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Open Thread 142.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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917 Responses to Open Thread 142.75

  1. albatross11 says:

    I recently listened to a really fascinating podcast by Tyler Cowen, in which he and Patrick Collison (one of the founders of Stripe) were interviewed by Marc Zuckerberg, audio and transcript here. They were discussing the study of progress–what makes some societies and some areas within a society have fast vs slow progress, what can be done to cause more progress, etc. Really interesting throughout, three really smart guys having an interesting conversation about stuff that matters. The topic of this podcast is 100% important and 0% urgent, and doesn’t turn on any culture-war type outrage-bait–that means that it’s centered around issues that are unlikely to get a lot of mainstream attention these days.

  2. albatross11 says:

    Expanding on the previous discussion of the Econtalk episode:

    It seems to me that broken feedback mechanisms and broken incentives cause a lot more harm in the world than intentional evil or corruption. I suspect much of what’s broken about our medical system, criminal justice system, secondary and higher education systems, foreign policy, and many other things comes down to broken feedback and incentives. And I think this is massively underreported, because it makes a lousy story–there are no clear good guys or bad guys, the problem tends to be abstract and hard to think about, there’s no way to take a picture or show a video that explains what’s going on, etc.

    Related to this, I want to plug a book: Thomas Sowell’s _Knowledge and Decisions_. The book is basically about how incentives and knowledge and drive how well different things work.

    • DeWitt says:

      Why would you not consider some of these things evil?

      Many high status professionals, including doctors, get to restrict their own supply. Why should we not consider doing so evil? Why should we not consider the status quo on patents evil? Why should we not consider the unwillingness to quote prices up front evil?

      Really, why? What is your position on this?

      • albatross11 says:

        I think a lot of people engage in fairly small levels of corruption, all across the economy–rules to protect your profession from competition, ways to pad your bills a little bit, tricks for gaming the system to get a couple extra years of income from your patents, etc. But most of the time, that stuff probably causes a relatively small problem–it makes everything 30% more expensive and 30% slower, but it doesn’t give you endless faster-than-inflation growth of costs and visibly crazy collective decisionmaking that has turned US healthcare into a huge pit of dysfunction and waste.

        Somehow, the corruption or maybe just the well-intentioned but dumb policy decisions drove some kind of terrible feedback loop in the case of US healthcare. And probably several other dysfunctional areas of US society–housing costs, education, criminal justice, etc.

        It’s surely true that we should condemn doctors who order more tests when they have a stake in the scanning equipment, and movements by psychiatrists to keep psychologists from being allowed to prescribe antidepressants[1], and other kinds of minor corruption. But there’s no way that this stuff explains the disaster that is US healthcare finance–none of the moderately-corrupt parties are getting rich enough.

        Honestly, it would be better for the world if the dysfunction in the US healthcare system was just a wealth transfer–at least someone (the winners in the rent-seeking contest) would have lots of wealth to spend. Instead, I think it’s a massive wealth-destruction engine. It’s like we’ve build a huge operation to shovel hundred dollar bills[2] into a fireplace–some of the people we employ to do this turn out to be stealing some of those hundred dollar bills, but that’s not the main problem here.

        [1] Were it up to me, it would all be over the counter, with a warning to consult a competent healthcare professional for directions on safe use.

        [2] Imagine that hundred dollar bills were actual wealth instead of money whose supply can vary independent of available wealth.

        • brad says:

          What’s the actual mechanism for destroying wealth? I get the opportunity cost argument, but every dollar spent in the US healthcare clusterfuck is going to *someone*, right?

          • ana53294 says:

            All the workers who would become freelancers or enterpreneurs if they could just get insurance at the same cost as employers do. All the things that aren’t done because of insurance. Can the next Gates work in his basement if they can’t afford insurance?

          • Every dollar is going to someone. But if it is going to someone doing something worthless when he otherwise would have been somewhere else doing something useful, wealth is being wasted.

          • albatross11 says:

            Defensive medicine leading to unnecessary tests and procedures, spending wealth to make patients worse off and expending the time of high value people on doing worthless or worse than worthless things. Gigantic zero sum games where providers pay people to jump through hoops to get claims accepted and insurance companies pay people to build more complex hoops. Medical services that are easier to bill for (procedures rather than thinking) that are then overdone relative to the hard-to-bill stuff, and this leading more people to go into areas of medicine that are overprovided because they are easier to bill for, and this leading to a more effective lobbying group for more use and reembursement of the easy to bill stuff. And probably a zillion more things I don’t know about.

            Every time a productive person is tricked into doing useless or harmful things, the society gets poorer, for the same reason we can’t really get richer by breaking all the windows in town to make work for glazers,

          • brad says:

            I think all these answers, other than maybe making people sicker, are varieties of opportunity cost and so would exist in any rent seeking scenario.

            Which I agree is really bad! I was just wondering if there was something other dynamic you were thinking of.

          • albatross11 says:

            The dynamic I’m most worried about (and I don’t think my examples necessarily bring it out except maybe the last one) is a feedback loop, where perverse incentives drive the creation of bigger perverse incentives.

            One worrying thing here is that a ton of money is pouring into the medical system all the time, more every year, but we don’t seem to see a corresponding improvement in any outcomes.

            I think an economy without meaningful prices can waste huge amounts of money without anyone trying to do anything wrong–they simply don’t know what tradeoffs they’re making, because the price signals don’t tell them. “Should I order an MRI for this patient” doesn’t get meaningful price signals, and so “should I build a new MRI for my small rural hospital” also doesn’t get meaningful price signals, stuff like that.

            ETA:

            I guess the null hypothesis here is that the increasing costs for few or no gains represent being *waaaaaayyyy* down the tradeoff curve, where each additional marginal improvement in outcomes costs us a giant pile of money. That doesn’t seem likely as an explanation of the dysfunction in US healthcare to me, for a number of reasons, but it would also explain the “Keep pouring more money in, never see much improvement in outcomes” phenomenon.

        • DeWitt says:

          But there’s no way that this stuff explains the disaster that is US healthcare finance–none of the moderately-corrupt parties are getting rich enough.

          For one, I don’t know that I agree. The entire point of defect-defect is that nobody ends up that well off. I’m in no way an expert, but it sure could be that petty selfishness is plenty of an explanation.

          For another, are people really not getting that rich off of things? US doctors are compensated a hell of a lot better than their peers in other Western countries are. I don’t know about insurance agents and the like, but it may well be the same.

          • albatross11 says:

            But why is medicine different that other fields? The folks selling you food, electronics, clothes, and books all would also like to engage in rent-seeking and featherbedding and given the opportunity would defect/defect with you.

            We’ve had faster-than-inflation growth on healthcare spending for so long, I think it doctor salaries were the answer, doctors would be way richer than they are now. One place I think you may see the feedback loop operating in medical salaries, though, is the number of specialists–we have a lot more specialists per capita than most other countries, and specialists get paid more (after spending a really long time being trained). Many of those specialists get paid based on how many procedures they do, which probably drives some higher level of performing those procedures than would be done in an ideal world, which probably also raises costs.

            I have the sense that the standard of care has expanded to require more of these specialists, too, but that may actually represent improvements in care. But if 40 years ago a surgeon scheduled your surgery after a checkup by your regular doctor, and now he sends you to a cardiologist for a screening before doing the surgery, it’s not so clear to me whether this is better care or just a more expensive standard of care created by fear of lawsuits or something. I guess untangling this is one of those things the Cochran folks specialize in.

          • brad says:

            We have widely overpaid medical professionals and there are way too many of them. That explains a huge chunk of where the money is going.

            My sense of why medicine is different is two related reasons: 1) people are too scared to push back 2) people hold the rent seekers in high esteem.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            Medicine is defined by sudden high costs, which nevertheless are strongly predictable by age. This makes it quite hard to design a system that has good price signals, especially since healthcare is too emotionally fraught for people to be rational (who wants to say ‘no’ to a sick person??).

            Because of the strong link to age, you really want to make young people pay for older people, directly or indirectly. However, you can’t really use a pension-like or mortgage-like system, because the costs are so unpredictable.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Many high status professionals, including doctors, get to restrict their own supply. Why should we not consider doing so evil? Why should we not consider the status quo on patents evil? Why should we not consider the unwillingness to quote prices up front evil?

        The Manichean version of good and evil seems to be more intuitive to (modern?) people than the Augustinian definition as “absence of a good”, which makes them reluctant to label another person “evil” unless they’re Literally Hitler or at least Cobra Commander?

        • DeWitt says:

          I’m not really qualified to call the actual people involved evil; their actions, on the other hand, are a bit easier to judge. I think most people would be comfortable enough to consider all sorts of low-level nastiness as ‘bad people things’. That we don’t call them actual evil is more linguistic fashion than any actual belief in these matters being good, I think.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        1. Supply restrictions for professions are seen as a side effect of the quality enhancements associated with the doctoral profession. Arguing against them puts you in the same camp as arguing against meat inspection. There’s some cognitive dissonance involved in people who advocate solving this problem by importing foreign doctors [Whose standards are more more reasonable lower]

        2. For the other things it’s just an absence of any kind of socialization or primal analog. Plus the fact that hospital pricing is framed in terms of discounts rather than price-hikes.

  3. brad says:

    Leaving entirely to one side the actual merits of what he did, in this era of college protests and reopening old wounds, how is it that John Yoo still has a job? More generally, what’s the pattern that explains who does and doesn’t still have a job on college campuses?

      • brad says:

        Few professors get fired fired. Private or public there’s tenure in place. But several professors have been made, let’s say, very unwelcome.

        As far as I know that hasn’t happened to John Yoo, at least in recent years.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What do you mean by “reopening old wounds”? That’s not how I see modern protests at all. They look to me like they have a short memory. That would be all the explanation I need, except that I’m clearly missing what you mean by that phrase.

      As for your last sentence, very few profs have been ejected. Sometimes protests at the point of hiring stop them and there were protests of Yoo. Which ones work is an interesting question, but there just aren’t that many. It could all be noise.

      • brad says:

        Two situations I’m aware of are:
        – A professor emeritus that was forced to give up his emeritus spot over accusations of a long history of womanizing. Maybe it reached into the present but newest of the public allegations dated back more than 7 years.

        – Another professor lost various things other then his professorship over racist things he wrote more than 20 years ago.

        Maybe these are unusual? Can’t say I’ve been following that closely.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t know those examples, so you’re probably paying more attention than I am. But if you only have two examples, you probably shouldn’t extrapolate a trend.

          I expect that administrators find it easier to condemn people for complaints that they can claim that haven’t heard before, even if it isn’t a very plausible denial. But if people protest Yoo today the way that they protested him 15 years ago, I don’t think that would cause a different response. (In your first example, was the allegation made public 7 years ago?)
          (Why do I think that? Maybe a simpler theory is that administrators have no principals and whatever loyalty caused them to ignore the first protest would cause them to ignore the second. eg, loyalty to torture)

          • brad says:

            I don’t think protestors in the US are particularly outcome oriented. It’s more about getting selfies for insta or likes on twitter. That said, I do see what you are saying re: how administrators act.

    • albatross11 says:

      Hey, the guy may be a war criminal, but I bet he uses the students’ requested pronouns. You’ve got to keep your priorities straight….

  4. Well... says:

    “This is airport is owned by the former governor of Alaska,” Tom said palindromically.

  5. Plumber says:

    In reading the subthread on mixed-faith and believer/non-believer couplings I had a few idle thoughts:

    68% of American Atheists are men.

    and

    Women tend to be more religious than men.

    and

    56 percent of women consider themselves Democrats or lean Democratic. The same is only true for 44 percent of men. Meanwhile, 37 percent of women and 48 percent of men affiliate with or lean toward the GOP.

    and

    In a new Pew Research Center survey, nearly six-in-ten women (58%) say they prefer a bigger government providing more services to a smaller government providing fewer services (36%). Among men, the balance of opinion is nearly the reverse: 59% of men prefer a smaller government (37% prefer bigger).

    The gender differences on this measure are as wide as at any point in more than a decade. The change is largely attributable to an increase in the share of women expressing a preference for bigger government, while men’s attitudes on this question are little changed

    and

    In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Atlantic poll—far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion

    and

    Marriage rates are down.

    So…

    ….if 30 years ago I could pretend to like listening to the Cure and the Smiths more than AC/DC and The Ramones to find romance (it totally worked!), today for single men to have better odds of finding romance he should pretend to be more religious, statist, and lean more Democratic than they likely do, and single women should pretend to be less religious, more libertarian, and lean more Republican than they likely do.

    Your welcome.

    (Yes I know some prefer being single to “living a lie”, well you do you)

    • meh says:

      assuming single and married persons have the same preferences.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think most peoples’ religiosity is on a spectrum, rather than a 1/0. Lots of people are culturally Christian, vaguely figure there’s a God up there somewhere, but aren’t too interested in/certain of any particular dogma. For them, going to church isn’t living a lie, it’s just deciding how to spend their time in a world of imperfect alternatives.

      My impression is that a lot of young couples fall away from regular church attendance when they’re young adults (there’s a lot of other exciting stuff to do, dating in your 20s is optimal time to have a lot of fun involving drinking and sex and you don’t want to be guilted about it, etc.) Mostly that’s not Dawkins-style atheism, just “can’t be arsed” not going to church. After they marry and have kids, they will often come back to church–my wife and I teach baptism prep in our parish, and we see this pattern pretty often. I think part of this is the desire to raise your kids with some values beyond what’s on TV or Youtube/Twitter.

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    WaBenzi (Anglicized Wabenzi) is a Bantu neologism coined in Kenya as a pejorative for the “tribe” (Wa) that controls the government. The implication is that these individuals are deracinated from whatever their original tribe was and are united as a people by the fact that they own Mercedes-Benzes. The neologism struck a chord with post-colonial Africans across the continent, who felt they were being ruled by an out-of-touch class rich enough (usually from graft) to live a lifestyle involving attending UN conferences instead of working for a living like their subjects.
    I think it’s a damn brilliant term.

    • BBA says:

      See also this Scholar’s Stage piece on China.

      Out-of-touch self-serving ruling classes are a human constant. The fissure exists in every sufficiently large society on earth. It’s so intractable that even in the “democratic” West the goal of our radical/populist revolts is to install a slightly different out-of-touch self-serving ruling class.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I want to signal boost that post on China. And overall that blog seems to be written by someone who actually knows a lot – like, um, Mandarin and Chinese history – about China, still relatively rare thing in English speaking world.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        A perfectly honest critique of Party tyranny delivered by Mike Pompeo would only inoculate average Chinese against the truths he speaks. It would only work if delivered in the idiom of China’s own disaffected.

        Liked this concept.

    • And in English could be read as “the Washington tribe.”

  7. Just popping in to thank LesHapablap. LesHapablap recommended the music of Amon Tobin to me. I wanted to say thanks – I enjoyed some of the tracks I discovered, e.g. Clear Skys is great, though it’s perhaps not the best track to link to as it’s from a soundtrack. I’ve been enjoying quite a few others as well. So I’ve added this chap to my library. Thank you, LesHapablap!

  8. The original Mr. X says:

    Re: the latest British election as a referendum on Brexit or not, here’s a poll suggesting that Labour’s leadership, and not its stance on Brexit, was the main factor holding it back. The usual caveats about this just being the results of one poll etc. apply.

    • An Fírinne says:

      This poll certainly lends credence to the idea that if Brexit had been off the table and a Corbyn-like figure (as oppossed to Corbyn) was the leader then they could have won. The whole “You took the party too left” idea seems to be debunked by this poll if it is indeed accurate.

      The problem then and the lessons to be learned is to carefully select a leader and too fight back against the media bias.

      • What exactly is it about Corbyn that people don’t like? I’ve heard repeatedly something about antisemitism. Is that what it is or are there other factors?

        • An Fírinne says:

          His dealings with Hamas/the IRA and his stance on national security come to mind also.

          But yea his criticisms of Israel have led to accusation of antisemitism.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I think it’s most of all the sense that he’s antipatriotic. He thought we were the bad guys in the Cold War and the Troubles, and he still does now. That doesn’t play well outside of urban liberals and university campuses.

          The anti-Semitism is just a special case of this: Israel as Western imperialist oppressor.

          • An Fírinne says:

            He thought we were the bad guys in the Cold War and the Troubles,

            Well he’s not wrong. Corbyn is a principled anti imperialist so he was unsuprisingly opposed to British imperialism in Ireland the wider world.

          • I don’t know enough about the Irish conflicts in the post-war period to comment on who were or were not the bad guys.

            But if your objection is to imperialism, it’s relevant that when France decided to pull out of the NATO military alliance, it did so. When Hungary, and later Czechoslovakia, decided to pull out of the Soviet alliance, the Soviets sent in the tanks.

          • BBA says:

            When Iran tried to nationalize its oilfields, and when Chile elected a socialist… but I guess those cases are different because the CIA isn’t the army.

          • Lambert says:

            I can’t wait to see how this new and exciting topic of conversation pans out.

            The both of you.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The CIA didn’t conquer either nation, it empowered the political enemies on both Allende and Mossadegh to act. Both were essentially dictators by the time they were overthrown and both had a long list of enemies.

            The Soviet Union swept in with armies and tanks, deposed the government, and set-up new ones

          • but I guess those cases are different because the CIA isn’t the army.

            Yes, there is a very big difference between covertly supporting one side in a power struggle and having your army invading opposing territories.

          • Also, I don’t think there is any evidence that the coup against Allende was a CIA operation. I took the fact that it succeeded as some evidence that it wasn’t.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Both sides were guilty of it. The USA and UK bombed, invaded and staged coups in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Take the US invasion of Guatemala as an example. People talk about Hungary and Czechoslovaoia but ignore US invasions of countries.

            No side was completely innocent of it.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            We didn’t really invade Guatemala either. We gave exiled army officers surplus WWII weapons and a freighter to carry them to Guatemala. They succeeded because the Guatemalan army refused to fight, and the union workers didn’t show up to fight either.

            That government also had enemies: OUR coup was delayed because someone else had tried to launch their own coup. The guy we picked to lead our coup had already led a failed coup only a few years before.

            We probably shouldn’t be supporting violent overthrows of government, and we definitely shouldn’t have been supporting genocidal militias, but there’s a category difference between supporting a coup in a nation that’s probably already going to have a coup, and rolling into a nation with more force than what we brought to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

            There’s also a difference between deposing a democratically elected leader who is still ruling democratically, and guys like Allende and Mossadegh who ranked somewhere between Erdogan and Kim Jong Un on the “democracy” spectrum (probably right around Mubarak). It’s not like we are assassinating the Prime Minister of Denmark or something.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            The USA is well known for ruthlessly andviolently overthrowing democratically elected leaders around the world whether it be Jacob Arbenz in Guatemala, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua or Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic. After these democratic leaders are overthrown they are replaced with dictatorial tyrants. The USA was far more guilty in this regard then the USSR ever was. No amount of whitewashing of history can alter this fact.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            How exactly do you think the Baltic States were added to the Soviet Union?

          • An Fírinne says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            The same way the USA recruited its client dictators when they overthrew democracy.

          • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

            A Definite Beta Guy says:

            How exactly do you think the Baltic States were added to the Soviet Union?

            An Fírinne says:

            The same way the USA recruited its client dictators when they overthrew democracy.

            You mean USA recruited its client dictators by signing a cooperation treaty with Nazi Germany; treaty which included the secret protocol dividing the countries situated between the US and Nazi Germany into two conquest zones?

            This will sound harsh, but I see no way of putting it politely: To claim that the West in general or USA in particular were the bad guys in the Cold War takes either wilful blindness or perhaps paid salary.

            (Full disclosure: I’m Lithuanian; some of my extended family members were deported to rot in Siberia by Soviets; this might colour my perception of Stalinists and their apologists.)

          • Guy in TN says:

            Baselessly suggesting that a commentator is a paid propagandist?

            That’s a report.

          • Civilis says:

            The USA is well known for ruthlessly and violently overthrowing democratically elected leaders around the world whether it be […] Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua[…]

            I find this example fascinating for its simplification to the point of obfuscating. Ortega was trained in the 70s in terrorist activities by the Cubans (as proxies of the USSR) and waged violent guerilla warfare. The US was hostile to his regime after he seized power in the 80s after he supported armed revolutionaries against neighboring regimes. He lost power after a democratically brokered arrangement for fair elections, an arrangement that got its broker a Nobel Peace Prize. Rather than being executed, he was eventually allowed to run for office again (and eventually won). Amnesty International and the OAS have both accused his new regime of violent oppression.

            Its as accurate to call Allende a puppet of American imperialism as it is to call Ortega a puppet of Soviet and Cuban imperialism. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say ‘interests’ instead of ‘imperialism’. This is the danger of playing loose with historical facts: the KGB was as good if not better at spreading around support in the name of Soviet interests as the CIA was in spreading support for American interests. Among the benefits of the KGB’s support were Corbyn’s friends in the IRA.

            Supporting a foreign imperialist power over your own government (imperialist or not) is something that can’t be chalked up as principled anti-imperialism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Well he’s not wrong. Corbyn is a principled anti imperialist so he was unsuprisingly opposed to British imperialism in Ireland the wider world.

            A majority of people in Northern Ireland supported remaining part of the UK throughout the Troubles. It seems to me that a “principled anti-imperialist” would want to respect the wishes of the majority, not have them annexed against their will by a foreign state.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Northern Ireland is a territory of the Irish nation that has been military occupied by British Imperial Forces.

            An analogy that one could use here is to compare Northern Ireland to Crimea and Britain to Russia.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Northern Ireland is a territory of the Irish nation that has been military occupied by British Imperial Forces.

            Says who? Not the inhabitants, certainly, since a majority of them consider themselves British and don’t want to be ruled from Dublin.

            An analogy that one could use here is to compare Northern Ireland to Crimea and Britain to Russia.

            I think a better analogy would be to the left bank of the Rhine after France decided to get its “natural frontiers” sorted: the people there didn’t consider themselves French, there was no historical or legal precedent for them to be French, and the entire case for French rule consisted of a self-serving and arbitrary declaration that the French government had some sort of inherent right to control everything within a particular geographical unit. Similarly, most people in Northern Ireland don’t consider themselves Irish, and there’s no historical precedent for a united Ireland (since Ireland was only ever united under the British). It’s just some weird belief that, because they’re on the same island, they ought to have the same government. You might as well claim that, since Great Britain and Ireland are both part of the same island chain, they ought to have the same government; therefore Ireland is naturally “a territory of the British nation”, opinion of the inhabitants be damned, and principled anti-imperialists ought to support the immediate annexation of the island to London.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @The original Mr. X

            I think a better analogy would be to the left bank of the Rhine after France decided to get its “natural frontiers” sorted: the people there didn’t consider themselves French, there was no historical or legal precedent for them to be French, and the entire case for French rule consisted of a self-serving and arbitrary declaration that the French government had some sort of inherent right to control everything within a particular geographical unit. Similarly, most people in Northern Ireland don’t consider themselves Irish, and there’s no historical precedent for a united Ireland (since Ireland was only ever united under the British). It’s just some weird belief that, because they’re on the same island, they ought to have the same government.

            Northern Ireland the legal entity is an artificial creation made in 1920. Ireland had been one for over a millenia before that.

            BTW two of the six counties of Northern Ireland have majority secessionist opinions but for some reason there opinion is for some strange reason irrelevant

            The people of Northern Ireland are as Irish as the people living south of the British imposed border. You don’t get to artificially create a region that never previously existed and then claim “Oh look this region wants to be British”

            If the European Union invaded Scotland citing “The will of the Scottish people to remain in the EU” I highly doubt you would shrug your shoulders and say “Ah well that’s what Scotland wants”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ireland had been one for over a millenia [sic] before that.

            No it hadn’t. Ireland before the English conquest was a patchwork of separate kingdoms, some of Irish origin, others of Norse. Ireland only fell under the rule of a single political entity when the English finished conquering it in the 17th century. “Ireland should be united” is a nationalist slogan, not an immutable law of the universe.

          • An Fírinne writes:

            Ireland had been one for over a millenia before that.

            Though the idea of a kingship of the whole island had already gained currency by the 7th century, no Irish king ever managed to make it a reality, and most law-texts do not even provide for such a possibility.

            (Fergus Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law)

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          According to activists on the doorstep in the lost areas it was mainly a generalized suspicious promulgated by the media. Not the specific media accusations but the sort of background. Also while in 2017 he forced Labour to promise to respect the referendum in 2019 the Remainers screwed him over and forced him, against a strong protest by him personally, to call for a second referendum.

          The vast majority of the shit you’ll hear from the media is garbage. Anti-semitism was irrelevant, all his political enemies are even more esconced in the “metro-elite/socially liberal/globalist” sphere than he is, and none of them had any better shot as pushing back the SNP than he did.

          Now Corbyn does have personal issues. His “kindler, gentler” politics thing was a mistake. Ironic as his political enemies claimed he had made Labour into the “nasty/racist party”, with anti-semitism as their spearhead because he was untouchable on any other racial issue. A Corbyn more like Dennis Skinner would have been far more successful personally.

          Key facts to remember: Scot, Remain Champion and young, female leader Jo Swinson lost her seat. Not a single Tory or Labour rebel won their seat. Ruth Smeeth lost her seat. All of his political enemies were destroyed in some sense. Meanwhile Plaid and the especially the Greens who should have been his allies were totally static, not gaining any seats. Also the Lib Dems in general didn’t gain anything. All the party swappers lost and Lib Dems ended up with only a single seat more than in 2017. So much tactical voting and wiping out Tories in remain seats. ROFL.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Successful propaganda campaign. The UK press is psycotically anti-eu, and also mostly owned by billionaires with views somewhat to the right of Atilla. Thus, firstly any labor leader gets smeared, and secondly, the press trippled down on this because he was seen as a threat to the “glorious” brexit they have been working to bring about for 30 years.

          .. And it is smears. Calling out Corbin for not condemming anti-semitism hard enough while Boris has a published book out there that includes the old cancard that the jews control the international press is.. Not good-faith practice of journalism. There are people in UK politics who are anti-semites, right enough, and most of them are members of parties not named Labor

          Previous successful Labor leaders mostly just had.. better grade of teflon coating. Its a position in which you will get hosed down with made-up shit, which is also one major reason why he did not get more in the way of internal challenges, nobody in a position to actually do it was super confident they had a good strategy for bypassing the yellow press

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The UK press is psycotically anti-eu, and also mostly owned by billionaires with views somewhat to the right of Atilla.

            With respect, you clearly either never read the UK press, or you’re being completely blinded by your ideology.

            Boris has a published book out there that includes the old cancard that the jews control the international press

            [citation needed]

          • Aapje says:

            Boris’ book claims that some people in Russia would employ the canard that Jews control the media, in an alternative history scenario.

            So…Boris seems to get his share of smears.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The whole “You took the party too left” idea seems to be debunked by this poll if it is indeed accurate.

        I take it you get this from the fact that Labour defectors did this in response to economic policies less than 10% of the time? I think you are over-thinking the poll. To me the poll says that Labour lost because of the two big issues of Brexit and leadership. I think that is how elections usually work — the voters are concerned about one or two issues and that is what they vote on. Economics was simply not a big issue this time; that’s what the poll says.

        Maybe you are right that most usual Labour voters are fine with their radical economic pronouncements. But you can’t tell that from this poll.

        • Economics was simply not a big issue this time; that’s what the poll says.

          Relative to Brexit, which is a seismic issue about the very political sovereignty of the country. Probably economics was very heavily on people’s minds, which is why the Conservative strategy in their manifesto and rhetoric was to immediately drop austerity, promote more funding for the NHS, reduce welfare assessments for disabled people with long term conditions, scrap the planned cut in corporation tax, and raise the minimum wage to £10.50/h, among many other things. The Conservatives very deliberately tacked leftwards on economics this time compared to the previous Conservative governments, so that the relative advantage they had on Brexit was as large as possible.

          If voters who leant more towards Leave and “bigger government” were presented with a choice between a Labour government with a completely muddled position on Brexit and a George Osbourne (a potential successor to David Cameron at one point) style Conservative Party that “stays the course” on austerity and has the blood of homeless disabled people dripping from its fangs, then it might have been a dead heat. As it was, they were presented with a Brexit muddled Labour that wanted massive increases in spending and radical nationalizations Vs a Conservative Party with a clear Brexit policy and a promise for moderate spending increases. Of course it was a landslide for the Conservatives.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Indeed. I’m seeing a lot of gnashing of teeth about the “far right Conservative Party” gaining five years of unfettered power, but the actual policy prospectus is essentially Blairism plus Brexit. The Tories have never been more fiscally left wing.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The gnashing is mostly from people who believe the Tories will, not to put a fine a point on it, use their election promises for toilet paper. Either out of malice, or be forced to by the damage caused by brexit

          • Lambert says:

            Also that all of this ‘end of austerity’ stuff is just trying to stimulate the economy enough that the impacts of Brexit don’t look too catastrophic.

    • broblawsky says:

      This article suggests that Corbyn’s failure to tackle accusations of anti-Semitism might have been the single largest factor harming his image. That, combined with both the fracturing power of Brexit and Corbyn’s failure to unify the Remain vote due to his Brexit wishy-washiness, are probably adequate explanations for Labour’s failure in this election.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        That article is garbage. As I outline in my comment to wrong species Corbyn lost because he was too nice/civil, because he caved on Brexit to the Remainers, a key difference from 2017, and because unlike Johnson his own party and his supposed Remain allies hammered him constantly. Notably every Tory and Labour rebel, Ruth Smeeth, Jo Swinson, and others lost their seats and the Lib Dems ended up with virtually no change in their seat share. Greens and Plaid were also static. Conversely, the DUP took a heavy blow and the SNP surged, though actually less than the exit poll suggested because of several tight races.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      As I said in another thread, any theory about why Labour lost has to explain why explain what has changed since 2017. “Corbyn exists” can’t be the answer, because he was still the leader then. Also relevant is that the vast majority of Labour’s lost seats (and I think also their votes) were in leave-leaning Northern “heartland” areas.

      The story presented here is interesting. It claims that Labour didn’t really lose at all; rather the Conservatives won. In other words, the Labour share in the seats they lost is roughly the same as it was two elections ago. The main difference is that numbers of Conservative votes have increased significantly since then, with part of this increase coming in 2017 and part this year. In 2017 the Labour vote was unusually high (relative to e.g. 2015, 2010 or even 2005) but it reverted to the baseline this time. So rather than asking what Labour did wrong this time, the questions are what they did right in 2017, and what the Conservatives did right in the past two elections.

      My speculative model is this:
      Corbyn’s Labour is actually quite appealing, in the sense that if Brexit were not an issue it would receive a substantially higher share of the vote than they did in 2015 or 2010 (somewhere in the range 35-40%). In 2017 they received a boost from on top of this from their fairly leavy policy combined with (relative to Johnson) May’s remainyness. This year they had the opposite, due to their call for a second referendum and the Conservatives being more leavy. Separately, the Conservatives have become steadily more popular in certain areas as they gradually realign in various ways, and as Thatcher recedes into the past.

      How this fits into the poll:
      Corbyn is interesting, because he has aspects of both being an old-school trade unionist populist (which presumably would appeal to voters in the lost seats) and simultaneously a vegetarian London-based liberal elite (which presumably wouldn’t). I can imagine that switching stance on Brexit might flip which side is emphasised and cause people who liked him in 2017 to dislike him now.

      What this means:
      Unclear. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight Labour should’ve stayed pro-Brexit, but I think that was a more difficult angle to take this time around and could have lost votes from remainers (although I suspect not enough to flip many seats). For the future, too many unknown factors.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        As I said in another thread, any theory about why Labour lost has to explain why explain what has changed since 2017. “Corbyn exists” can’t be the answer, because he was still the leader then.

        I wonder about that myself. Perhaps the answer is simply that voters like Corbyn less the more they see of him, and that the extra two years since the last election saw enough voters move from the “Hold my nose and vote Corbyn”/”Give Corbyn the benefit of the doubt” column into the “Anyone to keep Corbyn out of No. 10” column.

    • BBA says:

      Arthur Chu thinks Graham Linehan’s transphobia lost the election.

      There is such a thing as being too online.

      • Watchman says:

        As a UK voter can o confirm I have no idea what this is about…

        • Viliam says:

          This is about Arthur Chu, and online bubbles in general. The scary part is the possibility that we also live in one.

          • Lambert says:

            That still doesn’t demystify anything.
            Something to do with the bloke who wrote Father Ted?

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s totally normal to live in a set of bubbles–the problem comes when you think you understand the world outside your bubbles, and make predictions/observations/proposals on that basis.

            This is in some sense the flipside of the useful version of discussions of privilege–realizing that the world (and even your hometown) looks so different to a middle-aged educated white guy than to a 20-year old Salvadoran immigrant guy who doesn’t speak much English and is here illegally that you can’t really infer all that much about his life or interests or views based on what you observe in your own life.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      here’s a poll

      Cause polls are always right and totally not utter BS.

  9. Evan Þ says:

    The US District Court for Utah recently ruled all residents of all US territories – and particularly American Samoa, the only inhabited unorganized territory – must be granted US citizenship. This contradicts the prevailing view of the Insular Cases, which – after the Spanish-American war – ruled that the Constitution did not “follow the flag,” the Bill of Rights didn’t apply in the recently-acquired “unincorporated” territory, Congress could enact whatever separate trade barriers they wanted, and their residents weren’t citizens. Since then, citizenship has been extended by statute to all territories we still hold, except for American Samoa.

    The court carefully goes through the text of the Insular Cases, which it acknowledges as binding precedent, and points out that its one passing comment on citizenship was in dicta. However, the court spends about as much time reciting history and quite correctly pointing out how the distinct treatment of these territories was due to clear racism. They also describe at length how the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t acknowledge any distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territories – also correct; the terms weren’t known until the Insular Cases.

    Their reasoning persuades me in the abstract. However, I would go farther and overturn the distinction of incorporated and unincorporated territories. The Constitution should bind the government wherever it goes and whatever it does. Within this view, the Fourteenth Amendment does extend birthright citizenship to American Samoans as well as everyone else. But if you start limiting the scope of the First and Fourth Amendments, I don’t see why the Fourteenth can’t be limited as well. Surely the First Congress spoke in just as expansive terms as the Thirty-Ninth?

    • Erusian says:

      The original conception of territories is that they are proto-states. They are territory owned by the US which is not part of a state and which could not be made into a state for practical reasons (usually a lack of population). However, it was always seen as a transitional state: people would populate the territories and then they would become states.

      The Insular Cases basically accepted this logic but they inserted a new idea: that those practical reasons included not being familiar with American laws and customs. This amounted to not being white American or having a significant white American population that had a say in the government. These territories would be unincorporated, meaning the people in them would not be Americans until they were incorporated or granted statehood. The idea was roughly derived from the category of “Indian not taxed” prior. A population that was there and was under US jurisdiction but not included as part of the territorial population. However, unlike Indians, these areas (particularly the former Spanish colonies) had complex societies that were recognizable to American whites as civilization. So they became unincorporated instead of using that category specifically.

      Even then, the Supreme Court took pains to point out this did not negate the idea of territories as a transitional entity. As precedent, the Insular Cases not only give no exception to the idea these places should eventually become states but actually say they should in the future.

      However, the US has been arguing for literally over a century that Puerto Rico, American Samoa, etc, are still not ready for incorporation or statehood. This is the longest wait in American history and comes from a melange of complicated factors. While the Insular Cases show clear racism, there is perhaps merit in the idea that a transitional period would be needed during which full rights and incorporation might not apply. However, I have yet to see a serious argument that incorporation period needs to last over a century. There is no one alive today who remembers a time being under anything other than American laws and customs in any of these places. That argument simply no longer holds water.

      I’m pretty firmly of the belief the solution here is that Puerto Rico should be given statehood or independence and the other territories should be given statehood or independence (or perhaps offered incorporation into larger states, since their population is so small). There is a use case for unincorporated territory but that is not meant to be a permanent state for a large number of people.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Perhaps there’s merit in a transitional state of unincorporation without full rights. Perhaps there’s merit in denying some of those rights permanently to everyone. But, both concepts are unknown to our Constitution, and I don’t see how the Supreme Court can introduce either of them.

        But even beyond that point, I think that enumerating what rights to deny those unincorporated territories suffers from the same flaw as all other colonialism. In theory, I’m sure it could be done in a way that makes everyone better off. But in practice, there’s a horrendous temptation to do it wrongly – to grow rich off the colony (like Britain in India), to paternalize over them (like America in the Philippines when we first conquered them), to prop up attractive-looking structures that deny individual rights (like America in American Samoa today), or just to trade them back and forth as a political football (like America in Puerto Rico today). Based on the modern American government’s record, I don’t trust it to do the job correctly.

        • Erusian says:

          Perhaps there’s merit in a transitional state of unincorporation without full rights. Perhaps there’s merit in denying some of those rights permanently to everyone. But, both concepts are unknown to our Constitution, and I don’t see how the Supreme Court can introduce either of them.

          As I said before, there are explicit provisions in the Constitution for classes of people under US jurisdiction who are not citizens and separately from people who do not benefit from full rights in the territories. You can assert that the concept is unknown but you’re wrong. Again, Indians Not Taxed, the infamous “Other Persons”, the concept of non-citizen residents… You can assert it’s probably not a great idea to keep those institutions around and I’ll probably agree with you.

          But even beyond that point, I think that enumerating what rights to deny those unincorporated territories suffers from the same flaw as all other colonialism. In theory, I’m sure it could be done in a way that makes everyone better off. But in practice, there’s a horrendous temptation to do it wrongly – to grow rich off the colony (like Britain in India), to paternalize over them (like America in the Philippines when we first conquered them), to prop up attractive-looking structures that deny individual rights (like America in American Samoa today), or just to trade them back and forth as a political football (like America in Puerto Rico today). Based on the modern American government’s record, I don’t trust it to do the job correctly.

          Sure. I don’t like the situation either. I think it’s un-American and probably unconstitutional. But attacking the idea of territories or forcing incorporation and citizenship is not only on shakier ground but runs into other hot button issues like immigration (as extending citizenship always will). I think the stronger grounds is not to change the structure but to point out it no longer applies even on its own terms.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yeah, you’re unfortunately correct that changing the whole structure is impracticable at this point. If even this District Court’s decision stands, I’m already expecting a suit next year against the laws forbidding non-Samoans to own land, shortly followed by a suit against how the upper house of the Samoan legislature is elected by and from the traditional chiefs. You could definitely differentiate those even if you extend citizenship, but people will still file suit… and actually extending the whole Bill of Rights would require far more than that.

            Moving back to the rarefied heights of How We Think The Law Should Be, I agree there’re classes of people who aren’t citizens and don’t enjoy full rights. (Even today, AFAIK noncitizens have limited protection against searches.) However, that’s different from a region of land where people don’t enjoy full rights. I suppose perhaps you could analogize it to Indian reservations? I hadn’t thought of that comparison before. It does seem to make some sense, even though it doesn’t fit how we gave the Philippines independence. But, following through on the analogy in the modern day would mean making them all American citizens and ensuring their local governments protect individual rights…

        • Clutzy says:

          I think you’ve got the situation backwards. The constitution and 14th amendment would never have passed with those interpretations in mind. Indians not taxed is a broad category, and the insular cases realized the courts cannot impose a “shit or get off the pot” limitation on US foreign policy.

          And we need to be honest, most US territories do not want to force the US into that moment, because for the last 100 years + the answer would have been, “I guess we are getting off the pot, have a good time. ” And then they wouldn’t have a good time.

      • I’m pretty firmly of the belief the solution here is that Puerto Rico should be given statehood or independence and the other territories should be given statehood or independence (or perhaps offered incorporation into larger states, since their population is so small).

        Would you agree with one, both, or neither of these statements?

        A: It is objectionable for Puerto Ricans to refuse to become a U.S. state due to a perception that mainland America is culturally and/or racially alien to them?

        B: It is objectionable for Americans in the mainland to refuse to allow Puerto Rico to join as a state due to a perception that Puerto Rico culturally and/or racially alien to them?

      • Clutzy says:

        I’m pretty firmly of the belief the solution here is that Puerto Rico should be given statehood or independence and the other territories should be given statehood or independence (or perhaps offered incorporation into larger states, since their population is so small). There is a use case for unincorporated territory but that is not meant to be a permanent state for a large number of people.

        I see this as a problematic solution, as problematic a what we have now. Most of the territories would be forcefully given independence against what most of the citizens want. Its not like America would fight a war in any of those places if they just declared independence. We’d negotiate a treaty to keep a naval base.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        However, the US has been arguing for literally over a century that Puerto Rico, American Samoa, etc, are still not ready for incorporation or statehood.

        Historically referendums in Puerto Rico asking the voters what status they wanted, the residents have voted to remain a territory. It appears that the tide has change in the last decade and now the residents want statehood, although because of boycotts it is not certain. I do think if a super-majority want statehood, they should get it. But that wish is a pretty recent thing. Certainly they should not have been made a state against the stated desire of PR voters, as was the case as recently as 1998.

        I can’t find any such elections for American Samoa, but with a pop of 56k, they seem too small to be a state.

  10. Watchman says:

    So, a question we should have all asked before now: what was Scott’s role in the surprisingly comprehensive electoral victory for the British Conservatives today? And in the EU referendum comes to that?

    You might think its unlikely that a Democrat-leaning West-Coast blogger from a rationalist movement almost unknown in the UK played a key role in these victories. That might even seem quite rational a conclusion. But it turns out Scott’s thinking might be apart of the philosophical framework behind these victories.

    Dominic Cummings is perhaps known to some of us as the intellectual director of the Vote Leave and the 2019 Conservative campaigns. If you ignore the vitriolic character assessments of his political rivals, it’s pretty clear he is actually an odd fit in British politics: a functioning intellectual on the right wing who is neither libertarian or social conservative, and might best be described as neo-liberal in a lot of his expressed thinking. He also has a blog of his own, with a very small blog roll. And on there is a link to slatestarcodex, along with Less Weong and Elizer. The most successful political operator in Britain in the last five years appears to be a reader of rationalist blogs at the very least.

    I’m not sure what to make of this. I’m unaware of any other rationalist thinker operating in high-level politics, and someone more familiar with rationalism in applied form than I am would need to determine if his political work can be defined as rationalist. But if there isbreallybrationalism in action here this may bring a new attention to the rationalist movement.

    Credit due where credit is due: the discovery was made by another SSC reader Tom Chivers who kindly put listed it for us to stumble upon.

    • aphyer says:

      Scott would have no part in this, per the Guardian’s coverage of the election it goes against everything he stands for:

      The Tories have taken Dudley North from Labour, blocking a potential instance of parliamentary nominative determinism as Melanie Dudley finds herself in second place.

    • Lambert says:

      He’s talked a lot of talk while not in power. It’s not a difficult thing to do.

      I’m not yet convinced of his ability to walk the walk.
      All I’ve heard so far is how the gov’t plans to fund a load of high-tech data-driven NHS stuff (No mention of Cummings, but it quacks an awful lot like a duck) and how he summarily sacked an aide (for leaks or something else pretty serious?) in some way that sounds like it contravenes some kind of rule or procedure.

      • Aftagley says:

        +1 to the idea that sounding competent while safely removed from the levers of power is trivial

        -1 on the idea that sacking an aide, at least how he did it, is somehow rationalist. He basically just fired someone who didn’t work for him against the wishes of the person she did work for because he thought she might have talked to someone. The rule or procedure he violated was “don’t fire someone without getting their bosses approval/buy in” which is a norm I’m completely fine with.

        +1 because I like you Lambert and I wanted to end this tally in the black.

        • Lambert says:

          I wasn’t trying to make any kind of judgement on the things in the last sentence of my comment.
          More of a list (length 2) of things I’d hrard about or plausibly involiving Cummings as a spad.

          The Sonia Khan thing sounds pretty dumb on his part. Dick move towards Javid, at the very least. Even if it’s some kind of 7D tiddlywinks power move, it could have blow up in his face rather more than it did.

          And the ‘throw money at ML in healthcare’ is a pretty low bar. It’d take someone with far more knowledge of things like NICE tha I have to evaluate the actual impelementation.
          Maybe it’s a great way to leverage our capabilities, maybe it’s throwing a load of taxpayer’s money in a burning hole with some buzzwords written next to it.

          Investing in the intersection of the biggest emerging technology and one of the best parts of the UK’s public sector is a decent idea, but it doesn’t take a genius to think it up.

          And thanks. This medium doesn’t really give much feedback on whether or not what I’m saying is entirely dumb.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        The notable walk he (claims to have) walked was winning the referendum, and potentially also this election.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      “Rationalists should win.”
      E. Yudkowsky

      “Well, as you say…”
      D. Cummings

    • I’ve wondered the same thing about Andrew Yang. He seems like the kind of person who would read the blog, but shows no sign of knowing anything about behavioral genetics. Anyone know of any “smoking guns” in anything he’s said that indicates familiarity with us?

      • broblawsky says:

        What does behavioral genetics have to do with anything?

        • Perhaps that it’s something rationalists are likely to be familiar with and someone running for the Democratic nomination is unlikely to admit familiarity with?

        • It correlates with reading the blog, like some of his other ideas such as opposition to NIMBYism, an understanding of perverse incentives in medicine, skepticism of education subsidies, and of course the UBI itself.

      • oriscratch says:

        He’s posted an SSC article on Twitter:
        https://twitter.com/AndrewYang/status/1115459067881848833

        In the comments there someone also said he follows Yudkowsky on Twitter.
        (He follows over 6000 other people there too though, so I don’t know how significant that is.)

      • salvorhardin says:

        I think Yang’s social class and education probably just predispose him to be much more familiar with SSCish ideas than the general population regardless of whether he reads SSC, as indeed they so predispose many people who subsequently find SSC.

        (Anecdata supporting this: he was a couple of years ahead of me in high school and we have some mutual friends so I suspect we got very similar intellectual inputs over much of our lives).

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      His latest blog post has what looks to be a dogwhistle to our sordid movement:

      And for those of you who read this blog and are most concerned about climate change and AI, a new high-risk high-payoff research agency, modelled on ARPA and funded by an unprecedented DOUBLING of the basic science budget, is in the Conservative manifesto!

      From his blog he seems to lack the sense of humility I associate with British rationalists.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Cummings actually proposed offering Scott a job as “deputy chief rationalist” to the cabinet (under David Deutsch or Tim Gowers) in his previous blog post.

      • Cliff says:

        We could create systems for those making decisions about m/billions of lives and b/trillions of dollars, such as Downing Street or The White House, that integrate inter alia:

        An alpha data science/AI operation — tapping into the world’s best minds including having someone like David Deutsch or Tim Gowers as a sort of ‘chief rationalist’ in the Cabinet (with Scott Alexander as deputy!) — to support rational decision-making where this is possible and explain when it is not possible (just as useful).

  11. salvorhardin says:

    So the UK election result seems, like Trump’s primary and general election victories, to be consistent with Haidt’s moral foundations theory. In all these cases a large united passionate minority triumphed over a larger but disunited opposition, with vote percentages in the mid-forties. Haidt would predict that this sort of situation is likely to systematically advantage the right, because right-wingers put higher value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty, and these are very useful things to value when trying to form and sustain a passionate united block of voters (this also explains e.g. why so many Republicans who formerly denounced Trump are now loyal to him).

    Would others who don’t share my own moral convictions (secular, cosmopolitan, placing *negative* value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty) agree with this descriptive take?

    • Would others who don’t share my own moral convictions (secular, cosmopolitan, placing *negative* value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty) agree with this descriptive take?

      No. I reject the whole premise that “right-wingers put higher value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty.”

      this also explains e.g. why so many Republicans who formerly denounced Trump are now loyal to him

      The same thing happens after every primary campaign. What made 2016 unique was the magnitude and intensity of opposition to Trump, which doesn’t fit well with your theory.

    • John Schilling says:

      Haidt would predict that this sort of situation is likely to systematically advantage the right, because right-wingers put higher value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty, and these are very useful things to value when trying to form and sustain a passionate united block of voters

      That would explain why “right-wingers” shut up and did what they were told and put Jeb! in office in 2016. Which is a slight problem for this theory.

      • salvorhardin says:

        But Jeb! was visibly not of the tribe and unwilling or unable to make himself look like he was, as Trump and GWB each did in their very different ways despite the obvious-to-non-tribe-members ridiculousness of both.

        • John Schilling says:

          But Jeb! was visibly not of the tribe and unwilling or unable to make himself look like he was

          He was GHWB’s son and GWB’s brother, won GOP votes in Florida with I think a higher margin than anyone else in recent history, and is a very central example of a pre-Tea-Party, pre-Trumpist Republican. Which is to say, a solid member of the tribe, except for the tribal factions that positively define themselves by their active defiance of tribal authority.

          You can claim that the defiance of the Tea Party and the Trumpists have redefined the tribe so that Jeb no longer fits, and that does seem broadly accurate. But you can’t do that while maintaining the fiction that the tribe is unusually respectful of authority.

          • Garrett says:

            Which is to say, a solid member of the tribe

            Member of the tribe? Or member of the party? Because he spent a lot of time talking about how he’d adopted Hispanic culture, etc. In some ways he seemed to be more proud of his Hispanic adoption than his non-Hispanic upbringing which certainly doesn’t demonstrate in-group loyalty.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because he spent a lot of time talking about how he’d adopted Hispanic culture, etc.

            At a time when the tribal authorities were pretty solidly behind “we have to bring more Hispanics into Our Tribe or demographics will hand everything to the Other Tribe”, yes.

            Again, Bush was near the center of the this-is-what-the-tribal-authorities-command part of the tribe, and he lost to the screw-the-tribal-authorities faction of the tribe.

        • Nick says:

          But Jeb! was visibly not of the tribe and unwilling or unable to make himself look like he was, as Trump and GWB each did in their very different ways despite the obvious-to-non-tribe-members ridiculousness of both.

          There’s an old Ferguson piece about Jeb! from the defunct Weekly Standard (it’s hosted now by the Examiner because the Examiner, unlike the Standard, was happy to be a Trump rag). The part about his earlier career as a libertarian conservative has some hilarious digs at him, but after losing an election in ’94 he had a turnaround: abandoning some of the libertarianism, converting to Catholicism, and getting really interested in policy initiatives. Apparently, he was the most conservative governor in the US at the time, and really effective at it.

          So yeah, clearly that didn’t work on the national platform. The hate in 2016 was real, but I’m not sure what to make of it. Anger at his brother? Could they see through him? Were they not interested in what he was selling anymore?

          • Aftagley says:

            All that and the fact that his ability to govern didn’t correlate to an ability to campaign.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anger at his brother?

            Bush fatigue was almost certainly a part of it, and IMO rightly so. But that goes against the “respectful of authority” hypothesis, because the Bush family as a whole was solidly a part of the Republican authority structure and the rest of the tribal authorities were pushing “Yes, we’re still going with a Gen 2 Bush this time”.

            Could they see through him? Were they not interested in what he was selling anymore?

            Also probably part of it – but note that the first phase of defection from Jeb! wasn’t “…and so we’re all going to be Trumpists!”, but to Rubio and Cruz and even a little bit to Kaisich and Christie. Each of those were selling parts of the same package, but without the Bush name and perhaps with a bit more sincerity.

            So I think there was a solid core of non-Trumpist Republicans who didn’t so much disagree on the policies as with being told that they were supposed to take the whole package with no modification and with Yet Another Bush as the front man.

            Then Jeb dropped out, and the authorities were pretty unanimous on “look, we’ve got to unite behind someone who isn’t Trump or we’re all doomed”, and that didn’t happen either.

          • Nick says:

            @Aftagley
            I suppose. Mostly makes me feel sorry for him, and I don’t even particularly want a Jeb! presidency.

        • But Jeb! was visibly not of the tribe and unwilling or unable to make himself look like he was, as Trump and GWB each did in their very different ways despite the obvious-to-non-tribe-members ridiculousness of both.

          You can always move the definition of the “tribe” so that when the tribe follows its leaders it’s evidence of authoritarianism and when it rebels against its leaders, well, they weren’t true tribesmen. It’s not like Trump as a brash New Yorker was culturally any closer to the Republican base than Bush. It was a referendum of whether immigration laws should be enforced or not.

    • Wency says:

      Usually the left is better coordinated. I recall there being some research previously that leftists are much more similar in their beliefs than rightists. This likely has to do with leftist media control, which provides a central authority for informing people about what they are “supposed” to believe. E.g., the importance of stating your pronouns came from nowhere to being a critical tribal signal in a pretty short period of time.

      The right would love to have coordination and communication abilities like this, but it’s much more ideologically diffuse. Even the Republican Party has the problem that it’s much less popular on the right than the Democrats are on the left, with a lot of independents just being conservatives who don’t want to apply the tainted Republican label to themselves, even as they hold their noses and vote Republican every time.

      • Viliam says:

        I recall there being some research previously that leftists are much more similar in their beliefs than rightists.

        For example, in Slovakia, communists are united, and the right is completely fragmented.

        On the other hand, “left” and “right” may not be a useful map for post-communist countries. Because if communism actually happened in your past, then instead of “futuristic communists” you get “conservative communists”; here “conservative” meaning people who are psychologically attracted to (their interpretation of) the glorious past.

        And that actually kinda makes sense. People who wish to revert to how things used to be, should be easier to unite, as long as they share the vision of the past. The visions of the future are more diverse.

        • Lambert says:

          Yeah. One mustn’t forget that the anglophone correspondence of left/right and progressive/conservative are kind of predicated on a shift leftwards.

          A world which was truly moving steadily rightwards would be an uncanny one indeed.

    • broblawsky says:

      Was there really “a larger but disunited opposition”? If you add up the vote totals for Labor and the Lib Dems, it’s actually lower than the Conservative vote total. The SNP doesn’t really count – they won nearly everywhere they ran, they just only ran in Scotland.

      • Aftagley says:

        It implies that a more united opposition would have been able to increase voter turnout / prevented the kind of massive losses in support that labour weathered here.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          You can’t really add up the votes. It’s far from obvious that you can have a single party covering a all positions from social justice to pro-market social-democracy to Scottish nationalism and get as many votes as parties that specialize on individual positions do.

          More generally, the American strict two-party system is an exception as far as democratic systems go. In most democracies there are more than two parties that get significant votes, which usually results in the winning party not getting a majority of votes.

        • broblawsky says:

          Turnout overall was 1.5% less than the previous election; I don’t think an extra percentage point of pro-labor turnout would’ve saved labor.

      • salvorhardin says:

        The claim is that to a close approximation all votes for the Conservatives were pro-Brexit votes and all votes for all other parties were anti-Brexit votes. So I am counting the SNP as part of an anti-Brexit majority (and AIUI polls show that if the referendum were rerun today Remain would win).

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’m not sure this holds. Probably a decent number of Remainer Tories voted Tory because they thought Corbyn was particularly bad, and given that Labour is softly pro-Brexit in their actual platform probably at least a moderate number of Labour Leavers also stayed Labour.

          For example, Blyth Valley voted 60.5% leave, but only 42% Conservative and 8.3% Brexit (it was one of the most dramatic Con wins). So assuming that the pro-Brexit camp stayed roughly the same, a third of Labour’s votes were Brexit Labour.

        • Watchman says:

          This is vastly over simplistic. People dis not vote just on the basis of Brexit but for whatever combination of factors were important to them (my wife once voted on the basis of who had the best surname, admittedly on a very unimportant local election). Any conclusion about Brexit or being anti-Tory ignores this and assumes a model where all voters have only one common issue on which they vote (so, a referendum effectively). Yet we know that incentives matter, so people would make different decisions in a single-issue referendum than on a general election. After all, almost a third of Libersl Democrat voters apparently voted to leave the EU (although the party may have alienated a lot of these voters this time). Clearly differentcquestions (Leave the EU? Who is the best government?) bring out very different answers for some people. All we can tell from a set of election results is which parties people supported. Anything else is pseudoscience at best.

        • and AIUI polls show that if the referendum were rerun today Remain would win

          Polls showed the same thing before the referendum.

        • Aftagley says:

          This doesn’t match my memory of polling or the data I just looked at. It looks like well in advance of Brexit people were against it and after the referendum was succesful people turned on it, but for a brief moment (looks like from around april 2016 until november 2016 or so) it enjoyed slight majority support.

      • Nick says:

        How likely is it that Tory Remainers still voted Tory instead of, say, Lib Dem, perhaps because they feared a Corbyn-led coalition?

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        If you add up the vote totals for Labor and the Lib Dems, it’s actually lower than the Conservative vote total.

        Source? BBC has CON being exactly equal to LIB + LAB (to 1 decimal place). If you add GRN and BRX then remain has a 0.7% lead. Plus I’m not clear on what grounds you’re discounting the SNP. Scotland still exists.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Labour is clearly not fully Remain though. Leavers could want Labour’s social policies and hope/expect to win the second referendum (or trust Corbyn to get a deal like he said he would).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Nor is Conservative full Brexit.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Absolutely true.

            But if you voted Conservative, you were getting Brexit.

            If you voted Labour, you still might be getting Brexit.

            If you voted LibDem or SNP, you’re not getting Brexit, so it’s fair to count almost all their votes as against Brexit.

            Again, assuming those parties actual got power, which clearly LibDem and SNP never were going to.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            That’s certainly true, but the comment I replied to made a very specific and seemingly false claim about vote totals.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s not fair to count Conservative votes as clear votes in favor of Brexit. This is most especially true given that voting Labour is also not clearly a vote that results in an outcome of Remain.

            I do think it’s fair to look at the election result and think that a political realignment in UK may be in the offing, though. If Labour loses, well, the old union style labor (Little L) votes (and the Tories gain them) UK politics may look very different down the line.

        • broblawsky says:

          BBC has CON being exactly equal to LIB + LAB (to 1 decimal place). If you add GRN and BRX then remain has a 0.7% lead.

          Conservatives: 13,966,565. Labor+Lib Dems: 13,965,499. Yeah, it’s effectively the same number, but I was technically correct: the best kind of correct.

          Plus I’m not clear on what grounds you’re discounting the SNP. Scotland still exists.

          I was thinking about it in terms of the SNP being a purely regional party, but you’re right, that’s not fair. SNP turnout was also up on 2017 by ~300k votes, which is impressive.

        • Aftagley says:

          Scotland still exists.

          Citation needed

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It looks like a loud minority tried to hijack Labor and got smacked really really hard.

      There has been this distressing trend in politics where each time one party does something extreme, people shift towards the other party, which decides “hey, this means we get to do something extreme,” and the whole thing repeats. If this were two individuals competing, they would always be forced to never tack too far from center, but each political party is subject to the Iron Rule of Bureaucracy: there are people who care more about achieving power within the group rather than promoting the group’s aim, and those people will always end up in charge.

      Getting crushed so hard can be the thing that forces groups to finally take control of themselves.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Explanations like this that only focus on factors internal to Labour can’t work, because they fail to explain why the same Corbyn-led party was so much more successful in 2017.

        • dodrian says:

          Why did Labour under Corbyn lose in 2017 then? Was May just too popular and the better campaigner?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The first past the post system is certainly a major factor (the impact of it in that election being that the Conservatives won a disproportionately high number of seats relative to their vote share). Labour received 40% of the vote against the 42.3% for the Conservatives. In comparison, in their landslide victories under Blair, Labour got 43.2% and 40.7%.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Partly because their 2017 manifesto was less radical, partly because voters had had two more years to take a dislike to Corbyn, but mostly – overwhelmingly – because they were up against the walking electoral catastrophe that is Theresa May, who decided that just in case her unfathomable lack of charisma wasn’t enough she’d announce a wildly unpopular new social care policy almost perfectly calculated to turn off swing voters just before the election.

          Boris Johnson, in contrast, is a serial winner when it comes to elections.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            partly because voters had had two more years to take a dislike to Corbyn

            I see a lot of people saying that. And it’s true that Corbyn’s net approval slowly declined from 0 at the last election to -40 now. But he’d been just as low for months before the 2017 election.

            He suddenly improved just before the 2017 election. The dementia tax is pretty well timed to explain the election, but if it also explains Corbyn’s recovery, that’s pretty weird. Of course approval questions taken close to the election are proxies for how one would vote; in the first graph, the polls for May+Corbyn near the time of the election move exactly opposite, always maintaining an almost constant sum between -20 and -30. But even if we throw those polls, the election still had a long-term effect of boosting Corbyn’s popularity. It slowly wore off over 2 years, but it seems like it should represent something other than not-May. The whole point of approval polls is to let people hate both sides.

          • Tarpitz says:

            That sounds to me like pretty good evidence that approval polls don’t work as intended, or didn’t in this case.

    • Watchman says:

      I don’t think you can define broad groupings like right (or left) wingers with subjective values like deference to authority. After all, the right wing has anarcho-libertarians and whatever you call the sort of people who expect everyone to live as if in an idealised military camp with strong moral codes. Their attitudes to authority may differ slightly.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Haidt would predict that this sort of situation is likely to systematically advantage the right, because right-wingers put higher value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty

      I don’t put much trust in Haidt’s psychological theory of political affiliation. If political affiliation reflects deeply seated personality traits, how can it swing dramatically on average in the course of a few years?

    • mtl1882 says:

      Would others who don’t share my own moral convictions (secular, cosmopolitan, placing *negative* value on deference to authority and in-group loyalty) agree with this descriptive take?

      I think the in-group loyalty played a big role, but I don’t see the deference to authority part nearly as much. There is an absence of authority to look to, IMO, which leaves in-group identification as the only thing to ground themselves in. Deferring to authority is putting a big emphasis on “just following the rules–is that so hard?” The rules are not clear right now, and what rules exist don’t make sense to them or constantly shift, and haven’t been internalized. I also see this as a lot more than left versus right—the global/local split kind of reroutes some of those dichotomies. I place negative value on deference to authority for its own sake because blind trust is never a good idea (I don’t necessarily see in-group loyalty as negative), but this is why I think Brexit is the right way to go. Complex global governance demands nothing but deference to authorities you can’t assess, in the form of people thought to be experts. I see this as a really problematic and unstable thing, despite being someone who is secular, educated, etc.

  12. albatross11 says:

    I just listened to an episode of Russ Roberts’ excellent _Econtalk_ podcast about a for-profit surgery center that takes no insurance and posts all its prices up front, here.

    I don’t know enough to know whether the interviewee (one of the founders of the surgery center) is accurate in all his explanations of how medical finance work, but the descriptions were really amazing. In particular, the guest (Keith Smith) claimed that insurance companies often got paid more by employers based on the size of the difference between a facility’s quoted price and the price paid by the insurance company, creating an incentive to inflate those prices wildly.

    My sense is that the whole way medical care is financed is this horrible convoluted web of opaque cross-subsidies and meaningless prices that end up making it impossible for anyone to really say what the cost of anything is. This podcast certainly upheld my intuitions in that regard.

    I’ve commented before that in many ways, the medical care system reminds me of the socialist calculation debate–so much of the system has no meaningful prices that nobody can really know what tradeoffs make sense. I’m sure there are big chunks of the US healthcare industry doing the equivalent of making one giant nail to meet the kg of nails/day quota, or hunting a species of whales into extinction to meet some line in a five-year plan.

    I don’t know how to fix this system. It has so many entrenched interests with so much money and influence that any change is going to be a massive uphill fight. It would be nice to see a mix of up-front quoted prices mostly paid by customers, plus catastrophic care insurance for serious/rare illnesses and injuries. But I don’t know how to get there from here, or how to make this work for already sick/old people.

    • Etoile says:

      That is absolutely what happens: and the reason people and small businesses who don’t play in the “major leagues” (i.e., have a large employer-sponsored or government plan) pay so much is they’re small fry in a market where very, very large and deep-pocketed players set the prices, so they get caught in the cross-hairs. It’s like, if a bunch of mice wandered into an elephant soccer game; even if there are a lot of them, they can’t reduce the elephants’ likelihood of trampling them. (OK maybe I will think and come up with a better analogy later. :D)

      I think there is a remedy that should at least be tried, and all remedies should be tried ONE AT A TIME – rather than WHOLESALE OVERHAUL OF EVERYTHING IN COMPLEX WAYS, which is how legislation happens now. I think that taking away the pre-tax nature of health insurance will correct* a LOT of the distortions in the US market in a pretty short time, because I believe it will get employers out of the market of health care almost entirely, so that individual people ARE the main consumers (not counting the government of course). Right now, since most of the buyers are large and institutional, no amount of “high deductible health plans” can really move the needle on dropping prices or creating price transparency.

      *Note: I realize that there are lots of other things to fix; e.g. there should be a safety net of some kind, and Medicaid/Medicare would also need overhauls, and you’d need to think about ways such a law could negatively impact the vulnerable, etc… but I think on the whole it would do a lot of good and prove that healthcare can be delivered through market means without full socialization.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        If you want to try one trick to fix US health care, that is the wrong trick.
        The best trick is “One. Price”. Ban health providers from giving discounts. To anyone. If you offer a service, medicine or proceedure, you are obligated to charge everyone the same rate for it. And to damn well list that price. Markets damn well do not work without price signals, and US health care, effectively does not have them.

        • albatross11 says:

          This seems plausible to me, too–I just don’t see how to get market mechanisms to work without meaningful prices, and we’ve somehow constructed a system in which nobody can say what anything costs.

          • Lambert says:

            I don’t think it’s just the lack of prices.
            Barter economies lack transparent prices.

            But you can resell a bushel of apples in a way you can’t do with a back operation.
            It seems that y’all’ve built a system that’s far more pessimal than the sum of its parts. There’s a perversely beautiful synergy in how all the individual failings mesh together.

  13. jermo sapiens says:

    Is anyone capable of steelmanning this thing? If I was running a sokal type project, I would have told the author of this to tone down the crazy so as to not get us found out, and to remove the racist view that empiricism is “white”.

    • Thegnskald says:

      It is just “Black women are underrepresented in physics and taken less seriously because white men are generally seen as being better at science”, padded out with a bunch of meaningless buzzwords and a sprinkling of really bad physics puns.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        That’s certainly what it looks like to me. That feels straw-manny, but sometimes the man really is made of straw.

        The actual effect of an article like that, on me at least, is to reinforce the notion that the stereotype is true. As in, if you were actually good at physics you would work on physics, not write whiny progressive screeds about white males.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          The actual effect of an article like that, on me at least, is to reinforce the notion that the stereotype is true. As in, if you were actually good at physics you would work on physics, not write whiny progressive screeds about white males.

          Given that the author completed a PhD under Lee Smolin, this conclusion is not true. For what it’s worth, it’s also neither kind nor necessary.

          It shouldn’t be too hard to believe that people can be very strong in some technical area but still make dubious claims in other areas. Just look at all the great scientists who are Christians even today!

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m not making the claim that she is incapable of doing physics. My claim is about the effect such an article has on me. And this claim is absolutely true.

            Not sure whether it’s kind or not, but I generally believe that being honest about such things is kinder than lying.

            As for necessary, well the sun will rise in the east tomorrow whether or not this comment is made, but I do think it’s very relevant to the discussion. I dont intend to discuss her actual claims too much, but to discuss the phenomenon of this type of scholarship. If the author’s aim is to counter stereotypes, I think it’s relevant that to me (and presumably a large number of others), she is only reinforcing them.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I’m pretty sure it isn’t the author’s intention to make you believe wrong things. That you do says a lot more about you than her.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m pretty sure it isn’t the author’s intention to make you believe wrong things. That you do says a lot more about you than her.

            I can only make reasonable inferences based on the data available to me. The data available to me is that this professor of physics thinks whining about “white empiricism” is a valuable use of her time. I draw what I believe to be reasonable inferences from that, and although that may be wrong in this specific case, I dont think I’m the one at fault here.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure it’s the author’s intention to make readers believe that physics — actual, real, physics, the stuff that you can calculate with and make good predictions in the real world — backs up her race theory claims. That’s wrong, though I don’t know for sure if she really believes it or is just trying to pull off a snow job.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            From Wikipedia:

            “n 2016, she became the Principal Investigator on a $100,522 FQXI grant to study “Epistemological Schemata of Astro | Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers” seeking to answer questions regarding how to re-frame who is an “observer”, to acknowledge those existing outside of the European Enlightenment framework, and how that might change knowledge production in science.[15]”

            Another “Feminist Glaciology” type of grant. And then people wonder why there is no progress in foundational physics.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            From Wikipedia

            Prescod-Weinstein completed her Ph.D. dissertation, titled “Acceleration as Quantum Gravity Phenomenology”, under the supervision of Lee Smolin and Niayesh Afshordi

            and therefore has presumably contributed far more to physics than you ever will.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You need to go deeper:

            The $6.2 million seed funding was donated by the John Templeton Foundation, whose goal is to reconcile science and religion.

            In other words, this has really nothing to do with progress in foundational physics. That’s not what the grant is for. It’s more about intersecting philosophy and science.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            and therefore has presumably contributed far more to physics than you ever will.

            Or quite possibly has contributed exactly as much as I ever will, that is, zero. With the difference that I don’t charge money for it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @viVI_IViv
            Why did you decide to reply to my comment without reading it?

          • Why do you think he didn’t read it? Is it your assumption that all published articles add to the field they are published in?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Yes David, original research is traditionally a defining characteristic of a PhD.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Yes David, original research is traditionally a defining characteristic of a PhD.

            Credentialism at its worst.

            Anyway, since I thought that I might have been unfair to her, I decided to look into her actual research.

            On her personal website her publication list is difficult to find, but eventually I found the link. It lists 44 articles, but most of them are non peer-reviewed. There are only 12 peer-reviewed papers, and only 4 with her as first author, one of which is in gender theory. arXiv and Google Scholar tell a similar story.

            Even by purely bibliometric standards she seems very unimpressive. Maybe the few papers she wrote will one day be regarded as groundbreaking contributions, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m more inclined to believe that her career is mostly due to her being a very vocal activist queer agender “black” woman (wasn’t she agender?), but that’s just me being cynical.

          • Yes David, original research is traditionally a defining characteristic of a PhD.

            You have an optimistic view of the academic world, from which I conjecture you are not a part of it.

            As it happens, I too have a PhD in physics. I do not think that either of my published articles turned out to make any contribution to the field.

          • A1987dM says:

            @viVI_IViv:

            On her personal website her publication list is difficult to find

            Er… that’s what https://inspirehep.net/collection/HepNames is for.

            most of them are non peer-reviewed

            The fact that arXiv preprints from 2019 aren’t peer-reviewed yet doesn’t mean much — peer review can take quite a long time.

            only 4 with her as first author

            These days in certain fields most paper just list authors alphabetically, so the corresponding author is not necessarily the first author, and even if it was, the contributions of other co-authors are not always negligible. (Though for some reason lots of the papers this woman signed don’t have alphabetic author lists, so in this particular case your point mostly stands.) In particular, it’s not particularly unusual for people in big collaborations to coauthor tens of papers per year but only one every couple of years as the corresponding author.

            (Her output in years before 2019 does seem remarkably low, though. If there weren’t those few papers from 2008-2010, I’d have assumed she was an average physicist who graduated and started her PhD around 2017 or 2018.)

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @DavidFriedman
            1. “contributes to original research” is used as a defining characteristic of a PhD thesis (even if you could also use “contributes” with a different meaning such that not all PhD theses “contribute”). Call these meanings (1) and (2).
            2. A paper such as the one in question, or the one viVI_IViv mentioned in their first comment in this thread would not contribute to physics in the first sense of the word.
            3. viVI_IViv’s example paper can logically only be an attempt to show lack of contribution under sense (1) (and by implication sense (2)) rather than lack of contribution under sense (2) with the possibility of (1) left open.
            4. Therefore I refuted this suggestion of lack of contribution under sense (1) by providing an example of such contribution.
            5. And so while your claim that I have not provided evidence that she has made any contributions(2) is certainly true, given that the definition of (2) is your choice, it is not relevant to the discussion.

          • quanta413 says:

            Another “Feminist Glaciology” type of grant. And then people wonder why there is no progress in foundational physics.

            That’s not true, and it’s honestly unfair to the “Feminist Glaciology” types. They didn’t hurt anything but their own reputation in some circles. With some exceptions, “foundational” physics people (by which I take it you mean super high energy theory, string theory, M theory, yada yada) are making the rest of physics look crazy. There’s little to no progress in new theories because most of the field has been getting high off its own supply for decades to the point that they take ideas like the “landscape” seriously and a solid chunk of them occasionally advocate abandoning contact with empirical data.

            The weird “there is no true set of physical parameters for the model, there is an infinite landscape of universes and we just happen to be in one” twist kind of vaguely looks like some ideas from various X studies in humanities, but that’s honestly unfair to the X studies people. The various X studies are more in touch with some sort of actual phenomenon than the average string theorist.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            viVI_IViv’s example paper can logically only be an attempt to show lack of contribution under sense (1)

            Why did you decide to reply to my comment without reading it?

          • “contributes to original research” is used as a defining characteristic of a PhD thesis

            And therefor it must be true? Proof by definition.

            I am reminded of something I observed early in my career as an academic economist. We were deciding whether to accept the theses of two different graduate students.

            One was very weak, basically an institutional account of something with no real economics in it. The professor who was the dominant figure in the department (and later got, and deserved, a Nobel prize) argued that the student wasn’t capable of doing anything better, so we should give him his PhD and let him get on with his career.

            The other was a pretty good thesis by a bright student, and some of us offered suggestions of ways he could make it better. The same professor argued that the student was now on the job market as an ABT (All But Thesis), and there was no point in delaying the process.

            You shouldn’t confuse aspirations with reality.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @DavidFriedman

            And therefor it must be true? Proof by definition.

            Well, yes. That’s why I used the word “defining”. For example, if you look at the University of Chicago website, they say that “Doctoral dissertations are original contributions to scholarship”. So unless that is a new policy, either there is some sense in which your thesis is an original contribution, or it was fraudulent.

            @viVI_IViv
            Zing! I get it, you’re copying what I said — a dizzying height of wit usually reserved for the most precocious of 4 year olds!

            Unfortunately, I’m unable to determine your intended meaning. Are you objecting to my claim? If so, what was the point of your original comment?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As it happens, I too have a PhD in physics. I do not think that either of my published articles turned out to make any contribution to the field.

            Do you think your thesis advisor was remiss? Your committee willing to accept fraud? Do you think your PhD should be surrendered? Do you feel a duty to retract your published works?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Doctoral dissertations are intended to be “original contributions to scholarship”. This certainly does not mean they are. Granting someone a doctorate does not, by definition, make their dissertation an “original contribution to scholarship”, any more than calling Abraham Lincoln’s dog’s tail a “leg” means the dog has 5 legs.

          • So unless that is a new policy, either there is some sense in which your thesis is an original contribution, or it was fraudulent.

            One frequently doesn’t know if something is a contribution when it is written. I was working out one possibility in an approach (Regge pole theory) that has largely been abandoned, although I gather it (not my particular work) played some role in leading to string theory. I don’t think we know more about anything as a result of my thesis, although we might have if things had developed differently.

            Contrast that to my first econ journal article, not a PhD thesis. Some years back I came across a piece discussing attempts to use economics to understand the size and shape of nations. My 1977 JPE article was the first thing in the sequence. Then there was one by Buchanan a decade or so later. I think there have now been several books, and more articles. I followed my usual policy of fire and forget, went on to other things. That one was, in my doubtless biased view, a contribution to the field.

            Ideally, the members of a thesis committee believe that the thesis makes a contribution to the field, although I don’t think even that is always true. But even if they believe it, that doesn’t make it true.

            You either have a very naive view of academia or are using words in what seems to me an odd way. The fact that someone says something doesn’t automatically make it true.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @DavidFriedman
            You didn’t answer my question.

          • Lambert says:

            It should be a good-faith attempt to contribute to the field.
            But science being what it is, it’s not possible to know in advance what will and will not be sucessful.

            And even ‘we tried XYZ; it failed’ is a contribution, since it saves the next people to come along from wasting their time on XYZ.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Zing! I get it, you’re copying what I said — a dizzying height of wit usually reserved for the most precocious of 4 year olds!

            No, seriously, you mentioned “viVI_IViv’s example paper”, and I haven’t linked any paper in this thread. You are not engaging this discussion in a coherent way.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Do you think your thesis advisor was remiss? Your committee willing to accept fraud? Do you think your PhD should be surrendered? Do you feel a duty to retract your published works?

            Thesis and papers are an attempt at an original contribution. When they fail to be a contribution, it’s usually because they are useless. This isn’t a rare case. It’s usually not obvious what work is going to turn up nothing or end up being trivial before you start it. And it can easily take years of work to learn that a problem was too hard (for a particular student or maybe even for anyone) or solving it was pointless.

            Fraud involves someone lying somewhere. Trying something and ending up unable to come to any solution (whether due to personal lack of ability or something else) or finding a solution to a problem that just doesn’t matter doesn’t require retraction.

            If it helps, just think of all accepted theses as “contributions”, just assign the value of many of those contributions as indistinguishable from 0. Ideally, the thesis committee accepting a thesis means it at least was an honest attempt (The thesis refers back to the appropriate literature to explain the problem that was attempted and demonstrates the candidate understands the problem, appropriate methods were used in the attempt and some basic level of competence was demonstrated, there are some sort of results even if they aren’t useful) and nothing in it is blatantly false.

            @Lambert

            And even ‘we tried XYZ; it failed’ is a contribution, since it saves the next people to come along from wasting their time on XYZ.

            Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it’s not. It’s much less likely to be true when a graduate student was the one who failed because they lack experience and haven’t been selected for research ability to the extent of the average postdoc or R1 professor or some people who never went to graduate school but succeeded at research work in industry. It’s very likely that someone fails not because XYZ couldn’t work, but because they made mistakes in execution that cannot be determined from what they wrote down.

            And the time it would take to read all the thesis or papers that didn’t work is so high that even if you really could determine whoever failed executed XYZ correctly, it may not be worth it. Just by random noise another experimenter will execute X’Y’Z’ instead anyways.

            I could imagine improvement on this front though if NLP gets a few orders of magnitude better. Then you could have a program automatically trawl through a lot of old papers and theses and if a critical mass of failed attempts has occurred, maybe figure out what probably won’t work.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @viVI_IViv
            My apologies, I meant “research programme/grant” not “paper”. I hope that clears things up.

          • Lambert says:

            Also from what David Friedman said, it sounds like his thesis was built on a castle in the air.

            EDIT: Is the thesis up somewhere?
            Can I go poking around the fichetank at the Bodleian or wherever the Americans put that kind of thing.

          • You didn’t answer my question.

            I think Quanta answered it for me.

            My thesis was an attempt to explore one line of theory. It could have inspired further attempts, meeting with success, but didn’t.

            And I wrote it because having such a thesis was a requirement for the degree, not because I was deeply interested in the problem. Which is one reason that, after a couple of years as a post-doc, I decided to switch fields.

          • Is the thesis up somewhere?

            My two published physics papers are:

            “Models for Diffraction Scattering with Fixed Pole and Shielding Cut.” Il Nuovo Cimento 9A, 219 (1972). (Physics)

            “Fixed Branch Point Model for [[pi]] N Diffraction Scattering.” Il Nuovo Cimento X, 63A, 483 (1969). (Physics)

            I don’t know of Il Nuovo Cimento is webbed somewhere or not.

        • JonathanD says:

          jermo, this is going to sound harsher than I mean it, so I’m throwing in a sentence to say that I don’t mean this in a shitty way, but . . .

          She isn’t talking to you (or me). This is in an academic journal. She’s talking to other academics about how the academy works.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            jermo, this is going to sound harsher than I mean it, so I’m throwing in a sentence to say that I don’t mean this in a shitty way, but . . .

            I appreciate the sentiment, but you dont need kids gloves when addressing me.

            She isn’t talking to you (or me). This is in an academic journal. She’s talking to other academics about how the academy works.

            You’re quite right. But how academics talk to each other is relevant to everyone.

          • JonathanD says:

            You’re quite right. But how academics talk to each other is relevant to everyone.

            I kinda don’t think it is. If she was writing for mass consumption she would have written differently, and it probably would have been more persuasive.

            FWIW, after JMann’s breakdown, I certainly see her point.

          • Etoile says:

            Here’s a quote. I’m not a physicist or a gender studies academic, but I think I can try to parse out what the paragraph below says, and it says patently wrong things. And what it says is, frankly, a ridiculous word game.

            (EDIT: moved the quote block up from the end of the comment)

            Yet white empiricism undermines a significant theory of twentieth-century physics: General Relativity (Johnson 1983). Albert Einstein’s monumental contribution to our empirical understanding of gravity is rooted in the principle of covariance, which is the simple idea that there is no single objective frame of reference that is more objective than any other (Sachs 1993). All frames of reference, all observers, are equally competent and capable of observing the universal laws that underlie the workings of our physical universe. Yet the number of women in physics remains low, especially those of African descent (Ong 2005; Hodari et al. 2011; Ong, Smith, and Ko 2018).

            My reading of the below paragraph is that she argues as follows: Einstein’s theory of general relativity makes a claim about relative reference frames. Since all frame of relevance are equal, she argues, all observers are physically capable of observing physical phenomena. So all people are equally capable of studying and doing physics, or have equal capacity to understand the physical universe, so the lack of equal representation of e.g. women or black women is clearly an example of nefarious exclusion/discrimination.

            Again, I’m no physicist, but “relativity” has a specific interpretation involving gravity and spacetime and suchlike. It is false that everyone is equally able to observe everything. For example, if one person wears a blindfold, he can’t see as well as someone with their eyes open. An intellectually disabled person who can’t do arithmetic can’t grasp those same relativity equations. So the whole line of argument below is false. ALso, not every hypothesis about the universe is true: e.g., if I observe that the sun seems to revolve around earth, that’s false, even though I observe it! Look! Also, just because someone has the ability to observe something doesn’t mean they choose to do so.

            Now, the reason for low black female representation in STEM is due to an interaction of multiple social factors: access, ability, interest; I can believe that black women often come from schools where math and physics are taught poorly or not at all; they are not exposed to this material from a young age; they may find the concentration of white and male students off-putting; etc. But if that’s what this woman is saying, she should say that and not the mumbo-jumbo that is her actual essay.

            This type of stuff is nonsense and is detrimental and frankly insulting to any actual policy discussion about women in STEM, black or otherwise.

          • A1987dM says:

            She isn’t talking to you (or me). This is in an academic journal. She’s talking to other academics about how the academy works.

            TBH nowadays the main purpose of journals is to prove the worth of your research to other people (especially hiring committees and funding agencies), who mostly don’t even actually read the papers but just count the citations. Actual researchers basically just read each other’s arXiv preprints and conference slides.

        • SamChevre says:

          As in, if you were actually good at physics you would work on physics, not write whiny progressive screeds about white males.

          I’ll push back a bit. I’m pretty good at being an actuary, and I work at it a lot of the time. But when I had ~5 years experience, I realized that what I had to say was often discounted because of my accent, outside the group of people i worked with regularly–and it was really frustrating. I could have easily written a screed about it.

          It took a decade of steady work and attention to sound like a professional–and it didn’t make me any better at doing actuarial work. But it made it far easier to get what I said taken seriously.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I could have easily written a screed about it.

            But you didnt (apparently), and instead you undertook

            a decade of steady work and attention to sound like a professional

            What do you think was the better approach?

            FTR, I took a semester of actuarial science in ’96 but I needed to return to Ottawa for personal reasons and ended up doing computer science instead. I’m always curious where I would have ended up if not for that.

          • Machine Interface says:

            So what you’re saying is that the author of this piece should instead have undertook a decade of steady work and attention to sound like a white man?

          • SamChevre says:

            No, I’m saying that being passed over for opportunities because of utterly irrelevant factors is frustrating, and in no way means you aren’t good at the technical role. I was able to change my accent enough to pass, but it was still really frustrating.

          • albatross11 says:

            Machine Interface:

            Are you going for the Cathy Newman award?

          • Machine Interface says:

            I was asking Jermo actually.

          • Etoile says:

            Your point is well-taken, but your screed would have probably accused people of being racist/prejudiced, and that’s that.

            This essay makes claims like the one that, even in physics, there are hierarchies of what’s considered better/harder/more prestigious, with astrophysics > condensed matter, and that this is an outcome of white supremacy: blacks and minorities are pushed into the less prestigious, more applied parts of physics, and then are looked down on and denigrated for being less valuable in order to elevate the white male scientists, reinforcing centuries of subjugation of non-whites into manual labor and slavery. This is based on this quote:

            White empiricism produces a prestige asymmetry between the viewpoints of white scientists and Black scientists, a disparity inscribed by white supremacy. Given the historical construction of Blackness as those who manually labor for free and whose children are destined to do the same and whiteness as those who are not Black, Native, or Asian, the prestige asymmetry between physics specializations runs parallel to that of Black people as manual laborers and white people as intellectual high achievers.

        • A1987dM says:

          As in, if you were actually good at physics you would work on physics, not write whiny progressive screeds about white males.

          Would you apply the same to screeds about females?

      • A1987dM says:

        BTW, the representation of women among physicists is comparable to that among the general population (within a factor of 2 or so, though certain geographical locations/age ranges/subfields are worse than others), whereas the representation of black people is literally several orders of magnitude lower (especially if you don’t count people from southern India as black). Discussing the two things together as if they had similar magnitudes is, er, quite sub-optimal.

    • Ms. Morgendorffer says:

      1/ There’s a cultural homogeneity that leads to different ideas being accessible to different cultures, races or genders
      2/ Only white cis heteronormative men have access to the big toys of physics (and everybody knows that physics can only go forward with the use of grant money, it is a 100% experimental field of study)
      3/ Vague citation about ideas advancing one funeral at a time, by karl planck or something : death to white men!
      4/ The truth about quantum gravity could be found if only black female physicists would get the grant money
      5/ ???
      6/ Profit

      Edit : misspell and an apology for the snark, I was bored at work and read the thing. It was painful.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        it is a 100% experimental field of study

        Which is why Einstein developed his theory of relativity while working as a clerk in the Patent Office.

        But yeah, I think your points 1, 2, and 3 are a fair representation of what the author intended the steelman to be, even though it’s not really a steelman.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          And Darwin laid out his arguments for the theory of evolution based on gross anatomy observations.

          Yet today you can’t add to the science of evolution without a DNA sequencer, or radionucleotide probes (at least), and various chemical manipulations.

      • Etoile says:

        Nice username. I loved that show!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I loved when the school funded a cyber cafe, then shut it down after the first night because the students loved Daria’s right-wing fiction too much.

          • Etoile says:

            Lol. I didn’t like how they changed Daria’s character to be less self-confident in the next seasons, but I liked the last season.
            I also hung around the fan fiction community for a while (never wrote any of my own), reading lots of old stuff, from way before my time. Lots of people wrote these episodes in the form of scripts which were HILARIOUS.
            Then the community went too dark and angsty for my taste.

    • J Mann says:

      Probably it would be helpful to have a (white?) physicist and a Black woman (physicist ?) comment. I confess I’m not even sure why white isn’t capitalized and Black is, so I’m not super competent on the questions, but here goes:

      I describe the phenomenon where white epistemic claims about science—which are not rooted in empirical evidence—receive more credence and attention than Black women’s epistemic claims about their own lives.

      Ok, those sound like testable questions. I would think it would make more sense to compare white epistemic claims about science to Black women’s epistemic claims about science, or white claims about the claimant’s lives to Black women’s claims about their lives, but let’s read farther and see if we can find the comparison to clarify the issue.

      To provide an example of the role that white empiricism plays in physics, I discuss the current debate in string theory about postempiricism, motivated in part by a question: why are string theorists calling for an end to empiricism rather than an end to racial hegemony?

      OK, I’m looking forward to reading that section, but my hypothesis is that the reason is because they’re physicists and not critical race scholars.

      Prestige asymmetry and the manufacture of white empiricism

      This section argues that particle physics and astrophysics are seen as more prestigious than condensed matter and materials science and that this is similar to perceived differences in prestige between white people and Black people. I confess that I don’t understand this section at all – as far as I can tell, it pretty much just asserts based on other papers that there is racial and gender discrimination in society, including among physicists, and that is bad.

      Killing empiricism to save quantum gravity but not Black women

      I think this is the core of her argument. Summarizing it, she argues that:

      (a) string theory is unsupported by empirical evidence,

      (b) as a result, a minority of string theory physicists have called for abandoning empiricism, and that: “Rather than considering whether structural and individual discrimination results in a homogeneous, epistemically limited community, physicists are willing to throw out their long-touted objectivity tool, the scientific method. In its place, they propose that their sense of aesthetics is sufficient, that the theory holds a kind of beauty (such as high levels of symmetry) similar to other, empirically successful theories such as the Standard Model of particle physics”

      (c) that although these post-empiricists are a minority of string theory physicists, they are viewed as more reliable and objective than Black students talking about racism in their own lives.

      (d) that this distinction shows the oppression that Black women physicists experience.

      Overall, it seems like a really hard comparison to make, but I guess that leaves it all in “unproven.” To steelman her argument, I would say the argument is:

      – “Post-empiricist” string theory physicists are in fact given more respect when arguing that symmetry, elegance, etc. can be used in place of empiricism to develop useful string theory than Black students are given when they argue that their felt experience of racism should be used in place of empiricism to develop responses to racism.

      – This is a meaningful comparison.

      – Therefore, we should either give post-empiricist string theory physicists less respect than they currently get or should give Black students (and Black women physicists) more respect on the subject of racism. More generally, assuming this disparity is found to exist and be meaningful, we should probably look for similar disparities elsewhere.

      Overall, I’m skeptical that this is a useful comparison, but without more data, I don’t feel like I know very much about it.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Wow thanks I’m actually very impressed that you managed to read the paper and condensed it to something I kind of agree with.

        I’m not even sure why white isn’t capitalized and Black is

        If you look into your heart, you will find the answer to this question.

        OK, I’m looking forward to reading that section, but my hypothesis is that the reason is because they’re physicists and not critical race scholars.

        Strong hypothesis.

        I agree with the author that string theory is problematic in that it fails to make falsifiable predictions. I dont mind theoretical physicists playing with equations looking for beautiful symmetry, many important discoveries came from this. But even if string theory is true, if we cant test it, we cant make use of it, and it’s pointless.

        That said, the most important point, as you pointed out, is that this is very stretched and bizarre comparison to make. Almost like the author found the flimsiest of pretexts to complaint about racial issues, or she couldnt get her criticism of string theory published without smuggling in critical race theory.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I’m not even sure why white isn’t capitalized and Black is

          If you look into your heart, you will find the answer to this question.

          I find this really frustrating. I feel like I can’t analyze this statement without the SSC progressives jumping down my throat.
          But if somebody wrote White as a proper noun and black (people) as a common noun, we’d intuit the writer as ultra-racist.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, why not, I’ll poke the bear.

            I’ve never seen this version before. But both critical race theory types and ideological racists capitalize “white” and “black” — both of them, most often. If you ask a critical race theorist why, they’ll say that the words describe cultural groupings, or maybe class schemas, and therefore shouldn’t be treated as neutral adjectives for skin color. I’ve never gotten a straight answer out of an ideological racist, but I imagine it’d boil down to the same thing minus the academic language. The less charitable take, of course, is that the capitalization just marks emphasis in both cases.

            Getting my tea leaves out, I think what the author here’s trying to imply is that “black” forms a coherent cultural grouping but “white” does not.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve seen things from both these groups capitalizing racial names, and I’ve seen things written that capitalized black but not white. I’ve never seen it the other way, even from self-proclaimed white nationalists who were definitely not worried about offending the sensibilities of nonwhites reading their words. No idea why.

      • Statismagician says:

        I just want to say that this is a a good comment and you should feel good about it.

        • J Mann says:

          Thanks! I am a huge fan of steelman efforts, and always happy to practice. (Like praying for your enemies, it’s an IMHO healthy thing to do when you can.)

      • John Schilling says:

        Thank you for this summary; I was not going to get through the original without at least a 2D6 SAN loss. And, I can see a nugget of truth in there, but obscured by a whole lot of apples/oranges comparisons.

        My take on the underlying reality, probably not shared by the author.

        1. Theoretical physicists hold very high status in western culture, because of the Certified Smartness(TM) and working on the Biggest Questions (TM). Doesn’t hurt that they have Einstein, Hawking, and somehow the Atom Bomb on their side. Black women, on the other hand, are still a bit below average in status because we haven’t fully eradicated racism.

        2. Abandoning empiricism is a dumb idea, nobody should do that and smart people mostly won’t do that – unless it personally benefits them. Theoretical physicists, some of them at least, want to abandon empiricism because empiricism says “your latest works are a waste of time, at least until we get vastly better particle accelerators, you should go do something else” – which would cost them much of their status as theoretical physicists. Black women, some of them at least, want to abandon empiricism because it says that some of the elevate-black-women-status interventions they want have not been adequately justified in the present environment.

        3. The rest of the world doesn’t much care about either side’s private agenda, but in the one case they see someone they accord as high status and Certified Smart(tm) saying “empiricism should be abandoned in this narrow field that you don’t understand”, and nod their heads because high-status smart guy and doesn’t cost them anything. Then they see a lower-status black woman saying “empiricism should be abandoned in the realm of social and economic interactions that you do understand”, and dissent because this time they know it’s going to cost them something and the speaker doesn’t have the status to demand that.

        4. The theoretical physicists are not in fact going to abandon the fight over empiricism in physics and become advocates for nonempirical social justice because it’s not their fight. Also, as scientists they have a generally positive view of empiricism and are only willing to abandon it in the narrow case where it directly benefits them.

        5. The theoretical physicists promoting nonempiricism and the black women promoting nonempiricism should both go pound sand, and that doesn’t change if one group strangely decides to promote nonempiricism in the interests of the other.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Thanks, I think that’s also a very strong steelman, but ultimately I agree with 5.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I agree with 2-4, but that’s because I’m an objectively smart person (so say the tests – mild to moderately gifted) who was marginalized thanks to formative experiences and adjustment difficulties.

            So I see the so-called empirical justifications for my marginalization as akin to the empiricism justifying black slavery. Basically said empiricism is lacking, and the people claiming the empiricism supports them are actually just discussing anecdotes and non-specific generalizations.

            You want empiricism? Then bring it, and make sure the analyses you use don’t fuzz out pertinent specifics and edge cases. (And any general analysis you apply to an individual will, of necessity, fuzz out specifics pertinent to that person’s situation, unless you really spend the time to adjust the lessons from the general analyses to the specifics of the person.)

            Otherwise *listen to me when I say what I need*, because I’m the person who best knows both myself and my situation.

      • hls2003 says:

        Adding another voice to say thanks for doing the dirty job I didn’t want to. What’s more, as framed, it even seems sort of interesting and plausible. So good work.

      • Dan L says:

        Probably it would be helpful to have a (white?) physicist and a Black woman (physicist ?) comment.

        Per survey data, the total black population of hidden open thread commenters is approximately one. That is not necessarily symptomatic of anything in particular, but it is worth keeping in mind regarding what discussions take place here.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Overall, I’m skeptical that this is a useful comparison, but without more data, I don’t feel like I know very much about it.

        Not sure if this was intentional or not.

        • J Mann says:

          It’s what I meant, so intentional. It is kind of funny that I take an empirical approach to evaluating a call to reduce empiricism, but that’s how I think.

          I suspect that there are material differences that make it not super meaningful to compare how seriously people take anti-empirist string theorists and black students asking for more credence of percieved experience of racism, but I don’t know enough about either to be confident in my suspicion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Tongue in cheek more than anything else.

            I only just skimmed the paper, but I think it’s less than optimally written in that the actual argument, (string theory and critical race theory are similar) should have been more clearly stated up front. As it is, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking the argument is that “black physics” is somehow a thing. That’s not really the argument of the paper.

            I also think that the grant which funded the paper (as near as I can tell) basically asked for an analysis along these lines:

            In 2016, she became the Principal Investigator on a $100,522 FQXI grant to study “Epistemological Schemata of Astro | Physics: A Reconstruction of Observers” seeking to answer questions regarding how to re-frame who is an “observer”, to acknowledge those existing outside of the European Enlightenment framework, and how that might change knowledge production in science.

      • Viliam says:

        In other words, how would you explain why string theory is more popular among physicists than social justice?

        Empiricism is obviously a wrong answer, because string theory doesn’t have any. A more reasonable answer is that the majority of physicists are white men.

        • smocc says:

          The more reasonable answer is that string theory is more popular among physicists because string theory is physics and social justice is not! Physicists are by definition people who are preselected for interest in physics theories, whereas they presumably are interested in social justice at the same rate as everyone else. Physicists being more interested in a particular physics theory than a non-physics topic is the null hypotheses!

          Also, string theory is not that popular among physicists. It was a big hot topic in the 90s and early 2000s but interest and work in it for its own sake was waned significantly, and my colleagues make memes on Facebook about how there’s no evidence for it. When it is mentioned in current work it is usually in connection to several tangentially-related theories like Large Extra Dimensions and the holographic principle in conformal field theory. Lee Smolin made it his mission in the 2000s to fight the popularity of string theory and by and large he has won and the fight is over.

      • quanta413 says:

        The awkward thing about this line of argument is that although the string theorists have been very successful with pop science books, among physicists I don’t think it’s true that string theory is higher prestige. Most physicists find the “post-empirical” ideas lobbed by Susskind (or whoever it is at this point) laughable.

        Condensed matter has been booming for decades, and physicists have been busy extending their work into biophysics and other fields for a while now because of the dearth of useful work to do in super high energy theory.

        And if you look at the lists of Nobel prizes awarded in physics, you’ll find a distinct lack of acknowledgement of any supposedly prestigious and fashionable post-empiricism. Smart money is that’s not going to change in a couple decades either.

        • smocc says:

          One piece of anecdata: I get the APS newsletter every month or so and every issue has something about minority representation or women in physics and no issue has ever had something arguing for post-empiricism or string theory.

          • quanta413 says:

            Thanks. That’s useful, since it gives us a sort-of objective idea of what physicists find notable.

        • A1987dM says:

          among physicists I don’t think it’s true that string theory is higher prestige

          It isn’t now, but AFAICT as recently as a decade ago it totally was.

          And if you look at the lists of Nobel prizes awarded in physics, you’ll find a distinct lack of acknowledgement of any supposedly prestigious and fashionable post-empiricism.

          Well, Nobel Prizes in physics are famously only given for experimentally verified stuff, e.g. Higgs and Englert did’t get theirs until 2012 (for a hypothesis they published in 1964) even though hardly anyone in the mainstream had disagreed with them in decades. And even that isn’t a sufficient condition — before the 2010s there had been no Nobel Prize for general relativity, but that hardly means GR was unprestigious or unfashionable, does it?

          • quanta413 says:

            It isn’t now, but AFAICT as recently as a decade ago it totally was.

            That’s not my recollection outside super high energy theory itself or popular science. Within physics, I was only a student at the time, but most of the professors I knew didn’t seem to view it as higher prestige than working on issues in experimental quantum mechanics or astrophysics.

            And even that isn’t a sufficient condition — before the 2010s there had been no Nobel Prize for general relativity, but that hardly means GR was unprestigious or unfashionable, does it?

            Hulse and Taylor received a Nobel Prize in 1993 for their discovery of a binary pulsar system from which you can measure the orbital decay due to gravitational radiation. That’s a prediction of general relativity.

            More indirectly, Penzias and Wilson won a Nobel Prize in 1978 for discovering the Cosmic Microwave Background. This relates to the Big Bang which cosmological models of require general relativity.

            And looking outside the Nobel Prizes, it’s pretty obvious General Relativity was more important than string theory within a shorter timespan. Einstein made two predictions in 1916 (and a postdiction of the perihelion precession of the orbit of mercury due to general relativistic corrections to Newtonian mechanics). The deflection of light around the sun was confirmed in 1919 and 1922. So one novel prediction was confirmed within 3-6 years.

            General relativity is a lot harder to get lots of confirmation for than high energy, but it was still well ahead of string theory or M-theory or whatever in time between proposal and various experimental tests or implications worked out and checked.

            And Einstein was famous even in his time. Outside of physics, almost no one knows who Ed Witten or Susskind or any other string theorist is. Even a lot of physicists don’t.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Do you actually want someone to steelperson it, or do you just want to sneer? Given that if you’d read it you would know that it isn’t asserting that empiricism is white, I suspect the latter.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Thank you for reading my thoughts and expressing them for me. FTR, while I’m not above sneering at such obvious progressive nonsense which is destroying academia, I’m also genuinely interested in a steelman of it, and @J Mann just did a very good job of steelmanning it just above.

        What do you think is the proper attitude towards such research? Is this really better than a toothless hillbilly writing an article about how every word of the Bible is true because he thinks he can see Jesus’ face in his shrimp and grits?

        Progressives sneer at middle America all the time, and they use the apparatus of Hollywood, Academia, and journalism to do so. Meanwhile, it’s very rare to see progressives sneer at the batshit insane nonsense other progressives produce under the guise of scholarship, the article linked above being a prime example of this genre.

        Any kind of detente in the culture wars will absolutely require progressives to reject en masse this stuff. But otherwise intelligent people refuse to do it and choose to direct their sneers at millions of Trump voters for supporting the quaint notion of border enforcement instead. The primary reason is social pressure from other progressives.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          destroying academia

          Citation needed. Most academies still seem to exist. Which ones are you claiming have been destroyed?

          Is this really better than a toothless hillbilly writing an article about how every word of the Bible is true because he thinks he can see Jesus’ face in his shrimp and grits?

          I don’t see why the framework in this article should be considered any less respectable than that of e.g. theology as done by straight white men.

          Any kind of detente in the culture wars will absolutely require progressives to reject en masse this stuff.

          It absolutely will not. Suppose no article like this is ever written again. Exactly how will that affect a large number of Trump voters? I don’t think many of them read Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Citation needed

            That’s my personal opinion. If you think that this article is a sign of health in academia, you’re welcome to your opinion.

            It absolutely will not. Suppose no article like this is ever written again. Exactly how will that affect a large number of Trump voters? I don’t think many of them read Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

            It’s not so much that articles like this are written that’s the problem (although that is A problem), it’s more how that stuff is tolerated by the same people who claim the mantra of rationality. If you want to be taken seriously when you propose to tax combustion so we have nicer weather, you need to have the courage to call out nonsense, even if the nonsense originates from someone with lots of intersectionality points.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If articles like that started getting the derision they deserved from the progressive mainstream, it might signal a situation which would at least allow for an end to the alienation of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” group. Who aren’t numerous, but have numerous followers including old-style liberals. Old-style liberals, unlike hardcore progressives, can conceivably actually come to a detente with Trump voters.

          • DragonMilk says:

            I don’t come from the exact line of thinking of jermo, but you should check out the Heterodox Academy as well as the Chicago statement.

            Note that the only Ivy that signed on (and signed first) is Princeton. The leftist “tolerance” police are real and quite intolerant, shutting down any form of debate with declarations that go along the lines of if someone is offended you have somehow done harm and harm means you were violent and therefore you be treated as a violent criminal and we should not hear what you have to say.

            Last sentence personal opinion of course.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The leftist “tolerance” police are real and quite intolerant, shutting down any form of debate with declarations that go along the lines of if someone is offended you have somehow done harm and harm means you were violent and therefore you be treated as a violent criminal and we should not hear what you have to say.

            Last sentence personal opinion of course.

            A personal opinion that is shared by millions of others, although many are afraid to voice it.

            To be perfectly precise, you should say “if someone of an approved victim class is offended…”

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t see why the framework in this article should be considered any less respectable than that of e.g. theology as done by straight white men.

            Well, of course. Who’s claiming that it should be considered any less respectable?

            And neither should it be considered even one iota more respectable than theology as done by straight white men or done by anyone ever at all.

            But there are many very loud and influential “progressives” (aside: I put quotations around it because I hate that I as a self-identified progressive am grouped in with such people, but I admit that the term as used in the wild tends to point to them) who very consistently claim that it ought to be considered far more respectable than theology. And many who don’t explicitly say it certainly behave as if it ought to be, when it comes to promoting actual policies.

            It absolutely will not. Suppose no article like this is ever written again. Exactly how will that affect a large number of Trump voters? I don’t think many of them read Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

            If no article like this is never written again, this will have downstream effects in that policies that are currently advocated-for by loud and influential “progressives” on the basis of the arguments and “knowledge” produced from such articles will stop being created and promoted. A change in observable behavior and rhetoric among such “progressives” is likely to be noticed by Trumps voters. Probably not precipitating some revolutionary change, but still a non-trivial step.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Too late to correct, but apparently Columbia also was one of the 55 universities to sign onto the Chicago statement

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I don’t see why the framework in this article should be considered any less respectable than that of e.g. theology as done by straight white men.

            As long as we call it black queer theology or something, that’s fine. But if we are going to assume that the matter at hand has any relation to the physical world and the institutions in it, then we need a higher standard.

            It absolutely will not. Suppose no article like this is ever written again. Exactly how will that affect a large number of Trump voters? I don’t think many of them read Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

            Cause they just watch Fox News all day, don’t they? Well, in this very thread there is a discussion about how one of the architects of the Brexit campaign reads this very blog. Do you think the thought leaders of the populist movement don’t notice articles like this one?

          • A1987dM says:

            As long as we call it black queer theology or something, that’s fine. But if we are going to assume that the matter at hand has any relation to the physical world and the institutions in it, then we need a higher standard.

            You realize that the journal Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s paper was published on is not a physics journal nor claims to be one, do you?

          • A1987dM says:

            you propose to tax combustion so we have nicer weather

            complains about “sneer”

            describes anti-AGW proposals in the most ridiculous way possible

          • DeWitt says:

            Charitability is for thee, not for me.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            You realize that the journal Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s paper was published on is not a physics journal nor claims to be one, do you?

            It is called “Journal of Women in Culture and Society”. Culture and Society exist in the physical world and can be studied empirically, in principle. Therefore, if you propagate unscientific BS about the topic, you deserve to be shamed, expecially if you do so in an academic setting, since you are burning the social capital that academia gained because of science.

        • Nick says:

          Progressives sneer at middle America all the time, and they use the apparatus of Hollywood, Academia, and journalism to do so. Meanwhile, it’s very rare to see progressives sneer at the batshit insane nonsense other progressives produce under the guise of scholarship, the article linked above being a prime example of this genre.

          If you want to read a moderate progressive mock (and occasionally constructively criticize) the stuff to his left, follow Jesse Singal. He actually commented on this paper a few days ago, which is where I heard about it.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I do follow Jesse and he is great. He’s been great on trans issues, and on the excesses of the left in general.

        • pqjk2 says:

          Progressives sneer at middle America all the time, and they use the apparatus of Hollywood, Academia, and journalism to do so

          But they mostly don’t do that in this forum, which makes it pleasant to read.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          you propose to tax combustion so we have nicer weather

          complains about “sneer”

          describes anti-AGW proposals in the most ridiculous way possible

          I think this a perfectly accurate description of anti-AGW proposals.

          • albatross11 says:

            In much the same way, current car safety devices were clearly built by maniacs–their idea of “protection” is to set off a bomb in a bag in front of you just after the collision.

    • Aapje says:

      @jermo sapiens

      Only black women can discover the truth about black holes because white men lack the lived experience of black holes.

      PS. OK, this is not a steelman, but that seems impossible, because the paper seems to make huge leaps of logic and draws conclusions without decent evidence.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Only black women can discover the truth about black holes because white men lack the lived experience of black holes.

        So many inappropriate thoughts come to mind.

    • Etoile says:

      Removing comment because it was not necessary or kind. Sorry.

    • BBA says:

      A fine write-up on it. TL;DR: don’t be confused by the paper being attacked in bad faith by a bunch of partisan operatives, it really is garbage.

      • albatross11 says:

        The phrase that keeps coming to mind when I see this paper linked is “hateread.” I don’t read any other academic physics papers (I wouldn’t understand them), so it seems like a dumb idea to go out of my way to read one that’s been preselected for me to make me mad or make me roll my eyes. Life’s too short.

        • A1987dM says:

          I don’t read any other academic physics papers

          [emphasis added]

          That’s not a physics paper. Signs is not a physics journal.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        Thank you for that link. That was a good read.

        One thing that’s interesting to me about this is that Prescod-Weinstein’s adviser was Lee Smolin, a famous string theory critic. He had a lot to say about the homogeneity of string theory, but along different lines. It looks like she’s continuing the tradition, but with a culture war twist.

    • Zephalinda says:

      I can’t undertake to steelman the whole thing, partly because steelmanning is not appropriate for this genre/ publication/ rhetorical style. However, nobody who knows much about the history should object to the suggestion that empiricism is political.

  14. Plumber says:

    So for a previous Open Thread there was a whole discussion about immigration policy and “cultural compatibility” (full disclosure: my wife’s parents are immigrants, my brothers mother in law is an immigrant, at least half of my great-grandparents were immigrants), and I wrote a whole thing out on policy and whatnot, and then I chickened out on posting it, but I had such fun writing part of it, and I wrote so much of it that it seemed a waste not to share some of it.

    I got increasingly flippant, and a few “impressions” are of just one guy I worked with for a while, and some impressions are hardly universal – among Russians for example about half seem very serious and dour, and about half very jovial. 

    Anyway FWLIW:

    Probably unwisely, but since it’s fun to make up stereotypes I’m gonna amateur armchair sociologist and give my impression of different nationalities “American culture compatibility” based on former friends, aquantences and recent co-workers (most worked as electricians, janitors, plumbers, steamfitters, and especially welders);

    Frenchophone-Algerian: He really was picky about food.

    Canadians: Pretty compatible, they remind me of American Lutherans and Mormons. 

    Chinese: Not much like Americans, probably more like Russians, they seem to prefer “getting in through the backdoor” even when the “front door” would be easier, their American born kids are very assimilated though, often more so than most who’ve had family here longer.

    Northern English: Almost too easy to assimilate, it depends on which Americans they are around.

    Southern English: Their accents are easier to understand than many American regional ones, but they’re pretty different than Californians, dour and prone to discomfort causing ‘jokes’.

    Ethiopians: Shy and inoffensive.
    Great cooks, their waiters and waitresses have great smiles. 

    Filipinos: Cheerful and friendly, a bit too fond of cruel-ish ‘jokes’ sometimes. Less suspicious than Russians are, but corruption also makes them laugh.

    Middle Aged East German: Cheerful but weird, a man the least adapted to capitalism that I’ve every seen. 

    West Germans and Younger Germans: Like Canadians but louder. Not surprising to learn many Americans are of German descent.

    Indians and a Fijian of Indian descent: They very friendly, they kinda remind me of Filipinos

    Iranians: I’ve never encountered younger ones, but the middle-aged ones I’ve known were friendly, skilled, and hardworking. Most missed the food of their old country, and really disliked it’s current government. 

    Irish: A lot like the northern English (just don’t tell them that).

    Mexicans: Physically courageous, hardworking, and altruistic, more ready to throw punches than most Americans (sorta like Texans, and those from some areas of California) which is good or bad depending on who they’re punching. With one notable jerk I worked with, mostly they’re great guys that are in the union and speak English, however non-union, non-English speaking (though they may actually be Guatemalan) ones on a jobsite usually make it less safe, despite often being older they often are like a crew of young apprentices without any journeymen  (I had a similar experience with a crew of non-English speaking Bosnians on one job).
    They’re American born kids are 90% identical to other Americans who’s families have been here longer

    Peruvian: My former landlord. I don’t like that guy. 

    Russians: Not much like Americans, deeply cynical, they expect and almost enjoy corruption. Often have skills that have atrophied among Americans (maintaining boilers and steam heating systems), I find their worldview and “gallows” humor hilarious.This last year during coffee break I overheard a conversation that for me exemplifies the character of Russians:

    sixty-something ex-Soviet Russian: “You believed that guys bullshit?

    forty-something second generation Fillipino-American: “Well yeah, I try to keep a positive attitude”

    Russian: What? NEVER think positive!  ALWAYS think negative! Otherwise they screw YOU!”

    Trinidadian: That guy was lazy and incompetent, he did charm the lonely lady cops though. Very compatible where there’s a surfeit of lonely lady cops. 

    Scot: Friendly but one of the hardest accents to decipher. 

    Vietnamese: Like the Chinese but less intense, often Catholic and with bigger families.

    Bulgarians/Romanians/Soviet Georgians/Yugoslavians: Different skills than Russians, but more like them than they are like Americans. 

    Please feel free to tell me: “You’re totally wrong! [Whatever]ian’s aren’t like that, they’re like…”, and some similar stereotypes about Americans are welcome. 

    I could do a similar typology of class/regional differences of Americans, but I just don’t have the guts right now.

    • Clutzy says:

      Mexicans: Physically courageous, hardworking, and altruistic, more ready to throw punches than most Americans (sorta like Texans, and those from some areas of California) which is good or bad depending on who they’re punching. With one notable jerk I worked with, mostly they’re great guys that are in the union and speak English, however non-union, non-English speaking (though they may actually be Guatemalan) ones on a jobsite usually make it less safe, despite often being older they often are like a crew of young apprentices without any journeymen (I had a similar experience with a crew of non-English speaking Bosnians on one job).
      They’re American born kids are 90% identical to other Americans who’s families have been here longer

      This group, being a large percentage of my highschool class (and increasingly so such that it was almost 50% of my younger brother’s incoming class) is one I cannot comprehend as an opinion anyone holds as true. In particular I am talking about American born children.

      At my HS they basically self-segregated, partially socially, and partially academically. They dropped out at higher rates such that for my class they made up almost 90% of dropouts. They rarely were in advanced classes (1 in my AP Chem, Calc, Physics, US History, and Computer Science classes combined). Higher in school violence and suspension rates, lower participation in clubs and sports (another anecdote is a player on my soccer team that failed Spanish 1…as a fluent Spanish speaker). They likely also scored much lower on standardized exams because my school has consistently been the lowest performer on the ACT since before I graduated, while also being the only one that was ever over 10%.

      Over the years I’ve heard quite a few studies on Hispanic/Mexican assimilation, and based on my experiences, these stats must heavily rely on populations that intermarry and/or are from old families that lived in Cali/Texas/Arizona at the time of the Mexican-American wars and just have a Latin last name. Immigrants to the Chicago area certainly are easily distinguishable in just about every way for Gens 1-4.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I am unsurprised that he thinks this of Mexicans because it is absolutely true of working class Mexicans. I have never met a working class Mexican who wasn’t like that, and if you’re only around them, this is easy to be mistaken about.

        Unfortunately, they are not the majority of Hispanic immigrants in my experience.

      • Plumber says:

        @Well…,
        Nope, I have no memory of that piece, and oh jeez that’s brutal! It does match some of what I remember the ’70’s National Lampoon‘s being like (one of my Dad’s girlfriends gave me some issues, those along with my Dad’s Zap! Comix were hardly appropriate for my then age to read!).

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Americans always seem to have a kind of childlike naivety to me (British). I think they’re not only more culturally distant from the UK than Australians/Canadians, but also than Germans (despite the language difference).

      • Plumber says:

        Thank you @thisheavenlyconjugation!

        I saw another Briton say that Germans were more alike them than Americans were as well.

        I’m eager to learn more.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Probably unwisely, but since it’s fun to make up stereotypes

      You know I like you, Plumber.

      But read this bit back to yourself. Then read it again.

      And note that you are making up stereotypes for entire nationalities apparently based on sample sizes of one person, in many cases.

      I fully expect a certain segment of SSC will now be mad at me, so take that for what it’s worth.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Eh, if someone is taking it seriously, they’re the ones making a mistake.

        Nobody has changed their view on anything because of a lighthearted view at what the people Plumber works with are like.

        “Oh, I was totally in favor of massive Peruvian immigration, but Plumber’s landlord was Peruvian and he didn’t like him, so now I think we should ban them all!!!”

        • Well... says:

          Word.

          HBC’s comment is a bit baffling to me because previously I’m pretty sure I’ve seen HBC demonstrate possession of a sense of humor and ability to use clues to take things in proper context.

          FWIW I’m not mad at you, HBC, just curious about the psychology behind your response.

        • Garrett says:

          Peruvian

          Drat. Wrong nationality for one of those silly court cases I occasionally enjoy reading. Bolivian, in this case.

          • Plumber says:

            “…it is the Court’s opinion that the District of Columbia, located in this Nation’s capital, is a much more logical venue for the parties and witnesses in this action because, among other things, Plaintiff has an embassy in Washington, D.C., and thus a physical presence and governmental representatives there, whereas there isn’t even a Bolivian restaurant anywhere near here! Although the jurisdiction of this Court boasts no similar foreign offices, a somewhat dated globe is within its possession. While the Court does not therefrom profess to understand all of the political subtleties of the geographical transmogrifications ongoing in Eastern Europe, the Court is virtually certain that Bolivia is not within the four counties over which this Court presides, even though the words Bolivia and Brazoria are a lot alike and caused some real, initial confusion until the Court conferred with its law clerks. Thus, it is readily apparent, even from an outdated globe such as that possessed by this Court, that Bolivia, a hemisphere away, ain’t in south-central Texas, and that, at the very least, the District of Columbia is a *1010 more appropriate venue (though Bolivia isn’t located there either). Furthermore, as this Judicial District bears no significant relationship to any of the matters at issue, and the judge of this Court simply loves cigars, the Plaintiff can be expected to suffer neither harm nor prejudice by a transfer to Washington, D.C., a Bench better able to rise to the smoky challenges presented by this case, despite the alleged and historic presence there of countless “smoke-filled” rooms. Consequently, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), for the convenience of parties and witnesses, and in the interest of justice, this case is hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

            IT IS SO ORDERED.”
            @Garrett,
            That is one of the funniest (and snarkiest) court decisions I’ve read (“ain’t in south-central Texas”).

            Thanks for that!

      • Gobbobobble says:

        You’re awfully contrarian for someone who so enjoys rebuking SSC for being compulsively contrarian

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Oh, yeah. My objection to reducing people to ethnic stereotypes and encouraging others to do the same is 100% about being contrarian. Why if someone had come along and objected first, I would have been completely in favor of calling the Caribbean Blacks lazy and after our women, the Mexicans macho belligerents and the Chinese and Russians cynical cheaters. That’s just how I roll. Totally got me pegged.

          • Aftagley says:

            Ugh, that’s just what I’d expect of A-bear-ican descent to say.

            (tongue -> cheek)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Although I disagreed with your critique (I thought Plumber’s post was just harmless fun), I don’t think you’re being arbitrarily contrarian.

            So consider me backing you up here.

            Unless you don’t want me to back you up, in which case I vehemently disagree with you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m a little fuzzy on what it means to be of Abearican descent, but I worry that that the implications are grizzly.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Not all Abearicans are of the grizzly race. Black bears matter. Yes, that’s a polar-izing statement.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Stop panda-ring.

          • Plumber says:

            Sorry guys.

            I feel em-bear-assed

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Look, it’s possible I’m not even an actual bear at all. It’s very complex, and if you want the the whole story, you can email or DM.

            But, if you just need to hear the bear essentials:

            Koala me, maybe?

          • Well... says:

            @HBC: Who you are need not be complex if you just have faith in astrology. What’s ursine?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Things are getting a little bit hairy now.

      • RobJ says:

        My opinion on things like this is that while I might find it amusing and know it is being offered with no ill intent, it is almost always the wrong decision to post something like this in public because it is almost guaranteed to be hurtful to enough people (and potentially negative-stereotype reinforcing to others) to not be worth it. Among a group of friends where everone understands each other its one thing, but forgetting that’s not the case seems to be the most common mistake of social media.

        And going by local rules, does it satisfy even one of “true, kind, or necessary”?

        • Plumber says:

          @RobJ,
          I thought on balance it was pro-immigrant, and the conservation between my Soviet born and U.S. born co-workers was verbatim (and hilarious to hear!), but ’tis a fair cop and I’m duly chastised.

          • RobJ says:

            Yeah, I mean I don’t want to give the impression I was offended or anything. I even kind of enjoyed it. I just wouldn’t post something like it myself and would generally advise people to avoid it for those reasons.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Hah, I liked your description of Russians, it’s both hilarious and surprisingly close to how I’d imagine Americans to perceive us (except for appreciating the humor part).

      I also share your impression that Chinese in many aspects are closer to Russians than Americans are. May have something to do with decades under communistic government.

      • Plumber says:

        Thanks @AlexOfUrals!

        For what it’s worth, within in a minute after overhearing “Always think negative” I laughed and told the guy “That’s the most Russian thing I’ve ever heard!”, which he laughed at.

        Currently “The Russian Empire” (what I call the boiler room) is three Russians, an East German who’s married to the daughter of the senior Russian, one Filipino-American, and one Irish-American, plus the Supervisor of the guys who drive to the satellite police stations to maintain their boilers and air conditioning is Russian and the most talkative (in English).

        Our senior (born in 1942) Russian is credited with being “the best mechanic”, and he’s the least talkative (in English).

        The second most talkative (in English) Russian on the crew has often countered (“Don’t believe him, it was fun party”) the most talkative on the living conditions of the Soviet Union, and I’ve suspected one or both to be pulling my leg, but I notice a generational divide amongst them, the senior boiler maintenance guy doesn’t talk (to me) much, the next oldest is critical of the Soviet Union (and the U.S.A., and especially the Democratic Party as well), the next oldest is also critical (he likes owning a Mercedes now), the youngest and the East German (who speaks Russian and Polish as well as German) praise Communist rule, which is interesting, my guess is because they were still teenagers in ’91, and what they miss is being a youth, while the older guys have memories of it as adults, but who knows?

  15. I have been having a problem reading the blog, and I’m not sure if it is something wrong with my software or with the blog software.

    I usually read by using the browser search window to look for the squiggle ne that’s on new comments. Quite often, perhaps one time out of four, I do that searching down and end up at the top of the list of comments, even though I am starting part way down and there are unread comments below.

    Does anyone else have that problem?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Oh yes. I have many problems using the cedille new method. About half the time either all or none of the comments are labeled new for some reason. Even if it starts out being correct, if I discover after I have started that I am no longer logged in to comment, and then I log in, when I come back none are new. And sometimes this happens when I have made a few comments — all the new’s disappear.

      And then I have the same problem you mention. I am partway through looking at the new ones, and it suddenly jumps to the top, requiring me to click a bunch to get back to where I was. This particular issue has been happening more often recently — lately two or three times each time I look.

      I am whining a lot about these issues, for which I apologize. But it is good to get it out.

      • Chalid says:

        I find that I have different issues depending on browser and computer. On Safari on my laptop, I have your problem where it suddenly jumps to the top. On Edge, sometimes the “~ new ~” is missing, sometimes not. (And Edge is often excruciatingly slow.) Chrome seems to be pretty problem-free for me though.

    • Plumber says:

      @DavidFriedman,
      Do you mean you “refresh” but some comments that you didn’t read before don’t show up as “new”?

      If so yes, that happens a lot and has been true for at least a year.

      Usually it’s longer comments that don’t get the “new” designation, I assume that they were pending approval or something like that.

      • That’s not what I mean.

        What I experience is that I click the down arrow on the little search window (bottom left corner of Firefox window), when what is in the search window is “squiggle ne” (I write “squiggle” because if I put in the squiggly symbol people looking for new content will see this even when it is no longer new—it’s the capitalized version of the key just to the left of 1 on my keyboard). Usually that takes me to the next new comment. Quite often it instead takes me to the first comment (possibly the first new comment–I’m not sure).

        If I refresh the screen it updates the “comments since” box at the top right, so some unread comments no longer show as new. The solution is to copy the contents of the “comments since” box, refresh, then paste what you copied back into that box.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          I have encountered your first problem on Chrome (and Brave).

          I have to hope I remember a unique phrase from the comment I was just reading, otherwise I have to rapid-fire click the down arrow to get back to where I was.

          I encounter the second one too, but I think that’s just working as intended: whenever the page loads, it gives you “new comments since you were last here”, and since you just refreshed, that’s changed.

        • Nick says:

          In my experience when you click the down arrow to go to the next one and it sends you back to the first instance, it’s because of where your text cursor is on the page. It’s looking for the first “tilde new” after the text cursor, and if you clicked out in the margins or something, it will start searching from the beginning of the page, I think. Try clicking text in a comment, then hitting the down arrow; that should do as you want.

        • Silverlock says:

          Can’t help you with the problem, but I can mention that the name of the squiggle is a “tilde.”

    • Dacyn says:

      For me, the problem goes away if before searching you click somewhere on the middle of the screen (like clicking on some text). Don’t know why.

  16. a reader says:

    Can anybody explain how it is possible that Romania has a relatively low, under average PISA math score – 430 ( https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA%202018%20Insights%20and%20Interpretations%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf ) but many medals at International Mathematical Olympiad for a relatively small country:

    Gold medals: 77. Silver medals: 144. Bronze medals: 105. Honourable mentions: 6.

    https://www.imo-official.org/country_info.aspx?code=ROU

    I thought Romania has a big standard deviation, but no, it’s just average, 94 (Israel for example has a big SD, 108).

    Also Bulgaria: PISA math score 436 (Sd=97) but “Gold medals: 54. Silver medals: 119. Bronze medals: 109. Honourable mentions: 11.”

    On the other hand, Finland, famous for the quality of its education: relatively high, over average PISA math score 507 (SD 82) but only “Gold medals: 1. Silver medals: 9. Bronze medals: 52. Honourable mentions: 58.”

    • The Nybbler says:

      Best guess would be that Romania has some subpopulation with a much higher mean. Though it doesn’t seem to be the usual one.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Or one with a much lower mean. I live half the time in one of the poorer areas, and we still have villages without basic plumbing, let alone even half decent schools. Ugh. Just googled, and I really want to believe I didn’t google right, but it looks like it’s almost half nationally.

        • Evan Þ says:

          In addition, I have Romanian friends who occasionally go back to visit their extended family in small-town Romania, and they say that just about everyone with plans for their life has left the towns for western Europe (or at least, occasionally, Bucharest). Any kids stranded there are not going to be growing up in a good environment.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Ah, yes. High school kids don’t even debate about which local college to go to, I most often hear arguments pro/against Manchester schools than Bucharest. Everybody’s leaving – which lets seniors and civil servants to vote, which makes things worse, so even more leave…

      • a reader says:

        They don’t seem “Martians”. They have regular Romanian names . The Romanian Jews frequently have German or Slavic-sounding last names. And the Jewish minority in Romania is now very small and very old – most, especially the young ones, emigrated to Israel or to Western Europe.

    • uau says:

      I wouldn’t expect the general quality of math education to make much difference at international contest level. Learning the standard school curriculum should be trivial for any credible contestant, so it’s mainly measuring how well gifted students are found and given education more suited to them than the standard curriculum (I don’t believe Finland is particularly good at this). The math that typically appears in contest problems may also not be quite the same as would be taught even in more advanced education, so training for the contest specifically will give an advantage. I think the eastern block countries have a better system for picking out gifted students and training them specifically for contests.

      • johan_larson says:

        I think this is the answer. Some countries have special institutions set up to identify and teach the very talented. Special sports schools exist in a number of nations. I’ve heard of special math schools too, which apparently drill Math-Olypics-style problems hard.

        Anyone wondering how much it’s possible to move the needle through efforts like this would do well to examine the performance of Cuba in sports.

      • Universal Set says:

        Registering my agreement that this is the answer. People with the capacity to do well on Olympiad-level contests won’t automatically take part in or do well on those contests unless identified and given the opportunity and training to do so. Whether this happens has essentially nothing to do with how well average or even ordinary-smart people are taught.

        Basically, doing well in math olympiads requires three things: (a) very high intelligence / general mathematical ability, (b) some particular talent for the style of thinking required to solve contest-type problems (there are plenty of smart mathematicians who were not good at contests), and (c) quality practice. Most countries do a terrible job of identifying the people with (a) and (b) and giving them the opportunity and resources for (c). A lot of eastern European countries do this well. This is all the explanation that is required.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Kevin Drum on the PISA results from an American perspective.

      The relevant to your question quote:

      PISA’s approach to math is a little unusual, so every three years there’s a tedious discussion about whether this is the reason American kids don’t do very well even though they do fine on other math tests.

      • Viliam says:

        I would prefer a bit more specific information than “a little unusual”. If a test is wrong, the correlation with actual skill may be small or even zero, but it would be quite surprising if it were negative — if people with less knowledge of math would somehow be better at answering PISA math questions.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          but it would be quite surprising if it were negative — if people with less knowledge of math would somehow be better at answering PISA math questions.

          This is the wrong way to look at the problem being presented. You are thinking of an individuals score on the test relative to their math ability. As their math ability goes up, their score goes up. Their absolute score goes up as math knowledge increases.

          So far so good. But we are asking a different question. We are asking about relative scores on multiple different tests. For argument’s sake, if one test emphasizes calculus knowledge, and the other puts less emphasis on calculus in favor of including some question about geometry, you have the kind of problem we are talking about.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This is true (second paragraph, not first) even in individuals depending on when you test them.

            My ACT math sub-score results:

            February 1995 (a year after taking geometry, and a bit over halfway through the year I took “functions, statistics, and trigonometry”)
            Pre-Algebra: 17 (98%-tile)
            Alg/Coord Geom: 14 (92%-tile)
            Plane Geo/Trig: 18 (99%-tile)
            Composite: 30

            December 1995 (right after finishing Calc 1 at community college)
            Pre-Algebra: 14 (83%-tile)
            Alg/Coord Geom: 17 (99%-tile)
            Plane Geo/Trig: 15 (96%-tile)
            Composite: 29

            98th percentile to 83rd percentile is a swing of slightly more than 1 standard deviation. In a mere 10 months. And in the wrong direction from what would be typically predicted by a naive predictor (Viliam, and HealBearCub’s first paragraph).

            Given that most people forget most of what they learn in school, unless repeatedly quizzed on it throughout said schooling, there likely will be proximity-to-learned timing effects on PISA (and other test) results.

            So yes, people with less math knowledge who *just learned* what is being tested, may very well do better than those with more advanced math learning.

    • Aftagley says:

      I think you’re focused too much on individual capabilities of the competitors and less on the competitive “game” aspect of the IMO.

      I did go to a high school that likely fits most definitions of average. AFAI remember, our tests scores didn’t deviate too much from state and local averages and I don’t think that our cream of the crop was too far outside the normal collection of nerds you get at any school.

      What made us different is that we won pretty much every science contest we competed in. I think for around 9 or something years in a row we won every single state science bowl and ocean science bowl. In national competitions, we’d routinely place in the top 20%. The only teams that could beat us ALSO happened to win their state’s science and ocean science bowl every single year. Knowing the competitors on those teams pretty well, they also didn’t seem like particularly amazing candidates, they were just good at winning science bowls.

      To get these good results, our teams would practice year round, normally for around 10 hours a week in the off season, increasing exponentially as the competitions approached. We had coaches familiar with the competition and kept resources, test banks and strategies that other teams likely wouldn’t have the exposure to match.

      Based on my personal theory, I’m not surprised that the Romanians have done so well. My theory is two-fold:

      1. Once you get above a certain level of intelligence/familiarity with a subject your gains for being naturally gifted are dwarfed by practice. Learning the rules of the game and how to optimize them; learning common question categories and what’s worth investing time in. At some point, these gains would probably start to level out and quality of individuals would go back to mattering more, but that’s above the time horizon for your average high school student – they’ve only got 4 years before they age out of competing. Being good at math/science is the requisite to compete here, being good at the “game” is requisite to win.

      2. Winning builds up more winning. Our school gave us time off to practice, invested in paying for field trips to get us motivated and gave teachers credit for coaching us. This built up an institution that made winning more likely than not.

      • Someone I was talking with recently reported a similar situation in high school debate. His son’s high school, which I gather is not otherwise exceptional, has, if I remember correctly, five of the six highest rated high school debaters in the state.

      • Statismagician says:

        Grouping also matters – anecdata and only somewhat related, but when I was younger noticed in both chess and fencing that a key factor for separating the talented from the really excellent was access to other talented people to practice with. I imagine this is true for most competitive endeavors.

        • uau says:

          Chess and fencing are a direct 1-on-1 zero-sum contests though. You’re playing against an opponent, and to practice that, having suitable opponents obviously matters a lot. Math contests aren’t really like that. They’re more comparable with sports where each competitor performs separately and you compare results afterwards, like long/high jump.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “Practice with” isn’t generally synonymous with “practice competing against”.

            A good practice partner will stop the match periodically to point out errors, and allow you to immediately try other approaches before continuing.

            So yeah, in math competition practice I could easily see practice consisting of group problem solving, where you try out various techniques on your own, but frequently check in with the group for adjustment.

            See Luz Long’s advice Jesse Owens on the long jump.

          • Lambert says:

            Still, there’s some antagonistic aspect of chess or fencing absent in the IMO or long jump.
            Such that the former two are about outfoxing your opponent while the latter are about simply doing as well as you can.

            Though I’d really like to see versus longjump. Maybe the competitors could jump into the same sandpit from opposite directions, such that they collide in the middle.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Personal anecdote. Freshman year of college, one of my (7) roommates was a Romanian math Olympiad repeated gold medalist.

      When asked, “are Romanians good at math?”

      He scoffed and said, “No, Romanians are not smart. *I* am smart!”

      Keep in mind standard deviation doesn’t say too much about the end of the tails.

    • Viliam says:

      International Math Olympiad started in Romania, and for the first two decades it was mostly an Eastern Bloc thing. For the mainstream education it means nothing, but I imagine there is an informal network of people who excel in math, did the math olympiad in their youth, and now support the next generation of students who excel in math. (At least this is how it worked in former Czechoslovakia.)

      Finland is egalitarian, and from what I’ve heard, if a student is great at math, they are told to spend less energy on math and start focusing more on the other subjects. That is, good knowledge of many (ideally: all) subjects is considered more valuable than excellent knowledge of one.

    • a reader says:

      I am sure the things you people mentioned here, about selection and training, are part of the answer; still I don’t think they add to a complete explanation. Yes, communist and former communist countries have that kind of ambition and will to concentrate resources to excel. But why Cuba excels in sports but not so much in math (“Gold medals: 1. Silver medals: 7. Bronze medals: 37.”) and China excels in math but not so much in sports (with a few exceptions like feminine gymnastics)? And Chinese kids excel even in other countries, dominating for example the US Math Olympiad team ?

      The Romanians are also over-represented among those with perfect scores at Math Olympiad:

      https://www.imo-official.org/hall.aspx?column=perfectscores&order=desc&gender=hide&nameform=western

      The only person that obtained perfect scores 3 times at Math Olympiad is a Romanian, Ciprian Manolescu. Among those who earned perfect scores 2 times, there are 5 Romanians and 1 Moldavian from Moldova Republic, 4 from URSS and 1 from Russia, 3 from China, 3 from Hungary, 3 from “Democratic” (communist) Germany (and none from the capitalist Germany), 1 from Czechoslovakia, 1 from France and 1 from the US. Yes, former communist countries dominate, but even among them, Romania’s position is unusual, especially compared with much larger URSS/Russia and China.

  17. proyas says:

    Do common THUMB DRIVES from stores like Best Buy contain 3D NAND chips?

    If yes, then how many layers do the chips typically have?

    I’ve heard about 128-layer SSDs, but I doubt that thumb drives have that much.

  18. Watchman says:

    UK election news: the normally very accurate exit poll indicates a large majority for the Conservative party, bigger than generally projected. Looks like Johnson will remain Prime Minister and Brexit will be completed, although polls are not reality.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Running on “I will give the people what they voted for” appears to be effective and he was the only one running on that platform.

      • ECD says:

        This result saddens me, but seemed inevitable given that Labor never managed to come up with a response to ‘the people voted for Brexit,’ that wasn’t basically ‘yeah, but they’re idiots and we know better,’ which pissed off the folks who wanted to leave (who can imagine why) or ‘well, let’s have a confirmatory referendum,’ which pissed off the people who wanted to remain, without bringing in anyone else.

        There’s going to be a lot of discussion about Corbyn and the manifesto, but this (from an outside perspective, but one who reads quite a bit of British press, because its not paywalled) really looked like the Brexit election.

        • Eric Rall says:

          There’s going to be a lot of discussion about Corbyn and the manifesto, but this (from an outside perspective, but one who reads quite a bit of British press, because its not paywalled) really looked like the Brexit election.

          An interesting indication of this would be to look at the final popular vote totals. If Labour lost support mainly to the Lib Dems and SNP, that points to a Corbyn/manifesto theory. If Labour bled significant support to the Brexit party, that’s a pretty clear indication of disaffected pro-brexit Labour supporters withdrawing support from the party. If Labour bled support to the Conservatives, that could be read either way (moderates deciding BoJo was a lesser evil than Corbyn, or pro-brexit Labourites voting for the Conservatives in order to make sure the exit happens).

          Based on the polls over the course of the campaign and the very limited data I’ve seen so far, I’m expecting to find your hypothesis confirmed. I suspect a lot of voters initially supported the Lib Dems over Labour due to distaste for Corbyn and the manifesto (and perhaps also because the Lib Dems had a cleaner anti-Brexit message), but most of them seem to have drifted back to Labour as the election came closer and people started looking more at strategic voting. It seems so far like the Lib Dems are going to wind up pretty close in seats (and maybe a bit better in popular vote) from where they were in the 2017 election, which implies that the Conservatives and the Brexit Party are the main beneficiaries of people switching away from Labour.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Possibly, but I would say “I will give the people what they want” might be a superior strategy on its face.

        But it seems at least some portion of the population did not in fact consider this to be a referendum on Brexit.

        • JayT says:

          I’m not certain that’s true. I’d guess there are a lot of people that believe votes should be upheld, even if they didn’t like the result. I’d guess a large number of Democrats would have been upset if in 2016 the Democrats figured out some way to not let Trump become president, even though he won fair and square. They would say they are unhappy with Trump today, but they also want the will of the people followed.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Good point, but not the best example, since Trump lost the popular vote.

          • Watchman says:

            The Conservatives haven’t got an outright majority of the popular vote either. In both cases it’s an irrelevance since people are campaigning in the relevant electoral system not for the popular vote: if the popular vote was significant then the incentives and behaviours would be different.

            Popular vote is acwierd way of thinking m really: even directly-elected presidencies such as Brazil and Feance tend to be multi-round not simple popular vote, so why people try and apply it as a relevant measure when hardly any political system applies it is unclear to me.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid
            I keep hearing this argument, and it’s kinda… void?. Popular vote was not the race he entered. Had he entered a popular vote race, he might have won or lost, we don’t know. It’d be kinda stupid for a candidate to optimize for the wrong metric. There’s quite a lot of math involved in preparing a presidential campaign, and what exactly is the criteria for success affects pretty much everything.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Radu Floricica
            I suspect the results of the election by state would have been similar even if we used popular vote and the candidates campaigned accordingly, but that’s probably because I put very low probability on a politician swinging the result of a state simply by holding a campaign rally in that particular state. I’m probably typical-minding this, though; I wouldn’t be swayed simply by Trump or Clinton showing up in the big city nearest me, but I guess other people might. You could also claim that in a popular vote election the candidates might have adjusted their stances to appeal to the majority of the country rather than the key swing states, but I find that similarly unlikely.

            All in all I think the electoral college is a bit of an outdated holdover that doesn’t really even serve its initial purpose well, and if you’re going to hold a nationwide popularity contest you should hold it more straightforwardly. Of course, if I get even more nihilistic about it… Elections these days are usually close enough that to a first order approximation, half the country votes for A and half the country votes for B. The exact count’s gonna depend on random stuff like whether it rained in Detroit causing people who might have voted to stay home. Half the country’s going to be disappointed anyways, so does it really matter exactly how we count the votes? I just find it a bit odd in general to refer to X as “the will of the people” when 51% of the people support it but 49% of the people oppose it just as vehemently.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Which makes the primaries the actual elections, with the presidential vote floating randomly between the two parties. No need to be nihilistic, it’s a decent system.

            And more so if you start respecting the opposite opinions. I switched pretty much 180 from progressive to conservative somewhere around 30, so at the very least I am much more prepared than before to admit that the other guy has a valid point. Because I was that point at one time, and I was woefully unready to see the merits of my current position (granted, more nuanced position, but still much different from before).

          • Jaskologist says:

            In a popular vote, Republicans in California would have an actual reason to vote. In 2016, they knew Hillary was winning the state, and the Senate election had been fixed so that only Democratic candidates were running, so there was very little reason to show up. Rinse and repeat for minority party members in all the other safe states. We don’t really know how all of that would shake out.

          • Guy in TN says:

            They would say they are unhappy with Trump today, but they also want the will of the people followed.

            A total tangent, but since we are are on it, yes there would hypothetically be some portion of Democrats who would have been upset that we violated the political norm of the electoral college, and instead decided to respect the closest approximation to the “will of the people” (aka the popular vote).

            And sure, sure, more Republicans in California would have voted for Trump if the rules of the game would have been different. And more Democrats in Texas would have voted for Clinton. You can never know. But that doesn’t mean we can just default to whatever ridiculous non-democratic electoral system we are still trotting around from the 1700’s as the “will of the people”.

            If the popular vote isn’t the “will of the people” because people didn’t have the incentives to vote in the US system, then the electoral college definitely isn’t their “will”.

            There are certain phrases you can say about Trump’s 2016 election that are accurate. He won the election. He won the contest. He received the most electoral votes.

            However, claims that he won “the will of the people”, “was chosen by the voters”, “he had more support”, “was democratically chosen” are all misleading, if not inaccurate.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Jaskologist, why do you consider the jungle primary to be “fixing” the election? I live in King County, Washington where we have a jungle primary for every office, and I think that gives me a lot more incentive to show up than if we had one sacrificial lamb Republican facing off against a single Democrat already preparing for their coronation.

            Yes, I’d love it if our Republican Party was actually competitive. But with my neighbors as they are, I think the jungle primary is the best way things can be.

          • JayT says:

            “Will of the people” was probably the wrong term to use to get my point across, my point was more about people wanting elections to matter, even if they don’t go the way they wanted. I think that could even be extended to elections that the people don’t agree with structurally (eg, Electoral College), but still want the results followed.

          • Cliff says:

            claims that he won “the will of the people”, “was chosen by the voters”, “he had more support”, “was democratically chosen” are all misleading

            By all means, let’s quibble about semantics. The point was that many people believe in the rule of law and would not support a coup just because it put their preferred candidate in power, but I know you love to debate irrelevant definitions.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            An often missed value of the EC is also missed here: ensuring that the opinion of the populations of each State is represented somewhat proportionally (modulo the 2 EVs per State because Senate) makes the result robust against systematic differences in turnout across the country (e.g., even if there’s a massive blizzard in NE that keeps most voters from the polls, the size of NE’s say in the final aggregate is maintained).

            Making the Maine-Nebraska system the norm across all States would additionally mitigate the most salient complaints about the EC without requiring a fundamental restructuring of our Federalism (whether that’d be a feature or a bug is left up to the opinions of the audience).

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m not certain that’s true. I’d guess there are a lot of people that believe votes should be upheld, even if they didn’t like the result. I’d guess a large number of Democrats would have been upset if in 2016 the Democrats figured out some way to not let Trump become president, even though he won fair and square.

            See, this is the kind of thing that you’d need a test case to prove one way or the other so it’s not really worth arguing about.

            I mean, how would this circumstance even come up? You’d basically need the entire election to come down to one state and then for the political party involved to do something especially egregious that prevents accurate vote counting in that state. Even that might not be enough. You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

          • One advantage of the electoral college that I don’t see discussed is that it reduces electoral fraud. Fraud is easiest in a state where one party controls the government, but in such a state there is no need for fraud in the presidential election, since all the state’s electoral votes will go the candidate even without it.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The point was that many people believe in the rule of law and would not support a coup just because it put their preferred candidate in power, but I know you love to debate irrelevant definitions.

            The Brexit referendum is not law. The general public has no direct legislative powers AFAIK.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Brexit referendum is not law. The general public has no direct legislative powers AFAIK.

            It’s not law, but all the main parties went into both the referendum itself and the 2017 election promising to honour the result. I’m not sure that you can have a meaningful democracy without parties even pretending to honour their own manifesto pledges, as there’d be no way for the electorate to actually translate their wishes into policy.

          • Guy in TN says:

            At what point would you say that a party is allowed to change their stance on an issue after a given time, and it not be considered misleading for the public? I think the parties ought to be given some leeway to modify their positions for dynamic circumstances.

            Surely no one who votes for, say, Lib Dem is under any delusions that they still intend on upholding Brexit-related promises they made in 2016?

          • CatCube says:

            @Aftagley

            You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

            You do know Bush actually won Florida, right?

          • Clutzy says:

            @catcube

            @Aftagley

            You’d THEN need some institution (supreme court?) to allow that political chicanery to go through.

            You do know Bush actually won Florida, right?

            Its worse than that. The recount had already been certified by the Florida Secretary of State, and then certain courts intervened to enjoin that certification until votes in specific counties were counted. But the courts didn’t have that power under the law.

            Plus, they didn’t win. Its like the Jill Stein hail mary in 2016. Illegal and fruitless.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The recount had already been certified by the Florida Secretary of State Co-chair of George W. Bush’s Florida campaign

            If you accept her role as an unbiased arbiter, I think you will need to accept the courts’ intervention just as well. 2000 was simply a complete cluster.

          • Clutzy says:

            Oh the SOS was totally biased. But that didn’t grant the courts jurisdiction.

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do, a lot of parties worked to undermine that initial directive, including the Florida Supreme court which had ignored Federal Election law and the US Constitution (both having supremacy over Florida law/constitution). And now the case was back at SCOTUS, and they had to either declare the conduct of Florida’s Supreme Court illegal and unconstitutional, or they could declare a part of federal election law 3 USC 5 unconstitutional, as well as a portion of Florida election law (Nov 14 certification deadline) unconstitutional.

            And if they picked option 2, there was probably at least a month of litigation ahead for the country. With no guarantee for greater certainty of a result. And also there was the issue of the selective recount, which was unarguably unfair, although one might argue it wasn’t unconstitutional.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And now the case was back at SCOTUS, and they had to either declare the conduct of Florida’s Supreme Court illegal and unconstitutional, or they could declare a part of federal election law 3 USC 5 unconstitutional, as well as a portion of Florida election law (Nov 14 certification deadline) unconstitutional.

            And if they picked option 2, there was probably at least a month of litigation ahead for the country.

            I agree with this. SCOTUS was confronted with a complete cluster and they picked the shorter option, which was better for the country.
            The recount was a biased farce that made a glass sausage factory of the very epistemology of democracy. OTOH, Bush needing a state SOS who was his campaign co-chair to keep him from an electoral college curb stomp was pretty embarrassing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do

            Not sure what exactly you mean here, but AFAIK SCOTUS didn’t say dick until after Florida’s Supreme Court had already ruled, and in fact their initial ruling was just to ask for more clarity.

            The big issue here, from the standpoint of JayT’s prompt is that it specified “will of the people” and not “result of the initial tabulation”. You can argue about what the end result of any decent process would have been, but arguing that the initial tabulations of the Votomatic machines can be relied upon to accurately reflect the will of the people doesn’t hold.

            IOW, there isn’t true principle here, just one selectively cited as convenient. The only principle is “my guy legally won”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the meaningful principle to apply here is that you don’t get to change the rules to suit your interests. The rules defining who wins the presidency are well-established. It’s true that there are different rules that could be established that might be better in a variety of ways, and many rules that would benefit some parties/ideologies and harm others. But when we run an election according to the existing well-understood rules, and the other side wins, the fact that some other way of running the election might have put you into the white house instead of that other person isn’t very compelling. If we accepted the principle that anyone could contest the election result by coming up with a plausibly better way of running elections that would have put them on top, we will never actually reach a decision from any election.

            As best I could tell in 2000, the election was basically a tie, with broadly three groups who could put a thumb on the scales and make it come out their desired direction–Florida election officials (Republican, I’m pretty sure), Florida state supreme court justices (I think majority Democrat) and US Supreme Court Justices (I think majority Republican). Everyone basically tried to game the counting rules to give their side an advantage.

          • Clutzy says:

            Not sure what exactly you mean here, but AFAIK SCOTUS didn’t say dick until after Florida’s Supreme Court had already ruled, and in fact their initial ruling was just to ask for more clarity.

            Yes, but those were loaded questions. From the first opinion:

            Specifically, this Court is unclear both as to the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature’s authority under Art. II, § 1, cl. 2, and as to the consideration the Florida court accorded to 3 U. S. C. § 5, which contains a federal-law principle that would assure finality of the State’s determination if made pursuant to a state law in effect before the election. That is sufficient reason for this Court to decline at this time to review the federal questions asserted to be present.

            This is a tut-tut, chiding the Florida Supreme court for making stuff up and ignoring federal law while doing it. Indeed, if you read the whole opinion which is short, so you should. Its basically the SCOTUS version of the principal’s talk at the end of Billy Madison which ends with, “I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Clutzy:
            So when you said ,

            The problem for SCOTUS in 2000 is they had already told Florida what to do

            You were, at very best, misremembering , and now you are just saying “I was wrong but that just proves how right I was.”

            SCOTUS said their decision had no weight as precedent. That is a fairly clear signal about how comfortable they felt with the ruling as one based in solid principle.

            Regardless, you still aren’t addressing my point which is that Florida is not an example of “the will of the people must prevail”, or even, “we must ensure the process is fair” and very much is an example of “utilize the system as it stands to ensure our victory”.

            Which is generally how it goes. Close elections turn on process, not principle. It’s more possible to have principled fights about the process before any election is contested, but still difficult. I know, however, which side is currently in favor of the principle “get the votes of all the people and count them all”.

          • Clutzy says:

            SCOTUS said their decision had no weight as precedent. That is a fairly clear signal about how comfortable they felt with the ruling as one based in solid principle.

            I disagree with this. The first response was a 9-0 decision where all the Justices hoped the FL Supreme Court would follow instructions and decide the issue in a way that they could avoid having to make a choice officially. This was an attempt to spare SCOTUS the bad press it got afterwards. Had SCOTUS known what FL SC would have done, the 7-2 decision would have issued.

            SCOTUS trying to be apolitical whenever possible is common, and you claiming otherwise is evidence of a lack of experience with the institution.

            Instead, FL SC did the opposite, and forced SCOTUS into Bush v. Gore. Where they faced the choice I posed above. That went 7-2 and 5-4, on separate issues, but both to the same result.

            Regardless, you still aren’t addressing my point which is that Florida is not an example of “the will of the people must prevail”, or even, “we must ensure the process is fair” and very much is an example of “utilize the system as it stands to ensure our victory”.

            Yes, but I never engaged in that discussion other than in the legalistic sense. My point was that Bush won legally even before SCOTUS, won at SCOTUS 2x, both times the court’s majority determining that the court challenges had been inherently illegal.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, but I never engaged in that discussion other than in the legalistic sense.

            Then you shouldn’t have pretended that you were some how responding to the point Aftagley was making.

    • Atlas says:

      Interesting take from Jonathan Chait on how this relates to intra-left partisan disputes.

    • broblawsky says:

      What surprises me is that this election went so poorly for labor after 2017 went relatively well for them. I’ll be interested in seeing the analysis on which seats went Labor in 2017 and Tory in 2019.

      • One factoid I saw was that they were labor seats that had voted for Brexit.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Brexit is an issue that doesn’t align on the major party lines, rather it fractures both of them. That’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard to bring to a resolution.

          It’s not just Labor that has a split, with many Labor members backing Brexit, it’s also the Tories, with many of them backing Remain. It’s also generally accepted that most MPs themselves are (or at least were) Remain.

        • Aftagley says:

          One factoid I saw was that they were labor seats that had voted for Brexit.

          This is the crux of the issue. The midlands and north of England, formerly strong manufacturing/mining bastions of labour support strongly went for Brexit. Johnson and the tories went strong after these voters basically single-issued focusing on Brexit. Not suprisingly, labour’s red-wall fell down and the torries picked up a bunch of seats.

          Labour could conceivably have picked up gains throughout Southern England which is normally Torrie, but strongly backed Remain. This would have likely required them to finally just accept that they are the Remain party. They didn’t, however, instead positing a mealy-mouthed “well, we’ll go back to Brussels try to renegotiate a deal then have another referendum.”

          So you have one party that focused on a single issue and used it as a cudgel to beat away at their opponents areas of weakest support and another party that just couldn’t get a solid message together. I’m annoyed, but not surprised at how well the torries did. Corbyn should be sent to Siberia; his leadership has been an unmitigated disaster.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            FWIW, though, the consensus amongst Labour party activists seems to be that people were more likely to cite Corbyn as a problem than Brexit.

          • Aftagley says:

            I don’t disagree with you, per se, but can you disentangle the two though?

            For better or for worse, the defining issue of this election/the past 3.5 years has been Brexit. Under Corbyn Labour hasn’t been able to adopt a strategy that properly capitalizes on the immense feelings people have about this topic.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Corbyn’s Brexit strategy has certainly been unsuccessful, to put it mildly. But the impression I got from reading Labour activists (who might not be representative, of course) is that people were more likely to bring up Corbyn’s far-left chums than his lack of a proper Brexit policy.

      • Watchman says:

        I’ve not done comprehensive coverage of this, but I think outside of London the Conservatives win back every seat lost in 2017 bar Canterbury. The Conservatives managed to regain one in London, but I don’t think they got any more back.

        I think there is a clear realignment in the works, as Labour now only has about four predominantly rural seats and outside of the north-west holds only one town (two if you ignore Exeter’s claims to be a city): Labour are rapidly becoming the party of the metropolitan progressive, (a lot of) immigrant communities and a still-significant urban working class. The Conservatives seem to be reassennbling the old Tory alliance of rural and industrial town workers and part of the elite, with the addition of a lot of the rural and small-town middle classes.

        Electoral maps are looking like little red islands in a blue sea (because Conservatives hold almost all the large rural constituencies south of the Scottish central belt), with a nice yellow-orange beach at the top in the rest of Scotland. What’s key here is that since 1935 the map has basically had a red block across the middle, and this seems to have been washed away or eroded now.

    • Chalid says:

      Nate Silver comment on Twitter: “Generally when there’s a landslide (as in the UK tonight) everyone’s hot takes are mostly right and when there’s a close result everyone’s hot takes are mostly wrong. You probably CAN blame Corbyn AND Brexit AND Labour AND going too far to the left AND [insert hypothesis here], because you need some combination of ALL of those things for them to lose to the Tories by 14 points or whatever it’s going to wind up being.”

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Isn´t there some rule that current events should be discussed only after 3 days time lag? I thought there is, but I confess that I can´t find it on comments policy page, so please feel free to ignore me.

      • ana53294 says:

        I think it applies only to tragedies, where a lot of the information comes later, so as to not rush into a wrong position.

        • acymetric says:

          I thought it was to avoid overly emotional in-the-moment posts that would devolve quickly into extremely hostile fights, but in any case yes.

        • Evan Þ says:

          …and I, for one, don’t consider this election a tragedy. 😉

    • Lambert says:

      Oh well.
      Time for me to dust off my German textbook.

    • Nick says:

      Hey @Scott Alexander, can we get Deiseach unbanned so we can get the Irish perspective on this? I hear results from Ireland were interesting, too. Also Matt M, since his ban is up, too.

  19. John Schilling says:

    Found while looking for British election results: Doctor in Pakistan mocks lawyers on social media, 200 lawyers sack and pillage hospital, three patients die. Shakespeare may have had a point, but when we’re finished with (some) lawyers, social media may have to be next on the list. And, let’s figure out how to build and maintain societies where this sort of thing doesn’t happen, because WTF?

    • Randy M says:

      The headline reads like a mad-libs and the pictures are surreal.
      I think this says something about education not necessarily imparting moral behavior if there was anyone pinning their hopes on that.

      • Garrett says:

        Nit: You are confounding education and credentialing.

        • Randy M says:

          One would hope that it would be difficult to credential a class of people after ~15? years of schooling without at least some education being performed at some point. But then, I didn’t observe these people before the education occurred, so perhaps they would have been even worse.

          Point taken, anyway.

    • Nornagest says:

      That’s some /r/nottheonion shit right there.

      “Police fired tear gas to try to disperse the lawyers” is not a sentence I expected to read when I woke up this morning.

    • hls2003 says:

      I know some plaintiffs’ firms where I could envision this happening with a mob of doctors descending.

    • ana53294 says:

      They must be bad lawyers. Couldn’t they sue the doctor and make boatloads of money for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

      Seriously, though, WTF.

    • Machine Interface says:

      This the kind of example I bring when people question whether living in a society with high rule of law is really all that great.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        Who questions that?

        • Machine Interface says:

          A lot of people, surprisingly. Generally people who think rule of law synonymous with “legalism” and “bureaucracy” and who’d rather have a Strong Leader Who Does What It Takes To Get Things Done, Even If That Means Breaking A Few Eggs And Getting His Hands Dirty Sometimes.

          • Clutzy says:

            Meh, legalism and bureaucracy are oft antithetical to rule of law. Rule of law requires notice to the public and simplicity, along with your due process, equality under the law, etc.

            A great example of bureaucracy and the rule of law being at odds is the Illinois medical marijuana statute (recently replaced). The act set out some fairly straightforward requirements to get a license and a property and set up shop. In practice, they were able to more or less use the bureaucratic hoops, etc to delay most applications over 4 years (and like $5million+), and almost no dispensaries were ever put into place.

            Legalism is usually a little different, and it usually gets critiqued when you have a lot of obvious criminals getting off for crimes we all know they committed, or pleading down to a minor offense because some cop mismanaged the murder weapon.

            If you have both those situations, your government is often going to be vulnerable to strongman takeover, because it appears to be harassing the normal guy just trying to earn a living making pasta, meanwhile Boss Don and his gang keep not going to jail when they break windows for protection money, and the Mayor lives in a mansion.

    • imoimo says:

      I asked my friend from Pakistan about this and he says (paraphrasing):

      1. That is insane and stupid, he has no explanation for it
      2. There is a history in Pakistan of lawyers organizing such as The Lawyers’ Movement where the president unconstitutionally removed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and lawyers nationwide marched against it
      3. This particular group of lawyers that attacked the hospital probably got cocky and thought they could get away with it

    • Garrett says:

      “Video footage shared on social media showed lawyers – in suits and ties – smashing medical equipment …”

      You know what’s going to ensure their colleagues get better medical care? Destroying the expensive equipment.

      • Randy M says:

        You know what’s going to ensure their colleagues get better medical care? Destroying the expensive equipment.

        Even apart from the physical destruction, how eager are Pakistani doctors going to be to treat lawyers at all from now on? Either from fear or contempt.

  20. proyas says:

    Does anyone know of a chart, Excel spreadsheet or something like that that organizes and distills the content of the New Testament? Imagine a bar chart where the X-axis is denominated by discrete statements like “Gossiping is bad” and “Forgive people who hurt you,” and the heights of the bars above each of them indicate how many times that point was made across all books of the New Testament.

    It would be interesting to see this kind of statistical breakdown of the work’s themes and areas of focus. It would also be interesting to see how long the X-axis would get before the number of themes were exhausted and all additional content was redundant of earlier content.

    • hls2003 says:

      It’s not in graph form, certainly, but any decent concordance will include a subject-matter index with things like “Forgiveness” or “Holy Spirit” or “Sexuality” coupled with citation references. It would be some labor, but not complex, to organize that into a graph or spreadsheet format.

      The difficulty probably lies on the interpretive margins, deciding which passages apply to which topics. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s more of a judgment call.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Here’s an xml document of a concordance of Greek words used in the NT.

    • Jake says:

      That sounds interesting, so I’m commenting here to see what other people turn up. I found something that is cool, but not exactly what you are looking for http://viz.bible/app. It kind of breaks down each book into major people, words, and topics.

  21. jcrox says:

    Does anyone know a good resource on the harms (or lack thereof) of pornography consumption? Ideally explains the state of the current research in intelligent layman’s terms.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      No but in hindsight that would have been a pretty good adversarial collab.

      • jcrox says:

        Yeah, I just looked at past collabs to see if it had been done already. Sadly not 🙁

        I was just reading this article on it, but the studies it linked to were correlational and not very convincing. link text

        Not surprising, for example, that people with poor impulse control watch more pornography. But it seems way more likely that the causation runs that way than that watching porn makes people have poor impulse control.

      • aristides says:

        I actually stated an adversarial collaboration on this issue, but dropped out for personal reasons. I was pro porn. David Friedman is right about porn being a substitution for rape, and that was my main point. Physical Health benefits to porn were identical to masturbation, so really irrelevant to the discussion, unless porn makes people masturbate more, which was hard to prove. Mental Health was a complicated topic that my opponent had many arguments that showed that porn was detrimental, but I did not have the time or expertise to read all the literature he provided. That was basically where it fell apart on my end.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Are you willing to extend the same reasoning to other subjects? Does posting racial slurs online similarly reduce real-world racism (and should it therefore be encouraged)?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Are there studies showing that? (No there aren’t)

          • Incurian says:

            What the fuck?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Uh, even if so, I think there are some immediate negative effects of that behavior on other people, which pornography consumption lacks.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The pro-porn theory is generally that it acts as a release valve for rape impulses. Why wouldn’t it apply to racism as well? Instead of doing a lynching, a modern racist might just hang out in the storm front forums.

            I doubt anybody has investigated this, but I’m sure we could p-hack a study easily enough.

          • albatross11 says:

            If we see a massive upswing up racist screeds posted and available online at the same time as a big fall in actual racially-motivated hate crimes, I’d at least take the reasoning pretty seriously….

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Why wouldn’t it apply to racism as well? Instead of doing a lynching, a modern racist might just hang out in the storm front forums.

            Sexual drive needs to be satiated. Once it is satiated, you’re good for at least a day (if you’re 40), or a solid 1/2 hour (if you’re 16).

            Racism is different. I think it’s a natural impulse to feel loyalty towards your ingroup, but your ingroup doesnt have to mean your co-ethnics. In fact, it’s pretty easy to avoid this. But if you go on stormfront, that will reinforce the notion that your ingroup is your co-ethnics, and increase racism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @jermo sapiens

            The same could be argued about pornography.

            That it is reinforcing that women exist simply to satisfy sexual needs for a short period and then disappear until needed again, and if you indulge in it you will feel that way about women.

            Although I suspect that @Jaskologist is not actually advocating for it, he’s correct that the same postulated mechanism could exist for both.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it is pretty unlikely racism and rape share the same underlying mechanisms. Borderline impossible. I would need to see some workable theory or some evidence of why that might even potentially be the case for me to think it is even worth drawing the comparison.

            As it stands, appears to be a total non-sequitor, and a pretty weird one to choose (and for people to then latch on to and defend) at that.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            That it is reinforcing that women exist simply to satisfy sexual needs for a short period and then disappear until needed again, and if you indulge in it you will feel that way about women.

            I think “simply” is doing alot of the work in that sentence. Sexual needs will manage to capture your attention one way or another. And if you’re a straight guy you’re going to be looking for women to fulfill that need.

            Also, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to do a proper study on the effects of porn because there is no control group. I’ve literally heard of studies being canceled because they couldnt find enough men who hadnt consumed porn. But fortunately, that means you can also test your hypotheses by just looking around you.

            FTR, I dont support porn, I think it’s unhealthy. Not that I’m in a position to judge anyone.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sexual drive needs to be satiated. Once it is satiated, you’re good for at least a day (if you’re 40), or a solid 1/2 hour (if you’re 16).

            From what I’ve seen, the evidence suggests that indulging your sex drive satiates it in the short term, but makes you want to have more in the long term. So consuming porn should theoretically increase people’s sex drives (although not necessarily the amount of actual sex they have, if they just respond by watching more porn).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            From what I’ve seen, the evidence suggests that indulging your sex drive satiates it in the short term, but makes you want to have more in the long term.

            What happens when you’re going full abstinence? No sex, no masturbation, no porn, no nothing. Like a whole month at least. Do you start feeling less horny? Serious question.

          • SamChevre says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Yes, definitely

          • Viliam says:

            What happens when you’re going full abstinence? No sex, no masturbation, no porn, no nothing. Like a whole month at least. Do you start feeling less horny? Serious question.

            I tried it once, and abstained from everything for about half of year. As time progressed, I got more and more horny, even exceeding my teenage levels. Towards the end, I could barely think about anything other than sex, and it interfered with with my ability to think clearly, so I stopped this pointless exercise.

            It was an interesting test of willpower, but definitely not a recipe for healthy life.

            It may work differently for different people, though.

          • Sanchez says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Yes. Do it long enough and you’ll realize you could probably go your whole life that way.

            Also, you might have a lot of wet dreams.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            The Watchmen tv series shows a lot of violent racist behavior, including lynchings and mass murders of African-Americans.

            How do you think this will affect those who view it? Will they be more likely to be racist, or less? Will they be more likely to engage in violent racist behavior, or less?

    • I saw an article a long time ago on the effect of pornography on rape rates. The idea was that the web had made pornography much more available, that web access had become common earlier in some states than in others, so you could use web access as a proxy for pornography consumption and see whether the correlation with changes in rape rates was positive or negative.

      The conclusion was that it was negative, that porn was, on net, a substitute for forcible sex, not a complement to it.

      But I read that a long time ago and don’t have a link or citation.

      • Protagoras says:

        Milton Diamond is one of the researchers who has done the kind of research you mention, so googling “diamond pornography study” will turn up multiple examples of this kind of study. The usual caveats about being skeptical about social science in general apply, of course, but I haven’t found any sources that have reported any specific problems with this particular research.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Since porn availability, porn use, reporting porn use, rape incidence, and rape reporting are all tangled up in complex ways with changing political, cultural and socioeconomic context, I feel like you’d have to do some exceedingly fancy design to remove sources of confounding and/or reporting bias in a study like that. Given that this is already an issue that attracts a lot of motivated reasoning, I am skeptical that most sex researchers bother with the due diligence, or that the peer review/publication process would reward those who did.

        • Skeptic says:

          The differences in differences model is designed to avoid the issues you raise.

          Not saying it’s perfect. But it’s as close to a natural experiment as we can reasonably expect.

          Unless we can randomly select 500,000 Americans and block porn via IPs and wait a couple years for crime stats to trickle in…

    • Atlas says:

      Here’s an article in Quillette on the issue.

  22. Is there a psychological similarity between serial killers and mass shooters?

    • Viliam says:

      Zero actual data, but my guess is that mass shooters are worse in self-control, otherwise they would become mass snipers instead — with higher chance to survive, and probably causing greater harm.

      EDIT: Well, the most obvious difference is that serial killers usually survive their actions (otherwise they couldn’t be “serial”), while mass shooters usually don’t care about their own survival (and just try to do much damage at the given moment). On a second thought, a part of this could be selection effect… potential serial killers who make mistakes don’t get the chance to become actual serial killers if they get caught.

      • That assumes they want to survive. Most of them seem suicidal.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, there’s a big difference between “I want to go out in a blaze of glory and have everyone hear my name and tremble” and “I want to keep up my hobby of murdering people without getting killed or sent to prison for it.”

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t know, but it would be tidier if we called the latter “parallel killers”.

  23. zenojjones says:

    I’ve been interested in RetroFuturism for some time, but recently I’ve been wondering what it is about certain visions of the future that seem inspired and why others are laughably silly. It is definitely not only a matter of correctly predicting a gadget or technology- some of the most inspired pieces of retro futuristic thinking are far from reality today. What do you think drives that difference?

    I’ve written a piece where I argue that the silly visions are too focused on the evolution of the technology of their own day (for example- Steampunk thinkers believing that every new invention would be made possible by steam).

    Lessons From RetroFuturism

    Is it something simpler or much more complex?

    • eigenmoon says:

      I’d guess the understanding of society makes the difference. Although not fiction, “Future Shock” by Toffler (1970) is the prime example of futurism done right.

    • What makes a good work of science fiction is that the behavior of the characters is different from modern human behavior, and these differences are explainable by the conditions of the setting. The bad works of silence fiction have characters behaving exactly as moderns do, or behaving in weird ways that don’t seem related to the setting.

    • aristides says:

      You are right about part of it, but the other half seems to be asking scientists what will be possible, without asking what is economically feasible. Flying cars is the prime example of something that could theoretically be created, but is prohibitively expensive, especially because of the liability.

    • Well... says:

      My offhand guess:

      There’s probably an uncanny valley effect. The imagined future has to be internally consistent, for one, and not just filled with magic, but it also has to pass some threshold of different-ness from the present day, on every relevant level of detail.

    • KieferO says:

      First, for BioFuturism, I think Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series (2003 with sequels in 2009 and 2013) should be a central example. Even in a genera that is typified by pessimism, this stands out as overwhelmingly pessimistic.

      I don’t think that “made accurate predictions about the future” is the best metric by which to judge most science fiction. It’s important to tease apart attempts to answer the question “what will we do with new technology?” and “what is this new technology going to do to us?” I think that most science fiction is more interested in the second question, and answers to the first are more means to an end. For example, Snow Crash but especially The Diamond Age are mostly about techno-libertarianism; the new technologies that are speculated about are, I think, mostly there so that we can get to the part where mafia-pizza-hut is basically a country. Sticking with cyberpunk, my reading of Neruomancer isn’t primarily as an honest attempt to predict the future, but more an examination of trends (globalization, the ascendancy of images, and the neglect of the environment) by projecting them to their extremes. I argue that such works aren’t really about the destination, but about the journey. (Interestingly, Gibson’s later work: The Blue Ant trilogy, I think, is largely futurism and done well at that. Though they are less ambitious as they’re only set 5ish years in the future.)

      My short answer to your question is that futurism is hard enough that most sci-fi authors only ever perform a shallow version of it.

  24. Watchman says:

    Epistemic status: a flippant comment.

    The attempt to impeach Trump looks doomed, since the Senate will short of something particularly explosive reject it on party lines. But, from the point of view of a British observer who doesn’t hold a partisan dislike of Trump but would not like him running his country (no Boris Johnson comparisons please – they are lazy and inaccurate), why aren’t people using a more effective technique to stop him running. Ignore him. Don’t report on him. Make any reports on policy purely technical and anonymous. Try to make the top search result for trump either a fart joke or the world snooker champion. The man is the most likely candidate to be a narcissist in public life that I can see. If people stopped engaging wouldn’t he just disappear?

    This wouldn’t be easy. There’s outraged liberals and MAGA devotees (2, maybe 3, left, all possibly called Budd?) to talk down from basing their entire approach to the day on what the President has said. There’s a lot of content producers (coming soon, my flippant campaign to reserve the label journalist for people who don’t look at Twitter unless the story demands it (and ideally get ab intern to do that for them) who seem to depend on his Tweets for inspiration. Grandstanding politicians have to find some other issue to grandstand on (OK – this one’s easy). But we can persuade these people that their health and sanity demand they look at something else.

    So in the interest of calming everyone down for ten seconds, making reading the news a bit nicer, and stopping people making fools of themselves in British politics by using Trump as an adjective which they imagine is a devastating insult (only in your bubble darling…) and by somehow imagining that the only interest of the President of the USA is buying our NHS (I do wonder whether these people think Trump owns the American healthcare system), can we agree to just ignore him? Spread the message – although not in a way that draws attention obviously…

    • Lambert says:

      You’re not going to get many clicks with that attitude.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        Assume everyone is responding to their incentives as best they understand them, and the world usually makes more sense.

        To a first approximation, news is all about what’s urgent and burning and outrageous right now, and will ignore important but unspectacular stuff because it doesn’t make a good story. Every offensive tweet made by Trump gets a week of news coverage, and once in a great while, someone maybe mentions the polio eradication effort for two minutes at the end of a newscast.

        • Watchman says:

          So we create the incentive of producing real value over bluster to get attention. There’s a rational incentive for people to create this incentive.

          On a serious note, anything that makes people question whether tweets are worth reporting* is actually a good idea, and anyth6that drives incentives in this way should be supported.

          *People’s writings are often very informative (my current favourite being the ideologically staid, unchallenging written pieces of a certain J. Corbyn – I’ve had to read Marxist academic output from the early 80s and at least those writers have generally moved on), but tweets are either crafted for instant impact or not thought through. They exist to reinforce feelings not to challenge us.

          • Viliam says:

            There’s a rational incentive for people to create this incentive.

            Coordination is hard, no matter how valuable would be the hypothetical outcome. Becomes even harder when defecting is profitable.

          • albatross11 says:

            What would it look like for media to have an incentive to get things right?

            One thing I’d love to see: every day, your newspaper publishes a review of one of the front page stories from 1 year ago and 10 years ago, and sees how they have held up, what came of the whole thing, etc. Did the crisis turn out to be a vacuous moral panic? Did the claimed parade of horribles that were going to follow from some bit of legislation actually happen? Etc.

            There’s a good reason why a news source would not want to do this, of course….

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            One thing I’d love to see: every day, your newspaper publishes a review of one of the front page stories from 1 year ago and 10 years ago, and sees how they have held up, what came of the whole thing […] There’s a good reason why a news source would not want to do this, of course….

            I would enjoy that, too. This is reminiscent of Scientific American’s “50 and 150 Years Ago”, albeit with a more critical tone.

            The obvious solution I see here is for a competing news outlet to publish such followups. It should count as fair use.

    • fibio says:

      Ignore him.

      As Lambert says. Trump outrage (for and against) is driving a scary fraction of American interest in the news. No reporting company can afford to ignore him, they would go broke without the clicks/subscriptions/sales he generates.

      • Watchman says:

        Can I suggest that is a feature, not a bug?

        But if we convince the readers to stop clicking, then the publications in question would just have to attract them with something else. If you could effect a change in consumer behaviour then the publishers follow or perish (or claim subsidies due to their essential social role of providing distracting clickbait (sorry, that should say news)). All we need to do is convince billions of peoples and some bots casually cruising the internet to change their behaviour. At the risk of sounding slightly like the sort of person you want to answer this question with a “no” to, does anyone have an impassioned high-school age sibling (and a conveniently-passing film crew who might know them) who could front this movement?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I remember some veteran newscaster calling out CNN’s addiction to Trump.

        I searched and could only find this, this is of the same kind but not as strong: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/05/13/nick-kristof-trump-media-addiction-problematic-rs-sot.cnn

        The news industry is in a lot of financial trouble. Telling them to abandon their one life-preserver won’t work.

    • Well... says:

      I like doing this, and I was pleased to see Maynard James Keenan do it as well, on the JRE podcast when Rogan brought up Trump and Keenan said something to the effect of “Who’s that? Isn’t he a politician or something?” and basically wouldn’t use Trump’s name the entire conversation.

      • Watchman says:

        The correct answer to that question being ‘he is a property developer and TV star I believe’.

        The downside to this lovely position is perhaps the chance of sudden confusion when you are introduced to President Pence. Of course, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring you are a single female.

    • EchoChaos says:

      can we agree to just ignore him?

      Nope. It’s Trump’s superpower. He is absolutely impossible to ignore.

      Especially since he is the President of the world’s most powerful country right now.

      • Watchman says:

        Aha. But that’s my long-term plan! I’m trying to get people to realise life is better if we just ignore politicians. Obviously you weren’t supposed to spot that quite so quickly…

        • albatross11 says:

          I dunno, if we ignore them won’t they just get up to even more mischief?

          • Watchman says:

            You may be confusing politicians and naughty four-year olds there?

            Although there’s a nice similarity in this case. Were not really ignoring them totally (we should still go and vote whenever possible) but just aren’t interested in signalling and marketing: results and plausible promises are fine. Works with small children as well. Must try it on line reports…

    • Chalid says:

      Bad idea. If you tried this, he would probably order an invasion of Canada or something like that to get attention.

      • Watchman says:

        Revising this, as I realise this is actually not an issue but a positive. Any coverage of the guy we’re not interested in can be bumped by ongoing coverage of the siege of Detroit and the confused army wondering what Saskatchewan is for. It produces a news story that can be reported without paying the uninteresting bloke any attention.

        And we can get politicians involved in suitably heroic mode as they arrange a ceasefire, Trudeau singlehandedly returns the army feared eaten by big feet in Saskatoon to the US and negotiators on both sides make increasingly grandiose concessions in order to get the other to accept Detroit. So that’s two key groups of stakeholders who have some compensation to signing up to this idea! And the NFL might de facto get a franchise in Canada as a result (I bet the deal with the CFC fails to mention conquered territory) so we can sign them up as well!

    • I’m not convinced that ignoring Trump, even if effective, would have the effect that people who oppose him desire. The media is a major instigator in opposition to Trump with their negative news stories. If they decided to ignore him, anyone looking for news on the President would be forced to go to sources more favorable towards him.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I suspect the median negative coverage of Trump is taken, on net, as an endorsement of him.

        • Clutzy says:

          In certain segments, but the coverage of things perpetrates falsehoods that are quite negative for his image, even if battling the opinion media is good for his brand.

          For example, “Fine People”, Russia collusion, 10000 lies, children in cages. These are all examples of lies, or distortions that certainly negatively impact him. If they had never been covered, he probably would be at peak Reagan levels of popularity. Remember also, significant parts of the Dem base gets news from the news and believes it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If they had never been covered, he probably would be at peak Reagan levels of popularity

            This is a pretty bold claim for any President.

          • Dan L says:

            This is a pretty bold claim for any President.

            It’s a weird claim, considering that Reagan’s stronger approval periods roughly matched Clinton’s and Ike utterly demolished them both. The evolution of retrospective opinions is an understudied field, IMO.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            No way. Trump’s personal style alienates a lot of people and he had low favorability ratings even before all these stories broke out. He’s basically put his foot in his mouth since he first came down that escalator.

            He would probably win re-election with a 2-4% margin without these stories, but he definitely wouldn’t have Reagan-level blowouts, because he’s just too much of a jerk.

            Trump just needs to pull a Silent Cal and stop tweeting. He’d win re-election comfortably and I’d imagine it’d be better for his legacy.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I have only a hazy recollection of what I was taught in civics class about The Vital Role of a Free Press in American Democracy, but I don’t recall “keeping the public in the dark about what the President is doing” making up any great part of it.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      On ignoring Trump:

      Wouldn’t this have the effect of discouraging democratic turnout (since there isn’t some Big Bad to be against), and also the effect that only Fox News and even further right news organizations would be talking up Trump, thus encouraging republican turnout for their great champion?

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Gaming chairs

    I just saw a post from someone with back problems who found that a getting a gaming chair was easy way to find a comfortable chair.

    Admittedly, I’m generalizing from one data point, but it seems to me that gamers would care tremendously about having chairs that don’t distract them, and, of course, they’re buying chairs for themselves.

    Opinions about best chairs? Any other products which are notable because customer feedback is extremely precise?

    • A proper sturdy armchair is the most comfortable chair for every purpose, including gaming. Gaming chairs are kind of like office chairs in that comfort is offset by the desire to have it swivel and pivot. They often break even if you’re not a huge fatty.

      • Well... says:

        Plus they usually have holes for a 4- or 5-point restraint, which is ridiculous.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Not all of us can afford a chair for each of the office and the bedroom.

          • Well... says:

            Huh? I thought you were going to say “Not all of us can afford a chair for each of the office and our modded-out drifter car.”

            Why the hell does a chair you sit in to play computer games need holes for a five-point restraint?

          • Incurian says:

            I’ll tell you when you’re older.

          • Aapje says:

            Circumcision has worse effects on sensitivity than I thought if you have to tie yourself down just so you can pull your joystick hard enough.

          • johan_larson says:

            Why the hell does a chair you sit in to play computer games need holes for a five-point restraint?

            I’m guessing some players want to heighten the experience of playing fighter pilot or race-car drivers, and add seat belts to their gaming chairs.

            Also, I think those would probably be four-point restraints: two belts at the waist and one over each shoulder, all connecting to a central buckle.

          • Lambert says:

            The 5th point is where the central buckle attaches between the legs.

            See here.

          • johan_larson says:

            Ouch.

          • Well... says:

            I’m guessing some players […] add seat belts to their gaming chairs.

            Does anyone actually do this??

            Seems like a big price to pay to configure your computer chair such that you can never let anyone into the room where your computer is. I’m imagining if I went over my buddy’s house and he had installed actual seat belts on his computer chair, that would probably become the running joke for years and years. I suppose at that point he’d have to proudly double down on it and install airbags under his monitors or something. And wear a helmet. Which of course would invite friendly beatings with found objects…better just not to go down that road at all.

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t know. By the time you are buying special furniture for your gaming, you’re already pretty far gone by my standards, although I probably wouldn’t make fun of you to your face. Adding seatbelts doesn’t seem like that big a step. It’s not like you’re building a cockpit in the basement or insisting that your family use your callsign or something.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure any gamer who installs a racing harness on his gaming chair is going to have a friend group (if any, he says cynically) whose response to seeing it would “AWESOME!”.

            Edit: And I wouldn’t rule out them having a cockpit in the basement.

          • Well... says:

            Seems like there’s a line between, say, buying a very realistic controller like a high end gaming steering wheel or joystick, or a comfortable chair that makes gaming easier, because these things can enhance your performance while playing the game. As opposed to seat belts, where the only reason they’re there is to do this kind of make-believe thing where you pantomime like you’re buckling up inside a car and it has no bearing on the game at all.

            Like, to play a racing game you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to allow yourself to interact with the “car” and the “road” in a realistic way so you’ll perform better, because they’re really just pixels on a screen and it’d be hard to perform well if you were constantly aware of that, but expanding this suspension of disbelief outside the boundaries of the game has nothing to do with performance, it’s just a kind of childish make-believe, like those kids’ bed frames that are shaped and painted like racecars.

            And yes, gamers are probably likely to have other friends who are gamers, but to me it seems unlikely that all those friends consider this childish expansion of the fantasy into the physical realm to be cool. And surely most gamers have non-gamer friends as well.

            ETA: There would be something cool about a fully-built cockpit in the basement, but there it’s mainly because of the accomplishment and the extreme level of verisimilitude, like you’ve successfully created a full aircraft sim that can be used to train for the real thing. Just adding seat belts to your chair is not the same as this.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I actually asked about something similar on a previous open thread. I felt my office’s chairs had done a number on me and wanted a better one for working from home [Edit: found the thread and it was also my terrible studio apartment furniture at the time which did have problems such as fixed desk but that chair was a standard target/Costco/amazon/I inherited it chair a college student might have]. Someone pointed me to gaming streamers who sit in their chairs for nigh-on-day-long stretches. The Herman Miller Embody got high praise so I went with that, admittedly a refurbished one from here because goose fucking lord those prices.

      I’m happy to sing the praises of the Embody which I sit in far too much and my back pain is greatly reduced. It doesn’t lean or wobble quite like other desk chairs but mostly I’ve just stopped thinking about the chair, it just works. I also have an adjustable desk but I had the same one at the office and still suffered. I also haven’t noticeably changed my activity level.

      While it’s not a gaming chair, I agree with the premise that gamers opinions on chairs did not lead me astray.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        Another good way to get rid of back pains is to lie down on your stomach with your chest propped up by two pillows and read. Have your head as low down as possible and resting on your hands as you read. This also puts you in a soporific state and is perfect right before bedtime. Might be tricky if you use paperback books rather than an e-reader.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Generally speaking, IMHO, “gaming chairs” aren’t the best option if what you are wanting to do is sit at a desk for extended periods of time. Most of them tend to promote a curve forward, a “hunch over” posture, which is basically the opposite of what you want when sitting at a desk for extended periods.

      Some of this is down to the fact that they have headrests and are designed to tilt back.

      Also, remember that the target market for these chairs is quite a young market. Roughly speaking, they will be comfortable regardless.

      Herman Miller, while quite expensive, makes more comfortable chairs for sitting at a desks. Our company standardized on the Aeron, which will run in the neighborhood of a high end gaming chair, but won’t have some of the features, things like extreme tiltback or footrests.

      Some of the gaming streamers I know, who spend upwards of 12 hours gaming in a session, swear by the Herman Miller Embody. But that’s even more pricey.

    • b_jonas says:

      This is a bit sad because it leads to manufacturers mislabeling every chair as a “gaming chair”, because customers associate that phrase with greater comfort. That has already happened to computer motherboards and keyboards. All motherboards are advertised as “gaming” ones, even if they have server features like error-correcting RAM. The keyboard I’m typing on right now, even though it has strong springs and good for typing but not so good for playing games, was advertised as a “gaming keyboard”.

      • rmtodd says:

        All motherboards are advertised as “gaming” ones, even if they have server features like error-correcting RAM.

        … ECC RAM apparently getting classified as a “server feature” because desktop users are assumed to have no interest in having reliable hardware.

  26. AlexOfUrals says:

    Just finished listening to The Albion’s Seed by Fischer and here’s something I’m terribly confused about. It seems to be saying in the last chapter that California was populated by a mix of the Borderers, Hispanics and Jews – so why is it so… California? By which I mostly mean: progressive, Democratic, extremely fond of large protective government and high taxes, hateful of guns, socialistic/communistic, and otherwise politically left. The Borderers seem to be the opposite of it, and although I admittedly know little about Hispanic and Jewish cultures, they don’t seem to all that left either, at least Mexico and Israel don’t look like that for all I know.

    Is it something that changed in the last 30 years (the book was published in 1989)? But then, why and how does it square with Fischer’s main thesis that regional cultures persist through centuries? Am I horribly mistaken about Jewish and/or Hispanic culture? Or was the author mostly talking about rural regions of California – but nearly 3/4 of California population live in the Bay Area, greater Los Angeles or Sacramento areas, where do all they go?Admittedly what the book literally saying is “the Southern California”, but it didn’t include the Northern into any other cultural region so I assumed it goes here too – am I wrong and it actually goes to the Pacific Northwest and therefore to what Fischer refers to as “the Northern Tier”? But it’s hard to make a case how San Francisco has more in common culturally with North Dakota than with Los Angeles.

    • I admittedly know little about Hispanic and Jewish cultures, they don’t seem to all that left either, at least Mexico and Israel don’t look like that for all I know.

      There’s a tendency to assume Mexicans are:

      not very smart =>
      therefore are all devout Catholics =>
      therefore are inherently politically conservative, and would vote that way if not for the immigration issue

      None of these assumptions follow from the other. In fact Mexico isn’t particularly religious, as far as political culture goes it is much more secular than the United States.

      As for Jews, the difference between Jewish politics inside and outside of Israel has long been noted. Is this a coincidence? Many Jews scream that any American Jews who support immigration restriction for America are traitors to “Jewish values,” so it makes you wonder…

      As for the question of why it votes the way it does, California is full of big cities and it’s outside the South. No need to over-complicate it.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        There’s a tendency to assume Mexicans are…

        Perhaps, but I made none of these assumptions. It’s just that the Mexicans I spoke to said that their country is rather socially conservative compared even to the US at large, let alone to California. But there wasn’t many of them so it may be wrong. And my impression from visiting Mexico was that their culture was much less, not sure how to put it, but I’d say less sheltered-and-happy-about-it than the Californian. Or maybe I can say “more libertarian”, in some very loose sense of the word. Although this is just my impression based on very limited and skewed exposure, of course. Are you saying it’s actually more socialist than the American culture?

        As for Jews, the difference between Jewish politics inside and outside of Israel has long been noted.

        Ok that’s definitely something I was missing.

        As for the question of why it votes the way it does, California is full of big cities and it’s outside the South. No need to over-complicate it.

        Yes that’s the answer usually given and I’m not saying it’s wrong. But I was asking what is the answer within the framework of the book? I mean, Fischer said many times throughout the book how voting patterns are affected by regional differences stronger than by anything else, specifically mentioning rural/urban divide among “anything else”. And he gives exactly zero consideration to the fact of California being very left, and in fact the only mentioning of Californian cultural ancestry in the book – at least as far as I noticed – is what I said in the original comment. And Scott praised the book as “sort of explaining everything about America” and never mentions this in his post either. And by the fact the post is in the top-10 list I guess many other people here also think that the picture presented in the book is generally valid. So there must be something quite big that I’m missing here. One thing you mentioned, is that Israel isn’t in fact a good proxy for Jewish culture in the US. I wonder if there’s anything else.

        • Plumber says:

          California was less Left in ’89.

          Mexico has historically been more socialist leaning than the U.S.A., but less “Wait for the red light to turn green at midnight” than Germany, Scandinavia, or even the U.S.A. – it’s not Sweden!

          U.S. Hispanics are more religious than both Mexicans and other Americans and do indeed lean more culturaly conservative than other Americans, but also a bit more socialistic.

          Jews used to be more “Left” including Isrealis.

          Experience of the Soviet Union and maintaining the citizen army garrison state of Israel has moved many Right-ward, but American Jews largely don’t have that experience.

          • Statismagician says:

            Why, it’s almost as though communist/capitalist, religious/secular, legalistic/contextual, and (culturally) conservative/liberal were all completely separate ideological axes only aligned the way they are in the US thanks to historical accident.

          • Plumber says:

            @Statismagician

            +1

            I mean oh that’s crazy talk!

    • salvorhardin says:

      California has certainly changed a lot politically since 1989– it went Republican in the 1988 presidential election for example. It’s not clear whether the Californians who elected Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson and voted for Prop 187 were Borderers, but it wouldn’t be out of character.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Thanks, I was suspecting something along these lines – California changing since the book published. Do you know if there was a large inflow of people from Northeast during that period, maybe?

        • EchoChaos says:

          A large influx of Hispanics and Asians, plus an exflux of whites, mostly. California in 1990 was 57% non Hispanic white and 25% Hispanic and 7.5% Asian.

          It’s now 40% white, 38% Hispanic and 13% Asian (black hasn’t changed much).

          If California voted with the same demographics as it did in 1990, it would be at least a swing state, maybe a Republican state.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Alex,

      Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote extensively about California in the 1960’s and 1970’s used the term “linkhorns” to describe the borderer types who had traveled to central and southern CA. He specifically wrote about how the tendency to head west when problems occurred had created a conflict when people made it all the way to the coast.

      My opinion, based on both reading, and visiting CA a few times, is that all of the groups you mentioned integrated, to some extent (both with each other, and other groups), before the current political climate emphasized the differences between the groups and increased the social cost of doing so.

    • Watchman says:

      As a thought, this model of classification which requires the onwards transmission of cultures from myths Okd World might not work on the West Coast, considering said cultures have had to be dragged across an entire continent. I don’t think Albion’s Seed states culture is entirely genetic (if it does, why is anyone reading it?), so the further a culture travels the more it breaks down as it has to interact with other cultures (and travel westward doesn’t normally seem to have been done by monolithic Old-World cultures). Why would we assume the borderers of California are the same as those of the Appalachians? Logically the latter, moving more as a group and perhaps even in terms of communication closer to Ireland than California, might retain a clearer distinct culture than their western cousins.

      Or the entire thing might be pattern matching pseudo-history, which breaks down here?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      In the passage you mention, he specifically says that the midlands (ie, Quaker-Germans) also contributed to Southern California. Elsewhere, he says that Yankees founded San Francisco in the 19th century.

    • Plumber says:

      @AlexOfUrals says:

      “Just finished listening to The Albion’s Seed by Fischer and here’s something I’m terribly confused about. It seems to be saying in the last chapter that California was populated by a mix of the Borderers, Hispanics and Jews – so why is it so… California? By which I mostly mean: progressive, Democratic, extremely fond of large protective government and high taxes, hateful of guns, socialistic/communistic, and otherwise politically left…”

      “…Admittedly what the book literally saying is “the Southern California”, but it didn’t include the Northern into any other cultural region so I assumed it goes here too – am I wrong and it actually goes to the Pacific Northwest and therefore to what Fischer refers to as “the Northern Tier”? But it’s hard to make a case how San Francisco has more in common culturally with North Dakota than with Los Angeles…”

      The answers have already been given upthread but only a coward rejects an opportunity to bloviate when the question has already been answered!  

      Oh sweet summer child, you don’t know California!

      San Francisco isn’t Los Angeles, and neither is the interior. 

      See this brief discussion in the last Open Thread (three posts) on ‘Okie’ California by clicking here: here first.

      Read it?

      Good!

      My qualifications are that me, my mother, and my grandmother were all born in California, so roots almost as deep as Senor Peralta of the 18th century!

      Some History:

      Know oh Prince that before the oceans drank Atlantis…

      …skipping ahead a bit…

      Spanish colonial California was relatively sparse, the original missions and presidios were replaced by ranchos that mostly exported leather hides which was still the case when Mexico (including Alta and Baja California) became independent of Spain, after the brief “Bear Flag Republic” in which Anglos attempted independence from Mexico and the conquest of Alta California from 1845 to 1848 by the United States, the Rancho owners had little cash to defend in court their property ownership against the thousands of anglo squatters that came after the discovery of gold in 1849. 

      By 1855 the population of California doubled, most went to Northern California in search of gold, ships (mostly from New England which was then the main ship-building location in the U.S.A.) would come filled with immigrants to San Francisco, be sunk in the bay, filled with mud, and more San Francisco would be built on the bay fill.

      Besides New Englanders, the new San Franciscans were often Irish and Chinese, than later Italian and a host of other nationalities, the Jews that Fischer mentioned were at first mostly German speaking, typically shop keepers and not a large percentage of the population in San Francisco. They were a good number of Jews in Los Angeles compared to many other U.S. cities when Fischer wrote, but not as much proportionally as in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. Spanish speaking and Spanish surnamed Californians were mostly located in Los Angeles and the rest of southern California in the ’80’s, northern California was more anglo then, but all of California is more Hispanic, and (to a lesser extent) Asian now.

      Interior and far north California had a big influx of ‘Okies’ in the 1930’s, from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and especially Texas – into the ’80’s much of rural California accents sounded “southern”, cowboy actor Slim Pickens was born in California, his parents were Texans. The ‘Okies’ were mistly of British ‘Borderers’ and German lineage. 

      Blacks from the rural south came in the 1940’s to work in the shipyards of Oakland, Marin City, Richmond, et cetera where they remained until the ’00’s.

      Vietnamese ‘boat people’ came to California in the later ’70’s and the ’80’s to escape Communism, also in the ’80’, mostly to Los Angeles came Iranians who escaped the “Islamic republic”, and Koreans.

      Anyway San Francisco was a small Spanish speaking mission, presidio (fort), and pueblo (town), then an influx of first New England Yankees, then Irish, Chinese, then Italians, then everybody. 

      Los Angeles stayed more Spanish longer. Interior California had Hispanic, Japanese, and Filipino farm workers, then anglophone ‘Okies’, then more Hispanics. 

      Because amateur armchair sociology is fun (episismetic status: pulled out of…) I’m going to quote from Colin Woodward the author of 2011’s American Nations on the three disperate “cultural nations” that make up California:

      “… El Norte
      The oldest of the Euro-American nations, El Norte dates back to the late sixteenth century, when the Spanish empire founded Monterrey, Saltillo, and other outposts in what are now the Mexican-American borderlands. Today this resurgent culture spreads from the current frontier for a hundred miles or more in both directions, taking in south and west Texas, southern California and the Imperial Valley, southern Arizona, most of New Mexico, parts of Colorado, and the six northernmost Mexican states. Most Americans are aware that the region is a place apart, where Hispanic language, culture, and societal norms dominate; few realize that among Mexicans, nortenos have a reputation for being more independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and work centered than their central and southern countrymen. Long a hotbed of democratic reform and revolutionary settlement, various parts of the region have tried to secede from Mexico to form independent buffer states between the two federations. Today it resembles Germany during the Cold War: two peoples with a common culture separated from one another by a large wall.

      The Left Coast
      A Chile-shaped nation wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges and stretching from Monterey to Juneau, the Left Coast was originally colonized by two groups: merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen from New England (who arrived by sea and dominated the towns); and farmers, prospectors, and fur traders from Greater Appalachia (who generally arrived by wagon and controlled the countryside). Yankees expended considerable effort to make it “a New England on the Pacific,” but were only partially successful: the Left Coast is a hybrid of Yankee idealism, faith in good government and social reform, and the Appalachian commitment to individual self-expression and exploration. The staunchest ally of Yankeedom and greatest champion of environmentalism, it battles constantly against Far Western sections in the interior of its home states.

      The Far West
      The other “second-generation” nation, this is the one part of the continent where environmental factors trumped ethnographic ones. High, dry, and remote, the Far West stopped the eastern nations in their tracks and, with minor exceptions, was only colonized via the deployment of vast industrial resources: railroads, heavy mining equipment, ore smelters, dams, and irrigation systems. As a result, settlement was largely directed and controlled by large corporations headquartered in distant New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, or by the federal government itself, which controlled much of the land. Exploited as an internal colony for the benefit of the seaboard nations, Far Western political leaders have focused public resentment on the federal government (on whose infrastructure spending they depend) while avoiding challenges to the region’s corporate masters, who retain near Gilded Age influence. It encompasses nearly all of the interior west of the 100th meridian, from the northern boundary of El Norte to the middle reaches of Canada, including much of California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska, Colorado and Canada’s Prairie Provinces, and all of Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Nevada. Two other nations—the Inuit-dominated First Nation in the far north and Quebec-centered New France—are located primarily in Canada and are peripheral to this discussion. Their U.S. enclaves in northern and western Alaska and southern Louisiana respectively have scant electoral power, but they both have considerable sway in Canada and have come the closest to forming independent nation-states of their own (in Quebec and Greenland).

      Nearly every internally divisive development in U.S. history in the past two centuries has pitted Yankeedom against the Deep South. Since neither of these regional “superpowers” has had a sufficient share of the population to dominate federal politics in this time period, they have sought to build and maintain alliances with other regional cultures. Some of these alliances have been remarkably durable, like those between Yankeedom and the Left Coast or between the Deep South and Tidewater, each of which has survived since before the Civil War. Others are younger and weaker, such as the axis between Greater Appalachia and the Deep South—cultures that took up arms against one another in both the American Revolution and the Civil War—or between the Deep South and the Far West, where resentment of corporate control may one day eclipse anger at the federal government…”

      So in “Albion’s Seed” terms California if a mixed bag, part New England Yankee (mostly in the coastal northern half), part Borderer Greater Appalachia (interior), a little Quaker/German (also interior), Spanish colonial (interior and more south), and some Asian.

      I myself am mixed Irish Catholic, Yankee Massachusetts via Kansas, German Lutheran, German speaking Jewish from what is now Poland, and Scots-Irish. 

      Five years ago the bulk of my immediate co-workers in San Francisco were Filipino and Russian, across the hall in custodial they’re mostly Chinese and Mexican with a few African Americans. Now my immediate co-workers still have a large Russian contingent, a few second generation of Filipino descent (those born in the Philippines have retired), a couple of Mexican descent, a Puerto Rican (a Spanish speaking U.S. island territory), three of Irish descent (including me), and one African-American.

      The cops are still often Irish, with large black, Chinese and Italian contingents, firemen are still mostly Italian with large Irish and Chinese contingents.

      Building trades unions are still often Irish and Italian with more black, Hispanic, and Chinese contingents than in the past, non-union construction workers are now most often Hispanic.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Know oh Prince that before the oceans drank Atlantis…

        Such a shame that Prince and Donovan never collaborated on a song about this.

      • imoimo says:

        This post alone is a great supplement to Scott’s review of Albion. I’ll definitely remember “San Francisco = Yankee idealism + Appalachian self-expression.”

  27. Well... says:

    I upgraded to Catalina on my Macbook recently. Why the hell did Apple split iTunes into separate apps? I asked my search engine that question and only found a bunch of articles from 8 months ago saying they would do it, and a few from more recently saying they did it on Windows, but nothing about why they made this change in Catalina. I can’t see any advantages, especially since now to burn podcasts to mp3 CDs I have to locate them in Finder, then drag them into playlists in Music.app…ugh. I just want an explanation.

  28. salvorhardin says:

    A set of economic-prediction questions:

    1. What do you think is the probability that, between now and 2040, there will be at least one period in which seasonally-adjusted world GDP drops by >5%?
    2. Same probability question but for a >10% drop.
    3. If your investment strategy includes explicit planning for a drop of either (or even greater) magnitude, what form does that strategic planning take?

    For perspective, per Wikipedia, the 1929-1932 beginning of the Great Depression saw a 15% drop in world GDP while the 2008-2009 recession saw only about a 1% drop.

    • Erusian says:

      World GDP dropped by 15% from 1929 to 1932. It dropped by roughly 0% from 1929 to 1935 and had grown by 1936. So my plan for the Great Depression would be: wait a few years. Now, if you’re planning for a Nazi/Communist takeover or for the fall of Western Civilization, I might suggest you look to things more important than your stock portfolio. In particular, the ability to flee with whatever wealth you have or to solidify it into real assets is probably more important.

      Meanwhile, the stock market didn’t reach its 1929 height until 1959. But that’s only a problem if you bought in at the height of 1929. If you bought stocks literally any other time than between October 1929 and July 1930, your portfolio would have recovered its value by 1936. If you’d bought at the 1920s average, it’d have recovered by 1933-34.

      • baconbits9 says:

        World GDP dropped by 15% from 1929 to 1932. It dropped by roughly 0% from 1929 to 1935 and had grown by 1936. So my plan for the Great Depression would be: wait a few years.

        World population grew during this period, so you are talking about a 5-10% decline in per person living standards with a flat GDP rate.

        Meanwhile, the stock market didn’t reach its 1929 height until 1959. But that’s only a problem if you bought in at the height of 1929. If you bought stocks literally any other time than between October 1929 and July 1930, your portfolio would have recovered its value by 1936. If you’d bought at the 1920s average, it’d have recovered by 1933-34.

        This isn’t the issue with the GD and stocks, the issue is that while the UE rate hit 25% in the US well over 50% of people experienced joblessness at some period and I have seen estimates north of 75%. Just wait a few years is completely deaf to the situation in the 1930s as people were hit by the combination of losing their income, losing their savings in bank runs, and losing the value of their homes and stock portfolios as well. How are you going to eat and pay rent while you are waiting out the correction?

        • Erusian says:

          World population grew during this period, so you are talking about a 5-10% decline in per person living standards with a flat GDP rate.

          Indeed, you could make this point and say that full recovery hadn’t happened until 1936 or 1937 when it reached comparable per capita levels iirc. You get better numbers if you live in the west: the Soviet Union, for example, saw a decrease after the Great Depression but was not as affected by the Depression itself.

          This isn’t the issue with the GD and stocks, the issue is that while the UE rate hit 25% in the US well over 50% of people experienced joblessness at some period and I have seen estimates north of 75%. Just wait a few years is completely deaf to the situation in the 1930s as people were hit by the combination of losing their income, losing their savings in bank runs, and losing the value of their homes and stock portfolios as well. How are you going to eat and pay rent while you are waiting out the correction?

          Well, your statistics are somewhat inflated.

          Regardless, the question was not, “What should the US’s economic policy be?” It was, “What should I do with my investment strategy?” The answer is: wait for the market to correct. So no, talking about stocks is not completely tone deaf to a question about stocks. If you want to talk comprehensively about what to do when you expect a downturn to protect your home’s value, your livelihood, etc, these are all good questions.

          They are not the ones being asked. I myself pointed out in my answer if you think the world is going to hell then your portfolio shouldn’t be first on your mind.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Regardless, the question was not, “What should the US’s economic policy be?” It was, “What should I do with my investment strategy?” The answer is: wait for the market to correct. So no, talking about stocks is not completely tone deaf to a question about stocks.

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            Well, your statistics are somewhat inflated.

            Please elaborate.

          • Erusian says:

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            What’s your limiting principle then? Should your investment advisor advise you on your marriage because they think she’s going to divorce you and take half? Should he advise you to become Mormon because of low divorce rates?

            Yes, your financial portfolio is one part of a complex web of financial decisions. Likewise, you could come up with a more sophisticated strategy. But, as you say, the strategy must be implemented. For most people, holding through is the best option to maximize their stock value.

            Further, stock ownership in 1929 was significantly more limited than today: something like 2% of Americans owned stocks (again, iirc: it was at least around there). These people naturally tended to be much wealthier and better connected than average and so were probably relatively far from the bread line.

            Please elaborate.

            The BLS says the unemployment rate never reached 25% on an annualized basis: it peaked over 20% but less than 25%. Even the most generous has it at 24% and some change and that’s the highest.

            Further, you claim that 50-75% of people experienced unemployment at some point. This is one of those technically true (at least potentially) but meaningless statistics. Even in a healthy economy, periods of unemployment are normal. If you take an expansive definition of the Great Depression, you have roughly a ten year period. Over the past ten years (which includes, at best, the very very tail of the Great Recession) you had about half a billion job changes. If any of those changes took more than four weeks, the person counts as unemployed. And guess what: the average time to find a job is six weeks.

            Total number of people who experienced unemployment is an irrelevant statistic that will be large even in a healthy economy. Average time to find a job and differences in hours worked, conditions, wages, etc are what would be relevant.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Incorrect. A correct investment strategy requires that person be able to implement that strategy. Just as ‘buy stocks that will increase in value’ is an incorrect investment strategy because it ignores the difficulties of implementing it saying ‘hold stocks while you face unemployment, a loss of savings and other hardships’ is an incorrect strategy.

            Standard financial advice is to keep a portion of your savings (up to about six months worth of living expenses, plus any expected large upcoming expenses) in low-risk, relatively liquid investments (bank accounts, money market funds, and maybe a ladder of short-term CDs or treasury bills). This should cover the first few months of unemployment without needing to tap into your main investments.

            But yes, during a particularly bad recession, you might be out of work for more than 3-6 months and need to tap into other savings. At that point, yes, you do need to start cashing in on your long-term investments, or at least spending your dividend/interest income from them. This is an argument for another piece of standard investment advice (and against the common contrarian advice to put your long-term investments 100% in stocks) of diversifying across multiple asset classes. If you’re allocated 80% stocks and 20% the domestic stock market crashes but the bond market doesn’t (*), then you can spend down your bond investments first.

            (*) The conventional wisdom is that this is often going to be the case. In the 2008 bear market, for example, stocks went down by 40-50% and took about two years to fully recover, while investment-grade corporate bonds only went down about 10% and recovered to baseline in about six months, and treasury bonds actually went up a bit.

    • Garrett says:

      one period

      How long? If you count the impact of a major typhoon/hurricane in some select areas for a few days, likely. For a year-long time period, probably not absent nuclear war.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Fine, fair enough, make it a year-to-year change (not necessarily over one whole year but over N whole years where N >= 1).

    • Thegnskald says:

      1. Negligible / 0%.

      Likewise for 2.

      World GDP is a lot more comprehensive than it was in 1929, and is measured much more broadly and in-depth. I think the 1929 figure considerably overstated the drop, because GDP tended to measure things that were easiest to measure, and also most vulnerable to fluctuations in consumer demand.

      I expect that kind of variability in the stock market, and my planning currently includes substantive liquid assets to buy up as much as possible during the next crash.

    • eigenmoon says:

      1. 80%
      2. 40%
      3. gold, crypto, canned food

  29. Jaskologist says:

    This will be a very hard read for parents, but the author is a former frequent commenter here. Take a moment to mourn with and pray for our brother.

    Crossing Mordor.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Thank you for that. It was beautiful and sad. I’m reading Lord of the Rings with my oldest son, so it hit home pretty deeply for me.

      I pray he will find peace.

    • Nick says:

      So sorry to hear this happened. I’ll pray for him and his family.

    • Murphy says:

      poor thing.

      Back yard pools are, statistically, quite dangerous to kids.

      If you have a pool then it’s abut 100 micromorts per year for your child.

    • hls2003 says:

      You’re not kidding about it being a tough read. Devastating. I don’t know the author, but I’ve prayed for him and his family.

    • zoozoc says:

      Thank you for sharing and thanks to the author for sharing his thoughts on such a difficult experience.

    • j1000000 says:

      This is devastating. I am so sorry.

    • Randy M says:

      Now how am I going to get anything done today?
      Thank you, that was touching.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Read that at home last night and had trouble doing anything afterwards. Horrible tragedy. I hope the author finds some peace.

  30. mtl1882 says:

    Erroneous post–deleted. Meant to reply to a thread, sorry!

  31. Plumber says:

    As I’ve mentioned once or a dozen times, much of my newsreading is filtered through “What do some New York Times opinion essayist think is important this week?”, more specifically with: born in 1941 (so younger ‘Silent’/”Get off my lawn you hoodlums! Generation”) liberal Thomas Edsall, born in 1953 (so ‘Boomer’/”Flower children” Generation”) progressive Paul Krugman, and born in 1979 (so younger ‘X’er”/”Napster Generation”) conservative Ross Douthat. 

    A few open threads ago I posted long quotes from: Liberals Do Not Want to Destroy the Family by Thomas B. Edsall, and I encouraged conservative readers to get past some liberal signalling and read the meat of that essay, Ross Douthat later did the response: Are Liberals Against Marriage?, and I encourage liberal/progressive readers to get past some conservative signalling and read the meat of that essay, which I’ll quote some of: 

    “…one key fact about the recent decline in the American fertility rate that inevitably revives, rather than transcends, a long-running right-left argument. While marital fertility fell in the 1970s after the baby boom ran its course, the baby bust of the last 10 years hasn’t affected married couples, whose fertility rate has stayed level or very modestly increased.

    So while it’s important to debate questions like how the cost of child care affects childbearing decisions within marriages, the question of why marriage has declined so precipitously in the first place still looms over the fertility discussion…”

    Anyway, there was a “baby bust” in the Great Depression of the 1930’s and by 1940 in the U.S.A. births, church attendance, and marriages were all low and comparable to now, those all increased after the war and spiked in the mid 1950’s. 

    Births started dropping in the mid ’60’s, and then really dropped with the oil embargo and price inflation of the 1970’s, but they picked up again, only to drop again with the ‘Great Recession’ of 2009.

    Ten years later the continued low birthrates would be consistent with the experience of the ’30’s if we were still in an economic slump, but we’re not, jobs have been pretty plentiful the last five years.

    An oft told tale is that as women get more education they have less kids, but were the young American women of 2007 all that less educated than those of 2017?

    The drop in births is partially the continued drop in teenage and unwed births since the ’80’s, which most regard as good things, but also that young adults just aren’t getting married as much, as those that do get married still have kids at 90’s/earlier 00’s levels. I’m not particularly worried about low birthrates causing problems, lots of folks want to come to the U.S.A. and I’m confident in assimilation, I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

    When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t. The comments sections on the essays mentioned above often cited education and housing costs, fear of climate change, and Trump being President as being causes of pessimism, but Trump wasn’t President in 2017 when births were already low, I remember global warming predictions in the ’80’s (and global cooling predictions in the ’70’s), education and housing costs were pretty high in 2007, plus folks keep saying high rents are “only in a few outlier cities”.

    So what’s causing this?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

      There is a smuggled assumption here, that the low birthrates themselves are a problem.

      Non representative thought experiment: Sybil’s mother, rather than marrying and having children, doesn’t.

      • Skeptic says:

        To be charitable, my take of Plumber’s comment is this:

        1. He specifically does not view low birth rates as a problem

        2. He believes there are some factors x,y,z that exist and are causal to low birth rates

        3. He wants to identify x,y,z

        4. He is worried about x,y,z because of what else they may effect, and/or what it (negatively) says about our collective state of affairs

        • Plumber says:

          @Skeptic,

          Yes exactly, and that’s projection based on my own lived experience as when we had our older son it was basically a ‘biological clock’ we feared that if we waited longer it wouldn’t be physically possible to without expensive medical treatments that we feared we’d never be able to afford.
          We didn’t have our younger son until after years of steady work and the 2009 housing crash temporarily lowered prices and we bought a house so my gut level default “smuggled in assumption” is that younger American adults don’t feel financially secure enough and/or older ones can’t afford the medical interventions.

          Except that the economy is supposed to be doing pretty good, in my area housing is expensive but jobs are very plentiful.

          Maybe the “shell shock” of 2009 is lingering even as the economy has turned around?

          Maybe jobs for men are in one region and jobs for women in another?

          What’s (as you term it) the x, y, and z?

          • MrApophenia says:

            How much of the economic turnaround is actually being distributed widely? A booming stock market is only going to do so much when most young people have absolutely no stake in the stock market, and a bunch of crap service jobs will lower unemployment but not make people feel economically secure.

          • Aapje says:

            Except that the economy is supposed to be doing pretty good

            In my country:
            – Tax burdens on companies have declined a lot over the last decades, even as the overall tax burden increased. So who are paying more?
            – Incomes are stagnant, which means that the supposedly booming economy is not operating by the rules of a traditional booming economy
            – Very many of the new jobs are freelance-style jobs with no pension, little security & which aren’t sufficient for a decent mortgage
            – The definition of ’employed’ was changed to include jobs with minimal working hours.
            – There are great housing shortages, caused by large scale immigration* + atomization.
            – Willingness to work through a rough patch in relationships has greatly decreased, causing lots of breakups.

            * Only evil non-globalists point this out.

          • JayT says:

            – Willingness to work through a rough patch in relationships has greatly decreased, causing lots of breakups.

            Is that actually true? I thought divorce rates were falling.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @JayT

            It depends, the whole discussion is confounded by the fact that people may be more judicious in the selection of partners, or slow to go from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘married’ slower. A marriage with a lower divorce probability may have been the product of numerous failed pre-marital relationships.

            But i agree that it’s speculative to blame this on people being flakey. The only data I’ve seen is ‘age of marriage’

          • Aapje says:

            @JayT

            A marriage is not the only variant of a relationship. It can both be true that relationships are less stable and that marriages are more stable, when standards for getting married have gone up, which they clearly have.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @skeptic @plumber:

          2. He believes there are some factors x,y,z that exist and are causal to low birth rates

          I guess I need to make my point a little more explicitly, so it’s clear what my objection is.

          Original statement:

          When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t.

          The point I am trying to make here is that the second part of this equation didn’t use to be true, not in the way it is now. The expectation was early marriage and kids. Mostly people got married and had kids, or didn’t get married and still had kids.

          So maybe some of what we are observing isn’t an increase in problems, but an increase in autonomy. Depressed, anxious, pessimistic people of yesteryear may just have had a lot more kids than the people who are just as depressed and pessimistic.

          You are just assuming that it’s an increase in “problems” causing lower birth rates, rather than simply increased control over the decision to have kids. I don’t think it’s valid to smuggle this assumption in. You need to show that that is likely causal, or at least even correlated.

          I’m not necessarily advocating for this position, but I am saying the onus is on you to show not just an increase in “pessimism” but also that said increase is plausibly causal of low birth rates. I’m guessing that if you compare birth rates and general outlook now vs. most of the 70s, you’ll find that correlation runs opposite of the way you are assuming.

          ETA: and then my earlier point, more explicitly, is that this autonomy (assuming it exists and is responsible for the lower birth rates) might simply be a positive thing. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pessimistic people may not make the best parents. Sure, it’s good to ameliorate these problems for the (prospective) parents, but that’s true regardless of whether it leads to them having kids.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub > “…my objection is.

            Original statement:

            When happy and optimistic young adults fall in love and then have kids, when pessimistic they don’t.

            The point I am trying to make here is that the second part of this equation didn’t use to be true, not in the way it is now. The expectation was early marriage and kids. Mostly people got married and had kids, or didn’t get married and still had kids.

            So maybe some of what we are observing isn’t an increase in problems, but an increase in autonomy. Depressed, anxious, pessimistic people of yesteryear may just have had a lot more kids than the people who are just as depressed and pessimistic.

            You are just assuming that it’s an increase in “problems” causing lower birth rates, rather than simply increased control over the decision to have kids. I don’t think it’s valid to smuggle this assumption in. You need to show that that is likely causal, or at least even correlated.

            I’m not necessarily advocating for this position, but I am saying the onus is on you to show not just an increase in “pessimism” but also that said increase is plausibly causal of low birth rates. I’m guessing that if you compare birth rates and general outlook now vs. most of the 70s, you’ll find that correlation runs opposite of the way you are assuming..” 

            Oh, you’re right, “when pessimistic they don’t” seemed intuitive (based on my lived experience, and observations of the people I know) that it simply didn’t occur to me to explore my assumption, I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that along with the increased deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide, the decrease in births and marriages likely had the same psychological/societal causes. 

            At least I’m not alone in that assumption, a piece from 2009 titled The U.S. Recession and the Birth Rate speculated on the previous birthrate nadir of 1936 and 1976, and that “…The U.S. birth rate has exhibited some remarkable swings over the past 80 years (see Figure 1).1 Two record low points occurred during two periods of serious economic crisis: the Great Depression and the somewhat less traumatic “oil shock” inflationary period of the 1970s. It is thus logical to speculate that the current period of stark economic reality and the resultant apprehension for the future will see a similar decline in births…”

            @HeelBearCub > “…

            and then my earlier point, more explicitly, is that this autonomy (assuming it exists and is responsible for the lower birth rates) might simply be a positive thing. Stressed, depressed, anxious, pessimistic people may not make the best parents…”

            Sure. 

            @HeelBearCub > “…Sure, it’s good to ameliorate these problems for the (prospective) parents, but that’s true regardless of whether it leads to them having kids”

            I agree.

          • DinoNerd says:

            FWIW, we’ve had years – decades – of rhetoric about irresponsible people who have children and wind up on welfare, and lots of widely publicized restrictions on the total amount of financial help Americans can get in their lifetime. Birth control has also been more widely available than in my parents’ time, when it tended to be illegal.

            Assuming people paid attention, and applied this to their own choices, I’d expect this to either result in more birth control within marriage, or fewer unwed parents, rather than fewer marriages, but maybe an unexpectedly large number of those past marriages had been the result of premarital pregnancies.

            Or maybe a lot of women also internalized the concept of successful husbands trading in their wives for younger models, didn’t trust the divorce courts, and feared being left as single mothers – leaving them much much choosier. (And no, they don’t have to be rationally responding to actual rates – they might just be responding to hearing a lot about a rare practice.)

            I suspect it’s neither of the above, but thought experiments can be interesting anyways.

      • There is a smuggled assumption here, that the low birthrates themselves are a problem.

        Plumber said explicitly that he did not consider them a problem, but suspected that they were the symptom of a problem.

        I’m not particularly worried about low birthrates causing problems, lots of folks want to come to the U.S.A. and I’m confident in assimilation, I’m worried about what problems are causing low birthrates.

        • Skeptic says:

          I think bear’s point is that x,y,z are positive factors.

          Which is entirely possible.

          To be boring, I would hypothesize that it’s most likely a mixture of both positive and negative factors. The negative factors are probably worth identifying regardless of their impact on birth rates.

    • mtl1882 says:

      That decade (2007-2017) roughly corresponds to my young adulthood (twenties), and personally I noticed a shift in the aftermath of the financial crisis that is hard to articulate. Some people have written about the “cancellation of the future,” and that seems to fit it, but no one I knew phrased it that way. You point out pessimism can be a key factor, and I think it is a form of that, or at least uneasiness/uncertainty, particularly among certain socioeconomic groups. One of my close friends just had a baby–a first in my friend group–and her attitude still matched most of my friends’, which is a sort of steady acceptance, not what I think of as optimism.

      Most of us expect to be worse off than our parents, and it’s not something we freak out about. But I think it makes it harder to invest in a future that you don’t have a clear picture of, and is similar in nature to a time of economic stress, even if the numbers look okay. Malcolm Harris gets at some of this in Kids These Days, but I think the sense of malaise goes far beyond millennials. This is just an obvious way in which it manifests, since they’re the ones of childbearing age.

      • Most of us expect to be worse off than our parents

        The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

        This fits with my observation that the popular perception of climate change is much worse than what the IPCC actually projects. It feels as though a lot of people want to believe in a bleak future, for themselves or for the world, and I don’t know why.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Very good related Martin Gurri blogpost:

          https://thefifthwave.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/2019-the-year-revolt-went-global/

          The key relevant theme is that the public in revolt today is almost purely negative; they know what they are against but have no concrete sense of what a better world, one worth fighting optimistically for, would look like. Without such a clear vision, the future is going to seem bleaker even if it probably won’t be. People may not want to believe in that bleak future, but to disbelieve in it they have to be shown a better one.

          I think something similar is true about technological pessimism. In prior eras we had widely-spread expectations of much better things coming in the future (flying cars, civilian space travel etc), even though there were also fears of terrible downsides (nuclear war). Now we still have terrible downside fears but the upside possibilities are less viscerally impressive/cool/empowering and creepier to most people, AI being the clearest example. If scientific progress really is slowing down as per Cowen and Southwood, that will just exacerbate the perception of no clear upside, especially if we have hedonically adapted to a growth rate rather than a particular level.

          • Walter says:

            Yep Yep, very much this.

            Like, we (people who have been on the internet for a while) all grok that having things you are for is a weakness in an argument, Sneer Club wins forever. Modern politics/protest is just an extension of that, platform just distilled down to hating the other side.

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

          Yet millennials earn 20% less than boomers did at same stage of life, despite being better educated.

          That better education comes at a cost: later entry into the job market and higher student debts.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yet millennials earn 20% less than boomers did at same stage of life, despite being better educated.

            Based on household income. Millennials form households later, and even in the 1980s, both spouses worked in about half of all marriages. I don’t know if that explains it all, but the original source study carefully makes no mention of it, so it probably does.

          • Garrett says:

            I also believe that these are cash-only studies and fail to adjust for Total Compensation (like provided health care, life insurance, etc.)

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I think if we’re interested in *marriages* and especially fertility we want to compare relative to age and not relative to the maturity of a household. We’re precisely interested in why households take longer to mature. Unless i’m misunderstanding you.

            Unless this is truly a chicken and egg phenomenon and the household income gap is explainable solely by the fact that past generations had more income earners [on avg] in a given household at a given age. (They’re not holding off marriage because they’re poor, they’re poor because they’re holding off marriage)

            The article made it sound like these were per-capita and not per-household numbers.

            @Garrett True but the illiquidity of these perks and the potential inapplicability to the needs of an aspiring household means they need to be discounted somewhat. To exaggerate somewhat if my income was supplemented with $1Million worth of apples that i couldn’t sell to anyone it would be insincere to say that my true income has increased by $1M dollars.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @RalMirrorAd

            I’m saying that Jack and Jill Smith, married Baby Boomers, age 25, making $50,000 and $25,000 respectively, are one household with income $75,000. Whereas Mark Jones and Mary Brown, unmarried Millennials, age 25, making $50,000 and $25,000 respectively, are two households with income $50,000 and $25,000 — resulting in a far lower “median household income” that is purely an artifact.

            You can’t use a lower household income to explain the later marriages if the lower household income is due to the later marriages.

          • acymetric says:

            @The Nybbler

            That only matters if you look at per-household numbers, not if you’re looking at per capita.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @acymetric

            That only matters if you look at per-household numbers, not if you’re looking at per capita

            Which that study does. USA Today even reported it that way:

            With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            That is a fair objection, although it’s not purely an artifact, because two people living apart will on average have substantially higher expenses for the same standard of living than people who are together.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Again, that’s circular. If the claim is that Millennials aren’t pairing up and having kids because their household expenses are higher, but their household expenses are higher because they’re not pairing up…

          • acymetric says:

            We probably need to agree on what “pairing up” means. A lot of couples live together, but are not married and have no kids. In that case, they would be getting the benefits of shared housing costs (other than filing taxes jointly). Has this behavior increased enough to offset (partially or in full) fewer actual marriages? How do we correctly compare numbers with this group that probably counts as 2 households but is really one?

          • John Schilling says:

            That is a fair objection, although it’s not purely an artifact, because two people living apart will on average have substantially higher expenses for the same standard of living than people who are together.

            Yes, it does. The average 30-year-old Millenial person, having more wealth than did the average 30-yo Boomer in their day, chooses to expend much of that wealth to maintain autonomy and meatspace solitude rather than teaming up like the Boomers did. This doesn’t make Millenials poorer than Boomers, it just means they’re buying different things.

          • LesHapablap says:

            John Schilling,

            If that’s what they are doing, sure, but I really doubt that the choice to live alone is a satisfaction-maximizing free-will choice thanks to greater income. Rather it is likely more due to things like
            -90s-00s child-rearing styles that result in permanent adolescence
            -big changes in the relationship marketplace, both in attitudes and technology
            -greater requirements for education

          • Randy M says:

            -90s-00s child-rearing styles that result in permanent adolescence

            Care to expand the hypothesis? I think “no effect from parenting” is an overstatement, but “once common parenting styles significantly impair development” is also rather bold.

          • LesHapablap says:

            The hypothesis is that overprotective parenting and helicopter parenting result in children who are less independent and more anxious.

            Parenting styles have changed dramatically in the last 40 years and often children younger than 10 are never left unsupervised.

            Supporting evidence is the lowered teen-pregnancy rate, higher rates of virginity among teenagers and young adults, lower rates of drinking and smoking. This all shows a drop in risk-taking behavior which you’d expect from adolescents afraid to take risks.

            Evidence against: Japanese parents purposefully try to instill independence in their kids, walking to school by themselves as as young as five. They even have a reality tv show based on the tradition of sending kids on their ‘first mission,’ link text, yet have an alarming trend in young adult abstinence and reclusion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Supporting evidence is the lowered teen-pregnancy rate, higher rates of virginity among teenagers and young adults, lower rates of drinking and smoking. This all shows a drop in risk-taking behavior which you’d expect from adolescents afraid to take risks.

            Lead hypothesis accounts for all of these, and a bunch of other stuff as well.

            Otherwise you have to posit a different cause for the increase than for the decrease.

        • mtl1882 says:

          The question is why. Economic growth is irregular, but it hasn’t stopped.

          I may write a longer response to the “why” question at some point, but why would economic growth be the only thing that matters? I think is the question we’ve naturally come to ask. The economy can grow in ways that is not helpful to us personally, as it isn’t evenly distributed, and as growth can come from a variety of circumstances, not all of which are as easy to understand or appreciate. But more than that, I do not believe we can grow forever, and I think a lot of people have their doubts about it. It seems like we’re in for a backlash, if not already in one. I’m not inclined to trust wholeheartedly in “numbers” given how easily they are manipulated—reaching the job market at the time of the crisis gave a lot of us a mistrust of the numbers the experts agree on. I know I have anxiety about trusting that sort of information. I’ve seen articles on millennials’ fear of investing. It may not be a wise attitude, but I think it is easy enough to understand that some developed an aversion to trusting the system on those sorts of things. One thing that stands out to me about this era is a proliferation of scammy paperwork that is very difficult to separate from legitimate, important paperwork, because the real stuff is also obscure and often fishy. This connects to what was mentioned below–nobody is aiming for an actual functional outcome, but rather avoiding a mistake or being taken advantage of, checking somewhat meaningless boxes. “Sneer Club wins forever.” This social dynamic is to me a much greater part of it than the numbers—when you suspect everything could be a house of cards, you can’t feel confident about much.

          ETA: It could perhaps be described as a chronic suspicion that people might not be acting in good faith when they give us advice, even if they are outwardly highly respectable and successful. Or at least acting with enough hubris to make their advice dubious in the long-term. Things feel fragile…like they can’t keep going, but it also doesn’t feel possible to move in a different direction, because purpose and action are largely unconnected or actions are highly interdependent such that you don’t know if you’re actually acting towards the intended purpose.

          • But more than that, I do not believe we can grow forever, and I think a lot of people have their doubts about it.

            That gets us back to “why are people more pessimistic than they used to be?”

            Why can’t we “grow forever,” or at least through the lifetime of anyone now alive?

          • Aapje says:

            One reason for growth in the past is population (density) increases, which seems finite.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Income inequality is up and job security is down. It looks to me as if economic mobility – aka the American dream – is also way down – if you are born poor, you now expect to stay poor.

          It doesn’t matter if economic indicators – like stock prices, or even recorded GDP – are going up, unless the change is reaching you. I chatted recently with a grocery store cashier who worked 7 days a week, spread across multiple jobs. She was not young enough to be “entry level”, and insisted that she was “not complaining” because it was good to be employed. I’d be unsuprised if all of her jobs were part time and lacking benefits, so that she couldn’t afford to pay for having a baby, as well as quite obviously not having enough time to raise one – or enough money to hire child care. And while we discussed none of these issues, I wouldn’t be surprised if she felt as if things were looking up – she was able to get all those jobs, rather than being out of work.

          I’m all right – I got my career started while jobs were plentiful, and got into computers on the ground floor. I own a lot of stock, and gain when out-of-US-production and out-of-US-sales combine to raise the price of that stock – or when it gains due to various common manipulations not related to any actual increase in revenue or profit (stock buy backs, etc.) I also own outright a house in an area where prices continue to rise. I’m even high enough on the economic totem poll to actually get raises that outpace inflation ;-( But I’m a boomer, which is not the demographic producing babies these days.

      • Clutzy says:

        Summed up the feelings of me, and my younger siblings, and just about everyone we know.

        The only exceptions I really can point out are some of the people who graduated HS with my brother, are hispanic, and are the first in the family to get a HS degree.

      • BBA says:

        Shower thought: it might be some kind of higher-level Malthusian issue. We’re not bumping up against the limit where if there are any more people we’ll starve, but we are bumping up against a limit where if there are any more people standards of living will fall. The pie remains the same size, or grows slowly, but there are always more people who want slices.

        I dunno, 30 years ago when my parents were my age, they were homeowners with children. I’m forever alone single and I still rent, and when I compare property prices when they bought to now the difference is staggering even after inflation.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      This whole topic might be akin to asking which torpedo sank the yamato. So salt it to taste.

      College Education: The data you’re looking for is here.

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/184272/educational-attainment-of-college-diploma-or-higher-by-gender/

      29.5% to 34.6% from 2007 to 2017 it looks like Here’s an interesting thought experiment that I myself don’t know the answer to, but if you want the % of the population [male female or both] with a college degree to increase by roughly .5% from one year to the next, by how much does the undergraduate population need to increase?

      High Rents are occuring in those areas where the job and population growth is strongest (which makes sense). Meaning that we might discount the value of job growth for young adults if an unusually large

      It’s also been argued that high density areas have always been fertility sinks, so even if home affordability hasn’t changed between the urbs and the hinterland, if the job growth is unusually concentrated in the urbs it will have a net supressing effect.

      I’m going to revisit this after i get more information on student debt levels 2007 vs. 2017

      *In general* If the economic recovery between 2009 and 2015 was heavily weighted towards increasing employment levels, income, and equity of adults between 35 and 60. These folks have likely already madce up their minds about whether they’re going to marry and how many children they may or may not have. It’s no surprise that it doesn’t seem to be having the effect we expect it to. And the impression I got during those years was precisely that:

      As for immigration I fear it’s trying to smother a fire with gasoline. You want your nations capitalists to be forced to employ young adults at an early age with competitive pay and cheap mortgages and rents.

      [inb4: Yes, in libertopia infrastructure, housing, and capital investment would be perfectly elastic and just grow to scale but we don’t live in libertopia, things are “sticky”. ]

    • Etoile says:

      From anecdata observing my environs – urban, early-30s – I part of it is a more fundamental shift in mindset: feeling of having more time, or not seeing marriage and kids as necessary. It’s career, travel, finding oneself, Tinder, and just inertia. Now, I know the culture changes, and I myself didn’t start family formation until mid-20s. But I see people waiting, going on autopilot: couples together for a decade before they get married, then just not having kids for years (yes I know some people deal with inferility, etc. but this is a broader effect) – for seemingly no good reason.

      I also think the gender wars have done real harm. Generations ago, and even today, lots of people who are very far from the most attractive, interesting, intelligent, or successful, managed to get married and have kids. So it’s not just about only the most attractive people getting laid (and I know lots of attractive people not with anyone….) Now, this is based on personal observations, and is obviously painting with a very broad brush, and maybe I’m way off-base here, but: it seems like we’re diligently trying to stamp out entirely the dynamic of men wanting to impress women and women wanting to attract men – all the fun of relations between men and women. Women see doing anything for a man, pleasing a man, as an imposition, as exploitation – it’s no longer a source of pleasure or pride for many. As a result, they don’t practice the craft of “taming” or “shaping” a man, but just suffer in resentment or opt out entirely. Men, on the other hand, kind of stop trying. And I understand – nobody wants to do chores endlessly, buy drinks, suck up to women and be rejected… but nobody explains to the boys how to go about it. So they don’t, or try ridiculous things with no success. I don’t know how to fix this really…. but it is essential for all of us new parents to have a strategy for teaching our kids healthy gender relations if we want them to get married and give us eventual grand-children….

      • Viliam says:

        Seems like for many people, 30 is the psychologically significant number, when they can’t pretend they are kids anymore.

        couples together for a decade before they get married

        Alternatively: a couple together for a decade, then one decides it is time to have kids, the other one is like “why the hurry? we still have a lot of time”, then a few months of increasing conflict, then breaking up. (Optionally followed by a shock of finding out how during the decade their value changed on the dating market.)

        Women see doing anything for a man, pleasing a man, as an imposition, as exploitation – it’s no longer a source of pleasure or pride for many.

        Sometimes this goes so far that even doing a fair share of work feels like exploitation. For example, in most of my relationships, I was the only one who could cook, because for the girls suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against, while for me it was simply a useful skill everyone should learn.

        Note that this wasn’t a reversal of roles, because at the same time, I was the one who cared more about my potential to make money and eventually feed the family, while the girls were usually interested in things like traveling.

        (Sometimes women complain that the only thing men want from them is sex. But many of them need to be asked: “so, what else do you offer?” Note that things like “education” have value only if you are converting them to a decent income, or at least they make you an interesting conversational partner.)

        it is essential for all of us new parents to have a strategy for teaching our kids healthy gender relations if we want them to get married and give us eventual grand-children

        Well, yes, because our society definitely isn’t going to do it for us.

        Sometimes I feel that teaching the kids to be healthy adults with useful skills would do the job, even ignoring the gender-specific skills. They would still turn out better than most of what the market has to offer. For example, I plan to teach my kids to cook, regardless of their gender. (But my kids happen to be girls, so no one is going to believe this, and they will call me a sexist instead. Yeah, whatever.) Similarly, I plan to teach them math and computer science. And how to be nice to people, but also how to make sure they are nice to you, and to shun those who don’t. How to take “heroic responsibility” for things, instead of waiting for someone else to do everything for you and being bitter if they don’t. Etc.

        • John Schilling says:

          Sometimes I feel that teaching the kids to be healthy adults with useful skills would do the job, even ignoring the gender-specific skills.

          Berkeley has that covered.

        • Randy M says:

          Alternatively: a couple together for a decade, then one decides it is time to have kids, the other one is like “why the hurry? we still have a lot of time”, then a few months of increasing conflict, then breaking up. (Optionally followed by a shock of finding out how during the decade their value changed on the dating market.)

          I’ve seen this play out recently in two close relations.

          suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against

          The idea of valuing opposing the patriarchy (or whatever) more than pleasing the partner is a huge red flag.

          But many of them need to be asked: “so, what else do you offer?”

          The romantic notions of unconditional love and love at first sight and all that are deeply misleading ideas. Making yourself lovable is a much better strategy than finding someone who loves you for who you are. By all means, shun people without grace to overlook a flaw or mistake, but at the same time, considering like you suggest what your partner can gain from the arrangement is important. Most people are probably not just so awesome to be around that their mere presence is enough to sustain a romance, let alone life-long partnership.

        • ana53294 says:

          I was the only one who could cook, because for the girls suggesting that they should learn to cook was apparently a sexist prejudice they bravely fought against

          Where was it? Maybe because I’m Basque, but I never thought of cooking as a feminine thing. While the toil of daily meals does usually fall on women, Basque men cook. Barbeques, paellas, big meat dishes, stuff like that. Younger generations share the work more equally, but older men (40+) do know how to cook.

          Although my father was quite fine eating bean stew for lunch for weeks, same dish, he’d cook it on a Sunday and eat it the whole week. My mother and us kids couldn’t stand it, so she cooked a separate meal for us and only ate beans once per week, while my father ate beans daily (it’s his comfort food). I think that kind of caring less is more common in single men, although many women do it too.

          Cooking as a skill is not gendered in Spain in general; cooking as a task is gendered. So everybody knows how to cook, but it’s generally done by women. I find it surprising not that your girlfriends didn’t want to cook, but that they didn’t wanna learn.

          • Etoile says:

            There’s this book, “What French Women Know” by an American woman. I liked the book, and one of the insights it points out is, in France, there isn’t a gender separation when people get together socially the way there is in the US (i.e., guys’ and girls’ nights); people socialize in couples and with both sexes.
            Maybe Spain and other continental countries are similar? Maybe the gender wars are really an Anglo-Saxon thing, which the rest of the world has imported, like pop music and blue jeans?

          • ana53294 says:

            Basque friendship is more gendered than Spanish in general. Men and women have their own separate friendship groups.

            Younger couples have more mixed gender friendship groups, but still separate ones (called “cuadrilla”).

            There is a thing called “txokos”, which are country clubs but for poor people. So a group of people own a house, there’s a self service pay as you go bar, and people cook and have events there.

            In the rest of Spain, it’s not as gendered.

          • Etoile says:

            Hmm, I inferred you were Russian somehow from your earlier posts! Are you part one, part the other, if you don’t mind sharing?
            (Sorry if this is too prying.)

          • ana53294 says:

            Half Russian, but I lived all my life in the Basque Country, moved to the UK. I don’t mind, I have shared it before.

        • Etoile says:

          I didn’t really want to get into object-level arguments over who is more crap, the men or the women…. For every lazy-ish entitled-ish woman, there’s a lazy-ish, useless-ish man to be found: video games all day, doesn’t brush his teeth, makes no move to help with anything unless micromanaged and nagged, and still wants praise for taking the trash out that one time. This is a caricature, but these guys totally exist, and it’s hard to fault their women for wondering why they even bother with such specimens.

          But I don’t think the gender wars help improve either of these pathologies by any stretch.

          (Also, just wanted to add: I absolutely despise all those think-pieces on websites with names like “Romper”, “Bustle”, “Scary Mommy” and such, where the narrative of womanhood as victimhood and nothing else is amplified to the point that – if that’s all you’re reading – you believe it! But they sometimes touch on real issues women encounter.)

          • Aapje says:

            The old model had women set the norms for the household, but they also did most of that work, so their typically more stricter norms than men, mostly caused work for themselves. Furthermore, the woman would typically be automatically triggered to do the work to her standards, because she she would get upset over how dirty/messy things were.

            The modern model still has the woman setting the norms, but now the man is obliged to do half the household work, without actually sharing those norms. It seems to me that this makes nagging much more likely, as the woman will notice when her norms are violated and then will get upset at the man, who is oblivious.

            A lot of women now seem unwilling to ‘groom’ a man, which is understandable because with reduced loyalty, he can easily walk out on her, making her investment worthless. Yet how are men supposed to get to a healthy situation where they do enough for the woman to make her happy, but also don’t do so much that their own well-being is neglected, if there is no opportunity to learn this gradually?

            The feminist demands seem a demand for male slavery, where men have to do what women demand and only get what women are willing to let them have. Men who listen to this too much probably can’t help but end dysfunctional, either by becoming useless, to protect themselves from being abused, or giving in too much, allowing themselves to be abused.

          • Garrett says:

            it’s hard to fault their women for wondering why they even bother with such specimens

            I would have more sympathy if they were more interested in me men who were employed, who had diverse skills and abilities and who have duct tape are handy around the house.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Garrett: Advertise your ability to use duct tape for bondage.

          • Dan L says:

            Rookie mistake, unless immediately following wax play

          • Etoile says:

            @Aapje:
            That’s the trouble, isn’t it. I have no answers; virtue is really the only way, then; virtue and character. The women need to work on the men, and take one for the team sometimes; the men too. You can’t mistake what you’re allowed to do (e.g. divorce is easy) for a statement on what is the right thing to do.
            I like Viliam’s approach to raising his daughters; more of that for men and women, and a mechanism for them to find each other, and there is hope.

          • Etoile says:

            @Garrett:
            There’s some kind of coordination problem happening. I see good girls, open to dating, wanting to be asked out; and guys who can’t seem to find a good girl!

          • Viliam says:

            @Etoile

            For every lazy-ish entitled-ish woman, there’s a lazy-ish, useless-ish man to be found

            By the way, I completely agree. It’s just that as a heterosexual man, I don’t really care about how crappy men are. Hypothetically, the worse are other men, the better is my position on the market, heh.

            The difference, though, is that we can read about “men-children” in the mainstream media, but their gender mirrors are not mentioned.

            I see good girls, open to dating, wanting to be asked out; and guys who can’t seem to find a good girl!

            I know such girls, and I know such guys… but sometimes they also know each other, and still nothing happens. (And both of them are considered attractive by other people, so low market value is not the real issue here.)

            So, I am not sure how much solving the coordination problem would help. I expect that it would help many people… but there would also be many whom it wouldn’t help. Sometimes people just can’t decide, even if the options are there.

          • So, I am not sure how much solving the coordination problem would help.

            A very long time ago, I thought that online dating would considerably reduce the problem. I’m not sure if it has or not, no longer being a participant in that market.

          • Garrett says:

            @Etoile: Would you be willing to put me in contact with any of these women? And do you have a form of contact you’d be willing to share here?

    • One obvious explanation of falling birth rates is the greatly increased availability of non-marital sex. Traditionally, the only way for most men to get reliable access to sex was to get married. Nowadays, I gather, a Tinder account will do it, at least for the moderately attractive. Courtship involves a lot of time and effort and marriage is a serious commitment, so it isn’t surprising if the increased availability of a substitute results in less marriage.

      A related issue is the impression that people have become more pessimistic. The causal relation there could run either way. The obvious direction is pessimism as a reason not to get married, more generally to avoid long-term commitments on the grounds that they will probably go bad.

      To get causality in the other direction, I think you need a mismatch between short-term and long-term optimization, an issue I have been thinking of in the context of the surprising popularity of WoW Classic. It’s possible that marriage produces a more attractive life in the long term, certainly consistent with my own experience, but also possible that it looks less attractive in the short run, at least to men. If people are actually leading less happy lives, it isn’t surprising if they are more pessimistic.

      • mtl1882 says:

        I think the sexual revolution certainly changed society in major ways, but I feel like that is somewhat old news. I don’t think that wave is cresting now. Supposedly, younger people are having less sex than before. A lot of men (and women) don’t have much luck on Tinder, either. The young people I see around me seem to get engaged when they feel able to buy a house, and to marry when they are ready to have a kid, because they see that as the “right” way to do things. I feel like this was already the way of thinking for many of our parents, but they hit those milestones earlier and were less likely to live together ahead of time (but this did not mean abstinence prior to marriage). I hear things like “we will get engaged as soon as he finishes grad school”–the couple certainly is not averse to marriage and has essentially committed to and planned out a marriage, but they feel inappropriate making it official prior to then. It is almost over-planned, a mere formality–“oh, graduation is in May, so in June we’ll get engaged.” And when they get married because they are ready to be parents, they mean immediately–living together for ten years is fine, but they have to change the arrangement before having a baby. It seems significant to me because, while they delay marriage, it’s not like they aren’t thinking about kids or aren’t seriously committed. I’m talking about people from a certain socioeconomic group who would pay attention to these things, but I think it is important to differentiate between not marrying and avoidance of commitment/responsibility.

        I do think the short-term versus long-term is a big part of it. Our society has become incredibly short-term in thinking. I believe this is a big part of what is going on. Also, for the average person, I’m not sure that courtship was particularly arduous—people married young and quickly due to norms about sex, but it doesn’t necessarily mean most put a ton of effort and wisdom into this. When those norms exist, a lot of people naturally do not think of it as a serious commitment, but as something they “have” to get out of the way. Which is why a lot of marriages don’t last.

        • Note that STD rates are up:

          https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2019/2018-STD-surveillance-report-press-release.html

          I think both it and the decline in self-reported sexual activity are true, and are reflective of the same social trend.

          I feel like this was already the way of thinking for many of our parents, but they hit those milestones earlier and were less likely to live together ahead of time (but this did not mean abstinence prior to marriage). I hear things like “we will get engaged as soon as he finishes grad school”–the couple certainly is not averse to marriage and has essentially committed to and planned out a marriage, but they feel inappropriate making it official prior to then.

          Rather than explaining the decline in marriage by citing the milestones, I would explain the milestones as a product of people’s lack of desire to get married.

          • mtl1882 says:

            I think both it and the decline in self-reported sexual activity are true, and are reflective of the same social trend.

            Is your point that Tinder etc. have made it easier for someone who already preferred casual sex to take this much further, without improving opportunities much for those looking for relationships? Because I think that might be true, but I’m just not sure if that is what you mean by the same trend. Or that people are having less sex, but it is all casual and sporadic?

            Rather than explaining the decline in marriage by citing the milestones, I would explain the milestones as a product of people’s lack of desire to get married.

            I think this goes both ways, and sometimes they’re not separate—someone who feels unsure that he or she can obtain a secure and functional adulthood may that marriage and the milestones are all off limits from the beginning. But some will react by rushing to find a spouse to rely on. What stands out to me is that I hear a lot of people making the decision about kids first—they want kids, so they will marry. It is true that if everyone felt pressure to marry young, which usually comes with pressure to have kids also, I’d expect more kids. But within the current dynamic, I think the desire for kids is also a driver of marriage—at least some of the time, the causation is reversed.

  32. proyas says:

    [This is a quasi-repost of a thread I created in the last Open Thread. After posting it and seeing the first few responses, I realized I had messed up the wording of my question so badly that it wasn’t worth an attempt to fix it, and I’d be better off starting over by creating this.]

    Why do we care about a person’s motivation for committing homicide? If 99%+ of adults consider the killing unjustified (hence my use of the “homicide” label), then why does it matter if the act was committed in the name of religion, race, terrorism, money, jealousy, grossly disproportionate revenge for some past mideed, or anything else?

    I don’t think the motivations should be “covered up,” but I don’t understand why a killing should be thought of as “more bad” or more worthy of attention because of the killer’s reason for committing the crime. In every case, the most important fact–that a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed–is the same.

    • John Schilling says:

      Do you just want to point at the villain and say “Bad, Bad Human!”, or do you want to do something about it? If the latter, doing something useful greatly benefits from understanding the motive.

    • Eric Rall says:

      A bit over a century, Ambrose Bierce facetiously observed, “There are four kinds of homocide [sic]: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another—the classification is for advantage of the lawyers”.

      Change out “excusable” for “understandable”, and I think the categorization actually tracks pretty well with many (perhaps most) people’s moral intuitions. The motive for the killing matters because it’s one of the bigger parts of how we slot the killing by category.

      To pick an extreme example, someone who gets fatally shot in the course of attempting an armed robbery is a situation where, as you put it, “a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed”: the robber was committing an serious crime and probably deserved a prison sentence, but most people don’t think armed robbery rates the death penalty unless it escalates to the point a robber murders one or more of his victims. But my moral intuition (and I think most people’s) is to mind this killing much, much less than the kinds of killing that our legal system categorizes as murder. Part of the difference is that the robber’s wrongful actions are in large part responsible for the situation that lead to his death, but it also matter to me that whoever shot him was presumably acting out of self-preservation in the face of attack or defense of an innocent, not a baser motive like greed or revenge.

      I know you’re specifically asking about unjustified homicides, but “justified” isn’t strictly binary. There are a range of motives that are not considered (legally or culturally) full-on justifications, but which do (for most people) seem to affect how deeply we are offended by the crime and (for the legal system) may be considered mitigating factors reducing the crime from 1st Degree Murder to 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter, or within one of those categories suggesting a more lenient sentence is appropriate.

      • acymetric says:

        To pick an extreme example, someone who gets fatally shot in the course of attempting an armed robbery is a situation where, as you put it, “a person who didn’t deserve to die was deliberately killed”

        I’m not sure you’re going to get widespread agreement on that (and this is from someone that generally takes issue with the leeway granted by stand-your-ground laws/castle doctrine/etc).

        Unarmed robbery, maybe.

    • zardoz says:

      I’m a bit confused, since I thought the answers you got the first time around were pretty good.

      Try this thought experiment. In scenario one, your parents are killed by someone driving a car whose brakes fail at exactly the wrong time. In scenario two, your parents are stalked and killed by a deranged psychopath who did it because he hates you.

      Do you really not recognize any moral or practical difference between the two scenarios? Do you really think the punishment should be the same in both cases?

      • AlexanderTheGrand says:

        To be fair to the commentor, this is roughly what he was trying to clear up. That’s not a homicide, that’s manslaughter at worst.

    • Dacyn says:

      I think I am probably one of the few people here who actually holds the position you are confused about. But I don’t really know how to explain it — it’s like, I put myself in the mind of the person who committed the killing, and I basically find myself disgusted by it. It feels like a thing we have to get rid of, regardless of its effects. But to someone who doesn’t experience that, I don’t know what to say. (I mean, I could say things to try to trigger an analogous disgust reaction, but you have probably heard that kind of thing already.)

    • Thegnskald says:

      I don’t know if you are conveying what exactly you are confused about.

      So let’s pick two cases. In one, the person was motivated by money, and not in a “dire straights” sense, but just “The money was worth killing the person for” sense; it was an impersonal killing. In the other, the person was motivated by jealousy; it was an entirely personal killing.

      In the former case, we are talking about somebody for whom the killing was merely a means to an end. In the latter case, the killing was the end.

      In this particular pairing, the person who killed out of jealousy will probably be seen as less evil than the person who killed for money, because, in a significant sense, the person who killed for money behaved as if the other person’s life was meaningless or irrelevant to them, whereas the person who killed for jealousy behaved as if the other person’s life was deeply meaningful to them. The first person is more… frightening, in a sense, less connected to human experience, more alien to ordinary people; they could, presumably, kill anybody with equal lack of care. The latter person is more human; they didn’t kill somebody who didn’t matter to them personally, and most people, at some point or another, have probably thought about killing somebody for some reason, so it is possible to empathize, to some extent, with their reason for doing so.

      Change it up a bit, however, so the first person was trying to survive, and say killed somebody for $10 to buy a meal with, and the empathy will swing that way, because being that desperate is something people can imagine themselves experiencing, and perhaps even fear their own reactions to.

      The critical aspect of all of this is to what extent people can imagine themselves feeling the same way, in the same situation. Maybe they wouldn’t kill somebody in a fit of jealousy, but they can imagine (or have experienced) desperately wanting to; if they were not evil, because they did not act, is somebody else evil merely because they lacked sufficient willpower (or support networks, or whatever) to stop themselves?

      Terrorism looks like self-righteous if not gleeful impersonal killings; killing strangers, to make other strangers afraid of you. If you don’t think carefully about it, which most people don’t, it looks like the assassin from the first example, only with malice instead of greed as the motivation.

      • proyas says:

        I don’t follow your logic. Remember what I wrote:

        If 99%+ of adults consider the killing unjustified (hence my use of the “homicide” label), then why does it matter if the act was committed in the name of religion, race, terrorism, money, jealousy, grossly disproportionate revenge for some past mideed, or anything else?

        If I’m judging a person who committed a homicide, and if, in my mind, I’ve already decided that the killing was not justified, then they’re already over the key threshold and no useful gradations of the “badness” of their act can be derived by examining their motivations.

        Also, I don’t see how my ability to “empathize” with them should affect my judgement of how bad their crime was, or how much attention it deserves relative to other homicides. I’m not a sociopath, so I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone who coldly murders people for money he doesn’t need to survive, and I’m more similar to the guy who was only able to commit murder because his emotions (jealousy) temporarily overrode his moral programming, but so what? The sociopath is different from the jealous guy, but his actions are not worse.

        • John Schilling says:

          If […] I’ve already decided that the killing was not justified, then they’re already over the key threshold and no useful gradations of the “badness” of their act can be derived by examining their motivations.

          Such gradations are useful for determining if and when it is safe to allow this particular killer out of prison, for deterimining the level of punishment necessary to deter future homicides, for properly targeting and calibrating anti-homicide strategies generally, and for convincing people other than you that justice has been done. These are all goals that I at least feel are worth pursuing.

    • Aftagley says:

      I think you are conflated a couple of related, but separate axes of “badness” here.

      First we have the “this person killed someone axis.” Normally this is moderated by a bunch of different factors, like accidents or insanity, but you’ve removed those as options. In this scenario, the person killed someone, did it knowingly and 99% of people agree the killing was bad.

      There are other factors we use to judge a crime though. Here are a few off the top of my head:

      Indiscriminacy: how focused was the murder on the particular individual victim? Was this a killing that could have only affected one person, or could it have happened to anyone? This would look like revenge killing < targeting a specific population group (member of the free masons) < targeting a larger population group (targeting a particular race/sex) < just going out to kill anyone.

      Cruelty: Did the person sneak a chemical into their drink that makes them feel euphoria for 10 minutes then go to sleep forever, or did they chain them to a wall and skin them alive with a pair of pruning shears? Both kill the victim, but one is way crueler.

      Virality: How likely is this particular killing to inspire other people to also kill? If someone posts a manifesto, make their actions deliberately accessible and tries very hard to make it seem justified to a population that is at-risk for this type of behavior, their actions are more viral.

      So, the individual act is the same in each case – someone is dead, but ancillary factors also matter.

  33. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    Mention of trolley problem reminded me on a thought I had the last time I thought of trolleys.

    Does personalization of the subjects make it easier or harder? As long as I know nothing of the people on rails, they exist as an amourphous blob out of which 1 person will die, one survive and 4 can be saved if I so choose. But if you tell me something about them, I’ll have to vocalize my opinion on their relative value.

    • Incurian says:

      I think utilitarianism only makes sense when applied to amorphous blobs. The idea that each person you know is equally valuable is pretty silly.

    • Another thought about the trolley problem: the fat man/man-in-the-yard paradox ignores the question of moral blame. What were the people doing on the tracks in the first place? If you have people already in the snake-pit, who jumped in it themselves, it makes sense to prioritize getting as many of them out as possible. It doesn’t make sense to push someone in in order to get more people out.

    • Garrett says:

      trolley problem

      Does anybody know if there’s be research done to compare the rates at which people will throw the switch if it’s 1 life in the abstract vs. their own life which would be lost?

  34. Apropos of nothing — but this is an open thread …

    I’m trying to locate a book I remember reading. I thought the title was something like “Little Wars in the post-war period,” but that can’t be very close, since googling didn’t find it.

    It was about a bunch of wars after WWII, including the decolonization conflicts in Indonesia and Malaya and various African civil wars. One point I remember, with regard to the Dutch attempt to maintain control of Indonesia, was that Dutch casualties were tiny relative to Indonesian casualties, but it was the Dutch who gave up because they were unwilling to accept the cost.

    That struck me as an argument against an interventionist foreign policy. The locals who you are trying to control have a much larger stake in the outcome than you do, so will be willing to accept much larger costs than you are. In Vietnam, the obvious American case, the U.S. pulled out after taking casualties much smaller than those that had been endured by both the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese, despite the U.S. having a much larger population than either.

    Does anyone recognize the book?

    • Ouroborobot says:

      “Small Wars, Faraway Places”, maybe? It’s not that old, so maybe not.

    • Aapje says:

      @DavidFriedman

      One point I remember, with regard to the Dutch attempt to maintain control of Indonesia, was that Dutch casualties were tiny relative to Indonesian casualties, but it was the Dutch who gave up because they were unwilling to accept the cost.

      If this is the quality of argument of the book, you might be better off not reading it again.

      The ‘police actions’ happened after the Dutch government already agreed with decolonization. The conflict was much more over how it would happen:
      – Who got control over (central) Indonesia. Sukarno was not acceptable to the Dutch due to his collaboration with the Japanese during WW II. The Netherlands felt strongly about collaboration not being rewarded.
      – The status of the outer areas. The Moluccans and Papuans wanted independence, while many other regions wanted more localized power. Indonesia wanted to control these areas under a strong central government. The Netherlands wanted them to form a federation (which itself formed part of a Commonwealth with The Netherlands).
      – The timeline. The Netherlands wanted independence after 10 years.

      So the actual conflict was not about whether decolonization would happen, but rather, whether the conditions would be closer to what the Republik Indonesia/Sukarno wanted or closer to what The Netherlands wanted. There was a bit of a stalemate, as both sides refused to budge enough to come to an agreement.

      The first military intervention (‘Product’) happened when The Netherlands had built up a large military force, which was subject to guerrilla attacks and which was very expensive to maintain, while The Netherlands was nearly bankrupt. The goal of the intervention was to break the stalemate in negotiations, conquer ‘rich’ areas to bring in funds and to beat down the guerrilla.

      The economic goals were successfully achieved by the time the UN demanded an end to hostilities, although the political stalemate persisted, as well as the guerrilla warfare.

      The second intervention (‘Crow’) was more ambitious, with the goal to eliminate Sukarno’s government, to see it replaced with a more moderate government, that was willing to accept a independence agreement closer to what the Dutch desired. The idea was to create ‘facts on the ground’ that the UN had to accept.

      The military managed to conquer the capital of the Republik Indonesia and arrest the leaders Sukarno and Hatta, but the Republik failed to collapse, forming an emergency government and pulling forces back to very defensible positions from which they could engage in guerrilla warfare. The international community and in particular the US was furious, adopting a resolution to stop hostilities and to liberate Sukarno and Hatta. The Netherlands did the first. The guerrilla warfare by the Republik caused increasing casualties among the soldiers and the executions of Indonesian people that worked with the Dutch caused big governance problems. Finally, the international community threatened sanctions and the US threatened an end to the Marshall aid.

      This situation caused the Dutch government to agree to a cease fire that included the return of the capital to the Republik, the liberation of Sukarno and Hatta, as well as an end to the guerrilla.

      In the subsequent negotiations, the Republik Indonesia was willing to compromise much more, resulting in an independence agreement that was very close to one that the Republik turned down three years earlier. This agreement included a federal structure and a Commonwealth with The Netherlands. After the transfer of power, the Republik gradually abolished the federal structure and refused to invest in the Commonwealth, resulting in its demise. The promise that Papua New Guinea would get a fair referendum for independence was not kept, by holding a rigged referendum.

      Note that the US interest in Indonesia was greatly influenced by the cold war, where Sukarno was seen as an ally against communism. The CIA assisted in the anti-communist mass killings by Sukarno, that killed 0.5 to 3 million, despite the CIA themselves seeing those killings as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s.

      —-

      So portraying the Dutch withdrawal as a simple matter of a Dutch unwillingness to accept relatively few casualties to maintain control is wrong both because the Dutch didn’t want to keep control and because there were many more reasons to withdraw with a lesser agreement than desired, than merely the number of casualties. Furthermore, the deal that eventually was signed was better than any that the Republik had ever been willing to accept.

      The status quo was not good for The Netherlands, which is exactly why the military interventions happened in the first place. When they failed, no future intervention could be expected to succeed (and it was not politically feasible to do that anyway) and the international community increasingly took sides against The Netherlands, there was little rational reason to stay.

      The idea that a lopsided kill ratio means that you are winning or otherwise achieving your goal(s) was an American delusion during the Vietnamese war. It is silly. War, just like politics, is about achieving goals. What helps you achieve your goals is winning, not ‘military victories’.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Interesting post, thanks.

        But:

        The promise that Papua New Guinea would get a fair referendum for independence was not kept, by holding a rigged referendum.

        Surely you mean former Netherlands New Guinea? Papua New Guinea is the former Australian territory (before that parts were British and parts German) on the eastern half of the island.

        Of course, the names are confusing, given that:
        The island is known as either Papua or New Guinea.
        Papua can also mean the Indonesian part of the island, which is divided into the two provinces of Papua and West Papua.
        West Papua is also used to refer to the whole Indonesian part of the island…

        • Aapje says:

          Yes, you are correct. It’s a bit like Macedonia, the country, recently renamed to North Macedonia versus Macedonia the Greek region.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why do you want to find the book?
      If the facts make the argument, maybe you should find a different book about the same facts, in part to check if they are actually the facts.

    • nkurz says:

      I have no personal knowledge, but a search comes up with the book “Small Nations:
      Crisis and Confrontation in the 20th Century” which has a slightly similar title and appears to include a chapter on the Dutch decolonisation of Indonesia: https://www.niod.nl/en/small-nations-crisis-and-confrontation-20th-century.

  35. gbdub says:

    So I’m planning to be in Paris next week (arriving Tuesday). Given the ongoing transport strikes, how frakked am I? Relatively minor inconvenience, or bad enough that I should cancel my trip (or reroute it to, say, London, with the last minute costs that go along with that)?

    I’ll be staying in St-Germain, so there seems to be plenty to do within walking or rental bike distance if the Metro is still closed.

    My main concern for Paris proper is getting from CDG to downtown on the 17th (taxis appear to be running if the trains aren’t, but I’d guess they are oversubscribed and traffic will suck?).

    Also, I need to take a TGV to Strasbourg on the 22nd. Seems less likely the strike would still be on in force then, but fewer alternatives (I guess I could rent a car one way?).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      On the Paris-Strasbourg route you have the option of a German ICE train rather than a French TGV. That might be more likely to run (if signalling/station staff aren’t on strike) and takes the same amount of time.

      Another travel option if you’re comfortable with it is Blablacar which is an online carpooling marketplace.

      • gbdub says:

        Thanks for the ICE suggestion, unfortunately they appear impacted as well. The good news is that even today it looks like SNCF is running a partial schedule on the Paris to Strasbourg route (basically the TGV and OUIGO trains departing from noon to five) and focusing the cancellations on off hours and lower speed TER trains. And I already have a seat on a midday TGV on my planned travel date. Since it seems like these strikes tend to peter out rather than ramp up, hopefully I should be in good shape.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Disclaimer: not living in Paris.

      It depends on a lot of things. Maybe the strike will be over next week (I’d give it 20% chances). If you’re in St-Germain-des-prés, you’ll be fine without metro if you don’t mind walking (or bike, but it may be cold). If it’s St-Germain-en-Laye, you’re (probably) entering a world of pain.

      Going from CDG to Paris proper is, however, a problem (if the strike stays at the same level). For today, RATP website gives me 1/3rd of the trains running. There seems to be private buses, but they also seems quite pricey (up to 15-20 bucks to get to Paris).

      As for going to Strasbourg, you can take your chance with a TGV, but quite a few of them get cancelled, so if you take a ticket, make sure yo have a reimbursable one. You can probably find someone to hop a ride on (try blablacar), especially at this period.

      • gbdub says:

        Ah yes, I meant St.Germain des Pres. FWIW I would not call 15-20 bucks terribly expensive, was actually probably going to take a cab anyway, which I understand to be about 50 Euro flat price.There are two of us, so the per-person cost is competitive with the buses, plus we have large suitcases and will be jet lagged, so the convenience is worth something.

        The TGV ticket is purchased already (from before the strikes started) but SNCF is refunding for any trips that get cancelled. Thanks for the bablacar suggestion, will look into that.

    • JayT says:

      Why not just rent a car? I do that every time I travel to Europe and it’s lead to more enjoyable vacations because you end up finding more hidden gems, and it isn’t really that much more expensive.

      • gbdub says:

        While I would at some point love to take a driving tour of the French countryside , that’s not this trip. I’m staying in the Paris and Strasbourg city centers, where keeping a car around is unnecessary and inconvenient.

        Had I suspected the metro would be down for the majority of my Paris time, I probably would have leaned toward the “country tour”. But now the hotels are booked and mostly non refundable.

  36. EchoChaos says:

    One of the requests last thread from @acymetric was a discussion on “the markets have decided that people shouldn’t openly carry guns”

    So here it is!

    The right to guns and to bear them is in the US Constitution in the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court and lower Courts have agreed that this right includes both owning guns (which cannot be banned) AND bearing guns.

    So while it is allowed to require permits for concealed carry, one of concealed or open carry MUST be legal in any city, and the only exception governments may put in place are those clearly required (the level of scrutiny is still being debated). Universities and other state funded places may not ban guns.

    Now, private business is where it gets more interesting! The government can and does ban private businesses from ejecting people based on all sorts of criteria. Gun ownership is currently one of them in SOME states. No Federal law exists which allows “gun free zones”, but some state laws do allow it (some do not).

    For example, in Virginia, the law states:

    The granting of a concealed handgun permit pursuant to this article shall not thereby authorize the possession of any handgun or other weapon on property or in places where such possession is otherwise prohibited by law or is prohibited by the owner of private property.

    Interestingly, more Red states than Blue have specific rules and criteria for how to demark a “Gun Free Zone”. Blue states (e.g. New York) tend to require specifically asking them to leave, which usually means that concealed carry holders have no issue if carrying properly.

    All legal statements taken from:

    https://www.irem.org/File%20Library/Public%20Policy/ConcealedCarryLaw.pdf

    On to the more general moral/ethical issue:

    Should private businesses be allowed to prevent someone from practicing a specific Constitutional Right? Note that the Courts agree that “bear” is an important part of the right and actually carrying the arms is required to exercise it.

    This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims). This is somewhat mitigated by their disruption on your business, but clearly someone carrying a concealed gun is not having any effect if he or she is doing it properly. An open carry gun might be more disruptive in a very Blue area, but when I visit rural family, seeing someone with an openly holstered gun is hardly unusual.

    Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve, I believe that people practicing their Second Amendment rights should also have such protection, but I look forward to the discussion.

    • Clutzy says:

      For me, this is an obvious issue of liability. A gun free zone should have a much higher duty to its patrons than one that merely enables their own right of self defense.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve

      I tend to view this as a prima facie abrogation of the First Amendment*, so ex falso quodlibet.

      *It is AFAIK generally accepted that (1) 1A includes the right to abstain from the protected activity (e.g., compelled speech violates the freedom of speech), and (2) “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” can WLOG be described as “freedom of association”. Put 1 & 2 together and the freedom to not associate should be protected, but is not.

    • Jaskologist says:

      There are other ways for the Court to tell the market what to decide without exactly telling it.

      Consider two possible changes to liability laws:
      1. If a business denies people the right to defend themselves on the premises, they become responsible for the safety of those people, being fully liable for any victims of violence.
      2. If a business allows firearms on the premises, they are liable for any injuries that result.

      “The market” will likely make opposite decisions in response; the invisible hand in this case is still in the government.

    • Given that the government has already decided to decree to businesses who they must serve

      Since I believe that decision was mistaken, I also believe that private companies should be free to forbid firearm carry on their property.

      From my fairly odd perspective as an economist, I took the question to be:

      If we observe that most businesses choose to forbid firearms on their property, should we take that as market evidence that the negative externalities from firearm carry outweigh the benefits, private or external, hence that a general ban would an economic improvement.

      • Garrett says:

        How much of this involves lawyers catastrophizing? My limited experience with lawyers professionally find them to be very good at enumerating all of the things which can go wrong with very little regard to how likely they may be.

        For example, an employer’s lawyer might figure that there’s a risk that if they don’t ban their employees from carrying firearms they could be at risk of unsafe-workplace lawsuits or seen as “more liable” in the event of a workplace shooting. And “not prohibiting” might be seen as “approval” and therefore get the company on the hook in the event of any firearms-related negligence on the part of the carrying employee.

        But absent any case law showing the opposite, there won’t be any push-back. It always seems to me to be a legal version of Pascal’s mugging. When I’ve asked various employers of mine why they’ve banned firearms they always talk about creating a safe workplace. But they’ve never been able to provide any credible information that such workplaces are made more (or less) safe. Even at self-described data-driven companies.

        [I’m discussing in the case of white-collar office work. I understand that in other types of work it’s fundamentally unsafe or impractical to have firearms present, such as working around MRI machines]

      • DarkTigger says:

        I’m not a libatarian, and I’m pro gun restrictions, but do “most businesses choose to forbid firearms” or do most big chains, with the money to hire professional guards, prefer to forbid weapons?

        • Garrett says:

          I’ve not done a systematic study, but what I’ve noticed is that:
          * Most employers prohibit their employees from carrying weapons while at work or at company events. I’ve yet to see a white-collar employer provide secure lockers for employees to secure firearms after arriving at work but before beginning work. The few places that I know of at all which have done that have extensive interactions with police such as prisons or my old ambulance service which had at least one police officer as a regular volunteer.
          * Most such employers also prohibit storing firearms in your vehicle if parked on company property (this prohibition is against the law in at least 1 State), making it difficult to carry/transport if you will be going to work. Consider eg. a plan to go to the range after work.
          * Notwithstanding areas required to by law, the main places which I recall explicitly seeing useful signs banning firearms on premises are Costco and (now) Whole Foods. Also, the “Terms of Use” for a few local shopping malls prohibit carrying firearms, but that’s in the fine print you have to go inside to read. I’ve encountered very few small-time stores who’ve had such prohibitions.

    • On to the more general moral/ethical issue:

      Should private businesses be allowed to prevent someone from practicing a specific Constitutional Right? Note that the Courts agree that “bear” is an important part of the right and actually carrying the arms is required to exercise it.

      This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims). This is somewhat mitigated by their disruption on your business, but clearly someone carrying a concealed gun is not having any effect if he or she is doing it properly. An open carry gun might be more disruptive in a very Blue area, but when I visit rural family, seeing someone with an openly holstered gun is hardly unusual.

      As a moral issue, if I was His Royal Majesty, The Unquestioned Emperor Of The North American Superstate And Lord Protector Of The Greater Anglo Superunity, I would desire that freedom of association with respect to private spaces to be generally increased, and that civil rights laws should operate not on the basis of public facing business, but on the basis of the business falling into a national category system of necessity, such that businesses that provide for products in a continuous fashion would be separated from those that work on commission, and then businesses that provide for things like food, water, health, and housing among others would be placed at the highest tier in terms of the requirement to serve, with lower tiers having more freedom of association/discrimination.

      Returning from the clouds back to the cold practical ground, I’d say that the constitution is underwritten with respect to this issue. Theoretically, you only need the right to keep arms in order to fight tyranny should it come (“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of our democracy and it is our job to ensure that is stays there.” ~ George Orwell). This doesn’t cover day to day self-defense, but people carrying handguns means (theoretically; considering the 21 foot rule knives shouldn’t be discounted in close quarters) that others have to carry handguns, and then add a violent culture to that and you have Chicago.

      If the constitution was written properly, it would regard the right to keep arms as not to be infringed, and the right to bear arms as something much more context dependent. Similarly, with the first amendment it makes sense to say that the government should not make laws abridging freedom of speech, since it is context and not the combinations of words themselves that define the narrow exception of threats (“I am going to bomb JFK Airport in 5 minutes” – Do you take this seriously? Even if you do, you don’t arrest people for the words, but send agents to assess whether the person is making a credible threat; whether the words predict a future state of reality), but you have to jump through more hoops to say that the government should pass NO laws abridging the right of people to peacefully assemble (typically considered a corollary to freedom speech in a similar fashion to bearing and keeping arms) when even peaceful protestors can block streets and restrict other people in a way that no speech directly does. The constitution is full of ways in which it’s underwritten, then requiring partisan justices to sort it all out.

      So from a practical standpoint “bearing arms” CAN’T be left as uninfringed as “keeping arms”. Therefore I have no problem in principle with laws that restrict people carrying from entering certain places. This isn’t necessarily respecting how the constitution was written, but it is respecting how it should have been written in my view. There could be further data driven arguments that in certain spaces, like “gun free zones”, shooters are able to wrack up higher kill counts, but I haven’t seen any evidence this is true so far. In any case, it wouldn’t change the overall picture, just how much we tweak the level of infringement in particular settings.

      • Clutzy says:

        Returning from the clouds back to the cold practical ground, I’d say that the constitution is underwritten with respect to this issue. Theoretically, you only need the right to keep arms in order to fight tyranny should it come (“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of our democracy and it is our job to ensure that is stays there.” ~ George Orwell). This doesn’t cover day to day self-defense, but people carrying handguns means (theoretically; considering the 21 foot rule knives shouldn’t be discounted in close quarters) that others have to carry handguns, and then add a violent culture to that and you have Chicago.

        That is very much not Chicago. The default in Chicago is a bunch of people walking around without guns. In fact, if you go back and look at our old stop and frisk stats, even known criminals in known areas of high criminality are infrequently armed. Instead, persons temporarily (usually illegally) carry arms for specific purposes and then engage in crime using the deadly weapon. There is also a problematic set of situations where people (again usually illegally) arm themselves without the thought of a crime, but only for short periods when they are generally menacing, and don’t expect police presence. Even the criminal elements that bother people in the areas of commerce are generally perpetrated by unarmed criminals who rely on confusion, numbers, and the inability of police to respond quickly.

        Now, is there a counterfactual where there are problems caused because carrying is the norm? Possibly, but it would look very different. The problems would be more likely caused by some sort of chivalry and assault-on-honor thing where people start stabbing and shooting each other like Burr and Hamilton.

      • @Clutzy

        Instead, persons temporarily (usually illegally) carry arms for specific purposes and then engage in crime using the deadly weapon. There is also a problematic set of situations where people (again usually illegally) arm themselves without the thought of a crime, but only for short periods when they are generally menacing, and don’t expect police presence.

        I assumed most gang members carried a “piece”, but maybe that’s just Hollywood. In 2011, 83% of murders in Chicago were committed with firearms, so this means most of the people committing murder at all are carrying illegal weapons temporarily to commit very deliberate murders, rather than spontaneous ones.

        I agree that “getting guns off the streets” won’t solve murders in that sort of case, because the problem isn’t people getting angry and a gun escalating the situation, but gang members very deliberately doing hits on each other in a premeditated fashion of going to a place to kill someone, so if you took away the guns you’d just have them knifing each other, as in London. Chicago was dubbed the “mass shooting capital” but I assume that’s down to some statistical manipulation, and multiple murders represents the minority case anyway, so a knife would be just as effective, meaning similar rates would occur.

        In any case like that it really does come down to the culture factor and all you can do is get people off the street. I would like to see data on what the typical case is as regards criminals carrying weapons for protection versus temporarily acquiring them. If it’s generally the first case I see no reason why stop and search wouldn’t work, but it’s generally taken to have been ineffective or barely arguably effective in all the places its been tried. I don’t see why stop and search can’t work in principle, but possibly the trade-off required for a reasonable interception rate would mean turning a city into an open air prison with wardens on every corner.

        • Clutzy says:

          I assumed most gang members carried a “piece”, but maybe that’s just Hollywood. In 2011, 83% of murders in Chicago were committed with firearms, so this means most of the people committing murder at all are carrying illegal weapons temporarily to commit very deliberate murders, rather than spontaneous ones.

          Yes, this is kind of what stop and frisk’s low weapon finding rates would imply. Maybe they aren’t totally going out to commit a particular homicide, but even the dumbest gangbanger only carries with the intent to commit a felony in next 12 or so hours.

          And, the problem with stop-and-frisk lies with the first problem (people don’t carry much) plus the problem that police end up having “magic fingers” where everything feels like a felony, and they end up popping kids with weed, coke, etc. So, if you had responsible police, it could probably work if they were well trained in identifying suspicious behavior and were trained to limit frisking to weapons.

    • John Schilling says:

      From a freedom-of-association perspective, and for strictly private businesses, “their roof, their rules”.

      If we’re going to force private businesses to serve customers they’d rather not, I’d rather the very first in line for that forced association be people who are privately exercising an explicit constitutional right in a manner that directly impacts no other person.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        However the very notion of a ‘protected class’ belies the fact that much of the insistence on rights isn’t really about ‘who’ rather than ‘what’ The general ambivalent to negative towards firearm owners would engender the same reaction to such a policy as the ambivalent to negative attitude towards certain lifestyles endendered for other people.

        I’d prefer the decision over whether or not and to what degree businesses are permitted to discriminate be decided by the nature and size of the business rather than the discriminatory act, because certain institutions practicing favoratism are far more supressing than others. (payment processors vs. candy shops) A homeowner is 100% sovereign, a corporation who controls a key bottleneck in the economy… not so much.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      This is unusual, as we’ve seen with civil rights laws, where once you open a business to the public, you are expected to accept all the public practicing their rights (e.g. you could not ban men with turbans from entering your shop because that would infringe on the rights of Sikhs and Muslims).

      On the contrary, you’re free to discriminate against people in any way you want except if it involves one of a small set of protected characteristics. If you want to claim that carrying a gun should be added to that small set, you need to actually argue for it.

      • EchoChaos says:

        If you want to claim that carrying a gun should be added to that small set, you need to actually argue for it.

        I did. I noted that unlike those other set, carrying a gun (specifically carrying) is actually in the Constitution.

        So if we are resolved as a government to infringe on the rights of business owners, that should be one of the reasons.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Freedom of speech is also in the Constitution, yet there are plenty of perfectly legal things you can say which might get you thrown out of a private business. Do you want to restrict the business’s associational choice in that case too?

          The usual rationale for antidiscrimination laws is that they protect people from being excluded from society because of attributes of themselves that they can’t change. Race, sex, sexual orientation, and disability are all good examples of this. Religion fits the pattern less well (and indeed I think the case for freedom of association wrt religion is stronger than for the other attributes for this reason), but it is still viewed as fundamental enough to people’s identity that it’s not just a choice like other choices. But carrying arms is an ordinarily-voluntary choice, as is expressing your political views, and so not in the set of protected characteristics even though protected from government disfavor by the Constitution.