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Open Thread 147.75

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

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1,204 Responses to Open Thread 147.75

  1. Plumber says:

    @jermo sapiens says

    “@Plumber says:

    (though I did enjoy his description of the self-flagellation that his fellow Canadian lawyers make themselves endure).

    Can you refresh my memory I forget what that was about?”

    Oh sure, IIRC you posted that your Canadian lawyer’s guild (which unlike here is called something other than “The BAR Association”) decided that a “lack of diversity” among it’s members is a problem and that the solution is periodic “awareness training” for itself, which I found hilarious!

  2. Plumber says:

    Oh Hell with it, in for a dime in for a dollar, this could be my response to so many subthreads this week that I can’t can’t decide which one is most appropriate so I’ll just do a top level post:

    @Conrad Honcho, a year or three ago you asked me (something like) “What would it take for you to vote to re-elect Trump”, well here’s a list:

    1) Work with Congress to get a massive amount of public works projects started nationwide that employ the jobless and/or low skilled in lasting useful projects.

    2) Appoint judges with a history of pro-union decisions

    3) Appoint a pro-union Secretary of Labor.

    4) Appoint pro-union representatives to the NLRB.

    5) Work on immigration enforcement from the demand side.

    6) Get Congress to slow trade with China (that it’s passes into law is important).

    7) & 8) Some “culture war” stuff I don’t want to get into here (one of which I imagine you’d like to see, the other probably not).

    9) Democrats nominate Bloomberg, Steyer or (maybe) Buttigieg instead of Biden, Sanders, (maybe) Klobucher, or (maybe) Warren.

    (No, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a Democrat to do all of 1 to 8 either, but as a Republican Trump has a higher bar to prove himself to me).

    FWLIW, enough of that list accomplished gets me to not vote against him if not for him like if all the list was done.

    Call your people.

  3. Deiseach says:

    In Irish election news: we still don’t have a government. Talks are rumbling on, the hopes/fears of a Grand Coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are still all over the media. Everyone is refusing to go into coalition with Sinn Féin and are casting coy glances at every other potential party, but the trouble is nobody has a majority large enough to make it stick without a lot of messy “if we add in you guys and our guys and ask those guys and make a deal with some of them other guys” calculations.

    Both the Garda Commissioner and Leo Varadkar are reminding the public that “The Army Council hasn’t gone away, you know” while Sinn Féin are responding with plans to have rallies around the country to demand they be considered for government.

    Leo and Alan may claim that “75% of the people didn’t vote for Sinn Féin” but by the same token, lads, 75% of the people didn’t vote for ye in Fine Gael either, or Fianna Fáil, and yet both parties are happy to put themselves forward. Reminder: Sinn Féin got 24.5% of the overall first-preference vote, Fine Gael got 22.2% and Fianna Fáil got 20.9%.

    Well, if the Shannon doesn’t flood the entire country what with all the storm rain and sweep us all away, more news forthcoming as it happens!

    • Garrett says:

      The whole “we won’t talk with those guys” is how you get people who become more extreme. If you want situations like that diffused, invite them into the government openly and then bog them down with bureaucracy. Their supporters will see them having power and not accomplishing anything despite their best efforts.

      • The whole idea of “government formation” is pretty dumb. My ideal system would be a hybrid of the American system and the parliamentary system. You have an executive branch, elected in a two-round system(with anybody allowed to run in the second round) with no power to veto laws and a legislative branch, elected by proportional representation, passing laws passed by a legislative majority. You wouldn’t need to make these deals to get things done, just put individual issues to a vote, one by one.

        • cassander says:

          that doesn’t eliminate the need for dealmaking, it just shoves it onto the legislature and marginalizes the executive somewhat. It doesn’t remove them from the process though, because the executive will still have a bully pulpit and rulemaking authority, both of which legislators will care a lot about.

        • silver_swift says:

          You wouldn’t need to make these deals to get things done, just put individual issues to a vote, one by one.

          Which would just get groups of people to make an alliance based on mutually agreeing to vote the same way (even on topics that they would otherwise disagree on).

          Once such an alliance includes at least 50% of the votes, you have a de facto government formation process.

  4. Loriot says:

    Watching Sanders cruise to victory – this must be what Republican Never Trumpers must have been feeling in 2016. The sad part is I’ll probably vote for him anyway since a contested convention would likely be more damaging than a Sanders candidacy.

    • Deiseach says:

      The Financial Times seems to think it will be him; I agree with them that Bloomberg is the spoiler candidate, splitting whatever supporters might rally around a different candidate like Buttigieg or Warren.

      It’s fascinating how Biden has fallen from “such a political rival Trump needed to commit impeachable crimes to get him out of the way” to “no-hoper” in media estimation, but I wonder if he’s as dead in the water as all that? And the FT seems to have also smoothed over the mess in Iowa as “an even finish” for Sanders, downplaying Buttigieg.

      All this chatter is making me think the Democratic convention to pick the final candidate is going to be really interesting, and if Sanders makes it, then the Trump/Sanders struggle will be something to behold. Can Sanders peel away the non-college educated white working class vote from Trump? Can the Democrats all rally behind their candidate and not make a dog’s dinner of getting him elected? Will we hear The Red Flag or any of William Morris’ Chants for Socialists sung at Democratic rallies? 🙂

      Any opinions? (Seriously though, The Red Flag is a belter – once you overcome the English tendency to accompany it with parlour piano and diffidence – and if they could hold their noses and sing any of the traditional union songs, it would do more to galvanise and rally support than the 1001 slogans Hillary’s campaign tried and discarded – to quote William Morris again, “a cause which cannot be sung of is not worth following”).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Can Sanders peel away the non-college educated white working class vote from Trump?

        I don’t think so. I believe I said this in one my first SSC posts on the 2016 postmortem, but the issue is:

        Working class: “We want jobs at the auto plant, not $8/hour being Wal-Mart greeters.”
        Hillary: “Learn to code.”
        Sanders: “I’ll get you $15/hour at Wal-Mart.”
        Trump: “I’ll get you jobs at the auto plant.”

        This hasn’t changed.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Has Trump succeeded in getting them the jobs at the auto plant – and if not, have they noticed?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, manufacturing jobs up, wages up, unemployment down, workforce participation up.

          • cassander says:

            Someone who claims to be on your side is likely to be more appealing than someone who brags about being actively against you, even if he doesn’t succeed. At least for long enough to win 2 presidential elections.

          • brad says:

            Or to put it another way someone that tells you what you want to hear is likely to be more appealing than someone that tells you a hard truth. At least for a while.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, both cassander and brad are correct.

            Whether or not employment actually improved for the working class is indicated by what they say on surveys about the overall health of the economy, and people are saying they’re happier about the economy than they have been in…I think ever? Nobody says that if they and the people they know in their real lives are not personally doing well.

            And it’s measured at the ballot box where people vote their wallets. If I’m wrong, then Trump loses, and I will come back here and say “oh. I thought the economy and job prospects were good, but they actually weren’t.” We’ll find out in November.

          • broblawsky says:

            Manufacturing payrolls as a function of the total civilian labor force are actually down from 2015 levels, although they were higher in 2019. We’re (probably) in a manufacturing recession. The situation looks a lot less rosy after we got the BLS revisions.

          • Manufacturing payrolls as a function of the total civilian labor force are actually down from 2015 levels,

            Is “function” a typo for “fraction”? That’s what the graph you link to appears to be showing.

            If so, it doesn’t imply that manufacturing employment is down, only that if it is up it is up by less than overall employment.

          • broblawsky says:

            Yes, fraction is what I meant to type. Sorry.

          • So then what’s the significance of the fact you quote? Wouldn’t the relevant figure be the size of the manufacturing payroll, not its ratio to total employment?

    • CatCube says:

      I imagine it’s pretty similar to what we felt. I feel obligated to share this post by Megan McArdle, made three days after the 2016 election: https://www.facebook.com/meganjmcardle/posts/680195682144639

      The whole thing is worth reading, but if you’re TLDR:

      Democrats are about to experience the madness that has beset the Republican Party over the last eight years….
      The result is a fundamentally broken politics. But that politics is not broken because of something that “Republican elites” did. Liberals have been very fond of arguing that those elites somehow encouraged the growth of these destabilizing influences by not shutting down … well, name your candidate: right-wing talk radio, the tea party, obstructionist forces in Congress, Donald Trump. Liberals are about to find out what those Republicans have long known: they had no power to shut them down.

      • Clutzy says:

        How wrong and defeatist by McArdle.

        Perhaps the elites had no power to stop Trump/Sanders by 2016, but that is because they frittered it away in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, at the border, in the cities (which had an uprising of their own in the 80s due to the violent crime rates), etc.

        Remember, the problem of the naked emperor could always have been solved by him donning a robe.

    • EchoChaos says:

      If you’re voting for him, you’re not a “Never Trumper” equivalent, as they stormed out of the party and joined the Democrats.

      And are now mad that the Democrats don’t actually care what they say.

      • BBA says:

        I can just see Jennifer Rubin pushing for a “National Unity” third party with a Clinton/Romney or Romney/Clinton ticket. Neither of them would agree to it, they and their supporters still hate each others’ guts, and it’d get exactly one vote, but hey, that one voter is a columnist for a major newspaper for some reason.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Yeah, it won’t work this year, but I do wonder whether this ends up opening up more space for a third party that tries to appeal to everyone who can’t stand either socialism or nativist nationalism. That may not be a majority anymore, but it’s not a tiny minority yet either.

      • Nick says:

        That’s not quite it, since lots of NeverTrumpers stayed in the party, but yes, they didn’t vote for him. Those that left seem to have been neocons in particular.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        The number who actually joined the Democrats is probably about equal to the number of Hollywood actors who actually moved to Canada.

      • Loriot says:

        If you’re voting for him, you’re not a “Never Trumper” equivalent, as they stormed out of the party and joined the Democrats.

        Not to any appreciable extent. The Republicans all fell in line behind Trump pretty quickly. Even his staunchest critics are now licking his boots.

        • John Schilling says:

          The Never-Trumpers are by definition the Republicans who didn’t fall in line behind Trump. They are a small minority of Republicans, but they do still exist and aren’t licking Trump’s boots.

          • Loriot says:

            That depends on your definition. I was referring to the faction who vocally opposed Trump during the 2016 primaries and tried to deny him the nomination. Most of them subsequently switched to supporting Trump.

          • Clutzy says:

            A lot of Never Trumpers (or at least those in the initial NR Against Trump issue) predicted many wrong things about how a President Trump would govern. Upon finding out they were wrong, that is when many switched.

        • Garrett says:

          The challenge for Republican politicians is that he is both a terrible human being and surprisingly popular with the electorate. Threading that needle is a challenge.
          I wouldn’t describe much of the response as boot-licking so much as having figured out how to work together. Trump certainly isn’t getting his way in the legislature.

        • Skeptic says:

          This is not even remotely true. As a walking cliche who is against everyone…but especially Trump..

          The Never Trumpers are entirely made up of Neo-Cons who believe in Forever-War and outsized support for closed borders for Israel.

          They’ll trade anything for Middle East wars and closed borders for Israel.

          As a libertarian I’m disgusted. Open borders for all white states.

          End white supremacy. Open borders for the US, open borders for Israel. Open borders for Europe.

          Humanity first!

    • brad says:

      If it was a matter of Trump’s preferred policies legislated into law vs Sanders’ preferred policies, I’d be in a real pickle. But I don’t expect either to have much of a chance of passing transformative legislation. I expect Sanders to be a far less destructive executive—both substantively and in terms of norm destruction. So if Trump v Sanders is how it turns out, I won’t be thrilled but it’ll be an easy choice.

      • Deiseach says:

        I expect Sanders to be a far less destructive executive—both substantively and in terms of norm destruction.

        So are you saying you expect Sanders to win (if he wins) on a platform of democratic socialism/social democracy, get into power (if he does) and then be able to do sweet Fanny Adams?

        You might as well vote in a turnip then, if that’s what is going to happen. A caretaker president is one thing, but “can’t get one single one of my policies passed, and that includes buying free-trade sugar for the White House kitchens” is literally wasting your vote (and I don’t say that lightly).

        • Loriot says:

          I’d rather have a turnip as president than Trump.

        • brad says:

          I don’t think it’s a waste to vote for useless over destructive.

          Edit: and if nothing else, I expect Sanders’ choices for courts to be better.

          • Deiseach says:

            Edit: and if nothing else, I expect Sanders’ choices for courts to be better.

            Then you do expect him to be able to do something. Of course, the way the judicial selection system has been politicised, he may not be able to get his ‘better’ choices selected anyway.

            What I’m saying is that if I voted for Sanders (and had I a vote in an American election, I’d be very inclined to vote for him) then I’d hope that he could do something, even if I expected a lot of inertia and opposition. But if I genuinely thought he’d just sit there for four years with the biggest highlight of the year being pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, I’d vote for anyone else I thought might have a better chance of getting at least one (1) policy passed.

          • brad says:

            To be clear, Sanders is my very last choice in the primary. All I’m saying is if it comes down to Sanders v Trump it’ll be an easy choice for me.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          You might as well vote in a turnip then, if that’s what is going to happen. A caretaker president is one thing, but “can’t get one single one of my policies passed, and that includes buying free-trade sugar for the White House kitchens” is literally wasting your vote (and I don’t say that lightly).

          Well I’d vote Democrat if they ran an actual yellow dog…

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The executive has a good deal of power, even if the senate votes no to literally everything.
          Firstly: The voters might actually object to a do-nothing congress, and vote their bums out. It has happened before.

          Secondly: The SEC. Acting appointments. and so on. A lot of jobs get filled by the president, and not all of them go through senate approval. A US where the securities and exchange commission suddenly starts doing its actual job, and where tax evasion gets loudly and effectively prosecuted is going to be a rather different (less criminal) place.

      • Garrett says:

        > in terms of norm destruction

        If “norms” matter, it seems to me that there’s a lack of structure. The norms should be codified so that they don’t matter.

        • brad says:

          Norms matter in every human institution that has ever existed.

          • Loriot says:

            See also: The abject failure of “code is law” and blockchain governance. Also, the constant complaints about bureaucracy and red tape when people do try to codify norms.

    • Guy in TN says:

      If Sanders gets the primary nod, November will be a historic make-or-break moment for the Left.

      If Sanders wins in November, he will have shown that the Dem establishment’s supposed main concern with him, “electability”, had no currency. Even more, a 2020 victory will also diffuse future electability args against left-wing candidates in 2024, 2028, etcetera, in the same manner. The narrative of Clinton’s 2016 loss and Sanders 2020 vindication will be a cornerstone of every Democratic primary election cycle for decades.

      Perhaps more interestingly: The center will be forced to make its ideological case based on the merits alone, on the substance of their ideas, instead of relying on the rhetoric of “political pragmatism”. They will be in the same position the Left was in for the past 40 years: Saying “Yes, your position is more popular, but my position is right“, with the looming question of whether nominating someone with less popular positions is worth it.

      But if Sanders loses in November, the results will be McGovern-esque. The Left will have to contend with with the fact that they got everything they had wanted in an election, a socialist fire-breather backed by the working class vs. an oafish billionaire plutocrat, and they still lost. Although the Left would still have favorable demographic trends to point to, it could be 10-20 years before they ever feel comfortable nominating someone like Sanders again. The center will be absolutely vindicated. It’s make or break.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I largely agree with this except for the part about “backed by the working class.” Bernie’s core constituency is college kids who don’t want to pay back their student loans. Not…miners supporting a guy who wants to ban fracking. Sanders is still ultimately a limousine socialist.

  5. BBA says:

    A. Elkus on the corona virus and what we’re “supposed” to be afraid of.

    I remember the ridiculous overreactions to the Ebola outbreak of 2014, like Chris Christie ignoring the quarantine protocols and demanding that a potentially exposed person be held in a tent at the Newark airport instead of, say, a medical facility. I also remember an equally ridiculous counter-overreaction on the left: the argument that Ebola was only feared because it came from Africa, and concern about infectious disease was simply an expression of racism and xenophobia. In retrospect, our ability to politicize it should’ve been a huge red flag.

    • broblawsky says:

      I suspect that two intertwined reasons why the messaging on the coronavirus is so much more restrained than the messaging on Ebola are:
      a) The Chinese government is going to get irritated at anyone who implies they don’t have control of the situation;
      b) China is much more tied into the global economy than most African states, and panic over the coronavirus could cost a lot of people a lot of money.

      • John Schilling says:

        c) The coronavirus is just a bad case of the flu, and Americans ain’t afraid of no flu. Ebola, makes blood come out of all your bodily orifices, and that’s scary. Also, ~2% mortality vs up to 90% for the worst Ebola strains. How many people believe they are in the frailest or unluckiest 2% of the population?

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s true, but the economic disruptions are what I’m mostly paying attention to. Up until Friday, the stock market hadn’t really sold off at all. I think that’s at least partially because of US media trying to avoid spooking people. It wasn’t until we got confirmation of large-scale infection in South Korea that people started getting really selling.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, the disruptions from quarantine are probably the worst effect, and that’s partly because of having been criticised for not doing enough about SARS so the Chinese government has gone to the other extreme.

          I actually think the worst thing about the coronavirus is that there isn’t a vaccine for it yet; get one ready and mass-produced and it’s a bad flu but no worse than that. The deaths I’m seeing reported so far (including the two in Italy) are mainly elderly people, plus one suggestion that the heavy rate of smoking in China means more Chinese men with pre-existing lung/respiratory problems and hence a lot more vulnerable to the secondary infections (such as pneumonia) that accompany the coronavirus.

        • BBA says:

          I think this is another strike against the widespread belief that the mainstream media are a bunch of party organs spewing DNC talking points in lockstep. If they were, spreading a disease panic to hopefully trigger a recession would be the obvious way to hurt Trump’s reelection chances.

          On the other hand, I’m starting to lean towards the theory that the MSM are party organs for the CCP.

          And since clearly nobody clicked the link, Elkus was comparing this to last fall when seemingly every media outlet was predicting, if not hoping, that the Joker movie would cause an incel mass shooting. Yes, those were mostly different writers, but the overall contrast was striking.

          • John Schilling says:

            If they were, spreading a disease panic to hopefully trigger a recession would be the obvious way to hurt Trump’s reelection chances.

            I’m not sure you’ve thought this through. In general, a poor domestic economy hurts the party in power. But if there’s a clear exogenous cause, popular leaders can remain popular. See e.g. Castro in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela, and for that matter FDR and Churchill during the rationing and wage freezes of WW2.

            If the reason the US economy sucks is perceived to be a foreign Chinese disease is disrupting the foreign Chinese supply chain that someone allowed to replace America’s domestic manufacturing industry, and is now threatening to kill us all unless we keep all the diseased foreign Chinamen outside our borders, the result is not going to be Trumpists deciding to vote Democrat to make the economy better.

            It will be the opposite of that.

          • BBA says:

            What’s the alternative, then? Letting Trump ride on four years of peace and prosperity and coast to certain reelection?

            To be clear, my view is that Trump will be reelected no matter what happens.

          • Yeah, I can easily see a pandemic making borders more popular. Especially if the media stick to the line that worrying about cleanliness is a sign of racism. But as far as who it helps or hurts, it could really go either way.

            @BBA

            If the Coronavirus hits the US, I could imagine the Democrats making the argument that we were unprepared to face the virus because of cuts to healthcare. That would tie in well to Bernie’s Medicare for All proposal.

          • Loriot says:

            > Elkus was comparing this to last fall when seemingly every media outlet was predicting, if not hoping, that the Joker movie would cause an incel mass shooting.

            I did read the link, but as I’ve never personally witnessed any of the Joker shooting speculation articles, the comparison fell a little flat for me. I don’t doubt that they existed, but it can’t have been that big if I never saw any of them. At any rate, the media promotes stupid scare stories all the time. It was probably just a slow news week, and noone’s going to win clicks or prestige for publicly arguing against the risk of mass shooting, whereas something that actually matters like COVID will have experts chiming in to prevent a panic, which has real world consequences and may make things worse.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Worst reasonably-likely case for the Democrats is coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world. Trump institutes harsh measures to close the borders against potential carriers, and the Democrats (or their proxies) sue. Trump ignores injunctions or (more likely) obtains emergency stays, and the virus remains contained in the US. This will likely be more important than the failing economy.

            Worst case for Trump is coronavirus spreads uncontained in the US, with many fatalities; this will certainly be blamed on Trump’s leadership (whether or not it is Trump’s fault; the buck still stops in the Oval Office).

          • JonathanD says:

            @BBA, the DNC and the Left may hate Trump, but a recession hurts a lot of people. You might consider that the people on your(?) side aren’t actually all monsters willing to crash the economy to win an election.

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t really recall a situation where ive felt less confident in my predictions for the future (even when I ended up being wrong like in 2016).

      • eric23 says:

        Eh, I’ve been saying for a couple weeks that it’s no more infections nor more lethal than SARS, and the Chinese medical system is presumably better not worse now than then – so there should be no problem getting it under control.

        And now, in the last few days, it’s becoming clear that the number of cases is peaking and maybe declining.

        • chrisminor0008 says:

          Why do you believe China’s published statistics?

          • eric23 says:

            If you believed them a month ago about the numbers going up, why not believe them now about the numbers going down? The same incentives to lie were present then as now, and a major lie can’t exactly be kept up forever.

          • chrisminor0008 says:

            @eric23, I didn’t believe them then, either, except in as much as a disease exists.

            China only publicly acknowledged there was anything wrong at all after there were cases outside of China. I believe they’re trying to minimize the perceived severity.

        • MantaRay says:

          It does look like China has got its outbreak under control.

          As for the rest of the world, the situation in Iran in particular seems concerning. 8 reported deaths, at a 2% mortality rate, would suggest ~400 infections. Additionally, when death occurs it’s usually more than one week from the onset of symptoms (and contagiousness), implying more than just these 400 cases by now. Iran has however only been able to confirm 43 cases, and so the window for contact tracing may be closing, forcing them to rely on China-style quarantines of cities.

          My unsupported view is that the lack of widespread infection in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries suggests the virus doesn’t spread well in hot and/or humid conditions, so hopefully this thing should start to die off in April. I think things would have turned out far differently if the response had been weaker – we could have been looking at thousands of cases per country across large parts of the northern hemisphere by now, if we’d just let it spread like flu.

  6. CaptainCrutch says:

    From “Asking for a book that probably will never be written” department. My impression of American justice system is that minors are not sentenced nearly as harshly as adults (Which is probably true for almost everywhere) for crimes.

    But what kind of clemency can someone expect if they kill someone as a minor but aren’t discovered until they come of age.

    • sharper13 says:

      It’s complicated and varies between States, but generally someone is going to be kicked up to Adult Court (instead of Juvie) if they’re 22+ when arrested, or if the crime is severe (rape/murder/etc…) and they’re at least 15-16+.

      So for murder, if they’re now an adult, they’re pretty much going to be tried as an adult, because the Juvenile Court no longer has jurisdiction over them.

    • Deiseach says:

      My impression of American justice system is that minors are not sentenced nearly as harshly as adults

      Interesting, my impression was that a lot more are tried as adults where in Europe they would be tried as juveniles, and this includes young teens (so we’re not talking about “nearly 18”, we’re talking about “13 years old“).

      This could be in order to punish them more harshly since, if you’re correct, they wouldn’t be treated so severely as juveniles. Cases like the linked one, where it’s child-murdering-child, do stir up a lot of outrage and outcry and so get blown up into ‘lock up this evil monster for life’ by the media.

      • Garrett says:

        Thanks for mentioning the Lionel Tate case. As noted, the court process ultimately resulted in a sentence of “one year’s house arrest and 10 years’ probation”. Which he violated in multiple ways including “violating the terms of his house arrest when he was found out of his house and carrying an eight-inch knife” and “charged with armed burglary with battery, armed robbery and violation of probation”.

        I remember hearing about the case and wondering if 1st degree murder really was appropriate.

        IMO, charging juveniles as adults makes more sense when the crime/actions/consequences are all straight-forward and have obvious serious consequences. Eg. taking a knife from home, walking to someone else’s house and stabbing them to death. I am much more appreciative of juvenile sentencing for crimes in a complex regulatory environment (eg. securities fraud) or which involve a more complex chain of events such as the felony-murder rule.

  7. Viliam says:

    Peterson: “Clean up your room, bucko!”

    Afroman: “I was gonna clean my room until I got high…

  8. Tenacious D says:

    Is anyone paying attention to what’s going on in Canada? Much of the rail network has been shutdown for around two weeks, which is also causing serious backups at the major ports. In Québec and the Atlantic provinces, propane shortages are imminent, and on the Prairies, hundreds of millions of dollars of grain can’t get to market. The reason for the shutdown is a series of blockades as a solidarity protest in support of a First Nation in B.C. where a local protest was removed by the police so that a natural gas pipeline could be built. The complicated part is that at least part of that community supports the pipeline; there is disagreement over who gets to speak for the FN between elected chiefs and hereditary chiefs. The blockades have been put up by a mixture of native rights protesters and Extinction Rebellion types. A few of the latter have been removed (by police or counter-protesters) but the most strategically-important one (at a spot in the network without good alternate routes) is manned by Mohawk protesters (also with the complexity that not all of their leadership is on board), and historically it has not gone well for anyone when they have clashed with police. The prime minister said yesterday that it’s time for the blockades to come down, but so far things are still at a standstill. The impasse could persist for a while, as he won’t give the police a direct order to clear barricades. Meanwhile, frustration is building in Alberta (where the oil and gas industry is huge) that pipelines can’t seem to get built successfully even after passing numerous regulatory hurdles, while technically-illegal protests get handled with kid gloves. This frustration might boil over into vigilante action and/or a constitutional crisis if the blockades last much longer. The situation touches on a lot of the third rails of Canadian politics—native issues, environmental issues, inter-provincial resentment, not being able to build infrastructure effectively anymore—so I think the government was hoping it would blow over on its own. But it hasn’t. If you were Prime Minister, what would you do?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Time to shit or get off the pot.

      Reach out to the elected and hereditary chiefs and tell them that you’ll start clearing protesters in a week unless they decide to present a united front, in which case you’ll kill the pipeline and take any money you’ve committed to pay for use of the land back. Allow them to counteroffer a date. Announce to the media that what the date they’ve set is. Follow through. Strongly encourage the FN people to elect new chiefs according to the resolution they want, if possible.

      My displeasure with the government for seizing land for industrial use is at war with my disgust for aristocrats here. Personally, I would hope the Canadian government wouldn’t be in this position in the first place, but now that they are, I think the only way out if through. If forcing the issue is the only thing that gets you a coherent resolution, do it.

      • Deiseach says:

        It also sounds as if it would be well worth the Canadian governments (of whatever political stripe) time to investigate alternate means of bulk transport than the railways; long-distance trucking immediately comes to mind, and if people don’t want more highways or whatever to accommodate this, would they instead prefer to have their heating oil, gas, and grain held up by blockades of railway choke-points?

      • Garrett says:

        > in which case you’ll kill the pipeline

        But that gives the protesters what they want.
        I would note that, at a rough social level, First-Nations people in Canada are roughly akin to African-Americans in the US. Canada’s adopted original sin of coloured people.

        So in addition to the usual protester/police interactions which need to be managed for television optics there’s yet-another layer of emotional valence. Imagine if the response to Ferguson was to show up and disperse protesters with firehoses …

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t care about the protesters; I care about the government taking land.

          If the elected chiefs are giving up their people’s lands for money in their own pockets, fuck them and the government. If the hereditary chiefs are giving up their people’s welfare for the feeling that they personally haven’t sold out, fuck them instead. I’m willing to be the bad guy in order to figure out who the right group to fuck is.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If the elected chiefs are giving up their people’s lands for money in their own pockets, fuck them and the government. If the hereditary chiefs are giving up their people’s welfare for the feeling that they personally haven’t sold out, fuck them instead. I’m willing to be the bad guy in order to figure out who the right group to fuck is.

            I agree with your point. Someone is being assholes in the… Firsty community? What’s the short form of “First Nations people”?

        • JonathanD says:

          @Garrett, I mean, the actual response was to use quasi-military vehicles and tear gas. Or are you saying that the firehoses would have been worse because of the parallels with the sixties?

        • Tenacious D says:

          Imagine if the response to Ferguson was to show up and disperse protesters with firehoses …

          That’s a vivid analogy!

    • The Nybbler says:

      If the Canadian government cannot clear those blockades, they are not in control of their own territory and do not deserve to be recognized as the Canadian government. If they will not clear those blockades, they have effectively sided with the protestors and are doing a terrible job at governing, and are likely to end up having to machine-gun angry mobs of their non-native citizens to avoid being bodily tossed out of office. So if I were PM I’d clear the barricades by force; the Mohawks may have defeated the Mohicans but presumably they cannot actually defeat the Canadian military.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes exactly. It is a good thing to allow protests, but it a quite different thing to allow industrial sabotage under the rubrick of protest. If say the nuclear industry had ruffians shut down the natural gas transport, Canada would cart them off to jail pronto. They should do the same with these protesters. Of course they will be accused of not being woke. They need to act like adults and do what is necessary.

        • JonathanD says:

          @Mark V Anderson and @The Nybbler,

          Do you guys hold the same opinion in the Bundy case?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, the Bundys clearly needed to be removed — by force if necessary (and they were). However, the situation was less urgent as the infrastructure was less critical. Had they instead seized and occupied a section of I-84 or I-5, it would have been more similar.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I didn’t follow the Bundy case very closely, but I think Nybbler is right that it wasn’t causing nearly the economic issues of this one. Also I think the Bundys had guns, so they had to be more careful? Didn’t the Feds go in and take care of them? Is that really applicable to this one?

          • Clutzy says:

            Pretty sure the government could have ignored the Bundys for a near infinite timeline without anyone noticing. IIRC they “occupied” a spot of land that they claimed they owned anyways and no one was using.

          • John Schilling says:

            There were two Bundy-related standoffs, the one with the grazing land in Nevada, and the one with the wildlife refuge in Oregon.

            The Nevada standoff, the Bundys and their allies did briefly block an interstate highway, but it was made clear to them that guns or no, this was not going to last the day. Then, as you say, they retreated to land that nobody else really cared about and were mostly ignored.

            In Oregon, they and their allies occupied land that was unambiguously Not Theirs, in a way that inconvenienced other people but not nearly so much as blocking a major transit route would have. So the Feds were able to wait them out, but in that case it was just waiting until the most convenient time to make a round of mostly-bloodless(*) arrests rather than just ignoring them.

            * One of the occupiers appears to have committed suicide by cop.

      • Deiseach says:

        the Mohawks may have defeated the Mohicans but presumably they cannot actually defeat the Canadian military.

        Yeah, but it always looks bad when you send in the soldiers to clear out civilians exercising their right of free assembly and protest, Nybbler, and add in the angle of “colonialism and history of force against Indigenous peoples” and you’re putting extra fuel on the fire.

        Tricky one to get right whatever decision they make.

        • The Nybbler says:

          add in the angle of “colonialism and history of force against Indigenous peoples” and you’re putting extra fuel on the fire.

          I’m aware. I don’t care, and neither should the Canadian government. Furthermore, calling this a “protest” is overly euphemistic. We’re not talking about a bunch of people with signs and bullhorns who occasionally block traffic and are pushed back by the police when they do so. We’re talking about a literal blockade.

          If it really looks worse to clear out a blockade by force than to allow your country’s transportation network to be shut down… it’s time to damn the appearances.

      • Tenacious D says:

        If the Canadian government cannot clear those blockades, they are not in control of their own territory and do not deserve to be recognized as the Canadian government

        A non-confidence vote in Parliament isn’t out of the question.

  9. ana53294 says:

    Feminist article on dismantling the family (found it via marginalrevolution).

    The whole story of a broken family fucking up a woman and her wanting to tear down the institution reads to me as a reason to have stronger families, not weaker ones. I get that it’s a fringe idea (how fringe/far left is Vice?), but I don’t get why people even suggest it. Families that reject queer members are broken, not strong. It was bizarre throughout.

    • Beans says:

      I agree. The integration of child-rearing into a larger support network sounds ok under certain implementations, but is in no way mutually exclusive with the nuclear family. Why not encourage strong families, but also strong caring communities in which families are situated that help keep things together and pick up the slack if a given family unit falters or breaks down? Her political claims here are clearly biased by her bad family life. That’s certainly a shame, but it doesn’t entail that the concept of the family must be dissolved.

    • GearRatio says:

      If the Vice article is accurate to her work, her basic position seems to be “Let’s destroy the family, and somehow it will all work out and be beautiful”. She doesn’t seem to have any ideas for how this would actually work besides thinking it should.

      I don’t think I have to take her very seriously because I don’t think even she thinks she’s saying anything significant. I’m pretty sure she’s just a edgelord.

    • salvorhardin says:

      As far as I can tell the steelman of her position is that child raising labor should be distributed equitably across an.entire community, and this will both liberate parents from being shackled to their own kids and liberate kids from being at the mercy of bad parents. Utopian communes have tried this, I think repeatedly, and it has never to my knowledge worked.

      • Plumber says:

        @salvorhardin >

        “…Utopian communes have tried this, I think repeatedly, and it has never to my knowledge worked….”

        The kibbutzim in Isreal had “children’s houses” and somewhat collectivized child rearing in the 20th century, and it worked for a few generations, but that model is far less popular now.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim describes some of the results in his book The Children of the Dream; it’s very well-written if you want to read a copy like I did. The model is far less popular for a reason: after the first generation of enthusiastic true believers, most mothers wanted to spend more time raising their individual children than the old labor-and-children’s-house models would let them.

          Meanwhile, children raised in the children’s houses faced caregivers who’d leave at the end of a shift and usually rotate to another job entirely after a few years. They ended up bonding extremely tightly to their peer group at the cost of their desire to make independent decisions, and being more reluctant to form ties outside that tight-knit peer group.

      • ana53294 says:

        liberate parents from being shackled to their own kids

        Why have kids if you view them as shackles?

        Hippies also had communes, but AFAIU the children were just neglected if they didn’t have a caring mother.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Damned if I know, but some quantity of posters seem to think that everyone should have children, regardless of their desires. Also, of course, some people like sex, but either don’t have access to contraception, don’t use it correctly, or have legitimate contraception failures.

          • abystander says:

            I have seen some posts saying that people may just think of the responsibility of having children but they can bring a lot of joy.

            I don’t remember any posts saying the people should have children as a responsibility to society or whatever regardless of their personal desires.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think it’s more like “people not having children is a sign of a broken society.” People having more children “just because” won’t fix society, but if we could fix society people would have more children.

            Compare with the Links post discussion of diversity in corporate leadership. Diversity in corporate leadership is a sign your company is identifying the best talent and promoting them, because it’s highly unlikely the only people competent in the organization are all going to be straight white males. Companies then take this to mean, “oh, if we want to perform well, we just need to go hire a bunch of black lesbians!” No, adding diversity to your broken company will not fix it. But fixing the company will result in more diversity.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Different groups don’t have the same level of ‘talent,’ so your logic is incorrect.

            For example, let’s say that a requirement for corporate leadership is to work 60+ hours a week for an entire career. If 20% of group A willing to do so, while 5% of group B is willing to do the same, then there is four times as much ‘talent’ in group A based on this difference alone.

            Similarly, if companies prefer to hire from within, rather than generic MBA droids, then the diversity of the worker pool limits the diversity of the leadership pool. The diversity of the worker pool can be heavily limited by such things as differences in interest.

            Companies have only a limited ability to identify and promote talent.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Abusive families are perfectly strong (irrespective of the personal weaknesses of their strongmen); the problem with them is that they’re evil, not that they’re weak. I’m not aware of any consistently workable solution for evil families. The best outcomes for situations like that I’ve seen or heard of, including my father’s, has involved children being effectively adopted by families of friends. For children who don’t have such kind friends, they tend to end up extremely fucked up and/or dead.

      Communities aren’t effective solutions. A community might clothe you and feed you, but IME it will never love you. The only relief people have from this kind of neglect and abuse is extraordinary kindness. Making people marginally wealthier might enable them to enact their kinder impulses, but short of that I don’t know that there’s anything that can be done. It breaks my heart.

      Remember, kids:

      God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

      • Garrett says:

        In some ways, the modern “rule-of-law” approach has hurt here. In ye olde days it would be possible for a few of the local men to go and rough-up such an abusive father as a matter of justice.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Unlikely, though.

        • JonathanD says:

          @Garrett, this is an idealized vision of the ye olde days. In said ye olde days, in my family, there was a family where the stepdad had his wife and one (or maybe both?) of his stepdaughters pregnant at the same time. People knew. It was a small town. They were just *that* family. Nothing ever happened to that guy. Nobody beat him up or made him stop. My cousin (who’s in his direct line of descent and from whom I have some of the story) tells me that he was welcome at family events until the day he died.

          In the modern era, there might have been DFS. But back then, there wasn’t even anyone to call. Just kids trapped in a shitty abusive family with nowhere to go and no one to help.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      There is an interesting set of trade-offs here. The author seems to favor strong communities as a counter to evil families. This could even work. But right now, strong families are the only effective counter I’ve seen to evil communities.

      Due to personal experience (abusive school system I only got out of because of my family), I have a very difficult time being objective when evaluating such trade-offs. I strongly suspect the author is in the same boat, but with experience pushing their bias in the opposite direction.

      • ana53294 says:

        But right now, strong families are the only effective counter I’ve seen to evil communities.

        They always were, I guess. Family has always been stronger than community (although not necessarily nuclear family). Sometimes community is all family.

        I know Russian pretty well, but recently learnt how many words there are for family members. Like, the husband’s sister’s husband is one word, and the brother’s wife’s brother is another word, and they are all family.

        I suspect that English probably also had terms more specific than “in-law”, because you have them in almost every language.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        There is an interesting set of trade-offs here. The author seems to favor strong communities as a counter to evil families. This could even work. But right now, strong families are the only effective counter I’ve seen to evil communities.

        Abusive biological parents exist, but statistically a child is much more likely to be abused by a step parent than a biological parent, and by a foster parent than a step parent, and abuse rates in old-style orphanages, where children were being taken care of by professionals, were even higher.

        Caring for a child is hard work, it requires high investment to be done properly. Barring special cases, biological parents, or at most biological grandparents, are the people who will be most invested in a child well-being. If they are not going to put in the effort, then nobody likely will.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          statistically a child is much more likely to be abused by a step parent than a biological parent, and by a foster parent than a step parent, and abuse rates in old-style orphanages, where children were being taken care of by professionals, were even higher.

          The probability that a child being abused by their parent will be abused by their parent is tautologically one. Orphanages and foster homes are pretty terrible, but better than leaving those kids in those homes if they’re established as fallbacks.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Sure, but what this feminist “thinker” proposes is to essentially put every child in some kind of foster care.

          • The probability that a child being abused by their parent will be abused by their parent is tautologically one. Orphanages and foster homes are pretty terrible, but better than leaving those kids in those homes if they’re established as fallbacks.

            The probability that a child who is taken away from his parents by some sort of child protective service and put in an orphanage or foster home would actually be better off as a result is not one.

            I refer you to my standard horror story about the FLDS case, where three hundred “children,” infants up to adults who the authorities claimed were minors, were seized because the authorities didn’t like their religion.

            Some years ago I asked someone who, as a law student at Cornell, had done volunteer legal work helping poor people, whether the power of authorities to take children away from their parents had, on net, good or bad effects. His reply was that he couldn’t say in general, but in the community where he had worked the net effect was bad.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Are you suggesting that being abused by your parents is preferable, David?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I think he’s suggesting that state intervention in these cases is likely to make things worse, either because the state decides that the biological parents are abusive when they aren’t or because even when the biological parents are less than ideal, whatever the children get as foster parents are likely to be worse.

            I don’t know whether this is true, anti-statism is pretty much David’s entire shtick, but I tend to agree with him on this one: the state is usually bad at taking care of the interests of people without significant political clout, and the sort of families whose children get removed by the state (marginalized underclass or low-status weirdos like the FLDS) are a central example of people without political clout.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @viVI_IViv

            Sounds like a very circumspect “yes” to me.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Are you suggesting that being abused by your parents is preferable, David?

            I’ll go ahead and non-circumspectly say yes.

            But note how much baggage your question includes. You implicitly expect us to imagine the worst sort of abuse and compare it to the most benign sort of government intervention. I decline.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            You implicitly expect us to imagine the worst sort of abuse

            Because it happens. If you’re going to advocate for the dismantling of the faulty system that we have to help these kids, the least you can do is look little Timmy in the eyes when you lock him in the closet. His mother doesn’t.

          • Aapje says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            A claim that the current system is worse than nothing is not the same as a claim that any system is worse than nothing.

            dismantling

            A good faith reading would not assume this, but would include ‘reform’ or ‘replacement’ as things that David could have meant.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because it happens.

            Yes, and sometimes it happens because you and your state are the ones who handed Timmy over to the foster parents who lock him in the closet, when his actual parents were only falsely accused of that. How willing are you to look Timmy in the eye when you do that?

            You seem to want to debate the fantasy version of social services, where the state only ever takes children away from actually-bad parents and gives them to not-that-bad foster parents. That’s about as relevant as debating the ethics of Santa’s gift-giving policy. The reality is, the state doesn’t know which parents are good or bad. It can make educated guesses, yes. But given the biological tendency of parents to treat their own children better than random strangers’ children, the state’s guesses as to parental goodness would have to be very accurate for a take-children-away-from-their-parents-because-abuse strategy to be a net good.

          • Are you suggesting that being abused by your parents is preferable, David?

            No.

            I’m suggesting that being taken away from parents who are not abusing you by authorities who claim they are is usually worse than being left with said parents.

            As should be obvious from my reference to the FLDS case. No evidence was ever offered that any of the three hundred children taken away from their parents was being abused by anyone.

    • Plumber says:

      @ana53294,
      The phrases “Equal wrongs for all”, and When everyone is special no one is special” came to mind on my reading the linked profile.

      The community co-parenting she craves are called “friends”, “relatives”, “co-parishioners”, and “neighbors”, and are seldom to be found among the cosmopolitan, educated, and childless (such as herself), but instead among groups of adults with big families.

      • ana53294 says:

        @Plumber

        Good point. Strong, caring, helpful communities that will help with child and elderly care are more likely in religious/ethnic communities that have strong families too.

        Except for the gay community, that is. Although I’m not sure how much they help care for the elderly and children (never been around a gay community, only ever met gay individuals).

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I feel like the past half-century’s push to get mothers back into the workforce is also relevant here. It’s a lot harder for members of a community to keep an eye on each other’s children when everybody is out working for most of the day.

    • Deiseach says:

      Example of startling insight: “OMG the Gilmore Girls is all about women as main characters! That’s why it’s so popular with women viewers!” Listen babes, if it took you 13 years to figure out this about a 2000-2007 show, a show I have never watched but already knew this startling insight because everyone gushing about it online was a girl and it was pitched to be the exact “teen girl soap/drama” to capture such an audience and retain it to grow up alongside it – what makes you so insightful?

      “Nuclear family bad! Patriarchy bad! Feminism means overthrowing capitalism! Heterosexual mores awful, let’s all be queer!” – that’s been a staple of feminism since second-wave feminism. Maybe if you’re 20 years old today and never heard anything about anything, this might sound revolutionary (though I note Lewis is 31) – but it’s really more a canny publisher glomming on to the next hot trend (a specific brand of middle-class college-grad Marxist-tinged queerness is in right now); no wonder the editor “laughed” when our reporter quoted back to her what Lewis claimed:

      “Verso read the essay and the editor was like, ‘The incredible thing about your writing is that it’s like you’re an alien who has come down to tell us the bad news about heterosexual culture,’” Lewis recalled. “And that’s why they gave me the book.”

      Warren laughed when I recited this over the phone. Lewis’s approach to culture “allows you to see things as they are,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful feeling to have someone point out things you don’t even realize you’ve accepted as ‘normal.’”

      Feck’s sake, does nobody remember the Martian poets of the 70s/80s? That was exactly what it was all about:

      Martian poetry was a minor movement in British poetry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which everyday things and human behaviour are described in a strange way, as if by a visiting Martian who does not understand them.

      My trouble with all this is that I am literally too old for this shit and remember it from the first time round. The contretemps over this book will die down, Lewis will continue to give talks and readings for small magazines and special-interest groups at colleges, and heterosexual society will rumble on.

    • Zephalinda says:

      The linked piece by the same author on dating is even odder. The basic thrust of her argument in both places seems to be that she doesn’t like emotional labor (fair enough), doesn’t think people should have to do it (also, fair enough), is deeply suspicious that women’s family and romantic relationships are a terrible bargain for them, and thus feels that society oppresses women by having the state of “relationship” (to anyone) be socially normative at all.

      However, instead of just proposing that folks withdraw from the relationship market to atomized self-sufficiency, she instead seems to think that a handwavey disseminated relationship communism would mean everybody would get to consume all the love they need without having to produce it except by “choice”– kind of like a UBI of affection, I guess. Except that since emotional labor doesn’t scale, it’s even less clear how the production-side economics would work in that case.

      • CaptainCrutch says:

        State mandated gfs, here I come!

        • Garrett says:

          I’ve been whining about that here before it was cool, dammit!

        • viVI_IViv says:

          If radical feminists end up advocating incel positions it’ll be all the more evidence that we are in the dankest timeline.

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            I would say that feminist and incel talking points are coming from the same mindset (Entitlement comes from need, not from worth, if you don’t give me what I need to thrive, you are oppressing me) so there’s going to be overlap, but no shared praxis – everyone is social darwinist when it’s their turn to care for the weak.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yang should have gone with genetically engineered catgirls for domestic ownership instead of $1000/month.

          • Evan Þ says:

            What, and get the animal rights groups upset at him?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m already a carnivore, so meh.

            No, better than meh. The catgirls will be obligate carnivores. So, me and my harem of genetically-engineered catgirls facing off against the faceless minions of PETA. What’s not to like?

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Except that since emotional labor doesn’t scale, it’s even less clear how the production-side economics would work in that case.

        Since when communists cared about the production side of economics? Just confiscate and redistribute everything, free stuff for all! And when stuff inevitably runs out, just blame the embezzlers and the counter-revolutionary saboteurs.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Maybe I’m failing an Ideological Turing Test, but to me people like this sound like comic book villains. She had a bad childhood with her family ao she wants to take family away from everyone? That’s some Sasuke Uchiha level of angst!

      And what’s the intended result of abolishing family? Being liberated by the shackles of our biological bonds so that we can all become sad-looking perimenopausal academics whose closest relative is a cat named Robespierre? Thanks, but no thanks.

  10. What would we expect from a President Sanders? Obviously, he would be lucky to get even one of his ideas passed through Congress so that’s probably not going to happen. But there are other things he can do through his executive power and by being President, he can change the national conversation and the priorities of the Democratic party. What would we expect?

    • Well... says:

      I’m kinda curious what people here think of his wokeness levels. He seems incredibly woke in some areas but not in others; how would this translate into the policies he’d push?

      • salvorhardin says:

        I’d imagine this would mostly affect criminal justice and immigration policy. There is unlikely to be much loosening of actual rules for who can get in (because Bernie thinks “open borders are a Koch brothers idea”) but rules for how those who try to get in, or already in, are treated would likely change. I’d also expect more Justice Department investigations of racism and/or excessive force in local police departments. It’s unclear whether EEOC type antidiscrimination investigations would increase as much; I would presume more than under Trump, but not necessarily more than under Obama.

        Speaking of Justice Department priorities, I would expect much, much more aggressive discretionary prosecution decisions around anything that can be spun as “sticking it to Wall Street”: so, insider trading, securities fraud, tax evasion, etc. Antitrust enforcement would also likely get much more aggressive.

        • I think that “Koch brothers proposal” thing overstates his immigration beliefs. He has taken it back. My impression is that he doesn’t really care as much about the issue, and probably won’t fight the party too much on whatever the consensus is.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Re: Sticking it to wall street. All of which will help the economy. A financial sector which approximates a criminal enterprise is *not* healthy capitalism.

          Warren is preferable on this, however, simply due to domain expertise. When embarking on an anti-corruption crusade, being one of the foremost experts in the field is rather helpful. Also, just likely have a better rolodex of people to appoint.

          • Skeptical Wolf says:

            Warren is preferable on this, however, simply due to domain expertise.

            Warren has a lot of ideas on a lot of things, most of which I’m not particularly qualified to evaluate. But I have enough education and experience in the financial sector to recognize that she is deeply misinformed in that particular area. I’m not referring to her policy proposals (some of which I agree with, some not), but to factual statements she has made about the current state of the world. The fact that she can fundamentally and loudly misunderstand what a product she proposes to aggressively regulate is doesn’t set her apart from most politicians, but it does make me deeply skeptical of other claims she makes to “domain expertise”.

          • Deiseach says:

            Warren is preferable on this, however, simply due to domain expertise.

            She has also shown, however, that she can be baited into doing damn stupid crap. My respect for her capabilities, little as that might be, has genuinely been lowered by the PR stunts somebody (is it herself?) seems to think are wowzer ideas, from the DNA test nobody wanted to the ‘drinkin’ my own beer in my own kitchen with my own husband and my own dog, just like you ordinary folks’ video to the ‘9 year old trans kid will pick my Education Secretary’ idiocy soundbite.

            She may have the expertise, but it also looks as if once the wind blows the wrong way all that will go out the window and she’ll make silly decisions based on personal pique.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Bernie may not be too woke (honestly he’s too old to be convincingly woke -“Hello fellow non-binary kids and people of color”), but his appointees (like Obama’s) will be plenty woke. This applies to all the Democrats with the possible exception of Bloomberg, and probably to Bloomberg too in most areas.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Spending. Every major platform piece Sanders tries to initiate will include a major jump in $$$ going out, and will only be passed in the house/senate (barring some pretty radical shifts) by quid pro quo spending. If its not political gridlock its going to be deficits 20-30% higher (at least) than current highs.

    • broblawsky says:

      I expect to see some kind of serious purge of ICE and the Border Patrol.

      • Evan Þ says:

        purge of ICE

        Don’t worry; the anti-global-warming activists will get right around to stopping that.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Serious purge” would be more like “rearranging the deck chairs”; you need some kind of border authority even if you declared open borders in the morning, even if that’s just the Customs officials, and there will always be a need for a body to do the paperwork and the patrols. You can get rid of ICE and the Border Patrol, but you’ll soon find you need a body to do broadly that kind of work even if it’s nothing more than “contact all undocumented migrants to offer them their very own congratulatory cake on making it across the line” and hey, there you go again with an official force and uniforms and badges and regulations governing them and laws they have to enforce.

        • Loriot says:

          Yeah, even the most pro-immigration candidates wouldn’t actually get rid of ICE or border patrol. At best, they’d probably pass a few executive orders telling them to treat detainees more nicely or whatever. Maybe they’d rename it and do a DHS style reorg so they could claim they followed their promise to “abolish ICE”.

        • broblawsky says:

          You can definitely tie their hands with extra paperwork, though, with the intent of getting a lot of them to quit. See Trump and the EPA.

      • bullseye says:

        My bubble is pro-Bernie, and I see a lot of calls to abolish ICE, often accompanied by an explanation that ICE is fairly new and we did fine without it. I have never seen a call to abolish the much older Border Patrol.

    • blipnickels says:

      The biggest impact would probably be the Supreme Court. If Ginsburg gets replaced by a conservative justice, that’s a fairly massive shift. Right now Roberts has replaced Kennedy as the swing vote and while he’s conservative, he’s more pragmatic/institutional than ideological. If Ginsburg gets replaced by Barett then the swing vote becomes…Alito? Kavanaugh?

      And honestly, I can’t see Ginsburg lasting four more years and Breyer is getting pretty old. So a Bernie victory would keep the court relatively moderate while a Trump victory (and lets guesstimate 2 Supreme Court seats) would lock in a young conservative majority for ~10-15 years.

      • Garrett says:

        > would keep the court relatively moderate

        The Court is well off to the Left. They’ve created unreviewable and incoherent rules from little more than their imagination but officially justified based on the Constitution. Roe v. Wade (yes, Cassey is controlling) is the biggest example of this. But other rules fabricated around capital punishment come to mind as well.

    • eric23 says:

      Using precedent of Trump and the border wall, he’ll use “national emergencies” to arbitrarily declare a bunch of policies without the involvement of Congress. Among these will be Medicare for All, the dissolution of free trade agreements, and rent control on all housing nationwide.

    • One thing he can probably do is what Trump did — use his political power within his party to push candidates who agree with him and oppose candidates who don’t.

  11. JayT says:

    Do you think the “Russia is helping Bernie in the primaries” story is going to have an effect on Sanders’ chances going forward?

    https://www.businessinsider.com/officials-told-bernie-sanders-russia-trying-to-help-campaign-2020-2

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Less so than other candidates. It looks like Bernie is following in Trump’s (primary electoral) footsteps, with a highly dedicated base that forms a “floor” of 25%-35% of the democratic primary electorate in any given state. So long as the field doesn’t winnow dramatically, he’ll come into a brokered convention as the leader in delegates.

    • Guy in TN says:

      It may have some slight positive effect for his campaign.

      Rationale: The anti-Russia sentiment among Democrats (and from the polling I’ve seen, it is concentrated among Democrats) largely stems from the perception that Russia hurt Clinton’s chances at the presidency. If the situation had been reversed, with the Russians helping Clinton over Trump, then the anti-Russia sentiment would have been concentrated in Republicans, with Democrats showing slight increase in goodwill towards Russia (as has happened to Republicans since Trump’s election). Which is to say: Whether people think Russia is good or bad largely stems from whether Russia supports the candidate they too support.

      So, if Russia had chosen to support an unpopular Democratic candidate, then the story would play out again internally to the Democratic Party, fanning the flames of anger for elevating an unpopular Democrat.

      But they didn’t choose this. They chose to support the most popular Democratic candidate in the field. So I suspect something like with Trump and the Republicans: If Russia is helping us achieve what we want, why is that a bad thing? Only this time the good favor is counter-balanced by the negative memories of 2016, leaving the feelings largely neutral. Thus any “bump” he gets comes what whatever Russia is doing to help him.

      • If Russia had supported Clinton, we wouldn’t even have heard about it because none of the journalists would bother writing that story. If any conservatives did talk about it, they would be called conspiracy theorists.

    • BBA says:

      It’s not going to convince anyone of anything they didn’t already believe. The Pantsuit Nation already wanted to hang Bernie for treason, and nobody else gives a damn about the Russia story now that Trump has been fully exonerated.

    • An Fírinne says:

      I doubt the story is true. Russia I think has learnt its lesson.

      • John Schilling says:

        What lesson? Meddling in American elections works; it results in a weak US government decoupled from its allies and incapable of pursuing a coherent geopolitical agenda, and it results in no harm to the nation that does it. Why wouldn’t they do it again?

        • JayT says:

          Yeah, I’ve always believed that Russia didn’t really have a strong preference for Trump, they just had a strong preference for sowing discord, which they achieved. I don’t see how they could have learned a lesson beyond “if we mess with their elections, they start infighting.”

        • An Fírinne says:

          Meddling in American elections works

          There’s no evidence Russian interference had any tangible effect on the 2016 election. At this point if it is known that Russia is helping you its more of a negative then a positive. Russia wouldn’t want to taint their favourite candidate.

          • EchoChaos says:

            There’s no evidence Russian interference had any tangible effect on the 2016 election.

            It probably didn’t, but it did have a tangible effect on American unity post election.

          • John Schilling says:

            What EchoChaos says. The purpose of Russia’s election-meddling in 2016 was not to secure the election of Donald J. Trump on account of his being a Russian asset, and that stupid narrative has done more to obscure the issue than anything. The purpose of Russia’s election-meddling was to ensure that whoever won the election (and the Russians were probably expecting Hillary at the time) would be perceived by a hundred million Americans as a crook who had stolen the election and would be hamstrung in their attempts to govern by the resulting disunity.

            This worked. Look around you. Given that none of the candidates were actual Russian assets signed up to do Putin’s bidding if they won, this is about as good as it gets for Russia, and at almost zero cost or risk.

  12. The Pachyderminator says:

    I’ve just started reading Ross Douthat’s recently released book The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success. For a preview, see here. In the introduction there’s already an SSC name-check (to The Year the Singularity Was Cancelled). Douthat is one of the most consistently insightful cultural commentators I know of, and not just because of his SSC references, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

    • Lambert says:

      It’s nice and measured. Not breathless apocalypticism.

      He realises that all the hand-wringing of Sallust and Tacitus was centuries before the Fall of Rome.

    • salvorhardin says:

      FWIW here is the question I would ask Douthat if I were interviewing him about the book:

      There’s a plausible economic story for falling fertility rates that needs no cultural change to drive it. Namely, raising kids is more expensive now relative to other things people want to do in their lives, because sectors that are key to child-raising (childcare itself, but also education and housing) have experienced much less productivity growth relative to everything else. When relative prices change, people substitute away from the relatively-more-expensive to the relatively-cheaper thing. Notably, this explains how lots of different societies with very different degrees of cultural conservatism, and very different levels of dynamism along other axes, can have the same sub-replacement fertility rates. Why isn’t this a better explanation than decadence?

      • Because you have to explain why poor countries have more kids than rich ones. It’s not cheap to raise seven kids in Niger and yet they do it anyways. If it was economic, then why would immigrants have higher fertility rates than natives?

        • CaptainCrutch says:

          The cost of raising a kid a heavily subjective. By itself you just need to put some food into it and wrap some rags around it once in a while to keep it going. The rest of the cost is paid to not feel like a failure of a child and more rooted in culture and environment than objective needs.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Remember, we’re talking about *relative* not absolute pricing. Kids in Niger are cheaper relative to the other life-enjoyment options available to people in Niger. Immigrants are a better counterexample, but to CaptainCrutch’s point below, they probably also have lower cost than natives to raise a kid in the style to which they are accustomed.

          • Kids in Niger are cheaper relative to the other life-enjoyment options available to people in Niger.

            They literally cannot feed these kids a lot of the time. I’m quite confident that they are not somehow cheaper compared to the west. What Captain Crunch said just proves my point. The reason kids are so “expensive” in the west is because of cultural reasons. People used to raise ten kids in a shack that was teetering on the edge of collapse. Now they are expected to pay for tutoring, extracurriculars and college. Culture is doing all the heavy lifting there.

            Also, if people are not having kids because they can do other fun activities, how is that not the prime example of decadence?

          • Lambert says:

            In the developed world, we have pensions so we can retire and not starve.
            In the developing world, people need to have children because they can’t rely on anyone else to support them in their old age.

      • Deiseach says:

        Namely, raising kids is more expensive now relative to other things people want to do in their lives

        Problem with that is that fertility levels most decline amongst the better-off, while the poor are still having (relatively) more children. That’s where the decadence comes in; not that “this is the Great Depression, we’re all trying to live on one bowl of oatmeal a day, we can’t afford to have kids” but that “we’re a two-income family with a good standard of living and having a kid right now would be really bad for our career progress”.

        Same with Augustus’ appeal to the Roman upper classes to start having more kids, and the laws he introduced to try the carrot and stick approach to it. This is an old problem. You see aristocratic titles dying out because they can’t produce a male heir, or indeed any heir. When you need to be as crazy rich (or plain crazy) as Elon Musk to have five kids, something is screwy somewhere.

        • When you need to be as crazy rich (or plain crazy) as Elon Musk to have five kids, something is screwy somewhere.

          You don’t. Most American families have no more than two children, but there are quite a lot who have five or six or more.

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    In the Ramayana, Ravana’s son Indrajit kills 6.7 million monkey soldiers with a fireball-creating projectile called Brahmastra. In the same battle, Rama kills 2 million rakshasas and 18,000 elephants.
    Hindu myths are the most overpowered.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      I think several times a day how crazy it is that the American president wields power like unto the Brahmastra. (I’ve thought this since I read about it in 2011, but I won’t lie that the current President is more mind-blowing).

      • metacelsus says:

        If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky
        that would be like the splendour of the Mighty One . . .
        I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    On Being a Proofreader

    I cannot speak for others, but for me and for anyone else who is obliged to do it the way I do, proofreading is only minorly an intellectual pursuit; for the most part, it is a kinesthetic issue. I find out that there is something wrong in the material I’m reading before I can point a finger at it, by the fact that I feel it. If you like listening to music, and you can tell when someone plays a wrong note because you get an unpleasant feeling, then you know what this is like. If there are too many problems in something I’m reading, it becomes harder and harder to continue, until there comes a point at which if I do not have a compelling reason to continue, I stop.

    An example: during an interlude at an event I attended once, a few of us were sitting around talking. The person sitting across from me, perhaps 6 feet away, had a stack of galleys on her lap. They were folded in half [this was quite a while ago, when galleys were printed on long pieces of paper], and there were quite a few, so what was facing me was a strip perhaps six inches wide and several lines high, but with the print upside down from my viewpoint. I can certainly read upside-down print, but it has to be large enough to see clearly, and this definitely wasn’t. I had no idea what it said, but I could feel it, and I said to her, “There’s a typo on the line facing me.” Near as I can recall, she said, “Bullshit.” I can’t exactly blame her. I said, “Let me see them.” She handed them over, I looked, put my finger on the typo, and said, “Here.”

    I expect there’s something neurologically interesting about people with the proofreading reflex– anyone know of research? Do people ever acquire the proofreading reflex for languages they learn as adults?

    • Beans says:

      I think there’s at least two factors here, which are separate. The analogy between music and the “feel” of a text is intuitive, but simply about the fact that much of what goes into evaluating a well-flowing pattern is unconscious. Spotting a typo without being quite able to see what is actually written there is, instead, about how writing is processed: I believe there is research showing (though I don’t have the gusto to dig up a citation) that, among other factors, the general shape of a word is one of the pieces of information our brain indexes to help speed up recognition. We arguably don’t really read each letter of each word, which is why stuff like this is possible. If one has a knack for words, your brain will get a sense of whether something’s right or wrong even if upside down across the table. As someone who proofreads a lot, I could see that happening.

    • ana53294 says:

      One of the things I’ve heard about proofreading is that reading badly spelled text makes you inmune to the unpleasantness you feel. Proofreaders have to seek out good quality texts so the only things they read aren’t badly spelled texts.

  15. viVI_IViv says:

    So, coronavirus update:

    In the last week or so it looked like it was slowing down, until today when 16 new cases were discovered in Italy, all from local transmission. There had been a few cases of local transmission in Europe before, but never on this scale. This suggests that the virus has spread in the general population, and given that these cases are in Northern Italy it’s likely that the virus will quickly spread or has already spread to Central Europe. Should we expect an East Asia-like outbreak?

    • metacelsus says:

      Yes. See also: local spread in Iran and South Korea.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I don’t have a lot of faith in maintaining quarantine – we as a civilization just don’t know now to (now want to, really) quarantine flu. Let alone one with 2-3 weeks incubation period. When people stop getting a cold, then we’ll be on our way to be safe from coronavirus. Not before.

      Our current hope is that symptoms are worse for chinese han. The occasional 80 year old death is on par with regular flu, so there’s nothing to contradict this hope so far. The next hope is that there aren’t after effects. So at least the 98% that live remain with full pulmonary capacity.

      Flu season is ending in the northern hemisphere. I wonder how this will affect this particular strain. With a bit of luck, we may have a vaccine+treatment by the next season.

    • eric23 says:

      No. The number of cases is stabilizing in China, and Italy (for example) has a much more competent health system than China does, which suggests they will handle it better than China has.

  16. theredsheep says:

    Why not, here’s a medical hail mary: I’ve had some kind of prostatitis for about two months now. I’ve gone through Bactrim DS, Azithromycin, and now Levaquin 500, full courses of each. The results were perplexing; I’m not totally confident that the condition even responded to the medication in the first place. The pain waxes and wanes erratically for reasons I can’t really pin down. The only thing I’m totally sure the antibiotics did was make me constipated–which creates abdominal pressure, which provokes the inflammation.

    I initially mistook it for a UTI, because it had the same general symptoms (“have to pee, and it hurts to pee”), but I later learned that UTIs are subtly different in symptoms–more of a burning sensation, while this just plain aches. Starts as feeling like a gorilla has me by the genitals, progresses to a clenching pain near the bladder. But never burning. I’ve cut out sex, alcohol, and all caffeine, and I guess it’s a little milder? Sex definitely made it angry. It responds slightly to Azo, and one ibuprofen makes it tolerable, for now.

    My doctor’s office is already closed for the weekend; I’ll probably talk to him next week, but he’s already said Levaquin was basically our best option at this point. The only other option was doxycycline, which isn’t as good–and I’ve had that, I know it’ll make the digestive symptoms worse. I’m not even confident that this is a bacterial condition at all–there is non-bacterial prostatitis–but I’d rather avoid paying however many hundreds of dollars it would take to see a urologist sans insurance. Anybody here have experience with a similar phenomenon? The doctor was quite confident that it’s prostatitis, and I believe him on that. He certainly checked. Oy.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I had some sort of prostatitis about twenty years ago– I sympathize with your “He certainly checked. Oy”; the pain of the urethral swab is still memorable as one of the worst pains of my life.

      Have you asked about physical therapy for the muscular weakness/spasms that prostatitis can cause? For me antibiotics cleared the infection but the pains persisted, and it turns out I had pelvic floor muscle spasm which responded eventually to biofeedback-directed exercises (essentially male Kegels, and they had to do the biofeedback so that I even understood that I had those muscles and could move them under conscious control).

      • theredsheep says:

        At this point, I’ve received one visit to a very rushed nurse practitioner at a walk-in clinic and several appointments with one of my respiratory therapy instructors, who is a GP, a very nice man, treats his students pro bono, and didn’t seem to even suspect non-bacterial prostatis although a quick look into the literature suggests that more than 90% of prostatitis is not caused by a pathogen. Current plan: ask male pharmacist coworker tomorrow about how scary the side effects of tamsulosin are, as it’s sometimes used for chronic pelvic pain syndrome (AKA non-bacterial prostatitis, which I strongly suspect this is). Don’t know how I’d go about getting a prescription.

        As it happens, I meant that I am only 36 and have never had a man stick his finger up my back end before. Prostate definitely inflamed. It was uncomfortable, but not agonizing. I hope and pray that I will never need to experience a urethral swab.

        (thank you!)

  17. Lambert says:

    How far through the Dune series ought I read?

    I’ve just finished Dune, and it ends in kind of an inconclusive place. But I hear the quality rather declines throughout the books.

    • Anteros says:

      If there’s an optimum point to stop, I’d say you’ve just about reached it. I couldn’t finish the second book, and rather regretted starting it. I can tell you what happens, if that’ll help the inconclusivity…

    • herbert herberson says:

      Either take Anteros’s advice and end there, or go through God Emperor of Dune and avoid the last two books, which are primarily about a struggle between the Bene Gesserit and a splinter sect of sex ninjas.

      • Statismagician says:

        I support the latter. Just-Plain-Dune is the best, but Messiah, Children, and God Emperor remain worth reading. The last two are very weird, and the less said about Brian Herbert’s attempts at prequels, the better.

    • theredsheep says:

      The quality drops dramatically after Dune, while the weirdness rises. Two and three are much worse as literature, but the events are interesting-ish, I guess. But you might as well skim Wiki if you’re curious. Four (God-Emperor) is profoundly bizarre and bad, and I didn’t get past it. Just enjoy Dune itself, is my advice. Am told the continuations by his son and Kevin J. Anderson are quite terrible even compared to the first round of sequels.

    • rumham says:

      I’d say through God Emperor. It feels like the true end of the story.

    • Lignisse says:

      You should read through the fourth (God Emperor of Dune) and stop there. The second and third books are not as good as the first, but they finish out the trilogy in a satisfying way.

      The fourth book takes place after a timeskip of a few millennia and is primarily concerned with the central character’s navel-gazing on the subject of civilization, surrounded by a somewhat bizarre plot. It’s my favorite!

      The fifth and six seem to form the beginning of what would have been a trilogy, but then the author died and we’ll never get the rest of the story. The start of those unfinished storylines isn’t good enough to justify reading them.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Dune Messiah has some decent content, but it’s a bit of a slog. In particular, the pacing is weird and the plot progression feels a bit like it’s just a series of random things happening.

      Children of Dune is a worthwhile read. Good content, and the pacing and plot progression are a lot closer to Dune than to Messiah. It also takes the story to a more satisfying stopping point than the others. Children is a perfectly acceptable place to stop.

      God Emperor of Dune is an interesting epilogue to Children, filling in the long-term consequences of the first three books and giving more explanations of why Paul and his heir felt compelled to act as they did (particularly in terms of showing us a fundamental disagreement between the two which came up in an earlier book). But the style’s pretty rough (it’s almost as Character Filibuster heavy as Atlas Shrugged), and the plot feels like it’s mostly just there as an excuse for exposition. I’d give it a try if you want more closure after Children, but it isn’t really worth pressing on to finish if you find yourself losing interest half-way through.

      I can’t comment on the later books from personal experience. I tried reading Heretics of Dune many years ago, but got distracted about a dozen pages in, and then the book needed to go back to the library. I’ve been told from multiple sources that I didn’t miss much.

    • Phigment says:

      Odd-numbered books in the Dune series are pretty strong action-adventure sci-fi in a distinctively creative and weird universe.

      Even-numbered Dune books are trippy metaphysical ruminations on fate and precognition and governance. In mostly the same weird universe.

      It’s more or less that the books are pairs, where you meet a character as a child and see their adventures leading to becoming ruler of the universe, and then in the next book you see how they go about ruling the universe.

      So:

      If you’re mainly interested in the adventure sci-fi, with relatable characters and plot arcs and knife fights and so forth, either read Dune and stop, or read Dune and Children of Dune, with Dune Messiah being optional but recommended.

      If you like the metaphysical rumination and destiny and precognition stuff, read Dune and Dune Messiah, and if you enjoyed Dune Messiah, read Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune.

      If you dig stories about evil women enslaving men with their supernatural sexual prowess, read books 5 & 6. If you are not into that, skip them.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        +1

      • Plumber says:

        @Phigment says:

        “…If you dig stories about evil women enslaving men with their supernatural sexual prowess, read books 5 & 6…”

        Well, of course I “dig” such stories, but usually in the form of very much shorter stories, like two pages not two whole freakin’ books!

    • Loriot says:

      I’d second the advice to either stop at the first book, or after the fourth book. I found Dune Messiah to be a slog, but Children and God Emperor were relatively enjoyable, though still not as good as the first book. I can’t remember liking the last two much.

    • Vermillion says:

      I think I read God Emperor and then put the series away and basically never thought about them again until I came upon Gwern’s amazing essays.

    • Beans says:

      It sounds like I’m not alone in enjoying the first but faltering later. I could barely get a few chapters into book two, it was just plain boring.

    • John Schilling says:

      I gave up after the second, and wish I had given up after the first. And I’m not sure how you call the ending “inconclusive”; when A: the Galactic Emperor and B: every power that even might contend with the Galactic Emperor, bow down before you, and all your friends are still alive and saying “way to go!”, that’s pretty conclusive.

      Most books, that would be the sappy saccharine conclusion. “Dune”, somehow made you think Paul had earned that ending, and that you’d learned profound things about an amazing invented unverse, and was a whole lot of fun along the way. #2 did not aim nearly as high, and did not reach its lesser goals, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that there’s anything further along that’s worth the slog.

      • Lambert says:

        > I’m not sure how you call the ending “inconclusive”

        The whole ‘and then a jihad happened’ thing. What’s up with the Noble Savages in SPAAAACE suddenly needing to crusade across the galaxy?

        But I’m aware that stories that end with the protagonist becoming the Chosen One are pretty impossible to follow up on.

        • zqed says:

          The whole ‘and then a jihad happened’ thing. What’s up with the Noble Savages in SPAAAACE suddenly needing to crusade across the galaxy?

          Far from Noble Savages, the Fremen were an aggressive, backward, clannish, tribal and superstitious people inhabiting a desert region. A mercantile-prince-in-exile exploited their religious predispositions and turned them into an effective fighting force that went on to conquer Egypt, the Levant, Lybia and Persia the known universe in the name of a freshly-minted religion.

          Alas, this story is completely without historical parallel, and no similar events and prophecies are referenced extensively in the book.

        • Lambert says:

          Follow the link in my previous comment. It argues that Herbert’s Fremen are as much in the mold of Hetrodotus’ Scythians or Tacitus’ Germans as the Rashidun Caliphate (With contrasts being made between the ancient writers, Ibn Khadun and Romantic-nationalist ideas of ‘barbarian’ ancestry).

          • zqed says:

            I have read it (well, part 1 of 4), and I wrote my post because I don’t think it’s a good take. The Noble Savages vs Decadent Empire archetype is certainly a common one, and I think it has an interesting history behind it.

            And I also think that reading this archetype into Dune is just wrong: the book’s portrayal of the Fremen (the Landsraad) is really not intended to evoke the Noble Savage (Decadent Empire) archetype, so these analogies will be strenuous at best.

          • Lambert says:

            The latest part is basically a close-reading of Dune that looks at whether the Fremen/Landsraad dichotomy corresponds to Noble Savage/Decadent Empire.

            Tl:Dr: (I won’t bame you if you don’t want to read another 10k word blog post) The Fremen are poor and actively suspicious of wealth. (contrast to the deliberate wasting of water at the dinner and the weirding room at the castle.)
            They are simple and unsophisticated but cunning and wise.
            They are also ruthlessly practical and highly militarised, even before Paul arrives.
            Even their women are manly, finishing off wounded enemies.
            (While the Baron is a pederast, Fenring is a cuckolded eununch, the Emperor is denied a son and the various lords and even the emperor himself are cntrolled to various extents by a lot of scheming bene-gesserit witches.)

            These qualities are said to come from their living in an inhospitable environment:
            The fremen who lived on other planets went soft and were exploited.
            Duke Leto laments that the great houses (including the Atreides) have decayed.
            Paul calls for Salusa Secundus to become a place of beautiful things, as a way to destroy the Sardaukar.

          • zqed says:

            I’ll read the article eventually: it seems like an interesting read, even if I expect that I will disagree with its thesis (at least as far as Dune is concerned).

            I originally wanted to nalyze what doesn’t fit with the Noble Savage picture, but it feels like a non-trivial writing assignment, so I stopped. What I can say briefly, and is worth saying, is this:

            I agree with John Schilling’s assessment of the ending, and even more so with his opinion on the rest of the Duneverse. Then again, “because a new religion sprung up around a prophet, and in the historical (resp. prophesied) situation that the book intends to evoke this is followed by (is said to culminate in) the faithful uniting in a similar holy war” satisfied me as an answer to “why do the Fremen need to crusade across the galaxy?”, so I had no pressing questions that a sequel could have answered.

    • blacktrance says:

      Messiah is okay, Children is petty good, God-Emperor is great and used to be one of my favorite books (though it’s been years since I last reread it and I suspect it might not hold up as well), Heretics is well-paced but doesn’t try to be as deep as the others, and Chapterhouse is extremely boring and has an inconclusive ending.

      Of the Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson books, the Prelude to Dune trilogy is worth reading (it’s about as good as Heretics), but I don’t recommend the others unless you really like the universe by then. The Legends trilogy are a weird direction for the series, and are a prerequisite for the two Dune 7 books, which are at least a satisfying conclusion. Don’t read anything published after that (Winds of Dune in particular has got to be one of the most poorly written books I’ve ever read).

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’ll be the odd one out and say I liked all of them (well, Messiah a bit less, but at least it’s short). For very different reasons – you can’t really put the first book in the same category as God Emperor.

      I have a soft spot for stories where something comes completely out of left field and changes everything. Reminds me that’s how reality works, with the turkey’s perfect life hitting a bump a few days before Thanksgiving. That’s why I was one of the few that liked the original Evangelion ending, with singularity happening while everybody was busy fighting Angels. Same with Dune: you have psyche absorbing entities – some time later you end with new Gods.

    • James Miller says:

      I liked the Dune novels co-authored by the author’s son a lot more than the official sequels to Dune.

    • Teldaru says:

      Either drop the series after the first one, or read the first four and then stop. The end of book 4 is conclusive, and it finally explains what was the whole point with the golden path and the different ways Paul and his son dealt with it. I read them as a teen and they were my first Big Idea SF books, especially the 4th. I liked all four but the pacing was a little wobbly after the first. Books 5 and 6 were not very interesting, I have read them I but have almost forgotten everything about them.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I loved the second book, but if you choose to read it, you should be aware that it kind of invalidates the first, in a manner similar to Matrix sequel(s). Overall I think that first four books are very much worth reading.

    • Clutzy says:

      I just finished God Emperor of Dune and it is interesting and fun if you find the philosophical parts of Dune interesting and fun. Personally, I think this is the only satisfying ending point other than the end of Dune.

  18. Anteros says:

    Any interest in the Wilder v Fury fight on Saturday? If so, what’s your prediction? I’m intrigued, but can see it going either way.

    P.S It’s not happening until 5 in the morning in Europe, so perhaps one of you USAnians can let me know what happens and I can make a few quid 😉

  19. Well... says:

    Dermatologists of SSC: is there an OTC version of Onextin?

    • voso says:

      I don’t mean to hijack your post, but this made me ponder a related question:

      Do topical antibiotic acne medications significantly contribute to pathogen resistance?
      The common consensus nowadays seems to be “avoid spurious use of antibiotics” and (unfortunately), even if they worked, using them for acne seems to tend a little bit on the “spurious” side…

  20. Loriot says:

    I can’t believe the primaries are a week and a half away and I’m still undecided. I’ve even started to consider Sanders, which is something I thought would never happen. If only real life were like a video game where you could just look up everyone’s stats and consult a strategy guide.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I hear you. I may early vote. Is there any chance of any candidates dropping out after NV/SC but before Super Tuesday?

      • EchoChaos says:

        Any is doing a lot of work there, but I could see any of the back three (Warren, Klobechar, Biden) dropping out if they get completely wrecked in both states.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          It seems particularly likely that if Biden has a bad showing in South Carolina, he might drop out. Like, if he can’t win or at least come close to winning in a state whose primary is dominated by black voters, I think a lot of people will ask what he can win.

    • Plumber says:

      @Loriot,
      At my wife’s insistence we already mailed in our ballots for March 3rd (she voted for Scrooge McDuck Bloomberg I voted for the push up King! Biden, and I’m kinda regretting that California moved it’s primary up from June, sure before we could only decide between the left over candidates, but at least you knew that the had a chance!

      If the primary in 2016 had been early enough I’d have voted for Jim Webb (along with about two dozen other Democrats), as it was Clinton or Sanders was a limited but clear choice (you knew it would be one or the other).

      If it were up to me: to win in the general election it still would be Jim Webb, but to govern it would be Sherrod Brown.

      Second choice for win and govern would be John Edwards (the Governor of Louisiana, not the former Senator for North Carolina, though in 2003 I favored him).

    • Sanders campaign trajectory looks remarkably like Trumps did in 2016. It’s uncanny. I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of undecideds eventually go for him, even though they never thought they would.

      • herbert herberson says:

        The whole primary is an echo.

        Biden is Jeb, the presumptive frontrunner with close ties to a previous president who crashed headfirst into a wall as soon as voting started)

        Warren is Cruz, the person who could have easily stopped the insurgent if the establishment had united behind him/her, but who did not get that support due to being perceived as fairly extreme him/herself and because of more individualistic issues (Cruz having terrible interpersonal relationships, Warren being terrible at politics)

        Buttigeig is Kasich, the last hope for the establishment who can’t overcome his very narrow base.

        I guess it breaks down beyond that, there’s not really a Carly Fiorina in the Dem primary and there wasn’t really a Bloomberg or Yang in the GOP (unless you want to pair Yang and Fiorina as “businessperson from minority group” but that underplays Yangs unorthodox agenda and fanbase too much) but the broad contours are still seem really similar

        • BBA says:

          Harris is Walker – an obvious frontrunner on paper, but a complete nonentity when it came to actually campaigning.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I’d say the better analogies for the establishment lane are:

          Kasich: Klobuchar
          Rubio: Buttegieg

          In both cases, the more senior has more chops, but the younger has more actual hype and better polling. In both cases it is clear why the more senior candidate does not want to back out and surrender to the empty suit.

      • eric23 says:

        Yes, I’m not really looking forward to choosing between Hitler and Stalin in the general election…

        • The Nybbler says:

          Berlusconi and Stalin seems a much easier choice. Although as I understand it, Bernie is more of a Trotskyite.

  21. Deiseach says:

    A cautionary tale about blockchain currencies in the news today.

    If you’re forward-thinking enough to turn your hard-earned proceeds of drug dealing into Bitcoin, be ultra-careful where you keep your access codes. If, for instance, you get sent to jail (because you’ve been arrested, tried and convicted for said drug dealing) and the contents of the rented house you were living in get dumped by your former landlord, it’s a very bad idea to have the codes to access your €53 million hidden in such a way that they get thrown out with the rubbish.

    This account of the tale is even more comic/tragic (depending on how you interpret it). If you’ve lucked out by investing early and see the value of your Bitcoin soar to the point that it’s worth €53 million, take the hint and give up growing weed for sale. You can well afford to live off the profits of your investment! Instead this guy tempted Fate and lost everything.

    • Loriot says:

      The kind of person who will gamble enough to “win” 53 million is also the kind of person who will keep gambling and not quit while they’re ahead. If they were smarter, they would have never been involved with crypto or drug dealing in the first place.

  22. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Is this an AI generated image? It’s the only thing I can think of.

    https://twitter.com/davidblattman/status/1230303243835711493

  23. johan_larson says:

    Let’s hold a fantasy election. This is in the US, assuming a substantially different election system, using proportional representation. This could be at either the state or federal level. There are six parties running in the election:
    Libertarian
    Great America
    Christian Democrat
    Green
    Social Democrat
    Working Americans
    For more information about them, follow this link.

    Which party would you vote for?

    • Protagoras says:

      A pox on all your houses! I guess I vote for the social democrats, but I hate them all.

      • johan_larson says:

        Interesting. What is it you want that none of these fictional political parties really support?

        • EchoChaos says:

          One thing that none of them address is immigration.

          In the era where “Great America” dominated our policy most (1900s through the 60s), immigration was basically zeroed out, so I assume it would be here as well, but you didn’t specify.

          • salvorhardin says:

            I would s/1900s/1920s if you’re talking about an age of restricted immigration; the National Origins Act didn’t pass till 1924, though it had an “emergency” predecessor in 1921, and 1900-1920 were pretty clearly unrestricted by today’s standards.

            As a side note, I know this in part because my grandfather immigrated in 1920. Had he been denied entry, he might very well have been murdered by the Nazis, as were a good many of his relatives denied entry later. I feel compelled to bring this up every time someone waxes nostalgic about mid 20th C immigration restrictions: if you really favor reinstating them you should bite that bullet, and be willing to face the (IMO justified) opprobrium for doing so.

          • Walking Droplet says:

            Have you ever considered that the reason people didn’t want more Jewish immigration was because they didn’t want their grandchildren to have to deal with more of an ethnic group with a grudge against them? You could counter-argue that the grudge comes down to those very restrictions. But if there were 200,000 Jewish immigrants during the 1930s rather than 100,000, it would still be there. And if it were 1,000,000, too, even with the Great Depression making more competition for jobs look decidedly unwelcome. And even if it were all 6,000,000, there’d be a grudge about something else. Notice that while many ethnic groups have experienced massacre, they don’t tend to blame it on other countries’ immigration restrictions. The chosen-people have a way of looking at the world, a way they want it to be oriented that they see as natural and they find it honestly puzzling the rest of the world doesn’t usually agree. Should Israel be blamed when ISIS was massacring the Yezidis? The thought never occurs to them.

            The excuse, whenever Israel is brought up, is that those making the arguments are American Jews, and that whatever Israeli Jews do is not their concern. You never hear these same people saying “Trump is horrid, but nationalism in France or Britain, well, that’s their business, I have no opinion!” No. While some American Jews are far-Left anti-Zionists, the mainstream Jewish Left and the Jewish neocons in America are solidly behind Israel as a ethnically-based state, disagreeing only on its size, while seeking to enforce multiculturalism in all states inhabited by non-Jewish whites.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @salvorhardin

            I feel compelled to bring this up every time someone waxes nostalgic about mid 20th C immigration restrictions: if you really favor reinstating them you should bite that bullet, and be willing to face the (IMO justified) opprobrium for doing so.

            I’m willing to bite that bullet and should face no opprobrium. People have been killing each other for centuries, and we can’t take in the losers of every power struggle across the world.

            The United States spent billions of dollars and the blood of millions of our best to save Jews in World War II. We have continued to support and defend Jews here and in their homeland since then.

            Edit: Last paragraph wasn’t up to my standards. You may politely leave my country if you don’t believe it did enough.

          • Plumber says:

            @salvorhardin says: “….my grandfather immigrated in 1920. Had he been denied entry, he might very well have been murdered by the Nazis…”

            According to my mom it’s a similar story for my born in what is now Poland great-grandmother who emigrated to California in 1915 from what was then part of the Hapsburg Empire.

            FWLIW, I’m pro some immigration of refugees and spouses, but I’m much more disinclined for “skills based” and “workers for jobs Americans won’t take” immigration.

          • Plumber says:

            @everyone, 
            Wow that got testy fast (and I feel very “ninja’d”)!

            For what it’s very much worth, Americans like Jews a lot (followed by Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, with atheists and Muslims the least popular), and while they’re lots of Catholics and Protestants (so presumably folks favoring their own faiths as popular) they’re not a lot of Jews, so they’re popular with Americans who don’t share their faith.

            IIRC there was more worry about Romney’s Mormonism hurting his election prospects in 2012 (he actually won a higher percentage of the popular vote than Trump did, so I don’t really think he was hurt) than I’ve seen worry about Bloomberg or Sanders (or Lieberman in 2004) chances being hurt for being Jewish. 
            It wasn’t anti-semitism that kept the refugees out, the U.S.A. was actively deporting non-citizens in the 1930’s (mostly Mexican) in a time of worldwide depression (the absence of foreign born farm workers is why handbills promising work in California led to the mass “Okie” migration of refugees from the Dust Bowl that soon led to millions of Americans in California who “…worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes slept on the ground in the light of your moon on the edge of the city you’ll see us and then we come with the dust and we go with the wind…” until the buildup for the war brought work in the munitions factories and shipyards, like my Kansas born grandfather who went from the fields to a job at Douglas Aircraft and married the California born daughter of German speaking immigrants, and then Mexicans were brought back to work in the fields).

            From the 1790 letter from the then new Presidident George Washington to Moses Seixas, Warden of Congregation Yeshuat Israel in Newport, Rhode Island: “Gentlemen:

            While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

            The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

            If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

            The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

            It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

            It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

            May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

            May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

            G. Washington”

            to at the very least till 1953, when President Harry S. Truman went to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York his army comrade and former business partner good Eddie Jacobson, who introduced Truman to the assembled theologians with: “This is the man who helped create the State of Israel. to which Truman replied: What do you mean, ‘helped to create’? I am Cyrus. I am Cyrus!” the U.S.A. has been welcoming to Jews, the U.S.A. is second only in numbers of, and has almost as many Jews as Israel does (France is a far distant third in total number).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Plumber: Repeating “I am Cyrus! I am Cyrus!” is now my favorite Harry Truman anecdote. (Not counting fictional ones like the time he smashed his way out of a crate in Roswell, NM to interrogate an alien.)

          • broblawsky says:

            So just to be sure: telling American citizens they should get out of the country they were born in if they agree with America’s historical policies is true, necessary, and kind?

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            @EchoChaos

            That last line is beneath you and a very ugly look. It’s also downright nonsensical when addressed to a second-generation native-born American.

          • salvorhardin says:

            FWIW, thank you for the edit. I understand firsthand the difficulty of restraining one’s rhetoric on this issue, and so don’t blame others for falling short at that restraint; I had to edit my own comment for politeness quite a bit and was just lucky to manage to do so before hitting post.

            To Walking Droplet’s point I am, though not left-wing, one of those consistent Jewish anti-Zionists, and believe that no ethnic group under any circumstances can ever have any such thing as a right to a state of its own. Indeed more strongly, as I think I’ve said before, I believe that there is no such thing as “my country” or “your country”– there is only the earth, on which all human beings have an equal right to live where they please. So “we can’t take them in” makes no sense because there is no morally meaningful distinction between “us” and “them,” between the “native” born and not. As David Friedman semi-famously said of his libertarian beliefs, this seems natural and obvious to me but I’m well aware that most others find it very peculiar.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            I just realized that EchoChaos had already edited in an apology (or at least a disclaimer) for the comment I chastised him for. That makes the second time in this thread I’ve hastily misunderstood him, so I apologize.

          • salvorhardin says:

            FWIW it is also amusing when people take my grandfather’s immigrant story as indicative of my overall degree of American “nativeness”. In fact another branch of my family goes back literally to the Mayflower; my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was executed for witchcraft at Salem in 1692. One of the things I do appreciate about American history is that the frequency of, and tolerance for, miscegenation between “old stock” and recent immigrants has typically been unusually high.

          • broblawsky says:

            Good lord, if what @EchoChaos left in is a disclaimer, I can’t imagine what was in there before.

        • Protagoras says:

          Competence. The existing political order continues to pursue policies with known deficiencies, and this set of parties includes none with any commitment to avoid the problems, just a regrouping of the problems into different packages. But in slightly more detail, I’m a bleeding heart libertarian, and for me the libertarians are too heartless and nobody else is paying any attention to the things the libertarians are right about. So what I’d probably really do is alternate between voting for the social democrats and the libertarians depending on which set of ideas seemed more lacking in government at the moment.

          I also care about environmental issues, but I would never vote green as I don’t trust anything like contemporary environmentalists to actually address environmental issues that matter in any effective way.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            +1

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Me too. Going purely from the descriptions and trying to avoid mapping onto existing social dynamics, I probably lean green, voting between green, socdem, and libertarian, but I share this skepticism about the real world.

      • Deiseach says:

        Ah but the beauty of PR is that you can vote for more than one party! So rank them in “least to most detested” order and figure out which is the devil you know 🙂

        So Social Democrats No. 1, then who for Nos. 2-6?

    • Aftagley says:

      Swing voter between Great America and Social Democrat.

      I’d vote for the Great America party candidate when they’re more focused on expanding international prestige and less focused on destroying regulation.

      I’d probably be more inclided to vote down the ticket of social democrats, but in your description you kind of explicitly made them the social-justice party (IMO that’d be the greens) so it’s a bit less appealing.

      • johan_larson says:

        It depends on what you mean by social justice. If you mean getting a better deal for the poor, that’s really the main issue for Working Americans. The Social Democrats and Christian Democrats worry about it too, but not quite as much, and their favored solutions are quite different. The Libertarians, Great America, and Greens tend to focus on other issues.

    • Nick says:

      Probably Christian Democrat.

      • Nick says:

        An interesting question is what coalitions would form. (I’m sure this is mostly down to how well the parties perform, but humor me.) I could see Christian Democrats in a coalition with either GA (Great Americans) or SDs (Social Democrats), but the latter might be an uncomfortable alliance. SDs and Greens might get along. I’m not sure who libertarians would get along with; GAs, maybe?

    • Plumber says:

      From probably would most favor to probably would least favor:

      1) Social Democrat (if the AF of L-CIO decides what is meant by “social justice”, if it’s co-eds and their boyfriends instead than probably not)

      2) Christian Democrat

      3) Working Americans

      4) Green

      5) Great America

      6) Libertarian

      • Deiseach says:

        Plumber, we must be psychic twins or something, because that’s almost the same order as I’d vote 😀

        1. Christian Democrats
        2. Social Democrats
        3. Working Americans
        4. Greens
        5. Great America
        6. Libertarian

        That’s the advantage of PR, you can chop and change depending on your priorities. So say you like the Social Democrat policy plank, but don’t want them to go too far on expanding government and spending from the public purse. Vote in your Social Democrat candidate as No. 1, but give your No. 2 to the Libertarian or Great American candidate. That gives you a strong opposition in government who will put a hobble on the SDs being able to simply sweep all before them. You don’t want the Libertarians to have it all their own way in opposition, though? Then pick Greens or Christian Democrats as No. 3! End result for the (say) four seats in your constituency would then be:

        No. 1 – Social Democrat (if they make the quota, they’re elected, and if enough people pick them as No. 1/2 they’ll form the next government or majority thereof)
        No. 2 – Libertarian (ditto on quota)
        No. 3 – Greens
        No. 4 – Great America or Christian Democrat, according to which way you lean

        All of these go to the state/federal government, and gives you a spread of “centrist-right, look after the struggling and the environment, but protect civil liberties and don’t enlarge government” from the various policies each party endorses.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach >

          “Plumber, we must be psychic twins…”

          Well we do seem to have some similar tastes…

          …but twins?

          I don’t know…

          …my favorite modern “folk” so is Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” 
          (speaking of a song with the name “Molly” in its lyrics here’s “Rocco Blues” a 1940 American version of an Irish song. Yep, it’s a different “Molly Malone” with some lyrics from as far back as 1791).

          My two favorite decades for films are the 1940’s (His Girl Friday – 1940, The Grapes of Wrath – 1940, The Great Dictator – 1940, The Sea Hawk – 1940, The Thief of Bagdad – 1940, The Maltese Falcon– 1941, Casablanca – 1942, Double Indemnity – 1944, It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946, The Third Man – 1949) and the 1980’s (Dragonslayer– 1981, Excalibur – 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark – 1981, The Road Warrior – 1981, Time Bandits – 1981, Blade Runner – 1982, The Wrath of Khan – 1982, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – 1984, Conan the Destroyer – 1984, This is Spinal Tap – 1984, Raising Arizona – 1987, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen– 1988, The Princess Bride  – 1988)

          Do our tastes converge that far?

          “…that’s almost the same order as I’d vote…”

          It is indeed! 

          Unfortunately (for me) in the U.S.A. it’s very difficult to vote for both a Party that supports  the “welfare state”, wants “an extensive network of social support mechanisms, enabling people to live good lives from cradle to grave”, and also supports “traditional values” and “the breadwinner/homemaker household as a desirable social norm, and try to focus on supporting such couples through social policy”, is “more suspicious of disruptive behavior and more focused on ordinary people” (though to be clear I’m fine if both the husband and wife work part time, and both care for their children, but I do want the family wage back for more people and the “Two Income Trap” induced housing price inflation limited, and more to feel secure enough to marry and have children because I think most are happier that way).

          “…the advantage of PR, you can chop and change depending on your priorities…”

          That actually does sound really cool!

    • woah77 says:

      Definitely Great America.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Great America is probably the closest to mine if they’re strict on immigration.

      • johan_larson says:

        If we are talking about illegal immigration, the Libertarians want an open border or something close to it. Great America tends to turn a blind eye to it. A workforce of laborers who don’t ask for much and can be tossed out if they cause trouble sounds pretty good to GA. The Social Democrats go back and forth. They want to be compassionate and accepting, but having more poor people show up tends to mess up their orderly Great Society plans. Christian Democrats tend to be against illegal immigration as a matter of principle, given their emphasis on an orderly society where people follow the rules. Working Americans absolutely hate illegal immigrants because the illegals tend to compete with their constituents for work and push down their wages. Greens don’t really have any consistent positions on the matter.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Great America tends to turn a blind eye to it.

          Really? Eisenhower seems the most Great American President in the history of ever and Operation Wetback was his bag, baby.

          Whereas the Christian Democrats (e.g. Reagan and Bush II) have always been more willing to amnesty our Christian Mexican brethren.

    • Aapje says:

      Your descriptions almost completely ignore the globalist/localist divide, which is the main divide in current society. It matters whether the Social Democrats are those from before the Third Way or after, for example.

      Secondly, are we merely judging goals or also execution? I support a way, way larger part of what the Greens say they want than what their policies will actually achieve, in my opinion. If competency or politics and/or the bureaucracy is a major issue, ideology is less relevant.

      Finally, it also matters what situation we are in. I don’t believe that any ideology, taken to its extreme, actually results in a livable society. I favor a small government party if society is over-regulated and/or the government tries to do too much, while I support the opposite if society is under-regulated and the government does too little.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Depends on the election system. If there’s some sort of transferrable or ranked-choice voting, Libertarian followed by Great America. Otherwise, Great America, because if the King of England were an elected position, the Libertarians would manage to lose to John Lackland.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Interesting question.

      If there was any chance that the Christian Democrats would win, I’d vote for whoever I thought would beat them. I don’t want to live in a theocracy, and I expect their every success would be followed by farther radicalization, until church attendance became mandatory etc. and we were all living in a religious dystopia.

      Of the others, I’d probably go with the Social Democrats, but I’d be tempted by the Greens. Most likely I’d pay attention to what specific candidates had actually done in their past. (No point believing what they claim they would do in their future; these are politicians :-()

      I’m also somewhat tempted by the “Working Americans” – seeing them linked primarily to anger is off-putting – if they were linked instead to wanting real, substantial change and opportunities for ordinary working folks, they’d be on my list – much of what they are described as favouring seems good to me.

      FWIW, I’m reacting in part to the party names. A party with similar values to those listed for the Christian Democrats, not explicitly linked to Christianity or “religious values”, wouldn’t draw my ire in the same way. (But their insistence on breadwinner-homemaker families means they have absolutely nothing to offer me, except for taxes to pay for those they do support, who don’t automatically get my support based on “there but for the grace of God go I”, unlike people who are poor or otherwise disadvantaged.)

      • EchoChaos says:

        Yeah, the Working Americans are pretty much my #2 party and I don’t think they are entirely defined by anger.

      • Aapje says:

        @DinoNerd

        European Christian-democratic tradition is very centrist and not very theocratic. Even the extreme outliers (Orban) have not made church attendance mandatory or such. I see less reason to be worried that they radicalize than a Green party, who typically have more radical supporters and politicians.

        Also, it’s a single vote in a single election, you are not giving the party you vote for a supermajority nor are you required to keep voting for them if they radicalize.

        But their insistence on breadwinner-homemaker families means they have absolutely nothing to offer me

        Interestingly, that focus is partially beneficial to singles, as it benefits single earner without a partner as well, not just single earners with a non-working partner (and conversely, the parties that want to promote women working often harm singles).

        • DinoNerd says:

          As far as breadwinner-homemaker focus being beneficial to singles, it depends on how its implemented. In some jurisdictions, a couple who both work and earn similar amounts would save money on their taxes by getting divorced. That’s certainly beneficial to singles, but probably not in quite the way you mean.

          In general, of course, tax law is full of unintended consequences, as people figure out how to reduce their total tax burden within the law.

          I don’t know how this hypothetical party would implement their support of breadwinner + homemaker families. But unless you assume they have bottomless resources, anything they give to those people isn’t being given to someone else.

          But basically, there’s no reason at all for an unmarried person to pay the same tax rate they’d pay if married to a non-working spouse – and that’s not how the system would be set up if the goal were to provide advantages to couples, particularly single income couples.

          So Bachelor(ette) X pays $40K tax on their $100K income. If they marry Bachelor(ette) Y, with no income, the couple pays $20K tax on their $100K income. But if they marry Z, who also makes $100K, the couple pays $80K on their $200K income – or worse, depending on how much you want to discourage dual income couples.

          • Aapje says:

            Dutch law is in large part centered around cohabitation, so divorce doesn’t change that much, unless they live apart, which means having way higher housing costs.

            I looked at the calculations of many Dutch parties (they can submit their plans for an economic calculation of the effects*) and the programs for the very conservative Christian party was very beneficial to single earners in a two person household and poor for singles and double earners. The more progressive party is good for single earners in a two person household, less good for double earners and worst for singles.

            So it seems the claim from their programs was a lie.

            * With the caveat that the model that is used is contested, especially in how it ignores effects that are hard to quantify.

    • AG says:

      Doesn’t Great America get sued for trademark infringement?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t really think I fit with any of these. I like the sound of Great America, but I’m pretty sure in practice that’s just neoconservatism. “Standing tall on the world stage” is a big red flag for me.

      I would probably take “Working Americans” if you would recast them as something besides angry losers. How about something like:

      Working Americans is the party of economic nationalism. They favor trade regulation, tariffs, and protectionist policies that seek to strike a balance between the interests of labor and capital. Immigration policies are strict, and tailored to the national interest. Illegal immigration is right out, and the border tightly controlled. A strong military is required to secure our liberty, but does not seek adventures abroad. Taxes are modest and provide a basic public safety net. Also punch and pie.

      I just don’t think it’s fair to have a bunch of parties with aspirational ideals and then call the “Working Americans” a bunch of angry losers.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Interesting. I read Great America as Dwight Eisenhower, famously the only President in the 20th Century not to send our boys overseas to die.

        Neocons are Social Democrats who want global power.

        I agree that Working Americans is my second party and calling them losers is unfair.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          What else does “standing tall on the world stage” mean? None of the rest of these parties even mention foreign policy, and there’s got to be some place for the hawks.

        • Aftagley says:

          I read it as the party of Hawks / American interventionists. I think these parties might just be a prism – we’re all seeing what we want to.

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho,
        “Working Americans” sounds like a mix of Sanders and Trump stated agendas in 2015 (less so in 2020), controlled borders and redistribution.

        The way @johan_larson described “Working Americans” (despite its name) it sounded like just redistribution without make-work/public-works, and my problem is with “Basic Income” without “Basic Jobs”, there already was “Relief”, the WPA was for an option for dignity and staying in practice, as WPA head Harry Hopkins said: ”Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit“.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Pretty much. I should have also put in something about “strong emphasis on public works.” Our bridges and dams are a national disgrace.

        • If make-work is only done during recessions, it’s not redistributing outside them.

          If it’s done permanently, it’d be a massive waste of resources. Economic progress is all about doing more with less labor.

          1. Give a man a fish and he’s fed for a day.
          2. Teach a man to fish and he’s fed for a lifetime.
          3. Teach a man to doddle around and feel like he’s fishing while someone else provides the actual fish, and the whole society winds up much poorer.

        • Viliam says:

          Give him a job and you save both body and spirit

          Being aware that your job is a bullshit job can be quite spirit-destroying.

      • brad says:

        They favor trade regulation, tariffs, and protectionist policies that seek to strike a balance between the interests of labor and capital.

        The total absence of consumers is striking. I care much much less about how the pie is divided between Ford stockholders and workers than the price of the car.

        Or I guess to put it a different way, those of us that are workers but have skills relevant to the contemporary economy are not similarly situated to workers that do not.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Cost to consumers never seems to be a problem when people advocate market interference that helps them or accomplishes they goals they desire. Minimum wage, labor and environmental regulations, professional licensing, all increase the cost of goods and services to consumers, but that’s always a trifling detail to the advocates of such things. Same thing with tax increases for programs they like (back when anyone cared about balanced budgets). It’s only when their own ox is being gored that everybody transforms into the reincarnation of Adam Smith.

          The only person on SSC I will accept this as a valid argument from is David Friedman, because he’ll argue against labor regulations after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire disaster. For everyone else, we’ve already accepted market manipulations that increase cost to consumers/taxpayers as “just a price we have to pay for things we value” and all we’re arguing about is which things we value.

          • brad says:

            That’s fine but it leads directly to the conclusion that what you and the other “Working Americans” voters care about is *some* US workers (or would be workers).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, I care about the workers that are currently getting shafted en masse. If at some point in the future they are no longer getting shafted en masse, and someone else is, I will rethink my position. It’s pragmatic, not ideological.

          • brad says:

            I don’t see anyone being shafted. Some people have valuable skills and so other people are willing to pay a lot for their labor. Many don’t. If they have been shafted it’s by god or the universe. I don’t see how you draw a line between an unemployed steel worker and a guy born moderately retarded. Does the latter deserve a good job down at the plant too?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know enough about the inner workings of auto plants to know what our retarded friend could do safely, but sure. Stock shelves at the cafeteria maybe? The Downs Syndrome guys at my grocery store are wonderfully nice and do a great job.

            I know no one “deserves” anything but starvation in the desert unless they can eek out an existence by their own two hands, but for some reason people decided the workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory didn’t “deserve” to die horribly because they couldn’t leverage the power of the marketplace or whatever to get a job at a place with fire escapes. And so the government instituted basic safeguards so they could both earn a living and not die horribly. Same for environmental regulations. Businesses figured they could go to Asia where life is cheap and set up shop there. But they still want access to the market where people decided safety and the environment were slightly more important than cheap stuff. That’s going to be a “nope” from me.

            If you’re willing to bite the bullet like Friedman and say no, you don’t get the worker protections, you don’t get the environmental protections, then fine, we can have a discussion about values. Otherwise, it seems like people just want to give lip service about workers and the environment but then completely skip all the sacrifice those concerns entail so they can still get their cheap stuff. And honestly the sacrifices aren’t that great. We’re mainly talking corporate profit margins here, with minimal increases in prices to consumers.

            I want one of those “Yes.” memes where the crying guy on the left side is saying “so if the government is going to mandate businesses must make products while observing labor and environmental regulations it can mandate I may only buy products observing those same regulations too?!?!” and the strong-chinned guy on the right says “Yes.”

            Friedman’s honest about these trade-offs. For everybody else, it seems like they’ve set up a system where they get the feel-good morality of “caring” about workers and the environment…while not actually protecting workers and the environment and everyone loses financial except themselves.

          • brad says:

            I guess I’m pretty surprised. If you think everyone that’s willing to show up and work hard deserves a good paying, self actualizing job—I’ll say the same thing to you I say to my friends on the economic far left: your heart is in the right place but it’s not going to work and the unintended consequences are going to be bad.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If you think everyone that’s willing to show up and work hard deserves a good paying, self actualizing job

            I don’t think stocking shelves at the auto factory, or bagging groceries should necessarily be “good” paying, and definitely not self-actualizing, no. I would say maybe 4% of jobs are self-actualizing, so that’s definitely not I thing I have any illusions about as a prescriptive standard.

            What I am saying is society decided, by vote, to protect workers and the environment. Knowing full well this would increase the price of labor, since employers would have to pay not only salaries but the extra costs for training/safety/cleanliness/etc. But then gave businesses an easy work-around with off-shoring. And then society has the audacity to tell the workers it’s their fault they can’t get a job when society’s own rules prevent then from selling their labor as cheaply as foreigners.

            Workers: “We will sell our labor for $10/hour with no safety regulations.”

            Society: “Unconscionable! Businesses must spend an extra $5/hour for your labor on safety and the environment, so they may not buy your labor for any less than $15/hour. We are good people for imposing this rule.”

            Business: “Yeah, we’re just going to head over to China and buy that labor for $10/hour.”

            Workers: “Um, we can’t get jobs now and are dying of despair because we legally cannot sell our labor as cheaply as the Chinese.”

            Society: “Well I guess that’s your fault, that you don’t ‘have skills relevant to the contemporary economy.'”

            That’s your quote there, brad. The only reason they don’t have “skills relevant to the contemporary economy” is because you decided what the “contemporary economy” shall be. Pick a bullet to bite. Either let them sell their labor as cheaply as the Chinese, without the protections, or force consumers to live by the same standards they voted to force businesses to live by. I think the latter is preferable, because I don’t think anybody wants Americans laboring under the same conditions as the Chinese (except David).

          • Aapje says:

            +1 to Conrad Honcho for being a proper social-democrat on this issue, rather than one of the many hypocritical ones.

          • brad says:

            @Conad Honcho

            How do square:

            Workers: “Um, we can’t get jobs now and are dying of despair because we legally cannot sell our labor as cheaply as the Chinese.”

            with

            Working class: “We want jobs at the auto plant, not $8/hour being Wal-Mart greeters.”

            Which is it? Just want a chance to race to the bottom or prideful instance on “manly” work at high pay?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            They want good jobs, like factory jobs, which pay well. The only reason those jobs are cheaper to do in China is because of rules the government made. The Chinese are not better workers or harder workers or anything like that, they’re just cheaper because of government rules. So the workers are voting for people to change the rules.

          • brad says:

            Those jobs don’t pay what Americans would consider well in China, in spite of no safety or environmental regulations.

            The Chinese are willing to do it for less. The US workers want us to ban their competition.

          • Aftagley says:

            “We will sell our labor for $10/hour with no safety regulations.

            You’re smuggling this assertion in there and it’s not accurate. Most demands for increased safety rules and regulations come from the workers/organizations representing the workers or as a result of lawsuits following injured workers that are costly enough to motivate the company to change its safety practices.

            Increase in minimum wage, increase in safety protections – all those things were reforms spearheaded by the workers.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            “They want good jobs, like factory jobs, which pay well. The only reason those jobs are cheaper to do in China is because of rules the government made.”

            I’d like to see a case for this made. I don’t doubt regulatory differences having a >0 effect but has anyone gone to the trouble to quantify, do a bit of attribution analysis? How much of it is higher wages vs regulations vs currency issues.

            “I don’t see anyone being shafted.” The counterargument is that the existing state of affairs is to a large extent the result of clear, optional and conscious policy decisions which can [and should] be undone, and the effects on consumer goods prices would not be dramatic enough to render such changes negative on net.

            Now I don’t know just *how* true the counterargument is. My guess is that the US dollar is overvalued relative to the value of US exports, and manufacturing would be more competitive (and income inequality less pronounced) if the FIRE sector was less important. I just don’t know whether this effect would be minor or decisive. I also don’t know how heavily the US would have to deregulate or how aggressively it would have to engage in industrial policy to make manufacturing competitive with a place like China.

            If it made consumer goods as expensive as the big three education, housing, health care, I’d definitely say it’s not worth it, even and especially for the working class.

          • If you’re willing to bite the bullet like Friedman and say no, you don’t get the worker protections, you don’t get the environmental protections, then fine, we can have a discussion about values.

            Before we get into the discussion about values, we first would need a discussion about consequences. Does government setting safety standards result, on net, in fewer accidents? If so, at what cost, and is that more or less than the workers in question would be willing to pay for the additional safety?

            And the question is not “are there any safety standards that are desirable” but “are the safety standards that will be set by a government with the power to set them” desirable.

            You write about Chinese workers being willing to work for less than American workers. In what units? Chinese workers are not being paid in dollars. To conclude that they are being paid less, and why, you first have to figure out why the exchange rate between our currency and theirs is what it is.

            Once you do that, you realize that the correct description of the situation is not:

            “Chinese workers are willing to make widgets for less than American workers are.”

            It’s something more like:

            “American farmers are willing to make widgets by growing grain, shipping it to China, and getting widgets in exchange, for less than American workers are willing to make widgets for.”

            At which point you realize that neither your explanation nor most of the other popular ones, all based on 18th century understanding of the economics of trade, are relevant to the issue.

          • Randy M says:

            “American farmers are willing to make widgets by growing grain, shipping it to China, and getting widgets in exchange, for less than American workers are willing to make widgets for.”

            Once you bring American farmers into it, of course, you bring a whole raft of other government interventions as well.
            It’s not like nothing grows in China.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            “American farmers are willing to make widgets by growing grain, shipping it to China, and getting widgets in exchange, for less than American workers are willing to make widgets for.”

            Once you bring American farmers into it, of course, you bring a whole raft of other government interventions as well.
            It’s not like nothing grows in China.

            But *does* america pay for its imports with grain? or does it pay for them with the sale of real estate and financial assets? If both, to what degree? Are there secondary consequences to having a trade relationship like that?

          • Aftagley says:

            It’s not like nothing grows in China.

            Nothing? of course not. Anywhere near enough to feed their population? Probably not.

            China is running short on arable farmland so far they’ve tried to close the gap (other than by importing, I mean) by using a shit-tonne of fertilizer, but they don’t have a great potash supply and again, haven’t been able to close the gap.

            I realize I’m probably nitpicking here, but China is currently dependent on food imports. They could, maybe, produce enough calories on their own to prevent starvation, but they couldn’t produce enough non-staples to keep a growing upper and middle class population happy.

          • A1987dM says:

            (ETA: Ninja’d by Aftagley)

            Once you bring American farmers into it, of course, you bring a whole raft of other government interventions as well.

            Yes, but…

            It’s not like nothing grows in China.

            Not literally nothing, but China does have much less arable land per capita than the US. It would most likely still be a net grain importer without US farming subsidies.

          • Randy M says:

            I realize I’m probably nitpicking here, but China is currently dependent on food imports.

            No, no, you’re right, obviously due to the different population densities there’s going to be differing economics of food production.

          • But *does* america pay for its imports with grain?

            Not entirely.

            The trade deficit means we are importing capital — that’s where the dollars foreigners get when we import goods go if they don’t go to buy goods for us, unless the foreigners are literally accumulating piles of dollars. So part of what we are “exporting” is claims against U.S. assets.

            But that isn’t happening because producing is hard in the U.S. and easy in China, which seems to be what Conrad imagines is happening. That not just isn’t true, it isn’t even meaningful, since Chinese costs are in their currency, U.S. costs in ours. The exchange rate, like any price, goes to the value at which quantity supplied equals quantity demanded, which means the rate at which foreigners want to buy as many dollars as Americans want to sell. They want to buy dollars either to buy U.S. goods with or to buy U.S. assets with.

            One reason it is happening is because the U.S. is running a very large budget deficit — larger under Trump than under his predecessor — and funding it in part with foreign capital.

          • Clutzy says:

            @david

            Isn’t also the way China pegs its currency a reason? Their costs keep appearing low because the Yuan is cheap compared to the Dollar than if they just let the currencies float.

          • Keeping the Yuan cheap means keeping the dollar expensive, so to do that they have to buy dollars. If they use them to buy government securities, which unlike currency produce interest, that’s the same capital flow as before.

            Alternatively they could print Yuan and sell them, but that drives up Yuan prices in China so doesn’t keep Chinese goods cheap.

            How else do they fix the exchange rate?

    • salvorhardin says:

      Swing voter between Libertarian and Green.

      • rumham says:

        That is one really, really long swing. I’m fascinated. Could you elaborate?

        • Aapje says:

          That’s actually not so big of a swing. The Dutch Green party has a pretty strong libertarian element.

          Left-liberarianism exists anyway, where the libertarianism typically involves lots of social freedoms and lots of redistribution, where UBI (or other low rule forms of) redistribution are favored.

          • Garrett says:

            Are there any significant Dutch political parties which have taken on facilitating firearms ownership vis a vis self-defense?

          • DeWitt says:

            Nope.

          • Aapje says:

            @Garrett

            The far right parties are most supportive of civilians using weapons for self-defense, with Wilders (PVV) being in favor of legalizing pepper spray (which is legal in Germany, but not in The Netherlands).

            Forum for Democracy’s (FvD) number 2 has argued in favor of defending yourself with a gun from burglars and owns a gun. Another of their politicians, was very outspoken about making gun ownership much easier, although the leadership of the party didn’t adopt that view. This politician left due to his belief in race differences in IQ (note that he is black).

            Of course, this is in the context of a society that is rather hostile to weapons in civilian hands.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Not so long. Libertarianism aims to focus government on the task of restraining people from harming each other, so that they can be free to realize their potential in their own way through their own choices. These days, harming our inescapably-shared environment is one of the main ways people harm each other (see e.g. the research on the cognitive and other health harms of air pollution).

    • rumham says:

      Libertarian. I usually vote that way anyway.

    • rumham says:

      @john_larson

      What green proposal would not require big government? I know that the definitions don’t necessarily map to real-life examples, but I’m having a failure of imagination here.

      • Matt M says:

        What green proposal would not require big government?

        Conceptually, you could make an argument that current big government protection is responsible for many of our environmental ills. That in a truly free market, individuals would be much more empowered to successfully sue polluters for damages, for instance.

        At its core, this is the the logic that is ultimately behind a lot of environmentalist calls for greater regulation. That currently, polluting companies are imposing negative externalities on the rest of us that they aren’t properly charged for. Their proposal to combat this is, in fact, big government, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

        (Although, I’ve said many times before that the fact that the only proposed/acceptable solutions to every so-called “environmental” issue is, in fact, big government, sure seems like a remarkable coincidence!)

        • rumham says:

          Conceptually, you could make an argument that current big government protection is responsible for many of our environmental ills. That in a truly free market, individuals would be much more empowered to successfully sue polluters for damages, for instance.

          Can and have.

          (Although, I’ve said many times before that the fact that the only proposed/acceptable solutions to every so-called “environmental” issue is, in fact, big government, sure seems like a remarkable coincidence!)

          This is where I am at as well. I don’t see any minarchist greens. Which is pretty much what you’d have to be for those proposals. And the definition john for the greens, even though it says they’re not fans of big government, definitely does not encompass minarchists. We’re not fans of medium government.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I’m pretty free-market-ish, but I have a difficult time imagining a tortious response to wide-ranging air pollution working. How is that supposed to work, in like the best case? Literally everyone in a region forms a class and sues, what… every individual polluter for extremely difficult to quantify damages?

            And if that happens, then what? A judge and to some extent a jury applies essentially… a tax? Or is it a one-time payment to an ongoing externality? Do we have strong reason to believe that judges and juries are going to be much better at applying the “right” tax than legislators are? Don’t we need ongoing inspections and transparency about levels of pollution here?

            What is the ongoing solution? How do I, a polluter who is doing net social good, handle the externality of my pollution? I can’t enter into a contract with EVERYONE IN THE REGION that pays them to indemnify me for harms they suffer. And if I could, there would be a real collective action problem here.

          • rumham says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            I’m pretty free-market-ish, but I have a difficult time imagining a tortious response to wide-ranging air pollution working.

            Much better thinkers than I have been hashing this out for a century. But it seems that even now something similar is occurring:
            HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Steel Corp. has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a 2017 class-action lawsuit that accused the steelmaker of negligence in allowing air pollution emissions from its Clairton Coke Works.

            The proposed agreement was filed in Allegheny County Court and a hearing on it was scheduled for Feb. 24.

            Under the settlement agreement, U.S. Steel must spend at least $6.5 million to reduce soot emissions and noxious odors from the the Clairton coke-making facility, on the Monongahela River about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh.

            The remaining $2 million would go to area residents and their lawyers in the case.

            The problem with things like this is that in many cases the government specifically shields large companies from being sued this way.

            Such as the oil spill liability cap.

            Smaller government won’t be perfect. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sane person argue that big government is.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @rumham

            I don’t think the question is, “could there be some circumstances under which tort law could be used when pollution happens.” The question is whether such a system could be a full-scale replacement for other forms of externality pricing and, if it could, what causes that to work better than the existing ones.

          • rumham says:

            @sandoraatthezoo

            I don’t think the question is, “could there be some circumstances under which tort law could be used when pollution happens.”

            I don’t think it is either. Nor is it the question(s) I answered.

            I’m pretty free-market-ish, but I have a difficult time imagining a tortious response to wide-ranging air pollution working. How is that supposed to work, in like the best case? Literally everyone in a region forms a class and sues, what… every individual polluter for extremely difficult to quantify damages?

            You asked specifically about air pollution, presumably because you realize that other types of pollution are much easier to litigate absent government interference. So I gave you that exact example. Which happens to answer every question in that block.

            And if that happens, then what? A judge and to some extent a jury applies essentially… a tax? Or is it a one-time payment to an ongoing externality

            Also answered with that case.

            Do we have strong reason to believe that judges and juries are going to be much better at applying the “right” tax than legislators are?

            Yes, as I stated, it is the government who is limiting liability for polluters.

            Don’t we need ongoing inspections and transparency about levels of pollution here?

            Yes. It can easily be done privately. Ever heard of Underwriters Laboratory? (sorry, missed this one in the flood of questions)

            What is the ongoing solution? How do I, a polluter who is doing net social good, handle the externality of my pollution?

            Pay damages. I would think that would be self-evident.

            Now, on to the new questions.

            The question is whether such a system could be a full-scale replacement for other forms of externality pricing

            Yes. Given that it works now as long as the government doesn’t abuse it’s power to help polluters.

            if it could, what causes that to work better than the existing ones.

            No government interference on behalf of the polluters.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I see how my initial comment was confusing, but to be clear, I meant “I have a difficult time imagining a tortious response to wide-ranging air pollution working [as the sole method of response].”

            I think you’re trying to wave a magic wand, here. Outside of magical wands, in anarcho-capitalist land, we still have fallible human beings and incentives, and it’s not at all clear to me that pushing those incentives and human beings through a court system makes them work any better than through a legislative system. Particularly, it is still super unclear to me how this is supposed to scale. If I live in, say, a city, where literally thousands of parties are polluting the air, and, absent violent revolution, will continue to pollute the air to infinity, how is this actually supposed to work? Do I just sue every industrial party in a hundred miles once a year? How do we prevent lawyers from essentially eating all of this? Is one judge and one jury (per… time period X) actually better at figuring out this kind of complex situation than a legislature with staff, or does this become a weird set of like repeated tiny dictators? How does sending the fact-finding through a private party actually help align incentives better?

            There are environmental cases where I think a tortious answer is the correct one. This seems like it is Not That. The fact that some people have at some point in the past used tort law to get some kind of damages from air polluters (and, like… how good was that verdict? Did it in fact make sense?) doesn’t really change this situation.

          • rumham says:

            @sandoraatthezoo

            Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s Friday night, and regardless, one fisking per day is my limit. I will return later and attempt to answer these next 20 or so questions. As I have said, these arguments have been going on with much smarter people than myself for over a hundred years. When I return, I will attempt to provide some resources for you.

          • rumham says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            I think you’re trying to wave a magic wand, here. Outside of magical wands, in anarcho-capitalist land, we still have fallible human beings and incentives, and it’s not at all clear to me that pushing those incentives and human beings through a court system makes them work any better than through a legislative system.

            Well, for starters, minarchist. If we go anarcho-capitalist, there are even more problems with implementation. But in this we are in agreement. People are corrupt. If I run all of US environmental policy, there is now a single point of failure.

            If I live in, say, a city, where literally thousands of parties are polluting the air, and, absent violent revolution, will continue to pollute the air to infinity, how is this actually supposed to work? Do I just sue every industrial party in a hundred miles once a year?

            Once a year? Do you think there is no deterrent effect? In the case I linked, this occured:
            “Under the settlement agreement, U.S. Steel must spend at least $6.5 million to reduce soot emissions and noxious odors from the the Clairton coke-making facility, on the Monongahela River about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh.

            The remaining $2 million would go to area residents and their lawyers in the case.”

            So no. Generally, companies that have to shell out that kind of green view it as a bad thing that they don’t want to repeat.

            How do we prevent lawyers from essentially eating all of this?

            You think that there would be no competition in this space?

            Is one judge and one jury (per… time period X) actually better at figuring out this kind of complex situation than a legislature with staff

            Appears so in the case of U.S Steel Corp.

            How does sending the fact-finding through a private party actually help align incentives better?

            Better results. Who does the general public trust more? There’s a reason.

            The fact that some people have at some point in the past used tort law to get some kind of damages from air polluters (and, like… how good was that verdict? Did it in fact make sense?) doesn’t really change this situation.

            It should. Your some of your earlier questions indicate that you couldn’t even conceive of it occurring once.

            Remember this question?

            A judge and to some extent a jury applies essentially… a tax? Or is it a one-time payment to an ongoing externality?

            This should open up some space for you to contemplate. This is a good place to start.

        • Nick says:

          Can a carbon tax be levied without big government? I mean, without much more big government than normal taxation, anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            Can a carbon tax be levied without big government?

            If by “carbon tax” you mean “some sort of system wherein polluters are required to compensate those whom their pollution has damaged” then yes, sure, that could be done privately (although implementation would assuredly be complicated).

            The moral argument behind a carbon tax is just that. Where it goes wrong is by assuming “the government” is a legitimate proxy for the group “those whom their pollution has damaged.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Government has to be big enough to collect the tax and disburse the revenue back to the people, but that’s not remotely a problem anywhere close to our government’s size.

          • John Schilling says:

            Can a carbon tax be levied without big government?

            It can be levied by any government capable of levying any tax at all. Unless you’re implicitly adding “with 99.9+% completeness” or something like that, which is neither necessary nor fair. Mostly, you’re just doing an inventory of oil wells, coal mines, natural gas fields, totaling up how much was produced and then charging $20/ton C or whatever.

            If necessary, you can do the thing where it’s illegal to sell fuel that’s less than 0.1% isotopically pure taxonium by weight, where the government produces taxonium, sells it for $20/kg, and periodically samples what’s for sale at the local gas station, etc. That basically reduces the problem to the equivalent of counterfeit-prevention for currency, which most small governments manage tolerably well.

        • Garrett says:

          Prior to the creation of the EPA organizations like sportsmen’s groups were very effective at doing this by suing for the loss of fish in streams due to pollution, so this can work.

          But I’m not certain that this is so much a “small government” approach so much as a judicial rather than legislative government approach.

    • Thegnskald says:

      If I have to pick out of that list, I’d hold my nose and vote for the Christian Democrats. Or maybe the Libertarians.

      Going through them:

      Libertarian:
      They focus on the most important of the four threats, government power, but they seem to be agnostic on religious power, and seem to worship capital power. So okay, but not perfect. For popularity, the fourth aspect, they are suspicious.
      Great America:
      They worship government and popular power. ’nuff said.
      Christian Democrats:
      At this point I consider religious power the weakest of the four powers, so they are the least dangerous. (Not to say religious power can’t be as dangerous as the others, but they’d have to be in power longer to achieve that.)
      Green:
      The opposite of the libertarians, they favor increasing religious, popular, and government power, while wanting to crush capital power. Hell no.
      Social Democrat:
      They favor government and popular power. Popular power is just past it’s peak, so hell no.
      Working Americans:
      Popular and religious power. Hell no.

      Now, to explain. My goal is a balance of the four powers. The four powers being government, religious/belief, popular/popularity, and capital. Government is what all of those want to capture, but government is it’s own interest group (the bureaucracy, or in times past royalty), so it represents the power of that interest group.
      Religious/belief is the power of particular belief systems. It doesn’t need to be religion itself, indeed it could be a “scientific” belief, or a political belief; it simply represents the power of a particular entrenched belief, particularly to prevent itself from being challenged.
      Popularity is pretty self-explanatory. It is, like religious beliefs, pretty specific to particular groups, and represents the power of a given group to define the social context in which individuals are judged. It is the power of the overton window, in a sense.
      Capital is also pretty self-explanatory. It represents the power of entrenched interests to prevent competing institutions from arising or challenging those interests. This is distinct from wealth, and from capitalism; the advantage of the factory owner is, in this view, the capital investment somebody else would need to make in order to compete. (Imagine a town with a single market for a necessary good. There is an amount that market can charge which is greater than equilibrium prices, but which is also less than the amount that would enable a competing market to be a profitable investment for somebody else, given opportunity costs. That is setting aside the ability of the market to undercut any new competitor’s prices enough to make it not worth the investment, again given opportunity costs. This is part of the power of capital.)

      None of these groups actually attempt to solve the problem of power, they just prop up one type, or attempt to minimize another.

    • honoredb says:

      In theory, I’d be a class traitor and support Working Americans over the Social Democrats — just de-skew the wealth distribution a little, no need to get fancy with elaborate social programs. In practice I’d probably get pwned by Social Democrat messaging and end up supporting something more paternalistic that would end up looking misguided later.

      I’d probably also cross over to Libertarian and Green parties occasionally, when there really is a giant salient threat from the state or from the kind of coordination problems the state is supposed to solve.

    • aristides says:

      Likely Christian Democrat, with the occasional vote for Great America and Libertarian when Christian Democrats nominate someone too authoritarian or fundamental.

    • Great America, so long as they aren’t starting wars. I might feel sympathetic to Christian Democrat, but I’d fear they lack the intelligence and mindset to properly incentivize what they want to incentivize and that they’d use the bully pulpit to promote the idea that bourgeois values and theism are inseparable.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      From your description, it sounds like the Greens are a single-issue environmentalist party or at least rather narrowly focused on public health. Is that correct? Can you be pro-life or opposed to socialized healthcare and a Green?

      I’m not clear on what policies the Working Americans advocate. Is Bernie Sanders more of a Social Democrat or a Working American?

      I don’t like the sound of the Christian Democrats as described, but it would depend a lot on whose interpretation of “right living and religious values” is at stake.

      I’m guessing I either end up voting Green or Social Democrat in this system, but I need some more elaborate worldbuilding to be sure.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Great America, but I have sympathy for many of the Social Democrat’s domestic programs. The empire must prevail!

    • blacktrance says:

      Libertarian, definitely. I’d be unlikely to consider any of the others, although Working Americans seems high-variance, so I might occasionally treat them as my second choice (they could also get so crazy that I’d put them last). Since neither of them is likely to do well, I’d quietly hope for the success of the more libertarian-leaning elements within Great America. Christian Democrats and Social Democrats would probably be last in some order.

      But I don’t think the Democrats would disintegrate into that many parties, and I think the environmentalist faction would be fans of big government to an even greater degree than most of the others. More likely, they’d split into the hard-left Socialist Green (also taking some of the Working Families-type people with them) and a center-left/managerial remnant which would keep the Democratic name. They’d prefer to be in coalition with each other, but the Democrats would also consider allying with the Libertarians (when they do unusually well) or forming a grand coalition with Great America.

    • John Schilling says:

      To no one’s great surprise, Libertarian.

      But I’d hope, and maybe tactically vote, for them to share power with Great America for about a generation, because it’s going to take a lot of work to Make The World Safe for Not Having Team America as the World Police. And Great America, if they have to share power with the Libertarians, will probably be tolerable on the domestic front. But we would need to watch out for Americans trying to prove their Greatness by going out of their way to start wars.

    • johan_larson says:

      I guess I should put my own cards on the table. If I were in the US under this counterfactual, I would probably usually vote Great America. GA is all about the big dreams and dramatic accomplishments that America at its best is capable of.

      But I do worry that GA if given free rein would deliver a skewed society, where it’s great to have money, but the life of the working poor is a never ending round of take-it-or-leave-it and the-beatdown. I want better than that, and I think the Social Democrats are the answer. So an occasional vote to the Social Democrats when Great America seems to be getting out of hand.

      I could see myself voting Litertarian or Christian Democrat when neither GA nor SD candidates are appealing.

    • bullseye says:

      For my top choice, I think I’d switch between Green, Social Democrat, and Working Americans depending on the quality of individual candidates. Greens look good on their chief issue, as long as they’re pro-nuclear and don’t get into stupid stuff like banning straws. Social Democrats look good except for the part about requiring welfare recipients to “get with the program”. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think I like it. Working Americans would probably be too populist for my taste (anti-immigration and protectionist).

      Next up would be Libertarians. Then Christian Democrats, with Great America dead last because it looks like they’re War Party.

    • johan_larson says:

      I tallied up the votes.

      In the SSC version of America, the House of Representatives is elected by proportional representation. Every voter picks one party, and the seats are allocated to party representatives in proportion to the number of votes the party received. Some people mentioned multiple parties; I picked whichever one they mentioned most prominently.

      The votes:
      Libertarian – 5
      Great America – 7
      Christian Democrat – 4
      Green – 3
      Social Democrat – 3
      Working Americans – 1

      That’s 23 votes total, so the Libertarians plus Great America at 12 votes have a working coalition if they can maintain party discipline. I’m predicting legal weed nation-wide, but an armed intervention somewhere in South America.

      • John Schilling says:

        I can live with that. Presumably the military intervention will be in Venezuela, which becomes an American protectorate while we mostly screw up trying to rebuild their economy except that the Libertarian charter cities turn out pretty well.

        • The Nybbler says:

          There’s also the option of taking the Panama Canal back, because “America, fuck yeah!”.

          While I’d favor an invasion of Puerto Rico, the war hawks might be wise to that one.

      • Aftagley says:

        A quick look over the response shows that at least 3 GA voters, (myself included) picked the SDs as their second choice. This makes me think any possible coalition with the libertarian party would be ill-advised… they would have to give me some pretty free reign on the international arena before I’d participate in dismantling social security.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      Great America I think.

    • JonathanD says:

      Social Democrat

  24. Two McMillion says:

    Inspired by Nick’s question about cars below, here’s something that’s been bothering me: my socialist-adjacent friends sometimes make the point that there are more empty houses in the US then there are homeless people, and state that the reason for this is capitalist greed etc. My questions-
    a) Is this true? (google makes it seem like it is)
    b) If it is true, why?

    • JayT says:

      I doubt it’s enough to explain the entire thing, but I’ve heard a lot of stories in the Bay Area of foreign investors buying up property and letting it sit vacant since they need a safe place to stash their money and they don’t want to deal with renters.

      Second houses would probably be the main reason though. I know a lot of people that have their house that they live in, and then a second lake cabin. This is especially true of the people I know in the rural Midwest, where property is very cheap.

      • Lambert says:

        Investing in overseas property is one of the easiest ways to turn large quantities of Yuan into assets beyond the reach of the Chinese government. London, NZ etc. all have lots of vacant properties for this reason.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My guess would be that 90+% of homeless are homeless because they’ve intentionally decided to be homeless (to work in the Bay Area, for example) or because they’re structurally dysfunctional enough that they can’t keep a home.

      In the current economy, anyone with a semblance of competence can move to the South or Midwest and have a cheap, reasonable home in a good neighborhood. They might take a paycut (even a standard of living cut depending on where they move), but it is absolutely possible.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        About 5 years ago, Utah made headlines by giving homeless people houses. When I search, I still find the old headlines, not how it’s worked out since then.

        (Maybe it’s something that only works with Utahns. A house is expensive and very easy to destroy with just a little bit of maliciousness and/or mental illness.)

        Anyone know the follow-up?

        • profgerm says:

          While I can’t find the source currently, the followup was much less shining than the initial reports, for exactly the reasons you point out.

          Social housing helps with the precarious-homeless, but the “housing resistant homeless” will always be a problem without institutionalization.

        • Nick says:

          Setting aside my problems with the content, I like the way that Vox puts their articles into “streams” at the bottom (e.g.). I wish more news sites did this so you could easily track followups.

        • Randy M says:

          I’d like the follow up here as well, but reading Dalrymple on similar programs in England is not encouraging.

        • Plumber says:

          @Edward Scizorhands says:

          “About 5 years ago, Utah made headlines by giving homeless people houses. When I search, I still find the old headlines, not how it’s worked out since then.

          (Maybe it’s something that only works with Utahns. A house is expensive and very easy to destroy with just a little bit of maliciousness and/or mental illness.)

          Anyone know the follow-up?”

          Sadly not so well (but still better than California, Oregon, and Washington).
          From Reuters January 10, 2019
          Once a national model, Utah struggles with homelessness

          “…Utah’s 2018 report said that the number of people sleeping outdoors in the state has nearly doubled since 2016.

          State officials cite a combination of factors for the backwards slide, including rising land and housing costs in booming U.S. cities, stagnant wage growth, and a nationwide opioid epidemic…

          …the money for financing such initiatives has all but disappeared, unlike a decade ago during an economic recession when landlords willingly took in tenants facing homelessness and land for development was cheap…”

          More addiction and higher rents.

          Still though, Utah had a good ten years of reduced homelessness with their “housing first” policies and uniquely effective welfare system.

    • ana53294 says:

      While there may be homes going empty, with exceptions like Manhattan’s luxury apartments, I doubt that you have that many homes empty in places where people want to live, and that’s the important metric.

      So you have houses in rural areas that have been abandoned due to rural flight. I doubt that there are many homeless in those areas.

      And even in areas where you do have many empty homes and many homeless people, those houses don’t fulfill habitability criteria, and fixing them would cost so much money it would be cheaper to just tear them down and build anew (with the exceptions of high rises in places where the area code does not allow building a high rise).

      Italy has been selling houses for 1 euro (with the condition of fixing the house). Italy also has homeless people. But fixing those houses is expensive, and besides, I doubt homeless italians would like to live in those towns.

      • JayT says:

        As I mentioned above, I know a lot of people that own second homes in the Midwest, but as you say, they are not in places people want to live, and a lot of them aren’t even habitable year-round, but I’d guess they get counted in the numbers of “empty homes”.

    • Lambert says:

      The houses are in the arse-end of nowhere. Assuming that ‘any house anywhere’> homelessness/slums in a favourable location is the reason why the attempts to empty Dharavi, Mumbai and other such places have failed.
      And giving homeless people in the city one-way bus tickets is frowned upon.

      Also there’s probably more empty government-owned houses in China than homeless people. That evil capitalist communist party.

      • A1987dM says:

        Also there’s probably more empty government-owned houses in China than homeless people.

        i guess so but that’s just because the latter number is approximately zero.

    • Aftagley says:

      a) Is this true? (google makes it seem like it is)

      Probably? It looks like there’s somewhere more than 10 million empty homes in America (although I’m seeing conflicting data that puts it at the 1-2 million range. My guess is I’m looking at apples and oranges here, but I can’t seem to tell why.)

      Either way, there’s less than 600k homeless people in america, so we’re talking either 2x the amount of homes or 20x than homeless.

      b) If it is true, why?

      I originally listed out a bunch of reasons, but cut it when I realized they all came down to money. Getting, fixing and keeping these properties in a state where the government could use them as public housing would cost a ton and arguably not less than just building new public housing.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I let a homeless family live in a house I owned but didn’t occupy for a little over a year.

      The outcome:
      I ended up paying for a substantial parts of their utilities
      They let some of their extended family stay there, at least one of whom started selling drugs in the neighborhood
      When I kicked them out over those two things, one or more of them broke in and stole then destroyed the plumbing (causing two basement floods – first from the theft, second from when they broke back in after I cut the water off inside the house to destroy the valve that I used to cut the water off).

      My generosity ended up costing me quite a bit of time and money in repairs.

      The thing is, the way our society sorts people into their lot in life isn’t arbitrary. The randomness of life circumstances is of course random, but it is random. Think of it as two sorting algorithms; one is sorting, the other is performing random swaps. The list is still pretty well sorted at any given time.

      People fear the random swaps, but the functioning sorting algorithms, because it isn’t random, has all the power.

      What you should be afraid of isn’t the random algorithm, but people who want to break the functioning algorithm because the random algorithm scares them.

      • Matt M says:

        My generosity ended up costing me quite a bit of time and money in repairs.

        This.

        Homeless people who are perfectly intelligent, agreeable, responsible, etc. are quite rare. Any person who can be trusted not to cause great damage to or otherwise reduce the value of any dwelling they may occupy almost certainly is responsible enough to avoid becoming homeless in the first place, or will otherwise pull themselves up and improve their situation soon, on their own, anyway.

      • rumham says:

        I have also run into the no good deed goes unpunished gut punch. In some ways, the betrayal is worse than the monetary loss.

        It’s happened more than once, because I am stubborn as all hell.

      • Garrett says:

        I have a friend who fell into desperate times (partly his own doing, partly circumstances). I spent a bit of money on a lawyer to figure out what my risks would be in letting him stay at my place (rent-free) for a year or two while he finished up school.

        It turns out that landlord/tenant laws and domestic abuse/violence laws would leave me in this weird place where if something went sideways I wouldn’t be guaranteed to be able to kick him out.

        Because my house is my largest asset, etc., etc., I certainly wasn’t going to take that kind of risk and so I declined to let him stay with me. Ultimately things worked out but it was very precarious for him for a while.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I know California at least has “lodger” as a separate category in tenant protection laws, and homeowners who rent out part of their primary residence to a single lodger are exempt from most of the more onerous tenant-rights rules. Particularly with the eviction process: if a landlord gives his lodger proper notice to terminate the lease, then the landlord can just call the police and have the lodger ejected as a trespasser rather than needing to get a court to approve an eviction order first as you normally would.

          I’m presuming your jurisdiction doesn’t have an exception like this, or at least not one that would apply in your situation, since you actually consulted with a lawyer. It seems that from time to time, California’s government accidentally gets things right.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I have made a similar mistake. Twice. In my defense, they were separated in time by about 20 years, so I had forgotten the lesson.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not that simple. A lot of the “empty houses” are derelict properties quietly falling apart and to make them habitable would cost more than simply demolishing them and building new on the site. Also a lot of shops and other non-dwelling properties, same reason. You can’t just take a list of “here are 1,000 empty places on the rates roll, here are 600 homeless people, Profit!” because it doesn’t work like that.

      As well, not all the empty houses are in the same place as the homeless. Having 40 vacant houses in Mudhollow, Nowhere is not going to do the homeless in the Bay Area any good.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        We had an interesting situation along these lines here in Seattle some years ago.

        A failing hotel downtown got re-purposed into a homeless women and children shelter. Then a prospering company bought the real estate, but told the non-profit that they could continue occupancy up to literally the last day before demolition. And then the muni govt housing inspectors showed up with “there has been a change of ownership, you now have to Fix All The Things to maintain legal occupancy, or else Fines”, at which point the new owner told the non-profit shelter org and the mayor’s office “Lets You And Them Fight”.

        I’d pay money to watch a video recording of the meetings where housing inspector bureaucrats were told to go pound sand.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      My wife works in affordable housing, including both housing for low-income people and permanent supportive housing (ie, housing for people who are chronically jobless and likely will always be), in the San Francisco Bay Area.

      Homelessness is… a lot of things. You probably have a mental image of homeless people that, one way or another, does really encompass the spectrum of homelessness. There are wide varieties of people who are homeless who are drug-addicted and have serious mental health issues, where, like, just finding them a free house is not going to solve the problem and in fact can be pretty dangerous. There are also people who are very much not like that, and for whom just getting them a place to live can make a pretty sustained improvement in their QOL, even if it will never really provide a foundation for their ability to improve their lives on their own.

      One of the difficulties of providing housing for the homeless is that housing alone is not enough (for at least a lot of people), and you also need to provide various services. This benefits centralization, right, where social workers of various types can efficiently move from person to person. Homeless people also generally speaking don’t have a lot of ability to move themselves around, and need to be able to get to places where, even if they can like self-serve food with “food stamps,” they need to be able to get to a place where that can happen. If you give them an exurban house, well, man, that’s not gonna work.

      But concentrating them is also a problem, first because people who will at least reluctantly put up with a small number of homeless people being housed near them will fucking riot if you try to put 100 households worth of permanent supportive housing near them — and also because there are self-reinforcing bad behaviors and also predators who exist in places where lots of homeless people congregate.

      Anyone who tells you they have The Solution To Homelessness is lying. It’s a tough problem. There are maybe things we can do to chip away at it piece by piece, but it’s not amenable to a simple solution.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        will fucking riot if you try to put 100 households worth of permanent supportive housing near them

        You could do it how Seattle does it, by lying to the local neighborhoods until SURPRISE! an encampment was built where the city had just said yesterday they were not putting one, and then paying for a social media astroturf campaign against the people who complain.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Anyone who tells you they have The Solution To Homelessness is lying.

        Abolish minimum wage?

        On one hand you’re suddenly able to have them employed in some job, even if it’s washing cars for tips. And jobs allow you to learn skills and move up in the world.

        And second, you’d be able to move people where housing is cheap enough and have them grow turnips or whatever, and maybe add a $300 a month UBI on top of it for everybody in the area. Without minimum wage it’d work, it’ll just be a downscaled economy, with everything being cheaper there. Until people wise up that hey, that’s a perfectly good town with everything cheaper and UBI – let’s go there, start a business and live grand. 10 years later you get America.

        • Garrett says:

          > Abolish minimum wage?

          I’m not sure that this would do it. There are probably a handful of people who would be employable at $5/hour. But you’re not taking into account that someone’s “labor” can be of negative value. Imagine that you hire someone at whatever rate, but when they show up they eat the office supplies and attempt to urinate on the customers or coworkers. They are a net-negative to the environment.

          Sure – there are jobs would likely be created to help get the generally unemployed into the workforce. But homeless makes up only a subset of the unemployed. (Technically, you can be employed but homeless.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Well, there are certainly a lot of empty homes in places like Detroit. And, yeah, “homes” that are really just foreign investment assets in Manhattan and San Francisco. Some of the former and most of the latter are reasonably habitable. But,

      Short-term adult homeless are short-term because they have reasonably good prospects for finding a new job/spouse in the next six month provided they can draw on their social network for support and that they are in a community with a decent job market for their skillset. It makes sense for them to couch-surf or live out of their cars rather than move to Detroit. There may be a small market failure in e.g. foreign investors not hiring some these people to mind their empty “homes” for a few months at a time. But there are substantial transaction costs and/or risks involved in sorting the suitable candidates from…

      Long-term homeless are mostly drug addicts and/or mentally ill in ways that mean nobody who owns anything resembling a habitable house or apartment would dream of leaving them alone in it for fear that the end result would be a homeless person and an uninhabitable wreck. Also, starving or ODing in the bedroom of a nice house is not much of an improvement over starving or ODing in the streets, so what problem are we really trying to solve here?

      And finally, we’ve got the teenaged runaways who we can’t legally allow to live in houses or apartments. As soon as we become officially and specifically aware of their existence, we have to send them back to the probably-abusive parents they ran away from or to an almost-as-probably-abusive foster home. Which is likely to result in their growing up into group 2, above.

      That covers almost all of America’s homeless population.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        almost-as-probably-abusive foster home

        One of the most horrifically hair raising experiences I have had was a long night of babysitting an acquaintance who got plastered AND baked AND spun all the same night and then proceeded to emit at me a debrief of their life in foster care, moving between different “families” and between group houses in a not-the-worst-state from age 12 to 18, because I appeared “safe and trustworthy”.

        It is worse than I ever wanted to imagine. You could not make a realistic movie of it because filming it would be illegal. The foster care bureaucrats all know, or are carefully willfully blind.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I’ve known three, ah, foster care bureaucrats.

          Two were very empathetic people. So they lasted less than a year before they got a different job.

          The third lasted longer by virtue of not having as much empathy, but eventually left because they were not allowed to wear protective gear – they were part of the group that took kids out of the foster care that was sufficiently bad that it got attention. Apparently somebody tried to stab them one too many times.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I don’t know if you saw the last sentence of my post, that I deleted via edit after posting, as maybe too inflammatory. I’ve decided to put it back. Here it is:

            “Some of them… participate.”

            Which may very well be part of what helped encouraged friends to leave the field. When someone finds themselves in an environment with even just a few literal soul-destroying demons walking around free, and everyone else is not uniting to destroy them, a wise choice is to leave.

        • albatross11 says:

          Or they know the system is terrible and are trying to get it to work as well as it can, given that all available options are bad.

          FWIW, the one adult I know who was in foster care was sexually abused while there (by a foster sibling, not a foster parent). I also know a family who were foster parents for a somewhat mentally disabled kid from a mentally disabled mom, and they eventually adopted her. She seems to be doing about as well as you could expect, now.

    • GearRatio says:

      How do you quantify how much of the total proportion of empty houses are just empty because of normal delays between occupants?

      • Eric Rall says:

        I’d expect that to be a big category. Well, two big categories: owner-occupied houses that are vacant for a month or so between the seller moving out and the buyer moving in, and rental units that are vacant while the landlord is looking for a new tenant.

        The other big categories of vacant houses I’d expect to find would be houses that are empty because they’re undergoing major renovation, and seasonal vacation house that are left empty only during the off-season.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Hmmm, idea for the average-is-over mobile-workplace future. Rich person with two houses that they migrate between between seasons goes into a long-term relationship with a much poorer person who inhabits whatever house the richer person is not in at the time (and works full-time remote). Poor person pays a rent that is non-trivial, but substantially lower than it would be to rent a place like that 12 months a year. Rich person gets income plus some of that security of having someone at their property.

          Done via matchmakers who very carefully vet the poorer person for suitability, hence the long-term relationship thing.

          Probably not worthwhile in a world where AirBnB exists.

          Somewhat ego-destroying for the poorer person, but maybe better than alternatives.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Caretaker is already a job that people have. I’ve known several young couples who did it for older very wealthy people. One of the problems is that with modern tenancy laws allow a dishonest caretaker to really ruin the homeowner’s life.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            This is vice versa, for poorer rich people, the ones who can’t afford to literally employ someone to live in their house, so they rent it out.

            Traditionally this doesn’t work, because you can’t move someone around like that if they’re to maintain employment. But as remote work becomes more possible, there’s maybe a niche for it — and you might find that you actually get fewer problems with people who are settled enough to have a real job and pay real rent than people you have to pay to be caretakers.

            I don’t think that there’s any plausible world where it would become a super big thing, but it might be an interesting background element for a near-future story.

        • albatross11 says:

          What about houses vacant because the original owner had to move somewhere else, died, was foreclosed on, etc., and now they’re on the market? If you look for houses to buy, you will definitely see some that are empty as well as some that are currently occupied. It’s not all that rare for a house to spend a few months on the market before selling.

          Putting someone up in the house when you’re showing it to sell it is only workable if they’re very conscientious about keeping it clean and presentable and being willing to clear out on short notice when a realtor wants to show the house.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I mean, we can probably guestimate this pretty effectively like we were in an early 2000s Google interview.

        There are apparently around 125M households in the US. Some random googling suggests that 77% of Americans live in a house, let’s call it… 50% of households since presumably larger household correlate with living in houses. That means 63M houses.

        What’s the average duration of a stay in a house? Call it, um, 16 years, so that means that 4M houses turn over in a year. Let’s say that the average length of time that a house is empty is 3 or 4 months, and we get about 1M houses vacant due to turnover at any given time.

        That’s certainly not correct, but I think it’d be hard for that to be more than an order of magnitude off in either direction.

        • Eric Rall says:

          We can do better than that: house sales are public record, and the National Association of Realtors compiles and publishes aggregate statistics. Looks like there were 5,340,000 Existing Home Sales in the US in 2019 (new construction sales are tracked separately), which isn’t that far off from your Drake Equation estimate of 4M.

          3-4 months average vacancy per sale strikes me as a bit on the high side, but a quick googling failed to turn up any actual compiled statistics on the subject. I’ve seen two patterns of house selling: move out and then put it on the market (3-4 months seems about right for this), or synchronize the closing dates of your old house and your new house as closely as possible so as to move out just before the old house closes and move in just after the new house closes (if both parties do this, the house is vacant for a few days only).

          I get the impression the latter model is more common: most people (even most homeowners in a position to upgrade to a bigger/better house) can’t afford two mortgages at the same time and would have hard time raising a downpayment on a new house without cashing in equity from their old house. Overlapping is only really feasible if you have plenty of liquid savings (to cover the downpayment) and your existing mortgage is unusually small relative to your income, or if you’re moving into our out of a rental property or temporary housing.

          • JayT says:

            What percentage of houses are sold because the owners either died or were moved into an assisted living facility? I’d guess those sit empty longer than a normal house would.

      • abystander says:

        According to the census in 2010 of the 31,131 vacant units in San Francisco
        17,354 were for rent or sale or rented or sold but not occupied. 5,564 were for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use. Leaving 8,213 vacant for other reasons. A lot of those I would say were renovations. I’ve seen units vacant for months while it looked like seismic upgrades were taking place.

        There was also a 2-unit building that was left vacant while the legal fight went on if the owner could demolish it and put up a 6 unit building.

    • brad says:

      Our stupid housing policies aimed at increasing rather than decreasing the costs of a basic necessity don’t help at the margin, but full on homelessness (i.e. not the deceptive public policy term) is almost entirely a result of society that refuses to pick any of the not-great options for dealing with temporarily or permanently broken people. This is what not making a decision looks like.

  25. Nornagest says:

    Okay, nerds, I just got back into Magic: The Gathering after a year or two away. This deck’s had some success in Arena’s Standard format. I’d like to see how I can make it better.

    4x Cauldron Familiar
    2x Claim the Firstborn
    4x Witch’s Oven
    1x Bankrupt in Blood
    2x Orzhov Enforcer
    2x Priest of Forgotten Gods
    2x Dreadhorde Butcher
    1x Midnight Reaper
    3x Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
    2x Legion Warboss
    3x Skewer the Critics
    2x Bedevil
    1x Judith, the Scourge Diva
    4x Mayhem Devil
    2x Theater of Horrors
    and about the land you’d expect.

    Basically revolves around sacrifice. The Priest and the Oven let me sacrifice whatever creatures I have my hands on (Priest for bonus mana and card advantage), while Chandra, Warboss, and Cauldron Familiar keep them coming. Judith and the Mayhem Devils turn that into damage, and the rest of the cards play a supporting role.

    • Tarpitz says:

      How resource-constrained are you? Competitive Cat-Oven decks at the moment are generally Jund for Gilded Goose and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King (see Piotr Glogowski’s list from Worlds, for example) but that’s potentially a lot of wild cards you may not have.

      If you do stick with Rakdos, I would look to switch out your pure interactive spells (Bedevil and Skewer) for Adventure creatures that can contribute to your engine (Murderous Rider and Bonecrusher Giant). I’m not sure card advantage pieces that don’t impact the board like Theatre of Horrors are maindeckable in a world where mono-red is so good and so widely played. I might look to get a Massacre Girl or two in there. I suspect Claim the Firstborn and Bankrupt in Blood may be a bit cute, and you’d probably rather just have more copies of engine pieces like lisping 80s metal band Judith/Priest.

    • Business Analyst says:

      Do you have the shock lands or the tap lands? Fabled passage?

      Upgrading your mana base almost always is quite useful for boosting consistency and some land cards are useful across a wide swath of decks.

    • Aftagley says:

      I’m normally pretty skeptical of one-ofs in standard decks except for top-end bombs in piles that can reasonably expect to see every card in their deck. This isn’t one of those decks. So I’m immediately skeptical of the following:

      1x Bankrupt in Blood

      Killing two of your own cards to draw three cards just doesn’t play out all that well, in my experience. This card is doing a really similar thing as The Priests, but it’s only once and at sorcery speed. I think cutting this for another priest would do you some good.

      2x Dreadhorde Butcher

      This card is amazing in rakdos aggro, but that’s not quite your current style. It’s got a really high power level, so don’t cut it instantly, but this card wants to be in a deck with Feverent Champions and other hastey beaters. This card is also a really weak topdeck in the mid-to-late game, so you want it as early as possible, which means you want 4 of.

      1x Midnight Reaper

      If you have more of these, i’d throw them in. You’ll have creatures dying all the time so this will draw you an insane amount of cards.

      3x Skewer the Critics

      I think I’d max out my bedevils before going for lightning bolts. Your deck doesn’t really plan on winning with burn spells (i don’t think) so it looks like these are just here to clear blockers or take out planeswalkers. Bedevil does both these things better than skewer and for (some of the time) the same CMC. If you love this card, maybe keep 1 in, but I don’t think they’re doing much for you.

      2x Orzhov Enforcer

      Forgot to talk about these earlier. I don’t like these cards. They’re not bad, but they are going to slow down the game while the rest of your deck wants to go fast. I don’t think you get the same value out of them that you would by just including another 2x warboss or 1x chandra or Judith or something.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m having fun with nightmare shepherd, but I don’t think he belongs in a cat deck.

  26. Vermillion says:

    So as I recall there’s been some grumbling among the commentariate about not mapping well onto the traditional left-right or libertarian-authoritarian political axes. Well I came across this quite interesting article about memetic tribes from a semi-related interview with Venkatesh Rao. Looking over the breakdown of 33 (!) different possible tribes I’d think there’s something for everyone.

    I’m curious what tribe people here most identify with. I would think the majority would be Rationalist Diaspora (name check SSC after all) but maybe that would only be the case if I post this in an integer OT. Personally, after reading through them all and considering Telos, Sacred Values etc, I was somewhat surprised to find I identify as an Optimist. Certainly there are other tribes that I’d consider friendly or a decent alternative but Optimist felt the most true to me.

    What about you? I’m particularly curious if there are any Integral Theorists since those were the only ones I had truly never heard about before.

    • Plumber says:

      @Vermillion,
      I’ve never heard of most of these, and I’m disappointed that there wasn’t a “which do you fit most?” quiz.

      As for myself I define myself as a bit more left than right reactionary (mostly target date February 1973, with elements of 1947, ’56, ’99, and even one of ’10), who thinks both “the Left” and “the Right” have triumphed on many of the wrong things and should swap where they are powerful in many ways.

      Find me that group.

      • Vermillion says:

        Yeah I should have qualified this is a pretty online/millennial focused listing. Establishment left might actually be the closest for yah…

    • Nick says:

      I remember seeing this ages ago. I think I’m closest to the Benedictines, but I wear many hats. Also, subcultures are fractal and all, but at this level of detail this list is missing the Integralists and the closely related LeftCaths. If Integralism is a touch too fine, a Postliberal tribe might work.

      • Vermillion says:

        Yeah I think this was first published a year and a half ago, I don’t think there’s been much memetic shakeup since then though.

        What is integralism by the way? I assume it’s distinct from integral theorist but I also know nothin about those fine folk…

        • Nick says:

          Integralism is a view about the relationship between temporal and spiritual power according to which the temporal power should be subordinated to the state. In practical terms this means at least a confessional state. It’s gotten a lot of traction among Very Online Catholics the last couple of years as an interpretation of the Catholic Church’s teaching, mostly due to the perceived crisis in liberalism (which integralists aim at tearing down). As an interpretation of Catholic teaching it’s compelling, especially when you hear the bad arguments which small-l liberal Catholics respond with, but its political goals are really far outside the Overton so it all just exists on places like Twitter or blogs connected to The Josias, and most of what they talk about from day to day is economics rather than reordering the public square etc.

          I offered Postliberal as a plausible bigger tribe since integralism is just one response to the crisis in liberalism.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            Nick, FWIW, I think SSC is ripe for an effortpost on the partly fascinating, partly horrifying phenomenon of integralism in the Catholic memeplex, and I don’t think any commenter here would be better able to write it than you.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve toyed with the idea of writing it. Discussions of liberalism are among the least fruitful I’ve participated in here, though; if my post doesn’t get across the motivation for integralism, it will have been a failure.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Having to choose from the list, I probably align closest to IDW – though as a fellow-traveller more than anything.

    • Baeraad says:

      Depressingly, I think I fit in very poorly among all of these. I guess I’m most immediately sympathetic to the Democratic Socialists and Dirtbag Leftists? I’m probably not working-class-rugged to be one of those either, though. But most groups seem to be identified by what other groups they hold in contempt, and I am deeply uncomfortable with holding most groups in contempt. For socialists, the group to hold in contempt seems to be Rich Bastards, and those are just about the only ones I am perfectly fine with hating on, if only because I don’t see what harm my loathing can inflict on them that all their money and power can’t cancel out.

      • Nick says:

        Do you think there’s a group you do fit in that’s missing, or do you just not fit in anywhere?

        (Also: you in fact fit in just fine here, because lots of us are misfits.)

        • Baeraad says:

          Definitely the second one. I have yet to find a single group that doesn’t have “and furthermore, people like Baeraad need to be exterminated” hidden somewhere in the fine print of its mission statement. :p

          Except maybe for the incels, but I don’t think I hate women enough to be an incel. And also I don’t wallow enough in self-pity – which is kind of scary, because I wallow a lot in self-pity, but those guys make me look like a paragon of stalwart stoicism! 0_o;

          (Also: you in fact fit in just fine here, because lots of us are misfits.)

          You are kind to say so (and I mean that sincerely), but honestly… my IQ is too low and my sensitivity is too high for me to fit in here.

    • brad says:

      Either optimist or establishment left. Rank and file member of the liberal, coastal elitists. Voting for Bloomberg in the primary.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I’m definitely a Neo-reactionary, with touches of Alt-Right, Christian Right and Trumpist.

      The broad tribes are pretty decent looking around the landscape near me, but I don’t know nearly as much about the divides on the left. I would say the biggest thing on the right that seems to be slicing too thin is QAnon v. InfoWars, as they seem to share a pretty tight coupling.

    • gph says:

      Honestly I’d say I see a bit of myself in 12 – 19, which seems to loosely be what I’d consider subtribes of the grey tribe.

      I’m not that deep or involved with the culture wars, so most these subtribal differentiations don’t seem all that important to me. I guess I get that there’s a lot of infighting between blue/grey/red subtribes going on right now, the radicals on both sides have been taking the lead and getting the most attention as of late. But in 20-30 years I bet a lot of the dirtbag left, etc. will grow old and more or less become the establishment left. The cycle continues, Kali Yuga and all that.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Shockingly enough, “Trumpist.” With smatterings of IDW.

    • profgerm says:

      The telos for “integral theorists” sounded like Sam Harris meets Jordan Peterson, but it looks like it’s its own thing. I suspect the telos could be phrased better to avoid others making my initial confusion.

      I think I’d fall somewhere in an overlap of Optimist, Sorter, IDW, Benedictine, with a smidge of Alt-Lite. I like “continual progress through reason and science,” but I think globalism is a poor idea (as Caplan supposedly said, true globalism could produce stable totalitarianism).

      For the smidge of Alt-Lite, I think anyone belonging to Establishment Left/Optimists/NA/SE/Rationalists that doesn’t have strong respect and preference for Western Civilization is seriously and dangerously underweighting the contributions of their intellectual forebears and what it takes to provide the foundations of their beliefs. That is Western Civ as distinct from Scott’s Universal Culture. As one of my friends says, my conservative streak is decidedly non-modern and centered more in WW2 London.

    • Jake R says:

      I consider myself a Christian in the CS Lewis / CK Chesterton tradition. I also consider myself a libertarian. The farther Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are from politics the better. I guess Benedictines are the closest though I’d never heard of them before this. “Strategetic segregation from mainstream culture to rebuild Christendom” sounds a lot like dereliction of duty to me.

      • Nick says:

        It can sound that way, but it’s not dereliction of duty; the point is to not become burned out or compromised from constantly working in hostile territory.

        • albatross11 says:

          The quotes we have from Jesus in the New Testament very much support the idea of Christians living a life apart from the rest of the world and mostly concentrating on living a virtuous life and spreading the gospel, and staying out of political struggles. Jesus himself didn’t seem to want to be the leader of a political struggle. (Though this is based on what was left behind and known and written down in the gospels, so we are surely missing a ton of other things he said.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m too combative for the IDW but alt-lite doesn’t quite fit (and I regard McInnes, Cernovich, and Milo as jesters rather than leaders). Somewhere in there, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      Vermillion, that made me laugh so that’s good: the illustration with the gun-toting Ted Cruz, is it? had terrible trigger discipline so either the illustrators don’t know anything about guns or they’re insinuating Ted doesn’t. As well, in the list of “Forebears” for the Christian Right, they list “Evangelists, Baptists”. I think they mean “Evangelicals” if they’re giving denominational names, unless they really do mean to say Ss. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were mainly concerned with “losing the soul of America” and founding a strongly nationalist Christian state 🙂

      As to which is my tribe, going by the spreadsheet I seem to be a mix of Benedictine, Establishment Left, Christian Right and for my wildcards the Integral Theorists and Neo-Reactionaries! (There are parts of all of these I can’t and don’t agree with). I’m telling you – we need the Great Chinggis Khaan Tribe to truly round this one out!

      Cherished the wisdom of thinkers
      Declared deliverance and the Gereg
      The bearer of the eternal Tengri
      The king of the blue world
      The Great Chinggis Khaan

      Knees be knelt and heads be bowed
      Engaged the world with the wisdom of Tengri
      Declared the empire with law and order
      The scourge of the eternal Tengri

      • Vermillion says:

        Glad it tickled yah :-). And yes, the let’s say idiosyncratic spelling on that sheet definitely made my eye twitch a bit.

    • rumham says:

      IDW, but I flirted with the manosphere over a decade ago. As long as you stay out of the toxic mindset that can occur, it’s actually very useful for someone with, let’s say, less than average social skills.

    • aristides says:

      I’m in the Benedict camp to a T, and yet never knew about the three listed exemplars. I have more writers to read.

    • rahien.din says:

      I hid the tribe titles and just read the descriptors. Aside from some of the technical descriptions and namedrops, Integral Theory was the one I most identified with. Like, enough to get curious about what some of those things are. It seems a little too out there for me to latch onto, but who knows?

      On this list, I’m centered on Post-Rationalist, with one foot in Rationalist Diaspora and one foot about to fall into Integral Theorist. But this list is kind of old, and leaves out a particular newer tribe : neo-Stoic, as chieftained by Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holliday, and Jocko Willink.

      And that’s what I would consider myself : neo-Stoic. Always learning, rationally post-legibility, getting after it. Pragmatism is synonymous with surprise.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’d think there’s something for everyone.

      I don’t think so. There are certainly categories that I agree with, such as Optimist and Rational Diaspora, but I don’t think they define me in any way. If these memes are supposed to determine one’s political views in some way, that isn’t at all the case for me. My views on government is that it tries to do far too much. The more complicated the government is, usually the less competent (which pretty much explains the US). In that sense I fit Libertarian better any of the categories on this list, so I think the memes are a downgrade from the usual categories.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I don’t think it’s saying you have to be in one of these. Just that these are popular tribes with memeplexes.

    • John Schilling says:

      The thing that’s what they describe as “Tea Party”, so long as I don’t have to hang around with most of the people who ever actually used that label for themselves. And only until it’s safe to be an Optimist again.

  27. Rock Lobster says:

    Can anyone recommend a book about Moby Dick interpretation? (edited out extraneous question mark)

    • Björn says:

      I read the German translation by Matthias Jendis, and it had very useful annotations. Maybe ask your questions here, and I will try to answer them.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        Thanks. I don’t really have any specific questions though. Just looking to understand the book better beyond the surface level.

    • Kindly says:

      I saw a book called Why Read Moby Dick? in an airport bookstore. Unfortunately, it was not accompanied by a Why Read Why Read Moby Dick? pamphlet, so I was not motivated to read it, and can’t recommend it.

    • littskad says:

      The site powermobydick.com has a lot of useful annotations, if you can stand to red it online—it’s pretty nicely formatted, I think. I don’t know if you’d consider them interpretation per se, but they explain a lot of the obscure references (and a lot of the not-so-obscure, as well).

  28. Ninety-Three says:

    There is a commonly-used system in tabletop RPGs that goes by a dozen different names: luck points, willpower, insipration… the point is that each character has a pool of some kind of resource (usually a somewhat arbitrary, out of character one that’s not justified within the fiction of the game) which can be spent on any die roll to either add a bonus or reroll a bad result. Is there a system-agnostic way to refer to this mechanic other than saying “You know, action points/fate/bonus dice/etc”?

    • Nick says:

      The RPG Design Patterns book calls this a “Resource.” It’s one of the fundamental kinds of gauge, where a gauge is a graduated value (could be a numerical value, a “low-med-high” value, etc.) measuring something useful to the game, whether it be character attributes, encumbrance, hit points, whatever. A resource is a gauge which can be spent by players to do something, like raising a skill check. In-game currency can be a resource, of course, but I think you mean things that are a little more abstract, affecting the values of other gauges in the system.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I would specifically call this mechanic a “resource pool” I think, to distinguish it from other things that are resources that don’t, uh… pool.

        • Randy M says:

          Although isn’t inspiration in 5E binary?
          I actually do play it, but the DM has a home ruled system he prefers for the special resource.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I believe 5E inspiration doesn’t actually pool, no.

          • Nick says:

            This is interesting, since personally I don’t see the point of making resources that don’t pool. I guess some DMs want to avoid players who save up all their hero points until the boss battle?

            I’ve known systems where the resource is limited per day, like grit, luck, and panache in Pathfinder, but you still get multiple!

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Not a big fan of 5E, so not an expert either, but as I recall inspiration is dead easy to get.

            Essentially, it seems mostly to be a minor reward for good play that you’ll be getting quite a bit of.

            Also, it only gives you advantage on a single roll, IIRC, so it’s not like it’s a game-changer.

          • Aftagley says:

            Well, you’re forgetting that you can give inspiration to other players at any time. That means that while the individual can’t pool inspiration, the party definitely can.

            I like this, since it lets the DM reward players who are especially good at/interested in RP and finding creative solutions AND lets those players then share the wealth with the rest of the table.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I like this, since it lets the DM reward players who are especially good at/interested in RP and finding creative solutions AND lets those players then share the wealth with the rest of the table.

            For some reason, I am put in mind of Paranoia‘s Perversity Points.

          • Randy M says:

            I guess some DMs want to avoid players who save up all their hero points until the boss battle?

            My DM’s solution to this is encapsulated by the phrase “Hey guys, you know those sissies at the game store use single digit CR for level 5?”

          • Spookykou says:

            A lot of 5E is a response to 4E, not pooling inspiration is one of many examples where they tried to remove as many fiddly modifiers and record keeping as they could.

    • mendax says:

      For resources that don’t represent something in-game and are generally awarded for out-of-character, player-based reasons (for example, fate points from FATE rather than fate points from Dark Heresy) the term “meta-currency” is often used.

  29. Nate Silver with a great take on Michael Bloomberg’s debate performance last night.

    The Debate Exposed Bloomberg’s Downside — But It Was There All Along

    Do read the whole thing but I want to focus on this right here:

    Still, it’s a huge mistake to assume that just because a candidate is rising in polls now, he or she will continue to do so. Empirically, polls come much closer to what statisticians call a “random walk” than to, say, an object in flight that gains or loses momentum. That is to say, if a candidate rises from say 9 percent to 16 percent, that candidate is about as likely to revert back to basically where they were before (to, say, 11 percent) as they are to continue rising (to, say, 21 percent). Or their numbers could flatten out.

    There are some qualifications to this. Candidates can gain momentum from winning states, and candidates who fall in the polls are at risk of dropping out. But to a first approximation, political observers vastly overrate the importance of momentum in the polls. There are plenty of examples of that this year, involving not only Harris and O’Rourke but also Warren, whose summerlong rise in the polls abruptly turned into a decline in November, and Buttigieg, who has had several rises and falls in national polls.

    I’ve made fun of prediction markets because they put Kamala Harris as the front runner last year. Someone commented that the prediction markets were being reasonable because she did appear to be the best candidate at the time. Silver’s comments here show the flaw with that thinking. Harris started gaining “momentum” at one point and had a few decent polls, by decent I mean in the mid teens. But that faded pretty fast. The prediction markets make the same mistake that the media makes. They hype up a candidate based on a few good polls and then declare them a front runner. Then that candidate declines and they move on the next one. It might be reasonable if it didn’t happen multiple times every election. That’s why I put more stock in 538 then whatever the prediction markets says.

    And yes, I went ahead and bet against Bloomberg back when they were saying that he had a 28% of winning the nomination so I don’t need ten of you guys asking me that.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’ve made fun of prediction markets because they put Kamala Harris as the front runner last year.

      Last year, so did you, also here.

      • Yeah, I definitely got it wrong. I’m not going to claim that I have the answers.(I will say in my defense that after the race actually got started, I didn’t claim that she was the front runner). But prediction markets are theoretically supposed to be better than that and they aren’t. They still are giving Hillary Clinton a 5% chance. If you a see a divergence between prediction markets and Nate Silver’s model, you should go with the latter.

        • Cliff says:

          How liquid are these markets? Any low percentage bets (like Clinton) are unreliable because the money isn’t there to bet against them with such a long time until payout

          • b_jonas says:

            Not liquid enough. See the thread about prediction market from a week ago: “https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/02/12/open-thread-147-25-2/#comment-852896”.

  30. danpeverley says:

    Wondering if there’s existing material in computer rpgs that engage with two ideas I’ve been thinking about:

    Dungeon crawling with an emphasis on environmental manipulation, turning traps on enemies, destructible terrain, digging through walls, etc. A step beyond explodable barrels sitting near enemy clumps. Past art: Minecraft, which is a game about environmental manipulation that has rpg-like aspects.

    Economic game-play, where values of materials vary based on economic principles, not a skill check system or an unrelated mini-game, especially with long-distance trade and “adventure capitalism.” Past art: Trading games like “The Guild” and it’s sequel have supply and demand and supply chain management, but it’s more about making stuff and selling it than buying and selling, “Recettear: an Item Shop’s Tale’ has haggling and decisions about what to sell as core game-play elements

    • Randy M says:

      Divinity Original sin has a good amount of environmental interactions, to the point that a lot of battles can take on a puzzle like aspect.

    • aristides says:

      I haven’t played a Patrician game since II which came out in 2000, but if my recollection is correct, that had the economic gameplay you are looking for at the city level.

    • mendax says:

      The Port Royale series had trading/economy based game play something like you describe.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Your 1 immediatly brings Noita to mind, which is about exploring caves filled with enemies and hazard by using spells in a creative way to exploit a highly destructable and interactive environment.

    • Lillian says:

      Dungeon crawling with an emphasis on environmental manipulation, turning traps on enemies, destructible terrain, digging through walls, etc. A step beyond explodable barrels sitting near enemy clumps. Past art: Minecraft, which is a game about environmental manipulation that has rpg-like aspects.

      The game you want is Noita, which has pretty much everything you ask for there. The announcement and early access launch trailers do a good job of showcasing the mechanics. It’s still in early access but there are plenty of people with dozens of hours on it. It’s my understanding that it’s pretty hard until you learn how all the game mechanics interact with each other, and you mostly learn this through trial and error, the errors tending to be of the fatal kind. Matter of personal taste whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Not an RPG, but Offworld Trading Company is substantially about supply-and-demand markets.

      • Malarious says:

        Seconded. Matches are quite short but have a huge amount of strategic depth. It’s also super unique as far as games go — definitely worth playing. Also, the multiplayer is free (or at least, will be again “soon” — apparently they ran out of keys…?)

  31. Nick says:

    I saw a thread making the rounds on Conservative Populist Economics Twitter this morning (we are few but proud). One claim in particular I’d like some anecdata on is this, edited slightly for legibility:

    [O]ur inflation-adjusted data say car prices have not increased since the mid-1990s. Obviously, that’s not remotely true. What economists are saying is that cars have gotten better so the higher sticker price doesn’t reflect inflation, it reflects higher quality.
    5/ Fair enough. But, if you’re a family that needs to buy a minivan, while it’s nice that the 2018 Grand Caravan ($26,300 in 2018) has many features the 1996 Grand Caravan ($17,900 in 1996) did not, you still face the problem that you need an extra $8,500 to buy one.
    6/ A key assumption of our inflation-adjusted analyses is that old products are still available. Don’t like / can’t afford the $26K 2018 Grand Caravan, go buy the $18K 1996 one instead. Except you can’t. Same problem is even more pernicious in areas like housing and health care.

    Setting aside whether the larger argument is any good—he says at the end he lays out the full argument in an American Affairs piece, but I haven’t read it yet—I’m curious to what extent this is true of cheaper products; cars and trucks, but also everyday purchases. I mean, I know plenty of markets where I have the option of the fancy new design and the cheap old design; I can buy books acid free or pulp, though they won’t be the same edition. But I can’t buy an older design of shoes; I am stuck with whatever the “latest” “tech” is in them. This is annoying if for instance you don’t care about the latest tech, or if you think it’s BS, like when every single product, without fail, promises to be both breathable and waterproof, but only about 1% of them are Gore-Tex.

    And as far as the larger argument, since the market isn’t serving me, or Oren’s family who wants an $18,000 minivan, maybe we’re just a tiny minority here, but I dunno. If there’s a better traditional economic explanation, I’d like to hear it.

    (Shoutout to @Plumber: Oren’s choice of wage comparison was 1970.)

    ETA: And of course the rest of the thread is fair game, just not as much what I’m interested in here. Go wild, SSC.

    • Two McMillion says:

      As an outsdoorsman, I’ve noticed camping equipment has gotten much, much better even since I was a kid (I’m 28). I haven’t noticed it getting more expensive, though.

      For cars in particular, I’ve never owned a new car and I don’t know why anyone would buy one, but here we are.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Agreed on camping gear… though the ultra-lightweight, top-of-the-line gear has expanded into higher tiers of price and quality faster than the pace of inflation, I think.

        • Aftagley says:

          This was going to be my take as well – the “floor” of camping gear hasn’t seemingly gone up in price much and I’m willing to be that your $40 sleeping bag from walmart today is substantially better than your own from 20 years ago.

          At the same time though, today I can walk into REI and walk out with 4k worth of gear without trying too hard. That just wasn’t as easy 2 decades ago.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      it is horseshit. Someone who wants an 18000 dollar minivan today buys a 2016 used Toyota Sienna, which is both a better car than the grand caravan, and will probably still last you more kilometers than a straight-of-the-factory line grand caravan would.

      General rule: There is a major faction out there peddling “Inflation is undercounted! BUY GOLD!” horsepucky out there, and about every argument you see along those lines needs very, very careful checking, because it is not a faction very concerned with intellectual rigor.

      See also anti fission power science, global warming denialism, and a number of other subjects.

      • You can’t compare new car prices in 1996 to used car prices in 2018.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s pretty easy to do, actually. They’re just numbers.

          🙂

        • meh says:

          The piece is comparing new to new, but then saying 2018 new is higher quality. So that’s not a fair comparison either. The question is, what is the same quality of 1996 new? That very well could be the 2 year old used Sienna that is the same adjusted price as 1996 new.

          • rumham says:

            From my perspective, the rise in comfort and driveability is as great between the 70s and 90s as it is from the 90s to today.

        • Aapje says:

          @Alexander Turok

          If the modern car quality is so good that a second hand car is equal or better on the relevant traits than a new 1996 car, that seems like a fair comparison.

          The second hand market does exist and is a real option.

        • JayT says:

          There’s a very good chance that a used 2014 car is better than a new 1996 car. I would guess that on average you would get more miles, more safety, more features, and more efficiency out of the 2016 car.

      • John Schilling says:

        As Alexander says, new cars and used cars are apples and oranges. Part of the reason slightly-used cars are so much cheaper than new, is that you are buying the risk associated with “so why did the previous owner sell a perfectly good vehicle after only 2-4 years?”. The answer to which is sometimes “because they’re one of those silly new-car fetishists” or “because their life circumstances changed dramatically”, but not always.

        For the sort of people, probably overrepresented here, who are comfortable with that risk, then the proper comparison is between a $18,000 four-year-old 2016 Sienna today, and a $12,000 four-year-old 1994 model in 1998. For the sort of people who aren’t comfortable with their ability to screen out lemons, it’s the new-car prices on both ends.

        So, what’s the minivan that I can have for $12,000 today, that has the expected near-term reliability of a 2016 Sienna, but not the backup camera and the fancy electronics and the 72 cupholders?

        • Cliff says:

          This strikes me as absurd. I have no doubt a used Sienna is greatly superior to a brand new 1996 grand caravan.

          By the way, $18,000 in 1996 is the equivalent of $30,000 today.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Part of the reason slightly-used cars are so much cheaper than new, is that you are buying the risk associated with “so why did the previous owner sell a perfectly good vehicle after only 2-4 years?”.

          That’s exactly the problem that manufacturer-certified used cars are intended to solve. It comes with a premium, but you get a quality control filter (the manufacturer paid to have it inspected and repair any problems) and a warranty (usually similar to the warranty on a new car). You do pay a premium for this, though. I did a quick search and found a bunch of manufacturer-certified used 2015 (not 2016) Toyota Siennas for sale at asking prices starting around $18,500. Based on my experience of used car dealers, the actual price you can buy one for is probably at least a grand or two cheaper.

          So, what’s the minivan that I can have for $12,000 today, that has the expected near-term reliability of a 2016 Sienna, but not the backup camera and the fancy electronics and the 72 cupholders?

          That’s a good question. Based on a quick search, it looks like the latest-model used car you can get from a dealer with an asking price of around $12k would be a 2013 Honda Odyssey. And while cars have gotten longer-lasting and more reliable in the past couple decades, I don’t know if that’s enough to make a 7-year-old minivan now as reliably as a 4-year-old minivan was in 1998. Although you can probably get a better deal than that from a private party seller, in exchange for more effort and risk.

      • DarkTigger says:

        While I agree with you that people should mostly just buy used cars, the argument in your first paragraph is… well I have no nice words for it.

        A) You could have bought a used minivan in 1996 too, and it would have been cheaper than 18000.
        B) Longlivety is the one metric in which cars, have not become better in the last 20 years.

        • The Nybbler says:

          B) Longlivety is the one metric in which cars, have not become better in the last 20 years.

          I don’t have specific figures on individual car models, but the fact that the average age of the auto fleet has been increasing indicates that cars are indeed lasting longer.

          • John Schilling says:

            The average age of the auto fleet is a lagging indicator, by about the average age of the auto fleet. There were definitely big gains in the 1990-2010 period, but if your plan for countering expensive feature creep depends on those durability gains continuing to accrue, don’t hold your breath.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A 1996 car is old enough that we have data for it, so for the specific example we’re talking about, average age of the auto fleet is relevant.

            Whether the durability gains continue is another question. There’s no fundamental reason they couldn’t; large vehicles (buses and heavy trucks) last considerably longer, after all. On the other hand, one reason large vehicles last longer is it pays to overhaul them rather than replace them, and since labor costs have been going up faster than vehicle costs, that seems unlikely to happen for small vehicles.

            Quality adjustment is always going to be fraught. On the one hand it’s pretty clear that if a 2020 car lasts twice as long as a 1980 car, that’s relevant. And if e.g. a 2020 Corolla is the same size as the 1980 Camry, those are the models that should be compared, not the models with the same name. But how you figure in features from air conditioning to better brakes to backup cameras to cupholders is difficult.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s no fundamental reason they couldn’t; large vehicles (buses and heavy trucks) last considerably longer, after all.

            So did the older Mercedes models, especially the diesels, and the Checker sedans. We’ve always known how to make cars that will last forever, just like we’ve always known how to make airplanes that will last forever. The catch is, you have to pay industrial-equipment prices for that, not consumer-goods prices, and almost no consumers are willing to pay that much extra in anticipation of driving a twenty-year old car when all their neighbors have replaced theirs for something new.

            As Checker Motors discovered when they tried to market their sedans to anyone but taxi operators. And that is pretty fundamental as reasons go.

            Trucks and buses are a separate market; the question here is how much reliable use can you get out of something that sells for consumer-good prices.

          • Garrett says:

            > The catch is, you have to pay industrial-equipment prices for that, not consumer-goods prices

            Side-note: I suspect that this is one of the things driving up costs in eg. healthcare. You can’t just have a table. You need a table which has been certified to hold the weight of a person and not collapse in a way which might be detrimental.

    • Matt M says:

      Am I missing something? This just strikes me as incorrect, on the face of it.

      While you probably can’t buy a brand new 1996 Dodge Caravan for 18K, you certainly can buy a perfectly serviceable minivan for 18K on the secondary market. For laughs, I just checked my local listings on cars.com – and for just under 18K you can get a 2018 Dodge Caravan with 50,000 miles on it, or a 2017 Dodge Caravan with 27,000 miles. Whether those options are strictly better or worse than a brand new 1996 Dodge Caravan with zero miles is probably a matter of personal preference. But it’s not as if “I need a minivan and only have $18K to spend” is an unsolvable problem.

      Similarly, while you probably can’t walk into an AT&T store and sign up for a new plan and purchase an Iphone 5, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t buy one. Checking ebay, it looks like you have a wide range of options of factory unlocked Iphone 5s available for $50 or so.

      • Nick says:

        I agree with you and Thomas his argument is weakened by not even considering used cars. But still, isn’t the used vehicle pricing in all the fancy stuff, too? A 2017 Dodge Caravan is still going to have the bells and whistles. With a used car, unless it’s really old, you’re still paying for what you don’t want (bells and whistles) and not able to pay for what you do (it to last longer). You’re going to get a better deal, but it’s still not the kind of deal Oren thinks some folks are looking for.

        The iPhone example is an interesting one (though your spelling ought to be a capital offense). I buy used stuff like books sometimes so as long as wear and tear isn’t too big a deal it works. But the further back in time the reasonably cheaply made stuff is, or the more serious a problem wear and tear is, the more impractical this becomes.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I agree with you and Thomas his argument is weakened by not even considering used cars. But still, isn’t the used vehicle pricing in all the fancy stuff, too? A 2017 Dodge Caravan is still going to have the bells and whistles. With a used car, unless it’s really old, you’re still paying for what you don’t want (bells and whistles) and not able to pay for what you do (it to last longer). You’re going to get a better deal, but it’s still not the kind of deal Oren thinks some folks are looking for.

          You have snuck in the assumption that a 1996 new minivan must last longer than a 2018 used minivan. That might be true, but it also might not and shouldn’t be the assumption.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          That is why I specified a Toyota. A 2016 Toyota is going to last you halfway through the apocalypse

    • baconbits9 says:

      A key assumption of our inflation-adjusted analyses is that old products are still available. Don’t like / can’t afford the $26K 2018 Grand Caravan, go buy the $18K 1996 one instead. Except you can’t. Same problem is even more pernicious in areas like housing and health care.

      The key assumption is not that the old products are still available but that a reasonable substitute for those products is available. Ok, you can’t literally buy a brand new 1996 Grand Caravan but what is the price of the cheapest minivan on the market? For cheap new 2019 minivans google suggests the Ford Transit starting at $23,000. That certainly makes the gap smaller. What about used cars? I searched for minivans on carmax between $16,000 and $20,000 and two of the first 6 hits on the list are recent Grand Caravans. A 2018 with 44,000 miles for $18,000 and a 2019 with 46,000 miles for $19,000. So now the question is basically- is a 2 year old Minivan made in 2018/2019 with about 45,000 miles roughly as useful as a brand new minivan in 1996, or more useful or less useful (insert valuable, reliable whatever for useful).

      I would say no, the assertion that the market isn’t meeting your needs unless you have some highly specific claim about having to have a brand new car vs a highly functioning used car.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        So now the question is basically- is a 2 year old Minivan made in 2018/2019 with about 45,000 miles roughly as useful as a brand new minivan in 1996, or more useful or less useful (insert valuable, reliable whatever for useful).

        Yes? Cars are much, much more reliable in 2018 than they were in 1996, and have new/better/more features.

    • teneditica says:

      If there really is a demand for cheap minivans, even if they lack certain features, the only explanation for a lack of supply is regulation.

    • But I can’t buy an older design of shoes; I am stuck with whatever the “latest” “tech” is in them.

      Do my Wal-Mart shoes have the “best tech?” I once went shoe-shopping at a shoe-store, there, the cheapest shoe cost ~40$. I learned to stick with Wal-Mart.

    • baconbits9 says:

      But I can’t buy an older design of shoes; I am stuck with whatever the “latest” “tech” is in them. This is annoying if for instance you don’t care about the latest tech, or if you think it’s BS, like when every single product, without fail, promises to be both breathable and waterproof, but only about 1% of them are Gore-Tex.

      If you have idiosyncratic tastes then yes, the market will under serve you specifically, just like 20 years ago people who wanted the fancy new stuff in their shoes but couldn’t afford the top end prices for the new stuff were being underserved. The question about inflation and living standards is a broad one but it is primarily focused on ‘can you serve these wants at a similar price’.

    • hls2003 says:

      I think it’s a fair point in certain circumstances, although I’m not sure if cars is the best example. A lot of technology gets phased out for regulatory or liability reasons. For example, if you want to buy a cheap new 3-wheeled ATV, you’ll have trouble finding it; they got killed by liability suits due to rollover issues. If you want a house built only to 1920’s specs, you probably won’t be able to get zoning for it. You won’t be able to find a doctor who only treats with reference to drugs or treatments available in the 1970’s – he’d be sued for malpractice. (You can of course refuse to purchase prescribed newer drugs, I guess).

      The bigger question to me isn’t the ability to get equivalently priced new products. I suspect the newer minivan is probably priced about the same, in terms of what percentage of median income it occupies, as the older minivan. Rather, it’s the phasing out of the old product which reduces overall decision space, and this strikes me as an important component of cost disease, and also a constraint on UBI schemes or the like. We are already basically rich enough to guarantee everyone a “full and rich” life by the standards of, say, 1920, or 1950, or even 1970. But that isn’t considered “full and rich” anymore.

    • AG says:

      Rattumb had a discussion a while back about how it’s getting increasingly harder to find non-smart Internet of Things appliances, such as phones or refrigerators. See also the anti-Right To Repair nonsense plaguing tractors, but also cars. I do NOT want to get a car with a touchscreen interface. As far as I’m concerned, that’s adding negative value to my car.

      This phenomenon affects services much more than physical products, though. More and more services are pivoting towards requiring an app, not even allowing for a browser or physical print option. There are parts of China that are effectively and terrifyingly cashless AND credit card-less, app-only ecosystems.

      • Nick says:

        What is rattumb? Rationalist tumblr?

        That sounds really interesting (and is a familiar experience), but I’m not on tumblr. If you could point me to some threads, that would be helpful.

      • Randy M says:

        Rattumb had a discussion a while back about how it’s getting increasingly harder to find non-smart Internet of Things appliances, such as phones or refrigerators.

        Also some appliances may work less well due to environmental regulations, like washing machines or dishwashers.
        Trade-offs may be worth it, ymmv.

        • AG says:

          The internet of things is just bad, though. Besides the security/privacy issues, most of them are just poorly coded.
          https://royal-mortician.tumblr.com/post/181847114509/steve-okay-but-hes-right-and-he-should-say/amp

          • JayT says:

            That tweet is pretty silly though, remember all the jokes about needing an advanced degree to get your VCR to stop flashing 12:00? Or the jokes about how only kids could turn the computer on? It’s not that stuff worked better, it’s that when people are younger they are more open to learning new things.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The hard part for me was always figuring out how to get it to start flashing 1:00 when Daylight Savings Time started.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Did you make that up? That’s a good joke.

          • woah77 says:

            To be honest, IoT is not really a useful thing for consumers, but it absolutely is for industrial applications. Inside a giant factory with tightly controlled network settings carefully handled by professionals at all times which allows the manager to monitor the status of every conveyor with unimaginable detail is where IoT shines. Smart homes are nightmares, but smart factories are pretty reasonable. (if potentially dystopian)

          • Jake R says:

            @woah77

            The problem with that is those situations where it is most useful are also the situations where security is most important. I’m a control systems engineer for a chemical plant. Every conference or users group I go to, half the talks are about how to connect everything to everything else so you can collect data and optimize your system, and the other half are about how everything being connected to everything else means we’re all going to die any day now because of hackers. Personally I think the second group are more right but I wish they’d talk to each other.

          • rumham says:

            @Jake R

            the other half are about how everything being connected to everything else means we’re all going to die any day now because of hackers. Personally I think the second group are more right but I wish they’d talk to each other.

            Believe me, we try. Operations tech guys just don’t normally think about security. It’s all about the speed. When you explain that they are potentially sacrificing uptime due to an incident, it usually falls on deaf ears.

          • woah77 says:

            @Jake R @rumham

            Not gonna lie, I agree with this on all fronts. It’s a nontrivial problem of unaligned priorities. I don’t have a way to resolve it, other than for manufacturers to actually get on board with insisting on security.

          • Spookykou says:

            FWIW I enjoy IoT whenever I’ve encounter it. My thermostat having an app is useful, wake up a bit warm in the night, drop the temp two degrees without getting out of bed. Find myself spending the night away from home, turn the AC off, etc. Being able to set a schedule in my thermostat is better than not being able to, and being able to remotely control my thermostat is better still. I’ve never had any problems as a result of this increased functionality. Smart TVs have apps for all the streaming services I watch, whenever I encounter a TV that doesn’t have this functionality I plug a chromecast or similar into it so that it does. I will say voice activated tech is 50/50, it bothers me whenever it activates without me trying to activate it, but setting timers by voice is dramatically better than setting timers any other way while cooking.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            More tech to boost production would be awesome. I do not understand how I can go to Labor/Delivery, sit at the nursing station, and see the vitals and contraction status of every mother and every baby on the floor, but I have to walk 2 f’in football fields to see if Bob finished his damn batch on time (of course he didn’t).

            In the home, IOT would be great for:
            -adjusting lights, and, with certain windows, automatically lowering blinds
            -adjusting thremostats
            -list making (alexa, put cinnamon on my shopping list!)
            -pumping music through the whole house
            -video monitoring (front door, nursery)
            -turning on my oven remotely so it’s already 400 degrees when I get home
            -did my sump pump break and now the housing is flooding?

            However, other than buying an Alexa and a Nest and maybe a Ring, none of these are actually critical or places where I want to spend scarce capital. There is a LOT of stuff in a typical home that can be upgraded before trying to connect everything in the house.

          • AG says:

            There are several stories about apartments that switched to IoT had ceilings fans and lights turning on and off randomly, because they were picking up their neighbors’ signals. As per the post I linked to, there are lots of cases where the software bricks itself, destroying users’ abilities to adjust anything they want.

            Counting on IoT to be executed/installed properly is a tall order.

            And that’s before you get to any security/privacy issues. The default assumption now is that your devices collect data and send it to the manufacturer, and you won’t be able to find a company that allows you to opt out. Security, of course, is a joke.

    • Well... says:

      When I was was 15 two decades ago, a pack of guitar strings cost $5. A couple weeks ago, I bought a pack of the same guitar strings made by the same company for… $5.

      What’s up with that?

      • danridge says:

        What strings do you use?

        • Well... says:

          I don’t have any particular brand I’m loyal to or anything, but I know that at some point I bought Ernie Ball Super Slinky nickel wound .009-.042s in 1999, because those are what they give you if you ask for electric guitar strings and they say “What kind?” and you shrug and say “Whatever the normal ones are, I just started playing.” Those happen to be the same ones I bought a couple weeks ago.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      This is one hell of a sleight of hand. He’s complaining that hedonic adjustments to inflation don’t make sense, but in terms of “are people better off” he doesn’t factor in inflation at all. Straight nominal prices.

      Ex:
      Dodge Caravan:
      1996: 18k
      2020: 26k

      Average non-supervisor wage:
      1996: $11.86/hour
      2020:$23.87/hour

      Given that the wage has doubled, and the price of the car has not, the car is cheaper. You don’t even need to factor in the hedonic adjustments to prove the worker is getting a better deal. And, yes, a 2020 minivan is going to be better than a 1996 minivan. Maybe not Dodge specifically, but any other car company? Yes.

      Then there’s this re: social norms:

      But if social norms are irrelevant, why stop there? Does the assertion hold for an 1880 standard of living? Who believes that a family should be as satisfied in 2020 with an 1880 middle-class lifestyle as they would have been in 1880?

      Okay, yeah, no one in 2020 would be satisfied with an 1880 standard of living. That’s because we objectively know that we are way better now than before we had electricity and running water and penicillin.
      So same test, if a 2020 family cannot be satisfied with a 1970 standard of living, it ipso facto proves that 2020 families are vastly better than 1970 families. If your social norms cannot be sustained by your means, then the problem is with your social norms. You don’t just get to add something to your basket of goods and then cry that your life sucks because you can’t get it. If we can, I demand my Moon Mansion.

      He also does a sleight of hand with healthcare, taking the full freight of health care costs without employer insurance and ignoring that employers pay a huge portion of the bill. If you take his own numbers at face value, a household with employer-coverage has healthcare bills fall from $19,000/year to $8,000/year: this isn’t trivial, it knocks his chosen metric down to 42 weeks.

      Also, I don’t see the value in his particular housing metric. You should use a comp analysis, not a percentile analysis, and that’s leaving aside the issue of picking one single real estate market in the Research Triangle. Reason being, sure, you can’t buy a 1990s TV, and you can’t buy 1960s healthcare, but you sure as hell buy an old-ass house. If 50% of households decide Mom needs to work and they are going to use that money to build brand-spanking new McMansions, that will drive up the median value of a home, but it does not impact at all the family where Mom stays home and decides to stay in their 4-square. Isolating to only 3 bedroom homes is not sufficient to fully capture the changes in housing quality over the years, because 3 bedroom houses vary dramatically in square footage, bathrooms, utilities, yardage, etc.

      Also, if we’re going to talk about social norms, it’s absolutely unfair to not look at the acceptance of women going to work. We have made a great number of societal decisions based on the assumption that we have more money to spend because women are going to work. So, yes, if you ignore a huge chunk of your labor force, suddenly your consumption basket is going to look ridiculously expensive.

      • Well... says:

        You’re comparing apples to apples with the price of a new Dodge Caravan, but I’m not sure the same is true about wages. The average surely hides differences in how wages are distributed now vs. how they were distributed in 1996. If you rounded everyone’s wages up or down to the nearest dollar I’d be curious to know what the modes look like.

        Also, I don’t know about Dodge Caravans specifically but I do get the sense that cars these days are built more for obsolescence, meaning there will be a smaller supply of used cars soon (if there isn’t already) relative to new cars, than there was in 1996, and that’s significant to many (most?) car buyers especially those at or below the median income level.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The average surely hides differences in how wages are distributed now vs. how they were distributed in 1996

          Median weekly earnings tell a similar (if not quite as good) story, $496 at the end of 1996, $933 at the end of 2019. The new minivan is still cheaper in terms of time for median workers to earn.

        • Matt M says:

          I do get the sense that cars these days are built more for obsolescence

          I don’t.

          Or at least, I get the sense that everyone insists this is true, but I have yet to see any particular evidence of it.

          • Well... says:

            One piece of evidence might be the fact that they’re harder to maintain on your own. If you can’t maintain your own car, where you’d otherwise be willing and have the time to do it yourself but can’t afford to always have to hire a pro, then your car is simply going to be unmaintained. (BTW, this is also an increased cost of car ownership; I don’t know if it was mentioned in the OP.)

            Also, I don’t know if this is true but I’d bet many automated parts wear out faster than their manual counterparts. (E.g. manual vs. automatic windows and side mirrors.)

            Another kind of backdoor piece of evidence might be the fact that many of the parts are so sophisticated now that getting them fixed if they break is often not worthwhile, and so instead they just need to be replaced, but they’re so expensive it’s often not worth that either. (E.g. compare the radio in a mid-1990s car to an infotainment system now, or a 5-speed manual transmission to a 10-speed automatic one.)

      • SamChevre says:

        If 50% of households decide Mom needs to work and they are going to use that money to build brand-spanking new McMansions, that will drive up the median value of a home, but it does not impact at all the family where Mom stays home and decides to stay in their 4-square.

        I strongly disagree: I think the fact that it does is one of the most important social dynamics. If I want to live in a neighborhood where stable, 2-parent families are normative, the fact that it generally takes 2 incomes now to afford that, when 1 income did in 1970 is very important.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It’s not really the faulty of the economy that single parents are now normalized. Either way, you can include that in your comp analysis. As it stands, we have no idea what that is going to cost on a national basis (at least from this article).

          There are also neighborhoods with a range of housing stock. We live in a standard split-level 3 bedroom, our neighbors have a small ranch, and the neighbors across the street have a huge 6 bedroom home. If you want to move here, there are some affordable cape cods and 4-squares. You don’t HAVE to buy a McMansion.

      • Rob K says:

        I think this is misunderstanding the point he’s trying to make. What I believe he’s saying is that, for purposes of calculating inflation, the BLS says there has been approximately zero inflation in car prices since 1996. Cass is arguing that functionally there has been inflation, because the cheapest new minivan you can buy now is more expensive (though also better) than the cheapest new minivan you could buy in 1996. BLS says the entirety of the difference reflects quality improvements to the product; Cass says this doesn’t matter if you’re a family that just needs a multi-seat vroom box where wheels go turny turny.

        In this case I think his point is probably on shaky ground, because “new minivan” is already sort of a luxury product; if I just need the turny turny vroom box at the lowest price point, I’m probably in the used market in both 1996 and 2020.

        But the broader point that “zero price increases from inflation, some price increases from quality improvements” to the cheapest version of Product X looks a lot like inflation to a family that just wants to own a Product X is, I think accurate. I can’t speak to whether they accurately identified their “cheapest version of product X” baseline across the different categories of spending they looked at.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          No, the cheapest minivan you can buy now is cheaper than the cheapest minivan in 1996. Yeah, it’s gone up in nominal price: so has your wage, because inflation ALSO increased your wages. The cheapest minivan rose in price LESS than inflation, so it’s actually gotten less expensive.

          That’s BEFORE considering any quality improvements.

          That’s the problem with looking at nominal prices and ignoring nominal wages. You might as well say eggs are more expensive now than they were in the 1800s because it used to cost a nickel to buy a dozen eggs.

          • Rob K says:

            Cass’s point is that, in calculating the CPI, the BLS is asserting that automobiles have NOT in fact gone up in nominal price (see here and set the start point to some time in the early 90s); that the nominal price of an equivalent minivan is about the same in 1996 and 2020, and that the higher nominal price of a basic model minivan in 2020 reflects that this is a better minivan than the vehicle that was filling that slot in 1996. Ergo, BLS assembles a measure of inflation based on the inflation in the prices of various consumer goods that includes ~0 inflation in the cost of new cars.

            Cass’s assertion is that this BLS measure of inflation is undercounting the inflation experienced by households that are the typical customer for “new basic model minivan”, since there has in fact been a nominal increase in the price of the thing you can buy that meets that description.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Cas’s point, made explicitly in his tweet, is that you need $8,000 more to buy a Dodge Caravan these days. But that’s irrelevant, because $8,000 today is worth less than $8,000 in 1996.

            Here is his point, made explicitly:

            Children fare no better. BLS reports that toy prices (including electronics and video games) fell 73 percent from 1994 to 2018.19 Yet the actual toys on the market have become more expensive. In 1996, Toys “R” Us advertised a Nintendo 64 for $200.20 Today, the cheapest Xbox One console sold by Amazon costs $245 (and its list price is $300).21 The outdated Sega Genesis cost $100 in 1996, whereas the outdated Xbox 360 costs $170 now.22 A twenty-inch boys’ bike cost $100 in 199323 and costs at least $100 now.24

            Like, I get it. You might not think that the XBOX One is better than the N64 and the BLS should not calculate any hedonic gain from it.
            However, that does not change that there is just plain old monetary inflation. He is specifically saying that the XBOX One is more expensive than the N64. That’s misleading at best, and is no different than saying eggs have gotten more expensive because they used to cost a nickel. Adjust for plain old monetary inflation, and the XBOX One is less expensive than the N64.

          • Rob K says:

            This is treating monetary inflation as an exogenous factor when Cass is specifically talking about the ways that the prices of these goods are used to measure the amount of monetary inflation that has taken place.

            When he says

            BLS reports that toy prices (including electronics and video games) fell 73 percent from 1994 to 2018.

            he means, as you can see here, that the BLS’s measurement of the nominal, not real, price of toys decreased over that time period, and thus that the contribution of the “toys” chunk of the CPI to inflation over that time period was negative.

            Big picture Cass is arguing that there’s a type of consumer who wants to own the standard version of a minivan, house, default children’s toy, etc, and that the nominal price of all these things has increased, even when the BLS reports a decrease in the nominal price of that category of goods in its standard consumer basket.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The BLS overstating inflation in these particular cases does not mean that these items are more expensive, when they are all cheaper since nominal wages have increased more than nominal prices. In terms of the author’s own preferred metric of weeks-of-work required to get the items, they are cheaper.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I would pay extra to avoid certain technological “improvements”. In a very few cases I have managed to do so; in others, I’ve been able to get the better product by buying old stock of the bottom-of-the-line product, since updated. Too often, once the older, better item wears out, I can’t get anything as good.

      So when the economists tell me my new washer – internet connected, subject to over the air updates that might brick it, hackable by my friendly neighbourhood script kiddies, and saving water by both taking longer to complete the cycle and destroying my clothes faster – is an improvement, worthy of an increased price – I’m inclined to suggest that they commit non-procreative sexual acts, with or in the washer in question.

      The same applies to computers. The new one has an upgraded operating system, with an all-new user interface. It won’t be able to do some of the things I used the old one for, and it will take far too long for me to figure out how to do everything I want it for, that it’s actually still capable of doing. Odds are any software I need is only available for lease, not for purchase, and is subject to random “updates” that both change the UI and introduce new bugs and security holes. It will, however, have extra capacity to handle the onslaught of unwanted spamvertisements, as well as having more space to store the ever larger data formats used to accomplish the same task as its predecessor.

      And then there’s my newish car. This 2017 model has two additional safety features I kind of wanted: a rear facing camera, and warnings for drifting out of my lane. The former worked great for a while, then become foggy/blurry – I suspect water got into it, but perhaps it’s merely got a lens covered with something – if I’m lucky, maybe the user’s manual will give me enough information to locate and clean the lens – meanwhile it’s unsafe to rely on it. The latter works as intended. Other “improvements” include a large number of controls placed so that no light falls on them at night, even with the interior lights turned on; you need a flashlight to figure out what your headlight controls are set to, and cannot safely do it while driving. (Last time this became an issue, I parked facing a reflective surface, and figured it out by changing the control by feel, and looking at the results.) My old car from 1997 or so, from the same manufacturer, had none of these issues.

      And then there’s the food available at my local supermarket. Or more likely, unavailable. We mail order a lot of non-perishable foods, because we just can’t get them locally. The selection of raw ingredients gets smaller every year. (Preparing food from scratch is generally cheaper than buying frozen-just-heat-and-eat, or then buying prepared food from restaurants. It’s also likely to be a lot healthier, because you don’t have to add anywhere near the amount of salt or sugar those heat-and-eat packages include.) Some of my problem is that once I find something I like, I want to keep buying it, not try out whatever the vendor has replaced it with, which may just be a sign of my age. But I don’t think that’s even the main problem.

      Finally there’s my new iPhone – too big for the hands of most children, large numbers of women, and even a fair number of men. (Also the smallest they currently make.) It’s got *3* cameras, but I don’t *notice* any improvement in the pictures taken – they were good enough before, and they still are. The face ID feature is useful, but came at the price of a harder to use/less obvious user interface. It’s more inclined than ever to turn itself on in my pocket; sometimes it just activates functionality that’s on the lock screen (easy for my keys to activate), but sometimes it somehow recognizes my face from within my pocket, unlocks itself, and then recognizes touches requesting such helpful things as deletion of random mail messages. Fortunately flip phones are still available, but for how much longer – I was totally unable to find one in a physical store (rather than online) several years ago when I wanted one to lend to a visiting nephew.

      Nope, newer is too often “more expensive” but not “better”, except in the rhetoric of the folks advertising it. And they just love to improve sales of their newer product by making the older ones unavailable.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The backup camera is probably located just over your license tag. And yes it’s probably just dirty. I live in the south and my backup camera never has a problem with that sort of thing, but I was recently driving in snow in Colorado and I had to clean it several times because of the mud slush that gets kicked up in those conditions.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        So when the economists tell me my new washer – internet connected, subject to over the air updates that might brick it, hackable by my friendly neighbourhood script kiddies, and saving water by both taking longer to complete the cycle and destroying my clothes faster – is an improvement, worthy of an increased price

        I got a new washer less than a year ago, and it didn’t have network connectivity at all. That one is easy to avoid.

        The “smart water level” stuff I couldn’t avoid, but that’s driven by government mandate.

        I agree 100% on operating systems, though. Even the Linux variants suck these days.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Yes, the washer was somewhat exagerated. I bought a bottom-of-the-line washer, which had neither touch screen nor IOT capabilities – unlike all the midrange (touch screens) and high end (both) washers available at the time. It does have the water saving features, unfortunately, and for some reason it’s especially prone to destroying towels. What I’m worried about there is my next washer, because when I bought the previous one, some of the unwanted features didn’t even exist on the high end, and none of the midrange models had any of them.

          • Plumber says:

            @DinoNerd,
            Nope washers being worse now isn’t exaggerated, ones just four years earlier washed better – though that may be because of a legal mandate for water savings (like what happened with toilets in ’92), but unlike toilets washers can’t easily be “accidentally” modified to use more water.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Plumber, my current washer is an LG top loader (it does have WiFi, but I turned it off). It seems to wash just as good as the Whirlpool Cabrio it replaced, and requires somewhat less detergent. It also has a button “water plus” which makes it use more water, though I haven’t used it.

            Tangentially, the reason I replaced the washer is the spin bearing (and associated seals) in the old washer failed. This is not an overly expensive part, but the price of labor nowadays meant I’d have to pay several hundred dollars to get it fixed. I could have done the job myself but it’s a lot of work, since you have to pull the drum out of the washer and remove the motor, then knock out the nasty old rusted parts.

          • Matt M says:

            Nope washers being worse now isn’t exaggerated

            I don’t agree with him on a lot, but Jeffrey Tucker has done some great work on the topic of how government regulations have made basically anything in your house that uses water (and a lot of things that use heat or chemicals) significantly worse in quality over the years.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It seems as soon as Toto and Kohler design a working toilet for the lower water level, the government takes that as a signal to reduce the water level again. You’d think the stuff was precious rather than just falling out of the sky millions of gallons at a time.

            Dishwashers now take a lot longer, and I heard the proposed Obama-era (2016) standards were to the point where Whirlpool gave up. The Trump administration has proposed a “1 hour or less” dishwasher category with relaxed standards, but they’ve been sued over this because the law prohibits relaxing standards.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            Indeed. If you’re in the Great Plains or California, saving water makes sense to me, but people living at the mouth of a major river by the sea makes no sense to me.

            The worst offender by far is Portland, OR. It would take a near Act of God to make the Willamette run dry and it isn’t like saving water there gives it to anyone downstream.

          • Matt M says:

            EchoChaos,

            Most people have a very poor understanding of the fact that water supply issues are highly localized and not global in nature.

            They literally think that water “wasted” in Oregon is somehow depriving a villager in the African desert of needed water.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick,
      Thanks again for linking to an American Affairs essay, it reminds me of but is more ideologically diverse than both The Journal of Democracy (center-left), and National Affairs (center-right), I’ve only found one print copy of American Affairs so far (the one with suggestions for pro-family policies) and am tempted to subscribing. 

      Anyway on the contents: Of course I agree with Oren Cass’ take, was there ever any doubt that I wouldn’t? 

      Anyway, on this and that:
      New cars are mostly better now, they were easier for me to repair then, but newer ones need repairs/servicing less now than did the old ones when they were new (though adjusting points ignition was kind of fun and not having a use to pass on old skills to my son is kinda irritating). +1 21st century. 

      Self-defrosting refrigerators are AWESOME, +1 21st century. 

      New ovens are lousy, there’s a reason the ones from the 1950’s are still sought. -1 21st century

      The clothes at Target are much cheaper than were the clothes at the Montogomery-Wards that was at the same location decades ago, but Target clothes are so very shoddy, while I can still find some durable stuff at specialty work clothes stores (for a much higher price) my wife doesn’t have that option, and has to by used clothes as she hates the shoddiness (and shallow pockets) of new women’s wear. -1 21st century. 

      Heating: the steam systems of the 1920’s were AWESOME!, the gravity air heating systems of the ’20’s were comfy, and the boilers of then to the ’50’s still function with some TLC, the one’s afterwards don’t last, even with TLC, while boilers from the ’90’s and afterwards are more fuel efficient it’s not enough savings to make up for just not lasting as long! There’s a few hydronic underfloor radiant heating systems around now, and those are cool, but after the ’30’s its been mostly forced air heating, and forced air is LAME! -1 21st century. 

      The surviving buildings from before WW2 are beautiful!, the one from after the ’80’s start to look better, it’s 1945 to 1990 that is the the era of ugly buildings, today it’s still mostly ugly, but better than ’45-’90. +/- nothing. 

      Toilets starting getting worse in the ’70’s, and way worse around ’92, new expensive ones are good, and even better than the pre-’70’s ones, the cheap ones are both cheaper and shoddier than pre ’90’s ones.

      With the new lead content laws plumbing parts manufactures replaced a lot of brass and bronze with plastic, and plastic is crap. -1 21st century. 

      Everything in the ’80’s was LAME (except some movies and record albums 1980 to 1983), “Better than before” needs to take in account how far things fell first i.e. ’60’s cars and motorcycles are BEAUTIFUL!, ’80’s ones not so much, that modern cars look better than ’80’s ones is no great feat. -1 21st century. 

      5e Dungeons & Dragons isn’t bad at low levels, but it’s still WoTC D&D like 3e which is an ABOMINATION! 1977 rules D&D was best! -1 21st century. 

      Fantastic magazine in the ’70’s was great, and the earlier pulps WERE EVEN BETTER! Newsstands today are shameful. -1 21st century. 

      Broadcast television in the ’90’s had Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in comparison broadcast television today is LAME! -1 21st century. 

      Broadcast radio today is the worst I’ve heard in my lifetime, but via YouTube more great music is more easily accessed than ever before. +1 21st century. 

      Millennials: actually more polite than Boomers and X’ers. +1 21st century

      Fashion: ladies all over now wear clothes as tight as Olivia Newton John wore in the “Let’s Get Physical” video all year long, at the Oakland Zoo today there were dozens of young moms pushing strollers while wearing tank tops and tights (“yoga pants”), I mean DAMN! +100 21st century. 

      Housing: older and much, much, incredibly more expensive, unless you live in “There-Be-Dragons”  -100 21st century.

      Literature: Fritz Leiber is dead, but Susanna Clarke wrote a great novel and some great short stories +/- 0.

      Wages: less (adjusted for inflation) for men and more for women compared to ’72.+/- 0

      Murder rate: way down. +200 21st century. 

      Suicide rate: up. -100 21st century. 

      On balance, especially if you live in “There-Be-Dragons”, the 21st century is better until the tights go out of fashion and/or the murder rate goes back up.

    • Nornagest says:

      But I can’t buy an older design of shoes; I am stuck with whatever the “latest” “tech” is in them.

      Depends on the shoes. Converse Chuck Taylors, for example, have stayed pretty much unchanged since at least the Fifties if you don’t mind their being made overseas.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, those are the shoes I’m currently wearing. 🙂 Though the design truly being unchanged surprises me—I remember reading that they were making them more breathable, adding suede and knit, etc., but rereading just now it turns out that that was for the new lines, and the old ones are still being produced. Good on Converse/Nike.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The author uses the example of cars and many people have brought up used cars.

      First would be that used cars were a thing in the 90’s as well, but I do think at least as far as automobiles are concerned some of the pain is self inflicted. There may also be a stigma around owning cheap cars.

      But for Healthcare, education, or housing, which are in my opinion the big pain points for consumers, there is no equivalent fallback option.

      For housing, existing homeowners don’t want new building of any kind let alone zoning that would allow for smaller or more modest homes. There may also be a FIRE sector bias against small homes because small mortgages are less profitable. I’m not a fan of Zoning but I’m somewhat sympathetic to Nimbys given that even in a world ruled by Yimbys.

      For healthcare, people are basically convinced the source is high relative prices rather than high density of consumption and unhealthy living. Any politician attempting to pin the problem on overconsumption would be crucified. Single payer might be the only ‘solution’ because it would do the exact opposite that its proponents imagine; deny care more often and offer fewer services so that basic health care is ultimately made inexpensive.

      Colleges are definitely guilty of costing more because they do more. IMO having colleges do ‘nothing’ is preferable to having them do less, since the need for post-secondary education is almost entirely a self-inflicted social mania.

  32. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve listened to a few videos about detransitioning, and I think it’s a serious thing, though I don’t have any idea how common it is compared to people who are happy with transitioning.

    From my small sample, it looks like a lot of the problem is people who are depressed or bipolar and become convinced that what they’ve got is gender dysphoria. Part of *that* problem is family, friends, and/or therapists who think becoming trans is a great idea.

    I know people whose lives were greatly improved by becoming trans women. I don’t have as much personal knowledge of outcomes for trans men.

    Another difficulty is that testosterone can make people feel good, but this doesn’t mean it will continue to do so.

    Feminism can play a role I didn’t expect– sometimes feminists make being a woman seem like such a bad deal that it amplifies the desire to be a man.

    I *think* best practice would be to check for depression and bipolar first.

    • Randy M says:

      I *think* best practice would be to check for depression and bipolar first.

      I would assume, perhaps naively, that this is standard among professional psychologists. Address the easier to remedy problems with less permanent changes first, give some time, etc.
      People who are following activists may be more into immediately assuming dysphoria, similar to the effect of jumping to pubmed and assuming your sniffles mean you need to see a specialist.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s a little complicated by considerations of how effective the alternative treatment is, and the costs of waiting.

        Elsewhere, I’m in a discussion of the ill effects of doctors who prescribe weight loss for any complaint a fat person comes in with.

        https://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1106147.html

        If a doctor tells you to lose weight to solve your knee problems, either find another doctor or ask them what advice they’d give a thin person with the same knee problems.

        I recommend reading the comments for both facebook links and the dances with fat link.

        The overview is that knee problems have many causes, and careful examination and physical therapy are the best starting points for people of all weights. Evidence that weight doesn’t necessarily matter is that there are people who have the same knee problems at a variety of weights, and people with congenital knee problems who have relatives of various weights with the same problem.

        Medical neglect of fat people is a serious thing– they are frequently told to lose weight to solve problems and not given other treatment, including problems which aren’t conceivably related to weight. In many cases, fat people suffer for decades from problems which are easily solved when they get proper treatment– or find out that the problem can no longer be solved. The worst case I know of in at the Dances with Fat link– a fat woman whose back pains turned out to be bone cancer, and it was too late.

        I’m not going to say losing weight never works– it may have done my knees some good*– but a lot of the time, it doesn’t work, and other solutions do work.

        *Hard to tell– it might have been the qi gong.

        https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/10217032489746888

        https://www.facebook.com/ragenchastain/posts/10219692429652553

        This link has the most substantial collection of comments and isn’t to facebook.

        Comments to my posts have included two people who were advised to lose weight because of ear infections, and I know one more.

    • a reader says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz:

      From my small sample, it looks like a lot of the problem is people who are depressed or bipolar and become convinced that what they’ve got is gender dysphoria. […]

      I *think* best practice would be to check for depression and bipolar first.

      In the last SSC survey sample, whose public data included 147 transwomen, 35 transmen and 212 nonbinary, many of them had been formally diagnosed with depression: 36% of transwomen, 57% of transmen and 39% of the nonbinary.

      If we add those who think they might have depression although they weren’t formally diagnosed, a majority of SSC trans people are depressed: 61% of transwomen, 71% of transmen and 56% of the nonbinary.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The challenge is figuring out whether a person is depressed because of gender dysphoia that will be ended or substantially reduced by transition or if they mistakenly think transition will help.

        Or were you arguing that checking for depression isn’t useful?

  33. EchoChaos says:

    Democrat debate postmortem time!

    As per my usual, I didn’t watch it, instead spending the time doing housework and playing with my kids, but apparently Bloomberg did exceptionally badly in his debate premier.

    But it also got me thinking as a right-wing guy whether I would prefer a moderate opponent who would be more likely to beat Trump, but if he/she won would not steer the country hard left or would prefer a hard-left opponent who would almost certainly lose McGovern style, but would have a tiny chance to actually get hands on the levers of power.

    The Democrats chose the latter last election because Trump looked most beatable and now we have President Trump, so I am leery of that choice.

    Anyway, I’d love to hear comments on the debate itself and what opposition you would choose if you could. Moderate but likely to beat you or extreme?

    • CatCube says:

      I’m absolutely against Sanders getting the nomination, and I vigorously oppose righties who hope for his nomination because he’ll be easier to beat. Don’t call up that which you can’t put down. There were a lot of Democrats who were laughing when we nominated Trump because the general would be a walkover. Here we are.

      Just the possibility of Sanders that close to the White House is scary. I’m not going to vote for any of the possible Democratic candidates, but for all except Sanders I’m at least comfortable voting third party. Sanders history of cozying up to Commies is so bad I’d probably have to cast a vote for Trump. Granted, I’m in a deep-blue state so my vote is mostly theater, but it’s at least theater that I can live with.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Don’t call up that which you can’t put down.

        Right. 90-95% of the time you get McGovern, Dukakis, Mondale or Goldwater and it’s a slaughter for the moderate, but that small percentage of the time you get Trump.

        • Eric Rall says:

          It’s even debatable how well Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 worked out for Democrats in the long term. Goldwater did lose in a landslide, and his negative coattails helped LBJ pass his Great Society programs through Congress, but Goldwater succeeded in shifting the right edge of the Overton window by quite a bit, and his candidacy was a big boost to the Conservative Movement which would eventually produce Reagan.

          • Clutzy says:

            Its also a lot of these examples are people running in neigh-unwinnable elections. If Ron Paul had been the R-nominee in 2008 his landslide loss shouldnt have been a referendum on libertarianism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Clutzy

            Nigh-unwinnable is usually only determined in hindsight.

            McCain had a 3 point lead in the polling averages as late as September 2008, Reagan looked very beatable early in 1984, especially after his first debate, which was a disaster for him.

      • Aftagley says:

        Lefty here, also terrified of a Sanders candidacy. He’ll either get demolished or be an absolute train wreck.

        I feel like the guy in Soylet Green. I’m running down the street screaming, “Sanders had a heart attack a month ago, has an atrocious foreign policy record, a sketchy personal history and absolutely no proven leadership experience!”

        • baconbits9 says:

          “Sanders had a heart attack a month ago, has an atrocious foreign policy record, a sketchy personal history and absolutely no proven leadership experience!”

          And his one good quality is that he decided socialism was the way to go 50 years ago and hasn’t changed his mind since!

        • AKL says:

          I don’t know who has the best chance of beating Trump and the heart attack is a big issue, but I’m leaning towards Sanders having the best chance, followed by Buttigieg.

          My theory is that persuadable voters care more about authenticity and agreeableness than policy. Authenticity = “running on what they actually believe*” and agreeableness = “doesn’t condescend to me.” And far and away more than any other candidate, Sanders’ campaign is clearly a reflection of his actual beliefs, and he doesn’t have Hilary’s problem of clearly disliking/pitying/condescending to the majority of voters.

          I think Biden does OK on these metrics (good on agreeableness, meh on authenticity) but his inability to show anything in the primary is really concerning. Should have been a layup!

          I have low confidence overall that my guess on who has the best chance is correct. Who are you voting for? What’s your reasoning?

          *this can be almost anything. For Trump it was “I believe I want the ego boost of winning” and people seemed pretty OK with that.

        • hls2003 says:

          Can I ask, why is the heart attack a big deal? I mean, I understand it makes it somewhat less likely he’ll complete his term; but is there anyone who would not vote for him because of his health? It’s kind of hard for me to imagine a voter saying “Gee, I’m leaning towards Bernie but I might only get three years of him, so I’d better stay home / vote for Trump.” If you’re voting Bernie, you’re voting Bernie whether you get two years or four, it seems to me. Have you known people for whom that’s a significant concern? Is it more of a “strong horse” argument where the concern is that he will “look frail” compared to a more energetic Trump?

          • AKL says:

            Frankly I haven’t given it much thought but I assume it’s something that would turn off some share of on-the-fence voters. Upon 30 seconds of reflection I still that’s true, not because they will think explicitly “I will not vote for a candidate with an x% chance of health issue Y while in office” but because it contributes to an overall feeling of [hard to articulate] lack of strength / vitality / vigor.

            I think it’s hard to articulate not necessarily because I lack the words, but because it’s an impression that these hypothetical voters don’t make explicit even within their own minds.

            Basically, people don’t want to vote for a candidate who seems weak and frail.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Hopefully a fair chunk of the electorate understands that being president isn’t about getting elected and then walking around telling people to implement your policies. If you are less healthy/energetic it is harder to respond quickly and intelligently to a crisis, its harder to broker deals between factions within and across parties (within being more important) and generally its harder to do the things a president actually does.

          • Aftagley says:

            Being the president is necessarily demanding and high-stress. Your primary duties are attempting to convince people to support your position, using your platform to push for your particular goals and making life-or-death decisions on little to no notice.

            An unhealthy president wouldn’t be able to do any of these things, or would be able to do them only at a severely reduced rate. Imagine bernie had another heart attack, or a stroke or whatever and was in the hospital for a month – what happens to the country? What if that coincides with Russia decided to, I don’t know, push into Lithuania?

            A large part of me voting for president is that I believe the person I’m voting for will be capable of consistently and quickly making good decisions in response to high-stress scenarios for the next 4 years. I would be very skeptical of voting for anyone with a history of heart attacks for this position, especially one who is 78 years old.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Imagine bernie had another heart attack, or a stroke or whatever and was in the hospital for a month – what happens to the country?

            Then Klobuchar or Harris or Booker or whoever winds up as Bernie’s VP becomes Acting President under the 25th Amendment procedures (Bernie signs a declaration of incapacity if he’s lucid enough to do so, or the Cabinet certifies him as incapable).

            This is part of why Palin turned into a big liability for McCain: his age and medical history raised the importance of his choice of running mate.

          • Matt M says:

            Palin was not a big liability for McCain. McCain did better than Obama among voters who cited the vice presidential candidate as having been a major influence on their vote.

          • Aftagley says:

            Yes – that’s the best case scenario and it’s still not particularly great. If we’d wanted whomever the VP is, we’d have voted for them.

            Less great scenarios start with a messy public fight about invoking the 25th amendment and get worse from there.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            McCain did better than Obama among voters who cited the vice presidential candidate as having been a major influence on their vote.

            Well the “among voters” introduces some complications here, doesn’t it? (Assuming this was an actual exit poll)

          • Bergil says:

            If there’s a good chance he won’t last the four years, You have to think that both him and his running mate woud be better candidates than Trump to vote for him.

          • Matt M says:

            Well the “among voters” introduces some complications here, doesn’t it? (Assuming this was an actual exit poll)

            Sure, it’s not necessarily a 100% foolproof metric.

            But if anyone has any actual evidence that Palin actually harmed McCain in any way whatsoever (other than the New York Times just insisting on it), I’ve yet to see it…

      • John Schilling says:

        Don’t call up that which you can’t put down.

        Since we’re revisiting the Game of Thrones here, while we watch the real Game of Thrones, I view a Sanders nomination in roughly the same way I view Cersei Lannister’s retoration of the Faith Militant under the High Sparrow. I can sympathize with the circumstances and choices that lead her to that, but, yeah. Don’t call up what you can only put down by using weapons of mass destruction in your own capitol city.

        I’m fairly sure we could put down Bernie Sanders by nuking Washington, but I’m going to be really pissed if it comes to that.

        • bean says:

          I’m fairly sure we could put down Bernie Sanders by nuking Washington, but I’m going to be really pissed if it comes to that.

          It’ll be sad to lose all the historical stuff there, I agree, but think about how much easier both of our jobs would be if the Pentagon were destroyed.

      • hls2003 says:

        I agree with this, and specifically I think that political prognosticators and consultants are mostly terrible at predicting what actual voters will do. Candidates and messages that they think won’t resonate, do, and vice versa. Personally I think any of the Democrats has a better-than-even chance to beat Trump, but Bernie seems like one of the strongest. His schtick will lose a few cautious well-off voters who remember the Cold War, but they probably will just stay home. A chunk of Trump’s support was lower-class whites in less-urban swing states angry at the whole dang system, who saw Trump as a chance to poke the system in the eye. Well, there’s no better eye-poke to the system than Bernie.

        On a visceral level, I despise Bloomberg’s personality combo of arrogant dictatorial nanny-statism. But on a policy level I could probably live with most of what he’d do. Bernie is less viscerally unappealing to me because he’s the embodiment of “old crank who’s been loudly wrong for so long that he’s almost an institution.” Everyone’s got an Uncle Bernie somewhere in life that they like. Most everyone’s got a Bloomberg too, but it’s usually an autocratic boss or authority figure that they don’t like. But Bernie’s policies would be an absolute disaster from my perspective.

        So while I would find Bernie less personally annoying, I really wish he wouldn’t get the nomination, because I think he’ll win and that will be a bad thing.

        • baconbits9 says:

          A chunk of Trump’s support was lower-class whites in less-urban swing states angry at the whole dang system, who saw Trump as a chance to poke the system in the eye. Well, there’s no better eye-poke to the system than Bernie.

          Trump ran on the ‘they ruined your great country, lets poke em in the eye and take it back’. Bernie is running on ‘nearly everything in this country sucks, lets be something wildly different. Trump was a ‘kick em in the shins and take your stuff back’ candidate, Bernie is ‘lets break some kneecaps and rob some banks’.

          • hls2003 says:

            I pretty much agree with all of this, but I’m not sure it matters. If you postulate that Trump got “white underclass” votes because their lives weren’t great and they had inchoate anger, a bunch of those folks’ lives probably still aren’t great. Some are better, I expect, given the economy, but if you were a resentful meth country dude on disability before, I could see that still being true and Bernie appealing to you. I don’t think it’s necessarily more appealing overall, but I could see Bernie getting less popular vote than Hillary but winning the EC.

            Then again, I thought Warren was a good bet to edge Bernie out of the progressive lane for the nomination a few months back, so obviously my crystal ball is a bit cloudy.

            I do think it’s interesting that we might elect the first avowed socialist at a time when the economy is as good as it’s been in a generation, when previously major changes like that have accompanied economic downturns (e.g. New Deal).

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression is that there were a fair number of voters who preferred both Trump and Bernie to Hillary or Jeb!.

          • Buttle says:

            Obama, Trump, and Bernie are all “hey, does this machine even work? what if I turn this knob here?” candidates.

        • Tarpitz says:

          The left wing party in the Anglosphere’s second most populous country just ran an “old crank who’s been loudly wrong for so long that he’s almost an institution.” Uncle Jez did not go down well with working class voters in post-industrial areas.

      • When you say, “Don’t call up that which you can’t put down.” are you referring to what Sanders himself would try to do and/or be able to actually accomplish as President? Or are you more worried that his election will ignite some sort of grassroots socialist mass movement?

        I’m personally voting for Sanders not because I think he will be able to get anything through a Congress controlled by corporate Democrats, but because I think he won’t be afraid to use the bully pulpit to inspire an actual mass socialist movement for the first time in American history. I’m more interested in the mass movement and his “Not me. Us.” message than in whatever wonkish bills he can put together to be mangled and stuffed away by the capitalist-controlled Congress.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Both? But I highly doubt you’d get a mass socialist movement.

        • CatCube says:

          Well, I’m referring to the people on the right cheering about the chaos in the Democrats and happy–or at least not displeased–about Sanders as the frontrunner because he’s the least likely to be able to beat Trump. I’m just using the “Don’t call up…” line to call attention to the fact that there were people on the left that were delighted by the chaos in the 2016 Republican party and thought Trump would get beaten like a red-headed stepchild by Clinton, only to see things get out of control in November. There’s a lot of time between now and then.

          But my personal feelings are that Sanders, who vacationed in the Soviet Union, slobbered over the knob of left-wing dictatorships, and has a campaign worker praising the Gulags and talking about dragging insufficiently-leftist journalists out into the street and setting them on fire, is even more terrible than Trump. Our media gives a pass to left-wing violence; I’m not going to.

          Besides that, Fox News and the Republican establishment hated, hated, hated Trump–until he was the nominee. What are they saying now? Are you, on the left, comfortable with them acting as a brake on Trump? I’m frankly more scared of that dynamic with somebody as vile as Sanders. At least with Trump I can get some good judges, and when he has a crazy person working for him talking about putting people in camps that gets attention and gets played over and over on major network news.

          • Clutzy says:

            I agree. Sanders presidency, particularly if the media follow their traditional style of running interference for a Democratic President is a very dangerous event. One of the believable defenses of being a reluctant Trump voter (which I was not) was that Mueller and everything else was basically guaranteed. He would be smeared 24/7 on the 3 major networks + all of cable besides Fox, plus all the major news outlets besides the WSJ (which isn’t really pro Trump either). And this has been true.

            What is your faith that there will be, basically, a 0% chance that President Bernie’s minor indiscretions will become topline news everyday. Our best evidence is that only FoxNews will cover all but his most egregious missteps, and even those will get 1-3 articles in the NYT, which promptly moves on to how bad it is that McConnell isn’t bringing SCOTUS nominees Cortez and Taleb up for a vote.

          • Loriot says:

            I still recall 2016, when the NYT was so sure of a Clinton presidency that they preemptively starting attacking her. And I doubt that the mainstream media will be as deferential to Sanders as they would to a normal Democrat. But I also think that Sanders won’t do awful Trump style stuff to begin with.

            Also, I highly doubt that reluctant never-Trumpers voted for him because they thought he would be hampered by investigations (especially since those investigations were barely publicized prior to the election). They voted for him because of the Supreme Court, or because they didn’t like Clinton.

          • cassander says:

            @Loriot

            The awful things that Sanders will do won’t be trump style, but that won’t make them less awful.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      Hillary Clinton is your idea of “hard left”?

      Edit: Wait, I get it. You’re saying that Democrats supported Trump because they thought he’d be easy to beat. That did unfortunately happen. As a left-winger, I can maintain friendly relations with a Trump supporter far more easily than with one of the idiots who applauded his primary success because they thought it would be for the greater good of liberalism. If you detest Trump as much as those people claimed to, that strategy is not just strategically stupid but morally bankrupt.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Sorry, that was unclear. The Democrats were rooting for the hard right candidate (Trump) as opposed to the moderates like Jeb! and Kasich because they thought he’d be easier to beat.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The irony is that whoever loses the nomination is almost always easier to beat than the winner. The whole A beats B, B beats C but C beats A is just rare.

          • Except that one comparison is in the nomination, where only members of your party matter (with some exceptions for crossover voters in some states), while the other is for the general. I don’t find it implausible that Goldwater beats Rockefeller among Republicans, but Rockefeller polls better than Goldwater in the general election.

    • John Schilling says:

      If this comes down to Bernie Sanders vs. Michael Bloomberg, then we’re going to be in the perverse situation of watching the Democratic party deciding between a former Socialist who signed up as a Democrat because it was his best bet at the big chair, and a former Republican who signed up as a Democrat because ditto, as their champion against the Republican incumbent – a former Democrat who signed up with the GOP because that was his best path to the White House.

      A pox on all their houses, and if I view Trump as the least-bad of the three it’s only because his relative ineptitude limits the amount of damage he can do. Well, that and his apparently sincere distaste for foreign wars; not sure where Bernie and Bloomie really stand on that front.

      A Biden/Buttigieg or Biden/Klobuchar ticket looks pretty good to me in terms of not having any great ambition to screw things up worse than they already are, and having the talent and experience to not do so by accident. Biden’s health is an issue, but having a young VP who is already established as at least near-presidential material mitigates much of that risk. Since I expect the swing voters in this election are going to be the return to normalcy, don’t screw things up worse than they already are voters, I think that’s probably the best be for the Democrats at this stage. Not sure that the younger moderates are ready to lead that ticket themselves, but if they are it would have the same effect.

      And whoever the Democrats nominate, I would prefer to be either a clear winner or a clear loser going into November, because I want the swing voters to be comfortable voting for divided government and that’s easier to do if you’re confident you know who the President is going to be.

      • DragonMilk says:

        And I always thought Trump was a secret Democratic agent sent out to destroy the Republican party by the Clintons by handing the election to Hillary…woops

      • A Biden/Klobuchar win would just reinforce the same neoliberal tendencies that brought us the popular support for Trump in the first place.

      • Deiseach says:

        A Biden/Buttigieg or Biden/Klobuchar ticket looks pretty good to me in terms of not having any great ambition to screw things up worse than they already are, and having the talent and experience to not do so by accident.

        What exactly are the powers of the Vice President? Pence so far seems to be decently obscure, working away in peace without causing big headlines. But I can’t see Mayor Pete being happy to languish in obscurity doing ribbon-cutting and speech-making for the National League of Buttercup Growers, I get the whiff of ambition off him and I think he’d try and use the VP slot to get enough attention for his “vote me in as President” succession bid when Biden’s term was up. I have suspicion about people trying to use positions as springboards for bigger and better jobs, because I think it would be all too easy to turn a drama into a crisis if VP Pete decided to hold a big press conference on Sensitive Issue in order to show that he was being pro-active while President Joe was sleeping on the job.

        • JayT says:

          It depends on the VP. Dick Cheney was extremely influential in how the government was run. Biden and Pence much less so. The actual official duties are fairly minor.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Formally, the Constitution gives the Vice President three inherent Constitutional powers, apart from his primary role of being the Emergency Backup President in case the actual President breaks:
          1. The Vice President is ex officio the President of the Senate, in which capacity he can chair Senate debates (mostly a ceremonial role, and mostly delegated to a random junior Senator from the majority party, since the Senate very early on adopted rules that stripped the chair of most of his authority), and he can cast a tie-breaker vote if the Senate is split evenly on a motion that requires a simple majority.

          2. The VP has a role in the 25th Amendment process for declaring a President to be incapable. Specifically, doing so requires the agreement of the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet.

          3. After the next Presidential election, the incumbent VP is the one who formally tallies the Electoral College results. This is also mostly a ceremonial duty: the tallying occurs in the presence of both Houses of Congress, and Congress has the power to overrule the VP if they disagree with his count (this has only happened once or twice, in cases of disputed state-level election results that resulted in two different slates of electors sending in separate reports to be tallied).

          In addition, Presidents can assign political and executive-branch duties to the VP. Most commonly, the VP gets used as a consolation prize for ceremonial occasions (state dinners, etc) that are almost but not quite important enough for the President to attend in person, he gets sent around the country to make speeches and do photo-ops in support of the President and his party, and he is one of the people who lobby Senators and Representatives to vote for bills the President wants to pass.

          Less commonly (Cheney is the biggest recent example, as JayT said), the VP is used as a sort of Cabinet Secretary Without Portfolio, or even as an unofficial Deputy President, who can make the sorts of day-to-day decisions that President would normally make on the President’s behalf if the President is busy doing something else (subject to being reviewed and overruled later by the President if he disagrees). In administrations that don’t use the VP this way, I think this role is usually handled by some combination of the President’s senior staffers speaking for the President, or the Cabinet Secretaries being given longer leashes so fewer decisions need to be referred to the President and his staff.

        • John Schilling says:

          What exactly are the powers of the Vice President?

          Officially, some mostly-ceremonial stuff and being the President’s understudy.

          But the Presidency is roughly three full-time jobs, so the VP’s main duty is to take care of whatever part of that the President chooses to delegate. That’s different for each administration. It probably does mean we have to be a bit more careful about the VP candidate if the top of the ticket is a geezer who is only going to be up for one full-time job.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I watched it, but my perceptions may be a bit muddled because I was drinking heavily for obvious reasons.

      I thought Bloomberg got shellacked. I think there was a lot of anticipation that Bloomberg would be the tough-talk, no-nonsense guy who could take on Trump, but he was constantly on the defensive about everything, except for his wealth. That was the one area where he was willing to give everyone both birds straight up. And I liked the bit where he called out Bernie’s three houses.

      I predict with 75% confidence that Bloomberg has peaked. This is not the savior the Dems are looking for.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Didn’t watch the debate, but I’m surprised no one has tried a tactic of, “you’ve made a serious allegation, and I respect your concern. However, what you’ve accused me of is false, but I have not been provided the time to respond fully to the accusation. In fact, anything you’d like to criticize me for, I will have a response put up on my website by tomorrow morning, as I’d like to provide the full response that your concern deserves. What I’d like to talk about now, though, is how we can come together to best beat Trump and why I’m the guy to do it…”

        If pressed further, go into, “Look, I’ve said before that we don’t have enough time to fully address these off-base accusations. Just as Warren doesn’t have time to explain to an accuser why she’s actually a Native American and totally didn’t use it to advance her educational career, why Bernie hasn’t changed his position of socialism in the past fifty years when leftists have murdered millions in that time frame, why Biden sets a good example for good governance given Hunter’s connections and baby-daddy status, or why Pete has failed the black community in South Bend completely. Americans already know politicians are hypocrites, that’s why so many are ok with Trump. We need to tell them how we’re going to be effective at governing, which is what I’ve done in…..”

        Like…maybe he was too arrogant to do proper debate prep?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yeah, that would have killed. Just come out and own it, and make the case. “I’m not perfect and nobody cares. What I can do is beat Trump and govern well.” Would have been great.

          Also, tangent, I’ve been studying the kanji (2000 down, 200 to go…) and I recently learned the one for “elect:” 選 That’s “two snakes,” “come together” and “road.” Kabbalistic implications obvious.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Its easy to write in hindsight after seeing the specific attacks, but not so easy to prep for and to handle in your first debate.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @baconbits9 agreed, but given the stories that were released in the lead-up to the debate, surely someone on his staff warned him of impending attacks.

            My guess is still arrogance

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What exactly do debate coaches do, then? And it’s not like the questions weren’t obvious. There have been constant media pieces in the past few weeks about stuff Bloomberg said. You know they’re going to throw it at you. Have an answer. And he didn’t.

            He got yelled at about saying “horse-faced lesbians.” He should have said, “look, I’m a red-blooded American man, I like my lesbians hot. But what I’m going to do for all you lesbians, the lookers and the dumpy ones, is I’m going to beat Donald Trump and appoint judges that will protect your right to marry whoever you want.” He knew this stuff was coming, and he didn’t have an answer.

            HEY BLOOMBERG, IF YOU’RE READING THIS: call me. I can write your bits for you. I still hope you lose, but I can make some money in the process.

          • hls2003 says:

            Based on his prior strategy, he may have been assuming that the debate audience would be much smaller than the audience reached by his ads, and thus he should just appear “unflappable” for the debate and then rely on his campaign money to sink any negative attention. I think he miscalculated how much more valuable “earned media” is than purchased media – headlines everywhere screaming “Bloomberg Bombed” reach way more people than the debate itself.

          • hls2003 says:

            Also, given Bloomberg’s wealth, he could literally pledge to give $1,000 to every voter and get 65 million votes. I know literal vote-buying is illegal, but could he pledge something like “I will start a Yang-esque Freedom Fund if I’m elected, and the first four years will be funded entirely by my charitable gifting to said Fund”?

          • baconbits9 says:

            What exactly do debate coaches do, then? And it’s not like the questions weren’t obvious. There have been constant media pieces in the past few weeks about stuff Bloomberg said. You know they’re going to throw it at you. Have an answer. And he didn’t.

            Questions aren’t about the words alone. If your wife says ‘what are you doing tonight’ her tone can imply something benign or something with a serious implication, and when and how it gets brought up adds context as well. Then the other candidates might have forking paths, if Warren hits him with this is Sanders pilling on automatically or seeing how strong his response looks. Are they directly accusing you of buying the election or just insinuating it? Did you nail your first response or did you stumble and miss a bit?

          • Theodoric says:

            I still hope you lose, but I can make some money in the process.

            I thought some of the leaks of embarrassing past statements from Bloomberg came from people working for him with just that sort of attitude.

      • Randy M says:

        I watched it, but my perceptions may be a bit muddled because I was drinking heavily for obvious reasons.

        Just came off of watching Frozen 2?

      • baconbits9 says:

        I think the reaction is overblown. Being attacked on multiple fronts is usually the sign of a strong, not weak, candidate in a crowded field. He missed the first few debates as well so they have already gotten a lot of their own disagreements out there and are now zeroing in on the rising candidate. Additionally Warren is not popular and does not appear credible to the electorate, her attacks on Bernie didn’t slow his progress down and didn’t rescue her ether. Finally the claims of misogyny don’t really hit the mark, women as a class don’t act or vote as if they are wildly oppressed, feminists look at the world and cry that Western women are oppressed but the mass doesn’t respond to it in particular. You know who has called a woman something as bad as a ‘horse faced broad’? Most men. You know who else? Most women. I don’t think it has (or can have) the same resonance as racial slurs.

        I also think that continually pointing to his wealth is moronic. Billionaire isn’t a slur for anyone except the extreme left, and where there is dissatisfaction with rich in the electorate it is closer to ‘I wish I was rich’ and not ‘I wish no one was rich’. If Bloomberg handles the aftermath well it should give him a bump, if the rest of the Ds keep their focus on him it will start to look a lot like Trump in 2016 where the electorate hears over and over again ‘look at this guy, just look at him. He’s rich, he has sex with lots of women. My god look at him’.

        • Deiseach says:

          baconbits9, I think what the others (or the ones who think they have a real chance of being the finalists) are going for is painting Bloomberg as “just like Trump” so naturally the “rich old white guy who is a misogynist about women” is getting plenty of airing. They’re trying to make it sound like “we’ve all spent four years wanting to get rid of Trump, now Trump In Disguise comes along and is trying to steal the nomination from you, real Democrats”.

          It’s a tool like all the rest of the tricks to do down your rivals; Warren and Klobuchar can use the “misogynist, bad for women” angle of attack, Bernie the “billionaire moneybags elitist”, Mayor Pete – well, I dunno what he can go for, but he can try something I guess.

          By the way, how “diverse” is South Bend? I read something about Buttigieg claiming he’d been the mayor of a very diverse community and handled those problems, and my first impression was “Hang on, you are talking about the home town of Notre Dame and in Indiana, aren’t you?” but am I wrong? Is it majority minority, as the saying goes?

          • baconbits9 says:

            baconbits9, I think what the others (or the ones who think they have a real chance of being the finalists) are going for is painting Bloomberg as “just like Trump” so naturally the “rich old white guy who is a misogynist about women” is getting plenty of airing. They’re trying to make it sound like “we’ve all spent four years wanting to get rid of Trump, now Trump In Disguise comes along and is trying to steal the nomination from you, real Democrats”.

            Sure, but they went after Trump hammer and tongs about that stuff and he still pulled a fair amount of support among women while running against a woman.

            More importantly its about the optics of what happens when you attack someone verbally. You have to make them look weak in some way. I don’t think that Bloomberg increased his chances with the debate, but it does seem to me that the rest of the field gave him a situation where if he handles the aftermath well he can rise against all of them simultaneously. If just Warren had attacked him then handling it well makes him look good vs Warren, but not particularly good against Sanders/Biden/Klobucher.

          • FormerRanger says:

            South Bend is not lily-white. It is 26% Black and 14% Hispanic.

            One of the attacks on Buttigieg has been that he had problems with the minorities in SB. If you research it, it seems that it’s mostly “not enough diversity” and a remark about the educational problems of Black children he made before he was Mayor. He’s “expanded and clarified” his positions on those things lately.

            Please forgive my suspicion that what that’s about (other than standard attacks on the insufficiently Left) is that when the issues surfaced last year Biden was seen as the likely front-runner, and Biden was and is popular with Blacks. It would be no surprise if some Blacks wanted to help Biden by hitting Buttigieg at that time.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Attacking Bloomberg is good if attacking someone gets you mindshare.

          And Bloomberg made it so easy and spent none of his money on debate prep.

    • Deiseach says:

      From the reactions I’m reading, it sounds like great entertainment: everybody tearing and dragging at everybody else.

      Not so great for the Democrat party though, because one of these people is going to be the eventual nominee, and it will ring hollow when all the rest line up to pledge their unconditional support after spending weeks calling the winner all kinds of names about how they’ll be a disaster if chosen.

      A problem for every party in every country, to be sure, but at least having the hair-pulling happen in private means that the thin layer of hypocrisy presented to the public with the fake smiles and promises of support can be maintained with a bit more plausibility. Intra-party debates on television for all to see how your people are willing to gut one another is a different matter.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        and it will ring hollow when all the rest line up to pledge their unconditional support after spending weeks calling the winner all kinds of names about how they’ll be a disaster if chosen.

        That is literally every election in the US.

        I really wanted Trump to hang a lantern on it when he was campaigning for Ted Cruz, though. “Remember what I’d call Ted back in the primaries? Lion Ted! L-I-O-N, Lion Ted!”

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, but everyone was saying the Establishment Republicans hate Trump’s guts, Conrad Honcho. The whole idea was that the party was only begrudgingly behind him, nobody liked or supported him, and they were only dragged along because the voters did like and vote for Trump.

          The Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to portray the image of unity and being all together singing from the same hymn sheet. They tried to make hay of the disunity within the Republican Party – and got Mitt Romney to bite, much good it did them – but they’re vulnerable if the Republicans can do the same to them: call for dissidents within the party to vote against/publically voice their opposition to Chosen One. And if they don’t, the Republicans can still run ads about “Up to last week, Defeated Candidate said this, this and this about Chosen One. If their own party doesn’t believe in and support them, why should you vote for them?” “Their own party doesn’t support them” was part of Trump’s appeal (the whole ‘drain the swamp, challenge the Establishment’ thing) but it’s not the case for the Democrats whoever the eventual winner will be.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ignore 2016. That was the most atypical election in…I don’t even know how long. In every other election in my lifetime, the same thing happens: they sling mud at each other in the primaries and then they get all lovey-dovey in the general.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Does anyone have a good explanation for why Bloomberg decided to participate in the debate at all rather than skip like Trump?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Because if he had a good performance he probably would have vaulted into top 2 and possibly tied with Sanders in a week and had massive media coverage. Unlike Trump he is a late comer and needs to gain ground in a different way.

        Also the man is a mostly self made billionaire, one of the richest in the world who was mayor of NYC and his polling numbers basically tripled in the month leading up to the debate. Pretty much everything in his life has worked out for him, so high confidence isn’t exactly irrational.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What do you mean “skip like Trump?” Trump only skipped the one Fox News debate because Megyn Kelly. Later when it was just him, Kasich and Cruz left he said he didn’t want to bother because they’ve already had so many debates.

        Why would Bloomberg skip the debate?

        • DragonMilk says:

          I suppose what I mean is that he seemed ill-prepared, maybe with hindsight, and if he needed more time to prep, skip debates until he’s ready, as he’s rising in the polls. In this particular case the strategy is:

          – The big moment is Biden flailing and Bernie becoming the front-runner
          – If Bloomberg is not at the debate, then Bernie becomes the target of attack, as it’s rather odd to attack someone too much if they aren’t there to respond
          – For attacks that are made in your absence, you now have time to thoughtfully craft responses for when you eventually show up.

          As for why you’re skipping, you could say something like, “you know, we’re very pleased to qualify and did not expect the invitation so quickly, but that means our message has really resonated with people. Because I had prior campaign commitments, I will have to pass on this first invitation but be sure to make the next one. See my website for more information!”

          • hls2003 says:

            Bear in mind that his whole strategy, delegate-wise, has to be timed to Super Tuesday. A slow but steady rise in the polls driven by saturation advertising doesn’t work if it peaks two weeks after Super Tuesday. The big day is in less than two weeks. He needs a bump now to plausibly stay on the path to Super Tuesday success.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The goal is not to look good while losing, the goal is to win and to win you need to drum up a lot of support. It’s hard to get that while avoiding the spotlight.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @hls2003

            I think this is right. He came in because he saw a weak field and needed to show he was the obvious person to consolidate all the weak candidates out of the field and assume the Joe Biden 2019 role of “obvious choice for those who don’t want Sanders”.

            My guess is that he failed at that, but Super Tuesday will tell.

      • Deiseach says:

        (1) His campaign probably told him that eventually he’d have to give the electorate something to go with apart from the ads, so he should take part in the debate and show off his wares

        (2) Bloomberg’s own arrogance that all he had to do was show up and show off how great he was, so he didn’t need to prepare anything against those bozos

    • FormerRanger says:

      Moderate but likely to beat you or extreme?

      “Likely” is always going to be a guess, as is “unlikely” for someone extreme. After all, we got Trump.

      There is always the traditional rejoinder, which is “President Sanders will be restrained by Congress, so [horrible outcome] won’t happen.” Presidents have a lot of power even if the other party controls both houses of Congress (Obama), or if there is a faction of their own party that doesn’t support the President (Trump).

      As Obama probably regrets having said, “I have a pen and a phone” (i.e., I can issue executive orders).

      Restraining President Sanders through the court system is somewhat feasible. They have been thorns in Trump’s side but not prevented him from acting on tariffs, NATO, immigration, etc. Thanks to Trump and McConnell, the Federal Courts are becoming more Republican, so they might be a thorn in Sanders’ side as well. On the other hand, Democrats have threatened court-packing if nasty judges continue to block their initiatives. The size of the SC (and I think the lower Federal Courts) can be changed by Congress.

      Although it’s unlikely that a President Sanders could possibly be elected with Republicans still controlling the Senate, it could happen. If Democrats control both Senate and House, then he has even more freedom.

      tl;dr: Hope they nominate Kerensky (“Social Democrat”), not Lenin.

      • The Nybbler says:

        tl;dr: Hope they nominate Kerensky (“Social Democrat”), not Lenin.

        Which one’s Kerensky? I heard the Sanders/Bloomberg contest described as one between a Soviet Communist and a Chinese Communist, but I haven’t heard anyone described as a Kerensky-type.

        • FormerRanger says:

          Kerensky was less left than Lenin, so almost anyone in the race would qualify vs. Sanders/Lenin.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Debate thoughts:

      My Predictit bets against Bloomberg are maturing nicely now. After tonight’s debate, there’s no way the DNC is going to entrust him as the nominee at the convention. And forget being able to win the vote outright– with a performance this historically bad, it’s questionable whether he will even win a single state. It turns out being rich doesn’t mean you are actually particularly good at knowing how to please people: The only people Bloomberg satisfied last night were those hoping to see him crash and burn, myself included. His squirming and referring to the sexual harassment non-disclosure agreements as “consensual” is surely one for the ages. Even the merits of Warren’s attack aside, this sort of defensive, lawyerly-language is the exact opposite of how you project power and confidence, and low-information voters are going to be turned away in droves.

      The nightly reminder of Sander’s supposedly “socialism problem” remains one of the more humorous threads this election. According to Scott Alexander and other serious commentators, Sanders is a capitalist foolishly masquerading as a “socialist” to his own detriment. But according to Michael Bloomberg in this debate, Sanders’s proposals make him not a socialist, but a communist.

      The reality is that we have rhetorical gap turning into a gulf: Sanders’s worker ownership proposal is practically copy-pasted from Sweden’s Miedner Plan, and his “Green TVA” policies (that didn’t come up the debate) are Norway-esque. The Left, using the more classical definition of “socialism”, points to Norway’s extremely high level of industry collectivization as evidence of its success. The Right has convinced themselves that the Nordics are actually a free-market utopias, and that high levels of state ownership are not of particular relevance to the question at hand. Which is perhaps why Sanders’s most classically-socialist policy proposals have barely gotten a blip of attention. If the Nordics can exist a permanent state of purgatory, described simultaneously as extreme-capitalism and extreme-socialism, perhaps Sanders can too? Are we all just talking past each other here?

      As Sander’s points out, the moderator’s suggestion that his socialism is a liability by pointing to a poll that says people would not be comfortable electing a “socialist” to office, becomes somewhat compromised when that same poll says that also the people want Bernie Sanders. And Bernie had a well-deserved chuckle when Buttigeig spontaneously pointed to Denmark as an example of success– a country that funds 84% of its health expenditures via taxation. Yang was right in the last debate when he pointed out how bizarre and outdated the “socialism” question even is: No one knows what any of these words mean. And that’s okay.

      The final question regarding a brokered convention was very disconcerting. That so many candidates would be willing to accept a nomination that was the result of overturning the democratic will of the voters is alarming. But I get it, this is the game, and you don’t sacrifice a real shot at the presidency in the name of your principles. Still, if the debacle of the Iowa Caucuses portends the last of that archaic tradition, this will be a minor afterthought compared to the fallout of the DNC super-delegates overturning the popular vote. They are playing with fire at even the thought.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        the democratic will of the voters is alarming

        But if there is no clear winner, we don’t know what the democratic will of the voters is. We know a bunch of people they don’t want, but not who they do.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Agreed. I’ve also made similar points about the general election: almost time in history that a US President was elected without a plurality of the popular vote, there was no “popular vote” winner. Another candidate got a plurality, but nobody got a majority. The only exception is the Hayes/Tilden election in 1876, where Tilden had a majority of the popular vote but lost the electoral college (with Colorado appointing their electors, and with contested election results in three other states).

          In the other four such elections, the plurality popular-vote “winner” had 43% (Jackson in 1824), 48.6% (Cleveland in 1888), 48.4% (Gore in 2000), and 48.2% (Clinton in 2016). And in all of them except 1824 (when about a quarter of the country still used legislative nomination and there were four major candidates on the ballot) the pluralities were pretty narrow: 0.8% for Cleveland, 0.5% for Bush, and 2.1% for Clinton.

          This is one of the reasons I oppose a national popular vote unless it’s bundled with some kind of ranked-preference voting systems, preferably a Condorcet variant.

        • Guy in TN says:

          [Deleted by mistake. My apologies]

          • baconbits9 says:

            That sounds more like your personal opinion than a universal definition.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It is not my personal opinion that “do the thing that pleases the most people” necessitates doing the thing that the plurality wants. It’s a mathematical fact.

          • baconbits9 says:

            No, you have biased your selection towards action, you can have an inaction preference that could plausibly satisfy more people. If everyone’s preferences are 1 my candidate winning, 2 no candidate winning then not filling an office would satisfy more people than filling an office with a person who received less than 50% of the vote.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If 40% of people vote Bernie, 30% Biden and 30% Warren, then doing what pleases the most people is “not Bernie.”

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9
            Even if you want to count every non-voter as an automatic “none of the above”, the logic doesn’t change: If these “nones” achieved the plurality, then selecting them would be more democratic than any alternative. The 50% threshold has no particular meaning.

            If you want to argue that the Democratic primary process is fundamentally flawed because they aren’t taking this into account, that’s fine. But I’m not hearing an superior solution for how to figure out what the majority wants at this stage. Since if, at the start of the process, people realized that not voting counted towards “none of the above”, that would have radically changed people’s voting behavior.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            If 40% of people vote Bernie, 30% Biden and 30% Warren, then doing what pleases the most people is “not Bernie.”

            Not true, since any other option necessarily pleases people even less.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Even if want to count every non-voter as an automatic “none of the above”, the logic doesn’t change: If these “nones” achieved the plurality, then selecting them would be more democratic than any alternative. The 50% threshold has no particular meaning.

            You missed the point. You have only weighted the first preference and assumed not conditional preferences, and you are assuming differences that the electorate may not. If there is a large body of racist voters for whom the only qualification for winning is ‘white’ then any white candidate fulfills their will, and the sum total of their votes plus those that like one of the individual white candidates can end representing a majority opinion but not receive a plurality of votes.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You could also, as baconbits9 suggests, do none of the above.

            Or, rather, have delegates from the candidates cast additional ballots either at the direction of their candidate, or based on what the delegates think the voters in their state want. And try to figure out a better answer that way.

            Also, baconbits9…what’s the 9 for?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9
            The argument works both ways: While you can’t assume that every person who didn’t vote declined to do because they were fine with whatever the outcome is, you also can’t assume that every person who didn’t vote did so because they object to all the options.

            Additional polling can illuminate the answer. But by itself its just a black box, neither an argument for or against the outcome from a democratic perspective.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You could also, as baconbits9 suggests, do none of the above.

            “None of the above” pleases far far less people. What percentage of Democrats would be satisfied with the Dems declining to run a candidate if none of them receive more than 50% of the vote? I’m going to guess less than 0.1% of the voters.

            Or, rather, have delegates from the candidates cast additional ballots either at the direction of their candidate, or based on what the delegates think the voters in their state want. And try to figure out a better answer that way.

            And what reason is there to think that the delegates would be more likely to select a candidate that the voters prefer than the voters themselves? This is no more convincing than saying “If no single candidate can reach 50%, then give the choice to my friend Bob. Bob’s smart, he’ll know the right guy!”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So, do you admit that going with the plurality is not the one and only “democratic outcome” because you don’t really know what would please the most people?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbit9

            If there is a large body of racist voters for whom the only qualification for winning is ‘white’ then any white candidate fulfills their will, and the sum total of their votes plus those that like one of the individual white candidates can end representing a majority opinion but not receive a plurality of votes.

            It’s true than in order to determine the true plurality opinion, it’s probably best not to do so in a single first-past-the-post methodology.

            But again, this isn’t how the Democratic primary works, as it exists. We only have the information we have. Saying “well, if there were instant runoffs/ranked choice, the outcome would be different” is all well and good, but we don’t have those, so if you want to infer the democratic will, the votes are all we have.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The argument works both ways: While you can’t assume that every person who didn’t vote declined to do because they were fine with whatever the outcome is, you also can’t assume that every person who didn’t vote did so because they object to all the options.

            I don’t think you are responding to the point.

            Baked into your position is the assumption that positive preferences are the only thing that exist. If my preference is 1. Not Bernie Sanders as president than anyone who is not Bernie satisfies my preference. You have to assume that people only vote positively for actions, and not negatively against them to get to the ‘satisfies the most people’s preferences’.

            There are many ways that a plurality can fail the majority will. For another example you can have conditional preferences. I could prefer a republican congress if Sanders is president and a democratic congress is Trump is reelected. I cannot express that preference through plurality voting (its hard with majority voting but easier).

            The 50% threshold has no particular meaning.

            The 50% threshold does have specific meaning for people who vote negatively. If a person HAS to break 50% then voting for a 3rd party is a vote against the two main parties.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also, baconbits9…what’s the 9 for?

            Nothing, it was an auto generated thing many years ago.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            So, do you admit that going with the plurality is not the one and only “democratic outcome” because you don’t really know what would please the most people?

            It is the one and only democratic outcome, because it is the most likely to please the most people compared to any alternative.

            Nothing can ever be known with 100% certainty, outside of the realm of mathematics. Even if an election was 95% to 5%, there would be doubt: What if there was election fraud? Would instant-runoff or ranked choice voting have changed the outcome? What about the people who didn’t vote- were they opposed to everyone?

            But this line of argumentation proves too much. Could anything ever be described as “democratic will” under these standards?

            Describing the plurality as the “democratic will” is accurate because it has a higher probability of being so than any of the proposed alternatives. To the extent that “democratic will” is a thing you want to support, honoring the plurality is the most accurate tool you have.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Nothing can ever be known with 100% certainty, outside of the realm of mathematics.

            This is not about certainty or uncertainty, this is about the mechanisms that democracy uses to calculate its results. Democracies fail the basic tasks of preference measurements in many ways, (and markets do in many, but fewer, ways) but the point remains that the 50% barrier is not arbitrary. A person who gets 50%+ of the vote has cleared the ‘I have more votes than the other people’ barrier plus the ‘people might be voting against a candidate and not for a candidate barrier’.

          • Jake R says:

            @Guy in TN

            I was with you on the “50% is not a magic number” argument, but now it sounds like you’re saying plurality voting is a better expression of preferences than ranked preference voting or indeed any other conceivable method. That seems very unlikely to me.

          • Nick says:

            @Guy in TN

            But again, this isn’t how the Democratic primary works, as it exists. We only have the information we have. Saying “well, if there were instant runoffs/ranked choice, the outcome would be different” is all well and good, but we don’t have those, so if you want to infer the democratic will, the votes are all we have.

            Okay, but this is very different from what you were saying before. Earlier, you were saying it’s a mathematical fact that a plurality candidate expresses the will of the people. Now you’re admitting you have no idea what the will of the people is, but we’re stuck with a plurality candidate.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9
            I am not assuming that you don’t have negative preferences. I am assuming that we have a first-past-the-post system, and thus your conditional preferences (along with everyone else’s) are not taken into consideration from the get-go.

            Would a system that allowed run-offs until a 50% percent threshold was reached be superior? Sure. But that’s also irrelevant to the question of the ongoing 2020 Democratic Primaries.

            This is not about certainty or uncertainty, this is about the mechanisms that democracy uses to calculate its results. Democracies fail the basic tasks of preference measurements in many ways,

            Your position is that democracy itself is bad at determining the “democratic will” of the people?

            (and markets do in many, but fewer, ways)

            Markets are not even attempt at determining the democratic will of the people. They determine the will of the people with money- key difference. If I knew your argument against using plurality in the 2020 Democratic Primaries was that “it’s not anarcho-capitalism”, I would have ended the conversation right there.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Jake R

            I was with you on the “50% is not a magic number” argument, but now it sounds like you’re saying plurality voting is a better expression of preferences than ranked preference voting or indeed any other conceivable method.

            Sorry if I am unclear on this: Given that we aren’t using ranked preference or any other runoff method, plurality is the best we have for determining their preferences. Far superior than giving it to the superdelegates to decide (or as some seem to be suggesting cancelling the election all together.)

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Nick

            Okay, but this is very different from what you were saying before. Earlier, you were saying it’s a mathematical fact that a plurality candidate expresses the will of the people. Now you’re admitting you have no idea what the will of the people is, but we’re stuck with a plurality candidate.

            “Mathematical fact” was overstating it, I admit. “Higher probability than any of the alternatives” is what I’m sticking with.

          • Nick says:

            @Guy in TN
            That’s more reasonable, thanks for admitting and backing up. But I think it still commits you to the position that plurality voting has a high probability of being the best voting system, which based on your earlier qualification I don’t think you believe! I think you should stick to saying either:
            a) plurality is all we have, but there are circumstances where it doesn’t express popular will; or
            b) plurality is the best voting system, for reasons x and y and z.
            Seems to me like you actually favor (a), in which case I think you’re still susceptible to cases like Conrad’s. In other words, at some point we really do have to consider questions like, “There are a lot of moderates, maybe people would be happier with a moderate than with a socialist?”

          • baconbits9 says:

            . If I knew your argument against using plurality in the 2020 Democratic Primaries was that “it’s not anarcho-capitalism”, I would have ended the conversation right there.

            That isn’t my argument, but had I known your argument was a tautology, which is what ‘this is our system, its called a democratic system, therefore any outcome it produces can be called the will of the people’ is I really wouldn’t have bothered.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Your position is that democracy itself is bad at determining the “democratic will” of the people?

            Not all democracies are equal. Any democracy where you can’t sell or save your vote is inherently bad at determining the democratic will of the people as it aggressively strips away legitimate democratic preferences.

          • meh says:

            But again, this isn’t how the Democratic primary works, as it exists.

            Winning by plurality is also not how it works.

            It is the one and only democratic outcome, because it is the most likely to please the most people compared to any alternative.

            So I think what you are saying is absent *any* other information, the plurality winner *in expectation* pleases the most people. I think all on this thread would agree to that. However we do have other information. Namely, we go through this whole zany delegate and convention process, one state at a time. The delegates that win have information on who is the closest to their candidate (or perhaps who their candidate endorses if they drop out). If we are ignoring this, than we should throw out the entire system. But it seems like you are trying to keep only the parts that benefit your candidate, and ignore the parts that hurt them.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Nick

            Seems to me like you actually favor (a), in which case I think you’re still susceptible to cases like Conrad’s. In other words, at some point we really do have to consider questions like, “There are a lot of moderates, maybe people would be happier with a moderate than with a socialist?”

            It seems like its ripe for abuse, to instead of honoring the votes of the current system, attempting to infer how people would have voted under a different system, and instead declare the winner to be whoever you think would have won under this alternative system.

            If you want to do runoffs or ranked choice voting, then do it. Don’t do first-past-the-post, and then try to overturn the election based on retroactive assumptions about how people would have voted had things been different.

          • meh says:

            attempting to infer how people would have voted under a different system,

            It’s not a different system. *this* system has delegates and superdelegates and national conventions, and actual explicit rules on what happens when there is no majority. It’s not a perfect system. It’s not even a good system imo, but it is the system. And in cases when it doesn’t choose the plurality winner, it is probably choosing a better winner.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9

            Any democracy where you can’t sell or save your vote is inherently bad at determining the democratic will of the people as it aggressively strips away legitimate democratic preferences.

            If we assume that a system in which 100% of the people can vote is the most democratic system, then has any system in which people could sell their vote (rendering the total percent of voters as <100% of the population) would inherently be less democratic than the alternative.

            And if you can't vote, you can't reveal your democratic preferences. I don't see any democratic-preference related upside here.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @meh

            The Democratic primary system has democratic and non-democratic elements. The “system” I was referring to refers to the democratic institutions: the primaries, the caucuses and such. To the extent that the democratic will can be inferred, its through these elements.

            The delegates that win have information on who is the closest to their candidate (or perhaps who their candidate endorses if they drop out).

            If the delegates were chosen democratically, then one could reasonably make the argument that they represent the “will” of the people who elected them. That’s fine. The problem is that there’s a big group of delegates who are elected non-democratically, the superdelegates. They can make no claims of democratic will behind them whatsoever.

            Obviously, the Democratic Party is a private organization and could simply choose a candidate in a smoke-filled room if they wanted to. But you wouldn’t call this the “democratic will” too, right?

          • meh says:

            The elected delegates are not bound after the first vote. The super delegates can infer the will, as you say, through the primaries and caucuses and such. (caucuses do indicate peoples second choices).

            If Sanders gets a plurality in the high 40s, and the superdelegates intervene not to give him the nomination, then I would say the will of the people was not served. If Sanders gets 35%, and Biden/Bloomberg get 30%, then giving the nomination to Sanders would not be serving the will of the people.

            Plurality voting has well known failure modes. Super delegates also have failure modes.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @meh

            The super delegates can infer the will, as you say, through the primaries and caucuses and such.

            That they can doesn’t mean that they will, and their ability to ignore the results of primaries and caucuses adds a non-democratic element to the system.

            If Sanders gets 35%, and Biden/Bloomberg get 30%, then giving the nomination to Sanders would not be serving the will of the people.

            If Sanders getting 35% isn’t good enough to be the “will of the people”, then why is Biden getting 30% good enough? Are you just assuming that people are ideologically in the “moderate lane”, and they wouldn’t have been divided had one of the candidates been running? How do you know the correct grouping isn’t something totally different like the “age lane”, and people who want a “wise elder congressman” are being split between Sanders/Biden?

            Edit: Sorry, I thought you posted a split between Biden/Buttigeig. But a split between Biden/Bloomberg could just as easily go another route, e.g. “Washington experience lane” vs. “outsider lane”

          • Cliff says:

            It’s absurd to say that the only information we have is the votes cast in primaries. We have polling, for example. There simply is no basis whatsoever to say that the most democratic outcome is for the plurality winner to get the nomination.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Cliff

            It’s absurd to say that the only information we have is the votes cast in primaries. We have polling, for example.

            My concern with retroactively using polls as a proxy for votes is that people answering the polls wouldn’t have been aware of what the stakes were when they were being called. If they knew their answers were going to be treated essentially as “votes” at the convention, it would significantly change both how often people answered and what they would answer.

            There’s also the question of methodology. Even if the DNC was like “hey everyone, if there’s a lack of delegate majority we are going to use the results of polling hypothetical candidate match-ups of the two front runners so answer these questions wisely because you are basically voting“, I would be highly skeptical of them being able to call the right hundred or so people to create an accurate survey. Polls, especially in the primary, are notoriously inaccurate.