSMX has had 2.8% over the last year, so it’s already happening:

            https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/profile/VTSMX

          • broblawsky says:

            What I mean is that the growth in the stock market of 2011-2019 was not backed by increases in productivity, it is likely to be a bubble waiting to deflate.

            Just because there’s a financial bubble doesn’t mean there isn’t growth as well.

            Also, (epistemic status: poor) I suspect that the current bubble is in corporate bonds, not stocks. If true, one might expect the collapse of the current bubble to drive up interest rates and potentially benefit some stocks, although the market will still most likely go up on net.

        • Ketil says:

          I don’t think the wealth tax proposed by Warren or Sanders is likely to happen. But if it does, it will profoundly affect corporations where rich individuals own a large share – they may have to pay out annual dividends approximately equal to the tax rate. Might be good for investors looking for high short term returns? Alternatively, the rich owners will be forced to sell their stock at a fairly high rate, which will lower the share price. Either way, the company is likely to suffer, and will probably be a poor investment in the long run.

    • Urstoff says:

      What likelihood? Even with president Warren, I doubt there is going to be any extreme tax hike pushed through congress.

  31. ana53294 says:

    How binding would the NPVIC be once it enters legal force?

    Let’s say that in enters into force before 2020. All the states that have the legislation pending enact it. And Trump wins the popular vote but would lose the electoral college. Most of the states that form the NPVIC are very blue; would they keep the law? Would they be able to avoid giving their delegates to Trump?

    • Statismagician says:

      Hard to tell. Past interstate compacts have mostly been about economic development or unobjectionable things like child welfare – this one will, 99%-confidence, have to be sorted out by the Supreme Court and I don’t know enough about the relevant law to speculate.

    • Erusian says:

      Not very. Interstate compacts need to be approved by Congress, at which point they can have Federal force, but states would be able to leave. Even then it’s not generally an accepted way to change law or the constitution like the NPVIC would: it mostly deals with things like fishing rights or trade. (Some argue it’s not an interstate compact… but then there’s no enforcement mechanism at all, is there?) Individual states can appoint their electors any way they wish but there’s nothing stopping any state from changing that at any time.

      So yes, if the NPVIC is in effect and Trump wins a majority of the popular vote but a minority of the EC then California could just pass the Stop Russian Collusion Act of 2020 and allocate their seats to favor the Democrat. Likewise, if the compact did get Congressional approval, they could just vote to leave the Compact and allocate their electors to favor the Democrat. At best they would get sued because the Compact might have no exit mechanism (which would be highly unusual) but this wouldn’t change the outcome. The Constitution takes precedence and it says the electors pick the president and the states set who the electors are. There is no mechanism to delay the vote until after the lawsuit resolves.

      Really, if you want to have a direct popular vote, you need a Constitutional amendment. Maybe we’ll get it if the Electoral College puts a Democrat in over a Republican (which almost happened in 2004 and was a speculated outcome in 2012). Of course, that presumes the Democrats would maintain a principled anti-EC stance rather than suddenly singing paeans to the institution that gave them power. Changing major parts of the infrastructure require broad bipartisan consensus, something it doesn’t have right now.

    • Phigment says:

      My first, cynical opinion is that it wouldn’t be very binding. State mechanisms are reasonably good at fudging rules to not annoy their constituent citizenry too much, at the end of the day. See, for instance every time there’s a presidential election, and one major candidate or the other misses a filing date to get on the ballot for a primary or the actual election.

      The state officials do not shrug and say the rules are the rules, and now this primary will be Joe Biden vs. Tulsi Gabbard only because Elizabeth Warren was late with the paperwork. They make an exception and work it out, because overall it doesn’t serve many interests to decide major issues on flagrant legalism.

      So, if state X had a strong majority of voters who wanted candidate A but the national popular vote was for Candidate B, State X would, shortly, figure out a way to give electoral votes to Candidate A.

      My second, more cynical take is that the idea of California, specifically, having to assign electors against its own state-level vote means something has failed catastrophically, because the logic behind the NPVIC is explicitly that California is so large and such a political monoculture that its popular vote will overwhelm the national popular vote totals, as seen in 2016. The margin by which Donald Trump lost the national popular vote is smaller than the margin by which he lost the California popular vote.

      The whole point of the proposed compact is that it makes other, smaller states move in formation with California. For the other states to spin it around and compel California to move in formation with them would take some weird, weird events.

      • ana53294 says:

        California has around 20% of registered Republicans, or around 4.7 million people (and in elections, you usually get more voters than just the registered people). I guess quite a few California Republicans don’t bother voting because they know it wouldn’t make a difference. Wouldn’t more Californian Republicans vote if their vote counted?

        That’s the equivalent of the combined populations of Wyoming, Vermont, DC, Alaska, North and South Dakota, and Delaware, which combined have 21 electoral votes. 20% of California’s 55 electoral votes would be 11 Electoral Votes.

        I thought (in my less cynical moments) that the point of the compact was to give representation to voters who happen to be a minority in their state and thus get no electoral college votes, regardless of whether those voters are Republican or Democrat. Aren’t the protest about the unfairness of the Electoral College about the lack of representation of Texas Democrats and California Republicans?

        Though I agree that California being what it is, they are not sincere.

        • Phigment says:

          The specific vote compact being discussed though, doesn’t apportion electoral votes proportionally to popular vote share.

          It apportions them all to the winner of the national popular vote.

          This isn’t going to cause the 20% of California Republicans to get electors voting their preference, unless the Republican Party candidate wins the popular vote, in which case the 80% of California Democrats get their preferences overruled instead.

          Which seems even less fair, not more fair.

          It’s not a measure to give regional numerical minorities a share of the megaphone, it’s a measure to take the megaphone away from regional numerical majorities and give it to the regional numerical minority instead.

          • Lambert says:

            I’m not an American, so I don’t exactly know the system, but it’s not like the exact number of electoral college votes matters, is it? Only who gets the most. Winner-takes-all.

            So it’s little consolation to the people who voted for Clinton in places where the EC voted for her. Seems more important to do away with all the excessive focus on marginal states, low-population states etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            States can allocate their electoral college votes however they want. Almost all of them do it in a winner-take-all fashion, solid states because the controlling party doesn’t want to hand a few votes over to the other guys and swing states because that amplifies the state’s influence at the federal level (a swing of three to twenty-ish votes rather than one or two), but allocating proportionally isn’t unheard of.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What binds the states now?

      What stops a state from ignoring the results of its election and choosing electors as its legislature desires? In a close election, a swing state, particularly a gerrymandered state, might choose to throw out the popular vote. Indeed, in 2000 the Florida legislature threatened to do this, on the grounds that the vote was too close to call. Has any other state ever threatened this? Of course, with NPVIC, a lot more and different states would be tempted than before, because the national vote would diverge from the state vote.

      Someone advocating NPVIC once told me that there is some legal mechanism binding the legislature today, but a quick google search doesn’t find anything. I think he proposed that the NPVIC be enacted as state constitutional amendments, which would make it slow to reverse. But I think it is mainly proposed as simple law.

      • ana53294 says:

        Aren’t there state constitution rules about how to assign electors? It sounds like a thing that should exist.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Which of the 50 states is gerrymandered?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I don’t have a definitive list, but Ohio and Pennsylvania are/have been (in favor of Republicans). I believe there are states which are gerrymandered in favor of Democrats, but don’t want to expend the effort googling them.

          Both of these states have historically been swing states.

          https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/us/politics/north-carolina-gerrymandering.html

          in the Ohio House, Republicans maintained a veto-proof supermajority with a bare majority of the popular vote.

          By contrast, Pennsylvania, which voted under a new nonpartisan, court-ordered map, went from 13 Republicans and five Democrats to nine Republicans and nine Democrats. This didn’t quite match the popular vote, which broke for Democrats 55 percent to 45 percent, but the shift underscored that voting lines can matter as much as votes.

          Note that the Ohio example is the state legislature, while the Pennsylvania example is the US house.

          • Jaskologist says:

            All states are gerrymandered. This impacts the House of Representatives and various state-level houses, but not the Senate, governorships, or the presidential votes in any of the swing states.

            A few states allocate their electoral votes according to districts, but not enough for gerrymandering to have had any impact on the presidential winner in our lifetimes.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Jaskologist

            I will state that state level gerrymandering often has a fairly dramatic impact on actual vote numbers in the state, even if not in results. My brother-in-law is a conservative Republican living in Boston, so his vote is between “Democrat A” and “Democrat B” in local races. He doesn’t vote in non-gubernatorial years, because it doesn’t matter to him.

            There was a large increase in turnout for Alabama Democrats similarly in the recent special election for Senator because they finally felt like they had a chance to win for the same reason.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Jaskologist

            At various points people semi-, or completely-arbitrarily decided where to draw state borders, sometimes for gerrymandering reasons (e.g. Slave vs Free states). This indeed affects the US Senate.

          • John Schilling says:

            At various points people semi-, or completely-arbitrarily decided where to draw state borders, sometimes for gerrymandering reasons

            Could you give us some examples of state borders that you believe were drawn for gerrymandering reasons? This seems at very least to be a noncentral use of the term.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Could you give us some examples of state borders that you believe were drawn for gerrymandering reasons? This seems at very least to be a noncentral use of the term.

            I believe that the dakota territory was split into two states to get two extra republican senators, but that’s the only example I can think of, and it’s pretty marginal.

          • CatCube says:

            @cassander

            The division of the Dakota Territory occurred in 1887, and had quite a bit of precedent.

            The original territory spanned from 43°N to 49°N, or 6° of latitude tall. The southern border of Kansas was set at 37°N, which gave 12° of latitude to the Canadian border, perfect for cutting into 4 states 3° tall, as was eventually done (well, they set the border between the Dakotas at 45°55′, apparently because the northern tip of the Couteau des Praries seemed a good place for a border and it was almost exactly on the desired line).

            The Dakota territory was at this point about 7° wide, the same width as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Wyoming. That fact doesn’t directly impact the N/S split we’re discussing of course, but I point it out to show that they were circling in on some “preferred” layouts for state borders by the late 1800s, and the Dakotas as created fit perfectly into them.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @John Schilling

            An additional one would be West Virginia cut from Virginia (with the addition of this being along county lines). The margin of victory in 2014 US Senate elections between Warner (D) in Virginia is less than the margin of victory for Capito (R) in West Virginia, effectively handing the Democrats an extra two votes in the US Senate (47 – 53 versus 45 – 53, all else held equal). Back in the the day this handed the Unionists(during the Civil War)/Republicans(following the Civil war) extra votes in Congress. This would be “cracking”.

            The next day convention delegates chose Francis H. Pierpont as governor of Virginia, and elected other officers to a rival state government and two U.S. senators (Willey and Carlile) to replace secessionists before adjourning. The federal government in Washington, D.C. promptly recognized the new government and seated the two new senators.

            The annexation of Texas as a single state. This would be “packing”.

            I honestly have no clue what was happening and why with the Provinces and Colonies prior to the American Revolution, but there were a bunch of trades and cutouts happening, else we would have only had about 8 or 9 original states.

            Oh yeah, let’s not forget Washington D.C., which has three electoral votes by amendment 23.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @EchoChaos

            Indeed, there are many other ways politicians can tilt the playing field. In California, for example, they have adopted a top 2 primary system which meant that both Senate candidates were Democrats, ensuring that Republicans had no one to vote for and that they could always claim that Democratic Senators won the popular vote.

            But gerrymandering is a fairly specific term referring to drawing unnatural districts in order to give your party and edge. Plus, people who complain about voter suppression and gerrymandering don’t generally find things like California Senate thing worth noting, for some reason.

          • John Schilling says:

            An additional one would be West Virginia cut from Virginia

            Your language suggests that this was a thing that was done to Virginia, or to West Virginia. And if it had been, you might have a point. But Virginia deciding to do this to itself, at a time when Not-West Virginia clearly held to the legitimacy of secession, and had just as clearly indicated it was no longer concerned with representation in DC, is indeed a highly non-central example of gerrymandering.

            The annexation of Texas as a single state. This would be “packing”.

            This would be a sovereign nation asking to be admitted to a larger federation as a single entity under its existing borders. Also not gerrymandering, unless maybe you’re going to define the European Union as hopelessly gerrymandered for not insisting that France and Germany be broken up into sub-nations before admission. In which case, again, highly non-central.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        You’d probably have a challenge under the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause, and possibly under Article 4, section 4’s “republican form of government” clause (though SCOTUS has been loathe to overrule states using that clause).

      • Controls Freak says:

        What binds the states now?

        The Fourteenth Amendment says:

        But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States… is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

        I mentioned long ago that I think the NPVIC could be vulnerable to a Constitutional challenge. For completeness, the Article II electors clause states:

        Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…

        So, the question is, does 14A actually forbid a variety of vote dilution strategies? Clearly, the natural Schelling point is, “whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State” (adjusted by the 19th and 26th Amendments), but is it actually mandated that this is the scoping unit? I think if a case ever went to the Supremes, you’d see an argument along the lines of, “Folks aren’t being denied the right to vote. They voted, their vote was counted, and it was just put in this big pot, and they lost.” This is similar to pro-gerrymandering and other vote dilution arguments (however, anti-gerrymandering within states doesn’t have nearly the same natural Schelling point to fall back on).

        The parade of horribles that will be trotted out to counter this argument goes as follows. Well, Hillary Clinton won California by 4.2M votes. There were 300k total voters in Alaska. If a blue state gov’t took control long enough to enter in an interstate compact, pledging both Alaska/California electoral votes to the winner of the Alaska/California combined popular vote, aren’t you doing essentially the most extreme version of “cracking”, in the terminology of gerrymandering? We tend to view the extremely large Californian skew as a sort of ‘fixed block’ (this is a feature of most gerrymandering schemes and all anti-gerrymandering arguments), and reason that there is literally no way for the 300k voters in Alaska to choose whether Alaska’s electors will be red/blue. California has ensured that Alaska’s electors will be blue. Maybe this still isn’t enough to revert to the Schelling point. After all, “Their vote was counted; the state legislature just decided that the method of selection was to put the votes in a big pot with these other votes, and they lost.”

        Well, suppose Alaska’s state legislature says, “The electors will be selected in the following process. We’ll count the votes, and that candidate will be the winner unless the Board of Trustees for the University of Alaska votes unanimously for a different candidate.” All of a sudden, our really restricted readings of “denied votes” and “manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” are starting to look problematic. We were relying on a technical reading that they got to vote… and their votes got counted… they just got put through a process decided by the legislature, and they lost. And besides, their votes “could” determine the electors. I mean, the UA BoT might not be unanimous (just like Californian voters might not produce a margin of victory an order of magnitude higher than the number of total Alaskan voters). But somehow, this just feels dirtier. “Votes of Alaskan voters count for determining Alaska’s electors if Californian voters don’t disagree too strongly,” seems hard to distinguish from, “Votes of Alaskan voters count for determining Alaska’s electors if UA BoT voters don’t disagree too strongly.”

        Let’s go nuts in a different direction. Let’s think of elections for representatives. Article I, Section 2 says:

        The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states…

        Section 4 says:

        The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof

        That’s about it. One thing is that there’s no requirement for districts. I can’t wait until states realize this and just make all congressional elections statewide (/s). But also, you’d need some wild historical linguistic analysis to prevent the exact same thing from happening here. “Oh, we’re just going to enter into an interstate compact with other states, and we’ll select all of our representatives using the popular vote across the “several states” involved. Mayyyybe we start thinking that we can’t fit such ridiculous schemes into “prescribing/directing the manner” of elections. Instead, maybe we revert to the Schelling point and just say, “Look, literally every section of the Constitution we’re talking about here speaks of the ‘state’ as a natural scoping unit. We’re gonna use that scoping unit.”

        Little note: the best thing about the Seventeenth Amendment is that it fixes this problem for Senators. It explicitly says:

        The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof…

        So, you’ll have slightly more support for, “This is actually a Constitutional loophole; the fact that the 17th Amendment fixes it for Senators but not representatives/presidential electors supports that the loophole is open,” trying to counter, “Every indication of the structure of the document is pointing to the Schelling point that the correct scoping unit is the state.” Having this debate in SCOTUS isn’t quite the nightmare scenario, until you include another hypothetical I suggested before:

        Some group of states (>=270EV) decides to always align their electors with the result of the popular vote among those states.

        Every pro-NPVIC argument to this point would necessarily allow this, and strictly speaking, it’s even less voter dilution (in terms of the states involved in the compact; scoping units are f’in important), but if such a scheme were implemented, I honestly think the only result could be civil war.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yeah, I guess, but that isn’t the point. If the NPVIC is enacted, it will be determined ahead of time whether it is constitutional. Ana’s question was that if it is accepted as constitutional, then what is to stop a signatory from switching to some other also constitutional method at the last minute. I asked the same about the current system. Sure, the example I mentioned might not be constitutional, but what if Nebraska decided after the election to go with winner-take-all? Super rare that that would be tempting, but the opposite is almost what I suggested. That isolates Ana’s question in the current environment.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the NPVIC is enacted, it will be determined ahead of time whether it is constitutional.

            How? The United States presently acknowledges no clear determination of whether or not a thing is constitutional than a judicial ruling (preferably SCOTUS), and US courts do not make rulings of any kind until a person credibly claims to have been injured, past tense, by the thing under dispute.

    • Eric Rall says:

      My three big questions about it are:

      1. What happens if the popular vote winner is disputed? For example, let’s say the official certified results from each state add up to give a margin of victory of much less than half a percent (the average recount changes the election result by about 0.2%), and non-NPVIC states refuse to do recounts because 1) they know with confidence who won their states’ electoral votes so it’s not their problem, and 2) recounts cost money. Currently, any recount would be based only in states with disputed state-level outcomes.

      Or worse, consider a case where there’s serious evidence of widespread fraud, voter suppression, or large counting errors (e.g. voting machines with a bug that miscounts a large number of ballots) in one or two states, of large enough magnitude to swing the popular vote. Is there a mechanism for NPVIC states to review the legitimacy of that state’s election returns, either collectively or individually, or are they forced to accept the official tally at face value?

      2. What happens if non-NPVIC states move to a different system of choosing electors that doesn’t produce a popular vote total at all (e.g. legislative appointment) or produces a popular vote total that isn’t directly comparable to NPVIC states’ totals (e.g. approval voting or Borda count)?

      3. What if Unpledged Electors come into fashion again in non-NPVIC states? Are votes for unpledged electors counted by NPVIC states for the slate’s party (if there is one), completely disregarded, or something else?

  32. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://lithub.com/what-if-we-called-it-the-flax-age-instead-of-the-iron-age/?fbclid=IwAR1fHt85-LLvI_2YBDGV7YIBy9-Gsho3_2j-w5xVR3k7dPVK5319cWA4-io

    I’d never thought about how eras get named, but it seems like an interesting question. I don’t have a strong opinion about whether there should be a flax age or a weaving age or a ceramic age, but they probably don’t match up exactly with the stone age, bronze age, or iron age.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Assuming the title isn’t rethorical, then the answer seems fairly obvious to my non-archeologue self: because it’s a (much) less useful distinction.

      Making tools out of stone, bronze, or iron make a big difference in what can and cannot be done.. Wearing flax, wool, cotton, fur or silk is relevant for where you live, and how much efforts you have to put on your clothing, but I don’t see anything else to it.

      • Lambert says:

        Or hemp.
        Hetrodotus writes about how the Scythians on the shores of the Black Sea were massive stoners.
        They’d hotbox instead of bathing.

        Also flax rots away.
        Iron rusts, but kind of survives. Bronze and copper are fine after millenia.
        Ceramic smashes but then the shards last forever. Also it’s an easy thing to decorate in your culture’s own distinctive style. So potsherds make up like half of archaeology.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Clothes are only part of what’s done with fiber– there’s also ropes, sails, and bags.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      The first paragraph of that article is bizarre. It states a supposed problem, gives a completely reasonable explanation as to why that is the case, then inexplicably blames the patriarchy. The rest of the article is pretty interesting, but what a horrible first impression.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      First of all, the Bronze and Iron ages were named by Hesiod 2700 years ago. He was telling a story of moral decline and modern usage is, in part, an ironic reversal.

      You (and the author) seem to be saying that there is continuous technological progress and you can get different breakpoints by choosing different technologies, so the breakpoints are arbitrary. Maybe the first modern revival of this language in the 18th century was totally arbitrary, focusing on metal because it was cool or because it echoed Hesiod. Maybe Thomsen’s 19th century system was also arbitrary, but he explicitly explained that it was useful: iron knives abruptly displaced bronze knives, which abruptly displaced stone knives, so they are clear points on the timeline. Whereas, with most technologies lingered on in parallel with their successors.

      But the modern system claims (and maybe Thomsen did too, I’m not sure) that there is a whole bundle of technologies that appeared at once and anyone who didn’t make an arbitrary focus on one technology would define the same periods (at least in Eurasia). Maybe this is wrong, but it’s not arbitrary. Bronze is associated with writing and draft animals. Maybe this should be called the Urban Age. Maybe this bundle is made possible by cities or the artifacts are concentrated by cities, producing an illusion of abrupt introduction. But it seems to match Thomsen’s Bronze Age, which I think had nothing to do with cities.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      It is an interesting question, so let’s remind ourselves how we got here.

      The Bronze/Iron Age nomenclature goes way back to Hesiod’s Ages of Man and it’s worth pointing out that he was very much using the metals metaphorically – Gold being the noblest; iron – the basest – rather than aiming to reconstruct the material culture of ages past.

      A more “scientific” approach is undertaken by Lucretius, centuries later, who proposes a model of material progress roughly similar to the current three-age system:

      The earliest weapons were hands, nails and teeth. Next came stones and branches wrenched from trees, and fire and flame as soon as these were discovered. Then men learnt to use tough iron and copper. With copper they tilled the soil. With copper they whipped up the clashing waves of war, … Then by slow degrees the iron sword came to the fore; the bronze sickle fell into disrepute; the ploughman began to cleave the earth with iron, …

      The modern conception of the three-age (Stone, Bronze, Iron) system comes from C. J. Thomsen in the Nineteenth Century, who observed:

      nothing is more important than to point out that hitherto we have not paid enough attention to what was found together

      and it turned out that when you start paying attention, it turns out the ancients were onto something:

      To put artifacts in their proper context I consider it most important to pay attention to the chronological sequence, and I believe that the old idea of first stone, then copper, and finally iron, appears to be ever more firmly established as far as Scandinavia is concerned.

      We use the three-age system mostly because the idea had been a part of our culture for millennia and it – perhaps surprisingly – has turned out to have predictive value, as far as archaeology is concerned. It turns out that there are good reasons for this: both bronze and iron are superior to stone when it comes to various technological applications and copper/bronze are easier to work with than iron.

      That said, what about alternative naming systems?

      Textile cultures are problematic for reasons that are adequately explained in the linked post – textiles don’t keep very well and it’s hard to form a detailed picture of material sophistication without a wide variety of preserved artifacts.

      How about pottery?

      Well, it so happens that we actually do use pottery to name prehistoric cultures and periods: Corded Ware culture is just one example. I believe, though I could be wrong, that pottery and ceramics are possibly the foremost method of tracking material culture, because pottery keeps well and follows identifiable trends in design/ornamentation (such as the cord-like impressions on the aforementioned Corded Ware).

      Would “Pottery Age” or “Ceramic Age” be a useful category, though?

      Not really. The oldest known pottery vessels have been dated all the way back to the Paleolithic. The earliest example of ceramics we know of – such as the Venus of Dolní Věstonice – are dated even earlier (between 29,000 BC and 25,000 BC).

      The problem with “Pottery Age” or “Ceramic Age” is that they encompass too much.

      It’s even worse with textiles. The earliest dyed flax fibres found have been dated back to 36,000 BC and we have examples of sewing needles dating back to 50,000 BC. The “Flax Age” doesn’t tell us very much, because we’re unlikely to find out a great deal about the “Pre-flax Age”.

  33. Purplehermann says:

    Most men I know IRL really like Ben Shapiro (the smarter they are the less likely this is, the younger the more likely- smart younger guys like him but lose interest at some point), many internet people seem to disdain him.
    Can anyone explain the hype and the hate to me?

    • J Mann says:

      Not a deep scholar of Ben Shapiro, but my take on him is he’s kind of a right-wing Matt Yglesias. From what I understand:

      – He’s smart and well spoken, so if you hold similar positions to him, it’s a pleasure to hear them articulated pretty well.
      – He’s willing to deviate from the party line on some issues, so he comes across as open minded and analytical.
      – From what I understand, he has a series of talks where he engages people who disagree with him reasonably constructively, but he’s also famous for debates where he kind of goes for the jugular.

      On the other hand,

      – People who disagree with him feel that he frames issues unfairly or disingenuously.
      – He has said some stuff that offends people.

      Most of those (except maybe the debates and conversations) hold true for Yglesias as well, but I don’t think their fan base has much overlap.

      ——————-

      I’m interested in the gender split among his fans, but don’t have any insight.

      As for losing interest, that may be the effect of if someone treads the same ground long enough, sooner or later it feels like you’re getting diminishing returns from continuing to follow them. I’ve had several writers like that – at a certain point, I just feel like I’ve learned the better part of what they have to say.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Hmmm, I think I’ll check out Matt. Feeling like someone is framing a conversation to win instead of playing fair is interesting, I wonder how you would get past a difference of framing in a constructive conversation (or a detailed takedown).

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Selection bias of your friends? Most people I know have the opposite impression.

      But awhile back there was a meme that spread that made jokes of some of the titles of his videos “Ben Shapiro Destroys [Insert thing person or idea here]” Where Ben shapiro would be destroying all sorts of things like hospitals, cities, and orphans. Which is funny even if you disagree with or dislike the person in question.

    • broblawsky says:

      I found Shapiro to be the embodiment of the worst (non-singularitarian) aspects of the rationalsphere: right-wing tribalism disguised as something derived from reason, an unquestioning adoration of Chesterton’s fence, and a healthy dose of xenophobia. He’s good at making like you’ve accomplished something intellectually by listening to him, though.

      • Purplehermann says:

        (Xenophobia – towards left wing tribe members? Any examples?)

        So people with non-right-wing values dislike him because he holds different values, and makes it sound like his desired policies/values are better than theirs, and sounds reasonable doing this? Does anyone do detailed takedowns of his reasoning?

        I think you just enlightened me fully as to why his fans like him so much.

        • Lambert says:

          I think towards the general groups towards whom the right are often considered xenophobic.
          The things he’s said about rap and hip hop sound like they might be idk, motivated by something other than pure music theory critique?

        • Viliam says:

          I believe “xenophobia” here refers to his opinion on Muslims.

          (From left-wing perspective, discussion of Islam is taboo. Therefore, if someone criticizes Muslims, the only allowed explanation is that he hates strangers.)

          • Ant says:

            From a real left-wing perspective, attack on Islam are very often a fig leaf masking racist attack (see also anti Sionism as the fig leaf of antisemitism).

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            His comments on Muslims – and Arabs – go beyond criticism of Muslims or Islam. E.g. said “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and that civilian casualties are fine in the Afghan war because the Afghan civilians basically deserve it

          • Ant says:

            Case in point.

            Also, I think that I now understand why people think there are a lot of people on the left commenting here. They are confusing the stupid “For leftist, it’s ok to be as stupid and cruel” comment with genuine left-wing comments.

          • Cliff says:

            Islam is not a race and Arab is not synonymous with Islamic

          • albatross11 says:

            Nostalgia:

            So, I read Shapiro’s essay. I agree it’s pretty nasty, but I don’t believe it’s nastier than the median mainstream political commentator, including both big parties (then or now). Around that time, a hell of a lot of prominent voices in the US were talking very much like Shapiro. That’s when we got the first talk in public about having formal torture policies (and rolling out the “ticking time bomb” argument), and Thomas Friedman’s infamous “Suck. On. This.” essay[1]. (This was also around the time when I personally lost most of my remaining respect for mainstream American news sources and started looking abroad for better sources of news.)

            He’s making two arguments here (in very short form–it’s only about a page long):

            a. We should value American soldiers more highly than Afghan civilians. (I think every nation everywhere behaves this way, but the question is what the acceptable exchange rate is.)

            b. Members of a society hold some collective guilt for the policies of their country and so it’s morally acceptable to kill or hurt them in response. This is a bad moral principle, but also seems like one that’s universally accepted in practice in war and international relations. (Do you think most of the people hurt by our sanctions against Iran are the ones who drive Iranian foreign policy?) Again, I think the practical question is about the exchange rate–how much / what kind of suffering is okay to inflict on civilians to {pressure their government to change / punish them for accepting an evil government / encourage them to change their government}?

            I wonder whether he would still defend this argument today.

            [1] Though this is kicking puppies–Thomas Friedman is the very model of an overpromoted elite in media. It’s our society’s version of giving some useless member of the nobility a high-ranking commission in the military.

          • Viliam says:

            @Ant

            From a real left-wing perspective, attack on Islam are very often a fig leaf masking racist attack

            Is there any way I could convince you that I don’t care about anyone’s race, but I strongly believe that religion (any religion) is bullshit because supernatural things don’t exist, and that I hate religious or religion-inspired practices such as killing infidels, killing apostates, killing gays, genitally mutilating girls, etc.

            Because, I agree with the statement that sometimes criticism of Islam can be an indirect way of criticising ethnic groups most associated with it…

            …but it’s insane to assume that every criticism of brainwashed violent followers of a pedophile prophet must be secretly inspired by racism, because there is apparently nothing that a non-racist could dislike about it.

            (I mean, killing gays? It’s obviously a horrible thing when white people do it, but who am I to judge anyone else? Maybe from their superior moral perspective it is actually the right thing to do, dunno. If I ever see people with dark skin trying to hang a gay guy, I will check my privilege and shut up, because it would be colonialism if I tried to intervene. Same about “honor” killings, etc.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Because, I agree with the statement that sometimes criticism of Islam can be an indirect way of criticising ethnic groups most associated with it…

            Theoretically, criticism of Islam could be an indirect criticism of all the non-white ethnic groups where it’s become hegemonic. But since that includes black Africans, brown Caucasoids, Indonesians, and Hui Chinese, logically only white supremacists would want to get away with criticizing all those groups on biological grounds. So it cashes out as the tired old Brown Scare of looking for a Nazi under every bed.
            And what are we to make of the Bosniaks and Albanians? White converts?

            …but it’s insane to assume that every criticism of brainwashed violent followers of a pedophile prophet must be secretly inspired by racism, because there is apparently nothing that a non-racist could dislike about it.

            (I mean, killing gays? It’s obviously a horrible thing when white people do it, but who am I to judge anyone else? Maybe from their superior moral perspective it is actually the right thing to do, dunno. If I ever see people with dark skin trying to hang a gay guy, I will check my privilege and shut up, because it would be colonialism if I tried to intervene. Same about “honor” killings, etc.)

            That does seem to be how it works. Which is extremely confusing, because there have been Christian states where sodomy was a capital crime, and that’s why Christians are evil and must be kept under surveillance and forced to bake gay wedding cakes… but if you impose that morality on anyone but Christians, it’s the atrocity of colonialism. (Trying to force Christian Uganda to celebrate sodomy instead of criminalizing it isn’t colonialism, because apparently they were brainwashed by white people?)

          • ECD says:

            Which is extremely confusing, because there have been Christian states where sodomy was a capital crime, and that’s why Christians are evil and must be kept under surveillance and forced to bake gay wedding cakes… but if you impose that morality on anyone but Christians, it’s the atrocity of colonialism.

            First thing on the HRW LGBT page: “Lebanon: End Systemic Discrimination Against Trans Women,” and see their giant collection of MENA LGBT issues. Or this website which appears left wing and has a giant collection of stories on the middle east and LGBT issues. Or this story in the Guardian on the most difficult places to be gay (Iraq, Iran, Honduras, Uganda, Egypt, Russia, Nigeria).

            Maybe, just maybe, most folks don’t in fact throw the baby out with the bigoted bathwater.

          • DeWitt says:

            (Trying to force Christian Uganda to celebrate sodomy instead of criminalizing it isn’t colonialism, because apparently they were brainwashed by white people?)

            It was tiresome when you tore down policies nobody defended last year. It was tiresome six months ago. It was tiresome when you kept doing it after getting told to knock it off by Scott. It’s tiresome now. The subject of debate is a guy who cheered on civilian deaths when those were ongoing, and you have to make it about your outgroup being in the wrong about this. Again. Stop it.

    • Aftagley says:

      Can anyone explain the hype and the hate to me?

      Sure, I hate the guy. I’ll try and give it a go.

      He’s naturally charismatic and is a skilled debater, and uses those talents to spackle over everything else. I’m not his intended audience, and I became aware of him as a result of the “Ben Shapiro destroys X” videos that have been endemic on youtube for the last half-decade or so. In these, he finds particularly weak avatars of whatever leftist idea he’s not a fan of today and absolutely savages them. He’s always prepared and poised, and when debating someone else, it’s clear he prefers opponents who don’t have his natural ability to make convincing arguments; they end up looking like fools. You could say that these people should have known better than to try and go toe-to-toe with someone more charismatic than themselves, but hey, there’s a sucker born every minute.

      He produces content where people get to see the ideas they personally agree with win against ideas they don’t like. He gives his audience the visceral pleasure of watching their ideological opponents be caught up in contradictions or stumped by his clever aphorisms. It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, or the trade-off in moral values – in the reality that he’s trying to sell his side is clearly right and anyone who dares argue against it will inevitably eviscerated by logic.

      This is extremely off putting to people who don’t happen to agree with him.

      • J Mann says:

        I’ve heard that he has a separate series (Sunday Suppers or something?) where he has engaging and constructive conversations. People who don’t like him take this as further evidence that he knows exactly what he’s doing in the “destroys” debates.

      • Aapje says:

        @Aftagley

        A lot of American satirical TV shows seem to do something similar, often with the extremely large advantage of editing, where they can cherry pick what to show; or even mismatch questions and answers.

        • Aftagley says:

          You know, I really like that argument. Ben Shapiro is someone who is providing us entertainment. You’re right – he’s just like a John Stewart or Steven Colbert. His prime output is content that makes us feel like our ideological opponents are obviously wrong/corrupt/moronic. He sells a feeling of superiority to an audience of true believers.

          Maybe that’s another aspect of why I don’t like him – he’s clearly an entertainer yet positions himself as some kind of thought leader. For all John Stewart’s faults, he never tried to position himself as anything other than a comic doing a show on comedy central.

          • Randy M says:

            For all John Stewart’s faults, he never tried to position himself as anything other than a comic doing a show on comedy central.

            This is the main complaint against Stewart, though. He makes his political points, then hides behind his comedian role when asked to defend them. “Clown nose on, clown nose off” is the saying.

          • acymetric says:

            So, I like John Stewart quite a bit, but I don’t think it is quite true that he never positioned himself as anything other than a comic. That is probably more accurate for Colbert than it is for Stewart.

          • Clutzy says:

            My major complaint with this framing is that it is also what non-comedic newsmagazines do. Programs like 60 minutes do exactly what Jon Stewart did, just without playing it for comedy, instead they play it for narrative. They film 60 minutes of footage, and then air 5-10 minutes of it, not necessarily in order.

            Recently Katie Couric got into hot water because her gun control documentary inserted an 8 second pause from a different part of the interview after she posed a question she wanted to frame as really hard for gun rights advocates to answer. This one example was pretty egregious, but its actually standard operating procedure for newsmags and documentaries.

            My brother’s boss gave one of these mags an interview on pharmaceuticals, he gave them a guided tour of the factory, and like 90 minutes of sit down. He ended up being on screen for like 2 minutes! The majority was just a boring voiceover into leading questions given to an “expert” who was actually a fairly unqualified professor.

            Indeed, I think its SOP for people on the right to only agree to live interviews or demand a right to film the entire interview as well.

          • Randy M says:

            Indeed, I think its SOP for people on the right to only agree to live interviews or demand a right to film the entire interview as well.

            The live interview might work (and almost certainly won’t be agreed to). Filming it yourself will be pointless if they have much greater audience than you. You can prove they lied–to people willing to listen to you. Not much help.

          • CatCube says:

            @Randy M

            They might not interview you at all if you insist on recording, with some bullshit about how your tape recorder will interfere with their equipment. Megan McArdle talked about going on the Daily Show a while back:

            [H]ere’s a guide for people who do not share the show’s politics but are considering going on it anyway:

            1. Don’t.
            2. If you must, bring two tape recorders, a video camera and a witness. Announce at the beginning that you are going to record this and reserve the right to release the entire recording to the public. When they tell you that they will not do the interview under those conditions, prepare to leave. There is no ethical reason that a reporter requires the ability to ask you questions without having those questions recorded. The reason they don’t want unedited audio is that you might release it and be revealed as a normal decent person, rather than a horrible fool.

          • Clutzy says:

            The live interview might work (and almost certainly won’t be agreed to). Filming it yourself will be pointless if they have much greater audience than you. You can prove they lied–to people willing to listen to you. Not much help.

            I am just conveying what is considered good media practice now. And it has worked out before. Like when Peterson got his entire Cathy Newman interview released.

          • Randy M says:

            @Clutzy
            Pointless may be overstating it, but I think your example may be particularly illustrative. JP Lobsterman had a significant ability to reach people before that interview. If you have less media stature, you may not be able to correct the record even with proof.

          • Clutzy says:

            Well, you typically don’t get on a large newsmagazine as a right of center figure unless you are big enough to attract a bunch of hate from left wing groups, and then the mag invites you to try and do a hit. Its not like Dave Brat (guy who beat Eric Cantor) gets on 60 minutes because they notice him polling at 25% early on. That sort of thing only happens if its a puff piece like that would occur for someone like AOC, or another candidate that is being pushed.

    • Eigengrau says:

      The hype: he destroys leftists with his incredible debate skills and scores points for Team Right Wing. A cool, charismatic, and rational intellectual who cuts through the bullshit and values “facts over feelings”. A shining example of a serious, respectable conservative fighting against the left-wing establishment.

      The hate: an obvious grifter for the Religious Right whose debate skills amount to gish gallops and smarmy “gotchas”. Hardly a reasonable thinker dedicated to logic, he frequently bases his opinions and arguments on his religious faith and bigotry (e.g. civilization will crumble if we don’t ban pornography, trans people are deluded crazies, the gay lifestyle is morally wrong, Palestinian Arabs are dirty evil subhumans who deserve to die, etc.) and his positions are about as inconsistent and hypocritical as any other mind-killed political hack.

      Read: This NYT profile on Shapiro pushing the hype, and a response by Current Affairs, pushing the hate (including a quote by our very own Dr. Alexander).

    • EchoChaos says:

      Shapiro deserves almost all the hate he gets and little of the hype. He’s not only a “gotcha” debater who won’t go up against anybody with skills, but he’s also a literal “ethnically cleanse the land to keep it pure” level Israeli nationalist.

      • Aftagley says:

        he’s also a literal “ethnically cleanse the land to keep it pure” level Israeli nationalist.

        ewww, really?

          • Aftagley says:

            Holy shit. That’s, uhh, that’s really something.

            Ok, I’m notching my opinion of him down to the floor.

          • Atlas says:

            I believe that Shapiro has renounced his previous support of Andrew Jackson style barbaric ethnic cleansing:

            Some on the right have proposed population transfer from the Gaza Strip or West Bank as a solution. This is both inhumane and impractical. Moving millions of Palestinians out of areas they have known for their entire lives will certainly not pave the way to peace. Moreover, these Palestinians will have no place to go, since their brethren across the Arab would prefer to keep them cooped up in dismal poverty than house them in their own lands.

            One may believe that his reversal is insincere, but I think it should be noted that nominally, at least, his position has changed.

          • Aftagley says:

            Some on the right have proposed population transfer from the Gaza Strip or West Bank as a solution.

            No, you proposed. You don’t get to advocate for ethnic cleansing and then later “people are out here saying” it away. I don’t think that counts as renouncing a previous viewpoint, it’s just hoping people don’t look at his backlog.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So he was 19 when he wrote the first thing, and 29 when he wrote the second.

            I’m not sure forgetting what you wrote as a teenager is that unusual.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Atlas/Thegnskald

            Once you’re a professional commentator, you don’t get to go with “I forgot”, even at 19 (which is an adult).

            I would indeed accept “I strongly disavow my prior positions”, which is allowable for anyone, but I don’t know that he’s done that.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t like to hold what people wrote when they were young against them, but holy shit does that not sound like much of an apology. Can anyone find a real disavowal from him?

          • Thegnskald says:

            You don’t get to forget?

            Or you don’t get to use forgetting as an excuse?

            I’ll agree with the latter; if someone has evidence of him refusing to disavow his earlier statement, that would be, well, evidence of something.

            As it stands we just have statements ten years apart, with the latter, later statement showing a growth in maturity and understanding, contradicting the earlier statement, and without apparent knowledge of it.

            Which is to say, disavowal or lack thereof only matters if somebody asks him about it.

            ETA:
            I henceforth dub this the rule of the king of bards:

            The statute of limitations for making determinations about a person’s current character with regard to statements, beliefs, donations, and behavior which wasn’t illegal, is henceforth ten years. If you can’t find anything meaningful in the past ten years, then you aren’t saying anything meaningful.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Atlas

            Hey, reading this thread, I realize that I said “No, you proposed” in a way that could lead you to think I’m referring to you. I meant that as a rhetorical response to Ben Shapiro, but it wasn’t clear. My apologies for sounding like I’m going after you.

            @ Nick
            It doesn’t look like it; most places I can find link to that single article as evidence he’s evolved on this point. If there’s a more nuanced explanation it doesn’t appear to be easily google-able.

          • Nick says:

            @Aftagley
            I’ve looked around a bit now (no more than 15 minutes or so) and haven’t found a disavowal, either.

          • Atlas says:

            Caveat: I don’t read or watch Shapiro’s content, my understanding of him mostly comes from mentions in secondary sources.

            I heard Nick Fuentes claim on an episode of America First that Shapiro had disavowed the August 2003 column in which Shapiro had supported ethnic cleansing. Since Fuentes despises Shapiro, I assumed he was being honest, and since it was a relatively minor factual point I assumed he was being accurate.

            I was in a bit of hurry when I wrote my comments this morning, so I just posted the first link I found. However, apparently many commenters didn’t find it satisfactory. Here’s another article, an interview with The Jerusalem Post from November 2013, in which Shapiro is more explicitly described and quoted as reversing his position:

            SHAPIRO’S VIEWS on the Palestinians have undergone changes. While he was always a staunch Israel supporter, he wrote a column when he was 19 that called to transfer Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza, which many of his opponents cite.
            Now, Shapiro says he regrets writing it.

            “When you’re younger, you tend to be more utopian and simplistic in your views of conflict,” he explained.
            The column was “a poorly thought out idea, aside from the moral implications of having to forcibly move millions of people…. It’s a bad idea and an immoral idea.”

            Much like many on the Israeli Right, Shapiro advocates for managing the conflict with the Palestinians, because he does not see a solution.
            The conflict, he said, “is destined to continue ad infinitum [if there is not] some kind of change on the part of the Palestinians. It means security, not peace, from here to the end of time.”

            So, given that Shapiro, in 2013, was quoted as saying that expelling the Palestinians from the occupied territories would be a “bad and immoral idea” and that he regrets writing the 2003 column, I’ll respectfully still take issue with Echo Chaos’ initial description of him as “a literal ‘ethnically cleanse the land to keep it pure’ level Israeli nationalist” on the basis of the 2003 column. You can certainly argue that the fact that he said it all was despicable, that he might still secretly believe it, etc., but I don’t think it’s accurate to represent it as his avowed, current position.

            I would also be curious to know if Shapiro has ever repeated his alleged belief in ethnic cleansing since the 2003 column, since I often see it, specifically, cited but don’t think I’ve ever seen someone cite any of his later articles, broadcasts or speeches in which he makes the same point.

            I’m not defending Shapiro’s substantive views on Israel/Palestine—I align with Chomsky/Finkelstein/Fisk in that regard and would emphatically criticize his much more common and central claims about settlements, Israeli military operations and the path to peace—so much as pushing back against the trend of defining writers by endlessly quoting the single worst thing that they’ve ever said anywhere during their career.

            Echo Chaos cited the 2003 Townhall dot com ethnic cleansing column as the reason that Shapiro deserves the hate he gets, and Aftagley sort of concurred with his assessment. (Though Aftagley did enunciate more, and I think more typical, reasons for hating Shapiro in an above comment.) But one column from over 15 years ago—or even his views on Israel/Palestine more generally— isn’t primarily why most people hate Shapiro now. The left hates him because they see him as a demagogue on social justice issues, and segments of the right hate him because of his views on what they see as the proper form of American nationalism. (That is, they might criticize his views on Israel from an American nationalist POV, but not from a neutral human rights/anti-war/genuine concern for the Palestinians POV.) People who already hate him for these various reasons find it useful and convenient to cite the 2003 column, but I think it would be misguided to see it as the source of their hatred.

            @Aftagley

            Hey, reading this thread, I realize that I said “No, you proposed” in a way that could lead you to think I’m referring to you. I meant that as a rhetorical response to Ben Shapiro, but it wasn’t clear. My apologies for sounding like I’m going after you.

            No worries, I understood what you meant from the beginning, but I appreciate that you were concerned enough with maintaining civility to clarify.

          • What struck me about the ethnic cleansing argument was his historical example. He presumably didn’t know that the removal of the German population from the territory ceded to Poland involved something like half a million of them dying.

            I don’t find it shocking that a 19 year old didn’t know that and, if he didn’t, the argument “the allies solved a problem by shifting populations and it worked fine, so the Israelis should do the same” isn’t an absurd one.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Atlas

            That reversal is so half-hearted that I personally do not accept it, and I’m rather shocked that anyone would.

            If someone supported ethnically cleansing a land, then the reasonable response for all good-hearted people is to demand a full, in writing retraction and not allow that person to be a serious commentator ever again. I see no reason to accept Shapiro’s reversal as genuine considering the article remains up and in his name to this day.

            @DavidFriedman

            Ignorance of an act that he is advocating perpetrating upon several million people condemns him almost as badly as if he just didn’t care that Germans were ethnically cleansed because he hates them.

            And given that he talks extensively about the ethnic cleansings of World War II, I see absolutely no reason to assume his ignorance.

          • albatross11 says:

            Echochaos:

            We don’t even apply that standard to people who were in positions of power in 2003 and voted/acted to basically wreck Iraq and leave us with a festering sore that persists to this day.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @albatross11

            Because the Iraq War wasn’t as immoral as ethnic cleansing. It at least had a theoretical chance to do something moral and valuable.

            Even in the disavowal interview @Atlas posted he still calls his idea “utopian”.

          • Atlas says:

            @Echo Chaos

            (Wow, this ended up being way longer than I expected/intended. Please don’t feel obligated to waste the time writing a similarly verbose response if you don’t want to. [As a general question to the floor, is there a way I can make it clear that I wouldn’t be miffed by someone not responding to an overly long post while also making it clear that I’m not trying to chicken out of defending it?])

            That reversal is so half-hearted that I personally do not accept it, and I’m rather shocked that anyone would.

            And you’re well within your rights to argue for that view, as I suggested above. However, I think readers of this comment thread should be aware that it isn’t how Shapiro defines his position and that he seems to have only expressed this view in one column from 2003 which he later repudiated. People can read his remarks and yours and decide which side they find more convincing, but I think your initial comments, and Aftagley’s responses to them, suggested that this was his avowed, current position, which it is, as far as I can tell from the comments here at least, not.

            And, since I realize that people often have little tolerance for such abstract meta-level points, I’ll comment on the object-level issues: I personally think the fact that Shapiro wrote a column in 2003 advocating for the expulsion of Palestinians shows a despicable deficiency in analytical judgment and/or morals. I don’t think he recognized the gravity of his crime/mistake in his later tepid reversal.

            However, I believe he has indeed since changed his mind on the issue—which is hardly unusual for someone to do over the course of ~15 years. In any case, he doesn’t seem to have ever (as far as I’ve seen) repeated this view since he wrote the one 2003 column, so I don’t see that analyzing it adds much to understanding his current place in political discourse. Much more concerning on this issue alone, from my point of view, are his currently avowed, frequently repeated and recent support of Israeli settler colonialism, aggression, international criminality, etc.

            If someone supported ethnically cleansing a land, then the reasonable response for all good-hearted people is to demand a full, in writing retraction and not allow that person to be a serious commentator ever again. I see no reason to accept Shapiro’s reversal as genuine considering the article remains up and in his name to this day.

            This is a very high-minded, noble and principled stance. I have some abstract and theoretical possible objections to it. (“Possible” as in I haven’t fully thought through them and very open to changing my mind in response to counter-arguments.) However, as per above, I think meta-level generosity is often interpreted as indicating object-level weakness, so I’ll start off by making some provocative but hopefully not insanely inflammatory object level responses:

            Do you think that President Donald Trump deserves every single ounce of hatred, scorn and disgust that the left (from Kathy Griffin to Hillary Clinton to Paul Krugman etc. etc.) has leveled at him? Do you think that President Trump has displayed such contemptible folly or cruelty in his tenure as POTUS that the “reasonable response” for “all good-hearted people” is to demand his immediate resignation, a formal apology for his grievous misdeeds and renunciation of any pretense to being a “serious” statesman “ever again”?

            I’m going to guess that your answer to these questions is, at the very least, “no,” though if isn’t feel free to correct me. However, I don’t see why someone on the left couldn’t use the reasoning you employed with regard to Shapiro in regard to Trump instead.

            President Trump’s administration has sold billions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and has given it vital assistance in terms of intelligence sharing, targeting assistance and aerial refueling for its armed forces in the savage assault that they’re leading on Yemen. Trump vetoed a bipartisan Senate bill in March of this year to end US military assistance to Saudi forces in the conflict. Probably at least 7,000 civilians have been killed at this point, mostly by Saudi forces, as have 10,000s of combatants, deaths which also have moral valence. Millions of Yemenis are suffering from shortages of food and medicine—a cholera outbreak has killed ~2,500 people, many of them children, since 2016. The UN seems quite reasonable in describing the situation as the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world.

            Trump has not admitted that he was wrong to actively contribute to this horrendous, actually existing calamity that is only winding down this very year, the way that Shapiro admitted (in however wishy-washy a fashion) he was wrong about the hypothetical, non-existent calamity he once advocated for ~15 years ago. Of course, the crimes Trump’s complicit in this regard are so appalling that even a very heart-felt apology would not suffice to earn him the slightest credibility as a commentator on or leader of anything. He undoubtedly deserves “almost all of the hate he gets and little of the hype” in this regard.

            I could keep asking similar questions about whether George Washington (who ordered the Sullivan Campaign, certainly “literal by the definition ethnic cleansing”), Andrew Jackson (the Trail of Tears), Theodore Roosevelt (the Philippine War), Pat Buchanan (who supported as a fairly high-ranking member of the US government the Vietnam War and the US campaign of terrorism against Nicaragua) and various other figures deserve to be likewise completely condemned and discredited for their crimes by posterity as statesmen and commentators, but I think the point is clear enough with Trump alone.

            “But wait!,” you might protest, “that’s not fair! The left doesn’t hate Trump because he supports the admittedly very terrible war in Yemen! They hate him for totally different reasons about PC and immigration and stuff, so it’s unfair to justify that hatred with these admittedly perfectly valid reasons! That lets people who have bad critiques of Trump hide behind good critiques of Trump! And Obama supported it, and Clinton probably would have if she’d been elected! And Trump deserves credit for ending US funding to the Syrian opposition, and…”

            Yes, and those are all (fairly) valid points (if I do say so myself)! This is why I have the intuition that the seemingly very reasonable principle “someone who does or advocates something extremely terrible in politics should be blotted out from the Book of Life with no questions asked” can be dangerous when applied. I do genuinely detest America’s support for the Saudi war in/on Yemen, and think that a President Warren or Sanders might be somewhat better about it and related issues than President Trump is, but I feel like I would be wise to refrain from framing that opposition in the kind of terms that I used for the sake of argument above.

            I think this is partially because it seems like an isolated demand for rigor to me. I’m of the view that imperialism, settler colonialism, militarism and aggression are often serious and common evils that should be vigorously opposed. (I personally wouldn’t necessarily add “nationalism” to that list, but I’ll note that you described Shapiro’s offensive views as those of an extreme “nationalist.”) It’s definitely good when people oppose these things.

            However, I think many people are only selectively and tactically outraged about these genuine evils—a charge often truthfully leveled at Zionists like Shapiro who accurately condemn the crimes of Hamas, the Damascus government, Iran, etc. without condemning those of the Israeli government.

            If you stand with the small number of people on the extreme anti-imperialist left and libertarian right who would indeed condemn both Ben Shapiro and George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Pat Buchanan, Donald Trump, etc. as moral monsters who don’t deserve any recognition or praise for anything because of their crimes, fair enough. But if you don’t, and you have some intuition that you should be able to have an opinion on the Trump presidency without every single conversation about it being about the crisis in Yemen, or that you should be able to cite Pat Buchanan’s commentary on immigration without having to defend his support for American aggression in Cambodia, I don’t see how you can apply a different standard to Shapiro. (If you say it’s because the accomplishments of the former are greater, then so are the crimes, so even if true the comparison is still valid.)

            Because the Iraq War wasn’t as immoral as ethnic cleansing. It at least had a theoretical chance to do something moral and valuable.

            Even in the disavowal interview @Atlas posted he still calls his idea “utopian”.

            I’d disagree with this on three grounds:

            Both the Iraq War and ethnic cleansing are so ethically abhorrent that, even if we grant for the sake of argument that ethnic cleansing was worse, the comparison is still valid and instructive.

            The Iraq War actually occurred, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians (at least at the scale Shapiro advocated for in the 2003 column) has not. Actual crimes are more ethically important to consider than hypothetical crimes. (An actual murderer of 2 people is more concerning than a madman safely locked up in an asylum’s hypothetical plan to murder 200 people.)

            Shapiro does in fact offer arguments in the 2003 column in favor of ethnic cleansing, (just as Andrew Jackson offered arguments in favor of his own ethnic cleansing, Imperial Japan offered arguments in favor of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, etc.) He claims that it is “ugly,” but “preferable to bloody conflict ad infinitum” caused by Palestinian intransigence.

            I think that these are fallacious and sophistical arguments (see: The Fateful Triangle), but I don’t think they are obviously more fallacious and sophistical than the similarly foolish and/or immoral arguments in favor of the Iraq War. So it seems like special pleading to me to claim that the former and the latter should be held to different standards.

          • I think there is an example closer than the ones you mention. The argument for moving the Palestinians away used the previous example of the evacuation of Germans from (I think) East Prussia after the war. That actually happened, actually resulted in a very large number of deaths—the estimate I have seen is about half a million—and was supported by the governments of the U.S. (Truman), the U.K. (I think still Churchill), and presumably France (DeGaulle?). They actually did, as powerful and responsible adults, what a nineteen-year-old argued for doing.

            Do they all get written off as morally bankrupt?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Atlas

            Thank you for the long reply. I’ll try to sit down and revisit it in a top level comment later, if you don’t mind?

            @DavidFriedman

            The French bear no responsibility, because of course they were not present there, but yes, I strongly consider the transfer condemnatory of Truman and Attlee. And of FDR and Churchill for agreeing in principle to it at Yalta. I’m not a fan of any of those four leaders, which can hardly be shocking.

            I understand why they did it, and why they wouldn’t understand the human cost it would create. Which is even more notably condemnatory of someone who can now see the human cost that transfer creates.

            Especially when you are using that exact transfer as your example, not understanding exactly what it cost is inexcusable.

          • Atlas says:

            @David Friedman

            Indeed, but there is a faction of the right today that is happy to condemn Churchill, FDR, de Gaulle, etc. and a subset that goes further and alleges that the Axis Powers were the good guys in WW2. (E.g. Hitler, Churchill and the Unnecessary War and Ron Unz’s essays on WW2.)

            Consequently, I didn’t want to say that condemning Shapiro proves too much because it condemns Churchill and FDR, since many people are quite willing to prove that. (However, I think fewer of them are willing to prove that e.g. Trump and George Washington should also be condemned, which is why I used them as examples instead.) I’m willing to argue against that view separately, but I didn’t think it would have been wise to do so in this discussion.

            @EchoChaos

            Thank you for the long reply. I’ll try to sit down and revisit it in a top level comment later, if you don’t mind?

            Sure, no problem.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Atlas / @DavidFriedman

            I will add, in case it’s unclear, that my dislike of Churchill, Attlee, FDR and Truman has nothing to do with fighting Hitler, who I despise more.

            Churchill was a tactical and strategic fool whose love of fighting killed huge numbers at Gallipoli and whose foolish insistence on unconditional surrender extended World War II. He was also by far the best of those four.

            Attlee was a mess and a socialist, FDR was a useful idiot for Communists, and Truman betrayed Chiang, the greatest Allied leader of WWII, resulting in Communist domination of China, one of the greatest moral disasters of the 20th Century.

          • albatross11 says:

            On one hand, WW2 was a time when the Allies were up against a wall, and made some very hard choices under very hard circumstances. I think they generally did their best, but there was plenty of horrible stuff they did, too, ranging from firebombing cities to shipping Soviet refugees back to the USSR after the war.

            On the other hand, some of the best propaganda of all time went into making the Allies seem like unambiguous heroic good guys, and the war into a time of clear moral choices made by great men. This is nonsense, in the same way that turning the founding fathers of the US into perfect heroes[1] is nonsense. The Allied leaders during WW2 did a lot of morally horrible things in pursuit of victory (we allied with Joeseph Stalin), and they were humans with the normal human share of blind spots and misunderstandings and petty power plays.

            [1] Similarly, the more current thing where we make the founding fathers out to all be terrible evil bigots is silly. You can’t make history into a clean black-and-white morality play and also learn what really happened–pick one.

    • Atlas says:

      Do people here know about the Groyper Wars? They’ve been discussed on the Motte, but I don’t think I’ve seen much talk about them here.

      In light of this, I have to roll my eyes whenever someone points to Shapiro as the avatar of conservatism. He is to a certain extent because he’s anti-social justice, but his brand of conservatism is being cannibalized by people, especially young people, who are anti-social justice and hold other beliefs. I think Nick Fuentes represents/predicts the future of American conservatism far more than Ben Shapiro does. So, from my point of view, I don’t understand why anyone who is anti-conservative would bother to attack Ben Shapiro at this point, because the further right is already doing such an energetic job at it.

      • Aftagley says:

        Do people here know about the Groyper Wars? They’ve been discussed on the Motte, but I don’t think I’ve seen much talk about them here.

        It’s the far right attacking those to their center, correct? We’ve seen people on that fringe calling each other RINOs for years now, is this any different?

        I think Nick Fuentes represents/predicts the future of American conservatism far more than Ben Shapiro does.

        Nah.

        So, from my point of view, I don’t understand why anyone who is anti-conservative would bother to attack Ben Shapiro at this point, because the further right is already doing such an energetic job at it.

        Because nobody cares what the far right does. Do you honestly think that Trump’s base or conservatives who will reluctantly pull the lever for anyone not Elizabeth Warren give a shit what some 22 year old with a Youtube show says? If they notice at all (which they won’t, because most of the electorate isn’t invested in internet culture enough to know who these people are) they’ll just see at as bona fides for people like Ben Shapiro, “he can’t be racist because the REAL racists don’t like him!”

        • Atlas says:

          It’s the far right attacking those to their center, correct? We’ve seen people on that fringe calling each other RINOs for years now, is this any different?

          Yes. The people doing this are younger, have a different ideology (paleoconservatism), and are more aggressive. The inchoate frustration that Boomer conservatives felt/feel with GOP leadership that was easily channeled into dead-ends (see: The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism) is being replaced by a more internally-coherent critique driven by Zoomers that will be harder for the establishment to defuse.

          Because nobody cares what the far right does. Do you honestly think that Trump’s base or conservatives who will reluctantly pull the lever for anyone not Elizabeth Warren give a shit what some 22 year old with a Youtube show says? If they notice at all (which they won’t, because most of the electorate isn’t invested in internet culture enough to know who these people are) they’ll just see at as bona fides for people like Ben Shapiro, “he can’t be racist because the REAL racists don’t like him!”

          Just like nobody cared what communists did in 1916, or what Christians did in 311? Politics, and ideas more generally, are in Extremistan. I mentioned the Groyper thing because it shows that the balance of power within conservatism is shifting, and I don’t see why it won’t keep shifting in the same direction. I’ll write about this at more length later, I was planning to respond to “You Are Still Crying Wolf,” which was brilliant but which I don’t think adequately considered this angle.

          • Aftagley says:

            I mentioned the Groyper thing because it shows that the balance of power within conservatism is shifting, and I don’t see why it won’t keep shifting in the same direction.

            I should have been clearer in my line of questioning: so far nothing I’m seeing indicates that the Groyper thing is causing a shifting in power. As far as i’m aware, the net effect of this movement has been causing Don Jr. to curtail a book signing event. Getting a C+/B- conservative figure to look like a wimp doesn’t equate to a balance of power shift.

            Just like nobody cared what communists did in 1916, or what Christians did in 311? Politics, and ideas more generally, are in Extremistan.

            I guess, but that’s the kind of reasoning that only works in hindsight. They fact that some extremist groups end up radically reorienting global politics does nothing to indicate that this particular extremist group will succeed.

          • Atlas says:

            I should have been clearer in my line of questioning: so far nothing I’m seeing indicates that the Groyper thing is causing a shifting in power. As far as i’m aware, the net effect of this movement has been causing Don Jr. to curtail a book signing event. Getting a C+/B- conservative figure to look like a wimp doesn’t equate to a balance of power shift.

            I sort of agree, although I think the fact that Donald Trump, rather than Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, is currently POTUS, partly as the result of some paleo-ish campaign deviations from GOP orthodoxy, is a pretty important fact to consider in this regard.

            But the thread was about Ben Shapiro, who is a conservative pundit rather than a conservative elected official. Shapiro—and I should have mentioned this initially—felt compelled to give a speech at Stanford recently about the Groypers rather than his usual boilerplate about the left. This is because, although Shapiro himself hasn’t faced too many Groypers so far, his ally Charlie Kirk, one of the biggest names in mainstream campus conservative punditry, has been quite emphatically challenged by them. (This is sort of an understatement, read articles or search on YouTube to get a fuller idea of how badly he’s been wounded by the Groyper attacks.) The Groypers have also gotten explicit endorsements from Alex Jones and Michelle Malkin.

            So, considering that the alt-right can now muster enough followers to overwhelm almost every one of Charlie Kirk’s campus events, and that Shapiro felt pressured enough to give an entire speech about Nick Fuentes and the Groypers, I think someone who is anti-conservative would accomplish much more in the long run by trying to refute Nick Fuentes, Tucker Carlson and Andrew Anglin’s talking points than Charlie Kirk’s or Ben Shapiro’s. The former are getting stronger, the latter are getting weaker.

            I guess, but that’s the kind of reasoning that only works in hindsight. They fact that some extremist groups end up radically reorienting global politics does nothing to indicate that this particular extremist group will succeed.

            True, by itself it doesn’t, but it makes it important, from my POV, to consider the possibility that fringe groups who seem to win intellectual arguments can snowball in political influence much faster than people often expect.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s the far right attacking those to their center, correct?

          It’s a little more subtle than that, because in many ways the Groypers aren’t as far right.

          It’s the eternal Pat Buchanan v. George H.W. Bush confrontation arising again, really.

          Certainly the ones making noise tend to be a little more right-wing, just because anyone willing to stand up and make noise are more naturally extreme, but “far right v. center” is not quite the right formulation.

          • Nick says:

            Paleocons are often less economically/fiscally rightwing than other conservatives, though just as socially conservative or more so. So yeah, it’s not quite a matter of rightwing vs. center.

          • Randy M says:

            A matter of which priorities get emphasized or pushed at all.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s the eternal Pat Buchanan v. George H.W. Bush confrontation arising again, really.

            Wasn’t Buchanan to the right of the Bushes on everything, not just CW? Proposing policies like shrinking the federal government through a flat tax?

            4chan-type “paleoconservatism” seems more skeptical of Actually Existing Capitalism, unironically using terms like “wage slave.” I don’t see a consensus on what to replace it with: it seems to vaguely circle around “Nordic welfare capitalism, for us Nordic types only” but with a large dose of “Go away, /pol/”.

          • Aftagley says:

            Roger, I agree that calling it extreme right vs. the center is misleading. Moving forward I’ll refer to it as general internecine conservative combat.

          • albatross11 says:

            LMC:

            I think Buchanan was opposed to interventionist foreign policy, which set him pretty far apart from most other Republicans. Though W ran partly on opposition to nation-building operations in foreign lands, and that sure didn’t stop him sticking us into a couple big ugly ones.

          • Atlas says:

            It’s a little more subtle than that, because in many ways the Groypers aren’t as far right.

            It’s the eternal Pat Buchanan v. George H.W. Bush confrontation arising again, really.

            Certainly the ones making noise tend to be a little more right-wing, just because anyone willing to stand up and make noise are more naturally extreme, but “far right v. center” is not quite the right formulation.

            I’m not sure. The Groypers themselves would certainly contest your description, because they would claim that more conventionally centrist positions on issues like economics, the environment and foreign policy are True Conservatism, so they’re more conservative than Charlie Kirk and Ben Shapiro.

            However, even if we grant that they’re more centrist on some axes, I think it’s worth noting that their leader, Nick Fuentes, has expressed his sincere gratitude for the generous and enthusiastic support he’s received during this time from Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer. (He cleverly refers to him as Andrew Klavan [wink], that guy with the bald head [wink], from The Daily Wire [wink].) I don’t know, is there any position further to the right than avowed respect and admiration for Germany’s National Socialist government and its leaders?

            @Albatross11

            I think Buchanan was opposed to interventionist foreign policy, which set him pretty far apart from most other Republicans. Though W ran partly on opposition to nation-building operations in foreign lands, and that sure didn’t stop him sticking us into a couple big ugly ones.

            A slight correction: Buchanan’s been opposed to interventionist foreign policy—since 1990 or so. He proudly served in the Nixon administration in the late 1960s/early 70s, under which ~20,000 American soldiers, and far, far more Southeast Asians, died in Indochina as the result of the needless continuation of a senseless war of aggression. (Which he supported from its inception.) He went on to proudly serve in the Reagan administration in the 1980s, during which he naturally endorsed the savage, illegal campaign of terrorism that the US government was waging against Nicaragua at that time.

            I’m glad that old Uncle Pat started to realize in the 1990s that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn were onto something about how terrible war often is back in the 1960s. However, I’m reminded of what someone, perhaps one of his fellow paleoconservatives, once said about the neoconservatives:

            It is splendid when the town whore gets religion and joins the church. Now and then she makes a good choir director, but when she begins to tell the minister what he ought to say in his Sunday sermons, matters have been carried too far

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          It’s a conflict between people who want general restrictionism vs people who want to staple green cards to college diplomas. Between people who want commitments to keep US Troops in Syria and those who want to want a detente, between people who say “What about the heartland” and people who say “What’s good for google is good for America”.

          So it’s not “They’re not extreme enough” it’s “I specifically requested the opposite of this”

          Is this newsworthy or significant? Well Don Jr was heckeled off a campus not by the usual suspects but by nominal supporters, and that man bites dog story was covered somewhat in the press. (So it’s not restricted to twitter debates) If that happened to the elder during a campaign rally closer to november of next year it would be worthy of national headlines i think.

        • Do you honestly think that Trump’s base or conservatives who will reluctantly pull the lever for anyone not Elizabeth Warren give a shit what some 22 year old with a Youtube show says? If they notice at all (which they won’t, because most of the electorate isn’t invested in internet culture enough to know who these people are) they’ll just see at as bona fides for people like Ben Shapiro, “he can’t be racist because the REAL racists don’t like him!”

          The average boomer conservative type doesn’t pay attention to Fuentes, nor does he pay attention to Shapiro. In 2016 all these conservative pundits united against Trump and failed to convince the Republican voters not to elect him. The Groypers are trying to do the same thing Trump did, exploit the great difference in ideology between the Republican base and Conservatism Inc.

          • Aftagley says:

            The Groypers are trying to do the same thing Trump did, exploit the great difference in ideology between the Republican base and Conservatism Inc.

            Interesting. What’s their end goal?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Interesting. What’s their end goal?

            Basically that all Republican representatives are Tucker Carlson in policy instead of Ben Shapiro.

      • I think Nick Fuentes represents/predicts the future of American conservatism far more than Ben Shapiro does.

        Maybe. A prerequisite for this to happen is that the Groypers start running candidates, and they show no sign of doing so. The weirdest aspect of this is the Christian stuff. They are never going to win a “more Christian than thou” war with their enemies because their enemies have the support of the Churches.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Saw a student ask question about health insurance and he gave some libertarian take.
      Well, he sure impressed the college student.
      He sounds eloquent, but I thought I could have done better on the spot just by channeling what I saw from Milton Friedman in “Free to Choose”-clips.
      So I think he’s just not that sharp.
      He appears smart to some, because there are no people around making any bettter libertarian arguments (in that go-to-campus-talk-to-the-students format).
      And other sound-bite personalities, activists, pundits and politicians are usually dumber than him.

  34. ana53294 says:

    Bolivia: coup or not?

    I have seen contradicting reports that the elections may or may not have been fraudulent. While the vote count was mysteriously stopped at 85% and Evo not winning, the votes that were reported later were from Bolivia’s more indigenous regions, which do overwhelmingly vote for Evo. And while the election repeating would be fine, Evo still had his presidency until January.

    I don’t think Evo being a candidate was a good idea, especially considering the referendum and the Bolivian constitution. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of people object to Evo’s presidency for the wrong reasons. There are reports of more and more racially motivated attacks*, and it does seem like the police make more efforts to defend the non-indigenous people*.

    Although Evo should not have been a candidate, indigenous people being in the government, getting jobs in the government (sometimes preferentially, as they know the indigenous languages, and that gives them an advantage), and being proportionally represented in positions of power is rightfully due to them in a democracy. A democratic Bolivia cannot go back to indigenous people not being represented, as they make 20% of the population; that can only be reversed violently.

    *Bolivia being what it is, it’s unclear to me whether the people doing the gang attacks on the indigenous people are white, mestizo, or a combination of both. Most reports don’t specify the race of the gangs. It’s troubling either way, but Bolivia has three groups (indigenous, mestizo and whites), and the alliances could work in different ways. My guess is that it’s mestizo plus whites attacking indigenous people, as whites are too small a minority to create that much trouble (5%).

    • A democratic Bolivia cannot go back to indigenous people not being represented, as they make 20% of the population; that can only be reversed violently.

      Arabs are 20% of Israel’s population, but their parties are usually locked out of participating in government coalitions by an informal cordon sanitaire.

      • ana53294 says:

        And Israel is not non-violent, and not that democratic (equal votes, equal representation). It’s probably the most democratic and least violent country in the Middle East, but the Middle East being what it is, that’s not much.

        • It depends on how you define being democratic. It has free and fair elections, but it’s not too close to the Democratic party policy-wise.

          • ana53294 says:

            It depends on how you define being democratic.

            Letting all people in territories directly controlled by your government vote, for starters.

            EDIT: Puerto Rico and DC not having representation federally makes the US less democratic, in my opinion.

          • @ana53294,

            Should we have let the Germans in our occupation zone vote? If Israel were to annex the area and not let the residents vote, that would be clearly undemocratic. Historically it has been willing to evacuate the large majority of the occupied territory in return for a peace deal. Right now there are some noises to never ever do that even if a peace deal is offered, and if they keep that up they risk legitimizing the “apartheid” charge and being clearly undemocratic.

          • ana53294 says:

            How generous of them, to take away people’s land and help them evacuate. Many people actually want to return and get back their ancestor’s lands. How is kicking people out of their homes and denying them votes better than just denying them votes? If anything, it’s worse.

            Yes, it would have been better if the Germans were allowed to vote. But that wasn’t a permanent situation, at least. Permanency means it’s even more important to have representation. So, although it would be nice if the US stops invading countries it has no intention of formally annexing, giving universal suffrage to the peoples of the territories they control directly and permanently is more important.

          • Ketil says:

            Letting all people in territories directly controlled by your government vote, for starters.

            I think most countries only give voting rights to its citizens, and not based on residence. Arab citizens of Israel are, AFAIK, allowed to vote.

            Your argument makes sense if you consider the West Bank, Golan, and perhaps Gaza? Israeli territories and and the Palestinians living there Israeli citizens. I think most people would disagree with these definitions, including the Palestinians themselves. Residents of the annexed territories (Golan and east Jerusalem) were offered (and mostly rejected) citizenship, but still get to vote in local elections and such.

            I’m not sure what standard to hold Israel to in this regard. I’m pretty sure Russian citizens living in Svalbard are not allowed to vote in the Norwegian national elections. Other examples of territories containing non-national citizens controlled by democratic nations?

          • ana53294 says:

            If people reject citizenship, it’s OK if they don’t get to vote or be representatives. It should be offered, though. There are two peaceful solutions to the issue: Palestine becomes and independent country, or Palestinians become Israeli citizens and somehow make peace with Israel. The only way Israel gets to hold the Palestinian territories is the second one.

          • DarkTigger says:

            I mean the reason why voting rights for the Paelistines will never happen is quite obvious.
            Israel is supposed to be a Jewish Nation state, it is it’s whole reason d’être. The population from the Gaza Strip alone would raise the arabic/muslim part of the population to 33%. The population from the Westbank would raise it to almost 50%. It would stop to be what it exists to be.
            Naturally this does not explain the situation in the US Territories.

          • ana53294 says:

            @DarkTigger

            Exactly, which is why Palestine should become a state. For peace between the two countries, a contiguous territory and water rights oven the Jordan, and the EEZ that corresponds to Gaza. But somehow saying that is antisemitic, when the other non-genocidal option (citizenship to Palestinians) is even less tenable.

            Permanent occupation of territory you don’t intend to annex is undemocratic.

          • Murphy says:

            re: rejection of citizenship, it gets a little more complex if there’s implicit strings attached.

            Democracy doesn’t work well with annexation and separatist movements.

            First often accepting the vote is taken as an implicit endorsement of the legitimacy of the occupying power.

            “Here’s the right to vote… but only if you basically declare to the world that you accept and endorse our claim to this land here”

            Which can cripple any attempt to form a political party opposed to that claim.

            Northern ireland suffers that issue where a party with members elected to westminster doesn’t actually send any because they’d have to swear Oaths of allegiance to the Crown… which is basically 180 degrees to their entire position as a party.

          • J Mann says:

            Alexander Turok:

            Historically [Israel] has been willing to evacuate the large majority of the occupied territory in return for a peace deal.

            ana53294

            How generous of them, to take away people’s land and help them evacuate. Many people actually want to return and get back their ancestor’s lands. How is kicking people out of their homes and denying them votes better than just denying them votes?

            I’m pretty sure Alexander Turok meant “evacuate” to mean Israel leaving the territory, not removing the residents.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @ana53294

            Puerto Rico, and especially DC, are issues which should have been dealt with long, long ago.

            That said, the natural born citizens of both can federally vote to their heart’s content just by moving to a state (though this is not the case with American Samoans, who are nationals instead of citizens). Not so with those born in the Israeli occupied territories (or whatever the appropriate term is).

            Hopefully all of these issues will be resolved at some point.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            @ana53294
            I think he means evacuate Jewish people who were already making a home for themselves, but I’m unsure which territories exactly are talked of.

          • ana53294 says:

            That doesn’t seem to fit the evidence of the settlements, which not only are not evacuated, but are encouraged. What time period is being referred to?

        • Purplehermann says:

          1. Do you think Israel is less voilent than America, Russia, or China? Please explain why if that is.

          2. The Arab parties are usually unwilling to join the government.

          2a. There are MKs in the arab parties who are quite clearly in favor of jews being killed, I’m very glad that they aren’t in the government.

          3. Israeli arabs (citizens) can vote. Non citizens cannot vote in Israeli elections.

          4.Palestinian arabs are ruled by the PLO, Hamas (and maybe the jihadists now?), not the Israeli government. Representation is for the bodies governing you.

          5. Historically Israel has tried giving up land/control for peace, this has a terrible record.
          Allowing non citizens to be governed by the PLO gave Israel the antiFadas, and to this day terrorists’ families get a check because the terrorist in question attacked the Israeli Jews and is martyr who is jailed/dead because he partipated in this “war”.
          Elections in the Gaza Strip allowed a terrorist organization which fires rockets into Israeli cities fairly often, and occasionally in great numbers.

          Why on earth would Israel give up more land?

          • ana53294 says:

            Representation is for the bodies governing you.

            And Israel governs the access (borders) to Palestine, their seas, their air. How is that not governing? Palestinians are not sovereign in their country.

            Israel also controls movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

            Historically Israel has tried giving up land/control for peace, this has a terrible record.

            They did that from a position of weakness. Have they done it from a position of strenght?

            Why on earth would Israel give up more land?

            Sea and water access is more critical than land here. But land is needed to join Gaza and the West Bank.

          • Purplehermann says:

            Regardless, Israel does not govern. If Israel made the laws for what goes on inside gaza this would be different.

            Israel has many citizens in the west bank, and many terrorists in gaza.
            Besides, every other country in the world also controls movement through its borders. (Would you be upset if Canadians weren’t allowed free passage through American borders to Mexico?).

            Any attempt to allow Palestinians more control has backfired, why would Israel try again?

          • ana53294 says:

            Regardless, Israel does not govern. If Israel made the laws for what goes on inside gaza this would be different.

            It depends what govern means for you. If it is in the modern big government style, no, it doesn’t. But historically, a lot of governments have left the people they governed to do their own business, and only controlled their external trade, as tariffs were the way to tax back then.

            Israel does control external trade, can impose tariffs, and restricts access to sea and water. They govern Palestine in the same way governments in the past governed their countries. Sure, they don’t directly tax incomes, households, impose a draft or regulate the civil affairs of Palestinians. But historically, only recently (in the last ~400 years) have modern governments began to be able to do so.

            So yes, Israel does govern Palestine, and Palestinians do partly govern themselves also.

          • Purplehermann says:

            Assuming your definition,
            Do you think a goverment should give representation to people who partially govern themselves, and who’s local government openly states they would like to kill everyone of the larger government’s citizens, along with sending rockets over the border and praising the murder of the larger government’s citizens at the hands of the local citizens?

            I think you can have representation once your interests aren’t ‘whatever is bad for everyone besides us’. Do you think differently?
            Do you think the Palestinians don’t want Israelis dead?

          • Guy in TN says:

            I think you can have representation once your interests aren’t ‘whatever is bad for everyone besides us’. Do you think differently?

            Not who you are responding to, but of course I disagree. If you are going to start disenfranchising people because of what you perceive as fundamentally immoral beliefs, there’s no end point to that logic. I turn it around and argue that “Israel should be a Jewish state” is a fundamentally inhuman and immoral belief, and that people who advocate for it should also be disenfranchised.

            Do you think the Palestinians don’t want Israelis dead?

            In 2014, Israel bombings killed ~2,200 Palestinians, with the low estime being that ~55% of these people were non-combatants.

            “But Palestinians want to kill us!” should be a level-0 tier non-argument.

          • ana53294 says:

            I think you can have representation once your interests aren’t ‘whatever is bad for everyone besides us’. Do you think differently?

            Yes, I think Nazis, genocidal maniacs, pedophiles, murderers, terrorists, convicted criminals*, imprisoned criminals, and everybody else should get a vote. A country can restrict the kind of law they vote for; that’s what Constitutions are for. So you shouldn’t be able to legally enact a law that says “kill all XXX”. But you should be able to vote if you believe that, and you should be able to vote for people who believe that. Your contry’s institutions, courts, Constitution, etc., should serve as balances against such urges by the legislature. That’s why there are three branches.

            If a country has a majority of people who would vote for a law that says “kill all XXX” you have bigger problems than Nazis voting anyway.

            EDIT: *I know in the US you don’t, but it is my sincere belief that in a healthy society, criminals would not be able to outvote non-criminals, and if they do, well, the problem isn’t criminals voting.

            I also think, like @Guy in TN, that it’s a slippery slope. Everybody should get a vote.

          • In 2014, Israel bombings killed ~2,200 Palestinians, with the low estime being that ~55% of these people were non-combatants.

            That’s very low by historical bombing standards. I tell them the same thing I tell Germans who cry about Dresden, if you don’t like the war, you shouldn’t have started it.

            The question here is not about whether you can disenfranchise a group simply because of ‘evil’ ideas. It is whether Israel is morally obliged to give voting rights the people who are not citizens, who are only under its control because they started and lost a war against it.(I count the Arabs as having started the six day war, as Egypt blockaded Israel which is generally regarded as an act of war.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It is whether Israel is morally obliged to give voting rights the people who are not citizens

            They clearly are obligated, if you believe in any of the following:
            1. Democracy
            2. Consent of the governed
            3. Any utilitarian calculus that places the same value on the life of a Palestinian as that of an Israeli

            Now, if you don’t subscribe to any of the following, then I suppose you may not be convinced.

          • Cliff says:

            They clearly are obligated, if you believe in any of the following:
            1. Democracy
            2. Consent of the governed
            3. Any utilitarian calculus that places the same value on the life of a Palestinian as that of an Israeli

            How so?

          • Cliff says:

            In 2014, Israel bombings killed ~2,200 Palestinians, with the low estime being that ~55% of these people were non-combatants.

            This was an extraordinary triumph. Israel took superhuman efforts to avoid civilian casualties and succeeded to an extent never before seen in human history. Palestinians were firing rockets from schools, hospitals, private homes with human shields. Israelis were dropping leaflets, dummy bombs to knock on the roofs of the buildings to warn people to get out. A huge bombing campaign in an extremely dense urban setting, to end a rocket and tunnel terror campaign by Hamas, resulting in so few civilian casualties is frankly miraculous.

          • Guy in TN says:

            How so?

            Well, let me start by asking which one of those three things, if any, do you support? That would help me make the case more concise.

          • Purplehermann says:

            My claim was less of a moral one, more of a self preservation one. Forget the ideas being evil, why would giving a group whose central tenets include killing you power and control be a good idea?

            (From a moral perspective I don’t really agree with the framework you are working with, but let’s stick to incentives.

            Saying other people are immoral for not working against their own survival and for those who would kill them instead is a lot easier than holding yourself to those standards. So before moralizing, please explain, decision theory wise, you think israel should do this.)

          • Guy in TN says:

            Forget the ideas being evil, why would giving a group whose central tenets include killing you power and control be a good idea?

            Saying other people are immoral for not working against their own survival and for those who would kill them instead is a lot easier than holding yourself to those standards. So before moralizing, please explain, decision theory wise, you think israel should do this.

            From an amoral self-interested perspective, there’s no argument not too, sure. There’s also no prescriptive argument for or against anything, really, if you remove from the table any notions that your actions should striving to reach a conception of justice.

            You’re trying to switch from a normative question of what Israel ought to do, to a descriptive one of “what is best for Isreal’s survival?”. But we haven’t yet established why I should care about that.

          • Aapje says:

            @Guy in TN

            A lot of those arguments are tautological too: to stay a racist state, Israel needs racist policies.

          • Cliff says:

            Well, let me start by asking which one of those three things, if any, do you support? That would help me make the case more concise.

            I really hope this is not going to end in some more of your unique definitions that nobody else uses. I would say in a loose sense I support all three.

          • They clearly are obligated, if you believe in any of the following:
            1. Democracy
            2. Consent of the governed
            3. Any utilitarian calculus that places the same value on the life of a Palestinian as that of an Israeli

            I don’t think principles 1. and 2. are absolute. I’ll repeat my question to ana53294, were we obligated to let the Germans in our occupation zone send representatives to Congress? Were we to do so even in a world where Werwolf was launching suicide bombs at us? On principle 3. I’m a citizenist, the Israeli government is obligated to respect the basic human rights of non-citizens, but may favor its own citizens.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Cliff
            You support democracy? That seems to be change from a few months ago, when on the question of voting vs. purchasing for gauging preferences, you said:

            In fact voting is a relatively poor way to determine preference, because the vote has no impact on the voter one way or another. The only reason to vote is to feel good about yourself, so voters do not take into consideration the costs and benefits of their choices.

            So is this support of democracy a new belief of yours?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @AlexanderTurok
            I appreciate your honesty in holding that neither of the three beliefs are guiding moral principles of yours.

            Like I said earlier, if your morality isn’t guided by any of the above, I don’t think there’s anything I can argue that would change your mind.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I’d say I loosely support democracy but don’t see a lot of value in voting.

            Mostly I think democracy provides a viable alternative to violence; if you have the numbers to win a war, you have the numbers to win a vote.

            So it is valuable for maintaining a peaceful coalition of disparate actors. This value goes down for cases of, for example, occupied or otherwise hostile actors.

            ETA:

            Another way of framing this is that Democracy provides an orderly mechanism for transfer of power between groups of actors, and if your objective is to limit their power, for example their power to kill you, it is quite antithetical to that purpose to include them in your Democracy.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Alexander Turok

            I answered it somewhere, but I’ll repeat my answer anyway:

            I’ll repeat my question to ana53294, were we obligated to let the Germans in our occupation zone send representatives to Congress?

            I think I made clear that there is a moral distinction between a temporary and a permanent situation. If the US had all but annexed Germany, yes, Germans should have been allowed to vote, and have representatives in Congress, Electoral College votes, and formally join the US as a state.

            Permanently controlling another nation, in all but name annexing it, is highly irregular. At some point, you need to shit or get off the pot.

            The US chose to get off Germany. Israel is doing neither. Am I explicit enough now?

            Colonialism is not considered a legitimate form of government anymore. Consent of the governed matters.

            EDIT:

            I believe that giving people the vote and making those you govern citizens and giving them a stake and some of the levers of power also serves to delegitimize violence.

            The Basques’ stopped the violent path precisely because legitimacy was lost, in the eyes of our own people. Sure, Palestinians now view Israelis as their enemy. But the next generation, the ones who get 30% of the representatives in the Knesset, and sometimes form political alliances with the more moderate Jews, sometimes with the Haredi, and learn to live in a democracy? They won’t support violence, and won’t be willing to die, because they’ll have better options.

            A generational change may be required, but the current path won’t solve the situation ever, unless one or the other side is exterminated/ethnically cleansed (and it currently looks that the Palestinians will be wiped, but who knows how it turns out).

          • @Guy in TN

            You support democracy? That seems to be change from a few months ago, when on the question of voting vs. purchasing for gauging preferences, you said:

            In fact voting is a relatively poor way to determine preference, because the vote has no impact on the voter one way or another. The only reason to vote is to feel good about yourself, so voters do not take into consideration the costs and benefits of their choices.

            So is this support of democracy a new belief of yours?

            This is the standard internet gotcha! that this blog tries to avoid. It’s perfectly consistent to criticize the rationality of voters and the lack of voter influence on politics while still supporting the system as better than any alternative.

            @ana53294,

            Yes, you did answer, I meant to direct the question to Guy in TN.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It’s perfectly consistent to criticize the rationality of voters and the lack of voter influence on politics while still supporting the system as better than any alternative.

            Sure, but this isn’t what was happening in that thread. There was an alternative, Cliff was supporting the alternative. It wasn’t “here’s some problems with democracy”, it was “here’s why we shouldn’t do democracy, and instead do this other thing”.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m just looking for intellectual clarity.

            I honestly can’t see how anyone with a libertarian bent could support democracy as a guiding moral principle. It runs contrary to so much else they believe. Democracy means that two people can tell one person what to do. Democracy as a guiding moral principle means that this outcome is good.

            So yes, before someone reflexively says that they support democracy, they should honestly think about whether this is congruent with the other values they espouse. I think your answer was honest Alexander Turok: you don’t support it as an absolute. I’m glad you said this, because otherwise I would said something like “well, if you support democracy, that means x, y, z” and your response would be “ah, well that’s when I don’t support democracy” and we would been back to square one.

          • Cliff says:

            Sure, but this isn’t what was happening in that thread. There was an alternative, Cliff was supporting the alternative. It wasn’t “here’s some problems with democracy”, it was “here’s why we shouldn’t do democracy, and instead do this other thing”.

            Democracy is a form of government, which was not the topic in that other thread. I certainly was not advocating for an alternative to democracy, and for you to assert that is disingenuous in the extreme.

            Very disturbing behavior for you to try to slide that by and hope I didn’t come back to correct you.

            In fact the topic of that conversation was how, according to you, all market transactions are coercive and therefore the allocation of all resources should be decided by a vote.

            Are you now arguing that “democracy” means communism? Because if so you really should be banned from the site.

          • albatross11 says:

            Guy in TN:

            FWIW, I also don’t support democracy, the constitution, separation of powers, federalism, etc., as fundamental values. Instead, I support them as the best available way to make the kind of society I want to live in. Democratic elections can elect terrible people, the constitution has plenty of flaws and is routinely “interpreted” to mean whatever the supremes want it to mean, separation of powers and federalism can just mean you’re screwed over by some local power and the feds can’t do anything to stop it, etc.

            But I don’t know a better way to get the kind of society I want to live in–one with enormous freedom and room for invention and innovation and progress and human flourishing–except by using such mechanisms. Parliamentary vs presidential system, proportional vs first-past-the-post, common law vs Napoleonic, those all seem capable of supporting decent societies where humans can flourish. There may be many other ways to do that–maybe you really can get there with a god-king or an oligarchy or government chosen by sortition or anarchocapitalism or anarchosyndicalism or something–but I don’t think we know how to do that, whereas we have a bunch of worked examples and operational experience with democracy, rule-of-law, etc.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I too, am a supporter of democracy. I can certainly see how my post may have been unclear on that. And like you, I don’t support it as a terminal value per se, but rather as the best way to aggregate the values that a group of people have. (With some edge-case exceptions, that I remember talking about with you just a few days ago).

            Because I place equal value on the utility of each person, and I consider an increase in their utility to be “good”, the outcome of using the democratic method to gauge and implement their preferences is very close to what I consider to be morally “good”.

    • quanta413 says:

      getting jobs in the government (sometimes preferentially, as they know the indigenous languages, and that gives them an advantage)

      Just to clarify in case I’m missing something: preferring a candidate because they speak a language useful for their job that other candidates don’t seems like the sort of preference that’s a good preference to exercise.

      It sounds like a pretty classical example of a merit based criterion to me. Do you speak the languages of the people you will have to interact with as part of your job?

      • ana53294 says:

        preferring a candidate because they speak a language useful for their job that other candidates don’t seems like the sort of preference that’s a good preference to exercise.

        I guess you mean:

        preferring a candidate because they speak a language useful for their job that other candidates seems like the sort of preference that’s a good preference to exercise.

        Yes, that’s right. It is a perfectly legitimate preference, that should have happened before. Teachers, doctors, administrators, police who speak the local language will be able to serve the people better.

        And it’s a good thing, a thing that should happen, and was happening under Evo. It just meant that non-indigenous people now have a harder time getting a government job, which stokes the flames of racial/ethnic hatred.

    • Clutzy says:

      Although Evo should not have been a candidate, indigenous people being in the government, getting jobs in the government (sometimes preferentially, as they know the indigenous languages, and that gives them an advantage), and being proportionally represented in positions of power is rightfully due to them in a democracy. A democratic Bolivia cannot go back to indigenous people not being represented, as they make 20% of the population; that can only be reversed violently.

      This seems to me an odd definition of democracy, as does your entire tone about “democracy”. 20% of the people are basically guaranteed nothing in a democracy. There is no constitution that I know of that cannot be amended by 80% consensus.

      Although, your rhetoric seems to be that of democracy as a virtue in itself, which is a view I don’t really subscribe to. I value it when it results in a resistance to tyranny, as it has in England, America, etc. One man, one vote, one time democracy that is common in the Middle East and South America is bad. And its not only the dictatorial takeover that is bad, the initial vote is clearly flawed as well.

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s still democracy, but if your democracy ends up dividing starkly along racial lines, I suspect that’s usually a pretty bad sign for how things are going to go in yo