964 thoughts on “Open Thread 142.5

  1. JayT

    Gasoline taxes cover something like 40% of spending on roads in the US. Once the balance finally tips in favor of electric vehicles, where do you think that lost revenue will be made up? Higher registration fees? Tire taxes? More toll roads?

    What do you think will happen, and what do you think would be ideal?

    1. Eric Rall

      Based on what’s been proposed in various states already and implemented in a few (I’ve heard the most about Washington State), it’s probably going to be higher registration fees first (Washington charges a $150/year registration surcharge for EVs), followed by a mileage tax once they work out the details of assessing miles driven efficiently (this has been widely proposed, but I don’t know of anywhere that’s implemented it yet).

      The technically easy but labor-intensive way would be to require drivers bring their cars in for a manual odometer reading every year or two, in place of the smog checks required for gas or diesel powered cars. It’d likely be cheaper in the long-term to require cars to automatically report their mileage (probably via the cell phone network) periodically to the state, the same way many people’s home electric meters now automatically report usage to the local utility company rather than needing someone to come out and physically check the number. But this is likely to run into privacy concerns, has up-front development costs, and is only really practical for new vehicles after the “smart odometer” is developed and approved: older vehicles will probably need to fall back on either a flat registration fee or a manual meter read.

      The ideal would be to make every major public non-local road (to a first approximation, freeways, highways, expressways, and parkways) a toll road, impose a carbon tax (possibly with a smog surcharge), repeal the gas tax, and lower registration fees to a level that just pays for the registration and licensing bureaucracy. The tolls are there to pay for construction and maintenance of long-distance roads and to raise the marginal price of road use closer to marginal cost, the carbon tax is there to replace the gas tax’s role as a Pigouvian tax on pollution. I’d limit the tolls to major non-local roads partly to keep transaction and enforcement costs reasonable (only need to install and maintain toll-readers on the fraction of road-miles where the most driving happens), and partly because local property taxes already serve partially to capture for the government the positive externalities of local roads (if you own a house or a store, it’s probably worth a lot more on the market and a lot more useful to you personally than if there were no local road access). And I’m specifying public roads because access and financing for any private roads are the business of whoever owns them: for example, if you live on a large farm or ranch out in the boonies and have a mile-long road you own and maintain connecting your house to a barn on the far side of the property, it would be absurd for the government to install a toll booth along that road to charge you five cents every time you drive between the house and the barn.

      1. Douglas Knight

        You only need odometer reading for electric cars, since gasoline cars are subject to gas tax. “Older” electric cars are still pretty new. How many don’t have cell modems? Tesla HQ already knows your mileage.

    2. hls2003

      Illinois is raising registration fees, has raised tolls (which were supposed to be eliminated 20 years ago), and has previously considered a mileage tax. The mileage tax failed for political reasons, but I expect that it will come back into play in the next few years, perhaps in some cosmetically altered form.

    3. DragonMilk

      I still contend that the US is not equipped to go full electric.

      The power grid is simply too old. Look how many blackouts hot summers cause from running ACs alone.

      And so, I envision governments assessing a “power grid upgrade surcharge” tax on electricity for those whose monthly bills exceed X kilowatt hours.

      Whether the power grids are actually upgraded is a different matter.

    4. Garrett

      I’m a fan of weight-based mileage fees. Avoid the stupid GPS tracker proposal from the Obama administration, but accomplish basically the same thing. Heavier vehicles pay more per mile than lighter vehicles (road damage is roughly proportional to the cube of the weight of the vehicle for some reason).

      1. The Nybbler

        (road damage is roughly proportional to the cube of the weight of the vehicle for some reason).

        There are various modes of road damage, and most of the rules of thumb like that one are based on studies of heavy truck weights. Applying them all the way down to the level of a light SUV isn’t justified. An Interstate built for heavy vehicles takes essentially zero damage from light vehicles, in many modes of damage. In some cases, it can be “negative” damage up to a point, as the traffic suppresses plant growth.

  2. Thegnskald

    As a follow-up to a comment below, a consideration of a half-formed idea regarding structural factors.

    As a distinct example, I notice more attention is paid to Muslims in China who don’t adhere to the state religion version of Islam, than is paid to Christians who don’t adhere to the state religion version of Christianity.

    As another example, more attention is paid when a young white woman disappears than when an old black man disappears.

    I don’t have a good term for this pattern – it is in a sense a type of confirmation bias, but it seems like a bigger problem than that. Broadly, the problems that rise to our attention determine the course of our cultural evolution, largely by placing a set of symptoms in front of us to diagnose and correct. And at a societal level, the pattern is self-reinforcing; a narrative that X group suffers problems brings more problems that X group suffers to our attention, and reinforces the narrative, which reinforces the tendency to identify and spot problems.

    This rsults in mis-diagnosis of problems – China doesn’t have an islamophobia problem, China has a human rights problem in general, and the solutions, if China were to make them, are radically different.

    It also results in a persistence to problems experienced by those outside the narrative, who have trouble being heard, in a sense irrespective of the severity of the problems they face, as compared to those we pay attention to.

    1. Laukhi

      My impression of the situation in the PRC is very much that anybody who talks about Uyghur re-education camps would absolutely also seize upon what the PRC is doing to Christians should they hear about it. I don’t know of anybody who thinks that the PRC has specifically an Islamophobia problem rather than a human rights problems, regardless of the relative prominence of Chinese Muslims and Christians in the media.

    2. albatross11

      Is there some mass repression going on in China against Christians that’s comparable to the cultural genocide apparently being carried out against the Uighurs by the Chinese government?

  3. Randy M

    I saw an opinion raised a couple of times in the circumcision thread that surprised me. I didn’t want to derail that thread or call out anyone in particular so I’m bringing it up here. Basically, in response to the issue of pain and trauma of the surgery, it was mentioned that babies are often or constantly in pain anyway, therefore this incidence is less significant.
    This seems off to me. For one, it’s rather regressive, rob-from-the-poor thinking, isn’t it? If someone already has difficulties, that’s a reason to give them more, not less, sympathy.
    But further, I don’t think it’s quite true for healthy babies, or at least doesn’t need to be.
    Certainly babies have limited communication skills and lack all patience and perspective. That is, they cry a lot over what an adult would endure. Granted.
    But a great deal of that can be mitigated by addressing the valid inconveniences an infant has. There are lots of reasons babies cry, and most of these can be address and a healthy baby will tend to then be content.
    Sympathies to those for whom this isn’t the case!
    But a gassy baby can be burped, and the mother’s diet or brand of formula altered to reduce instances this. Etc.

    Maybe this is obvious but I’d hate to see new parents go in with the expectation of unavoidable 24/7 misery.

    1. hls2003

      That they are often in pain isn’t a point to say their pain doesn’t matter; it is a point to say that babies know how to communicate distress. (Also, you’re very optimistic with how easy it is to reduce gas pains, in my experience – I sincerely hope that means your kids were easy that way). What I push back on is the idea that there’s some deep, unconscious, scarring emotional trauma going on from the circumcision “but we’ll never know because they can’t talk and won’t remember!!!” Nonsense. Babies are practically distress-communicating machines. If they don’t show signs of distress directed towards their circumcised penis, it is not “eh, no evidence either way.” It is VERY strong evidence that they are not in distress in any material way.

      ETA: I don’t disagree that babies are not in distress constantly, though it sometimes seems like it. Depends on the baby, depends on the day. I also agree that part of learning to be a parent is getting better at decoding distress calls, whether by cry-interpretation or checklist-elimination.

      1. Randy M

        Also, you’re very optimistic with how easy it is to reduce gas pains, in my experience – I sincerely hope that means your kids were easy that way

        My memory on the subject is (edit: NOT) perfectly clear; I believe for one of them my wife modified her diet significantly. That is something she advises other mothers as a doula, though.

        What I push back on is the idea that there’s some deep, unconscious, scarring emotional trauma going on from the circumcision

        There was another post prior to yours that posited that “babies go through lots of trauma basically all the time” and another that said “he experiences terrible pain all the time in any case” and unless these are wild exaggerations for comedic or rhetorical effect, I’m kind of sad for all involved because that’s far apart from my experience.

        FWIW, I’d suspect you’re right that trauma exaggerates it but wrong that it is insignificant but it isn’t actually worth very much because I haven’t seen it second hand.

        (note edit)

        1. hls2003

          Not to pry, but do you have boys? I’m generalizing from my own experience (and the opinions of doctors with whom I’ve discussed it) and perhaps others have seen more significant effects.

          1. Randy M

            I don’t have boys, but I’m also not trying to restart the circumcision discussion.

            I’m trying to determine if the rest of the first year or so is perceived by others as constant pain or trauma.

          2. JustToSay

            I’m trying to determine if the rest of the first year or so is perceived by others as constant pain or trauma.

            No. Our kids’ first years haven’t been anything like “constant pain or trauma,” even assuming that’s exaggeration for effect. I mean, one was much fussier than the others, and doctors called him colicky, but I wouldn’t have described his overall experience as unhappy. We could basically always comfort the baby somehow, even if it took much more work to do so for some than others.

    2. Eric Rall

      As the father of a two-year-old (especially having had the good fortune to work for an employer that offers very generous parental leave), I have some experience of newborns.

      In my experience, “babies are often or constantly in pain” is understandable hyperbole, and a more precise description would be “newborns have reason to cry frequently enough to constantly exhaust and frustrate their caretakers”. A newborn might start crying every hour or two, and often it’s quick and easy to figure out and solve their problem (they need to be fed, or changed, or burped, or cuddles, or walked around and sung to), but a significant fraction of the time your child will be inconsolable for an extended period of time. And it doesn’t take much to feel like an extended period of time: 10 minutes of a screaming baby feels like an eternity when you’re an exhausted parent at a loss for how else to relive your child’s (and your own) distress.

      The frequency of distress is also exhausting, since you never really have reliable downtime while minding a newborn. Even when they’re asleep, they can wake up and need something at any minute and rarely sleep more than an hour or two at a time. It’s very difficult to get a reasonable amount of sleep with a newborn, since you’ll be jolted awake half a dozen times over the course of the night. As an aside, my biggest piece of advice for expectant first-time parents is to sleep in shifts if at all possible: my wife and I had a system where we’d each get about 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep while the other one either sat up with the baby or took catnaps between feedings.

      The first few months were incredibly stressful and exhausting, and that’s with both of us being home most of the time during that period. I’m in awe of parents who manage a newborn either as single parents or with one parent going back to work full-time almost immediately after childbirth. But they were also unbelievably rewarding: babies are incredibly cute and cuddly when they’re not in distress (and your own baby always seems cuter still, probably for evolutionary biology reasons), and it’s wonderful to feel their love and trust (in newborns, evidenced by how soothing they often find your voice and touch) and to watch the grow and develop.

      Bringing my experience back around to the original context: as a parent of a newborn, a certain level of compassion fatigue is practically a survival trait. Detaching a little a bit from your child’s cries (still responding to their needs, but not taking their distress as personally) helps keep your emotional stress at a manageable level and allows you to better enjoy the positive aspects of being the parent of a newborn. And sometimes you have to triage their needs against your own (e.g. a hungry or poopy baby takes priority over making yourself lunch, but if your baby has been waking up and crying every time you try to put them down for the last three hours, then it isn’t unreasonable to set her down and let her cry while you fix a sandwich). So I understand where the argument here is coming from, even though I absolutely disagree with it.

    1. ana53294

      Very interesting perspective, thanks for the link.

      Wow, the US system is even more screwed up than I though. A lot of the activities there seem like things that shouldn’t be legal, and seem completely unethical.

      1. Murphy

        Eh. Markets work great when people have choices.

        They don’t work great when those same people are unconscious and being carried to the nearest provider unless you re-jigger how the market works.

        But providers and insurance companies are happy to keep the status quo because turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

        I honestly believe markets could, in theory be made to work effectively for american emergency healthcare if the right structures were created… but there’s no way in hell they ever will be because everyone with any power would fight you every step of the way.

        A lot of the american system looks like a textbook on “how to pay more for less with a system that looks vaguely like markets”

        1. ana53294

          The article mentions that they got home visits by a physiotherapist. After the first visit, they just refused visits and didn’t open the door. They still got charged (or rather, their insurance). This is a scam.

          I wouldn’t be willing to pay to a doctor for just answering a questionnaire on whether I feel pain.

        2. cassander

          They don’t work great when those same people are unconscious and being carried to the nearest provider unless you re-jigger how the market works.

          the percentage of medical care this describes is comically tiny. emergency care isn’t the issue.

          1. Radu Floricica

            It’s also the opaqueness of the process. Probably the closest market is auto repairs, where the client is (sometimes) equally clueless on what is being done. It works moderately well because it can be easily split into parts with list prices and hours with fixed prices.

            But when it comes to a hospital you as a client are not qualified to shop around (in average at least). And the most obvious proxy, the insurance companies, would always send you to the butcher~~cheapest available option. There are probably various customer protections that stop them from properly shopping around in your name.

        3. John Schilling

          [Markets] don’t work great when those same people are unconscious and being carried to the nearest provider unless you re-jigger how the market works.

          We’ve been through this before, and emergency medical care for unconscious or otherwise indisposed people makes up maybe 2-4% of American health care expenses.

          Markets don’t work great when the people making the purchasing decisions aren’t the people paying the bills, and particularly when this has been the case for so long that there is no longer a pathway for which “this is what it will actually cost” signals to reach the decision-maker. Has nothing to do with who is or is not conscious.

          ETA: Ninja’d by cassander

    2. Plumber

      @EchoChaos, 
      Oh man.

      For a ten year period all of my union negotiated wages and benefits that the employers paid went to the medical plan, and we actually saw less on the check in a time of increasing rent but our employers were paying more for each hour worked. 

      The most contentious union meeting I’ve ever attended was over this, there was a move by some to have those with more dependents and retirees to pay more out of pocket so more could go on the check. I remember one guy I knew when it was his turn at the mic say we shouldn’t be making the retirees pay more when someone shouted out “Then don’t have so many kids!”, I knew the guy and knew he had a big family, but he never mentioned that at the mic so the shouter must have known him as well, the vote was close so a voice count couldn’t be done and we had to “divide the house” and walk to opposite sides of the room and stare at each other for are votes to be counted, and I could see clearly a younger/older divide.

      So much for solidarity! 

      At the same time the fastest growing union (and really just about the only one growing at all) in California was the Nurses who had the most strikes, the main contention with their management?” How much nurses should pay for medical insurance (I’m sure you see the irony in this).

      At the same time a friend of our son’s parents got divorced because the husband didn’t want to be liable for his wife’s bankruptcy, she moved into an apartment we just vacated to move into our house.

      She was a private practice physician, but she wasn’t getting rich off of it, quite the opposite.

    3. DragonMilk

      This leaves out an elephant in the room that’s mentioned in the comments: How much are you paying for people who aren’t paying?

      In the US, hospitals must treat people even if they can’t pay. In certain communities, this leads to closure of hospitals. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that the hospital my wife works at is well-endowed and in a wealthy white suburb. When the hospital in the neighboring town shut down, the homeless and uninsured flooded in and the hospital now has roughly 2/3 out of town patients.

      My understanding is that hospitals need to eat the costs of the uninsured/broke. Those without a sufficient population of insured patients to cover “costs”, however inflated, simply shut down.

      To be clear, this is not to justify their fraudulent pricing. It’s just pointing out one of maybe 37 things wrong with the healthcare system.

      1. albatross11

        The thing about lots of opaque cross-subsidies and hidden prices that nobody can name or predict is precisely that we can’t know very well how much anything really costs or what tradeoffs we’re making. Socialists in the last century tried to centrally plan economies without markets or prices. We’ve innovated significantly since then–now, we try to run a capitalist system with substantial government involvement without (working) markets or (meaningful) prices. And it’s a disaster, just as you’d expect.

    4. Garrett

      Yes. No. Maybe. It’s more complicated than that. Speaking about the bits I have some professional experience with:

      A level-1 trauma activation is sufficiently resource-intensive as to be scary for patients. If I’m transporting someone to the ER as a trauma activation, I warn my patients that things are about to get really exciting. The last one I took had almost a dozen people standing in the hallway waiting for us to arrive. The author rightfully asks:

      Isn’t the purpose of an E.R. to be “ready”?

      The reverse question is: “ready for what?”

      The facility is (almost) always ready. By which I mean that there are always lights on and staff ready to check you in, all of whom are able to get to you … eventually. There are very few medical conditions which are all of severe, time sensitive, and people-intensive and they make up very few of cases seen in the ER. The next closest is probably a cath lab activation. In most cases, you go through the usual process you’ve all probably been through in the ER, with more severe cases being seen sooner and processed faster. But nobody in those cases is just standing around waiting for you to arrive.

      I haven’t been able to figure out the next brace thing. The cervical collars we use in the pre-hospital environment are available retail-ish for about $10. I can’t find the ones I’ve seen used in the ER online, but something vaguely similar is listed online for about $40. How should you then account for these devices needing to be stored in a space critical area like an ER rather than in some basement supply closet? Also, these things are made of plastic and all have foam padding inside which likely means that they can’t be autoclaved and re-used safely. In regards to the use, one of the inherent problems is that there is a “standard of care”. If something bad happens, one of the questions which will be asked is whether the “standard of care” was provided. In this case, applying a cervical collar until cervical spine damage can be ruled out to minimize the risk of paralysis is the standard of care (potentially regardless of whether there is evidence to show that it provides a benefit). And if applying a piece of equipment to someone means you avoid the risk of a lawsuit resulting in a lifetime of payments due to paralysis, you do it. Just about every medical ethicist I’ve read has insisted that medical cost/benefit calculations performed by a healthcare provider or health insurance company *cannot* include the financial cost. Of course, the *government* is somehow allowed to avoid that ethical quandary somehow I’ve not yet understood.

      In regards to “impostor billing”, there’s at least one major error. The resident *is* a licensed medical doctor. They aren’t “extenders” in as much as a PA or NP might be. They are, however, training for their board certification, in this case in surgery. Like so much else, who gets to bill is related to who gets the liability. A hypothetical alternative would be to bill as as resident, but then you’d also be accepting the risk of anything going wrong as you were “electing” to have a student perform surgery on you.

      > The Drive-By

      A lot of this is absolutely bogus. However, one of the questions which gets into provider reimbursement is where the time for charting should be allocated. If something is a 30 minute visit, what does that 30 minutes mean? Can that 30 minutes include the charting involved. If so, it might be 10 minutes worth of assessment and 20 minutes worth of charting. Alternatively, does that have to be 30 minutes with the patient? If so, can the charting be done while with the patient and still count? I’ve had my PCP do that.
      (FWIW, for $REASONS, it takes me about 30-45 minutes to type a 911 EMS patient chart, with the time being roughly inversely proportional to the patient acuity. Others can do it in about 15 minutes, but I’m noted for my “thoroughness”.)

      Many of these points overall are ethically dubious. But how much of this is straight-up an attempt at fraud and how much is systemic incentives for everybody involved?

      I know there are other physicians/surgeons who post here and I’d love to see their reactions as well.

  4. The Pachyderminator

    A while ago (the better part of a year, I think), around the time of the official SSC survey, there was an alternate survey put together by @RavenclawPrefect, with many more questions. Were the results of this alternate survey ever released?

    1. Dan L

      Speaking of, is there going to be an “Impending Survey Discussion Thread” this year? Last year’s was the first such, and was in late November – but I know I’ve seen some discussion of proposed questions in a few OTs, myself included.

    2. RavenclawPrefect

      Pending; akrasia and planning fallacy is hard. I’m hoping to at least have results out before this year’s survey goes out, but because of the complex preferences folks had about result publicity, the level of effort required to just do a basic writeup without compromising privacy is still fairly significant. Luckily my schedule becomes much more open in the next week than it has been for most of the past year.

  5. Tenacious D

    Cancellations have come to the NHL, with a vengeance. In the past month a commentator and two coaches have been fired. I’m not going to defend their comments/actions, but I do question the proportionality–and professional hockey has more-or-less avoided this kind of reckoning so they should have had time to think of better ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents.
    In the first case, commentator Don Cherry was fired by a broadcaster (standard disclaimer that they have the right to do so) after on-air complaints that immigrants (“you people”) don’t respect veterans enough. I disagree with him–in my experience immigrants to Canada often make a big effort to fit into the culture here, including by observing Remembrance Day–but feel some sympathy since his job description was basically to rant during intermissions on anything tangentially related to hockey. These comments weren’t exactly a huge stretch from things he’s said before, so it’s easy to see how he could feel blindsided by being fired so abruptly.
    The second case was of a coach from the Calgary Flames. Various players raised complaints about him, but the one that got the most press was that he used the N-word in a locker room a decade ago. Again, that’s not something I care to defend, I’m just questioning the proportionality. When you consider that wearing blackface two decades ago is no impediment to being Prime Minister, it feels like second chances for me but not for thee.
    The third case (concerning the Dallas Stars’ coach) is of some so-far unspecified unprofessional conduct.

    1. KieferO

      Oh man, I’m so here for this.

      There are two additional pieces of context for the Don Cherry thing: First, everyone (including Cherry) kinda saw this coming. To the extent that some commentators expressed surprise that he wasn’t fired / not renewed this past Summer. The question for him leading into this season was really one of “when, not if,” at least if the hockey media is to be believed. Second: it’s been reported that Cherry was offered the chance to keep his job if he read a scripted apology. He obviously declined this, saying that if he had the chance to do it over again, he wouldn’t change much. I would much rather characterize Cherry’s departure as “the last straw” rather than him having finally crossed some bright and clear line. And really, it was the last straw for both of them: Cherry has a podcast, and there’s only so much he’s willing to put up with too. But they’ve both needed each other less and less as the years have worn on.

      As far as Peters goes: I don’t think that the comparison with Trudeau is appropriate. While it’s true that much of the culture, media, teams, players, history, etc. in hockey comes from Canada. The league is legally hardhearted in New York, most of the teams and all of the growth are in the United States and especially the south, and the players are paid in United States Dollars. The standards that are relevant are the standards of the fans that the NHL is trying to attract: US persons who live in nontraditional hockey markets and watch NBC. I would say that the right comparison is the governor of Florida (Panthers), Ohio (Blue Jackets), or Tennessee (Predators), none of whom have N-Word privileges. The other piece of this is that the NHL is well aware that it is incredibly white in terms of fans, players, management, and executives —much more so than any of the other 4 major North American sports. It’s fanbase is also far more urban and liberal than, say, fans of the NFL (though probably less so than MLS). It desperately doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of the Whole Foods set. To that end, over the past 30 years it has successfully eliminated the kind of ultra-violence that made up a core draw of the sport in the 90s. To that end, I would expect the hockey world to end up with a higher standard than the rest of North American culture at large, but there’s also a very clear business case for it.

      No idea about Jim Montgomery.

      1. EchoChaos

        The governor of Virginia also got away with blackface, so I find the comparison still fits just fine (Virginia is more liberal than Florida, Tennessee or Ohio).

        1. KieferO

          Huh, well unless Virginia has cursed_politics the way that Illinois does, maybe we North Americans hold our sports people to a higher standard than our politicians. Donald Sterling was definitely ousted from the NBA for something in that ballpark. That’s probably not a good set of priorities.

          1. acymetric

            Blackface (especially decades back) can at least plausibly be defended as “I didn’t realize it was so offensive, I was just a 20-something trying to be funny”. Nobody has thought dropping the N word and saying outright racist things (even, admittedly, in private as is the case for Sterling) was acceptable for a lot longer than that (or at least they shouldn’t have).

        2. acymetric

          I can’t speak for everyone, but as a pretty far left person (especially socially), I’m fairly ambivalent about black face in the distant past. Dropping the N word, especially in a professional context (as a coach) is in a whole other solar system. You just can’t do that. There is no comparison.

    2. HeelBearCub

      Let’s be clear, the Peters allegations are not that he merely said the N-word once 20 years ago.

      Rather, it’s that he “kick[ed] [one player] and punch[ed] another player… Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was an assistant coach on Peters’ Carolina staff for four years, has confirmed the two incidents occurred.” This occurred within the last few years.

      The racial epithet 10 years ago is just part of a pattern of overall abusive behavior.

    3. Walter

      Canada is mad progressive, right? That’s the place people always say progressives are going to move to when the Republicans win another election.

      1. Baeraad

        Meh, not really. American progressives just aren’t really spoiled for choices unless they want to move to a whole different continent. Canada is certainly the most progressive country in North America, but that just means it’s more so than the USA and Mexico, neither of which is exactly famous for being left-leaning.

        1. EchoChaos

          Mexico leans pretty left. It’s the only country in the world with two parties in the Socialist International, interestingly.

          It’s about in the center/center-left of the Americas, but that’s because we’ve got some hardcore socialist countries.

          1. Plumber

            @EchoChaos, 
            Something I’ve wondered about regarding other not other Anericas countries but how we stack with other anglophone nations. 

            I’ve seen references to “Anglo-Saxom capitalism”, as distinct from other versions, so presumably the Anglosphere has things in common other than language. 

            When I visited Ottawa, Canada in the late ’80’s it seemed like a whiter D.C. or a Sacramento with more folks that acted like more like Lutherans and Mormons do, Montreal seemed a lot like San Francisco or Seattle but in French.

            In working with a few Englishmen the northern English (Manchester, York) seemed pretty compatible with Americans, the southern English (London and some little villages I can’t remember the names of) were weird.

            My guess is that Australians would be most like Americans, but I was given a stack of Australian plumbers union newsletters and was surprised at how militant Left they were, i.e. there was a eulogy that said “He was a good unionist because he was a good communist” like something the San Francisco Longshoreman would do, not American Plumbers, George Meany was very anti-communist and no Harry Bridges! 

            From the descriptions I’ve read Corbyn in the U.K. is to the Left of Sanders, Canadians seem more woke-progressive than further Left i.e. they call American Indians “First Nations” and the stuff @jermo sapiens details.

            My guess is that Canada is sort of like the equivalent of Washington State (which I’ve visited) and Massachusetts (where my wife went to school a bit).

            Other than the “Shire” set is there I know next to nothing about New Zealand. 

          2. EchoChaos

            @Plumber

            I honestly don’t know enough about the differences between the Anglo countries, but Canadians and northern Great Lakes Americans, especially in Minnesota and Wisconsin seem pretty culturally similar from my perspective.

        2. Clutzy

          Ha! Canada is the most progressive country in NA that isn’t screwed up maybe.

          Almost all of Latin America is uber progressive.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Almost all of Latin America is uber progressive.

            Anybody got percentage who attend church by country in the Americas?

          2. Anthony

            Economic Left and Social (woke-prog) Left are not the same thing. If there was a good way to measure center-left and left-wing parties on the two axes, I’d bet there would be very little correlation across countries.

  6. zardoz

    [Post 3 reviewing Business Adventures]

    Previously: Post 1, Post 2

    The third chapter is about the federal income tax.

    Prior to the 20th century, people in the United States viewed income taxes as a temporary measure to be imposed only in times of war (for example, during the American Civil War and for a few years afterwards). That all changed in the 20th century, when the United States got a regular, permanent federal income tax.

    The income tax started out low, flat, uniform, and simple. Over the new few decades, it became the income tax we know about today. By the 1960s, most of the complicated corner cases that haunt taxpayers today were already in place. (Well… except the alternative minimum tax, which wasn’t imposed until the 1970s.)

    Compared to European countries, the United States was relatively late to impose a peacetime income tax. Perhaps surprisingly, though, it was a pioneer in introducing eye-wateringingly-high tax rates. Although we usually associate these kind of rates with European countries, they actually arrived in the United States first! For example, in the 1960s, the top income tax rate was above 90%. In practice, though, almost nobody actually paid these high rates in the US, due to the large number of loopholes.

    Brooks spends a long time discussing the absurdity of some of the loopholes, and the hypocrisy of the tax code itself. For example, if you own an oil rig, you can depreciate more than the total value of the oil rig. I checked, and most of these loopholes are still in place. Only one of them that I checked– the tax deductability of business meals– was eliminated in the recent Trump tax reforms.

    It was useless to pay someone a high salary, since the government would take almost all of that money. So executives got their compensation mostly in the form of perks given to them at their jobs, and stock options. The capital gains tax was much lower than the regular income tax (which is still true to this day). (A few years after this piece was written, the Alternative Minimum Tax did take some steps to rein in the financial advantages of stock options, however.)

    Overall, this chapter was a downer to read. It feels like almost none of the issues Brooks raised have really been tackled over the previous half century. The tax code is still very complex and riddled with loopholes. Most of the new developments in taxation that happened since then, like the Alternative Minimum Tax, or Proposition 13 in California, seem like steps backwards rather than forwards.

    1. SamChevre

      I am also greatly enjoying these posts.

      One note–for tax-loophole-closing, the big decade is the 1980’s. Especially 1982 (TEFRA – dramatically changed insurance taxation), 1986 (repealed a laundry list of deductions, notably business meals and entertainment, consumer interest, and sales tax), 1987 (limits on corporate dividends received deduction and limits on contributions to pension plans (which is one reason pension underfunding is so dramatic)), and 1988 (tightened limits on insurance further).

    2. zoozoc

      I just want to note that “loophole” is not my favorite word to use regarding the tax code. To me it implies something that was unintentional at the time and is “immoral” to use. But often these “loopholes” make perfect sense (at least on paper). At the very least, there is usually some kind of logic to them. They also are usually not unintentional.

      For an example of something I would actually consider a loophole would be the art tax avoidance scheme mentioned in this same thread. The concept of giving something away of value X for the public good and getting a tax benefit isn’t a “loophole”, but using art (which is difficult to derive a true value of) and shady back-door dealings to inflate the price and get a large tax write-off feels much more like a loophole.

      However, I am not sure what word should be used instead. So not much help there.

      1. zardoz

        Brooks does write “Loophole, as all fair-minded users of the word are ready to admit, is a somewhat subjective designation, for one man’s loophole may be another man’s lifeline—or perhaps at some other time, the same man’s lifeline.”

  7. Le Maistre Chat

    As I just said, I traveled from Portland, Oregon to Kentucky via the interstate. Here are some assorted experiences of America from the road:
    When people say that Eastern and Central Oregon is just more of Idaho, they seem to be ignorant of the fact that Idaho has high winds that blow tumbleweeds at you. I kept wondering why there were no saloons with cowboys along the roadside.
    Our preferred rest stop was McDonalds, despite the fact that we’re picky about fast food due to a combination of poor quality and dollar menus disappearing in favor of upsell “value” meals. But McDonalds has $1 coffee and wifi, which is a heck of a deal.
    I used Priceline to pre-pay for a hotel room in Burley, Idaho from Boise for the first night, thinking the drive would be a cinch. Then we hit snow and ice for the first time. =|
    Most Departments of Transportation in northerly states are very responsible about keeping the interstates plowed in winter. This DID NOT APPLY to other highways when we let GPS guide us out of Wyoming and into the Denver Metro area.
    Everywhere we stopped in Utah and Wyoming was full of families with young children. There’s something cultural going on there, since it didn’t seem to apply to sparsely-populated Idaho.
    Why are there interstate tolls in Colorado?!
    Kansas was even windier than Idaho, but that’s a popularly-known fact.
    Lot of people had Southern accents in Kansas and Missourah, then they disappeared in southern Illinois even though we were winding south (or maybe I have insufficient sample size BECAUSE SOUTHERN ILLINOIS IS EMPTY).

    1. Nornagest

      I kept wondering why there were no saloons with cowboys along the roadside.

      Lots of Mormons in Idaho, so demand for beer and whisky isn’t what it could be, and you’re not likely to see anyone herding anything bigger than a potato on the Snake River Plain. But if you’re willing to accept that minor quibble, there’s country saloons out there. See for example the Four Winds Roadhouse along Route 26 in Butte City.

      (And while you’re in the area, stop by Pickle’s Place in Arco. They have good sandwiches. Just be prepared to see about 30% of the adult men open carrying pistols and all the boys between 15 and 18 packing big old hunting knives.)

    2. Plumber

      @Le Maistre Chat says:

      “…I traveled from Portland, Oregon to Kentucky via the interstate. Here are some assorted experiences of America from the road: I just said, I traveled from Portland, Oregon to Kentucky via the interstate. Here are some assorted experiences of America from the road…”

      Really appreciating these view through the car window impressions!

      Thanks!

      1. Mark V Anderson

        Yes, I have nothing to add. but I enjoy the travelogue. I’d like to to hear such things more often.

    3. Etoile

      There’s an excellent travelogue from the 1860s called “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by a British woman named Isabella Bird. (After the Civil War, I think). She takes a trip to Colorado’s Estes Park and chronicles the entire experience in letters to her sister, which she then edited and published.
      Probably much different from what you saw, but it’s a great read.

    4. David W

      I assume you mean E-470 tolls? Colorado felt the need for additional highways, without the budget. So they set up the E470 Public Highway Authority to raise money from bonds for the construction and pay it all back with toll money. Theoretically the plan is to drop the tolls once the bonds are all paid off, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they find reasons to delay that indefinitely. You probably could have taken all free roads if you were willing to go through downtown Denver.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz

    I’m pretty sure Tyler Cowan thinks it’s bad that Americans don’t move as much as they used to, but what does he say about why they are moving less?

    1. Matt

      Since you don’t supply a link or context, I’ll ask the obvious question:

      Move as in from city-to-city, or move as in exercise?

        1. Clutzy

          I know a lot of people who want to move out of my city, but have trouble securing competitive salaries elsewhere.

    2. DragonMilk

      Housing prices are for sure way higher. My parents moved out of an Albuquerque, NM home in the 90s that they sold for less than 100k.

      Today it’s almost 300k…we moved because we got robbed and they took my super nintendo! I suspect the thieves were teens because they left super mario world (I surmise they already owned it).

      1. acymetric

        My parents occasionally talk about how they would be so much better off if they just rented instead of buying their house (which has doubled in value since they bought it ~15 years ago). Makes me want to scream.

        1. gbdub

          Renting the same place for 15 years when you can afford and qualify for a mortgage is insane… are they saying they would have preferred to be more mobile?

          1. acymetric

            Nope. They think they would be better off financially. It comes up once every few years when they have to do any kind of 4-figure home maintenance/repair.

          2. Alexander Turok

            Renting the same place for 15 years when you can afford and qualify for a mortgage is insane… are they saying they would have preferred to be more mobile?

            Nonsense. Your home will appreciate in value by much less than the stock market, and requires maintenance and the payment of property taxes. Plus, you gotta count the realtor’s cut when you sell it, plus all of your time you need to invest in buying/selling, which far exceeds the time necessary to rent and invest in the stock market. If everyone was acting irrationally and not buying, you could make a massive profit by buying homes and renting them out. The only advantage you have over the property management company is the mortgage interest deduction.

          3. DragonMilk

            @Alex, this is incorrect due to leverage. The government subsidizes mortgages so much via the 30-year and (until recently) the interest deduction, that the returns are often more stable and better than stock market.

            Example: let’s say after tax credits, your 30-year borrowing rate is ~1.5%. You expect your home value to appreciate by 4% a year. Day one, you had to only put 20% down on a $100,000 home.

            After one year, your home value increased to 104k, or $4,000. You paid ~1500 in net interest, so $2500 increased value in the year. But you only put down 20k, so that’s a 12.5% return for the year on your investment.

            That’s the power of leverage, and why it’s almost always better to buy than to rent.

          4. ana53294

            People who don’t account for the effects of leverage on the return from home ownerships make that mistake.

            Owners pass all the costs of homeownership to renters, or they don’t make a profit. If renting is better than homeownership in some city/neighbourhood, it means that either landlords are idiots who lose money, it’s a charity (or the government), there’s rent control, or house prices got a bit overheated in the area (and the landlord’s either an idiot for not selling, or is riding the wave). If house prices are a bit too high, that means that either rents will rise (if there’s no rent control), or more houses will be built, lowering house prices.

          5. zoozoc

            @DragonMilk

            Your calculations ignore almost all of the things that Alex mentions in his post. Taxes, insurance, maintenance, realtor’s cut when selling are all major reductions in that potential profit.

            I do think that owning your own home does make sense but only the below points hold true
            1. Plan on living in the house for long term (the number thrown around is 7+ years, but probably should be longer)
            2. Some/most maintenance will be done by the owner (not necessarily major stuff, but the more done by the owner the “better” the investment)
            3, Connected to #2, but the owner will maintain the house properly and keep the house in good condition.
            4. Owner is comparing owning to renting a comparable propery (AKA, they can’t live in a smaller space. Usually when buying, the house is bigger than what the person was renting previously. If the person can still live in a smaller house/apartment than they can purchase, it is better to stick to renting)

            So using your assumptions but adding in tax/insurance (1%) and maintenance (1%), your “gains” end up being 2.5% (500/20k). Now the reason that buying a house is better long term is that while the gains from the stock market are better, usually the cost of taxes+maintenance+interest is much lower than the price to rent a comparable property. And this difference ends up catching up to that 20k down payment that theoretically could have been invested instead.

            Just to check myself I will post some of my own numbers to see how my “investment” turns out.

          6. ana53294

            Owner is comparing owning to renting a comparable propery (AKA, they can’t live in a smaller space. Usually when buying, the house is bigger than what the person was renting previously. If the person can still live in a smaller house/apartment than they can purchase, it is better to stick to renting)

            If you’re willing to have housemates, it makes great financial sense to buy the most house you’ll get a mortgage for, at least in some places.

            In the UK, outside of the London commuting area (which includes everything an hour by train from London), you can generally buy a one bedroom house for 100000 GBP. With 20% downpayment and 2.4% interest for 30 years, it means a monthly payment of 334 GBP. Or you can buy a 5 bedroom house, for 250000 GBP, with 20% downpayment, 2.4% interest for 30 years, you pay 780 GBP per month. Assuming you can rent the rooms for more than 446 GBP, you will get free capital downpayments. You would definitely be able to rent all rooms and cover your entire mortgage payment. You also get 7500 GBP tax exempt, and as a resident landlord you’ve got a lot more leeway in kicking people out. You can basically kick people out because you don’t like their face, and that’s OK.

            Studios and one bedroom places are much more expensive per square meter/room than bigger places. The only reason why this difference doesn’t dissappear is that people really, really hate to live with roommates. But if you’re willing to, you can gain a lot. Since I don’t think the roommate aversion will dissappear anytime soon, I don’t think this preference will change.

            And sure, in the example I give, you have to save an extra 30000 GBP (plus stamp duty and whatever other percentages they add). But you get to live in a house for free (with roommates), for as long as you can tolerate those roommates.

          7. DragonMilk

            @zoozoc

            I didn’t purposely ignore those, I’m just pointing out the effects of leverage. For what it’s worth, you can consider the 4% already to be net given the projections.

            Also my calculation is off – you pay interest only on the loan amount so 80k*1.5% = 1200. There’s $300 to play with!

            Again, the point is that while the home may appreciate less than the stock market, your 20% equity investment typically appreciates far more.

          8. Wency

            More than leverage, I think the problem Turok is ignoring is that renters tend to be poor stewards. This is both because of the natural incentives of renters and because, in a land where most people with at least semi-stable lives own their homes, renters tend to be adversely selected. The costs and hassles generated by this fact are priced into rent.

            So if you are able and willing to be a good steward of your home, then owning property is probably a good financial decision. If you’re not, then you should probably rent (thus reinforcing my point).

          9. J Mann

            @Alexander Turok – one more thing to consider is rent inflation.

            The homeowner will see some costs increase as she budgets for maintenance, increased taxes and insurance, etc., but generally I’d expect the renter’s overall home payments to go up more sharply over time relative to the homeowners, even more so if you include the periods after the home is paid off.

          10. acymetric

            @J Mann

            Spot on. In my experience (which, of course, is anecdotal and 100% focused on my local housing market), rent rises faster than housing prices even (or especially) if you remain in the same unit year to year. Consider that (other than property tax) once you have a mortgage your “rent” stays the same for the duration of the time you stay there, and after several years you’re probably getting a heck of a deal (in addition to having equity).

          11. J Mann

            @acymetric – Thanks! I’d quibble a little bit that a homeowner with a fixed mortgage experiences “rent” that stays *mostly* the same.

            The homeowner needs to budget for taxes, maintenance, and insurance, either personally or through escrow payments. Those will tend to increase over time, and since they’re included in the renter’s “rent,” they should be included in the homeowners’ too.

        2. DragonMilk

          Depending on budget, it could be true.

          While gross rental yields are about 10% nationally, net yields (after taxes and other expenses) are 4-5% nationally.

          In places where a lot of home value appreciation is anticipated, landlords will rent at a negative net yield and anticipate the resale value to make up for it.

          In the final case, if you want to tag along for the appreciation, you’re taking an investment risk, and it can make sense to rent instead.

    3. EchoChaos

      How much of this is because cultural differences are becoming bigger?

      I know that @Le Maistre Chat has mentioned that she and her husband moved because of cultural incompatibility with the Pacific Northwest, and I certainly wouldn’t move up there for that exact reason.

      If I was offered a great job with a massive raise, I would take it in the Mountain West, Midwest or obviously South, but I wouldn’t go to the Northeast or West Coast regardless for pure cultural reasons.

      1. DinoNerd

        Ditto, but in reverse. Twenty years ago, well before everyone was deploring the culture wars, I declined to interview for an otherwise suitable job in Utah, and I moved from Colorado to California in part because I registered as “weird” in Colorado, and “normal stodgy” in the California Bay area ;-(

      2. Le Maistre Chat

        If I was offered a great job with a massive raise, I would take it in the Mountain West, Midwest or obviously South, but I wouldn’t go to the Northeast or West Coast regardless for pure cultural reasons.

        On that note, what the heck is up with Colorado? It used to be a swing state with housing prices in line with the rest of the Mountain West, but now it’s gotten expensive and so progressive. It’s not just the main city of Denver, or Boulder (which got Google jobs) either, but seems like the whole state has gotten expensive (can’t vouch for every little city’s politics, obv.).

        1. EchoChaos

          On that note, what the heck is up with Colorado?

          It’s the most white and college educated suburban state at a time when “white college educated suburban” has shifted from moderately GOP to moderately Democrat.

          Same thing happened in the NoVa area as well. College educated whites have gone from “reliable GOP” to “leans left”.

        2. David W

          Colorado’s gone blue because of Californians – at least that’s the conventional wisdom.  If you know to look, you can find an awful lot of jokes/bumper stickers/ rants/editorials about resentment of Californian (and sometimes also Texan) in-migration. 
          https://www.cpr.org/2019/01/17/being-a-colorado-native-is-a-big-deal-so-how-many-are-there-actually/
          https://www.denverpost.com/2016/06/04/debate-native-coloradans-pride/
          Although apparently the ratio isn’t quite as high as popular wisdom would say, it’s still substantial: https://denverite.com/2016/11/30/colorado-native-vs-transplant-population/

          1. HeelBearCub

            If you know to look, you can find an awful lot of jokes/bumper stickers/ rants/editorials about resentment of Californian (and sometimes also Texan) in-migration

            Well, would you look at that. Huh. Who would have predicted it.

      3. Plumber

        @EchoChaos,
        You likely wouldn’t get a high paying job there, but they’re still “Okie enclaves” in California (Slim Pickens was a Californian, his parents were Texans).

        A recent new hire from Manteca, California (that’s a really long commute!) gets along well with his Virginia born and raised supervisor.

        On a hunch I asked the new hire: “Was your grandfather from Texas?”

        Him: No Oklahoma. Why?

        Me: “Um, no reason, I had one from Kansas”

        Of course this got back to not just the supervisor, but also the Supervisor, who found it hilarious: “Oh yeah, you can tell!”

        Anyway, there’s not just “Red” and “Blue” States, but also Red and Blue counties.

        Ten to twenty years ago I worked with two brothers, one stayed in San Jose, the other commuted from Stockton, and the one who lived in Stockton had a notably country/southern accent which his brother did not.

        Probably less true now, but in the ’70’s/early ’80’s in in towns like Guerneville and Lodi ‘southern’/”Okie” accents were predominant (they’re actually well north or east of San Francisco, but the folks families came from the south, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and especially Texas), sort of like how inner city blacks still said “y’all”.

        I speculate that many coastal Californians are also if ‘Okie’ descent, they just lost the accents

        Just like formerly very black Richmond, CA those regions are now much more Spanish speaking than they once were, but Hispanics were already a substantial amount of Californians (especially closer to Los Angeles and the border).

        1. EchoChaos

          Sure, but then I’d have to be governed by Sacramento.

          Although I’m not sure I’m better governed now as my state drifts left either…

          1. FLWAB

            I concur!

            My father was in one of those Okie enclaves: or, at minimum, he was from Okie stock (his granddad did the whole Grapes of Wrath experience) and he lived in a red county in California. Though his family hopped from place to place across the State (and up into Oregon) they eventually settled down in good ol’ Siskiyou county in the little town of Dunsmuir, California. “Home of the best water on Earth!”, or at least the best water in California though that isn’t a high bar to clear if you’re used to LA. Up in Northern California people are as red as you’ll find on the west coast, but there is great resentment at being ruled by Sacramento. Especially since all those blue folk down south can only water their lawns and enjoy their showers because of the millions of acre feet of water that is pumped out of the north. Back in the 40’s people in northern California were so fed up with their interests not being represented that they tried to secede and create a new state, the great state of Jefferson (it’s noble flag bore two Xs, to represent how they had been double crossed by California). Unfortunately just as the secession movement got going WWII happened and it was abandoned as there was more important things to focus on. To this day you can find signs all over northern California that say “The State of Jefferson”, though now there is less of a chance as ever of it coming to fruition.

            My dad eventually moved north to Washington which is where I grew up. I love that state dearly: it is the most beautiful place on Earth. But I walked in my dad’s footsteps and moved north to Alaska, and I think I’ll stay. I miss the tall trees and lush green rain-forest, but living in Alaska is the first time I feel represented in my state government. Washington, Oregon, and California are all the same story: a lot of rural red counties ruled entirely by a few dense blue ones. With Washington pushing all kinds of progressive ideas into the public schools, I’m glad that my kids will be raised in the Last Frontier where the State will give you space to raise your own kids.

        2. HeelBearCub

          Anyway, there’s not just “Red” and “Blue” States, but also Red and Blue counties.

          The idea of Red and Blue states is basically a mistake. States aren’t so monolithic in their culture. There are approximately zero Blue states, and the states that could be classified as entirely Red are only that way because the lack enough population to form a significantly large urban area. Even then the State uni probably is in a blue county. And county isn’t really the proper measure either. Maybe the word “environs” more accurately captures the geographic notion I am referencing.

          1. EchoChaos

            Pretty much. There are either states with large enough urban centers to enforce their will on the hinterlands or states with large enough hinterlands to enforce their will on the urban centers.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            And county isn’t really the proper measure either. Maybe the word “environs” more accurately captures the geographic notion I am referencing.

            There are neighborhoods in the Portland city limits where pickups are common and hybrids rare, and blue-collar jobs are more common than barista ones.
            But it requires a certain level of segregation from a big city to get other Red tribe tropes like eating out at Cracker Barrel.

          3. HeelBearCub

            Red tribe tropes like eating out at Cracker Barrel.

            I don’t think that is really the case at all. Most everywhere will have a “chain restaurant with comfort food”. Which chains are immediately available varies, but I think they exist everywhere except some very particular environments like NYC.

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            I don’t think that is really the case at all. Most everywhere will have a “chain restaurant with comfort food”.

            True. I just never heard anyone politicize Denny’s or The Village Inn.

          5. HeelBearCub

            I’m not exactly sure I understand what you mean by “politicize”, but Cracker Barrel leans into “rural nostalgia” in their brand position in a way that others don’t, which makes them a convenient symbol in think pieces.

            Cracker Barrel also got caught having had racist policies at a corporate level not too long ago, which also makes them convenient to reach for when doing trendy thinkpieces on not-very-meaningful statistical correlations.

          6. The Nybbler

            New York City is emphatically not an exception. While there are no Cracker Barrel stores, there is Applebees and TGI Fridays and Olive Garden.

          7. HeelBearCub

            @The Nybbler:
            But those mostly don’t code as “for the Red Tribe of NYC”. They code as “for the out-of-town folk”. At least that is my understanding of how they are viewed locally.

          8. The Nybbler

            There’s a lot of Cracker Barrel stores just off I-95, so I’m not sure it’s that different.

            While there is an Olive Garden in the tourist mecca of Times Square, there’s another one in the middle of Harlem. Applebees are all over the city. I suspect eating there is more about class than tribe; NYCs financial elite wouldn’t be caught dead in an Applebees, but the city (especially the outer boroughs) has plenty of people who don’t fit the bill.

          9. HeelBearCub

            Tons of local people eat at the “just off the interstate” chain restaurant. (In fact my first thought on these lines was the local cluster of restaurants a mile from my house that is right off the interstate which includes a Bob Evans, an Outback Steakhouse and a Japanese Steakhouse.) I’m not excluding the idea that passers through would also go there.

            When I said NYC, I mostly meant Manhattan and Brooklyn. The other boroughs are different. How snobbish of me (but also, those two really are pretty unique in lots of ways.)

            But, regardless, generally speaking, I completely agree that these kinds of places are pretty much everywhere.

          10. acymetric

            Red tribe tropes like eating out at Cracker Barrel.

            I didn’t comment the first time, but I disagree that Cracker Barrel codes red at all. I’ve eaten at Crack Barrel tons of times, almost all of them almost exclusively with “blue” companions. Cracker Barrel only codes red in the way that Bojangles codes red, which is to say that it is primarily associated with the southeast. Not everything Southern is red. Some of it is just…Southern.

          11. HeelBearCub

            @acymetric:
            The branding of Cracker Barrel is pretty explicitly “old times rural small town”. The retail part of the establishment is leaning into it hard. I don’t think eating there is particularly confined to “Red Tribe”, but it’s not really quite the same as Bojangles.

          12. acymetric

            Bojangles leans almost as hard if not equally into the “southern living” style. I mean, they don’t have a gift shop dedicated to it so they have a little less “oomph” behind it, but to the extent you can compare a sit-down restaurant to a fast food chain there is minimal difference culturally.

          13. HeelBearCub

            @Walter:
            You and many others, but as Scott defined them it doesn’t really make sense. It’s far more that “Blue” is “urbane sophisticate” and Red is … most other people, with a few rural markers thrown in.

            Drive an SUV, eat McDonalds, like the Bears or the Cowboys … all of a sudden Scott thinks you are “Red Tribe” even though you wouldn’t know a chicken feed from chicken shit.

          14. The Nybbler

            Cracker Barrel is rural-themed (in rather the same way that Olive Garden is Italian-themed), but that’s not the same as appealing mostly to actual Red Tribe.

            McDonalds isn’t red tribe at all; it crosses tribes and whether you eat there depends mostly on class and whether you have small children. SUVs as a whole aren’t red tribe either, though _particular_ ones are. The Lincoln Navigator during the SUV craze was definitely blue. The Suburban originally was red, but during the SUV craze had wide appeal. The quintessential blue tribe personal motorized vehicle is the Prius; red tribe probably still the F-150.

          15. HeelBearCub

            The Lincoln Navigator during the SUV craze was definitely blue.

            You really don’t understand tribes as Scott laid them out. You are making the mistake of thinking that “Blue” = “Democrat” which is not what Scott described.

            The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

            ETA: Also, just to be clear, I think the “tribes” concept as Scott laid it out isn’t very good and is basically just a symptom of the problem he originally laid out. He is socially hermetically sealed in a bubble, and basically doesn’t know anyone who didn’t go to college and doesn’t currently live in the trendy part of a large urban area.

          16. Plumber

            @HeelBearCub > says“…just to be clear, I think the “tribes” concept as Scott laid it out isn’t very good and is basically just a symptom of the problem he originally laid out. He is socially hermetically sealed in a bubble, and basically doesn’t know anyone who didn’t go to college and doesn’t currently live in the trendy part of a large urban area

            Preach it! 

            I’ve said before and I’ll say again, our host’s “Tribe” characteristics lists reads Red = more like many guys I know, Blue = more like many women I know. 

            I have known a few evangelical Christian Republican plumbers and steamfitters who are like 9/10ths Scott’s the “Red-Tribe” list, and a couple of friends of my wife who are 9/10ths Scott’s  the “Blue-Tribe” list, but my ‘bubble’ is that most Democrats that I’ve known are more like his “Red-Tribe” and most Republicans that I’ve known are more like his “Blue-Tribe”, so poor substitutes for ‘Republicans’ and ‘Democrats’.

            Dems and Reps take turns running the Federal government, support of only full “Blue-Tribe” voters maybe grants control of the Palo Alto city council, support of only full “Red-Tribe” voters maybe grants control of the Hollister city council.

            California has more Democrats than it was Republicans, it also has more folks that are closer in the characteristics list of the “Red-Tribe”.

            To spell it out: “Blue-Tribe” is “many of the urban professional class, mostly women”, “Red-Tribe” is “many rural blue-collar evangelical Christians, mostly men”.

            Most black Americans are Democrats, only some are “Blue-Tribe”, most Mormons are Republicans, and well.. they don’t drink wine so they can’t be fully “Blue-Tribe”, and they don’t drink beer so they can’t be full “Red-Tribe”, and the ones I’ve met just didn’t seem much like the evangelical guys I’ve known. 

            Apparently Scott has lot’s of “Grey-Tribe” friends, my ‘bubble’ is that I don’t recall anyone I’ve met that’s like that.

            Of the Presidents in my lifetime (Democrats) Johnson, Carter, (Republican) the younger Bush seemed more “Red-Tribe” to me, (Republicans) Nixon, Ford, the older Bush, and (Democrat) Obama seem more “Blue-Tribe” to me, (Democrat) Clinton, (Republican) Reagan were chameleons in terms of “Tribe”, it really depended on their audience, (Republican) Trump is an outer borough New Yorker, you guys tell me if that’s more Red or Blue tribe because I really can’t tell.

  9. Mark V Anderson

    The Economist is totally disgusted with the two major parties for this week’s British elections, and so it supports a third party. My link is to my local newspaper since the Economist itself blocks this editorial.

    It does sound as if the Tories and Labour have particularly bad proposals, especially the Labour side. Is it really this bad, or does the Economist exaggerate? Please all the Brits on this blog tell me what is going on over there.

    1. Lambert

      I was leaning that way earlier, but the hustings kind of changed my mind.
      I’ve heard people say they’re inclined to go “fuck it, I’m voting $THIRD_PARTY”.
      Sometimes Greens. Hell, if it weren’t for the whole Brexit thing I’d consider voting Brexit Party.

      The odds right now are looking like Tory: 1/33, Lab: 12, Lib Dem: 100, Brexit Party: 500, Green: 1000.

    2. NostalgiaForInfinity

      It represents what a lot of people think – especially people who are centrists or anti-Brexit Tories.

      The Economist obviously has no interest in a Labour (or social democratic) government and never really has done (it’s endorsed Labour three times, two of which were Tony Blair and were explicitly on the basis that he wasn’t really that Labour). Labour has some unrealistic policies and some that I think would be bad – but I still think they’d be better than the Tories.

    3. Thomas Jorgensen

      It is bothsiderism of the highest order, and frankly it looks like a deliberate attempt at sabotaging Labor via false equivalence from the bully pit of the editorial page, directly endorsing Boris being too damaging to the economists reputation for soberity.

      Corbin is a cranky old leftie who will likely use a parlimentary majority to put together a national railway company once someone explains to him how to fill out the paperwork for that in accordance with eu regs. Because he is stuck in 1970 and thinks liberalizing the rails was the biggest mistake of the last 30 years. Is he going to be brilliant leadership? Probably not! But he will also not be a revolutionary. If your bread and butter is PPP contracts that are insanely generously written, well, might want to look for a new line of work, is about as far as it is likely to go. Because, again, the UK is a parliamentary majority, and he cant do anything the party wont back him on. .

      Boris, on the other hand, wants to blow up every trading relationship the UK has. That is, due to the circumstances, entirely within his power, assuming electorial victory. And a national disaster in the making.

      1. Poppin Fresh

        And Lenin can’t nationalize the railways, the Tsar put in a regulation against it. He’s powerless against a regulation…

        Luckily he probably won’t win, but he’d be a disaster if he did. At I’d have someone to laugh at when he does exactly what he says he’s gonna do. You get what you vote for.

        1. cassander

          You get what you vote for

          this is the trouble with democracy, it gives people exactly the government they deserve…

        2. Murphy

          Honestly I think he’d work great in a coalition government with some smaller market-liberal pro-buisness party to moderate his policies.

          I think a straight labour majority would be bad but a labour government that relies on a coalition with some slightly more market-friendly parties would be great.

          Things have shifted a little too far towards the “screw the employees” side of the scale ever since the tories made it essentially illegal to go on strike.

          Shifting it back a little would be good and while I’m rarely willing to say this about a politician…. I suspect he’s actually a good person. (and I’m not a labour voter)

          It’s probably why he makes such a terrible politician in many ways.

          I think some of his policies are stupid but some are OK and he isn’t an inhuman monster in a flesh suit like many politicians.

      2. Mark V Anderson

        Corbin is a cranky old leftie who will likely use a parlimentary majority to put together a national railway company

        he cant do anything the party wont back him on. .

        The Economist has talked about stuff Labour wants to do, such as nationalize a bunch of industries, institute a four day workweek, seize 10% of all large companies, etc. This isn’t Corbyn, it is the party. Maybe they don’t really mean it, but it sounds to me like a return to the ’70’s when Britain was called the sick man of Europe. That’s why I said the Labour side was particularly bad. All the Economist said about Johnson was that wants to push through Brexit (which sounds like a relief to me), and was only giving it a year to create complex trade agreements. The Tories don’t sound great but not a disaster like Labour.

        But I am American and not close enough to know if The Economist has it right. Is Johnson really against trade agreements as Thomas suggests?

        Edit: I thought I’d add; I don’t buy the anti-semite stuff thrown at Labour, at least not based on the stuff I’ve seen discussed on SSC. Anti-Israel is most definitely NOT the same thing as anti-semite.

        1. TheAncientGeeksTAG

          If they renationalise stuff and its popular, then its popular, If it’s not popular, they’re out. One of the things about the 70s was that the labour governments were short-lived.

    4. FormerRanger

      Voting for Labour is rewarding anti-Semitism, not to mention empowering a bunch of people (Corbyn’s subordinates) who are even more radical and anti-Semitic than he is. That should be enough to disqualify Labour right there. Some people say “Oh, well, they’ll have to be in a coalition.” A Labour coalition might put some reins on their parliamentary program, but there is a lot than can be done by the UK equivalent of executive orders and regulation-writing, bypassing Parliament. (Yes, the UK has adopted a lot of the worst practices of the US, diluting parliamentary power.)

      That being said, the idea that the LibDems will get enough seats, even with the help of The Economist, to meaningfully constrain anyone is ridiculous.

      1. Murphy

        As far as I can gather the “labour=sentisemitism” appears to be basically PR of the sort where you can convince people that Bob is worse than Joe simply by reporting every dirty look Bob ever gave anyone while simply ignoring and not reporting all the orphans Joe beats up during his weekends.

        Every party has some antisemitism but Labour appears to be significantly less antisemitic than the conservatives.

        https://fournews-assets-prod-s3b-ew1-aws-c4-pml.s3.amazonaws.com/media/2018/04/Screen-Shot-2018-04-25-at-11.32.30.png

        1. Milo Minderbinder

          I’d be curious what constitutes an “anti-semitic statement,” specifically with regard to criticism of Israel.

          Regardless, it’s my (American, also an Economist reader) understanding that Labour is more explicitly concerned with social justice/minority rights than the Tories. Given that, it seems fair to be more critical of their lapses.

          1. Murphy

            In the context of critisizing them at all… that’s fair. Sure.

            In the context of “and that’s why I’m going to vote for [far more genuinely anti-semitic party]” it’s pants-on-head stupid.

        2. Clutzy

          As an American, even our major left wing outlets criticize labour and Corbyn for antisemitism. It seems improbable that he isn’t much worse simply based on them often whitewashing for leftist regimes.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            I pay attention to some liberal people who are concerned about anti-semitism, and some conservative people who are concerned about anti-semitism, and they are all especially worried about Corbyn.

        3. Tarpitz

          By looking at Labour voters as a whole, you’re missing the point, which is that specifically the hard left as typified by Corbyn, a small faction that wields a lot of power within the Labour Party but is not representative of Labour voters, is a hotbed of antisemitism. See here for a timeline of the many events which taken together paint Corbyn as at minimum a culpable enabler of antisemites, and explain why north of 80% of British Jews believe he is one himself (to the point where over 40% say they would consider leaving the country if he became Prime Minister).

          1. Murphy

            From a quick ctrl-f it includes a load of things like associating with jewish groups critical of israeli policy listed as “anti-Semitism.”

            Throwing in lots of guilt by association like taking him saying it’s bad to lock up anti-war protestors for protesting…. and trying to paint it as if that means that if any of the protestors have ever in their lives ever said anything anti-semitic that it means that he definitely supports that as well.

            When people complain about people trying to classify any criticisms of Israel’s state policy as anti-Semitism it’s that kind of stuff that’s the issue.

          2. Guy in TN

            When people complain about people trying to classify any criticisms of Israel’s state policy as anti-Semitism it’s that kind of stuff that’s the issue.

            I mean, the article literally says, verbatim: “comparisons of Israel to the Nazis are examples of contemporary antisemitism”.

            I’m glad they are spelling it out for us, at least. Mask off, I suppose.

          3. Clutzy

            From a quick ctrl-f it includes a load of things like associating with jewish groups critical of israeli policy listed as “anti-Semitism.”

            Throwing in lots of guilt by association like taking him saying it’s bad to lock up anti-war protestors for protesting…. and trying to paint it as if that means that if any of the protestors have ever in their lives ever said anything anti-semitic that it means that he definitely supports that as well.

            When people complain about people trying to classify any criticisms of Israel’s state policy as anti-Semitism it’s that kind of stuff that’s the issue.

            This is a classic cop out. We have the same defense in America of some politicians. The problem isn’t that people are criticizing Israel, which is a place pure as the driven snow, its that they criticize Israel uniquely and ignore much greater problems elsewhere.

            Also the handwaving away of the most important parts of the Israel problem:

            1). The problematic territory was acquired in a defensive war, which would have resulted in a mass genocide if Israel had lost (almost no other such areas are viewed so negatively, see Alsace-Lorraine).

            2) The territory, when granted the ability to be more independent, has historically proved to become militaristic, terroristic, and a client state of hostile foreign powers.

          4. DarkTigger

            see Alsace-Lorraine

            Uhm, say what?
            Usually, when we talk about other occupied terretories in the seconed half of the 20th century we are talking about a) Sahara b) Kashmir.
            There is a very distinct difference between those three and Alsace-Lorraine (hint: it’s not the hair colour of it’s inhabitants).

          5. Guy in TN

            The problem isn’t that people are criticizing Israel, which is a place pure as the driven snow, its that they criticize Israel uniquely and ignore much greater problems elsewhere.

            Doesn’t this argument hinge on proving that your opponents truly believe that there are worse apartheid states out there that also receive significant western support, and therefore the reason they focus on Israel must be anti-semetism?

            Likewise, I could argue that if an NBA basketball owner truly believes that black people and white people are roughly equally as good at basketball, then his team having more black people on it than white is evidence of racism.

          6. Thegnskald

            Guy –

            I think it is more an implication of structural factors that bring Israel to people’s attention, than a commentary on the nature of that attention.

          7. RalMirrorAd

            Countries like Hungary and Italy get a degree of pushback for their nativist policies from progressives. This seems closer to the *default* perspective [at least for a western democratic government]. I don’t think any progressive would call another progressive an anti-italian or anti-hungarian if they oppose said country’s efforts to keep out refugees [for example] or raise the native birth rate.

            For better or worse, that is the default view.

            Comparing those kinds of policies to this… Well it seems like *everyone* has been so conditioned to intinctively regard one country as a principled exception to the expectations they have for the rest of the ‘western democratic world’… that people like Corbyn end up looking *unprincipled* because he *doesn’t* make that kind of exception.

          8. Clutzy

            Uhm, say what?
            Usually, when we talk about other occupied terretories in the seconed half of the 20th century we are talking about a) Sahara b) Kashmir.
            There is a very distinct difference between those three and Alsace-Lorraine (hint: it’s not the hair colour of it’s inhabitants).

            @DarkTrigger

            I bring it up because that is because people bring up the phrase, “1967 borders” in the Israel context all the time. It is my opinion, that those borders are as relevant to our current context as is the fact that Alsace-Lorraine was part of Germany, was developed by Germany, and even if you go there today it looks totally different than the rest of France. Only the “1967 borders” have this special status, which is suspicious.

            The occupied territory is clearly, I suppose, more problematic, but its arguable that the war has never ended, and that position is a better framing if we look at the real situation on the ground. If Israel demilitarized, I doubt anyone has a doubt of what the result would be.

          9. Aapje

            @Clutzy

            The problem isn’t that people are criticizing Israel, which is a place pure as the driven snow, its that they criticize Israel uniquely and ignore much greater problems elsewhere.

            This is a generalizable argument, in particular because there is no objective agreement on what is a greater problem, nor even a consensus that greater problems deserve more attention by everyone (for example, many people their own ability to make a chance in their calculation of what they should concern themselves with).

            In my opinion, pro-Israel people who argue that the country is unfairly criticized typically present a very biased description of what the country does and then compare that description with other countries, ignoring the differences that makes Israel look much worse than those countries.

            Although, as I said, it doesn’t even necessarily matter if Israel is less bad than another country, because most people don’t distribute their attention by severity.

            The occupied territory is clearly, I suppose, more problematic, but its arguable that the war has never ended, and that position is a better framing if we look at the real situation on the ground.

            This ignores the continued stealing of land. Also note that Ben-Gurion’s goal was to conquer the entire territory.

            This narrative where Israel only ever sought to safeguard Jews, rather than control as much land as possible, is revisionism.

          10. Clutzy

            This is a generalizable argument, in particular because there is no objective agreement on what is a greater problem, nor even a consensus that greater problems deserve more attention by everyone (for example, many people their own ability to make a chance in their calculation of what they should concern themselves with).

            Fiar, but I’d apply the same critique elsewhere. Oftentimes there are people who criticize America for things like racism without comparing it to elsewhere, and I think many of those arguments end up coming from an Anti-American viewpoint. Sure, some of it is proximity and Israel/America are closer than China and Iran in terms of interaction of the people, but I think the criticism greatly exceeds even the proximity bias.

      2. INH5

        Corbyn’s main opponent in the race, Boris Johnson, once wrote a book in which the narrator matter-of-factly states that Jews control the media and rig elections. This didn’t come to the UK media’s attention until a few days ago, while the same media has spent years putting a microscope on every instance where Corbyn so much as sat next to someone who has ever made a vaguely problematic statement about Jews.

        So forgive me if I have a hard time believing that the claims that Corbyn must be kept out of office at all costs because he’s a super awful antisemite, and by implication the other guys in the race are not, are being made in good faith.

        1. Gobbobobble

          Isn’t the Economist’s argument “Don’t vote for Corbyn or Boris” because they’re both utterly terrible? Are the LibDems antisemitic too? (I’m a Yank, honestly don’t know much about their reputation)

        2. Aapje

          @INH5

          Johnson states that some people pointed out that many of the Russian media oligarchs were Jewish, to allege bias on their part. This is not an allegation by the author that there is a Jewish conspiracy, but a claim that others take the fact that Jews are greatly over-represented as evidence for a conspiracy.

          I wasn’t able to find a convenient list of Russian media oligarchs, but of the 4 I found, three are indeed Jewish: Vladimir Gusinsky, Boris Berezovsky & Mikhail Lesin. So the claim by Johnson may be right. Even if it is wrong, it can just be an incorrect analysis of the extent to which anti-semitism in others is driven by true facts.

          Ultimately, is this accusation against Johnson any more than the typical omerta on recognizing that certain beliefs are not completely lacking in evidence (aka hatefacts)?

  10. Le Maistre Chat

    Mr. Chat and I moved out of our Portland house and, rather than getting reamed by Uhaul or renting a Pod and flying, moved ourselves in a pickup along the interstates all the way to Lexington, Kentucky.
    As we passed from Colorado to Kansas, we started seeing billboards for Cracker Barrel for the first time… their selling point was X meals for $8.99 and less. This made me think of Whole Foods vs. Cracker Barrel as a proxy for political affiliation.
    To wit: Donald Trump won 76% of counties where Cracker Barrel is present, but only 22% that have a Whole Foods. What’s up with that? There’s an obvious way to interpret that, which makes Democrats look bad: “progressives are so rich they can shop at Whole Foods, while conservatives tend to be poor.” But the metric used was counties, not customers. Do (non-black) poorer people in affluent counties usually vote like those so rich they can shop at Whole Foods, or are they a conservative underclass?

    1. HeelBearCub

      I think that’s basically a meaningless stat that basically just conveys that Whole Foods demo is primarily urban locations and the Cracker Barrel demo is originally Southeast (although in 44 total states now) and suburban to rural. That counties that map to those demos voted that way isn’t particularly a revelation.

      It may also just reflects that Cracker Barrel is in many more counties than Whole Foods. There is a CB in my county which Trump lost. But one county over, no WF, but there is still a CB. Trump won lots and lots of lower population counties.

      1. Wrong Species

        I don’t think it’s true that Whole Foods is just a reflection of urbanism. If we compare liberal Austin with relatively conservative Dallas, I bet the the former has more Whole Foods, even though it’s a smaller city.

        1. HeelBearCub

          More WFs, sure.

          But both of those counties have at least one WF, and they both went for Clinton. The more conservative urban areas in my state (Greensboro and Winston Salemi, NC) also have WFs.

          I don’t think we need to posit much past an urban/other split to explain the results.

        2. The Nybbler

          The Whole Foods store locator reports four in Austin and four in Dallas. Dallas has a higher population, but not so much higher that I’d consider this more than noise.

          1. HowardHolmes

            @Nybbler

            The Whole Foods store locator reports four in Austin and four in Dallas. Dallas has a higher population, but not so much higher that I’d consider this more than noise.

            Dallas/FW metro area 7.5 million (4th in US)
            Austin metro area 1.7 million

    2. Nornagest

      “progressives are so rich they can shop at Whole Foods, while conservatives tend to be poor.”

      Wealth’s the wrong metric to be using here; look at marketing segment instead. Whole Foods is built from the foundation up to suck money out of the LOHAS (“Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability”) segment, which is very progressive and very urban. Fairly wealthy, too, but back when I lived walking distance from a Whole Foods (five-ish years ago now) I saw plenty of students and baristas and crust-punk types there. And you’d probably see similar results for Sprouts, which has similar branding but is much more affordable.

      I don’t know if there’s an equivalent for right-wingers. Expensive steakhouses, maybe.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Wealth’s the wrong metric to be using here; look at marketing segment instead. Whole Foods is built from the foundation up to suck money out of the LOHAS (“Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability”) segment, which is very progressive and very urban. … And you’d probably see similar results for Sprouts, which has similar branding but is much more affordable.

        IOW, it’s a class thing, and class != wealth. White urban poor are different from rednecks, who are not necessarily poor.
        The presence of Sprouts really seals it, which I was overlooking because we didn’t have it in Oregon.

    3. Plumber

      @Le Maistre Chat ,
      I was going to do a whole long thing on the comparative demographics of different grocery store shoppers until I realized that you were asking something else.

      Oh Hell with it, 3/4 of a mile from my house there’s a Dollar Tree across the street from a Whole Foods.

      From cheap to “whole paycheck” it goes:

      Dollar Tree > Grocery Outlet > Spouts > Costco > Whole Foods with Lucky and Safeway both cheap and expensive depending on what’s on sale there, and usually greyer haired folks shopping there.

      A few years ago a (young, Republican, skinny, unmarried, and cat owning) supervisor let slip that he shopped at Whole Foods.

      The crew had no further respect for him, he now works alone at a different city department.

      Current (also Republicans, not skinny, married, multiple children, own dogs) only talk of buying booze and steak in bulk at Costco.

      They are respected by the crew!

      ‘Hands’ are mostly Democrats, ‘Senior’ (a works with tools supervisor) is always a Democrat, Supervisors (official title) always Republicans, Managers (college diploma sorta co-equal, sorta not to supervisors, as far as we can tell their job is to go to meetings and find out what’s going on from supervisors) always skinny, will be Democrats soon, just like our former Republican Police Chief became a Democrat to be elected D.A (the new D.A. who replaced him last month is probably a Maoist who came from the Public Defenders).

      Anyway, to your actual question: poor people don’t vote.

      And young people don’t vote.

      My observations are exclusively of construction workers that I’ve worked with.

      10 to 20 years ago the twenty-something apprentices were either “anarchists” who still listened to punk rock and didn’t vote, or they listened to talk radio and called themselves Republicans (but I doubt they actually voted).

      Four fates in store (well more, but I don’t see those guys):

      1) The employer likes how the guy shows up on-time and sober, decides to give him “a truck and a buck” (and most importantly a gas card!) and appoint them foreman. With the now subsidized commute typically the new foreman will leave apartments and roommates behind, move into a house in the ‘burbs, attracts a lady, have kids and after they’re 40 years old they vote Republican.

      2) The guy goes to the barbeque once a month before the union meetings, starts going to the meetings sober, politely asks a question or two, gets noticed by the “business agents” (elected union reps), gets appointed Jobsite Steward (which entitles him to all overtime worked on-site) stays near work, volunteers to precinct walk, meets a nurse or teacher who’s also a precinct walker – stays closer to town, has two kids at most, turns 40 and votes for Democrats.

      At 30 Foreman and Steward may “throw down”, at 40 the Foreman knows he needs the men to not drop their tools, and the Steward knows they need to keep the contractor in business, and they’re usually drinking buddies by that point (and may have switched places a few times).

      3) Foreman gets a loan, becomes a contractor.

      4) Stays a hand, eagerly awaits last days on the jobsite when the Foreman and Steward split the bar tab for the crew. Has a Cadillac with bald tires that are replaced between jobs. Probably doesn’t vote.

      (Okay, it’s not always like this, but I’ve seen it often enough, point is role and neighborhood usually decides vote).

      (Also, Portland to Kentucky?! That’s a Hell of a change!

      Best wishes)

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        From cheap to “whole paycheck” it goes:

        Dollar Tree > Grocery Outlet > Spouts > Costco > Whole Foods with Lucky and Safeway both cheap and expensive depending on what’s on sale there, and usually greyer haired folks shopping there.

        We didn’t have Sprouts or Lucky, but I’m otherwise familiar with that chain. I had shopping frugally in Eugene and Portland down to a science. Start at Grocery Outlet and fill out the list at Costco, with Trader Joe’s being equal to Grocery Outlet for coffee and wine (and theirs is better).

        (Also, Portland to Kentucky?! That’s a Hell of a change!

        It is. Real estate costs a lot loss, which bleeds over to a bunch of other cost of living factors. And Lexington has a lot of green spaces that haven’t been turned into homeless camps with discarded needles and poop.

        1. AG

          Now that you’ve moved east, though, Aldi’s also becomes an option. It probably replaces Grocery Outlet as the bargain grocery franchise.

    4. Etoile

      Not commenting on this specific statistic, but I can comment on Whole Foods. Whole
      I live within a short driving distance of like 6 or 7 different supermarket chains, including Whole Foods.
      WF’s buffet is way overpriced. The specialty super-gluten-free-organic-grassfed-exotic-grain products are expensive, of course. But not necessarily more so than other organic markets nearby. Their meat – sustainably grown, no antibiotics, etc. – is more expensive.

      AND their seafood isn’t (salmon at least) much more expensive/ is comparable. Some brands are cheaper than other specialty stores (e.g. some types of fancy mineral water). Their produce is of comparable prices – even without sales – to the prices of my conventional supermarkets, with generally better quality.

      So I don’t know if they’re AS terrible a deal on the whole as their reputation makes them out to be.

      1. Nornagest

        Yeah, product-for-product it isn’t so bad — Sprouts is a better deal for produce and meat, and the various discount markets are better than that (albeit lower quality), but you can live frugally on a Whole Foods diet. I did when I was in college — well, that one wasn’t a Whole Foods, it was an independent grocery, but it had pretty much the same market placement and price structure.

        But you need some real planning and discipline to be shopping product-by-product consistently, and those impulse and convenience buys will really bite you if you don’t have that. And it’s very explicitly designed to encourage those — there have been papers written on how. I’m a fairly frugal guy, and my grocery bill’s still a lot lower now (shopping at Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, and occasionally Lucky) than it was when a Whole Wallet was most convenient.

        1. Etoile

          Oh for sure! (If you’ve ever been to IKEA, by the way, which has lots of affordable things, you know how hard it is to leave THAT store without buying anything?) I just meant that Whole Foods isn’t just Overpriced Hippie Food For People Who Have Nothing Better to Do With Their Money, and that a lot of times – unless I go to the place whose business model is to be explicitly cheaper (e.g. Aldi) – then, for lots of things I buy anyway, I pay something comparable (plus minus a $0.10 per pound, say) in a mainstream super-market like Giant, Safeway, etc., and for generally better quality of thing. (But maybe Amazon ownership will change that – we’ll see.)

      2. The Nybbler

        In my (horrendously expensive) area, meat at Whole Foods is actually comparable or cheaper than meat from one of the regular supermarkets — King’s. But that’s since the Amazon takeover; I seem to recall WF meat used to be even more expensive.

        The buffet is expensive but convenient; alas with NJ banning carryout bags I’ll have to give it up as no longer convenient. (Like I said, government’s purpose is to figure out what makes life livable, and take it away)

          1. The Nybbler

            The environment. Disposable bags make Greta Thunberg cry. The bill isn’t quite passed yet, they’re slipping it through in lame duck session, along with a bill to ban freelancing (like the one in California, discussed here), and one to require gun owners to carry liability insurance; those with long memories may recall that offering such liability insurance was banned in NJ earlier this year.

          2. acymetric

            Ah, I didn’t read it literally enough. I took it as basically “banned buying buffet style prepared food at grocery stores” and not a policy directed at the actual bags themselves. Seems obvious now.

          3. The Nybbler

            Even if I could move to Lexington, I probably wouldn’t be there a week before some Southern cop pulled me over and said something starting with “Boy” and ending up with me beaten up and in a cell.

            (contrary to popular belief, cops call white people ‘boy’ too)

          4. Lambert

            Just bring a slightly sturdier bag with you.
            A plastic one fits in a coat pocket.

            In the UK, there’s a 5p charge on shopping bags.
            I think the main problem is them getting out into the environment then eaten by various aquatic things.

          5. The Nybbler

            Just bring a slightly sturdier bag with you.

            One, I’m never going to remember. So I’d get to the front and remember “Oh yeah, I don’t have a bag.”, and then either drop my stuff then and there and become persona non grata at the store, or get the stuff that leaks out of their buffet containers all over my car. Second, since the buffet containers leak, I’d have to clean or replace such a bag. Which kinda ruins the convenience factor.

          6. AG

            Solutions:
            1) start carrying a purse/slingbag that you always keep a bag in
            2) have a bag in at least one pocket of every coat you own
            3) surreptitiously steal one of the produce bags
            4) have a box of bags in the car, so you can grab one when you go in

            (As for where these bags come from in the first place, use aforementioned produce bags as you go through your produce at home, so you’re not actually buying any new bags or anything.)

          7. Chalid

            In towns that have “banned” bags, you just need to buy a slightly-thicker-than-usual reusable plastic bag at the cash register for about five cents. It’s not a big deal, certainly not enough that you’ll have to give up your Whole Foods buffet.

          8. The Nybbler

            The New Jersey bill does not distinguish by the thickness of the bag nor does it apply only to free bags.

          9. Gobbobobble

            If buying reusable grocery bags and keeping them in your car is too difficult for you, you could just fly your buffet home in your own personal amazon delivery drone. It can even yell at the clouds for you on the way!

          10. Chalid

            It’s a ban on single use bags. The thicker bag they sell you at checkout is reusable and therefore not banned.

          11. John Schilling

            The New Jersey bill does not distinguish by the thickness of the bag nor does it apply only to free bags.

            If you’re referring to New Jersey Senate Bill 2776, it bans (section 2a) any “carryout bag made of plastic film”, specifically exempts (section 2b3) bags “made from any natural or synthetic material other than plastic film […] at least ten mils thick, and designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.”, and it defines (section 1) “plastic film” as “flexible plastic that is less than 10 mils thick”.

            So, plastic bags at least ten mils thick would seem to be legal, provided you can say “reusable” with a straight face while pointing at them. And at very least, the bill is distinguishing something on the basis of thickness.

          12. zoozoc

            @Chalid

            That is not my experience at all in my town. Only paper bags are offered for 5 cents. There are reusable bags for sale, but the cost varies from store to store (averages a dollar or two). For my town, the exception is for small plastic bags for storing produce or bulk goods.

            The ban makes no sense at all and is super annoying. Paper bags aren’t “better” for the environment than plastic bags and you have to use a re-usable bag for a long time (7+ years if I remember correctly) for it to make sense vs. plastic bags.

          13. DarkTigger

            @zzozoc
            I think the objective of such law’s are to make you bring your own bags.
            They where inceredbly successful were I life. I remember that in the time of around three months I went from beeing the only person with a home brought bag in the queue, to beeing part of a solid majority.

          14. JayT

            In my area they put in a plastic bag ban, so all the stores moved to paper bags, which I think are way more inefficient since you need more per shopping trip. Now all the stores offer the “reusable” plastic bags that are double the thickness. It’s the most ridiculous virtue signalling I’ve ever seen, because the number of plastic bags used seems to have barely changed, but only now people are using way more plastic per bag.

            Also, I now have to buy small plastic bags to pick up after my dog, so my number of plastic bags has gone up.

            Also, don’t try and convince me to use reusable bags, because there is almost zero chance one of those will last long enough to justify the extra materials needed to make it. Also, I only remember to bring them into the store maybe one out of ten times.

          15. zoozoc

            @DarkTigger

            Yes, the law is there to encourage people to bring their own bags and it does work for that purpose. However, the purported reason that the law exists is to reduce carbon emissions/fight climate change, which it does not do for the reason I stated (re-usable bags require such a large use time that is unfeasible, paper bags are actually worst for the environment than plastic bags). Our house personally has probably over 10 reusable bags now, so after 70 years we should equal-out to using those evil, wasteful plastic bags.

          16. Lambert

            Is it about production of the bags or about pollution?
            I’ve not seen a carrier bag drifting along in the wind for a while now.

          17. moonfirestorm

            It looks like Philadelphia might pass something similar, and honestly looking at some of the pictures of loose trash in the city I can see why someone would vote for it, they seem to be disproportionately represented in “stuff that just sits around forever and makes the city look like a dump”

            I’d personally like to see that addressed with aggressive enforcement of littering laws, since “ban everything a person could conceivably litter with” doesn’t seem viable.

      3. mitv150

        My Whole Foods experience is generally that, for the items you go to Whole Foods specifically for: meat, seafood, produce, cheese, the prices are consistent with the quality. Its when you buy commodity items that are present in all grocery stores at the same quality level that you really lose out. You’ll pay extra for cereal, butter, milk, eggs, flour, pasta, canned goods, etc.

        1. A Definite Beta Guy

          Yeah, this definitely seems to be the case. And in that quality tier, you will be paying a pretty penny. Even Costco’s meat section is pretty pricey, even with the bulk purchases. Meat and produce are substantially cheaper at your typical Supermarkets that have non-organic-GMO-loaded products.

          I typically shop at Tony’s Fresh Foods, which I guess is a Safeway equivalent. They have a huge produce and huge meat section, and their prices are typically cheaper than anyone else. It’s really nice being able to go in and find whatever cut of meat I want readily available, or odd stuff like pig’s feet, at pretty much the lowest prevailing price.

        2. Etoile

          And they also don’t carry a lot of mainstream brands, so if you want a SPECIFIC thing (Capri Sun pouches or whatever) you won’t find it at WF.

    5. Nick

      There are Cracker Barrels in Ohio, but I’ve never been to one. I think the Ohio equivalent is more Bob Evans, though that also skews grandparent-age.

      1. FormerRanger

        There are Cracker Barrels in Massachusetts, too.

        Does anyone want to try to fit Trader Joe’s into the mix?

      2. LewisT

        If you ever go out to eat for breakfast, I’d recommend you try Cracker Barrel sometime. It’s vastly better than Bob Evans, in my opinion, and even beats a lot of local places around me. For other meals, I think Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans are more or less equivalent.

        1. acymetric

          With apologies to people in the Midwest, damn near everything is better than Bob Evans.

          Agreed that Cracker Barrel has some fine breakfast offerings. I’m not sure I would even bother eating there if I wasn’t planning on getting breakfast though.

          1. Statismagician

            As a Midwesterner from a long line of Midwesterners, you’re completely right – Bob Evans is basically never the right choice.

    6. 2181425

      Congrats on completing the move. Not on topic, but I recommend Wallace Station deli in Versailles which is in your neck of the woods now 🙂

      1. oracel

        For the unaware: the city referenced above is pronounced vər-SAYLZ, and the largest city in Kentucky is usually pronounced something close to LOO-ə-vəl.
        On the topic of recommendations, the distillery tours are usually pretty cool even for someone not that interested in alcohol, and Bernheim Forest is an excellent day trip.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          For the unaware: the city referenced above is pronounced vər-SAYLZ, and the largest city in Kentucky is usually pronounced something close to LOO-ə-vəl.

          First one is (hilariously) correct. Second sounds more like “LOO-vul” to my ears.
          Yes, the distillery tours are neat, and I can barely stand anything harder than wine.

          1. acymetric

            Usually “LOO-uh-vul” or “LOO-i-vul” but that middle sound is kind of glossed over so easy to miss if you aren’t used to that style of speech.

            In fairness to the south, most people (even with southern accents) pronounce it the way you would expect.

      2. m.alex.matt

        Wallace Station is great!

        If you don’t mind the hike to the other side of Lexington, Lil’s in Paris is a wonderful place for breakfast. We vacation in the area every year but order the coffee grounds from Lil’s/Rosecrest all year round because it’s good stuff.

        Plus, if you’re into antiques, it’s a two-for-one, with an antique shop in the diner!

    7. Garrett

      With the buy-out by Amazon, Whole Foods now bans firearms on premises. I only did a small amount of shopping there before (mostly due to location/convenience), but I’m certainly not doing any now. I’m tired of dealing with businesses which hate me. (And, yes, I dumped my Amazon Prime subscription, too).

      1. Incurian

        My Texas CCW (or whatever they call it here) instructor had an interesting take on this. He said “Don’t feel the need to boycott places that don’t let you carry, there are a lot of reasons, for instance their insurance companies, that they might ban firearms besides politically stupidity. What you really ought to do is just carry in their business anyway, it’s only a $200 fine.”

        My personal policy is that firearms bans that aren’t enforced by searches and armed guards don’t really exist.

        1. Randy M

          Part of me thinks that the enforcement is the rule; ie, a “no parking except for X, validation required for longer than 2 hours” is really a rule of “only park for 2 hours unless using X”.
          The other part of me thinks this is probably motivated reasoning.

      2. Le Maistre Chat

        When no one was looking, Jeff Bezos took forty customers’ guns. That’s as many as four tens. And that’s terrible.

        1. John Schilling

          But that would mean Jeff Bezos now has a collection of forty tens of cold, dead fingers. And that’s really terrible.

      3. Mark V Anderson

        With the buy-out by Amazon, Whole Foods now bans firearms on premises. I only did a small amount of shopping there before (mostly due to location/convenience), but I’m certainly not doing any now. I’m tired of dealing with businesses which hate me. (And, yes, I dumped my Amazon Prime subscription, too).

        I think it’s comments like this that make folks that this blog is dominated by right wingers. I think it’s only that SSC is very tolerant, so we accept such comments even if most of us disagree.

        Garrett, despite my comment above, I don’t have a problem with your comment. Although I do think you way overstate the issue. Not allowing your gun is nothing like hating you. I do think the banning of guns in darn near every indoor space is kind of ridiculous, but it isn’t all that unreasonable for any given store.

        1. HeelBearCub

          I do think the banning of guns in darn near every indoor space is kind of ridiculous.

          Ahem.

          Do you even know what you just did here?

        2. DinoNerd

          Part of it may depend on what they expect from other potential customers. Some people are afraid of guns, afraid of people with guns, don’t want to be around such people, and will actively prefer the store that doesn’t allow firearms to be carried. They don’t have to be rational – just numerous enough to count, and more common than people who will actively prefer the store that does allow customers to carry firearms.

          1. acymetric

            Oh man. I want to be here when “the markets have decided that people shouldn’t openly carry guns” gets discussed on SSC. It should probably have its own open thread.

            **Edit to add: I don’t think you’re wrong, FWIW.

          2. Aapje

            @DinoNerd

            Some people are afraid of gay wedding cakes, afraid of people with gay wedding cakes, don’t want to be around gay wedding cakes, and will actively prefer the store that doesn’t allow gay wedding cakes.

            Of course, in that case, it is illegal to not sell gay wedding cakes.

            I just want to point out that this is what cultural hegemony is like, where some people get to implement a soft ban on what they dislike, while others do not.

            You are presenting a soft ban on guns as something obvious that your tribe can do, seemingly oblivious to how your tribe’s dominance of the courts stacks the deck, allowing you to use a tactic that ‘they’ are often not allowed to use.

          3. Garrett

            @Aaapje

            Some people are afraid of gay wedding cakes

            Replace gay wedding cakes with cross-dressing or gender non-conformity.

            @DinoNerd:

            I’m not sure that makes sense because up until the Amazon acquisition there was no such prohibition. I checked every time I went in over the past decade or so.

          4. DavidFriedman

            The CEO of Whole Foods was, I presume still is, John Mackey, who is a libertarian, although a somewhat unconventional one, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he had opposed a policy of banning concealed carry and eventually adopted it only after the acquisition by Amazon.

        3. Aapje

          @Mark V Anderson

          And it’s comments like yours that strengthen my perception that for many on the left, a lack of total dominance is equated with being a minority/oppressed.

          1. acymetric

            Oh good grief. A perfectly reasonable and measured response to “stores who ban guns hate me” makes you think that?

          2. Aapje

            It’s not about how reasonable and measured he is, but the very fact that a comment like Garrett’s make people like Mark wonder to what extent this is making left-wingers feel oppressed.

          3. Mark V Anderson

            Eh, I don’t think oppressed is the right word. It was that Garrett’s comment that he would boycott any retail establishment that didn’t allow him to carry guns was pretty intolerant of other opinions. A similar comment on the Left would be someone who would boycott a store because say there were 15 employees and they were all White men. I haven’t seen comments like that on SSC, I think because most of those on the Left here are not in favor of identity politics.

            I really do hate all the boycotts one sees for political purposes. It is very bad for society to be so polarized and for people to be so stuck in their own bubbles that they insist on shopping within it. In my very Left city, all this boycotting is for Left reasons, because some minority once had a dispute with the store, or it’s not unionized, or the owner voted Republican or whatever excuse they can come up with. But I don’t like it when the Right does it either.

          4. John Schilling

            Eh, I don’t think oppressed is the right word. It was that Garrett’s comment that he would boycott any retail establishment that didn’t allow him to carry guns was pretty intolerant of other opinions. A similar comment on the Left would be someone who would boycott a store because say there were 15 employees and they were all White men.

            I’m not seeing the similarity. A similar comment on the left would be boycotting a store because they don’t allow e.g. public displays of affection between him and his gay lover – the store bans an action he feels he ought to be able to perform most anywhere, so he doesn’t go to that store. There’s no action being prohibited to the customer by the all-white-employees store.

            The pro-gun equivalent of that would be boycotting a store because it has fifteen unarmed employees, which would be pretty weird at very least.

          5. Aapje

            @Mark V Anderson

            I don’t think your comparison is valid.

            A boycott over an anti-gun policy is over a policy, while a boycott of a store just because they only have white employees (with no evidence that this is a policy) demands that workers be different, not act different.

            I think most people agree that demanding that people be different is more unreasonable than asking people to act different.

            I haven’t seen comments like that on SSC, I think because most of those on the Left here are not in favor of identity politics.

            LadyJane has said that she supports a boycott of Chick-Fil-A.

            She got some push back, but so did Garrett.

            I really do hate all the boycotts one sees for political purposes.

            I don’t mind boycotts, unless they are not voluntary, but mandatory, with people who refuse to boycott or who speak out against the boycott being targeted themselves.

            Anyway, if you see the absence of identity politics-based boycotts (like: “don’t read books by white men”) as evidence that this space is dominated by the right, then from my perspective that seems like left-bashing in itself, by insinuating that all real lefties are what I see as racist/sexist/etc.

        1. albatross11

          That’s a perfectly fine approach to my mind, but does it apply to baking wedding cakes for gay couples, too?

  11. onyomi

    I recently heard a conspiracy theory that much of modern art, up to and including art criticism, stretching back to Bernard Berenson (though I realize he was known more for Renaissance attributions than modern art criticism) is actually an elaborate money laundering scheme. I thought “eh, well interesting and probably has happened before, but a bit crankish to imagine it a very large scale…”

    Soon after I read news that someone paid $120,000 for a banana taped to a wall which someone else promptly ate?…

      1. Paul Brinkley

        That’s a trolling face, but not a troll face.

        If we’re at an SSC meetup in DC some day, I’ll show you a proper troll face.

      1. Nornagest

        Could be both. It’d be just like the Cold War for the CIA and the KGB to accidentally back the same artistic movement to mess with each other.

      2. Randy M

        I’d say that’s less conspiracy and more legitimate heightening of the contradictions or whatever.
        I’m marginally less eager to get up and work for my wage when I read of someone’s 120k rotting banana.

    1. hnrq

      I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. And btw, the whole banana taped to a wall is arguably very relevant as art. It’s not only about aesthetics, and the amount of attention that this whole banana-saga has been receiving is proof of how relevant it is. The whole absurdity of it all IS the point. And the more attention is gets, the more “valuable”.

    2. broblawsky

      There are plenty of examples of people involved in financial frauds storing money in art in order to protect it from governments. Art objects, in addition to being prestigious, are much more easily transported and much less vulnerable to financial sanctions that normal financial instruments like stocks or bonds. For example, Jho Low, the financier behind the 1MDB scandal, bought a bunch of extremely pricey pieces of art.

      1. fibio

        For reasons I don’t fully understand, the second artist is fine but the third artist was arrested for “vandalism.”

        They were actually there to arrest the first guy, but the response time is lousy in that part of town 😉

    3. Erusian

      Modern art is real and taken seriously within its niche.

      However, art workarounds are also a nice way to reduce tax burdens. Let’s say I’m rich. I buy a nice piece (Onyomi in Contemplation, a painting by Scott Alexander). I pay $1,000,000 because, as we all know, Scott’s a great painter. (Scott, by the way, gets 300-600k of that minus his costs if he’s using the traditional gallery system.) I hang it in my foyer.

      Oh drat, it’s three years later and I’ve made even more money. Let’s say $10,000,000 this year. But oh woe is me, Uncle Sam wants $3-5 million of that in taxes. Whatever am I to do?

      Oh, I know: I can reduce my tax by giving to charity. Let’s say I donate Onyomi in Contemplation to a public institution. Well, the maximum charitable tax credit for art donations to public institutions is 50% of gross income carried forward for up to five years. I could just donate it and get that million off my taxes…

      But you know what, I can be even more charitable. You see, art changes in value. I find an amenable appraiser who will figure out that (due to Scott Alexander’s astonishing success) this early example of his work is now priceless. Well, not really priceless: it’s now worth $25,000,000. Now, normally you wouldn’t do this sort of thing because it’d create capital gains (and art has a higher capital gains tax than most asset classes). You’d also have to find a buyer for the inflated price. But the institution isn’t actually paying you that amount, so what do they care? And my donation frees me from having to pay the capital gains!

      So I now have a $25,000,000 tax credit. I can only use $5,000,000 of it this year but I can carry the other $20,000,000 forward for four more years. Presuming my income remains the same all five years, that saves me $9,250,000 in Federal taxes alone. Of course, I lose the $1,000,000 I initially paid and Onyomi in Contemplation. I console myself with a second yacht.

      1. jml

        Are you sure this is how it would really work? As a GWWC pledger I donate to charity and the way the “tax credit” works for me is that a certain amount of what I donate can get treated as a pre-tax donation.

        I’d imagine that in order to get a “tax credit” for the $25m painting, you’d have to also declare $24m worth of income, which would then be taxed, so you’d end up paying more taxes total?

        1. Douglas Knight

          No, really, this aspect of American tax law is insane. You really should have trouble believing this: are people leaving out context? But look at table 1 that claims an apples-to-apples comparison in which one situation gets fair market value and the other basis of property.

        2. Erusian

          Are you sure this is how it would really work? As a GWWC pledger I donate to charity and the way the “tax credit” works for me is that a certain amount of what I donate can get treated as a pre-tax donation.

          Yes, I’m sure. The only dodgy bit is the appraisal.

          Also, making money ‘pretax’ and getting the deduction are effectively the same. You can look at it as paying in pretax dollars or you can look at it as getting the dollars deducted from what counts as income. It’s mathematically the same. (You can also give donations in kind, by the way. Some charities really need them.)

          I’d imagine that in order to get a “tax credit” for the $25m painting, you’d have to also declare $24m worth of income, which would then be taxed, so you’d end up paying more taxes total?

          Normally yes. Well, technically capital gains tax and not income but you have the right idea. However, this specific sort of donation also gets you out of capital gains. Art is its own category.

          Of course, even if it were taxed as capital gains, the trick would still work. It’d just work less. Art capital gains are taxed at 28% so anyone with an income over $160,000 would still be saving money in net. That said, it would steeply cut the practicality of the loophole.

          If you really wanted to close this, you’d want the IRS to redefine that art donations count as basis rather than fair market value. Basically, rather than getting appraised, it’s whatever you’ve put in to acquire and maintain it. People argue against this (and argue for the loophole generally) as both encouraging art and encouraging its passage into public hands.

          1. Garrett

            (You can also give donations in kind, by the way. Some charities really need them.)

            The tax system is absurd. I made over $11,000 donations of FMV in-kind donations last year. But because my “basis cost” was lower I managed to get effectively no tax benefit. Despite much of the value coming from parting all of the gear out to several separate organizations rather than being a pallet of assorted crap in an auction warehouse.

          2. Erusian

            The tax system is absurd.

            No arguments here. But just to educate: Your mistake was not checking the category. Depending on what you’re giving and to whom it’s either basis cost (in which case you can write off, at most, what you spent on the thing) or FMV. The latter is obviously much more attractive. An accountant or just going through the IRS website will help you find which you’ll get to use.

        3. DavidFriedman

          It isn’t something special about art.

          When I make donations (to the Institute for Justice), I do it in appreciated stock, currently Apple stock. If I sell the stock I have to pay capital gains taxes on it. If I donate it, I never owe the capital gains and I can deduct the current market value.

          The only difference from the art case is that the current value of the stock is an easily observed market fact, unlike the value of a painting.

        4. Another Throw

          A couple other ways you can tell there’s something fishy going on:

          1. Almost all art donations come with a covenant prohibiting the museum from every selling the work to a private party. This forecloses the possibility ever actually discovering the true market value in the future (with strong implications about the market value at the time of the donation).

          2. Even without such a covenant, museums refuse to do so. Because it’s the principle of the matter. Uh huh.

          3. Museums have managed to convince the IRS that their art collections are intrinsically priceless, and therefore don’t need to be reported as assets. This gets them out of paying their own taxes——charities are required to spend a certain amount of their assets towards their public purpose and failing to do so subjects them to an excise tax based on their total assets, so not reporting the value of their art as an asset is a HUGE loophole——as well as getting them out of having to periodically re-appraise the art in their collection, with all the implications that would have towards any excessive appraisals made by previous owners. (Or worse still, periodically liquidating excess stock and be subject to the shocking horror of discovering the true market value.)

          4. Galleries engage in extreme price discrimination, but only ever report the list price. The probability that anyone actually payed $120,000 for that stupid banana is so close to zero as to have spawned a whole new branch of mathematics, but the inflated list price is what is used as the basis for any appraisals in the future for any work by that artist.

          1. Randy M

            their art collections are intrinsically priceless, and therefore don’t need to be reported as assets.

            Is the IRS so easy to convince that priceless and worthless are the same thing?

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            charities are required to spend a certain amount of their assets towards their public purpose and failing to do so subjects them to an excise tax based on their total assets

            While many parts of this whole Goldberg machine should be shut down, this one seems like a reasonable exception. While we normally want charities to distribute their assets, a museum with $1 billion in paintings really cannot be converting them and selling them off. The benefit to the public is that the public can come see the paintings, which is cultural enrichment stuff or something.

          3. Another Throw

            Don’t ask me what the IRS is thinking, but when I first heard about it (in an article in the NYT, maybe?) I went and actually read all of the Met’s filings and as far as I could tell the art was in fact conspicuously absent. But this would have been a few years ago and y’all know how memory works.

          4. Another Throw

            The benefit to the public is that the public can come see the paintings, which is cultural enrichment stuff or something.

            Yes, that is an argument. But it is also manifestly not how it actually works. Museums have such enormous collections that basically none of their stuff is actually available to culturally enrich the public.

            And if the value the museum provides to the public is so low that it cannot afford to actually display its collections, the public interest is much better served by divesting that collection.

            ETA: The same argument can be made about any charity. Hospitals cannot be expected to sell off their wards, the value to the public is in the treatment that happens in those wards. Harvard cannot be expected to sell off its campuses, the value to the public is in the education that happens in those campuses. But neither my local charity hospital nor Harvard seem to be much imposed upon by the requirement.

          5. Edward Scizorhands

            I actually forgot that museums have huge hoards they don’t show. In which case encouraging them to move some of it is good.

            But I was thinking if they have everything on display, they will not have slack. It is a capital-intense industry.

            I don’t know any more.

          6. Erusian

            I actually forgot that museums have huge hoards they don’t show. In which case encouraging them to move some of it is good.

            Personally I’d think it’d be a pretty small rule change: either you get the exemption only for art you display or you don’t get the exemption anymore but displaying art counts as ‘spending’ it effectively.

          7. Aapje

            A complication is that sweaty, heat-producing, foul-mouthed humans are pretty bad for a lot of stuff. Displaying things can deteriorate them a lot more rapidly than keeping them in storage.

          8. Tenacious D

            I actually forgot that museums have huge hoards they don’t show. In which case encouraging them to move some of it is good.

            One of the first episodes of EconTalk I remember listening to was about this issue.

    4. DragonMilk

      A bit of a tangent, have you ever played the board game Modern Art?

      Part of the fun is the BSing about why your art piece should be worth more. Played it with some residents and it came down to, “look, your payoff is likely to be higher on resale given its popularity”

      Still fun, but made me muse about whether actual art has the same resale value thinking when it comes to purchase decisions.

  12. Forward Synthesis

    Evolution isn’t supposed to be reduced to terms of more or less advanced; that’s often the strawman of evolution deniers or the image a bad episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation would paint when characters began to “de-evolve” into more primitive forms. Even so, it’s sort of true in the sense that when life first began, it barely met the prerequisites for being considered life, and then mutations built on previous mutations, making life gradually more complex and definitive. At a certain point, peak complexity was reached; the underlying cell architecture of a human being is no more complex than that of a chimpanzee or a tyrannosaurus rex. We are what we are because of specific adaptions working on a very old genetic architecture that led to a lineage of social apes whose brain size and fold density gradually increased.

    Given that, how far could you push back the clock had it gone differently? If you ran the Earth simulation with slight initial tweaks a trillion times, life with enough practical intelligence to build civilization would appear at different timeframes in each simulation, or perhaps not at all, with the sun swallowing an Earth filled with mere beasts. What all simulations would have in common, however, would be a cut off point, where life had not yet gained enough complexity to make the adaptions that led to high intelligence possible. For an extreme example, assuming the RNA world hypothesis, a primitive RNA based lifeform would not be able to encode a complex bodyplan due to the fragility of the molecule compared to later DNA organisms. In the process of evolution, there are various gradations between adaptions that are more generally superior for a wide range of environments, and adaptions that are context superior. Most evolution we observe is the latter, but the very early period of life will have been dominated by the former. We sometimes still see general superiority in action in the form of invasive species outcompeting locally adapted ones.

    From one point of view, life reached peak complexity as soon as you had multicellular life with discrete organs like brains, and all that was further necessary was a specific environment that bootstrapped social groups and tool use in an intertwining way. The grasping hands of apes needed trees at least, and trees first appeared in the Devonian, which is before the Cambrian Explosion, after which there might be an argument peak complexity had been reached. Certainly, by the time you get to the precursors to the dinosaurs and other species that lived at the time, the limitations to brains are adaption specific. Meaning, dinosaurs didn’t evolve intelligence for purely happenstance reasons of the right environments not appearing. Run the Earth sim with a slight random variation at the beginning and you might get brachiating creatures swinging through forests at the equivalent time period, to give way to life on plains and adapt further.

    Conservatively, half a billion years is going a bit far, but I certainly think that an Earth could have evolved human intelligent life a few hundreds of millions of years before it actually did.

    1. Wrong Species

      I have this theory that in the modern era, each century is a repudiation of the previous one with a more sympathetic look at the one before that. “Evolution as progress” is a 19th century idea repudiated by the 20th. The 21st century synthesis will probably be that while evolution doesn’t necessarily lead to more “advanced” forms of life, it overall does.

      You could get evidence on this by looking at brain size or the Encephalization Quotient of species over time. Brain size is correlated with intelligence and intelligence is surely a good example of complexity. Humans, of course, have very big brains but mammals in general have bigger brains than reptiles and we have seen a rise in mammals over the last tens of millions of years. So while I don’t think we are at exactly the right time, I don’t think human level intelligence could have popped up 200 million years ago. You need those biological adaptations first.

    2. Silverlock

      It amuses me more than it should that this topic was broached by “Forward Synthesis” and the first reply was from “Wrong Species.”

    3. Thegnskald

      It’s somewhat more complicated than “gross anatomical structures”. I’d suggest the chemistry of modern brains is far more complex than their structure, and this is probably more important, as well.

      Consider energy requirements, though. How well would an intelligent organism that hadn’t evolved ketone pathways do?

      Additionally, intelligent organisms, considering their relatively high investment cost, need really, really good immune systems.

      My personal suspicion is that humans developed intelligence considerably earlier than would be “average” for a planet, assisted by multiple mass extinction events in history clearing the slowest-evolving species out of the way (those with long lifespans and reproductive periods).

    4. boylermaker

      1) It’s not obvious that human-intelligent life hasn’t evolved already:
      https://arxiv.org/pdf/1804.03748.pdf

      2) As a biologist, my rubric for answering these questions is “What answers, if I was given them with certainty, would lead me to believe that the foundations of biology are wrong?”. For me, those answers are basically anything older than 500 MYA, and anything younger than about 5-10,000 YA. Obviously that’s a confidence interval that is so large as to be useless, but I think that’s a feature-not-a-bug. This is the sort of question that we cannot answer, either in theory or practice, without studying life on other planets first.

    5. AlexOfUrals

      In the process of evolution, there are various gradations between adaptions that are more generally superior for a wide range of environments, and adaptions that are context superior. Most evolution we observe is the latter, but the very early period of life will have been dominated by the former.

      I don’t think the difference is between early vs later periods of life. Rather, it’s about mass extinction events. Between mass extinctions, life specializes into niches by accumulating more and more context superior adaptations. A mass extinction changes most contexts and everything too dependent on its context dies out. Of the survivors, those who accumulated most useful and numerous general adaptations will have easier times radiating into now-empty niches. Repeat the process many enough times, and you see unimaginably complex general adaptations (immune system, nervous system, senses, sex reproduction), while the same simple specific adaptations will evolve from scratch over and over again (teeth shape, body size, locomotion modes).

    6. Concavenator

      The Devonian is after the Cambrian explosion – about 100-150 million years later. I’m not convinced that there’s any specific evolutionary process that stopped after the Cambrian. Important developments kept occurring later, such as the colonization of land (from the Silurian and Devonian), or the coevolution of insects and flower plants (since the Cretaceous), and all of them required important changes in bodyplans. At the very least, ecosystems kept increasing in complexity, if not organisms.

  13. albatross11

    Paul Graham essay on how school teaches people to hack the tests/teacher/grades rather than to learn.

    IMO, this is just an instance of Goodhart’s Law–schools and employers started using grades to judge the students, at which point the students started trying to manage the metric, and it became much less meaningful.

    1. cassander

      It seems to be that designing tests that are relatively un-hackable (that is to say, for which score and knowledge are reasonably correlated) isn’t that hard. the AP system seems to have the problem pretty well figured out, essays aside. The trouble is we expect teachers to write their own tests and most of them (unsurprisingly) aren’t very good at it.

      1. SamChevre

        The actuarial exams are a good example of well-designed tests–they are written and taken by the kinds of people who will strategize aggressively, and they are very high-stakes. And until recently, the first couple years of exams were paper and pencil, multiple-choice. Here’s an example:
        https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/edu/course1_0503.pdf

        Note that all the answers are reasonable and all the easy mistakes are included in the choices. The easiest way to do well is to know the material thoroughly.

        1. Kindly

          Are all the answers reasonable?

          For question 2, option (D) is only there to round out the symmetry between (A),(B),(C) – otherwise you could deduce something from it not being there. Nobody who knows anything would pick it. (E) is even worse – it’s only there because they ran out of reasonable answers.

          For question 3, options (B) and (C) are not going to occur naturally to anyone actually tries to solve the problem; they are only there to mess with your head.

          For question 4, options (A) and (E) are obviously way off without any calculation: we’re looking for something slightly less 0.5. If I had to guess, I’d pick (D) which turns out to be correct or maybe (C).

          For question 7, I can tell reasonable stories for every option, but for (A), (B), and (D), the story completely ignores half the information in the question.

          I’m having trouble saying something similar for the other questions just because it’s so much easier to just do the math than to figure out what I’d do if I couldn’t do the math.

      2. mtl1882

        +1, once you hit the high school level and above.

        Younger than that, it is hard to know what exactly to test for. Young kids who went to school traditionally learned rote memorization of key texts and basic math and grammar, which is easy to test for proficiency. “Career-readiness” is a modern thing, and you apprenticed yourself for real-world training. It’s hard to figure out what to test for and how to do it today, given the structure of elementary and early middle school, if you go past filling in the blank with the memorized answer or writing a short explanation of something discussed in class, which is often mostly parotting. Change the format of the question a bit, and they have no idea what is going on. A lot of kids at that age just don’t seem to have the maturity to make the leap to more abstract thinking and reapplication unless the subject is super hands-on. They don’t make connections without very involved support. A teacher who is able to deal with this from all angles would be a rare and energetic one—making sure every kid gets the basics, constructing a test that allows them to apply the fundamentals, making it legible in terms of curriculum requirements, etc. It takes more creativity and high-level planning than people realize.

        I teach standardized exams for that age group (for private high school applications), and those are functional, but largely not similar to how school works or what it teaches. They’re based on the formal logic/reasoning and literary culture of more classical schooling. And most kids have no idea what to do with them. But they aren’t very hackable, and they serve the purpose of selecting for kids who are into that stuff, and who demonstrate intellectual confidence and independence. But that’s becoming more awkward, as schools try to say they’re selecting for “career-ready” or “technical” skills, and then have to explain why they give the kids a bunch of analogies with nineteenth century terms. The SAT jettisoned some of this stuff to satisfy competing interests, but seems to me even more useless as a result.

        As mentioned below, the actuarial exams are very functional, and the bar exam is similar. Those tests are not easy to make or pass, but the purpose of the test, and what to test for, is pretty clear. APs and even SAT Subject Tests are also pretty good. Anything where deep immersion into a clearly defined set of knowledge, and achieving mastery of it, is the goal. It’s where there is ambiguity in what we’re selecting for, and where it diverges from what is taught in school or the forms used, like for standardized tests, that issues arise.

    2. Mark V Anderson

      The discussion in the essay was about testing in particular courses. He is correct that such tests are narrowly about what was taught in class, not general knowledge about the subject, which is why cramming is done to pass such tests. I agree that such testing is of limited value. My understanding is that is rather US-centric.

      What I’ve heard about European universities is that they are mostly about attending the lectures you want to take, but testing (or at least the important testing) is when one takes kind of like grade level exams to see if one has mastered that particular level of academics. Mostly what I know if this what I’ve seen in the movies at Hogwarts :-), but it is my understanding that British education works that way in general. This sounds like a much better way of determining if understanding has been achieved, instead of the US method of people passing classes in the subject matter. In other words, the US should take testing more seriously, not less.

      1. thevoiceofthevoid

        Is that for university exams, or throughout grade school as well? What are the topics tested?

      2. mtl1882

        In Hungary they frequently posed questions in such a way that you would probably not be able to answer if you did not attend, even if you knew the material perfectly well (an infamous example: “state and prove the theorem about the sine function that was proved in Lecture 4”).

        Lol. Yeah, I see a lot of this in regular classroom testing when the teachers write the test. Sometimes they’ll put it even more obscurely, just assuming everyone knows that they want the term defined the way they used it in a certain lesson. Sometimes, they never used the term, but expect students to know what they mean because *they* know that was the topic of the lesson. They make all sorts of assumptions such that the question is indecipherable to someone outside of the class, or outside of the teacher’s head. This stuff is common in the working world, too, with all the jargon. That is why it is harder than it seems—if the teachers have trouble with something like that, they will never be able to refine it to the point where all the kids in the class know what exactly it is they are asking. They probably never clearly differentiated the concepts to begin with. Standardized exams naturally demand a certain amount of clarity, but to do that they have to firmly break with the idea that they are testing what the kids learned in school. Where testing classroom knowledge is the object, there is nothing inherently wrong with referring to “Lecture 4”—everything references paying attention in the class. If the goal is to assess understanding of the material itself, than such a reference naturally appears “unfair.”

      3. Clutzy

        In America our pre-university schools use many tests as opposed to exit tests because people complain about those tests even more than the “teach to the test” tests. “Too much pressure on johnny, what if he has a cold” and the like.

      4. Mark V Anderson

        @zqrd.
        That’s too bad. I have heard things like students have to pass their A levels or B levels in a particular field in the UK. It sounds like this is less general than I thought. Maybe that’s only post high school in preparation for university or something, so similar to the SATs and ACTs in the US? In any case, it is those general subject type tests that I think are much more valuable than tests for a particular course. As the link says, passing a test for a particular course is often useless (although not always, if the course content is essential to learning a particular subject).

    3. Itai Bar-Natan

      A closely related point: Paul Graham is releasing new essays! The essay you link to is his latest at the time of this comment. So far there have been two long ones in that many months.

      1. Reasoner

        It’s true, but if you’ve read his old stuff, I don’t know if the new essays are that revolutionary. To me they come across as remixes of ideas from old essays. Curious if others agree.

        1. albatross11

          I disagree–I think his bus ticket collector essay has some genuine and new insight in it, and I actually had my kids read it (I had my 10 year old read it aloud to my older kids). Very much worthwhile.

    4. Ketil

      One point in the essay is that creating a startup breaks the old (and, I think, somewhat hyperbolic) division between working for good grades and becoming a rich executive vs working for learning interesting things, and becoming an underpaid engineers:

      I suspect many people implicitly assume that working in a field with bad tests is the price of making lots of money. But that, I can tell you, is false. It used to be true. In the mid-twentieth century, when the economy was composed of oligopolies, the only way to the top was by playing their game. But it’s not true now. There are now ways to get rich by doing good work, and that’s part of the reason people are so much more excited about getting rich than they used to be. When I was a kid, you could either become an engineer and make cool things, or make lots of money by becoming an “executive.” Now you can make lots of money by making cool things.

      It occurs to me that in science, success is measured in things like number of publications, number of citations, and impact factors – things that like grades are, at best, indirect measures of what we are really after, and which I think are even easier to game than grades. But I don’t think we have anything like startups to equalize or reset the situation. Is there any solution to this?

  14. Concavenator

    Today, humanity has been free from smallpox for 40 years. Over two millennia, smallpox has ravaged all parts of the world, killing countless millions (300 millions in the 20th century alone, more than all the wars, tyrannies and genocides in the same timeframe), crippling, disfiguring and blinding countless more, ruining entire kingdoms, preying on kings and peasants, killing probably a significant fraction of all infants ever born. The virus targeted humans alone; it was not carried by other species.
    The first measure against smallpox was taken in the 10th century by the Chinese doctors who developed inoculation. The technique would develop into modern vaccines eight centuries later. Over the last 200 years, the virus started disappearing from a country after another, largely because of extensive vaccination programs. In 1959, an international initiative, called for by Viktor Zhdanov and coordinated by the WHO, started to destroy its last strongholds. The last natural case was a Somali hospital cook in 1977, who fully recovered. One further death occurred in a lab the following year. On December 9, 1979, an international scientific commission declared smallpox officially eradicated – the first such case in recorded history, and arguably one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments.
    Though most samples of the virus have been destroyed, some are still kept in labs in the US and Russia.

    This one evil, the horror from beyond memory, the monster that took 500 million people from this world – was destroyed.
    You are a member of the species that did that. Never forget what we are capable of, when we band together and declare battle on what is broken in the world.
    Happy Smallpox Eradication Day.

    https://blog.jaibot.com/500-million-but-not-a-single-one-more/

    1. albatross11

      +1

      It’s always seemed weird to me that we don’t celebrate Smallpox Eradication Day worldwide.

    2. cassander

      as someone with a close family member who has his name on the small pox vaccine patent, here here!

      1. albatross11

        We got rid of rinderpest awhile back–that’s a livestock disease, but one that caused a lot of human misery/hunger. Polio’s tricky to get rid of because the best vaccine is a live-virus vaccine, and the virus strain occasionally mutates back into a virulent form and can start circulating again if you’ve stopped vaccinating. There’s an inactivated virus vaccine, but I think it’s less effective and harder to administer in third-world conditions.

  15. ADifferentAnonymous

    I’ve previously linked to RandomCriticalAnalysis on health costs, and I remain convinced of certain facts:
    1) A nation’s total health-care expenditure is mostly a function of its mean household disposable income. No health policy in the developed world can change that much, including the USA’s.
    2) Average healthcare consumption, measured in dollars, is about the same for rich and poor in all developed countries including the USA.
    3) Marginal health spending does not improve outcomes very much.

    Rather than debate these, I’d like to consider their consequences if taken as given.

    Taken together, these suggest a sort of dodo bird verdict for health policy. Most US health reform advocates would say they expect to cut costs, increase the poor’s access to healthcare, and improve outcomes, and their opponents would generally claim they’ll have the opposite effect on at least two of those measures. But these premises imply they’ll actually have no significant effects.

    Given those constraints, what can a health policy hope to achieve? What outcomes might we still be able to improve, and what kind of system might improve them? (Reserving this top-level post for posing the question; my own answers will be in a reply)

    1. Noah

      It might be able to change the incentive landscape for drug development (which, in the long term, has some effect on outcomes).

    2. ADifferentAnonymous

      The ideal measure of a medical system, given constant health outcomes, would be utility loss due to treatment costs. So for each individual, you’d add up their out-of-pocket medical bills, insurance premiums (including employer-paid), and tax payments (scaled by the the proportion of public money spent on healthcare), then estimate the utility impact of those payments based on that person’s income/wealth.

      Now if you can’t cut costs or improve quality, the only way to improve that measure is to redistribute costs. One way is to put more of the cost burden on the rich, but of course that tends to be easier said than done, and I’d worry that it might funge against other forms of redistribution whose opportunity cost we’d have ton consider.

      But you can also improve that measure by equalizing medical costs within incomes–you’d rather have ten people making $20,000 a year each pay in $1000 than one of them have to pay $10,000. (Of course, this is the entire point of insurance)

      So a simplified target measure would be the variance in individual medical spending variance, inclusive of premiums and taxes and so, excluding that explained by income. Presumably this is best achieved by some sort of universal single-payer scheme. But I’d be curious about the data; I do expect the US to be worse than other OECD countries as a causal result of healthcare policy, but if it were not I would definitely do some updating.

    3. hash872

      Most US health reform advocates would say they expect to cut costs, increase the poor’s access to healthcare, and improve outcomes

      I’d say that improving access is definitely within the government’s ability to do (if the Dems really really try). Long term budgetary costs are a bit speculative, but they can definitely increase access, and possibly outcomes for some sub-populations. As I’ve posted here before, I don’t think the political will to cut costs exists, but indirect steps like reversing mega-hospital chain mergers that are so uncompetitive I even see libertarians like Tyler Cowen say they’re bad- also definitely possible.

      I feel like much of RCA’s post that you linked was about America’s unique obesity, auto transportation & gun issues- which sort of fall under public health, if not quite healthcare

      1. ADifferentAnonymous

        I think I linked RCA’s healthcare tag, not a single post? In any case, this is probably the single post that best covers the main thesis.

        As for increasing access: how would you quantify ‘access’? I actually agree that there probably is a value of access we care about that can be improved, but it has to be something more nuanced than “how much healthcare the poor receive on average”.

      2. Garrett

        How do we address self-induced medical problems such as non-compliance, obesity and smoking in a manner which is politically appealing?

  16. EchoChaos

    Apropos our impeachment discussion on the political impact in the last few threads (NOT THE MERITS!), a new poll in the Rust Belt Battleground shows it hitting Biden specifically very hard.

    https://firehousestrategies.com/analysis/december_2019_battleground_survey/

    Biden has gone from leading by 1-5 points in all three states to behind by 3-8.

    Now, it’s certainly possible that the pollster is off (Optimus is considered to have a 1.5 point bias towards Republicans by FiveThirtyEight), but this isn’t a wildly terrible pollster.

    If Trump wins these three states, the Democrats would have to pick up Florida AND another major state (Arizona or North Carolina) to win in 2020.

    1. hls2003

      It looks to me like Trump only tops 50% twice (vs. Warren & Sanders in Wisconsin) in that set of polling. At this stage, isn’t his lead more of a name recognition artifact (people being unwilling to state support for candidates they don’t know), and the failure to top 50% more concerning for Trump than any gap between him and the lesser-known Democratic challengers?

      I’m aware he won with something like 46-47% of the popular vote last time, but that’s nationally – even with some bleed-off from third parties in the race he would presumably need to top 49% in the battlegrounds to take the state.

      1. EchoChaos

        At this stage, isn’t his lead more of a name recognition artifact (people being unwilling to state support for candidates they don’t know), and the failure to top 50% more concerning for Trump than any gap between him and the lesser-known Democratic challengers?

        I am not an expert, but I would expect at least Biden to have pretty good name recognition at this point. He was, after all, Vice President for eight years.

        And my understanding is that being over 50% at this point is “smooth sailing”, but any lead is a very good sign, since there will be a decent number of 3rd party votes and undecideds generally break fairly evenly (the polls showing ~2 point national lead for Clinton were basically accurate even when they were showing 46-44 or 50-48).

        1. hls2003

          I’m no expert either, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all that 10% of the population (presumably the least-informed 10%) wouldn’t know Biden was Obama’s VP or wouldn’t recognize his name.

          I would also expect very, very slim third-party vote totals in 2020. In 2016 almost everyone decried the sad binary choice being presented, and some were bound to vent frustration with a third party (I did). I think the battle lines have hardened since then, where you’ll see fewer throwaway votes. Just my opinion.

          1. Nornagest

            I still see a lot of the issues that gave us unusually high third-party vote totals in 2016 — the battle lines have hardened, but generally in a way that panders to the base. Independents have as many reasons to be disgruntled as ever. I, for one, would vote third party in several possible matchups — it somewhat depends who the third-party options are, but honestly I’d prefer Vermin Supreme to half the Democratic field.

          2. hls2003

            If I’m reading this right – and Wikipedia has it correct – it looks like third parties were right about 5% in 2016 (3.3% Libertarian, 1.1% Green, 0.6% other). I would register my prediction that third party votes will be 3% or less nationally in 2020.

          3. achenx

            Third-parties drew under 3% in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, so that’s a relatively safe bet.

            1980 had John Anderson, and 1992 and 1996 had Ross Perot, so I think the distinguishing feature of 2016 was the lack of a single “big name” to draw third-party votes, but more of a scattered vote among several “alternate” candidates.

    2. Plumber

      @EchoChaos >

      “…the Democrats would have to pick up Florida AND another major state (Arizona or North Carolina) to win in 2020.”

      The last polls that I saw had Warren second most likely after Biden to beat Trump in Arizona, and Sanders most likely to beat Trump in Michigan, Trump had a slight edge in Nimorth Carolina but for the other three “battleground” states of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin Biden had  the best chance, with Sanders second best.

      Biden’s ‘base’ so far has been no college diploma, older, and/or black Democrats (lots of overlap in those three categories) compared to other Democrats, Sanders base has been youngsters, Warren’s a little bit older, more educated and more female than Sanders supporters on average, but not by a lot.

      So far what I’ve seen as “the path to victory” has been:

      1) Increase non-white turnout. 

      There’s some indication that younger black voters favor Sanders and Warren more than their elders do, but they’re a miniscule number of the electorate, even doubling young black turnout doesn’t move the needle much, older ones need to turnout to make a difference. 


      2) Flip “suburban moms” from Republicans to Democrats. 

       “Suburban moms” would be paying taxes to fund 
      Warren and Sanders ‘Medicare for all” plans, so I wouldn’t bet they’d prevail with them, Bloomberg would probably have the best chance to sway them, but overall I’d expect him to do no better that Romney in ’12 and I can’t imagine much non-white turnout for Bloomberg (and he would have to buy every Democratic primary voter a Prius to get the nomination. 


      3) Win back “Obama to Trump” voters.

      Winning back ‘Rust Belt’ whites will be tough, Sanders may have the best chance of that after Biden (maybe a better chance now?), Warren just seems “collegiate” and  especially after her “If you can find a woman” quip I don’t think many working-class men will vote for her.

      I’m not liking these odds.

      Sherrod Brown or Jim Webb with Stacy Abrams as V.P. would look better I think.

      1. hash872

        The issue is that doing both 2 & 3 are tough. 3 are open to populist appeals, and 2 are really not/may be afraid of populism (remember they don’t have to vote for anyone, they can just stay home). Seeing as 3 is a much much larger population, seems like the better play

        1. broblawsky

          Based on the results of the 2018 midterms – and special elections last month – 2 appears to have already been accomplished. Democratic candidates performed substantially better in suburban areas than they did in 2016.

          1. EchoChaos

            That’s absolutely true, and the biggest thing Republicans need to recover.

            Unfortunately for Democrats, the road to the White House doesn’t really lie through many of them. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are older, whiter and less educated than the rest of the country, which is where Trump is strong.

            And Florida was curiously resistant to the 2018 wave, with abnormally strong Republican performances. This may have been candidate unique, or it may be that Floridians aren’t moving the same way as the rest of the country.

            North Carolina and Arizona are in reach, and if Democrats can flip both, then Florida and the Rust Belt don’t matter, but that’s a tough row to hoe.

    3. broblawsky

      I’d be reluctant to draw a significant conclusion from a single poll, personally. Wait for replication.

  17. Well...

    Continuing a discussion from the Links post (I left off approximately here), sort of about practical, non-polemical (anti-polemical, even) application of politically incorrect facts.

    @Clutzy:

    BLM and the media narrative around it are inherently strawmen. That is the nature of the movement because it is based on statistical illiteracy.

    Maybe so, but there’s a difference between saying “Your stats are wrong so you’re just tilting at windmills” and understanding how many black people feel in this country, maybe partly as a result of how the media have (wrongly) told them to feel but also as a result of how they’ve really, actually been treated by cops, or how other black people they know have been treated by cops. Responding to this type of experience in a way other than one completely informed by hard rationality isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t automatically mean they’re necessarily responding in bad faith either. If you have any black friends or family members who are sympathetic to BLM, hopefully you can ask them about it and see what I mean firsthand.

    @albatross11:

    But if we’re discussing the black/white performance gap in school, or why blacks are underrepresented in magnet schools or in STEM fields, the black/white IQ difference is pretty obviously relevant.

    It might be relevant, it might not. I’d say the general difference in IQ scores between races isn’t relevant, for example, to a discussion of whether a particular white person is smarter than a particular black person. How big a set of particular people do we have to be talking about before the global statistics become relevant? Also, what if you’re making some kind of proposal when it comes to, say, the black/white performance gap in school. Does your proposal integrate the global IQ statistics in some way? If not, then bringing it up probably serves no useful purpose, just acts as a red herring that people will get hung up on.

    The world we live in now is one in which respectable mainstream serious publications like the NYT or Washington Post will write a series of stories about how some city’s magnet schools have too few black students, and will claim that this is due to some kind of racism or discrimination by whites.

    I would argue that most people are always going to be statistically illiterate, and that the real problem there is the way we allow journalists to determine both the topics of conversation and the narratives within the conversations. If our “mainstream serious publications” were actually serious — and better yet, peer-reviewed as well (note, this doesn’t mean they have to be inaccessible!) — and not pseudo-scholarly tabloids created by English and Acting majors who put on a show where they pretend to be authorities, then we’d be much more likely to get good information in them.

    I agree with your four factual claims.

    1. Randy M

      I’d say the general difference in IQ scores between races isn’t relevant, for example, to a discussion of whether a particular white person is smarter than a particular black person.

      It’s not about the number of people but how much other information you have about them.

    2. Alexander Turok

      Maybe so, but there’s a difference between saying “Your stats are wrong so you’re just tilting at windmills” and understanding how many black people feel in this country, maybe partly as a result of how the media have (wrongly) told them to feel but also as a result of how they’ve really, actually been treated by cops, or how other black people they know have been treated by cops. Responding to this type of experience in a way other than one completely informed by hard rationality isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t automatically mean they’re necessarily responding in bad faith either. If you have any black friends or family members who are sympathetic to BLM, hopefully you can ask them about it and see what I mean firsthand.

      I don’t think there’s any disputing of the facts here, the average BLM protestor isn’t acting in bad faith, they’re just misinformed. The question is how to respond to it, I think we should say so.

      1. albatross11

        Alexander Turok: +1

        The right way to address police misconduct and police shootings is almost certainly going to go through knowing as much as we can about what’s going on. Deciding some relevant facts aren’t worth printing or discussing is a good way of making dumb collective decisions that will make things worse off.

      2. albatross11

        As an example of this, some time ago, during a discussion of some kerfluffle about a Starbucks employee who called the cops on a couple black guys who didn’t want to buy anything and wouldn’t leave when she told them to, someone (I forget who) claimed that calling the police on blacks was very dangerous–it was taking a large risk of them getting shot. Now, this isn’t true–it’s not even remotely close to being true. We can discuss why, but to do that, once again, leads us to hatefacts.

        The universe is really frustratingly consistent. Just as really holding to young-Earth creationism breaks geology and archaeology and paleontology and astronomy as well as biology, holding to conventionally-supported ignorance often just means that you keep tripping over places where your ignorance keeps you from understanding what’s going on.

        The first step to making the world a better place is, in nearly all cases, to understand what’s going on and what the world looks like. Ignorance is very rarely a civic virtue, and working to keep your fellow citizens ignorant is probably even *more* rarely a civic virtue.

    3. albatross11

      Well:

      I’d say the general difference in IQ scores between races isn’t relevant, for example, to a discussion of whether a particular white person is smarter than a particular black person.

      This is mostly true. If all you know about Alice and Bob is that Alice is a randomly selected 25 year old white American and Bob is a randomly selected 25 year old black American, IQ statistics tell you something. If Alice and Bob are students in your school, you can just give then a 30 minute paper-and-pencil test which is *way* better at telling you how smart each of them is. If you work with Alice and Bob, presumably you can judge the quality of their work and their company without worrying about IQ statistics.

      But my comment was specifically talking about news stories on black/white performance gaps in school. Race/IQ statistics are extremely relevant for that. Indeed, I would say that if you try to think about or discuss the black/white performance gap in education without knowing about those statistics, and their reflection in basically every standardized test ever, you are doomed to talk nonsense. It’s like trying to understand why Team A almost always beats Team B at basketball, but you won’t let yourself know that the average height of Team A’s players is three inches higher than Team B’s players.

      Why are there not very many blacks and lots of Asians in the NYC super-selective magnet schools? And why is that pattern replicated everywhere that has super-selective magnet schools, all over the US? It’s just one of those incomprehensible mysteries, I guess, or proof that pro-Asian, anti-black racists have infiltrated every school system in the nation. Or maybe the legacy of slavery, or Jim Crow, or redlining, or acting white, or….

      I mean, what else could it be? If only there were some branch of psychology that specialized in the measure of intellectual ability, with a century or more of collected data and scholarship on the matter, maybe we could get them to collect some kind of statistics that would help us settle what’s going on.

      This is one of those places where “hatefacts” you say shouldn’t be discussed in public turn out to matter quite a bit. The world makes a lot more sense when you know them than when you don’t. And there’s a large set of people proposing ignorance of those facts as a virtue.

      1. jermo sapiens

        t’s just one of those incomprehensible mysteries, I guess, or proof that pro-Asian, anti-black racists have infiltrated every school system in the nation. Or maybe the legacy of slavery, or Jim Crow, or redlining, or acting white, or….

        The preferred explanation is “systemic racism”. Nobody is actually outwardly racist, but racism permeates “the system”. Dont ask how, or you will be called racist and an example of systemic racism.

        Systemic racism is never defined or observed, but we know it’s the right answer, otherwise it would suggest that some people we called racist were right about stuff, and that’s impossible.

        1. Asclepius' Viper

          This post and its parent are wildly uncharitable. I wouldn’t have thought the concept “some problems arise due to complicated societal systems rather than any individual bad actors” was a controversial one, especially since Meditations On Moloch, one of the most popular posts on this blog, is dedicated to the concept.

          An assertion that “my opponents can’t even define their position, let alone defend it” does not make me inclined to accept one’s assessment of their argument, it makes me inclined to believe you haven’t made even the most marginal effort to follow their argument.

          1. jermo sapiens

            Fair enough.

            But this is not just some wild theorizing on my part about what my opponent’s position is. This is put in practice and it affects me personally.

            The Law Society of Ontario, of which I am a member, commissioned a report on the difficulties experienced by “racialized licensees’ (ie, black lawyers). The conclusions were that the lower representation of black lawyers in the legal profession were due to “systemic racism”, even though actual observable racism was very rare. Following the report, new rules were put in place, requiring myself and every other member of the law society to sign a statement affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to attend diversity CLE classes (CLE = continued legal education).

            Systemic racism was never defined. Or if it was the definition was so vague that the concept was not falsifiable.

            Progressives found a problem (lower representation of blacks in law), conjured a guilty party out of thin air (systemic racism), and made everybody bend to their ideological whims as a result. This is like if So-cons found a problem (teenage boys are masturbating too much), conjured a guilty party out of thin air (the devil), and used that excuse to make everybody recite the rosary before going to bed.

            This behavior does not map to “some problems arise due to complicated societal systems rather than any individual bad actors”, which is the very charitable interpretation of “systemic racism” (or the motte). You dont get to impose your ideological view on everyone if that is your conclusion. Instead you need to do the hard work of understanding how the system produces these problems. This is not what is being done. What is being done is to declare by fiat that the solution is to recite the progressive incantation “diversity is our strength”.

            This is just one of many examples.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            Progressives found a problem (lower representation of blacks in law), conjured a guilty party out of thin air (systemic racism), and made everybody bend to their ideological whims as a result. This is like if So-cons found a problem (teenage boys are masturbating too much), conjured a guilty party out of thin air (the devil), and used that excuse to make everybody recite the rosary before going to bed.

            There is always a state religion.

          3. jermo sapiens

            There is always a state religion.

            Always. I’d go further and say everybody has a religion, even Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. And it turns out that whether your religion is theistic or not is not that salient.

          4. albatross11

            jermo:

            I think everyone has a set of unprovable beliefs on which they act, but I don’t think all such sets of beliefs constitute a religion.

          5. jermo sapiens

            I think everyone has a set of unprovable beliefs on which they act, but I don’t think all such sets of beliefs constitute a religion.

            I dont like redefining words outside of their ordinary meaning, so I will grant you that. Also, arguing around the definition of words is not super productive.

            But, there is a concept which captures alot of aspects of religion and also aspects of something like progressivism. For example, both provide a belief system which is used to prescribe behavior. It is useful to compare progressivism to religion, as it explains alot of the behavior of progressives. Unfortunately, there is no widely accepted word for this concept, so stretching the meaning of religion to include progressivism seems fair, but “secular religion” would be more precise, and I would welcome any new term to describe it.

          6. albatross11

            One qualm I have with “structural racism” or “white supremacy” as I’ve seen it used in various internet think pieces is that it seems unfalsifiable–a little like the God of the gaps[1]. It seems like any observation that leaves blacks worse off than whites can be (and often is) explained by systemic racism, often without any justification provided.

            When someone provides an explanation of (say) the black/white gap in education that ends with “structural racism,” that looks like God-of-the-gaps theory spackle to me. By contrast, if they start with “systemic racism” and then explain how long-term social forces and path dependency have led blacks to end up in worse schools or with worse study habits today, then they’re just making an argument and we should try to evaluate their claims to see whether they make sense. (For example, I’d say the black/white gap in household wealth probably has an explanation that fits into a structural racism kind of model.)

            [1] If you have a theory about physics in which all currently-unexplained things are explained by reference to divine intervention, there will never be evidence that contradicts your theory, because God can do anything He wants.

          7. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @jermo sapiens

            Progressives found a problem (lower representation of blacks in law), conjured a guilty party out of thin air (systemic racism), and made everybody bend to their ideological whims as a result.

            The claim that “systemic racism was conjured out of thin air” is also uncharitable – and a bit confusing. I know less about racism in Canada than the US or the UK, but if it’s anything like those two (or Australia), then organised racism as government policy was present within living memory and racist attitudes were endemic throughout society.

            Do you really think that there was no systemic racism in say the 1960s? And if you agree there was, that it has all gone by now?

            Is it really so crazy to think that maybe there are still enough people holding racist views to make a meaningful impact on the lives of non-white people?

          8. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @albatross11

            That seems like a fair objection. The impression I sometimes get from threads on this topic is that people dismiss the whole concept of systemic racism as a possibility because they’ve seen some people use it in a ‘god of the gaps’ style.

          9. jermo sapiens

            Do you really think that there was no systemic racism in say the 1960s? And if you agree there was, that it has all gone by now?

            Yes, there was systemic racism in the 60s. And the systemic racism was composed of all the racist acts and policies that were prevalent at the time.

            Now there has been a tremendous effort to eradicate racist policies and to severely sanction racist acts. This is a very good thing, and it has been wildly successful. But we still dont get equality the way progressives would want (i.e. equality of results). So now “systemic racism” can no longer be credibly defined as actual acts of racism or racist policies, because these have been almost totally eradicated (I’m sure people still have racist thoughts, but few are brave enough to express them).

            So, racism is not totally gone, but it is as suppressed as it can be.

            The key to understanding what progressives (the one in the Law Society of Ontario, at least) think “systematic racism” is, is how they propose to fight it: to recite an incantation.

          10. acymetric

            The constant strawmanning of liberal positions on racism (and, elsewhere in this OT, immigration) is pretty tiresome. @NostalgiaForInfinity pretty much nailed it with their last comment.

          11. The Nybbler

            It’s not strawmanning, because people holding those positions exist. It’s not really reasonable to call it “weakmanning” either, because many people holding those positions are powerful.

          12. jermo sapiens

            The constant strawmanning of liberal positions on racism (and, elsewhere in this OT, immigration) is pretty tiresome. @NostalgiaForInfinity pretty much nailed it with their last comment.

            FTR, I’m not claiming this is the position of any commenter here. This is a real world example of progressive policies. It’s not a strawman, it’s reality. You can say that you disagree with the Law Society of Ontario if you wish, and I’m sure most self-described progressives here probably do, but when it comes to fighting this in the real world, moderate progressives are hard to find and do nothing while conservatives get called nazis.

          13. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @jermo sapiens

            OK. I agree that incantations are likely to be entirely pointless. I disagree that successfully taboo-ing explicitly racist statements means that racism can’t still be present or relevant (to a significant degree).

            I also disagree that inept attempts to combat systemic racism – even ones that suggest the people behind those attempts have a cloudy idea of what it really even is – mean that it doesn’t exist or isn’t worth considering.

          14. DarkTigger

            @NostalgicaForInfinity
            Compare your:

            The claim that “systemic racism was conjured out of thin air” is also uncharitable – and a bit confusing. I know less about racism in Canada than the US or the UK, but if it’s anything like those two (or Australia), then organised racism as government policy was present within living memory and racist attitudes were endemic throughout society.

            to Asclepius’ Viper:

            “some problems arise due to complicated societal systems rather than any individual bad actors”

            and explain to me, how you two are talking about the same concept.

          15. acymetric

            @The Nybbler

            I did mean “weakman” as opposed to “strawman”. I don’t completely agree that this isn’t weakmanning, but I do see where you’re coming from. What I was ultimately trying to get at is:

            (@jermo sapiens)

            FTR, I’m not claiming this is the position of any commenter here. This is a real world example of progressive policies.

            Which is pervasive (not unique to jermo sapiens) here, and makes it impossible to have any discussion about the less extreme versions of these positions because any times it comes up it just circles around to “well yeah but these othere people espouse this more extreme version” and around and ’round we go.

            The end result is we ignore what people here who hold liberal positions are saying, focusing on the beliefs of people who aren’t “in the room” so to speak. Generally SSC is pretty good about avoiding this in other discussions, or reeling it back in at least, but these to topics seem exempt from that for some reason which makes them frustrating to participate in (or even just to read).

          16. jermo sapiens

            I agree that incantations are likely to be entirely pointless.

            They’re pointless in addressing the problem they purport to address. But they’re not pointless for the people implementing them. They are used to bully people into appearing to comply with the progressive narrative.

            I disagree that successfully taboo-ing explicitly racist statements means that racism can’t still be present or relevant (to a significant degree).

            That’s fair. But that racism should be a real thing you can identify. Claiming it is just part of the air we breathe is not helpful and leads to incantations as discussed above.

            Also, what should we do as a society to further suppress racism? I’m not sure as a society we can sanction it any more severely than what we currently are, at least without massively diminishing returns. Should we jail racists? Maybe brand them with a R on their forehead. I seriously dont know.

            I also disagree that inept attempts to combat systemic racism – even ones that suggest the people behind those attempts have a cloudy idea of what it really even is – mean that it doesn’t exist or isn’t worth considering.

            I agree. But until I’ve been shown what systematic racism is in the real world, I’ll remain a skeptic. And then, when we do know what it is, we can tackle it effectively.

          17. acymetric

            @Dark Tigger

            I won’t speak for @NostalgicaForInfinity , but my take:

            Systemic racism both involves explicitly racist people in the system (which definitely still exists today, though maybe not as openly/overtly as 50-100 years ago) and complicated societal/institutional systems that disfavor minority groups.

            I do agree that not all differences in outcomes and circumstances can traced to systemic or institutional racism (at least as I define the “system” or “institution”), but it is equally false to claim that it doesn’t exist at all, and probably false in a worse way.

          18. jermo sapiens

            Which is pervasive (not unique to jermo sapiens) here, and makes it impossible to have any discussion about the less extreme versions of these positions because any times it comes up it just circles around to “well yeah but these othere people espouse this more extreme version” and around and ’round we go.

            I’m happy discussing abstract positions of people here. But that should not preclude discussions of real world examples.

            If I was a “moderate” member of the Wesboro Baptist Church, I could say “yeah I dont support all the gay bashing, that’s extreme.” It wouldnt be an answer to someone claiming that my church supports and performs gay bashing.

          19. acymetric

            I’m happy discussing abstract positions of people here. But that should not preclude discussions of real world examples.

            Is “abstract” the right way to describe actual, concrete positions and beliefs actually held and being presented by people directly involved in this discussion? Seems like the opposite of “abstract” to me (and yet again, a reflection of why this discussion is so frustrating to have here). If I describe your claim that systemic racism does not exist as “abstract” would you say that is accurate?

          20. albatross11

            We need another term.

            a. Strawman means I make up a weak argument for your position and defeat it.

            b. Weakman means I find a nutcase somewhere on the internet on your side and defeat him. (Sometimes also called “nutpicking.”)

            c. Steelman means I make the best case I can for your position.

            d. —–man means I find a powerful/influential figure on your side making a weak argument or crazy claim.

            What should we call this? How about NYTManning? That is, I find someone who gets into a top media outlet or other high-prestige venue arguing your side.

            The problem for everyone on the right is the existence of Trump. No intellectual movement can withstand being continually Trumpmanned.

          21. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @DarkTigger

            My summary there was more the objection to the idea that systemic racism was “conjured out of thin air” rather than a plausible inference from recent history.

            My interpretation of systemic racism would be a combination of the legacy of the obvious and explicit racism in recent history, and some amount of residual racism against non-white people (some of which is deliberate and explicit, some of which isn’t).
            Otherwise I generally agree with acymetric’s response to your question.

          22. jermo sapiens

            Is “abstract” the right way to describe actual, concrete positions and beliefs actually held and being presented by people directly involved in this discussion?

            What I meant to say is that we should discuss both the positions of people and the real world. I did not mean to denigrate anybody’s position.

            I think it’s ordinary usage to discuss ideas/positions as abstract, to the extent that the word abstract is opposed to real world events. If my understanding of that term is incorrect, I’ll be happy to correct it.

            In my mother tongue (French), I would have used “abstrait” and that would have been the correct usage. But sometimes direct translations between French and English have different connotations.

          23. Corey

            Also, what should we do as a society to further suppress racism? I’m not sure as a society we can sanction it any more severely than what we currently are, at least without massively diminishing returns. Should we jail racists? Maybe brand them with a R on their forehead. I seriously dont know.

            Affirmative action. I think the idea that AA might bring us *closer* to meritocracy is foreign to this community (see: any discussion of women in tech).

          24. jermo sapiens

            Affirmative action. I think the idea that AA might bring us *closer* to meritocracy is foreign to this community (see: any discussion of women in tech).

            AA has been happening for some time already. Do you have something different in mind?

          25. The Nybbler

            @Corey

            Affirmative action. I think the idea that AA might bring us *closer* to meritocracy is foreign to this community (see: any discussion of women in tech).

            “Foreign” suggests that the idea is unknown or has not been considered. I think it would be more accurate to say the idea has been rejected.

          26. acymetric

            @jermo sapiens

            In my mother tongue (French), I would have used “abstrait” and that would have been the correct usage. But sometimes direct translations between French and English have different connotations.

            I did not realize English wasn’t your native language, I do think this was a connotation issue. Consider my objection to that retracted (or at least satisfied).

          27. The Nybbler

            If the powerful and influential people on your side are making the argument (and it is not being as powerfully opposed by other powerful and influential people on the same side — a situation that would suggest an internal schism) then it isn’t “anything-manning” to point it out. It’s perfectly valid to do so. That applies to Trump as well as anyone else. If you’re strongly opposed to those positions you’re not on that side (e.g. the NeverTrump conservatives, or the so-called Intellectual Dark Web).

          28. DarkTigger

            @asymetric

            Systemic racism both involves explicitly racist people in the system (which definitely still exists today, though maybe not as openly/overtly as 50-100 years ago) and complicated societal/institutional systems that disfavor minority groups.

            You know I agree with you in this. But this is very different from the “no bad actor” thing Asclepius’ Viper talks about, or the thing i.e. the author of “White Fragility” uses when she says that this kind of direct personal racism does not interrest her.

            You are just using the same word for two different concepts.

            Edit: repaired the editting

          29. jermo sapiens

            My summary there was more the objection to the idea that systemic racism was “conjured out of thin air” rather than a plausible inference from recent history.

            Ok I concede that point. Systemic racism is a plausible inference from recent history. However, it behooves whomever blames systemic racism to define it clearly so that we may recognize it in the real world, and to make a better case for attribution than “plausible inference”. Otherwise, “conjured out of thin air” is not that far off the mark.

          30. lvlln

            My summary there was more the objection to the idea that systemic racism was “conjured out of thin air” rather than a plausible inference from recent history.

            This seems fair, though I’d say calling it a plausible inference from recent history is smuggling in quite a bit. It is an inference from recent history, but its level of plausibility is an open question. It’s clearly not absurd, but I’d say it’s also clearly not anything stronger than that, and “not absurd” is a very low bar of plausibility to clear.

            But in my view, the fact that systemic racism keeps getting used as a “god of the gaps” conclusion every time some differential is observed reflects it sort of being “conjured out of thin air.” The idea that systemic racism could exist today due to the lingering effects of recent history (including the trace amounts of real overt racism that still happen today) is, again, not an absurd idea, but it’s the start of an idea, not a conclusion. It’s a hypothesis to be verified with further research that first, with great skepticism, checks if there’s any there there, and then surgically finds the specific areas where it manifests. That bears no resemblance to how the concept is used which, again, is basically a “god of the gaps” fully-general conclusion to jump to when gaps are observed but no known mechanism exists to explain it.

            If “systemic racism” were investigated on a case-by-case basis, with each individual organization that showed gaps being investigated for the particular ways in which that “systemic racism” manifest due to that specific organization’s unique history, with society-wide trends of “systemic racism” being asserted only on the basis of large collections of such individual-level data, then it would be a valuable concept and also bear no resemblance to the concept as it’s used in real life today.

          31. John Schilling

            The claim that “systemic racism was conjured out of thin air” is also uncharitable – and a bit confusing. [in the Anglosphere] organised racism as government policy was present within living memory and racist attitudes were endemic throughout society.

            Correct, but organized racism as government and even private-organizational policy has been quite thoroughly eradicated within living memory, yet “structural racism” is almost always described as a thing that presently exists. So “structural racism”, in contemporary leftist usage, clearly doesn’t point to organized racism as current government policy.

            That’s needlessly confusing, and you all probably should have picked a different term for that. But I agree that it is also confusing, and inaccurate, to say that structural racism was “conjured out of thin air”.

            What I see, is actual racism – and particularly actual organized racist policies – greatly receding from the modern world, and people pointing at the thin air now where such explicit racism used to exist and saying “structural racism!”. They aren’t creating it out of thin air, it’s coming out of real solid racism that used to exist, but they are failing to recognize that it has gone away and left thin air in its wake.

          32. DinoNerd

            @albatross11

            Leadermanning? Punditmanning?

            Many possibly reasonable ideas and policies have the problem that they’ve gotten powerful enough to have important people supporting them, and those leaders/influencers are either addicted to oversimplified soundbites (and matching policies), or are in fact simply using the movement (and its supporters) to pursue their own goals.

          33. DavidFriedman

            At a slight tangent, it seems to me that part of the issue is the question of whether people are looking for evidence and considering it, or simply rejecting anything that doesn’t fit their views. Two examples of such evidence:

            When my sister went to law school (Bolt, fifty some years ago), about ten percent of the class were women. One year, of the two top students in the three classes, five of the six were women. That’s pretty strong evidence that the low representation of women was due not to their lack of ability but to some filter that made it harder for women to go to law school, so that the ones who did were likely to be the most able. It doesn’t tell us what the filter was, but that the filter was something societal is confirmed by the fact that by now about half the students in law school are women—societal structures change faster than genetics.

            I am not certain, but I believe the measured IQ of American Indians is as high as or higher than that of American whites. If so, that is pretty strong evidence against some environmental explanations of the black/white IQ difference, since American Indians are on average poor. If higher, it’s some evidence for the genetic explanation, since American Indians are ultimately of East Asian ancestry, and the measured IQ of East Asians is higher than that of whites.

            I expect one could find other examples of such tests. Sowell, in Ethnic America, mentions that West Indian immigrants, who are both genetically and in appearance blacker than most African-Americans, do quite well, reaching average incomes in one generation. He offers that as evidence against both genetics and discrimination as explanations of the poor outcomes of African-Americans, in favor of an explanation involving African-American culture coming out of slavery.

            I think the claim that invisible racism is being pulled out of thin air is legitimate if the people arguing that as the explanation are making no serious effort to look for and believe evidence, not legitimate if they are looking for and finding evidence, whether or not what they find provides strong support for their view.

            And one of the things that makes me suspect it is legitimate in many, perhaps most, cases of the sort being discussed is that the people alleging invisible racism take it as certain, with I think no evidence at all, that the distribution of relevant abilities must be the same across races, and seem quite uninterested in considering evidence for or against that assumption.

          34. RalMirrorAd

            @NostalgicaForInfinity

            The phrase that’s missing here is Systematic, the partner to systemic.

            Pre Civ-rights had plenty of laws, rules, and formal practices that could be pointed to as the cause of outcome inequality. Insofar as they are detectable they were abolished [if laws] or outlawed [i.e. company practices].

            The systemic that JS refers to is distinct from the above insofar as it is solely something one infers from an achievement gap. It’s not a variable you observe, alter, and re-observe to see the outcome (ala lead poisoning).

            So there’s no inconsistency in thinking that assumed sources of inequality went from being real [observable and falsifiable] to emphemeral [unobservable and unfalsifiable]

          35. Aapje

            @DavidFriedman

            That’s pretty strong evidence that the low representation of women was due not to their lack of ability but to some filter that made it harder for women to go to law school

            There are other explanations, like:
            – Women being more diligent or otherwise better at law exams, for the same basic ability (there is substantial evidence that this is an issue in education for boys right now, where they do much more poorly in school than in the workplace). AFAIK, law school is pretty notorious for rote learning, which women tend to excel at much more than men (the format of tests seems to sometimes matter quite a lot in how each gender performs).
            – Law school being very attractive for very high ability women, while very high ability men seek something else out (like physics, economics, philosophy, taking drugs)
            – Law school being relatively less attractive to medium/low ability women, compared to something else (not that this doesn’t have to mean that law school is harder for women to get into, but it can also mean that nicer alternatives are more accessible for women than men)

            You jumped to conclusions by picking one of many explanations that fits the evidence. Note that I see scientists make this mistake a lot, where their ideology dictates that women/black people/etc are oppressed, so the scientists jump to the conclusion that discrimination of the group is the cause. Yet very often, actually testing all possible explanations points to a different cause.

            That’s the problem with strongly held ideology: it blinds even smart scientists, who take shortcuts because they already know what outcome is right (even if it actually isn’t).

            I think the claim that invisible racism is being pulled out of thin air is legitimate if the people arguing that as the explanation are making no serious effort to look for and believe evidence

            What I see is that they often glom onto mediocre science or experiments that supposedly shows racism/sexism/etc, yet when those papers get disproven or experiments don’t show racism/sexism (or show it against whites/men), this is not taken as evidence against systemic isms. Regularly, disproven papers or theories simply continu to get used as evidence.

            For the pay gap, you see the God of the Gaps in action very strongly. Although about 2/3rds of the gap has a known type of cause, most of the attention seems to be on the 1/3rd where the cause is unclear, where that cause is often assumed to be discrimination, based on ideology.

            When basic statistics or papers weakly to strongly suggest that men have exactly the kind of disparate outcomes that get taken as evidence for systemic discrimination when it happens to black people (like in the justice system), but this gets ignored because men are not supposed to be oppressed, it comes across to me like a mere rationalization exercise, where people work back from a conclusion.

            This kind of cherry picking and dishonesty is worse than just not looking, IMO. It pretty much guarantees that the evidence that people will accept and their interpretation is consistent with the ideology, because all that is not consistent is filtered out.

        2. NostalgiaForInfinity

          I agree. But until I’ve been shown what systematic racism is in the real world, I’ll remain a skeptic. And then, when we do know what it is, we can tackle it effectively.

          An example might be non-white people being exposed to greater levels of lead and air pollution – in part due to historical discriminatory housing and transport policies. There’s evidence that both of these have negative effects on IQ (among other things). I’d consider this to be an example of systemic racism. It’s not an explicit decision by someone to disadvantage non-white people, but a complicated legacy of old government policy and explicit racism (plus perhaps a contemporary lack of in interest in remedying it).
          Efforts to reduce it could reduce the achievement gap.

          EDIT: I accidentally made this comment in response to a different thread. My bad.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            An example might be non-white people being exposed to greater levels of lead and air pollution – in part due to historical discriminatory housing and transport policies. There’s evidence that both of these have negative effects on IQ (among other things).

            No doubt black Americans have been hurt at a biological level by it being acceptable to put lead and air pollution in their communities. But A) is this still a live issue or something we cleaned up, leaving only older cohorts stuck with it? and B) how have Fresh Off the Boat Asian immigrants who probably have to live in poor areas avoid these IQ/et al consequences?

          2. jermo sapiens

            I agree 100% with what you said. And then you can tackle it by removing the pollution. It’s useful to have a category of things called “systemic racism” where you can put “greater lead pollution”, and other similar things. It’s not useful to blame a problem on the category of things without being specific.

            A hyperbolic example of that failure mode would be somebody claiming to understand the root cause of all cancers: bad things.

            Principled objector: What do you mean bad things, can you be more specific?

            Somebody: Whoa we have “bad things” denier on our hands. He is paid by the “bad things lobby” and is clearly pro-cancer!

          3. acymetric

            A) is this still a live issue or something we cleaned up, leaving only older cohorts stuck with it?

            It is almost certainly partially live, although partially cleaned up. It was significantly more live recently enough to probably be significant even for people currently in their 20s and 30s, so depends on what you mean by “older cohorts”.

            B) how have Fresh Off the Boat Asian immigrants who probably have to live in poor areas avoid these IQ/et al consequences?

            Good question. Part of the answer would be to figure out which poor areas Asians are moving into. Poor previously white neighborhoods, or poor previously black neighborhoods?

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            @acymetric:

            probably be significant even for people currently in their 20s and 30s, so depends on what you mean by “older cohorts”.

            An age cohort could be anything that cleaves (social) reality at a joint, so if leaded gasoline/paint/burying the stuff was hurting African-American bodies up til 18 years ago, we’d say “cleaned up for minors, hurt cohorts as young as 18-29” or something like that.

            Part of the answer would be to figure out which poor areas Asians are moving into. Poor previously white neighborhoods, or poor previously black neighborhoods?

            On the West coast, poor Asian and white/previously-white neighborhoods. I’m guessing here that CA/OR/WA absorbed most of the poorest Asians, like refugees from Communism in the ’70s. Things could be very different in other states.

          5. HeelBearCub

            Lead is absolutely still a live issue influencing children today.

            Kevin Drum (easiest source for good accumulation of lead pollutant social effect information out there) on a recent study:

            [The study] measured violent crime in each area and found a strong relationship with [soil] lead levels. As you’d expect, the relationship weakened once he controlled for income, education, race, etc., but the relationship was still there:
            After controlling for pertinent census-tract-level variables (median household income, percent female head of household, percent of households living in poverty, percent of households with dependents under 18-years of age, percent of households receiving food stamps, percent of the population that is black, percent of the population with a bachelor’s degree, and percent of the male population 15-24 years of age), every 100-unit increase in mean topsoil lead content was associated with a 1.05 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.08) increased risk for violent crime events.

          6. Le Maistre Chat

            @HeelBearCub: Well what would it take, physically and politically, to clean up soil lead? 🙁

          7. HeelBearCub

            @Le Maistre Chat:
            I think the estimates I have seen is that to address lead cleanup nationwide in the US is on the order of magnitude of 100s of billions.

            Even if we posited that it was a trillion, spread out over ten years that’s 100 billion a year. It’s eminently doable. We have spent 6 trillion in the various ME/Asia wars since 2001 and that hasn’t come close to breaking the bank.

            ETA: I know Kevin did a post on the cost of this at some point this year, just can’t find it right off the bat.

          8. albatross11

            HBC:

            Yeah, my sense is that lead abatement is one of the better ways we could be spending public money. I’m not sure what fraction of that gets split between lead paint, lead in the dirt, lead pipes, and other sources, but I suspect that as a country, we’d make back far more than we spent.

          9. NostalgiaForInfinity

            @jermo sapiens

            I understand and agree. The rhetoric on this topic is obviously intense. But I also understand why people react so strongly to it: again, segregation and explicit white supremacy are within living memory. The alleged inherent inferiority of non-whites was used to justify those policies (and slavery before then). It is in no way surprising that people are sceptical of or actively hostile to claims that structural racism doesn’t explain racial disparities and they are instead due to genetic factors.

            @Le Masitre Chat

            A) As I understand it, lead is still an issue although has been trending downwards significantly since we stopped putting it in petrol / gasoline. Likewise I think air pollution has been trending downwards by most measures (until the last year or two).

            B) I would’ve thought it has affected them, but there are other confounding factors that you’d need to account for e.g. a strong culture of educational achievement, immigrants generally being unusually able or dedicated people. But I can’t say I know a lot about Asian immigration to the US.

          10. jermo sapiens

            It is in no way surprising that people are sceptical of or actively hostile to claims that structural racism doesn’t explain racial disparities and they are instead due to genetic factors.

            Yeah, I totally get that. That said, to the extent that structural racism is used inappropriately (as in a God of the gaps argument), it’s not going to solve anything. If the problem is lead in the environment, you can fix the lead (and we should, estimate in these comments is $100 billion, that sounds like a fantastic deal, the cost of not doing it is probably much higher). But if “structural racism” is the beginning and end of the explanation, you cant do much about it.

          11. Aapje

            Diversity training and affirmative actions don’t filter lead out of the ground. 😛

            @HeelBearCub

            Isn’t the main danger lead pipes?

            Lead in the soil seems relatively safe, as long as the children’s playground is fine. Lead in paint seems to be mainly a risk when you go sand it off, not so much if you leave it be.

          12. Nornagest

            I thought the main issue was organic lead compounds — lead paint, tetraethyl lead in gas, etc. Lead pipes aren’t great, but metallic lead doesn’t actually contaminate water much if there’s no impurities in the water breaking it down.

            (That’s what caused the Flint water crisis, IIRC — a switch to another water source that reacted poorly with the lead pipes that had been in use for decades without issue.)

          13. HeelBearCub

            @aapje:
            Lead pipes, AFAIK, are a danger when the water passing through them has the proper characteristics to leach the lead from the pipe. Note that both the cause and the solution of the Flint, MI issue involved changing the water supply, not the pipes. Not that I would really want lead pipes, mind you, but the Flint water isn’t classified as contaminated now.

            Lead paint and contaminated soil both provide a pathway to ingesting the lead that doesn’t involve water solubility. In any case, Drum has referenced multiple soil-lead level studies that show correlations with negative outcomes, so it doesn’t really matter. We need to properly clean up all the sources. Sure, it’s preferable to go after the lowest hanging fruit first, but I’d like to pick everything on the tree anyway.

            ETA: Looks like I’m just piggybacking on what Nornagest said.

          14. uau

            @Nornagest:
            Those problems were not caused by “impurities”, but water acidity levels and failure to add anticorrosion compounds to the water. The lead pipes were only relatively safe as long as water was specifically treated to avoid corroding them.

          15. HeelBearCub

            @uau:
            I think it’s slightly more nuanced. The Ph levels of the water interacts with specific other elements of water treatment to determine whether the lead pipes will leach. Flint didn’t handle their switch in water source correctly, for sure. But given that water itself is Ph neutral, water acidity isn’t intrinsic.

          16. LesHapablap

            I’ve been working with leaded gasoline consistently for the last 8 years. That means getting a little on my hands a few times a week, standing around airplanes burning leaded gas all the time, flying around in them. How can I tell if this is enough to have an effect on me? Blood tests? Testing the workplace environment?

          17. Plumber

            @LesHapablap says:“I’ve been working with leaded gasoline consistently for the last 8 years. That means getting a little on my hands a few times a week, standing around airplanes burning leaded gas all the time, flying around in them. How can I tell if this is enough to have an effect on me? Blood tests? Testing the workplace environment?”

            I just had my annual blood test for lead last Friday (The City and County of San Francisco tests most building trades municipal government employees for this every year) I worked with a welder who had heightened lead levels that were found just after he repaired the metal roof of a 19th century windmill in Golden Gate Park, I imagine a call to OSHA may let you know about testing the work environment.

    4. Clutzy

      I suppose I’ll reproduce part of my point about it as well. The part I guess I was passionate about.

      Most of society needs less policing and less aggressive policing. The exception to that rule is crime riddled areas, like certain parts of the city I live in. BLM’s policies would not only make those areas of the city less safe, but my portion as well, while also not dealing with the issue that cops drive around our streets in SUV-tanks and camp out around stop signs looking to bop people for driving normally. Or that they hang out around bars on Friday nights looking to give out public intox and underage drinking tickets to the college kids around here (meanwhile a college woman was raped and murdered 3 blocks away at an intersection every human in our area knows should be staffed by police 24/7, but of course is not).

      Just for context, I live in a city who’s leadership have obviously bought into the BLM narrative and appears to have shifted police priorities as a result.

      1. Nornagest

        I think these are both symptoms of a single problem, which is that American police culture, for whatever reason, really sucks at building social capital for the institution — cops are perfectly nice people on the mat or at the range, but almost all my my positive interactions with uniformed police have come when I was working event security and therefore was on their side.

        For my pale middle-class ass, that means not having anything to do with uniformed police if I can help it. But if you live in the parts of town that are or were policed as a matter of course, or even have ties to lots of people that do, that’s not an option. So I’m pretty sympathetic to BLM’s frustrations even though I’m fairly sure most of its factual claims are misleading to outright false — I probably wouldn’t want to cut the cops any slack, too, in those shoes.

        The trouble is more that that narrative doesn’t do anything to fix the issue.

        1. albatross11

          To be fair, BLM looks a lot like a standard American moral panic. Those basically *always* get all the facts wrong and almost *never* fix the underlying problem.

        2. mtl1882

          I think these are both symptoms of a single problem, which is that American police culture, for whatever reason, really sucks at building social capital for the institution

          My initial reaction is that this problem is inherent—the institution is in some sense “adversarial” to the citizenry, not because anything is wrong with it, but because it possesses unique powers to interfere with you unpleasantly. It does a lot of good, obviously, but by nature, people are more likely to remember the freaked out feeling of being pulled over for speeding than other interactions. It makes sense to be wary of such power—which is different from being hostile and suspecting malice in every officer. It’s not like there was ever a time without a sizable portion of people who resented the police or local authorities—a lot of people flat out don’t like being told what to do, and a lot of people participate in low-level crime, or at least rule-breaking, and don’t want to get busted. And when groups of people challenge the established order, they naturally get into conflicts with police, and resent them for upholding the status quo—various protestors, unions, etc. And this tends to spiral.

          Then you have the element of moral high ground that law enforcement is supposed to claim, with naturally makes any inevitable human failings more grating, and people quick to jump to visions of corruption, especially where there is the power to cover it up. They are held to a higher standard than the people they are going after, reasonably. And someone who sees a relative arrested in a traumatic situation, even if justified, may well end up with a fear or hatred of police. It just all adds up to a situation in which people are likely to view police with some suspicion even without clear misconduct, which periodically becomes a flashpoint for a larger issue.

          1. Nornagest

            My initial reaction is that this problem is inherent—the institution is in some sense “adversarial” to the citizenry, not because anything is wrong with it, but because it possesses unique powers to interfere with you unpleasantly.

            So does my boss, but I’ve been friends with many of my bosses.

            The power asymmetry you’re pointing to is an obstacle for sure, but I don’t think it makes sense to treat it as an insurmountable one. At least not to the extent of excusing any level of adversarial character as natural — it might not be possible to totally eradicate, but it should be possible to mitigate.

          2. Evan Þ

            @Nornagest, on the other hand, you spend a lot more time with your boss than with the police, so you have more opportunity to build up from the adversarial default. What’s more, you know that you have a clear escape route if it does – you can find another job much more easily than running from the police.

            No, the obstacle isn’t insurmountable, but it’s a lot harder to surmount than with bosses.

          3. LesHapablap

            In other countries, such as New Zealand, police and other civil servants are polite and treat you with respect. It is a completely different attitude to US police officers (and the same goes for many DMV workers, and airport security, and customs etc.)

          4. mtl1882

            The power asymmetry you’re pointing to is an obstacle for sure, but I don’t think it makes sense to treat it as an insurmountable one. At least not to the extent of excusing any level of adversarial character as natural — it might not be possible to totally eradicate, but it should be possible to mitigate.

            Agreed it could be mitigated and probably should be to some extent, but “shut up and ask for an attorney” is advice for a reason. There is an understanding that an inclination to trust police is the opposite of what you want—we try not to inculcate people with an inherently favorable view of police. But, crucially, this does not mean thinking the cops are bad, corrupt people who deserve hostile treatment. The idea is not assuming the best or the worst of them.

            A realistic respect seems ideal to me, which I think is somewhat similar to a boss-employee dynamic. The boss is not your buddy, or a certified good guy, but in day-to-day-life you can take a cooperative approach and give him the benefit of the doubt unless something happens to the contrary. He’s probably focused on doing his job, and just wants you to do yours–but yours interests should not be assumed to align in all cases. And, as someone else said, you can leave your job—police can arrest you, or a family member, or enter your home, and are pretty uniquely scary in that regard, especially if it happens a lot in your community.

          5. Clutzy

            One of the worse, “innovations” for police is the standard police cruiser. And the many traffic stops it enables. Traffic stops are inherently bad policing. They are almost all for minor violations and enforcement is random from the POV of a criminal offender. The cars also largely eliminated true beat cops who would interact with the people of a neighborhood.

            One of my theories for policing is its the police’s job to have the trust of old ladies and to make them feel safe. If those thing are true, a neighborhood will be on the upswing.

            One major voice that is largely absent from BLM is that of older black women from poor and working class areas. Not a good sign for responsible policing.

          6. The Nybbler

            @Clutzy

            Ah, yes, I love being pulled over and lectured on all the kids I’m murdering when I’m driving to the train station. It’s not bad enough I have to be on time to wait for a late train… no, I have to also drive at a crawl to get there, and if I don’t they’ll pull my license so my commute is even worse, eventually resulting in my losing my job or my mind or both. And yes, I blame the cops for that; dividing the labor between rule-makers who can’t be reached and rule-enforcers who can’t be blamed works out for them, but I see no reason I should accept it. So of course I dislike cops and have an us-vs-them attitude (as do they); I’m a ticket-carrying member of the criminal class.

            (Other major crimes I’ve been stopped for include riding an electric bicycle, riding a bicycle without a bell, failing to renew inspection stickers, not having a front plate, and having a dirty rear plate — cop insisted there was a cover on it)

          7. The original Mr. X

            @ MTL1882:

            My initial reaction is that this problem is inherent—the institution is in some sense “adversarial” to the citizenry, not because anything is wrong with it, but because it possesses unique powers to interfere with you unpleasantly. It does a lot of good, obviously, but by nature, people are more likely to remember the freaked out feeling of being pulled over for speeding than other interactions. It makes sense to be wary of such power—which is different from being hostile and suspecting malice in every officer. It’s not like there was ever a time without a sizable portion of people who resented the police or local authorities—a lot of people flat out don’t like being told what to do, and a lot of people participate in low-level crime, or at least rule-breaking, and don’t want to get busted. And when groups of people challenge the established order, they naturally get into conflicts with police, and resent them for upholding the status quo—various protestors, unions, etc. And this tends to spiral.

            Most first-world countries don’t have a particularly adversarial relationship between citizens and police, so I don’t think the problem can be an inherent one.

          8. mtl1882

            Most first-world countries don’t have a particularly adversarial relationship between citizens and police, so I don’t think the problem can be an inherent one.

            I’m not sure what “particularly” would mean. I probably wouldn’t expect first world countries to have abnormally high levels of police conflict, but I’m not talking relatively. Law enforcement everywhere has an inherently adversarial relationship with the citizenry, though it may only become noticeable in certain segments or scenarios that have a lot of negative interaction. This doesn’t mean literal brawling and vicious hatred or whatever—it can just mean that their heart races for a moment when they encounter an officer. Many people may have highly favorable feelings about law enforcement, and there are countries where this seems more prevalent than the U.S. (some of them have legal systems that work pretty differently and probably affect this dynamic). But all first world countries have had clashes between police and various large, non-fringe protest groups when tensions flare up—anyone who is wary of the status quo will be wary of police. I’m just saying there is probably no country on earth where you can’t hear pretty regular disparagement of “the cops” or their equivalent by a large segment of pretty average citizens. Any type of broad rule-enforcer naturally provokes resentment or aversion among a chunk of regular people. People love to glorify outlaw types and their exploits for that reason.

          9. DavidFriedman

            I think I remember being told that in Italy the traffic police and the regular police are different organizations with different uniforms. The theory—I don’t remember if that was what I was told or my conjecture—was that ordinary citizens view traffic police as their enemies and the separation keeps them from having the same attitude to regular police.

    5. RalMirrorAd

      I’d say the general difference in IQ scores between races isn’t relevant, for example, to a discussion of whether a particular white person is smarter than a particular black person.

      An enormous amount of time and treasure has been spent attempting to close the gap directly or indirectly (Indirectly in the form of income, academic achievement, health, incarceration, gaps which are, presumably, influenced by g but not g itself) It matters *to* people with the ability to influence public policy a great deal and has for many years.

      The need for an accurate model of how and why these things occur is a consequence of the emphasis that has been placed on closing the gaps. False assumptions lead to repeated failstates.

      Now i can’t argue for or against the idea that this is a misplaced moral priority (the aforementioned emphasis). My impression is that there’s a natural tendency to care about these things, so I take the concern for granted.

      1. Plumber

        @RalMirrorAd >

        “…An enormous amount of time and treasure has been spent attempting to close the gap directly or indirectly (Indirectly in the form of income, academic achievement, health, incarceration, gaps which are, presumably, influenced by g but not g itself) It matters *to* people with the ability to influence public policy a great deal and has for many years…”

        The black/white “academic achievement” gap was narrowest in the late 1980’s when U.S.A. schools were the most integrated they’ve ever been.

        It’s marginal but replicated often enough to be convincing that moving a poor mother and her children that are under six years old to a better neighborhood lessens the likelihood that those children will grow up to be poor, unfortunately there’s little change in the fates of older children and adults so moved (they’re still poor, just in a better place).

        Progress is hard but not impossible and throwing up ones hands and saying “It’s genetic/deep-culture and nothing can be done!” is bogus.

        Improvement may and can be done, it’s just not as cheap or easy as we’d like.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          The black/white “academic achievement” gap was narrowest in the late 1980’s when U.S.A. schools were the most integrated they’ve ever been.

          Wasn’t there a period in the ’80s, just before rap went mainstream, where fictional black people were always portrayed as middle-class and intelligent? The Cosby Show was about a doctor’s family, Family Matters had Steve Urkel as a wacky outlier in a neighborhood of smart black characters, etc.

          1. Plumber

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            The A Different World effect from better mass media role models?

            For some reason it seems easier to me to force integration on millions of the unwilling than to get a few television studios to change.

            That that is so is unsettling.

        2. Statismagician

          I think this is probably just lead-removal and various types of confounding, rather than anything inherent to school diversity. Per the graphs here, the achievement gap shrinks in the mid-1980s exactly as one would expect (compare the crime rate, also a lead-removal plus confounding effect not really related to policy changes no matter what Bill Bratton says).

          1. Plumber

            @Statismagician,

            Lead?

            That’s actually plausible!

            Except as a plumber I often encounter lead, and it hasn’t caused me any dain bramage!

            I mean drain bamage!

            I mean…

            …oh to Hell with it..

          2. Statismagician

            ‘Drain bamage’ really seems like it should be a real term for something. A subspecies of flow rate, maybe? The quality that a drain snake has? A newfangled flashy plumbing trend taking Manhattan by storm?

          3. Skivverus

            I mean, ‘water hammer’ (and the avoidance thereof) is a thing when it comes to pipes, but that’s really only for pressurized systems, which isn’t generally where drains show up.

            Possibly could refer to insufficient-throughput-related overflow, but that’s also a bit of a stretch.

        3. RalMirrorAd

          @Plumber:

          1. Closing the gap and narrowing it are two different things. The gap was embarassingly large even at its smallest. There still needs to be some prior agreement on how narrow a gap is desired / wide a gap is tolerated and how much the US/Western world is willing to sacrifice to make that happen.

          2. Peer effects are a known influencer of educational outcomes, as are things like phonics and DI, education reform beyond that there are very few value-adds schools are capable of that isn’t some form of data manipulation [selection bias and cheating on test]

          Also a repeat of integration in 2020 is kind of impossible, it relies on the existence of students that don’t exist in sufficient quantities.

          1. Plumber

            @RalMirrorAd >

            “…kind of impossible, it relies on the existence of students that don’t exist in sufficient quantities.”

            “Not enough to integrate with” is a pretty convincing argument (and something that makes me wonder what actually was going on in the ’80’s?).

            The “Just move pre-1st grads kids to better neighborhoods” studies look pretty convincing to me, and maybe it works because there’s environmental effects in early childhood (lead?, the stresses of hearing gunshots and sirens?) and the reason it doesn’t work in older children and adults as a way of reducing intergenerational poverty is that by age six the environment has already had it’s toll, or it’s about peer group role-models, and past Kindergarten that’s already established? 

            Thing is that very early childhood to better neighborhoods reduces the chance that a poor kid will be a poor adult didn’t surprise me, that to some extent school integration in the ’80’s did work did surprise me because I remember high school in the ’80’s, and while the schools were integrated, the classrooms decidedly weren’t, the school yard was a slightly majority white, the classrooms were either 75% white, or 90% black, and I can tell you from personal experience that in the class the only white kid in one class, or the few black kids in the other class are peers to their classmates, but at lunch they’re different tribes.

            For social integration “drops in the bucket” will integrate, but two distinct halves often (maybe mostly) won’t.

            In some ways I’m think of men and women, obviously romantic longing brings us together, but when I looked at our host’s “attributes list of the ‘Blue-Tribe’ and the ‘Red-Tribe‘”  me first thought wasn’t “That’s Democrats and that’s Republicans”, it was “That’s most guys” and “That’s most ladies”, and…

            …yeah I don’t where I’m going with this anymore.

          2. thevoiceofthevoid

            @Plumber

            The “Just move pre-1st grads kids to better neighborhoods” studies look pretty convincing to me,

            How does that scale though? Who’s paying for the rent of every 6-year-old and their mothers to live in better neighborhoods? Given infinite resources it would seem like a great idea, but I don’t see how it’s logistically feasible.

          3. albatross11

            Also, a good neighborhood/school is in practice defined by who is in it. Perhaps you can bring a few very poor kids into your upper-middle-class neighborhood school and acculturate them to upper-middle-class norms that will help them get better SAT scores[1]. But if you bring too many kids in, you’ll either get two different cultures that don’t mix, or you’ll wipe out the benefit of the upper-middle-class culture.

            ETA: Everyone wants to move their kids to a better school, but that mostly means a school with better classmates. There’s an inherent limit to how well that can ever scale….

            [1] But probably not, realistically.

          4. Clutzy

            Also, a good neighborhood/school is in practice defined by who is in it. Perhaps you can bring a few very poor kids into your upper-middle-class neighborhood school and acculturate them to upper-middle-class norms that will help them get better SAT scores[1]. But if you bring too many kids in, you’ll either get two different cultures that don’t mix, or you’ll wipe out the benefit of the upper-middle-class culture.

            See, e.g., my high school, which had an extreme amount of self-selecting segregation by the hispanic population, and it showed in grad rates, etc.

  18. grendelkhan

    Four months ago, I posted a story to the subreddit about cost disease in subway construction, citing Alon Levy’s proposal to leverage a relatively small grant to significantly reform the process. He was, at that point, reduced to hoping for a civic-minded billionaire. At the time, I mentioned Arnold Ventures. Scott, among other people, signal-boosted this.

    This past weekend, there was a Marginal Revolution post about the issue, and the co-chair of Arnold Ventures announced:

    “So why doesn’t the MTA embed accountants with every major project in the world and get to the bottom of this cost disease?” –@ATabarrok / Agree 100% that MTA should fund it. But since they won’t, we @Arnold_Ventures recently decided to do so. Stay tuned for details.

    Among other things, it’s fascinating to trace the line from Levy’s initial research back in 2011 or so through articles in the Times and widespread awareness to, hopefully, real solutions being found. And how the systems that were supposed to handle this–internal auditors, the GAO, funding sources not relying on charitable tycoons, the entire planning and engineering professions–failed so horribly. Maybe the research project will produce, in part, a real postmortem for this decades-long disaster.

    1. HeelBearCub

      Kevin Drum on the same, for people who like their charts in Drum form.

      ETA: Kevin Drum says that the main issue is just station design and construction method (not using cut and cover). Also, NYC being an outlier doesn’t particularly surprise me given its fairly unique topology and history.

        1. HeelBearCub

          Their topography effects their topology, as the large population and constrained geological footprint contribute to create many points of large disruptive potential in their various networks?

          Honestly, I don’t know which I intended to write originally. My spelling is atrocious and for all I know auto-correct put topology when I meant topography. Both actually work, kinda.

      1. brad

        What drove those station design decisions? It was clear up front that the new second avenue subway stations were a) going to be beautiful and b) were going to extraordinarily expensive and c) that New Yorkers would be better off with six ugly stations than three beautiful ones. So why the poor decision making?

        1. CatCube

          People really, really, believe that they can get all their beautiful stations, and stating that you should throw aesthetics over the side for cost doesn’t play well. Plus, people who can play the game to get the art for these things will scream bloody murder when they sense the possibility of their ricebowl getting broken.

          In Portland, when they built the orange line they were looking at leaving off the switch heaters and keeping the art, which is completely ass-backwards.

          1. The Nybbler

            If you complain about this sort of thing you’ll be told you’re one of those overly practical people with no soul, or something similar. You’ll be given flowery speeches about how beauty improves the human condition. And if you remark that people would rather pass through ugly stations than be stuck in pretty ones, you’ll only confirm their impression of you.

            As far as I can tell the only useful counter to this is to buy a Suburban and move out of town.

          2. The Nybbler

            How about a full-ton dually crew cab extended bed with cap? Next best thing to the Kenworth Navigator

          3. Le Maistre Chat

            @Nybbler:

            How about a full-ton dually crew cab extended bed with cap? Next best thing to the Kenworth Navigator

            Oh my gosh. We got a half-ton super cab pickup with regular bed and cap for the move and I can’t imagine owning anything that guzzles more gas than that.

    2. The Nybbler

      Maybe I’m jaded, but I can’t see them finding out anything we don’t already know — and that everyone who matters is fine with anyway.

    3. A Definite Beta Guy

      What makes you think the professions in charge failed horribly? They are probably optimized for different scenarios. The way the PDF describes station construction elsewhere is downright depressing, which actually matches pretty closely to descriptions from my friend who does international architecture. Non-anglosphere projects are cramped and in some cases can’t even meet code in the US because they are so ridiculously cramped

  19. Nick

    Deiseach and Matt M are due back as of yesterday. Let’s welcome Deiseach back with a discussion of our favorite Christmas songs, since the season begins, as we all know, in late November and ends at midnight the 26th. I don’t know how to welcome Matt back, but maybe you all have some ideas.

    My favorite is Carol of the Bells. Very different from most Christmas music, which feels like a bit cheap, and the killjoy Internet informs me it was originally written for spring, but what can I say? It’s just good.

    1. Radu Floricica

      Can I ask something selfish as well? I’m in the middle of The Bell Curve, and so far it glosses a bit too fast over international IQ tests. @Deiseach, I was told you might enlighten me on how the rather horror-ish differences I’ve seen (50 points between country averages) are due to masuring errors.

      Ontopic, I offer a local carol.

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        they are so bad they are self-refuting. 60 IQ is “Not Functional”. Botswana – which is where those results are from, is very much a functional country. Gdp per capita of just short of 20k, literally the strongest research establishment on the entire continent of Africa, ect, ect. In other words, the researcher administering those tests managed to trip some cultural trip wire that caused the locals to just answer “b” to every damn question, and should, when reviewing their results have tossed them in the trash as obvious nonsense and tried again.

        1. thevoiceofthevoid

          In other words, the researcher administering those tests managed to trip some cultural trip wire that caused the locals to just answer “b” to every damn question,

          Was that actually what happened? or are you speaking figuratively?

          1. Thomas Jorgensen

            Not tracked down the primary sources so figuratively, but 60 is about the score you get for just filling in a multiple choice iq test without even reading it. So I very strongly suspect that the experimenter somehow managed to inspire his test takers to do that really, really often.

            General experimental design: Your survey or quiz should include questions to check if you are being trolled. The questions “mark box b”. “I am an alien lizard person from Sirius b, A for yes, B for no, C for fuck you paleface, and “leave this question blank if you can read this” are a very good idea

          2. Two McMillion

            General experimental design: Your survey or quiz should include questions to check if you are being trolled. The questions “mark box b”. “I am an alien lizard person from Sirius b, A for yes, B for no, C for fuck you paleface, and “leave this question blank if you can read this” are a very good idea

            Joke’s on them, I troll every answer EXCEPT those questions.

        2. Le Maistre Chat

          they are so bad they are self-refuting. 60 IQ is “Not Functional”. Botswana – which is where those results are from, is very much a functional country. Gdp per capita of just short of 20k, literally the strongest research establishment on the entire continent of Africa, ect, ect.

          Yeah, something doesn’t add up on the most basic level.
          IQ may be replicable and predict outcomes better than anything else in psychology, but it can’t be perfect with results like that.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Late thought: How old are these results? The Flynn Effect is incontrovertibly environmental. Could they have inherited such good institutions when the British left that their average rapidly shot up 2 SD from the colonial average?

          2. albatross11

            I don’t remember a lot of discussion about international IQ results in TBC, but it’s been a few years since I (re)read it. It’s certainly not anywhere near the main point of the book.

            FWIW, I think when you measure IQ in first-world native English speakers who’ve spent many years in school and such, you’re probably getting something meaningful–that’s the kind of population these tests were designed for and tested/normed against, as I understand it. I suspect that when you try it in a completely different environment, like a very poor country in sub-Saharan Africa, the results are probably not easy to interpret or compare with the first-world results.

          3. HeelBearCub

            FWIW, I think when you measure IQ in first-world native English speakers who’ve spent many years in school

            I thought that the people who tout IQ tests specifically say that this caveat is supposed to be contraindicated, that IQ tests can’t be effected by any of those things, and indeed predict those outcomes rather than result from them.

            I think your caveat about schooling, if true, would invalidate the concept of IQ tests altogether. But this isn’t an area I am particularly well versed in.

          4. albatross11

            I am not an expert, but from what I’ve read, giving an IQ test in a language that isn’t the subject’s native language is known to depress scores. (Though there are tests that don’t have any language requirements.) And there’s also evidence that more years of school actually slightly increase IQ (I think like 1 point per year or something) later in life.

            But I imagine one big impact is much simpler–are you used to taking paper-and-pencil tests? Have you ever seen a multiple-choice test form like this? Do you know how to fill in the bubbles/check the boxes appropriately? If not, your score is going to reflect your lack of experience/knowledge about the mechanism used for testing your intelligence, rather than your intelligence. It’s like if someone decides to test my hand-eye coordination by giving me some task to do that everyone in their culture does all the time and nobody in the US ever does–I’m going to seem very uncoordinated to them, way more than I should given my actual level of coordination.

            ETA: I don’t think this invalidates anything. The tests were designed and normed for people who’d been to school and knew what a paper-and-pencil test was, which is essentially everyone in first-world countries and is definitely not everyone in desperately poor third-world countries.

          5. HeelBearCub

            @albatross11:
            But, if IQ scores can’t be accurately measured in some population other than first world, native speakers with many years of schooling, then IQ can’t possibly have any explanatory power for the differing outcomes between them, right?

            As to “years of schooling”, I would hope that “previous exposure to bubble tests” wouldn’t imply “years and years” of schooling. I think I took all of 3 bubble tests before college. Once in elementary (the CAT), the PSAT and the SAT. I think I took an IQ test in 3rd grade, but I don’t think it was a bubble test, as it had stuff about drawing shapes, IIRC.

            Edit: Did you have something about bubble tests that you edited out? Anyway, anyone who actually took an IQ test, even in Africa, probably had been performing written tests.

            I frankly agree with you that trying to norm IQ tests across cultures is probably exceedingly difficult. But then, drawing conclusions based on those measures would also seem to be fraught.

          6. Nornagest

            I think I took all of 3 bubble tests before college. Once in elementary (the CAT), the PSAT and the SAT.

            This is a generational thing, I think. I’m a bit younger than you if I recall, and I took one or two state-mandated standardized tests a year from mid-elementary through high school — my first in second grade, I think, though I don’t think I took another after that until fourth or fifth. And they were very common during my college applications — the PSAT and SAT, yes, but also the ASVAB, the ACT, the APs and a bunch of scholarship tests. A few of my high school classes also used Scantron for regular tests and/or quizzes, but only a few.

            I expect it’s only gotten more common since then, which might have something to do with the Flynn effect. (Though the one actual, professionally administered IQ test I’ve taken wasn’t multiple choice.)

          7. albatross11

            HBC:

            I agree with you–I am extremely skeptical of attempts to measure IQs in sub-Saharan African countries and use that to say much about the potential of the people in those countries compared to that rich or even middle-income countries. It just seems like the confounders here are so enormous that they’re likely to swamp any actual signal.

            Now, maybe there’s some research or evidence showing that this is somehow meaningful and valid–I’m no expert. But it’s really hard to imagine how you’d untangle the hugely different environments.

          8. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HeelBearCub

            But, if IQ scores can’t be accurately measured in some population other than first world, native speakers with many years of schooling, then IQ can’t possibly have any explanatory power for the differing outcomes between them, right?

            I don’t think that follows. We may not be able to accurately measure the general intelligence factor in developing nations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a general intelligence factor. Perhaps a different kind of test for IQ would give meaningful results across populations, and it just hasn’t been developed yet. Or perhaps there is no such test possible and g / IQ is an incoherent concept outside the first world. But difficulty measuring something doesn’t necessarily mean that it has no effect, just that it’s hard to measure.

          9. The Nybbler

            I thought that the people who tout IQ tests specifically say that this caveat is supposed to be contraindicated, that IQ tests can’t be effected by any of those things, and indeed predict those outcomes rather than result from them.

            No. They say that ‘g’ is not affected by those things. IQ tests certainly are, but IQ tests don’t only measure ‘g’.

          10. HeelBearCub

            @TheVoiceOfTheVoid:
            You are misreading my post. I am saying if current measures of IQ are affected by the factors albatross notes, then that same current measure can’t be turned around to then explain those differences.

            If it is pointed out that an average measured IQ of 60 in Botswana would have the entire country basically needing to all be in group homes lest they injure themselves while attempting the difficult task of breathing, you can’t then say “But that’s just because it’s hard to administer these tests across cultures and socioeconomic conditions”. Not and also maintain that IQ is what explains the poor performance of these nations and groups.

          11. DavidFriedman

            But, if IQ scores can’t be accurately measured in some population other than first world, native speakers with many years of schooling, then IQ can’t possibly have any explanatory power for the differing outcomes between them, right?

            You are overstating the case with “can’t possibly.”

            Suppose we observe that the descendants of immigrants from country A, who have grown up in a first world country, score lower on IQ tests than the descendants of immigrants from country B, who have also grown up in the same first world country. That would offer some evidence that average IQ was lower in country A than in country B.

            It might turn out that, for some reason, the smartest people in country B immigrated, and the least smart people in country A did. That possibility makes it evidence, not proof.

          12. Corey

            I imagine one big impact is much simpler–are you used to taking paper-and-pencil tests? Have you ever seen a multiple-choice test form like this? Do you know how to fill in the bubbles/check the boxes appropriately? If not, your score is going to reflect your lack of experience/knowledge about the mechanism used for testing your intelligence, rather than your intelligence. It’s like if someone decides to test my hand-eye coordination by giving me some task to do that everyone in their culture does all the time and nobody in the US ever does–I’m going to seem very uncoordinated to them, way more than I should given my actual level of coordination.

            ETA: I don’t think this invalidates anything.

            Sometimes people can compensate for this (of course I have no idea if the study under discussion did so).

            My daughter is the disabled kind of autistic, and got IQ tested as gatekeeping for early schooling. At the time she was minimally verbal, and certainly couldn’t follow directions well enough to do a standardized test as we would envision it (she was also about 3 years old to be fair).

            They gave a test that involved selecting pictures from flipboards (we couldn’t pay much attention so we would not subtly signal anything to skew the results). This returned 80 IIRC. They also gave a test that involved spoken words, that returned 50. The differential probably supported the diagnosis.

          13. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HeelBearCub

            I agree, if our current measurements are suspect, we can’t use them to explain the difference and close the case. However, we can still reasonably hypothesize that IQ might explain the difference, so I think that “can’t possibly have any explanatory power” is too strong a claim. If you just meant that we can’t simultaneously believe the current scores are erroneous and use them as proof, I don’t think we disagree.

          14. HeelBearCub

            That would offer some evidence that average IQ was lower in country A than in country B.

            If we observe similar confounding factors, it’s evidence in the same way correlation is evidence of causation.

          15. albatross11

            To clarify:

            a. Intelligence is what we care about. That’s what we’re trying to measure, and also what we think may vary across groups in ways that partly explains differences in group outcomes, national outcomes, etc. [ETA] Realistically, it’s pretty obvious that no simple paper-and-pencil test can capture everything we mean by intelligence, so we need to accept up front that we’re doing our best but won’t have a perfect measure.

            b. IQ is a score we get from a particular kind of test designed to measure intelligence. These tests are designed, tested, and normed (raw scores mapped to standard IQ scores) based on test subjects who I think are almost always in wealthy countries where they’ve got access to schooling and sanitation and all the rest. We have a lot of data showing that IQ scores predict performance in school and on the job, including on tasks you wouldn’t guess were especially mentally demanding. People who take several different IQ tests at different times in their lives get very strongly correlated scores, as you’d expect.

            c. g is a mathematical construct we can make by recognizing that your performance on (more-or-less) any mentally demanding tasks positively correlates with your performance on all the other mentally demanding tasks. If we assume there is some underlying factor that would explain this, we can do some math and come up with one such factor–that’s g.

            d. Many people believe that g is capturing some real, fundamental thing–that there’s an underlying general intellectual ability which varies among people, and this very complicated statistical procedure is how we measure it.

            e. Other people believe that g is just a statistical construct that happens to be useful for predicting things about peoples’ performance–like the coma or apgar scales, or a credit score or GPA.

            f. Intelligence isn’t IQ–instead IQ is a test that’s trying to measure intelligence, and that’s been tested in particular settings and found to do a pretty good job. But IQ scores can vary independent of intelligence. For example, if I take an IQ test in Spanish, I will probably score lower than one I take in English.

            g. The Flynn effect basically says that raw scores on questions in an IQ test go up each year, which requires renorming the tests (that is, working out a new mapping between raw scores and reported standard IQ scores) every few years. The cause of the Flynn effect is, as I understand it, an open research question. It’s not even clear whether this represents people getting smarter overall, or just people getting better at test-taking.

            h. Basically all the research people do about intelligence uses IQ scores, because that’s what we know how to measure. So when people talk about heritability of intelligence, or the intelligence-decreasing impact of lead exposure in childhood, they’re talking about IQ.

            i. IQ is substantially heritable. When researchers look at kids who were adopted at a young age, they find that their adult IQ scores correlate much more strongly with their biological siblings’ scores than with their adoptive siblings’ scores. Interestingly, the correlation is lower when they’re younger, and their parents’ home is having more influence.

          16. DavidFriedman

            j. There are measures of g that don’t depend on a written test at all. As best I remember, one of them depended on some behavioral characteristic of infants—response time or something similar. These give results that correlate with patterns observed in IQ tests.

            Someone who knows more about this may be able to either fill in my rather vague memory or contradict it.

          17. albatross11

            David Friedman:

            Ravens progressive matrices are a kind of visual puzzle without words used in an IQ test–I think the whole test is just a series of these visual puzzles.

            There are also subtests on other types of IQ test that are pretty-much culture- or language-independent. For example, I show a picture of some paper being folded in a complicated pattern and a hole being punched in it, and ask you to decide what the holes in the unfolded version will look like.

          18. albatross11

            Le Maistre Chat:

            So, it’s interesting to ask if some of the Flynn effect *could* be genetic. I doubt it, but it’s at least conceivable, for a couple reasons:

            a. We know there are genes that raise IQ, and that intelligence is generally good for people to have. So it’s worth asking why they haven’t all become universal.

            b. One natural answer is that they have some offsetting downside–either they’re making a tradeoff, or they have some effect on some other part of the body that’s negative and unrelated to intelligence.

            The easy example here is head circumference. There is a small positive correlation between how big your head is and your IQ[1]. Babies whose heads are too big tend to die with their mother in childbirth, taking out both themselves and any future siblings. Modern medicine lets us deal with this via C-section instead. In a world with routine C-sections, head size is too small and should get bigger. That’s a tradeoff evolution couldn’t make because it got stuck in the birth canal.

            Lots of other things might conceivably be correlated with IQ and are easy to correct now, but hard in the past–I think nearsightedness is correlated with IQ (not sure that’s genetic, though). If there are genes that raise your IQ but make measles or smallpox or cholera a little harder on you, in a world with modern medicine and good sanitation, that’s probably still a good tradeoff, whereas it wasn’t in the past. Genes that make you smarter but raise your risk of asthma or other respiratory problems, or lower your resistance to TB, once again are a good tradeoff now.

            So, you can imagine that as we’ve gotten proper sanitation and vaccines and modern medicine going, those genes are no longer getting filtered out so much, and so they’re increasing in prevalence.

            Like I said, I doubt this is really happening, but it’s interesting to think about how we’d check for sure.

            [1] There’s also a large positive correlation between hat size and inclination to quote this result in public.

    2. Plumber

      @Nick says:

      “Deiseach and Matt M are due back as of yesterday”

      Oh good.

      “Let’s welcome Deiseach back with a discussion of our favorite Christmas songs…”

      Gladly, Tidings of Comfort and Joy by far, religious and toe tapping, after that Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses because I was a teenager in the 1980’s who now misses old “New Wave”.

      “…I don’t know how to welcome Matt back, but maybe you all have some ideas”

      I’m guessing he’d some like tales of bureaucratic incompetence in San Francisco, but it would probably be unwise of me to share more so I’ll just bid welcome.

      1. gryffinp

        Since Trans-Siberian Orchestra has already been mentioned, I’d like to draw attention to a less-appreciated bit: The concept of their first album is a fairly disconnected series of vignettes strung together with the narrative that an Angel is looking for the True Meaning Of Christmas(tm). The climax of this plotline is told via a trilogy of songs, Ornament, Old City Bar, and This Christmas Day. Might not pass muster as a “carol” per se but as far as sappy Christmas stories go, it’s my favorite.

        1. BlackboardBinaryBook

          Not Christmas, but their album Beethoven’s Last Night is one of my all-time favorites. I freaking love a good rock opera concept album.

          I got to see them live for the 2nd time about a month ago. Highly recommended.

      2. Nick

        Every December a local place would advertise the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and that version would play in the commercial. I think I must have heard it a thousand times.

        1. moonfirestorm

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the one Trans-Siberian Orchestra song everyone knows. Certainly if someone has any idea who TSO is, they’ll know that song.

          I took my dad to a TSO concert a few years back and as soon as the band came on stage I realized “oh, this is a European symphonic metal band that branched out into Christmas songs at some point”. The outfits and stage setting choices felt very Nightwish/Kamelot.

    3. Well...

      “O Holy Night”, sung in the original French, by a good tenor, is the only good Christmas song. The rest can suck it. Wake me up when it’s December 26th.

      1. jermo sapiens

        I was going to recommend “Minuit Chretiens” and then I googled for the English version of it, and they all call it “O Holy Night”, which is weird because I thought “O Holy Night” was this (the French name of that song is “Sainte Nuit” translating directly to “Holy Night”). So yeah, we are in agreement.

      1. Alex Zavoluk

        Nitpick: That’s an advent song. But S_J made the same suggestion below, so maybe the difference isn’t one that people care about.

        1. acymetric

          Advent songs are a subcategory of Christmas songs (and most people likely wouldn’t differentiate between them at all anyway).

    4. S_J

      Let’s welcome Deiseach back with a discussion of our favorite Christmas songs, since the season begins, as we all know, in late November and ends at midnight the 26th. I don’t know how to welcome Matt back, but maybe you all have some ideas.

      I don’t know if Deiseach will agree with that timing…the residents of England/Ireland/Scotland don’t have a helpful late-November holiday to stave off Christmas season. That additional holiday is something for which Americans can be thankful.

      Anyways, I want to nominate Veni, Veni, Immanuel as a favorite Christmas song.

      1. HeelBearCub

        I was thinking more that she would object to Christmas supposedly ending right as it is actually just beginning.

        1. S_J

          In support of that, we could cite the song Twelve Days of Christmas.

          I will admit to being disconcerted on the morning of December 26 one year, when I got in the car to travel to a secondary Christmas celebration…and could not find any Christmas music.

    5. thevoiceofthevoid

      I’ve always liked John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (“So this is Christmas…”). Once in high school I arrangement a medley of it, Carol of the Bells, and Jingle Bells for an…interesting instrumentation (myself on viola, two cellos, a clarinet, and a glockenspiel. Quite glad we had the latter–the “bells” songs would have been quite lackluster without the bells!)

    6. hls2003

      It’s probably obvious, but I’ll nominate What Child Is This? for, at least, the Greensleeves melody.

      I’m a fan of Adeste Fideles in either Latin or English, Angels We Have Heard On High, O Holy Night, and Silent Night. I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day is good.
      Really the only well-known traditional carol I’m not so fond of is Joy To The World.

      On the slightly less well-known scale, the late great Jessye Norman’s This Christmastide is lovely.

      Sleigh Ride is an old choir favorite.

      1. Dacyn

        On the slightly less well-known scale, the late great Jessye Norman’s This Christmastide is lovely.

        Yes, I had never heard of it before this year but we are singing in in my choir, it is the best piece in the program.

      2. SamChevre

        My favorite new-ish Christmas hymn is Richard Wilbur’s A Stable Lamp Is Lighted.

        Of the traditional favorites, I like What Child Is This (the version with the ending of each verse different), Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, and the one indispensable one is O Come, All Ye Faithful.

        Also, the Gabrieli Consort’s recording of the Praetorius “Mass For Christmas Morning”–I’ve listened to that while cooking Christmas dinner for many years.

      1. johan_larson

        I’m not religious at all, but I tend to prefer the actually religious songs to the more generic winter holiday tunes. The holiday season without Jesus is kinda weaksauce.

    7. HarmlessFrog

      Deiseach and Matt M are due back as of yesterday.

      May their stay in the gulag not be extended excessively. 🙂

    8. Dacyn

      My favorite is Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, but to be contrarian I’ll use the Catholic Christmas season (i.e. Dec 25 to the Epiphany) instead of the secular one (which starts earlier than you are saying, maybe even in October), which means we are still in Advent. My favorite Advent song is O Come, Divine Messiah.

      1. HeelBearCub

        I jokingly refer to the American “New Thankhallowistmas” season as extending from the day after Labor Day to January 2nd.

      2. SamChevre

        My favorite for Advent is the Anglican classic Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending — to Helmsley. It’s fun to hear, fun to sing, and mildly terrifying.

    9. BBA

      “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. If Die Hard is a Christmas movie then that’s a Christmas song.

      1. Nornagest

        If we’re pulling in rock songs set around Christmas, it’s gotta be “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues.

    10. Lambert

      God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
      Putting a carol in a minor key is a pretty ballsy thing to do. And I like a good tierce picarde.

      Gordon Goodwin and Blackadder’s takes on this hymn are both good.

      Edit: And Jethro Tull. Might keep adding to this post for a while.

      Alas, no Jacob Collier arrangement,

    11. FrankistGeorgist

      Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with one of the more depressing versions of the lyrics, which I think captures a part of the secular malaise of Christmas. As integral to me as the frivolity of other secular songs and the rapture of the religious ones.

      Is Ave Maria a Christmas Song? I keep seeing it on people’s Christmas albums but it’s not on my radar as a seasonal thing. Also surprised to learn it’s based on the Lady of the Lake, because wow those German lyrics did not bring to mind Scotland.

      1. thevoiceofthevoid

        In a society where Christmas and Easter are the only occasions to attend church for many people, I can see how a not-specifically-seasonal religious hymn could get associated with Christmas. I do also feel like the musical style fits the season somehow.

      2. Evan Þ

        The Ave Maria’s partially based on the Magnificat which Mary sang while pregnant with Jesus, and Mary herself is firmly associated with the Christmas story. So, I guess you can count it as a Christmas song in the same technical way that Nestorius’s sermon on the Divine and human natures of Christ counted as a Christmas sermon.

      3. AG

        Co-signed on Have Yourself. Judy Garland is the high bar, and I loathe all of the showboating R&B versions where the singers clearly have zero idea what the context of that song is.

    12. beleester

      Carol of the Bells is indeed excellent. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen also has a very nice melody that I’ve heard some very good variations on.

      Also, since there’s another winter holiday happening at the same time, my favorite Hannukah song is probably Ma’oz Tzur – specifically the version by Benedetto Marcello, which is just gloriously choral. A close second is Banu Choshech, which is pretty simple but has lyrics that just make me want to shout.

      1. HarmlessFrog

        They’re not back until they’ve been crossed out of the banlist. They have not been, so they’re still banned. Our host can be a tad flexible about the listed dates; my three months were more like five.

          1. EchoChaos

            @Nick

            Yes. I had several dustups with him, and while he could be unpleasant, I genuinely didn’t think he should’ve been permanently banned.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            @Nick:

            Do you folks feel the same way about dick?

            Why is a trad Catholic asking a mostly-male group if they like dick? 😛

          3. acymetric

            @Randy M

            Made me chuckle. Nicely done.

            That said, I would welcome dick back. He definitely behaved in a nominative deterministic way somewhat more than occasionally, but in addition to his snarky comments he generally brought well informed/intelligent arguments for his positions, and his positions aren’t always well argued or commonly argued here.

  20. jermo sapiens

    This is a web page that claims to provide a “fascism test”. Full disclosure, I took it and my score is 37, which makes me a “fascist fellow-traveler” according to that web page. I think it’s a bit ridiculous, but I’m curious to see what people score on here and your thoughts on the questions used to gauge someone’s “fascism level”.

    Generally I feel the term “fascist/fascism” is one of the most abused in the current political lexicon, and it seems to stand in mostly for “people I really hate”. I try to use a definition of fascism that relies on the history of the Fascist party of Mussolini, but I understand that how the word is used today should also be reflected. So generally I consider fascism to be a political philosophy which is authoritarian, totalitarian, and which subordinates individual rights to the needs of the state. In that respect I would consider myself to be very low on the fascism scale so I was surprised by the results.

    1. The Nybbler

      Fascism shares a lot of views with other political philosophies; if you test on all of them (rather than the things which make Fascists uniquely fascist) you’ll get a high agreements score. (I got 30%).

      “The political challenges of today are so serious that they can no longer be solved within the traditional paradigms of political thought.” : Agreement here is no doubt “fascist”, but any novel political philosophy worth its salt will claim this.

      “Democracy is dangerous to competent statecraft because it forces every political decision to be lowered to a level of stupidity that the masses can understand.” : Agreement would be “fascist”, but plenty of monarchists would agree too.

    2. Nick

      What is with this test? I hard disagreed with nearly every “fascist-sounding” thing and still scored a 39%. I tried retaking it to get the lowest percentage I could and still got a 14%. I think I’m going to just mentally subtract 14% from everyone’s scores.

      ETA: Can anyone get a lower percentage than 14%?

      1. Ouroborobot

        Yeah, I don’t know what this is measuring but it sure isn’t a tendency toward fascism, unless it’s “fascism” as defined by a 21-year old undergrad with a tenuous grasp of political theory. This strikes me as having about the same merit as a buzzfeed quiz.

      2. kupe

        I hard disagreed with nearly every “fascist-sounding” thing

        Only a facist deal in absolutes 😉

        I managed to get down to %10, but I could be misinterpreting a question which is stopping me from getting it down further.

      3. HarmlessFrog

        What is with this test? I hard disagreed with nearly every “fascist-sounding” thing and still scored a 39%. I tried retaking it to get the lowest percentage I could and still got a 14%. I think I’m going to just mentally subtract 14% from everyone’s scores.

        ETA: Can anyone get a lower percentage than 14%?

        Honest responses give me a 56% “crypto-fascist”.

        Trying very hard to be anti-fascist gives me 7% “non-fascist”.

        Trying very hard to be fascist gives me 93% “bona fide fascist”, retrying gave me 96%.

        This suggests that I incorrectly interpreted 2 of the 28 questions – at least in the minds of the authors of the test. I can’t be bothered to figure out which two, this test is too annoying to take. I suspect one of them is about democracy.

        The heuristic I used is a combination of populism, statism, anti-capitalism, racism, pragmatic amoralism and militarism. Seems to work pretty well.

        Just for kicks, I clicked through leaving every answer in the middle. The result was 50% “crypto-fascist”.

        1. Protagoras

          Ah. I was wondering how my score was so high (35); I left some sliders in the middle because they seemed too badly worded for me to be able to give a meaningful answer. If those added points to my score, mystery solved.

    3. broblawsky

      I got a 23%, and I thought the test was pretty fair and well-designed. Do you have any idea which questions you answered that might have bumped up your score? Maybe you disagreed with the “the state should do whatever is necessary to resolve problems” statement, but some of the others bumped up your score, possibly some of the more ethnonationalism-focused questions. Fundamentally, fascism isn’t just about authoritarianism, but about ethnonationalism and ethnic hierarchy. There are authoritarian systems that are less nationalist and more globalist, and I imagine that you’d get a lower score in terms of agreement with those.

      1. jermo sapiens

        Yeah I liked the questions also, but there are some obvious limitations when you can only answer with an agreement slider. I’m thinking anytime I mildly agreed with criticisms of democracy or that the government has roles to play in society, I contributed to my fascism score increasing. Im not an ethnonationalist, nor do I believe in an ethnic hierarchy, and I did not answer positively on any questions like that, so I dont think that’s why I got a 37.

        1. broblawsky

          Yeah, criticism of democracy seems like a good way to up your F-score as well. I think it’s important for all of us to be aware of the ways in which we’re susceptible to authoritarian ideas, so that we can prevent others from exploiting our biases. That’s useful for people from any aspect of the political spectrum. I just wish the test gave a slightly better breakdown of which areas our F-score came from.

          1. RalMirrorAd

            I doubt even this since ‘Authoritarian Impulses’ are partly a framing thing. Would this test increase your F-score if you supported banning hate speech? People that *do* suppose it wouldn’t consider it authoritarian [because while they perceive hate speech almost everywhere they partially define it as an incitement to violence, so arresting or assaulting people who engage in it is an act of self-defense]

            Is decentralized and passive aggressive use of violence or state power to achieve desired ends authoritarian? is it more or less authoritarian than a laissez faire society with a latent warrior culture?

    4. metacelsus

      I got 31, which is pretty close to your 37, but the test says I’m “not fascist.”

      While your political outlook may share a few (or even quite a few) of fascism’s fundamental doctrines, it is overall safe to say that your political orientation is *not* a fascist one.

    5. gettin_schwifty

      32, Not Fascist. The test groups a lot of unlike things together, so I lump it in with Myers-Briggs as “interesting or fun but not so important.” If nothing else, you’re on the border of fellow-traveler and not fascist.

    6. Radu Floricica

      I got 30. I think it just measures anything you didn’t fully agree or disagree “properly”. There were a lot of statements I didn’t go fully because I felt they need to be qualified, and a few I didn’t care or know about so I just left them on neutral (eg I have no experience with military organisations).

      Makes me realize I don’t really know what fascism is about. Not feel like I need to know either – I don’t trust my resistance to biases that much.

    7. DinoNerd

      Interesting.

      It was almost always obvious which answer was intended to be the fascist one, and on one occassion I changed my answer based on implications of similar statements made in the past, rather than what was literally said in the question. But I know a lot of history, including the context of fascism-vs-communism, and for that matter the progress-oriented mindset of the time period, that judged worth based on which side of “inevitable social progress” something was on. (More like Europe = more “civilized” = better, but with some additional details.)

      I wound up at 26%, aka “not fascist”.

      FWIW, I agree with you on the basic definition of fascism – but the quiz did say it was based on the expressed opinions of historically important fascists, which is kind of different. (Any politician tries to present themself as supporting many positions which are generally regarded as good by everyone in their society.)

      I think the most important thing missing from our definition, but prominent on the site, is the idea that normal political and legal means are inadequate – thus toss out democracy, rule of law, etc. – or at least limit/modify them.

      Next most important might be the idea that war is the true test of a nation’s character, value, etc. (FWIW, I’d expect more of that from fascists who got their countries into disasterous wars, and less from fascist leaders like Franco, who kept out of war and lived to a reasonably ripe old age.)

      1. jermo sapiens

        I think the most important thing missing from our definition, but prominent on the site, is the idea that normal political and legal means are inadequate – thus toss out democracy, rule of law, etc. – or at least limit/modify them.

        True. I recall answering that the current political paradigms are inadequate (mildly agree). That most certainly increased my score. But if I could answer with words instead of various levels of agreement, I could have explained that even though I think current paradigms are lacking, they shouldnt be replaced with fascism.

    8. Plumber

      I got:

      “You are 38% Fascist, which makes you a Fascist Fellow-Traveler.

      In your case, it would appear that your political outlook shares more than a few of the core doctrines of fascism. Since fascism is really a mix of communism, socialism, conservatism, and liberalism, with a few innovations of its own thrown in, it is scarcely surprising that most people’s political outlook will have quite a few similarities with the doctrines of fascism. Even after adjusting for these parameters, however, it would seem that the commonalities between your political outlook and fascism are not merely incidental, but arise from certain overall themes, concerns, and solutions which your personal outlook has in common with fascism. While you are most likely *not* a fascist, the overlap between your preferred society and that of fascism is simply too significant to be pure chance. In all likelihood, you are what one might call a ‘Fascist Fellow Traveler’: Someone who sees value in some of the immediate societal changes that fascism would bring about, but *not* someone who is an actual fascist. Your ultimate political goal lies elsewhere…

      Eh…

      …me and F.D.R.

      I can live with it.

    9. DragonMilk

      38% for me…a fellow traveler?

      And so I concur that it’s a joke of a test. Might as well take a test that shows what % sinful you are!

      …sinful traveler, you do not set out to sin, but do so all the time anyway when it’s convenient for you

    10. Erusian

      28%.

      I think Fascism is best understood as a form of right wing non-Marxist socialism. It buys Marx’s thesis about conflict theory but replaces class conflict with conflict between some other groups. It tends to be authoritarian, communitarian, and transcendental in a Hegelian sense. However, instead of the good of the working class it instead seeks the good of… something. A race, a state, whatever. That is the basic core of their philosophy: history is driven by conflict between {groups} and the fascist state is a seizure of power by {our group} to eliminate {other groups} and bring about our glorious {our group} future.

      For example, Hitler’s philosophy can be summarized as: The natural state of the world is that races compete for resources, most fundamentally things like farmland, mines, etc. These wars are a natural and inevitable and indeed inescapable part of human existence. However, Jews are not capable of competing on this front: their racial characteristics are such that they are bad at combat or honest diplomacy or anything like that. They’re not even good at honest lab They primarily possess low cunning and skill at making decadent art and financial manipulation.

      Since they cannot win in an open fight, they instead trick other races into believing in things like ‘peaceful cooperation’ or ‘free trade’ or ‘capitalism’ or ‘Communism’ or any number of ideologies. But these are really smokescreens that conceal what’s actually going on. Jews use institutions (like the stock market, for example) to dominate other race’s resources without even having to conquer them. The racial competition is still actually going on and the Jews are winning by convincing you to like movies and money and peace. You see, Jews control (secretly or not) Hollywood/German cinema/the stock market/the Communist Party/etc. And they use these to both control society and extract resources from it in a parasitic fashion.

      Hitler’s Hegelian undergoing was to return the world to this state of racial war by eliminating the Jews (the source of the lie) and engaging in open racial competition. Which the Germans, as the superior race, would win.

    11. Iago the Yerfdog

      31% for what it’s worth. Not a Fascist!

      One thing I didn’t appreciate was lumping in “true/false for X” and “good/bad for X.” The latter is a perfectly cogent notion, and obviously true even if you believe there’s also an absolute good/bad, but the former is not, unless what you really mean is “true/false about X.”

      I hate answering questions like that.

      1. Garrett

        I agree. I found a number of the questions being unclear about whether they were making a normative or descriptive claim.

    12. AlesZiegler

      I got 29.

      I think that fascism is a word that should be tabooed in serious discussions, except when referering to self-identified fascist and or to fascist regime in Italy.

      1. jermo sapiens

        I think that fascism is a word that should be tabooed in serious discussions, except when referering to self-identified fascist and or to fascist regime in Italy.

        Very much in agreement with this.

      2. albatross11

        I’m fine with calling someone a fascist if they’re actually a fascist, just not so impressed when someone calls everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton a fascist. There’s a similar tactic commonly used with “racist.” On the right, you get some of people calling others “socialist” or “islamist” with the same logic. Historically, it was “communist-sympathizer.”

        All of those can be real claims in an intelligent discussion, but 99% of the time, they’re smears intended to shut down thinking and get people to react emotionally or tribally, instead.

          1. souleater

            I did the same thing, and also got 14%

            I basically used the heuristic of

            individualism over government
            Local culture over state control
            Market Economy over Command Economy
            All cultures are equal are wonderful

          2. Two McMillion

            My personal opinion of what’s fascist and not. Apparently it does not completely agree with the test makers.

    13. LadyJane

      I got 10%.

      I can see why most people would get somewhere in the 30% range, though. A typical conservative will inevitably give some fascist answers when it comes to things like traditional values (e.g. the government has an obligation not to disrupt cultural traditions) and ethno-nationalism (e.g. the worth of a culture/nation/people is defined by their accomplishments). A typical leftist will inevitably give some fascist answers when it comes to economics (for instance, I can’t imagine your average progressive or left-liberal agreeing that the free market is the most efficient economic system).

      The test seems to consider classical liberal/free-market libertarian viewpoints to be the most antithetical to fascism. However, a good number of American libertarians are actually quite conservative on social and cultural issues, even if they don’t believe the government should be forcing people to adhere to socially conservative norms. Since the test largely asks about values and preferences rather than policy stances, a lot of conservative libertarians and paleo-libertarians will end up giving the same fascist answers as normal conservatives.

      In other words, the test seems to be designed for cosmopolitan libertarians like myself, at least insofar as cosmopolitanism and libertarianism are the ideologies it considers maximally anti-fascist.

      1. Plumber

        @LadyJane says:

        “I got 10%.. ..”

        I’m not surprised.

        Despite yours and my “fascist tendencies” scores being the most divergent so far, I suspect that we may vote very much alike, just with different motivations.

        I should probably be more ashamed of my score but I console myself with that the U.S.A. probably got the closest to being run on fascist lines when it was actively fighting Fascism.

        1. DavidFriedman

          I should probably be more ashamed of my score but I console myself with that the U.S.A. probably got the closest to being run on fascist lines when it was actively fighting Fascism.

          Not surprising. The first New Deal was essentially a fascist approach to the economy and FDR had, like many other people, been an admirer of Mussolini.

          One can imagine an alternate history where England and its allies didn’t object to the Italian acts in Abyssinia, Italy remained in the WWI alliance, WWII either didn’t happen or had Italy on the allied side, and “fascism” never became a strongly negative term in western discourse. A lot of people still find the economic approach attractive, separated from the label.

          1. Iago the Yerfdog

            My understanding is that the differences between fascism and social democracies as political economies are almost all on the political side rather than the economic side: the latter keep most of the existing democratic political structure, the former gets rid of it in favor of giving as much power as possible to the Glorious Leader. Naturally, this allows the Glorious Leader to go to whatever excesses he likes.

            The really fatal flaw in fascism, though, is that the Glorious Leader ends up being the Jesus nut of the regime, and when he dies (or screws up terribly) you get an immediate crisis of legitimacy. Meanwhile, when the leader of a social democratic regime’s term is up, you elect a new one and move on.

          2. Iago the Yerfdog

            @albatros11

            Thanks. I seriously considered putting a link to the definition but ended up not.

      2. Ketil

        e.g. the government has an obligation not to disrupt cultural traditions

        Huh. I think the fascist very much wanted to disrupt certain cultural traditions they happened not to like. But then I am 34% fascist, so what do I know?

        Maybe I’m most displeased with the descriptive results, calling everybody with slightly nuanced opinions on some questions “Fascist Fellow-Travellers” seems a little uncharitable.

    14. ARabbiAndAFrog

      I scored 45% but honestly half of the questions were ambiguous whenever answers are prescriptive or descritive (It’s how it is and it sucks, vs It’s an ideal to live by) and another half was assuming facts not in evidence.

      1. HarmlessFrog

        I scored 45% but honestly half of the questions were ambiguous whenever answers are prescriptive or descritive (It’s how it is and it sucks, vs It’s an ideal to live by) and another half was assuming facts not in evidence.

        Yeah, and many of the questions seem to be written from the perspective of fascism as the modern caricature of it, not the historical ideology.

    15. thevoiceofthevoid

      I got a 15% (“Not Fascist”), answering the questions honestly. I suspect you get some number of fascist points for not disagreeing strongly enough with “fascist” questions, or for failing to fully agree with “antifascist” questions. Don’t feel like going through the entire thing again, but I’m curious what the flavor text for ~30% is if anyone wants to post it.
      If you’re wondering, for 15% you get:

      While your political outlook may share a few (or even quite a few) of fascism’s fundamental doctrines, it is overall safe to say that your political orientation is *not* a fascist one. Now, you may find this result unsurprising, but in reality, most people have at least some points of agreement with fascism since fascism is really a mix of communism, socialism, conservatism, and liberalism, with a few innovations of its own thrown in. Hence, adjusting for these factors, even though your fascism percentage might seem quite high, there is really nothing surprising about these agreements, when viewed in their proper historical context, so rest assured: Your political beliefs are definitely not fascist.

    16. Le Maistre Chat

      Oh, for fun!
      “You are 39% Fascist, which makes you a Fascist Fellow-Traveler.”
      That seems pretty average around here.

    17. Machine Interface

      49%. Worth noting that I didn’t move the cursor at all on 80% of the questions, finding them largely meaningless.

      1. HarmlessFrog

        49%. Worth noting that I didn’t move the cursor at all on 80% of the questions, finding them largely meaningless.

        To get anywhere below 50%, you have to, on average, be against the putative fascist position. As I noted above, being indifferent to everything makes you a crypto-fascist. The default result of the test is crypto-fascism. I can’t tell whether to be amused, or exasperated at the poor test design.

    18. ec429

      Generally I feel the term “fascist/fascism” is one of the most abused in the current political lexicon, and it seems to stand in mostly for “people I really hate”.

      Per Orwell, this is not a new phenomenon: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.”

      A useful way of characterising Fascism is that it considers the leader to be the embodiment of the will of the nation/people, and believes that this justifies totalitarian rule. It is instructive to make the comparison to the Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat”; historically speaking Fascism is a Marxist heresy, differing from Marxism not mainly in its aims but in the means by which they were to be achieved.

      1. mdet

        I feel like I’d say the opposite, that fascism & Marxism seem to use similar means for opposite aims. Both will use government ownership of the means of production, and both anticipate an international conflict for redistribution of resources, but Hitler wanted to unite Germans of every class against non-Germans, while Marx wanted to unite laborers of every nationality against non-laborers.

        1. HeelBearCub

          Hitler wanted to unite Germans of every class against non-Germans

          Depending on your definition of “German”.

          1. mdet

            “Nationalism vs Internationalism” made for a cleaner dichotomy than “Aryan Supremacy vs Internationalism”, and “Aryan” feels like a dirty word anyway thanks to that man.

            But yeah, you right.

          2. Lambert

            ‘Aryan’ is a perfectly good word, if you want to describe Iranians, Pakistanis, Persians and Indians.

        2. ec429

          I guess we’re evaluating “aims and means” in different ways. In a how-do-we-gain-power sense, “government ownership” was the aim of both, with Marxism’s means being “class struggle / class consciousness” and Fascism’s means being “nationalist fervour”. In a how-do-we-justify-our-policies-in-our-propaganda sense, government ownership is the means (policy-to-be-justified), with Marxism’s aims being “the classless society / socialist paradise” and Fascism’s aims being “greater Germany / Italy / wherever”.

          I’ve explained this really badly; I hope it makes sense.

      1. HarmlessFrog

        What makes a man turn crypto-fascist? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of crypto-fascism?

        1. Paul Zrimsek

          It usually begins with rado-fascism, the first step along the path to xeno-fascism, krypto-fascism, argo-fascism, and finally neo-fascism.

    19. Mark V Anderson

      I got 31%, like several others here. These tests are kind of fun to take, but they mean nothing.

      I am pretty anti-authoritative, so I think I should have a lower score, but like MI, I just left many items in the middle because I had no idea what they were talking about. They clearly had their own special agenda about some things and so several items I had zero opinion about.

    20. sharper13

      Before reading others results, I got 21% “Not Fascist” using my honest opinions and answering every question. I suspect a couple of “nuanced” answers where I didn’t push the slider over completely probably contributed. I’m not sure of what their balance is between various aspects of fascism, but the test didn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility. Like many others, I’d’ve expected an even lower score in some ways.

    21. johan_larson

      I got 31%, which is Not Fascist. Yay?

      There were quite a few statements that I disagreed with, but didn’t quite disagree with strongly enough to drag the slider all the way to the end. I suspect my score would be lower if I had treated every question as a binary choice.

      It seems like a reasonable enough test of fascist beliefs, although I have no idea whether the calibration is right. And of course any fascist with any sense at all would probably self-censor in any situation more formal than a just-for-laughs internet poll.

  21. johnstewart

    I believe I’ve seen discussions previously in which some regard Charles A. Murray as someone displaying intellectual honesty, who has been railroaded by the culture wars and politically correctness because he has discussed the influence of race on intelligence.

    His interview with Sam Harris some months back seemed to show him a good light… although I’ll say I don’t think Sam pushed him hard.

    Shaun on youtube has recently published a pretty comprehensive review of the book, responses, and arguments; it’s pretty bad for Murray, IMHO. I thought others here may be interested:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBc7qBS1Ujo

    (I’ve not quite finished it; it’s over two and a half hours long)

    1. broblawsky

      I think the Bell Curve is pretty fatally flawed, and Murray can’t claim to have intellectual integrity until he honestly addresses his critics. As long as he dismisses them, no one is under any ethical obligation to engage with his ideas.

    2. RalMirrorAd

      Another Youtube User by the name of Alternative Hypothesis (as in I guess the opposite of the null) made a response[s] to this video albiet it’s being done in small pieces.

      I’ll summarize the relevant counterarguments, because i find videos that talk about the phrenology boogieman in the context of intelligence research to be almost unwatchable, so if you find the response videos unwatchable this should make it easier:

      1. G is more predictive of group variance than individual variance, and Murray states this himself
      2. There’s no evidence for a consensus amongst intelligence researchers for a 0% heritable BWIQG, except perhaps during the 1970s, the median answer currently is somewhere around 50% though there’s lots of dispersion of answers.
      3. Skulls – Samuel George Morton’s skull collection was re-measured and Morton’s measurements were confirmed, other skull collections can’t be re-checked but it’s not unreasonable to assume that gould simply lied about theother collections given his own motivations. Even if older researchers fabricated their data you still have the problem of, for example, contemporary MRI scans that suggest the same thing. [About skull size at least].
      4. Skull/Brain size and intelligence continued and continues to be measured in several studies, the mismearure of man / WW2 did not abolish this research. Correlations of the two vary depending on how the measurement is taken but are never zero.
      5. The German government did not officially endorse the use of G loaded IQ tests in part because it didn’t show their own citizens as being much smarter than their hated neighbors and also showed them being outperformed by an unpopular minority group. (This isn’t talked about in the video but the military may have used de-facto IQ tests for reasons of expediency, as far as building an officer corps quickly, the US military did something similar)
      6. In the context of cultural bias, BWIQG is largest on test questions which were identified by critics of the tests as being the most culturally loaded and vice versa. See also spearman’s hypothesis.
      7. Intelligence research papers replicate at a higher rate than psychology papers and compared to other research in general have a much higher statisitcal power. The latter can be explained partly by the fact that intelligence research is under much heavier scrutiny so more time is spent repeatedly validating old results than doing more speculative research.

    3. Clutzy

      I know nothing of this Shaun fellow, however, a Bayseian analysis tends towards labeling him as a pseudo-intellectual troll. This is because one who focuses on Murray and The Bell Curve’s race/IQ claims to the tune of a 3 hour youtube video is statistically likely (>99%) to be engaging in intellectual dishonesty. I say this because of a few reasons:

      1) Murray’s claims in TBC are uncontroversial and supported by the literature.

      2) His claims are modest and don’t even touch on a causal claim. He simply points to the gap and says it will cause us to have to make tough decisions, if the gap doesn’t close.

      3) Its only a small part of one chapter of TBC. Easily less than 5% of the book. Someone who wanted to engage on the topic honestly would engage with a different source.

      1. broblawsky

        1) Murray’s claims in TBC are uncontroversial and supported by the literature.

        Hard disagree, at least on the racial IQ gap stuff. Murray’s decision to dismiss the Flynn effect – a term he himself coined – is highly controversial, in and of itself. The Flynn effect operates over a small enough timescale that it cannot be reasonably considered genetic, and recent research conclusively shows that, contrary to Murray’s dismissal, socioeconomic impacts on intelligence far outweigh the genetic effects – race-linked or otherwise – that he believes explain so much about American society. Until Murray honestly addresses these issues, he’s a valid target for criticism.

        2) His claims are modest and don’t even touch on a causal claim. He simply points to the gap and says it will cause us to have to make tough decisions, if the gap doesn’t close.

        The Bell Curve is what made Murray significant; it’s the root of his popularity. And Murray has used that popularity to make truly repellent policy prescriptions – for example:
        a) Even more extreme punishment of criminal activity and tolerance of vigilantism;
        b) Ending welfare support for single mothers;
        c) From the same source, prescribing American-style mass incarceration for the UK.

        3) Its only a small part of one chapter of TBC. Easily less than 5% of the book. Someone who wanted to engage on the topic honestly would engage with a different source.

        It’s the chapter everyone cares about, and it’s the one that made Murray prominent. Coming Apart is nowhere near as significant.

        1. Alexander Turok

          The Flynn effect operates over a small enough timescale that it cannot be reasonably considered genetic, and recent research conclusively shows that, contrary to Murray’s dismissal, socioeconomic impacts on intelligence far outweigh the genetic effects – race-linked or otherwise – that he believes explain so much about American society.

          It’s unclear what point the link is supposed to be making, what is supposed to be being compared to what. Flynn has said that the Black-White IQ score gap can be entirely explained by environmental factors if “the average environment for Blacks in 1995 matches the quality of the average environment for Whites in 1945.” Is this the point you’re trying to make?

          The Bell Curve is what made Murray significant; it’s the root of his popularity. And Murray has used that popularity to make truly repellent policy prescriptions – for example:
          a) Even more extreme punishment of criminal activity and tolerance of vigilantism;
          b) Ending welfare support for single mothers;
          c) From the same source, prescribing American-style mass incarceration for the UK.

          These ideas are pretty unobjectionable for most on the Right and historically for many on the Left as well, particularly when you look at what they do as opposed to what they say.

          1. broblawsky

            It’s unclear what point the link is supposed to be making, what is supposed to be being compared to what. Flynn has said that the Black-White IQ score gap can be entirely explained by environmental factors if “the average environment for Blacks in 1995 matches the quality of the average environment for Whites in 1945.” Is this the point you’re trying to make?

            Essentially, yes, as long as “environment” includes a wide range of socioeconomic factors. If socioeconomic/environmental factors are on the same order of magnitude or greater than what Murray considers “genetic” factors, then it’s extremely sloppy science for Murray and his supporters to assume that their “genetic” factors are statistically significant at all.

            These ideas are pretty unobjectionable for most on the Right and historically for many on the Left as well, particularly when you look at what they do as opposed to what they say.

            Even most people on the right today think that US-style mass incarceration has gone too far – look at the FIRST STEP Act. And I suspect that most right-wing people would agree that punishing children for having single mothers is immoral.

          2. Alexander Turok

            Even most people on the right today think that US-style mass incarceration has gone too far

            Maybe for a few cases, but not the bulk of it. Majorities still say that local courts are too lenient:

            https://gssdataexplorer.norc.org/documents/899/download

            most right-wing people would agree that punishing children for having single mothers is immoral.

            Most right-wing people would take issue with the framing as if not giving somebody something is “punishing” them. They’d also point out that you get more of what you subsidize.

        2. DavidFriedman

          It’s the chapter everyone cares about, and it’s the one that made Murray prominent. Coming Apart is nowhere near as significant.

          Because his critics focused on it, as the part of the book easiest to attack. Why try critiquing someone’s facts and arguments when you have the alternative of calling him a racist?

          1. broblawsky

            Because his critics focused on it, as the part of the book easiest to attack. Why try critiquing someone’s facts and arguments when you have the alternative of calling him a racist?

            It isn’t prejudice, it’s embarassingly sloppy science. I’m not sure why anyone thinks these parts of the Bell Curve are worth defending, frankly. Murray and his supporters have put psychometrics back decades.

            Edit: Also, when have I called Murray a racist? I just think he’s an incompetent scientist using the medium of pop science to push ineffective and/or unethical policies.

          2. DavidFriedman

            The question of whether the black/white IQ difference was genetic wasn’t the point of the book, wasn’t central to the book’s argument, and wasn’t something the book made strong claims about.

          3. broblawsky

            Murray’s more recent behavior – see his appearance on Harris’ podcast – suggests otherwise.

          4. Cliff

            Murray’s more recent behavior – see his appearance on Harris’ podcast – suggests otherwise.

            What does it suggest?

          5. broblawsky

            That he believes that the black-white IQ gap is mostly genetic, at least according to other people in this thread (I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to that episode).

          6. DavidFriedman

            That he believes that the black-white IQ gap is mostly genetic, at least according to other people in this thread

            And you believe it isn’t, a belief I don’t think you have yet offered any evidence for.

            Holding a belief about something there isn’t strong evidence for or against isn’t intellectually dishonest, it’s something all of us do. Claiming to have strong evidence for the belief when you don’t (and know you don’t) is dishonest. Your original claim was that Murray was dishonest, and this doesn’t support it, since he seems to have been careful, in TBC and elsewhere, not to claim to have strong evidence for that belief.

        3. Clutzy

          I don’t think your engaging with my critique. If someone wanted to discuss Murray himself, sure, it would make sense to dedicate a significant amount of time to TBC. If someone wants to discuss and engage in a critique of biological explanations for race differences, picking Murray as your opponent is a fundamentally unserious choice. He’s not an expert, doesn’t claim to be an expert, doesn’t engage with the subject other than to say stuff like, “we relied on the best data we had at the time.”

          1. albatross11

            I think Murray is at least IQ expert adjacent–he’s done research in a lot of IQ-related areas. In his interview with Sam Harris, he made an argument for why he believes that the black/white IQ gap is mostly genetic in origin. This was speculative, and he said so–he was describing his own belief about this still-uncertain question. It’s certainly reasonable to argue with his reasoning.

            Most of the arguments I’ve seen the other way seem to amount to pointing out that there are enough confounders that it is very difficult to determine the answer for certain. Which seems right to me, but those people usually don’t condemn folks who claim that there is 0 genetic component to the IQ difference, even though they are also speculating ahead of the evidence.

          2. broblawsky

            Most of the arguments I’ve seen the other way seem to amount to pointing out that there are enough confounders that it is very difficult to determine the answer for certain. Which seems right to me, but those people usually don’t condemn folks who claim that there is 0 genetic component to the IQ difference, even though they are also speculating ahead of the evidence.

            That’s my opinion as well. I actually do think there’s at least some genetic component to IQ; I just think that assuming that those genetic factors correlate well with our socially constructed concepts of race is evidence of being, at best, unserious about psychometrics.

          3. broblawsky

            I don’t think your engaging with my critique. If someone wanted to discuss Murray himself, sure, it would make sense to dedicate a significant amount of time to TBC. If someone wants to discuss and engage in a critique of biological explanations for race differences, picking Murray as your opponent is a fundamentally unserious choice. He’s not an expert, doesn’t claim to be an expert, doesn’t engage with the subject other than to say stuff like, “we relied on the best data we had at the time.”

            I didn’t read any of that out of the post I responded to, I’m afraid. All three of the primary points you made were in defense of Murray; to my eye, they presented him as a serious intelligence researcher doing conventional psychometric research. If I misunderstood your position, I apologize.

            That being said, I don’t think it’s unfair to treat Murray and the Bell Curve as being proxies for the “race is a significant influence on intelligence” crowd. Murray’s claims are considered normal in that field; look at how many people stepped up to defend him in this thread. He may not be the best researcher in his field (far from it), but he’s one of the most prominent and best-known voices.

          4. albatross11

            broblawsky:

            It seems pretty certain that IQ is substantially genetic, thanks to a whole bunch of adoption studies. If you’re adopted, your adult IQ is much more strongly correlated to that of the biological siblings you have never met than it is to the adoptive siblings you grew up with.

            The question of how much of the correlation between race and IQ is genetic is, as far as I understand things, an open research question. It has been a few years since I read _The Bell Curve_, but my memory is that they state this, and make it clear that they don’t know what fraction is genetic.

            In his interview with Harris, Murray speculates that the race/IQ correlation (at least between blacks and whites) is largely genetic, and he makes some argument for why he believes that is likely. He may be right or wrong about that–I personally think there are enough confounders that it’s hard to have much confidence either way–but I don’t think it’s any more irresponsible for him to speculate this direction than for others to speculate that the race/IQ correlation is entirely or almost entirely environmental.

            As best I can tell, as an interested amateur (but not that interested–if I had lots more time, there are several subjects I’d study in depth before I got around to psychometrics), Herrenstein and Murray’s comments about race and IQ in that chapter of _The Bell Curve_ were both consistent with the available data and also with the existing consensus in psychometrics. What is it that you think was so embarrassingly wrong about the chapter on race and IQ?

          5. DavidFriedman

            I just think that assuming that those genetic factors correlate well with our socially constructed concepts of race is evidence of being, at best, unserious about psychometrics.

            Why? Our standard racial categories basically amount to having significant amount of African ancestry, mostly from the parts of Africa that slaves came from, having largely East Asian ancestry, and having mostly European ancestry. The populations in question spent quite a long time in different environments and have easily observable genetic differences–that’s how we recognize them.

            So there is no a priori reason to reject the conjecture that they differ in genetic IQ. If we observe a difference in the average IQ of races as conventionally defined, there could be other explanations, but why do you reject that one?

            Describing it as “assuming” assumes your conclusion–that there is no good reason to think that genetic IQ correlates, even though we observe that IQ itself does, and that a variety of easily observable heritable physical characteristics do.

          6. Corey

            why do you reject that one?

            Canned response: Africans are more genetically diverse overall than the difference between those other categories, or between them and Africans. Which makes sense since humanity originated there.

            I honestly don’t know the canned response to that, but if anyone does it’s this crowd.

          7. Anthony

            Corey – Africans as a whole, and even sub-Saharan Africans, are more diverse than non-Africans (maybe). However, the source population for most African-Americans is not.

          8. thevoiceofthevoid

            Easy canned response is that it’s possible to have a consistent intergroup variation that is smaller in magnitude than intragroup variation. Look at the shape of the distributions in this visualization tool with d < 0.5; it's clear that the difference between the averages is small but extant despite the wide spead of each group.

          9. broblawsky

            The question of how much of the correlation between race and IQ is genetic is, as far as I understand things, an open research question. It has been a few years since I read _The Bell Curve_, but my memory is that they state this, and make it clear that they don’t know what fraction is genetic.

            Murray certainly equivocates to that effect. He also spends a solid 12 pages (299-301 in my edition) attacking every contemporary argument in favor of environmental influences being more significant than genetic differences, without every applying any criticism to theories that claim that genetic differences being predominant. His bias in favor of genetic explanations is obvious.

            In his interview with Harris, Murray speculates that the race/IQ correlation (at least between blacks and whites) is largely genetic, and he makes some argument for why he believes that is likely. He may be right or wrong about that–I personally think there are enough confounders that it’s hard to have much confidence either way–but I don’t think it’s any more irresponsible for him to speculate this direction than for others to speculate that the race/IQ correlation is entirely or almost entirely environmental.

            It’s irresponsible when you use your platform to dismiss good science being done by real psychometric researchers. Here’s the most egregious version, his dismissal of the Flynn Effect (p. 308):

            Does a 15-point IQ difference between grandparents and their grandchildren mean that the grandchildren are 15 points smarter? Some experts do not believe that the rise is wholly, perhaps not even partly, a rise in intelligence but in the narrower skills involved in intelligence test taking per se.

            A reasonable assertion to make – but once you’ve made it, you can’t continue to use IQ as a measure of intelligence. And rest assured: IQ is the only really useful test of intelligence Murray cites. “For me but not for thee” is not something you’re allowed to do in scientific debate.

            As best I can tell, as an interested amateur (but not that interested–if I had lots more time, there are several subjects I’d study in depth before I got around to psychometrics), Herrenstein and Murray’s comments about race and IQ in that chapter of _The Bell Curve_ were both consistent with the available data and also with the existing consensus in psychometrics. What is it that you think was so embarrassingly wrong about the chapter on race and IQ?

            Those 12 pages Murray spends attacking studies on environmental influences on IQ are embarrassing. His hitjob on the Scarr/Weinberg transracial adoption study, in p. 309 of my copy, suggests that he might not be capable of basic statistics. The Scarr/Weinberg study shows that pre-adoption influences on IQ (including, but not limited to genetics) make up less than half (or around 10-15%, once corrected for the Flynn effect) of the age 17 IQ differences between cohorts. Flynn ignores this completely, completely failing to do any analysis of the Scarr/Weinburg results. Every section of this part of the book is similarly bad.

          10. broblawsky

            Canned response: Africans are more genetically diverse overall than the difference between those other categories, or between them and Africans. Which makes sense since humanity originated there.

            I honestly don’t know the canned response to that, but if anyone does it’s this crowd.

            Here’s a good source for that.

          11. broblawsky

            Why? Our standard racial categories basically amount to having significant amount of African ancestry, mostly from the parts of Africa that slaves came from, having largely East Asian ancestry, and having mostly European ancestry. The populations in question spent quite a long time in different environments and have easily observable genetic differences–that’s how we recognize them.

            So there is no a priori reason to reject the conjecture that they differ in genetic IQ. If we observe a difference in the average IQ of races as conventionally defined, there could be other explanations, but why do you reject that one?

            Describing it as “assuming” assumes your conclusion–that there is no good reason to think that genetic IQ correlates, even though we observe that IQ itself does, and that a variety of easily observable heritable physical characteristics do.

            Genetic studies have long since moved past race. Here’s a few choice pieces:

            Greater genetic differences between individuals of the same racial group than between individuals of different groups.

            The majority of genetic variations are found in all populations; within-population differences make up 93-95% of all genetic differences.

            Using race as a shortcut for genetics might be useful for laymen like you or I, but it’s dangerously sloppy and unethical for anyone making policy prescriptions or doing real science. Murray needs to do better if he’s going to make policy recommendations. His failure to do so is dangerous and anti-scientific.

          12. Douglas Knight

            Canned response: Africans are more genetically diverse overall than the difference between those other categories, or between them and Africans. Which makes sense since humanity originated there.

            How is that a response? Could you possibly pin down a definition of these word in which it was a response? Probably not really, but you could probably fool yourself. Would the definition you confabulate to fabricate an argument match the definition you would fabricate if you just wanted to make sense of this as an isolated claim?

            The Out of Africa population went through a bottleneck, so it has lower neutral diversity. The subsaharan African populations did not go through a bottleneck, so they each (contra Anthony) have greater neutral diversity than the aggregate OoA population, let alone any individual OoA population.

            But we don’t care about neutral diversity. That’s why it’s neutral. (Thus Void’s comment is irrelevant. Also, nonsense in that he assumes small d, when the whole point is to explain large d.)

          13. DavidFriedman

            Greater genetic differences between individuals of the same racial group than between individuals of different groups.

            I didn’t follow the link, since I don’t see what that claim has to do with the argument. If the average IQ of one group is ten points lower than another, it’s still ten points lower even if variation within each group is large.

            The place all this matters is in conclusions from group statistics, such as income or education. The standard assumption in discussing such things is that differences in racial averages have to be due to some sort of discrimination. That depends on the unstated and unsupported assumption that there are no innate differences in the distribution of relevant characteristics by race.

            How would that argument be changed by statistics on intragroup variation?

          14. Clutzy

            I didn’t read any of that out of the post I responded to, I’m afraid. All three of the primary points you made were in defense of Murray; to my eye, they presented him as a serious intelligence researcher doing conventional psychometric research. If I misunderstood your position, I apologize.

            Uhh, point 3 of my OP pretty clearly disowns TBC as a serious tome about the topic. Its a chapter that essentially does a middling job of summarizing the field at the time of the book. Some of his points have gotten stronger since (such as rebuttals along the lines of the Flynn effect), others have gotten weaker, such as the the AFQT being a particularly good test.

          15. broblawsky

            I didn’t follow the link, since I don’t see what that claim has to do with the argument. If the average IQ of one group is ten points lower than another, it’s still ten points lower even if variation within each group is large.

            The place all this matters is in conclusions from group statistics, such as income or education. The standard assumption in discussing such things is that differences in racial averages have to be due to some sort of discrimination. That depends on the unstated and unsupported assumption that there are no innate differences in the distribution of relevant characteristics by race.

            How would that argument be changed by statistics on intragroup variation?

            The other link, which you didn’t quote, indicates that race accounts for about 5% of all genetic differences between individuals. It’d be asking that 5% to do a lot of work to account for meaningful IQ differences across groups as well as all other ethnic differences, don’t you think? Not to mention that it would contradict the highly polygenic and omnigenic models of IQ, which are currently the best genetic model of IQ, AFAIK.

            The point I’m trying to make is that modern genetics has moved beyond consideration of race as being a significant genetic factor, especially in intelligence studies. People who assert that racial differences in IQ can be explained primarily by genetics are clearly neither well read in genetics, nor are they serious psychometrics experts.

          16. EchoChaos

            @broblawsky

            That’s a bit misleading, because 95% of human structures are also the same. All humans nominally have two arms, two legs, ten fingers, men have penises, all women vaginas and breasts, etc, etc.

            All humans are more intelligent than all other species, so it seems to me that the variation within the human population relative to all other species is “amazing genius to absolute supergenius”. It is pretty plausible to me that the narrow IQ range of “genius to supergenius” from a genetic sense could fit in that 5%.

          17. broblawsky

            That’s a bit misleading, because 95% of human structures are also the same. All humans nominally have two arms, two legs, ten fingers, men have penises, all women vaginas and breasts, etc, etc.

            All humans are more intelligent than all other species, so it seems to me that the variation within the human population relative to all other species is “amazing genius to absolute supergenius”. It is pretty plausible to me that the narrow IQ range of “genius to supergenius” from a genetic sense could fit in that 5%.

            It might be plausible to you, but modern genetic science says that it’s unlikely. The polygenic/omnigenic model works massively better for explaining genetic influences on intelligence than earlier, single-gene models that might have been plausibly race-linked. Single-gene or low-polygenic models could conceivably cram all of those important “intelligence genes” into that 5% of inter-racial differences, but highly polygenic models definitely can’t, and they explain genetic influences on intelligence far more effectively. Sometimes, we have to be willing to discard our intuitions when the scientific method discovers new data.

          18. EchoChaos

            @broblawsky

            I am aware that intelligence is polygenic and has to be. Which is why when we see major defects in a single building block of that chain, we see not just low IQ, but also major dysfunctions.

            But we would expect people with larger genetic variation to be more average in all polygenic traits because they are less likely to get the multiple genes in combination that are required for high polygenic scores.

            To use a mathematical example, if Asian populaces are missing “low” and “medium” in gene 15 of the 30 (numbers pulled from my fourth point of contact) that are used for IQ, they would have higher IQs on average even if all other 29 are identical.

            If the “human average” is say 80, then loss of genetic diversity on some building blocks along the way would be what increases IQ in less diverse subpopulations because they always have those higher baseline parts of the polygenic building blocks.

          19. Corey

            How is that a response? Could you possibly pin down a definition of these word in which it was a response? Probably not really, but you could probably fool yourself. Would the definition you confabulate to fabricate an argument match the definition you would fabricate if you just wanted to make sense of this as an isolated claim?

            I don’t know if old-school Less Wrong jargon would be better understood or not:

            Our lay notions of race do not carve reality at the joints.

          20. The Nybbler

            There is no reason to believe that multi-gene traits can’t be race linked. The breeder’s equation doesn’t even contain a term for the coding.

            And our lay notions of race don’t carve reality exactly at the joints… but they’re not terrible approximations.

          21. albatross11

            Note that Africans as a whole are very diverse, but the subset of Africans who were brought to the Americas as slaves (who make up nearly all the ancestors of America’s black population today) were not all that genetically diverse–they were taken from a relatively small region of Africa.

            [ETA]
            I think when we talk about blacks, whites, and American Indians, our broad racial categories are a pretty good match for reality–there’s a pretty strong correlation between what race we call you and your DNA. For hispanics and Asians, they’re a huge mishmash and it’s kind-of amazing that they work as well as they do at predicting anything. East Asians are pretty distinct from everyone else genetically, but the standard US thing of combining everyone from Mongolians to Japanese to Chinese to Malaysians to Bangladeshis to Indians all in the same category is not cutting nature anywhere close to a joint.

          22. Clutzy

            Also, its odd to talk about human evolution like evolution of other species. In many respects we are like dogs and cats and have domesticated ourselves and, often at various times, engaged in practices very similar to selective breeding, to ourselves.

          23. albatross11

            broblawsky:

            I disagree with your characterization of Murray’s arguments.

            First, he’s writing a chapter about race and IQ–a subject which is both radioactive as hell and also really critical for understanding the world we observe. It doesn’t make any sense to condemn Murray[1] for using common racial categories in a discussion about race and IQ–those racial categories are what their readers care about! If we’re asking the question “why are black students averaging so much worse on SAT scores than white students,” or “what will be the effect of lowering SAT entrance requirements for blacks relative to whites at top universities?”, common definition of black is exactly what we want. The data on which the book was based also collected self-reported race but didn’t have DNA tests, so it’s not even clear what other data he could have drawn from for most of his analysis in the book. (I don’t think anyone was doing DNA tests routinely back then.)

            Second, it doesn’t seem dishonest or embarrassing to say you don’t know how much of the race/IQ difference is genetic, and then to point out the weaknesses you see in evidence for a non-genetic explanation. He may be right or wrong in his criticisms of those explanations, but there’s nothing embarrassing I can see in making them.

            Third, there are substantial genetic differences between blacks and whites on average–enough so that DNA tests basically always can predict self-reported race, forensic anthropologists can tell the race of a dead body by its skeleton with pretty high accuracy, and mainstream medical sources sometimes make different recommendations for patient care based on race. Those differences might explain the IQ differences, or they might not–I think that’s an open research question. But it’s not silly or embarassing or unscientific to think that they might explain some or all of it.

            Fourth, I think the Flynn effect has been studied far more now than when TBC was written, and it’s still an open research question how much of it (if any) is increasing intelligence, and how much other stuff (like familiarity with the test format). So I don’t see what’s irresponsible or embarrassing about expressing doubt that the Flynn effect represents real gains in intelligence, especially when TBC was written.

            [1] I’m saying “Murray” and “he” where I should be saying “Herrenstein and Murray” and “they”. Sorry.

          24. Douglas Knight

            Corey,

            That assertion is neither implied by the premises¹ nor implies anything interesting.² It is also false.³

            ² Sure, the American government defines an Asian race including East Indians and Chinese, that really does not carve reality at its joints. Asian-Americans have high test scores. Does the fact that this is a stupid category tell you anything about the cause of these high test scores? Yes, they’re not caused by the same genes. But does it say anything about whether they are caused by different genes?

            ¹ You are, at best, equivocating between two notions of diversity. The meme “Africans have high genetic diversity” comes from neutral diversity. That tells you nothing about whether African is a good category. As I said, every African group has high neutral diversity. Anything you conclude about Africans from high neutral diversity you have to conclude about Yoruba because they have higher neutral diversity than the entire Out of Africa population. Do you deny that Yoruba carves genetic reality at its joints?

            ³ You might expect that because humans evolved in Africa there is some kind of lineage diversity in Africa. Can you measure some kind of genetic diversity that tells you about lineage diversity? I don’t think so, because it is swamped by neutral diversity. Anyhow, you can just look at the family tree. And, yes, there are exotic Africans, like pygmies and bushmen. If your racial category of African includes pygmies and bushmen, should carve them off. But there are very few pygmies and bushmen, so hardly changes anything. And once you carve them off, the remaining Africans don’t have high linear diversity. This is due to the Bantu expansion, 4k years ago. So the argument that the birthplace of humans should have complicated population structure has false conclusion, so was logically false. But this is historically contingent and maybe it did have complicated population structure 4k years ago.

          25. Le Maistre Chat

            Note that while Pygmies and Khoisan are not significant outside of anthropology and human rights, there are larger African sub-groups that carve off from the main West African/Bantu Expansion population in relevant ways. Basketball and international modeling agencies have taken notice of the “Nilotic” sub-group of Black Africans.

          26. Le Maistre Chat

            @Douglas Knight: I didn’t know that, though it doesn’t surprise me. It may take only a few genes to get a polygenic trait like skin tone or height that makes people visibly distinct.

          27. DavidFriedman

            The other link, which you didn’t quote, indicates that race accounts for about 5% of all genetic differences between individuals. It’d be asking that 5% to do a lot of work to account for meaningful IQ differences across groups as well as all other ethnic differences, don’t you think?

            I don’t follow the argument. When we are looking at an average across a racial group, we are averaging out all the intragroup diversity, so intergroup diversity is what is left.

            Suppose we were looking not at people but at dice. One die is slightly weighted–it produces an average result, over many rolls, 5% higher than the other. Roll each a thousand times. The intragroup diversity is much higher than the intergroup diversity, since the group is a roughly random assortment of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. But the average will be 5% higher for the weighted die.

            I also don’t see the relevance of intelligence being polygenic. Different populations evolved in different environments, where different mixes of characteristics resulted in reproductive success. If population A evolved in an environment where the payoff to intelligence was lower or the costs higher than the environment of population B, selective pressure will tend to make its genetic intelligence lower, whether the trait is polygenic or not.

            Isn’t that obvious?

          28. broblawsky

            First, he’s writing a chapter about race and IQ–a subject which is both radioactive as hell and also really critical for understanding the world we observe. It doesn’t make any sense to condemn Murray[1] for using common racial categories in a discussion about race and IQ–those racial categories are what their readers care about! If we’re asking the question “why are black students averaging so much worse on SAT scores than white students,” or “what will be the effect of lowering SAT entrance requirements for blacks relative to whites at top universities?”, common definition of black is exactly what we want. The data on which the book was based also collected self-reported race but didn’t have DNA tests, so it’s not even clear what other data he could have drawn from for most of his analysis in the book. (I don’t think anyone was doing DNA tests routinely back then.)

            If Murray et al weren’t confident that a genetic explanation was a reasonable explanation for race differences in intelligence, they shouldn’t have made the assertion that it was a reasonable explanation. Which Murray does, over and over again, in Chapters 13 and 14 of the Bell Curve. It’s scientifically irresponsible to say that a certain factor is an explanation for a phenomenon when you don’t actually have the ability to test whether that factor had an impact, which Murray didn’t at the time. Now that we we have the ability to test the impact of genetics on intelligence, at least to a limited degree, it’s doubly irresponsible for Murray to be making these assertions.

            Second, it doesn’t seem dishonest or embarrassing to say you don’t know how much of the race/IQ difference is genetic, and then to point out the weaknesses you see in evidence for a non-genetic explanation. He may be right or wrong in his criticisms of those explanations, but there’s nothing embarrassing I can see in making them.

            All scientists have a responsibility to try to falsify their own hypotheses, not just those of other people. Murray never tries to criticize or even substantially analyze any of the genetic explanations of intelligence he cites in The Bell Curve; he accepts them as writ. This kind of scientific double-standard is unacceptable.

            Third, there are substantial genetic differences between blacks and whites on average–enough so that DNA tests basically always can predict self-reported race, forensic anthropologists can tell the race of a dead body by its skeleton with pretty high accuracy, and mainstream medical sources sometimes make different recommendations for patient care based on race. Those differences might explain the IQ differences, or they might not–I think that’s an open research question. But it’s not silly or embarassing or unscientific to think that they might explain some or all of it.

            It’s definitely unscientific now to think that they might explain all of it, or even a majority; we can definitively say that today. I don’t think it’s irresponsible or unscientific to say that genetic factors make up some fraction of the impact of heredity on IQ, and that some small fraction of those factors might conceivably be race-linked, but saying that a majority of the black-white IQ gap is genetic is unsupported by the literature, and therefore deeply unscientific and irresponsible on Murray’s part. His prominent position as a science popularizer comes with extra responsibility to make sure he isn’t mischaracterizing the scientific consensus.

            Fourth, I think the Flynn effect has been studied far more now than when TBC was written, and it’s still an open research question how much of it (if any) is increasing intelligence, and how much other stuff (like familiarity with the test format). So I don’t see what’s irresponsible or embarrassing about expressing doubt that the Flynn effect represents real gains in intelligence, especially when TBC was written.

            If you think that the Flynn effect represents only increased test-taking ability, that’s a reasonable assertion. However, it calls into question the validity of IQ testing as a measurement of intelligence; differences between populations can then always be dismissed as differences in test-taking ability. You can’t dismiss the validity of a measurement technique when it disagrees with your beliefs and then accept it as valid when its results accord with your beliefs – it’s intellectually dishonest.

          29. DavidFriedman

            It might be plausible to you, but modern genetic science says that it’s unlikely. The polygenic/omnigenic model works massively better for explaining genetic influences on intelligence than earlier, single-gene models that might have been plausibly race-linked.

            I read your link (the abstract of the paper). I cannot see that offers any evidence at all on the questions we are discussing. None of the arguments you are attacking depend on a single gene model of intelligence, which is all that article appears to offer evidence against. Why would you think only a single gene model can be race linked?

            I assume you agree that skin color is race linked. Does that depend on its depending on a single gene (I have no idea if it does)? How about body build?

            Let me go back to the intergroup/intragroup variance question, to see if I can figure out why you thought it was relevant–you didn’t say, when I argued that it wasn’t.

            If the question is “should the evidence on racial IQ be a major factor in deciding who to hire,” the fact that intragroup variance is much larger than intergroup variance is evidence that it should not. But none of the arguments, here or more generally, are about whether it is rational to discriminate against blacks on the basis of IQ evidence. That would only make sense if you had no better evidence of ability, and you practically always do.

            What the argument is about is whether average outcome differences, such as income, by race, must be due to environmental influences, usually assumed to be racism, or whether part or all can be explained by innate heritable differences. The size of intragroup variance is irrelevant to that question–all that matters is whether intergroup variance is large enough to explain part or all of the differences.

            Do you agree? If so, why did you think the relative variances were relevant, and to what? If you do not agree, why?

          30. broblawsky

            I read your link (the abstract of the paper). I cannot see that offers any evidence at all on the questions we are discussing. None of the arguments you are attacking depend on a single gene model of intelligence, which is all that article appears to offer evidence against. Why would you think only a single gene model can be race linked?

            I assume you agree that skin color is race linked. Does that depend on its depending on a single gene (I have no idea if it does)? How about body build?

            Let me go back to the intergroup/intragroup variance question, to see if I can figure out why you thought it was relevant–you didn’t say, when I argued that it wasn’t.

            If the question is “should the evidence on racial IQ be a major factor in deciding who to hire,” the fact that intragroup variance is much larger than intergroup variance is evidence that it should not. But none of the arguments, here or more generally, are about whether it is rational to discriminate against blacks on the basis of IQ evidence. That would only make sense if you had no better evidence of ability, and you practically always do.

            What the argument is about is whether average outcome differences, such as income, by race, must be due to environmental influences, usually assumed to be racism, or whether part or all can be explained by innate heritable differences. The size of intragroup variance is irrelevant to that question–all that matters is whether intergroup variance is large enough to explain part or all of the differences.

            Do you agree? If so, why did you think the relative variances were relevant, and to what? If you do not agree, why?

            Responding to the question of whether I think intergroup genetic variance could, potentially, explain part of the difference in IQ test performance between those two groups? Yes, obviously, it’s impossible to rule out, and there’s some (but not a lot) of support for that point of view in the literature. However, I do not believe that the intergroup genetic variance contributes significantly to intergroup IQ differences.

            For example: let us assume that:
            a) 80% of the variation in IQ between individuals is a product of genetic differences. This is extremely generous on my part, but I’m trying to prove a point.
            b) Genetic influences on IQ are polygenic, and that each individual single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) contributes a certain value to IQ.
            c) Interracial genetic differences make up about 5% of the total genetic difference between individuals, as already demonstrated in the literature.

            Given these assumptions, in order for intergroup genetic differences to make up the majority of the difference in IQ between groups, as Murray claims, IQ-influencing SNPs would have to show up in that 5% of intergroup genetic difference at least 12.5 times as often as in the rest of the genome. That’s extremely unlikely, and moreover, it would’ve been fairly trivial to detect using genome-wide association studies (GWAS). To the best of my knowledge, GWAS have discovered no such correlation. If, instead, IQ-influencing SNPs are distributed evenly among race-linked and non-race-linked sections of the genome, then race-linked genetic variances in IQ contribute just 4% of the intergroup difference in IQ.

            If you made the assertion that 4% of the intergroup difference in IQ was due to purely genetic factors, I would consider that to be within the scientific consensus. However, Murray has made the assertion that the majority of the black-white IQ gap can be explained by purely genetic factors. That assertion is not supported by the scientific consensus, and if Murray had made that assertion in 1994, it would have been merely irresponsible. For him to make it in 2019 is evidence of either ignorance or dishonesty.

          31. uau

            Given these assumptions, in order for intergroup genetic differences to make up the majority of the difference in IQ between groups, as Murray claims, IQ-influencing SNPs would have to show up in that 5% of intergroup genetic difference at least 12.5 times as often as in the rest of the genome.

            This is, in short, total bullshit. You have failed to understand what the paper you linked to means. It does not say that there would exist some 5% of the total genome that is “linked to race” and the rest would have zero correlation with race. Your calculation giving “12.5 times” is entirely erroneous.

          32. HeelBearCub

            Might as well link this, which is from 1996, but makes a number of points similar to the ones broblawsky is making.

            Of note, on the difference between “heritable” and “genetically determined”:

            For example, the number of fingers on a human hand or toes on a human foot is genetically determined: the genes code for five fingers and toes in almost everyone, and five fingers and toes develop in any normal environment. But the heritability of number of fingers and toes in humans is almost certainly very low. That’s because most of the variation in numbers of toes is environmentally caused, often by problems in fetal development.

            Conversely, a characteristic can be highly heritable even if it is not genetically determined. Some years ago when only women wore earrings, the heritability of having an earring was high because differences in whether a person had an earring were “due” to a genetic (chromosomal) difference.

          33. DavidFriedman

            Given these assumptions, in order for intergroup genetic differences to make up the majority of the difference in IQ between groups, as Murray claims, IQ-influencing SNPs would have to show up in that 5% of intergroup genetic difference at least 12.5 times as often as in the rest of the genome.

            Your argument seems to imply that differences in skin color, or in the facial characteristics that we loosely refer to as “slanted eyes,” must also be almost entirely determined by non-genetic causes.

            You would not expect intergroup genetic differences to be randomly distributed if, as seems likely, they are a result of adaptation of different ancestral populations to different environments.

            The rest of your argument seems to be that you don’t know of any research that has found the relevant correlation–but you don’t mention knowing of any research that looked for it.

          34. Corey

            If the question is “should the evidence on racial IQ be a major factor in deciding who to hire,” the fact that intragroup variance is much larger than intergroup variance is evidence that it should not. But none of the arguments, here or more generally, are about whether it is rational to discriminate against blacks on the basis of IQ evidence.

            You might be being just a bit naive about this.

          35. albatross11

            broblawsky:

            I think you’re massively moving your goalposts here.

            If Murray et al weren’t confident that a genetic explanation was a reasonable explanation for race differences in intelligence, they shouldn’t have made the assertion that it was a reasonable explanation. Which Murray does, over and over again, in Chapters 13 and 14 of the Bell Curve.

            I reread most of Chapter 13 yesterday to referesh my memory. I think he was making the case that genetic differences were a plausible explanation for at least some of the gap. I don’t see what’s intellectually dishonest about that–he’s looking at the literature and the data and saying what he thinks is likely true, making a case for why he believes that, while being clear that the jury is still out.

            It’s scientifically irresponsible to say that a certain factor is an explanation for a phenomenon when you don’t actually have the ability to test whether that factor had an impact, which Murray didn’t at the time.

            I think you have a very unusual definition of “scientifically irresponsible.” I do not see anything in Chapter 13 that seems irresponsible–it looks like a high-quality popular science book treatment of a complicated and contentious issue. If it’s not okay for Murray to make the case for his consistent-with-the-evidence beliefs unless he can prove them, then basically every popular science and social science book ever is bad in exactly the same way. Also, nobody ever seems to hold the other side of this debate to that standard–when someone says that the race/IQ correlation has little or no genetic basis, nobody seems to rush in and condemn them for running ahead of the evidence. Why, it’s almost as though people are upset with the conclusion, rather than the reasoning.

            All scientists have a responsibility to try to falsify their own hypotheses, not just those of other people. Murray never tries to criticize or even substantially analyze any of the genetic explanations of intelligence he cites in The Bell Curve; he accepts them as writ. This kind of scientific double-standard is unacceptable.

            This is just wrong. He brings up the Flynn effect, the Minnesota transracial adoption study, and the study of illegitimate children left behind in Germany by black soldiers. He acknowledges that evidence, provides references to it, but then argues that it isn’t convincing to him. This is exactly what we’d want anyone making such a case to do–bring up the best evidence of the other side and then respond to it. Maybe his responses are wrong, maybe his reasoning is flawed, but if you call that irresponsible, you have to call basically all science writing everywhere irresponsible that does anything except report meta-analyses of huge randomized control studies. Everywhere else, we’re still analyzing conflicting studies and trying to put together a sensible model of the world, and what Murray did there seems like about what can be reasonably expected.

            It’s definitely unscientific now to think that they might explain all of it, or even a majority; we can definitively say that today. I don’t think it’s irresponsible or unscientific to say that genetic factors make up some fraction of the impact of heredity on IQ, and that some small fraction of those factors might conceivably be race-linked, but saying that a majority of the black-white IQ gap is genetic is unsupported by the literature, and therefore deeply unscientific and irresponsible on Murray’s part. His prominent position as a science popularizer comes with extra responsibility to make sure he isn’t mischaracterizing the scientific consensus.

            Can you explain why you are so confident of this conclusion. It seems to me that the environmental confounds make it very difficult to untangle the genetic vs environmental causes of the IQ gap, but I don’t see why your confident assertion that it’s unscientific to think that genetic differences might explain all of it, or even a majority. (Of course, Murray never claims 100% genetics–instead he makes a case for significant genetic contribution without specifying a number.)

            If you think that the Flynn effect represents only increased test-taking ability, that’s a reasonable assertion. However, it calls into question the validity of IQ testing as a measurement of intelligence; differences between populations can then always be dismissed as differences in test-taking ability. You can’t dismiss the validity of a measurement technique when it disagrees with your beliefs and then accept it as valid when its results accord with your beliefs – it’s intellectually dishonest.

            And yet, there are a ton of active researchers in the area of IQ, every one of whom knows about the Flynn effect. Are they all intellectually dishonest?

            This whole line of reasoning of yours seems to me like a massive isolated demand for rigor–demanding that Murray, when reasoning toward a conclusion you find offensive, adhere to standards we never hold any other science or social science writers to.

          36. DavidFriedman

            You might be being just a bit naive about this.

            Naive about what we are arguing over? I don’t think so. I have not noticed anybody in this discussion arguing that one should not employ blacks because they are all stupid.

            I can believe that there are people out there with that attitude, but it makes no sense to offer an argument against them when arguing with us.

        4. Cliff

          recent research conclusively shows that, contrary to Murray’s dismissal, socioeconomic impacts on intelligence far outweigh the genetic effects

          You’ve linked to two books by James Flynn. Can you elaborate on this very strong and controversial claim? My understanding is that genetic influences are acknowledged to account for greater than 50% of the variation in IQ, and probably significantly more.

          1. broblawsky

            Heredity accounts for somewhere between 40 and 80 percent of contributions to IQ, but genetics and heredity aren’t the same thing. Heredity factors can include culture, parenting, nutrition (especially pre-natal nutrition), environmental toxin exposure, etc. Transracial adoption studies show that pre-adoption influences (of which genetics is only one) have a limited influence on IQ.

          2. albatross11

            Just a nitpick: How much of the variance in IQ is due to genes is very much a function of the variability of the environment. In modern first-world countries, basically everyone gets enough to eat and gets all their shots and lives in places with safe water and good sewers and goes to school for many years. In many very poor countries, some notable fraction of kids are malnourished, never see a book in their childhood, have their growth stunted by being sick all the time in childhood, etc. IQ in first-world countries is going to be a lot more strongly heritable than in third-world countries, because in first-world countries, we’ve flattened out a lot of the environmental differences.

          3. albatross11

            broblawsky:

            As I understand it, the best heredity estimates come from twin adoption studies–you have identical and fraternal twins, separated at birth and adopted and raised in different homes. Those let you isolate genes from upbringing, nutrition, environmental toxins, etc., since you can compare the correlation between IQ scores of identical twins with the one between fraternal twins.

            There are also adoption studies that don’t focus on twins (because there aren’t all that many twins up for adoption). Those may be confounded by prenatal environment, but won’t be confounded by parenting or childhood environment.

            And then, there’s a mess of social science results where people report some effect without bothering to think about genetic confounds, and thus discover all kinds of spurious stuff like a correlation between number of books in the house you grew up in and adult IQ.

          4. Douglas Knight

            but genetics and heredity aren’t the same thing

            Can you find me a single technical source that claims that? Every source I have ever seen agrees with wikipedia that heritability is purely about genetics.

            (When you cite a quantified statistic, I assume you mean heritability. If there is something else called heredity, could you provide a citation for that?)

          5. Cliff

            genetics and heredity aren’t the same thing. Heredity factors can include culture, parenting, nutrition (especially pre-natal nutrition), environmental toxin exposure, etc.

            You can’t be serious?

            he·red·i·ty
            /həˈredədē/
            Learn to pronounce
            noun
            noun: heredity

            1.
            the passing on of physical or mental characteristics genetically from one generation to another

          6. Dacyn

            I think this is just a jargon issue, broblawsky is probably using “heredity” to mean “traits correlated between parents and children”. (Is there a jargon terminology for that?)

          7. albatross11

            Cliff:

            I think people get mixed up about whether they’re talking about genetic or other heritability all the time, including in academic papers. Now, geneticists talk about narrow-sense heritability and they mean genes. But if you just do observational studies of how my socioeconomic status/educational attainment/number of books in the house affects that of my kids, you’re getting some effects of my genes being passed through the environment to my kids.

            As an extreme case, suppose I have some weird genetic disorder that causes me to fly off into a rage every now and then. I have a kid who doesn’t get the gene, but he still gets the upbringing effect of having a dad who flies off into a rage every now and then.

            If having a stimulating childhood environment is important for developing your brain, then we’d expect smart parents to provide a stimulating environment *and* genes for higher IQ. OTOH, my impression is that there’s not a huge amount of evidence for this–I think adoptive parents’ effect on your IQ falls off quite a bit as you leave home and make your own environment.

            My understanding is that this is why twin studies are so valuable in understanding human heritability–you get a natural experiment that separates out direct effects of genes from knock-on effects of genes.

          8. Douglas Knight

            Albatross:

            I think people get mixed up about whether they’re talking about genetic or other heritability all the time, including in academic papers.

            Why do you believe this about academic papers? Can you give me a single citation of a biologist or psychologist making this error?

            When academics say heritability, they mean genes. There may be confounding by environment, but that’s part of measurement error, not confusion.

            Dacyn,
            when Broblowsky quotes figures of 40-80%, he doesn’t get to define “heritability.” It means whatever his sources mean.

          9. broblawsky

            In the case of the Scarr/Weinburg study and most of the other transracial adoption studies I’ve read, the authors do not make an effort to disentangle genetics/narrow-sense heredity from a broader range of heredity issues including pre-natal environment and nutrition. When I say heredity, I mean it in the broader sense. I apologize if I caused any confusion by doing so.

          10. DavidFriedman

            a broader range of heredity issues including pre-natal environment and nutrition

            Pre-natal environment is a problem for deducing heritability from adoption studies. What else is there in your broader range? I can’t think of anything.

          11. DavidFriedman

            If we’re talking about adoption studies?

            The identical twin studies, as I understand it, were with twins adopted at birth, which eliminates most of the candidates other than pre-natal.

        5. uau

          contrary to Murray’s dismissal, socioeconomic impacts on intelligence far outweigh the genetic effects – race-linked or otherwise – that he believes explain so much about American society

          As others have already pointed out, the above isn’t true.

          There are also ways to estimate the role of genetic vs other factors, which I wrote about a while ago here. That is evidence against any kind of general “bad living conditions” being the major cause of the IQ gap.

      2. EMP

        Your analysis is correct, good judgment on your part:

        This is a clip of Shaun admitting to his own lack of charitability and dishonesty and laughing at it in a personal stream of his. For the confirmation, the times of 0:29 to 1:27

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z5CHFUvn1U

        This is also the video that RalMirrorAd was referring to as a rebuttal as well.

      3. Ketil

        What is the steelman version of the argument that there aren’t substantial differences between groups of different origin in the US? There seems to be a lot of opposition, but few people seem willing to conduct any credible study to disprove it, and instead resort to arguing about whether a concept of ‘race’ is legitimate or ill-founded, talk about high levels of in-group diversity, and so on. None of this appears to me to shed any light or provide any factual information.

        Likewise, what is the steelman argument that such group differences isn’t caused by genetic heredity? Again: if it’s an environmental factor, why not isolate it and eliminate it?

        And finally, is there an argument that differences in IQ isn’t responsible for socioeconomic outcomes? It seems highly suspect to me when IQ is highly correlated with SES within groups, and that low SES groups with high average IQ seem to rapidly increase their SES, but again, is there a steelman argument?

        I suspect a much stronger case could be made against conclusions based on comparing IQ between nations, there’s the unlikely low score for Botswana mentioned here, and I seem to remember some European nation (Greece?) going from very low to “normal” IQ in a couple of generations. But again, I haven’t seen much beyond general criticisms on moral grounds.

        For an analogous situation, farmed salmon clearly has much less genetic diversity than the various wild populations, yet when farmed and wild salmon are placed in the same cage, the wild salmon grows at a rate of about 0.3 of the farmed one. Also, we are unable to point to any specific genes that cause this, and to confidently identify a salmon as wild or farmed, one needs to look at a fair number of markers (~50, I think). I don’t think any of this is disputed, but is it controversial?

        1. albatross11

          The best counterargument to the genetic explanation for group IQ differences I know involves the fact that even when we try to match black and white kids on similar traits (intact family, parental income and SES), there are still a ton of differences. Those come out in stuff that can’t really be genetic[1]–rates of unwed birth and crime are higher among blacks than whites, and I’m pretty sure this is true at all socioeconomic levels. But also things like what music, books, movies, and TV shows you watch, how people treat you every day of your life, and lots of statistical stuff like geographical distribution, family wealth, connections that can get you jobs, etc.

          There are presumably deep cultural reasons for some of these differences. Thomas Sowell has documented ways that descendants of immigrants carry some influence of their ancestral culture for many generations in their new country–stuff like people of German descent clustering in certain occupations, even though it’s been several generations since anyone in the family spoke German or thought of themselves as German.

          What that tells us is that even when we try to match everything and look for a genetic basis for group IQ differences, we’re very likely to have a bunch of confounders we can’t adjust for, and we’ll likely get an incorrect answer.

          Combine that with the Flynn effect, which shows that raw IQ scores can vary a lot by culture and environment, and there’s a plausible case to be made that these cultural/environmental confounders might actually explain all or most of the gap. That’s not certain, but it’s plausible given the available evidence.

          [1] It can have a genetic component, but the main explanation must be cultural, because it has changed way faster than genetic change could have taken place.

    4. Plumber

      @johnstewart says:

      “I believe I’ve seen discussions previously in which some regard Charles A. Murray…”

      I’m not going to watch a two-and-half hour video (though I may listen to it while driving if it’s loud and clear), but I did read The Bell Curve back in the ’90’s and something in it on the lines of “If you’re reading this who likely came from a high school in an upper middle-class suburb” which wasn’t true “or a large high school that draws from many different neighborhoods“, which was true but the implication that only “U.M.C.” neighborhood folks would read such a work really ticked me off, I didn’t grow up in one, and I didn’t live in one when I read the book.

      Suffice it to say that alone made the premises seem doubtful to me.

      1. Corey

        I had something like that happen with college. Background: I went to THE Ohio State University 1991-1998, and had grown up a hillbilly, poor even by rural-southeast-Ohio standards.

        One of the reasons I’m not as panicked as most here about left-wing PC at colleges is that I remember how PC it was and how similar the issues were.

        I noticed the PC then because much of it could be summed up as trying to teach people what it’s like to be poor, and the irony stuck out. Though even at the time I realized there was a wide swath of students who could benefit from such a perspective. Even at a state U and even back in the 90s, there were quite a few students who had never been outside of an upper-middle-class bubble.

        1. thevoiceofthevoid

          …there were quite a few students who had never been outside of an upper-middle-class bubble.

          Meeting people from outside that bubble has definitely been a formative experience for me in college. It gave me a much better handle on what “privilege” means as used by social justice. I’m still not 100% on board with all of the ways the term or concept is used, but I’m much more convinced than I was in high school that it’s pointing at a real thing.

          1. woah77

            I am 100% convinced privilege is a real thing, but also 100% convinced the people most determined to call it out are the people who shouldn’t be given the time of day. The assumptions made about those who are privileged (or what grants those privileges) considerably undermine the usefulness of the concept. As has been pointed out around here before, reactionary policies to a perceived problem are almost unilaterally worse than carefully planned ones, and I see those calling it out being paired with attitudes that remind me of how Soviet Russia established the Kulaks.

            There is absolutely something to be said for meeting people outside your bubble, partially because it helps one avoid the typical mind fallacy. But those who are most assertive about privilege also often engage in Feminist Standpoint Theory, which I find to be fractally wrong.

          2. lvlln

            I’m still not 100% on board with all of the ways the term or concept is used, but I’m much more convinced than I was in high school that it’s pointing at a real thing.

            I would say that there exists a real thing worth pointing at, but the term and concept of “privilege” as it’s used in the mainstream right now isn’t pointing at it.

  22. albatross11

    Maybe you’ve noticed the dysfunction of major US media outlets over the last few years. Some of them seem to have switched over to pure clickbait; others seem to have become captured by ideologues who don’t mind lying and expending their papers’ reputation in a good cause. Almost all have closed bureaus and cut staff and have a lot of unpaid interns writing stories of a kind formerly written by full-time reporters. Even just reading the articles for typos lets you know that they’re spending less time/effort on their stories.

    This tweet discusses a major newspaper chain, formerly quite influential in the world, whose market cap is now about the price of a McMansion in a somewhat expensive suburb of DC.

    When you’re trying to understand why so many news sources have gotten so bad, it’s important to know: they’re dying. (They’ve been dying for many years now, in fact.) Their current owners are willing to spend their reputation for today’s revenue, because there’s probably no tomorrow for them anyway. Their reporters are often unpaid or barely-paid young people who are getting most of their compensation in the power to use an established voice to send messages they want to send. There’s not much future in their field, but maybe some of them can make enough of a name for themselves to find some other media job in the future.

    This raises a bunch of problems, because:

    a. The traditional media organizations still have a pretty important place in our society–laws and institutions give them deference, people treat them as being accurate sources of information (largely for rational astrology reasons), etc.

    b. At some level, media organizations are a lot of the internal communications of a country/society with itself. As those are increasingly subvertable (you can buy a media platform with a still-intact name for not all that much money), and increasingly dysfunctional, they create a lot of dysfunction in our society, IMO including a lot of the polarization and hostility we see now.

    c. We have no idea how to accomplish the valuable things that media organizations have accomplished in the past. How do we get someone showing up to every city council meeting and reporting on it? How do we get someone paying close attention to what’s going on in the world and telling us about it? This could surely be done better than it was done in the past, but someone needs to do it. And that someone needs to be relatively hard to threaten/sue into silence, and to have enough of a platform to be heard.

    1. ADifferentAnonymous

      To make matters worse, the usual fix for an industry that produces positive externalities would be subsidies, but when independence from the government is an essential ingredient you’re kinda screwed.

      1. DeWitt

        I agree that the existence of free private media is a good thing, but most Western nations seem to have non-terrible state media just fine.

          1. NostalgiaForInfinity

            Savile was outed by a documentary in 2012, a year or so after he died – which seems to have been the actual trigger for his outing. I don’t think it had anything to do with competition between the BBC and other media. 2012 certainly doesn’t jump out as a year in which the BBC’s competition became significant. There had been real competitors to the BBC (in written and tv news) for decades by that point.

        1. ADifferentAnonymous

          I expect a non-terrible state media monopoly to be a lot harder than non-terrible state media.

          1. Thomas Jorgensen

            Just from consuming a relatively large amount of both private and publically produced news sources… in practice, not.

            The press is to some degree the polite, legal and overt branch of intelligence. You cant make policy if you do not know what the heck is happening.
            This means it gets paid for when the market fails to deliver, and ministers care a lot more about it being accurate than about it being nice to them.. as long as you have a government which is still focused on doing a good job of governing.

            Quality state news organs appear to be shockingly easy to create – on the scale of national budgets, hiring the cream of the journalistic profession with a mandate to go forth and report is barely a budget post. It also is distressingly easy to destroy, once you get someone.. less idealistic.. in office. If a country currently has one, that is a sign things are looking up, because it means the government is at least trying to do a good job, and once it starts kow-towing to power, well.. shit show incoming.

      2. Machine Interface

        Works relatively* fine in France. Newspapers are heavily subsidied, the most popular radio channels are state-owned, yet they seem to maintain enough independence to be often harshly critical of the government and cover a wide range of subjects.

        (*: newspapers are still slowly dying, but the subsidies help them maintain their quality while trying to find new ways to gain money)

      3. Edward Scizorhands

        Just from today, The Washington Post has been doing FOIA requests for years on the Afghanistan war. The government could drag its feet and if it wasn’t someone getting paid to keep track of this request it would have probably have died on the vine.

    2. BBA

      Let me be the one to point out that traditionally newspapers got the bulk of their revenue from classified advertising. Just reporting the news has never been profitable on its own.

      It was Craigslist that took all the profits away from newspapers. Craig Newmark has tried to make up for this by endowing a journalism school, but expanding the ranks of unemployed self-proclaimed “journalists” isn’t what anyone needs right now.

      1. albatross11

        First decrease the demand, then increase the supply. Maybe he just *really* has it in for journalists….

        1. AG

          I don’t know that this situation could have been avoided by the newspapers, though. Craigslist’s advantage is that anyone can use it anywhere. Even if newspapers had been on the ball to develop their own online advertisement systems, that would have resulted in a different system for each newspaper, and the convenience of Craigslist is still intact. The other modern paradigms for who controls advertising, search engines and social media, have the same problem.

          So it’s another case of an industry getting borked by globalisation’s tendency towards consolidation.

    3. RalMirrorAd

      They’ll probably end up becoming subsidiaries of one of the big six or owned by a large benefactor. There will be very severe conflicts of interest for the newspaper and certain issues, but perhaps less of a need to produce clickbait.

    4. DeWitt

      For C, at least, the answer seems to be some equivalent of ‘important person or some employee of theirs posts about what they do on Twitter.’ The upside is you cut out the middleman professional who will write a story about this. The downside is you cut out the middleman professional who will write a story about this.