1,300 thoughts on “Open Thread 144.75

  1. albatross11

    Report says that DC families who exercise some school choice for their kids tend to choose schools that have fewer poor and black students. They point out that parents who put their kids in charter schools say they care about school culture and performance, but that they tend to choose ones that have fewer poor and black students. This isn’t a terrible article, but it’s an example of omitting relevant information either for ideological reasons or because the journalist doesn’t know it/doesn’t like to think about it: The article never get around to saying whether those schools with more poor/black students are different in any other ways, such as school performance or discipline or culture.

    If the rest of the country is any guide, the schools with poorer and blacker student populations will have worse academic performance and worse behavioral standards than the schools with richer and whiter student populations. Indeed, it would be big news if this weren’t true among DC charter schools overall. The reporter never brought that up, or raised it as an issue.

    She did, however, quote someone implying that the pattern of parental choice was due to racism. But she certainly didn’t ask whether that pattern existed among children of black parents putting their kids into the charter schools.

    I don’t know whether DC’s charter schools are good, bad, or indifferent. I don’t know whether the parents’ choices are due to racism to any notable extent. I certainly don’t know the optimal way to trade off between the desire for integration and diversity in schools, school performance, parental choice, the ability to move kids out of horrible schools, etc.

    But I’m very sure that this reporter wasn’t informing her readers about all the relevant details of the story. She was withholding information and not asking obvious questions, perhaps because of an ideological bias, perhaps because of blind spots and ignorance. And the result is that her readers know less than they should about a story that probably matters a lot for the future.

    Most media bias, IMO, doesn’t look like someone making stuff up or being overtly biased, it looks like this–some questions aren’t asked, some facts aren’t brought up, and so many readers just miss them. Some small issues are inflated to become huge ones, and some large and important issues are ignored. And so the public becomes less informed, and as people recognize this kind of failing, it becomes less trusting of traditional media outlets.

    1. Mark V Anderson

      Yep. This was at the end of the article:

      Roth said parents prioritize school culture when they decide to enroll their children at a campus. But, she added, research shows that parents “often conflate school quality with perceived classist or racist views of schools.”

      The thing is, school quality correlates highly with its class and race aspects. Perhaps that is unfortunate, but the parents are conflating in an accurate manner. As you say, the writer implies that is not the case. And I have found NPR to be one of the more objective sources around, so it is too bad to see this. This may be one of those examples where reporter simply hasn’t been exposed to smart right wing sources, so it never occurred to her to ask questions.

      But you are just preaching to the choir when I respond. I don’t know who you meant this for, but I don’t think too many will see this, since this thread is old. I understand that this comment is not proper for non-CW thread, but I think few will see this.

  2. ejh3141

    Could I please get an invite to the SSC Discord server? I’ve been clicking on the invite links for the past month or so (I remember seeing a post saying they were only down temporarily) but they’ve never worked.

  3. Forward Synthesis

    Should you believe in a religion if you have a religious experience that matches that religion, i.e. Jesus appearing in a vision inclining you to Christianity?

    I remember the New Atheist, or at least Dawkins approach to this question being that even if you saw Jesus, you should instead dismiss this as a hallucination, since you can easily have all sorts of mind errors and delusions. I would like to add Pascal’s Wager into the mix though. Ordinarily, it doesn’t work since there are thousands of religions, but if you’re already primed with a vision of Jesus, that strongly weights Christianity in the rankings. If I have seen Jesus, I’m pushing my luck to appease some other God who I’ve seen nothing of, and so I should be better safe than sorry. I can believe it’s a hallucination and if I’m right the reward is nothingness, but if I’m wrong and the vision of Jesus is real, then I’m going to Hell for all eternity. Safer to believe Jesus was a vision and not a hallucination so as to avoid infinite punishment and gain infinite reward I think.

    However, this does bring up a related question; is choosing to believe due to consequentialist arguments a real form of faith? If I believe to avoid Hell do I really believe at all? Isn’t true faith, by definition, an act devoid of all reason and evidence; a pure leap into certainty, apropos of nothing?

    1. Dacyn

      If you already know that people get these kinds of visions, I don’t see why getting one personally should change your probability estimate of anything.

      I have a someone unusual position on the other question: I’m a doxastic involuntarist, meaning I don’t think it’s possible to choose beliefs. Our choices can affect our beliefs but the relationship is not quite so direct. So “[believing] to avoid Hell” isn’t really even a thing.

      1. DavidFriedman

        Your prior is that people get such visions for two possible reasons:

        1. They are temporarily nuts.
        2. God is speaking to them.

        After seeing the vision, 1 is still an option for you. But 2 has now narrowed down to “the Christian god is speaking to you.”

        1. Aapje

          They are commonly called hallucinations.

          These can be triggered in many ‘sane’ people with drugs or sleep deprivation; although I suspect that many religious visionaries were schizophrenics (although it is speculated that the Oracle at Delphi benefited from hallucinatory gasses coming from the ground).

          Also, errors in perception coupled with incorrect conclusions, can be very similar to hallucinations. There used to be a big transformer box near my house with two square posters on it. When passing it and seeing the posters from the corner of my eye, I would repeatedly see it as a person. Apparently, the configuration and dimensions were close enough to human to be parsed that way, even though it was really very far from human.

          I can imagine people having visions of this nature, especially if they are somewhat gullible.

        2. Dacyn

          I don’t understand. We can separate out vision into Christian visions and non-Christian visions. For each type of vision, suppose that your 1 and 2 are the only two possibilities. That’s four possible combinations, and seeing a Christian vision doesn’t eliminate any of them.

    2. EchoChaos

      Should you believe in a religion if you have a religious experience that matches that religion, i.e. Jesus appearing in a vision inclining you to Christianity?

      Yes. Especially since reports of religious visions are fairly common, which means that the likelihood that it is real rises (I don’t particularly disbelieve my visions of Mexico, because lots of people report similar visions).

      is choosing to believe due to consequentialist arguments a real form of faith? If I believe to avoid Hell do I really believe at all? Isn’t true faith, by definition, an act devoid of all reason and evidence; a pure leap into certainty, apropos of nothing?

      That’s not the definition of faith that’s commonly used by most Christian denominations. Their definition is more akin to the “I have faith that my parachute is functional so I will jump out of a plane with it” faith.

      1. The original Mr. X

        Another analogy I’ve seen is “I have faith in my doctor’s ability to cure me, so I’m going to take the medicine he prescribes, even though I don’t understand how it’s supposed to work.”

    3. The original Mr. X

      However, this does bring up a related question; is choosing to believe due to consequentialist arguments a real form of faith? If I believe to avoid Hell do I really believe at all?

      If you believe, you believe, regardless of your reasons for doing so. Although simply believing in God’s existence isn’t enough to get you out of Hell — Satan believes in God, after all.

      Isn’t true faith, by definition, an act devoid of all reason and evidence; a pure leap into certainty, apropos of nothing?

      No, the belief you’re describing (fideism) has been rejected by all major branches of Christianity. And with good reason, since not only is it irrational, but it goes against what we see in the Bible. Jesus performs plenty of miracles, and the Evangelists record them, explicitly to provide proof of his divinity (e.g., John 20.30, “These [miracles] are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”), which would be an odd thing to do, if we’re really supposed to believe regardless of reason or evidence.

      1. Dacyn

        Fideism as you describe it may be rejected, but giving permission to not believe in the absence of any evidence at all, is different from encouraging (or even permitting) a follow-the-evidence-where-it-may-lead attitude.

    4. broblawsky

      Pascal’s Wager is useless as a form of selection between faiths, because there are an arbitrary number of potential Gods who will punish infidelity, where the cause of infidelity can be as small or uncontrollable as not getting baptized as an adult or not getting selected by God to be saved before time began. If you believe in the possibility of an unjust or deceptive God, you can never trust the veracity of any apparently divine vision, because that vision could’ve be transmitted to you by God (or the Devil) as a test of your faith. This is known as the argument from inconsistent revelations.

        1. The Nybbler

          The atheist God is very proud of his job in creating the universe without any evidence of his own existence, his perfect creatorless creation. And he condemns to Hell any of his creations who don’t agree. (or in general, you can postulate a divine being who punishes those who believe in divine beings for any reason)

      1. albatross11

        I still want to see Pascal’s Wager treated as an optimization problem instead of a logic problem.

        Ob Ned Flanders quote: “I even kept kosher, just to be on the safe side.”

    5. Deiseach

      Isn’t true faith, by definition, an act devoid of all reason and evidence; a pure leap into certainty, apropos of nothing?

      Nope, that’s fideism, which is frowned upon (and please note that Pascal was feuding with the Jesuits, so he may have tilted a wee bit too much in the direction of the “feels over thinking” side). You are supposed to use your reason to evaluate your experience: was it a true vision, was it a deceit of the Devil, was it a hallucination, a trick, a hoax? Now, if you had a vision of Jesus and you decided to become a Vaishavite, then probably people would go “Ummm…” but hey, humans have done just as weird stuff before.

  4. Black Ice

    Can anyone recommend any good books, available on Amazon, that just contain a bunch of good clean Python code?

    I like reading code, basically. I’m looking for books that just contain problems (math or pragmatic) and solutions in Python.

  5. Ouroborobot

    I’m struggling to grok this whole p-zombie thing. My understanding is that in its strongest form it’s an argument against materialism, but I can’t seem to grasp how it’s logically valid. Let me see if I get this: I imagine a world where the zombie-people have the same precise physical makeup as a human, but lack conscious experience. Now I conclude that since I’ve imagined this to be possible, materialism is therefore wrong. But if materialism is correct, what does it even mean to imagine a world where a “zombie” with the exact physical makeup of a human could lack consciousness? Such a thing wouldn’t be possible. To a materialist, to share the same exact physical makeup is to be capable of consciousness, so to postulate otherwise is to begin by assuming materialism is invalid. This strikes me as something akin to Anselm’s ontological argument. How the heck is it valid? Now I know Chalmers is considered to be an exceptionally smart dude, and I”m just some random guy, so clearly I must not be understanding. Can someone help me out? I have no doubt this subject has been discussed here before, so my apologies for being a noob.

    1. Enkidum

      I’d be interested in hearing a defence as well. Back in the day I read several of his pieces, and I’ve been to talks by his grad students pushing the same schtick of thought-experiments that are meant to prove something about consciousness, and it’s always seemed nonsensical. Same with McGinn, Searle, and Nagel’s work along the same lines.

    2. cathray

      It’s not supposed to be a logical argument but more like an “intuition pump”. It’s supposed to draw your attention to the fact that we don’t just know where things are around us, but actually *see* them. Now imagine a p-Zombie who would still *know* where things are but only lacks the qualia of actually seeing. And if you can imagine that than you have some kind of intuition that qualia is a thing that at least could be investigated separately from the act of processing signals from the eye. If of course you take materialism as a given than the imagery couldn’t possibly do anything for you.

      1. Enkidum

        I would respect this way of using thought experiments, but note that the terminology “intuition pump” comes from Dennett (I think, at least he’s the most famous user of it), who was for many years the prime anti-Chalmers/Searle/McGinn/Nagel philosopher (in a lonely group with the Churchlands and virtually no one else until the mid-90’s).

        Everything I’ve read by Chalmers et al, and interactions I’ve had with their graduate students, suggests to me that they would disagree very strongly with your characterization, and they genuinely believe themselves to be proving something in some sense. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read this stuff, and I am obviously biased.

        1. Dacyn

          According to LW “a basilisk […] is any information that harms or endangers the people who hear it.” Not sure where you got your definition.

          1. rahien.din

            According to LW “a basilisk […] is any information that harms or endangers the people who hear it.”

            Correct.

            A great example is Roko’s basilisk. Roko’s basilisk is an intuition pump that drives a person toward an incorrect belief.

            Now, the words on LW are “information that…” but the word “information” is used to describe a thought experiment IE an intuition pump. From the opening paragraph from the LW article :

            Roko’s basilisk is a thought experiment… a basilisk in this context is any information that harms or endangers the people who hear it.

            Not sure where you got your definition.

            Like anyone might, I got my definition from this site on LW, which is a discussion of Roko’s basilisk.

          2. Dacyn

            @rahien.din: I don’t really appreciate you pasting my link into your comment several times unnecessarily. I suppose you are trying to make the point that you don’t think I’ve read the page closely enough. To be honest, I didn’t read the page fully before posting (and I don’t think that should be a requirement for someone before posting links), but I was already familiar with the concept of Roko’s basilisk, and nothing in your post makes me think that there was something I missed that would have changed my previous post.

            I apologize if you thought “Not sure where you got your definition” was too snarky. I do think it’s legitimate to analyze how people use words in practice rather than relying on the dictionary (or other authoritative source), but you hadn’t stated an argument as yet.

            In any case, I think an intuition pump is a special case of information, so Roko’s basilisk being an intuition pump doesn’t mean that it isn’t information. Nevertheless, intuition pump and information are not the same thing. I don’t think it is true that the word “basilisk” is only applied to intuition pumps and not other types of information, but I agree this is not immediately clear.

            And the word “incorrect” in your definition seems wholly unjustified: I think people are more likely to call Roko’s basilisk a basilisk if they think that it is correct.

          3. rahien.din

            Dacyn,

            I don’t think it is true that the word “basilisk” is only applied to intuition pumps and not other types of information

            Maybe this is the crux of our pseudo-disagreement?

            I also don’t think it is true that the word “basilisk” is only applied to intuition pumps and not other types of information.

            In fact, I don’t even think that the harm or danger resulting from a basilisk is only meant to involve incorrect beliefs.

            I am asking us all to consider that an intuition pump that drives a person toward an incorrect belief is a subtype of basilisk.

            No, that is not how the term “basilisk” was first coined or used. In fact, it was perhaps first used in the excellent short story BLIT. The basilisks in BLIT are images that induce lethal reactions in the brains of those who see them – like a real basilisk would.

            What if the harm was not to kill the viewer, but instead, to induce a durable false belief? And what if the vehicle was not an image, but instead a thought experiment? That’s still a basilisk – just a more insidious and self-propagating version. You may think that stretches the definition too far. Fine. We could discuss that.

            But we must start by taking the discussion remotely seriously. The things you use as counterarguments seem to be things I completely agree with. You feel unjustly accused of inattentiveness to the things you read, but you freely admit that such accusations are deserved.

            We are going to miss out on good conversations this way.

          4. Dacyn

            @rahien.din:

            You feel unjustly accused of inattentiveness to the things you read, but you freely admit that such accusations are deserved.

            If this is what you think happened in my previous comment, then it is your reading comprehension skills that I question. Since you are continuing to insult me, I will assume you don’t want a conversation.

          5. rahien.din

            Dacyn : You don’t think I’ve read the page closely enough.

            I didn’t read the page fully before posting

            I don’t think I should have to read a page fully before linking to it.

          6. Dacyn

            @rahien.din: I know what my comment says. The last sentence you quoted says the exact opposite of what you seem to think it says. Regarding the first two sentences, I did not read the page fully, but I read it closely enough for the purposes of discussion here.

            In any case, even if I hadn’t read the page closely enough, I think what you did in your comment would have been a particularly obnoxious way to point it out.

    3. Radu Floricica

      Not much point in using the hard form of p-zombies when we already have the first iterations of a more realistic form walking among us. What’ll happen the first time you _really_ like a GPT-2 generated novella? Or when the first teenager falls in love with a GPT-2 chatbot? We’ll live to see this.

      1. eric23

        I don’t think I, or anyone else, will ever like a GPT-2 generated novella. It can’t even write a poem that’s more convincing than the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, and it doesn’t have the corpus to scale to much longer works like novellae.

        I think many teenagers (and many adults) are capable of falling in love with the *idea* of someone, even when they have little to no contact with the actual person, so that proves nothing.

        1. HeelBearCub

          Sure you’ll probably eventually like a novel or screenplay “generated” by some method like this. It will just be “curated”. Which is very much cheating, but hey, who is keeping score anyway?

          But, I don’t think that’s actually really relevant to the p-zombie argument, as it won’t be created by a GI.

        2. Aapje

          @eric23

          I think that you overestimate people. We live in a world where 50 Shades of Grey sells 125 million copies, with lines like:

          “My inner goddess is doing a triple axel dismount off the uneven bars, and abruptly my mouth is dry.”
          “His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”
          “And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.”
          “I feel the colour in my cheeks rising again. I must be the colour of The Communist Manifesto.”
          “His lips part, like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position.”
          “Now I know what all the fuss is about. Two orgasms – coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow.”
          “I’m all deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake – and he knows exactly what he’s doing to me.”

          1. The Nybbler

            That’s amazing. Not only is it a bestselling book and hit movie, but it was apparently inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

        3. albatross11

          I wonder if there’s a way to use GPT to generate a zillion sample texts and another algorithm to select the one that looks the most like what a human would expect, or better, to hill-climb/evolve into something more like what a human would see as interesting.

    4. melolontha

      It doesn’t disprove materialism, it just highlights the fact that there is something important (qualia, or subjective experience, or what-it-is-like-ness, or whatever word you prefer) that our materialist theories of the world can’t explain, because they can’t distinguish p-zombie-world from our world.

      1. Ouroborobot

        It’s this that I can’t understand. If we are attempting to distinguish a zombie through external observation, then it doesn’t follow that materialism fails to explain anything. We could also simply say that the human brain is immensely complex, and it’s possible to create a very good facsimile of a person without truly replicating the physical processes under the hood. Nothing has been proven. If was don’t limit ourselves to imagining a superficial facsimile and go as far as to assume a zombie has the exact same physical makeup, you have the problem in my original post.

      2. Dacyn

        If materialism is understood as a universal theory, finding something it can’t explain is the same as disproving it.

      3. Pink-Nazbol

        This is like saying “the notion of the Aryan race is incoherent because I can imagine someone who appears inside and out to be Aryan but who I’ve ad hoc defined as non-Aryan and the believers in the Aryan race cannot distinguish him from real Aryans.”

    5. sty_silver

      Now I conclude that since I’ve imagined this to be possible, materialism is therefore wrong.

      Maybe that is the point some people would make with regard to p-zombies, but it’s certainly not the one I would make. I would make two points:

      (1) If you imagine a world exactly like ours except that no-one is conscious, you still have philosophers (perfectly unconscious philosophers) writing in-depth about their consciousness. This is absurd, therefore there are no p-zombies.

      (2) If you simulate a human perfectly on a computer, where perfect means you have isomorphic input-output behavior, then if this human was a philosopher before, they would still be a philosopher afterwards and write about consciousness. Therefore they must still be conscious, which means consciousnes isn’t substrate dependent.

      I’m not sure I endorse (2), but these seem to me to be the interesting arguments that fall out of the p-zombie concept.

      1. HeelBearCub

        The p-zombie argument posits that they can write about consciousness without being conscious. I think the P-zombie argument is not a very good one, but you seem to be engaging in a kind of inverse question begging.

        1. Dacyn

          I don’t see how it’s question-begging to assert that someone has already disproved themselves by positing an absurdity. Of course, intuitions may differ as to whether what is posited is in fact absurd.

      2. Brassfjord

        Regarding (1): If we feed GPT-2 a lot of texts about consciousness, it could produce a text about it, without being conscious itself. A whole p-zombie world including philosophers might not be possible, but there could be p-zombies walking among us, and we wouldn’t be able to tell.

        Therefore, the Turing test can’t prove consciousness (Turing never claimed that either) but only intelligence.

        1. Enkidum

          There is no existing text generator, GPT-2 or otherwise, that can reliably (i.e. without curation) produce work that is not incoherent within the first few paragraphs. So your first paragraph is as much speculation as Chalmers’ original argument.

          I’m (mostly) a believer in hard AI, so I’m not making a claim about inherent limitations of the field.

          ETA: I realize that of course Chalmers is aware he’s speculating (it’s called a thought experiment, after all), but it seemed like you are asserting something you believe to be an empirical possibility.

          1. Enkidum

            It’s a possibility that a GPT-2 produces nothing but coherent text, by chance?

            If that’s what you’re claiming, then no, that’s simply wrong, except in the sense that it’s in some sense “possible” that all the particles in my body suddenly decide to jump six feet to my left, and I effectively teleport. It’s materially impossible for the current GPT-2 to do this, in the sense that billions of repeated trials would not produce a GPT-2 that does so.

            If by “possible”, you mean “I can think this without my brain exploding”, which is closer to what Chalmers et al usually seem to mean, then you may be right, although it’s very unclear to me how detailed your thoughts have to be to count as “thinking about this”, and why this is supposed to carry any argumentative weight.

          2. Brassfjord

            @Enkidum
            A monkey hammering on a typewriter could produce a seemingly insightful text about consciousness (where the insight is in the mind of the reader). Current GPT-2, trained on similar texts, is much more likely to do so, and GPT-2000 (which will be trained to rule out nonsense texts) will probably do so more often than a random conscious human.

          3. Enkidum

            A monkey hammering on a typewriter could produce a seemingly insightful text about consciousness (where the insight is in the mind of the reader)

            What sense of the word “could” are you using here? Be specific.

            Given all the monkeys that have ever lived and ever will live in the universe, multiplied by several billion, spending all their lives chained to typewriters, the chance of this ever happening is so close to 0 as to be not worth thinking about. Again, it’s like the possibility of all my molecules deciding to jump six feet to the left.

            Current GPT-2, trained on similar texts, is much more likely to do so,

            Again, what does “likely” mean? Current GPT-2 is incapable of producing more than a few paragraphs of text that don’t devolve into incoherence. Admittedly, a lot of writing about consciousness is reasonably incoherent, but not in the same way.

            To reiterate: I think we’re using fundamentally different (and incompatible) meanings of words like “can”, “possible”, etc. You (and Chalmers et al) appear to be saying something like “I can think this”. That’s not what I, or I think most people, use such words to mean in most cases.

          4. Brassfjord

            You must admit that GPT-2 is better than a random word generator in writing readable texts, and unless you have good arguments that we now have reached the absolute limit of AI, I will assume that better and better programs of this type will be made, until we have difficulties determining if it’s a chatbot or a typical internet commentator.

            How is that not basically a p-zombie?

          5. Enkidum

            You must admit that GPT-2 is better than a random word generator in writing readable texts

            Yes, absolutely.

            I will assume that better and better programs of this type will be made,

            Yes.

            until we have difficulties determining if it’s a chatbot or a typical internet commentator.

            I would dispute this, given the “of this type” qualification beforehand, for two reasons. First, no program that is essentially GPT-2 plus a few bells and whistles will ever be able to hold a general conversation. The software isn’t there yet. Second, by “of this type” I’m pretty sure you mean, among other things “is obviously not conscious”. Which is question-begging.

            Anyways I agree that GPT-2 is obviously not conscious. Not so sure about the hypothetical programs that are indistinguishable from real people.

        2. sty_silver

          I will certainly grant you that it’s physically possible to build unconscious AI systems which write texts about consciousness. The argument (the way I meant it, anyway) isn’t about it being physically impossible, but absurd / highly implausible. Why would minds programmed by evolution do that?

    6. Soy Lecithin

      Here I was, thinking that p-zombies were supposed to be an argument against all that. Something like, “You can imagine someone having or not having qualia and it makes no discernible difference, so qualia are an empty concept.”

      1. Dacyn

        Eh, “qualia are an empty concept” is eliminative materialism, I think reductive materialism is more popular nowadays. So it would be more like “If you imagine all the correspondences between qualia and physical reality to be merely incidental, then “qualia” is an empty concept; it’s more reasonable to say that qualia reduce to physical phenomena”.

        But yeah, one man’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens 🙂

      2. Noah

        “qualia are an empty concept” seems like the most obviously wrong thing you can say in philosophy. They’re the one thing I have direct access to, thus the one thing I can definitively say exist. Of course, I may be the only one…

          1. EchoChaos

            But a p-zombie would of course claim to have qualia, so I can’t be sure that either of you actually have them.

    7. Black Ice

      There’s a good comments thread on that here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6TBhBjiYivtLCKGoy/repairing-yudkowsky-s-anti-zombie-argument

      I particularly like these two comments: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6TBhBjiYivtLCKGoy/repairing-yudkowsky-s-anti-zombie-argument#wY8AeTt5CB2zWGnsG

      https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/6TBhBjiYivtLCKGoy/repairing-yudkowsky-s-anti-zombie-argument#rsjf5D4baTaEZXS89

      That l8c guy’s comment on this subject is scarily clever (if I say so myself).

    8. Dacyn

      As I understand it, Chalmers’ argument is based on two premises:
      1. If we can fully imagine a scenario, then that scenario is possible. The reason something like “the billionth digit of pi is 6” is not a counterexample is that we are not fully imagining it.
      2. In this particular case, we can tell by introspection that we are fully imagining the p-zombie scenario.
      And then the conclusion is that the p-zombie scenario is possible.

      Regarding “if materialism is correct, what does it even mean to imagine”: imagining is a pre-theoretical mental action, so it doesn’t make sense to talk about what you imagine assuming materialism or its opposite. You can talk about imagining a scenario in which materialism is true or false, but this is somewhat different. I guess another way to put it is “if materialism is only contingently true, then it is false”.

      To be clear, I don’t agree with either of the premises stated above.

      1. Enkidum

        Thanks for this, this aligns with my distant memories as well.

        FWIW, (1) has a very long pedigree, going back at least to Descartes (whatever I can clearly and distinctly perceive is true).

        I also disagree with both premises, but this is the only clear account of a coherent argument that I’ve seen. Anyone who can provide a better steelman would be much appreciated.

      2. Soy Lecithin

        Given the premises, and hence the possibility of p-zombies, is there a way for me to know whether or not I am a p-zombie? Or is that precluded? Is that what “imagining is a pre-theoretical mental action” means?

        1. Dacyn

          I think Chalmers could answer something like this:

          What is the difference between “The p-zombie scenario is impossible” and “I know that the p-zombie scenario is not real”? It seems to me that the only difference is that in the second, you are allowed to take into account your own experiences. But p-zombies do not have experiences, so the mere existence of these experiences means you know you are not a p-zombie.

      3. Ouroborobot

        Can you elaborate on what it means to fully imagine something? If it means to construct a truly complete mental model of it that’s consistent with our basic assumptions about the nature of reality, I don’t know that we can be said to fully imagining a scenario that treats the mind as a sort of black box. It feels like it’s cheating by glossing over some key assumptions about something we know very little of.

        Edit: I wrote this comment before going down a LessWrong rabbit hole linked by Black Ice above, and I was able to find a lot of what I was struggling with there.

        1. Dacyn

          I don’t know if black box is the right analogy, since consciousness isn’t supposed to have any effect on the material world. But yeah, in my view the argument is basically just taking advantage of sloppy thinking.

    9. viVI_IViv

      It’s an argument against functionalism, specifically multiple realizability, not against materialism.

      It still allows type physicalism (the notion that conscious states correspond to specific brain states) and, in the limit, eliminative materialism (the notion that we are all p-zombies because consciousness is a scientifically invalid concept).

      It’s related to Searle’s room (once I had the chance of asking Searle if his room would be a p-zombie and he said yes).

      1. Dacyn

        I don’t see how Chalmers’ argument is compatible with either type physicalism or eliminative materialism. If you and the p-zombie have the same brain states, then type physicalism says you are both or neither conscious. And eliminative materialism says neither of you is conscious. Both of these contradict Chalmers’ claim that you are conscious while the p-zombie is not.

        1. viVI_IViv

          There are different version of the argument, not all from Chalmers. Wikipedia makes a distinction between, among others, a “behavioral zombie”, which behaves like a human but might have different internal structure, and a “neurological zombie”, which has the same brain structure and physiology as a human and is generally not empirically distinguishable from a human.

          Behavioral zombies are be consistent with type physicalism, while neurological zombie are not, but they are still consistent with eliminative materialism.

          1. Dacyn

            Sure, the zombies themselves are consistent with eliminative materialism, which claims that humans are in fact zombies. But the argument Ouroborobot gave goes

            I imagine a world where the zombie-people have the same precise physical makeup as a human, but lack conscious experience.

            which implies that humans do have conscious experience (since this is an attribute in which they are different from zombies). To be fair, there may be another version of the argument that doesn’t have this property.

  6. johan_larson

    Let’s suppose our friends with the giant spaceships gave us Earth 2, a planet remarkably like Earth, placed in our own solar system but without any intelligent life. Presumably we would study Earth 2 closely, and we might even send crewed missions to it. But would we have any productive use for it, given the hefty costs for space travel of any sort?

    1. The Nybbler

      Doesn’t matter. Elon Musk tries to start a colony before you can say “Tesla”. The only real question is whether Musk (or someone else) manages to get a self-sufficient colony going before environmentalists are able to prevent it on the grounds of preserving a pristine Earth 2. Whether such a colony will ever be economically useful for those back home is doubtful.

      1. Noah

        And presumably having that experience will make future colonies cheaper, so I expect a number of groups of religious or political malcontents to find sufficiently rich backers (see the colonization of North America, except you can put your new Jerusalem at the same spot as the old one).

        I expect that some of these groups will reproduce rapidly based on their ideologies (and abundant living space, not that living space in Nebraska is that expensive), so I expect that eventually the population of Earth 2 becomes nontrivial. At that point, you can get contributions from ideas of people living there in the form of ideas.

        At the worst (barring extremely unlikely events), we get a bit more data for our polisci/econ models.

        And in the very long term, who knows.

        1. Another Throw

          That sounds like it would be a really poor life choice her part. You know, being pyrophoric and all. Maybe not as bad an idea as chlorine trifluoride, but still a bad idea to try holding.

        2. DavidFriedman

          Someone I knew was deputy planetary protection officer for a while. As she described the job, it wasn’t protecting our planet. It was protecting other planets from things such as terrestrial microbes ending up on Mars and, among other things, generating false evidence of life on Mars.

          Did other people think that Wikipedia article read very strangely, rather as if it were a bit of a sf story written by an amateur author?

          1. Statismagician

            It’s not just you, I had the same thought – per the talk page, the reason is probably that it was written by a gender-studies student for a course assignment.

          2. Dacyn

            According to NASA, it is both. The Wiki article also already mentions both, so I think at least that part is accurate. Did you find any other specific weird things or just the general feel? It’s Wikipedia so possible to fix, but I don’t necessarily want to spend time improving the flow or anything.

    2. WashedOut

      It just becomes the tourism/weird party place where the 0.01% go, doesn’t it?

      Either that, or it starts off as a few small, specialist scientific expeditions. Then after a while they realize its more fun to just use science as the cover story whilst actually just playing in a weird sandbox of experimentation, hedonism and debauchery without much effective oversight.

      1. johan_larson

        How much would round-trip Earth-Earth 2 tickets cost, assuming Earth 2 was somewhere between the orbits of Venus and Mars?

        1. bullseye

          Far less than building a tourism/weird party place on Earth.

          It might have potential as a place for thrill-seekers; on a planet without humans, the animals aren’t afraid of us. Also we’ve driven some of the nastier ones to extinction here.

    3. Three Year Lurker

      We hunker down and focus on surviving the storm of asteroids that now have wildly different orbits.
      We also focus on adapting to our changing climate, now that it is inarguably due to shifting orbit and happening rapid enough to watch from one year to the next.

      Examining a rapidly freezing former life-supporting planet will have to wait.

    4. soreff

      If it has life (though not intelligent life), if might provide microbiologists some very interesting things
      to work with, if we could manage a sample/return mission. Are the DNA bases the same or different?
      Are the amino acids the same or different? Is the chirality the same or opposite?
      [If we drill down to Europa’s ocean in the next century, and if it has even microscopic life,
      these questions might apply in the real world.]
      Even if the life is quite similar to Earth life, getting hold of microorganisms (and their ribosomes,
      and their DNA and amino acid metabolism) which have different choices for some of these could
      be quite a useful addition to biochemists’ toolbox, though hardly earth-shattering.

  7. soreff

    Very off-topic question, but on the odd chance that someone here knows:
    Does anyone know what happened to darkfetishnet.com?

    I’ve been getting “server not found” since tuesday.

    Technical problems?

    Financial problems?

    Political problems?

    Medical problems?

    Does anyone know?

    Best wishes,
    -Jeffrey Soreff

  8. Ouroborobot

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our life circumstances shape our politics, specifically after stumbling across this article by Nozick, which some of you have probably read. Over the last few years I’ve drifted apart from my best friend as he’s become increasingly political. He’s exceptionally bright, or at least I used to think so. There was a time he was what most would consider a “moderate”, as was I. These days not a day goes by that he doesn’t post multiple harangues on Facebook, typically spiteful tirades against capitalism, neo-liberalism, corporations, right-wingers, and other standard boogeymen. I’ve struggled to understand how someone who once thought so similarly to me has diverged so much in his worldview.

    He was a computer science major, and in his late twenties he decided to walk away from his career and pursue creative writing by getting an MFA. I would never tell him this, but I’ve always considered him to be more or less artistically tone deaf (I know that sounds snarky but I don’t know how else to put it), so I watched this with some silent bemusement while trying to be supportive. I would have been delighted had he found success, but this did not come to pass. Failing to get any of his output published, he moved back in with his parents and eked out a living making near-minimum wage writing articles for a small local paper. He has lived with his wealthy-ish parents and done this same low-paying job for the better part of ten years now, all the while becoming more and more vocally left-wing. I followed a different trajectory: working in industry, finding some material success, getting married, and becoming far more conservative-libertarian in my leanings.

    Now we are both approaching 40, and he wants to pursue a PhD in philosophy with the goal of breaking into academe and teaching. I am, to say the least, skeptical of his prospects. He couldn’t get into any of the programs he applied to, so he is heading off to get a master’s degree this spring in the hope that will get him into a PhD program. Maybe it will all work out, but I expect he faces a future of – at best – adjunct-hood and even deeper bitterness toward life. At this point I feel like I’m watching a slow motion train wreck. Most of my friends are left-wing (my liberal, feminist wife chief among them), but his constant bile has me just feeling sad. He’s frequently insulting without even realizing it, doing things like hanging out at my house and literally complaining to my face that the industry I work in is basically evil and should be abolished. I know I should just be supportive and hold on to what we have in common still, but it’s proving to be difficult. I just don’t know how to be this guy’s friend anymore. Anyone else gone through anything similar?

    1. LesHapablap

      You should spend your time with people that make you a better person and that share your values. This guy is a loser and you should stop hanging out with him.

      For our entertainment you could tell him to sort his f***ing life out in all the ways I’m sure you’ve fantasized about over the years. Tell him he’s a hack and that going into academia at his age is pointless. Tell him that his only use is as a cautionary tale. Then report back here to let us know what happens.

      I wonder what this guy’s parents are like. Why would they tolerate a 30+ year old to behave like this? Are they coddling him?

      1. Ouroborobot

        That seems pointlessly mean and untrue. To a certain extent I’m quite sympathetic to chasing one’s passions rather than choosing to become a cog in society. It’s the sense of entitlement to status and money that I can’t understand, as in the linked piece. His parents are delightful, and yes, coddling.

        1. LesHapablap

          I am basing that on your description and it all seems very true to me. What part of that is untrue? That he is a cautionary tale? That going into academia at his age is pointless? That he needs to sort his life out?

          I also think that though it is unkind it is absolutely necessary, or at least it was 10 years ago. Probably too late now. If you truly cared about him you would have said something over the years even though it may have meant the end of your friendship. He needed guidance, badly, and both you and presumably the guy’s parents failed him because you didn’t want to hurt his feelings. And you still don’t want to help him because it would be ‘mean.’

          Now this sounds as though I would have said something to help him along, when in reality I hate conflict and would probably have taken the easy path of saying nothing about his talent or career choices. That is not a trait I admire in myself or would ever encourage in others however.

          1. bzium

            It’s untrue, because you talk as if you were stating hard objective facts, when in fact stating moralistic opinions.

            Your assessment of the guy’s prospect might be correct. But the contempt that seems to permeate your words is a feeling, not a statement about reality. Saying that somebody’s “only use” is as a cautionary tale is a very harsh value judgment.

            Those things taken together are what many people would perceive as being mean.

            Of things that might appear untrue to some, there’s also your apparent belief that bombarding somebody with “tough love” like that would help them to shake their delusions and sort out their life.

          2. LesHapablap

            Ok, we can try saying it in a nice way first and if that doesn’t work we’ll move on to tough love.

        2. Guy in TN

          It’s the sense of entitlement to status and money that I can’t understand, as in the linked piece.

          I could only get through the first few paragraphs of that article before my eyes rolled too far in the back of my head, so let me lay just lay down a quick and dirty response:

          -Every economic ideology has a theory of entitlement. Libertarians think they are entitled to a certain distribution of property, and socialists think they are entitled to another certain distribution of property. “A sense of entitlement” is just another way of saying that you have a moral theory for how the world ought to be.

          Does he think he is the “most valuable” class of society, as Nozick indicates? Why in the world would you believe Nozick on this, anyway? All he does is cite Plato and Aristotle, and move on with his essay as if that point was to be assumed from there forward. In other words, his evidence is dogshit. Don’t let Nozick tell you how your friend really feels, you could just ask him.

          1. Pink-Nazbol

            In other words, his evidence is dogshit. Don’t let Nozick tell you how your friend really feels, you could just ask him.

            If the only form of “evidence” you accept is what people say their feelings are, then yes, there is no evidence this is true. Do you apply this rule consistently or is it only to groups you have warm feelings toward?

          2. Guy in TN

            So we’re faced with a question: How does the friend feel?

            We’ve got two suggested approaches to determining the answer.

            1. We know the friend is an academic. And in 1998, philosopher Robert Nozick once wrote an essay where he said that intellectuals think that they are the most valuable members of society. His evidence was that Aristotle and Plato once suggested something along those lines. Therefore, we can assume that friend must think that he too is a member of the most valuable class in society.

            2. We can ask the friend if he thinks he is a member of the most valuable class in society.

            If you have a third suggestion that you think is superior, feel free to throw it out there.

          3. Pink-Nazbol

            @Guy in TN,

            If you have a third suggestion that you think is superior

            The third is to look at his behavior and what it reveals about how he feels. Ask 100 people “are you a selfish person,” and you might get one guy admitting to it. 99 out of 100 will say no, I’m not selfish. But many of that 100 will be considered as such by others, based on how they behave. By your logic you’d have to conclude that 99 out of the 100 aren’t selfish, but I don’t think you apply that in your daily life. It’s only when you feel warmly toward a person or group that you apply this isolated demand for rigor.

          4. Guy in TN

            Can I note that all of this arose from me saying:

            Don’t let Nozick tell you how your friend really feels, you could just ask him.

            You could just ask him. You could just ask him. Asking him is an option. A far better option than listening to Nozick, who I presume had never even met the friend. I said “you could just ask him”, not that “asking people is definitely and objectively the best option, above all other possible options, even ones not suggested by anyone as of yet”.

            You were so ready to pounce with the claims of hypocrisy against me, that you didn’t take the time to consider what I had actually said.

          5. Ouroborobot

            Thanks for engaging, I’m genuinely glad to get a different perspective. Obviously I thought that the Nozick piece seemed to describe his mentality pretty well, though in my rambling post I think I did a poor job of linking it with my other thoughts and providing evidence to back it up.

            I’m basing my feeling on a combination of actual discussion and my own analysis of his revealed behavior. He has stated that a society as wealthy as ours, if it were just, would ensure everyone a more equal distribution of property, and that this should be the case regardless of career choice. He has also held up his studies as giving him a unique and important status. I believe he thinks that his credentials demonstrate his intellect, and that this gives him special and unique value that society should reward. This is evident to me through his condescension when discussing anything philosophical, speaking as if only he is qualified to do so.

            To me, it just looks like the irrational collection of vanity degrees. Even if one accepts that it is just for government to somehow transfer wealth to a privileged few whose job is merely to think (which we obviously already do, to an extent), not everyone can do this, and who would choose to take out the garbage in such a world? OK, so say we accept this premise. I guess we have to select for it then. It’s not at all clear to me that someone who makes such arguably irrational choices can claim any lofty intellectual status whatsoever merely by the collection of pieces of paper. Someone who persists in such behavior might actually be the last person I would want rewarded with what limited resources we might choose to provide as a reward for performing this role in society.

          6. LesHapablap

            This guy sounds like a real arrogant jerk, Ouroborobot. Like a Rush Limbaugh caricature of elitist liberals. Or a Portlandia character.

          7. Clutzy

            1. We know the friend is an academic. And in 1998, philosopher Robert Nozick once wrote an essay where he said that intellectuals think that they are the most valuable members of society. His evidence was that Aristotle and Plato once suggested something along those lines. Therefore, we can assume that friend must think that he too is a member of the most valuable class in society.

            2. We can ask the friend if he thinks he is a member of the most valuable class in society.

            If you have a third suggestion that you think is superior, feel free to throw it out there.

            I could think of many 3rd options, like observing behavior, like suggested. But #2 has to be, by far, the least likely to get me an accurate answer of all ideas I could brainstorm.

          8. Guy in TN

            Sorry about the excessive snark earlier.

            You seem to have two basic questions here. First, you are concerned about how to maintain a friendship with someone whose values are so different from yours. And second, you have more object-level questions about whether certain aspects of your friend’s proposed society are just.

            My take is: Seeking answers to the second set of questions will not bring you closer to resolving the first. The answers to smaller political questions will lead to larger political questions. The revelation of values in niche cases will lead the revelation of more terminal values. He probably isn’t going to change his mind, and you probably aren’t going to change yours. So only proceed to pry into the political questions if you are willing to dig the gulf even deeper.

            If this friend is someone important in your life, I would simply stop this line of inquiry with him, and try to focus on whatever hobbies or interest brought you two together in the first place. But if your shared values were a major part of what had brought you together initially, then it is possible that you both have drifted apart to the point that maintaining the friendship isn’t possible.

          9. Guy in TN

            Even if one accepts that it is just for government to somehow transfer wealth to a privileged few whose job is merely to think (which we obviously already do, to an extent), not everyone can do this, and who would choose to take out the garbage in such a world? OK, so say we accept this premise. I guess we have to select for it then. It’s not at all clear to me that someone who makes such arguably irrational choices can claim any lofty intellectual status whatsoever merely by the collection of pieces of paper.

            I was thinking about what you said here a little more. I was thinking about just how normal his position sounds.

            You say your friend wants to:
            1. Use taxation to fund universities
            2. Hire people to “think” in those universities (i.e., do research, philosophy)
            3. Determine the most qualified applicants based partially on whether they have completed a degree in their field

            Now, I understand that as a libertarian you may have strong objections to these proposals. For you, support of one or more of these proposals may be a hard line that if someone crosses, you will find it difficult to be friends with him them.

            But you should at least be aware of how radical your position on this is. And it’s okay to be radical. I’m a radical- the radicalness of the position isn’t a problem in of itself. But a demand for your friends to essentially reject public education as we know it doesn’t just filter out the Bernie Sanders fans, but also the mainstream Democrats, mainstream Republicans, the Trump wing of conservatives, and even moderate classical liberals. You’re left with basically only hardcore libertarians and anarchists agreeing with you.

            Using such an out-of-the-mainstream criterion to filter out your friend choices may leave you with slim pickings…

          10. Ouroborobot

            Guy: I don’t think I explained my position well, let me take another stab. I didn’t even necessarily have academic roles in mind: more just the idea that having deemed oneself an intellectual, society should then reward you for whatever abstract value you think you may produce. I absolutely believe that there is a place for academics. They provide a valuable service, to the students they teach and to society through research. I have a graduate degree myself. What I take issue with is believing that having earned a degree (or even just having a personal calling) is prima facie evidence of being owed a life as an academic or in general being compensated by society to do what you studied. Furthermore, I’d be inclined to think that self-delusion in the dogged pursuit of academia is often additional evidence of a lack of intellectual merit for just such a role. As in, if you were smarter, you’d have known your odds and done something else. I wouldn’t say that of everyone though, and I also wouldn’t conclude that there aren’t plenty of other valid reasons to pursue an advanced education.

          11. Anatoly

            >But #2 has to be, by far, the least likely to get me an accurate answer of all ideas I could brainstorm.

            Not doing #2 is a telltale sign of being ideology-driven, to me. You don’t have to trust the answer you’re given by X-people about how they feel re: Y, but if you’re pontificating about it without even asking them or considering their likely answer in your chain of thoughts, you’re doing a bad job. People’s own ideas about how they feel re: Y, or why they support Z, have to count for something.

            Which is to say, Nozick’s article reads really bad, like atrociously bad to me.

          12. Viliam

            @Ouroborobot

            … more equal distribution of property, and … giving him a unique and important status.

            You (or your friend) made the same point as Nozick, only using fewer words.

            Differences between people that put others on top should be eradicated; differences between people that put me on the top should be celebrated.

        3. LesHapablap

          People chase passions because they want to do something fun and cool instead of work. It is often a selfish thing to do and risky, especially if you aren’t honest with yourself about your talents.

          Unfortunately a generation has been brought up to think that anything less than ‘finding your passion’ makes you an unfulfilled and boring ‘cog’ with a boring instagram feed.

          The reality is that choosing a career based on fun factor is usually a mistake. Everything fun gets boring after doing it the same way a thousand times, and you are competing for wages against all the other people that joined in for fun. And many of these careers, like creative writing, are winner-take-all activities so unless you’re in the top .1% of hard work and talent you will end up working for near minimum wage like our friend here.

          1. Conrad Honcho

            The reality is that choosing a career based on fun factor is usually a mistake. Everything fun gets boring after doing it the same way a thousand times, and you are competing for wages against all the other people that joined in for fun.

            +10,000. I was extremely good at and loved photography, but after 10 years of doing it for a living I hated it. I haven’t touched a camera in 3 years now and don’t miss it.

          2. eric23

            Choosing a career has to be a balance between what’s fun and what’s secure. If your job pays well but you hate every minute of it (not because you hate all jobs, but because you hate this one), it’s likely to ruin you psychologically in the long term, and you are likely better off finding a more enjoyable career, even at a somewhat lower salary.

        4. Plumber

          @Ouroborobot >

          “…It’s the sense of entitlement to status and money…”

          On reflection, perhaps your friends political leanings may be used as a way out of his rut, but not through academia, have him be like an old timer I knew who became blue-collar in the 1940’s “to organize the working-class”.

          For this to work your friend needs to be led to think like the old Left, and want to “salt” the “proletariat”.

          Since the traditional response of the working class upon encountering the would-be “vanguard” is to punch them till they quit squawking he’ll need to impersonate some one blue collar, a passing familiarity with local sports teams and actually working will likely suffice.

          He (presumably) wants a median or better wages, so I suggest he find work repairing air-conditioning, as an electrician, a plumber, or a steamfitter.

          To become one of the working-class (in order to “organize it” and to have a median income have him work 9,000 hours as a union spprentice and take the provided (and required) five years of night classes (I was in my early 30’s, but a classmate was in his 50’s, and I knee a steamfitters apprentice in his 60’s, a struggle in your 40’s but not impossible).

          Have him check out: http://www.calapprenticeship.org/about.php

          He’ll need to practice doing arithmetic fast for the entrance test and then he’ll be on his way!

          Maybe in time he’ll be a union leader or maybe in time he’ll be a contractor himself “to beat the capitalists at their own game!”, whichever it is he won’t be living in his parents basement.

          1. Ouroborobot

            Well, there is the fact that he could have had any number of high paying careers. He walked away from coding, and turned down other job offers to continue to pursue his studies. I do genuinely believe he feels like he was meant to do this, that it’s the only thing that will make him happy, and that his current station is damning to society. I don’t think he has any desire to actually work such a job. It’s the life of the mind or bust, and if it doesn’t work out it’s the world that’s wrong.

      2. cassander

        I wonder what this guy’s parents are like. Why would they tolerate a 30+ year old to behave like this? Are they coddling him?

        My siblings and I struggled through our 20s to hit the traditional markers of progress and we all had had stints of living at home of varying lengths. We’ve all done better in our 30s, and to still be in that situation in your 40s is considerably more worrisome, but I’ve had some frank talks with my dad about that was like for him and I think I can shed some light on the logic.

        They have the same sorts of feelings that Ouroborobot has, but much more intensely because he’s their kid. I’m sure they’ve done everything they could to fix things, but it hasn’t worked and their only real options are coddle him or kick him out of the house. Now, maybe in the end it would be better for them to kick him to the curb, but that involves destroying one of the two most important relationships in their lives and it might not work. He’s their kid and they love him. I sympathize with them greatly.

        1. LesHapablap

          I’m sure they have lots of options, like charging him rent. And we don’t know if they’ve actually given tough advice. They could be doing a good job I suppose, we just don’t know.

    2. mathijs

      Your problem is that you pity your friend. You cannot be friends with somebody and pity them at the same time. Your pity also causes the resentment that you clearly feel towards him. If you didn’t pity him, but regarded him equally (or, better, without judgement), you would simply tell him to stop being an asshole when he is insulting you. Friends can do that.

      If you want to remain friends with him, don’t pity him and don’t judge him. It’s his life and his choices, you don’t have to agree, you don’t even need to have an opinion. If he asks you for advice you can give it. What you should do, is take him aside and tell him that you feel that you’re drifting apart and that this bothers you. That you feel that something has come between you and that you want to move past this. You can even tell him that you love him (if you do) and give him a hug.

      If you stop pitying him, but don’t want to do any of that, then you shouldn’t be friends anymore. Just withdraw from his life and let it be. Maybe he will come to you for an honest conversation, or maybe you will just drift apart and that will be ok too. But also in this case, don’t judge him. It’s still his life.

      Of course, I can’t really tell you what to do. But this is what it looks like from my point of view.

      1. Ouroborobot

        This is helpful, and accurate I think. There is also almost certainly an element of resentment for the way I perceive him to have willfully avoided standard adulthood while coasting on family privilage. Maybe I’m a little jealous, in a way. I want to be better than that, of course. But it’s there. I also wonder if I had followed a similar path and done something that society doesn’t reward with money, would I feel those same feelings that drive him be angry at society. Probably, I think. Is my own libertarian-ishness all post hoc and based on my current situation, or would I still feel the same if our roles were reversed. Also I think I accidentally reported your comment, which was 100% a phone typing mistake.

        1. mathijs

          Also I think I accidentally reported your comment, which was 100% a phone typing mistake.

          No good deed goes unpunished…

          Again, just be straight with your friend and don’t worry too much about the politics.

    3. Conrad Honcho

      I don’t talk about politics with friends (present company excepted, natch). If he comes over and starts going on about politics, just tell him “nope, no politics!”

    4. Enkidum

      I’ve had a somewhat similar experience with someone close to me, in the opposite direction, where they started becoming a very aggressive right-wing sucker, just falling for the dumbest low-hanging fruit in the right-wing grifter media.

      When it first started happening they kept doing things like showing me Alex Jones videos and the like. Fortunately I managed to at least get them to stop doing that by showing them some of his moon landing stuff, and now I occasionally get links to an article with a sincere question “do you think this is a reliable piece?”, which is a massive step up. But it’s still extremely frustrating.

      Whenever we talk about anything remotely political it is liable to devolve into a rant against muslims, black people, feminists, etc. And I’m not someone who can’t tolerate hearing opinions that diverge from my own, I’m quite comfortable with accepting that my perspectives are very biased and I can learn a lot from those who I disagree with, etc. But there’s nothing I can learn here, because this person has absolutely 0 knowledge of any of these issues other than that gleaned from watching snippets of editorializing videos from awful people. When I say “rant” I mean it, the “conversation” quickly devolves into minutes of uninterrupted speech on their part, just random free association of awful and stupid vitriol (think a Trump speech with less of a filter and more of an explicit anti-minority bias). I have literally timed this on more than one occasion and they can keep going for more than 10 minutes while I do nothing but grunt or say words like “right” to indicate that I understood a sentence.

      I got extremely pissed off last week when we started talking about the current Iran situation. Now, obviously I have my own opinions and biases (fairly standard left wing anti-US ME policy stuff, Chomsky blah blah blah), and it will colour any conversation I have about the topic. But it very quickly became apparent that while they were advocating that the US had the right to do anything at all that it wanted in the ME, up to and including nuking entire states to glass, because something something freedom, democracy, and saving the world from Hitler and Stalin, they literally did not know the difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran. I want to be clear here: I don’t mean that I started asking “gotcha” questions about intricacies of Sunni-Shia differences or whatever. They had heard the words “Saudi Arabia” and “Iran” and knew they referred to nations, but they were entirely unaware of any specifics about either. E.g. they were convinced that Iran had something to do with 9-11, and were unsure about whether it was part of Iraq. The reason that Iran was a justified target for any US aggression was simply that it was “one of those countries”, and anything the Trump administration does is inherently good. I’m obviously paraphrasing here, but I’m not caricaturing, this is I think a fairly unvarnished presentation of their beliefs.

      This is just every left-wing caricature of MAGA/Breitbart types made flesh, I think.

      I haven’t said this yet, but next time we have one of these “conversations” I’m going to be explicit that I refuse to listen to anything they have to say until they can prove that they have some knowledge of the basic facts. It’s just too infuriating and draining, and my time is worth too goddam much.

      Huh apparently I needed to get that off my chest. On the off chance @Ouroborobot is still reading, I’ll add that I sympathize. I don’t read or watch Jordan Peterson, and I know I would have extremely deep disagreements with him, but I will say that I agree that the “clean your room” stuff matters, and that there are numerous people on the left along the lines of your friend whose inability to wipe their own ass is extra infuriating. A lot of them are just young, and that’s understandable, but your friend isn’t. I genuinely believe that the world is structured in unfair ways (again, standard left-wing stuff, details currently unimportant) and that it should be structured such that people can do whatever they want with their lives (including nothing). But the world isn’t structured that way, and without rich parents most people have to make compromises and live in the world as it is, and they have to do what they need to do to be able to support themselves and those they care about. Which requires things like competence, and should encourage common human decency. It sounds like your friend is lacking in both. It sucks. Good luck.

      1. DavidFriedman

        and that it should be structured such that people can do whatever they want with their lives (including nothing).

        What does that mean? If somebody literally does nothing, and nobody else supports him, he starves to death.

        Are you saying that the world should be structured so that somebody should have the option of doing nothing productive, spending all his time staring at the wall, or reading, or playing video games, and still be provided by the work of other people with food and housing and such? That seems like a hard position to defend, unless you mean that, in a properly structured world, God would provide manna from heaven, free houses, and the like.

        1. Enkidum

          Are you saying that the world should be structured so that somebody should have the option of doing nothing productive, spending all his time staring at the wall, or reading, or playing video games, and still be provided by the work of other people with food and housing and such?

          More or less, yes. Everyone gets what they need for a reasonably comfortable life, with no exceptions and no preconditions (except possibly related to violent criminals). I think this should be a (the?) fundamental goal of society.

          I realize that you’re far better qualified to argue (against) the point than I am, and I accept that I’m not winning any converts here, and that this will seem hopelessly naive and borderline insane, but I’m not going to debate it for now. Just wanted to clarify that yes, I am stating what you think I’m stating.

          1. DavidFriedman

            At a tangent, not a debate, you remind me of one of my father’s stories. He was in Poland, talking with a Polish economist, and asked him if he was still a socialist. The economist replied that he still believed in socialism, but you needed the right objective conditions first. You needed the sort of society where everyone had a house, and a car, and a maid.

            “Including the maids?” my father asked.

            “Including the maids.”

          2. Viliam

            Obviously, the one thing that kept socialism from succeeding was the lack of robo-maids.

            (Also, you’d need robotic kids that would sing the songs about glorious Soviet Union, because when I had to do it as a real kid, it was boring as fuck.)

            Now, this is less ironic than it may seem, because I agree that at some moment, it is simply easier to give away some things for free. Most obviously in the software world, no one cares if millions of people are using Linux without paying or contributing to the code. We also don’t try to construct street lights so that they wouldn’t shine on people who don’t pay local property taxes.

            So… if we ever get to a situation where just making billion cars and giving everyone a free car will somehow be simpler that trying to keep evidence about who paid for what… then we should simply give everyone a free car and stop thinking about it.

            It’s just… we are not there, yet. And we won’t get there by wishful thinking.

        2. LesHapablap

          I feel the opposite, that if you are here and alive and capable, you need to help out. If you don’t make the world a better place, or at least work in some way to keep it the same, you don’t deserve to live. It isn’t a hard bar to cross especially as our society gets richer, so at some point just being nice to people around you and not berating flight attendants should qualify. I don’t know what moral framework that follows.

          1. Paul Zrimsek

            And I’ll take the middle position. You can be as lazy a bastard as you like so long as it’s on your own dime.

        3. viVI_IViv

          Are you saying that the world should be structured so that somebody should have the option of doing nothing productive, spending all his time staring at the wall, or reading, or playing video games, and still be provided by the work of other people with food and housing and such? That seems like a hard position to defend, unless you mean that, in a properly structured world, God would provide manna from heaven, free houses, and the like.

          Isn’t this what UBI is all about? Tax the “rich” (for some very expansive definiton of “rich”) and redistribute even to people who don’t work and have no intention to work. Now, I’m skeptical that UBI can be viable, but it certainly is a position that has been seriously considered.

      2. Fitzroy

        they can keep going for more than 10 minutes while I do nothing but grunt or say words like “right” to indicate that I understood a sentence.

        I’ve found the trick to dealing with people like that is to suppress that particular instinct and just sit as passively as possible. People generally find it really hard to talk to someone in the absence of all the usual grunts/nods/other affirmations and tend to peter out quite quickly.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Going “gray rock” is a fine method for dealing with someone you can’t get away from, but is it any good for trying to preserve a friendship?

    5. DinoNerd

      Poor bastard, self-inflicted injuries and all. I once had a friend who was bound and determined to become a programmer, in spite of lacking any glimmer of a talent for it, to the point of essentially having an anti-talent.

      Politics was not an issue, but other than that, your friend reminds me of mine. You both have my sympathy, but, unfortunately, no useful ideas – I’m completely out of contact with this friend now – but OTOH he never approached “best friend” status, so drifting apart was easier.

    6. John Schilling

      Your friend’s life seems to absolutely suck by his own standards, and there’s probably nothing he can do to make it better by his own standards. Arguably that’s his own fault, but it is much easier to make it someone else’s fault. That way lies extreme and confrontational politics, and on his current path he’ll find more allies for extreme politics on the left.

      You probably can’t talk him out of this. You may be able to maintain the friendship by insisting on a no-politics rule when you are together, and disengaging when he insists on veering into politics. If he hasn’t gone past the point of no return, there’s probably still a part of him that would like an occasional break from politics and his floundering career, and that’s something you can provide.

    7. Plumber

      @Ouroborobot >

      “…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our life circumstances shape our politics…”

      Sure, the more my paycheck and (eventual) pension depends on the continuation of “Left” policies the more I move Left, while my wife (who pays our taxes out money I earn that she saves and invests) leans more “Right” than me, but as my potential pension (that I will share with her) grows in value she’s moved from Romney Republican to Bloomberg Democrat (while I’m a 60% Biden Democrat/40% Sanders Democrat). Economic incentives = political views doesn’t quite work always (I know a fair number who receive military pensions who lean more libertarian-ish than me) as well as neighborhood = beliefs, but it’s better than nothing as a “heuristic”.

      “…Over the last few years I’ve drifted apart from my best friend as he’s become increasingly political. He’s…”

      Okay, my immediate reaction to your description of your friend was to be reminded of a short book from the 1950’s that I read in the ’90’s (when I was less “Left” than now) which helped promote “horseshoe theory” and “political psychoanalysis” (if you do a web-search you’ll find plenty of Left and Right writers using it to explain “the other side”), and I’ll quote from it:

      “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil”

      “The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world”

      “It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible”

      “…people with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change”

      “A movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of action”

      “The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement”

      “There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless”

      “Propaganda … serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda”

      “The enemy—the indispensible devil of every mass movement—is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors”

      “Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk”

      “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves”

      “Things which are not” are indeed mightier than “things that are”. In all ages men have fought most desperately for beautiful cities yet to be built and gardens yet to be planted”

      The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a God or not. The atheist is a religious person. He believes in atheism as though it were a new religion”

      “There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice”
      -Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, 1951

      The True Believer” read much like some of our host’s blog posts, and I recommend it as a “lens” to better understand some political activists, and I note that I’m not immune to what it described, enough coffee and an overlong work week and I suspect I’ll start to agree with Pol Pot (note to self: refuse overtime more!).

      1. Conrad Honcho

        Well that’s interesting. About half of those quotes I found meaningless, like

        “It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible”

        but strongly agreed with

        “Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk”

        and strongly disagreed with

        “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves”

        1. Plumber

          @Conrad Honcho,
          Put “holy” in quotation marks, the book was largely speculation on what led so many to Hitlerism and Stalinism, as for the rest of the quotes?

          My apologies, I didn’t have pertinent ones ready (I last read the book over 20 years ago!), I just quickly got them to give the flavor of the book.

    8. BBA

      On the topic of life circumstances shaping politics, I used to have a pet theory that the Great Awokening was a result of the Great Recession. All these left-wing ideas have been bouncing around college campuses for decades, but never escaped into the “real world” because when students graduated and got jobs, they found out the world doesn’t really work that way. The recession produced a large cohort of unemployed college graduates with nothing to do but spread their radical ideas across the world, and eventually it built up momentum into a real-world political shift.

      Of course, then the recession ended and the by-then employed woke just kept getting woker, so my theory probably doesn’t explain it.

      I don’t have any answer to your particular case. I will say, as a former webcomic enthusiast who watched my onetime communities drift from smugly apolitical in the mid-’00s to hard-left idpol activists a mere decade later, in many cases with exactly the same people… I feel for you.

      1. Plumber

        @BBA >

        “… I used to have a pet theory that the Great Awokening was a result of the Great Recession…

        …then the recession ended and the by-then employed woke just kept getting woker, so my theory probably doesn’t explain it…”

        Sure it can, a critical mass gets “woke” due to the recession (the timing fits), then “woke” snowballs due to more voices.

        Fits the subsequent rightward lean from inflation in the ’70’s as well.

      2. broblawsky

        It seems more likely to me that the Great Recession supported (although by no means created) the Great Awokening by revealing the degree to which our economy and political environment had been subverted by the financial industry.

      3. viVI_IViv

        There is the tinfoilsh hypothesis that the Powers That Be pushed hard the Great Awokening in order to defang Occupy and the related anti-1% sentiment that was boiling in the aftermat of the Great Recession.

        I generally don’t put much weight on these kind of conspiracy theories, but if anybody has a better hypothesis on why all the financial, cultural and political elites that weren’t explicitely right-wing went woke I’d like to hear it.

        1. The original Mr. X

          My guess would be that young left-wingers tend to be more passionate about their activism than right-wingers, so giving in to their demands is often the path of least resistance, at least in the short term.

          I guess the Great Recession might have played a role, insofar as people who would otherwise have got on the career and property ladder and been too busy or had too much to lose for activism instead found themselves either unemployed or underemployed, and hence had no real reason not to continue with their student activism. Hence progressive ideas started leaving the university in a big way at around this time.

        2. Conrad Honcho

          This is basically what I believe, not as an organized conspiracy theory but an organic defense mechanism. Pushing all the diversity stuff costs the financial elite nothing and gets the wolves off their backs. And when it comes to things like mass immigration, it’s in their interests anyway because cheap labor. There’s no conspiracy required. If it’s something that makes you money and gets you Morality Points, why wouldn’t you?

          1. cassander

            right, but why does it give you morality points now when it didn’t 10 years ago? And if you are’t the one who deciding who gets the morality points, are you really elite?

          2. Conrad Honcho

            right, but why does it give you morality points now when it didn’t 10 years ago?

            It might have, but it didn’t matter when the Morality Barbarians were not banging on the gates, so why bother? “No atheists in a foxhole” and all that.

            And if you are’t the one who deciding who gets the morality points, are you really elite?

            Financially yes, culturally no. There’s different types of power and different types of elite.

          3. cassander

            @conrad

            alright, but that just punts the question back to why weren’t the morality barbarians banging at the gates 10 years ago. Something has changed over the last decade, and if the financial elite isn’t pushing it, then who?

          4. Conrad Honcho

            alright, but that just punts the question back to why weren’t the morality barbarians banging at the gates 10 years ago.

            I’m going with, “they were, but could be safely ignored because they weren’t threatening the money.”

          5. viVI_IViv

            The hypothesis is that the Great Recession was the trigger: as long as middle class people were doing well, they didn’t care about threatening the elites. There was always the occasional hippie communist talking about destroying capitalism, but nobody was paying attention.
            But then the recession hit and you had a class of young adults, including fresh college graduates, suddenly finding themselves underemployed, underhoused and saddled with massive debt, while the elites who had caused this mess with their brazen incompetent if not outright criminal behavior were getting bailouts and landing on their feet. This lead to a strong anti-elite sentiment that was organizing as a political movement.

            The elites had to do something to appease the angry mob, and at the same time apply a divide and conquer strategy to disrupt coordination against them. Enter the “progressive stack” at Occupy rallies, woke journalism, woke Holywood, woke capitalism, #MeToo, and so on.

            As Conrad Honcho points out, this doesn’t need to be a grand organized conspiracy (although secret mailing lists of journalists where writers for ostensibly competing outlets collude to push political views certainly do exist, e.g. the JournoList or the GameJournoPros whose discovery started the worker ants), rather a mostly decentralized defense mechanism by people who intuitively understand their interests.

          6. Aapje

            It’s not like Social Justice was/is spread in secret. People talk about it openly.

            IMO, it’s simply a matter of ideology where the elites have a bubble that believes that a certain solution is just and helps the downtrodden. That many of the actual downtrodden disagree with that solution is then somewhat inconvenient.

        3. LesHapablap

          The better hypothesis is that it was a natural trend. Some memes spread very well in particular environments that didn’t exist before, like twitter. Fads come and go. Financial elites didn’t push plastic straw bans or skinny jeans either.

      4. DarkTigger

        Of course, then the recession ended and the by-then employed woke just kept getting woker, so my theory probably doesn’t explain it.
        A lot of the loudest voices of that groupe found work in the wokeness industry, jobs like Youtubers, “journalists” in those new youth-newspapers, and diversity-consultants.
        That kept the ball rolling.

        1. DarkTigger

          Somehow, I did not manage to do the blockquote right, and now the edit period is over. The first sentence was supposed to be marked as a quote by BBA.

        2. acymetric

          This is a good answer. Another component is that a lot of these people are still under-employed, and at least some of them have seen themselves get passed over by more recent grads who entered the market at a better time (who wants to hire a CS major who spent 2 years working at Penske, or god forbid as a server, when they can have a perfectly good CS graduate fresh off the vine*)?

          *Just to be clear, this does not describe me in the slightest, in case someone was thinking about claiming that I’m projecting my experience. This is what I have observed elsewhere, my experience was pretty much the opposite (went back to school for CS and immediately got a job after graduating with my second degree in 2016).

    9. broblawsky

      As someone who ended up losing touch with his former best friend due to their cocktail of undiagnosed personality disorders: you’ll regret it. You’re not going to get much out of cutting this person off, and you’ll lose someone who understands you. You need to have an honest and open conversation with this person about your feelings; with luck, you can reach some kind of understanding, or at least an accommodation.

    10. viVI_IViv

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our life circumstances shape our politics, specifically after stumbling across this article by Nozick, which some of you have probably read.

      “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?
      by Robert Nozick”

      Huh? From Wikipedia:
      “Robert Nozick (/ˈnoʊzɪk/; November 16, 1938 – January 23, 2002) was an American philosopher. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University,[4] and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his books Philosophical Explanations (1981), which included his counterfactual theory of knowledge, and Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), a libertarian answer to John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971), in which Nozick also presented his own theory of utopia as one in which people can freely choose the rules of the society they enter into. His other work involved ethics, decision theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. His final work before his death, Invariances (2001), introduced his theory of evolutionary cosmology, by which he argues invariances, and hence objectivity itself, emerged through evolution across possible worlds.[5] ”
      Sounds pretty intellectual to me. And this is not a coincidence. Essentially all prominent libertarians, with the exception of the Koch brothers and Peter Thiel (who has a degree in philosophy), are academics.

      I know I should just be supportive and hold on to what we have in common still, but it’s proving to be difficult. I just don’t know how to be this guy’s friend anymore. Anyone else gone through anything similar?

      You don’t owe this guy friendship, and there is nothing you can do to help him.

      1. LesHapablap

        You don’t owe this guy friendship, and there is nothing you can do to help him.

        The next time he complains about his circumstances just tell him “the lord helps those who help themselves.” Then watch the steam shoot out of his ears.

        1. viVI_IViv

          Then watch the steam shoot out of his ears.

          “Something something religion being a superstructure created by the elites to control the masses and justify existing social hierarchies, the opium of the people, and so on.”

          Seriously though, I don’t think there is anything to gain by antagonizing this kind of people. Rubbing their failures in their faces will only make them sadder and angrier, rather than teach them a lesson which they would have already learned by the age of 40 if they were able to do so. And it’s not entertaining to watch a friend, even a former one, undergo a meltdown.

      2. Baeraad

        Sounds pretty intellectual to me. And this is not a coincidence. Essentially all prominent libertarians, with the exception of the Koch brothers and Peter Thiel (who has a degree in philosophy), are academics.

        Same resentment, different scapegoat. Libertarian academics are the ones who think that their natural superiority would make them as successful in the real world as it did in school, if not for the fact that the stupid masses keep voting for laws that sabotage and obstruct an intelligent person’s natural progress towards greatness.

  9. Matt M

    Does anyone have any advice on how to locate a doctor who has treated a specific rare condition before?

    I’ve seen “specialists” aplenty and have been routinely misdiagnosed. After doing a lot of research online (more than just a few minutes on webMD), I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out what I have. But it’s quite rare, and based on my previous experience, it seems likely that most specialists have never seen it. That said, it’s not like, super-ultra-rare, and I live in a large metro area with a very big medical center. It seems statistically likely that of the 100s (more?) of specialists within this metro area, at least a small handful of them have seen someone with this condition before. Given my previous experience, I feel like there’s something of a binary outcome here – doctors who have seen my condition before will be of immense help to me, but ones who haven’t will be of zero (and possibly negative) utility, as they are inclined to misdiagnose me and waste my time and money and comfort on ineffective “treatments” for more common conditions that I don’t have.

    But how do I find them? I feel like if this were auto repair, I could just start calling mechanics and asking “Have you replaced the transmission of a 99 Camry before?” until I locate one who says “Yes, many times.” But in medicine, you don’t get to talk to the doctor without making a costly appointment. The only person you can actually talk to is the appointment scheduler who has no idea what cases the doctor has or has not seen. The condition is rare enough that it will never be listed on a website of “things we treat” or stuff like that.

    1. Eric Rall

      The brute force approach is to do a JSTOR search for the name of the condition, academic content = journals, and subject = “health sciences”. Then scrape the names of all the authors and correlate that with a list of doctors in the relevant specialties in your area.

      Alternately, you can work down your list of specialists (you can probably get this from your insurance company’s website: the feature is usually called something like “find a provider”), and for each one, do a google search for the doctor’s name and the name of the condition.

      1. Statismagician

        ^That. The other thing you might do is get in touch with the clinical trial center at whatever large academic medical center is closest to you (they’ll have a web page, Google hospital + ‘participate in a clinical trial’ or similar) and ask them who the expert is; regardless of whether you want to participate in a clinical trial or not, they’ll either know who the right doctor is or they can direct you to somebody who does.

    2. Radu Floricica

      An alternative path is to look for a good diagnostician (or a Diagnostician, occasionally, but it doesn’t really have be an official position for him/her to be good). He wouldn’t have encountered your specific condition, but he would be open to rare conditions as a category – that’s more or less what makes him good at this job, the willingness and skill to pursue lower probability possibilities.

      As it happens this is somewhat relevant to me as well. Had mild gastric discomfort a year ago and went for a checkup mostly out of general principles. Got a good doctor, and she kept following up until we recently stumbled on something that begins to look like an autoimmune condition (plus a symptomatic treatment early on). And yes, she was described at one point as “a very good diagnostician”, so word goes around. At least another specialist on that road was a bit miffed about what I’m doing there – from her point of view I was perfectly ok.

      That’s how I picked my current doctor as well many years ago – I went for a yearly checkup with my old results, and joked that I’m perfectly healthy but hypochondriac. When she started looking at the data she made a long-ish list of things that were off, and said rather pointedly that’s not “perfectly healthy” . Kept seeing her since.

    3. DragonMilk

      Also, doctors do a lot more abstracts and case reports than outright papers, so when you find the cases, you can contact authors who can guide you to the doctor(s)

    4. Andrew Hunter

      The majority of patients who are sure they have a particular rare condition are

      a) wrong
      b) annoying for doctors to deal with.

      The majority of doctors who will take your word on this and treat you seriously as if you have that condition are fraudsters exploiting those patients.

      This makes the problem fundamentally hard; sorry, I don’t have a great solution for you (and to be clear, I doubt you’re in the above group! You’re just getting ruined by their existence.)

      1. Lambert

        The majority are also not au fait with the medical literature (in more than a superficial way).

        If you use the right shibboleths (ones that don’t turn up in the wikipedia page) and show you know what they mean, you should be able to distinguish yourself from the internet hypochondriacs.

        1. Andrew Hunter

          In principle, yes, but I think a lot of doctors just tune you out instantly and don’t listen once they figure out (they think) who you are.

    5. Aapje

      In my country, I would advice an ‘academic hospital’ which is the Dutch equivalent of a ‘University Hospital.’ These research hospitals get the hard cases referred to them, which means that they pool of patients is less prone to simple conditions, which in turns makes their doctors more willing to consider rare conditions. Also, doctors who do research are probably smarter.

      An even more targeted solution is Eric Rall’s, although the more specific you get, the further away the doctors you find may be.

  10. Edward Scizorhands

    My elbow hurts, probably from too much exercise.

    But I still want to work on my upper-body. I am doing less days a week, and continuing my lower-body and core exercises, but my upper-body is already lagging behind those other two areas.

    I have access to a machine like this https://www.gymequip.eu/wp-content/uploads/P4-Lateral-Shoulder-Raise-Machine-1-600×600.jpg that helps my delts, which is two muscle groups down, but still leaves a few others.

    I put some resistance bands from a wall to my upper arms, and tugged away from the wall. It felt like a good burn, but maybe that’s just because I was applying pressure directly to my biceps.

    What upper-body exercises can I do that will let my elbows rest?

    1. mitv150

      Tough to answer this without more specifics.

      There really isn’t anything you can do with your upper body without using your arms. Using your arms will almost certainly require using either your triceps or your biceps, both of which are used to mobilize the elbow joint.

      If your elbow hurts, it is likely not to due to “too much exercise,” but due to to placing too much stress on the tendons and ligaments of the elbow joint – based on either dynamic movement or a particular position.

      Your best bet is to go back to basics and start with the exercises where the elbow joint is in a relatively strong position that also work out the large muscles of the upper body – bench press, standing press, chin-ups, pull-ups. Avoid exercises that isolate triceps and biceps muscles (curls, extensions) or apply greater torque to the elbow joint (e.g., lateral raises – i wouldn’t use that machine if I had elbow pain). See what doesn’t hurt, and then iterate.

    2. Well...

      Dumbbell flyes and lateral/front raises can all be done with bent elbows. That should take some of the stress off them.

      I don’t think pullups and bench row put much stress on the elbow itself, but I could be wrong. If I could only do one upper body exercise it would be one of those.

      If you’re doing anything like curls or pushups, keep your elbows tucked in at your sides and that should reduce the strain on them.

      And of course shrugs and farmer’s walks are done with the arms totally straight, so there’s zero elbow strain there.

    3. Radu Floricica

      1. Tendon damage follows the iceberg model: you can only feel the tip. So whatever you do, keep doing it for a few weeks after it stops hurting, and get back to regular exercise slower than you’d want.

      2. Use the pain to guide you and definitely don’t stop training. See which movements are pain free, and for those that hurt lower the weight and increase the number of repetitions. Up to sets of about 30 repetitions you’re still perfectly fine (i.e. you can do at most 30 reps with that weight). See point 1 and keep the weight low for longer than the pain tells you.

      3. There is this one trick that all the doctors hate and can actually solve your problem: Kaatsu. It actually works very well, at least for rehabilitation – unfortunately you can’t use it for extra gains over regular exercise. But it _can_ get you the same punch with only about 30% weight which is exactly what you want in order to let the tendons heal. tl;dr; you reduce the blood flow and thus increase the metabolic damage from exercise. For some reason that stimulates the same muscle growth at much lower weights. A weird but very welcome side effect is that apparently it works almost as well even for muscle groups that aren’t directly affected by the blood flow restriction, i.e. the chest if you wear arm bands, or the glutes if you wear the leg bands. Feel free to look up the research, it’s pretty solid.

    4. hls2003

      Most gyms have a lat pullover machine where your elbows rest on a pad, your elbows are held at 90 degrees while you grip an upper bar above / behind your head, and you pull down in a half-moon from your head to your navel. Works the lats quite well, a bit of some other helper muscles, and also the serratus anterior, which I find hard to target.

    5. Beck

      If it’s tendinitis, then pulling exercises are going to bother it a lot more than pushing. So you may be able to bench press (maybe at a reduced weight), but pullups or any kind of curls or rows would play merry hell with the tendon. Wearing a compression sleeve can help a little, even if it’s just to remind you not to overdo it.
      When you do get back to curls, hammer curls seem to put less strain on the tendons than regular.

      I’d also second Radu’s iceberg comment.

  11. FrankistGeorgist

    What are the unforeseen consequences of my impulsive burning desire to outright ban Caller ID Spoofing?

    1. Matt

      One consequence (perhaps not the only one) is that your doctor’s office, for instance, would not be able to spoof ‘out’ their official high-level office number when the nurse calls you and your caller ID would have the direct line to her desk. And if they use a call center somewhere to send out automatic appointment reminders, likewise.

      Same for my kids’ school system, when I take the kid to the dentist and they robo-call my wife during every class period missed to tell us that she isn’t in school.

      Someone (maybe on this website) suggested that this could be resolved by only allowing you to ‘spoof’ phone numbers you actually ‘own’.

    2. voso

      How would you go about banning it?

      An obvious seeming solution to me would be something along the lines of the certificates that the World Wide Web uses to verify a website’s authenticity, issued by the phone company to verify the authenticity of the number that’s calling you.

      But given that phone companies can’t work together to make anything better than SMS/MMS, I’m not holding my breath.

  12. johan_larson

    What’s the worst thing your country did during the 20th century, domestically and abroad?

    For Canada, I’m pretty sure the worst thing we did domestically was something with the First Nations (Indians). Kidnapping kids and putting them in the residential schools was pretty bad. Or maybe something to do with the Great Depression. I’m a bit fuzzy on that bit of economic history. I’m under the impression the US government mishandled a recession through a tight-money policy and then raising trade barriers, and most other nations followed suit.

    Abroad? Canada barely has a foreign policy apart from the US. I suppose we could have saved a lot of lives by accepting more refugees from Europe during the 30’s.

    1. EchoChaos

      What’s the worst thing your country did during the 20th century, domestically and abroad?

      Broke the back of the British Empire, which was a (perhaps THE) force for stability in the world, setting off the messes that are current Africa and India/Pakistan because decolonization was rushed rather than allowing it to happen naturally.

      Close second is abandoning Chiang and the Chinese Nationalists and allowing Mao to destroy that great civilization, which is only now starting to recover to its natural place of prominence.

      1. An Fírinne

        Broke the back of the British Empire, which was a (perhaps THE) force for stability in the world, setting off the messes that are current Africa and India/Pakistan because decolonization was rushed rather than allowing it to happen naturally

        The British Empire which engaged in every war under the sun was a force of stability? You kidding me?

        The British are the ones who drew inane borders in Africa and drained it of its resources hence its current problems.

        1. EchoChaos

          The British Empire which engaged in every war under the sun was a force of stability?

          Yes.

          You kidding me?

          No.

          1. An Fírinne

            So all those British invasions, mass murders, rapes, pillaging, theft of land, genocide and inane drafting of borders actually helped Africa? Who knew? Guess you should have told the Africans.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            That is an interesting question. Assume Europeans never visited or colonized Africa. Would there be more or fewer Africans today? Would the lives of those Africans be better or worse?

            Genuine question. I’m unsure of my answers.

          3. viVI_IViv

            Africa under self-rule wasn’t exactly an utopia. From Wikipedia:

            “Since Dahomey was a significant military power involved in the slave trade, slaves and human sacrifice became crucial aspects of the ceremony. Captives from war and criminals were killed for the deceased kings of Dahomey. During the ceremony, around 500 prisoners would be sacrificed. As many as 4,000 were reported killed In one of these ceremonies in 1727.[5][6][7] Most of the victims were sacrificed through decapitation, a tradition widely used by Dahomean kings, and the literal translation for the Fon name for the ceremony Xwetanu is “yearly head business”.[8] In later years this ceremony also included the spilling of human blood from the sacrificed.[4] Related with this, there was also a significant military parade in the ceremonies that further displayed the military might of the kingdom of Dahomey.[2]”

          4. Atlas

            The British Empire which engaged in every war under the sun was a force of stability? You kidding me?…

            So all those British invasions, mass murders, rapes, pillaging, theft of land, genocide and inane drafting of borders actually helped Africa?

            (I’ll maybe explicate my own views in a later comment, but I’ll just note here that I’m sharing one perspective without necessarily fully endorsing it.)

            Some relevant excerpts from Professor Ian Morris’ War! What is it Good For?:

            Prime ministers expect to be pilloried for everything they say, but there is probably no way to try to evaluate the legacy of Europe’s Five Hundred Years’ War without being accused of political bias. Accepting that, I will steel myself for the worst and come right to the point: the Five Hundred Years’ War was the most productive—in the sense I have used that word in this book—war the world had so far seen, creating the biggest, safest, and most prosperous society (or world-system) yet. In 1415, the globe had been fragmented, with each continent dominated by a cluster of regional powers. By 1914, this ancient mosaic was gone, replaced by just three or four powers with truly global reach (France, Germany, the United States, and, of course, the United Kingdom), tightly linked in a system dominated by Britain. Europe had (almost) conquered the world. The marriage of invisible hand and invisible fist made the modern world-system very different from any premodern empire, but the Five Hundred Years’ War that created it had nevertheless followed a broadly familiar pattern. First came a conquest phase, driving up rates of violent death; next, in many cases, came an era of rebellion, with more great bloodlettings; and finally came an age of peace and prosperity as violence declined and economies were reconstructed on a larger scale…

            And even within a single region, it could be hard to tell what was going on. As usual, India is the best-known (and most controversial) case. Here the East India Company, focused on maximizing profits, threw itself into pacification. The same Mughal breakdown that had given the company its opening in the 1740s had also filled the subcontinent with warring princes, and—although reliable statistics are once again sorely lacking—all the evidence suggests that rates of violent death had leaped up as law and order broke down. The squabbling nawabs and sultans had hired thousands of irregular cavalry to fight each other, and, thrown out of work, many of them turned into bandits, terrorizing the peasantry. Eighteenth-century India’s roads were infested with highwaymen (some said to be thugees, members of a cult devoted to strangling travelers in honor of the goddess Kali), and the countryside was awash with guns. Like any competent stationary bandit, the company cracked down on these roving bandits. But—like all too many stationary bandits—the company’s activities were so violent (and profitable) that observers often wondered whether the cure was not worse than the disease…

            But whatever their motives, judges sent out from Britain did gradually roll back the company’s rough-and-ready martial law and reduce the violence of Indian life. The most visible consequence was a blanket ban on the Hindu ritual of sati, in which a widow would throw herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre. Several Mughal emperors had legislated against sati (“in all lands under Mughal control, never again should officials allow a woman to be burned,” Aurangzeb had ruled in 1663), with some success, but the British blanket ban of 1829 more or less eradicated it. Documents written by educated Indians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have little to say about rates of violent death, but a remarkable number of their authors seem to have concluded that the British Empire was, on balance, no bad thing. The extraordinary Calcutta-based scholar Rammohun Roy, for instance, embraced British liberalism, education, and law and joined the British crusade against sati. Roy did not hesitate to criticize the Europeans; he rebuked the British in 1823 for being slow to teach the “useful sciences” to Bengalis and had a smart put-down for a bishop of Calcutta who mistakenly congratulated him on converting from Hinduism to Christianity (“My lord,” Roy said, “I did not abandon one superstition merely to take up another”).

            But when all was said and done, Roy thought that the ideal outcome for India would be to remain within the British Empire, in a position like Canada’s. “India, in a like manner [as the Canadians],” he wrote in 1832, “will feel no disposition to cut off its connection with England, which may be preserved with so much mutual benefit to both countries.” Other Indians—such as the members of the Young Bengal movement, who shocked their elders in the 1830s by championing Tom Paine over Hindu scriptures—went much further in their admiration of all things Anglo. But their opinions, just like Roy’s and Lieutenant Murray’s, remain mere impressions. Until social historians do the kind of painstaking archival work that vindicated Elias’s claims about Europeans becoming less violent, or until physical anthropologists catalog much more skeletal evidence of violent trauma, we have to continue to rely on qualitative evidence, just as we do in studying ancient times. But even so, the weight of the documentation does seem to be overwhelming. Despite their smugness, Kipling and Murray really were onto something. Once the conquests died down and the rebellions were suppressed, European empires generally drove down rates of violent death.

          5. Plumber

            Oh I can’t resist, please enjoy:

            An Englishman Plays Risk

            skit by a comedy troupe that I’m sure was first introduced in a link provided by @Deiseach, but I don’t remember that particular one being linked here before.

            It’s short and funny.

        2. Machine Interface

          The British are the ones who drew inane borders in Africa

          I have no opinion on wheither the British Empire was a force of stability or not, but this particular journalistic cliché should really be burried and forgotten, as firstly, ethnostates aren’t inherently more stable than multi-ethnic states, and more importantly, ethnostates aren’t born out of some benevolent heavenly force drawing neat borders that clearly give each ethnicity its own contiguous territory.

          Because unless you live on a small island with small population, that’s pretty much impossible — populations are naturally distributed in a patchwork, fractal fashion, which no border could perfectly match; if Xs and Ys are neighbors, no border, no matter how finely drawn, will give you a situation where you have no Ys in Xlandia and no Xs in Ystan (and that’s even before getting into the specifics of Africa where lots of populations are still traditionally herders and thus nomadic).

          The way real ethnostates are born is one ethnicity which is a majority or at least a plurality of the people in a given territory acquires control of that territory, and then, depending on how nice/relatively powerful that ethnicity is:
          1) They compromise with other ethnicities and create a federative county (Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, Singapore)
          2) They more or less forcibly assimilate the other ethnicities to the dominant culture (France, Italy, Sweden, Japan)
          3) They ignore minorities and rule without concern for their presence or rights until those assimilate or leave on their own (Germany historically, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Romania)
          4) They deport the minorities elsewhere (Bhutan, Poland, Greece)
          5) They exterminate the minorities (take your pick).

          In practice it’s often a combination of several of the above (eg: Turkey was ideally aiming for 2 but ended up doing a lot of 4 and 5).

          But “state borders that don’t respect ethnic groups” is the textbook example of a pleonastic expression. State borders don’t respect any religious, cultural or ethnical territory pretty much by design. Rather it’s the religious, cultural or ethnical territory that is always forced, retroactively, and more or less gently, to conform to state borders.

          1. Wrong Species

            It’s also really strange that the people talking about the Europeans forcing ethnicities together in Africa are the same people who say that Western countries need more minorities, for our own benefit. Is diversity good or bad?

            Also, there was one country that was put together explicitly for the sake of ethnic and cultural similarity and that was Somalia.

      2. broblawsky

        I’m curious as to what your vision of ‘natural’ decolonization would’ve looked like, especially in India. India expected to get home rule after contributing more than a million soldiers to the British war effort in WWI, along with God only knows how much money, and Britain refused to honor Indian contributions with even token self-rule. After that, the Empire destroyed itself through arrogance and despotism – look at the Bengal famine of 1943.

        1. EchoChaos

          I’m curious as to what your vision of ‘natural’ decolonization would’ve looked like, especially in India.

          Probably something similar to Canada. During World War II, making India a Dominion was proposed by Churchill, but obviously Attlee went a different direction.

          India expected to get home rule after contributing more than a million soldiers to the British war effort in WWI, along with God only knows how much money, and Britain refused to honor Indian contributions with even token self-rule.

          India also had a large revolt with coordination between Hindus and Germans in WWI that caused the British to mistrust their nationalist movement for obvious reasons.

          After that, the Empire destroyed itself through arrogance and despotism – look at the Bengal famine of 1943.

          The Bengal famine was an absolute disaster, but it was also in part caused by the fact that merchant shipping on the Indian Ocean was heavily limited by Japanese raids and the increased need to feed refugees from Japanese occupied Burma.

          From your link:

          In the Indian Ocean alone from January 1942 to May 1943, the Axis powers sank 230 British and Allied merchant ships totalling 873,000 tons

          In the end, the British couldn’t hold a global empire together regardless, but rushing the end of it due to American pressure resulted in bizarre borders and multiple wars, which combined with the intercommunity violence resulting from the borders, was just as bad from a humanitarian perspective as the famine.

          1. An Fírinne

            0

            The average resident is unlikely to have his life dramatically worsen due to war, crime or oppression.

            So being occupied by a foreign power is not oppression?

            Well this is a very……..interesting definition.

          2. Statismagician

            ‘Dramatically worsen’ is the key phrase there. Whatever you think of Britain’s colonial policies, they were at least decently consistent.

          3. broblawsky

            Probably something similar to Canada. During World War II, making India a Dominion was proposed by Churchill, but obviously Attlee went a different direction.

            After WWII, India never would’ve accepted anything short of full independence. Why would they? By that point, the British government had proven that they couldn’t be trusted to stay out of Indian internal affairs, no matter what fig leaf of self-rule they offered.

            India also had a large revolt with coordination between Hindus and Germans in WWI that caused the British to mistrust their nationalist movement for obvious reasons.

            That isn’t an ethical argument for the British to maintain tighter control over India; if anything, it’s an argument for the British to cede control faster, so that Indians won’t be tempted to work with enemies of the Empire.

            The Bengal famine was an absolute disaster, but it was also in part caused by the fact that merchant shipping on the Indian Ocean was heavily limited by Japanese raids and the increased need to feed refugees from Japanese occupied Burma.

            None of that changes the fact that there wouldn’t have been a famine if not for Churchill extracting as much food as possible from India for the British Isles, and continuing to do so even well after he knew that the British Isles were well-supplied and that his actions had contributed to a brutal famine.

            In the end, the British couldn’t hold a global empire together regardless, but rushing the end of it due to American pressure resulted in bizarre borders and multiple wars, which combined with the intercommunity violence resulting from the borders, was just as bad from a humanitarian perspective as the famine.

            It’s hard to imagine a conclusion to the British Empire that wouldn’t have involved violence, and using force to keep India and Africa in the Empire longer – and there’s no other way it could’ve been accomplished – wouldn’t have made that violence any less inevitable or brutal. I don’t think your argument here is well-connected to reality.

          4. Machine Interface

            So being occupied by a foreign power is not oppression?

            Most Europeans are descended from people who were “occupied by a foreign power”, accepted their fate and went on with their life, assimilated to the dominant culture, and effectively became indistinguishable from their occupiers.

      3. DragonMilk

        What exactly is your definition of stability?

        Stable profiteering and exploitation of sovereign nations for the benefit of the crown?

        1. EchoChaos

          What exactly is your definition of stability?

          The average resident is unlikely to have his life dramatically worsen due to war, crime or oppression.

          Stable profiteering and exploitation of sovereign nations for the benefit of the crown?

          If the average resident’s life is improving, then that’s fine. IF it’s getting worse (i.e. Belgium under Leopold) then that’s monstrous and should end. In most places with British rule, the life of residents improved throughout time.

          1. DragonMilk

            The Opium Wars certainly did not make China more stable. Or is it ok to start wars to force a sovereign nation to buy your drugs?

            In general, propping up preferred trade partners that might otherwise have been overthrown does not seem to be a recipe for raising standard of living for residents in say, Africa or India.

            Crediting industrialization to imperialism hardly seems fair. If anything, industrialization made British imperialism possible.

          2. EchoChaos

            @DragonMilk

            I’m not defending everything the British did. Far from it. I am saying that the US breaking the British Empire of the 1940s and 50s made the world substantially worse.

            More people died in the partition of India than the US lost in the entirety of WWII.

          3. DragonMilk

            Ah, got it. I read too much into your assertion.

            If your claim is that setting aside how the status quo was acquired, dismantling the British Empire holdings that haphazardly was a huge mistake, then I can get on board with that.

          4. EchoChaos

            @DragonMilk

            That was indeed my exact assertion.

            The two things the United States did in the 20th Century that caused the most deaths were force the British to rush decolonization and abandon China.

            I put China second because I am less sure they could be saved, but if they could’ve put Chiang in charge of all of mainland China somehow, that would’ve saved more.

          5. Aapje

            @EchoChaos

            Note that not having a rushed decolonization of Indonesia, forced by the US, might have prevented the 1965 mass killings, which cost the lives of 500k-1M, as well as continued conflicts in places that keep wanting independence from Indonesia, which the Dutch would like to have granted.

          6. EchoChaos

            @Aapje

            I honestly don’t know much about Indonesian independence, but it doesn’t surprise me much there either.

          7. ana53294

            as well as continued conflicts in places that keep wanting independence from Indonesia, which the Dutch would like to have granted.

            Like the whole Papua. But AFAIU, the issue with Indonesia was not just that it was rushed, but that the Dutch didn’t want Suharto (because he was a collaborationist, and they didn’t want to prize that), and the US wanted him as a way of keeping communism out. So it wasn’t just that the US rushed it; they also dictated how it would be done.

          8. Aapje

            @EchoChaos

            Sukarno, who the Dutch didn’t want to become president, but whom the Dutch were forced to give control by the US, got into a symbiotic relationship with the communists. Indonesia had the largest communist party outside of the Sino-Soviet sphere.

            Sukarno’s policy was Nasakom: a combination of nationalism (nasionalisme -> nas), islam (agama=religion -> a) and communism (komunisme -> kom). He himself was the dictator who implemented Guided Democracy, where that ‘democracy’ was the seeking of consensus among powerful groups.

            The pivot to communism probably hard to predict, since Sukarno had collaborated with the Japs and was the leader of the nationalists, presumably the least horrible major block (the others being the communists and the Islamists).

            The CIA supported regional rebellions against Sukarno’s government, to little effect, other than making Sukarno more anti-American/Western. However, in 1965, they backed a successful coup by general Suharto and assisted in the mass killings of (suspected and actual) communists. Suharto was dictator until the Reformasi in 1999, when Indonesia had their first democratic elections.

            PS. Indonesian governments tend to have little interest in investigating or harping on Dutch crimes, to the dismay of Dutch activists who think that the Dutch should recognize these more and give reparations to the victims, which is probably because that would risk a reckoning with the Indonesian mass killings, which are far, far worse than anything the Dutch did.

          9. Aapje

            @ana53294

            You are confusing Suharto with Sukarno. Sukarno was the collaborator, who ironically turned out to be very favorable to communism.

            Suharto was the mass-murdering general who replaced Sukarno through a CIA-backed coup.

      4. Plumber

        Off thr top of my head “former British colony” seems to have been a good bet.

        English speaking Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States have fared well, for non-majority English speaking nations: Zimbabwe is a mess but Kenya has done well compared to it’s neighbors, Afghanistan and Pakistan aren’t so hot, but India is a representative democratic-republic with a billion people (world’s first!), plus they have cool steam trains, still make copies of the 1950’s Morris Oxford motorcar, and make Royal Enfield motorcycles that they inherited from the British.

        Not too shabby!

        In contrast former French colony Vietnam is a nominally Marxist fascist regime (like China), the French former African colonies still have French troops clean up from time-to-time, Spanish former colonies are a mixed bag, Costa Rica is nice but Guatemala is fled from, former Dutch colony Indonesia is the world’s largest majority Muslim democratic-republic, so that’s kind of impressive (did they have any others?).

        The U.S.A.’s former colony The Philippines is relatively okay, but they seem to subsist a lot on remittances from emigrants, and was-basically-a-colony Liberia has been a mess since their ’79 revolution.

        All-in-all the British left a relatively good track record (sorry @Deiseach, Dad, and Grandma!).

        1. An Fírinne

          “These country’s are doing okay”/well after x happened therefore x must be the cause” is absolutely moronic reasoning. India was a relatively flourishing place before the British got there. India is only now finally able to rejuvenate itself after it was sacked and plundered by the British. Open a history book for Christ’s sake.

          1. Statismagician

            India wasn’t a unified nation-state before the British got there. I have absolutely no idea what a no-EIC (or its Dutch, Portuguese, and French counterparts) subcontinent looks like, but it’s almost certainly not a single basically-functional modern democracy.

          2. Plumber

            @An Fírinne says: “These country’s are doing okay”/well after x happened therefore x must be the cause” is absolutely moronic reasoning…”

            I feel very complimented now!

            No British “Raj” likely means no 1958 to 2014 Hindustan Ambassador, or Royal Enfield India, which are almost as cool as the Ural, and the Morgan Plus 8!

            The world would be a sadder place without such treasures, plus no Empire, my grandmother doesn’t move from Ireland to an English speaking part of North America, my wife’s parents (with no island of Britain ancestry) don’t move here from a former British colony, and our sons aren’t born.

            @An Fírinne says: “…Open a history book for Christ’s sake”

            I have, I even recommended one a few posts ago.

          1. Plumber

            @Deiseach says: *Come Out Ye Black and Tans remixes INTENSIFY* 😀”

            Since that song is awesome YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A POSITIVE LEGACY!

            [Speaking of things Irish, Liam Neeson’s greatest performance (assisted by Americans attempting Irish accents): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zMtjj7AxxiU

            Also, from an album I’ve owned since 1985: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgqa3cVOxUc

            and a song from 1978: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tj0KGDzXYgY

            Treasures all!]

      5. cassander

        I’d argue that the british broke their own back. British inter-war foreign policy frequently seems almost as if it were deliberately designed to drive the dominions away. And the empire falls apart post ww2 in large part because british economic policy was so terrible. How terrible, you ask? Well, in 1950, germany was substantially poorer than the UK, as it had been for centuries. This relationship is reversed over the next 20 years and by 1970, germany is actually richer. Despite more wartime damage, less aid from the US, the country being divided, and similar levels of military expenditure germany manages almost double the UK’s annual per capita GDP growth. And german policy isn’t exceptional, france manages the same trick and italy grows even faster.

          1. cassander

            There’s not much else to say, british socialism was a mess. Rationing continued through much of the 50s. There are stories that Tolkien wanted to write that we don’t have because of paper shortages. Full employment, nationalization, and labor action made british companies less and less competitive internationally and less productive at home. By the 70s, they literally couldn’t keep the lights on and had to go begging the IMF for loans like a developing country.

            The UK was never going to be a superpower, but if they’d had economic performance like the continent the decline would have been much less precipitous, which likely would have meant fewer embarrassing reversals and abandoned commitments, the effect of which was cumulative. By 1945 I think the odds of keeping the empire (at least the dominions) together were pretty low, but britain’s lousy economic performance made the end quick and inevitable.

          2. Lambert

            It’s what he wants to not repeat.

            I think it was him who complained that the postwar UK never found a ‘post-imperial role’.

      6. eric23

        I think we need an adversarial collaboration on the subject of “Was the British Empire (or European colonial empires in general) beneficial or harmful for the inhabitants of the colonies?”

        1. EchoChaos

          Sure, but that’s a different assertion than mine, which is “rushed decolonization caused more harm than being colonized for slightly longer in order to decolonize without literally millions dying”.

    2. Well...

      America’s War on Drugs kinda started in the 19th century (maybe with the dispatch of Bishop Brent to the Philippines to countermand Taft’s relatively laissez-faire handling of their existing opium laws?) but the 20th century is definitely when we made it a big official permanent policy and exported it all over the globe. It counts for both foreign and domestic.

        1. Well...

          Can you explain more? My understanding is that the thing you’re referencing was between China and England (and maybe India to some extent). While that was about drugs (specifically, plying Chinese markets with opium as a way to open them up to outside trade, IIRC) it was isolated from, or at most may have set a kind of precedent for, America’s war on drugs; it isn’t really continuous with/part of it.

          1. Thegnskald

            The international and the national components are different; the shortest version is that international anti-drug efforts began with the International Opium Convention in 1912, as a direct response to the opium wars.

            ETA: It was expanded/update/replaced, depending on your perspective, by the Paris Convention, which was updated in turn by something in the 1960s, which in turn was updated… I don’t remember when. But the framework was created there.

          2. Well...

            The 1912 Opium Convention (a.k.a the Hague Convention) was largely the brainchild of Bishop Brent, whom I mentioned above and whose work fighting drugs started in the Philippines. He was the primary American delegate both to the Hague convention and its 1909 predecessor in Shanghai.

            Anyway, I agree the War on Drugs probably could be said to have officially started in 1912, but even then it’s hard to deny America’s being the primary player in pushing it.

    3. MorningGaul

      Mostly things it didn’t do.

      With 20/20 hindsight, not pillaging Germany until it was sent back to the 14th century after WWI.

      More realistically, not rearming harder in the 30’s, not backing up Czechoslovaquia and not being more offensive during the invasion of Poland.

      1. jermo sapiens

        not pillaging Germany until it was sent back to the 14th century after WWI

        That’s the first time I see this proposed, presumably as a strategy to avoid WW2. My understanding of that, although limited, suggests that the treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Germany and that this led to the rise of Hitler.

        To what extent was Germany really the “bad guy” in WW1? My current understanding of WW1 is that it was really a dumb war fought for no valid reason and that everybody should share the blame. But the allies decided to really stick it to the Germans in Versailles, with the result that we know today. Is this a case of, “the drug did not have the intended effect, let’s double the dose”?

        1. EchoChaos

          That’s the first time I see this proposed, presumably as a strategy to avoid WW2.

          It was proposed by some after WWI and partially implemented after WWII before Truman realized that the West needed Germans on the front lines of the Cold War.

          1. Plumber

            From Your Job in Germany (made by and for the U.S. Army in 1945):

            “…The Nazi party may be gone, but Nazi thinking, Nazi training and Nazi trickery remains. The German lust for conquest is not dead. … You will not argue with them. You will not be friendly. … There will be no fraternization with any of the German people…”

          2. cassander

            From what I’ve read, the morgenthau plan was never really taken seriously by anyone other than morgenthau. FDR talked it up with Stalin (and talked it down to others), but the Brits were absolutely opposed to it, as were other senior members of the roosevelt administration.

          3. EchoChaos

            @cassander

            Then you’ve heard wrong. It was the official agreement and Truman started executing it. The Wikipedia page is pretty similar, although my memory comes from Hoover’s book on the subject. Hoover strongly opposed deindustrialization and is credited with getting Truman to reverse it.

            The British sector did it substantially less because they didn’t really want to reduce that much, but they agreed after US and French pressure.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_plans_for_German_industry_after_World_War_II

        2. Eric Rall

          To what extent was Germany really the “bad guy” in WW1?

          For how the war started, primary blame has to go to the Black Hand organization for assassinating the heir to the Austrian throne, to Serbia for tolerating and sheltering the Black Hand, and to Austria for insisting on war instead of accepting the diplomatic humiliation of Serbia and the suppression of the Black Hand organization as their weregeld for the assassination. Austria also gets a bit of “extra credit” blame for diplomatic perfidy against Russia in the 1908 Bosnia Crisis, which played a very large role in making the Russian government feel they had no choice but to take a hard line in guaranteeing Serbian independence against Austria.

          There’s also secondary blame that attaches to most of the other Great Powers. Germany for the infamous “blank check” promise of diplomatic and military support they gave to Austria during the July Crisis, for being the country that actually declared war against France and Russia, and for invading Belgium just being in the way. Russia gets some blame for being the first country to mobilize (effectively forcing Germany’s hand, at least in the East), at a time when negotiations were still possible. France gets blame for giving encouragement similar to the German Blank Check to Russia during the July Crisis. Of all the countries involved in the war from the start, only Britain, Belgium, and Luxembourg came in with clean hands.

          As for the conduct of the war, it was absolutely awful all around. The worst offenders by far were the Ottoman, Austrian, and Bulgarian governments: the Ottomans committed outright genocide against the Armenians, while the Austrians and Bulgarians massacred several thousand Serbian civilians and caused at least 600,000 more civilian deaths from malnutrition and disease during their invasion and occupation of Serbia.

          Germany’s main war crimes were the Rape of Belgium (greatly exaggerated by British wartime propaganda, but the underlying truth was plenty bad), introducing the use of poison gas (France had used tear gas first in 1914, which was a war crime under the Hague conventions, but chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas were order-of-magnitude escalations relative to tear gas), using executions of civilian hostages as an anti-guerrilla tactic, unrestricted submarine warfare, and terror bombardments (by air, ship, and heavy artillery in various times and places) of targets with little or no military value. Germany also has to be considered complicit to some extent for the crimes of its allies, which it tolerated and indirectly enabled.

          The main Allied war crime I’m familiar with (apart from also using poison gas, which can be justified as retaliation for German gas attacks) was the British starvation blockade. Blockades and commerce raiding were and are considered legitimate tools of war, but only when they’re targeted against enemy-flagged merchant ships or against neutral-flagged ships carrying war materiel bound for an enemy destination. The British took an unusually broad interpretation of both “war materiel” and “bound for an enemy country”, most notably by classifying all food (because it could be used by troops in the field) and fertilizer (because it could be used to grow food for soldiers, and because it could be used as a chemical precursor for explosives) as contraband, and by also applying the same blockade to neutral countries (Netherlands and Denmark) that had substantial overland trade with Germany. About half a million Germans are believed to have died due to malnutrition before the blockade was lifted in 1919. The Netherlands and Denmark didn’t starve to the extent Germany did, but both countries experienced severe food shortages and imposed strict rationing, and the Netherlands at least had one major food riot in 1917.

          1. Aftagley

            Russia gets some blame for being the first country to mobilize (effectively forcing Germany’s hand, at least in the East)…France gets blame for giving encouragement similar to the German Blank Check to Russia during the July Crisis.

            I think you’re understating just how big a point these are. Russia and France’s involvement are the direct factors that turned this from a regional conflagration into a world war. Everything up until Tsar Nicolas’ decision to mobilize was just politics as usual.

          2. AlesZiegler

            Russia gets some blame for being the first country to mobilize

            Russian mobilization escalated the conflict, but this statement is factualy incorrect. Austria-Hungary declared mobilization on 28th of July (EDIT: or partially even earlier, 28th of July is a date when manifesto of King-Emperor Franz Joseph to “My Nations” declaring general mobilization and war on Serbia was published), and Russia on 31st of July.

          3. Eric Rall

            Russian mobilization escalated the conflict, but this statement is factualy incorrect. Austria-Hungary declared mobilization on 28th of July (EDIT: or partially even earlier, 28th of July is a date when manifesto of King-Emperor Franz Joseph to “My Nations” declaring general mobilization and war on Serbia was published), and Russia on 31st of July.

            “My Nations” (also translated as “Too My Peoples”) is a declaration of war, but not a declaration of mobilization. It was issued on the 28th and published on the 29th. A declaration does seem like it would imply mobilization, but I don’t think the actual mobilization was ordered until the 31st, which is in keeping with the general level of competence that Austria’s senior military leaders demonstrated during the war.

            Russia announced a partial mobilization on the 29th. The general mobilization was ordered on evening of the 29th or the morning of the 30th and publicly announced on the 31st. At least one source (written by a former Russian senior general staff officer in 1922 while living in exile in Berlin) suggested that the partial mobilization announcement was a smokescreen for the general mobilization, on the grounds that the staff had advised the Tsar that partial mobilization was infeasible. But although the author would have bene in a good position to know if that were the case, the context in which he wrote his account suggests we take his claims with a degree of caution.

            It’s also worth noting that Austria’s mobilization was initially directed against Serbia only, sending most available units to the Serbian border and away from the Russian border. It was absolutely aggressive towards Serbia (although that was a moot point after the declaration of war), but not towards Russia. At least not the way Russia’s mobilization (sending armies to their borders with Austria-Hungary) were towards Austria-Hungary.

            I think you’re understating just how big a point these are. Russia and France’s involvement are the direct factors that turned this from a regional conflagration into a world war. Everything up until Tsar Nicolas’ decision to mobilize was just politics as usual.

            I’m inclined to agree, but laying nontrivial amounts of blame on Russia and France cuts against the grain of conventional wisdom enough that I decided to play it safe and understate my case.

          4. AlesZiegler

            @Eric Rall

            “My Nations” (also translated as “Too My Peoples”) is a declaration of war, but not a declaration of mobilization. It was issued on the 28th and published on the 29th. A declaration does seem like it would imply mobilization, but I don’t think the actual mobilization was ordered until the 31st

            I checked my sources, or to be specific Watson, Ring of Steel, Germany and Austria Hungary at War, 1914-1918, and this appears to be wrong. Watson claims that

            “Although Emperor Franz Joseph ordered mobilization on 25 July, the first day was set for 28 July, and only on the following day did troops start to arrive at their units”

            In addition, Wikipedia claims that Serbia ordered mobilization first on 24 July, making Russia third country to mobilize.

            Russia announced a partial mobilization on the 29th. The general mobilization was ordered on evening of the 29th or the morning of the 30th and publicly announced on the 31st. At least one source (written by a former Russian senior general staff officer in 1922 while living in exile in Berlin) suggested that the partial mobilization announcement was a smokescreen for the general mobilization, on the grounds that the staff had advised the Tsar that partial mobilization was infeasible. But although the author would have bene in a good position to know if that were the case, the context in which he wrote his account suggests we take his claims with a degree of caution.

            The part about Russian military commanders being convinced about impracticality of partial mobilization is correct, but this timeline is slightly off, alt least according to Watson. According to him, Russian Emperor ordered partial mobilization of 4 military districts on 28 July, in reaction to Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia, but Russian Cief of Staff Ianushkevich went beyond orders and on the night from 28 to 29 July wired the commanding officers of all 12 Russian military districts that first day of general mobilization will be 30 July. Nicholas first ordered general mobilization on 29, but “almost immediately” canceled the order, and then ordered general mobilization for real on the next day, 30 July.

            It’s also worth noting that Austria’s mobilization was initially directed against Serbia only, sending most available units to the Serbian border and away from the Russian border. It was absolutely aggressive towards Serbia (although that was a moot point after the declaration of war), but not towards Russia. At least not the way Russia’s mobilization (sending armies to their borders with Austria-Hungary) were towards Austria-Hungary.

            This is absolutely correct, in fact, Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on 6 August, later than Germany. But in the same way, Russian mobilization was directed against Austria-Hungary, not against Germany. Just like Russia went to war to protect its ally against Austria-Hungary, Germany went to war to protect its ally against Russia.

        3. brad

          My understanding of that, although limited, suggests that the treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Germany and that this led to the rise of Hitler.

          It was either too harsh or not harsh enough. The Kurds have had various low level insurgencies over the decades, but they never started a real war because they don’t have a country from which to build a real military apparatus.

          In 1919 Germany qua Germany was new enough that it is conceivable it could have been destroyed as a concept indefinitely. I’m not saying it would have been a good or moral decision, but I think it could have been done and would almost certainly have prevented WWII at least in the way it occurred.

          1. Lambert

            > Upon this one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.

            The Prince, book III

        4. MorningGaul

          >My understanding of that, although limited, suggests that the treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Germany and that this led to the rise of Hitler.

          It would have been moderately harsh (i.e: might have prevented the rise of another powerhouse Germany 20 years later) if it had been respected.

          However, Germany only paid about 15% of the reperation that were agreed on (21 billion marks out of 132), and the Allies gave up on France when it tried to extract reparations by other means (like occupying the Ruhr).

          The drug was replaced by a placebo, and it’s the cause of the relapse.

          1. DarkTigger

            The Ruhr occupation did at the bottom line not help in extracting reperations, and arguably strenghtened the German revanchists.
            It is also not clear to me, how a Germany that isn’t an econimic powerhouse, would be able to pay the reperations.

            At the same time Germany is the strongest economy in Europe again, and has been for at least 50 years now. And still it does not try to overrun it’s neighbours.

      2. AlesZiegler

        France didn´t have the power to destroy Germany like that after WWI, regardless of imho obviously horrendous immorality of such a plan. In fact, French government at peace conference pushed for harsher terms for Germany, but was overruled by its allies.

    4. Machine Interface

      Weird coincidence, but I just heard a documentary on radio about how high ranking French veterans from the Indochinese and Algerian wars of independence essentially invented, theorized, formalized and then taught the dirty-war style doctrine of counter insessurectionism (assassinations, forced disappearances and normalized use of torture), and went on to train the military personnel of pretty much every non-communist military junta in the latter part of the 20th century, with especially active collaboration with Operation Condor countries, going as far as giving them direct intelligence about south american refugees in France and looking the other way when those would get mysteriously assassinated on French territory or on their return to South America.

      These same experts were also occasionally called for help by the British for their own counter-inserruction activities, notably in Northern Ireland (for some reason the British never formalized their experience and so never had a well defined anti-insurrectionist doctrine of their own).

      And while this had no direct French involvement and went beyond the 20th century, these French theories also directly inspired the American doctrine in Iraq under Bush jr.

    5. cassander

      The US should never be forgiven for electing Woodrow Wilson president. We had help with a lot of our other poor decisions, but that one was entirely on us.

        1. John Schilling

          Elected on a promise not to enter World War One, then went about and entered World War One, then mismanaged the “victory” in such a way that we had to start enumerating our World Wars. Without Wilson, 1920s Germany isn’t nearly as fertile a breeding ground for fascism and we probably don’t get a Nazi government.

          Also, was actually as racist as Donald Trump is accused of being. This caused less harm than the geopolitical snafu only because federalism was then strong enough to limit his scope of action on the domestic front and because state laws of the time were racist enough that there wasn’t room for POTUS to make things much worse. But on general unseemliness grounds, not the man anyone even paying lip service to egalitarian ideals wants representing their nation.

          1. Paul Zrimsek

            On the plus side, Wilson’s supporters didn’t go around chanting “Lock him up!” about Eugene Debs. Wilson already had it taken care of.

          2. Statismagician

            Yes – YMMV on those, but double perfidy points for keeping the income tax after it was explicitly supposed to be a wartime measure only.

          3. cassander

            @Statismagician

            It’s worse than that. Passing the 16th amendment was a big contributor to getting prohibition passed because of how heavily the government relied on liquor taxes prior to ww1. So a bunch of people who didn’t want to fight got drafted and sent overseas, came back to much higher taxes, and couldn’t even console themselves with a drink.

          4. Nornagest

            double perfidy points for keeping the income tax after it was explicitly supposed to be a wartime measure only.

            That’s not exactly right. America’s first income tax was passed under Lincoln in 1861, to pay off Civil War debt; it went through a few permutations but was eventually repealed in the mid-1870s. Wilson did create the first peacetime income tax, forty years later, but it wasn’t a reinstatement of Lincoln’s but a new one (and required a constitutional amendment, which Lincoln hadn’t bothered with).

            Not great for my bank account, but I wouldn’t say it’s one of the more perfidious things Wilson did.

          5. SamChevre

            Also and additionally, popularized and enshrined in the WW1 settlement the idea of ethno-nationalism (“autonomous development”); dividing Europe up into ethno-states was a bloody disaster.

          6. Machine Interface

            Didn’t help that the scheme was really “ethno-state for the winnerss, and your population spread over 6 different countries, most of which they’re a minority in, for the losers”.

        2. AlesZiegler

          As a leftwing foreigner, I do not understand why Wilson is a such darling of American Left.

          I mean, that guy was unusually racist even for his, from our perspective abhorrently racist era, purged civil service of black employees, got US into two unecessary wars (intervention to quash Mexican revolution and WWI), and also is the person most responsible for Treaty of Versailles, which was a disaster and key reason for Nazi takeover of Germany.

          ETA: Oh, I forgot about Sedition Act of 1918.

          1. Plumber

            @AlesZiegler,

            Depends on what you mean by “Left”, anarchists, socialists, and fellow travelers hate Wilson (if they known of him).

            Basically Wilson was a Democratic Party President after and before a bunch of Republicans, Wilson was friendly to the A.F. of L. during the war, but mostly it’s that F.D.R. got his big start during the Wilson administration, and the American Left is fond of Franklin Roosevelt who was fond of Wilson.

            By-and-large historically minded Leftists hate Wilson as much as the historically minded Right does, mainstream Democrats just say “was a Democrat” if they think of him at all.

            Lots of public schools named “Wilson” like there’s lots of schools named “McKinley”, but not many know much of them.

            A few hate Wilson, a very few like, most: “Who?”.

          2. AlesZiegler

            @Plumber

            Thanks for clearing that up, now it makes sense. I didn´t know that

            anarchists, socialists, and fellow travelers hate Wilson (if they known of him)

          3. AlesZiegler

            @broblawsky

            But his name was not removed! Were people who defended him rightwingers? I somehow doubt that.

          4. Noah

            @AlesZiegler

            Certainly some were. They exist, even in Princeton. Also, there is the position of “He was a bad president/person, but we still shouldn’t rename the school”.

          5. Noah

            @AlesZiegler

            Sure. But people on the right are also more likely to be against removing names of historical figures from stuff on principle (at least in the current political climate).

          6. broblawsky

            But his name was not removed! Were people who defended him rightwingers? I somehow doubt that.

            Given my personal experience with Princeton, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were right-wing, but I can’t give a definitive answer one way or another.

          7. EchoChaos

            @broblawsky

            I’m as right-wing as they get and a Virginian and I hate Wilson. It seems odd that Princeton right-wingers would favor him.

          8. broblawsky

            They’re a special breed, certainly. I’ve never encountered such concentrated smugness before.

          9. AlesZiegler

            @Clutzy

            I would be interested to hear pro-Wilsonian argument, but for know this substantially lowers my opinion of US historians.

          10. edmundgennings

            The Princetonian right had long been skeptical of the general reverence for Wilson that goes far beyond having building named after Wilson. The conservative magazine published an article suggesting a reduction in it(though not necessarily renaming buildings) a few years before the more famous movement to get stuff renamed. When that effort started, they at first reached out to the right and the right was generally supportive. As the group that was pushing for this was a BLM spinoff group, this was an odd coalition but it was showing signs of progress. The right had more moderate goals but this coalition held promise. However, as the movement shifted from an emphasis on reason, discourse, changing people’s minds and coalition building to publicity stunts and aggressive tactics, they completely stoped reaching out to the right and the right at Princeton stopped supporting them. Princeton is not a place where their style of aggressive tactics is part of the culture and most people(especially the right) are very glad of that and so the right as well as much of the campus turned against them because of their abandonment of discourse for aggression.

          11. Clutzy

            @Clutzy

            I would be interested to hear pro-Wilsonian argument, but for know this substantially lowers my opinion of US historians.

            You’d have to find it from someone else. I always assumed it was because of historians having a bias towards action (WWI, progressivism) and utopianism (League of Nations).

          12. Mark V Anderson

            I always assumed it was because of historians having a bias towards action (WWI, progressivism) and utopianism (League of Nations).

            Definitely. Looking at that link from Clutzy, the rankings look nuts to me. Andrew Jackson of all presidents is ranked mostly in the 1st quartile. I think historians rank the presidents by how interesting they are, not how good they’ve been for the country. IMO, it is usually the action oriented presidents that have hurt the country the most. It appears that historians find that position abhorrent.

        3. cassander

          The others have made excellent points, but it should not be forgotten that he was also an ardent prohibitionist, eugenicist, and infuriatingly sanctimonious moralist who combined the elitism of northern moralistic certitude with the worst sort of southern parochialism.

      1. SamChevre

        I’ll second this. The US staying out of WW1 probably avoids WW2 and the communist takeover of central Europe.

          1. SamChevre

            Are you proposing that as an alternative, or asking if I mistyped? I’m thinking of the Communist takeover of Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc after WW2.

          2. Lambert

            Possible alternative.

            Or rather, historical reality that was nipped in the bud when Brest-Litovsk was renounced as part of the terms of Armistice.

            The idea of Lebensraum im Ost didn’t come from nowhere.

            IDK what would have happened without the Americans joining the war, but the fall of Paris wouldn’t be unthinkable.

    6. An Fírinne

      Canada barely has a foreign policy apart from the US. I suppose we could have saved a lot of lives by accepting more refugees from Europe during the 30’s.

      Supporting disastrous wars?

      1. johan_larson

        Canada made real contributions to WWI, WWII, Korea, and we sort of helped out with the Cold War while the US did the heavy lifting. I don’t think I’d like to reverse the outcome of any of those.

        1. Simulated Knave

          The Boer War is 20th century. Of course, we didn’t have control of our foreign policy until the statute of Westminster, which is in 1931.

        2. An Fírinne

          Canada made real contributions to WWI, WWII, Korea, and we sort of helped out with the Cold War while the US did the heavy lifting.

          I was talking about the wars in the MENA region but if yiu think WW1 is something to be proud of then I don’t know what to say. WW1 was two devil’s fighting each other. Two brutal empires fighting for domination.

          1. EchoChaos

            Two brutal empires fighting for domination.

            Oh come on, WWI was at LEAST five Empires fighting for domination.

            If you count some of the other belligerents as Empires even if they didn’t call themselves that, it could be as high as six or seven.

          2. Milo Minderbinder

            Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Japan, Turkey. USA and China also probably qualify, even if not nominally empires at the time. The start of the 40 Years War did not lack for imperial ambitions.

          3. EchoChaos

            @Milo Minderbinder

            Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans all officially called themselves an “Empire” at the time.

            France didn’t (it was a Republic), and Italy was a Kingdom.

            I forgot Japan in my initial post, so at least six.

            China was technically in the war, but the Qing Emperor was overthrown before the war.

    7. A Definite Beta Guy

      Domestically, a large portion of the United States ran Jim Crow for a huge portion of the 20th century. It’s hard to see anything we’ve done that’s worse than that. Possibly the Great Depression as a whole WAS worse, but it’s difficult to point towards one conscious policy decision that caused the Depression.

      Internationally, the US was a major contributor in exposing the world to the risk of global nuclear war. Theoretically it has contributed a sizable fraction of total CO2 emissions.
      For conventional “mistakes,” I’d say either pulling out of Vietnam or toppling the First Pilipino Republic.

      1. eyeballfrog

        Although continuation of Jim Crow was certainly terrible, I tend to think of that as the 19th century’s mistake via Plessy. That said, somehow the US botched civil rights a second time, and I’m not even sure what went wrong.

        1. HeelBearCub

          You don’t know what went wrong?

          Essentially “everyone“ still agreed that the blacks, Mexicans and Chinese were inferior, but the blacks were the most inferior. That’s not hard to figure out.

    8. Radu Floricica

      For Romania, probably Odessa massacre. Apparently we were pretty cool with jews domestically (relatively at least) but there was that one incident in Ukraine when things went… very bad.

    9. blipnickels

      Domestically, the response to the Great Depression. It’s not like the government was responsible for creating it but any response would have been better than what they did, be it fiscal stimulus, monetary policy, or just not passing Smoot-Hawley. And there’s not really a comparable event in terms of American suffering, saving the Civil War or slavery.

      Abroad, eh American hegemony is more notable for what didn’t happen than what did. In terms of raw human suffering, probably US policy during and following the Marshall Mission when the US abandoned the KMT, which led to Communist victory in China, but it’s arguable that they couldn’t have predicted the consequences. Probably Vietnam, especially if you add in its effects on neighboring countries like Cambodia.

      1. DavidFriedman

        It’s not like the government was responsible for creating [the Great Depression]

        Do you count the Federal Reserve as part of the government? It was at least a governmental creation.

        1. blipnickels

          Yeah, I count the Federal Reserve as part of the government. Per my understanding, there was going to be a really bad recession no matter what, bad monetary policy along with other things just made it much worse.

  13. Randy M

    I don’t recall when, but at some point I put William B Irvine’s book A Guide to The Good Life on my wish list, and received it for Christmas. It is a review and application of the ancient Stoic school of philosophy. Having now finished it, I thought I would give and overview and with commentary as I find it to be well suited to those of us of a rational bent. Hopefully this is interesting and new to someone. Also, feel free to correct anything I’ve misstated, especially if you have a greek statue as an avatar.

    Socrates was famed, not primarily for insight—William Irvine asserts—but for adherence to his philosophical principles, even unto death. In contrast to the schools in the ancient world, modern philosophy is not practiced for practical insights, though, the author asserts, we are in no less need of them, and there is little that fills in the void as guidance to living a good life; even many religious people don’t have a coherent philosophy for how they should live. Rules yes, but other than some doctrine and strictures, they often follow the same modern enlightened hedonism (according to Irvine; clearly this is not always the case).

    One of the ancient philosophical schools was Stoicism, which explored physics and logic as well as a philosophy of life. They were neither hedonistic nor ascetic, seeking enjoyment without attachment, perhaps similar to a Buddhist outlook—the author notes the similarities in outlook a few times, as well as his initial attraction to Buddhism. Zeno of Citium was the first Stoic philosophers, deriving his philosophical outlook from the Cynics in Athens after being shipwrecked there and deciding to make the best of the situation by finding one of the famed Athenian philosophical schools—a rather Stoic response to a set-back, even then. Zeno changed these cynic teachings to be more practical and less ascetic. He and subsequent pupils he taught at the Stoa Poikile—Stoics—prized logic, and this shows in some of their practices, as they advise to attempt to reason oneself out of negative emotions, a practice that may endear itself to rationalists even as it might rankle devotees of modern psychological theories that fear repressing negative emotions will lead to their reemergence later, which the author finds unlikely in the average case. After logic, Stoic schools taught physics, as they sought to live in accordance with nature, and ethics, though one more focused on determining the optimal way to live rather than the least harmful way—to live as we are designed to live as rational animals. The outcome of this practice would be a joyful tranquility; not an emotionless existence as we sometimes associate with the modern word “stoic”, but similarly minimizing negative emotions of anger, fear, and sadness. I think it’s fair to say it’s not a very exciting philosophy, but regardless, one that raises the valleys much more than it levels the mountains.

    From the school in Athens, Stoicism traveled to Rome, where its notable converts included the advisor to Nero, Seneca; the slave Epictetus; and Emperor Marcus Aurelius, under whom the philosophy reached its peak of influence. Today the philosophy is a footnote, which the author laments as he feels many would benefit from a considered philosophy of life in the ancient sense.

    After the overview of ancient philosophy and the development of Stoicism, the book outlines psychological techniques for controlling emotions over five chapters; all in all pretty simple advice which constitutes the core of the practical advice (interested students can look elsewhere for treatments of logic and physics if they want the full Zeno curriculum). The first technique is negative visualization: imagine troubles that could befall you, that you have faced in the past, or that have afflicted someone else. Meditate briefly on these, and you will come to appreciate what you have more and feel the loss of what you don’t have less. As well, when problems come up, they will be less of a shock and you will be more prepared to face them with courage. This applies even to those with little already, for there is always something to lose. Secondly, set your concerns and goals on that which is under your control, and not that which is not. Seek to perform you duties to the best you can, and not to gain fame or a promotion, for others’ approval is not within your grasp and you only set yourself up for despair in seeking what you cannot by yourself grasp. This is quite reminiscent of the serenity prayer, though I suppose we should expect effective techniques to be rediscovered throughout history. Third, practice fatalism of the past and the present; do not worry about what is transpired, only what will be. This is an outgrowth of the second technique, and shows the use of reason mentioned previously—the stoics reason that the past is beyond their control, and thus they have nothing to gain from mourning it, and by this seek to reduce the stress caused by regret. This may certainly not be as easy for someone disposed to anxiety; but inasmuch as your mental state can be affected by your mind, it may be useful to consider such. The fourth technique is self-denial, and here it may clash with both the consumerism of the average unphilosophical modern, and the utilon maximizing consequentialist. This isn’t masochism, but a life peppered with the occasional intentional discomfort, which is intended to train one’s willpower, endurance, and appreciation. The final technique is meditation, not in a self-negating Eastern enlightenment style, but a regular reflection on one’s mental and emotional state.

    The next several chapters concern Stoic advice on a variety of subjects, such as social interactions, grief, anger, insults, exile, and ageing. The topics covered reflect both the milieu of the ancient practitioners and the authors’ interests. It ranged from banal to insightful but won’t be recounted in detail here unless requested.

    The final section is “Stoicism for modern lives” and covers some philosophical and psychological developments since ancient times, and a reconsideration of the foundations of the philosophy for those who do not believe in Zeus, or even any other deity in whose plan Stoicism puts one into accord with, giving an evolutionary explanation for inclinations that make use angry or anxious and a charge to use our reason to set our own goals and overcome these default settings. Again, Stoicisim, at least as reimagined by William Irvine, seems reminiscent of or at least compatible with many rationalist (and, coincidentally for those interested, Christian) teachings. But it is interesting how he turns the original justification—living in accord with our nature—on its head, and instructs the philosophical to go against their evolutionary drives. The authors response to this irony is to point out that he has taken the proven teachings and advice and reconceptualized it as many prior teachers have done, and while he doesn’t preach his brand of Stoicism for everyone he finds it to have brought him and those amenable to his advice much joy and tranquility.

    The book was a short and easy read containing a decent overview of a foreign, but potentially useful, mindset and some decent mental tools that I shall make a point to employ at times. In full disclosure I am by nature stoic in the vernacular sense (and having seen the author speak on Youtube, suspect he would also so describe) and being disinclined to anxiety probably predisposed to the philosophy and not the best test of it.

    Often a stoic outlook is associated with masculinity, but the author makes very little if any distinction to gender and offers his advice to either sex. While I believe in and appreciate sex differences, I think there is something here for anyone, and little that one would fear contributing to a toxic masculinity unless you buy into the strongest claims of the dangers of emotional repression (which really wouldn’t be a fair description for stoic techniques anyway). The original works may be a different matter (thought I don’t think so).

    I have in the past read some of Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations and enjoyed it. I plan to see what Seneca has to see as Irvine recommends him as particularly approachable.

    1. Aapje

      deciding to make the best of the situation by finding one of the famed Athenian philosophical schools

      Founding?

      1. Randy M

        Nope! As the anecdote is related, he asked a bookstore owner where to find a philosopher to study under, who pointed him towards a passing Cynic. He later split to found his own school. Whether true or not, it’s related to show how thick on the ground philosophers were in Athens at the time.

    2. SamChevre

      Really interesting–thanks.

      One note–the similarities to Christian teaching is not a coincidence–early Christian thought is very influenced by Greek philosophy, and especially by Stoic philosophy. “Of one substance with the Father” is in the Creed–that’s Aristotle’s language, not the Scriptures.

      1. Viliam

        This reminds me of how I am confused about people impressed with writings of Marcus Aurelius. The writings are about how people should remain calm and focus on their duty, but the author utterly failed at his most important duty, which I would describe as “if you have a retarded son that will predictably ruin the empire, don’t make him your successor, but adopt someone sane instead, especially when adopting the successor was considered the best practice by your predecessors”.

        Here is the political strategy of the son in a nutshell:
        – rename the Rome after your first name;
        – rename the 12 months after your 12 names;
        – rename the army after your first name;
        – rename the senate after your first name;
        – rename the entire country after your first name;
        – roleplay a gladiator by publicly killing cripples in the arena;
        – also kill a giraffe in the arena;
        – after uncovering a plot to assassinate you, notice that one of the wannabe assassins is a hot chick, and take her as a mistress instead;
        – a few years later, after deciding that your mistress is too annoying, write a TODO list containing “execute Marcia and her friends tomorrow morning” and leave it on the table, where she finds it;
        – and finally, the next morning… get killed by Marcia and her friends.

        (So, whenever you feel like complaining about Trump, remember whom the ancient sage Marcus Aurelius would have chosen as the head of the republic instead.)

        1. The original Mr. X

          This reminds me of how I am confused about people impressed with writings of Marcus Aurelius. The writings are about how people should remain calm and focus on their duty, but the author utterly failed at his most important duty, which I would describe as “if you have a retarded son that will predictably ruin the empire, don’t make him your successor, but adopt someone sane instead, especially when adopting the successor was considered the best practice by your predecessors”.

          The previous emperors had adopted heirs only because they didn’t have any natural sons of their own (elite Romans generally had pretty low fertility levels, possibly due to their habit of using lead as a flavouring for their wine). Adopting an heir when you already have a son of your own would lead to one of two consequences: either instability and possible civil war, as your natural child would form an obvious figurehead for anybody who was discontented with the current government; or your son getting murdered by your adopted son, to prevent the first scenario from happening — which was precisely what had happened on the one occasion when an emperor had adopted an heir instead of leaving the empire to his own child. That adopted heir was the famously homicidal Nero, so clearly adoption isn’t quite the foolproof method of inheritance it’s sometimes portrayed as.

          1. The original Mr. X

            Also, to be fair, I’m not sure how much megalomania Commodus was showing during his father’s lifetime. If you believe that power tends to corrupt its holders, then it’s quite possible that he was just a normal person before becoming the absolute monarch of the most powerful state in the world.

        2. The Nybbler

          (So, whenever you feel like complaining about Trump, remember whom the ancient sage Marcus Aurelius would have chosen as the head of the republic instead.)

          Donald Trump Junior?

          Just looking at the Wikipedia page on Commodus, I think if you were to somehow resurrect a group of Romans from that period and ask their opinions on American soap operas (marketing will try anything), they’d probably complain that they were too simple and straightforward and there wasn’t nearly enough double-dealing and backstabbing going on.

    3. Plumber

      @Randy M says:

      “I don’t recall when, but at some point I put William B Irvine’s book A Guide to The Good Life on my wish list, and received it for Christmas. It is a review and application of the ancient Stoic school of philosophy. Having now finished it, I thought I would give and overview and with commentary as I find it to be well suited…”

      Since you recommended it I checked it out today (thank you public libraries!), so far I’m in the middle of chapter three and it’s been easy to follow.

      Thank you!

  14. thevoiceofthevoid

    So, I realized that my brain tends to interpret Dacyn’s avatar as this Paul Simon album cover when I’m not looking at it too closely. Anyone else have some mildly amusing avatar misinterpretations?

    (For the record, mine’s currently a picture of a lunar eclipse I took with a digital camera and a plastic telescope a while back.)

    1. Dacyn

      Hey you’re right, they do look kind of similar if you squint. Not very much if you look closely though.

      I think my avatar has more black than any other avatar. Which is kind of backwards since Dacyn is supposed to be a white mage. Maybe I will switch to a picture of Dacyn that doesn’t have a black background.

      1. thevoiceofthevoid

        I think my brain was also influenced by the fact that I had that particular Paul Simon album playing as I was browsing this OT yesterday.

        Ooh a free strategy game with pixel art that runs on my Mac? I’m tempted…

        1. Dacyn

          Yeah, it’s pretty cool, I remember it won some awards for being the best open-source strategy game or something like that… Anyway, my brother wrote the Eastern Invasion campaign (when I was 15 and he was 13), then we went as Eastern Invasion characters for Halloween and I was Dacyn… so if anyone has a claim to be that character, I think I do 🙂

        2. Matt M

          Negotiations and Love Songs is one of the better compilation albums that exists. I love Paul Simon but a lot of his solo albums (Graceland obviously excepted) are just full of filler and dreck.

        3. thevoiceofthevoid

          @Matt M
          Haha, those are the two Paul Simon albums I own (technically speaking, that my parents bought years ago, ripped the CDs to MP3s, and shared with me). Plus “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM” and “Greatest Hits” from Simon and Garfunkel. Proud to say that I genuinely enjoyed Sound of Silence before it became a meme (admittedly, like everyone of the generation before me).

    2. Well...

      Not “similarly” amusing, but… a while back someone on here had a WordPress-generated avatar that looked just like the tail lights on the Jeep (::cough::Fiat::cough::) Renegade, or at least that’s what I kept seeing.

    3. VoiceOfVoid

      BTW, just eliminated the “the”s from my username and added some CamelCase to facilitate reading and typing it. I’m still thevoiceofthevoid, not someone trying to impersonate them—though that’s exactly the first thing someone trying to impersonate me would say, isn’t it? 😛

        1. VoiceOfTheVoid

          Hmmm, yeah I think I’ll put the second one back. Flows a bit better as I subvocalize, and “the void” evokes Lovecraftian horror while “void” evokes “null”.

          (“The Voice of the Void” was the name of the blog I thought I was going to write before I realized writing is hard and no one would read it. When I tried to comment on SSC for the first time, Chrome auto-logged me in and I figured it was a cool-enough-sounding username.)

    4. eyeballfrog

      My deepest apologies to him for this, but it took me several viewings to stop seeing An Fírinne’s avatar as Hitler.

  15. Alexander Turok

    TIL it’s only a “legal gray area” to invest your student loans:

    https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/100314/it-legal-invest-my-student-loan-money.asp

    Bernie Sanders wants to reduce student loan interest rates from the current 4.5-7% to 1.88%. If that happened it would make doing it a whole lot more attractive. Presumably they’d crack down on it, but there’d be ways around it. If you’re living with your parents, you take out loans to pay living expenses, among them rent, which you, being a responsible adult, will pay. And your parents, being responsible adults, will invest. And then if you need money later, they’ll help you, like responsible, caring adults should. Though you have to actually be living with them to do this. Another possibility: buy a life insurance policy. It’s already widely used as a tax shelter, and could easily adapt to offering clients an “investment shelter” as well. Of course college students are young and won’t be very motivated to seek an investment which only pays off after their deaths. Another possibility is health insurance where you’d pay an artificially high price between the ages of 18 and 22 and receive an artificially low price thereafter, though you’d have to trust the company to uphold its end of the deal. On second thought, this wouldn’t work due to health insurance subsidies. How about “birth insurance?” It is often convenient for people to model births as if they happen at randomly with no human decision-making involved, and you can apply this model to insurance. If you have healthcare costs up to 10,000$ involved in the birth of a child that your health insurance company won’t pay for, the birth insurance policy will pay for it. And if it’s less than 10,000, you can have the remainder back, to pay for assorted costs involved in taking care of your baby. And you know how there used to be “lifetime limits?” Well, there’s a lifetime limit here: 2 kids. And if you make it to age forty without having two kids? Well, you get the money back too. It’s clear there’s not much “insurance” to speak of here, but we crossed that bridge a long time ago with the demands, and indeed mandates by law, that health insurance cover costs most or all of its consumers expect to regularly have. Transaction costs involved would be lower if birth insurance was provided by the same company which provides health insurance, and so would already deal with the costs involved in verifying births, identity, ect. It wouldn’t be health insurance however, as it clearly isn’t and wouldn’t be eligible for the standard state subsidy.(Or else they would have tried it already…) Would transaction costs and the risk it is made illegal eat up all the return here?

    Got any ideas of further ideas of how to scam the system?

        1. meh

          sure, but the rest will be taxed as rental income. there is also the added expense of hiring an accountant.

    1. Alexander Turok

      Most college students are going to be too young to own homes, but older students with mortgages could refinance for a higher monthly payment during their school years and a lower payment thereafter.

  16. thisheavenlyconjugation

    538 has come out with a big model predicting the Dem primary. So far the biggest discrepancy from betting markets seems to be rating Bloomberg’s chances much lower.

    1. hls2003

      What’s really interesting about the projected delegates is that any two of projected numbers 2-4 (Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg) come fairly close to matching Biden’s total projected delegates, especially if Bernie is one of the two. I would not be at all surprised to see a Biden-Buttigieg ticket, since I’ve thought all along he was auditioning for Vice-President for someone. And at a brokered convention, I could see a Sanders-Warren ticket competing hard with the B-B ticket, with B-B having about a 500 delegate edge but no majority.

      Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I have never bought Bloomberg. It’s just hard for me to see who he appeals to in any significant amount. Establishment types already have Biden. Economic leftists or populist types won’t appreciate his billionaire status and attempting to “buy” the race. He’s not particularly radical for social liberals. For “electability” concerned voters, his signature issues are also liberals’ least popular (and least electable) nationwide (sugar taxes, guns). Coupled with his late entry, I’d say 538 has it about right on Bloomberg.

      1. thisheavenlyconjugation

        I’m wary of underestimating Bloomberg on the basis that he’s been silent so far, but I agree that his odds seem slim and 538’s predictions prompted me to bet against him. I think his only real chance is if something takes out Biden and that plays out well for him.

        1. Matt M

          Yes. The case for Bloomberg is pretty simple. Biden is dominating the polls, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any particular reason for that other than “he’s the only one of the contenders who has name recognition and hasn’t gone off the deep end trying to appease left-wing twitter, which is far more progressive than the average D voter.” Biden has lots of exploitable flaws, but they can only be properly exploited by another moderate, and none of his competition thus far has been moderate (or more correctly, been seen by the electorate as moderate).

          If Bloomberg can make a convincing case of “I’m a moderate guy like Biden, but more competent and/or less corrupt” I think he has a chance.

          1. Conrad Honcho

            My understanding is that an awful lot of the support Biden gets is from lifelong Democrats, and black Democrats who know him/trust him from long experience. I don’t see them jumping ship to Bloomberg, since their support for Biden is based more on a gut/emotional reaction to him than a reasoned evaluation of his policies or chance of success against Trump. I think it would be hard to pull Biden’s base away from him, and I definitely don’t think a rational argument is a good strategy. You would need to go for emotion/inspiration which is certainly not something Bloomberg is doing and is likely incapable of doing.

          2. Matt M

            My understanding is that an awful lot of the support Biden gets is from lifelong Democrats, and black Democrats who know him/trust him from long experience.

            This is fair. Certainly an older moderate Dem with a longer track record would be better positioned than Bloomberg, who isn’t that well known outside Acela and whose most recent time in any elected office was technically as a Republican.

            That said, I still feel like Biden’s core marketing appeal is “I’m a common sense guy who can work with both parties to do what’s right for America” and as far as I can tell, Bloomberg is the only competitor in the field trying to make that same claim. All the other Democrats are running on a mixture of woke SJW stuff and Orange Man Bad (with the exception of Bernie who is running on socialist redistribution, which polls well generally but less so during good economic times). Which does well on Twitter and gets you a lot of favorable coverage on CNN, but which does not seem to translate into actual poll numbers of likely voters.

          3. Aftagley

            Biden is dominating the polls, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any particular reason for that other than “he’s the only one of the contenders who has name recognition and hasn’t gone off the deep end trying to appease left-wing twitter, which is far more progressive than the average D voter.”

            He’s also just really charismatic in a way that connects with a large segment of the target audience. I agree with Buttigeig and Warrne probably more on policy issues than i do with Biden, but I’ll probably pull the lever for Joe because I just think he’d be a better leader/person than them.

  17. HowardHolmes

    Throughout my life my greatest struggles have been with regard to relationship. Put another way, anxiety about relationship has been the greatest source of stress for me. In fact, I do not hesitate to say that if all the other stresses in my life were added together it would not come close to the stress of relationship.

    It appears some others might have the same perspective. I would enjoy seeing comments on this.

    1. Randy M

      Is that all relationships, or just romantic relationships?
      Are you including stresses brought into your life by people you care about that aren’t due to the relationship, like a spouse’s illness?
      Are you including anxiety about ~not~ having a romantic relationship?

      1. HowardHolmes

        I wasn’t particularly thinking of romantic relationships. This would be included but not limited to it.

        I was thinking of stresses caused by the relationship, not concern over other things in the lives of others.

        It includes anxiety over lack of relationship: friendship or romantic.

    2. thevoiceofthevoid

      I hope I’m not coming off as adversarial here, but….perhaps seeing other people as purely self-interested, as you mentioned in the last OT, might make it more difficult to form meaningful relationships? My closest relationships, both platonic and romantic, have been founded on me and the other person genuinely caring about each other a lot. I think it would almost definitionally be impossible for me to get to that level of closeness with someone without being truly invested in their well-being, or while thinking that they didn’t reciprocate my care for them and just wanted my company etc. when it benefited them. Realizing I was in the latter situation actually marked the end of one of my closest friendships last year.

      And this isn’t a matter of trying to fool yourself into believing you care–you have to really want the other person to be happy for their own sake. Of course, that builds up gradually while you get to know someone. Adopting a generally friendly attitude toward strangers will give you a bit of a head start though. I know that people really care about each other because I know that I really care about some people–at least, that’s what it feels like when I sit down and honestly do some introspection about how I feel about them.

      Regardless, I completely sympathize with relationships being incredibly stressful. It even handedly beats out “what do I want to do with my life” for my number one source of stress. When I left home for college, sure I might have been a bit stressed about living in a dorm instead of my childhood home, or the harder coursework and stricter deadlines. But the overwhelming source of anxiety for me was, “oh god, I’m going to be living a thousand miles away from all the people I’m friends with now, I’ll have to make an entirely new set of friends or be lonely and isolated for 4 years.” Thankfully, many other people in my dorm were in a similar boat and I was fortunate enough to quickly make a close group of friends.

      I think it’s a matter of finding people who will appreciate your authentic self, and opening up to them. I often do that by opening up a bit at a time–if there’s a positive response, I open up more; if there’s cocked heads and odd looks, I think, “ah, an acquaintance, I need not fret over presenting my authentic self to this person.” [I do not consciously think this but that’s the general drift going on in the subconscious.]

      1. HowardHolmes

        @thevoiceofthevoid

        My closest relationships, both platonic and romantic, have been founded on me and the other person genuinely caring about each other a lot. I think it would almost definitionally be impossible for me to get to that level of closeness with someone without being truly invested in their well-being, or while thinking that they didn’t reciprocate my care for them and just wanted my company etc. when it benefited them. Realizing I was in the latter situation actually marked the end of one of my closest friendships last year.

        Interestingly, you were fooled by the other person in this relationship. They were not truly invested in your benefit, yet for them to have been that close you needed to believe that…but it turns out you were mistaken.

        Could you have been mistaken about your own feelings? You give evidence that you were. You broke off the relationship because of things they were not doing for you not because of how you felt about them. It turns out what they did for you and what you thought they felt for you was very important and crucial. These matters are of your self interest. If you concern were truly for the other then their actions toward you would not matter.

        1. thevoiceofthevoid

          As a matter of fact, I cared both about the other person, and about my own well-being and sanity. My caring about them is largely why the friendship didn’t end one to two years earlier than it did. We got into fights, we’d stop talking, then a few weeks later they’d come crying to me about some problem that they needed someone to talk to about, and I’d be their confidante again because I couldn’t bring myself to just hit the block button and break out of that cycle. Was I just motivated by a desire to see myself as someone who could help people with their problems? Partly. But I have done a lot of introspection about this over the years, and a significant part of why I kept coming back to this person was genuinely caring about them.

          In the end, what happened wasn’t that I lost concern for them, but that my concern for my own mental health and well-being finally outweighed my concern for them. This happened when the asymmetry of the relationship, which I’d been ignoring or hoping could be fixed, gradually set in as something that wasn’t going to change. I felt really bad about breaking off contact, but I realized I had to do it for the sake of my own sanity.

          Now, in hindsight, there was a good deal of deception, both of each other and more importantly of ourselves. But that is not normal in a relationship. There were various red flags which I generally ignored at the time that should have signalled that this was not a healthy relationship, that we weren’t seeing each other as equals. In my close friendships that have lasted from back in high school to this day, there are ample signs that both of us care about each other; that the relationship is symmetric; that whatever one of us does for the other, the other would be perfectly willing and happy to do the same for them.

          So, to address your points directly:

          Could you have been mistaken about your own feelings?

          I was incredibly conflicted and confused about my own feelings at the time; with months of introspection, I think I’ve sorted them out.

          You broke off the relationship because of things they were not doing for you not because of how you felt about them.

          I broke off the relationship because of things they were not doing for me, which affected how I felt about them.

          It turns out what they did for you and what you thought they felt for you was very important and crucial.

          Yes, it was! Again, a healthy relationship should be symmetric, with both people caring about each other and doing things for each other.

          These matters are of your self interest. If you concern were truly for the other then their actions toward you would not matter.

          It’s not black-and-white like that. Self-interest and concern for the other are both vital to a relationship. If either person isn’t happy in a relationship, the relationship won’t survive. So my actions toward my friend matter, and their actions toward me matter as well.

          1. HowardHolmes

            thevoice

            In the end, what happened wasn’t that I lost concern for them, but that my concern for my own mental health and well-being finally outweighed my concern for them.

            Dress this any way you wish, but, bottom line, you are saying that a relationship will benefit on net then I’ll have it. If it is not a net benefit for me, then no. You clearly state above that your concern for yourself outweighs your concern for the other. I doing X benefits you and doing Y benefits me, you choose X, so tell me again how it makes a difference to me if you “care” for me.

          2. Dacyn

            @HowardHolmes:

            You clearly state above that your concern for yourself outweighs your concern for the other.

            Yes, but in context it’s clear that that’s a contingent fact. This actually works against your claim that this is always true.

          3. Aftagley

            Dress this any way you wish, but, bottom line, you are saying that a relationship will benefit on net then I’ll have it. If it is not a net benefit for me, then no.

            You’re missing out that these relationships don’t have to be, and in fact shouldn’t be, thought of in terms of zero-sum games.

            For example – pretty much every relationship I’m in (friendship, romantic, whatever) I feel like I get way more out of that I put in. I get fun conversations, people to go do things with, general feelings of companionship, etc. and my investment is almost zero. I invest time in interacting with them, but I end up enjoying that time so the cost feels low. From my perspective, this is a fantastic return on investment.

            The thing is, all these factors are also true from their perspective: They also get a fun conversational partner, companionship and whatever and they also don’t find the cost noticeable.

            I doing X benefits you and doing Y benefits me, you choose X, so tell me again how it makes a difference to me if you “care” for me.

            Well, he talked in his example about the multiple times he deliberately chose Y in that relationship up until he could no longer sustain it. I would say caring is whatever factor gets you to choose Y over X.

            Example: I’ve spent a couple weekends over the course of my life helping buddies move. This wasn’t some reciprocal action; if they were moving away I knew there was literally 0 chance they’d be able to help me move later on. I also hate spending a weekend packing and carrying shit. That being said, based on my caring for the friend, I’ve invested that time in helping them move.

            Crucially, however, I wouldn’t spend every weekend helping a friend move, and if they asked me more than say, three times over the course of a year or two, I’d probably decline or demand some kind of actual compensation. Caring about the person exists to a certain point and then gets exhausted.

          4. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HowardHolmes

            Dress this any way you wish, but, bottom line, you are saying that a relationship will benefit on net then I’ll have it.

            Yes; overall, a healthy relationship should be a net benefit to both people involved.

            I think there’s a distinction that should be made between the micro scale of individual actions and the macro scale of an entire relationship. As Dacyn correctly points out, my statement that my concern for myself outweighed my concern for my former friend was a noteworthy fact about that particular situation, not a general statement. If someone is my friend, then I’ll take some actions that benefit them at a slight cost to me which I probably wouldn’t for a total stranger, e.g. helping someone out with homework for a few minutes, sharing snacks I brought, etc. If I’m close friends with someone, I’ll do things that help them at a more significant personal cost, like staying up late to talk to a friend about something that’s really stressing them out.

            On a longer scale, there is some expectation of reciprocity. If I keep doing things for someone who, over the course of a few months or years, never does anything for me, then I’ll get the impression that they don’t care about me as much as I care about them. Consequently, we’ll drift apart as I lose my positive feelings towards them and make less and less of an effort to continue to be their friend.

            But, it’s not a strict tally sheet of “I create N utils for you, you create N utils for me”! I’m sure I have friendships in which I do more for them than they do for me; and other friends who do more for me than I do for them. As long as the foundation is both people wanting to see each other happy and willing to put in effort to achieve that, a relationship is sustainable. Even when one person is making large sacrifices to help the other in a prolonged time of need, their relationship can be solid if there’s a clear understanding that the second person would do the same for the first if it were necessary and possible. (One example would be a parent and child–the parent gives the child many, many things both physical and nonphysical that the child will never be able to reciprocate over their lifetime.)

            In any case, though, I’d say the majority of interactions between good friends are ones where both get something out of it. These feed into each other, though–when I enjoy spending time with someone and therefore spend more time with them, I get to know them better, which makes me care about them more, thus making me more likely to do nicer things for them at greater cost to myself.

            +1 to everything Aftagley said as I was typing this comment, ninja’d me on a couple points.

            You can argue that this is all game-theoretic, that I’m playing “cooperate” not out of genuine concern for the other person but to achieve the Pareto-optimal outcome. To that I say: That’s not how I think about my friendships. I feel concern for my friends–I feel satisfied when I see them happy and sympathetic when I see them suffering. If you think those empathetic feelings somehow invalidate my claim of caring (“you really only care about how they make you feel”), I don’t know what to say–they are what caring is, as I understand it.

          5. HowardHolmes

            Aftagley

            That being said, based on my caring for the friend, I’ve invested that time in helping them move.

            It works just as well saying “based on my caring what the friend thought of me….” You already said frendship to you is a net plus. This is sufficient to cause you to act friendly. Just because your choice to be friendly has a side effect of sometimes benefitting the other person does not allow you to take credit for acting in behalf of the other person. You choose friendship for what it means to you. I would assume you would choose other things if you saw a net benefit. Most choices involve effects on others and involve unintended effects and side effects. You risk you life to drive a car. That does not mean you drive a car in order to risk you life. Friendship happens to benefit your friend sometimes, but that is not the reason you do it.

          6. HowardHolmes

            thevoiceofthevoid

            On a longer scale, there is some expectation of reciprocity.

            On the longer scale you see friendship as a net benefit to yourself. That is nothing to be ashamed of. It is sufficient reason for having friends. Why do you insist on taking credit for being concerned about the friend? If you think about it, your concern is only because of what the friend means to you.

            To see it more clearly look at it backwards. Assume you consider that being Bob’s friend is a net harm to you? Would you be his friend? No. This is because you are deciding on friendship based on the effect on yourself not the other person.

          7. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HowardHolmes

            Why do you insist on taking credit for being concerned about the friend?

            Because I am concerned about my friends. You can give me credit, you can deny me credit, but “I am concerned about my friends” is a true fact as far as I can tell, and I highly doubt that you are better able than me to analyze my own internal feelings.

            If you think about it, your concern is only because of what the friend means to you.

            What does it mean for my friend to “mean something to me”? I use that phrase to mean “someone I know well and care about”. That would make the statement pretty circular–“you only care about people because you care about them.” If you’re saying I care about my close friends more than random strangers, then yeah, of course that’s true.

            ….This is because you are deciding on friendship based on the effect on yourself not the other person.

            Again, I reiterate, I can and often do make decisions based on multiple inputs! I am concerned both with the effect on myself and with the effect on the other person.

            Friendship is clearly a beneficial evolutionary strategy for “self-interested” genes. But the way it’s been implemented is as empathy for our friends and a drive to do good things for them, which can go beyond pure self-interest from a human’s perspective.

          8. HowardHolmes

            Thevoiceofthevoid

            Again, I reiterate, I can and often do make decisions based on multiple inputs!

            This seems to be a stumbling block in the discussion. I rather disagree with this premise. Maybe you are assuming that multiple things cause you to choose door 1 vs door 2. Let’s say door 1 benefits you and door 2 does not. Let’s same door 1 also benefits Chucky. So you choose door 1.. Are you claiming that you did for both for you and Chucky?

            If this is your claim, I object. Change the scenario to one where door 2 benefits Chucky but not door1. Now which do you choose? I say you STILL choose door 1 because to do otherwise would be counter to your interest. So in reality, Chucky does not figure in the decision. You go with door 1 regardless. It only seems like you are considering him in the case where it benefits him. In the case where it does not, you would have to claim that you were actively seeking to harm Chucky. This is not the case. In both situations, you are really indifferent to Chucky.

          9. thevoiceofthevoid

            @HowardHolmes
            Oh, this is actually pretty straightforward. For a bit of an oversimplification, let’s pretend I make decisions based on a basic utility function (obviously I don’t really, but it’s a good first-order approximation). Let’s say for example that I value my own happiness twice as much as Chucky’s, and I don’t care about anything else. That gives a function: Total utility = 2 * my happiness + 1 * Chucky’s happiness. With that function:
            * I will obviously do things that are good for me and for Chucky.
            * I will obviously not do things that are bad for both of us.
            * I will do things that are good for me but bad for him, if the cost to him is less than twice the benefit to me.
            * I will do things that are bad for me but good for him, if the cost to me is less than half the benefit to him.

            So, if I have to choose between door 1 and 2 in your example, I need to know the particulars: How good is door 1 for me? How good is door 2 for Chucky? If they’re the same value for each of us, I’ll choose door 1. If door 1 is 1 util for me but door 2 is 3 utils for Chucky, I’ll open door 2. Thus, both my own interest and Chucky’s factor into my decision.

            Another scenario: Say door A is 4 utils for me; door B is 3 utils for me and 3 utils for Chucky; door C is 4 utils for Chucky. If I cared solely about myself, I would open door A; if I cared solely about Chucky I’d open door C; but since I care about both myself and Chucky, I’ll open door B. By the utility function: (2*3+3 = 9 utils for B) > (2*4+0 = 8 utils for A) > (2*0+4 = 4 utils for C).

            Of course, this is a simplification; I don’t really have a “utility function”; I’m not explicitly calculating and adding weighted utilities to make my decisions. But the insight it provides I hope is valuable–it’s possible for a decision-making algorithm to take the interests of multiple parties into account. While, in the example and often in real life, my own interests are ultimately more important to me than my friend’s, that doesn’t mean my friend’s interest is unimportant. And I think in real life, I would choose door B in my second example. You can’t explain that decision either by me being completely self-interested, nor by me being solely altruistic. Even if you think I’m fooling myself, and that I really am still completely self-interested and just want to think of myself as the kind of person who would choose door B, can you see how a decision-making algorithm that takes multiple inputs is possible?

          10. HowardHolmes

            thevoiceofthevoid

            I can’t argue with you over your idea of what you might do if. In the one actual incident which we have been discussing for days, when push came to shove, you closed door B on your friend.

          11. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @HowardHolmes
            To belabor the analogy, door B had been declining in value to the point where it was definitely a net negative for me and I wasn’t even sure whether it was a net positive for them. I stand by my decision to break off that particular friendship. I have never claimed that I care enough about my friends to outweigh my own self-interest in every possible scenario, and that was a scenario in which it was clear to me that my own mental health was being negatively impacted far more than any benefit they were getting from the relationship at that point.

          12. AlexanderTheGrand

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            It seems to me that the definition @howardholmes has for value differs from yours in a sort of tautological way. You (in theory) break down different parts of your decision into “effect on you” and “effect on others”, weight them by some amount, and make a decision based on maximizing value. And from that you say “I value myself and I value them.”

            @howardholmes says, “You claim you make a decision by weighing these two things against each other. But labeling the first half of the equation ‘your value’ is incorrect. It’s more like ‘the part of your values that isn’t related to their life satisfaction.’ You clearly get something out of knowing your friend is in a good place. The way that knowledge influences your decision is precisely by adding value, and the whole quantity you consider while making a decision is what you should think of as your value.” In summary, since “your values” are what drives your decisions, anything that influences your decisions gets encompassed in your values.

            I personally think this distinction isn’t too helpful when considering what to do. I guess the point is, since we can’t not consider this “total value” while making decisions (since they’re definitionally related), why even try and consider things from this perspective?

          13. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @AlexanderTheGrand

            Well, I certainly don’t disagree that I make decisions ultimately based on my values (plus emotional impulses). But the fact that some of those values refer to other people–not just to my own thoughts about them–is what I mean when I talk about caring about other people (in addition to my empathetic reactions to their happiness or suffering). Like, if you offered me a button that would make me think my friends were happy (but not actually make them happy), I would not feel tempted in the slightest to press that button. And yeah, all my values are intrinsically tied up in how I perceive and feel about the things I value–otherwise they wouldn’t be my values.

            But I object to calling anything that satisfies my values “self-interest”, because I use that word in a more precise way to distinguish between values that relate to my personal well-being, and values that relate to other things. I think this is a useful distinction, because it lets me separate out actions like e.g. buying bread for myself vs. buying bread for a food drive in a meaningful way.

          14. HowardHolmes

            VoiceoftheVoid

            I think the point you’re making is less profound than you think it is.

            A safe observation regarding many of my points.

            You can describe a thing in itself without explicitly comparing it to others (though there is an implicit comparison).

            The implicit comparison is real. I was only pointing this out because one of my “things” is to suggest we often are doing different things than we allow ourselves to realize. If you were to wish me “good day” I might very well tell you that I do not want good days because in order to have good days I have to have bad days. Wishing me good days is also wishing me bad. OK, so it is extreme, but it is also true. The only reason we have the concept of good or bad is to distinguish things/ assign values to things. You might can talk about green eyes without considering value, but you can’t talk about good or bad or nice and mean without considering value..without assigning value to the thing describes. And value is relative; it is comparative. If one considers themselves good without realizing they are simultaneously assigning bad to others they are missing something. To say “I am good” is to say “I am better” whether one realizes it or not. I’m really big into self deception. Of course, we don’t want to think of ourselves as better than others. I say that we really do think this way, but try to deceive ourselves into not knowing that. You and I are on different pages here as you will think that your conscious realizations are the truth, and I think you hidden motives are the truth.

    3. ninjafetus

      In my experience, a necessary component of close relationships is vulnerability. It is hard to be close to someone if you are as reserved as you probably are with casual acquaintances. The act of being vulnerable and them doing the same is a bonding experience.

      As a corollary, of course relationships are more stressful than acquaintances. The reward is higher, but so are the risks. The best relationships are ones where you can be vulnerable safely, but nobody is perfect, and even relationships with zero malice have the chance for miscommunication or unintentional harms.

      Sitting alone in a dark room is predictable and safe. Nobody will hurt you. But it’s not fulfilling! Opening up to people invites risk, but there’s also rewards. I hope you keep searching for the good relationships where the rewards are good and the risks aren’t realized. 🙂

      Of course, all that only addresses close vs. not close relationships. What about the other stresses of life? Well, if those other aspects are taken care of (food, job, shelter, etc.) then it’s no surprise that relationships are more stressful. I’m sure if you were homeless and starving then a good friend might be less stressful than a winter night, but that’s probably not the case for most SSC commenters.

      1. Dacyn

        You started the OP by saying:

        Throughout my life my greatest struggles have been with regard to relationship.

        This is easily read as an admission of weakness. This seems to have led u/ninjafetus (and I think only because they do not know you well) to believe that you think that “[they] are better than [you]”, at least with respect to relationships. So it is not surprising if their post reads as though they think they are better.

        1. HowardHolmes

          Dacyn

          If a chicken get a sore, other chickens will pick it to death. I was referring to my apparent admission of weakness and the subsequent pile-on.

    4. Conrad Honcho

      I mean this in a sincere desire to help: have you considered that your anxiety is related to your difficulties modeling other people? If I recall, you have frequently claimed that the only reason people have children is “signalling.” Every parent responds to you that that is completely off the mark, but this doesn’t seem to have any impact. You might do better and have less anxiety by listening to and trying to understand others a little better.

      1. HowardHolmes

        Conrad

        I mean this in a sincere desire to help

        There is no such thing as a sincere desire to help. To help me you want me to accept that I would be better off if I were more like you. Keep trying to sell that if you can find any buyers.

        For the record I have 3 kids and 14 grandkids. Every kid I had for my own selfish reasons.

        1. Randy M

          Howard,
          I say this only for my own benefit, of course.

          Sometimes you are interesting, but today you are coming off to me as a jerk. I hypocritically advise you that if you feel offended by something it’s probably better to simply not respond.

          Admirably, your reputation here probably means nothing to you, but I expect in the future you will get less engagement to questions you ask.

          1. HowardHolmes

            Randy

            I agree that you are clearly benefitted by calling me out. Good move for you.

            That will not prevent my wanting to engage with you in the future.

        2. Conrad Honcho

          There is no such thing as a sincere desire to help.

          See, this is the sort of thing I’m talking about.

          1. Dacyn

            I don’t think this is a failure to model, I think it is just some unusual philosophical beliefs of his. I’m guessing he will be able to make the same predictions as us if they are couched in concrete terms. In any case, HowardHolmes was never saying that he currently suffers from relationship problems, see here.

          2. HowardHolmes

            Conrad,

            Are you denying that in order to “help” someone we must believe they would be better off like us?

          3. Conrad Honcho

            Yes, I’m denying that in order to “help” someone, they must be more like me. I’m asserting that they must be less like themselves.

            Your ideas are unique to you, and appear to be causing you misery. You do not have to be like me. But pick the most unlike me person on SSC (idk, atheist marxist who hates video games and guns?) and they’ll still probably agree that people have children for reasons other than signalling, and that “sincere desires to help” exist.

            Related to “intelligence is not reverse stupidity.” I’m not saying to be like me. I’m just saying to be not like you. But lots of people who are not like me are also not like you.

          4. HowardHolmes

            Conrad Honcho

            Yes, I’m denying that in order to “help” someone, they must be more like me. I’m asserting that they must be less like themselves.

            OK, I agree with this in a situation where you think Person B has a fault which you also have. If you think that both yourself and B should be more like A, then “help” could mean something other than “you should be more like me.” This situation is a very minority situation. Most of the time help givers consider themselves as possessing the qualities they are recommending.

            Your ideas are unique to you, and appear to be causing you misery.

            My ideas are rather outlier. However, for the record, they are in no way causing me misery. I am not aware of any misery or suffering. There is nothing I want that I don’t have nor is there anything I wish to do that I do not do.

            they’ll still probably agree that people have children for reasons other than signalling

            I would not restrict the reason to signalling alone, but this is a significant incentive. More broadly people have kids to make themselves important, firstly to the kids and secondarily to others. What is not to like about someone who looks up to you and respects you. People buy pets for the same reasons they have kids. A kid is just an expensive pet.

            and that “sincere desires to help” exist.

            Why would one have such a desire? What is the benefit to such a desire? Don’t you think that people in general try to be better than others? Why would they purposefully help the opposition?

            I’m just saying to be not like you. But lots of people who are not like me are also not like you.

            Have you any reason for suggesting that I change other than the aforementioned misconception that I am miserable?

          5. HeelBearCub

            There is nothing I want that I don’t have

            You apparently want people to agree with you, and that is something that you do not have.

          6. Conrad Honcho

            However, for the record, they are in no way causing me misery.

            In your initial post you described your relationships with the words “greatest struggle,” “greatest source of stress” and “anxiety.” If those expressions do not amount to misery, then perhaps you should have been more clear. I do not seem to be alone among the highly literate denizens of SSC in interpreting those descriptions as an equivalent for “misery.” If others reading this think I have misinterpreted HH, please let me know.

            I would not restrict the reason to signalling alone, but this is a significant incentive. More broadly people have kids to make themselves important, firstly to the kids and secondarily to others.

            What of those who have kids who are not particularly impressive, but yet they still find joy in? You likened children to pets: isn’t seeing a terrible dog chase its tail or an awful cat roll around in catnip a joy unto itself?

            Why would one have such a desire? What is the benefit to such a desire?

            Why do anything? Because it feels nice? Keep in mind this is a pseudonymous forum: no signal I create here matters, or has any benefit. Nothing I type here under the name “Conrad Honcho*” will ever help me in real life. I will get no money, no favors, nothing from anything I post here, and yet I and many, many others are happy to offer advice on interpersonal relationships, or recipes, or wifi settings. In real life, I and many others donate to charities. Every month I bring a bag or two of groceries for the Catholic Charities food bank truck at Church. No one takes any notice of me doing it, I don’t draw any attention to it, and no one would care if I did or didn’t do it. No one helped by the food bank has ever done a thing for me.

            Does the existence of anonymous or pseudonymous forums or charities persuade you that you might be wrong about why people help others?

            Don’t you think that people in general try to be better than others?

            Not really, no. I just want to be “fine.” I’m perfectly happy not being the best, or the richest or the most powerful.

            Why would they purposefully help the opposition?

            There’s the false assumption there that others are “the opposition.”

            Have you any reason for suggesting that I change other than the aforementioned misconception that I am miserable?

            Not really, no. So if you’re fine, then it’s all good. But if you weren’t miserable, then why did you make this post about your “greatest struggles” and “anxiety?”

            * My real name is Conrad Honcho, and everyone should be extremely nice to anyone they meet named “Conrad Honcho.”

          7. HowardHolmes

            HeelBearCub

            I know that if I say I do not care whether you agree with me, I know you will not agree with me. Yet, I say it anyway which proves I have reasons for saying it other to to reach agreement.

          8. HowardHolmes

            Conrad Honcho

            If those expressions do not amount to misery, then perhaps you should have been more clear.

            Relationship issues used to cause me misery, but no more. I eliminated relationships from my life and the accompanying misery.

            Does the existence of anonymous or pseudonymous forums or charities persuade you that you might be wrong about why people help others?

            No. Because there are other ways to explain these actions that don’t involve caring for others. I will choose the other explanations because caring for others does not explain people’s actions generally, nor does it make sense evolutionarily.

            Not really, no. I just want to be “fine.”

            The only way you can see yourself as fine is by judging others as unfine. I do not divide the world in my fine group and the other unfine group.

          9. Conrad Honcho

            The only way you can see yourself as fine is by judging others as unfine.

            Is it impossible to be fine by oneself then? If you were the only person in the world, but with everything you’ve ever wanted (besides other people) provided for you, being “fine” would not be possible?

          10. HowardHolmes

            Conrad Honcho

            Is it impossible to be fine by oneself then?

            Fine is a meaningless sound without the existent of that which is not fine. Fine’s purpose is to distinguish from that which is not.

            You are not the only one in the world and such a diversion only seeks to allow you to not address the fact that you see yourself in the fine group and many others in the not fine group.

            Start the discussion by admitting the facts, not by obsfucating.

          11. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @HowardHolmes
            I think the point you’re making is less profound than you think it is. A lot of the same arguments apply if we substitute “fine” with “green-eyed”. I am green-eyed, other people are not green-eyed. If there were no people (or animals) that had eyes which were not green, then the phrase would have no purpose–anyone with eyes would be green-eyed, and you wouldn’t need a phrase to specify it. So, like any word or phrase, the purpose of “green-eyed” is to distinguish from that which is not green-eyed.

            But this does not mean that every time I describe myself as green-eyed, I am thinking about how much less green the eyes of other people are. You can describe a thing in itself without explicitly comparing it to others (though there is an implicit comparison). And if everyone without green eyes was Thanos-snapped out of existence, I could continue describing myself as such and it would continue to be meaningful, even if redundant. This is why for example, despite not having ever found life based on anything besides carbon, we talk about “carbon-based life” — it’s a comparison to a hypothetical alternate state, not any particular non-carbon-based life forms.

          12. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @HowardHolmes
            (I presume you misplaced this reply to me; I don’t blame you, since we have been discussing similar topics in at least three or four different subthreads recently.)

            The implicit comparison is real. I was only pointing this out because one of my “things” is to suggest we often are doing different things than we allow ourselves to realize. If you were to wish me “good day” I might very well tell you that I do not want good days because in order to have good days I have to have bad days….

            Actually, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying; “good” does necessarily imply “better than something” (else it would be meaningless), and is obviously a value judgement. But, I think that when someone says “I want to be a better person”, they are often comparing not to other people, but to their own current and past self. There’s still some implicit comparison to others, but I think the main reference point is oneself over time. However, if someone says outright, “I am a good person,” present tense, then I would be more inclined to interpret that as a comparison to other people.

            I’m not sure I entirely agree that “good” and “bad” are completely relative. If I have a good day today, then yes, that will definitionally make tomorrow slightly worse relative to my average day. But, notwithstanding hedonic treadmills, I do think that there’s some kind of absolute scale of good and bad, and thus I wish people both specific good days and good days in general. (I will refrain from doing so to you, though, if you so prefer.)

            By way of analogy, say I have a bunch of red, orange, and yellow cubes I’m repainting. If I paint one an especially bright yellow, it will make the others look redder by comparison, but their actual color won’t be any redder. And it’s also possible for me to tint all of the cubes more yellow or more red, without increasing or decreasing the relative differences in hue between them.

          13. HowardHolmes

            VoiceoftheVoid

            Re: good and bad. The problem with talking about good and bad is that these things do not really exist. You can think you had a good day, but the day was actually no better or worse than any other. That it was good is only in our mind. I’m sure you would argue that “this is sufficient”. But the issue is that the mindset that allows you to think your day is good will also cause suffering when you think your day is bad. Without the concept of good/bad, there is no suffering, but there is also no happiness. Before you conclude that you could not like that life realize that you have never tried it.

          14. Dacyn

            @HowardHolmes: It is hard for me to say much since most of your statements here are normative. This is not surprising as it was me who decided to avoid normative language for clarity, not you.

            Anyway, since I can’t comment on the truth or falsity of normative statements, I’ll make predictions about their effects instead. First of all, I don’t think VoiceOfTheVoid is particularly receptive to you here, so your statements will not have big effects. If they were more (very) receptive, then:
            – Saying “good and bad do not exist”: I imagine this would have the effect of demotivating them, for a time. At the end, it’s possible they would find a new source of motivation different from the previous one. It’s also possible that they would then go around saying things like “good and bad do not exist”.
            – “But the issue is that […]”: They would evaluate the truth of the statement “the mindset that allows you to think your day is good will also cause suffering when you think your day is bad”. The fact that you have asserted this statement would be a factor in their evaluations. If they concluded that your statement was true, they would be motivated to avoid the mindset you describe.

            Your last two sentences are actually not normative, so:

            Without the concept of good/bad, there is no suffering, but there is also no happiness.

            I think you are referring to a phenomenon which happens sometimes but not all the time. I don’t really have a concept of good and bad, if by “concept” you mean that I primarily relate to them via semantics. But I do experience what I would call suffering and happiness. I am not sure whether you would call them so, though, since I view these experiences as transitory phenomena that are not fundamentally different from any other phenomena.

            Before you conclude that you could not like that life realize that you have never tried it.

            I haven’t concluded that I couldn’t like your lifestyle. I also don’t intend to try it, however.

          15. HowardHolmes

            Dacyn

            It is hard for me to say much since most of your statements here are normative.

            That is helpful. I see “problem” and “issue”. Give me a couple more hints on what else I am missing.

            Seeing happiness and suffering as transitory phenomena might be similar, but not sure.

          16. Dacyn

            @HowardHolmes: “Good” and “bad” are normative, so is “sufficient”. I think that is it (other than “issue” which you pointed out).

            Edit: To clarify, I think for you there are two types of normative language use, intentional and unintentional. I think the good and bad are intentional, while the issue is unintentional. I don’t know about sufficient.

    5. Dacyn

      I recall you saying something like you don’t worry about anything at all anymore, so do you just mean that relationships were your greatest source of stress before you stopped worrying? Mentioning this because both u/thevoiceofthevoid and Conrad Honcho seem to have assumed the opposite, that you only started getting stressed after you started having nonstandard philosophical beliefs.

      In any case, I can certainly confirm that relationships gone wrong can be a huge source of stress. Though if you average over my whole life, being worried about whether God exists has probably been a bigger one.

      1. HowardHolmes

        Dacyn

        That was before. I totally solved relationships by eliminating them. Life is now a piece of cake. IMO the purpose of relationship is to obtain affirmation. Affirmation has no value.

        If I had realized what an easy fix there was to relationship issues I would have done it long ago. BTW having relationships does not extend life. How could such a source of stress extend life?

        1. Dacyn

          BTW having relationships does not extend life.

          Uh, do you have a source for this or is it just your opinion? I said that some relationships were stressful but it doesn’t mean most of them were.

          1. HowardHolmes

            Half of marriages end in divorce with a lot of the remainder in trouble. Most relationships do not create stress?

            When I asked the question about relationships and stress I was not asking “are relationships a major source of stress?” I was asking “who is willing to be honest about relationships?”

            As it turns out, not much.

            The studies of relationship and life expectancy are very confounded. If Bob is a couch potato and Janet is very active, who will live longer? Who is likely to have more friends?

            I predict active people who have no friends will live forever.

    6. DragonMilk

      After a rough breakup, I ironically used the following CS quote to justify isolation:

      “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

      If my current spouse didn’t go after me, I’d still be single.

      To your general relationship question, you may be in a bubble where transactional relationships dominate. Favor must be returned with favor, those who do not reciprocate are ostracized. True friends are hard to find, and if you think you have more than the number of fingers on a hand, you probably don’t know what a true friend is. Blood relationships also start non-transactional, as babies can’t really pay back mom and dad unless there’s some long con involved.

      Could you clarify your particular circumstances?

      1. HowardHolmes

        DragonMilk

        Could you clarify your particular circumstances?

        Curious. That is why I did the post. Wanted to know if others found relationship stressful. It seems people would prefer signalling their greatness over answering the question.

        1. Dacyn

          It seems people would prefer signalling their greatness over answering the question.

          This may be wrong, but this statement actually reads to me like you signalling your greatness, namely you seem to be expressing that you are “above” the need to signal greatness, and therefore better than others. Anyway I don’t claim that this is actually the case, just that this is my impression of your comment.

    7. JonathanD

      I’m replying here to your top-level comment, even though I decided to comment based on your comment in a lower thread that you had found relationships stressful throughout your life and were wondering if others had a similar experience.

      Other than some exceptions (an ex-wife, for example), I do not. In fact, the opposite is typically true. I get a great deal of solace and enjoyment from my relationships, and find them to be a great place to escape the other concerns that are stessors for me. I believe this to be generally true among those with whom I’m involved (as a friend, sibling, parent or husband) but have never done a survey.

    8. LesHapablap

      Hell is other people

      Having just read https://waitbutwhy.com/2020/01/sick-giant.html due to the recommendation up thread, I find that social and work relationships are no problem when they are ‘high-minded’ but when they deteriorate into power games they become intolerably stressful. It really does become hell.

      Lack of romantic, friend, or family relationships are hells of their own.

    9. thevoiceofthevoid

      Howard,
      In your initial post (which I’m directly replying to now because this issue came up in multiple subtreads) you say, “Throughout my life my greatest struggles have been with regard to relationship. Put another way, anxiety about relationship has been the greatest source of stress for me…”

      I interpreted this as “I have had and currently have a lot of anxiety over relationships,” and further, an implicit “I would appreciate advice regarding this problem.” (“This is a problem I’m having” implying “I would like help dealing with this problem” is a common conversational shorthand.) It appears that this was a gross misinterpretation of what you were actually saying: “I used to have anxiety over relationships (though I no longer do), does anyone have general thoughts about this?”. I do think that your phrasing heavily implied that the anxiety was a problem up to the present day, perhaps you should have been clearer.

      In any case, under this misinterpretation, myself, ninjafetus, and Conrad Honcho wrote replies attempting to offer advice. I certainly wasn’t trying to belittle you, and I think ninjafetus in particular was even more polite and friendly than I was.

      You responded by attacking the most personal anecdote I gave, accusing ninjafetus of thinking they were better than you, and mocking Conrad’s purported desire to help you.

      Given that you weren’t actually asking for advice, I understand your displeasure upon being offered it. But, I think it’s fairly evident how we had misinterpreted your post, and that we were trying to offer our advice in good faith. A simple statement to the tune of, “Sorry, I wasn’t actually asking for your advice, I’ve since solved my anxiety by ceasing to seek out relationships. I was just asking for comments on the phenomenon out of curiosity.” would have been much more appropriate.

      If you want to claim that you in turn misinterpreted our posts and didn’t realize we were trying to offer advice, I’ll believe you. (If so, I think you might have a real failure to model other people.) But if not…attacking people who are trying to help you is generally frowned upon.

      1. HowardHolmes

        Voice

        You are totally correct. It is generally frowned upon to call people out when they pretend to have your interests at heart. Instead, I should thank you for having the courage to try to help me.

        I have no relationships because of all the lying I would have to do to have one. If you want to help tell me one benefit of relationship that makes it worth all the lying.

          1. HowardHolmes

            Dacyn

            Truth is often not kind. That is why we seldom resort to truth. It is dangerous and offensive. Necessary is over my head. What is necessary? What is not necessary?

          2. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @HowardHolmes
            “Necessary” has always been the most nebulous of the criteria, but I usually interpret it as “contributing something to the discussion” in this context. The kind of statement where after reading it people either know more about the topic, or know more about your view of the topic.

        1. thevoiceofthevoid

          No need to thank me, you weren’t actually asking for advice, and “courage” is definitely overstating things.

          If more than a few occasional white lies and tactful omissions is necessary to sustain a relationship, that’s actually usually a big red flag for me. I generally find that honesty is essential to close relationships.

          But regardless, I’ll give you not one but three benefits of relationships, ranging from trivial to serious. There are numerous (board, video, and tabletop) games that are much more fun or only possible with multiple players. Chatting and joking around with a group of friends is a primary source of everyday joy in my life. And having people to turn to for comfort and support in my times of need has been insanely valuable for getting me through the rough patches in my life.

          Yes, relationships do generate stress for me. Caring about someone means that when they’re not doing well and there’s nothing I can do to help, I have an additional baseline level of anxiety. When I get into fights with friends, anger at their misdeeds, guilt at my own misdeeds, and fear of losing them as a friend are omnipresent. And the grief over the end of a relationship has put me in a bad place psychologically a number of times.

          Still, for me relationships alleviate a lot more stress than they cause. Most of the causes of stress are in fact about losing, or having the possibility of losing, a friend or partner. And loneliness is much worse than any relationship-induced anxiety for me.

          So, I guess that’s my answer to your original question. I’m not particularly invested in convincing you to make friends; I don’t know you personally and who knows, going it on your own may actually be better for you. But I do hope I’ve explained well enough for you to understand how I see relationships.

          1. Dacyn

            No need to thank me, you weren’t actually asking for advice, and “courage” is definitely overstating things.

            He didn’t actually thank you, he just said that he “should” thank you. Since he believes there is no such thing as better or worse, I imagine he also thinks that it is meaningless to say that anyone “should” do something. I think that entire paragraph was meant as sarcasm.

            Since HowardHolmes didn’t answer my question above, what do you think about it? His case seems like a weird one to me and I am not sure how to evaluate it.

          2. Dacyn

            (Just realized his reply to u/ninjafetus got deleted, presumably on the three-reports rule, so I guess that tells us something about what people think.)

          3. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @Dacyn
            Well obviously he was being sarcastic, but I decided that I would be happier if I pretended he wasn’t and responded to his question sincerely.

            As for whether he’s in violation of the comment policy…I think that really depends on whether he’s so out of touch with normal human communication that he genuinely didn’t understand that people had interpreted his initial question as a request for advice. Being offered advice you didn’t ask for can be insulting, though I still think he went quite a bit too far in response.

            On the other hand, I think there’s also a possibility that he was fully aware that people might respond to his post with advice and was just fishing for an opportunity to hammer home his point—that we unenlightened masses do things like offer advice only to stroke our own egos.

            Now, unlike Howard, I don’t claim to be able to read the minds and intuit the inner motivations of the other commenters here, so I can’t say which is really the case. But he lost the benefit of my doubt when the following happened: I offered a very personal story as a counterexample to his point; he stated without evidence that I must have really seen something in it for myself because everyone always sees something in it for themself; I replied with indignation that he was just repeating his claim and calling me “self-deceived” without responding to the substance of my argument; and he mocked my indignation and told me to “skip over his posts” if I was offended. At that point, inspired by your comment here, I told him to think very hard about whether he was meeting true and necessary, since he clearly wasn’t going for kind. He sort of actually responded to the substance of my posts after that.

            So I haven’t actually hit the report button on any of his comments, but honestly that’s largely because I made the mistake of getting personally invested in this debate, a primal part of me masochistically enjoys arguing with brick walls, and the discussion would be cut off long before (the mirage of) a cathartic conclusion if Howard were banned.

          4. HeelBearCub

            he stated without evidence that I must have really seen something in it for myself because everyone always sees something in it for themself;

            That’s Holmes’ whole schtick.

            I pointed this out already. They aren’t actually conversing in good faith.

          5. VoiceOfTheVoid

            @HeelBearCub
            Eh, his signal-to-noise ratio isn’t great, but I’d say it’s at least nonzero.

    10. Conrad Honcho

      Okay, let me signal an attempt to try this again. Keep in mind I’m merely signalling my desire to help you so that others on SSC will think better for me for helping you. By exposing my mere intent to signal, this defeats the purpose of signalling, except being so transparent is a method of counter-signalling: I’m not sincerely trying to help you, but winking at it lets the savvy counter-signalers know they’re in on the game. But if I stated I were counter-signalling that would be an obvious signal, so I must deny the counter-signalling, but now I’ve called myself out for counter-signalling, which is another level of counter-counter-signalling. By this point, everyone reading this should identify with at least one level of signalling, meaning the rest of my post should be interpreted by anyone sufficiently motivated as “sincere.”

      Consider treating social interactions as signalling opportunities. If someone asks you out for coffee, merely signalling an intent at friendship (which is obviously a cynical ploy at false intimacy), choose the level of signalling you find appropriate:

      1) Signal your desire for companionship by accepting their invitation.

      2) Counter-signal your non-desire for companionship by turning them down.

      3) Counter-counter-signal your desire for companionship by first denying them, and then “changing your mind.” Suggest (better yet, demand) a different coffee shop. At this point your true intentions (to the point anyone has true intentions) should be sufficiently muddled that no one need worry about them.

      Apply this general pattern to every other interpersonal relationship.

      I hope this post signals a desire to help you with your interpersonal relationships in a manner to which some may signal approval.

      1. HowardHolmes

        I hope this post signals a desire to help you with your interpersonal relationships in a manner to which some may signal approval.

        Now was that not refreshing to actually be honest about your intentions. May you get the recognition you seek (said Howard disingenuously)

    1. EchoChaos

      “Dump the guy who ghosted you?”

      I parsed that as “stop chasing your boyfriend who isn’t responsive and leave him” initially, but the more I read it the weirder it is.

      This is the most “Hello, Fellow Kids” tweet in quite a long time.

      1. Matt M

        This is the most “Hello, Fellow Kids” tweet in quite a long time.

        Yeah, my first thought was “She doesn’t know what ghosted actually means, she’s just knows that it’s a term young people use, and is inferring from context that it’s a generally bad thing that men do to women.”

        1. J Mann

          I watched that part of the video and Warren doesn’t actually say to dump him – that seems to be the headline writers. (Of course, she adopts it in her tweet, but who thinks that she’s sending her own tweets?)

          Specifically, an Elle reader wrote “I’ve been casually dating a guy for the last three months, but now he’s ghosting me. He won’t return my texts, but he still looks at all my Instagram stories. What should I do.”

          Warren said to “give him up . . . you’re better than that.”

          The whole video is pretty cringe worthy, and recent events have shown that Warren does not actually have “a plan for that” nearly as much as she claims, but I think she’s OK on ghosting.

          1. Matt M

            but who thinks that she’s sending her own tweets?

            Yet another way Trump is superior to other politicians!

      1. acymetric

        This tweet is really weird, both just that quoted part and the whole tweet together.

        In an attempt to steelman “Dump the guy who ghosted you” it could be a guy that ghosted her for a period of time but then came back and now they’re together again. As opposed to “dump the guy who is ghosting you”.

        I’m pretty sure that’s not what she meant, but if I had to try to explain it that’s what I’d go with.

    2. Matt M

      Somewhat related to this…. as political demands for “student debt forgiveness” tend to become more and more mainstream, is there a rationalist case to be made to update one’s priors on the desirability of student debt, given that at some point in the future it may be forgiven on a large scale?

      Like, consider someone who has 100K in student loans at a 10% interest rate, and a 200K mortgage at a 7% interest rate. Conventional financial wisdom would be to pay down the higher rate student loan first. Then again, if Warren really, truly, means this and if there’s, say, a 25% chance she becomes President, don’t you have to discount the student loan accordingly?

      At what point does it make financial sense to tell young people “stop paying your student loans, you’re throwing money away given that eventually all that debt is going to be forgiven”?

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        A lot depends on what the short-term consequences of not making student loan payments are. Does it destroy your credit such that you can’t get a home loan, and thus must be a perpetual renter or move back in with your parents?
        Apparently the short-term consequences at 270 days delinquent include that “the feds can seize tax refunds if you default. They can also take any other type of government payment, such as social security. Additionally, the feds can garnish up to 15% of your income to help pay back your loans.”

        1. EchoChaos

          Making minimum payments won’t hurt your credit and will still reap most of this benefit, plus it’s very low if you’re paying only the minimum, so that’s the better suggestion.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Yeah, this seems like the smart play. Keep making minimum payments and pray for a student loan forgiver to be elected (I say pray because your vote is irrelevant).

      2. Alexander Turok

        Or taking them out even if you don’t need them? We may see a lot of that next August…

        This is an area in which a prediction market would be mightily useful. Or let people buy and sell student loan debt obligations…

        1. Matt M

          Yes, I was thinking of this as well. Conventional advice to teenagers is “Don’t take out really expensive student loans!”

          But if there’s a non-trivial chance those loans will be completely wiped out by political action…. why not?

      3. DragonMilk

        I can’t imagine there’s any way this actually happens. Is it more than a leftist fringe view that the common taxpayer will sign off of buying such debts off at par? Student loans are the least dischargable in bankruptcy, and the redistribution at the very least would leave a poor taste in the mouths of those who were “suckered” into actually honoring their debts.

        It’s a question of basic fairness where the waters are muddied when it gets political. If your education was useless that’s on you and your choice of school. Why should taxpayers be on the hook for your mistake?

        1. acymetric

          Student loans are the least dischargable in bankruptcy

          This is technically true, but misleading. Hardly anyone who is employed at all will be able to discharge their student loans, even if they qualify for bankruptcy generally for other debts.

          1. Theodoric

            FWIW, I read that as “student loans are the least [able to be discharged] in bankruptcy”, as in they are the hardest debts to discharge.

          2. acymetric

            Oops, good catch. I misread it as “student loans are at [sic] least able to be discharged in bankruptcy” and took it as saying “since you can discharge them in bankruptcy that handles the tough cases and the rest of student loan borrowers should just pay up” as an argument against forgiving student loans. Thanks for catching that.

        2. Alexander Turok

          Agree 100% with the sentiment of your comment, but I think it is possible. There are a lot of irresponsible people out there who think in terms of wealth and debt falling randomly on people and why shouldn’t we move it around to make it fair? Personal responsibility is an alien concept to them.

          The stuff about the roommate and the dog is based on appealing to this type of person. Boomers would be scratching their heads at it, I’m sure Warren herself did, as in her day you owned a dog if you had a house with a yard. But now people want to have a dog if they have roommates living in an apartment. And the dog’s inside 99% of the time, getting all its hair in the carpet, chewing up everything that isn’t locked up. It may seem like a trivial problem but ask millennials and they’ll tell you that it does ruin relationships and friendships when one person says “oh, no, don’t worry, I’ll do 100% of the work cleaning up after the dog…” and then doesn’t do it.

          1. Matt M

            Agree 100% with the sentiment of your comment, but I think it is possible. There are a lot of irresponsible people out there who think in terms of wealth and debt falling randomly on people and why shouldn’t we move it around to make it fair? Personal responsibility is an alien concept to them.

            I think the steelman for debt forgiveness is something like:

            Boomers, as a class, willfully misled millennaills as a class, as to the value of a college degree. They openly encouraged the accumulation of this massive debt with assurances that it would all be worth it and would be a magic ticket to a great, well paying, flexible job in a field each individual is passionate about.

            Generally speaking, older people are richer and pay more tax than younger people. So using tax dollars as a proxy for something of a legal settlement for alleged fraud by the old perpetuated on the young would be a reasonable enough approach.

            Obviously this will be egregiously unfair to some specific individuals, but since when has that ever stopped us? Are we supposed to make public policy centered around rare individual exceptions?

          2. cassander

            @matt M

            That argument fails because forgiving debt isn’t a transfer from boomers to millenials, it’s a transfer from the uneducated (and the educated but paid off) to the educated & indebted.

          3. Aftagley

            Boomers, as a class, willfully misled millennaills as a class, as to the value of a college degree. They openly encouraged the accumulation of this massive debt ….

            Well, more than this. They also constructed the system that allowed for this massive debt to come into existence.

            I’ve never understood why the rising cost of college is seen as a great mystery. We have a system where anyone, and I mean practically anyone, can get a massive loan for their education AND where that loan is almost completely non-dischargable. Of course that would lead to a cycle of escalating debt!

          4. Conrad Honcho

            Okay, now I really want to bother to learn the SSC search tool to find my essay on college costs. @Aftagley that is exactly my thesis for “why college is so expensive.” Government backed loans created perverse incentives, but the solution proposed by Bernie et. al. is “unlimited free money for the perverse incentives” rather than “end the perverse incentives.”

        3. Conrad Honcho

          It’s also still only about a third of Americans (over 25) who even have a degree. So you’re also asking 2/3rds of Americans to take it on the chin for a benefit they never got.

          1. JayT

            It’s even more than that, because I’m going to guess that people like me, that took out student loans and paid them off, won’t be getting any back pay. Instead, I would be stuck paying for my loans, plus a portion of someone else’s.

          2. John Schilling

            Plus all the people who got college degrees without taking on student loan debt. I never did, and I’m pretty sure none of the multiply-degreed millenials who have worked for me over the past five years did. So, probably 5/6ths of America paying for the gains of 1/6th.

            For that matter, graduating debt-free or nearly so in the 21st century seems to be relatively common in the STEM fields but not so much in the fields that produce our journalistic and political class. So, I’m looking at a plan for the poor, the working class, the nerds, and the olds to subsidize 6+ years of glorified partying by young elites, and probably some worthy non-elites will cling to those coattails as well but not nearly 1/3rd of a population’s worth.

            Count me out, please.

          3. Conrad Honcho

            For that matter, graduating debt-free or nearly so in the 21st century seems to be relatively common in the STEM fields

            Also a good point. As an electrical engineering grad student, they were paying me ~$35k/year to go to school.

            I should find that thing that lets us search SSC for previous posts. A year or two ago I posted my essay about why college is so expensive, and I’d like to link it now. It’s mainly perverse incentives, and there’s no reason to subsidize those.

          4. Mark V Anderson

            For that matter, graduating debt-free or nearly so in the 21st century seems to be relatively common in the STEM fields but not so much in the fields that produce our journalistic and political class.

            I’d very much like to see a citation for this. I never heard of such a thing.

            I did surf a bit to look for such. I found this (scroll down to the third table), which sounds somewhat close to the claim. Although Pharmacy is second in debt, isn’t that STEM?

            And this one kind of.

          5. Nick

            …I searched author:"Conrad Honcho" college expensive earlier and that post didn’t turn up. And those words are literally in the first sentence. Was it discounted because he only used the word expensive once?

          6. John Schilling

            Although Pharmacy is second in debt, isn’t that STEM?

            Pharmacy is part of “medicine”, which perhaps should be included in “science” but historically and culturally isn’t. Economically, the medical professions (and law, and a few others) follow the model of requiring an expensive, prolonged education with an excess of rote memorization, for which students are expected to pay bignum $$$ out of pocket as an investment in a guild card that gives them a ticket to a bignum-$$$ career (if they make it).

            Pharmacy seems to suffer for having lower early-career salaries than the other medical professions, while not having a proportionately cheaper education.

            The STEM fields, engineering in particular, usually start with four years at a state school, and likely an in-state school. Then either a few paid internships leading to an entry-level position, or graduate school on a full-ride TA, RA, or fellowship, and a more advanced starting position. Alternately, work the entry-level job for a few years and convince your employer to pay for part-time grad school. Inability to convince someone else to pay for your grad school tuition and living expenses is your sign that you shouldn’t be following that path.

            All of this is US-centric; I don’t know how the rest of the world does it.

          7. Lambert

            England and Wales: 3 year BEng or 4 years with integrated MEng. (the latter means that the costs of the 4th year are tacked onto the standard student loans and don’t necessarily get paid back) Summer or sandwich year work is fairly abundant.
            The institutions make you learn a lot of stuff on an accredited degree.

            Then get a job, but one that earns more money than the average graduate does. If you don’t like STEM, remember Black-Scholes is just the heat equation for rich people.
            Jump through the institutions’ many hoops after a few years and they’ll put some more letters after your name (CEng). Looks very nice on a CV. And you get a magazine.

            Germany: Do a degree, (tuition: c. 10^3 €?). Probably includes 6 month internship. Paid, but badly (not subject to normal 8,50€ minimum wage).
            Go get a job in a country that still has a very strong manufacturing sector.

          8. The Nybbler

            I searched author:”Conrad Honcho” college expensive earlier and that post didn’t turn up.

            Yeah, that’s weird. I’m not an expert on the Lucene scoring algorithm, but looking it up, it appears that it accounts for both the length of the document, and the number of times the field occurs in the document. So a long document with “expensive” only once will be scored lower (for “expensive”) than a short document with “expensive” only once. This probably results in Conrad’s essay falling below the minimum score and being excluded.

          9. Mark V Anderson

            The STEM fields, engineering in particular, usually start with four years at a state school, and likely an in-state school.

            Hmm. I think Engineering is quite a bit different from STM in that regard. My understanding is that majoring in science or math requires a graduate degree to get much of any job beyond junior technician. Way back when I was in college (decades ago) that is one of the reasons I did not major in physics. You can get a good job with a four year engineering degree, but not the rest of STEM. Actually it is also my understanding that even graduate degrees in pure science are often not a great opening to employment. I think that works for math. But I suspect that non-engineering STEM majors would have more student debt than others, although the sites I found do not indicate that.

          10. John Schilling

            The hard sciences do require at least an MS for a reasonable career path, yes. But it’s still the norm, I think, for that MS to be paid for by the university and/or outside funding, rather than out of the student’s pocket. This is possible because the university is itself being paid to do hard scientific research which needs cheap(ish) grad student labor to perform.

            “Tech”, I think the MS is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, and Math is complicated by all the people who just want a BA/BS so they can go off and be high school teachers.

          11. The Nybbler

            Yeah, “tech” (CS specifically) only calls for a bachelors. There was a short period where a Masters was becoming important (and schools started producing 5-year BS/MS programs) but that’s pretty much rolled back now.

    3. Deiseach

      Excuse me while I utter the traditional Irish (well, Dublin anyway) phrase in response to that.

      Scarleh fer ya!

      (Literal translation: Scarlet for you. Less literal: I am metaphorically red in the face due to experiencing second-hand embarrassment on your behalf).

      Lizzie (I feel, having read that tweet, that I can be so informal) is trying to emulate Hillary’s “Down with the girls” attempts. Since that didn’t work very well to get Hilldawg elected in 2016 even though she did make great gains with 18-29 year old tranche of voters, why does Lizzie think it will work in 2020? Yes, congratulations, you sound like you’ve been listening to your grand-daughter talking to her friends.

      1. Radu Floricica

        I tnink it’s a fallacy to dismiss everything the loser did just because he lost. Would you say Trump was always right because he won?

        Better just say it’s a good strategy (in isolation).

        1. Statismagician

          I’m wondering now how ML does at recognizing holes in available data – has anybody looked at this? I don’t know the field well enough to trust my own research.

          1. HeelBearCub

            If you train it to find holes, it will find holes in the shape that you have trained it to find.

            What ML might plausibly do is identify some aspect of failed movies that producers are typically blind to, or some aspect of successful films that has typically been overlooked.

            Of course, with a dataset as small as “films produced by major studios” I have a feeling ML wouldn’t or won’t be very good at all.

    1. Paul Zrimsek

      Will it be able to use its mad AI let-me-out-of-the-box persuasion skillz to make everyone line up to see The Paperclip Chase?

    2. rocoulm

      Any idea what inputs you could actually give a program? Are they somehow getting feedback on specific plot points? The article doesn’t really give any details.

    3. AG

      If the startup succeeds, what do you even need (to pay) the executives for? “Build me a guillotine…”

  18. DragonMilk

    Possibly belated, but what were some thoughtful and inexpensive (< $100) gifts you gave or received from someone you don't know well?

    Gifts seem tricky. If someone really needs something, they probably buy it themselves. If they don't "need" it, it may be too expensive to be a gift.

    As a guy, I keep getting socks and ties, and my goto gift for girls is like…chocolate or some other sweets.

    1. Randy M

      Thoughtful and ‘don’t know well’ seem hard to match up; for me, thoughtful implies tailored to the individual.

      A good example would be a book you know about but they don’t, and one you know that they would enjoy. I suppose that could work with someone you don’t know well, if you saw something else they were reading and found another similar book.

      All the examples I can think of involve finding the one aspect of the person you do know, like that they travel to a certain location or something, and giving something keyed off of that, like a gift certificate to a nearby restaurant.

      1. Radu Floricica

        I think best gifts are from domains you’re good at, not the recipient. Otherwise it tends to be just a cash transfer – something he’d want but doesn’t afford.

        I like gifts that can teach something new.

        As an example, I was into teas for awhile. I can still pick a decent tea service or some japanese cups or, if I feel generous, even an iron teapot. That’s more or less recipient-agnostic, but still make at least decent gifts.

          1. Radu Floricica

            Something like this (random link from google search – surprisingly cheap btw). It has a higher thermic inertia than a thinner teapot, so it’s probably better for high-temperature teas like black. Or, well, it’s simply a matter of taste – I just like mine.

          2. acymetric

            Is holding and releasing flavor really a consideration, much less benefit, for boiling water in a teapot?

            I can totally buy liking the aesthetic tough, not here to knock iron teapots.

          3. The Pachyderminator

            You boil the water in a tea kettle. The teapot is for actually steeping the tea, so releasing flavor over time could make a difference, but isn’t it the seasoning oil that causes cast iron pans to have that property rather than the iron itself? You’re not going to be oiling your teapot (I hope).

          4. Lambert

            If you want to to keep the flavours over time, you need a teapot made from purple clay from yixing.

    2. AnarchyDice

      First off, if they have a wishlist anywhere, that is always a good place to start. Better to get them something they picked out themselves than to risk getting them something they don’t want. If you are going to take the risk of picking something out for them, try to find something related to their interests that they wouldn’t know about or wouldn’t want to buy for themselves.

      For an example of finding something they wouldn’t know about, I have used etsy to find crafty things for my parents who are not that tech savvy and wouldn’t even know to look there. In another case, a relative was looking for some serving ware and wood ware, but I know a bit about woodworking and what types of things are possible so I found them some much cooler looking stuff to fit their style that they didn’t know was an option.

      In the second case, I personally like when people get me creative things for projects that I have thought about but not done yet. I wouldn’t put the money out to try something new if I’m uncertain about it, but getting it as a gift feels mentally like I got a free opportunity to try making hot sauce for example (even though, it is technically an opportunity cost from what else they might have given me).

      I don’t think anyone will be offended at amazon gift cards paired with some small consumable like candy or booze. It will be forgettable, sure, but you’re cutting out a lot of risk of getting a dead gift or worse something accidentally offensive. Gift receipts are king even without the chance of getting them something they already own.

    3. broblawsky

      Homemade pesto is my standard gift for people at work I want to reward – it takes about $5 worth of ingredients and 15 minutes of time to make, people appreciate it, and it’s better than anything anyone is likely to get in a store.

      1. Aftagley

        +1 for the generalized concept of baking gifts for people.

        Pesto (something I do also), cookies, homemade candy, bread, homebrew: they’re all generally enjoyable, seem heartfelt and don’t require much upfront investment (assuming you were going to be making stuff already).

        1. Lord Nelson

          +2 on baking, or even pre-made food if it’s legitimately good.

          Gift cards can be very useful, especially for people who have a tight budget. There was a time when my food budget was $2-$3 per day. The restaurant gift cards I received were highly appreciated because it meant I could treat myself without breaking the bank. Walmart or Amazon gift cards are also good choices.

      2. Joseph Greenwood

        What is your recipe for pesto? My wife loves the stuff, but we are living on a limited budget so we do not get it very often.

        1. Plumber

          @Joseph Greenwood says:

          “What is your recipe for pesto?…”

          I’m not who you asked but:

          1) Remove stems from basil leaves

          2) chop up basil leaves

          3) Mix chopped basil leaves with olive oil, pasta, sunflower seeds, and a little salt.

        2. Enkidum

          Basil, garlic, pine nuts (toasted if you’re fancy), fresh parmesan, salt, lemon juice, olive oil. Blend, adding most of the olive oil drop by drop, until it emulsifies and is a nice consistency.

    4. Well...

      I don’t know, but I wish my kids got more gifts like “10 free swim lessons” and less of “endless boxes and bags of plastic crap” from their extended family.

      If you’re giving a gift to someone you don’t know that well but who you know has a kid, and if you can glean what the kid is interested in, a good <$100 gift might be a gift certificate to the local [karate studio]/[dance studio]/[baseball summer camp]/etc.

    5. semioldguy

      My favorite gifts are almost always tied to an experience rather than an item. Things like ticket(s) to a sporting event, concert, or theater performance are always appreciated. There are also museums, festivals, and all sorts of things requiring an entrance fee and providing an experience. I also enjoy gift certificates to a restaurants I haven’t been or might not otherwise be likely to visit. Some of my favorite restaurants have been found that way. Gift certificates to places that specialize in some sort of food, like cheese, also allow me to stock my fridge/pantry with something other than my usual fare, which is nice. If a gift certificate isn’t just from some large chain like Starbucks or Applebee’s, it can be a very thoughtful gift (though a place you already know they go is a safe, if less memorable, bet).

    6. Statismagician

      The point of gifts is to demonstrate that you’ve been paying attention to the other person’s interests, not to meet their needs. I’m not sure where your boundaries for ‘doesn’t know at all’ and ‘doesn’t know well’ fall, but for coworkers, etc. I try to buy the person something I expect they’ll like but that they wouldn’t buy themselves – a nice or unusual spice for someone who likes to cook, a book that’s similar to one they’ve mentioned but isn’t just a sequel, that sort of thing.

    7. baconbits9

      Gifts seem tricky. If someone really needs something, they probably buy it themselves. If they don’t “need” it, it may be too expensive to be a gift.

      There is one large and glaring flaw in this reasoning: No one knows about the existence of everything, not even most things. 5-6 years ago I had never eaten a fresh fig, a complete stranger was giving away a blackberry plant on craigslist that my wife picked up and that stranger gave her a dozen sticks from different fig plants, of which we successfully rooted a few (the blackberry plant didn’t last a year or ever produce fruit). A couple of years after that I ate my first fresh fig, which is now by far my favorite fruit and I get to eat a hundred plus every year when our trees fruit. By far the best gift under $100 in value I have ever received and I didn’t even care for it the first two years after we got it, and the only thing the gift giver knew about us was that we had an interest in gardening.

      The best gifts for financially secure people are those that open up a new facet of the world to them, a book in the beginning of a series or by an author with a large catalog for a reader, a CD of a unfamiliar artist for a music lover etc. Many or most of these will end up duds, but that is true for ties and socks as well, but unlike ties and socks you can actually have real hits that stick with the person for years.

    8. The original Mr. X

      You can get some nice jewellery for under £80 (or whatever the sterling equivalent of $100 is), and I’d imagine the same is true in the US.

    9. Bobobob

      A thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. (I would guess that getting a jigsaw puzzle unexpectedly is one of the ways people get hooked doing jigsaw puzzles.)

      1. Nick

        I like jigsaw puzzles, but I rarely have the table space for them. (I don’t in my current apartment, for instance.) When I have an itch for one, I just use jigidi.

    10. AG

      Notice what the person is cheaping out on, and get them the higher quality version they weren’t willing to buy for themselves (because they’re prioritizing other things).

      I’ve appreciated when people gift me higher-end lotions, chapstick, facial cleansers, etc. If they have cheap pots and pans in the kitchen, they won’t dislike getting a good copper skillet.

    11. Etoile

      Look at what was popular at your latest White Elephant gift exchange.
      Alcohol is often the most popular, but I’ve also seen nice drinkware, including thermos mugs, and tea-things.
      Also yeah – nice consumables are good, but you can expand chocolate to include tea and/or coffee and nice bath items for women.
      Men are just harder to get gifts for.

      When I give gifts, I like to go for some of the above or books that might align with the recipient’s interests.

  19. Deiseach

    An unintended consequence of the “Commemoration Is Not Celebration Says The Government” (Oh yes it is says the rest of the nation) Controversy is boosting the career of The Wolfe Tones (for those of you who don’t know them, they have been referred to as the musical wing of the IRA).

    Number One downloaded song from the iTunes Ireland and UK Stores? That would be this one 🙂

    1. Aftagley

      Hmm, this seems like a move that could only produce outrage. Why on earth would anyone, a politician more than most, they want to publicly tie their reputation to the Black and Tans?

      1. Deiseach

        Aftagley, that would be an ecumenical question 🙂

        Okay, backing us up a bit: this is apparently going to be The Decade of Commemorations. Because 1920 is less contentious than 1916, and back when the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising arrived there was a lot of chin-stroking over “isn’t this offensive to Protestants/Unionists if we go ‘Yay, we booted out the Brits!’?” and so the event was deliberately muted.

        Then of course there was a backlash about “so are you lot ashamed we won our independence?” and they backpedalled on the muting, but it was a bit of a dog’s dinner all round. To reduce it down to very simplistic terms, we’re well into the phase of revisionist history where the black-and-white cultural, social and political narrative of Brave Irish Rebels Standing Up To Perfidious Albion has been replaced by a more nuanced* view, and what with the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process, the hard work of accepting that compromise is necessary because you can’t keep fighting old battles took root in the public consciousness.

        Because Irish history has a few landmines like that scattered around, we got an Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations set up in 2011 as 2016 was coming up, everyone was expecting some kind of acknowledgement of the foundation of the state, and the government and political parties were on tenterhooks about being sensitive and not triumphalist and so forth.

        Enter Charlie Flanagan, and God knows why he and the rest of the Blueshirts thought that celebrating the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police force was a wowzer of an idea. Diarmuid Ferriter for one is spitting feathers.

        But yeah, most of the country is going “The RIC? You mean the Black and Tans? Who burned Cork, murdered the Lord Mayor, and were the ones who tortured my great-uncles to death?”, hence the hasty “okay we’re not gonna do it after all” and the resurgence of The Wolfe Tones’ Greatest Hits amongst the Plain People of Ireland 😀

        *”Nuanced” can mean “Bunch of West Brits and Castle Catholics aping their betters and wishing we were still part of the Empire so they’d have a chance of picking up a knighthood and attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace” if you’re taking the jaundiced view of things 🙂 There is a perception that certain elements of Irish society, opinion-formers in the media, and those with notions have a “tuppence ha’penny looking down on tuppence” mentality about their fellow citizens and are a bit too enthusiastic about giving due recognition to the former Ascendancy and the Unionists in the North while at the same time taking any opportunity to disparage the old culture heroes from the Holy Catholic Ireland view of the past.

        1. An Fírinne

          we’re well into the phase of revisionist history where the black-and-white cultural, social and political narrative of Brave Irish Rebels Standing Up To Perfidious Albion has been replaced by a more nuanced* view

          I’m not so sure of that. Most Irish history is just concealed hagiography and glorification.

        1. Nornagest

          Nick isn’t an attack helicopter, though. He isn’t even a helicopter, technically, but the “attack” part’s definitely wrong — he’s an unarmed tiltrotor.

          1. John Schilling

            A recent storyline indicates that Nick is fully armed; he’s also still an ideological pacifist so it doesn’t come up very often.

            If the 2014 copypasta was based on Skin Horse, someone was seriously missing the point.

      1. Lambert

        WTF did I just read with mine own eyes?

        (Also who was the TV/AGP guy a couple of threads back who was asking about improving his romantic prospects?)

    1. Nornagest

      Cute concept, but the dystopian fantasy’s cookie-cutter at best and I’m getting pretty tired of stories that wax lyrical about gender. I give it six out of ten.

  20. johan_larson

    You get to perform a very limited act of time travel. You may retrieve any concrete numerical fact from one year in the future. For example, you could find out what the daytime high temperature will be in Washington, D.C. on Jan 9, 2021. The figure you receive will be true in the sense that it is what would have come to pass, but anything you do in response to receiving it will shift the events of the timeline, perhaps dramatically. This is the sort of effect P.K. Dick was writing about in his story, “Minority Report.”

    What number do you want to get from the future?

    1. EchoChaos

      What number do you want to get from the future?

      Probably a single stock price of a major stock that I couldn’t personally influence on a relatively near single date so I could use that to buy substantial options.

      Anything else would be a bit too butterfly-ey in all likelihood.

      1. cassander

        not even the price, you just need to know which one will rise the most in value. OR top 3, if you want to hedge a bit.

        1. EchoChaos

          With the exact price you would make far more money with options trading than just knowing “biggest riser”.

          Although that’s a good one too.

          1. EchoChaos

            @cassander

            Generally yes, because options are heavily leveraged relative to other stock purchasing possibilities.

    2. broblawsky

      Can we do the classic rationalist “precommit to change the future” trick? Because I could retrieve a numerical string from a wall I intend to write on, after precommitting to write a coded message on that wall containing information from the future.

    3. Matt

      Super Bowl score for next month’s game. Any bets I place are unlikely to effect the score, no matter how big the bet (I can even wait until the last minute to place most of them so the teams are unaware).

      Or if the event has to be exactly one year in the future, pick the score from next year’s AFC game for the AFC #1 seed vs. whoever they play in the 2nd round of playoffs. Of course, then I have to wait a whole year to capitalize. Since I only get a numerical answer, I suppose I won’t know that, for example the Houston Texans are going to be the AFC #1 seed next year. A bet on that a year early would pay off with pretty good odds, and be unlikely to attract attention that could change the outcome with the kind of money I have available.

      1. Matt M

        You couldn’t place a bet big enough to affect the outcome of the game, because nobody would take a bet that large from an unknown quantity (you).

        There was some interesting reading about this during the world series, following the adventures of local Houston businessman “Mattress Mack” as he attempted to bet millions of dollars on the Astros in order to cover his potential losses from a “If the Astros win the world series, your mattress is free” promotion that had been going on for most of the year. He basically had to “partner” with a bunch of well known professional gamblers and essentially negotiate terms with various casinos.

        In general, casinos don’t want to take massive bets from unknown individuals.

        1. bean

          I suppose that’s one way to hedge that kind of risk. The more normal method is to buy specialized insurance. I think Lloyd’s is one of the leaders in that kind of thing. (One example is the fast food chain that had a “target” for Mir. They bought insurance that would pay out if there was a hit instead of keeping reserves internally.)

          1. Matt M

            Indeed. Prior to this story my working assumption was that all such promotions were surely backed by that sort of insurance. It was interesting to learn that Mattress Mack chose not to do that. His only hedge was his own personal wagering activity.

          2. Eric Rall

            Yes, Lloyds is the classic leader in that area. Berkshire Hathaway is another source for high-value specialized insurance, which is adjacent to their main product line (*): reinsurance for consumer insurance underwriters, insuring them against large-scale correlated claims that break their actuarial models.

            I remember in the early 2000s, Pepsi had a promotion deal where the top prize was participating in a lottery-like random drawing where the winner (closest match to the numbers drawn) would receive a $1 million dollar lump sum, plus a possibily-but-very-unlikely bonus prize of $1 billion (paid out over 40 years and heavily back-weighted, so the lump-sum value was $250 million) if the contestant matched the drawn numbers exactly. Pepsi paid the $1 million out of pocket, and had taken out a contract with Berkshire Hathaway where they paid BH $10 million and BH would pay the bonus prize if the winner qualified for it.

            (*) Well, technically Berkshire Hathaway’s main business is taking advantage of technicalities in US financial regulations so that Warren Buffett can run an investment bank under rules intended for insurance companies instead of the rules that are supposed to apply to investment banks. But you know what I mean.

          3. AlphaGamma

            I think Who Wants to be a Millionaire might have been insured against a contestant winning the top prize.

          4. johan_larson

            If the prospect of the Astros winning the world series was remote enough, it’s possible the owner of the mattress business handled the matter casually, and just eyeballed the net risk at effectively zero. That’s not the sort of thing a large business would do, but it seems plausible enough for a small business.

            And the Astros have only won the world series once.

          5. Matt M

            The Astros were actually the favorite to win the world series for most of the season I think. Once the playoffs began, they certainly were.

            There’s one theory that his frantic betting behavior was itself, a further promotional tactic. It got pretty extensive coverage not just in Houston (where he’s already something of a legendary local figure) but nationwide. It was basically free publicity.

          6. ManyCookies

            Astros were the clear favorites going in, they were 30% to win it all (by 538’s model) out of 8 teams. Hell they were leading Game 7 going into the 7th.

      2. bean

        Hmmm…. So long as there are no shared stadiums, couldn’t the numerical fact be “the zip code of the home stadium of the team that won (major sports title) in 2020”? If there are shared stadiums, I’m sure there’s some other way to turn “which team?” into a number.

        1. Statismagician

          Transliterated* binary would work, wouldn’t it?

          *From binary, the language, to a very long number whose digits are only 0s and 1s, I mean.

    4. AlphaGamma

      The obvious example would presumably be some kind of lottery. Again, it’s difficult to envision a plausible mechanism where placing a bet will affect the draw…

      1. sentientbeings

        I think this one would be much less likely to succeed than, say, a well-thought out sports bet or options purchase for a stock with a large capitalization.

        Lotteries these days are generally done through a computer random number generator. It’s hard to say exactly how you’d affect things without knowing the exact procedure and algorithm involved, but even assuming they don’t use some external entropy source for randomization, it seems likely that you’d end up affecting the seeding value in some way. You’d potentially just need to alter the time of drawing by a clock cycle. Your own gravity might do that.

    5. The Nybbler

      The number of electoral votes received by one Donald J. Trump would be one possibility. Not very useful but interesting. Stock prices are fun but I’m not sure I could find a stock that is likely to be very volatile (so I can make a lot of money) and likely to be unaffected by relatively small purchases of stock or derivatives.

    6. Paul Zrimsek

      Global mean surface temperature for some decade far enough in the future that ECS (as opposed to TCS) is coming into play– say, 2150-59. No way to turn the information to personal advantage of course, but it would satisfy my curiosity and I don’t really need any more money.

    7. Dacyn

      What does this mean for quantum randomness? It sounds like you want to say “well the quantum die-rolls will all come out the same way they did previously”, but I’m not sure that’s even a physically well-defined assertion. And quantum randomness could potentially change events even where the butterfly effect is too small to do so.

      What is a “fact”? Does it have to be something that somebody a year from now knows? Otherwise you could ask mathematical or scientific questions, maybe I’d ask for (the Gödel numbers of) proofs of the soluble Millenium Problems.

      1. Nick

        I think concerns like this imply don’t go for anything to be determined and depending on chance. Instead bet on, say, what will be found in some time capsule in the next year, to pick the first possibility that came to mind.

      2. johan_larson

        It’s more that while some systems are very chaotic, many are not, and some have signifiant bounds. The flip of a coin might possibly change whether the weather in Toronto will be cloudy a year from now; it won’t make the temperature to 30 C.

    8. HarmlessFrog

      In that temperature example, is the number based on actual measurements made on that day, or is it a magically obtained number, even if nobody measured that metric that day?

      1. Paul Zrimsek

        Not sure why you suppose that any magic would need to be involved aside from the “getting a number from the future” part of it– but I was assuming that in the middle of the next century climatologists will still be compiling global temperature averages as they do now with HadCRUT4 and the like. So we may suppose that in 2160 or thereafter someone will publish a paper mentioning that the global average surface temperature for 2150-59 was such-and-such: that’s the single number I want. (It’s a decadal average rather than a single point in time to reduce the effect of year-to-year variability from ENSO or whatever.)

        ETA: It didn’t occur to me until after I’d posted it that the OP might have meant “next year” rather than “a single year sometime in the future”.

        1. HarmlessFrog

          I don’t care about temperature itself.

          I want to know if the fact of there having been a measurement at that point of time is a factor. Say I want to know some John Doe’s body temperature at noon that day. In the implied future, did he actually take a thermometer to measure his temperature, or can I simply discern the value, even if John Doe didn’t, and would never do that?

    9. ejh3141

      I’d rephrase “who wins the 2020 presidential election?” as “what is the age in days of the current US president?” and use that information in prediction markets. I’d gain >100% on my investment depending on the answer.

  21. nkurz

    I thought Nathan Robinson had a good article in Current Affairs:
    How To Avoid Swallowing War Propaganda
    https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/how-to-avoid-swallowing-war-propaganda

    It’s looking at the death of Suleimani in Iran and suggesting ways in which major media coverage will end up creating misleading impressions. His first lesson is “Things are not true because a government official says them”, and he uses examples of how early headlines will start by making truthful claims merely reporting an accusation, and then later coverage will elide the “according to a US official” part and simply assume the truth of the accusation.

    He goes on to give other specific examples where he thinks readers and viewers will likely be misled. I thought it was an accurate and useful article on media analysis, and would be interested in what others think.

    1. Aapje

      Ironically, he points out manipulative media coverage in a way that is itself manipulative media coverage.

      He tries to make his readers aware of how the media refuses to fact check some statements, nor point out that the claim is made without evidence. He points out how certain beliefs are dismissed merely for being outside of the Overton Window. He points out how things suddenly become (un)important when that is ideologically expedient, yet get presented as eternal (“we’ve always been at war with Eurasia”). Etc.

      Yet…

      All his examples of deception are right-wing, implying that the left never does these things. He strongly implies that Noam Chomsky never lies or deceives, even though he is a master of half-truths. When he advises his readers to “stick close to” Chomsky, he doesn’t recommend that they be skeptical of him at all, let alone as much as the right-wing sources he mentions.

      I suspect that this article is actually doing the opposite of what it proclaims to do, convincing relatively smart people within a (far-)left bubble to dismiss* all right-wing criticisms that conflict with the ‘truths’ of their bubble, making them more resistant to facts that conflict with the things that are considered true within their bubble.

      * After all, postmodernism allows you to find deception everywhere, so applying it selectively is itself a very strong mechanism to defend bias from criticism.

      PS. Robinson is also not being very consistent when he chastises the Democratic candidates for being nuanced. Apparently, propaganda in favor of his position is good, while propaganda by his opponents is deceptive.

      PS2. I see Robinson as very similar to Chomsky, both favoring their ideology above the truth, but being so good at sophistry that they deceive many people (including themselves) in thinking that they do favor the truth first and foremost.

      1. Paul Brinkley

        I suspect that this article is actually doing the opposite of what it proclaims to do, convincing relatively smart people within a (far-)left bubble to dismiss* all right-wing criticisms that conflict with the ‘truths’ of their bubble, making them more resistant to facts that conflict with the things that are considered true within their bubble.

        This is probably the #1 thing that torques me off about deception – the specific flavor of it that starts by poisoning the well against questioning it.

        This stuff peeves me enough that, when I argue to persuade, I try to at least check what I write to ensure it doesn’t do the same thing. Or, that it at least acknowledges the problem.

      2. Guy in TN

        All his examples of deception are right-wing, implying that the left never does these things.

        He explicitly calls out The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Elizabeth Fucking Warren.

        Jesus Christ, man.

        1. teneditica

          Right. None of these institutions and people every say anything that Nathan Robinson would consider right wing. Jesus, etc. etc.

          1. Guy in TN

            So this is needle you are choosing to thread here: when Nathan Robinson cites a left-wing figure (Elizabeth Warren) using what he believes is a deceptive right-wing argument, Nathan is still implying that, as Aapje says, “the left never does these things.”?

            Utterly nonsensical.

          2. thisheavenlyconjugation

            If Aapje had meant “right-wing in Nathan Robinson’s eyes” not “right-wing” unqualified he would’ve shirely said that. J

          3. Aapje

            @Guy in TN

            To be clear, I think that Robinson is arguing two things in his piece, that he conflates.

            One is that the media deceives readers with sophistry, rather than tell the truth.

            The other is that left-wing politicians should be “clear and emphatic” to ensure that readers draw the correct conclusions and don’t get confused.

            He fails to recognize that the truth is often not clear and emphatic, so then, choosing “clear and emphatic” messaging means using propaganda.

            In my view, his criticisms of Buttigieg and Warren seem to be about their refusal to do the kind of propaganda that Nathan thinks works as an attack on Trump, not a critique that their statements make left-wing claims that are deceptive.

            This is what Robinson says: “Buttigieg and Warren, while they appear to question the president, have the effect of making his action seem reasonable. After all, they admit that he got rid of a threatening murderer! Sanders admits nothing of the kind: The only thing he says is that Trump has made the world worse. He puts the emphasis where it matters.

            So the thing that Robinson thinks is problematic about these statements is that they make Trump’s actions seem reasonable, not because they use sophistry to advance a left-wing agenda.

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Don’t call me Shirley.

        2. Aapje

          @Guy in TN

          He criticizes the NYT when their 9/11-fueled patriotism made them go bananas and they backed the Bush administration, which was…right wing. He criticizes the Atlantic for being too supportive of what Trump did. Trump is right-wing. He criticizes Warren for not being good enough at left-wing propaganda.

          So none of the examples he gives are examples of left-wing deception, which is a separate question from whether the people doing the deception are left-wing.

          ‘I’ll criticize left-wing people too (when they are too supportive of the right-wing)’ is exactly what a good sophist does to seem even-handed.

          1. Guy in TN

            So that is what you meant, but it’s not what you said.

            While the phrase “the left” can refer to a set of political concepts detached from the people advocating for them, when you refer to the “the left” as doing something, that implies that you are talking about the group of people who identify as Leftist (because people do things, not ideas).

            I understand that English isn’t your first language, so I won’t be too hard on you here.

          2. Dacyn

            @Guy in TN: Eh, I think what Aapje meant is a more natural interpretation of what he wrote than your interpretation is. If “the left” is doing something then sure, it is people doing it, but you assume that those people are doing it in a typical left-wing way.

          3. Matt M

            Eh, I think what Aapje meant is a more natural interpretation of what he wrote than your interpretation is.

            Agreed. I have a tough time believing anyone here didn’t fully understand what Apaje meant and what he was getting at…. don’t cover for your own aggressiveness by demeaning his English language skills.

          4. Guy in TN

            Right. So if I say “libertarians think that other libertarians never lie”, you might point to an article where, say, Bryan Caplan calls out Gary Johnson over some position as counter-evidence.

            But guess what, it’s no good. Because in that instance, Caplan is calling out Johnson only for his failure to act as a pure libertarian. Its Johnson’s heterodox views that Caplan views as not-libertarian-enough that are the reason he thinks he is lying.

            So my claim that “libertarians think that libertarians never lie” is still true! Nearly unfalsifiable, really.

            Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. This isn’t how English works, and you know it.

          5. Dacyn

            @Guy in TN: In Aapje’s post “these things” refers to:
            – “[refusing] to fact check some statements, nor point out that [a] claim is made without evidence.”
            – “[dismissing] certain beliefs […] merely for being outside of the Overton Window”
            – “things suddenly [becoming] (un)important when that is ideologically expedient
            The first and third clearly have the implication of “doing something to support your side”, as indicated by my added italics. “Lying” doesn’t have that same connotation. You may have half an argument regarding the Overton Window one, but in context it was pretty clear Aapje was talking about ideologically motivated dismissal there as well.

            If your example had gone “libertarians think that statists always lie to support statism, but they think that libertarians never do the same thing”, then it would be analogous.

    2. Clutzy

      I have to agree with aapje. I don’t think this article contributes much at all to the conversation. Its just an anti-Trump critique from the anti war part of the left (which is not the same as the left generally as pointed out by guy in tn), which isn’t a part of the community without a strong voice already.

      Also I can’t really identify any part that was insightful in a unique sort of way. I see the POV where we shouldn’t be engaged in the sort of thing like killing Suleimani, but I also sorta think his killing is among the least objectionable things any of the past 3 presidents has done in the middle east, and this article kind of proves that accidentally (I guess, maybe its intentional). Basically every argument against this action is as strong or stronger as an argument against all our other adventures.

  22. Mark V Anderson

    I really liked the thread in 144.50 where each commenter indicated their agreement to ideas of conservatives, social liberals, social democrats, and libertarians. I would like to create a new thread here with commenters indicating beliefs they have that are not part of the agenda of any of those four groups. Or for non-political beliefs, what do you believe that isn’t part of the usual respectable ideas?

    1. Mark V Anderson

      I will include one of my own ideas that don’t fit into any of those four groups. I have a two part theory on improving welfare. This is based on welfare in the US, because I don’t know how it works in other countries. This posting is longer than I planned, but I needed a lot of space to explain the problem as is.

      1) Welfare should be centralized in one agency, instead of spread out over dozens of agencies. I used to have a link that indicated that just there were 78 different welfare Federal programs in 2008, spending about $714 billion for the year. Unfortunately this link is now broken. These include things like old age assistance, tax credits, food stamps, and section 8 housing assistance. This includes many programs run by the states, but does not include independent expenditures by states or localities. It also doesn’t include those programs that are not just for the poor, but are set up at least partially to help the poor, such as mass transit subsidies and many education subsidies. So $714 B is just the low end.

      According to the US Census for 2010, there were 46,247,000 people living in poverty in 2011. (https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2012/demo/p60-243/table3.pdf) I previously had a link from the Census that indicated the average deficit for them was $2745. That calculates as $127 billion what is needed to bring every person out of poverty. The poverty deficit is after the cash portion of welfare has been included, which was about $154 billion in 2008. If one removes the medical portion of welfare spending in 2008 of $372, as well as the cash spending of $154, that leaves $188 billion of non-cash, non-medical welfare spending in 2008. This is well above the $127 billion that it would take to bring every person out of poverty. And the 2011 welfare spending was actually $944 billion, so there was actually much more available.

      So does that mean there was no one living in poverty in the US in 2008 and 2011? Who knows! Even though so many billions were spent on poverty, it is impossible to know if that money was spent on recipients or eaten up by administrative costs, or whether the benefits went to those below the poverty line, or if the benefits received went to the needs the poor needed to escape poverty (such as perhaps receiving more housing benefits than they needed to escape poverty, while still being below nutrition standards). The US truly needs one agency to handle all welfare spending so we can be sure to eliminate poverty. I think each agency should be based in each state, so it is closer to the needs of their poor, but one federal agency would be a lot better than we have now. We already spend enough to eliminate poverty, but we can’t tell if it is working.

      2) We should have a separate agency that handles medical welfare, which is why I backed out medical welfare in the calculation above. Medical needs are so variable by person that it doesn’t make sense to give the same amount to each person. Many of those that can’t afford their medical bills are otherwise not poor, but simply have outsize medical problems. The medical welfare agency should be affiliated with the regular welfare agency, but be staffed by medical experts. We kind of have such an agency with Medicaid, but it should be the only medical welfare agency.

      1. Gobbobobble

        Might be reading comprehension failure on my part, but I’m picking up an implicit “you shouldn’t get any welfare if you’re above the poverty line”, which would be counterproductive to measuring effectiveness of programs targeting people who are disadvantaged in some way but not literally in poverty

        1. Mark V Anderson

          Yes indeed. Welfare is about pulling people out of poverty. I am curious what you mean by disadvantaged in some other way, if they are not in poverty. Unless it is something like my medical welfare example, where some people need more than others. Perhaps one could make an argument like this for disabled folks; they may have more needs than others so their “poverty line” might be higher than the norm. Is this what you mean?

          Of course your objection doesn’t affect my main point at all. A single agency would be more effective in solving poverty plus any other issues of helping the disadvantaged, however that is defined. Our current system does a very poor job of fixing either issue, and it is pretty much impossible to even know how well the issues are solved.

      2. Deiseach

        To comment on this from an Irish situation, the problem is not the number of agencies (though that does contribute), it’s the patchwork nature of legislation. New scandals cause the public to go “something must be done!”, the government of the day slaps together a quick (in civil service terms) piece of legislation or initiative to tackle this particular case (think of all the American style “So-and-so’s Laws”) and that gets bolted on to the existing structure.

        So you end up with, for example, five different schemes for subsidising childcare provision, because each different one was tackling a different need in isolation. At least this is going to be addressed by our government by scrapping them all to be replaced by one scheme, but it’s an example of the kind of bloat and duplication you are talking about.

        The sensible thing would be one agency, and to scrap all existing schemes to be replaced by one programme. That is unlikely to happen, though, for the usual reasons but also because everything is built upon a foundation of existing legislation. Pulling everything down would be like pulling out the foundations of a house – it’ll all collapse. Because decisions and policies and procedures have been made and put in place all turning on the legal interpretations of language in the relevant Act. Remove the old act creating the Standardised Egg Sizes Exceptions Board in order to clear out the weeds and cut down on the bloating, and suddenly you don’t have a tidy organised space that’s lean and fit for purpose, you’ve knocked down the entire house of cards because that act was used to make a decision in a court case which in turn affected every protocol put in place in the Department of Poultry, and now there is real possibility that you’ve accidentally legalised crystal meth.

        Everything is cobbled together and bolted on and dependent on a long chain of “this decision from that interpretation by the court of this Bill amending that Act”, and there always will be somebody bringing a legal challenge if an old scheme is scrapped/a new scheme is introduced. So you get the tangled proliferation of agencies and bodies and schemes and initiatives.

        1. m.alex.matt

          This sounds like nothing so much as the bureaucratic/organizational equivalent of technical debt.

          The easy answer to this kind of thing is wholesale rip & replace. The reason the easy answer is the impossible solution is these sorts of things are far too large and complex for any one person or organized group of persons to understand and replace in whole. So we instead perform smaller, targeted, bandage changes to the existing system/organization which solve the immediate problem but make a future wholesale replacement even more difficult.

        2. Mark V Anderson

          I’m not sure what you are saying here, D? Are you saying that when you have an overly tangled mess of laws and regulations that do a poor job of solving the problems they were meant to solve, that it is too risky to try to remove and replace the whole mess? So the best answer is to continue on the way we are, so it is twice as bad in 100 years?

          I disagree. I think that sometimes an organization simply has to yank off the bandaid and start over again. Of course the best way to do this is to carefully study what’s there already to make sure you don’t really mess things up. But I think it would be difficult in the case of welfare in the US to make it WORSE than it is now. Politically this would be very difficult, but it could be done if most folks were disgusted by what we have now.

          1. John Schilling

            Are you saying that when you have an overly tangled mess of laws and regulations that do a poor job of solving the problems they were meant to solve, that it is too risky to try to remove and replace the whole mess?

            It’s not too risky, it’s impossible. No agency in the world has the power to do this, against the opposition of the agencies with an interest in maintaining the status quo.

            If the plan is to create such an agency by e.g. holding a coup to put a Champion on a White Horse in charge with a mandate to Cut Through All The Red Tape, then that’s unacceptably dangerous for the usual and obvious reasons.

          2. Mark V Anderson

            It’s not too risky, it’s impossible. No agency in the world has the power to do this, against the opposition of the agencies with an interest in maintaining the status quo.

            What? It’s never possible to repeal old laws and replace them with new ones? That is an awfully strong statement you seem to be making. I very strongly disagree.

            Of course it isn’t an agency that would make these changes; it is Congress passing a law. Or God knows, with the power of the Presidency these days, maybe He could simply decree a change. But it probably requires Congress.

          3. John Schilling

            What? It’s never possible to repeal old laws and replace them with new ones?

            It is practically impossible to repeal and replace the vast body of law that forms the foundation of the current social welfare system. Too many vested interests and entrenched bureaucracies will fight against any such thing, and they are very very good at fighting to preserve their own interests. Also, they will be able to point to bignum telegenic orphans who will suffer enormously if your proposed replacement doesn’t immediately outperform the current welfare state in every way, and nobody will believe that.

            Of course it isn’t an agency that would make these changes; it is Congress passing a law

            I am using the broad sense of the word “agency”, which includes Congress. Congress does not have the power to do this. A hypothetical agency that was like Congress except that it was composed of flawless rationalists who all saw and worked to implement the same solution could do so, but the definition of “Congress” includes a member selection procedure that ensures a body of mutually disagreeable non-rationalists. Congress can do some things, it cannot do this thing.

            with the power of the Presidency these days, maybe He could simply decree a change

            The President can do some things; he cannot do this thing. Admittedly, it wouldn’t take too much expansion of presidential power to make this at least plausible, but that puts you solidly in champion-on-a-white-horse, cure-worse-than-disease territory.

          4. DavidFriedman

            One way in which a tangle of laws and organizations can get eliminated is by the country losing a war. I’ve seen it argued that the postwar success of Germany and Japan was in part due to that effect.

          5. John Schilling

            Anything that makes it materially impossible to sustain the present system, will make it possible to replace the system – but not until after the crash, which will not occur until enormous resources have been squandered trying to postpone the inevitable crash a little bit longer. If you can crash the entire government (in the US sense, i.e. not just the current administration) up front, you can get to the same outcome faster.

            So, yes, wars are “good” for this sort of thing, though of course they involve squandering enormous resources in a different way. And in the case of the United States, it would pretty much have to be a civil war, which is the worst sort of war to lose and may have no winner.

            A non-catastrophic solution would be nice to have, but I don’t see anything realistically plausible on the horizon.

          6. soreff

            @DavidFriedman

            >One way in which a tangle of laws and organizations can get eliminated is by the country losing a war.

            Thank you!
            I was reading this discussion and thinking of exactly this point as well.

          7. Mark V Anderson

            It is practically impossible to repeal and replace the vast body of law that forms the foundation of the current social welfare system.

            Well this is a slight improvement over your previous comment about it being impossible. 🙂

            Look, there is nothing wrong with incremental improvement. At this point I don’t have a goal of repealing and replacing the entire body of welfare law. First, I want a bunch of people to accept that the complications out there really suck and a simpler system would be more effective and maybe even cost less. The second step is to start repealing and replacing the worst examples of redundancy out there. The third step is way beyond planning at this point. Not that even the first step has gone very far. But I don’t why it is impossible to make some improvement to the laws if most folks agree that simplification is worthwhile. This is one area that incremental improvement is very possible, because there are so many programs out there that should be consolidated.

          8. HeelBearCub

            I don’t particularly have a dog in this fight, but I’d like to note that talking about Congress and the Presidency a) doesn’t apply to Ireland, which is a parliamentary system, and b) ignores that some aspects of the US system are unique even for presidential systems.

            Even then, welfare in the US was substantially changed in the 90s.

          9. Plumber

            @HeelBearCub > “…Even then, welfare in the US was substantially changed in the 90s…”

            Thank you.

            A frustration of mine is so many in other discussions ignoring the “end of welfare as we know it” (which I still say was a mistake).

      3. mitv150

        I think you’re missing the part where administration of the welfare system is part of the welfare system. The inefficiencies are not a bug to be eliminated, but a feature that provides jobs for a lot of people.

        1. Mark V Anderson

          Geez — I hope this isn’t a general belief. I would rather we set up a farm in each state where we have 10,000 people digging up holes and moving the dirt to the other side of the farm and back again. At least then the workers wouldn’t be actively making life worse for the rest of us.

          1. acymetric

            The real-life adult version of Holes is probably a tougher sell though.

            This way kind of back doors it in.

    2. Clutzy

      I didn’t respond in the other thread, but here I have something.

      1. International Law is fake. This is self evident, but people pretend it is not. A law, definitionally, requires a party that can enforce it with almost 100% certainty if you are caught. International law, instead, is simply shaming with extra steps.

      2. The most important thing to happen since WWII was the 2008 Recession.

      3. One of the largest problems the world faces is commuting. If we had instant travel, almost no one would chose to live in our modern cities which are often offensive to the ears, eyes, and noses.

        1. Clutzy

          IDK. I just have a feeling that its effects will be quite long lasting and will be viewed as discordant or a turning point. Whereas (at least to me) the things cited by people elsewhere seem to have been much more inevitable than a housing crises that sparked a wave of nationalism.

          1. acymetric

            I would agree that it was a pretty major point in US history. There are two other events/periods that also have good cases, I would probably say the most important thing since Vietnam, but yours is definitely a defensible position. Obviously a lot of people would point to 9/11, but while I agree it is in the running I would say it is primarily for the way it allowed the massive escalation in domestic surveillance by the US government.

          2. Aapje

            @Clutzy

            It seems to me that the crisis at most accelerated certain developments. Economic crises tend to force people to reckon with uncomfortable realities, much more than create them.

            I think that the fall of the Soviet Union was a real turning point, which fundamentally changed politics. For example, it turned socialist parties into neoliberal ones (which in turn was gave a major boost to populism).
            Populism was already strongly on the ascent around the turn of the century.

            The fall of the Soviet Union unleashed the US, but also the EU and China, who could expand their influence.

            PS. IMO, pointing to 2008, Vietnam or 9/11 is all very America-centric and even then, confuses the endgame or peak of certain developments as turning points.

          3. Matt M

            Economic crises tend to force people to reckon with uncomfortable realities

            Uh… I don’t think the 2008 crisis led to this. At all. Pretty much the only “uncomfortable reality” that American culture in general reckoned with was “Maybe just buying a bunch of houses isn’t an effective get rich quick scheme after all.” Other than that, we’ve basically continued as-is. Even politically it didn’t really change much.

      1. The Nybbler

        The most important thing to happen since WWII was the 2008 Recession

        The fall of the Eastern Bloc comes immediately to mind as more important.

        I also don’t think your #3 is true; people seem to like to live in cities. I have no idea why. Worse, people who live in cities and like it want to make those of us who don’t move into cities, or punish us for not doing so. I wish they’d stop.

        1. DavidFriedman

          The fall of the Eastern Bloc comes immediately to mind as more important.

          And China shifting from socialism to “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” aka capitalism (at least in the sense in which the term describes other non-communist economies).

          1. Aftagley

            Digression:

            How seriously is Chinese elite actually pursuing the end-goal of transitioning to a fully communist state? I might be mis-remembering quotes here, but I seem to recall Xi Jinping talking about a 100 year transition until they reach a society capable of handling communism equally.

            Does your average CCP functionary really think that over the next ten decades they’ll be able to exploit capitalism enough to drag themselves out of poverty and then somehow dismantle the trappings of capitalism to achieve full socialism, or do they know it’s a sham?

            Same question but for your average intellectual followed by your average citizen. It all just seems so transparently false from the outside that I’m almost certain there has to be more going on behind the curtain.

          2. Clutzy

            I’m certainly not sure that the CCP is actually dedicated to Communism or Socialism. Instead they appear to be aspiring to return China to its place among nations.

      2. jermo sapiens

        1. International Law is fake. This is self evident, but people pretend it is not. A law, definitionally, requires a party that can enforce it with almost 100% certainty if you are caught. International law, instead, is simply shaming with extra steps.

        + 1 million

        In international relations, there is only power and interests. The fiction of international law is simply the US projecting its power in legalistic terms.

        1. aristides

          Interesting, I agree with both of you, but I would replace US with UN. All of the main cases of international law I can think of involve the UN or some other country accusing the US or Israel of violating international law. It seems to me the international law is a way for weak countries to claim that their self interests have the force of law in order to prevent more powerful countries from projecting their power. Clearly our biases lead us to different views. What are your salient examples?

          1. jermo sapiens

            That’s a good point. But a large number of countries in the UN are client states of the US (including France and the UK, giving the US 3 of the 5 vetoes on the security council), and receive financial aid from the US, and therefore the US throws its weight around quite effectively at the UN.

            When weak countries claim their self interests have the force of law, it doesnt matter unless they have the support of a powerful country.

          2. Civilis

            I’d been thinking of making a similar response, but I was going to replace the US with the EU, at least for the past 25 years. Still, I can see some things that might favor the US, mostly relating to the UN.

            1) International law in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War was much more favorable to the US as dominant power in the west. The war crimes tribunals set up after the second world war, while I believe justified, can certainly seem like ‘victor’s justice’. If your view of international law centers on an era when the laws were actually enforced, the US was definitely more in control.

            2) International law definitely privileges the UN Security Council veto powers and their immediate close allies, at least with regards to questions related to the Security Council. For all the UN likes to approve resolutions condemning Israel, none of those resolutions have any practical effect. It’s possible for the UN to privilege both the members of the security council and countries that can form mutually reinforcing blocs of like-minded countries like the Arab League.

            3) The two biggest ‘mistakes’ countries have made involving international law have benefited the US: First, Russia boycotting the Security Council in the run-up to the Korean war, which allowed the US to get the UN to sign off on defending South Korea. Second, Iraq invading Kuwait without getting a veto power to cover for it in the UN allowed the US to form a coalition with UN approval.

            Ultimately, I think it depends on your prior assumptions. I spent a good long time debating in a recent thread and getting very frustrated, and I’ve concluded that it comes down to a set of baseline assumptions that people can’t agree on because we can’t find a neutral frame of reference.

            If you assume that international law is fake because it fails to (for example) produce effective condemnation of Israel, then obviously the failure of international law is due to the US. If you assume that international law is fake because it prosecutes Israel too aggressively (but ineffectually), then the failure of international law is not due to the US but the nature of UN representation itself.

          3. Civilis

            That’s a good point. But a large number of countries in the UN are client states of the US (including France and the UK, giving the US 3 of the 5 vetoes on the security council), and receive financial aid from the US, and therefore the US throws its weight around quite effectively at the UN.

            All you need is one Security Council veto; having multiple vetoes doesn’t make your veto more powerful.

            To get with this ‘asking questions when you don’t understand someone else’s prior assumptions’, what makes you declare that France and the UK are or were client states of the US?

            France in particular has been particularly independent of US control; asserting France as a US client state seems particularly similar to asserting Yugoslavia or the PRC as a Soviet client state. (The Soviets may have intended that both of those should be client states, but history intervened).

            I think the best counter-example is the 1956 Suez crisis, where the US and USSR both proposed UNSC resolutions which would have pushed Israel to withdraw, only to have the UK and France block with their veto powers. A client state that is vetoing your UNSC resolutions isn’t much of a client state.

          4. jermo sapiens

            what makes you declare that France and the UK are or were client states of the US?

            I admit that this depends on a somewhat broad definition of client state, but France is within the US’s sphere of influence, in a manner which is not reciprocal. Also, France’s security is guaranteed by the US, also in a non-reciprocal manner.

            The US is a loose empire, but an empire nonetheless. It’s not a formal empire. Trump cannot tell France what to do. But puritans/progressives of New England have a remarkable track record of having their preferred policy positions implemented in the “West”. Somehow, “diversity is our strength”, is adopted by France, the UK, Germany, etc… all around the same time.

            So more accurately, I should say that France is a client state of the blue tribe.

          5. baconbits9

            The US is a loose empire, but an empire nonetheless. It’s not a formal empire. Trump cannot tell France what to do. But puritans/progressives of New England have a remarkable track record of having their preferred policy positions implemented in the “West”. Somehow, “diversity is our strength”, is adopted by France, the UK, Germany, etc… all around the same time.

            France had a liberal immigration policy going back to immediately after WW2, they completely ignored US wishes in the aftermath of WW1 and were pulling out of Vietnam as the US was getting involved. There is no coherent history of France where they are bending to or consistently representing the wishes of the US after the US arrived at a position over the last century+.

          6. jermo sapiens

            they completely ignored US wishes in the aftermath of WW1

            The US empire came into being after WW2.

          7. Aftagley

            Yeah +1 on France not being a client state of the US.

            We’ve got more power then they do, so when we but heads we’re likely to win, but they frequently adopt antagonistic positions we’d wish they didn’t.

          8. Civilis

            I admit that this depends on a somewhat broad definition of client state, but France is within the US’s sphere of influence, in a manner which is not reciprocal. Also, France’s security is guaranteed by the US, also in a non-reciprocal manner.

            Thank you for responding. Given your definition of ‘client state’, your logic makes sense. It would also invalidate my own logic, as Yugoslavia would probably count as a ‘client state’ of the USSR using your definition (probably not the PRC, though, at least not for a significant amount of time).

            But puritans/progressives of New England have a remarkable track record of having their preferred policy positions implemented in the “West”. Somehow, “diversity is our strength”, is adopted by France, the UK, Germany, etc… all around the same time.

            How can you tell what direction the policy influence is flowing? I’d admit, if you just take today’s progressive diversity language, the causation seems to flow from the US to Europe. On the other hand, there are a lot of issues where the flow seems to be coming from the other direction. A lot of the environmental, social democracy, and generic social justice government policies seem to originate from Europe and be picked up by the American left.

            One of the things I’ve been struggling with is “how can I tell if I’m the one in the bubble?” The most sure way I’ve come up with is to ask myself “what evidence would prove me wrong?” In this case, what evidence would be needed to establish a direction of influence?

          9. baconbits9

            The US empire came into being after WW2.

            So this is going to be a ‘this is my definition, I won’t really outline it but will ignore everything that contradicts it’ sort of argument?

            France pulled out of Vietnam post WW2 and the US went into Vietnam because France was pulling out. So the US has an empire and France is in that Empire but they are literally doing the opposite of what the US wants militarily? These aren’t isolated incidents, France was a leader in exchanging dollars for gold from which eventually lead to the suspension and then complete cancellation of the gold redemption.

          10. jermo sapiens

            According to Mencius Moldbug, whom I consider to be brilliant but I realize is not everyone’s cup of tea, the influence comes from Harvard (more generally prestigious american universities). From the linked post:

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the European ruling class holds essentially the same perspectives that were held at Harvard in 1945. The US Army did not shoot all the professors in Europe and replace them with Yankee carpetbaggers, but the prestige of conquest is such that it might as well have.

            I do recommend reading the post in full. Moldbug does a much better job explaining his view than I ever could. It’s long but enjoyable.

          11. jermo sapiens

            So this is going to be a ‘this is my definition, I won’t really outline it but will ignore everything that contradicts it’ sort of argument?

            No need for this hostility. I’m not writing a PhD thesis, just commenting for fun.

            I didnt invent the notion of an American empire. It’s generally recognized that it came to being after WW2. It’s also recognized that it’s a loose, informal type of empire.

            Canada also didnt join the US in Iraq in 2003. Would you also say that Canada is not a client state of the US? Would you say that Canada is not within the American empire? Do you see a distinction between being a client state of the US and being within the American empire?

            I dont really see a distinction between those two things, except that the connotation of “client state” is worse.

          12. baconbits9

            According to Mencius Moldbug, whom I consider to be brilliant but I realize is not everyone’s cup of tea, the influence comes from Harvard (more generally prestigious american universities). From the linked post:

            Moldbug is uninteresting, he claims hard facts without providing supporting evidence. The claim that

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the European ruling class holds essentially the same perspectives that were held at Harvard in 1945

            Has two hard facts, and the implications he draws from the require 3 or 4 at least First you have the opinions/perspectives of the European ruling class, which he doesn’t deign to describe as a group so that we could even go and try to figure who he means and what their positions are, then we have the perspectives held at Harvard in 1945, and then we have no direct discussion of how those representatives at Harvard came to those conclusions and finally you would also have to demonstrate that the positions of the Harvard professors remained constant over the next decades as well.

            Even if he managed to establish 1+2, which I find very unlikely because anyone who has tried to follow European politics even a little would know that there is a massive range of political opinions across the leaders of European countries and then you also have to find a consensus view at Harvard 1945, and then overlap those two. That is going to be a massive exercise in cherry picking and shouldn’t be convincing. However, even granting that, he has to show that the European sentiment comes directly from the US sentiment and not as some measure of convergent evolution in ideas OR the European sentiment wasn’t what influenced the Harvard professors in the first place. You are going to somehow have to make the case that the British founded the NHS in 1948 because of Harvard views in 1945 that also weren’t influenced by European views pre 1945.

            The whole piece is just ridiculous claims

            This is how the European Union can claim to be the culmination of democracy, while in fact being entirely free from politics. The truth is that, except for a tiny minority of carping malcontents, all respectable Europeans agree on all significant political questions. Europe’s educational system has simply done a fantastic job of eradicating dissent.

            This date on this piece is 2007, the last dozen years or so have showed enormous disagreement on political questions from bailouts of Greece, to how Brexit should be handled (which out to have been impossible on its own if Europe’s educational system had done a fantastic job of eradicating dissent), it hasn’t aged well at all.

          13. Civilis

            I didnt invent the notion of an American empire. It’s generally recognized that it came to being after WW2. It’s also recognized that it’s a loose, informal type of empire.

            Generally recognized by whom? What evidence would convince you that the US is not an empire?

            Definitions of ’empire’, taking more generic ones where multiple exist:
            1) an extensive territory or enterprise under single domination or control (Merriam-Webster)
            2) a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government (dictionary.com)
            3) a group of countries ruled by a single person, government, or country (Cambridge)

            [I personally do believe the US meets the minimum qualifications for an empire, ironically because of research for this particular discussion. Call up records of the UN votes on almost any recent General Assembly resolution regarding Israel. For example:

            United Nations General Assembly resolution ES-10/L.22 (2017): 9 votes against (Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo and United States).
            United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19 (2012): 7 votes against (Canada, Czech Republic, Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Panama and United States of America)

            The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau are US territories that vote with the US almost every time. If you want to say those are client states, given they have UN representation, I’ll agree. What’s interesting is that they are the only four that consistently vote with the US.]

          14. jermo sapiens

            Moldbug is uninteresting, he claims hard facts without providing supporting evidence.

            That’s a matter of taste. I find him quite interesting and he writes with flair. He doesnt footnote everything but in general he supports his work with lots of references to old texts.

            For the purposes of this discussion, would you agree that the role of the US vis-a-vis Europe changed drastically post WW2? Whereas the British Empire was the biggest thing prior to WW2, it was disbanded post WW2. And that the big cheese at the table was no longer the UK but the US?

          15. jermo sapiens

            Generally recognized by whom? What evidence would convince you that the US is not an empire?

            Definitions of ’empire’, taking more generic ones where multiple exist:

            Like I mentioned above, the US is not a typical empire. But its sphere of influence is undeniable. When people use the phrase “American empire”, they refer to its sphere of influence. I realize this is an unusual usage of the word “empire”, but I didnt coin it.

            I’m already convinced that the US is not an “Empire” in the strict sense of the word. French tax money is not flowing to Washington DC.

            It’s not even necessarily intentional for the US to be an empire, but by virtue of being the sole super power since 1990, and being one of two super powers between 1945 and 1990, it has developed a sphere of influence which is comparable in many ways to a real empire, hence the term. There’s a reason POTUS is called “the leader of the free world” and not the PM of Canada.

          16. Civilis

            It’s not even necessarily intentional for the US to be an empire, but by virtue of being the sole super power since 1990, and being one of two super powers between 1945 and 1990, it has developed a sphere of influence which is comparable in many ways to a real empire, hence the term. There’s a reason POTUS is called “the leader of the free world” and not the PM of Canada.

            The US’s status as the most powerful country on Earth comes with downsides as well as upsides. Remember that this started with a discussion of international law. I think the evidence I’ve put forth shows that countries have no concerns about defying the US in the diplomatic sphere when it comes to questions of international law, even countries that rely on the US for military protection and economic trade. International law is not a weapon the US customarily wields, because it doesn’t need to (beyond the UNSC veto power, a power it shares).

            A test to see who the wielders of international law would be to see what country’s names appear the most frequently on the ‘approve’ lines of UN Resolutions, and I’ll wager that that’s some of the big Western EU powers. They lack the military power projection capabilities of the US, but on the other hand, having multiple UN votes, substantial economic power, and not being the one everyone’s trying to dethrone from the top all add up to being able to use diplomacy and international law as effective weapons.

            I think the best evidence would be the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. While the US did assist, I think the lead in dealing with the problem came from the EU (or the EEC, one of its predecessors). In part, the reason that the Yugoslavian issue was addressed so forcefully, unlike similar issues elsewhere, is because it was on the EU’s doorstep and, hence, an immediate issue. One can see something similar in Libya, which was close enough that the refugee issue strongly affected the EU and was close enough that the EU wasn’t totally reliant on the US to do something.

          17. Theodoric

            @jermo sapiens:
            What is the difference between an “empire” and a “sphere of influence”?

          18. jermo sapiens

            I think the evidence I’ve put forth shows that countries have no concerns about defying the US in the diplomatic sphere when it comes to questions of international law, even countries that rely on the US for military protection and economic trade.

            Up to a certain point. When Europe tries to circumvent US sanctions against Iran, pressure is applied.

          19. John Schilling

            I didnt invent the notion of an American empire. It’s generally recognized that it came to being after WW2.

            I believe that this is incorrect, and that there is a substantial competing and perhaps prevailing belief that the American Empire came into being as a result of the Spanish-American War and/or the Great War. Which is to say, the timeframe when the US actually acquired its imperial possessions and became recognized as a geopolitical equal to the imperial Great Powers of Europe.

          20. Civilis

            Up to a certain point. When Europe tries to circumvent US sanctions against Iran, pressure is applied.

            I don’t see that that’s directly related to international law, but that does make me modify my theory. The EU seems to be more fond of multi-lateral diplomatic arrangements (of which the UN is the biggest), while the US prefers direct negotiations backed by American responses which are more stick than carrot.

            As another example I thought of of International Law being more of a contemporary EU project than an American one: the International Criminal Court, which the US initially supported but later withdrew from.

            … [T]here is a substantial competing and perhaps prevailing belief that the American Empire came into being as a result of the Spanish-American War and/or the Great War. Which is to say, the timeframe when the US actually acquired its imperial possessions and became recognized as a geopolitical equal to the imperial Great Powers of Europe.

            A US that directly administers Cuba and the Philippines better fits the historical model of empires than one who’s most significant overseas territory is Micronesia (setting aside Puerto Rico). Likewise, when we say ‘British Empire’ we picture one with Canada, South Africa, India and Australia, not one whose most significant territories are the Caymans, Bermuda and Gibraltar.

      3. Dacyn

        1. International Law is fake. This is self evident, but people pretend it is not. A law, definitionally, requires a party that can enforce it with almost 100% certainty if you are caught. International law, instead, is simply shaming with extra steps.

        100%? Really? This seems like black-and-white thinking to me; international laws are enforced at least some of the time.

        1. Dan L

          Yeah, that caught my eye too, though I was more focused on the domestic half of the equation. The “if you are caught” qualifier makes it defensible, albeit as a boring tautology. So then it’s back to being a matter of degree of enforcement.

          1. Clutzy

            I don’t understand the critique. The police and prosecutors are not omniscient and all powerful. But if an individual Sarin gasses a town the police find him, and the prosecutors submit adequate evidence to the jury, there is an ability to enforce the law against that person.

            Assad does that and he’s still just sitting around, and he’s not even all that powerful a war criminal. And hes not alone, several Arab states are in various states of ethnic cleansing (look at the number of Jews/Christians in Egypt 1950 vs. today, for example), China is doing its own genocide, Modi is eyeing one. I can’t even point to what entity would enforce international law. What is the sovereign?

          2. Dacyn

            @Clutzy: Certainly international law is qualitatively different from intranational law. But “fake” seems like too strong a word to describe that difference, which is why I mentioned black-and-white thinking. As I said, international laws are enforced at least some of the time, by countries or coalitions of countries who think the law should be enforced.

          3. A Definite Beta Guy

            What’s the legal basis for the enforcement of the agreement? In the US sovereignty is shared between DC and state capitals and laws can be enforced on that basis. International norms usually need to be enforced by sovereigns willingly subjecting themselves to certain rules, and have the ability to withdraw from said agreements.

          4. Dacyn

            @A Definite Beta Guy: I’m confused as to what you mean by “legal basis”. Presumably that means “basis in law”, but the whole argument is about what counts as law and what doesn’t.

          5. Dan L

            @ Clutzy:

            I don’t understand the critique. The police and prosecutors are not omniscient and all powerful. But if an individual Sarin gasses a town the police find him, and the prosecutors submit adequate evidence to the jury, there is an ability to enforce the law against that person.

            Probably a dead thread at this point, so you get the tl;dr version: in what way has Assad been “caught” that O.J. Simpson was not? “Almost 100% certainty” is an odd thing to juxtapose against a growing list of qualifiers, and it is not obvious that international law is “fake” because it uses a different list.

      4. Aftagley

        1. International Law is fake. This is self evident, but people pretend it is not. A law, definitionally, requires a party that can enforce it with almost 100% certainty if you are caught. International law, instead, is simply shaming with extra steps.

        This is only true if you ignore the commonly accepted definition of international law and instead replace it with an overly legalistic reading of the definition of law.

        Take, for example, the requirement that every vessel over a certain weight class is required by international law to take certain licencing and operating procedures. This was a decision agreed upon by the UN and since mandated into law by pretty much every country other than the US (although we still abide by the regulations). Is there some kind of international law enforcement agency that will bust you if you violate these rules? No, but the countries themselves will bust you for violating these rules and if you’re flagrant enough in violating them multiple countries will work together to bring you down.

        I can think of a couple hundred examples of this kind of thing. How are they all not real?

        ETA – I was focusing on individuals violating international laws, but they work just as well when it comes to constraining the actions of countries.

        An international law against something is a framework for multiple countries to work together to punish whichever country violates the norm we’re trying to enforce. Yes, they aren’t technically laws as we think of them normally, but they still definitely exist and still are important concepts.

        Why do you think it’s always a big deal whenever someone tries to use chemical weapons?

        1. Mark V Anderson

          Yes I agree with Aftagley that international works in many cases. It certainly works differently than law under a single government. Perhaps one should use a different word than law — international treaties perhaps, but I don’t think fake is the right word.

    3. Well...

      I guess natalism often gets called right-wing, but to me at least, it doesn’t seem obviously so. I would say I’m a local natalist: I think more Americans should be having kids, or more kids if they’re already having kids.

      I also believe speed limits should be lower, much to the teeth-gnashing of the SSC commentariat, but not apparently to the applause of any political group.

      And I would love to see something like the Amish’s ordnung become widely appropriated in the West, so that our adoptions (at the individual, family, and local levels, at least) of various technologies are put through a much more rigorous and even quasi-formalized vetting process.

      1. EchoChaos

        As a very strong natalist with four kids (so far) myself, I think that there are two effects.

        The first is that modern liberalism encourages a lot of personal choices that necessarily sacrifice children in favor of other issues, as your link points out.

        The second is that modern liberalism has a modest pro-other bias (white liberals are the only group with a more positive view of other ethnic groups than their own), which means that having your own babies conflicts with their values.

        This is a very recent thing, though. Without looking, who has more children, Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence?

        It’s Pelosi, who has five.

        1. Well...

          More than a recent thing, it strikes me as a thing that only an intellectual type would sit around thinking about. Much more common is this reasoning: shtooking raw is fun! Thus Mike Pence has three kids, but I’d bet the average poor >25y/o single mom in his hometown (among whom support for Pence is probably extremely low) has more.

          1. EchoChaos

            I don’t know how to measure that, but I am not sure that’s true. There are certainly people who have tons of kids, but they’re the outliers.

          2. Well...

            I guess the more commonsense explanation is that natalism necessarily implies having lots of kids, but having lots of kids doesn’t necessarily imply natalism.

      2. Atlas

        I guess natalism often gets called right-wing, but to me at least, it doesn’t seem obviously so.

        You might find Avi Tuschman’s book Our Political Nature interesting. He argues that there are evolutionary roots of political divides, and that natalism is both right-wing and related to other right-wing beliefs.

      3. soreff

        >And I would love to see something like the Amish’s ordnung become widely appropriated in the West, so that our adoptions (at the individual, family, and local levels, at least) of various technologies are put through a much more rigorous and even quasi-formalized vetting process.

        I see the appeal of this, a lot of new technologies do turn out to
        do unexpected damage, but I’m leary of it, for two reasons:

        a) We are frequently very wrong about the effects of new technologies till we’ve seen
        the true effects of wide deployment (and sometimes not even then).

        From my own perspective: Facebook initially _looked_ quite harmless, just a tool
        for staying in touch… The polarizing effects, the isolating bubble effects, I doubt that
        those could have been forseen.

        On the other side, there were concerns about botox (as a cosmetic material) – concerns
        about widely distributing something so toxic. As far as I know, this turned out to be
        a non-problem. If cosmetic botulinus toxin has been diverted into hostile use, it is so
        rare that I’ve never heard of it happening.

        b) There are many, many, many moral panics. Practically anything that empowers
        individuals sexually, from contraceptives to viagra to dating sites, have a large faction
        screaming against it. Half of medicine, from transplants to anesthetics had a faction
        denouncing it. I’d rather leave the decisions in individuals’ hands almost all the time.

    4. Plumber

      @Mark V Anderson says:

      “I really liked the thread in 144.50 where each commenter indicated their agreement to ideas of conservatives, social liberals, social democrats, and libertarians”

      Thanks!

      I did as well.

      “I would like to create a new thread here with commenters indicating beliefs they have that are not part of the agenda of any of those four groups”

      Sure.

      I advocate for raising the age in which one may drive, lower the drinking age or raise the voting age, then have American political parties give out beer and/or whiskey again (like they did before prohibition) when new voters sign up, with a brass band and cheers for the new Democrats/Republicans/Federalists/Whigs/et cetera, perhaps have two votes per election cycle, a lowered inhibitions due to imbibing alcohol vote, then a next day “Oh god what did we do?” hangover vote (State of Utah exempt from the “take a shot first” vote).

      As far as I know, despite my seeing no flaws whatsoever with my cunning plan to increase election turnout, strangely there’s isn’t a groundswell of support for this from any political faction that I know of.

      Pity that.

    5. Paul Brinkley

      I believe that all market failures might be traceable to a lack of information on the part of at least one party. That lack of information might be expressible as information rationally withheld (merchant won’t tell buyers how low he could price his goods and still come out ahead), or the inability to measure within the time allotted (stock trades informed by market conditions that change faster than one can discover through research) or the inability to compute the deductive closure of what one knows (a buyer knows everything they need to know how low they can bid, but the chain of reasoning is too large to contain inside even a reasonable desktop computer).

      This suggests my thinking of economic conflict is based in mistake theory, rather than conflict theory, and I think it is. It classifies an individual with an emotional attachment to some ownable object – even their own body – as someone who hasn’t yet computed the deductive closure of what they know.

      I can’t prove this, in part due to what the theory itself suggests, so I’m compelled to admit the possibility I am mistaken.

      1. DavidFriedman

        You are mistaken.

        Market failures occur when the net cost to an individual of his actions is not equal to the net costs to everyone including him of his actions. I can be perfectly informed about the effects of my burning coal to heat my house on the air breathed by my neighbors, and it is still in my interest to decide based only on the effect of me and those I care about.

        1. Paul Brinkley

          You are mistaken.

          Part of me would like to be, in this instance… but given your description, I get the sense that the thing I’m mistaken about is the standard definition of market failure.

          I can be perfectly informed about the effects of my burning coal to heat my house on the air breathed by my neighbors, and it is still in my interest to decide based only on the effect of me and those I care about.

          Suppose I am so informed. Suppose further that burning coal is a net positive for me insofar as it heats my house, and a net negative to strangers who breathe the nearby air insofar as they incur a slightly higher incidence of health problems. There’s a cost to me of acquiring that coal and going through the effort of burning it, that doesn’t include the health problems to strangers. Per your definition, that is a market failure; correct?

          We can expect a stereotypical environmentalist to argue that I’ve done something wrong by burning coal anyway. We can expect those strangers to agree, if they’ve been informed like me. They might then choose to sue me or take my coal away or punch me or threaten to punch me or something else that imposes additional costs to me. (I’m ignoring whether any of these actions would be permitted by a legal system; let’s pretend we’re all inhabiting a deserted island with no government.) Presumably I would care about those costs, and respond with actions of my own – building barriers, punching them back, hiring someone to defend me, offering to pay their health costs, finding something else to burn, etc.

          If we’re all perfectly informed about the costs and benefits of these actions, and choose them rationally, would the costs eventually equilibrate? Or might they diverge, possibly until one or all of us is removed from the system? Or am I talking about something outside of market failure? Or perhaps still confused about something else here?

          (I’m reminded that I could stand to read more about micro, and your price theory book is still on my to-read list…)

          1. DavidFriedman

            Per your definition, that is a market failure; correct?

            It’s a market failure if I burn coal because the value of doing it to me is greater than the cost to me, but the value of my doing it to me plus my neighbors is less than the cost of my doing it to me plus my neighbors.

            If you want to learn economics, my Hidden Order is easier reading than my Price Theory. It’s the latter book rewritten to target the intelligent layman rather than to be a text book.

          2. albatross11

            Paul:

            I feel like you’re somewhere close to the insight of Coase w.r.t externalities. David can explain it better than I can[1], but the way I understand it, the idea is that externalities go unresolved because of transaction costs.

            Imagine I burn my trash once a week. Many people live downwind of me and don’t like the smell of burning trash. In some ideal world with no transaction costs, we could all come to some kind of agreement—I could pay them for the annoyance of my smelly trash burning, or they could pay me to bury my trash instead. Most of the time, that’s not workable—it’s hard for everyone to find out who all is burning trash and get together and bribe them to stop, negotiation is messy and hard and has lots of failure modes, etc. So we end up mostly using some other mechanism to resolve the problem. But if it were somehow possible for everyone to costlessly sue each other/pay each other off for their externalities, externalities would get internalized.

            [1] I learned about Coase from one of his books.

          3. Dacyn

            If we’re all perfectly informed about the costs and benefits of these actions, and choose them rationally, would the costs eventually equilibrate? Or might they diverge, possibly until one or all of us is removed from the system? Or am I talking about something outside of market failure? Or perhaps still confused about something else here?

            Conflicts can escalate to death, yes. It can be rational if what the party hoped to gain was greater than the risk of death. I don’t really see what any of this has to do with market failure. If you wanted to argue that the standard definition of market failure was wrong, I think that would look more like arguing that the market had “succeeded at the goals we have for it” despite failing under the conventional definition.

    6. DinoNerd

      I loved that thread too.

      I’m not entirely certain what is on each group’s agenda, either currently or recently – many of these groups seem far too amorphous to have agendas, for that matter, let alone a political platform I can look up. But here are some ideas that tend to get “you’re really strange” and/or “you’re unreasonable” reactions.

      Here’s one I mentioned in the prior thread – lying and otherwise misleading people should be much easier to prosecute. This would apply in particular to labelling, advertising, and political behaviour. No more “non-fat half-and-half” – back to calling whatever that is “non-fat coffee whitener” or similar. (Otherwise the manufacturer gets prosecuted for fraud … with escalating fines if the first one gets treated as a mere “business expense”, and the possibility of prosecuting individual decision makers if the firm’s behaviour doesn’t change.) Politicians who don’t do what they said they would lose the office they were elected to, and aren’t allowed to run for another office for a period of time. (Politicians with sense will start saying “I will try to” rather than “I will”, or nothing at all if the campaign promise is not something their potential office can deliver.) Advertisements that hinge on unconscious biases (buy this car and you too will be young and cool with a dreamy girlfriend) are also banned, along with those advertisements that lie outright.

      This one’s less controversial, and ought to be part of someone’s agenda, but clearly isn’t. When a business is judged “too big to fail”, and bailed out, executives and board members are prevented from gaining any personal benefit from this – their financial consequences should be at least as bad as if the business was shuttered, with a possibility of criminal charges of some kind, stemming from privatizing their profit and socializing their risk. (I.e. the Icelandic model for handling the 2008 banking crisis, rather than the model used everywhere else.) Also, the business in question gets chopped into significantly smaller pieces, as part of the bailout – a mega-bank become merely several large banks, etc.

      Another one that should be part of someone’s agenda, but isn’t. All externalities generated by business are priced and paid for. If you force someone to spend time dealing with your advertisement, you pay for their time, or at least for an average working person’s time. If your activites involve e.g. creating non-biodegradeable plastic, you are required to recycle that plastic and/or pay for it to be recycled. Pollution is taxed heavily – with the only cap being the projected cost of completely cleaning it up (impossible in some cases) plus the projected damage it will do until cleaned up. (I envision e.g. a “carbon tax” that tends to get increased every time the government decides it needs higher revenue, in the manner of what used to be called “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol.)

      1. DinoNerd

        And since I’m on a roll – auto-dialers should be banned. If you cause someone’s phone to ring so as to play a tape at them if they answer, you pay $30 per offence. $50 if they get dead air rather than the tape playing. $20 if you (not your partner) has a pre-existing business relationship with the target, the target has not affirmatively consented to this, and the content is not information affirmatively requested by the customer. ($10 if they did request the information, but didn’t consent to phone bot delivery.) If any of the non-consenting cases occur outside of e.g. normal business hours in their local time, add at least another $20.

        This is, of course, priced punitively, rather than merely the cost of the externality you create by doing this. So it’s not completely covered by my third suggestion above.

        To encourage reporting, collection, etc., the fines are to be shared between the victims and whatever level of government is enforcing the law, with the proviso that the part going to the victim must at least equal the cost of the externality to them, even if this increases the fine in that particular case. (E.g. old lady gets up in the middle of the night to answer the phone, falls and breaks her hip – the source of the robo-call pays for her medical expenses and lost time – which might include nursing home care for life…)

        1. hls2003

          This is, in broad strokes (and with some exceptions) already the law under the TCPA. The monetary penalties (at least for junk faxes and I believe also for calls) are much higher than what you are suggesting. It is primarily enforced by plaintiffs’ lawyers who can collect attorneys’ fees. It is modestly effective at eliminating forbidden calls, and maximally effective at providing employment for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

      2. J Mann

        This one’s less controversial, and ought to be part of someone’s agenda, but clearly isn’t. When a business is judged “too big to fail”, and bailed out, executives and board members are prevented from gaining any personal benefit from this – their financial consequences should be at least as bad as if the business was shuttered, with a possibility of criminal charges of some kind, stemming from privatizing their profit and socializing their risk.

        The problem is that if they’re too big to fail, you need your good executives to keep working there and to keep doing a good job, so if you literally tell them “you wouldn’t have a salary if we didn’t bail out Bankron, so you have to work for minimum wage,” then the good ones will go find new jobs and you’ll be left with the worst employees.

        A retroactive penalty would be better for incentives – for example, “we are going to fine every employee and every board member of Bankron all of their compensation and stock options over $150,000/year for the last three years,” but I think you get into constitutional problems. (And to be fair, there are probably at least some executives who aren’t at fault.)

        1. DinoNerd

          If the business required bailing out, then it clearly didn’t have good executives, or those few who might have been good couldn’t or wouldn’t overrule those leading the business over a cliff.

          Fire the lot of them, cancel their pre-contracted severance payments to the extent practicable/legal, and make sure the stock price drops to the point where it would drop if the bankruptcy happened without a government bailout, making their equity compensation and bonuses relatively worthless. Protect customers (depositors) and non-executive employees, transferring them to the new entities along with any business assets, but not executives or other stock holders.

          Then promote and/or hire some new executives – not ones fired from some other place being bailed out at the same time.

          1. Matt M

            If the business required bailing out, then it clearly didn’t have good executives

            On the other hand, maybe it had the very best executives. Arranging the affairs of the business such that in good times, their investors derive all of the profits and benefits, but in the bad times, the cost and losses are absorbed by the government seems like almost an ideal scenario. If they set things up that way on purpose, they’re geniuses (although I suspect that in many cases they didn’t, but rather they bungled their way into it)

          2. EchoChaos

            @Matt M

            Also, the best executives are often hired by companies on a downward trend, because you need the very best to save you if you’re on the wrong track.

            Would you take a job to save BoA, Lehman, etc. if failure meant not just reputational damage to how good you are as an executive but actually negative pay?

            You’re just making it less likely that successfully pulling out of tailspins happens.

          3. J Mann

            I hear you, but from what I understand, losing your entire leadership is immensely destructive to a company – you’re losing a lot of stored knowledge of how the company operates.

          4. DinoNerd

            @Matt M – I’ve been using the ambiguity of “good” here.

            Arranging the affairs of the business such that in good times, their investors derive all of the profits and benefits, but in the bad times, the cost and losses are absorbed by the government seems like almost an ideal scenario.

            I want to reduce this behaviour severely, basically by reducing its effectiveness and increasing its risks. Somewhere upthread, I think I even included the suggestion of jailing executives convicted of particularly egregious examples of this behaviour.

            Such executives may in fact be behaving correctly, based on current incentives, and even the (un)ethical principles they are taught, e.g. in business school. Since this behaviour is bad for almost everyone else, it should be stopped.

          5. Matt M

            Somewhere upthread, I think I even included the suggestion of jailing executives convicted of particularly egregious examples of this behaviour.

            Can we also jail the Congressmen who are far more directly enabling of it?

          6. DinoNerd

            @EchoChaos

            From where I sit, after 40 years of observing the behaviour of people above me in the management chain, executives don’t appear to actually provide much value. Many of them are basically high status salespeople, spending their time travelling from customer to customer mollifying customer executives and/or making them feel important and cared for. The rest of the time, they are making more-or-less random decisions and/or following the latest fads. All this with a background of promotional advertising to their own employees, often involving outright falsehood.

            I’m much more concerned about companies losing institutional knowledge that’s in the minds of lower level staff. That’s where the real knowledge is lurking, and losing too many of them is when real problems arise.

            There may be exceptions; my personal experience is almost entirely with high tech companies, or with the tech-oriented divisions of broader companies. Perhaps executives do something a bit more real in a bank, a retail chain, or a non-leading-edge manufacturing company. It’s even conceivable – though IMO unlikely – that executives at tech companies do something that’s a bit more useful, while concealing it from the grunts. (I guess the google-apple-etc. pact to depress engineering salaries benefited the stock holders, and that seems to have been created at an executive level…)

          7. DinoNerd

            @Matt M

            Can we also jail the Congressmen who are far more directly enabling of it?

            Sure! In DinoTopia, there will be a lot of room in the prisons, after we reform current corrosive incentives involving e.g. victimless crimes.

            More seriously, you can’t jail politicians for passing bad laws, particularly when that’s what their constituents want. If you catch them being bribed to pass those laws, throw the book at them, of course. But given the campaign finance laws they’ve already passed, they don’t need to do anything illegal to be rewarded financially for doing what some monied special interest wants – so unless we want to give up rule of law and/or democracy, even if everyone agreed with me all we could do to them is vote them out of office.

          8. Matt M

            More seriously, you can’t jail politicians for passing bad laws

            I fail to see why not.

            Or, more accurately, if you’re going to jail businessmen for things that were technically legal but led to bad outcomes, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to jail politicians for the same thing.

            My understanding is that most of what happened in 2008 was perfectly legal. That there was very little actual fraud (outside of a few shady mortgage operators who did fail and didn’t get bailed out).