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Hardball Questions For The Next Debate (2020)

[Previously: Hardball Questions (2016), More Hardball Questions (2016). I stole parts of the Buttigieg question from Twitter, but don’t remember enough details to give credit, sorry]

Mr. Biden: Your son Hunter Biden was on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, during your vice-presidential term. The Ukrainian government was investigating Burisma for misdeeds, and Hunter was allegedly one of the targets of the investigation. President Trump alleges that you used your clout as VP to shut down the investigation into Hunter, which if true would constitute an impeachable abuse of power.

My question for you is: if your son had been a daughter, would you have named her Gatherer?

Mr. Bloomberg: You’ve been criticized as puritanical and self-righteous for some of your more restrictive policies, like a ban on large sodas. You seem to lean into the accusation, stating in a 2014 interview that:

I am telling you, if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.

Let’s not focus on what this says about your humility, or about your religious beliefs. I want to focus on a different issue.

Despite spending $100 million in the first month of your presidential campaign, you are currently placed fifth – behind two socialists, a confused old man, and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. In, let’s not forget, an increasingly shaky effort to prevent President Donald J. Trump from winning a second term.

So my question for you is: what makes you so sure you’re not in Hell already?

Mayor Buttigieg: You are a gay Navy veteran. Your last name is “Buttigieg”. You are mayor of “South Bend”. And you first achieved prominence on the national stage for a New York Times editorial about your travels in the Horn of Africa, which includes the country of “Djibouti”.

My question is: is your campaign just the setup for a gay porno? Do you really think viewers want this much backstory?

Senator Warren: Despite your many years of service to the nation, media attention has focused on your claim to be descended from Native Americans. You told your former employer Harvard that you were of Native descent. Republicans accused you of trying to unfairly exploit affirmative action, but an investigation showed you did not benefit from any affirmative action at the time, leaving it unclear why you would do this.

More recently, you took a genetic test to establish your Native background. The test showed you did have a Native ancestor 6-12 generations back, but supporters were left baffled as to why you would take it or expect anyone to care. Conservatives used to the test to reignite the scandal around your Harvard employment, and progressives condemned you for promoting a view of race based on biology rather than culture or self-identification. The general consensus, again, was that you got no benefit from the test and it was unclear why you would do this.

The development of one of the algorithms that uses genetic information to determine racial background was called the “Warren Project” after its lead geneticist Jim Warren. Warren founded FamilyTreeDNA, a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company that continues to be a leader in genetic testing for ancestry, with about $16 million in revenue each year. This is relevant because Jim Warren is your ex-husband and the father of your children, who presumably stand to inherit a significant part of the FamilyTreeDNA fortune.

So my question for you is: is your campaign is just a publicity stunt to raise interest in genetic testing?

Senator Sanders: You are most famous for the 2016 incident where a bird landed on your podium mid-rally. Supporters have reasonably connected this to the ancient Roman practice of augury, where leaders were chosen by the number of bird-related omens surrounding them.

But auguries can be hard to interpret. For example, during the founding of Rome, Romulus and Remus agreed to use augury to determine which of them should lead the new city. The two of them went out and watched for ominous birds. First, Remus saw six vultures, which he interpreted as strong evidence that he should lead. But then Romulus saw twelve vultures. The two argued, with Remus’ claim resting on having seen vultures first, and Romulus’ claim resting on the theory that more vultures = more leadership. One thing led to another, Romulus killed Remus, and Rome ended up building the greatest empire in history. This firmly established the principle that even if one person sees birds first, another person who sees more birds may still be the rightful leader, if he sees enough of them.

So my question for you is: it’s been four years. How many birds would have to land on Donald Trump before you admit he would make a better president than you?

Mr. Yang: You’ve sparked interest with your proposal of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a no-strings-attached $1000/month transfer to every US citizen. Experts say it’s totally infeasible, but “UBI forever!” certainly makes for a stirring rallying cry.

On the other hand are people who complain your proposal isn’t a real UBI. UBI needs to be enough to live on, but $1000/month wouldn’t even get people all the way to the federal poverty line. In more expensive regions like coasts and cities, it would be even worse. “UBI forever!” might be a good rallying cry, but “UBI (below a real UBI) forever!” is a little less rousing. Then again, US states make their mottos sound portentious by converting them to Latin; maybe that would work for you too.

So do you think a good slogan for your campaign would be “Semper ubi sub ubi”?

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193 Responses to Hardball Questions For The Next Debate (2020)

  1. TysonsCorner says:

    Experts say it’s totally infeasible, but “UBI forever!” certainly makes for a stirring rallying cry.

    Greg Mankiw doesn’t think Yang’s plan is totally infeasible. Mankiw Interview

  2. Evelyn Q. Greene says:

    Meh. the 2016 Republican version was much better.

  3. BBA says:

    Bloomberg tweeted a proposal to turn the East Room of the White House into an open-plan office, where he would work daily surrounded by aides in the “nerve center” of the administration. The Oval Office would be used for merely ceremonial purposes.

    This was instantly mocked by everyone who’s ever suffered the indignity of working in an open-plan office, but Bloomberg was dead serious. This setup is universal in the New York financial industry where he made his billions, and he did a similar conversion at City Hall while he was mayor.

    My question to Bloomberg is: when’s the last time you spoke to someone outside finance who doesn’t work for you?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If he worked in the open office himself, I’m kind of impressed. It seems like he isn’t out-of-touch, just a mutant.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        MUTANT SAVES PRESIDENT, CABINET [/X-Men: Days of Future Past]

      • BBA says:

        It’s a whole industry of mutants, then. Finance has run on open trading floors for centuries, and if you can’t work in an environment like this you won’t last very long. (Okay, that’s an extreme example, literally the biggest trading floor ever built – but every bank wished it had a floor the size of UBS’s, at least until the crisis hit and UBS was forced to scale back.)

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Not really – I think most of them hate it. I had this as an SSC survey question last year. I asked people with experience of both open and closed offices to rate them on a scale of 1 (preferred open) to 5 (preferred closed). 5% of people voted 1 compared to 41% of people voting 5, with everyone else in the middle. You can see exact numbers here.

          • BBA says:

            Finance bros are unlikely to read this blog. Too talky and not finance-y enough.

            They’re full of a certain kind of machismo, claiming to like working on a big chaotic trading floor full of people shouting. It comes from the same place as bragging about 18-hour work days and saying things like “we eat what we kill.” I don’t know how much of it is defending a hazing ritual and how much is genuine, but clearly it’s genuine in Bloomberg’s case.

            And of course back in the day, the need to instantly communicate with the rest of your firm at a moment’s notice made the open floor necessary for finance folks. It’s no longer necessarily thanks to technologies like (ironically enough) the Bloomberg terminal, but old habits die hard.

          • Robert Beckman says:

            I want to point out that the middle scores might not mean that they prefer a split the baby solution, but rather that they like both equally (for a 3, at least). I for one like both open floor plans and individual offices – what I hate are cubicles.

          • ChrisA says:

            For most of my career I had a private office, but about 5 years ago I moved to open plan. I would say I prefer the office but I probably am more efficient in the open plan as I interact more and also tend to surf less.

      • Omninonymous says:

        For a high-ranking figure working in an open space is more about signalling and presence and they usually have private space they can retreat to when they want, so this would mostly suck for the aides – also good luck getting a sensitive intelligence briefing in an open space.

        It also sounds like he is calibrated for micromanagement.

      • broblawsky says:

        I visited Bloomberg’s head office in NYC a couple times while he was still there, and I can confirm that the open office plan was universal. Some executives had closed rooms where they could talk without being overheard, but you could still see whatever they were doing.

    • Matt M says:

      Hatred of the open-office floor plan is one of the few remaining things that truly unifies America. So it’s wholly unsurprising that someone like Bloomberg would come out in favor of it.

  4. Random845 says:

    I may be missing some context but half of these seem more like conservative talking points or conservative conspiracy theories than jokes. Please stop helping Donald Trump by spreading them.
    Trump supporters do not need any more encouragement to believe things which are false.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      “talking point”: “something damaging to my side, but I can’t directly call it false, but I still want to throw shade on it and shove it out of the Overton Window”.

      Try better. Or lurk moar.

      • Random845 says:

        I was trying to meet in the middle but I can be more direct.

        How about this ” The intros for Biden and Waren are false accusations of corruption, ie lies. Please stop lying.”

        I used to think humor or mockery was a useful response to people who deliberately ignored facts. I don’t think that anymore.

      • NoRandomWalk says:

        Can you be a bit more specific? I don’t see any factual claims that I, as a reasonably politically informed person, know to be accepted as false.

    • Deiseach says:

      Please stop helping Donald Trump by spreading them.

      Yup, that’s Scott: a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of the GOP, with all his traditional conservative right-wing values on display in every word he writes, not so secretly working to bring about a second term for Literal Hitler Antichrist!

      • Random845 says:

        If I thought Scott was a GOP devotee I wouldn’t even bother to comment.

        And I can confirm that Trump only meets 4 out of 6 signs of the antichrist, so he could still be Hitler, but he can’t be the AntiChrist.

  5. Matt M says:

    I see the media blackout of Tulsi Gabbard continues 🙂

    • onodera says:

      Do you imply it’s intentional and not just a result of her low ratings?

      • Matt M says:

        By most of the media? Yes. Others with similarly low ratings receive more attention by far.

        By Scott? Probably not.

      • NoRandomWalk says:

        Can you explain what you mean by ‘media blackout’?
        What naive algorithm do you think the media should/normally does follow (‘write whatever is interesting,’ ‘write whatever gets more clicks,’ ‘write whatever supports my ideology,’ etc.) that either explains her level of coverage, or if it was followed would result in a different level of coverage?

        By your most simple given logic (which I agree is the exact right first step) there is also a ‘media blackout’ of Bernie and Biden, but I would guess you would both agree coverage of them is much lower than their polling numbers warrant, and that the reason for this is very different from the reason there is a ‘media blackout’ of Tulsi.

        • Matt M says:

          Bernie I definitely agree there’s a blackout, and for very similar reasons as Tulsi (they hold positions the media establishment disagrees with, and therefore the media establishment chooses to ignore them, as that’s the most damaging thing they can do at this stage).

          I don’t think there’s a blackout of Biden at all. He’s discussed all the time. I think the media underestimates him, and their near-universal belief that surely, eventually, someone will overtake him for *reasons left unexplained* is a little annoying, but I don’t think it’s anything near the blackout sort of treatment (note: Yang typically receives blackout treatment as well, but not by Scott, for obvious reasons!)

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know about a blackout as such, but apparently CNBC got both Yang and Gabbard a little mixed-up with other people 😀

  6. Deiseach says:

    My question for you is: if your son had been a daughter, would you have named her Gatherer?

    Okay, I laughed.

    Despite spending $100 million in the first month of your presidential campaign, you are currently placed fifth – behind two socialists, a confused old man, and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

    When did Elizabeth Warren qualify as a socialist? Liberal Democrat, maybe.

    My question is: is your campaign just the setup for a gay porno?

    Neither Mayor Pete nor his husband are hunky enough, either individually or as a couple, for a gay porno. They made the cover of Time, for goodness’ sake, you can’t get more whitebread than that! Unless this is going to be one of those niche fetish movies, where viewers get all hot’n’bothered over the steamy “Oh honey, you’re making your mom’s meatloaf recipe for our anniversary dinner!” kitchen scenes, or the raunchy part where Todd slips into something more casual by – rolling up his sleeves half-way (phwoar, get a load of those pale hairless forearms!)

  7. narrenspeise says:

    What a meager joke on Buttigieg. Name jokes are lame jokes.

    But anyway, does anybody know what “igieg” means?

  8. honoredb says:

    I doubt we’ll see anything Trump-related that augurs more strongly than his interaction with a bald eagle, also on the 2016 campaign trail.

    I say “more strongly” because I have no idea what it augurs. The eagle scorns Trump, briefly accepts him, then turns on him again? The eagle tries but fails to bite Trump’s grasping hand? Trump gets the photo he wants with the eagle, but afterwards everybody frames it negatively? Is the eagle America, power or respectability?

    • Bugmaster says:

      While an eagle is obviously prophetic, for more accurate augury we need to run a full-spectrum avian analysis, ranging from partridges to crows, hawks, ravens, vultures, and of course eagles.

  9. Loris says:

    So I’ve previously held off on this as too culture-warish, but it’s kind of in the spirit of this post, admittedly not specifically presidential candidates. If I don’t ask this here I never will.

    So Donald Trump has made the occasional controversial tweet.
    The set I’m talking about (as given on the BBC) is:

    “So interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.
    “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

    Given that the congresswomen in question mostly come from America, why didn’t one of them just tweet back something along the lines of:

    Trump says his government is “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world”. Finally, something we can agree on.

    So maybe the congresswomen are too dignified to do that, or want to take the high road, or something.
    But I’ve not seen anyone say anything like that, which surprises me.
    Did they do that and I just missed it through my choice of news sources?
    Or is it just that everybody in America is already so used to that sort of thing from Trump that it doesn’t even register?

    • NoRandomWalk says:

      Umm. Trump is a troll. You don’t ‘win’ against a troll by ‘proving’ that a statement they mead, read literally, contains a ‘factual inaccuracy.’

      The more relevant discussion of “who counts as a ‘real american'” was indeed discussed vigorously in depth by all relevant parties.

    • Matt M says:

      A whole lot of people responded to that Tweet by pointing out that most of the women in question, were in fact born in America.

      Many of them continued to press that point in the direction of claiming it proves Trump is racist/xenophobic because when he sees “women of color” he automatically assumes they don’t count as “real Americans.”

      The exact framing you proposed wasn’t used because it would be rhetorically ineffective. Trying to claim that what Trump was actually doing was bashing America wouldn’t work, because even if, via factual error about the birthplaces of the women in question, he was technically doing that, his intent pretty clearly was to do the opposite. Further, the added qualifier “something we can agree on” just sets you up for attacks from the right saying “See, they even admit they hate America! Trump just had a fact wrong, but these people are openly and intentionally declaring they hate the country!”

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        How about

        Apparently Trump thinks the US is “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world”! Personally I think it’s pretty good!

        or something?

        • Matt M says:

          But even that fails, because it’s clear from the original Tweet (and the greater context of everything we know about Trump) that Trump doesn’t think the US is a complete and total catastrophe. He just made a factual error about where the women in question were born.

          • Loris says:

            You say it fails, but it seems pretty effective to me.

            Yes, we have what he says in the tweet – but since you bring in greater context – we know that he thinks it isn’t always great, because he campaigned on wanting to “make America Great Again.”

            In terms of failing, not responding seems much more like conceding ground to me.

          • He just made a factual error about where the women in question were born.

            I’m not sure he even did that. “Came from” could, at least in a rhetorical context, mean “where their ancestors and their culture came from.”

            Would it be obviously false if a black politician referred to “Africa, the continent we came from”?

      • Loris says:

        Recognising where something is rhetorically effective may not be one of my strong points, admittedly.

        Regarding the “See, they even admit they hate America!” right-wing response – while I can see that happening, it doesn’t look to me to be a reasonable interpretation. I mean, bile-spewing randos will spew random bile regardless, (“haters gonna hate”) – so we can effectively just ignore them. Nevertheless, if this has some subtly inappropriate connotations, other formulations are available.

        How about:

        Trump finally admits that his government is corrupt and barely functional, and gives us permission to help fix it. Now we’re getting somewhere.

        • Matt M says:

          See above. It’s clear that Trump’s original intent was not to bash America, or it’s government, but rather, to do the exact opposite (to compare America favorably to other nations).

          Pulling the “ah, but technically what he said implies…” because of a factual error stated previously just makes one look petty. It’s more of the “bringing fact checkers to a culture war” strategy that lost the Democrats the election in the first place.

          Trump gets basic facts wrong. Routinely. His supporters don’t care, and his opponents already know he does this, so it isn’t new/valuable information. The attack people did choose to employ, that “this proves Trump sees non-white as non-Americans” was almost certainly more effective than what you propose.

          • Loris says:

            Well okay. What you call “bringing fact checkers to a culture war”, I was considering as responding robustly and humorously.
            Conversely, the claims of Trump being racist seem from here to have been going on for a long time to not much effect.

            I guess if there’s some sort of regulatory body which specifies the Democratic party line on all responses, and impromptu tweets are banned then I guess that would explain it. I doubt that’s really the case though.

          • Aapje says:

            @Loris

            Your proposed tweet is not funny, nor robust.

            Adopting something you know to be false to make a point requires sarcasm, but your tweet is fish nor fowl. It is too sincere to be sarcastic, but too insincere to be genuine.

            So it allows for a multitude of possible attacks, in both directions:
            – You admit to hating America
            – You are clearly intentionally falsely interpreting Trump’s tweet, because everyone knows that Trump believes that the US is the best and his administration is the bestest.
            – Ilhan Omar was born outside of the US, so you’re lying
            – Trump was talking about heritage/ethnicity, not place of birth, which you guys recognize as legitimate when you talk about X, so you interpreted Trump in bad faith.

            Note that winning in politics is often about reinforcing beliefs that are good for you and not reinforcing beliefs that are bad for you. Trying to insinuate that Trump is unpatriotic is a dumb strategy for Democrats, because the left is weak on patriotism and the right is strong.

            This is similar to how it is a huge unforced error for leftists to argue that populists don’t care about the white underclass, because they started voting for ‘populists’ exactly because more and more of them feel that modern leftists have stopped (truly) caring about them. So by making this argument, the left is just reminding these people of the reason why they abandoned the left in the first place. Obama and Hillary made this even worse with the ‘clinging to guns and religion’ and ‘deplorables’ comments, which fit perfectly with the message of the populists that resonates so well with many: they hate your culture and thus you.

          • Loris says:

            Aapje,
            it seems opinion is divided on this. But to go over your list of points in order:
            – No it doesn’t. Unless you conflate America and the Trump administration.
            This does seem to me to be a common problem in America.
            Rhetorically it works for some people, perhaps, but it’s still bullshit.
            – 1) Actually, no. This is the issue I have with people talking about the original tweet containing a ‘factual inaccuracy’. It’s so delicious because it’s an accidental accuracy (albeit an exaggeration).
            2) “everyone knows” that Trump says that his administration is the bestest. Some people might suspect this not to be a truly held belief.
            – What? I don’t think anyone suggested she would be the one to post any such tweet.
            – I think this point (also made by DavidFriedman, above) is reasonable. However, the direct interpretation is also reasonable, so one is free to choose either.

            Note that winning in politics is often about reinforcing beliefs that are good for you and not reinforcing beliefs that are bad for you. Trying to insinuate that Trump is unpatriotic is a dumb strategy for Democrats, because the left is weak on patriotism and the right is strong.

            I don’t think you’re wrong. But it seems like there’s a section of the american right which has realised that the claims that create beliefs don’t have to be based on truth, and are weaponising that pretty effectively.
            It would be pretty easy for a sector of the left to do so just as well, and that road slopes down and only gets uglier. So maybe there should be some pushback against that from the conscientious right before that happens.

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            There’s plenty of pushback from the ‘conscientious right,’ i.e. movement conservatism, never trumpers, christianity today, etc. There’s just no one listening to them.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @NoRandomWalk

            Christianity Today is not right-wing. They are left-wing Christians.

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            @EchoChaos,
            Oh, good to know. How would I verify this? I included them in list just because I read some articles about an anti-trump stance they took, which implied they might lose readers over it, which implied that their readers are generally pro-trump.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @NoRandomWalk

            Here is Franklin Graham, the son of its founder, saying it is “a very liberal left-wing magazine now”

            https://www.foxnews.com/media/rev-graham-father-would-be-disappointed-in-christianity-today-after-paper-calls-for-trumps-removal

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            I don’t understand. Trump and his allies call anyone who disagrees with him or doesn’t like them as ‘traitors,’ ‘far left,’ ‘never trumpers,’ etc.

            The very thing we are discussing is whether elements of the right can provide a moderating voice, and my claim was they do but aren’t being listened to.

            For me to be persuaded that christianity today is not part of the right, I would want to see them support a position that I would recognize as lefty/liberal.
            Maybe also not part of mainstream evangelical tradition (support for refugees wouldn’t persuade me, either).

            Yes I know they published an anti-trump message. Knowing that his supporters responded by calling them a lefty magazine doesn’t tell me anything new.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @NoRandomWalk

            Well, Franklin Graham is the son of the founder of Christianity Today, so I accept his view on whether or not they’ve moved. This isn’t just a random “Trump ally”.

            But here is an editorial in which they condemn asking Christians to sign the Nashville Statement and encourage Christians who identify as “gay Christians” for an example.

            https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/november/nashville-statement-reforming-catholic-confession.html

            They’re Christian, but clearly to the left wing of evangelical Christianity.

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            @EchoChaos I accept your evidence, thank you for clarifying the issue.

          • If I correctly understood the part of the editorial that wasn’t paywalled, they are talking about people who identify as gay Christians but do not engage in gay sex. Is that clearly a left wing Christian position?

            Suppose you observe that you are attracted to members of your sex, believe that having sex with them is sinful, and accordingly refrain. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to describe yourself as a gay Christian? You are facing, and resisting, a particular temptation that most of your fellow Christians don’t face, and that fact matters.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @DavidFriedman, there’s been some debate inside conservative Christianity on that subject. Supporters, like Christianity Today, say exactly what you’re saying – it’s a good description which acknowledges their struggle. Opponents, like the people who drafted the Nashville Statement, say that identifying yourself as a “gay Christian” nudges you toward thinking of your same-sex attraction as a more fundamental part of your identity than it should be. The supporters generally reply that if you understand it correctly, it’s just acknowledging something that’ll always be with you; the opponents generally reply that people might not take it that way. And then they might add that “gay Christians” is a term also used by the people who really are having gay sex.

            I might be missing a couple points on both sides; I haven’t been following the argument that closely since I don’t think it’s that hugely important. But, it’s going on within conservative Christianity; I wouldn’t call Christianity Today liberal because of their position here.

      • Act_II says:

        Perhaps a reply like

        Mr. President, I was born in America, and I fight every single day to fix the corruption and ineptitude you’ve brought to our government.

        would be snappy enough.

        • Matt M says:

          I think a couple of them did respond with essentially that.

          • Loris says:

            If that’s the case then I think it’s a bit disappointing that the media didn’t cover that at all, given how much fuss there was at the time over all the other angles.

    • Nicholas says:

      I’m sure plenty of blue checkmarks made the point on Twitter, but the squad thought it was a stronger counterargument to highlight the racist angle, which your argument would undermine.

      “Trump knows I was born in the US, and therefore doesn’t like the US system of government”

      Vs

      “Trump sees a woman of color and assumes they can’t be from the US because he’s racist”

      They’re mutually exclusive.

      • Loris says:

        When you describe it like that, it does seem plausible as a coordinated response, although the first of the two summaries is a bit forced to create the exclusivity.

        • Nicholas says:

          I’m open to a less forced interpretation of statement 1 if you have one. But the second clause you’re trying to get to (that trump’s tweet indicates that he thinks the us government is bad) seems 100% predicted on his foreknowledge of the birthplaces of the squad members being (mostly) from the us, so I don’t see how you could get around it.

    • Andrew Cady says:

      But I’ve not seen anyone say anything like that, which surprises me.
      Did they do that and I just missed it through my choice of news sources?

      I know, at least, that I made that very same joke. I phrased it like this though: “YEAH! GO BACK TO OHIO!”

    • Garrett says:

      why didn’t one of them just tweet back something along the lines of:
      > Trump says his government is “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world”. Finally, something we can agree on.

      That works perfectly well as a deflection. It turns the words on the speaker in a way that friends might banter by throwing about casual insults and retorts. The problem, as others have noticed, is that it doesn’t actually help you win the culture war. These aren’t people who are worried about their own ego. They are trying to *win*. And to that extent they have to do the utmost to show Trump to be a terrible person. So they call him a racist. Again.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Yeah, there is a startling lack of rhetorical warfare skills on display by almost everyone involved. (Trump definitely has skills in this area, but his…err…style…is such that I don’t expect many people to concede this, let alone marvel at them. It would be nice if someone raised the game from the very low aesthetic level it’s at.) My favorite moves involve this kind of turning the tables/reframing, with some amusing taunting that goes in a constructive direction. It’s all destructive now—no one talks about actual goals (this is probably a feature, not a bug), but how about how terrible someone or something else is.

  10. Act_II says:

    Nitpick: Warren isn’t a socialist. (Neither is Bernie, really, but he does call himself one so it’s hard to object to that characterization.)

    • NoRandomWalk says:

      Respectfully I disagree. The level of government control they want to exert over the healthcare industry is in my mind sufficient to place them squarely into the socialist camp. Warren isn’t a typical socialist, but her plan to make it illegal to have corporate governance answerable exclusively to shareholders (you can’t legally own a company and do what you want with it, you have to give partial control to workers if your company gets big enough) is I think a big step into that direction.
      And if you go back in history and look at what Bernie has said about communist dictatorships, socialist countries, etc., it’s pretty clear he is very much in favor of the old school ‘nationalize everything that is feasible to do so’ traditional socialism, rather than what he currently brands himself as because it’s politically advantageous to do so, i.e. ‘let’s do what Americans *think* Nordic countries do’

      • Nicholas says:

        Right, this isn’t the typical Republican charge of ‘socialist’ because they want bigger government in the abstract; they are literally advocating for government to control the means of production in at least one industry accounting for ~20% of GDP.

        • Andrew Cady says:

          “Socialism is when government does things”

          • Nicholas says:

            Are you summarizing your interpretation of my argument in the quotes, or are you earnestly quoting someone else as a response to my assertion? I literally cannot even tell in which direction you’re trying to argue with me.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            I’m making reference to a common phrase, or meme, which one frequently sees in response to such things as you said.

            It’s mocking the misconception of socialism, but I guess I didn’t want to associate myself with a mocking tone, hence the quotation marks.

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          “Socialism is when the government says you can’t do stuff”
          We call them socialist not because they want the government to ‘do stuff’ but because they say individuals can’t form mutually consensual agreements to ‘do that same stuff’.

          • baconbits9 says:

            We call them socialist because their solutions to problems are overwhelmingly ‘more government intervention to the point of nationalization’ to fix them and rarely to perhaps never ‘more privatization’. If your solution to the 2008 crisis is to nationalize the banks that is a socialist position, however you could also have capitalist positions on other issues it would be silly to define a person by that one position (in most cases). When you have a person who things the solution to the 2008 crisis is bank nationalization, the solution to rising health care costs is universal health care, the solution to student loan issues is free college, and the solution to environmental issues is a green new deal then you are looking at someone who can reasonably be called a socialist.

          • Act_II says:

            This strikes me as very silly. There are many things the government can do that individuals can’t. Is the whole concept of a state — an entity that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force — socialist?

            Is Cory Booker a socialist? Is Kamala Harris a socialist? Is Kirsten Gillibrand a socialist? Is Andrew Yang a socialist? All of them support Medicare For All.

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            I was responding to a poster who said ‘socialism is when government does stuff’ with an equally simplistic definition that highlighted how he was misrepresenting my view – namely that I really do mean socialism as something meaningfully different from ‘big government’.
            No, I don’t think any of those people are socialist. If you don’t understand why I can elaborate, but I hope it is clear.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            We call them socialist not because they want the government to ‘do stuff’ but because they say individuals can’t form mutually consensual agreements to ‘do that same stuff’.

            So anything that isn’t libertarianism is socialism.

            That explains some things.

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            I’m trying to have a more nuanced conversation than throwing memes at each other, but I can’t because you repeat memes, and when I respond in kind you point out my meme didn’t capture the nuance of my position which I stated fully previously. I legitimately don’t know how to respond.

            Yes, commonly suggested ways to organize society can map on to a spectrum from ‘libertarian’ to ‘socialist’. Most mainstream politicians in america advocate a world view that falls somewhere on that spectrum. Most of them I would consider neither libertarian nor socialist, because they fall close enough to the middle, and because since they don’t fall near the extreme of the spectrum other categorizations are more useful. Bernie and Warren are far enough to one extreme that I find it useful to categorize them as ‘socialist’

        • Act_II says:

          The government isn’t going to be taking over hospitals and administering care. It’s just going to be paying for it. The means of production of healthcare will still be decidedly in private hands.

          • Eigengrau says:

            This point needs to be signal boosted. I have spoken with several Americans who think that universal healthcare means all the doctors and hospitals are government employed and operated, that you will have a government doctor assigned to you without your input, etc. This is not the case in Canada and is not the case for any of the Democratic health care plans I’ve seen. Health insurance is nationalized, not care providers.

          • Matt M says:

            But that *is* the case in the UK, is it not? Which many proponents of various government healthcare schemes constantly point to as superior to our own system, while virtually never stopping and saying “But we think that goes too far, we still want the hospitals themselves to remain private for reasons X, Y, and Z.”

          • Lambert says:

            It’s mostly operated directly by the NHS, but there are exceptions.
            Dentistry and Opticians are supported by public money but are often private practises. And there’s always private healthcare/insurance if you can afford it.

            It’s a big ol’ political football. The right wants to privatise more. The left accuses them of trying to ‘sell off the NHS’. (Or worse, to use trade renegotiations post-brexit to sell it to americans)

          • cassander says:

            The government isn’t going to be taking over hospitals and administering care. It’s just going to be paying for it. The means of production of healthcare will still be decidedly in private hands.

            Nonsense. the government will be setting prices for the entire medical industry. When the government is telling you what you can sell, how you can operate, and how much you can charge, you don’t own your business in any meaningful sense. Outside of the military, Medicare is the most GOSPLAN like entity in the US, and it will only get moreso once it’s responsible for the whole shebang.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @cassander:

            the government will be setting prices for the entire medical industry. When the government is telling you what you can sell, how you can operate, and how much you can charge

            While I am somewhat sympathetic to your point, you take too much of an inferential leap in the middle. Saying “you cannot charge more than $100 for this specific dose of insulin” is not the same as saying, “you can only sell these specific drugs at these specific times, while hiring these specific workers who are named Alice, Bob and Cindy, for this specific salary”. You can argue that the first statement leads inevitably to the second, but it’s something you’ll have to actually demonstrate, not just assert.

          • cassander says:

            Bugmaster says:

            You can argue that the first statement leads inevitably to the second, but it’s something you’ll have to actually demonstrate, not just assert.

            Medicare is much more like the second than the first. Medicare sets its reimbursement rates by administrative fiat. The medicare for all proposals rely explicitly on forcing those prices onto virtually all of the medical industry, some of them even literally all of the industry. doing that would effectively dictate salaries within a fairly narrow bound for the whole industry. This is on top of the government requiring its approval for all procedures, drugs, and medical devices, and licencing all doctors and medical practitioners. what else is left, exactly? How much you can squeeze out of the janitorial staff?

          • Nicholas says:

            This is a distinction without a difference if the government can dictate who is allowed to provide what services to whom, and at what rate they’ll be compensated. Okay, all doctors are merely subcontractors to the government rather than government employees….. what’s your point?

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            @Nicholas I can’t eloquently explain the difference but it *feels* like less of an infringement on my freedom.
            In the same way that ‘taxation is theft’ and ‘the power to tax is the power to destroy’ is true, it doesn’t feel true.
            I am a lot less annoyed by the government reducing how many resources I have, than I am when it tells me I can’t use those resources on specific things that I value.
            Private contractors have a lot more freedom about how to do their jobs than employees do.

          • @randomwalk:

            Are you saying more than that some versions of socialism are better than others? That seems likely enough.

          • cuke says:

            Who “owns” the means of production in healthcare currently in the U.S. is a tricky question. Hospital systems, which often include all kinds of outpatient practices as well, are a mix of public, private, and non-profit ownership. Some practices are provider-owned.

            We can’t really limit the “means of production” to the buildings, equipment, and people because “customers” don’t pay for most of their healthcare — the government or private insurance companies do, and they have more power in price-setting than the entities who ostensibly own the equipment and labor.

            The entire payment structure for U.S. healthcare is built around billable procedure codes. The payment rates for all the procedure codes are set by contracts with huge insurance companies and the government. Yes, there have always been small numbers of providers operating outside of this system, but it’s quite small.

            And then employers determine insurance coverage for about half of Americans. So in addition to an individual healthcare consumer not having any say over what they pay for services, they also have little say over their coverage. I work with quite a few patients who express frustration that their employers repeatedly change their insurance plans with no notice and suddenly their old providers aren’t in network, they’ve lost their HSA cards, they have new deductibles, and/or a new insurance company that they hate but have no choice over. So employers of consumers have a bigger say over consumers’ healthcare than the consumers.

            All of these factors make it inaccurate to talk about U.S. healthcare as if it were operating in the “private sector” like other industries or to use terms like private ownership of the means of production.

            Healthcare provision is already highly regulated with a great deal of non-private sector and third-party influence in a way that dramatically reduces consumer choice. Because of that, I think it’s more helpful to talk about how we want to change the regulatory framework, rather than saying we want to move it from less regulated to more regulated. It’s already highly regulated, but in a way that maximizes inefficiency and minimizes consumer choice.

      • Act_II says:

        This is an overbroad definition of socialism. If M4A is socialism, so are universal healthcare programs across the developed world.

        Warren explicitly calls herself a capitalist. She has never advocated for the abolition of private property, nor do any of her policies put the means of production in the hands of the proletariat. (You’re right that codetermination is a step in that direction, but it is still widespread in the capitalist world and flat-out incorrect to describe as socialist.)

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I think the complaints about Warren and Bernie’s proposals is that they would outlaw (explicitly or implicitly) the existence of Privately provided health insurance.

          Certain countries have what they call Universal Healthcare which do not involve this.

          • Act_II says:

            Private insurance companies would still exist — they could just only provide coverage for health needs not covered by the government. This is similar to other countries: for example, Canada and Denmark.

          • onodera says:

            @Act_II they could even provide coverage for health needs *covered* by the government, if you wanted expedited treatment or more personal service

          • Matt M says:

            Private insurance companies would still exist — they could just only provide coverage for health needs not covered by the government.

            And who decides what health needs will and won’t be covered by the government? Why, the government, of course!

            “The government won’t ban you from doing the things it chooses not to ban you from doing” isn’t all that reassuring tbqh…

          • Eigengrau says:

            @Matt M

            This seems like an overreaction. You could just as easily describe the entire legal system as “The government won’t ban you from doing the things it chooses not to ban you from doing”.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I could.

            That’s why I oppose its existence.

        • cassander says:

          Medicare for all involves the government setting prices for the entire medical industry. that is not at all what every other universal healthcare system involves.

        • Nicholas says:

          You seem to be confusing socialism with communism.

          • “Socialism” is not a well defined term–it has different meanings, some of them pretty vague, to different people in different contexts.

            One of the less vague meanings is “government ownership and control of the means of production.” One of the vaguer ones is “social ownership and control of the means of production,” which could be taken to mean anything from the former meaning through laissez-faire capitalism, with “social control” describing the workings of the market, where production is controlled by the choices of customers and competitors.

          • Act_II says:

            Many people here are confused about what socialism is, but I’m not one of them.

      • NoRandomWalk says:

        Warren can ‘call herself’ a capitalist. Bernie can ‘call himself’ a democratic socialist. I’ve read enough of their actual policies and historical written record, and seen enough of their speeches, to have formed my own opinion about what they would actually do if given enough power that I am comfortable with instead of simply relying on their branding.

        To your specific points:
        Re. healthcare: they don’t just want to make private insurance illegal. They want to set prices. And once they command the power to set prices, they will set them below current market rates while demanding increased access, and once there will be massive shortages in healthcare they will indeed attempt to control production. This is not a new historical experiment, and neither of them have suggested they think there are limits to what government should be able to do under the justification of ‘improving the lives of the non-rich’.
        Re. codetermination: Yes, you got me. Socialism is a spectrum and where I find it useful to draw the line is different in the U.S. political context is different from how I would draw it in Germany or Venezuela. Thank you for the correction. I would point out however that they both advocate wealth taxes primarily because it would reduce wealth inequality, rather than because they think it’s a better way to raise revenues. Which is why I would still consider them socialist in a European context. However, you’re right. In a different context I might find it more practical to use a less-broad definition.

        • Act_II says:

          I’m replying here because I can’t reply to your other comment (I guess it’s nested too deep? This is the first time I’ve commented in an SSC thread.)

          You describe M4A as a socialist policy, and you decribe Warren as a socialist for supporting it. But when I asked you about other candidates who support it, you said you wouldn’t describe them as socialists. Even if we allow that American socialism is different than socialism abroad, this is an inconsistency.

          I’m not going to defend M4A against hypothetical slippery slopes, because I don’t even like M4A all that much personally. But it seems like your bar for calling someone a socialist is at different places for different people.

          • Nicholas says:

            Some of the candidates want a public *option*, and they refer to this as M4A as well. Burnie and Warren (and half the time Kamila) are the only candidates I’m aware of who want to outlaw private provision of healthcare, and force everyone to use the government system if they want medical care. Sometimes the distinction is made as “M4A”/”M4A who want it” but the nomenclature is slippery.

          • Act_II says:

            @Nicholas

            I know the difference between a public option and Medicare For All. When candidates talk about Medicare For All, they are referring to a specific bill cosponsored by 14 Senators including Bernie, Warren, Booker, Harris, and Gillibrand. The candidates who want a public option (e.g. Buttigieg) have different names for their proposals (in Buttigieg’s case, Medicare For All Who Want It).

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          Warren’s support for medicare for all is more central to her campaign than it is for other politicians who also claim to support it. Her other policies are also indicative of a much greater willingness to direct private wealth and the means of production in the service of her political goals, or what she determines to be the ‘public good.’

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Medicare 4 All” means whatever the speaker wants it to mean.

            Some of the candidates have specifically said it is meant to say that private insurance is no longer allowed.

      • Bugmaster says:

        but her plan to make it illegal to have corporate governance answerable exclusively to shareholders (you can’t legally own a company and do what you want with it, you have to give partial control to workers if your company gets big enough)

        I agree that Warren is closer to the Socialist end of the spectrum than many other politicians, but IMO your implied definition of Socialism is overly broad.

        Firstly, “you are not answerable exclusively to shareholders” is not equivalent to “workers have [partial] control of the company”. For example, even if you are a mom-and-pop shop producing artisanal chairs out of reclaimed rare woods, you are still not allowed to e.g. dump kilotons of mercury into the water supply.

        Secondly, “give partial control to workers” can take many forms, some of them perfectly capitalistic. For example, workers are often also shareholders, since many companies issue stock options as part of their compensation package. Additionally, nothing prevents all the workers from getting together one night and deciding to tell the boss, “give us more money or we all quit”. Yes, such a process is usually called “forming a union”, but there’s nothing inherently socialistic about the basic idea.

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          To be clear, I don’t think the ability to form unions, or pollution regulation, is socialist. If you directly harm someone else, you should stop and pay restitution. People own their own labor in a capitalist system, and can coordinate the bargaining thereof. Completely fine. In a meaningful sense any large public corporation is just an ’employer union’.

          My categorization of her plan as socialist is precisely because of the nature of the limitations it places on corporations:
          Section 3 of the Act would establish an “Office of United States Corporations”, with a director appointed by the President on consent of the Senate, at the Department of Commerce to grant charters to large federal corporations, and monitor compliance with the Act’s requirements. Section 4 requires corporations with over $1 billion in tax receipts to obtain a federal charter.
          Section 5(b)(2) requires US corporations to have the purpose of “creating a general public benefit”, while section 5(c) requires that directors have a duty to consider the interests of shareholders, employees (including of subsidiaries and suppliers), customers, the community, environment, and the long-term. The section also recasts the limits of the business judgment rule, and its enforcement.

          Basically, even if your company isn’t harming anyone, but acts only to make money for its financial owners and is not actively furthering goals that the government decides are important, it is not allowed to exist.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            The problem with you calling things “socialist,” NoRandomWalk, is that you’re not communicating any facts (or even opinions) when you do it. You’re not helping anyone to understand what you’re trying to claim.

            If you want to fix the problem, try this: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/WBdvyyHLdxZSAMmoz/taboo-your-words

          • NoRandomWalk says:

            Sure, Andrew. I’m not great at tabooing my words, especially when talking to someone whose view I know little about. I might write a bunch of words, none of which are relevant to the reason you disagree with me or find my comments unproductive. To help me out, could you please first either taboo ‘socialist’ yourself and give your own definition, or otherwise indicate what you think is ‘non-standard’ in the way I use the term.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            It’s not possible for me to taboo your words though.

            As for giving definitions, the whole point of “taboo” is to avoid that approach.

            For the record, my definition of “socialist” would be “person who adheres to an economic philosophy, popularized in the 19th century, whose central tenet is the illegitimacy of the power that owners have over their employees, and which seeks to abolish entirely the owner-employee social relation.”

    • “socialist” isn’t a well defined term in modern usage. Meanings include:

      The economist’s meaning. One who supports government ownership and control of the means of production.

      The current Scandinavian meaning: One who supports a market economy with a sizable amount of welfare state income transfers.

      The common negative rhetorical meaning: One who supports more government control over the economy than the speaker. This is the sense in which I sometimes claim that my father was a socialist, since he supported a large role for government in important industries such as rights protection and dispute settlement.

      The common positive rhetorical meaning: One who supports a society where everyone is equal and well off.

      • onodera says:

        > The economist’s meaning. One who supports government ownership and control of the means of production.

        It’s not *government* ownership of the means of production, it’s *social* ownership of the means of production.

        • Matt M says:

          The government already “controls” the means of production in almost every nation on Earth via taxes and regulation. They just don’t nominally “own” them.

      • Nicholas says:

        The problem here is what is the definition of “ownership”. If the government can tell you how to run your business, who you can hire, who your clients will be, and how much you’re going to charge them….and will take away your business if you don’t like it, who actually ‘owns’ the business? I would argue in the context of M4A the material controlling interest is in fact held by the state, and to whom the profits accrue is incidental (and also largely based on government fiat).

        • Andrew Cady says:

          The key to ownership, as opposed to regulatory power, is whose benefit the operation exists to serve. Whose income is the thing designed to maximize?

  11. Ori Vandewalle says:

    So do you think a good slogan for your campaign would be “Semper ubi sub ubi”?

    Pretty sure that’s the name of a character from the prequels.

  12. 420BootyWizard says:

    The Latin pun got me good. I should’ve seen it coming and yet I didn’t at all

  13. bagel says:

    Ahhhh, you had me going until the first punchline. Well played!

    Thank you for a fine start to the morning!

  14. AJD says:

    I haven’t watched any of the debates yet as I’m an independent and in the State where I live, I can’t vote in primaries. So, on that basis, who cares? Moreover, they are mind-numbingly dull and not terribly informative. Having said all of that, if Scott is one of the questioners in the next debate, I’m watching. Bravo.

    • Placid Platypus says:

      If being registered as an Independent keeps you from voting in primaries, what’s the benefit? Why not register for one party or the other?

      • afiori says:

        I would assume that part of the reason is that registration constitute (weak) endorsement.

      • Wency says:

        You can go to http://www.politicalstrategies.com to look up someone’s party identification for some states. I’m not sure if there’s an easy way to find this information for other states, but even if there isn’t today, there could be in the future. I think you can always discover this information with a FOIA request though.

        I wouldn’t want my association with a party to be a matter of public record, both as a matter of principle and because I’d wonder if it could come back to hurt my professional prospects. I could just not register to vote, but then my failure to vote would be a matter of public record, and I feel it’s better to have a record of voting.

        Some people derive a lot of internal satisfaction from voting, but I don’t. I typically leave the voting booth with a sense of disgust at the “lesser evil” I felt obliged to pick. So my voting is instead motivated by these professional reasons and perhaps a sense of Christian duty.

        • Slocum says:

          I typically leave the voting booth with a sense of disgust at the “lesser evil” I felt obliged to pick.

          You’re not obligated — so don’t do that. The presidential election especially (but also any statewide election) is never, ever going to turn on your single vote. So vote your true preference and feel good about it. Whatever happens was going to happen regardless of your vote, so free yourself from the lesser evil! At least feel decent when you walk away from the polls.

  15. An Fírinne says:

    ou are currently placed fifth – behind two socialists, a confused old man, and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

    I honestly cant tell if you’re actually saying Buttigieg is a socialist or if this is a joke.

    • sty_silver says:

      It’s saying (jokingly or otherwise) that Buttigieg is not a socialist. The top 4 are Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg. The two socialists are Sanders and Warren; Biden is the confused old man; Buttigieg is the mayor.

    • JulieK says:

      The presence of the Oxford comma prevents your interpretation.

      • Nicholas says:

        Three cheers for the serial comma!

      • Nick says:

        Exactly.

      • keaswaran says:

        I’m a fan of the Oxford comma myself, but I think we should be aware that these cases don’t universally go in our favor. If he had said “Warren is falling behind a socialist, Biden, and the mayor of South Bend”, then it’s ambiguous whether “, Biden,” is an appositive phrase for the socialist, or whether Biden and the socialist are different people. Without the Oxford comma, it would be unambiguous: “Warren is falling behind a socialist, Biden and the mayor of South Bend”.

        It’s only when the first phrase in the list is the name of a pair that the Oxford comma disambiguates; when it’s the name of a singleton, the Oxford comma ambiguates.

  16. Folamh3 says:

    Lmao I’ve been making the “why aren’t there more girls called ‘Gatherer’?” joke for years now, same brain.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A lazy check of the Internet reveals many names meaning “Hunter” from “Artemis” to “Woodsman”, but only a few (plus variants) meaning “gatherer” — Al Jami, Asaf, Cain (no relation to the biblical Cain, whose name means ‘spear’, a stone’s blow to nominative determinism). All are boy’s names. Even the name “Gatherer” apparently doesn’t mean “gatherer”.

  17. Frederic Mari says:

    The Biden and Buttigieg ones were frankly good.

    But for the sake of clarifying real facts from, erm, whatever fiction some people prefer : The Ukrainian government wasn’t really investigating Burisma and that’s what got the Prosecutor General fired.

    If anyone should be pissed off, it’s Burisma top bosses. They paid Hunter hoping to get into Joe Biden’s good grace and Biden didn’t even have the decency of considering himself bought and paid for.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Hunter fucks up everything he touches.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      But for the sake of clarifying real facts from, erm, whatever fiction some people prefer : The Ukrainian government wasn’t really investigating Burisma and that’s what got the Prosecutor General fired.

      That’s an interesting take. Where did you hear that?

      Shokin was fired after Biden’s demands in March 2016, but just the month prior Shokin was escalating the investigation by raiding the owner’s house. So that seems to be the opposite case: Biden got Shokin fired after Shokin (Prosecutor General’s Office) turned up the heat on Burisma.

  18. Omninonymous says:

    Been wonderin bout the lack of acknowledgment for Buttgieg’s cabalistic significance on this site I was, aye.
    Nice touch with Djibouti there.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      It’s also colloquial to refer to towns and smaller cities with no culture like South Bend, IN as – pardon my French – Bumfuck, Nowhere. Which just layers it on the poor guy more.

      • OverExamined Life says:

        In my small town, Bumfuck was always in Egypt for some reason.

        • Omninonymous says:

          Because it involves getting pass the Sphynxter, obvs.

        • sansos says:

          I’ve always thought its because of the town Egypt, Indiana is in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere even for a town that is Bumfuck, Nowhere so its an added intensifier.

    • Silverlock says:

      “Backstory.”

  19. Le Maistre Chat says:

    On the other hand are people who complain your proposal isn’t a real UBI. UBI needs to be enough to live on, but $1000/month wouldn’t even get people all the way to the federal poverty line. In more expensive regions like coasts and cities, it would be even worse.

    — wait, this is a real complaint, not something you made up to set up the Latin joke?
    We have a program called Social Security Disability that transfers aprox. $880 a month to American citizens with the expectation that it will be their only source of income, due to being unable to work. If that’s significantly below the federal poverty line, the federal government must expect people who can’t work to live in poverty. Why does this suddenly become a complaint when thinking about, instead of the disabled, people who can’t find work or simply choose not to?
    Second, any sane UBI would have to be based on the cheapest place to live in the Sovereign’s territory. There simply isn’t enough money in existence to give every American enough to live in San Francisco without working!

    • Aapje says:

      People with Social Security Disability get SNAP.

    • HomarusSimpson says:

      Opinion. If any country is to actually do a UBI, it will inevitably be set at ‘just about stops you dying’, which is pretty much in line with most welfare systems. It’ll be well down the road before we get to the “playing the lyre & composing odes to the wind whilst setting up a sustainable small business” version

      • afiori says:

        As far as I understand the rationale behind Yang’s UBI is not that of giving a reasonable income to citizens, it is about funneling a consistent amount of money in the areas that need it the most. The U of the name is just to make sure that all places that need it are covered.

        • Nicholas says:

          No, the U is designed to ensure people who do have jobs don’t try to cut the program, because they also like getting checks. Yang compares it to social security, which we also give to bill gates for no reason, but it creates a near unanimity in the polity in favor of the program. Even though everyone knows it’s insolvent, it’s still considered the 3rd rail of politics. Compared to other welfare programs that are ‘just for the poor’ which Republicans are (or, used to back when they cared about spending) always trying to cut, and paint recipients of as morally deficient, and either lazy or scammers. It’s a hard argument to make when you’re receiving the same check every month.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If there’s a good rationale for the U, it’s to keep people who do have jobs from quitting them in order to qualify for the free money. The EITC is means-tested and Republicans haven’t shown much interest in cutting it.

          • Cecil Harvey says:

            The other good rationale for the U is the lack of bureaucracy. Everyone gets a check — no means testing, etc. I’d frankly like to raise it to the level that it could replace:

            – social security
            – various welfare programs
            – disability
            – unemployment insurance

            And thus get rid of all the state and federal apparatuses needed for testing who is eligible.

            What I don’t like is Yang’s support for adding a VAT. If the VAT replaced income tax, that would be great (especially if it excepted necessities, like food and clothing), but adding yet another route for the government to tax us, and just layering it on top is asking for abuse.

            I’m not a libertarian, but I’m certainly sympathetic to a lot of their arguments about specific criticisms in the way governments fail at things.

          • People always say this, but then social security was cut. An increase in the retirement age is equivalent to a benefit cut. You can also cite tuition fees in the U.K. The whole idea that people aren’t going to figure out that some people are getting it while paying nothing and others are paying a lot more than they’re getting is questionable.

          • cassander says:

            @Alexander Turok

            People always say this, but then social security was cut.

            Social security payments are increased above the rate of inflation every single year. the retirement age was increased from 65 to 67 over a 22 year period. I am quite sure that the next present value of SS payments never went down.

          • itex says:

            Sure it did, in 1983 when everyone born in 1960 or later lost 2 full years of benefits they were previously expected to receive. Granted, those affected were, at most, 23 years old at the time. Good thing kids don’t vote.

    • Roebuck says:

      Reminds me of the concept of London Living Wage, higher than the National Living Wage. A Living Wage is not legally binding (unlike the UK-wide Minimum Wage), it’s just a suggestion that you should pay people that much for your business to be humane. And apparently people who live in London deserve to be paid more.

      It’s an overcrowded city. You’re not doing people a favour by staying here. The island is small, you could move easily (incl. to a place just outside of London which still has plenty of space). Isn’t (for the majority of relevant people) London a lifestyle choice and the London Living Wage a suggestion to pay for people’s expensive lifestyles?

      Or am I displaying populist arrogance by thinking that, usually, London is not a place you have roots in and the rest of the country is where real people have real emotional connections? Here, UK readers will be able to help me out. I only know that 40% of people living in London were born outside the country (that includes me).

      • Nicholas says:

        I’m not in the UK and am just going off of the information in your post, but if you’re an employer in London and your employees live in London, it makes sense to adjust the ‘living wage’ statistic to account for actual costs of living for them. If you’re trying to hire for a job in London, have people live in not London so you can pay them less isn’t really a solution.

        • Roebuck says:

          I agree – you need to pay people more if you want them to live in London / an expensive city.

          But I’m having problems with the moral judgement dimension of the Living Wage (and I believe the main purpose of this statistic is to brand some employers moral and some immoral). I would disagree that you can be deemed immoral because you pay X to people who live in an expensive city although you would be deemed fine if you paid X in a cheaper place, mainly because the cost of living is usually driven by how (over)crowded the city is.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t see why. If you consider the minimum wage to be a moral imperative, then, assuming you want the minimum wage to be linked to cost of living, then minimum wage should be higher in London, where cost of living is far higher.

            This is not that much different from wanting a higher wage in your own country than in a far poorer country.

          • Supposing that one viewed it as a moral imperative that nobody be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage, the conclusion for London depends on whether you believe people live in London because there are better jobs or because they enjoy the pleasures of the urban environment.

            If it’s the latter, then living in London is a consumption decision and giving more money to those who do so makes no more sense than giving more money to people whose cost of living is higher because they choose to eat steak instead of hamburger.

          • Aapje says:

            It depends on whether you accept a (very) SES geographically divided nation, where the rich live in some parts of the country and the poor in other parts.

            Note that at a certain point, your country might start falling apart.

            Ultimately, choosing to have a minimum wage is itself a society-wide consumption decision, which as a radical libertarian you presumably don’t like, but it’s a democratic preference nevertheless.

            PS. Local minimum wage increases are usually achieved through subsidized social housing.

      • Lambert says:

        > to a place just outside of London which still has plenty of space

        Laughs in £0.5 million home-counties semi-detached house.
        (Also laughs in 2.7% rail fare hike)

        It’s like the Bay Area, if California were an island nation and LA didn’t exist. All the network effects are there. So all the good jobs are there, so you can charge more for stuff (£5 pints).

        I hear Maggie and right to buy had something to do with it, alongside the general postindustrial decline of the provinces?

        It’s not good. Neither for London nor the rest of the country. We should be investing heavily in infrastructure for areas like S. Yorks, Manchester, S.Wales, The W. Midlands.

        • Roebuck says:

          I would have thought that when you’re thinking from the moral judgement perspective (which I believe is the main purpose of the Living Wage), you are thinking of ensuring for every person at least a uniform, reasonable living standard.

          I think that the network effects which cause the good jobs to be where life is expensive should be outside of the consideration. A “good job” (if we understand it as being better than a big proportion of jobs in the society) doesn’t seem like a human right.

          And it would seem reasonable to expect people to maybe move somewhere cheaper if they would like to use the baseline living standard we want to guarantee them.

          • Aapje says:

            A good job is not a human right, but democracy is. If some parts of the country prosper, while others do not, you get resentment and things like Brexits.

          • A good job is not a human right, but democracy is.

            I don’t see how it is less oppressive to be ruled by the majority vote of people very unlike you than to be ruled by other people unlike you in other ways.

            Suppose I live in a small country ruled by a hereditary monarch who has been doing a pretty good job. It is annexed by a large country with one man one vote democracy. I get to vote, but my vote gives me less influence over how the government treats me than my ability to petition the king did under the old system.

            How are my rights better respected after the annexation than before? Alternatively, just what do you mean by democracy?

          • Aapje says:

            In my view, democracy requires a demos and/or polity*, based on a certain cultural and practical coherence. One of my main objections to the EU project is that this coherence doesn’t sufficiently exist (another is that decisions don’t actually reflect the will of the people anywhere near closely enough, so democracy is also lacking).

            Many people getting upset over “be[ing] ruled by the majority vote of people very unlike you” suggest that there is a lack of demos/polity, democracy is lacking, or both.

            * Which in turn is reflecting in a willingness to tolerate, sacrifice, etc for others.

    • semioldguy says:

      The poverty line is nonsense. $1000 per month is plenty to live on pretty much anywhere. I have been doing that for years in San Diego, saving/investing/donating what I make beyond that amount. I have plenty more than what I need, do not feel that I am living in poverty, and am very happy with my situation. I share a house with others, but have my own large bedroom room and bathroom. The vast majority of the foods I purchase are fresh, organic meats and produce. I have plenty of disposable income for multiple hobbies/entertainments. People tend to be very good at spending money inefficiently and on things they do not need.

      Of course providing everyone with $1000 each month with no strings attached will certainly affect the cost of many necessities, which could cause that amount to no longer be (as) sufficient.

      • Why would it certainly affect the price of many necessities?

        The $1000 isn’t coming from nowhere. That’s a thousand dollars taken from some taxpayer, who now has $1000 less to spend or, if it’s borrowed, from some investor ditto.

        Some relative prices might change, because different people buy different things, but unless it’s produced by printing more money there is no reason for prices in general to go up.

        • semioldguy says:

          But if that money is taken from some taxpayer, wouldn’t that taxpayer also be likely to try making that money back by either cutting costs, or raising the prices of products or services? Or if it is assumed that literally everyone has at least X amount of money, couldn’t it be that the price of necessities like food/shelter rise to that amount in areas where it was otherwise less, while not affecting areas that would cost more anyway? Knowing that the customer has more money may change the price someone is willing to sell something for that the customer needs. Giving more money to the poor and people who are not good at personal finance will create incentives for others to “redistribute” that wealth away from the people who don’t know how to manage their own with the costs of good and services that those people are more likely to purchase.

          I’m not suggesting that prices in general will go up, just the price of absolute necessities that are at the lower end of the cost spectrum. What’s to keep people from taking advantage of others and keeping the poor poor?

          • What’s to keep people from taking advantage of others and keeping the poor poor?

            Answering that question would require at least a brief course in economics. The reason things are the price they are is not that people are not “taking advantage of others.”

            As it happens, I have written two books that are designed to provide such a course. My Price Theory is webbed for free. Hidden Order, the same book converted from a textbook to a book aimed at the intelligent layman who wants to teach himself economics, is available on Amazon as an inexpensive kindle.

            I am sorry if that sounds rude or arrogant, but inventing economics for yourself doesn’t work any better than the corresponding approach for physics or medicine, and I’m not at the moment up to trying to teach economics one on one online in response to your question.

          • semioldguy says:

            I don’t consider that to be either rude or arrogant. I have no doubt your understanding of the topic is greater than mine. I’ve added Hidden Order to my reading list. Thank you for you time.

            Your Publisher’s Page link to Harper Collins at the bottom of the page you linked is a dead link by the way.

          • @Semioldguy:

            Thanks–I hadn’t looked at that page for a long time. I have now updated it to refer to the print and kindle versions that I self-published after the original edition went out of print.

            And, very shortly, there will also be an audiobook version of Hidden Order.

      • acymetric says:

        The poverty line is nonsense. $1000 per month is plenty to live on pretty much anywhere.

        The poverty line is less than $1,000 per month. I’m also going to assume you’re budgeting $1,000, but someone making at the poverty line is making slightly less than $1,000/month anyway and then even less than that after SS/Medicare/witholding.

        I share a house with others, but have my own large bedroom room and bathroom.

        Surely you realize this is not an option available to everyone, or even more than a small percentage of people? I also suspect, based on your claim, that you are getting an incredibly good deal on that room. I live in a cheaper cost of living area, and renting just a bedroom+utilities/bills would eat up the majority of that $1,000 dollars unless a friend were “renting” a room to me at way below market rate essentially as a favor.

        Keep in mind also that part of the reason it is poverty is that they can’t save/invest/donate, or absorb even the smallest unexpected expense as they are just barely at the threshold of being able to pay for what they need (or below it, depending on exact income and location/living situation).

        • semioldguy says:

          I’m also going to assume you’re budgeting $1,000, but someone making at the poverty line is making slightly less than $1,000/month anyway and then even less than that after SS/Medicare/witholding.

          I don’t keep a close eye on my spending, but a few years back I was curious and tracked all of my expenditures for most of the year and it averaged at just over $900 per month. I believe that tracking my spending likely caused me to spend slightly less than I otherwise would have, but have not significantly deviated from those spending habits since that time.

          I also suspect, based on your claim, that you are getting an incredibly good deal on that room. I live in a cheaper cost of living area, and renting just a bedroom+utilities/bills would eat up the majority of that $1,000 dollars unless a friend were “renting” a room to me at way below market rate essentially as a favor.

          Of the four people living in the house, each with their own bedroom, everyone else pays less for rent than I do. We are renting from a property management company, not a friend or family or anything. We live in a nice neighborhood, in a good school district, less than 15 minutes from downtown.

          My point isn’t that $1000 is enough to live anywhere you want, but when $1000/month of income isn’t tied to your location, you have the freedom to move somewhere the cost of living is less. And you can still live in or very near to big cities on that budget. The problem isn’t just that people don’t have the money to live, but that many people also don’t budget or effectively use the money they have. Giving them more money isn’t going to help many of them with the second issue.

  20. Careless says:

    “My question for you is: if your son had been a daughter, would you have named her Gatherer?”

    You’re lucky Dave Barry is not more litigious. Also, I laughed

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Dave Barry made that joke first? 🙁

      • Careless says:

        Not exactly (I assume), but it’s extremely Barryesque. He probably would have made that joke had he been a full time writer today

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Mercifully, prose style can’t be copyrighted, but that’s a good enough premise for dystopian sf.

  21. Plumber says:

    @Scott Alexander,
    Those made me smile, so thanks!

  22. shakeddown says:

    Can someone explain the latin ubi thing? Is it a pun?

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Semper – always
      Ubi – where
      Sub – under

      A classic schoolboy Latin pun

      • imoimo says:

        Simply incredible. Some of these were weak but that makes the whole post worthwhile.

      • Dacyn says:

        So “Semper ubi sub ubi” is “Always UBI under where”? I think we can come up with a version that makes more sense than this, maybe “Ubi ubi dominatur in sempiternum”…

        By the way, does anyone know why Google Translate’s Latin -> English is so screwed up? It tells me that “Semper ubi sub ubi” translates as “Cogito”, which isn’t even an English word. And this is far from the first time I’ve seen it glitch badly on the Latin -> English…

        • johan_larson says:

          No, no. It’s a pun. “Semper ubi sub ubi” translated word by word is “always where under where”, which sounds like “always wear underwear”. Very exciting, if you’re 12.

        • Nick says:

          Google Translate gets worse the more inflected a language is, Latin being a good example. That’s still awful even by its standards.

        • keaswaran says:

          These automated translation things have certain predictable errors on common types of phrases. Since it finds parallel texts in the two languages, and many parallel texts are lists of corporate headquarters in different countries, it will sometimes do things like translate “Paris” to “New York” and “Montreal” to “Toronto”. And in this case, it will translate schoolboy humor Latin into other schoolboy Latin. (“Cogito” is short for “Cogito, ergo sum”, or “I think, therefore, I am”, which is one of the most commonly studied school phrases that is sometimes mentioned in Latin.)

    • Erusian says:

      As FrankistGeorgist said, it’s a bilingual pun. Semper ubi sub ubi is nonsense in actual Latin. Semper is always, ubi is where, sub is under. So it means “Always where under where.” Obviously, the teenagers learning Latin translate it as “Always wear your underwear.”

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      UBI, quit us.