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Open Thread 141.5

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698 Responses to Open Thread 141.5

  1. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Mandalorian (episode 2 or 3 maybe spoilers)

    So in the Star Wars universe, can you just make a tracker that points at a specific person? It seems like there have been trackers pointing at either the prize or at Mando, at times, and this seems like an amazing technology to have.

    • acymetric says:

      My understanding is that the tracker is some kind of biometric reader, that can track from some distance but requires an amount of proximity. Definitely need to be on the same planet, and probably in the same general vicinity. Remember when Mando get’s the target and the guy tells him “we can give you his last known location, that plus the tracker should be more than enough for you” (paraphrased).

      This suggests that the bounty hunters tracked Mando/Baby Yoda to the planet using conventional means (informant or some such) and then tracked them to the village using the tracker.

  2. albatross11 says:

    This Twitter thread from Paige Harden[1] (there’s a link to slides as well) is really interesting. For several years now, Harden has been working on, more-or-less, how to have a humane liberal policy response to the factual claims (at least some of them) of human b-odiversity[2]. In particular, she’s concerned with individual differences in intelligence (and other mental traits) derived from genetic differences.

    She describes her approach in opposition to what she calls “eugenic ideology,” by which I think she means thinking of the winners of the genetic IQ lottery as the important people and the losers as unimportant and worthy only of dismissal and scorn. (Or worse–coercive eugenics programs were on board with forcibly sterilizing the unfit, and things go downhill from there….)

    The eugenic ideology is a natural belief system to arise among subcultures organized mainly on how smart they are–for example, my office full of very smart people has people of many races, creeds, nationalities, native languages, etc. The unifying factors are intelligence and technical knowledge of a kind that can’t be acquired without high intelligence. I think it’s been widely adopted, de facto if not explicitly, among most of the important decisionmakers in our society. I think among people at/near the top, it’s rare to even know anyone personally who had a hard time getting through high school (other than for special ed kinds of reasons)–that makes it easy to just dismiss their concerns, or to never notice that the ten-page dense form required to get some needed government service is an annoying waste of time to you and an almost-impossible barrier to a guy in the bottom 10% of intelligence.

    Her contrasting idea isn’t very detailed in these slides (just ten slides, so there’s not much space for details), but I think she’s focused on making the case that the people who lost the genetic IQ lottery are full human beings and deserve to be treated properly. She also mentioned using genetic testing to infer places where there are unfair things going on–that tracks with some of her earlier research, where as I understand it, she was looking at how educational resources were allocated relative to genetic indicators of mathematical ability.

    Oddly, the two people I’ve seen write fairly extensively on this issue are Charles Murray and Steve Sailer–one, she’s reviled in print, and the other, I’m pretty sure she’d find even less acceptable. But both have talked about the need to make sure there’s a place in our society for people who are on the left end of the intelligence bell curve.

    I think this kind of thinking is really important. People are getting routinely ground up in the gears in our current society, and mostly that’s invisible because almost nobody with any kind of voice or power knows any of those people. This is just shitty. Further, we really need some kind of notion of human dignity that accepts differences in ability without consigning anyone to the trash can.

    One hopeful precedent here is the ADA and related design for people with disabilities. If we can be compassionate and helpful to people in wheelchairs or people who are blind, maybe we can also manage it for people who are on the left end of the bell curve. On the other hand, I strongly suspect that the kind of ideas that come out of seriously thinking this stuff through will not fit too well with any existing political ideology. For my part, I became less libertarian and more accepting of both paternalistic laws and social safety net programs after reading _The Bell Curve_ and really internalizing that a lot of people were on the bottom because of stuff they had no control over.

    [1] Harden is a working researcher in genetics, intelligence, and education, so she knows what she’s talking about here.

    [2] As I understand it, she doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to believe that racial differences in IQ have any genetic basis, so she’s certainly not on board with every belief common among the h.beady types.

    • Aftagley says:

      One hopeful precedent here is the ADA and related design for people with disabilities. If we can be compassionate and helpful to people in wheelchairs or people who are blind, maybe we can also manage it for people who are on the left end of the bell curve.

      I’m not so confident. Every group that managed to reform society in their interests, whether it be the disabled, homosexuals, African Americans or whomever else were able to achieve societal protections on the strength of a bunch of really smart, motivated and hard-working people inside the community. This group of people doesn’t have the capacity to do this, not in any kind of robust and independent way.

      Maybe you could convince them of an issue, and maybe you could get them to hold a sign and march, but any kind of protection for the left 10% isn’t going to be developed by the group of people it’s looking to protect. It will be done by people like Harden, but however compassionate she might be, she’s an outsider. That outsider makes her and those like her inherently less compelling as advocates.

      You yourself summed it up best:

      People are getting routinely ground up in the gears in our current society, and mostly that’s invisible because almost nobody with any kind of voice or power knows any of those people.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m not so confident. Every group that managed to reform society in their interests, whether it be the disabled, homosexuals, African Americans or whomever else were able to achieve societal protections on the strength of a bunch of really smart, motivated and hard-working people inside the community

        Counterexample: Child labor laws, and child welfare in general. Though at least there the smart, motivated, hard-working advocates were people who used to be children, so this may not generalize.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      Well, this is late stage social justice – abolition of standards.

      I would like to question what being smart really is. There are metrics like IQ tests, but that’s just map instead of territory. Would doing better not be what ultimately qualifies a person for being smart?

      • albatross11 says:

        Even without a precise definition, it’s clear that some people are a lot smarter than others, and that some are dull enough that they can’t function very well in normal life and society.

        The people on the left end of that distribution are noticeably different from the people on the right in terms of what they can do. And the people on the right end of that distribution write all the laws and design all the technology that the people on the left end have to live with.

        • And the people on the right end of that distribution write all the laws and design all the technology that the people on the left end have to live with.

          The people on the left end are customers, even if they have less money than the people on the right end. The people designing the technology have an incentive to try to make it work for as many customers as possible, which includes those at the left end. Not so clear that that applies to the people writing the laws.

          • Adrian says:

            The people designing the technology have an incentive to try to make it work for as many customers as possible, which includes those at the left end.

            Only if the marginal increase in gross profit exceeds the marginal increase in development costs.

            This may sound like a nitpick, but it’s an important consideration to keep in mind: A profit-seeking motive does not imply that everyone’s needs are met. Take blind people, for example: A small minority, and probably more affluent (per capita) than the left-most 10% on the IQ curve. Look around you, how many technical devices could be used by a blind person without guidance from a non-blind person?

          • A profit-seeking motive does not imply that everyone’s needs are met.

            Obviously not. Some “needs,” insofar as we can define needs, cannot be met.

            I, for example, need a way to stop getting older–ideally to get a few decades younger. It’s possible that it will be met before it’s too late for me, but there is no way to know that it can.

            The quote I was responding to seemed to be implying that, since the people on the right end of the scale were developing the technology, the needs of those on the left end would be ignored.

            That would make sense if everyone developed for his own use only, but that isn’t how the real world works. People developing technology know more about their own wants, but they have an incentive to be concerned with the wants of all possible customers.

            So far as your point, it is true of the “needs” of those on the right end too.

          • Aapje says:

            People developing technology know more about their own wants, but they have an incentive to be concerned with the wants of all possible customers.

            Not really. The group of customers with a need has to be sufficiently large to be worth even considering them, let alone tailoring the product to them (especially when the latter may make the product less pleasant for larger groups).

          • albatross11 says:

            The people on the right end have an incentive to make their product useful to people on the left end, but often don’t have the requisite understanding of the left end of the bell curve to do so.

          • The group of customers with a need has to be sufficiently large to be worth even considering them

            The statement “X has an incentive to do Y” does not mean “X will do Y.” It means that X has more reason to do Y than if he did not have that incentive.

            Whether X does Y will also depend on how hard Y is to do and what other reasons he has to do or not do it.

          • Aapje says:

            @David

            Fair enough, although small incentives are small.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      @albatross11

      we really need some kind of notion of human dignity that accepts differences in ability without consigning anyone to the trash can.

      The notion you are looking for is the notion that no one is better than another, that no life is better than another. When that is believed no one is consigned to the trash can. No one is in need of compassion.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Genes aren’t relevant to anything she says there, as is nigh-universal in cases where people say that genes might be relevant.

    • Plumber says:

      @albatross11,
      Something that I still don’t get in the many “racial IQ. differences so affirmative-action is bad”” arguments I see, as to me it seems that if true even more affirmative-action seems merited (and once again, for the record, those who’ve told me they got their jobs through affirmative-action programs seem to be very effective workers compared to those who got in through written tests, the best way I’ve seen to get effective workers is a supervisor who knows the job directly interviewing applicants, but I know that takes to much time when hundreds are applying, so I see why the written tests, but as far as I can tell other than culling the number of applicants to interview, which saves time, there isn’t much merit in “merit” hiring, the affirmative-action hires try harder when hired.

      I suspect lottery plus interviews would work as well (if not better!) than test based hiring.

      • AliceToBob says:

        @ Plumber

        You didn’t ask me, but here’s one opinion.

        In short, I agree that, if certain demographics have lower IQ, then they may need aid, and I don’t have any problem with society providing this.

        But whatever form that aid takes, it wouldn’t rest on the same justification as AA. For me, this is the important difference.

        AA is justified by the assumption that racism in our society is pervasive. There are many evil people who actively oppress certain races, in addition to less-evil people who unwittingly contribute to inequality of outcome via, for example, implicit bias. According to this, I am likely one of these evil people.

        But if a large part of this inequality can be explained by IQ differences, then you don’t need to assume the existence of so many “villains” in the world, some who must be ruined to uphold this justification. In areas where IQ matters, corporations/institutions aren’t engaging in racist policies, they’re just hiring the most capable people, and that’s something that’s quite defensible, even desirable for society. I think this would also alter our perception of group trends with respect to educational outcomes and the judicial system.

        If true, then I think society is better off knowing this, rather than bearing whatever costs come from assuming so many of its components/participants are tainted with racism.

        Edited later for language.

        • Plumber says:

          @AliceToBob,
          Thanks very much for your response!

          To me racism is one of many components to the headwinds that cause inter-generational poverty (certainly the poor communities of Appalachia probably aren’t victims of “racism” unless you use older meanings of “race”!), and I suspect it’s of diminished importantance (and for the record I support afirmative action for whites who grew up poor as well as afirmative action for non-whites).

          If the goal is to increase non-white incomes relative to white incomes.what I think is instructive is to think of when non-white incomes historically rose as a percentage of white incomes, what was happening then, and why that would effect income, so 1941 to 1955, and to me it’s pretty damn obvious why those years:
          1) Full employment.
          2) Millions left the fields to go into the factories and shipyards.
          3) With Executive Order 8802 the Federal government ordered “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin, and I do hereby declare that it is the duty of employers and of labor organizations, in furtherance of said policy and of this Order, to provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries, without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin”
          4) Industrial unions were encouraged by the Federal government with the creation of The National War Labor Board (as an “arbitration board” to avoid “work stoppages”, which had four employers, four union leaders, and four government representatives, and with government assistance union membership went from 9 million in 1941 to 15 million in 1945 — thanks to the war, and with the postwar economic boom membership continued to climb until 1955.

          Unlike the “craft unions” of the prewar years (and after the 1970’s) during the heyday of Americans m industrial union (1941 to 1979) households that had a union member were less likely to be white than most American households (see study here) and at their peak it was the less skilled that were mostly members (assembly line workers instead of the nurses and plumbers of today’s craft unions, which are more like the 1920’s craft unions), and the wage premium of union mebership is/waa higher for “unskilled” workers than for skilled ones.

          Not a coincidence that the affirmative-action of 1941 to 1955 was more effective than the 1960’s and afterwards afirmative action in reducing the black/white income gap.

          What works worked and the reasons are obvious.

          I’ll further note the 1941 to 1973 years weren’t too shabby for the fortunes of most American white families as well, strong unions, “tripartite corporatism”, and “weaponized Keynesianism” worked well in making a powerful and prosperous republic.

          • Plumber says:

            To give an indication of just how effectively pro-union the Federal government was during the war years, in 1944 the owner of Montgomery Ward (a chain of department stores like Sears or Target, it was still in business as late as the ’90’s) was carried out of his office and arrested by National Guard troops for refusing to allow his stores to unionize, this is one of many reasons that I say 1944 was the year the U.S.A. was most Left, not the ’60’s, and certainly not now.

    • The Nybbler says:

      People are getting routinely ground up in the gears in our current society, and mostly that’s invisible because almost nobody with any kind of voice or power knows any of those people.

      High-IQ people get ground-up too; ask Aaron Swartz. Nobody cares because “you’re a smart guy, you figure it out”. What keeps you from getting ground up is social ability, not IQ.

      This is just shitty. Further, we really need some kind of notion of human dignity that accepts differences in ability without consigning anyone to the trash can.

      Some people will turn any place they are into a trash can if not physically prevented from doing so. Demanding they be provided dignity becomes an unlimited obligation on everyone else.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Yes, but intelligence helps with social ability too. Of course we all know brilliant people with the social skills of a brick, and some of us may be those people ourselves. But they do better on average than equivalently social-skill-less people on the other tail of the intelligence bell curve – and sometimes even find effective ways to compensate for their lack of social talent.

        More importantly, I’d say there are two issues here:
        1) ethical objections to consigning anybody to a metaphorical trash can
        2) specific problems affecting those of limited intelligence.

        I wouldn’t want to see e.g. a major party that was all about intelligence, and didn’t care about other limitations, regarding those whose problems weren’t based on intelligence as deserving their fate. But at the same time, with a single (and rare) discussion of intelligence, I’d prefer to stay on topic.

        Yes, there’s a place for discussion of handling problem people – whether it’s small children who assault their teachers and fellow students, or those who “will turn any place they are into a trash can if not physically prevented from doing so”. But I think it deserves its own top level thread. And as a person of limited social skills, I’d *also* like to find out whether this juxtaposition was intended to suggest that you believe that those with low social skills “will turn any place they are into a trash can if not physically prevented from doing so”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yes, but intelligence helps with social ability too.

        To some extent. But I suspect the most socially able of us (salespeople, politicians, etc) are only mildly above the mean IQ.

        But they do better on average than equivalently social-skill-less people on the other tail of the intelligence bell curve

        Maybe. But you don’t hear about the failures, except in a few unusual cases like Swartz.

        The problem people are inseparable from a discussion of what to do about low ability people. They will absorb all the resources you throw into the problem and then some.

        I’d *also* like to find out whether this juxtaposition was intended to suggest that you believe that those with low social skills “will turn any place they are into a trash can if not physically prevented from doing so”.

        The people who will turn any place into a trash can have low social skills pretty much by definition, but they are only a subset of those with low social skills.

        • DinoNerd says:

          I actually don’t see how low social skills lead to turning a place into a trash heap.

          Some people who are not well acculturated into “normal” behaviour will do that, but of those, some will know perfectly well how they ought to behave, and not do it, and others will be behaving normally for their particular subculture and/or role in society. Others will simply be responding to incentives – nothing unusually bad will happen to them if they trash apartment after apartment. And others will simply be too exhausted to cope, for whatever reason. The set of people who do this because they don’t know better seems likely to be very small, after some point in early childhood.

          And associating “social skills” with “normal cultural acculturation” is an attempt by me to steelman your position. To me, high social skills are possessed by scammers, salesmen (especially the sleazy kind), managers, politicians, and the sort of high school girls who are popular with their peers.

          The kid who talks his way out of trouble – in spite of his chronic bad behaviour – has high social skills, and is the one best able to go on to a career of taking credit for other people’s work, and talking others into doing whatever is profitable for him, however unprofitable for them. Those with lower social skills will learn that they have to provide real value to gain anywhere near as much as Mr Glib.

      • albatross11 says:

        The Nybbler:

        The set of people who turn their surroundings into a trash can is not the same as the set of people who have low IQs, nor even all that close.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Nor did I say it was. But when you accept “some kind of notion of human dignity that accepts differences in ability without consigning anyone to the trash can” then you are signing up those with high IQs with an open-ended obligation to provide dignity for those who do turn their surroundings into a trash can. If you want that obligation to be limited, you have to consign some people to the trash can.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler:

            There are actions you can do that will cause everyone to refuse to associate with you, and more extreme actions that will get you locked up in a mental institution or a prison. Those actions correlate somewhat with low IQ, but only pretty weakly. And even prisons and mental institutions aren’t complete trash cans–we typically try to allow people to come back even from those places. (Though you can do things horrible enough to never get out, which really is like a societal trash can.)

            In the meantime, we ought to care about what happens to people who aren’t bright enough to get through a non-watered-down high school curriculum. And we need to try not to grind them up in the gears or consign them to a societal trash can for getting a bad INT roll.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Specifics about the way e.g. high school works are one thing (personally I’m in favor of tracking). It’s the general idea that no group of people be permitted to fail that I object to.

            (and as long as no one gives a crap about low CHA rolls — and they don’t, almost by definition — I’m going to strictly limit my concern about those with low INT)

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not at all saying “nobody may fail.” What I’m saying is “take the left end of the bell curve into account when designing laws/policies/technology.” Don’t make someone take a 60 hour junior-college class and pass a two-hour written exam to be allowed to braid hair, because doing that makes it impossible for people with an IQ of 80 to get a job they’d be just fine at doing. Don’t create some form everyone must fill out whose instructions are ten pages of dense prose written at the 12th grade reading level, because that’s making a really high barrier for a lot of your citizens, with no real upside.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Throughout the entire bell curve the large majority of people aren’t allowed to achieve at their maximum potential. As you say, various hurdles are put in their way, or left in their way.

      This is the first problem, not how to be appropriately paternalistic to a subset of that bell curve.

      Humans suck at managing other humans. Human “b-diversity” is a second order issue at best.

      • albatross11 says:

        anonymousskimmer:

        How would you know if you were wrong?

      • LesHapablap says:

        Both culture and biology put up barriers. Humans are inherently lazy because biologically they ‘need’ to conserve energy. They like delicious, unhealthy food and addictive drugs and alcohol. They like watching TV more than studying. They like posting and reading here instead of doing useful work or study. If you have ever set yourself to study something 40 minutes per day every day, you’ll know how much you can actually accomplish over a short time period. It is truly amazing, and yet almost none of us do it.

        Culturally we are encouraged to take drugs and drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. We are ridiculed for studying and encouraged to ridicule those who study. Our role models don’t work hard and often solve problems with violence and threats of violence instead of cooperation. We are rewarded for spending time and resources on signalling their mating potential. We are told that we are stupid or weak or ugly or losers.

        Those are the biggest barriers to maximizing potential and although there are lots more that are unfair to subsets of the population, those listed above are more than enough to keep almost anyone from reaching even a fraction of their potential.

        • albatross11 says:

          IMO, a lot of this has to do with what plays well in movies/TV. Some virtues (physical bravery, for example) work well onscreen, and so we get a lot of media examples of physical bravery. Others (hard work, for example) don’t work well onscreen, and so we get few media examples of that. And many vices translate very well to the screen–being profane, promiscuous, crude, and violent all play pretty well onscreen, so we get lots of images of people acting like that.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I agree.

          That’s no reason to add additional barriers, though. And it certainly isn’t a reason to justify additional barriers.

    • Garrett says:

      Further, we really need some kind of notion of human dignity that accepts differences in ability without consigning anyone to the trash can.

      Can you unpack that? Because I suspect that’s where you are going to get the greatest amount of resistance. For example, if you want Equal Protection of the Laws to apply to these people, I think most people will be onboard. If you want government funding so that they can have the lifestyle they would have had if they were more intelligent, you’re going to get a lot more push-back.

      An alternative view is that we already have a name for things which consume resources on a regular basis about which we feel really positive: pets.

  3. AlexanderTheGrand says:

    Anyone have any good starting points on learning more about whales and dolphins? I’m looking for a book that illustrates their social complexity and intelligence.

  4. Levantine says:

    To the Bolivian political controversy, the impossible-to-classify journalist Gearoid O’Colmain is making an interesting contribution :
    https://www.gearoidocolmain.org/narco-socialist-cartel-morales-the-pope-and-the-chaos-in-bolivia/

    • teneditica says:

      It’s a good story. One plot hole is the implied claim that the jews (soros) are trying to legalize drugs, but also (israel) are involved in drug smuggling. (In neither case does he make an explicit connection to the jews, but given his attention to who is and isn’t jewish …)

    • Aftagley says:

      This is insane. This guy would get his ass laughed out of any reputable newsroom or foreign policy analysis shop. He demonstrates no interest in separating allegation from fact and seemingly can’t vet a source to save his life. As a lefty, this is why people don’t trust leftys.

      I’m going to do a deep dive on this article. His basic thesis is: A shadowy global network of globalists / the CIA is secretly running the international cocaine trade and were supporting Morales’ government. Here’s a list of every factual inaccuracy and unsupported allegation I picked out during my read. I’m only vaguely aware of Bolivian politics, so I probably missed a bunch:

      1. He straight up says the CIA overthrew Morales. His only evidence was that this used to happen during the cold war, so of course it’s still happening.

      2. He claims OAS director Luis Almagro was responsible for legalizing drugs in Uruguay in 2013. This didn’t happen. Drugs have been decriminalized in Uruguay for the past 40 years. While Uruguay did legalize personal consumption and growth of cannabis in 2013, they didn’t legalize cocaine.

      3. He says, “The legalisation of drugs is supported by billionaire financier and social engineer George Soros and other important oligarchs” Again, G.S. supports marijuana legalization, and generally opposes the war on drugs, but does not support the legalization of cocaine. O’Colmain keeps making this mistake.

      4. He keeps just offhandedly calling important politicians and activists CIA stooges, providing no proof other than that people have claimed they’re run by the CIA.

      5. He claims that documentarians working in Bolivia to uncover evidence of drug movement received death threats from US intelligence agencies. No evidence provided for this claim.

      6. He claims that Al Gore is a billionaire. He’s not.

      7. He claims that during Iran/Contra the CIA ran an organization called The Enterprise that smuggled drugs to help the Contras. This is massively oversimplifying a complex issue and The Enterprise was run the the NSC, not the CIA. While the contras did smuggle cocaine to help fund themselves, this wasn’t done by the Enterprise, although it is likely they knew it was going on.

      8. He claims the US is secretly behind the global drug trade. Any look at US funding for the DEA, the Coast Guard, CBP and SOUTHCOM should provide ample evidence this isn’t the case.

      9. He claims that “secret societies, masonic lodges, and corrupt banks […] are often under investigation by US Federal agencies such as the DEA.” Yes, banks are occasionally found guilty of abetting money laundering, but the Masons? Come on.

      10. He claims that Morale’s girlfriend, who was born and raised in Bolivia was a secret Israili spy. His evidence for that is that she used her influence in the government to get a job working for an energy company with ties to Israel.

      11. He accuses wikipedia of harboring a pro-zionist, pro-israel, pro-drug smuggling bias because “Wikipedia was formed in 2000 by two American Jews Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Its censorship of “sensitive” information related to the criminal activities of international Zionism is well-documented, and, according to RT, Israel one of the most important international hubs for drug smuggling.”

      12. He offhandedly claims that Morales, well known for being Bolivia’s first Indigenous President is “neither Bolivian nor indigenous.”

      13. He claims that anti morales information ahsn’t made it to US press because “That is most likely due to the fact that the lords of the drug lords own the US media.” So, I guess Bezos is also a drug lord lord?

      As I was finishing the article, I legitimately asked myself, “wait, if the US was running Morales, why does this idjit think it’s a CIA coup that got rid of Morales?” Funnily enough, O’Colmain asks that exact question:

      why is the US government backing the coup if the CIA is propping up Morales?

      Unfortunately, we have to wait for part 2 for the answer to that question, but apparently it has something to do with the Pope. Cool.

      All in all, this piece is ridiculous. O’Colmain isn’t impossible-to-classify, he’s a run-of-the mill conspiracy theorist.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This guy would get his ass laughed out of any reputable newsroom or foreign policy analysis shop.

        But only because those are fully owned subsidiaries of the CIA and the banking oligarchs and Israel and the Zionists and the lizard people!

        /s

      • Aftagley says:

        the impossible-to-classify journalist Gearoid O’Colmain

        Sorry to double-post, but I’m interested in trying to suss out this guy’s overall point. Looking through his other writing and twitter feed it looks like he’s:

        1. Pro-Communist to the point of being a tanky.
        2. Pro-China
        3. Anti-US to the point where he sees anyone he disagrees with as being a CIA stooge
        4. A Climate Change Denier who really hates Greta Thunborg for some reason
        5. Seemingly Conservative Catholic, but really hates the current Pope.
        6. Pro-Assad
        7. Anti-Rohinga
        8. Anti-zionist/anti-semetic

        I’ll admit, I’ve never encountered this particular breed of weirdo before. Is this a European thing?

        • Aapje says:

          Pope Benedict XVI was ultra-conservative, so it’s not surprising to have conservative Catholics be disappointed with Francis.

          • Tarpitz says:

            As far as I can tell, conservative Catholics are mostly concerned that Francis is complicit in the cover-up of widespread sexual abuse by senior figures within the church, and it looks to me like they have a point.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Idk, Anti-Americanism is pretty widespread among the hard-right around here. But they are usually more pro-(Putins-)Russia and not pro-China. But than China is an authoratic regime, so maybe he likes their style?

          I’m a little out of the loop concering whack-job watching, so I don’t know what the trends in that scene are at the moment.

  5. johan_larson says:

    There’s an interesting article in the American Affairs Journal about how left-aligned politics in the US are driven not by the working class, but by an upper middle class that isn’t doing nearly as well as the true upper class, and feels itself increasingly under pressure.

    …, any fundamental transformation of Western politics will necessarily be led by increasing numbers of the “elite” who defect from the dominant policy consensus and rethink their allegiance to establishment paradigms. Conventional narratives, including many that are critical of the status quo, paint the elite as a unified block aligned with neoliberalism. But the neoliberal economy has created a profound fracture within the elite, the significance of which is just beginning to be felt.

    The socioeconomic divide that will determine the future of poli­tics, particularly in the United States, is not between the top 30 per­cent or 10 percent and the rest, nor even between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. The real class war is between the 0.1 percent and (at most) the 10 percent—or, more precisely, between elites primarily dependent on capital gains and those primarily dependent on profes­sional labor.

    • Aapje says:

      I’m not sure that there is anything truly new here. The educated (upper) middle class have always had their dissatisfied ‘rebels’ who hate the wealth of the extremely rich (when they themselves are relatively poor), as well as nouveau riche culture, but who love the culture of the gentry, while hating the culture of the poor.

      The main change is that with so many more college-educated people, the left is overrun by these types, while the lower classes, who historically had to make up for their lack of political savvy with sheer numbers and by threatening to withhold their labor (which is far less viable today, to which the French yellow vests have reacted by changing tactics).

      George Orwell already struggled with this type in the Socialist movement of the day, even though it was balanced out by actual working class socialists when he wrote about them:

      The truth is that, to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’, the Lower Orders.[…] Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred — a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacua hatred — against the exploiters. […] It is strange how easily almost any Socialist writer can lash himself into frenzies of rage against the class to which, by birth or by adoption, he himself invariably belongs. […] On the one hand you have the warm-hearted un-thinking Socialist, the typical working-class Socialist, who only wants to abolish poverty and does not always grasp what this implies. On the other hand, you have the intellectual, book-trained Socialist, who understands that it is necessary to throw our present civilization down the sink and is quite willing to do so. And this type is drawn, to begin with, entirely from the middle class, and from a rootless town-bred section of the middle class at that.

      Where I disagree with Orwell is that I think that this willingness to “throw our present civilization down the sink” is not very genuine.

      In many ways, it seems like puberty. Many children outwardly reject their bourgeois parents and feel that their parents’ lifestyle is not suitable for them, while they still love them and often seek to emulate them, in a way that allows them to believe they went their own way. The bourgeois child seeks a bourgeois lifestyle, with elements from a rebellious culture that allows them to feel revolutionary, but wants those things sanded down to fit within the bourgeois lifestyle. Like the children of the 70’s who rebelled with free love, communes, etc, but settled back into a far more mundane lifestyle, with an office job, one partner and a kid or two. They now just have easy abortions, sex toys, 50 shades of grey, a dishwasher, takeout, etc. They accept gays, but those are supposed to pair up, get married and adopt a kid or two.

      The bark is much larger than the bite. The greatest risk that these people pose is not so much that they chew your leg off, but that their small bites give you tetanus or such, when they completely underestimate the impact of the change they fight for.

      Framing this as a class war is then completely inaccurate. These progressives will never take down the 1%. They will never truly try. It is actually a generational conflict, where younger generations fight for a spot at the table, by pointing out the hypocrisy of and unfairness by earlier generations. Pointing these things out is genuine in that they do believe it, but the vehemence is primarily driven by selfishness.

      All the elite has to do is to make enough room for the new generation and they will defect right away, since what they truly want is to be part of the elite. See the ‘democratization’ of universities in the 70’s, the cooperation/communes or even the bombers of that time. It all ended with these people settling into the very systems they supposedly rejected and accepting ‘oppressive’ structures, as long as they and their peers are in positions of power. The universities never became democratic, companies never got replaced by cooperations & communes, etc.

      Wokeness targets some of the weak spots of neoliberalism, in a way that allows the children of the (upper) middle class to portray themselves as deserving of power and to dismiss working class as worthy of power (those populists!).

      Neoliberalism itself was a response to the weaknesses of social-democracy. Social-democracy was a response to…

      And so the world turns.

    • Vosmyorka says:

      This article is broadly very good, but it does have a glaring omission which is generally common to these class-critical alternative right commentaries, made more glaring by its interesting (and correct, I think) conclusion that “the opportunity to restructure the state…appears far more exhilarating to growing numbers of talented elites than any other alternative.”

      Restructuring the state is what modern conservatives are doing right now. I don’t mean this in a Trump-specific way — Presidents come and go — I mean it in the sense that the Supreme Court has adopted a set of decisions over the past 15 years that have radically strengthened the government’s interpretation of the right to free speech and the right to bear arms, and it has become clear with Kavanaugh’s replacement of Kennedy — especially given his statement two days ago — that the Court is looking for a convenient case to strike down the non-delegation doctrine, which would either massively curtail or (per Gorsuch’s dissent in Gundy) entirely remove the administrative state’s ability to create new regulations, period. The “restructuring of the state” is actively happening, and it has obviously gathered sufficient momentum to continue happening even in the initial event of a Warren or Sanders victory (though there are actions a President could try to take to stop it that Trump obviously won’t take).

      I find it interesting that this is never addressed. Partially it’s because it just isn’t a useful part of the narrative to assert that the state actually is changing, and that the rate of change is clearly speeding up. Partially it’s declasse to suggest that the modern conservative movement is in any way effective, or something other than a sclerotic facade for the establishment — and it’s very declasse to suggest that it’s strengthening rather than weakening. It’s quite clear that the cultural and business establishments both oppose the weaken-the-state faction of the Republican Party, which is what is driving their alignment with the Democratic Party notwithstanding its left-wing characteristics — but that they don’t seem to have the power to arrest, or even slow, its institutional growth. A class analysis, like the one in this article, tends to conjure up associated Marxist assumptions, and Marxism has never considered the idea of a movement whose aim is to deliberately lower state capacity rather than enact policies that benefit the class that movement belongs to. In this way Trump’s victory in the 2016 primaries allows for a very convenient story (that the ordinary Republican voter has never *really* been motivated by weakening state capacity, but just wants some kind of identitarianism), but there are at least three problems with this analysis: that Trump’s own primary victory was the weakest of any Republican nominee since 1976, that Trump was on the wrong end of a severe generational gap, and that in office Trump has largely given this faction power, especially in judicial appointments.

      The weaken-the-state faction was generally not dominant in the Republican Party prior to the Obama years, incidentally (though it has been dominant in Republican-appointed jurisprudence for some time). It is also stronger in the party’s younger supporters. Given how difficult judicial majorities (on SCOTUS and the Courts of Appeals) are to dislodge at the best of times, and given that the present Democratic coalition is astoundingly poorly suited to contest Senate elections which confirm judges (Trump, on a 2% popular vote *loss*, carried the states 30-20, corresponding to a 60-40 filibuster-proof majority), it’s really clear that “talented elites” have in fact begun to “restructure the state”, in a way that will be difficult to reverse for the next several decades. But the article writer seems willfully blind to this.

      • cassander says:

        that the Court is looking for a convenient case to strike down the non-delegation doctrine, which would either massively curtail or (per Gorsuch’s dissent in Gundy) entirely remove the administrative state’s ability to create new regulations, period.

        As someone who would love to see this sort of thing happen, it’s not happening and there’s no chance of it happening. We have a court not far removed from that which twisted itself in knots to approve the ACA, and kavanaugh isn’t going to change this. if such a thing were to happen it would be it would be instantly undone by court packing or new laws with the sort of full court press from the press and blue america that would make their treatment of trump look downright friendly.

        Partially it’s declasse to suggest that the modern conservative movement is in any way effective, or something other than a sclerotic facade for the establishment — and it’s very declasse to suggest that it’s strengthening rather than weakening.

        It’s not declasse at all. the left loves to claim that conservatism is ascendant. It’s just not true. With the exception of gun control, there’s not a single political issue in the last 20 or so years in which the needle has moved right.

        It’s quite clear that the cultural and business establishments both oppose the weaken-the-state faction of the Republican Party,

        the weaken-the-state faction of the Republican Party is opposed by republican voters, who love to shout slogans about a smaller state, but don’t want spending cut on health, education, defense, or pensions, which together make up at least 90% of the federal budget. And are against “regulation” in the abstract, but not committed to the concept in detail.

        but that they don’t seem to have the power to arrest, or even slow, its institutional growth.

        you have that backwards. the weak state faction has no ability to arrests, or even slow, the growth of the state.

        and that in office Trump has largely given this faction power, especially in judicial appointments.

        the one doing the most work on judges seems to be McConnell, not Trump. I sincerely doubt that Trump is combing through the federalist society roster trying to pick out committed libertarians.

        (though it has been dominant in Republican-appointed jurisprudence for some time).

        If so, it’s been totally ineffectual.

        • Vosmyorka says:

          As someone who would love to see this sort of thing happen, it’s not happening and there’s no chance of it happening. We have a court not far removed from that which twisted itself in knots to approve the ACA, and kavanaugh isn’t going to change this. if such a thing were to happen it would be it would be instantly undone by court packing or new laws with the sort of full court press from the press and blue america that would make their treatment of trump look downright friendly.

          We have a court on which a majority of Justices have voiced support for restoring the non-delegation doctrine at some point over the past 2 years. Even if one of them were to shirk away from doing so (unusually it is Alito who is the likeliest swing vote on this matter; at least he seems to feel that the image would be bad enough that it shouldn’t be done in a case where the holding would be pro-sex offender, which his fellow Justices disagree with), given the composition of the Senate the Court’s conservative majority is significantly likelier to expand rather than contract over the next decade. I’d be quite surprised if a ruling that was the opposite of Gundy didn’t come at some point over the next few years absent some very lucky stroke of events for Democrats.

          NFIB v. Sebelius was a case that upheld (some of) the ACA, sure, but it was also a case that reignited an activity/inactivity distinction for Commerce Clause litigation and restricted Congress’s ability to control state policy through grants by more than any case did in the 20th century. It’s a uniquely terrible example of a liberal victory; had the same result come down in 1992 (which was pre-Lopez) it would’ve been astoundingly radical.

          Disregarding the existence of the filibuster for the sake of argument, and assuming urban-rural polarization doesn’t continue to grow, Democrats can have court-packing if they can win the Senate, which would take, on universal swing from 2016, three national consecutive ~D+7 victories. This is really not plausible under our present political alignment, and even this presumes that they’d set the filibuster aside, which they’re unlikely to do given the Senate’s natural Republican strength.

          What would the press and Blue America actually do? The only solution open to them in the real world is to try to flip the Court; given the Senate’s existence this is a project that probably takes, optimistically, several decades.

          the weaken-the-state faction of the Republican Party is opposed by republican voters, who love to shout slogans about a smaller state, but don’t want spending cut on health, education, defense, or pensions, which together make up at least 90% of the federal budget. And are against “regulation” in the abstract, but not committed to the concept in detail.

          This faction normally wins Republican primaries for all sorts of offices, is generationally ascendant, and has already controlled conservative judicial picks since around the mid-2000s (GWB appointed a mix of FS judges and not; Trump has gone all in on this). Even if Republican voters actually opposed this (the belief in which comes from the same opinion polls that have background checks at 90% popularity among the public even though they lose referendums in Clinton states)…too late, it’s won. Already locked in.

          It’s not declasse at all. the left loves to claim that conservatism is ascendant. It’s just not true. With the exception of gun control, there’s not a single political issue in the last 20 or so years in which the needle has moved right.

          This is neither the impression of the left I get from their slogans (ie, “demographics is destiny”), which presuppose the existence of a large leftist majority, nor from the actual politics of elected officials.

          But I also do not mean “declasse” among the left. It would be “declasse” for an alternative right publication like this journal, which sees its own role primarily as one lamenting America’s decline, to suggest that conservatism over the past decade and a half has achieved a great deal. This article underlines the point in an amusing way, becomes it comes very close to literally describing what is happening but shirks away from connecting the dots.

          the one doing the most work on judges seems to be McConnell, not Trump. I sincerely doubt that Trump is combing through the federalist society roster trying to pick out committed libertarians.

          Trump is appointing them and the effect is the same regardless of why he is doing so. I agree that many of the results are not ones Trump (or an idealized Trump as the AAJ imagines him) would want; the attempt from Senator Hawley (someone who has really drunk the Kool-Aid on “Republican voters don’t actually want smaller government, just handouts for themselves”) to stop the confirmation of very libertarian Judge Rao was very telling about this. Yet Rao was confirmed anyway, and given her dissent in Trump v. Mazars she has virtually certainly become our likeliest next Justice.

          If so, it’s been totally ineffectual.

          Anybody taking time off raising funds for a congressional campaign by going to their local gun range disagrees with you.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            … non-delegation doctrine would be a strategic blunder of the first water. Because that blows everything up, and once people figure out what the problem is (and this would be explained to them using very simple words) it isnt just court-packing that is on the table, you are looking at the potential for a 28th amendment slapping the court down past the Mohorovičić discontinuity

          • cassander says:

            @Vosmyorka says:

            I’d be quite surprised if a ruling that was the opposite of Gundy didn’t come at some point over the next few years absent some very lucky stroke of events for Democrats.

            the absolute most we’ll see is the equivalent of the federalism “revolution” we saw under Rehnquist, where a couple very minor portions of laws were struck down as a sort of window dressing. And I remember those, they were exciting! And then they went nowhere. We will not see the court re-make the american state.

            What would the press and Blue America actually do? The only solution open to them in the real world is to try to flip the Court; given the Senate’s existence this is a project that probably takes, optimistically, several decades.

            First, you you’d have a massive PR campaign against the court ruling that way in the first place, like you did with Sebelius, talking about how it would destroy the court’s legitimacy.

            Once the ruling happened, there would be an assault on the legitimacy of the court. laws reversing or weakening the decision would be passed immediately, the president would be called on to ignore it. court packing would immediately become mainstream, and dozens of lawsuits would be launched trying to reverse the ruling.

            the exact details will of course vary with the exact power alignment that existed at the time, but the end result would end up looking a lot like what happened the last time the court did this (the new deal) and with likely similar results. There will never be an opportunity for the court as good as the ACA. It was unpopular, it faced vehement bipartisan opposition, it hadn’t gone into effect, there was very solid ground to strike it down, and the conservative majority still chickened out. They won’t get anything as good served up any time soon, and they won’t get any braver.

            This faction normally wins Republican primaries for all sorts of offices, is generationally ascendant, and has already controlled conservative judicial picks since around the mid-2000s (GWB appointed a mix of FS judges and not; Trump has gone all in on this).

            It’s easy to be against things generally. It’s much harder to take things away from people. we’re talking baout a republican party that can’t repeal the ACA. Hell, it can’t even let the import-export bank die! the idea that it has the appetite for repealing the administrative state is almost laughable.

            This is neither the impression of the left I get from their slogans (ie, “demographics is destiny”), which presuppose the existence of a large leftist majority, nor from the actual politics of elected officials.

            the left, at least in america, is always simultaneously on the right side of history and a tiny light barely holding back the dark tide of reaction.

            Trump is appointing them and the effect is the same regardless of why he is doing so.

            Your claim is that there’s a new faction of the GOP taking over, through trump. McConnell is not part of that faction, and if he’s driving the appointments, why would be appointing people who are?

            Anybody taking time off raising funds for a congressional campaign by going to their local gun range disagrees with you

            fine, totally ineffectual except for gun rights, the one issue where there is a large number of people who will actually go out and vote against more regulation.

          • Vosmyorka says:

            … Repealing the non-delegation doctrine would be a strategic blunder of the first water. Because that blows everything up, and once people figure out what the problem is (and this would be explained to them using very simple words) it isnt just court-packing that is on the table, you are looking at the potential for a 28th amendment slapping the court down past the Mohorovičić discontinuity

            I want to pedantically note that the non-delegation doctrine was repealed in 1928. What the Court is currently suggesting it will do is restore it.

            The Court has given decisions that led to immediate constitutional amendments before (it ruled in 1793 that the states gave up certain aspects of sovereign immunity by acceding to the Constitution; it ruled in 1895 that Congress had no right to pass an income tax because it would not be proportional among the states). So an immediate constitutional amendment re-repealing non-delegation wouldn’t be out of the question; neither would be one 10 years down the road. But I really don’t think you could get a majority of the Republican Party to back an explicit constitutional amendment saying this, and you would not get a majority of state legislatures ratifying without such a majority being fairly substantial. (Also, uh…Republicans in state legislatures tend to be *more* dogmatically fiscally conservative than the ones in Congress, not less).

            It would be the same sort of crisis as the sequester was.

          • Corey says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen: The blowup simply won’t happen in Red!Reality though, so half the country will oppose the packing/amendment. Any actual problems will just get explained away as Democrats’ fault somehow. (No FDA leads to generic drugs becoming non-fungible? President Warren’s fault for expanding Medicare, obviously).

            I hate that lol nothing matters, because it leads bad places, but it fits the evidence.

          • Vosmyorka says:

            @ cassander says

            First, you you’d have a massive PR campaign against the court ruling that way in the first place, like you did with Sebelius, talking about how it would destroy the court’s legitimacy.

            Once the ruling happened, there would be an assault on the legitimacy of the court. laws reversing or weakening the decision would be passed immediately, the president would be called on to ignore it. court packing would immediately become mainstream, and dozens of lawsuits would be launched trying to reverse the ruling.

            Why would any of this matter at all? In fact, given the recent interactions between conservative politicians and the media, why wouldn’t this strengthen the decision?

            Nobody would care.

            the exact details will of course vary with the exact power alignment that existed at the time, but the end result would end up looking a lot like what happened the last time the court did this (the new deal) and with likely similar results. the conservative majority will chicken out, as they did in Sebelius.

            Sebelius struck down the mandatory Medicaid spending expansion in the ACA and only upheld the individual mandate, which was later repealed by Congress anyway. It’s a strange example of ‘chickening’.

            The New Deal majority on the Court was seated after four consecutive landslide pro-New Deal victories in congressional elections. If that recurs, then yes, things would be rolled back. I think the idea that this would happen is absurd given the scale of the culture war and the ability to pardon, uh, the entirety of the GWB administration a couple of months into Obama’s.

            It’s easy to be against things generally. It’s much harder to take things away from people. we’re talking baout a republican party that can’t repeal the ACA. Hell, it can’t even let the import-export bank die! the idea that it has the appetite for repealing the administrative state is almost laughable.

            A Republican majority in Congress would be able to save specific regulations through legislation. I don’t think future ones would be missed.

            The Republicans in Congress, whether they realize it or not, have set the stage for their appointees to do this. I guess they can try to impeach Kavanaugh given the credible accusations against him and appoint someone else instead who wouldn’t, but that seems very doubtful to me.

            Taking things away from people also happens all the time so long as they’re not your own voters; it is in fact often popular. Heck, in the 1990s the Democrats went along with taking things away from non-voters.

            Your claim is that there’s a new faction of the GOP taking over, through trump. McConnell is not part of that faction, and if he’s driving the appointments, why would be appointing people who are?

            No. My claim is that a new faction took over during the late 2000s. McConnell being elected leader of the Senate Republicans in 2007, as opposed to the restoration of Trent Lott, was part of the general movement in this direction. The confirmation of this was the election of many, many new members of Congress in 2010, largely from districts which had previously elected blue-collar Democrats, who supported this new faction (and indeed often supported the extreme fringe of this new faction).

            Trump was able to get a great deal of support from the media in the primary because his platform opposed these guys substantially, and his victory has been used as evidence by liberal and alt-right media that ordinary voters don’t support the Republican de-regulatory agenda (even though the Republicans adopted it in very large part after mass national protests in 2009-10 and Trump’s victory was achieved with a base of older voters through vote-splitting).

            But Trump, perhaps realizing that most of his general election supporters are base Republicans rather than Obama–>Trump voters, hasn’t actually behaved differently from them in office on nearly any issue, with the possible exception of trade. (He also emphasizes religion much less in his rhetoric in favor of a much vaguer MAGA appealing to civic nationalism; given some of the congressional results in 2012 this was likely a large section of the problem all along, since Obama–>Trump constituencies supported much, much more ideological Republicans than Donald Trump in the Obama years’ midterms).

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            “lol, nothing matters” is a fine way of life when the country is on auto-pilot regardless of who is in office, but if rivers start catching fire again, people will damn well notice that. Also, there is the minor detail that republican politicians are very, very much in the pocket of buisness, and buisness would hate this with the fire of an exploding star.

          • cassander says:

            @Vosmyorka says:

            Why would any of this matter at all? In fact, given the recent interactions between conservative politicians and the media, why wouldn’t this strengthen the decision?

            (A) it worked with the ACA
            (B) because members of the supreme court are more heretical blue tribers than red tribers and do care about some blue tribe status symbols.
            (C) because red media and culture remains vastly less powerful than blue tribe

            Sebelius struck down the mandatory Medicaid spending expansion in the ACA and only upheld the individual mandate, which was later repealed by Congress anyway. It’s a strange example of ‘chickening’.

            As I said, they struck down window dressing. they had an opportunity to strike down the whole ACA and bent over backwards not to do that, endorsing arguments that the defense didn’t even make.

            The New Deal majority on the Court was seated after four consecutive landslide pro-New Deal victories in congressional elections.

            the court reversed itself before then

            A Republican majority in Congress would be able to save specific regulations through legislation. I don’t think future ones would be missed.

            They could, sure, but it will almost certainly be safer to save all of them. Like I said, to kill the bank, they literally had to do nothing. they could have just let the charter expire. It is hard to make things happen in congress, it’s usually easy to stop things from happening, but there wasn’t enough of a passionate minority in a republican congress to do even that. There is zero appetite in the party for the destruction of the administrative state.

            Trump was able to get a great deal of support from the media in the primary because his platform opposed these guys substantially,

            Trump got attention from the media, because he’s trump. I wouldn’t call it support.

          • Corey says:

            buisness would hate this with the fire of an exploding star

            You bring up a good point I had not considered – maybe gutting the administrative state would be net bad for business.

            Besides losing some regulatory moats and other benefits of regulatory capture, businesses could get hit with more uncertainty – it can be easier to know if you’re in compliance with detailed regulations as opposed to a statute + case law.

            I had figured the benefit of e.g. being able to sell “meat lasagna” with less than twice the meat of “lasagna with meat sauce” would make up for it, but I have no model.

          • Vosmyorka says:

            @cassander says

            (A) it worked with the ACA
            (B) because members of the supreme court are more heretical blue tribers than red tribers and do care about some blue tribe status symbols.
            (C) because red media and culture remains vastly less powerful than blue tribe

            (A) …no, it didn’t. The Supreme Court struck down so much of the ACA that large sections of it never came into effect, and a substantial portion of the rest of it was repealed in 2017. That there was not a clean victory really does not mean that the law as written in 2009 either was upheld or still exists, and a large part of the opinion upholding it was a Marshall-esque “grab power for the long run while doing what your opponent wants”.
            (B) The ultimate status symbol in the judiciary is writing opinions so important that others have to read them. (Also, while this might not have been true 15 years ago, at this point being a professional Red Triber loses you any status points the Blue Tribe might want to give you, and the network of people who recommend and promote you — most of the judges in the federal judiciary — are “professional Red Tribe”. Who are indeed heretical Blue Tribers on some level, but we’re long past the point where the standards of the former are more relevant at your DC cocktail parties and whatnot that once convinced people to switch sides).
            (C) So what? How many divisions has the Pope got? This is like saying the 1945 Labour party wouldn’t do anything in power because they’d all assimilate to upper-class standards.

            As I said, they struck down window dressing. they had an opportunity to strike down the whole ACA and bent over backwards not to do that, endorsing arguments that the defense didn’t even make.

            The defense didn’t make those arguments because they were arguments that substantially restricted congressional authority under the commerce and spending clauses in a pretty unprecedented way. The defense was not interested in having that happen.

            the court reversed itself before then

            No? West Coast Hotel was after the 1936 election, which was the fourth consecutive pro-New Deal landslide.

          • Vosmyorka says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen says

            “lol, nothing matters” is a fine way of life when the country is on auto-pilot regardless of who is in office, but if rivers start catching fire again, people will damn well notice that. Also, there is the minor detail that republican politicians are very, very much in the pocket of buisness, and buisness would hate this with the fire of an exploding star.

            They are not “in the pockets”, though they were within quite recent memory. Business supported the ACA and largely bankrolled the Democratic campaigns in 2016 and 2018. Business opposes concentrated Tea Party ideology because it would, indeed, be bad for business. It is winning anyway. It says a great deal about the power of our civic institutions — like the media and business — that they cannot stop an ideology that is not even particularly popular or trusted from coming to power, because it is the only coherent alternative to them that exists and is winning by default.

            If rivers catch on fire then people will petition Congress to do something about it; my impression is that this is how they react to environmental disasters now. Few expected the Supreme Court to react to Deepwater Horizon (in fact, my recollection is that the Gulf Coast responded by throwing out long-time popular Democratic incumbents in favor of Tea Party unknowns).

          • cassander says:

            @cassander says

            (A) …no, it didn’t. The Supreme Court struck down so much of the ACA that large sections of it never came into effect,

            this is not really accurate. the government delayed parts of it that were unpopular for its own reasons. the only thing struck down was making the medicare expansion mandatory.

            and a substantial portion of the rest of it was repealed in 2017.

            again, only the individual mandate was repealed. other parts have been delayed, but no thanks to the court.

            (B) The ultimate status symbol in the judiciary is writing opinions so important that others have to read them.

            And no one will read opinions so radical that the republican party runs screaming from them.

            but we’re long past the point where the standards of the former are more relevant at your DC cocktail parties and whatnot that once convinced people to switch sides).

            I disagree strongly. it’s the difference between gorsuch and kavanaugh’s treatment. granted, they got different treatment due to circumstance not tribe, but any court that destroyed the administrative state would be treated like kavanaugh.

            (C) So what? How many divisions has the Pope got? This is like saying the 1945 Labour party wouldn’t do anything in power because they’d all assimilate to upper-class standards.

            On the field of public opinion, which is where ultimately the question will be settled, they have army after army, while the right has a few plucky battalions and some isolated fortresses.

            No? West Coast Hotel was after the 1936 election, which was the fourth consecutive pro-New Deal landslide.

            Ah, sorry, I was counting presidential elections, not congressional.

            It says a great deal about the power of our civic institutions — like the media and business — that they cannot stop an ideology that is not even particularly popular or trusted from coming to power, because it is the only coherent alternative to them that exists and is winning by default.

            It’s not winning, none of their policy goals are being enacted.

      • The Nybbler says:

        While finding the Administrative Procedures Act and the whole set of alphabet agencies unconstitutional would put a fire in my cold libertarian heart, it’s not going to happen. Conservative justices, whatever else they may be, are _conservative_. Tearing down the entire adminstrative state with a stroke of a pen is not something they will do.

        • Vosmyorka says:

          The Gundy dissent suggests that Gorsuch, Roberts, and Thomas are all willing to say a regulation that comes from an agency rather than Congress directly is ipso facto unconstitutional. Alito’s separate opinion suggests merely that he doesn’t want the seminal case saying this to be a pro-sex offender holding.

          Kavanaugh had dodged the question during his confirmation hearings but openly wrote yesterday in a denial of certiorari that he would have joined the dissent. A narrow ruling would not immediately strike down all regulations created by administrative agencies, if only for public policy reasons, but it would probably give Congress some time-frame for which to preserve useful regulations legislatively and would prevent administrative agencies from enacting more in the future.

          Somebody could always chicken (I sort of suspect Alito might, given that he did not actually dissent in Gundy). But an open majority for doing so when the right case comes around exists.

    • SamChevre says:

      An important corollary here: the easy target for the upper middle class is the middle class, not the true upper class–and so it’s very often the case that “leftist” policies are very good for the 90th-99th percentiles, mildly annoying for the 99th+ percentile–but a real disaster for the 50th – 80th percentiles: that’s pretty much the story of the last 50 years across most of the West.

      • acymetric says:

        An important corollary here: the easy target for the upper middle class is the middle class, not the true upper class–and so it’s very often the case that “leftist” policies are very good for the 90th-99th percentiles, mildly annoying for the 99th+ percentile–but a real disaster for the 50th – 80th percentiles: that’s pretty much the story of the last 50 years across most of the West.

        I think that statement remains equally true if you take out the word “leftist”. It might be even more true if you replace it with “centrist” (or maybe some version of “establishment” is more appropriate). The people legitimately advocating for that 50th-80th percentile group are almost always filed away under “fringe” whether coming from someone on the left or the right.

        Edit: Also, my “SSC is about to argue over the definition of middle class again” senses are tingling. Somewhat less useful than Spidey-sense, but still reliable.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      Not being American, an armchair impression is that Democrats are a party of labour consumer, and their ideas are appealing both to wealthy people who never had to do hard work in their life, and welfare moochers who don’t ever intend to. At least their migration policies align with it, seeing as bring down primary sectors’ wages will leave more money for tertiary positions like HR as well as cheaper cheap crap one would buy on welfare.

  6. HarmlessFrog says:

    Am I outta the gulag yet? Yes, awesome.

  7. proyas says:

    To all Britons: How credible are the accusations that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic? I am American, so I know little of your politics, but I’ve repeatedly read about this, and today saw that the country’s top rabbi encouraged Jews to vote against Labour.

    Is the problem with Labour as bad as it’s being depicted in the media, or has it been exaggerated by Big Guys who have their own agendas?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I am not Brit, but have exactly the same question. There is a whole lot of anti-Semitism claimed; I find it hard to believe it is really that prevalent. Especially because of all the anti-Black racism claimed in the US, which is mostly bogus.

      • Lambert says:

        I am a brit and I still have the same question.

        I think the fundemental thing is that both sides have much to gain by blurring the distinction between antisemitism, antizionism and opposition to specific actions of the Israeli Government.

        • Aapje says:

          You forgot blurring the distinction between a relative lack of philosemitism and antisemitism. For example, there are people who oppose male circumcision. They make no distinction between circumcision for religious or other reasons, yet are called anti-semitic and/or anti-Muslim for not making an exception for religions.

          • EchoChaos says:

            To be fair, banning a major part of someone’s religion is a big deal whether your purpose is to actually stop that religion or not.

            “The law, in its majestic equality, bans both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges” is the phrase that leaps to mind.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but there is a difference between not caring about the impact of a policy on a group vs choosing a policy to target that group.

            People typically seem to have a hard time distinguishing indifference from hatred. This reminds me of an Elie Wiesel quote that I really like: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aapje

            Sorry, but I don’t buy this particular case. Especially in Europe, where the vast majority of infant circumcisions are in fact religious.

            Similar to laws against the killing of un-stunned animals, the purpose is indeed to restrict religions who are the primary practitioners of such things.

          • Aapje says:

            @EchoChaos

            There is a long-term Western shift that this fits into, which includes animal rights/vegetarianism, skepticism of vaccines, #metoo, affirmative action, etc; which I would all characterize as “you can’t just do that to the powerless.”

            It just seems to me that Cthulhu was always going to encounter boys’ foreskins during his travels, because they lay on his path. No need for antisemitism. In much of Europe, the increase in antisemitism comes from Muslim migrants, who tend to rather strongly oppose circumcision bans.

            The entire narrative that the left is increasingly antisemitic due to their love for Muslims and that they therefor want to ban circumcision doesn’t really add up for that reason and instead, fits an escalating ‘care for the powerless and downtrodden’ motive much better.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aapje

            My interactions with the online people on the topic have shown me that being anti-circumcision is heavily correlated with aggressive atheism and being anti-religion in general.

            It is perfectly coherent to me that the modern left is anti-religious practices while still being pro-Muslim for the actual people.

          • Aapje says:

            Being anti-religious is not really antisemitic, though.

      • Ketil says:

        Not a Brit either, but European labor/union/political left seems to be vehemently anti-Israel, for whatever reason. Claims that Israel is an apartheid state or committing genocide aren’t uncommon, and obvious propaganda pieces get circulated indiscriminately. These pieces are not directly anti-Semite in content, but are produced by factions that are. Israeli violence is condemned, Arab violence excused (either by the military inferiority, or by it being a Just Cause).

        I don’t think many will be explicitly anti-Jew, but some will compare Israeli violence or settlements to the holocaust or equate David’s star with the swastika, which tend to be ill received on the more pro-Semitic side of things.

        • Aapje says:

          Netanjahu explicitly said that Israel is only for Jews. Calling it an apartheid state then doesn’t seem that absurd, especially given the many examples of discrimination.

          Israeli violence is condemned, Arab violence excused

          It’s a pretty common belief that oppressed people have a right to use violence to resist, like the Dutch resistance using violence against Nazi occupiers.

          Opinions vary on the extent to which Israels oppression of Palestinians is justified/necessary, but that it exists, but not oppression of Israel by Palestinians, seems fairly universally accepted (at least, on the object-level).

          Secondly, there is the matter of proportionality. Fact is that Israel casualties are a fraction of the Palestinian casualties.

          Not a Brit either, but European labor/union/political left seems to be vehemently anti-Israel, for whatever reason.

          Or do Americans and some others tend to be vehemently anti-Palestinian? It’s all in the eye of the beholder…

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Netanjahu explicitly said that Israel is only for Jews. Calling it an apartheid state then doesn’t seem that absurd, especially given the many examples of discrimination.

            And Hamas explicitly rejects the idea of peacefully resolving the situation an calls for an anti-Jewish genocide (Hamas Founding Charter, Article 13).

            This is the sort of thing that people complain about when they talk of double standards. Statements by Israeli politicians get used to damn Israel, whilst far more bloodthirsty statements by Palestinian leaders are either completely ignored or explained away.

            Secondly, there is the matter of proportionality. Fact is that Israel casualties are a fraction of the Palestinian casualties.

            That’s a very bad way of judging the matter. Wars are justified because of what your enemy is trying to do to you, not because you limit yourself to only killing as many of the opposing side as the opposing side is able to kill of you (which is often just a recipe for prolonging the conflict anyway — what you really want is to try and destroy your opponents’ warmaking capacity whilst suffering as little loss as possible yourself, so that the war can be over quickly and everyone can go back home).

            Also, intent matters. Hamas deliberately targets civilians; Israel doesn’t. That Hamas aren’t able to actually kill their targets doesn’t make their cause any juster.

          • MorningGaul says:

            @Aapje

            Secondly, there is the matter of proportionality. Fact is that Israel casualties are a fraction of the Palestinian casualties.

            I find your other remarks much more relevant than this one. Being effective or ineffective in a conflict doesnt correlate with being right or wrong, only with how effective or ineffective you are.

          • Secondly, there is the matter of proportionality. Fact is that Israel casualties are a fraction of the Palestinian casualties.

            And American casualties in the Pacific War were just a fraction of the Japanese casualties, what’s that show?

          • albatross11 says:

            I see the point about disproportionality, but I also have to acknowledge that if insurgent groups affiliated with the Mexican government were occasionally shooting missiles into Texas, we’d probably flatten everywhere the missiles were coming from and have even more disproportionate casualties. Indeed, I think this is basically how most countries would handle things, assuming they were strong enough.

            The best way not to get your ass kicked by the big hulking, hostile badass who lives next door is to avoid walking up and kicking him in the shins, even if you think he has it coming. When you kick him in the shins and he knocks you out with one punch, I’m going to think his response was disproportionate, but I’m still going to kinda think you started it and made your own bed.

          • Jaskologist says:

            In Just War Theory, proportionality is not about the ratio of your casualties to their casualties. It is about making sure that the actions your are undertaking in the war are proportionate to the good you are trying to achieve.

            (This is not meant to be a naive utilitarian calculus. If 10 people are attempting to murder 5 people, the 5 are justified in killing all of those attackers, even though this defense results in twice the deaths. Moral considerations weigh heavily.)

          • MorningGaul says:

            @albatross11:

            The best way not to get your ass kicked by the big hulking, hostile badass who lives next door is to avoid walking up and kicking him in the shins, even if you think he has it coming. When you kick him in the shins and he knocks you out with one punch, I’m going to think his response was disproportionate, but I’m still going to kinda think you started it and made your own bed.

            I dislike these kind of oversimplifying analogies, because “the best way not to get your ass kicked by the big hulking, hostile badass who lives next door” is to not have him decide 50 years ago that your house belongs to him.

            It’s not a particularly useful way of framing as issue, and tends to increase the importance of the most “morale” arguments, which also tends to be the least relevant.

            And it turns out, an Englishman gave us a very good expression of why punching the “hostile badass” even if you’re going to get punched back is actually the right choice:

            We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
               No matter how trifling the cost;
            For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
               And the nation that plays it is lost

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            I never said that Hamas is peaceful or otherwise nice/good. You are seeing hypocrisy in imagined arguments, that I never made.

            Also, there is no call for an anti-Jewish genocide in article 13 of the founding charter that you linked.

            what you really want is to try and destroy your opponents’ warmaking capacity whilst suffering as little loss as possible yourself, so that the war can be over quickly and everyone can go back home).

            No, what you do is to turn your opponents into non-opponents. Israel has failed to do so, because of their insistence to keep oppressing and stealing from Palestinians.

            Hamas deliberately targets civilians; Israel doesn’t.

            There is quite a bit of evidence that Israel has targeted civilians.

            @Jaskologist

            In Just War Theory, proportionality is not about the ratio of your casualties to their casualties. It is about making sure that the actions your are undertaking in the war are proportionate to the good you are trying to achieve.

            I agree, but making a case that Israel is not engaging in a just war by that standard is much more complex. For example, Israel has often ended cease fires by extremely aggressive responses to incidents, that were not proven to be done by an organisation with lots of support, causing violence to then flare up on both sides, causing many casualties.

            Even a single example of this requires an historical account of a period and political analysis of the situation at that time.

          • Aapje says:

            Also, I do think that a disproportionate body toll puts the burden on the side that causes so much more casualties to make a strong case why that was necessary or hard to avoid.

            @MorningGaul

            Indeed, by that standard, the Dutch people are to blame for the Germans firebombing Rotterdam and we should just have just cooperated fully with the Nazis. Might makes right…

            Anyway, Israel was born out of terrorism, including against British and UN shins, so it’s a bit rich to argue that Palestinian terrorism deserves harsh retaliations and in general, makes Palestinian human rights forfeit, unless one wants to argue the same for Israel/Jews.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            I never said that Hamas is peaceful or otherwise nice/good. You are seeing hypocrisy in imagined arguments, that I never made.

            If you only criticise one side of a conflict, the implication is that the other side is good, or at least not as bad as the side you’re criticising.

            Also, there is no call for an anti-Jewish genocide in article 13 of the founding charter that you linked.

            Yes, my mistake, it was actually Article 7:

            But even if the links have become distant from each other, and even if the obstacles erected by those who revolve in the Zionist orbit, aiming at obstructing the road before the Jihad fighters, have rendered the pursuance of Jihad impossible; nevertheless, the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said:

            The time(16) will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: 0 Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad(17), which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim)(18).

            No, what you do is to turn your opponents into non-opponents. Israel has failed to do so, because of their insistence to keep oppressing and stealing from Palestinians.

            So what exactly is Israel supposed to do to turn the Palestinians into non-opponents, sit back and let Hamas fire rockets at their population?

            There is quite a bit of evidence that Israel has targeted civilians.

            Such as?

            Also, I do think that a disproportionate body toll puts the burden on the side that causes so much more casualties to make a strong case why that was necessary or hard to avoid.

            “The rulers of this country have explicitly rejected the possibility of compromise and called for genocide against us” sounds like a pretty strong case to me.

            @ Morning Gaul:

            And it turns out, an Englishman gave us a very good expression of why punching the “hostile badass” even if you’re going to get punched back is actually the right choice:

            No he didn’t. The Danegeld was a tribute paid by Anglo-Saxon England to stop the Vikings plundering their country; predictably, it led to the Vikings coming back for more. The moral of the Danegeld is “Don’t try and buy off bullies”, not “You should pick fights you’re never going to win.”

          • John Schilling says:

            If your enemy wants to kill you, is resolved to kill you or die trying, but he is a mediocre killer and you’re really good at it, the most likely outcome is that your enemy is going to be dead and your hair is going to be slightly mussed.

            No justification for this is required.

          • Ketil says:

            Netanjahu explicitly said that Israel is only for Jews

            .

            Yet Israel still has a variety of ethnic and religious minorities, and with some exceptions like eligibility for the draft, has equal citizen rights for them.

            Calling it an apartheid state then doesn’t seem that absurd, especially given the many examples of discrimination.

            Discrimination occurs everywhere, but South Africa segregated people, and didn’t allow the ethnic majority to vote. You can call Israel an apartheid state because of discrimination, but I think the outcomes for Arab citizens are on the level of black American citizens. Is the US an apartheid state, too?

            Now if Israel is apartheid but the US¹ not, if Israel is using excessive violence, but the US not, if Israel has too few casualties, but the US not, if the oppressed Palestinians are reasonably targeting civilians but Taliban and ISIS not, if Israel is undemocratic but the US not – and so on – at some point I think the criticism against Israel can reasonably be called antisemitism.

            Or do Americans and some others tend to be vehemently anti-Palestinian?

            I would say they are pro-Israel, if the Palestinians were quibbling with Morocco, nobody would care much. In any case, the support is for pretty obvious historical reasons. If you can explain why the labor unions apparently care a lot more about the Palestinian cause than any other foreign conflict I can think of, by all means elaborate.

            ¹ Feel free to substitute other Western – or other, for that matter – countries here. US is just the most obvious target which happens to check all the boxes at once.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            If you only criticise one side of a conflict, the implication is that the other side is good, or at least not as bad as the side you’re criticising.

            The context of my comment was Ketil bringing up the comparison of Israel to an apartheid state, not a comparison of Israel to Hamas. So I don’t see why I should bring up Hamas, when Ketil didn’t.

            Bringing up Hamas as representative is also questionable, because Hamas doesn’t govern the West Bank, nor does Hamas have a particular relation with the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who were denied their right to return by Israel, in violation of human rights. Besides, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and many Israeli crimes and misbehaviors have a substantial history before Hamas was even founded and/or became significant.

            I understand that Hamas is the casus belli du jour for pro-Israelis, but the perpetual scapegoating is honestly rather tiresome and falls apart even in the case of Hamas, but even more so if you take a broader view, like when Israel murdered PA police officers.

            So what exactly is Israel supposed to do to turn the Palestinians into non-opponents, sit back and let Hamas fire rockets at their population?

            Honor their agreements? Grant Palestinians their human rights? Stop using double standards where Israel bombs the shit out of Palestinians when they cannot perfectly ensure safety for Israelis, while Israel is itself incapable of protecting Palestinians from Jewish settler attacks?

            Israel made a cease fire agreement with Hamas, promising to stop attacks on Israel, in return for opening the border to goods. Hamas was extremely successful at this, minimizing the attacks to a few rogue elements. Israeli government sources admitted that the reduction exceeded their expectations, yet Israel reneged on its end of the deal.

            This seems to be a typical pattern for Israel. They make a deal and then act in bad faith, taking minor violations from the other side, which often seem to be rogue elements that are not realistically fully containable and that are no bigger than their own violations of the deal (which typically are often not by rogue elements, but clearly government actions), as pretext to make disproportional attacks on Hamas, PA, the PLO, etc.

            Such as?

            Breaking the silence has documented many such cases, often with testimony of the soldiers. Here is an example.

            “The rulers of this country have explicitly rejected the possibility of compromise and called for genocide against us” sounds like a pretty strong case to me.

            There is quite a bit of evidence that the Palestianians are quite willing to make peace, including the ‘Palestine Papers,’ population surveys, etc.

            Instead of just seeking a casus belli against Palestinians and the dismissal of them as peace partners, you might also ask yourself whether Israel is a viable peace partner…

            @John Schilling

            And if you are trying to steal someone’s belongings, they resist, but you are much stronger than them, is it justified for you to kill them?

            After all, they are trying to kill you.

          • Aftagley says:

            You can call Israel an apartheid state because of discrimination, but I think the outcomes for Arab citizens are on the level of black American citizens.

            You’re playing fast and loose here, rhetorically. Yes, arab-descendant citizens inside Israel who have citizenship have outcomes roughly comparable to suppressed minorities across the developed world. At the same time, however, Non-Israeli citizens who reside in territory occupied by Israel have phenomenally worse outcomes than practically any other ethnic subgroup controlled by a first-world state.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            With the caveat you added of “controlled by a first world state” I think they’re by far the worst. They are at the bottom of third world metrics anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ketil

            Yet Israel still has a variety of ethnic and religious minorities, and with some exceptions like eligibility for the draft, has equal citizen rights for them.

            South Africa also had a variety of ethnic and religious minorities, but many were clearly second class.

            I was debating the claim that Israel has traits of an apartheid state, not that it is genocidal. Note that you already agree that there are laws that distinguish based on ethnicity.

            Discrimination occurs everywhere, but South Africa segregated people, and didn’t allow the ethnic majority to vote.

            Israel almost adopted a law allowing ethnic segregation, although with such a law, segregation already exists. For example, Jews who lost land in the 1948 war get it back, but not Arabs. There seems to be widespread discrimination by the admission committees in community settlements. The JNF that administers a substantial amount of Israeli land discriminates against Arabs.

            As for politics, no Arab party has ever been part of the Israeli government. So Arab Israeli’s seem to be disenfranchised in practice.

            Is the US an apartheid state, too?

            It definitely was, under Jim Crow laws. Israel has quite a few discriminatory laws, as well as more subtle discrimination that is backed by those in power (who regularly seek to pass racist laws).

            if Israel is using excessive violence, but the US not, if Israel has too few casualties, but the US not, if the oppressed Palestinians are reasonably targeting civilians but Taliban and ISIS not, if Israel is undemocratic but the US not – and so on – at some point I think the criticism against Israel can reasonably be called antisemitism.

            This is underspecified, attributing claims to me that I didn’t make and otherwise seems more intended as a rhetorical sledgehammer, rather than something that can actually be debated reasonably.

            If you can explain why the labor unions apparently care a lot more about the Palestinian cause than any other foreign conflict I can think of, by all means elaborate.

            I can come up with many more reasons than antisemitism, if you are implying that that could be the only reason.

            You dismiss out of hand the idea that anti-Muslim sentiment could be a reason to favor Israel, so why can’t I do the same for the opposite?

          • Ketil says:

            You can call Israel an apartheid state because of discrimination, but I think the outcomes for Arab citizens are on the level of black American citizens.

            You’re playing fast and loose here, rhetorically.

            No, you are playing fast and loose. 🙂

            The status of the West Bank and Gaza is complicated and Israel can reasonably be criticized for the situation, but the people there are not Israeli, and all countries deal differently with non-citizens under their control.

            Applying the term to Israel serves no purpose except as inflammatory rhetoric, which is fine if you want to virtue-signal your opposition to Israel, Zionism, Jews, or the West in general, but not in any way an accurate description of the situation, nor conductive to informed or civilized debate.

            (Or if you are really, honestly crusading against apartheid, go criticize Lebanon instead, where the government is actually distributed according to ethic-cultural identities. Or, of course, Turkey, China, Myanmar…)

          • Aftagley says:

            Or if you are really, honestly crusading against apartheid, go criticize Lebanon instead, where the government is actually distributed according to ethic-cultural identities. Or, of course, Turkey, China, Myanmar…

            I do criticize Turkey, China, Myanmar and others for their abominable practices. (Lebanon I haven’t since my understanding is that it’s more of a sectarian situation than apartheid per se.) Don’t worry though, I’ve got time in my busy schedule to criticize every apartheid state!

            The status of the West Bank and Gaza is complicated and Israel can reasonably be criticized for the situation, but the people there are not Israeli, and all countries deal differently with non-citizens under their control.

            Applying the term to Israel serves no purpose except as inflammatory rhetoric, which is fine if you want to virtue-signal your opposition to Israel, Zionism, Jews, or the West in general, but not in any way an accurate description of the situation, nor conductive to informed or civilized debate.

            Nah, I’m not virtue-signaling anything, I’m just your bog-standard American neoliberal shill. I love the west. What I don’t like is formalized systems of oppression.

            Is your position truly “yes, Israel controls (or at least exerts significant control over) the occupied territories, but since they refuse to grant the Palestinians citizenship, it can’t count as an apartheid state?” If so, that’s a weird place to hang your hat.

            There’s also a significant difference between “non-citizens who have entered your country by choice” having rights restricted and “people in territories you currently occupy” having their rights restricted.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            The context of my comment was Ketil bringing up the comparison of Israel to an apartheid state, not a comparison of Israel to Hamas. So I don’t see why I should bring up Hamas, when Ketil didn’t.

            The context was Ketil talking about how large swathes of the left applies double standards when considering Israel vs. not-Israel. Comparing Israeli aims to those of one of the main anti-Israeli factions is obviously relevant for determining whether the focus on Israeli faults is justified.

            As for Israeli good or bad faith, it seems relevant to point out that various Arab states have made repeated attempts to destroy Israel, most notably in 1948, 1967 and 1973. It’s not really surprising that they’d develop a siege mentality, or that they’d be unwilling to make concessions (since conceding too much could well result in their destruction).

            I can come up with many more reasons than antisemitism, if you are implying that that could be the only reason.

            I’d be interested in hearing some of these “many more reasons”. Really, any reasons for labour unions to care at all about foreign conflicts would be good, but I’d especially like to hear some for why, out of all the conflicts ongoing in the world today, they should care about the one that just so happens to have a Jewish state as one of its main protagonists.

          • ana53294 says:

            why, out of all the conflicts ongoing in the world today, they should care about the one that just so happens to have a Jewish state as one of its main protagonists.

            Left wing movements in Spain care about two foreign things: the occupation and displacement of the people of Western Sahara, and the occupation and displacement of the people of Palestine. One of these is done by Muslims to Muslims, the other one is done by Jews to Muslims. If anything, left wingers care more about the Sahrawi people (among left-wingers in Spain, that is).

            Basically, people care about colonialism and displacement of people. It being a neighbouring country (that is part of many treaties with the EU) makes it more salient.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            The reasons to care more about that conflict also seem to cause more historic and current support for Israel (in fact, excessive support for Israel seems to have been first), which in turn energizes the opposition, if only for tribal reasons (enemy of my enemy). This goes both ways.

            Here are some of them:

            Israel is more like us (for example, Israel participates in Eurovision, while no Arab nation does). So a greater responsibility can be felt when ‘one of us’ misbehaves rather than ‘one of them.’

            Israel pattern matches to (Western) colonialism, which has become unacceptable in the West.

            Israel pattern matches to SJ (whitey oppressing people of colorey).

            The conflict has been going on ‘forever,’ giving much more opportunity for awareness, tribal positioning, etc than more short term conflicts.

            Israel is part of the main Western religion(s).

            A feeling of guilt over having supported Israel in the past.

            Israel is fairly accessible to the West. For example, most Israelis speak English. A few Israeli newspapers/news sites have English sites for the diaspora (The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Hamodia, Times of Israel, etc) and the diaspora seems to have a lot of English news sites. So there is a lot of relatively direct information, unlike many other conflicts, where the fog of war is much stronger. Note that this energizes both sides, because there are also Israelis that speak in English to those who critique current policies strongly (like Haaretz and Breaking the Silence).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            That would explain why Western politicians and voters might care about Israel more, but not why labour unions specifically would.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            There is a labor union professor on a SJ, but rationalist-adjacent blog and he seemed to regard his union as a generic leftist activist organization, more concerned with SJ than with higher wages and such.

            There are various reasons why progressives are much more prone to be critical of Israel, while conservatives are more prone to be supportive. Some of these are in my list.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Here is a link to a timeline of events involving Corbyn which have led people to associate him with anti-Semitism.

      The way I read the situation is this: Corbyn, like many on the far left, is strongly pro-Palestinian as just one manifestation of a broader opposition to anything which might be seen as colonialism that is apt to veer into support for anyone and anything anti-Western. Hence appearing on Press TV (Iran) and RT (Russia), skepticism about the Salisbury poisoning and Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and so on.

      Privately, as evidenced by older clips predating his time as Labour leader, when he was less careful about what he said, I think it’s overwhelmingly likely he does not believe Israel should exist, and he thinks Hamas (who he has referred to as “friends”) and other such groups are justified in using violence in an attempt to change the unjust status quo.

      I do not think he has a problem with Judaism qua faith and ethnicity, but the fact that most Jews are firmly committed to the continued existence of Israel naturally brings them into conflict.

      Further, the far left more generally is notably prone to Jewish global financial conspiracy type thinking. I don’t think Corbyn himself subscribes to these ideas, but I do think he has been notably slow to take disciplinary action against political allies who do, and in some cases Labour’s internal investigations into anti-Semitism allegations have been actively hampered by his office.

      One should be careful about generalising these accusations to Labour as a whole. Neither the moderates who make up the majority of Labour voters and MPs nor the more radical young people who make up a large chunk of the membership are really involved here. The problem is that the party leader hails from the small, radical faction that is, and the members are loyal enough to him for unrelated reasons to insist he is blameless on this score, and is the victim of a smear campaign by Tories and Blairites.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        The way I read the situation is this: Corbyn, like many on the far left, is strongly pro-Palestinian as just one manifestation of a broader opposition to anything which might be seen as colonialism that is apt to veer into support for anyone and anything anti-Western. Hence appearing on Press TV (Iran) and RT (Russia), skepticism about the Salisbury poisoning and Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and so on.

        I have heard (and find credible) the claim that in a lot of cases British people’s attitudes to Israel are actually about Northern Ireland. Northern Irish republicans identify with Palestine (and the IRA actually had links to the PLO in the 1970s), while loyalists identify with Israel. You don’t need to see the huge numbers of Israeli and Palestinian flags waved at Old Firm derbies to realise that what matters is what ”team” you are on- and on the far left, this leads to Campist praise of anyone opposed to Israel.

        • Murphy says:

          I think you’re right on this score.

          Palestine is definitely viewed more favourably in ireland since there’s a lot of historical parallels, mainly the partitions created in both cases largely by the british government with only a couple of decades between the 2 events with a very similar pair of civil wars and both sitting next to the local military power.

          Throw in a lot of familiar notes of religious sectarianism for good measure.

          Throw in sectarian resettlement, walled/fenced in communities, claims that any violent opposition justifies any and all actions by the military power….

          Recordings of israeli shelling of Palestinian civilians share a lot of similarities with the results of shelling by british gunboats and a great deal of the propaganda you hear out of israel sounding extremely familiar to anyone familiar with the history of britain and ireland.

          it’s like if a nation of people grows up on stories where the bad guys always wear skulls on their death-black uniforms and then people are surprised when they’re more likely to see those other guys wearing skulls and death-black uniforms as the bad guys in a different conflict.

      • proyas says:

        Thanks, that Timeline really cleared it up for me. I only got halfway through it and understood the problem. Wow.

      • Aftagley says:

        The problem is that the party leader hails from the small, radical faction that is, and the members are loyal enough to him for unrelated reasons to insist he is blameless on this score, and is the victim of a smear campaign by Tories and Blairites.

        I keep hearing this; that he’s unpopular within the party and that everyone knows he’s the reason Labour doesn’t have a chance at getting dominant again, but they also seem to accept that no power on earth could get him out. Why is he still in charge of Labour?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          For one thing, there’s no way to actually force him out. He lost a vote of no confidence a few years back, and everyone thought he was finished… except that whoever wrote the Labour Party constitution had clearly thought that anybody who lost a VONC would be shamed into resigning, and hadn’t bothered to put in any mechanism for removing somebody who lost but then refused to go. So Corbyn just stayed in his post regardless, rendering his opponents within the party basically powerless to kick him out.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Tony Blair raised up a bunch of neo-liberal non-entities.

          The actual rank and file looked at the rubble of the global financial crisis and went “Well, that rather decisively disproves… your entire doctrine.”

          Then they cast about for someone who was not associated with Blair or neo-liberalism, and found Corbyn languishing on a back-bench where he had fossilized since way before the rise of Blair, and raised him up. He stays raised because all his potential rivals are either Blairites – which means making any moves is read as a plan to turn Labor back in that direction, at which point the membership will fire them. This has already happened to a bunch of them- or they are very, very new to politics, or personally loyal to him. (perks of having been a fixture forever)
          He is also better than his rep. That is not a high standard, but.. the british press lies about him. A lot.

        • Tarpitz says:

          He’s unpopular with Labour MPs, and with the general public (including Labour voters) but extremely popular with the party membership and activists, and the members decide who gets to be leader, thanks to constitutional reforms enacted by Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband. Under the previous rules, whereby members, MPs and unions each accounted for a third of the decision, Corbyn would never have got the job in the first place.

    • Levantine says:

      To all Britons: How credible are the accusations that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic?

      I’m not a Brit. I would note that

      i) a good deal of the Palestinians have Semitic origins just as much as the Jewish people

      ii) the term “antisemitism,” meaning hatred of Jewish people, muddles the discourse whenever Jews are actually victimised, and thus prevents combating anti-jewishness as effectively as it can be done.

      iii) I followed UK politics fairly closely in the period 2002-2012, and I’m struck how anti-semitism became an issue only around the time Corbyn became the Labour leader.

      Note well:

      Fifty times Jeremy Corbyn stood with Jewish people : Jewish Voice for Labour

      • John Schilling says:

        i) a good deal of the Palestinians have Semitic origins just as much as the Jewish people

        Etymology is neither prescriptive nor usefully descriptive in language. No matter what the word “semitic” means, the word “antisemitic” now means exactly and only Jew-hating. Claiming that someone can’t be antisemitic because look how much they like a bunch of Semitic Arabs is an attempt at deception and should be treated as such.

    • Plumber says:

      @proyas,
      I’m not British (except through some but not all ancestors), and frankly haven’t read much up on British Labour Party after the 1940’s (James Keir Hardie soundlike he was a badass!), so I really don’t know about if any faction of them may be regarded as “anti-Semitic”, but I’ll note that I’m more convinced of “horseshoe theory” after a recent post (I think by @Atlas) in a previous Open Thread that mentioned a Nick Fuentes, who I did a quick web search of and found that he’s some further Right youngster with anti-Isreal rhetoric, some of which is the same as stuff that I heard broadcast from a further Left radio station a few years ago (admittedly I didn’t listen long enough to the broadcast, nor did I read up on Fuentes loNguyen enough to be sure 100% that the talking points were the exactly the same, but they’d seemed pretty damn close!), and I’ve little doubt that there’s some anti-semite Leftists just like I have little doubt that there’s some anti-semite Rightists

      • EchoChaos says:

        For both the far left and the far right, criticism of Israel comes from basically the same place: It’s the last truly colonial country left in the world.

        For the far left, they are criticized because they unapologetically deploy colonial means of control against the native populace.

        For the far right, they’re criticized in the “why can’t we” vein. Lots of the far right would really like to doing what Israel does except substitute “Americans/English/Germans/etc” for “Jews”.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos,
          Calling Isreal “colonialist” seens fair; and in thinking about other “post-colonialist” regimes I see some paths if Isreal granted full voting citizenship to West bank Arabic speakers (I understand that some Arabs in Isreal already do have the vote, but not in “the occupied territories”) which would make the Muslim voting population of Isreal nearly the equal to the Jewish voting population.

          Northern Ireland immediately comes to mind as they’re due to become majority Catholic in 2021, the Protestant (bare) majority doesn’t seem to be unduly hampered (now) by the Catholics ascent (though who knows what it would’ve been like if “the whip hand” had changed in the ’20’s or even the 1970’s), so maybe that’s a possible future.

          “Colonialist” isn’t quite the right word, but the Jim Crow American south mostly denied most blacks the vote from around the 1890’s to the 1960’s, and except for who’s Mayor in a few cities voting rights for blacks hasn’t seemed to much effect white Americans status in the south (or in the north for that matter), Stacy Abrams almost became Georgia’s Governor, but I very much doubt white owned property would’ve been “liberated”.

          Post apartheid South Africa has seen some loss in white status, but not that bad I’d say, especially when you think of just how outnumbered whites there are/were, I’d say things went rather well (sure this and that, but compared to say ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia or 1990’s Rwanda? It could’ve gone quite differently).

          Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, yeah I imagine that’s what many Israelis must fear, and avoiding that fate seems the key, I imagine that given birthrates Israelis must realize that it’s only a matter of time that non-citizens in the areas they control will outnumber citizens, which doesn’t seem sustainable, but how exactly they should precede I can only guess, my gut instinct is the Palestinians should be full citizens (either of Isreal, a separate state, or of Jordan again), but I’m an American so it’s easy for me to armchair from far away.

          • Aftagley says:

            if Isreal granted full voting citizenship to West bank Arabic speakers (I understand that some Arabs in Isreal already do have the vote, but not in “the occupied territories”) which would make the Muslim voting population of Isreal nearly the equal to the Jewish voting population.

            Yep hence the famous line from Secretary Kerry,

            Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both.

          • Ketil says:

            I see some paths if Israel granted full voting citizenship to West bank Arabic speakers

            Does anybody think this is actually going to happen? How? Israel (with the exception of a few religious nuts) doesn’t want the land and certainly not the people, and the Palestinians even more certainly don’t want their land or themselves be part of Israel. Israel did annex Golan and East Jerusalem and (I think) offer citizenships (which were mostly rejected), but the annexation remains unaccepted by just about everybody and is often loudly criticized.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ketil

            I truly think that Israel made a big blunder by not giving themselves any options. They have convinced themselves that all the land they stole is theirs and can at most take a small step back, insufficient for a viable Palestinian state. So the two state solution is no longer viable.

            Yet the one state solution is obviously not viable either, because then Israel is no longer a Jewish state.

            The traditional options to resolve this kind of situation are no longer politically viable.

            So I foresee an indefinite holding pattern until the winds turn and outside forces will force Israel’s hand. In the meantime, Israel will continue to have big conflicts with Palestinians and other Arabs, while if they had made peace when it was viable, they could have moved on, like N-Ireland was able to move on.

    • proyas says:

      It would have been nice if fewer responses had started with “I’m not British, but…”

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Okay if the responses here are representative of why so many Britons are called anti-Semitic, then I was absolutely correct in my intuition that it is greatly over-blown. Being anti-Israel is not in any way being anti-Semitic. That is ingenuous political rhetoric. There are plenty of valid reasons to criticize Israel that have nothing to do with the religion or ethnicity of its leaders.

      I do agree that much of the left’s rhetoric is ridiculous and inexcusable. Apparently any retaliation for missiles sent into Israel from Gaza amounts to war crimes. (Although I agree more with the anti-Israel faction than the pro-one, the anti-one does a good job of making me hate them too) But none of this is related at all with being anti-Semitic.

      It is similar to the constant charges that Trump is racist. He is a lying blowhard who says a lot of nasty things and has much illogical policy. The fact that he attacks and makes fun of Blacks, Asians, and Indians, as well as Whites does not make him a racist.

      The Jeremy Corbyn link had some non-Israel reasons for calling him anti-Semitic. Perhaps that is true. It appears to me that the rest is bunk.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50435014

    Long account of OneCoin, a completely fraudulent cryptocurrency. They had the brilliant idea of recruiting muti-level marketers to sell it. One of the founders is still at large.

    Governments aren’t especially good at stopping fraud, but I don’t know what might be better.

    I’d like recommendations for libertarian discussions of identifying and stopping fraud, or any discussions of what might be better than what we’ve got.

    Hypothetically, how would people need to be different so that there would be less attempted fraud and/or that people would be more fraud resistant?

    • John Schilling says:

      I’d like recommendations for libertarian discussions of identifying and stopping fraud, or any discussions of what might be better than what we’ve got.

      Unfortunately, the standard libertarian take on fraud is, “yeah, that’s a tough one, and we’re probably going to have to keep some sort of government around for that”. I haven’t seen anything that looks to be significantly better; the proposed non-governmental approaches are mostly just bodies that look a lot like police and courts but are paid for by Not The Government, and I don’t think it’s the fact that the government is paying that makes police and courts such a mediocre solution to the fraud problem.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        The closest libertarian response I’ve run across to arguments like this is a claim that the private version of fraud detection would look something like Underwriters Laboratories (UL LLC). One can imagine a business model where people subscribe to a lab with a periodic fee, which funds what the lab looks at. They can also vote on what brands it focuses on. If they don’t like the vote, they can pay a different lab. Producers may even pay the lab to give them their seal of approval.

        The downside to having the government pay for it, then, is that consumers end up knowing a great deal less about how much they’re paying for a lab, since it’s some unknown percentage of their overall taxes. And they also won’t know which products it’s testing. And since it’s a monopoly, it’s considered the final authority on whether a product is fraudulent, so if a company can manage to wheedle it into approving their product, the public will be unlikely to know, for a long time.

        One catch I see is what I call the “singleton problem” – there might only be room in the market for one lab (for a given business problem). Also, there’s the bond appraisal problem – companies will stop coming to a lab that gives their product bad reviews, just like they stop paying Moody’s for AAA ratings. Which means labs will have an incentive to inflate reviews. If that incentive is greater than the one to maintain reputation, that’s bad news for consumers. The most honest reviews will be necessarily motivated by subscribers who aren’t particularly loyal to any product, and there might not be enough subscriber revenue. And of course, there’s the free rider problem putting more downward pressure on subscribership.

        So in the case of OneCoin, it might be that a private investigation would get too little support to fund it, let alone multiple investigations competing on quality. But OTOH, a public investigation might say a OneCoin is fine when it isn’t, or fraudulent when it isn’t, depending on local incentives.

        • Lambert says:

          So like Which on steroids?
          (not sure what the closest US equivalent is. It’s a set of subscription-based consumer advice magazines/website)

          Still, that’s only a way of forewarning yourself. The difference between seals of approval (gov’t or otherwise) and fraud law is that you can go after scammers ex-post-facto.

          • Nornagest says:

            not sure what the closest US equivalent is. It’s a set of subscription-based consumer advice magazines/website

            Probably Consumer Reports.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            You go after scammers ex-post facto generally through violation of contract. The tricky part is when contracts are written in such a way that they lawfully facilitate these scams and often they do.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Lambert: as Nornagest said, probably Consumer Reports, and I’d toss in the Better Business Bureau as well.

            The easiest way of going after scammers in a free-market context is to refuse to do business with them. Going after them costs you resources, which means there’s a question of whether it costs you less than if you let them continue to exist. It’s possible that they’ll scam other people, then, which means it might be worth spreading the word. Which raises the question of trust, etc. But the trust issue exists for a government-run fraud commission, too.

            @RalMirrorAd: if contracts permit scams, and people don’t like scams, then they have an incentive to write contracts that punish scams. So the question there is whether contracts can be written that way without causing even more problems (including strangling anyone’s ability to do business).

        • broblawsky says:

          As someone who regularly has to deal with UL, and is extremely sick of their bull, this is not a reassuring proposal.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @brob.
            Please more information on this. I know nothing about UL, but always assumed they were a good organization. Don’t leave us hanging.

        • John Schilling says:

          The closest libertarian response I’ve run across to arguments like this is a claim that the private version of fraud detection would look something like Underwriters Laboratories (UL LLC).

          UL is pretty good at making sure your house doesn’t burn down due to faulty electrical appliances, but it doesn’t even try to protect you from arsonists. Nor can it.

          No protection of the form, “we will tell you in advance whether a particular transaction is fraudulent”, is going to be worth a damn. Even in principle that only works against a subset of fraud threats, and is useless against e.g. the formerly honest business that’s going out of business and wants to run up a 100% profit margin in the last six months before the owners retire (or start a new business under a new name). More generally, the fraudster has too many advantages over the person trying to predict fraud in advance without unduly burdening the whole process in transaction costs.

          To defeat fraud, even to reduce it to a tolerable level for a modern economy to function, you need to go after the perpetrators after the fact to A: claw back the gains of the fraud when possible and more importantly B: punish the perpetrators severely enough to deter future frauds. There are serious incentive and free-rider problems in trying to do this without a government, or something close enough to a government as makes no difference.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If it’s a formerly honest business defecting in what it thinks is the last round of IPD, then yeah, someone’s liable to go after them with big sticks. Whoever does, is about as likely to get away with it as they are to succeed in the court of public opinion. If that’s not good enough, well, I sympathize, but I can’t help but feel that’s in range of the system we have now. Including the part where said honest business is just afraid enough of big sticks to not defect, or at least hide it well.

            If you think that’s basically a government with extra steps, well, sure. This is sort of my concern that a fully automated gay space luxury anarcho-capitalism is likewise not going to realize huge efficiencies. Every system is going to develop knots of people willing to swindle their neighbors for a few extra briefcases of cash, slowing the entire system down by the cost of a fraud detection and penalty subsystem. (In its defense, the three biggest ancap proponents I know of aren’t claiming huge efficiencies.)

            But that still leaves the problem of government becoming one such knot. What do you see as the advantage here? Institutional visibility? (Has it really helped, in your opinion, being able to see all the shenanigans in Washington?)

            Where are the opportunities for improvement here?

          • John Schilling says:

            But that still leaves the problem of government becoming one such knot. What do you see as the advantage here?

            The biggest advantage is that we have put several thousand years into developing institutional and procedural safeguards against the obvious potential for abuse in governments having big sticks and the legitimate authority to beat up people they designate as wrongdoers. We’ve got this to the point where it usually works fairly well; better than vigilante mobs and Pinkerton Men at least. If we give the big sticks and the beat-people-up legitimacy to a thing that we piously insist Must Not Be A Government, there’s a good chance that the safeguards won’t fully transfer.

            (Has it really helped, in your opinion, being able to see all the shenanigans in Washington?)

            Having seen all the shenanigans in Washington, I’m still not terribly worried about the local police beating me up or the local courts declaring me Officially A Crook just because I didn’t properly bribe them last month. Government works an awful lot better than you give it credit for.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Having seen all the shenanigans in Washington, I’m still not terribly worried about the local police beating me up or the local courts declaring me Officially A Crook just because I didn’t properly bribe them last month.

            Sure, but you’d never be fool enough to, e.g. file a complaint against a cop.

          • SamChevre says:

            I’ll note that Daniel Davies (dsquared, former Crooked Timber blogger) wrote a book on this topic, which is excellent: Lying for Money

            It managed to be engaging, laugh-out-loud funny, and informative – all at the same time.

          • Chalid says:

            Daniel Davies (dsquared, former Crooked Timber blogger) wrote a book on this topic, which is excellent: Lying for Money

            strongly seconded.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The biggest advantage is that we have put several thousand years into developing institutional and procedural safeguards against the obvious potential for abuse in governments having big sticks and the legitimate authority to beat up people they designate as wrongdoers. We’ve got this to the point where it usually works fairly well[…]

            When you say government has developed some valuable safeguards, I agree with you; I can even name several of them.

            But on the one hand, we have a lot of people who trust that system of government, and a lot who think it’s failing them to the point that they’d revolt if we allowed them legitimate use of force, and since we don’t, they’re working around it. I’m not talking about starry-eyed ancaps here, and I’m also not talking about lone wolves run amok. I’m talking about BLM and Occupy and the black market in drugs and people looking to cryptocurrency as a better medium of exchange and low level bureaucrats looking the other way on this and that and anyone who cheats on their taxes as much as they think they can get away with.

            I think a lot of people are bristling over lack of visibility and control. There are libertarians trying to offer some tools to recover this, mostly in the form of privatized interests who compete on quality and price, and your response to this reads like “the status quo is better than you realize, so in the name of Chesterton’s Fence, sit down and shaddap”.

            Now here’s the thing: part of me – most of me, really – believes you’re totally right. Most people don’t appreciate the state enough, let alone possess the broad experience necessary to improve on it without clobbering a safeguard. But I also know a lot of people aren’t willing to just sit down, shaddap, and learn more about why the state isn’t really as jacked up as they think it is. Are you saying that’s still their best option? Is there no other bone you can toss them?

            Suppose there’s a checklist someone could bring up every time these complaints arise. “Okay, folks, if you really want to fix fraud detection (or education or prisons or whatever), here’s a minimum of requirements you’re going to have to meet before I can take your proposal seriously.” What does SSC think ought to be on that list?

      • and I don’t think it’s the fact that the government is paying that makes police and courts such a mediocre solution to the fraud problem.

        Would you say the same thing about government vs market production of food or automobiles?

        The incentive structure for a private firm selling the service of dispute settlement or rights enforcement is different from the incentive structure for a government agency providing the same services, so why would you expect the outcome to be the same?

        I don’t know if you have read my Machinery of Freedom, but I sketch there the reasons why the market system will tend to produce an efficient set of rules. That would apply to the issue of fraud as to most other issues—I have a discussion in the third edition of the cases where it does not apply.

        • John Schilling says:

          Would you say the same thing about government vs market production of food or automobiles?

          Not at all. But customers can much more easily assess the quality of food and automobiles at the time of purchase than they can law enforcement or fraud-protection. Also, most of the failure modes for food and almost all of the failure modes for automobiles just leave me with a product that is less valuable than I thought it was and which I am free to walk away from, whereas corrupt law enforcement is liable to actively hurt me and to hurt me even more if I try to cancel the deal and walk away.

          So, automobiles are a nearly ideal case for manufacturers and consumers to deal with each other privately, and noting that this works out really well with automobiles is not a general argument for saying that the government is always inferior at providing all goods and services.

          A more interesting test case would be education. There as with law enforcement it is hard to assess the quality of the product at point of sale because the benefits will not be delivered until much later and the standard metrics are easily gamed. And subpar education can be of decidedly negative value, if it leaves you with a head full of falsehoods and a credential that was subsequently devalued. But, for purposes of comparison, we have state-run schools and non-profit private schools and for-profit private schools. The state isn’t the clear loser in that comparison, and the for-profit corporations aren’t the clear winner.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Also, most of the failure modes for food … just leave me with a product that is less valuable than I thought it was and which I am free to walk away from …

            The most important failure mode for food is the one makes you ill or kills you. That’s why most halfway advanced countries have some level of pure food laws and some level of enforcement.

            I’d prefer to keep the government in the business of enforcing food safety standards, with rules and inspections to try to catch problems of this sort before people become ill, as well as emergency responses when problems inevitably slip through.

            I wouldn’t be happier with a bunch of competing private organizations; the incentives for government bureaucrats are less bad in this instance, than the incentives for private businesses.

          • So, automobiles are a nearly ideal case for manufacturers and consumers to deal with each other privately, and noting that this works out really well with automobiles is not a general argument for saying that the government is always inferior at providing all goods and services.

            That wasn’t the claim I was making, although I think it’s close to true. I was responding to your

            and I don’t think it’s the fact that the government is paying that makes police and courts such a mediocre solution to the fraud problem.

            I took that as implying that who is paying is unlikely to explain the quality of the output, which struck me as obviously wrong. Showing reasons why the market solution would be superior rather than different requires a longer argument.

            Which I devoted Chapters 31, 32 and, in most detail, 54 of the third edition of Machinery to.

            In a system where law and law enforcement are competitive industries, consumers can evaluate the quality of what is being produced considerably better than in one where they are government monopolies. And they have a much stronger incentive to spend time and effort in evaluating them, since their individual decision does in the former case and does not in the latter have a significant effect on their outcome.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman says: “…In a system where law and law enforcement are competitive industries, consumers can evaluate the quality of what is being produced considerably better than in one where they are government monopolies…”

            Don’t we already have laws and law enforcement based competition though?

            Different States have different laws and differing crime rates of municipalities effect the real estate prices, which effect property taxes, which efforts how much may be spent on law enforcement.

          • @Plumber:
            The farther down you go, the more nearly competitive it is. At the national level, you can migrate—I have just been talking with a Chilean friend who is seriously considering moving to the U.S. (by good fortune, he has dual citizenship, having been born here to Chilean parents), due to the deteriorating situation in Chile.

            Changing countries is very hard. Moving from one state to another a little less hard. From one county to another, still less hard.

            But all of those are harder than switching from one insurance company to another or changing which grocery store you go to or what model of car you buy from what dealer for your next car.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think libertarian policies are more focused on punishing fraud than preventing it. Presumably there are laws against fraud and you can go to jail for violating them, but not regulators who try to prevent fraud in the first place.

    • hls2003 says:

      Nothing is a panacea, but I would expect that an emphasis on strong local economic and social communities would help. It would allow reputational evidence to build and be shared, via long-term iterated transactions. It’s easier to scam someone once than in repeated interactions. Of course that doesn’t entirely solve the problem, since a wrongly-trusted person can potentially defraud people more effectively in such a community (he’s trusted because others trust him) but once exposed it would be hard to repeat it.

    • aphyer says:

      With the disclaimer that ‘libertarian’ covers a lot of different things, and that e.g. the ancaps will not agree with this: ‘force and fraud’ are the two things the government should be stopping even under libertarian theories. I don’t think most libertarians want the government out of the business of stopping these two things – if anything, when the police force stops spending all its time fighting (often literally) against the scourge of unlicensed barbers and recreational marijuana it should be able to more effectively track down actual frauds.

      • Aftagley says:

        Don’t they also care about contract enforcement, or does ensuring people keep their word fall under the whole fraud umbrella?

        • eigenmoon says:

          Contract enforcement is very important but the government is absolutely horrible at it, often enforcing not the actual contract that people have agreed to but the government’s own version of it. The difference is especially drastic for marriage contracts.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I agree about libertarian theory, but enforcement against fraud seems to be difficult. Wells Fargo was an established bank ripping off customers by putting unreasonable demands on its employees so the employees would add accounts to customers without their knowledge.

        It took a long time for the government to catch up with Wells Fargo.

    • eigenmoon says:

      Governments are committing the biggest fraud of all by constantly counterfeiting money. They are the last institutions anybody should trust to be protected from fraud.

      • Aftagley says:

        Are you legitimately claiming that the government’s decision to print money renders them untrustworthy when it comes to preventing fraud? That seems like a hard viewpoint to actually hold.

        Do you think that taxation is theft? If so, if you got robbed on your way to work, would you trust the government (EG police) to help you resolve that problem?

        • eigenmoon says:

          Yes. The government’s paper money scam depends on people having no access to stuff that can actually store value (see also: US gold confiscation). Therefore the more useful and reliable a cryptocurrency is, the more the government is incentivized to destroy it.

          Do you think that taxation is theft?
          Yes.

          If you got robbed in the US, it looks like most probably you were robbed by the police (see Civil Asset Forfeiture). In the off case that you were robbed by some other gang, you might conceivably call the police (after properly hiding all valuables remaining on you). But I wouldn’t call this “trust”. You’re simply playing two robber gangs against each other with no guarantees.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            You can perceive what the government does as being fraudulent but the people who use money on a day to day basis generally don’t. Something being a bad or one sided deal isn’t sufficient, their has to be a surprise or unmet expectation. In the roughest of terms governments openly engage in QE and their central banks set inflation targets, so there’s a certain level of transparency in how much devaluation is going on. If any fraud is going on it’s from a failure to generate the inflation they say they’re going to.

            People become suspicious of their governments when their central banks consistently generate more inflation than they claim to or when they do something sudden and unprecedented like gold seizure.

          • The government’s paper money scam depends on people having no access to stuff that can actually store value (see also: US gold confiscation).

            That was a long time ago, you are free to own gold along with stocks, bonds, real estate, and other forms of wealth.

            Therefore the more useful and reliable a cryptocurrency is, the more the government is incentivized to destroy it.

            Cryptocurrency is only useful for illegal transactions. Most of the merchants who used to accept Bitcoin as payment stopped doing so because of the hassle.

          • Nornagest says:

            USG confiscated gold for a few decades in the mid-20th century, but it doesn’t anymore. Other than convenience and infrastructure, there’s nothing that actually stops you from carrying around a little poke full of gold dust and spooning a few flakes out whenever you want to pay for your groceries.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @RalMirrorAd
            Let’s talk after the upcoming crisis (2020-21, I guess) about how much unmet expectations there are and how suspicious people should be of their governments.

            @Alexander Turok
            you are free to own gold
            Yes – for now – because it’s difficult to circulate and because you can be searched if necessary. Cryptocurrencies are much more difficult for the government to control.

            Cryptocurrency is only useful for illegal transactions. Most of the merchants who used to accept Bitcoin as payment stopped doing so because of the hassle.
            I have trouble believing it, given that BitPay Sees Record Year for Revenue in 2018, with $1 Billion in Transactions.

            @Nornagest
            There’s a great practical difficulty with the need to verify that the flakes that come out of my pocket are indeed gold.

          • Lambert says:

            You mean you don’t keep a touchstone in your pocket to see whether the burly scandinavian bloke you’re trading with is trying to mug you off with fake gold?

          • @eigenmoon, You may be right, I remember reading a lot of stories about how companies(like Steam) stopped accepting it. But that’s anecdote, not data.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Alexander Turok
            Yes, Bitcoin transaction fees are too high for most commerce (1-2$). The current solution is either Lightning or any other cryptocurrency. Steam and a lot of other merchants with gift cards (including Amazon) can be paid to through Bitrefill.

      • It’s not fraud since governments are open about the fact that they print money, and this is widely known.

        • eigenmoon says:

          Suppose that the government offers you a gig and pays you 10$ in freshly printed notes. You agree, hoping to redeem that paper in the future by buying a lunch from me.

          Then the government offers me a gig for 10$ in freshly printed notes. I agree, hoping to redeem that paper in the future by buying a lunch from you.

          Now we both believe that we’ve accumulated enough wealth to have one lunch in the future: I believe that you owe me a lunch and you believe that I owe you a lunch.

          However, at some point we will realize that we’re actually even, and that means we’ve worked our asses off for nothing. And yet the government has committed no fraud because it was open about the fact that the money was printed. Nevertheless, something about the government’s actions seems off… don’t you think?

          • Let’s replace some words in your comment:

            Suppose that a gold miner offers you a gig and pays you 10$ in freshly mined gold. You agree, hoping to redeem that gold in the future by buying a lunch from me.

            Then the gold minger offers me a gig for 10$ in freshly mined gold. I agree, hoping to redeem that gold in the future by buying a lunch from you.

            Now we both believe that we’ve accumulated enough wealth to have one lunch in the future: I believe that you owe me a lunch and you believe that I owe you a lunch.

            However, at some point we will realize that we’re actually even, and that means we’ve worked our asses off for nothing. And yet the gold miner has committed no fraud because it was open about the fact that the gold was newly mined, raising the supply of gold and thus lowering its value. Nevertheless, something about the gold miner’s actions seems off… don’t you think?

          • Corey says:

            Your hypothetical assumes nothing else changes about the larger economy via the introduction of this freshly printed $20. That would not be the case.

            At full employment, the two of you would have taken time away from your other jobs to earn the $20, so the effect may be small or nonexistent. If the two of you were unemployed or underemployed, you have done something of value that you would not otherwise have, making the pie higher. Possibly by more than $20.

            at some point we will realize that we’re actually even, and that means we’ve worked our asses off for nothing

            Hijinks Ensue is blocked at work for some reason so I can’t find it, but they did a comic where society collapsed because a young boy said money was just paper.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Alexander Turok
            Money makes sense when it represents somebody’s work. In this example, it represents the miner’s work. However, gold is far from perfect. Plundering lots of gold from America totally crashedstimulated economy in Europe.

            @Corey
            you have done something of value that you would not otherwise have
            True, but now you basically have planned economy. One could as well say that the government has infinite money and therefore can boss everybody around as much as it wants to. This is going to be as efficient as the USSR economy.

            society collapsed because a young boy said money was just paper
            I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that will indeed happen in 2020.

          • they did a comic where society collapsed because a young boy said money was just paper

            So long as dollars are necessary to pay your taxes and settle debts, they will always have value.

          • I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that will indeed happen in 2020.

            People already know money loses value over time, so they keep their wealth in stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, ect. I keep only a tiny amount of my wealth in cash, when I receive cash I either spend it right away or put it into index funds. The tiny amount of value cash loses between the time my employer puts it in my bank account and the time I use it to buy groceries or stocks is a non-issue.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Alexander Turok
            What government does with the money strongly affects stocks, bonds and real estate. Since you’re investing in index funds, I hope you’re very familiar with leveraged buybacks, especially this:

            The buyback boom has increased the risk for both bondholders and shareholders.

    • Hypothetically, how would people need to be different so that there would be less attempted fraud and/or that people would be more fraud resistant?

      Widespread knowledge of the efficient market hypothesis and a mentality that you should only believe you can beat the market if you know something the market doesn’t, knowledge that is more than “I heard this speech and it was so inspiring!”

      • Also, it wouldn’t do anything for this case, but for large publicly traded companies it would help to legalize insider trading, with companies given the option to re-prohibit versions of it themselves through enforceable contracts with employees, contracts which must be publicly available. A company could forbid an employee from trading on negative inside information, but corporations which refuse to do this would send a credible signal that they are not hiding negative inside information.

  9. DragonMilk says:

    Probability Question! It’s related to tournament design.

    Suppose you have a bag full of 32 balls, 8 red, and 24 green.
    You have four buckets A, B, C, D
    You draw balls randomly one at a time, placing them ABCDABCDABCDABCD (obviously doesn’t matter how you place the balls in if method is predetermined in advance, this part is just for show)

    Questions (show your work/explain yourself to us plebs)
    1. What is the probability that each of the buckets, A, B, C, and D, have exactly two red balls in them each?
    2. What is the probability that no one bucket has more than 4 red balls?

    Context: A tourney is being designed where each stage involves 8 people. Host wants top 2 in four groups of 8 to advance to a single round of 8. I am suggesting it’s much better to have 2 rounds of top 4 since the four groups are randomly selected. My concern is that many of the strongest players may not advance in the current setup. I would like to quantify just how much of an issue the current setup is.

    Thanks!

    • lightvector says:

      For question 1:
      A: From 32 total we choose 8. We want 2 out of 8 reds and 6 out of 24 greens.
      B: From remaining 24 total we choose 8. We want 2 out of 6 reds and 6 out of 18 greens.
      C: From remaining 16 total we choose 8. We want 2 out of 4 reds and 6 out of 12 greens.
      D: From remaining 8 total we choose 8. We want 2 out of 2 reds and 6 out of 6 greens.

      For each one, we can divide the number of ways of choosing what we want by the number of ways of choosing total. Letting xCy be the combination function (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combination), we have:

      Probability A = 8C2 * 24C6 / 32C8.
      Probability B = 6C2 * 28C6 / 24C8.
      Probability C = 4C2 * 12C6 / 16C8.
      Probability D = 2C2 * 6C6 / 8C8.

      The product of all of these probabilities is about 5.8437%.

      For question 2: Since calculating it exactly is a little bit of a pain, and I don’t want to do it right now, we’ll just simulate it. 🙂
      Simulation of 1 million trials suggests ~95% that each bucket has <= 4.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Thanks! I was tempted to do easy/hard for the two questions…any sense of how you’d go about the second?

      • Jake says:

        For question two, I just threw it all in an excel spreadsheet and got an exact number using combinations, though apparently I’m a lot slower than all of you out there running sims (and this wouldn’t work near as well for anything with a much bigger problem space).

        Question 1: 5.8437%, same as you calculated
        Question 2: 95.3884%….simulation is right on.

      • pjs says:

        I’m not convinced the second question is really any more painful. My reasoning is: The probability of any particular bucket getting exactly 5 red balls is x_5 = 8C5/24C3/32C8. But the four events “bucket i gets exactly 5 reds” are disjoint, so the probability “no bucket gets exactly 5 reds” is (1 – 4 * x_5) = 95.7%. And that’s your answer.

        Ok, so we “should” also add the same calculation for 6, 7, 8 red balls but (a) that doesn’t make things much more complex anyway (just subtract 4 * (x_6 + x_7 + x_8) too), and anyway (b) these are each so more unlikely that these terms are surely going to make an inconsequential change in the context of the question. But to check: considering x_6 (i.e 6 red balls) as well gives 95.4% which is indeed the exact answer to 3 significant figures.

    • honoredb says:

      There’s probably a known closed-form solution here but running simulations seemed easier.

      The red balls get evenly divided a little under 6% of the time, but end up with no more than 4 in any one bucket over 95% of the time.

    • It shouldn’t matter how many green balls you have, you could have a million, what matters is where the red balls go when you select them from the bag.

      lightvector is right, I was confused, thought that bags could end up with more balls than other bags.

      • lightvector says:

        Actually, it does matter. The number of green balls affects how many balls total you draw in each group, which affects how much wiggle room the red balls have spread out. To see this:

        Case in the problem: 24 green balls, 8 red balls, split all balls equally into 4 groups.
        Obviously some groups might not always get exactly 2 red balls.

        Extreme case: 0 green balls, 8 red balls, split all balls equally into 4 groups.
        Now every group definitely gets exactly 2 red balls. (So green balls matter).

    • KieferO says:

      I just simulated it:

      from random import *
      def trial(n):
      evencount = 0
      reallybadcount = 0
      for _ in range(n):
      balls = [0] * 24 + [1] * 8
      shuffle(balls)
      buckets = [ sum(balls[i * 8:(i + 1) * 8]) for i in range(4) ]
      if max(buckets) == 2:
      evencount += 1
      if max(buckets) > 4:
      reallybadcount += 1
      return (evencount / n, reallybadcount / n)

      And the results:

      >>> trial(1000000)
      (0.058568, 0.0461)

      This means that you have a little better than 1 in 20 chance of having the top 8 players being able to make it into the 2nd stage if the top 2 in each group are selected, and a little worse than a 1 in 20 chance of the top 8 players being able to make it into the 2nd stage if the top 4 are selected.

      That being said, tournament design usually hinges on how selective the games actually are. E.g. if player A is 12% more skilled than player B, what is the probability that a contest between them will result in victory for player A. Put another way, how much of the contest is luck vs. skill. In sports, this is measured by something somewhat inappropriately named the Pythagorean exponent. Which converts estimates of relative skill into estimates of win probabilities. The higher the exponent, the more skill matters, e.g. for baseball, it’s 1.83, but for basketball it’s 13.9. If the exponent for your sport is high, then tournament design really matters and you need to be careful to make sure everyone has a fair chance to demonstrate their skill, but if it’s low just worry about making it fun, simple, and entertaining.

      For a more concrete example, if the 2nd stage of your tournament is singe elimination, and skill only matters in your game as much as it does in baseball (or hockey), even assuming that all of the top 8 players make it into the knockout stage, there’s only a 3.6 percent chance that all of the best players will even win their games and make it into the round of 8. So if you’re goal is to have a high probability that the strongest 8 players will be in the round of 8, you need to know how much wiggle room your game gives you.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Wait, you’re saying it’s actually *worse* if there’s two stages over one?

        In scenario 2, it would be top half of each of the 4 groups in round 1, and round 2 be top half again of each of the two groups.

        Intuition-wise, <5% is a really unexpected result…or did you show the reverse? As in > 95% chance of them moving on?

      • Jake says:

        Agreed with all of this on how selective games are. Another consideration is, even assuming perfect tests of skill, where the better player always wins, is what type of competitor could potentially make it to the finals.

        In the case where the top 2 of each of 4 groups get selected, in the worst case, you could miss out on the 3rd-8th best players, and allow in the 7th-8th worst players. (assuming all the best/worst players are in the same groups).

        In the case where the top 4 of each of 2 groups get selected, worst case is you miss out on players 5-16 and let in the 15-16th worst players, so you are likely to end up with better players overall in the finals.

        However, it also seems like determining the top 4 of 16 is a harder tournament than determining the top 2 of 8, so that may also be a factor.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Totally, agree. I just want as base case show that factors aside, the initial setup is clearly inferior if your goal is to grab the top 8

          • Jake says:

            Based on KieferO’s sim though, I don’t think that is the case. If you are trying to grab just the top 8, and only the top 8, you are slightly less likely to select exactly the top 8 if you do two rounds where you grab the top 4, rather than 4 rounds of the top 2.

            This seems like it’s a bit counter-intuitive, but I think it’s because you are trying to select exactly the top 8. My gut says if you were looking to ensure that the 8 people selected were all in the top 10, you’d be better off with the top 4 from two rounds instead of the top 2 from four. I may go try that out if I get a chance.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @ Jake, it was the reverse, it’s > 95% not, <5%

            My goal is to propose a setup that the actual top 8 have a substantially higher chance of making it past the first round

          • KieferO says:

            Certainly, the record of tournaments with group stages support you. I have never heard of a tournament with a group stage selecting fewer than half from each group. Several, like the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup selected 2 or 3 from each group of four. One method of tournament design is to just look up a bunch of tournaments and decide which one’s results are most aesthetically pleasing to you. For example all of these use somewhat different group stage formats with somewhat different injustices suffered by the unlucky: 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (2-3/4), Ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics – Women’s tournament (weird), 2018 FIFA World Cup (2/4), 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup (two group stages– each 2/4). A very common feature of these tournaments is that there simply isn’t enough time or games to fully determine the true winner at each stage, and ultimately the choice of design is an aesthetic one.

          • Jake says:

            Oh, I think I interpreted this a bit wrong, but I think this analysis still works. If you split into 4 groups of 8 each, and pick the best 2 from each group, you have a 5.84% chance of getting the best 8 people. If you split into 2 groups of 16 each, and pick the best 4 from each group, you have a 31.49% change of getting the best 8 people. (I don’t think this is quite what the original question asked, but if you are running two rounds of 8 choose 4, it’s equivalent to splitting the group in half and checking that an equal number of the top 8 are on each half.)

            Just for fun, I tried calculating the probability for each scenario that your final 8 were each in the top 10, and for the 8 choose 2 scenario, it was 32.4%, and the 16 choose 4, it’s 74.8%.

          • DragonMilk says:

            So the tourney is for a game called “Star Chess” within Starcraft 2. It’s an auto-chess game.

            In a normal game, top 3 is considered a “win”, with elo changing game to game based on exact ranking.

            The Korean creators are organizing its first tourney, and they plan on having the 32 NA players signed up broken into four groups, with only top 2 advancing to top 8 for the following week.

            I immediately thought this was silly and they should have 2 games rather than one.

  10. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    How likely is it that, a thousand years from now, after people have rebuilt civilization from the ashes of nuclear war, the best known fiction authors of the current era will be writers like Cory Doctorow and David Weber who allowed their books to be licensed under permissive copyright terms that allow lots of copies to be made?

    • acymetric says:

      Seems unlikely to me. There might be a lot of freely licensed copies, sure, but they still are a small fraction of books and I suspect don’t have anywhere close to the “most” copies out there out of various other fiction books/authors.

    • fibio says:

      I’d guess pretty low. Books, digital storage media, stone tablets, etc last a lot less time than most people imagine, and that’s in a world without bombs falling from the sky and setting everything on fire. Preservation after the fall of Rome was achieved by copying, and copies are primarily made when something is considered either literary or historically significant. Identifying parts of the current cannon that will be considered the most worthy of passing on would be a better place to start.

      • JPNunez says:

        How long do books last anyway?

        What are the chances the only surviving culture are vacuum sealed copies of Action Comics #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15?

        • fibio says:

          Generally speaking, most books produced more than twenty years or so ago have a hundred years or in them before the chemicals used in the paper production dissolve them from the inside out. Plus or minus some fairly large variations based on the quality of the paper. There are conditions that slow this process but someone has to either make special effort or be very lucky.

          Anything in a museum or big private collection, however, is less worried about the intrinsic properties of the medium and more worried about the building’s fire safety record.

          • Viliam says:

            Generally speaking, most books produced more than twenty years or so ago have a hundred years or in them before the chemicals used in the paper production dissolve them from the inside out.

            [Putting on my tinfoil hat.] So this means that when the copyright expires, all existing copies in the world will self-destruct. Coincidence?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Older books– rag paper or vellum/parchment are much more durable than wood pulp unless it’s acid-free.

          https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/deterioratebrochure.html

      • johan_larson says:

        My impression is that it is fairly rare to find really old texts (meaning works more than a thousand years old) that were deliberately preserved. Many of the texts we have seem to have made it to us through some sort of fortuitous accident. They were thrown in a dump in a desert; the paper was scraped and reused for other texts; the paper was used as insulation in a wall.

        This essentially random process of historical preservation gives an advantage to texts that exist in a vast number of copies.

        Accordingly, most of the textual scholarship of the USA of the early 21st century will be based on the user manual of a 2015 Ford F-150 truck, a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray, a nearly complete copy of the NRSV bible, and the USA Today from May 17th, 1999.

        • fibio says:

          Accident does seem to have a large impact on historical sources, but I’m not sure whether these could really be counted as full works being preserved. My impression is that these incidentals tend to be letters and government records more than works of poetry and literature. We’ve never unearthed anything in the same vein as the Iliad or Beowulf to my knowledge.

          • Statismagician says:

            This will be less true going forward – we have a lot of Mesopotamian tax records because that’s the only thing written down in quantity in Babylon, but now all of that stuff is electronic.

          • fibio says:

            True, but as of now A.D. I fear people still have more personal paperwork than literature on hard copy.

        • PedroS says:

          why may 17th 1999? I have had no luck finding what this reference is about

          • johan_larson says:

            The date has no significance whatsoever. But every issue of USA Today was printed in vast numbers.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Not really. Whilst we do occasionally find texts this way, the staples of the Classical canon — your Homers, Virgils, Ciceros, and the like — were all deliberately preserved and copied.

    • fibio says:

      Oh, horrifying thought. Fan-fiction is far more readily copied than the original text. How many great works do our descendants have to recreate through the lens of Fan-Fiction.net?

      • AG says:

        My Immortal living up to its title, eh

        To be more serious, though, fanfiction hasn’t propagated so much in a physical format, unless you speak of officially sanctioned fanfiction as expanded universes, superhero comics, and Sherlock Holmes. Fanfiction in the fandom sense would be most likely to survive if there are printed versions, or associated memes that can be transmitted orally. In that sense, though, at least the opening paragraph of My Immortal has as much a chance of living on in infamy as the Navy SEAL copypasta.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been playing with the notion that human fascination with keeping track of the planets paid off amazingly, but it took a very long time– and there was no reason to think it would be good for anything.

    However, I’m not sure how sound this is.

    My notion is that there are good practical reasons for keeping track of the sun and the moon, though I was told recently that it took people a long time to figure out the connection between the moon and the tides. We’ve heard about the connection that it seems obvious, but it isn’t.

    The planets have no practical effect until Mercury gave a clue about relativity, but they were useful for figuring out gravitational attraction.

    And then it occurred to me that people learned something about gravity from ballistics.

    So, how much good did studying the movements of the planets do?

    • Lambert says:

      I think it was vital for figuring out gravitational attraction.
      Newton lived at a fairly constant distance from the Earth’s core.
      Without standing on the shoulders of Kepler and Brahe, he could never have got the inverse-square law.

      More deeply, It gave Newton a lot more empirical phenomena around which to build mechanics and calculus.
      He was developing a single paradigm that could explain the path of both a ball bouncing on the ground and of the moons of Jupiter across the sky.

      That which is below is like that which is above
      and that which is above is like that which is below
      to do the miracles of one only thing

      –Hermes the Thrice-great

      Brahe’s painstaiking astronom/logical observations gave us Kepler’s empirical laws, which gave us Newton’s explanation of celestial mechanics.

      I daresay this isn’t the only route to discovering classical mechanics, but it’s the one mankind (maybe just the West, IDK) took. Without it, we’d have probably have had to have derived it as we went along during the Industrial Revolution, (as we did with thermodynamics).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I think practical uses of the planets can be dated a bit earlier than 1859 (when the problem of Mercury’s orbit was first noticed). Galileo proposed using the moons of Jupiter for accurate timekeeping to solve the longitude problem. This wouldn’t have worked at sea due to the difficulties of observing them from a moving ship, but was used for land surveying- for instance, for the survey that produced this map of France. Allegedly, when Louis XIV saw it he said that Cassini and his astronomers had lost him more territory than his generals had won!

    • bullseye says:

      The connection between the moon and tides is obvious in some parts of the world but not others. Greece happens to have very complicated tides, so they didn’t know about the lunar connection until they sailed elsewhere and heard it from other people.

      A lot of people thought study of the planets was important because they believed in astrology (though, ironically, it was the experts who were the most skeptical).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It looks like people were observing the planets long before there was any use for the knowledge. My current take is that we were just lucky that there was something complicated enough to be interesting while clear and simple enough to be manageable which turned out to be incredibly valuable.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Keeping track of planets if how you do astrological prediction. For most of history, there is a lot of money to be made in astrological predictions, so you want to be good at it, you want to be better at it than the competition. So you need to be better than others at tracking planets.

      You do so by learning Arabic and later directly Ancient Greek to read really complicated mathematical treaties, and to build even more complex mathematics on these foundations, and before you know it you’ve invented the premices of logarithms and calculus, and became a foundation of the scientific revolution.

  12. Atlas says:

    Why did/does Scott seem to (have) held/hold Current Affairs generally, and Nathan J. Robinson in particular, in such high regard? Every time Scott responded to one of Robinson’s essays, it seemed clear that Robinson hadn’t really made a very cogent or well-supported case for his position. I could say that he repeatedly got easily defeated in debate by Scott, but since we’re all mistake theorists now I’ll say that he didn’t seem to add much that was correct or interestingly not clearly incorrect to the conversations. From what little I’ve read of his work, and from a quick glance at his recent articles, he doesn’t seem particularly charitable to opposing viewpoints either. (Indeed, at the risk of being uncharitable to him, I have to admit that it rather seems like he enjoys going out of his way to be uncharitable to opposing views.) Consider this I think fairly representative passage from a recent article of his:

    Cowen’s latest book is a literal love letter to Big Business, containing arguments of almost unbelievably poor quality. (At one point he says that Americans clearly enjoy work because the numbers of hours per week they work has increased over time.) His anti-wealth tax case is rather funny because it actually might convince you that wealth taxes are good…

    One thing you should always remember about libertarians is that they hate facts. If they touch a fact, they die. Facts are to libertarians like water was to the Wicked Witch.

    Was Robinson’s writing better in the past, perhaps? (To be clear, I think that engaging with poor and possibly bad faith arguments is often a very valuable enterprise, I just don’t think that their purveyors should be actively praised.)

    (Edit: Upon reflection, I’m worried that I’m being uncharitable to Robinson here. But I’m also worried that there might be a tendency among left-neoliberals to be overly charitable to disagreeable self-described Dirtbag Leftists.)

    • Nick says:

      I’m not Scott, but I think it’s at least one of a few things, in descending order of importance/plausibility:
      1. Scott’s first encounter with Robinson was actually his blog Navel Observatory, because Robinson hadn’t launched Current Affairs yet. The blog was less partisan and more interesting than Current Affairs is. Consider the following completely reasonable passage, which I found in just a few minutes’ browsing:

      I do agree with the conservatives that applying a standard of sensitivity and safeness to Halloween is inevitably going to force Halloween out of existence. Halloween is a cultural ritual in which we engage the macabre and ghoulish, and if the macabre is inherently considered unsafe and disturbing, then Halloween cannot go forward. As a holiday, it simply isn’t compatible with the idea that people must be protected from all violent imagery, since Halloween costumes are bloody and monstrous and tasteless. The Mental Health association ought to be honest, and admit that by its principles, the very concept of Halloween is problematic.

      There has been a lot of commentary in the press about the rise of “social justice” politics, with its rhetoric of “safe spaces” and “triggering.” Often this is from conservatives, who believe that it shows a liberal paranoia about perceived injustices, and a pathetic refusal by entitled young people to confront the hard nature of reality.

      I do not quite share that analysis. I, too, believe that something pernicious has taken hold among liberal activists on college campuses. But I do not ascribe it to softness of spirit so much as political impotence and an excessive faith that ideas and language (rather than state and economic resources) are the realm in which power is allocated.

      2. Robinson has always been willing to engage with Scott charitably no matter how harsh Scott’s assessment of his argument. From the five year anniversary post:

      Thanks to everyone I’ve engaged with. Again and again I’ve had the experience of reading something, criticizing it (sometimes savagely), and having the author be incredibly nice to me, walk me through where we disagree, and then continue being friendly and supportive afterwards. Some people in this category include Ezra Klein, Adam Grant, Nathan Robinson, Curtis Yarvin, Bryan Caplan, David Friedman (again), Dylan Matthews, Brendan Nyhan, Nick Land, Julia Rohrer, and Freddie de Boer. I continue to disagree with them strongly on a lot of things but can’t find even the tiniest bit of fault with their decency on a personal level.

      3. Scott has remarked that he uses Current Affairs as a foil “not because they’re especially bad, but because they’re especially good and well-written expressions of what many other people are saying.” That was written in early 2017, and I’m not sure it’s still true, or was ever quite as true as implied; I don’t think we’ve seen any Current Affairs here in about a year now, and I think he’s used Vox as much or more as the voice (ahem) of coastal elites.

      • Atlas says:

        Interesting, thanks. I hadn’t known that Robinson had a blog prior to CA. I do think that Robinson was very uncharitable towards Scott w.r.t. “On Murderism,” though, which might be why his articles aren’t mentioned so often these days.

    • broblawsky says:

      From my point of view, I think you’re being pretty uncharitable to Robinson. The quote you posted from him is certainly unkind, and I understand if you feel called out by it as a libertarian, but there’s nothing obviously untrue about it. If being cruel was enough to intellectually discredit someone, we’d have a much smaller (albeit possibly much better) discourse.

      • Atlas says:

        The quote you posted from him is certainly unkind, and I understand if you feel called out by it as a libertarian, but there’s nothing obviously untrue about it.

        I’m not (exactly) a libertarian, but I do think that “Tyler Cowen’s latest book contains arguments of almost unbelievably bad quality [and presumably these are the only kinds of arguments it contains]” and “Libertarians hate facts [presumably more than non-libertarians]” are obviously untrue.

        If being cruel was enough to intellectually discredit someone, we’d have a much smaller (albeit possibly much better) discourse.

        True, but it’s like the comments policy here: true, kind and necessary is the ideal, and I don’t see that Robinson is very good at the first two.

        • broblawsky says:

          “Tyler Cowen’s latest book contains arguments of almost unbelievably bad quality [and presumably these are the only kinds of arguments it contains]” and “Libertarians hate facts [presumably more than non-libertarians]” are obviously untrue.

          From my point of view, the former may or may not be true, depending on the actual content of the book itself. Certainly, the argument that Robinson attributes to Cowen – e.g., that Americans love working because they work so many hours – is obviously ridiculous. The latter is more of a matter of opinion, but if someone has sufficiently bad experiences with libertarians arguing in bad faith, I’m not going to begrudge them it.

          • Cliff says:

            the argument that Robinson attributes to Cowen – e.g., that Americans love working because they work so many hours – is obviously ridiculous.

            First of all, that’s not really Cowen’s argument. He has lots of evidence that people like working, including a lot of survey data. However, obviously standards of living have skyrocketed. So the fact that people choose to continue working longer hours is certainly suggestive at least, and not “obviously ridiculous”.

            This passage by Nathan Robinson is simply a vulgar smear with no support or evidence of any kind.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve heard it said, many times, by real human beings, that they choose to work longer hours so they have more money for themselves or their family. That doesn’t mean they “love working” per se, but it does mean they prefer working to other uses of that time. This phenomenon is hardly mysterious, and frankly, I don’t trust Robinson to have communicated whether Cowen was saying people love working or just prefer it.

          • lvlln says:

            The latter is more of a matter of opinion, but if someone has sufficiently bad experiences with libertarians arguing in bad faith, I’m not going to begrudge them it.

            No, the latter is a matter of fact. Either “libertarians hate facts [presumably more than non-libertarians]” or they don’t. He’s claiming that they do. That’s a factual claim.

            Furthermore, even if we consider it an opinion and even if he had sufficiently bad experiences with libertarians arguing in bad faith, it doesn’t follow that it’s reasonable to have the opinion that “libertarians hate facts [presumably more than non-libertarians].” Sufficiently bad experiences with libertarians arguing in bad faith tells him nothing about libertarians in general, it only tells him something about the specific subset of libertarians with whom he’d argued. Extending one’s personal experience with a subset of a group to the entire group itself without presenting any specific evidence to justify that extension is horrifically bad reasoning, something unacceptable from a middle-schooler, much less a full grown adult writer.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nick

            That doesn’t mean they “love working” per se, but it does mean they prefer working to other uses of that time.

            I think that what you are gesturing at is a distinction between enjoyment of an act vs enjoyment of a consequence.

            For example, you have people who enjoy the results of sports, like being strong, fit, etc, but who hate the actual exercising. You also have people who like sports, in the moment.

            It seems to me that how you look at this is a matter of levels of abstraction, as well as (in)separability.

            For example, if you zoom in, people who say that they like their work, may actually only enjoy part of their work, so you can justifiably argue that they then don’t enjoy their work, but only part of it. However, this can become rather pointless, when there is no reasonable choice to have one part without the other.

            If you zoom out, you can see work as part of a greater pattern of earning and spending money. Then you can reasonably argue that a person likes that greater pattern, even if they like the spending part more than they hate the earning part; in the same way that a person who loves cycling and running more than they hate swimming, can still be said to love triathlon.

            Perhaps Cowen sees all the consequences, including the deferred ones, as being ‘work,’ while Robinson sees earning and spending as completely separate things. Robinson’s socialism might mean that he wants them to be (more) separate, even if they aren’t separable for many people, so his anger at Cowen is because Robinson feels that Cowen is strengthening a moral model where money has to be earned by the spender.

            Robinson might not actually even be able to think about the issue like Cowen.

        • John Schilling says:

          The latter is more of a matter of opinion, but if someone has sufficiently bad experiences with libertarians arguing in bad faith, I’m not going to begrudge them it.

          Only in the way that, e.g., “black people hate hard work” is an opinion. If someone has had sufficiently bad experiences with lazy black people, would you begrudge them that opinion?

          And then there’s my opinion that neither you nor Nathan Robinson should ever be taken seriously again. Based on my sufficiently bad experiences, of course.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ John Schilling

            Perfectly stated.

          • lvlln says:

            And then there’s my opinion that neither you nor Nathan Robinson should ever be taken seriously again. Based on my sufficiently bad experiences, of course.

            I’m not adding anything you don’t know, I’m sure, but one funny thing about this is that this is far more justified than the original supposition that sufficiently bad experiences with some libertarians justifies stating that libertarians as a group hate facts. You’re limiting it to the specific individuals who created these sufficiently bad experiences, rather than to the wider group to which they belong.

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s fair. My original comment was excessively flippant.

          • John Schilling says:

            I will resume taking you seriously. Nathan Robinson, not so much.

      • teneditica says:

        Seriously? That libertarians hate facts, that “facts are to libertarians like water was to the Wicked Witch” is not obviously untrue?

      • Ninety-Three says:

        there’s nothing obviously untrue about it

        One thing you should always remember about libertarians is that they hate facts. If they touch a fact, they die.

        Uh…

      • broblawsky says:

        This is obviously pretty late, but I’m going to retract my position on this: it isn’t unreasonable for libertarians, or people who consider themselves libertarian-sympathetic, to be dismissive of Robinson.

    • blipnickels says:

      It’s probably best to think of Robinson as a high-variability writer who is…kinda a bad person.

      There’s a lot to dislike in Robinson. He often strawmans his opponents to an extent that’s only really understandable as propoganda or pure bad faith. And a lot of his arguments are just bad.

      But when he hits, he really hits. His writings on architecture, of all things, are the most persuasive socialist writing I’ve ever read. It’s the first socialist writing that speaks of beauty, of tradition and old places and quaint little gargoyles on iron wrought fences. I dunno, socialist writing with a soul, like an A- CS Lewis preaching communism, I just wasn’t ready for it and I love every time he writes on it.

      Plus there’s a decent amount of solid, workman essays that give you a decent take on the smart left.

      Since Freddie deBoer quit he’s definitely the most well written leftist around and his A material is, well, you just can’t ignore that quality. It’s not consistent, I’d say about 40% crud, 50% workman, and 10% gold, but the good stuff is worth developing a filter for. Just read the first paragraph, you’ll be able to tell if it’s garbage or gold.

      • teneditica says:

        Architecture has long had a democracy problem: The people who must live and work in buildings don’t have much of a say over what they’re going to look like.

        This is as true (false) for architecture as it is for anything else. The people who buy chocolate bars don’t have much say over what they’re going to like either, but if no one wants buy some kind of chocolate bar, and no one wants to live in a building, then the person who did decide what it looks like is going to loose a lot of money.

        • DeWitt says:

          The demand for buildings is a hell of a lot less flexible than the demand for chocolate bars. It’s not even on the same level.

          • teneditica says:

            What matters is the demand for a specific building. Should the amount of buildings somehow be fixed, replace chocolate bars with food. Is food undemocratic? (I used chocolate as an example because there are people deciding about how chocolate bars look, but not about how food in general looks.)

        • Orpheus says:

          No. There are many more factors in deciding what building to live/work in than how it looks. Consider e.g. all those terrible glass buildings in London. Does anyone want to work in a building that looks like The Walkie-Talkie? No, but it is in a convenient location, so people put up with it.

          • Lambert says:

            Oh, is that the butt-ugly congealed lump of sillicised architecture I saw the last time I went to London.
            Also the architect had obviously never tried starting fires with a magnifying glass.
            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23930675

          • DarkTigger says:

            I like you all to notice the round office-building in the background, also.
            Which offical nick name is “Cucumber”. But seriously the first name it got when we visted London in eighth grade was “The Dildo”.

          • teneditica says:

            What matters is that more people would want to live in it if it looked better. That means rents would be higher.

          • Lambert says:

            I don’t really mind the gherkin. Or the shard, for that matter.
            And the Mayor’s office (can’t remember if it’s for Sadiq or the guy in the pirate hat) is pretty cool.

          • Aftagley says:

            What matters is that more people would want to live in it if it looked better. That means rents would be higher.

            Is this the case? It’s not for me (I couldn’t pick the building I live in out of a lineup, although my city’s architecture tends to converge).

            If the inside of the building is nice, the location is convenient and there is no social stigma associated with living there, I’d predict with medium confidence that rent prices would be unaffected.

          • John Schilling says:

            What matters is that more people would want to live in it if it looked better. That means rents would be higher.

            Is there a reason for the architect to care? I’m pretty sure they aren’t paid in points of gross or net future rents. And I don’t think the people who hire them have access to statistics for mean location-normalized rent by architect. There’s a serious potential for market failure here, with useful economic signals being obscured in the noise of a small clique’s widely-boosted artistic standards.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The building you see the least of the outside of, living or working in a skyscraper, is your own. From the windows of The Walkie Talkie, the London skyline is blessedly Walkie-Talkie free, though you are stuck with the Gherkin.

          • Fitzroy says:

            Also the architect had obviously never tried starting fires with a magnifying glass.

            It’s worse than that. The architect has form for making precisely this mistake, having previously designed the Vdara hotel in Vegas, which suffered from the exact same problem.

          • teneditica says:

            @Aftagley

            If you don’t care about how the building looks, then what’s problem with not having any influence about it?

            Let me say it this way: To the extent that people care about how the buildings they live in look, they are influencing it.

            @John Schilling

            The developer who chooses the architect cares.

          • John Schilling says:

            The developer who chooses the architect cares.

            What good is caring without relevant information?

          • CatCube says:

            @Fitzroy

            The architect has form for making precisely this mistake, having previously designed the Vdara hotel in Vegas, which suffered from the exact same problem.

            It seems that it’s not necessarily uncommon for “star” architects to follow whatever fashion they like, despite its pitfalls. Gehry’s buildings with all their detailed curved surfaces and esoteric materials leak like sieves, and that hasn’t forced him to start using simpler designs that would be easier to detail. Of course from his perspective, he can follow his passion and it doesn’t stop him from getting work (or apparently even better oversight by owners on the detailing of the facade).

          • Nick says:

            @CatCube
            That’s why Robinson focuses his critique in part on the way “starchitects” are treated (namely, indulgently). The consequences for their terrible designs never seem to fall on them, and that’s a problem.

          • I’m sure its architect thought it was a good design, and that people would want to work there. And the company that paid for the design believed that too.

            That’s why Robinson focuses his critique in part on the way “starchitects” are treated (namely, indulgently). The consequences for their terrible designs never seem to fall on them, and that’s a problem.

            In a socialist system the starchitects would run the planning division, and they wouldn’t have to deal with nonsense like clients not wanting to alienate the public.

          • Lambert says:

            >In a socialist system the starchitects would run the planning division, and they wouldn’t have to deal with nonsense like clients not wanting to alienate the public.

            This failure mode is known as ‘Coventry’.

            Apparently they want to knock down a load of the concrete city centre and redevelop it. Though they’ll actually have to pay for the demolition work this time…

          • Nick says:

            @Alexander Turok

            In a socialist system the starchitects would run the planning division, and they wouldn’t have to deal with nonsense like clients not wanting to alienate the public.

            Where are you getting this from? Robinson’s stated desire is to determine the design democratically, by having the architect meet with the people it’s being built for and learning what they need. No mention of starchitects or a planning division that I saw.

          • Where are you getting this from? Robinson’s stated desire is to determine the design democratically, by having the architect meet with the people it’s being built for and learning what they need.

            Ask the officials who manage the public housing systems in Europe, and they would say “oh yes, we have something like that, we invite the community to comment on the designs, blah blah blah.” Just as if you asked some architects in our capitalist system how they go about it, they would say that of course they meet with the people they are building for and get their input. So what it would look like in practice is “okay, let’s meet with our tenants, but we don’t know who they are yet, so let’s get a similar group, say, the people living in the apartment complexes next to the one we are to build. Okay, two people showed up, and if they like it, great! If they don’t, well, let’s get our architects to have a little conversation with them. See if maybe they will listen to the high-status experts. Okay, they approved the building, yippie! Or if they didn’t, then there were only two people there, and that isn’t enough for a true democratic vote, and we have a homelessness crisis, so let’s just build this thing anyway.”

            In the capitalist system, a rich billionaire can build something ugly that everyone hates, and all the screaming and yelling in the world can’t stop him. But in practice this rarely happens, as rich businessmen don’t like people screaming and yelling. When a billionaire builds an ugly building, it’s usually because the architects told him it was good, and people around him didn’t speak out because they are high-status experts.

          • Nick says:

            @Alexander Turok
            Robinson complains about the exact same problem, where community “input” is virtually ignored, and more fundamentally, is ancillary rather than central to the design process.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The complaint I hear about Architecture is that for ~60 years or so “serious” architects eshew ornamentation or notions of human scale / aesthetics.

          I can imagine that It’s far more likely that because the designer of a candy bar [or a small private residential home for that matter] is functionally anonymous from the perspective of the consumer that his main objective is making money. (or he’s working on behalf of someone whose main objective is such)

          Another important thing is that a lot of these buildings are public buildings or quasi public buildings so there isn’t even really a consumer demand to ignore.

          In general the smaller and more specialized the skill sets required to do something [whether naturally or by law] the more likely it is that a group of professionals can keep their own unpopular ideas inforce.

          You see a similar phenomenon with art, where art for public buildings is usually very modern but art made for homes for people of modest means are usually cheap versions of traditionally aesthetic items. Most modern art isn’t something people enjoy decorating their homes with.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Another important thing is that a lot of these buildings are public buildings or quasi public buildings so there isn’t even really a consumer demand to ignore.

            Yes, and it’s probably no coincidence that residential housing, where the aesthetic tastes of ordinary people do actually have some influence, tends to be more traditional in appearance than big prestige pieces.

        • Lambert says:

          New Hypothesis: He’s actually a pyromaniac who’s patient enough to spend 7 years at architecture school.

          Maybe Netflix ought to hire him to build an office opposite the Hulu HQ, or something.

          EDIT: replied to the wrong comment. Imagine this is one level deeper.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          One obvious difference is that it’s much harder to avoid bad architecture than it is to avoid bad chocolate. If I start manufacturing a really disgusting chocolate bar, you can easily just avoid buying it, and it wouldn’t affect your life in any noticeable way; if I build a glass tower block in the shape of a giant middle finger opposite your house, you have to think about it every time you look out the window.

    • aristides says:

      My opinion of Robinson. Im conservative and I started reading him in 2016 after Scott wrote about him, and loved his writings. Scott said it best in Contra Robinson on Schooling

      Finally, you realize with dawning horror that this is the first time you’ve read a logical argument, written in good faith and intended to convince someone, in the past you-can’t-remember-how-many months.

      At a time when I was looking for strong arguments from the other side, Robinson was one of the few that I felt was trying to persuade not demonize.

      Unfortunately, I do consider the bipartisan appeal of Robinson to have gone down in recent months. I think he is no longer trying to persuade conservatives, but to persuade liberals. To be fair, tactically this is probably the better move. There could not have been many Republican readers of current affairs, and I’m sure they were not subscribing to him. He seems like the kind of person to hate taking into account the profitability of his content into account, but I’m sure he gets more subscribers now that he is preaching to the choir than persuading the other sides. It might also be because it’s primary season, and I do expect him to argue to Republicans more in the general election. But I agree that he’s now harder to read if you aren’t already on the left side of the spectrum.

    • j1000000 says:

      Robinson (at least used to) construct arguments, which in itself is no small thing. People write blogs far less often now than they did six years ago, and the blogs that do get written are rarely polemical — they’re just extended versions of Tweets intended to dunk on people. And I find individual bloggers are usually more interesting than what makes the NYT/WaPo op-ed page.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      This question has appeared before. Always consider selection. Maybe Scott reads Robinson for the good essays, but only writes to rebut the bad essays. He used to recommend Navel Observer essays, but has he ever recommended a Current Affairs essay? When it started, he wrote:

      Current Affairs … discusses issues from … “the Freddie deBoer perspective” – ie pretty far leftist/socialist, but especially interested in criticizing other leftists – especially those who prefer wet dreams about gulags and guillotines, or analyzing how Rihanna lyrics can teach us about mansplaining, to actually fighting for justice.

      Although the articles are pretty good, what I really love is the sense of humor: for example, instead of real ads, they have beautifully designed fake ads for “companies” and “products” like Tony Blair’s Dictatorship Counseling (“no human rights violation too egregious to euphemize”) and Big Pharma-style socialism pills (“occasional side effects include…accidentally becoming the very embodiment of the thing you are attempting to eliminate”). There are also interviews “conducted nonconsensually and transcribed entirely from the results of public Twitter harassment” and fun childrens’ activities like Color The Flint Water Supply…

      Warning: they are not very nice or charitable and you might find them a bit abrasive if you do not 100% agree with them about everything. [my paragraph breaks]

      Also, back in the Navel Observer era, Scott wrote:

      I’m not sure what I think of this conclusion, but my main response to his article is oh my gosh he gets the thing, where “the thing” is a hard-to-describe ability to understand that other people are going to go down as many levels to defend their self-consistent values as you will to defend yours. It seems silly when I’m saying it like this, and you should probably just read the article, but I’ve seen so many people who lack this basic mental operation that this immediately endeared him to me. I would argue Nathan Robinson has a piece of theory-of-mind that a lot of other people are missing.

  13. Andaro says:

    Hello, please vote your honest opinion in this strawpoll, thanks:

    https://strawpoll.com/44z7sp75

    • Tarpitz says:

      I feel like your poll is asking about (at least) two different things at once.

      • Andaro says:

        Can you elaborate?

        • Tarpitz says:

          It’s simultaneously asking people “do you think that those guilty of the most heinous acts should suffer eternal torture?” and “how morally despicable are paedophiles?” – the latter in turn suffering from the lack of clarity over what constitutes a paedophile for these purposes.

          Personally, I would oppose the eternal torture of Hitler or Ted Bundy, so the question isn’t really teasing out anything about my attitudes towards paedophilia.

    • ECD says:

      For many people the answer to this will depend if by pedophile you mean ‘is attracted to pre-pubescant children,’ or ‘rapes pre-pubescant children.’

      • Andaro says:

        That’s by design. I often see discussions what should or should not be done to pedophiles without any effort to distinguish these definitions. People also don’t distinguish between child sex and child rape.

        • chrisminor0008 says:

          The word has a definition. If other people conflate it with something else, that’s their problem.

        • ECD says:

          I’m not sure what your intent is, but this seems like bad design. You’re going to be conflating different groups. The folks who vote ‘no’ may be either:
          1) Assuming you mean the dictionary definition.
          2) Do not believe eternal punishments are ever appropriate.
          3) Do not believe torture is an appropriate punishment.
          Folks who vote ‘yes’ may be either:
          1) Assuming you mean the standard use definition, as the most common way to knowingly encounter a pedophile is through discovering their arrest.
          2) Shitposting (always a risk)
          3) Are generally expressing their disgust at child rape/child pornography without actually considering the underlying point.
          4) Something else I’m not thinking of, because this isn’t my position.

          Again, I’m not sure what you’re trying to discover, or prove, but I think you would be better off with a two question poll, where you couldn’t go backwards, which first asked this question, then asked what pedophile meant. (And maybe asked a third question to emphasize what was being threatened) to try to distinguish ‘this is disgusting, you deserve whatever you get,’ from ‘this is disgusting, you actually should be tortured for all eternity.’

          • Andaro says:

            Far too complicated. That would have cut the number of respondents easily in half and the question is very straightforward. Yes I could have made a detailed questionnaire, but all I really wanted were some stochastical numbers for Yays and Nays on this one. Since eternal torture as a just punishment has been brought up in some discussions, I wanted to see how common the attitude is. Also “people won’t consider the underlying point” or “shitposting” are always possibilities, even if you provide a detailed questionnaire.

          • ECD says:

            Its your poll. I’m still not clear what you’re trying to prove though.
            Is it people think child-rapists should burn in hell? If so, I would be unsurprised by that result, but think you want to be explicit in what you’re asking, otherwise you’ll get a lot of false negatives from folks whose acceptable error rate for eternal torture is low.
            Is it people think adults attracted to pre-pubescant children should burn in hell? If so, I think the squishy meaning of pedophile in common usage makes this data unusable.
            Is it people are confused about what pedophile means? I don’t think this proves that (due especially to false negatives from folks like me whose answer to should anyone be tortured for eternity is no), though I do think its true, but I don’t think it’s a problem either. Dictionary definitions are descriptive, not prescriptive.

          • Andaro says:

            Yeah, it’s not super scientific. But it’s still a signal. If the meaning is squishy, people respond with their best interpretation. That still tells something about their attitudes. As I said, I’ve seen plenty of discussions not making subtle distinctions. If people came across a machine with the label “Push this button to torture all pedophiles for all eternity”, would they push it? Now we have some (probably not very representative) numbers. That’s all I was looking for.

            Edit to Scott: I might have accidentally clicked the “Report” button while trying to reply. If so, that was unintentional.

    • Cliff says:

      I sincerely hope that whoever said yes is not taking it seriously.

      • Andaro says:

        They are. (Most of them.)

        • bullseye says:

          How do you know?

          • Andaro says:

            I asked them to be honest. In my experience, when people condone or endorse acts of violence, and it’s not clearly a joke, they’re either being honest or marginally exaggerating their actual opinion, which is still condoning violence. Of course I can’t rule out the occasional respondent trying to be edgy or provocative, or people misunderstanding the question. But it’s a pretty simple question and by and large people will typically respond with their actual opinion.

            I’ve also communicated with plenty of people who consider eternal hell to be a just punishment for all kinds of things, so it’s not that out of bounds for my expectation.

          • Aftagley says:

            I sincerely hope that whoever said yes is not taking it seriously.

            They are. (Most of them.)

            How do you know?

            I asked them to be honest.

            Well, i’m glad we got that sorted out! (I also doubt the yes voters were taking it seriously)

          • Andaro says:

            Aftagley, what grounds do you have to dismiss their answers though? As I said repeatedly, I’ve met plenty of people who do believe in eternal torture as a moral act, who were typically being serious and sincere. Could it be that you just like the idea better that they’re all trolling, just like some people were hoping Trump was trolling when he made his most aggressive anti-democracy anti-human-rights statements? Maybe you’re just in denial that other people have very different philosophies than you.

            (And assuming there is error, why should it only go one way? You are equally justified in believing some people voted “no” because they don’t want to admit they want other people to be tortured forever, even though they do.)

    • Eri says:

      I am interested to hear from someone of those 20% who voted “Yes” why did they choose so.

      First of all, is there any positive value of torture that is unrelated to the prevention of the crime?

      The sense of satisfaction for the victim comes to mind, but this argument seems kind of weak to me. Because that doesn’t work, for example, against someone, who killed a person with no relative/close friends to care about the victim’s death.

      Another variant is to understand it in a way “when there is eternal torture for child abusers, there are no child abusers”. (Well, humans aren’t perfect agents, but the effect would be undoubtfully strong.) If so, does your answer change if no one is aware of the torture (for example, if Hell exists)?

      Possible, one believes that the said crime is so severe that even eternal torture is a proportionate response. I have an impression that eternal torture is disproportionate by definition (there is no situation to which I would prefer eternal torture), but maybe I miss the point.

      • Andaro says:

        You think like a consequentialist and someone who cares about proportionality. For such a mindset, it’s hard to understand that there are people with intrinsically hostile preferences against certain groups, e.g. pedophiles (irregardless of any choice on the pedophiles’ part), and that these preferences are not bounded by proportionality as a constraint. But such people do exist, and not in small numbers.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I did not vote yes, but I think your last suggestion is the only one that approximates what I would take to be the common source of that view. I think most “yes” voters (likely a far larger share of the general population than of the SSC readership) would see the sins of eg. Jimmy Savile to be so great as to be indistinguishable from infinitely bad, and as such as deserving of unbounded punishment, or would regard him as irredeemably evil, and the suffering of evil people as a good in and of itself.

    • aristides says:

      Did you only post this on SSC, or is it also posted elsewhere?

    • Two McMillion says:

      I do believe that some people will be tortured forever, but I don’t think you can reduce a person’s moral status to a single inclination they have or act they commit, however heinous.

      I think a “yes” vote here means “grrr paedophiles” more then anything else.

    • zoozoc says:

      You should really have a follow-up question asking the people who voted if they believe in a hell or not. I voted yes because I am a Christian and believe that there is a hell and that most pedophiles (who are unrepentant and haven’t put their faith in Jesus) will suffer in hell for all eternity, along with everyone else who is unrepentant and haven’t put their faith in Jesus.

      • Andaro says:

        Yes, organized religion set a precedent here, and the people I originally discussed with, who made such statements, were probably theists. At least they explicitly referenced theistic hell. However, there is a subtle difference between believing eternal hell is real, and believing that it is a good thing if eternal hell is real and specific people suffer there forever. I assume you implied that also?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I would assume any serious theist believes eternal hell is good, because the author of all good made it.

        • zoozoc says:

          What Echo said, I defer to God’s judgement on this matter. Of course, if the question said “Do you believe that zoozoc (myself) deserved hell for all eternity?”, I would also respond yes. Thankfully God has provided a way out for everyone such that the pedophile and myself alike can escape judgement despite deserving hell.

          • CatCube says:

            “Most merciful God, we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, that we may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.”

    • DinoNerd says:

      I couldn’t see any point to this survey, unless it was intended to establish that some people, some of the time, support ridiculous over-the-top retaliation – at least when it’s completely hypothetical (i.e. impossible, except to believers in certain religions, whose answers might be confused by the belief that their good-by-definition deity routinely does such thiings).

      • Andaro says:

        The point was to find out how many people statistically agree vs. disagree with the question, “Should pedophiles be tortured for all eternity?”

        • DinoNerd says:

          Well, yeah, but why would such a question be of interest?

          • Andaro says:

            After some people informed me that they intrinsically care about harming pedophiles (not just to protect children, but for its own sake) and some other people informed me that they think eternal torture in hell is a just punishment for pedophiles, I wanted to know how common that opinion is, and how many people reject it, relatively speaking.

          • LesHapablap says:

            There’s a certain smugness I find offputting from people who proclaim that they don’t think punishment should ever be for purposes of retribution. And I suspect that these people would not live there lives that way if you gave them the chance to reveal preferences.

            I think it is right for people doing bad things to suffer in the same way that it is right for people doing good things to have rewards. It increases the total amount of fairness in the world.

            I abstained because of the ‘eternity’ bit.

          • Protagoras says:

            @LesHapablap, I admit that I have little difficulty imagining that people like you have malicious motives partly because I have malicious feelings myself, but I certainly do my best to avoid acting on those feelings, and would continue to do so given whatever “chance to reveal preferences” you are imagining. I am more than merely put off by people who find excuses for why acting on their malicious preferences is actually good (though, again, I would try my best to avoid acting on my own malicious feelings toward such people).

          • LesHapablap says:

            I never personally act on my malicious motives for a variety of selfish reasons. It just rarely makes any sense in the modern world to do that. If some guy is grabbing girls’ butts at a bar then that’s the bouncer’s job to take care of him, not me, as I don’t want to get in a fight or get arrested or any of that. But I’m not going to feel guilty for being pleased that the jerk got thrown out. The world just became a more fair, nice place, even if the guy didn’t learn his lesson.

  14. Clutzy says:

    Paper throws into question teacher efficacy metrics:

    Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

    • Hopefully they controlled for age.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      That makes for a cute headline, but aren’t there more robust statistical tools for determining whether variation is due to noise?

      • Clutzy says:

        Its not about noise, its selection effects.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I think the study *is* looking for noise. But the instinct that selection is the only way to create large improvements in outcome without cheating is probably also true.

          I imagine that if you wanted to measure teacher quality and control for selection you’d start off by checking whether some test of general cognitive ability under or over-predicts student performance for any given teacher. If it under-predicts consistently that’s evidence the teacher is doing something that can’t be chalked up to having better students.

        • Cliff says:

          What selection effects? (typically value-add compares performance last year to this year, so are they picking the lowest performers last year to game the system?)

      • Statismagician says:

        Yes and no. All of those tools have their own assumptions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if education admin data didn’t support them and/or most people doing education lobbying aren’t going to hire a statistician.

  15. Statismagician says:

    My fiancee had an NPR podcast playing this morning as we were getting ready for work, and the commentators spent most of the time I was listening making fun of Pete Buttigieg for being obviously unqualified to run for, let alone actually be president.

    My impression is that this would have been the automatic response of [rounds to] everyone in the country, if NPR et. al. didn’t keep talking about the guy. Am I missing something here?

    • He can string a few sentences together and didn’t take his honeymoon in the Soviet Union.

    • zoozoc says:

      My impression of the Presidency is that having past executive experience is important. Sure it is only as a mayor and not as a governor. So perhaps legislative experience at the federal level is still better, but I don’t think it obviously means he is unqualified.

      • Nick says:

        So did he do a good job as mayor? Everything I’ve seen has been negative—claims to the effect that his plan to revitalize South Bend was to bring in tech companies, that it didn’t work very well, and that the significant black population in South Bend really doesn’t like him, I think for police violence reasons? Granted, that stuff came from, or got signal-boosted by, conservative media, so salt to taste.

        • zoozoc says:

          I have no idea if he is/was a good mayor. I just was pushing back on the “obviously unqualified” angle. My only democratic primary candidate info is either from the open threads or news headlines.

        • Tarpitz says:

          So far as I can make out, the issue with the black community in South Bend, insofar as there is one, stems from an incident near the start of his first term in office.

          The (black) police chief was illegally recording the phone calls of some of his subordinates, who he believed were angling for his job. He was under investigation by the FBI for same. Buttigieg fired him. The police chief claims the recordings include racist remarks directed at him; neither Buttigieg nor the public has ever heard said recordings, and there is an ongoing court battle to decide whether they can legally be released. The police chief was apparently central to rebuilding trust between the South Bend police and the black community.

          It seems to me that Buttigieg was legally correct at every point, but politically naïve.

          That said, he won his primary very easily and secured re-election with an even larger majority than the first time around.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The size and complexity of the city matter a lot, I think. Giuliani and Bloomberg, as former mayors of New York City, have credible resumes to run for President: New York City has a higher population than any but the ten biggest states, and the city budget is larger than any but the top four or five state budgets. You could also make a case for current/former mayors of other major cities, along similar lines (although the size of cities steeply declines after NYC: Los Angeles is less than half the population of New York, and Chicago about a third. And it looks like there are about 10 cities bigger than Rhode Island, and about 30 bigger than Wyoming.

        I’m guessing that either Buttigieg’s supporters don’t share my view that the scope of the executive experience matters, or they’re assuming South Bend is a much larger city than it actually is (just over 100k people, about the size of Burbank), or they consider Buttigieg’s relative lack of experience a negative but one less important than their other reasons for preferring him over the other major Democratic candidates.

    • Aftagley says:

      My impression is that this would have been the automatic response of [rounds to] everyone in the country, if NPR et. al. didn’t keep talking about the guy. Am I missing something here?

      It’s ’cause he recently started polling well.

      Up until now he seemed like an outside candidate with no actual chance of winning, so talking about why he won’t/shouldn’t win isn’t a useful or entertaining take. It’s like why you don’t hear people talking seriously about what Yang shouldn’t be president – you don’t need to say why, everyone already knows. Now, however, Pete has managed to make it to the top of at least a couple polls in early primary season states, so the narrative begins to shift into a serious discussion on his capabilities and experience, both of which seem lacking.

      • The whole thing where people say “I hate you but respect you” rarely happens outside of movies. If someone is complimenting their apparent “enemy”, it’s because they don’t see that person as a threat to them. That’s why journalists were writing articles about how Trump was the least bad option of the 2016 Republicans until the moment he started winning primaries. It’s why Republicans compliment Marianne Williamson or, as you noted, Yang. It’s obviously insincere.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I assume you are referring to pundits and politicians rather than regular people. I’ve given Yang credit for attempting to bring structural inequality back to the table.

          It’s also quite likely that paying complements to someone you don’t think can win is more sincere (i.e. honest and relaxed) than the kind of motivated vitriol that develops once the person in question enters partisan battle-mode.

    • Plumber says:

      @Statismagician >

      “…Pete Buttigieg…”

      “…Am I missing something here?”

      For some reason Buttigieg has become the big donors favorite, why it’s someone that’s not Sanders or Warren is pretty obvious, but why him?

      Among the ‘moderate’ candidates that Biden seems a bit doddering during the second half of the debates broadcast so far may be the reason that he doesn’t have more big donors backing him, and Paul Krugman says he thinks that Wall Street (which supported Obama in ’08) switched to Romney in ’12 ’cause “He called them names”, and so Biden (as Obama’s VP) doesn’t get Wall Street’s support.

      Klobuchur in the debates (and this may just be my ‘male chauvinism’) has a warble in her voice that sounds like she’s near crying sometimes (the other women candidates don’t, though one male candidate has as well), and Muskie showed that too many tears leads to not being the nominee (though the Clinton’s showed some well placed ones help), plus there’s the whole “bad boss” thing.

      Harris tried to present herself as both a “moderate” and a “progressive”, and instead of being the “compromise candidate” seems to have alienated both wings (as well as seeming to have more ambitions than core beliefs).

      So I guess that leaves Pete.

      • Erusian says:

        Buttigieg is still losing to Biden in that department. But a well educated decently spoken Rhodes scholar hits a lot of right buttons for the Democratic elite.

        Buttigieg is also arguably the most pro-elite member of the race. Biden has a lot of policies targeted to please unions and lower class workers and minorities. Buttigieg says he’s pro-union and pro-lower class but almost all of his specific policies are things that push Democratic elite buttons: more money to government unions, more carve outs for women/minorities in high prestige institutions (which means elites will get them), etc. And he has a history of doing that sort of thing. His administration in South Bend is kind of infamous for replacing a government that had been full of average joes with college slicks. (He himself replaced a man who’d previously been a carpenter.)

        I think he’ll run into problems that aren’t apparent right now on the coasts. I really doubt someone who basically evicted a bunch of minorities and gave contracts for demolishing their homes and rebuilding them to non-union workers over the objections of the local unions is going to not get attacked on that front. But I’m also guessing people who don’t have ties to South Bend (I do) wouldn’t know that even happened.

        • Plumber says:

          @Erusian >

          “Buttigieg says he’s pro-union and pro-lower class but almost all of his specific policies are things that push Democratic elite buttons…”

          Sadly that sounds like most Democrats, as long as they’re not actively non-union they’re still better than Republicans, even if only marginally so.

          “…more money to government unions…

          I’d prefer more help to save private sector unions, but I’m not opposed to that.

          “…more carve outs for women/minorities in high prestige institutions..”

          Eh, I’m indifferent

          “…His administration in South Bend is kind of infamous for replacing a government that had been full of average joes with college slicks…”

          *sigh*

          The way of the world

          ”   He himself replaced a man who’d previously been a carpenter…”

          Well that doesn’t sound good, but I’ll try to find out more before passing judgement…

          “…someone who basically evicted a bunch of minorities and gave contracts for demolishing their homes and rebuilding them to non-union workers over the objections of the local unions..

          Say what?

          Oh, Hell no!

          He lost the cred he got as a military veteran then, I’m not voting for the guy!

          • Erusian says:

            To be fair to him, he says that was a mistake he deeply regrets and that he has learned from it. And also that he was pressured by state level Republicans whose support he needed to help the city. But yes, that definitely happened. He’s been protested both by local unions and minority organizations, even while he was running. But it hasn’t gotten much press coverage because… well, it’s South Bend.

            Edit: An earlier comment that goes into more detail.

          • Plumber says:

            @Erusian,
            Thanks very much for that link to an easier thread with more detail (and much to my embarrassment it looks like that subthread started with my asking: Why’s Buttigieg in the top five? back in June, thus further demonstrating how poor my memory is!).

    • John Schilling says:

      My impression is that this would have been the automatic response of [rounds to] everyone in the country, if NPR et. al. didn’t keep talking about the guy. Am I missing something here?

      Buttigeig is currently the “mostly harmless” candidate for the Democrats at present.

      The Democrats are primarily divided between “We must defeat Trump at all costs, because the alternative is unthinkable”, and “Trump is toast; whoever runs with a (D) is sure to win, so this is our chance to elect a Real Progressive who will give us everything we want!”. The latter gets you Warren, Biden, and maybe a tiny bit of Yang and a few other outliers. The former, is further subdivided into “strongest credentials” and “fewest negatives”, depending on what is seen as most important to defeating Trump.

      Biden, as Obama’s VP and the mainstream Democrats’ elder statesman, has the strong credentials. But his age and (presumably age-related) gaffes are a potentially serious negative. So for the “fewest negatives = best chance to defeat Trump” faction, he’s not the man. Buttigieg, so far, hasn’t shown any serious negatives – other than possibly his youth and inexperience, but that’s a big part of why he hasn’t put any serious negatives on his resume yet.

      That may or may not last as the media puts the heat on him. But we’re closing in on the point where “you’ve been campaigning how long and you still haven’t broken 5% in the polls?” is going to look like a serious negative in its own right.

      It’s not clear why Buttigieg and not one of the other blandly generic Democrats climbed above 5% and is the focus of attention, and for that matter it’s not clear why Harris so quickly dropped below it, but someone has to fill that role and for whatever reason he’s it.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The Democrats are primarily divided between “We must defeat Trump at all costs, because the alternative is unthinkable”, and “Trump is toast; whoever runs with a (D) is sure to win, so this is our chance to elect a Real Progressive who will give us everything we want!”. The latter gets you Warren, Biden, and maybe a tiny bit of Yang and a few other outliers. The former, is further subdivided into “strongest credentials” and “fewest negatives”, depending on what is seen as most important to defeating Trump.

        I think you hit the nail on the head here. Warren and Sanders are the Real Progressives (I’m guessing you meant Sanders instead of Biden there), while Biden has a pretty good lock on “strongest credentials” and Buttigieg the leading candidate for “fewest negatives”.

        Biden’s also got the additional baggage of being a high-level politician for 46 years, including a 36-year voting record in the Senate. Senators vote on a lot of bills, giving opposition researchers plenty of chances to dig up dirt on them (as other long-serving Senators like Dole and Kerry found out when they ran for President). And a lot of positions that they took which were perfectly mainstream for their parties at the time, but are now deeply heretical to the party’s base: e.g. Biden’s sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill, or Dole’s support of budget deals in the 70s and early 80s that included tax increase.

        This also explains why people like Bloomberg and Deval Patrick are suddenly jumping into the race, despite the historical terrible performance of late-entering Presidential primary candidates. Both of them have better resumes than Buttigieg, and it only takes a little bit of motivated reasoning to argue they have fewer negatives than Biden (at least in terms of their probable general election performance: Bloomberg in particular has a ton of baggage that’s likely to make him unpalatable to Democratic primary voters).

      • Aftagley says:

        It’s not clear why Buttigieg and not one of the other blandly generic Democrats climbed above 5% and is the focus of attention, and for that matter it’s not clear why Harris so quickly dropped below it, but someone has to fill that role and for whatever reason he’s it.

        I haven’t seen polling on this yet, but my gut reaction derived from personal observation is “older white democrats love him.” That demographic is most likely to be in the “we must defeat trump at all costs” camp AND his status as an impeccably credentialed, gay but married, religious but not pushy about it seems almost tailored made for them.

        If we start seeing primary polling broken down by district I imagine he’ll do very well in the suburbs.

    • meh says:

      he started polling better than expected for his qualifications, and then yes the media reinforces that. but rounding up to everyone is probably off the mark, he needed am initial jolt

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Mayor Pete fared well in every debate I watched and earned an organic increase in the polls. He has policies that appeal to the median Democratic voter and is friendly enough to Big Money interests to be palpable.

      The other potential options have fallen flat on their faces. Harris stumbled after a solid 1st debate performance, Booker never got any traction, Klobuchar can’t take off. Biden had a clear edge, but he has stumbled enough that Vladimir Lenin is quickly coming up to him in the polls, and it’s time to start exploring QB2 to avert the Revolution.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Plumber:

      For some reason Buttigieg has become the big donors favorite, why it’s someone that’s not Sanders or Warren is pretty obvious, but why him?

      A Google search goes to several articles stating that Buttigieg indeed is attracting a lot of big donors, and even finds a couple articles that damn him from the left for sucking up to big business (that was quick). So he may in fact be someone the donors are coalescing around. One can easily imagine a cabal of mustachio-twirling fat cats in a smoky room, with one of them saying, “We can’t let Warren get too far ahead, and Biden’s losing it! We gotta pick one of the other candidates and all line up behind him/her. Now let’s figure out who!”

      I write that because it was fun to think about, but I absolutely feel that a lot of democratic donors are unhappy with the big three, and while the image may be a bit over the top, I do expect that there will be more than the usual amount of “momentum” or “rapidly growing consensus” around someone among the non-Biden/Warren/Sanders group.

      As to why Buttigieg, he:
      –isn’t as performatively woke as some
      –is pretty pro-business
      –hasn’t made it obvious he’s a terrible campaigner
      –comes off as likable
      –has performed fairly well in the debates thus far.
      All of which makes him good enough for now. If he self-destructs, it will be interesting and entertaining to see what the evil rich donor class does next.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Isn’t he 37 years old and a natural born US citizen? That plus winning the Electoral College are all of the qualifications.

  16. jermo sapiens says:

    I would love to hear a good rebuttal to this https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/11/23/how-much-sun-could-a-sunshine-shine/ using the results of a recent study to assess how well climate models do at modeling the climate. One long standing critique of the climate models is that they have a bajillion parameters, and that these are tweaked to (over)fit the past. I cant say I have direct evidence of this, but the critique certainly makes sense to me.

    So the question is then: do the models accurately represent the past based on accurate modeling of the climate processes, or are they just an exercise in curve fitting for a known period? One way they are verifying this is by checking the models over different values instead of just “global average temperature”. Specifically, in the link above they are verifying how well the models represent downwelling sunlight at the surface. Turns out the models do quite poorly. The conclusion seems to be that the models should not be relied upon as accurate representations of the real world.

    • EchoChaos says:

      You have your URL backwards, by the way. The link should be the other Text like this

    • Murphy says:

      That feels like an approach designed to only ever be able to return the result he returns.

      There’s a lot of different models. Some may be over-fit to past data. Fortunately the paper is from 5 years ago so another way to check is to see how well each model predicted the following 5 years.

      But instead he just…. basically goes “hey look, there’s a big difference between the highest and lowest values hence you can discount all of them”

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The spread of the models *may* allow you to legitimately discount the point estimate associated with all of them. It depends on whether the range of models are built on slightly variable assumptions all of which are reasonable (which suggests the phenomenon you’re modeling is too chaotic relative to what you know and can measure)

        If it’s a mix of reasonable and unreasonable models and the reasonable models tell roughly the same story then that’s different.

        Another possibility is that accurate hindcasting relies on information that can be measured in real time and prior but is extremely difficult to predict going forward. (Solar activity or interest rates).

        speaking as a nonexpert of course.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        That feels like an approach designed to only ever be able to return the result he returns.

        Maybe. I dont know enough to conclude either way. I think generally it makes sense to validate climate models on a number of outputs, not just the one we’re primarily interested in, namely average global temperature.

        The climate models’ claim to legitimacy is that they are a reasonable estimate of the actual processes that govern our climate. It’s quite an extraordinary claim, and despite the many millions (billions?) of dollars invested in them, I believe it is reasonable to be skeptical that we understand all relevant processes to the earth’s climate and that we can model them sufficiently well so that the output of these models should be treated as more than an intellectual curiosity.

        So if the models produce the one output (average temperature) we care about reasonably well, but does so by fudging other numbers (downwelling solar), this should be cause for concern.

    • Statismagician says:

      You know how your weather app’s temperature reading doesn’t exactly match a thermometer in your house, but still tells you what kind of coat to grab? This is that. Point measurements of a single metric chosen because a guy with no training in any relevant field thought it made sense do not matter the way he thinks they do; we’re talking about statistical relationships among numerous inter-correlated systems here.

      EDIT: There are all sorts of reasonable questions to ask about the state of climate change predictions, but this is not one of them, is what I’m getting at.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        You could hardly design a response that would do more to entrench me in my skeptical position.

        • Statismagician says:

          Would you mind saying a bit more about what that position is, so that I know whether to give the sophisticated or straightforward refinement?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            You didnt address any points substantively. You just declared his point to be not relevant, and that he didnt have the right qualifications.

            I dont care about his qualifications. Climate science is a relatively immature field, which draws from tons of other fields, and most science-minded people can make reasonable points. They may be incorrect, but it’s more convincing to show why something is incorrect than to crap on a guy’s credentials.

            we’re talking about statistical relationships among numerous inter-correlated systems here

            Precisely. And so if they’re getting average temp right while getting solar radiation wrong, the models are probably right by coincidence (more likely by curve-fitting), and should not be trusted.

            My position is just that this sounds like a reasonable criticism of climate models. Specifically, it’s not enough for the climate model to be correct with respect to a single output, it should be correct about the output and all of the intervening values used to generate that output.

          • Statismagician says:

            There’s just not a whole lot of substance there to address. Please let me know if you think I’m misrepresenting Eschenbach, but I think his key points are:

            1. “There were large mean (average) errors in surface sunshine (modeled minus observed), with individual models ranging from about 24 W/m2 too much sunshine to 15 W/m2 too little;”

            2. “The mean error across the models is 7.5 W/m2 … so on average, they assume far too much sunlight is hitting the surface;”

            3. “Next, results at individual locations are often wildly wrong;”

            4. “I leave it to the reader to consider and discuss the implications of all of that. One thing is obvious. Since they can all hindcast quite well, this means that they must have counteracting errors that are canceling each other out.”

            1, 3, and to a certain extent 4 are the same point, and the variety of modelling assumptions is a strength here (since the point, per Wild et. al., was to establish that “The CMIP5 multimodel mean solar and thermal fluxes closely match [then-newly available satellite] observations when averaged over land and oceans.”). 2 is fully acknowledged and explained in the source paper. 4 is leaning way too heavily on Eschenbach’s understanding of the problem with averages of averages, which is irrelevant because, as mentioned above, the entire point of the source is to compare the various models with empirical data in order to build better estimates.

            Critically, Eschenbach is also badly confused about the timeline here – he says the paper is from “August of this year”, when in fact it was submitted in February of 2014 and the CMIP5 standards were established in 2009, which are ages ago for something as computationally intensive as climate modelling.

            This is why, while you’re certainly correct that lacking a specific climate science credential isn’t a problem, Eschenbach’s lack of any scientific training at all besides a psychology degree from the 1970s is. He has not got good intuitions in this arena, and it shows.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Critically, Eschenbach is also badly confused about the timeline here – he says the paper is from “August of this year”, when in fact it was submitted in February of 2014 and the CMIP5 standards were established in 2009, which are ages ago for something as computationally intensive as climate modelling.

            Ok, so the paper is out of date. That’s a fair point.

            But on the main point, I’m not sure I understand why I should disregard the criticism. Dont you agree that climate models need to accurately replicate at least all aspects of the climate that it models? Or is your position that the amplitude of this particular error is not sufficient to warrant concern?

          • CatCube says:

            @jermo sapiens

            I can’t speak to the climate part of the model, but the expectation that a useful model will replicate “all aspects” of a system that it models is probably expecting a little much.

            I’m typing this while waiting for a finite element model to run, and I deliberately left out a bunch of stuff that wasn’t relevant to the question I was trying to answer (e.g., things like weld details, known stress concentrations, etc.) This is because I’m trying to find the buckling behavior of this particular element, and futzing around with all of that would make it take too long to run and provide a huge pile of irrelevant information to wade through when interpreting the results. So I model a simple system globally, then when I have to work with the welds I’ll make simplifying assumptions and work with a model of that small part (maybe even hand calcs).

            Using a model that will produce correct results on something of interest but produce wildly incorrect results on something else has quite a bit of precedent in non-climate-related fields.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Using a model that will produce correct results on something of interest but produce wildly incorrect results on something else has quite a bit of precedent in non-climate-related fields.

            That makes sense. If you’re trying to get a quick runtime for your model, and you can isolate what you need to know from what you dont need to know, it’s obviously fine.

            But if the “something else” is used to calculate the “something of interest”, I think this is a problem.

          • Statismagician says:

            Both – it’s an averages-of-averages issue on top of a scale-of-error one. Each of the ‘point’ estimates he’s talking about is an annualized (time-average) estimate for land, sea, or combined (space-averaged) energy balance assembled out of ‘cells’ measured in multiple degrees of longitude/latitude*the height of the atmosphere (both of those again, plus measurement difficulties); it’s not statistically appropriate to try and compare those to discrete measurements unless you do a gigantic amount of weighting. If you do, though, you actually do get something pretty like Wild et. al.’s figures, which are (quoting them, but the cited abstract supports it) “remarkably consistent with other recent estimates based on reanalysis and satellite products, which were completely independently derived.”

            Now, there are all sorts of things you might reasonably be concerned about here and in adjacent areas – severity predictions are all over the map, policymakers absolutely haven’t looked into the data, I don’t know anything about how appropriate the assumptions for the various models are, and so on – but ‘highly manipulated summary figures look like they say weird things if they’re not treated properly’ shouldn’t be one of them, to my mind.

          • The other obvious test is to see how the models constructed at time X fit the data from X to now. I did a simple version of that on my blog in 1914, reading the IPCC reports, figuring out what pattern of temperature behavior one would expect from each of the first four and comparing that to what happened.

            The first IPCC report overpredicted temperature badly enough to put what actually happened outside the stated uncertainty range. The same was true of the third report. The second report predicted a little high, but not enough to put what happened thereafter outside the stated range. The fourth overpredicted as of when I did my calculations, but the time since the report was too short to draw any serious conclusions.

            The probability that an accurate modeling procedure would predict high four times out of four, and two of them outside the (presumably 95%) confidence range, is low.

            I never went back to redo my calculations with later data, but anyone here is welcome to do so.

      • Point measurements of a single metric chosen because a guy with no training in any relevant field thought it made sense do not matter the way he thinks they do; we’re talking about statistical relationships among numerous inter-correlated systems here.

        It seems to me that if you can’t predict a single metric well, you will be even less able to predict something that depends on the values of multiple metrics.

    • uau says:

      Not directly about this specific question about the models, but I think the debate on climate change completely exaggerates the certainty of various outcomes. The reality is not “we know X tons of carbon dioxide absolutely will cause this consequence Y”. It’s more about just how likely various more or less plausible consequences are.

    • phi says:

      Okay, here are my thoughts (disclaimer: I don’t have a phd in climate science or anything):

      First of all, looking at figure 2 in the paper Eschenbach links to, the solar radiation striking the ground is about 185 W/m^2. Eyeballing his figure 1, the models typically seem to be off by about 10 W/m^2, or about 5% relative error. This is a good sanity check: If any model were off by 50%, we would be right to consider it very unreliable. So what about Eschenbach’s more detailed claim? The confidence intervals on that graph are pretty big. Eschenbach is talking about a mean bias of 7.5 W/m^2, while the 95% confidence intervals are more like +/- 50 W/m^2. I’m too lazy to calculate it out, but I’m not sure that’s even statistically significant. (This is a fairly minor point, but it seems likely that the errors in (model_prediction – measurement) will be correlated, since the measured part is the same for all models. If measurement error is a significant component of those error bars, then this *definitely* doesn’t reach statistical significance.)

      Now, to be sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a positive bias in the models. Like in any other field, there’s probably lots of work being done in climate science that is low quality or just bullshit. So if you average together all the models, reasonable ones and unreasonable ones alike, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a group of them that are off.

      On to the next question: Are these errors significant enough to disrupt the predictions of the models? Eschenbach certainly seems to think so: “Finally, we are using these models, with mean errors from -15 W/m2 to +23 W/m2, in a quixotic attempt to diagnose and understand a global radiation imbalance which is claimed to be less than one single solitary watt per square metre (1 W/m2)”

      This is an interesting point, and has an interesting response. It frequently happens in science that you will know X and Y to some low degree of accuracy, but know their difference, X – Y, to a much higher degree of accuracy. (An example: Let X be the number of days between the formation of life and when you were born. Let Y be the number of days between the formation of life and today. You are much more certain about X – Y than you are about either individually.) In other words, we may be able to know the net balance of energy fluxes into and out of the Earth more accurately than we know the individual size of each flux.

      So to figure out if this 5% error in solar radiation is important, Eschenbach could run a sensitivity analysis. In other words, suppose that the downward solar radiation depends on the variables X, Y, Z. Suppose that we have measured X and Y to high accuracy, and that Z is a parameter that the climate scientists set to match past predictions. We change Z so that downward solar radiation becomes 10 W/m^2 less, or 10 W/m^2 more or whatever. Then we run the model again with the new value of Z, and see how different the answer is. If it turns out wildly different, say the Earth becomes drastically cooler or something, then it indicates that something is up with the models. Without running a sensitivity analysis I can’t really say that a 5% error in downward solar radiation is too big to work with.

      Overall, I would say that Eschenbach’s strongest argument is that climate models having too many free parameters in them risks overfitting. Climate scientists currently mitigate this by using some historical data as a training set and then using the rest as a test set. It would also be interesting to see what happens if you try and construct an extremely simple model, with few or no parameters that aren’t directly measurable. The climate may be too complex for such simple models to work, though.

      Another idea is to make a Bayesian model. Bayesian methods are famous for drawing conclusions from the data that are exactly as strong as necessary, and no stronger. It would be interesting to see what happens when using such a model to fit to past data, with priors on parameters constrained only by direct measurements. We might find larger uncertainties than we expected. Or maybe we get a set of very precise and accurate predictions that match both the training and test sets of historical data. (Getting more precision than you expected also sometimes happens with Bayesian models.) I haven’t heard of anyone trying this yet though.

    • Buttle says:

      If you want to cast doubt on the usefulness of climate models it seems to me there is a lot of lower hanging fruit. One little detail that surprised me when first I learned it was that climate models are surprisingly bad at hindcasting the mean global temperature, much less fiddly little details like the point flux of downwelling radiation.

      Those pretty graphs that show the temperature anomaly predicted by various models, usually all on top of each other, are much less impressive when one sees the actual predicted temperatures. Actually the spread in temperature predictions is typically a lot larger than the warming effect being predicted.

      Here’s a climate science discussion with the picture:

      https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog_held/59-how-not-to-evaluate-climate-models/

      And a discussion of slightly more sophisticated methods of removing bias than just subtracting hindcasting error at a single point:

      http://www.ccafs-climate.org/bias_correction/

      In essence the bias correction adds yet another adjustable parameter for each model, to make it look like all the rest before presenting the results.

  17. A1987dM says:

    My brain insists in wanting to read the first five letters of the word “pycnonuclear” as Cyrillic, even though I’m using a font where Latin n and Cyrillic п are clearly different.

  18. SteveReilly says:

    A few weeks ago Geoffrey Miller wrote a piece for Quillette about polyamory. He wrong things like “Poly also lacks the legal status of being a protected minority, so poly people can be denied housing, jobs, and child custody just for being poly. The political status of polyamory is comparable to that of homosexuality before the 1969 Stonewall riots that launched the gay rights movement.”

    Is there a good argument for the implication here? I mean, have poly people been denied housing and child custody?

    • I mean, have poly people been denied housing and child custody?

      I’m almost certain they’ve been denied child custody. Courts can deny child custody anytime they decide one parent isn’t providing a good “environment” to the child. I’m reminded of the 2004 Illinois senate election:

      As the campaign progressed, the lawsuit brought by the Chicago Tribune to open child custody files from Ryan’s divorce was still continuing. Barack Obama’s backers emailed reporters about the divorce controversy, but refrained from on-the-record commentary.[22] On March 29, 2004, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider ruled that several of the Ryans’ divorce records should be opened to the public, and ruled that a court-appointed referee would later decide which custody files should remain sealed to protect the interests of Ryan’s young child.[23] A few days later, on April 2, 2004, Barack Obama changed his position about the Ryans’ soon-to-be-released divorce records, and called on Democrats to not inject them into the campaign.[22]

      On June 22, 2004, after receiving the report from the court appointed referee, the judge released the files that were deemed consistent with the interests of Ryan’s young child. In those files, Jeri Ryan alleged that Jack Ryan had taken her to sex clubs in several cities, intending for them to have sex in public.[24][25]

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_United_States_Senate_election_in_Illinois

    • From the article:

      Many “Red Pill” guys in the Manosphere are terrified that polyamory will expand the sexual underclass of male incels, but they usually confuse polyamory with polygyny. Polygyny makes it harder for lower-mate-value men to find partners, but polyamory actually makes it easier, because these guys don’t have to be good enough to be a woman’s primary partner.

      This is just a projection of the male pattern of choosiness with long-term mating and not-so-choosiness with short-term mating onto women.

      Monogamous marriages can be wonderful, and bring many benefits, but they can also be frustrating, boring, and fragile. They often become asexual, and many married people are no longer hot for their spouses. Monogamously married people can get lazy about their personal habits, career ambitions, and social networks.{snip}

      {snip} Interactions with “secondary partners” can put the spark back into the marriage bed. Polyamorous people have incentives to sustain their mate value—to stay more energetic, vivid, and attractive.

      It’s true that if all marriages became “open” tomorrow many would find a sudden urge to get on the treadmill. All good right, better incentives! Except that fewer would get married. The security is part of the deal.

      Monogamy and polyamory also have a common enemy: the impulsive, short-term, alcohol-fueled casual sex culture of bars, clubs, frat parties, and Tinder.

      Communism: it won’t be like the Soviet Union at all!

      Also, most marriages between gay men are open to some degree—they’re ‘monogamish’ (as Dan Savage says), not monogamous. If gay marriages can handle some openness, maybe straight marriages can too.

      This ignores the fact that not many gay people get married in the first place, and suggests a hint about why.

      We could continue conflating ethical non-monogamy with unethical hook-up culture.

      What’s the “ethical” argument here? So long as no one’s being coerced, I don’t see a meaningful difference there.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Polygyny makes it harder for lower-mate-value men to find partners, but polyamory actually makes it easier, because these guys don’t have to be good enough to be a woman’s primary partner.

        This is backwards: you can be a woman’s primary partner, the provider, while she has sex with multiple higher SMV men, probably trying to jump ship if she manages to lock one of them down. Alpha Fucks/Beta Bucks.

        This ignores the fact that not many gay people get married in the first place, and suggests a hint about why.

        I wonder how many gay marriages only exist to claim government and employer benefits.

      • Dacyn says:

        This is just a projection of the male pattern of choosiness with long-term mating and not-so-choosiness with short-term mating onto women.

        I know it’s N=1, but this does not match my experience.

        Except that fewer would get married. The security is part of the deal.

        Commitment/security and exclusivity are different things. I know multiple poly people in committed marriages.

    • LesHapablap says:

      An informative and interesting article actually. A few nit picks though:

      -It seems off to compare poly people as a potential protected class like homosexuals, since there are no polysexuals as far as I’m aware
      -When he says 4-5% are in a poly or open relationship, is there a distinction there? How many of these open relationships are like the poor fellow in an open thread here a while back, who was forced into a one-sided open relationship when really it was just his wife wanting to sleep around?
      -Before making the claim that polyamory is different from polygyny, it would be nice to see some statistics around that
      -It is touted as a benefit that married poly people keep up with their costly signalling (working out, etc) unlike married people who get lazy or presumably do other things with their time. I’m not sure that is a feature and not a bug.

      • ana53294 says:

        It is touted as a benefit that married poly people keep up with their costly signalling (working out, etc) unlike married people who get lazy or presumably do other things with their time. I’m not sure that is a feature and not a bug.

        Exactly. Women agree to marry and have children, go through the whole hormonal deal that a pregrancy is, gaining weight, stretch marks, having mood swings, etc., knowing a husband puts up with it because he commited to it. The child rearing time is also not the time to worry about costly signalling, especially while the baby is not sleeping the nights. Some parents have trouble showering, much less working out. It’s and advantage for men also, as they do go bald and fat, also, just not as quickly as with a pregnancy.

        How many of these open relationships are like the poor fellow in an open thread here a while back, who was forced into a one-sided open relationship when really it was just his wife wanting to sleep around?
        Before making the claim that polyamory is different from polygyny, it would be nice to see some statistics around that

        Well, the forced open relationship does not seem like polygyny. It’s much easier for women to get sex without a relationship than for men, so if both partners are free, and not forced into it, the woman would still have more potential partners.

      • acymetric says:

        -When he says 4-5% are in a poly or open relationship, is there a distinction there? How many of these open relationships are like the poor fellow in an open thread here a while back, who was forced into a one-sided open relationship when really it was just his wife wanting to sleep around?

        It seems to me there is a difference between polyamory and open relationships, but that the two tend to get conflated. I don’t know if my impression matches reality, or is particularly close.

        My understanding of what is typically meant by polyamory is that it is several people kind of…dating each other, but still in somewhat of a closed system within that group of however many people. An open relationship on the other hand is a committed two person relationship, but where there are secondary partners that are not involved with the other primary partner (or other secondary partners). So in a poly relationship, all 5 people might go out on a date together, and then go back home. They would all probably know each other on a first name basis. In an open relationship, the wife gets Thursday evenings to herself to go spend with anonymous guy #2, who the primary partner may never meet.

        Am I anywhere close?

        • bullseye says:

          I think you’re pretty much right about polyamory. I know two married couples who share a house, and the men are dating each other’s wives (or, to put it another way, the women are dating each other’s husbands).

          They have a number of children, but I don’t think any of the children are half-siblings; each one comes from one of the marriages. At least one of the women was open to the idea of either man being the father but had some degree of preference for her husband, and I’m pretty sure that’s what she got.

      • acymetric says:

        -Before making the claim that polyamory is different from polygyny, it would be nice to see some statistics around that

        Ah, one other point. Do you mean this in the sense that polyamory would most commonly result in polygyny, or just that the types of relationship dynamics are similar to polygyny? My anecdotal observations suggest poly relationships are more likely to tend towards polyandry than polygyny in terms of gender ratio.

        That might be partly because most polygynous relationships I’ve seen tend more towards harem or open-relationship type arrangements than polyamorous relationships, but I might be mis-defining poly.

        • LesHapablap says:

          I meant that it would end up more like polygyny. Disclaimer: I have never met anyone who says they are poly. In fact I bet most people I know would not have heard the term.

      • tossrock says:

        RE: your first point, it might be better to compare it to a protected class like religion, which is (notionally) a choice. Poly people have chosen a certain lifestyle, and would prefer not to be discriminated against because of it. Whether that’s a valid and useful extension of our protected class system is a different question.

        RE: your last point, working out may be costly signalling, but that’s because it’s an honest signal – working out confers substantial real health benefits. In fact it’s one of the number one things recommended for improving both physical and mental health. All else being equal, encouraging that seems like a good thing, societally – for example by reducing the burden of health care.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Articles by a woman who’s in a open triad which has existed for 30 years. She and her two husbands (I know all three) are all fat– they’re been putting their effort into being good for each other to be around.

        This isn’t statistics, of course, but n=1 is better than n=0 + speculation.

        I don’t have a feeling for how likely polyamorous relationships are likely to fail because partners just let things drift as compared to marriages. Or whether polyamorous people put more effort into being generally attractive.

        Have the surveys had anything about stability (however defined) of polyamorous relationships?

    • ana53294 says:

      A child can only legally have two parents. So as far as non-biological parents get denied custody, polyamorous people get denied custody. The same as step-parents in divorced families.

      Monogamy increased paternity certainty—a man’s confidence that his kids are really his—thereby increasing paternal investment. If you know you’re the real dad, you’re likely to be a better dad. But with condoms, contraception, and paternity testing, this is less of a concern—at least at the rational level.

      Monogamy not only helps increase paternal investment by establishing paternity. How many of the deadbeat dads are so because they’re unsure of paternity? Men seem quite capable of not providing for children they don’t live with – even if they are sure with 99% certainty that the children are theirs.

      Monogamous marriage* gives other incentives for paternal investment which you don’t get by just establishing paternity. Living in the same house with the kids makes it much easier to spend time with them. Coordination with the other parent becomes easier.

      Monogamy also helps to reduce sibling rivalry. I get the impression, every time that I read history about brothers asssassinating each other for power or money, that it seems to happen to half-siblings much more frequently than to full siblings. It’s a trend I observe in real life: full siblings, who grew up with each other, may have complicated relationships, but there is much less resentment than with half-siblings. Half siblings may hate the others because they perceive them as having stolen their dad, or because they have a better dad, or a better mom. Half siblings of the same mom seem to have, in general, better relationships than half siblings of the same dad. Kids of the same mom and dad will be more likely to get more or less equal degrees from investment from each parent, and parents are unlikely to scheme to make the other parent invest more in a specific child.

      *Yes, I saw the point where they differentiate monogamy from marriage. I don’t believe you get the same marriage in polyamory as in monogamy though.

      • Garrett says:

        A child can only legally have two parents.

        Silly question for the lawyers and legal theorists here: would it be possible to structure the “parentage” of a child under a trust or other similar legal structure?

        • Randy M says:

          I’m assuming you want to know for non-Truman Show related reasons?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I appreciated this comment.

          • Garrett says:

            Not quite.

            One of the earlier models for getting around bans on same-sex marriage was to use a complex set of legal instruments to achieve the same result, such as power of attorney, wills and trusts.

            Before remaking major aspects of the law it would be interesting to see how it works out for a few more select cases.

        • tossrock says:

          I think the child could be a ward of the organization acting in loco parentis, but I think the organization would have to be a foster care / adoption agency, or the state. Not a lawyer, though.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        This kind of thing makes me wonder again, why it is only sexual partners are considered viable adopters? Why can’t I move in with my same-sex buddy and start adopting children without being gay.

        • Randy M says:

          Have you and your buddy publicly proclaimed lifelong commitment for better or worse, etc, etc.?

        • John Schilling says:

          Why can’t I move in with my same-sex buddy and start adopting children without being gay.

          Because sex has a very strong track record in promoting long-term emotional bonding among humans. That’s arguably most of what sex is for. Raising a child together also has a very strong track record in this area. Having both of these aligned in the same direction, is the best indicator the rest of us have that we aren’t going to be stuck adjudicating a messy child-custody dispute and/or subsidizing a single parent five years down the road.

          If you’re allied for the child-raising purpose with a partner you are not having sex with, well, you’re still human so there is a strong presumption that you’d really like to be having sex with someone. If and when that someone comes along, now you’ve got two emotional incentives pointing in different directions and the odds that the rest of us are going to get dragged into that mess, increase substantially.

          If there were any shortage of would-be adoptive parents, we might relax the standards. But for now, for every orphan that isn’t a three-alarm catastrophe of unadoptability, we can find parents who are interested in sharing the duties of child-raising and having sex with one another and bound by the closest equivalent of a “till death do us part” promise our laws will allow, so why shouldn’t we ask for the full package.

        • ana53294 says:

          You can marry your same sex buddy and start adopting. In Spain, single parents can adopt, so why would you move in with a friend for that? If anything, marrying a same sex partner is a disadvantage. Although for purposes of national adoption they don’t discriminate, Spain has signed agreements with several countries that they won’t give children to homosexual married couples, because those countries demanded it*.

          My father’s cousin adopted a couple of Russian kids. If she was a lesbian, it would have been better for her to adopt alone first, and then marry and her partner adopt the kids.

          So, unless you are really gay, the best move is to move with a friend of the opposite sex, marry them and adopt.

          *Some couples in our diocese were asked for canonical certificates of marriage for the adoption process by China. This was quite strange, but presumably a Catholic marriage means that it’s not gay, and that people are religious, so less likely to divorce.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Why can’t I move in with my same-sex buddy and start adopting children without being gay.

          Can’t you? I doubt any government official is going to show up in your bedroom and check what you and your buddy are doing with your happy parts.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Just listening to an old Loveline episode from 2001 (with Robert Downey Jr) and Dr. Drew responds to a caller in a poly sort of situation:

        link text

    • Statismagician says:

      I just want to observe that the source for what data* are in the article is the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which is a tiny (3,000 to 6,000 respondents depending on year) study which conspicuously doesn’t publish its questions or sampling methodology (compare, for example, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System CDC puts out). Even for psychology, this is should be considered egregiously bad research practice.

      *Okay, fine, there’s also a paper which describes its methods as ‘recruited Craigslist participants for an online convenience survey,’ which is, um, no.

    • Drew says:

      Polyamory — unlike gay marriage — can’t be implemented with a trivial update to our existing policies.

      Gay marriage was simple. Feminism won the battle around “should marriage roles be gender-neutral?” and made it so marriage was already (nominally) symmetric agreement between two spouses. Polyamory is much more subtle.

      Consider medical decision making. Under current rules, if I’m incapacitated, my wife gets to make decisions for me as my next-of-kin. Since I have one wife, we don’t need any kind of framework for handling the case where my wife disagrees with herself.

      Suppose we have legally-recognized polyamory. I’m incapacitated. And my wife (of 20-years) disagrees with my two girlfriends (of 3 years, and 6 months, respectively) about the care I should receive. Should the doctors adopt a ‘majority rules’ decision? Should they give a wife primacy over 2 girlfriends? Should they take a senior wife’s opinion over that of multiple junior wives?

      But maybe that’s “polygamy” and too bold. The author could be defending polyamory as a sexual practice, and not a situation where we have multiple legally-recognized relationships.

      In that case, my questions are (1) how often do people get discriminated against for (legal) sexual practices and (2) is there a reason that ‘polyamory’ deserves more protection than any other fetish or non-sexual hobby?

      I agree that it would be unjust for someone to get fired because they’re dating multiple people at once. But it would ALSO be unjust for them to get fired because they like to use bondage-rope in the bedroom, or because they spend their weekends pretending to be a knight at an SCA event.

      I can understand how a reasonable and honorable person would be in favor of laws that banned capricious-firing. I’d disagree — I think the regulatory overhead isn’t worth the benefits — but I get the stance. But, if we’re going to do that, let’s just do it and ban capricious firings rather than carving out some ever-growing list of hobbies that deserve protection.

      • Theodoric says:

        Suppose we have legally-recognized polyamory. I’m incapacitated. And my wife (of 20-years) disagrees with my two girlfriends (of 3 years, and 6 months, respectively) about the care I should receive. Should the doctors adopt a ‘majority rules’ decision? Should they give a wife primacy over 2 girlfriends? Should they take a senior wife’s opinion over that of multiple junior wives?

        How does this work in present day Iran or Saudi Arabia, or other countries that have both legal polygamy (I think just sharia countries?) and medical technology such that this would come up?

        • woah77 says:

          I think in such a country your brother, father, eldest son, or priest would make the decision, not your wife. Legalized polygamy only has issues in that regard if your wives are able to legally speak for you in that context, which I imagine is not the case in Sharia countries.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          If you need to ask the literal patriarchies of the world how to run a system, maybe that system isn’t such a good idea?

          • Dacyn says:

            All of the suggestions in Drew’s comment seem like reasonable ideas (especially if they are just defaults in a customizable system). Just because it’s hard to decide between them, doesn’t mean that one of them shouldn’t be implemented.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      I also don’t think the argument about polyamory resulting in fewer lonely males holds. In monogamy the average amount of (simultaneous) partners is equal for both sexes to ~1 per person. In polygamy it’s more defined by personal preferences and if anything males are more polygamous on average, not less. So the top X% of the most attractive males will date more than X% of females leaving less for the less attractive males. Although..

      as Steven Pinker has shown, aggression rates have already dropped a hundredfold in the last thousand years, and the state has gotten better at deterring violence with surveillance, police, courts, and jails.

      Oh it seems that police can keep us safe from those losers and they are not that aggressive anyway. Nevermind then.

      In seriousness, I’m not saying that this is necessarily an argument against polyamory, just that the assumption seems wrong.

      • acymetric says:

        Agreed. I’m not sure that I agree with the reverse argument against polyamory (that it would result in more lonely males), but I definitely don’t think that fewer lonely males (or fewer lonely people generally) is a likely result of or good argument for polyamory.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think most people prefer to be in an exclusive, socially-defined long-term relationship, both men and women, and that this will continue. My guess is that polyamory is a minority taste, and so won’t have any kind of dire effects on the dating market.

        Right now, an attractive, wealthy man can have a wife plus a mistress or two legally[1]. He can do the serial monogamy thing and end up divorcing his original wife in her 40s so he can marry a 25-year-old. Some men (mostly on the low end of society) manage to have a series of multiple baby mamas without ever settling down.

        That stuff is not going to change, and it probably has way more impact on the available dating market than any forseeable uptake of polyamory.

        [1] That is, he won’t get arrested for it. He may, however, get taken to the cleaners by his wife’s divorce attorney for it.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          My guess is that polyamory is a minority taste, and so won’t have any kind of dire effects on the dating market.

          While few people call their sexual behavior “polyamory”, many people, between “serial monogamy”, hookups, “friends with benefits”, etc. do in fact practice de facto polygamy.

          Still there is some degree of shame associated with these behaviors: past a certain age they are considered low status, especially for women. Giving social approval or even legal status to these behaviors can only increase their prevalence, likely resulting in an increase of associated social pathologies (incels, cat ladies, single mothers, etc.)

          [1] That is, he won’t get arrested for it. He may, however, get taken to the cleaners by his wife’s divorce attorney for it.

          Which is quite a disincentive for a wealthy man with lots to lose.

      • Orpheus says:

        Also, I think that most men (and women, for that matter) who are interested in a relationship want to be someones “primary partner”. Not many want to be just another member of a harem.

  19. Atlas says:

    PSA: There’s a chapter by chapter guide to Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun that was just released by the guy who wrote Lexicon Urthus.

    • Plumber says:

      @Atlas,
      Thanks for the tip.

      I have The Wizard Knight Companion by the same author, and it’s a winner!

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Thanks. I have been thinking of rereading Book of the New Sun after 30+ years, and this might help. I recall being rather disappointed, after all the hullaballoo and hosannas showered around the books, but perhaps I should try again.

  20. DinoNerd says:

    I wonder whether there’s some (statistical) difference between (US style) conservative and liberal personalities, such that the liberals are more likely to fear (and want to take precautions against) problems that are in the future, and possibly also low likelihood but high impact, whereas the conservatives are more likely to pay attention to current concerns, and let the future take care of itself.

    On the liberal side, for fear of future issues, we have issues/campaigns like: limits to growth, zero population growth, nuclear waste is forever, etc. On the conservative side we have “but we need jobs now” and “we’ll find a way to deal with it if it happens…”

    Arguing against myself, conservatives tend to fear cultural change, especially cultural change brought on by immigration, and the demographic time bomb of other people(s) outbreeding their people. But liberals mostly insist that this isn’t a problem, rather than e.g. insisting it’s more important to have workers-to-do-whatever-jobs-are-needed right now. So I’m not sure if this quite fits.

    Does this make any sense at all, or do I need more caffeine and/or a trip out of my own idea bubble?

    [Inspired by @proyas below, but doesn’t belong on their thread]

    • On the liberal side, for fear of future issues, we have issues/campaigns like: limits to growth, zero population growth, nuclear waste is forever, etc. On the conservative side we have “but we need jobs now” and “we’ll find a way to deal with it if it happens…”

      Or “this will happen, and isn’t a real problem,” for things like population growth.

      I’m skeptical of personality differences as an explanation for political differences. Rather, political tribes commonly feature eschatology and ideologues proclaim their belief in them in order to signal their loyalty to their tribes, but don’t actually take much action inspired by them except when they can be used to justify something one already wanted to do.(Like all those kids who don’t like attending school.) This lack of action is present even when the eschatologies involve real dangers like the threat of getting nuked during the cold war.

      • If you think of the left/right divide as based on how willing people are to believe that the government can do a good job of running the society, it makes some sense that same people who believe the society is too complicated for successful top down manipulation would also believe the world is too complicated for confident predictions about problems well into the future. If population growth/global warming might or might not happen, might have good or bad effects, it makes some sense to focus on the present and near future instead.

    • cassander says:

      I think you can find just as long a list that goes the other way. democrats support more taxes now, to pay for more social programs now, assuming that the economic consequences down the line will be solvable. They want to have amnesty/more immigration now, because more people are suffering, and we’ll deal with assimilation later. Heck even the way they frame climate change is something we have t o take care of right now or it will be too late, we can’t afford to wait and see.

      • Aftagley says:

        Yeah, I’d like to signal boost this idea, I think you might have just arrived at a cherry-picked set of issues that happen to line up with your hypothesis. Here are some potential counterexamples:

        – Democrats tend to favor increased gender/sexuality rights expansions now, Republicans worry about the long term effects this will have on our culture. (you kind of address this in your original post, but I don’t think its right to just wave away a large portion of our political landscape).

        – Corporate payouts/incentives – Republicans are worried about the long term effect of an unfriendly businesses culture on american jobs/productivity, Democrats want increased funding sources now.

        – Defense – Republicans like defense investment (long term assurance of military dominance) democrats are a bit less gung-ho.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        more immigration now … we’ll deal with assimilation later

        That the “dealing with” imposes costs on the hated other and the advantages on them is completely coincidental.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Demographics and Climate change are concerns that if we take both at face value are roughly equal in future time horizons. Fiscal responsibility is routinely just a talking point for whichever party is out of power, though the best results historically occur with democrat presidents and republican congresses simply because hardly anything extra gets spent and tax receipts can slowly catch up to outlays.

      I think biggest dividing line that i see is the in-group, in-society bias. The important thing is that you can get both groups to adopt a wide range of policy positions depending on how you frame the issue.

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect there are average personality/temperament differences between liberals and conservatives, but I don’t think they’re likely to align cleanly to existing political issues, but rather to emotional appeal of the different movements/coalitions/identities.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Yeah but the emotional appeal doesn’t appear random or unpaterned. Like, if you want a conservatively minded person to support conservation efforts or polution reduction efforts you frame it in terms of the polluter being a free-rider who is violating local norms. You don’t frame it in terms of the polluter being an opressor.

  21. Last thread I posted a comment asking why stay-at-home-moms don’t try to get government benefits meant for single mothers, I learned that rather more outright fraud(rather than legal gaming) would be necessary to pursue the strategy than I had thought.

    Continuing the series, I wonder why so many people are take care of elderly parents themselves rather than put them in a home and get the taxpayer to pay for it. There are no doubt a lot of people who are childless, elderly, didn’t save any money, require caregivers, and yet you don’t see them in the street. So there must be some program taking care of them, but I don’t know what it is.(I’m young; don’t normally pay attention to these things.) Yes, some people want to be the ones taking care of their parents. But for those who complain that it’s such a burden, why don’t they just try to pawn it off onto the government?

    As to the question of how moral this behavior is, my general presumption is that there’s nothing immoral about legal tax avoidance or benefit gaming unless the benefit was supposed to subsidize charitable behavior one didn’t engage in, or help people who are in conditions worse than the gamer through no fault of their own. But not if it’s “you can’t freeload through behavior X, that benefit is supposed to only go to people who freeload through behavior Y!”

    • Ouroborobot says:

      AFAIK Medicare does not pay for nursing home costs. Medicaid will generally pay for a nursing home / ALF, but the kind of facilities that rely on medicaid for payment are often of terrible quality and basically amount to human filing cabinets for seniors waiting to die. Staff is often callously indifferent to the needs of residents. Elder abuse is rampant. That may not apply everywhere, but that is my personal experience. People who care about their relative’s quality of life and have the means will generally prefer to pay for a facility of higher quality or provide care at home if possible. My family chooses to pay a significant amount for my grandmother’s ALF because it would be pretty callous to do otherwise given we can afford it. I’m sure what you are describing does happen when families don’t have the means or desire to provide care.

      • Garrett says:

        but the kind of facilities that rely on medicaid for payment are often of terrible quality

        My life advice from all my experience in EMS: save up enough money for a *good* nursing home. Even middle-of-the-road facilities are fairly poor. I hate having to go to a number of these facilities. The rank smell of … whatever … is unpleasant. I haven’t encountered any elder abuse or clear medical malpractice. However, it’s pretty clear that the staff are stressed and overworked. The joke in EMS is our nursing hand-off report goes something like: “I just got on shift, they aren’t my patient, I don’t know why they are here or what’s wrong with them, but the doctor says they need to go to the hospital”.

        There is no easy solution to this, either. The CNAs doing the majority of the work are frequently paid close to minimum wage. Even at low-end charitable nursing facilities the costs are pretty large.

    • johan_larson says:

      I think the answer is that care for the aged is set up with the assumption that most of the old have some private means or family support, and the government is therefore only on the hook for the care of the truly poor. The truly poor are not usually in a position to complain very much or very effectively, so the standards of care tends to be low. Also, since these programs are for the poor, getting access to them often requires a level of impoverishment that is quite humiliating for people who have lived middle-class lives or better. I seem to recall reports of old people having to sell off furniture, appliances, and musical instruments, quite intimate personal possessions, to squeeze below the property limits needed get access to state-funded care for the old.

      Given the low standards and the stiff limits, people tend to use the government old-folks homes only when they have no choice, having exhausted all their savings and every appeal to sympathy from their families.

    • mtl1882 says:

      As the other responses said, the quality of care isn’t consistent with the dignity and lack of callousness many people expect. The standard of living increased dramatically over the last few decades. Taking care of an adult who has some idea of what is going on but needs help with basic things isn’t easy, cheap, attractive, or impersonal in nature. And when your parent says that they put everything they had into caring for you, and now you’re going to leave them here . . . if the parent can make the claim with any credibility, a lot of people aren’t going to be able to brush it aside easily. Often at least one of the parent’s children will take that to heart, if the others are willing to pawn it off–which then causes family infighting. Based on a few experiences I’ve seen or gone through personally, and which weren’t anywhere near as bad as it can get, I can only imagine what will happen as the aging population expands and people live longer.

    • Ketil says:

      Interesting questions – obviously, social stigma or guilt or feelings of responsibility can account for a lot. But incentives are incentives. To answer this, I think it would be instructive to compare outcomes to countries with different incentive structure. (Or different social structures but similar incentives, but I think that will be much harder to find)

      • mtl1882 says:

        What do you mean by a different incentive structure?

        • Ketil says:

          Economic incentives, specifically public financial support for “single” parents. To determine to what degree unmarried couples with children organize their life to maximize benefits, compare different countries that are culturally similar (US with Canada or UK, maybe) but where tax breaks or social support is more or less extensive, or even better, change in rate of “single” parentage after substantial changes in incentives.

          • mtl1882 says:

            Ah, okay, I thought you were talking about the elderly parents question, but it sounds like you are talking about the unmarried couples question. I was having trouble conceiving of the former as largely influenced by the U.S.’s government policy incentives.

    • OrangeInflation says:

      Medicaid facilities exist, but getting the state to pay for them requires a significant asset spend down, draining retirement funds. There’s also a 5 year look back if I recall correctly, so if you want to preserve some inheritance for your kids you need to “gift-down” your estate 5 years in advance of needing care, which is obviously a hard sell and difficult for an aging person who may be in the early stages of dementia. And, Medicaid facilities are generally bleak.

    • Corey says:

      If you end up with dementia then that *is* what you do (or more precisely, what your guardian does on your behalf) – burn all your assets on nursing home care then go on Medicaid. It’s by far the best financing option. Caring for someone with dementia is typically beyond the capabilities of unpaid family members (it’s harder than a disabled child).

      Nursing home care (especially memorycare where they keep you from wandering off etc.) is beyond mortal reach – say $3-4K/month in rural Ohio, $7K in rural North Carolina. Medicaid of course just pays less than this and makes the facilities accept it, hence the bleak conditions.

      Medicaid will dig through your finances looking for hidden assets and/or evidence they think you might have hidden some in the years prior. And they will recover their costs from your estate when you die. Still better than long-term-care insurance as it exists today (not many people use it, so there’s not much risk pooling, so you’re likely to pay more over the policy term than your cost of care).

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Some states both have, and enforce, filial responsibility laws, which make the child responsible for the medical (including nursing home) costs of the impoverished parent.

        • Corey says:

          According to the links it seems like these usually get used (in modern times) in cases where the child is responsible for the parent’s poverty (e.g. they scammed the parent).

          So far, there was one case in PA where a nursing home sued a child and won, over this law, and some hand-wringing that that might become standard practice. It might well; the invisible hand of Moloch ensures any business will eventually go after any revenue stream, PR problems are secondary.

      • Garrett says:

        Caring for someone with dementia is typically beyond the capabilities of unpaid family members (it’s harder than a disabled child).

        For those who haven’t had experience, frequently the assumption is that it’s a case where someone frequently forgets where they put their glasses or the names of their children. Maybe you get to hear the heartbreaking tale of someone who forgets that they are married or that one of their children died.

        Late-stage dementia is far, far worse. It’s beyond heart-braking and into the frustrating or aggravating stage. The last dementia patient I had would grab onto anybody who came within reach and wouldn’t let go. (You don’t know strength until you’ve encountered demented granny strength). She would constantly yell “help!” if nobody was around. If you went to ask her what was wrong, she would say “I need to get the money”, but wouldn’t be able to tell you from where, for what, or why. Listening to an old lady yell for help continually is soul-destroying.

        It gets worse. Managing these patients usually involves sedating managing their anxiety and depression with a number of medications not approved for that use. Routinely restraining them is considered inhumane. So you have patients who will hit, grab or grope their caregivers, who themselves have no recourse. At certain points these patients become incontinent, either because of lack of control, or because they’ve stopped caring. You’re effectively dealing with an adult-sized infant with oppositional defiant disorder. Unlike an actual infant, you can’t single-handedly manhandle them.

        Finding a way for a trained healthcare provider to be able to keep their humanity when in circumstances like that is very, very difficult. For unsupported family it’s nearly impossible.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Worked cleaning a retirement home as a student. A nice one. And.. that diagnosis would cause me to write a nice letter and take a long walk off a short pier. Fate worse than death. Not by a little.

      • Cliff says:

        burn all your assets on nursing home care then go on Medicaid

        The important thing is that good facilities will allow you to stay after you have exhausted your assets and go on Medicaid, as long as you have paid full freight for a couple of years. So you don’t want to gift all your assets, but keep some for that purpose.

    • ECD says:

      The same reason people don’t ‘game’ the housing market by living in homeless shelters.

    • Matt says:

      My mother-in-law has some symptoms of dementia, but is still competent to manage herself in her home. We live 2.5 miles away and see her regularly, have dinner with her every weekend, and can help her with any problem she cannot handle. We have, in the past, provided her with financial assistance. My wife and I are about to take out a (small) loan to pay off a credit card bill that she ran up because she thought she didn’t have to pay the minimums – “she was just an old lady on a fixed income” and she lost when the bank took her to court over it. My wife confessed to me that she is envious of her friends who can still enjoy the company of their elderly parents – she no longer can, because she (my wife) doesn’t have adequate coping mechanisms or empathy to have a conversation with her mother anymore. Her mother is bitter about her life, angry at her ex-husband, (my wife’s father, who is still alive) and doesn’t trust her daughter enough to believe her reminders or that her disbelief has caused problems in the past.

      So despite the hassle and the lack of enjoyment in having her around, my wife still wants Nana to have the best life possible, AND to put her in a medicaid home essentially would mean that the state would take her house, which is all she has. Our intention is to keep her in her own home as long as she can last, and then move her to the best assisted living we can afford for her for as long as we can with the proceeds from selling her house. By that time, we expect, she will either have passed, or her mind will be gone enough that a medicaid-paid facility won’t be as awful? I mean, at some point the mind is so far gone that EVERY facility is awful, right?

      Maybe the kids will be out of college by the time her assets run out or other circumstances may leave us able to afford to keep her in a better facility.

      One thing I do know is that my wife could not take moving her mother in with us 24/7, indefinitely.

      • ana53294 says:

        My wife and I are about to take out a (small) loan to pay off a credit card bill that she ran up because she thought she didn’t have to pay the minimums

        Does she have assets? Does she own her house? If she does, maybe selling it and moving to a retirement community nearby, with elevators and panic buttons could make sense, and use some of the money to pay the debt. Moving and downsizing is much easier when you are relatively sane. There are things between living alone and assisted living facility that lengthen the independent part of the life.

        Social Security checks are non-garnishable in bankruptcy, so if she has no other assets, the maximum they can do is annoy her.

        • Cliff says:

          Yeah I wouldn’t suggest taking out the loan. What’s the bank going to do to her? Put a lien on her house? So what?

          • Matt says:

            It just means that if she keeps her house an additional 10 years, they would take 5 times as much when she finally sells it. Instead we will pay it off now.

          • Cliff says:

            Not 5 times as much. What’s the judicial rate of interest? Maybe 6%? And will they actually do it? And if so can you just pay it off then?

            Edit: Okay just saw 18%. Insane!

        • Matt says:

          Assets-wise, she has her house and her car. Income-wise, she gets SS and a small, but significant, alimony check. When she lost the lawsuit a year ago, the judge suggested that she do exactly what you suggest. (Sell her home to pay the debt, move to a retirement community) She initially agreed to move out and sell her house, but is frightened of that option and decided that she would not. When we reminded her that she told the judge she would do so, she said “I never signed anything!” In short, she is non-cooperative with that plan. The judgement increases at 18% annually, and in the end it will be cheaper if we pay it off now. (Eventually the debt will grow to the value of the house less the $15,000 homestead exemption).

          Essentially, we can pay a different bank 6% interest now, or we can delay until the house is sold and pay this bank 18%.

          The loan is not significant money to my wife and I. We are taking out the loan primarily to pressure her into letting us take over her finances going forward. It remains to be seen whether that will work. I was in favor of my wife and I paying off the credit card immediately after she was sued but my wife hoped we could use this ‘crisis’ as a way of getting her to sell the house and move out.

      • albatross11 says:

        Damn, that’s a hard situation, all around. Aging is nasty, but dementia is just evil. FWIW, you have my sympathy and my prayers.

  22. Plumber says:

    A year and a few days ago:

    johan_larson says:
    November 22, 2018 at 1:17 am
    You have a billion dollars. It’s yours free and clear. What are you going to do with it?

    (Let’s assume right up front that you invest the money in some sane way to turn money into slightly more money, and you set aside funds to secure your own retirement and your children’s futures, if any. That’s all fine. But it’s also not the point. The real question is how you are going to use a vast sum of money to make a difference, change the world, put a dent in the universe.)

    Same question, but instead of a “billion” it’s “Gates/Thiel/Ellison/Zuckerberg/McDuck scale money”.

    So?

    • Plumber says:

      FWIW my answer in 2018 was:

      Either fund and start a school for kids from low income zip codes in Berkeley and Oakland or build a neighborhood with hexagonal “blocks”, with porous streets of brick (like the one between Berkeley High School and “Provo park”), most of facades of the homes facing the street would be “Tudor-esque” with a garage underneath and a second story with “dormer windows”, so “one and a half stories” above the street level garages, but the backsides facing the neighbors would mostly be in early 20th century “Craftsman”/”Bungalow”, each home will be equipped with “Chicago Faucets” brand American made faucets and shower valves with the German made ceramic stems inside, “American Standard” brand “Champion 4” toilets, and each room with plumbing fixture with hot water shall have a separate small “Marathon” hot water heater which are fed upstream by a house “heat pump” water heater that is linked to the refrigerator, so the heat removed from the refrigerator is supplied to the main “pre-heater” water heater.

      Each home will have a a small yard that is level with the house’s main story above the garage and has low fences to separate their yards from their neighbors, and a large “common” yard surrounded by the homes which will have a children’s playground (effectively a neighborhood park) in it.

      On each block will be a building with a laundromat (with large machines for washing blankets and sleeping bags) and with a large meeting room to be used for neighborhood potlucks and as an election polling place.

      Nearby “combination power” boilers/generators running on natural gas will supply electricity and central hot water (similar to New York City, Scandinavia, and Soviet steam plants) to supplement rooftop solar panels (both electric and thermal).

      Within a ten minute walk of each home will be a places where one may get a corned beef sandwich (including “Reuben’s”), “Greek salads”, half pints and full pints of beer that tastes more like NewCastle brown ale than Anchor Steam or Coors, glasses of wine, orange juice, coffee, tea, and choclate “malts”, with both an inside “pub”, and outdoor “cafe” seating with a small childrens play area like the one at the “Westbrae Biergarten”, inside darts, boardgames, and a small library will be available, when the doors to the outside are closed the building will be well soundproofed and Jazz, bluegrass, and traditional Irish music will often be played.

      Within a twenty minute walk public libraries, bookstores, both “Ace” and “True Value” hardware stores, and a house of worship.

      Within a thirty minute walk Red wing shoes, as well as Brooks Brothers, and Carhartt clothiers, small dental, and medical clinics, an optometrist, bicycle shops, and auto repair shops.

      Within a forty five minute walk other houses of worship so that most larger sects churches, temples, etc cetera are relatively nearby, also very well soundproofed will be an “all-ages” rock ‘n roll club, and a 21 and over night club with jukeboxes and live bands, the predominant music shall be rock and “protopunk” similar to that performaned by Detroit and Australian bands of the 1960’s and ’70’s, and at least every week a loud, distorted and sloppy version of Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker or Little Richard songs shall be performed, as well as covers of “Kick Out the Jams” by the MC5, “TV Eye” by the Stooges, “Rocker” by AC/DC, “No Your Product” by the Saints, and “City Slang” by Sonics Rendezvous Band.

      I think I’m gonna need more than a billion.

      all that still seems good to me but my new “won the lottery” ambition:
      Go full ‘Charles Foster Kane” and restart The Oakland Tribune newspaper (@Nick your in mind for the “west coast Ross Douthat”, how much pay will that take?, @ECD your my Krugman, there will be no Thomas Friedman equivalent, but David can have a column if he wants, @brad can be NYC bureau chief, @EchoChaos the “view from the south”).

    • Erusian says:

      I think one of the biggest issues facing America today is a decline in entrepreneurship and increasing geographic and skill barriers to entrepreneurship. I believe this is a significant driver of many social ills and bad for the economy generally. I’d probably focus on that: advocating for high schools to start teaching business fundamentals, creating programs and summer schools, finding ways to try and invest in communities that could benefit from that sort of thing, advocating for political support, etc. Of course, you’d also have to focus on removal of effective criminal barriers that affect low income/minority/etc communities in a disparate way.

      PS: I’d actually say that’s rather different. If you have… let’s say $2 billion cash, then you’re just very, very, very wealthy. But if you go to a city and tell them to kill a tax bill or you’re leaving, the city is probably going to get indignant. It’s highly unlikely that you’re a major part of the economy unless you located your office in a small city. And I mean small: even a minor state capital like Boise can buy and sell you. Let’s say you’re getting 20% return on your $2 billion and you spend it all each year (which is generous). That’s $400 million. That’s 1.2% of the GDP of Boise, enough that your leaving wipes out less than a year’s worth of economic growth.

      On the other hand, if you’re Jeff Bezos, you have a hundred billion dollar net worth… but you also control a company that spends about three hundred billion dollars each year (through taking in revenue and then spending it to do business). Amazon is ten times larger than the economy of Boise. Bezos’ ability to direct these resources means he can make the city of New York, the wealthiest city in the world, court him for just a piece of that pie. Pulling Amazon HQ out of Seattle would hurt the city really badly and Seattle’s much larger than Boise.

      It’s not like vs like. I get that a billion dollars is a lot of money on an individual level. And don’t get me wrong, spending a few hundred million a year is a luxurious lifestyle. But it’s not really much on a social level. The smallest city in the US can outspend you. You’re not able to buy any significant company without investing almost all of your assets. Etc. If you just want power and influence, it literally makes more sense to go run to be the Mayor of South Bend than to luxuriate with your two billion. In contrast, being Mayor of South Bend is undoubtedly a step down for Bezos or Bloomberg, who will buy companies just to have them.

      Again, don’t get me wrong: being so wealthy you never have to work and having a few hundred thousand to throw at pet causes is nice work if you can get it. But you’re not anywhere near the level of influence of a Gates/Zuckerberg/etc.

      • Atlas says:

        I think one of the biggest issues facing America today is a decline in entrepreneurship and increasing geographic and skill barriers to entrepreneurship. I believe this is a significant driver of many social ills and bad for the economy generally.

        My apologies if you’ve commented on this before, but what do you think of Andrew Yang’s views about and efforts on this issue?

        • If the UBI and medicare for all policies could be funded with free money from nowhere, he’d benefit entrepreneurship. If you account for the fact that all that costs money, requiring taxes to go up on those successful entrepreneurs…

          FWIW I’m going to be voting for Yang or Tulsi for reasons of spite.

        • Erusian says:

          My apologies if you’ve commented on this before, but what do you think of Andrew Yang’s views about and efforts on this issue?

          Briefly looking at his campaign page, most of his stuff seems pretty standard for a Democrat except for UBI and VAT. In that sense, Joe Biden actually has a better vision for boosting entrepreneurship considering he’s promised to put more funding in the SBA, combat unnecessary licensing and zoning, and isn’t imposing a massive tax that will be a burden on smaller companies (the VAT). He’s also got a lot less unfunded spending (which would require higher taxes on everyone).

          As for Yang generally, his idea is basically that workers can be divided into high productivity (generally tech or financial or other white collars) and low productivity (everyone else, including any plumbers we might have around). And low productivity workers are losing for structural reasons they cannot overcome. Thus the primary solution is to redistribute these high productivity workers (VFA, focused on sending software engineers into Kentucky or wherever) or their gains (UBI, VAT, etc).

          My issue with this is that I think it has an overly pessimistic view of blue collar workers and their prospects. I agree when Andrew Yang says it’s unrealistic to expect a former truck driver to learn to code. I agree not everyone can have a nice, white collar job. I disagree that the former truck driver has no chance of finding a productive career doing anything. I’ve known plenty who’ve transitioned, some quite successfully. The idea that we’re even close to a world where labor is unnecessary or there are no jobs for unskilled labor is laughably wrong. But it is the vision of the glorious future from Silicon Valley, so I can understand why he’s bought into it. It’s just wrong.

          • Plumber says:

            @Erusian >

            “…his idea is basically that workers can be divided into high productivity (generally tech or financial or other white collars) and low productivity (everyone else, including any plumbers we might have around)…”

            That’s a fair cop lately, but in my defense I’ve had a cold this month!

    • I’d subsidize various experimental institutions, along with my own institution tasked with giving me ideas for new institutions to subsidize. Such as:

      1. Prediction markets.
      2. News accuracy bonds.
      3. Hanson’s health-life replacement for health insurance.

      I’d also conduct massive clinical trials. Get the leading dietitians to design diets based on their theories of what’s best. Then, enroll tens of the thousands of people in a program where they’ll get subsidies for the “good” foods recommended by the various diets. Measure the outcomes of the groups over a long time. And to top it off, have a prediction market on what the results of the experiment will be.

      Finally, moving into evil robot territory, I’d try to subsidize births as befits my belief that the world is underpopulated, perhaps selectively, but perhaps not if doing it selectively would endanger everything else I want to do. If it takes 100,000$ worth of subsidies to lead to a single extra birth, 1 billion dollars on subsidies would produce 10,000 extra births.

      Plus all the standard EA charity stuff, but that’s boring.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Get the leading dietitians to design diets based on their theories of what’s best. Then, enroll tens of the thousands of people in a program where they’ll get subsidies for the “good” foods recommended by the various diets. Measure the outcomes of the groups over a long time.

        A ton of diets vary their recommendations based on personal attributes. And smell-test wise this makes sense.

        Every group study needs measures to factor out subgroups and individuals (for those traits rare enough to be lucky to have one member in even a large study).

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The cause of diets failing relative to others *may* be driven overwhelmingly by non-nutritional factors (time and $ costs of food prep or willpower) so depending on whether the diet tries to *over control* for real life complicating factors by strictly analyzing the nutritional debate you may get kinda useless results.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Firstly, I do not need the money. We’ve been saving money every month using my social security check so I would not keep any of the money.

      The world doesn’t need the money because it cannot be any better than it is. It cannot be improved.

      I would just give it all to the US Government since they are deeply in debt and have given me a fine life.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Is a world where the US government is less deep in debt a better world, to you?

        How did the US government give you a fine life? Could the method they used to give you a fine life be used to give people outside the US a fine life with your billion dollars?

        • HowardHolmes says:

          @LesHapablap

          Is a world where the US government is less deep in debt a better world, to you?

          No

          How did the US government give you a fine life?

          I made a mistatement. I do not have a fine life. I was just trying to give some reason for that choice. There is no good reason for making the choice, but, nevertheless, a choice has to be made. I would just as soon never have the money so I do not have to mess with it.

          Could the method they used to give you a fine life be used to give people outside the US a fine life with your billion dollars?

          All people have equally fine (or unfine) lives. Nothing needs to be done about that.

    • I want to start an empirical research program that asks how to restart the Industrial Revolution from scratch. Then actually do it in practice. Buy some plots of land, hire some people that have decent knowledge on the subject and have them attempt to do it without any of our own technology. Record videos on each step and try to save those videos in a format that would somehow last the decline of civilization. Obviously write it all down in books too. Try to store multiple copies in safe places. Train more people. I may have to cheat by getting natural resources there ahead of time but definitely nothing more than that.

      • What decline in civilization? We may have a decline in moral standards or aesthetic taste or whatever. If IQ declines at 3 points per century indefinitely we may forget how to make semiconductors. But the basics of industrial civilization are pretty easy and we’d have lots of scrap metal to gather, old cars to analyze, ect. If we somehow lose everything we’d almost certainly lose the book you’d write as well.

        • I don’t think it’s easy as you think. After all, it took over ten thousand years after agriculture to do it. And we’d be at a disadvantage because the low hanging energy has already been plucked. If it was easy, then it wouldn’t take long to figure it out. But it’s a lot easier to say how simple it is when you’re looking at it theoretically.

          If we somehow lose everything we’d almost certainly lose the book you’d write as well.

          That’s why you have multiple copies.

          • It’s easy when you already know it’s possible. And when the tools to make the tools to make the tools are lying around next to you. What is progress if not the continual expansion of that pile of tools? We could lose 90% and recreate them in a generation using the remaining 10%. If we lose 99.99% of the tools, you’d need a lot of copies to assure we don’t lose the book as well.

          • How many people in the entire world know how to build a computer from scratch? Its not that much and that’s with boundless information at their disposal.

          • LesHapablap says:

            That reminds me of the I, Pencil essay. Nobody will know how to make that, and the operational knowledge won’t just be written somewhere.

            Think about your own job: if your company ceased to exist, how long would it take someone tasked with making your product to learn how to do it? Even with all the manuals, you typically need hands on training and knowledge has to get passed from person to person with supervision over time. We don’t really trust new people at our company until they’ve had a year or two of doing everything under a microscope.

          • Lambert says:

            You don’t need an individual to know how to make a computer.
            All you need is a handful of people to be able to figure out how within a few years.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I’m not sure how many different substances need to be mined and refined to make a computer, but I bet it is enough to take more than a few years.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure how many different substances need to be mined and refined to make a computer, but I bet it is enough to take more than a few years.

            Right, but what’s the scenario where we have to do that, as opposed to making computers out of copper scrounged from abandoned electrical wiring?

            If the idea is that civilization is going to collapse all the way back to the stone age, stay that way long enough for all the scrap copper to rust and erode away to nothingness, and then somebody digs up the postulated book and tries to rebuild, then sure. Or if we’re sending an interstellar colony ship that drops ten thousand naked savages on a virgin habitable planet.

            For most any plausible scenario, it’s going to be way more than a few years before “OK, now grab some of the copper you’ve got lying around, and see appendix F section 13 for the list of places copper is likely to be lying around” isn’t a perfectly good solution. And when it stops being a perfectly good solution, it will still be a marginally good solution during a transition period where the third generation of copper-scroungers are competing with the first generation of new copper miners.

            I’m not seeing the value of the purist version here, and the practical version doesn’t seem horribly impractical.

          • I’m not sure how many different substances need to be mined and refined to make a computer

            If you are willing to be satisfied with a simple and familiar form of analog computer, suitable for multiplication and exponentiation, one substance, wood, will do it, although some dark second substance will make the marks easier to read.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What if this program of yours leaches enough intelligent people who would have been working on other things, and freaks out the general population enough, that it brings about the very thing it seeks to avoid?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Per each billion: ~40,000 hybrid or ~ 30,000 electric cars for high-miles-per-year households with lower incomes.

      I’ll spend through a Gates/Bezos level of wealth and still be in the continental United States without having to lower the standards of selection, as their wealth could buy a new car of this type for only ~2-5% of US households.

      Positives: Large reduction in emissions; Increased rate of wealth building for lower income households.

      The actual plan has mechanisms in place to avoid most corruption.

    • blipnickels says:

      Start my own country, Nickletopia!

      First, I will identify 100,000 awesome people. Like, the best.

      Then, I will buy all of them citizenship in St Kitts and Nevis, all through the Sustainable Growth Fund. This will cost $25 billion.

      Since the population of St Kitts and Nevis is ~50,000 and there’s 100,000 new immigrants, I now have de-facto control of the government, which obviously gets renamed to Nickletopia!

      I hire someone competent from Singapore to run the day-to-day operations with instructions to turn it into a modern successful city-state, like Singapore but to my own specifications. He does have $25 billion in the Sustainable Growth Fund and lots of awesome people to work with.

      Viola, I’ve made my own utopia.

    • Another Throw says:

      According to Forbe’s 2018 list, #1 Jeff Bezos was worth $130B, and #10 Larry Page was worth $50B. Since you mentioned them by name, Gates was at $96B, and Ellison and Zuckerberg were both at $62B. Thiel was a measly $2.5B, so he is kind of an outlier on your list. Meanwhile, I am going to assume that McDuck is based on Gilded age industrial titans, who all make Bezos look like downright pedestrian in inflation adjusted terms.

      The rule of thumb is that you can expect to spend 3-5% (depending how conservative you are) of the value of your properly diversified principle per year in perpetuity. If you don’t care about making your kids as rich as you are (or the people you hire to run your foundation’s children having prestigious jobs running your foundation), you can manage 7% per year for a normal human lifetime and be very unlikely to run out before you croak. From this we can infer that Gates/Ellison/Zuckerberg/McDuck can each spend Thiel’s entire fortune (or more) per year, essentially forever.

      So we’ll take that as our baseline: $2.5b per year.

      The next step is to estimate how much things cost. For the sake of argument, consider NASA’s exploration programs. NASA has three mission categories: Discovery (which we will consider to be roughly less than $500m), New Frontiers (between $500m and a $1b), and Flagship (more—probably way more—than $1b). The exact numbers fluctuate based on how much money NASA has available for the programs. The Dawn spacecraft, that orbited both 4 Vesta and 1 Ceres in the main asteroid belt, was a Discovery mission. The New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto and whatever they ended up naming the second object it flew by in the Kupier Belt, was a New Frontiers mission. The James Webb Space Telescope is a Flagship mission (and is way over budget and years behind schedule) that hasn’t even launched yet.

      In a single year, we would be able to pay for 5 Dawn spacecraft. Or two and a half New Horizons spacecraft. Or about a third of a James Webb Space Telescope.

      These things don’t get built in a year though. They usually seem to take 5-10 years from drawing board to launch. So we can estimate that a Discover mission costs ~$100m per year, a New Frontiers mission ~$200m per year, and a Flagship mission costs, well, all over the map, but we’ll call it ~$500m.

      So for $2.5b per year you could fund ten Discover class missions, five New Frontiers class missions, and one Flagship mission for as long as you can find scientists that can convince your technical board to fund their pet projects. When NASA asks for mission proposals, they usually only get like 10 or 20. And they certainly don’t have that many missions in the pipeline. At the rate of expenditure we’re talking, you would hit the bottom of the barrel pretty fast.

      These prices are only approximate because they don’t count some of the cost drivers. Like breeding the Pu238 for your RTG’s, launch costs, or the operating costs after launch; moreover, I haven’t looked into it but I assume the facilities and infrastructure (like the Deep Space Network) are funded separately as well. But it gives us a pretty good indication that, if you wanted to, you could do some cool exploration.

      Like a sample return mission to the South Pole–Aitken basin on the moon, which has been proposed a few times as both a Discovery and New Horizons class mission. And I feel like I’ve talked about here before. But I think I recently heard that JAXA(?) has put this on their roadmap, so I might have to reassess my go-to “what cool things could a billionaire do” list.

      Hmm. I think the next thing I had on my list was a Uranus Orbiter, but it has been a while and I don’t remember the launch windows. Or when the equinoxes are. One of the reasons to go to Uranus is find out the implications of the fact that it is laying on its side and how that effects the atmosphere dynamics, especially around the equinoxes. I think it would have been better to start the program a decade or two ago so that it would have arrived by now. Oh well, there are still plenty of things to find out. Like why the North pole is so much brighter than the South, even when the South is pointed straight at the Sun. This means that the Southern solstice, which IIRC is a decade or two away, is still a great time to check out. Why it is much colder than our models expect it to be. What is up with its corkscrew shaped magnetic field. Or, really, what the heck is up with the ice giants in general, because we haven’t seen one up close since Voyager 2. I mean, seriously. Getting basically anything into Uranus orbit, even if you only bring along budget instruments, is still way better than what we have. Jupiter and Saturn get all the love when we know so very little about Uranus and Neptune.

      Of course, in order to go to Uranus, you need a power source. Since NASA isn’t going to share their Pu238, what with a global shortage because nobody is breeding it anymore, this would require alternatives. Am241 is the next best thing and abundant enough to be used commercially in smoke detectors, but the power density is low enough that you would really want to upgrade from a thermocouple based generator to, ideally, a sterling engine. But making one that’ll last reliably for a decade or two would be tricky. NASA pumped a couple hundred million into designing one in the early 2000’s but cancelled the project before it was finished (and finishing the project is actually on my list of things I think the Air Force is doing with the X-37).

      Finishing the project is also well within the kind of budget we’re talking about here. So do that. Then sell them to all the space agencies that are looking for alternatives to Pu238 based RTGs. Hell, if you’re patient, you might even end up in the green.

      Anyway, the point is, do cool stuff. Preferably by choosing the low hanging fruit that doesn’t get a lot of love, for example because the planet isn’t photogenic enough. Since there probably isn’t enough cool stuff without getting too far down the cost benefit curve, blow the rest on the usual sort of mamby pamby philanthropy so you don’t look like a jerk.

      • Ketil says:

        According to Forbe’s 2018 list, #1 Jeff Bezos was worth $130B […] McDuck is based on Gilded age industrial titans, who all make Bezos look like downright pedestrian

        Completely mal apropos: I heard a speech by Milton Friedman, citing an anecdote about Rockefeller. Allegedly, he would ask people criticizing his wealth and who wanted it redistributed if they would like to have their share right away? And then hand them some trivial amount, a dime or so.

        Now, 130 billion is $400 for each American, but perhaps he was dividing by the world population?

        According to Wikipedia, Rockefeller was worth $340B in today’s currency, so close to $3000 per American in 1937. Even if he could give out such amounts, they would surely not be seen as trifling?

        • AG says:

          The musical “The Pajama Game” has a relevant song:

          Seven and a half cents doesn’t buy a hell of a lot,
          Seven and a half cents doesn’t mean a thing!
          But give it to me every hour,
          Forty hours every week,
          And that’s enough for me to be living like a king!

          (The musical is about pajama factory workers agitating for a raise. The conflict is resolved when they discover that the factory owner put the raise on the books but was pocketing the cash, and confront him about that corruption. The analogous situation to modern day is the money that could be going to a raise, such as a tax windfall, going on the books as profit margin or stock buybacks instead.)

        • In the version of the anecdote I remember, the amount was a dime. The population was about a hundred million at the time, so that would imply that Rockefeller’s wealth was ten million.

          The Wikipedia article says that by the end of the 1870’s Rockefeller had become a millionaire and that he was worth 900 million in 1913. I don’t know when the anecdote is supposed to have happened.

    • -Put more funding into nuclear fusion research
      -Put funding into a project to allow 3D printers to print electronic components
      -Give AI researchers more money, as well as funding AI safety research
      -Try to use funds to convince the UK government to create a Ministry of Automation to try and speed up progress in lights out manufacturing
      -Use the money in propaganda promoting the basic income
      -Put some money into the seasteading institute

    • albatross11 says:

      I think in that situation I would feel obliged to go full Bill Gates and devote my time and attention and brainpower to being effective at spending my money. Ensuring comfort for my family is a drop in the bucket, so what’s left is either:

      a. Trying to do some kind large-scale effective altruism.

      b. Trying to do some kind of large-scale investment in startups with a partly altruistic goal.

      I think I would not be much inclined to spend my money on political / ideological causes. I obviously have my own strong opinions on policy, but I feel like the lesson of many decades of smart people producing political movements is that even really smart, well-intentioned people often support horrible stuff (Soviet-style socialism, coercive eugenics programs, coercive zero population growth, campaigning against the latest moral panic/menace, etc.).

      If I were doing (a), I’d probably be interested in funding research by capable people that was a high-risk, high-reward longshot–it seems like that stuff is underproduced in our current system of grant funding and industrial research. If I were doing (b), I’m not sure I could do any better than making some kind of connection with the Y combinator folks and helping fund some of their most promising startups. (I wouldn’t be the only billionaire involved, but with my technical background plus a billion dollars, I’d certainly be able to get in the door.) And it’s entirely possible that the best value in billionaire philanthropy might by handing over $BIGNUM to the Gates Foundation.

  23. proyas says:

    I’m a fan of nuclear power and think expanding it is the best way to mitigate global warming. Could you guys help me to “steelman” the anti-nuclear power arguments? 

    What I’ve got so far: 

    It is true that the cost of nuclear power in the U.S. is artificially high thanks to the public’s partly irrational fear of it, and to the burdensome regulations and approval processes that have been enacted concomitantly. While people shouldn’t think like that and it would be great to have a magic wand we could wave to make 320 million people more clearheaded on this issue, that’s not how the world works, and we should focus on crafting a national energy policy that can be enacted given the existing constraints (social, cultural, political, and financial). Given that, we should forget about anything better than a marginal expansion of nuclear power (and in fact expect it to probably decline) and use our time and energy bringing about whatever the second-best alternative is. 

    The U.S. has 98 nuclear reactors, which supply 20% of the country’s electricity. Getting that figure up to 80% (which is my admittedly vague “ideal share”) would thus require the construction of about 300 new nuclear reactors. Even under ideal conditions, this would be a colossally expensive, multi-decade process that would require a pooling of national resources. For the same time and expense, we could massive expand solar and wind power and integrate massive battery backups into the national power grid to produce the same amount of new electricity as the 300 nuclear reactors would have, and the solar/wind/battery megaproject would be much easier to get public and government buy-in for. 

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Even with waste burning reactors you still generate relatively long-lived (>twice the age of the US) radioactive waste which could be used to catastrophically salt the ground hundreds of years from now during the breakup of various countries.

      At least with global climate change all were looking at is losing some coastal land, enhanced desertification in areas, and etc….

      Salt the ground and humanity is very much screwed, along with huge swathes of the biosphere.

      • bean says:

        Salting the earth with radioactive waste seems easier said then done. It’s, well, radioactive, and so dispersing it to a level capable of having serious biological effects is going to mean handling it when it’s concentrated to many, many times that level. It seems a lot more likely to end with a few small contaminated areas and a bunch of contaminated people who were stupid enough to do this.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Would it work if you just shoot a nuclear warhead at the site where lots of waste is already stored?

          • Eric Rall says:

            A few problems with that:

            1. If you have a nuclear warhead and the means to deliver it, there are lots and lots of much better targets for it than a nuclear waste storage facility.

            2. Long-term waste storage facilities tend to be buried deep in very stable rock. You’ll need at least two of a very big nuke, a very accurate delivery system, and a “bunker buster” warhead capable of punching through a fair amount of dirt, rock, and concrete.

            2b. The targeting/yield/penetration combo you need to scatter it any significant distance is really hard. You need to either get under it so the blast throws it high up in the air, or you need to vaporize it so it joins the fallout from the nuke itself. And if your nuke is going off deep underground, it needs to be big enough that the dirt/rock/concrete above the nuke doesn’t immediately bury most of your would-be fallout.

            3. Long-term storage sites tend to be set up in the middle of nowhere, so most of the earth you’re going to salt is already unused remote wilderness.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            No objections to the first point, but:

            2. Is it really that hard? The third-worst nuclear catastrophe in history occured in a waste storage and the explosion power is estimated at just 70-80t of tnt equivalent and that was enough to destroy the reservoir and contaminate large swaths of land. Granted, the explosion was inside the tank as opposed to in its general area, but it’s 3 orders of magnitude lower than a typical fission warhead. The Wikipedia page for the same facility says it’s about 1m of concrete and 2m of ground – doesn’t sound like a very hard target for nukes as I understand, although you’ll probably need larg-ish yield or good guidance to be certain. Plus there’s many open reservoirs (essentially radioactive lakes) with lower concentrations but also with large surface area and no protection whatsoever. And why do you need to vaporize the content? Won’t small pulverized particles be distributed through the same process as nuclear waste from the explosion itself, and the dust prophesied to cause nuclear winter? Mushroom cloud something something low pressure high altitudes something?

            3. That depends on the area you expect to cover I guess? My (very simplistic) logic is: Chernobyl was said to have a potential to render good part of Europe uninhabitable. A site where nuclear waste was accumulated through many reactor refueling cycles and from many reactors will most likely have much more radioactive material in it than a single reactor, and a purpose-built warhead will have much higher yield than a reactor accidentally going off. And once we’re talking half-Europe worth of salted land, it doesn’t matter much where it is centered.

          • Eric Rall says:

            2. I was assuming a long-term underground storage facility like Yucca Mountain or WIPP. Kyshtym looks like it was an industrial accident involving minimally-protected on-site storage of large quantities of nuclear waste, which is considerably easier to blow up. If there are other facilities like Kyshtym still in operations, then yes, anyone who could hit it would a nuke would produce nastier fallout than the nuke alone.

            On-site storage of spent fuel rods is still widely used for commercial reactors, but even that is under much safer and better-protected conditions (a passive pool of water for coolant, inside the same heavy concrete dome structure that’s there to contain worst-case core accidents) than it sounds like obtained at Kyshtym. The quantities are also probably far less, too, since Kyshtym was a centralized reprocessing site and would be handling a lot more waste than a nuclear plant storing its own spent fuel. And the process of reprocessing plutonium out of spent fuel rods also concentrates the nastiest fission products (*), which is what I’m guessing is what blew up Kyshtym.

            (*) This can be a feature as well as a bug: part of the plan for Yucca Mountain was to reprocess the spent fuel rods and ship the nastiest stuff to Yucca Mountain while the plutonium and unused uranium could be recycled.

            3. As you said, it depends on the area you expect to cover. I’d be wary about using worst-case assessments of how bad Chernobyl could have gotten as your benchmark here, though: a key feature of what made Chernobyl so nasty was that the core was still undergoing fission at power-producing levels for a while after the accident.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            You’re right those look significantly more nukes-proof. I’m pretty sure Mayak (the plant where the disaster actually happened) still operates in more or less the same mode today though, with only marginal increase of security and maybe decrease in throughput. Guess I just automatically assumed this is the default mode of operation for such facilities because I was born and grown up in said Kyshtym (which doesn’t really have anything to do with the disaster or the plant except for being the nearest non-closed city).

    • Eric Rall says:

      Likewise a fan of fission power, but I’d also add that the costs of nuclear power are heavily front-loaded, mostly consisting of planning, permitting, and construction costs and associated financing expenses.

      Because of this, fission’s economic viability depends on assumptions about wholesale electricity price. If you think prices are likely to stay stable or go up, there’s a decent case for fission. But solar prices have been trending downwards, with additional cost-improving technologies in the pipeline, and there’s always a chance that fusion researchers will finally manage to pull a rabbit out of their hat (and there are reasons to hope they will). If some combination of solar+fusion brings electricity prices down substantially 10-20 years down the road, then your 300 new fission plants just became hideously-expensive white elephants. If you think this scenario is likely, then that makes a case for natual gas over fission for the intervening years.

    • johan_larson says:

      I don’t have a comprehensive argument, but one bit I’ve heard that makes sense to me, is that nuclear power plants, while in typical use quite safe, have really horrendous worst-case scenarios with probabilities that are difficult to estimate accurately. This is so much the case, that if you tried to sell this risk on the commercial market, you would basically find no takers at all. This means that nuclear power plants require subsidy by someone, either explicitly by the state in which they are based or implicitly by the surrounding population which must accept uncovered risks of uncertain value. Neither of these is welcomed by libertarians, and accordingly principled libertarians should not support nuclear power in its present form.

      I’m not a libertarian — at best I have libertarian leanings — but I would be interested to hear an actual libertarian’s take on this argument.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        It is true that certain businesses are more subject to the risk that people will falsely accuse them of harm and bankrupt them, whereas other businesses, like coal, will just not pay for the damage that they do.

        Do not be governed by lies.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nuclear power safety depends on both the operators and the regulators being competent. Assuming both are competent, my (not an expert!) understanding is that they’re quite safe.

        Let’s take the Fukashima disaster as our baseline for what a nuclear accident looks like in first-world conditions. The biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan happened, and triggered a tsunami that at its top was around 40 meters high(!). At the nuclear plant, it was about 15m high. As I understand it, the reactors need constant cooling even when shut down. Normally, power for the cooling system comes from the reactor. The backup is to draw from grid power. The second backup is to use local diesel generators to keep the cooling pumps working. The earthquake and tsunami knocked out power lines to the plant, so the grid wasn’t available, and also the tsunami flooded the place where the diesel generartors were, so they shut down.

        The result was some radioactive materials being released, and some not-precisely-known number of additional cancer cases that will be caused by this over the years. The Wikipedia article says that the predicted extra cancer cases are 1500-1800. That’s about half the number of traffic fatalities per year in Japan, and it’s for a once-in-a-generation godawful nuclear disaster.

        So let’s imagine the cost of going nuclear is that we get one similar-sized disaster every 20 years. (We’ll have more plants, but most of them will be in more seismically stable places, and they’ll have better technology.). 2000 extra deaths/20 years means an extra 10 deaths a year. Assuming one Fukashima per generation, we get killer-chair-level deaths.

        Now, this assumes competence. USSR-level incompetence and dishonesty can lead to much bigger and more common disasters. So if you think the US is likely to decline to USSR levels of incompetence/dishonesty, you can imagine a Chernobyl every generation, and maybe that means you don’t want to build nuclear plants.

        • Rob K says:

          @albatross

          The result was some radioactive materials being released, and some not-precisely-known number of additional cancer cases that will be caused by this over the years.

          Quick googling suggests that the Fukushima disaster initially displaced north of 150,000 people, and that 50,000 of those are still displaced due to their homes being in zones with too much radioactive contamination for them to return yet.

          I tend to think that nuclear is safer than its skeptics fear, but more expensive than its advocates acknowledge. This mostly applies to construction stuff, but I see this treatment of the Fukushima disaster somewhat regularly and it strikes me as very dishonest. A disaster that renders 50,000 people’s homes unusable for a decade is both massively economically costly and a huge disruption to society.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The evacuation was done by the government, not by the radiation. The whole discussion is about whether the people, including governments, treat nuclear dangers appropriately.

            According to this, the standard for evacuation and resettlement was a radiation level of 20mSv/yr. This seems like a reasonable threshold to me, but I have read conflicting accounts of whether that is really the policy, and even how exposure is determined. Under the standard of 8 hours a day outside, that corresponds to 6µSv/h, but a lot of sources imply a threshold of 2µSv/h, amounting to idiotic assumption of 24 hours per day outside.

            For example, I read these maps as saying that most of Iitate was below 20mSv/y by mid 2012 and so should have been resettled then, but instead in 2012 it was merely declared that it would eventually be resettled, probably on the grounds that it was 50mSv/y. Actual resettlement was not allowed until 2017, at which point everyone had given up.

            The 20 km circle about the nuclear plant was mainly not contaminated and that should have been clear within a month, but it took a year to allow returns.

            I doubt that more than 1% of this land is now worse than Ramsar in Iran. I wouldn’t want to move there, but it wasn’t worth disrupting people’s lives. I’m skeptical that much land was ever worse than Ramsar. My best guess is that it would have been better if no one had been evacuated at all.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Under the standard of 8 hours a day outside, that corresponds to 6µSv/h, but a lot of sources imply a threshold of 2µSv/h, amounting to idiotic assumption of 24 hours per day outside.

            Do most houses provide much radiation shielding? If the proportion shielded varies low enough, then rounding down to 0 as a safety factor isn’t inherently unreasonable.

            Also, how evenly distributed is the radiation likely to be? You get additional safety factors if you have to assume there will be pockets up to 2-3x the measurement for the area. Is this something they assess on a house-by-house basis?

            (Not an expert so could very well be neither of these apply)

          • John Schilling says:

            Do most houses provide much radiation shielding?

            Yes. A single-story wood frame house with no basement will typically have a protection factor of 2-3, and protection increases rapidly for more substantial forms of construction – e.g. a factor of twenty for a third-floor apartment in a five-story building. It isn’t necessary that the walls be impermeable to radiation; much of the effect comes from distance and isolation. Fallout on the ground you are walking on, is three feet from center of mass and getting tracked on your shoes wherever you go. Fallout on the roof of that simple wood-frame house is seven feet from center of mass, and you’ll never touch it.

            If people are conservatively assumed to spend eight hours a day outside, it’s a reasonable approximation to say that all of their effective radiation exposure will be in that period.

          • woah77 says:

            I’d like to propose Chernobyl as the site of the first acropolis where people will spend less than an hour a day outside, thereby making their radiation exposure entirely moot compared to background and repopulation at higher densities than before entirely plausible. Although I have to wonder: Outside of a handful of professions, how many people actually spend even 4 hours a day outside? I imagine that cars provide similar, if not quite as effective, shielding as houses, and that most people work indoors for much of the day, making the more realistic amount of time much less.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Fukushima is also interesting because, while in a first world country, was an old plant still functioning due to blatant “corruption and greed”. That’s both good and bad news: newer designs and regulations should ensure a much better track record, but on the other hand if Japan couldn’t ensure rule following…

          (well, to be perfectly honest, Japan does have a pretty special relationship between government and big business)

          • DeWitt says:

            You underestimate the capacity of Japan to have very real institutional problems, I think.

          • proyas says:

            I was friends with a guy who spent his career working on nuclear safety for the U.S. federal government. He went to many international conferences and knew professional counterparts in other countries. He said that, among the Western countries, Japan had the worst safety culture, and he wasn’t surprised when the Fukushima meltdown happened. He also said that the French and Germans had the strictest safety culture, and the U.S. was between Europe and Japan. My friend said that he couldn’t believe how sleazy and dishonest some of the private American nuclear power operators were.

            He told me that the next big nuclear accident would probably happen in China thanks to their poor safety protocols and rapid expansion of nuclear reactors.

          • albatross11 says:

            FWIW, I know a retired engineer who worked on the Yucca Mountain waste dump project. He was extremely skeptical about the safety claims being made for the dump, and expected waste to leak out.

          • Garrett says:

            Japan had the worst safety culture

            How is that possible, or what makes that so?
            I’m certainly not a sociologist or knowledgeable about Japan but going by stereotypes, if there was going to be a first-world nation with employees who would be willing to go the extra mile to fill out what they believed to be unnecessary safety paperwork, Japan would be my pick. (I’d pick Germany for self-rationalizing the value of the paperwork).

          • Nick says:

            @Garrett
            I wondered about that, too. I remember reading in Malcolm Gladwell that Korea had the most plane crashes because junior pilots were unwilling to speak up and correct mistakes by senior pilots. The cultural expectation of deference to superiors, in other words, won out. Gladwell is insistent (as that article points out) that this doesn’t necessarily generalize to other cultures or even to other airlines, but I wonder if something similar isn’t going on?

            (This hinges, of course, on whether Gladwell was right at all. Personally, I haven’t seen any pushback against his theory since reading about it.)

          • Cliff says:

            He was extremely skeptical about the safety claims being made for the dump, and expected waste to leak out.

            What? How would it leak out?

        • cassander says:

          Fukashima was an older design that was still in operation largely because new designs are almost impossible to get built. allow more construction of new reactors and there won’t be nearly as much pressure to keep old ones around forever.

          • achenx says:

            A plant in Virginia, the North Anna Nuclear Station, was built in the late 70s with two reactors. In 2003 Dominion Power submitted an application for a permit to build a third reactor based on a new design. In 2017 (a mere 14 years later), the NRC approved the plan. Dominion decided though that despite the large amounts of money spent on the plan to this point, it was not cost-effective to start construction at this time, so no progress continues to be made. So there’s room for kudos all around, really.

            The approval is good for twenty years though, so there remains a possibility that the reactor will go ahead at some point.

    • cassander says:

      this would be a colossally expensive, multi-decade process that would require a pooling of national resources.

      france did it in the 70s in about a decade, without breaking the bank.

      For the same time and expense, we could massive expand solar and wind power and integrate massive battery backups into the national power grid to produce the same amount of new electricity as the 300 nuclear reactors would have, and the solar/wind/battery megaproject would be much easier to get public and government buy-in for.

      Why would you assume this? nuclear reactors are a well understood technology with an established industrial base already capable of building reactors on the scale needed. to build an equivalent amount of solar/wind/battery power would require the development of new and untested technologies, the massive scaling up of existing technologies, and a complete rebuild of the electric grid to accommodate intermittent power. that is a vastly riskier and more expensive prospect, and it might not work at all, while the nuclear option is certain.

      • proyas says:

        france did it in the 70s in about a decade, without breaking the bank.

        Steelman response: The institutional and cultural factors that allowed France to achieve this in the 1970s don’t exist in the U.S. today, nor are they likely to come into existence for the foreseeable future.

        • cassander says:

          if they don’t exist to pull off nuclear, which is a well understood problem, then they definitely don’t exist to pull off renewables.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The problem w/ this steelman and variants of it are that it’s a bit circular. It’s unpopular because Its inefficient, it’s inefficient because it’s unpopular.

          Billions were spent on renewables to make them competitive with nuclear but there are still structural issues with them that aren’t necessarily improved by cheaper production methods.

          At the very least anti-nuclear culture shouldn’t be permitted to feed on itself because a country like China is probably willing to crack the same kinds of eggs we did with solar/wind to make more modern nuclear plants cost-effective again.

    • MrApophenia says:

      It is true that the cost of nuclear power in the U.S. is artificially high thanks to the public’s partly irrational fear of it, and to the burdensome regulations and approval processes that have been enacted concomitantly.

      I’ve told this story a few times on here, but I’ll throw a quick summary out again –

      I grew up near what happened the last time the U.S. government gave your suggestion a try. In 1961 in Western New York, the Atomic Energy Commission granted Nuclear Fuel Services the first permit for a private company to run a nuclear waste recovery and disposal plant, instead of them being run solely by the government.

      They started operation in 1965, and continued operation until 1972, when it was discovered that the methods they were using were causing the contamination of the groundwater of nearby towns with radioactive waste. The government came and explained that they expected them to actually dispose of the nuclear waste they received safely, instead of just digging a 20-foot deep ditch and dumping it in there, which is what they were doing. They were also reprocessing spent fuel rods for reuse by grinding them on machinery in open air, coating the floors, ceilings, walls, and employees with finely ground radioactive powder.

      Upon receiving the news that they had to actually pay attention to safety and contamination of the surrounding countryside, Nuclear Fuel Services (now owned by Getty Oil) promptly did the math, realized that disposing of waste in a way that didn’t poison the locals was far too expensive to actually make a profit, and peaced out. They left the plant exactly as it was – hugely contaminated with radioactive waste continuing to seep into the local water supply.

      The government had been in the process of licensing two more plants with other companies to do this; after this they cancelled those projects and have not allowed a private company into this business again.

      In 1980, the federal government created the West Valley Demonstration Project. They gave it that name because it was intended to be a demonstration of how cheaply and easily the government could clean up a mess like this. It turned out to be a pretty good demonstration of just that – the most recent estimates are that they will still be working on making the site safe for at least the next 40 years, at a cost in billions of dollars. (On the plus side, hey, job creation! I’ve had several family members get either temporary or full time jobs working on the cleanup project over the years.)

      So, long story short, I am somewhat skeptical of the idea that we can solve our country’s energy problems if we just got rid of all those unnecessary nuclear regulations.

      • proyas says:

        This is one case, and it doesn’t prove that the U.S. nuclear industry isn’t overregulated. Similarly, the fact that, 15 years ago, GM made defective cars that would crash and kill people does not make the case for a government takeover of all car manufacturing.

    • blipnickels says:

      For the same time and expense, we could massive expand solar and wind power and integrate massive battery backups into the national power grid to produce the same amount of new electricity as the 300 nuclear reactors would have, and the solar/wind/battery megaproject would be much easier to get public and government buy-in for.

      This, basically.

      I’m not expert but the current cost of solar power appears to be well below the cost of nuclear and has been falling significantly over the past 10 years. Energy storage still needs to be resolved, and that’s a big issue, but nuclear has radioactive waste and really bad low-probability risks.

      That’s not to say they nuclear and solar couldn’t work together, they can, or nuclear wasn’t a good idea in the past, it probably was, but assuming opportunity cost is a thing, there’s very few situations where anyone would invest money in more expensive, more complicated, and much scarier nuclear power plants rather than solar power.

      Why would you every build a nuclear power plant instead of a solar one? What advantages are there?

      • cassander says:

        >I’m not expert but the current cost of solar power appears to be well below the cost of nuclear an

        that chart puts the cost of solar at substantially more than nuclear, and it’s a projection, not a actual figure, and it doesn’t include the fact that you need a lot more than 1MW of solar to replace 1MW of nuclear because the nuclear plan runs at night and in the rain.

        but nuclear has radioactive waste and really bad low-probability risks.

        It really doesn’t. Nuclear waste is just not that large a problem.

        Why would you every build a nuclear power plant instead of a solar one? What advantages are there?

        nuclear is known to work well today, it requires no fundamentally new technology, is already produced at scale, doesn’t require a massive scale up of existing industry, and works at night and in the rain.

        • blipnickels says:

          that chart puts the cost of solar at substantially more than nuclear

          Am I bad at reading?

          On the Projected LCOE for 2022, sorting by Weighted Average, I get:
          Solar PV at 73.7
          Advanced Nuclear at 96.2.

          On the others, Solar PV * Utility looks consistently cheaper than nuclear while residential solar is more expensive. I just assumed the Solar PV * Utility ones were the actual, power plant type ones.

          • cassander says:

            I was looking at this chart, not the table youmention, which has very different answers. but even your table has a very wide range for solar PV, which makes me skeptical. the cost of a nuclear grid is known, that of a solar grid is not.

          • Ketil says:

            The cost of nuclear is almost entirely upfront costs (~$10B for 1.6 GWe EPR including overruns, less than half for the Chinese EPR, if memory serves), the plant then runs for 60-80 years with very low operational cost.

            This means cost is almost entirely a question of interest rate, at 5% nuclear is expensive, at 3% it is cheap.

            Note that Hinkley Point C is built with a strike price of £90/MWh for 30 years, this is higher than wind and (probably) solar, but the plant will keep producing energy for “free” for twice as long.

            (Too lazy to check my sources one more time, but pretty sure it’s correct)

          • Eric Rall says:

            “Levelized cost” is only adjusts for the shape of the cost structure over time, allowing comparison between types of plants where up-front capital costs dominate (fission, solar, wind, hydro) and those where construction is relatively cheap but there’s a more expensive stream of fuel and maintenance costs over the life of the plant (coal, oil, gas). Levelized cost applies a discount rate to long-term costs or an interest rate to up-front costs to produce a single number that attempts to account for the time value of money. Ketil is absolutely right that nuclear is far more appealing economically at lower interest rates.

            Capacity factor must be adjusted for separately. No form of power generation produces its full theoretical output of electricity continuously. Fission comes pretty close, but even that needs to be turned off for a bit every year or two for refueling and maintenance. Solar produces its full theoretical output at noon on a clear sunny day in the tropics, but the further you get from that, the less it yields. In practice, CF for nuclear is 90+%, while Solar averages around 25%.

            And then there’s the question of when you get more or less energy. For solar and wind, you’re at the mercy of nature for when you get power and when you don’t. Fission has the opposite problem: if you don’t need the full output of a fission plant right now, it takes time to turn it down, and you can’t turn it down all that much without turning it off completely. And because of a quirk of fission products and neutron absorption (Xenon Poisoning), once you shut off a nuclear reactor, you can’t turn it back on for a couple days (*). Natural gas and hydro are the most flexible power sources in terms of being able to turn them up and down to adjust for demand: Gas and Hydro capacity factors are misleadingly low (50-60%) compared to nuclear specifically because utilities turn them down when there’s enough electricity from other sources that we have less control over.

          • Rob K says:

            @Eric Rall

            Capacity factor must be adjusted for separately.

            This is incorrect. This is levelized cost per MWh as calculated by the EIA. The figures from the most recent annual energy outlook can be found here.

            The cost projection figures in this edition of the AEO show a weighted average LCOE for solar PV of $48/MWh. Unweighted (which is to say, not accounting for the fact that the southwest will build more solar then northern new england) the figure is $60/MWh. They don’t have a weighted figure for nuclear because none is projected to be built, but they’re showing an average LCOE of $77.5/MWh and a minimum of $75.1. I don’t see full regional tables in there, but it seems pretty clear that solar is substantially cheaper than nuclear, before dealing with storage costs, across most of the country (cheapest region is $40.3/MWh).

          • Eric Rall says:

            This is incorrect. This is levelized cost per MWh as calculated by the EIA.

            I stand corrected on that point at least. I’ve previously seen levelized costs used as I described, but your link does describe at least an attempt to adjust for utilization as well. And their capacity factors (page 8) are slightly more favorable for wind and solar and less favorable to nuclear than figures I’ve seen elsewhere, but not by enough for me to call foul on them.

            That just leaves the question of control over the load, which your link appears to describe using the terms “dispatchable” and “non-dispatchable” technologies. They classify Nuclear as dispatchable and Solar as non-dispatchable.

            Also note that that report is looking specifically at “Advanced Nuclear”, which they don’t appear to define, but I expect they mean Generation III designs (as opposed to more conventional Generation II+ designs). If I’m correct, that’s close to the worst case from a cost perspective for new nuclear capacity. But not an indefensible choice, taking into account public safety concerns and associated political and regulatory factors.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        A thought about nuclear waste that’s been bugging me….

        Is nuclear waste a good argument against nuclear power, since we have to deal with nuclear waste, anyway? Doubling the amount of waste won’t double the contaminated area after all, since radiation energy is reduced by 1/r^2.
        And we already have lots of sites that are irredeemably contaminated by nuclear waste, like Karatschi lake.
        Why isn’t nuclear waste just dumped into areas that is highly contaminated already?
        But I’ve never seen this thought discussed at all.
        So I must be badly mistaken 🙁

        • Protagoras says:

          No, you are probably not badly mistaken. Standards for the amount of radiation we are willing to put up with at nuclear waste sites are set at a tiny fraction of the levels of radiation that occurs naturally in some places, as well as levels produced by other sources besides nuclear power (for example, coal contains sufficient trace radioactive elements that coal-burning plants release quite substantial amounts of radiation into the atmosphere). Your proposal may not be the best, but a more realistic appraisal of the actual risks involved would put some much more economical waste handling options on the table.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil, yet pipeline spills occur, and pipelines are unacceptable for the transport of nuclear waste.

          So the only means of transporting this new waste to already contaminated areas uses mechanisms more prone to failure (and thus contaminating uncontaminated areas and waterways).

          Many of these contaminated sites can leak to their surroundings (e.g. groundwater, migratory animals). Adding more waste would just lead to more waste leaking (like an overflowing cup).

          • John Schilling says:

            Pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil,

            Citation needed. Preferably normalized for scale – the safest way to transport something that must be transported in literal gigaton quantities, is not going to compare favorably with the safest way to transport something that is produced at hundreds-of-tons-per-year levels.

          • Cliff says:

            Pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil, yet pipeline spills occur, and pipelines are unacceptable for the transport of nuclear waste.

            Are you sure? I think it is pretty much accepted that pipelines will leak now and then but since the costs of such leaks are so small (relatively) it’s no big deal. How is radioactive waste transported now? Since the volume is much smaller, I’m sure there is a much better way than pipelines.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Highlevel waste is mostly not transported at all. First it goes into cooling ponds, then eventurally it is loaded into canisters, and then the canister is left in place. Said canisters can be, and sometimes are moved (they are hilariously indestructible) but mostly there is no point. Its not like a nuclear plant is going to run out of back-lot to put them on, and as long as it is in operation, said back lot is an extremely secure place to put them.

    • ana53294 says:

      I’m quite skeptical on the argument that the current high cost of nuclear energy is because of (completely unnecessary) nuclear-related regulatory oversight.

      Regulatory oversight is high for everything now. In Spain, we have a nuclear station that never became a station. The ugly concrete monster that was built (it had almost everything but the reactors) was abandoned, and now they’re considering converting it into a gas power plant. Turns out the regulatory hurdles you have to jump through to get running water in the scale a gas-powered station are really expensive.

      When nuclear energy skeptics point at Chernobyl, we get told that *that* was because of a completely fucked up system, lack of proper security protocols, and a government that lied and covered it up. But somehow we won’t get these things to happen now. But when you point out that the security you need to make sure another Chernobyl doesn’t happen makes nuclear energy impractical, somehow it’s because of excessive legislation.

      And I don’t trust China more than the USSR. In my family, I have people who were in the places the nuclear cloud spread, and they weren’t told about that then. How can you trust that the Chinese government wouldn’t try to cover up such an event? How can we trust that our future government won’t be as corrupt and bad as the USSR? Nuclear stations have a very long life, after all; governments will change, laws will change, oversight will change, and the nuclear station will remain there.

      Nuclear stations are too long term, nuclear waste is also too long term, and our governments seem completely unable to foresee completely predictable events that will happen in the next 10 years. Why should I trust the government 40 years from now to handle the nuclear station near my home responsibly?

      • Cliff says:

        Keep in mind that Chernobyl to date has killed well under 100 people. It is assumed there are a few thousand people who will eventually die earlier than they would have due to radiation exposure making cancer come early. The health problems caused by people believing (incorrectly) they were exposed to nuclear fallout and being scared/anxious greatly exceed the health problems caused by actual fallout. In a utilitarian sense, it may have been better that your family was not informed of their exposure.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Keep in mind that Chernobyl to date has killed well under 100 people.

          These are official estimates that include only people who died of acute radiation poisoning, basically people whose skin fell off until they died within a couple weeks. Do you trust the Soviet government to provide reasonably accurate death toll estimates for its most embarassing failure?

          And in addition to the loss of human life and health, consider the property damage. Pripyat, a city of 50,000 people, became completely uninhabitable, destroyed for all practical purposes, lots of surrounding farmland also became unusable.

          And Chernobyl was in a low-population density area, and they were lucky that the wind didn’t blow towards Kiev. Think something like that happening close to a population center.

          • Cliff says:

            These are official estimates that include only people who died of acute radiation poisoning, basically people whose skin fell off until they died within a couple weeks. Do you trust the Soviet government to provide reasonably accurate death toll estimates for its most embarassing failure?

            No, that’s wrong. My number is the official best estimate of the scientific community and is NOT limited to acute radiation poisoning. Check Wikipedia.

          • MrApophenia says:

            There’s also at least a halfway serious argument that Chernobyl could have very easily gone far, far worse than it did if the Russians hadn’t gotten it contained as well as they did. The worst case scenarios are basically “Europe is no longer inhabitable.” That possibility is certainly debatable but it’s not complete wack-job nonsense either – there are people who know a hell of a lot about this who really do argue that could have happened if the meltdown had continued a bit longer.

          • Cliff says:

            What’s the basis for that? I know they say that in the Chernobyl mini-series but that series in general tended to exaggerate these things. As far as I can tell the Soviets didn’t do a good job of containing it at all, basically they just let it burn itself out. Now they did put into place something to prevent a possible steam explosion if the core melted through the basement into the bubbler pool, but that turned out to be unnecessary.

            I’m not saying it’s impossible for it to have been worse or that it was great, but it is the worst disaster in the history of nuclear power, enabled by the USSR refusing to ask for help from anyone or even tell anyone what was happening and by horrific bureaucratic institutions and 80’s technology. But still it is a drop in the bucket compared to the deaths from coal every year.

          • Ketil says:

            Pripyat, a city of 50,000 people, became completely uninhabitable, destroyed for all practical purposes,

            From what I can find, the radiation levels are 0.3µSv/h up to 0.9 in some places. This seems to be the level of normal background radiation hereabouts, and pretty much the opposite of “destroyed for all practical purposes”. What is destructive, is the insane overreaction to anything that involves the R word.

            There’s also at least a halfway serious argument that Chernobyl could have very easily gone far, far worse than it did

            What is the worst-case scenario? Clearly, it could have gone a lot better if the Soviets had been open about it (kids could have stopped drinking milk from grazing cows, and avoided almost all thyroid cancers, for instance). Or if they had had a sensible reactor design, trained operators, or just followed procedure. But how could it have gone worse, and how likely would it be?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Cliff

            Where is that estimation on Wikipedia? I find numbers starting with 4000 and going up:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Radiation_deaths

          • viVI_IViv says:

            From what I can find, the radiation levels are 0.3µSv/h up to 0.9 in some places. This seems to be the level of normal background radiation hereabouts, and pretty much the opposite of “destroyed for all practical purposes”. What is destructive, is the insane overreaction to anything that involves the R word.

            The former residents of Pripyat are likely to never return to the town, and they almost certainly will never live there again. It is estimated that the area won’t be safe for humans to live for at least 20,000 years.

            So yes, destroyed for all practical purposes.

          • Cliff says:

            Where is that estimation on Wikipedia? I find numbers starting with 4000 and going up:

            In the intro:

            The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has, at multiple times, reviewed all the published research on the incident and found that at present, fewer than 100 documented deaths are likely to be attributable to increased exposure to radiation

            Your number is for estimated future deaths (i.e. people dying of cancer a few years early). It’s also based on the discredited linear no-threshold model, as noted.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Now they did put into place something to prevent a possible steam explosion if the core melted through the basement into the bubbler pool, but that turned out to be unnecessary.

            I just went back and read more about this, and it looks like we are both mixing things up a bit. The bubbler pool was drained by divers – and if it hadn’t been, it probably would have caused another steam explosion, which would have been a catastrophe but not an ‘end of Europe’ catastrophe.

            The worst case scenario under discussion here was the possibility that the core could melt all the way through the ground down to the water table itself, which would have caused a far larger steam explosion; still not anything like a nuclear bomb, but one that would have been powerful enough to scatter significant fallout over a massive portion of Europe. In order to prevent this, they brought in miners to build a ‘core catcher’ beneath the core to stop its descent. This is what turned out to be unnecessary, though, as it cooled enough to stop burning through the floor in a sub-basement above that.

            So it looks like there wasn’t a true possibility of that catastrophe occurring – but they didn’t know that at the time, and thought it was a real possibility.

          • Ketil says:

            So yes, destroyed for all practical purposes.

            Implied by an unsourced statement from a journalist? Oh well, I’m not going to quibble over the meaning of “destroyed” or “practical”, but there doesn’t seem to be any technical reason for not using the area, including for permanent residence.

      • LesHapablap says:

        I think sometimes the anti-nuclear side forgets that just because the US doesn’t build nuclear plants, doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t and hasn’t already. There are something like 600 working nuclear plants around the world.

        Maybe you might think that the US would be particularly bad at building safe nuclear power plants, but the rest of the world seems to be doing pretty well with them.

        • Clutzy says:

          This is, generally, the problem with modern environmentalists (which I contrast with conservationists who are actually locally oriented around things like Turtle populations or the like). The US is actually pretty good on all enviro measures, even in places, like carbon, where we have less mandates.

        • LesHapablap says:

          There’s a lot of hate thrown at humans in general for being selfish and ‘destroying the planet.’ However we are the only species on the planet that actually attempts to mitigate our impact on other species and the environment.

        • ana53294 says:

          Maybe you might think that the US would be particularly bad at building safe nuclear power plants, but the rest of the world seems to be doing pretty well with them.

          Which countries? Many countries seem to be winding down their nuclear reactors as their life ends. Spain has had a de-facto nuclear moratorium. The UK is building one station, and it seems to be having huge overheads and is a mess, with wind energy already cheaper than nuclear. Germany keeps making overtures, but doesn’t seem to be able to build nuclear stations. Japan is not an example of really safe nuclear stations, partly because they keep extending old reactors because of the same political mess that prevents building new ones.

          France and China do seem to continue building stations, but it’s not like China is an overall example in not being like the USSR. So yes, China is fine – until they aren’t, and they might be as incapable as the Russians in handling a disaster.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            The new power plants being built in Europe and China are EPRs, a pork barrel project subsidized by the French government which has run into enormous cost overruns and time delays, due to failures constantly popping up during construction. So far of five stations whose construction has been started, only two have been completed, both in China, which isn’t really reassuring.

          • proyas says:

            The U.K. wouldn’t be having most of those problems if it had decided to build an older, proven reactor design rather than something cutting-edge. If the U.S. decides to go on a nuclear power plant building spree, it should definitely standardize an older reactor design that is proven safe and reliable.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            The U.K. wouldn’t be having most of those problems if it had decided to build an older, proven reactor design rather than something cutting-edge.

            It’s not like these things are built in series so that you can buy an older model. And EPRs aren’t particularly innovative designs anyways, they are PWRs, the most common type of reactor for energy production, with a bunch of bells and whistles. I doubt you could significantly cut costs without sacrificing safety.

            In my understanding, nuclear power has always been heavily subsidized, both explicitly by direct government funding and implicitly in terms of socialized risks. The reason for it was that it was a component of an industrial supply chain whose most important products were fissile materials for nuclear weapons, which were in high demand due to the Cold War arms race. Now that the general trend is towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, the real costs of nuclear power have become more evident, and there is a much weaker case for its economic viability when all the risks are accounted for.

          • Cliff says:

            Germany keeps making overtures, but doesn’t seem to be able to build nuclear stations.

            Germany deliberately is shutting down all its nuclear power plants and replacing them with “brown coal” plants, as part of their Energiewende plan to increase pollution and shift away from sustainable resources

          • Lambert says:

            I wish I could find that photo of an ‘Atomkraft: Nein Danke’ flag, next to two other flags complaining about Braunkohl and wind turbines.

            Bloody hippies.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Cliff

            Germany deliberately is shutting down all its nuclear power plants and replacing them with “brown coal” plants,

            And that’s why the share of Lginit+Coal in our energy production fell from >50% in 1990 to ~40% in 2018, while expanding our energy consumption.
            Either we are really shit at putting the plan into action or your describtion of the plan is, well, shit.

          • cassander says:

            @DarkTigger

            My understanding is that germany is making up the difference by importing more energy.

          • Lambert says:

            Imported from Uncle Volodya, that is.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @cassander
            Well yes if we count all primary energy, which includes car fuel. And yes we have to import oil for that.

            But if we talking about electricity production (which I think we do when we talk about fission plants) Germany is a net exporter, with an net-export of 50 Terrawatt in 2018. Now a common argument is that a lot of that is sold at a loss, since it’s overproduction of solar and wind energy that can’t be saved internally at that moment.
            Sorry I only have an German source: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/153533/umfrage/stromimportsaldo-von-deutschland-seit-1990/

          • cassander says:

            @DarkTigger says:

            But if we talking about electricity production (which I think we do when we talk about fission plants) Germany is a net exporter, with an net-export of 50 Terrawatt in 2018. Now a common argument is that a lot of that is sold at a loss, since it’s overproduction of solar and wind energy that can’t be saved internally at that moment.
            Sorry I only have an German source:

            That is a better figure, I curse the IEA for putting their data behind a paywall. But, yes, my understanding is that Germany imports and exports an awful lot of power, buying dear and selling cheap because their baseline production is getting less regular. that’s not a great position to be in, and still means they’re outsourcing baseline generation to someone else even if their overall production isn’t going down.

          • Cliff says:

            Either we are really shit at putting the plan into action or your describtion of the plan is, well, shit.

            Well I joke, but in reality what is happening is nuclear is being replaced with LNG. Now of course, if they weren’t shutting down the nuclear plants for no reason at all, they would be replacing coal with LNG. So effectively, it’s substitution of coal for nuclear. Plus LNG plants are being built.

            Don’t get me started on the wind power situation which is rapidly approaching civil war.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Anti-nuclear advocates do not accept the premise that nuclear power is overregulated due to irrational fear. From my point of view burden of proof rests squarely on those who assume that significant overregulation exists.

      • Ketil says:

        From my point of view burden of proof rests squarely on those who assume that significant overregulation exists.

        The death toll from any alternative energy production is much much larger than from nuclear. The burden of proof rests is on people who assume that nuclear isn’t regulated enough to explain why we accept these dangerous alternatives. Even if you accept Greenpeace’s totally made-up numbers of Chernobyl victims, you would need a new Chernobyl evey year to get near the number of deaths caused by fossil fuels. With WHO numbers, you would literally need thousands of Chernobyl accidents.

        https://ourworldindata.org/what-is-the-safest-form-of-energy

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Yeah, that is exactly what I mean by a good argument for replacing coal with nuclear plants globally. But for an argument to be effective with regards to United States or any other country, those numbers would have to be adjusted to that particular country.

          I am not saying that numbers wouldn´t work for developed countries, just that they are needed to build the case for nuclear power, instead of a simple assertion that there is an overregulation.

          • Cliff says:

            Well coal kills thousands of people in the U.S. every year while nuclear power has never killed anybody

      • Eric Rall says:

        A big part of the problem is the form the regulatory review takes. There are three different tracks of approvals (zoning/permitting, environmental impact, and nuclear safety), each with its own multiple levels of review, approval, and appeal. And until very recently, these tracks ran in series: you didn’t start review on one track until you had final approval on the one before it.

        There was a recent reform bill at the federal level to restructure this so the same regulations are applied by the same bodies against the same standards as before, but they’re done in parallel as much as possible instead of in series. I think the first and last stages are still done in series, so as to not waste regulators’ time assessing a project that’s dead-on-arrival a different level, and so the final nuclear safety review is based on an absolutely final design. This is expected to cut the time to regulatory approval by a little less than half, from 9 years to 5.

    • Garrett says:

      Best arguments against that I know of:

      * It’s very expensive and the cost is front-loaded. This means that you get all of the downsides of current costs, but likely very little of the upsides of future market swings.
      * Because of the worst-case disasters, it requires socializing the risks by having society/government pick up any liability above (last time I checked) $100M. That doesn’t apply to pretty much any other type of power generation.
      * We’re terrible at long-term management of stuff. The US government said it would pick up the long-term disposal of nuclear waste back in the 1950s, I think. 70 years later and we still haven’t settled on an acceptable location for storage.
      * People don’t like the idea of nuclear power near them. If people have any right to control what kind of neighborhood or community they live in, it certainly includes the right to control the kind of risks which they have to deal with.
      * Who the hell wants to have business in operation which require/have military firepower deployable at all times?

  24. Shion Arita says:

    I have stumbled upon an interesting optical illusion that I haven’t encountered before. It was created unintentionally in this video. If you look at a rotating disk which is populated with shapes in a Poincare disk projection of hyperbolic space, it looks as though the central part is rotating faster than the outside, when this is in fact not the case.

    Since it was created unintentionally, I’m wondering whether this particular illusion is heretofore unknown.

    It also got me thinking about similar optical illusions in general, and a layer to them that I haven’t seen discussed before. To me, when I see this kind of illusion I usually see the anomalous perception that constitutes the illusion, but also simultaneously recognize it’s illusory nature; I never thought that the disk could actually be rotating unevenly, even on a perceptual or subconscious level; because the perception of the difference in speed of rotation inherently had this surreal or otherworldly quality that is the telltale giveaway of this kind of optical illusion. I wonder what is physically going on with the perception that makes it inherently signal its own illusory nature? and again, it’s not that on the conscious level, I know that whatever the illusion is is not really happening, but on the perceptual level, the perception itself looks illusory.

  25. Matthew S. says:

    Haven’t posted any board gaming content in a while…
    Root remains excellent. I wrote an in-character session report of my last game that people might enjoy.

    I am inclined to agree with The Dice Tower that Awkward Guests (not yet available in retail; I got lucky from a generous kickstarter backer who had a second copy) is the best logical (not social) deduction game out there. Even better than Cryptid. It’s like if you took the horrible roll-and-move element out of clue. You are trying to figure out whoddunit, why, with what weapon, and in medium-hard games, if they have an accomplice and what their motive is. But here the main mechanism is trading cards with information on them, decided what information to hold back and what you are willing to exchange and with whom. Can be played with up to eight people; I would recommend it as working well up to at least six people. I wouldn’t call the art pretty, but the aesthetic is certainly evocative. So far, it’s one of two runners-up for my game of the year (with Vital Lacerda’s Escape Plan).

    Setting aside a couple of late entries I’m still waiting to receive, it’s looking pretty likely that Pipeline, by first-time designer Ryan Courtney, is going to be my game of 2019. This action-selection/tile placement game about buying, refining, and selling oil is an extremely tight heavy-ish economic game for 2-4 people that only takes about 2-2.5 hours to play (or, uh, 30 minutes if you’re these guys). I am now kicking myself for not spending the extra $15 to upgrade to metal cubes instead of wooden ones when I backed this, beca