Open Thread 153.25

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1,865 Responses to Open Thread 153.25

  1. Silverlock says:

    I have just started rereading Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun tetralogy and I am reminded why I loved it so much when I read it decades ago. When I read Wolfe — as when I read Chesterton — I often stop to reread a paragraph or a sentence just to marvel at the prose. Both of those guys turn out sentences, paragraphs, entire chapters that I could not write in a week if you paid me to do it.

    If you enjoy science fiction and the English language and you have not read Wolfe, you are missing out.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      Thank you for this. I’m always looking for new things to read and while I’ve heard of Wolfe before, I appreciate the reminder that I should bump Book of the New Sun up towards the top of my to-read pile.

      I would like to answer your recommendation with one of my own and a question. For the recommendation, Ninefox Gambit is very weird but very good. If pressed to place it into a genre, I’d call it “Military Science-Fantasy”, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. It’s one of the most enjoyably unique written works I’ve encountered this decade.

      And for my question: Is your username, by any chance, a reference to the John Myers Myers tour-of-literary-references?

      • matkoniecz says:

        I appreciate the reminder that I should bump Book of the New Sun up towards the top of my to-read pile.

        I recommend bumping it further. Or at least check beginning, I remember that I liked it from start.

      • Silverlock says:

        And for my question: Is your username, by any chance, a reference to the John Myers Myers tour-of-literary-references?

        It most certainly is, although maybe I should have gone with Golias instead.

        • I thought that was obvious.

          Have you seen my verses for the rowing song?

          • Skeptical Wolf says:

            I have not, but I would like to.

          • Silverlock says:

            +1 Skeptical Wolf. I would indeed like to see them.

          • They are in the expanded version that was published with a bunch of similar things, but here they are:

            East of Abd-er Rahman he had seen his brother
            fall,
            Westward was the coast where all roads drown.
            “Trust alone in Allah, for He alone knows all,”
            He set his turban on a spear and went to find a
            crown.
            Al-Andalus and all the West when he had won
            his throw,
            With hunters baying at his heels he dared not
            travel slow,
            He made them brace and bend their backs and
            row, row, row.

            East of Kveldulf’s island was a world his
            foeman ruled,
            West of it the land where men were free.
            Death’s the price of living and the Norns are
            never fooled;
            He saw the stolen ship go by and followed it to
            sea.
            He would never look on Iceland but he let proud
            Harald know
            That even kings pay wergeld, though they would
            not have it so,
            He made them brace and bend their backs and
            row, row, row.

    • matkoniecz says:

      I was reading it long time ago, but I really loved the story told by Ascian soldier.

      Told solely in slogans from totalitarian double-speak, but at least partially going against regime.

      “The people meeting in counsel may judge, but no one is to receive more than a hundred blows.”
      with meaning of
      “He complained, and they beat him.”

      See https://www.gwern.net/docs/culture/1983-wolfe-thecitadeloftheautarch-thejustman#chapter-xi.-loyal-to-the-group-of-seventeens-storythe-just-man for a quote

    • noyann says:

      I’m tempted to buy the tetralogy, but the hero being a professional torturer makes me wary — graphical violence or suffering repulses me, however fine the esthetic and artistic rendering may be (sorry, Tarantino). Is there much I’d have to endure to enjoy the rest?

      • Silverlock says:

        It has been at least a decade since I last read the books, but I don’t remember much in the way of graphic violence. There are a couple of instances where Severian’s lessons and duties as a Torturer are mentioned but very little in the way of gore. That isn’t really Wolfe’s style.

      • Nornagest says:

        There’s a couple of fairly gruesome scenes, but only one of them, early on, actually has to do with Severian’s profession, and there he’s not the perpetrator. It comes out in his personality, and there’s a lot of philosophizing about justice and punishment, but the actual practice of his profession is mostly glossed over — there’s a couple of exceptions, where a particular gig of his turns out to be important to the plot, but none of them are graphic.

        The nastiest stuff in the books is purely psychological, no blood at all.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Would anyone who’s read more of the New Earth books care to recommend or anti-recommend them?

      There’s a lot after the tetrology. There’s the Urth of the New Sun, The Books of the Long Sun, and the Books of the Short Sun. And _The Castle of the Otter_, a short collection of short pieces about the Book of the New Sun. I’ve read that one and I recommend it.

      • littskad says:

        I found Urth of the New Sun okay, but unnecessary. The Long Sun books are fantastic; Patera Silk is a fascinating character—I find him more so than Severian—and it’s easier to look back after reading the whole thing and think you have a pretty good handle on what happened and why than the New Sun books, which seem to me to sometimes go a bit farther than necessary into being deliberately obscurantist (which, yes, is a big part of Gene Wolfe’s shtick). The Short Sun books are also very interesting, although Wolfe skips huge chunks of time even more than the New Sun books, and it is deliberately made unclear who the narrator even is by the end. What’s going on other than that, though, is figurable out, and it’s a lot of fun to do so.

  2. Bobobob says:

    Continuing the discussion about World War I, since I don’t think I expressed myself clearly in the last thread.

    Here’s my reading of history, and the reason I lay the blame (mostly) on Germany for WW1. Germany coalesced as a nation much later than France, England or Russia–it wasn’t until 1870 that Bismarck engineered the unification of all those tiny principalities, landgraves, electorates, and what have you with larger entities like Bavaria and Prussia. England and France, having a 200-year or so head start on nation-building, had already extended their colonial tentacles into much of the rest of the world and built up their armies and navies.

    Kaiser Wilhelm inherited the new nation that Bismarck had created for his father and grandfather, and he (and I suppose the rest of the new German aristocracy) was envious with a capital E. The ultimate driving force of WW1 was Germany’s desire to play “catch-up” with its rivals, in colonial acquisitions, military power, and just general Throwing One’s Weight Around.

    Now, it doesn’t seem that you can blame France, England and Russia for Germany’s lateness to the World Power game. But this is where my knowledge of history fails–if there is evidence that the Great Powers, in the early to mid 19th century, deliberately conspired to keep Germany disunified and weak, that might temper my judgment about (unified) Germany’s aggression and guilt.

    I am not a historian, I only process and convey what I read in books, and I am very open to (polite) discussion..

    • Statismagician says:

      Re: scheming against a united Germany: France and Britain (and Austria), in 1815, signed a secret treaty against Prussia and Russia to make sure neither of them get all the territory they wanted out of the Vienna Congress, specifically because a unified Germany or a westward-oriented Russia are bad for European stability (see Polish-Saxon Problem). Also, look at how the HRE-replacement German Confederation is absolutely dominated by Prussia and Austria, who’d been at war like half a dozen times over the previous hundred years and who nobody could possibly have thought wouldn’t be at each others’ throats again shortly – it seems to me that a disunited Germany was explicit French and British policy for a century before WW1, even before the Franco-Prussian War really bakes in that hostility for the French. Britain might have come around, but not after the Germans started building modern warships.

    • DeWitt says:

      Now, it doesn’t seem that you can blame France, England and Russia for Germany’s lateness to the World Power game. But this is where my knowledge of history fails–if there is evidence that the Great Powers, in the early to mid 19th century, deliberately conspired to keep Germany disunified and weak, that might temper my judgment about (unified) Germany’s aggression and guilt.

      Dude, the French literally declared war on the Germans to keep them from unifying. It’s not a very controversial matter, it’s not an obscure war, and I’m not sure how you could’ve missed it if the unification of German is of any interest to you.

      • Bobobob says:

        Yeah, that’s the kind of polite discussion I was looking for.

      • Bobobob says:

        And anyway, was the fragmentation of a large part of Germany into hundreds of cities, landgraves, etc. a direct consequence of Great Power meddling, or was that something intrinsic to the region? I was under the impression that it was the latter, and that unification would have been difficult even in the best of circumstances.

        • edmundgennings says:

          I am not sure if there was a fragmentation of Germany. I suppose one can appeal to Charlemagne and his immediate successors but their kingdoms were hardly germany. The term rex teutonicorum was used but for the Holy Roman emperor and hardly in what would clearly be a German nation.
          Great powers intervened to maintain a status quo and largely in stopping small states from being conquered by big states. This is hardly a bad thing. Whether German and Italian unification were ultimately good or bad, I do not know, but stopping conquest for geopolitical reasons is hardly objectionable.

        • bullseye says:

          Germany* had been part of the Holy Roman Empire. IIRC, Napoleon broke up that empire, and it didn’t reconstitute after his defeat. (Because they liked independence, I guess?) Austria and Hungary were relatively large states with the same monarch and German was a patchwork of tiny states because that’s just how they happened to have been organized within the empire.

          *I mean the area we now call Germany, not the larger area called Germany at the time, though the empire had most of that too.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Habsburgs tried to increase the role of central imperial government in Holy Roman Empire, but were prevented from doing so by internal opposition aided by external powers, mainly France. That was a little event called Thirty Years War.

        • zzzzort says:

          I always thought the german blame heaped on france and co. for preventing unification was weird propaganda. The HRE was a powerful, german political unit that existed for a really long time. It was relatively decentralized, but then France in the 1600’s wasn’t exactly a unified nation state (and Spain still isn’t a unified nation state). Other powers meddled in the internal politics, but germans meddled in other people’s internal politics as well (see the war of spanish succession). And if the germans really wanted to be unified, why did they fight so many wars against each other?

          To me the biggest issue was that colonial powers had substantial atlantic coastlines (or a border with the siberian steppes, in Russia’s case). Germany wasn’t weak because of some conspiracy, it had just missed the boat on the colonial riches.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          The fragmentation was mostly a result of internal friction and inertia pulling the empire apart rather than external meddling.

          The HRE was a pretty typical decentralized medieval state for most of its existence, mind. In most places like England, France, Iberia, and Germany you had the king or kaiser having to compromise and wrangle his internal vassals far more than dealing with foreign powers. The only real difference, though, is that some of the medieval states pulled themselves into coherent, centralized kingdoms through various historical forces (usually lots of bloodshed and war), while others (Italy, Poland-Lithuania, Germany) never really did. I think it’s because of a variety of different factors depending on the kingdom. England was geographically isolated and had the Norman conquest pushing for a unified kingdom, and it still took hundreds of years. Iberia was geographically isolated from most European great powers, had the external threat of the Moors, and took centuries, including the fortuitous marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, to unify (and even today is far less unified and centralized than other European nation-states). France lacked the isolation, and if the Hundred Year’s War had gone the other way perhaps would have remained a patchwork confederation of competing petty nobles like the HRE. Russia was isolated by the steppe and took centuries of strong Tsars gradually building up a (rickety) empire. I think the lesson here is that strong, unified states are hard and are more likely than not to fall apart, until modern advances in communications and statecraft made holding large areas together under a single polity viable.

          However, there wasn’t any real external interference that I can think of to prevent unification outside those 4 large European kingdoms, because it was never really necessary. Any state that seemed to start acquiring enough gravity to unify the entire empire (Austria, Bohemia, Brandenberg, Bavaria) would be pulled down by a union of its neighbors, or it’d get sucked into external great power politics and be sidetracked from its dream of unification.

          It’s not until the mid-19th century that unification became an urgent project, anyway. Part of the legacy of the French Revolution was this idea of nationalism, and the idea that ‘Germany’ wasn’t just a geographic expression but also a coherent people, and that furthermore all coherent peoples should be ruled by the same government. This impulse gets especially strong in the decades following 1848, and you DO see efforts by France and Austria especially to prevent German unification. Both failed, of course, thanks to the team of Bismarck and Moltke.

          • Aapje says:

            My understanding is that early empires were very decentralized, due to a lack of infrastructure. It took so long to get messages back and forth that micromanagement was not an option. Furthermore, high diversity made it hard to make generic rules.

            The entire nobility system was set up so local rulers were halfway decent, having a better morality than maximally exploiting the locals.

          • Lambert says:

            I get the impression that the end of feudalism and increasing centralisation of states was also driven by the military revolution.

            In a system where armies were composed of small groups of landowning heavy cavalry, these nobles were capable of wielding a lot of power against the King. The practice of homage and military service neatly coupled with the system of land ownership.

            The development of the musket took power from the small warrior class and gave it to those capable of organising a large number of armed peasants or mercenaries. i.e. centralised states

          • cassander says:

            @Lambert

            It was less muskets than cannons. Cannons were (A) expensive, which meant the cost of a minimum viable military force got a lot higher and (B) could easily destroy old style fortifications, which meant that you couldn’t just hide in your castle with a few retainers and foil the king. Both effects served to increase the power of the crown vis a vis the nobles.

    • broblawsky says:

      One piece of evidence in favor of Germany’s diplomatic errors being a major factor in precipitating World War I was the post-Bismarck German government’s decision not to renew the Reinsurance Treaty, the non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm apparently believed that his personal friendship with Tsar Alexander III was enough to prevent any kind of war between Russia and Germany that might be unfavorable to the Reich. Wilhelm’s arrogance lead to the Franco-Russian alliance, which substantially imperiled Germany by leaving it effectively surrounded by states in alliance against it, and made World War I almost inevitable.

      • cassander says:

        it’s worse than that. the russians flat out told the germans that if the treaty wasn’t renewed, they’d seek an explicit alliance with france. Bismark once said that the secret to european diplomacy was that in a gave of 5 players, be on the side with 3. He worked a magnificent balancing act to make that happen. Caprivi (and I blame him at least as much as the kaiser) didn’t just throw that out the window, he picked weakest major power to be on his team of two. Had the germans gone the other way in 1887, they’d have had a place to invest their capital that would have reduced some of the demand for colonies and crushed a franco-Austrian alliance if war ever came.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          it’s worse than that. the russians flat out told the germans that if the treaty wasn’t renewed, they’d seek an explicit alliance with france. Bismark once said that the secret to european diplomacy was that in a gave of 5 players, be on the side with 3.

          But in 1870, Diplomacy was demonstrably a 7-player game!

        • Toegut says:

          Yes, I feel like the British bear a lot of responsibility for it. The Germans wanted to be friends with the British Empire, Willy was notoriously jealous of his British relations. It’s quite likely that he even built up his navy to make himself a more equal ally for the British, not to challenge them. Instead the Brits decided that Germany is trying to undermine them and engaged in an arms race, building dreadnoughts, thus raising the stakes. Of course, historically the British rivaled the French for colonies, in fact it continued until the end of the 19th century (Fashoda incident) and they were engaged in the Great Game against Russia in Central Asia. So it made total sense for the Germans to think the Brits would be interested in an alliance.

          • Desrbwb says:

            I don’t think this is entirely fair. While the Germans were indeed more traditional British Allies than the French, it was Wilhelm who did most of the work to sour that relationship.

            Specifically on the naval issue. If building up the German Navy was intended to be as a friendly move towards Britain rather than a challenge (a supposition I’ve never heard brought up before, but that might be my lack of knowledge of the historical discourse) then it was probably the single stupidest piece of foreign policy I’ve ever heard of. Britain officially adopted the ‘2 power standard’ the year after Wilhelm became Kaiser (and before he kicked the Naval build up into high gear). With that policy in place, there was no way a naval build up would be interpreted as anything other than a challenge. Look at it from the British pov. They don’t need an ally with a major navy, that’s what the RN is for. So why would Germany want a massive navy to go with its massive army, especially when the Kaiser makes claims like “our future lies on the sea”? Germany must intend to use the navy, and Britain is the most obvious target (Germany doesn’t need ships to fight Austria, France or Russia). Wilhelm was clearly angling Germany to rival British power where it mattered most to the British, and then acted directly antagonistic (see instances like the Kruger Telegram). So of course Anglo-German relations declined. But this look to be very much self inflicted wound by Germany rather than ‘silly British didn’t realise Willy wanted to be friends’.

          • bean says:

            Note that even Germany wasn’t a completely autocratic state when the naval race broke out, and while William might have wanted it in imitation of the British (although it wasn’t just that), he didn’t control the purse strings enough to do it on his own. Other people had to be convinced to pay for it, and they were definitely not trying to get the British on-side. That said, Tirpitz’s “risk theory” was predicated on the British not being able to risk their fleet for fear of losing their margin of superiority over France and Russia, so the stupidity was pretty widespread. Of course, that was just a smokescreen for what Tirpitz actually wanted, which was a bigger bureaucratic empire for himself.

            The basic idea of “let’s build up our navy to be a better ally to the British” is even stupider than the South American Dreadnought Race and Stalin’s “all great powers have navies, so we need a big one too” in the late 30s. That takes some doing, but it’s also mostly untrue. The Germans wanted a navy to secure international trade, which was increasingly important to them, and access to their colonies. They’d wanted to intervene in the Boer War, but couldn’t because of the RN.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Yes it was a deliberate challenge to the British.
            Now, it might have something to do with the fact, that the British told Germany, that they would blockade them, if Germany supported the Boor (and the Emporer not liking the idea that Germany might just be blockaded into submission).

            On the other hand, telling the (seconed) biggest economy around, that you can and will blockade them into submission, and than react pissy when they start producing Dreadnoughts, is maybe not the smartest move.

          • Desrbwb says:

            But Germany did support the Boers. From diplomatic incidents like the Kruger telegram, to the Boers infamously stockpiling and using German arms (Mauser and Krupp). The point was Germany was sticking its nose into British spheres of influence, in an antagonistic role. Now it seems to me that either both sides were at fault (because increased tensions and international ‘prestige’ measurement contests aren’t actually worth it) or Germany was at fault (for sticking its nose into British affairs, you can’t plead innocence after kicking the hornet’s nest). It’s hard to fault Britain alone for responding to German antagonism and provocation.

          • bean says:

            @DarkTigger

            Yeah, I don’t think that takes the blame from Germany and moves it to Britain. “If there’s a war, the British will blockade” had been the standard playbook for at least 150 years. The British may have reminded the Germans of this to make a point, but it’s not like anyone was under any illusions about how they’d make their displeasure known if they so chose.

            And it’s extremely obvious that the British depended on their control of the seas for both power and even survival, so threatening that isn’t a smart move unless you can follow through. The Germans didn’t realize how vulnerable they were to the blockade until the naval race was actually winding down (the relevant studies started in 1912) and they were the ones who made the choice to strike at the heart of British power. Again, we find Germany as the one with an actual choice, not just an option between surrendering a long-held national advantage and trying to preserve it. This is a repeated choice they made in the years leading up to WWI, and it makes me very sympathetic to Fisher’s theories that the problem was baked into the German state in 1870.

          • Aapje says:

            Were the British justified in either Boer war? In both cases the British had earlier accepted that the Boer states had a level of independence that they later didn’t accept anymore, for predatory reasons (in the first war because ZAR had a strategic position in the region and for the second war, because gold and diamonds were found).

      • Eric Rall says:

        The Reinsurance Treaty’s role is overstated. In my opinion, the critical event there was the breakdown of the Dreikaiserbund in 1887. Since an open three-way alliance between Russia, Germany, and Austria had broken down because Russia and Austria were increasingly seeing one another as strategic rivals, then Germany ultimately had to choose between Russia and Austria.

        Bismarck’s solution was to openly maintain a bilateral alliance with Austria, but also establish a secret under-the-table agreement with Russia. It didn’t directly contradict the terms of the Dual Alliance, since the Reinsurance Treaty explicitly didn’t apply if Russia attacked Austria and the Dual Alliance didn’t apply if Austria attacked Russia, but it was contrary to the spirit of the Dual Alliance, and it did directly contradict other secret treaties where Germany and Austria had promised to intervene if Russia were to attack Romania. It was not tenable in the long run, since it relied both on secrecy and on the contradictions between Bismarck’s promises to Russia and Austria never being put to the test while the RT remained in effect.

      • Robin says:

        Wilhelm’s personality had quite an influence.
        He had a handicapped left arm due to his exciting birth, but was nevertheless very vain, liked to have himself portraited, liked to be right, hated to be wrong, was kind of a spoiled brat and loved to play with his toy soldiers, which were unfortunately life-sized.
        You might be aware of the comparisons with the US president. I don’t know how far that carries.

        There is a nice documentary about him, called Majestät brauchen Sonne; he loved to be filmed, and he needed sunny weather for that (which is still sometimes called “Kaiserwetter”). It is a little apologetic, because it portrays him as a naive playing child, who is not aware of the catastrophe he is churning up.

        Still, if Friedrich III. hadn’t died so young, things might have been very different.

        • Lambert says:

          Or if Willhelm had died young and the more diplomatic, leavel-headed Prinz Heinrich had become Kaiser.

    • Deiseach says:

      Now, it doesn’t seem that you can blame France, England and Russia for Germany’s lateness to the World Power game. But this is where my knowledge of history fails–if there is evidence that the Great Powers, in the early to mid 19th century, deliberately conspired to keep Germany disunified and weak, that might temper my judgment about (unified) Germany’s aggression and guilt.

      They were all conspiring against one another; this is what is expressed by Palmerston’s famous dictum:

      We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.
      (speech, House of Commons, 1 March 1848)

      I agree with you about Wilhelm’s ambition, and it is true that he disencumbered himself of Bismarck who was very much opposed to the young Emperor’s bellicose foreign policy and martial ambitions, and that this throwing off of the guiding hand was decried by the other powers. Though they mostly decried it because Bismarck’s policies were favourable to them, and with Wilhelm’s ambitious re-ordering of matters, the British public and politicians were equally vocal about Britain’s “military unpreparedness” for any potential future conflicts. The Riddle of the Sands is an Edwardian novel about German plans to invade Britain so there was definitely a strain of thought viewing Germany as an enemy and not merely on the political stage but one that would eventually have to be met in the field.

      At the same time, it was Bismarck who gave into Wilhelm’s hands a unified, strong Germany with discipline of a distinctly martial cast; he was seen as a stereotypical Prussian making sure that Prussia was the dominant influence in the new Germany. And though Wilhelm had ambitions to build up the German navy, and it was his development of a rival fleet that brought British attention to bear, the notion of a Prussian (not really a German) army was the view in wider terms (see Chesterton’s “The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse” from The Paradoxes of Mr Pond):

      For Marshal Von Grock was a true Prussian, not only entirely practical but entirely prosaic. He had never read a line of poetry himself; but he was no fool. He had the sense of reality which belongs to soldiers; and it prevented him from falling into the asinine error of the practical politician. He did not scoff at visions; he only hated them. He knew that a poet or a prophet could be as dangerous as an army. And he was resolved that the poet should die. It was his one compliment to poetry; and it was sincere.

      He was at the moment sitting at a table in his tent; the spiked helmet that he always wore in public was lying in front of him; and his massive head looked quite bald, though it was only closely shaven. His whole face was also shaven; and had no covering but a pair of very strong spectacles, which alone gave an enigmatic look to his heavy and sagging visage. He turned to a Lieutenant standing by, a German of the pale-haired and rather pudding-faced variety, whose blue saucer-eyes were staring vacantly.

      “Lieutenant Von Hocheimer,” he said, “did you say His Highness would reach the camp to-night?”

      “Seven forty-five, Marshal,” replied the Lieutenant, who seemed rather reluctant to speak at all, like a large animal learning a new trick of talking.

      “Then there is just time,” said Grock, “to send you with that order for execution, before he arrives. We must serve His Highness in every way, but especially in saving him needless trouble. He will be occupied enough reviewing the troops; see that everything is placed at His Highness’s disposal. He will be leaving again for the next outpost in an hour.”

      The large Lieutenant seemed partially to come to life and made a shadowy salute. “Of course, Marshal, we must all obey His Highness.”

      “I said we must all serve His Highness,” said the Marshal.

      With a sharper movement than usual, he unhooked his heavy spectacles and rapped them down upon the table. If the pale blue eyes of the Lieutenant could have seen anything of the sort, or if they could have opened any wider even if they had, they might as well have opened wide enough at the transformation made by the gesture. It was like the removal of an iron mask. An instant before, Marshal Von Grock had looked uncommonly like a rhinoceros, with his heavy folds of leathery cheek and jaw. Now he was a new kind of monster: a rhinoceros with the eyes of an eagle. The bleak blaze of his old eyes would have told almost anybody that he had something within that was not merely heavy; at least, that there was a part of him made of steel and not only of iron. For all men live by a spirit, though it were an evil spirit, or one so strange to the commonalty of Christian men that they hardly know whether it be good or evil.

      There seems to be some suggestion that once war was prosecuted, Wilhelm was side-lined and it was the army generals (the Prussian von Hindenburg and Ludendorf) who had the actual running of the war.

    • Aftagley says:

      Here’s my reading of history, and the reason I lay the blame (mostly) on Germany for WW1. Germany coalesced as a nation much later than France, England or Russia–it wasn’t until 1870 that Bismarck engineered the unification of all those tiny principalities, landgraves, electorates, and what have you with larger entities like Bavaria and Prussia. England and France, having a 200-year or so head start on nation-building, had already extended their colonial tentacles into much of the rest of the world and built up their armies and navies.

      These are all fine precursors. Yes, you can look at the evolving situation and say “at some point, Germany’s lateness to the playing field was likely to result in war” but the concert of Europe had, by and large worked.

      I firmly lay the blame for WWI on Russia. They did not have to mobilize when the Austro-Hungarian empire was preparing to go into Serbia. I don’t care if you’re the defender of the Slavs, when an archduke gets whacked, you let the empire enact some justice. The Russians knew that mobilizing against Austro-Hungary meant war with Germany and did it anyway.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Imagine that after the murder of the Pope Italy prepares to invades Bulgaria. The USSR responds by mobilizing. On their way to Russia the american troops invade Sweden and Finland and starve their population to teach them some respect. Would you say that the USA response is totally appropriate?

        • Aftagley says:

          I’m trying to parse, your comment, please let me know if I missed something. I assume your expressing the opinion that Germany’s invasion of France by way of some countries that can best be described as “not France” was bad? Totally agree.

          I’m not saying that the Schlieffen Plan was ethical or even a great idea. Germany walks away from WWI with significant blood on it’s hands based on how it escalated the conflict dramatically… but the key word there is escalated. Without Russia mobilizing, Germany wouldn’t have done anything.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            Without Russia mobilizing, Germany wouldn’t have done anything.

            Possibly. But without Austria annexing Serb-populated territories just a few years earlier the whole incident in Aug-1914 was unlikely to happen.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @Scoop

            Roughly half of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s territory had an Orthodox Serb majority.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            The province could have been split along the ethnic lines.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Scoop

            Still, assuming the Roman Catholic Croats would have preferred rule from Catholic A-H rather than Orthodox Serbia, it would seem like 58% of the population would opt for rule by A-H rather than Serbia.

            This assumption is far from obvious. Animosity between Croats and Serbs which exists now is mostly a consequence of latter awful developments. It is quite possible that Bosnian Croats, or at least some of them, would in 1914 prefer to be from ruled near Belgrade, than from geographicaly and culturaly distant Vienna.

            One of the conspirators in the plot to kill archduke Ferdinand was actually Bosnian Muslim, which suggests that loyalties of local population were not neatly split along religious lines.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          Germany certainly didn’t behave worse to civilian populations than the allies.

          Germany was persecuting civilians from neutral countries that it was treaty-bound to protect. It was also planning to annex an entire neutral country (Luxembourg).

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Christopher Clark claims that Russia was pressured to go to war by France. Russian government was dependent on French loans, and Russian security was dependent on an alliance, so France had a lot of leverage over them.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        War with Serbia meant war with Russia, as Serbia was Russia’s last ally in the area, and Russia was not interested in surrendering the whole region to Austrian influence, no matter how much Austria already tried to do it long before any Crown Prince was killed.

        German and Austria diplomacy in this period is both extremely aggressive and extremely assertive, and entirely counter-productive. Austria traded short-term, pointless gains in exchange for total and irreconcilable enmity from Russia AND Italy, thinking its big brother Germany would win all their wars for them. German aggressiveness solidified a French-British-Russian alliance that had no reason to exist if not for German aggressiveness.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      2. Moreover, I don’t see why Germany would have wanted colonies in Africa or Asia. By 1914, it was pretty clear that everything aside from parts of India and some small ports along vital trade routes were big liabilities rather than big assets. Maybe the Germans still coveted them for the glory of empire or some such nonsense. I, too, have certainly read that Germany wanted an empire, but it seems like that was a much more rational desire in 1880 than 1914.

      History books usually express it in terms of Wilhelmine psychology, using the phrase “A place in the sun.” It’s a very Romantic framing: “if my cousin King George’s people have an Empire, they have a place in the sun. If my people don’t, they’ll be out in the cold… and not synthesize Vitamin D? :(”
      There was a tradition of 19th and 20th century intellectuals broadly painting Germany as having gone more Romantic than other more rational Western countries, some to boo them and others to hurrah them. It’d be interesting to unpack the fairness of that.

    • Lambert says:

      I think 3’s the main one.
      It’s what they got out of Brest Litovsk.

      A lot of Osten had already been Gedranged nach. The Germans expanded from the Elbe in the 9th century almost to the Vistula by the 15th. The East seemed like the obvious place to colonise.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      WWI did not start with Germany attacking other Great Powers in order take their colonies or other possessions. It started as a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia which other parties joined to defend their respective allies.

      Now, it is true that Germany wanted overseas territories, and since at that time desirable parts of the world were largely partitioned among old colonial powers, that meant taking something from them. And fear that Germany would do exactly that was indeed a strong factor that pushed France and Britain into hostility towards Germany and eventually to war. But, do we think that a defense of colonial empire, aka power to rule as a foreign authoritarian regime over “natives”, is a legitimate political goal worth going to war for? Well, I don´t.

    • Toegut says:

      I have maybe an unconventional scapegoat for WW1 – Austria-Hungary. Hear me out:

      1) A-H is obviously responsible for the unacceptable ultimatum they gave to Serbia, they knew it wasn’t going to be accepted and concocted it as a pretext to go to war. A-H felt very insecure about its Balkan possessions and felt they had to eliminate independent Serbia which the murder of the archduke gave them a pretext to do but they were planning to do it for a long time.

      2) More specifically, the plans against Serbia were made by the war party in the A-Hian government. Notoriously, Conrad, the chief of the A-H general staff, was rearing to go to war and looked to push pro-war policies. Ironically, the murdered archduke Franz Ferdinand was the leader of the peace party, he wanted to reorganize the A-Hian government to give more voice to the minorities, including the Balkan ones, which may have solved the problems caused by Serbian agitation.

      3) A-H was also not trusted by the Russians after the Austrians double-crossed them during the Bosnian crisis. In this crisis Bosnia which previously was autonomous part of the A-H empire was annexed outright by A-H. Because the Russians were sensitive about any changes of the status quo on the Balkans, A-H made a deal with them: the Russians will acquiesce in the annexation of Bosnia in exchange for A-H supporting the Russian aspirations for access through the Turkish straits which was a long-term goal for the Russians because they wanted an open ice-free port in the Black sea. Instead the Austrians annexed Bosnia but didn’t keep their end of the bargain and presented the annexation as a fait accompli when Russia complained. The Russians were justifiably aggrieved and didn’t trust the Austrians henceforth.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        This is basically the correct take imho; fact that you labeled it “unconventional” is interesting, since Austria-Hungary was first to declare war. Perhaps Americans have trouble to even remember that Austria-Hungary existed, so they can hardly blame it for anything.

        • Toegut says:

          I labeled it “unconventional” because, yes, often people don’t even consider Austria-Hungary as an independent participant in the war and a major power in its own right, they basically view it as a German lapdog. In fact, Austria-Hungary had its own policies, goals and objectives as well as dealing with challenges from the minorities and its dysfunctional government (for example, the Hungarians had their own government and prevented Austrian investment in the military and rearmament).

          As for Americans, given that in WW1 they contributed even less to the defeat of Germany than in WW2, it’s not surprising they don’t learn much about it.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            As for Americans, given that in WW1 they contributed even less to the defeat of Germany than in WW2, it’s not surprising they don’t learn much about it.

            I take exception to that. The Allies don’t win WWI without American involvement – at least, not in 1918 they don’t.

            Just because we didn’t have Third Army cutting its way across occupied France doesn’t meant the US wasn’t contributing. Shipments of arms, food, and ultimately, bodies, were all essential to maintaining the Allied war effort.

            (Also, we HAVE heard of Austria-Hungary and many people DO blame it)

          • bean says:

            It wasn’t just logistical support, either. Both the practical and morale effects were very real. In morale terms, having the US backing you up and knowing that the Americans are on their way was probably tremendously helpful during the Spring Offensive, when things came close to disaster. And it gave the confidence for a counterattack, instead of the Allies digging in. Conversely, I strongly suspect that the US being in the war contributed greatly to the panic that gripped Germany after the failure of the Spring Offensive, which led straight to the revolution. (Well, that plus the blockade.)

            On the practical side, there were a lot of American troops in Europe by mid-1918. By November, the AEF and BEF were of approximately equal size. Yes, a lot of those didn’t make it to the front, but the fact that the American troops exist and will keep coming means you have a bigger margin right now, and can take more risks. The Hundred Days wouldn’t have been possible if the US had stayed out.

            (I’m not saying “Oh, of course it was all the US”, because that would be stupid. The US contributions are better-recognized than those of (to pick two) the Italians and the RN. But it wasn’t like the US was the guy who showed up late and just took credit for it.)

          • cassander says:

            I second Chevalier Mal Fet’s objection, but I’d also point out that while austria began the war independently, they became decreasingly so as the war went on and they became more and more dependent on german support.

    • fibio says:

      Slight tangent, but how many people blame the Schlieffen Plan?

      For those unfamiliar the Schlieffen Plan was Germany’s grand strategic move that, in the case of war with Russia they’d immediately try and knock out France via a grand sweep through Belgium. Yes, Germany’s Russian war plan was to invade two other countries and cause a massive diplomatic incident with the British Empire. Tactically it was actually rather inspired and damn well near worked, and really only needed the addition of tanks and motorized trucks as demonstrated aptly in WW2. Even without these, if Britain had stayed out of the war a little longer, if France had been a little less speedy with its reserves and if the Belgians had just fought a little less, France may well have capitulated in 1914 and Russia forced to the table in 1915. That a lot of ifs for a war plan but I think it’s unappreciated just how close the Central Powers came to a fait accompli victory with France and a swift end to the Great War.

      Strategically, the plan was a catastrophe of the highest order and would have had Bismarck spinning in his grave and a 100rpm. It wedded Germany to an all out attack against a country that was its military peer with the assumption they would win a swift and overwhelming victory, which was never certain. It relied on the thin hope that Russia could be delayed long enough to win the war in the West, which was insane on the face of it and it’s obvious why for anyone who can read a map. And invading Belgium destroyed their international reputation, and brought in the British into the war. While it can be argued that no one in Germany high command through invading Belgium would produce such a strong response this really isn’t a defense. On entering war with the third and fourth most powerful countries in the world the very last thing you should do is wave a red flag in front of the most powerful.

      Ironically, I think luck and Russian incompetence allowed the Schlieffen Plan to succeed beyond its inherent quality. However, it was still a bad plan to fix a strategic issue that never should be allowed to form in the first place. The very existence of this plan that, kind’a sort’a if you squint, was usable meant that the Germany government believed it could act as a belligerent when really they should have acknowledged they were on the diplomatic back-foot and adjusted their policy accordingly.

      • Desrbwb says:

        Not really. The Schlieffen Plan is too far removed from the initial cause to have influenced the ultimate causation. By the time the plan was activated and the German trains rolled west, it was already a Europe-wide war on a scale that hadn’t been seen for a century. Now, the plan and its outcome (ultimate failure, and ensuring British entry into the war) were crucial to WW1 panning out as we know it. A war in 1914 without the Schlieffen Plan deviates from our history quite drastically, but so does a history where the plan wasn’t mucked about with, which may well have resulted in German victory (as it came close, even with the poor alterations made by von Moltke the younger weakening the offensive thrust).

    • bean says:

      Germany wanted colonies because everyone else had colonies, too. And they ended up with colonies in Africa and Asia that made no sense at all, and were quickly snapped up by the Allies when war broke out. Except in southern Africa, which is a fascinating campaign, but didn’t really help their war effort.

      I don’t think 3 was a major motive going in. Brest-Litovosk was probably a combination of only being able to beat up Russia and the blockade revealing that Germany wasn’t really self-sufficient on food. (Post on that going up at Naval Gazing on the 31st.) Take enough territory from Russia, and that problem can be solved, making them much better able to resist the blockade.

    • DarkTigger says:

      Let me give you a short form of my view:

      The German government/military wanted a war with Russia, “before Russia became to strong to be beaten.”
      The Frenche government/military wanted revnache for ’70/71 and their land back.
      Great Britians government wanted a war with Germany, because the did not like the idea of an European power able to challenge their dominance. (Both France and Spain had lost the ability to be that power)

      Russia and Austria-Hungary weren’t exactly pawns in this game, but bishops at best.

      • bean says:

        Great Britain didn’t want a war with Germany. If Germany had stayed out of Belgium, Britain would probably have stayed out of the war. But Belgium was vital, for both diplomatic reasons and more pragmatically because it provided the best ports from which to invade Britain. And Britain at the time was absolutely paranoid about invasion. It seems silly in retrospect, particularly with modern knowledge of amphibious operations, but this is the era that made The Riddle of the Sands a best-seller.

  3. Three Year Lurker says:

    Someone at the end of the previous thread mentioned card games, and people suggested FreeCell.

    I am strongly recommending against FreeCell as it is a short cycle addictive cognitohazard.

    The nature of the rules leads to decisions that can be recognized and carried out quickly. Automation trivially removes any waiting for rote decisions and makes reversal from failed attempts easy.

    A D-class subject was exposed to FreeCell. They quickly reached a 1 minute average solve time. Once past that point, they began using any tiny break in other tasks to play a round. The original test was only intended to last a week, but the subject continued to run the game when unrestricted by other research for 2 months.
    A random inspection of FreeCell logs noted the unauthorized use of over 200 hours. The original D-class subject was located and a rehabilitation program was instituted. Attempts to remove the cognitohazard were unsuccessful.
    A weaning plan was used, where the subject must meet these conditions:
    1. Allowed one round at a time.
    2. Must complete an actual task immediately prior.
    3. Must be waiting for machinery to process previous task and assign a new one.

    Over the next 4 months usage gradually lessened until cessation. The D-class was released for other research, with a warning to avoid similar cognitohazards.

    • Nick says:

      Pfft. If you really want to see a short cycle addictive cognitohazard, try Freecell’s hyperactive little brother, Penguin. You have to match suit too to move cards, but with 7 free cells and no limit on cards moved at a time, the game speeds up dramatically; you have to balance getting the right cards “out of the way” without trapping yourself to clear things as quickly as possible. My record, if anyone wants to try to beat it, is 31 seconds.

      • Three Year Lurker says:

        My record on Freecell was 28 seconds, so, done?
        https colon slash slash i dot imgur dot com slash Dm7zUlq dot png

        Any time below 40 seconds is mostly a result of a favorable layout.

    • Controls Freak says:

      short cycle addictive cognitohazard

      Oh my. The game that came immediately to my mind was Kung Fu Chess. I played a lot of chess and chess variants when I was young. This one was the first time I noticed exactly these features (without having this perfect terminology to describe it). My brain craved it, and unlike most other chess variants, this one immensely harmed my ability to play regular chess. I’m so glad I realized and just quit playing entirely.

  4. salvorhardin says:

    Anyone care to offer predictions on how the Justices will vote in Mazars vs Trump? Even though this is a CW-allowable thread, I think discussing those probabilities is more likely to be interesting and fruitful than a discussion of the merits of the case itself.

    Of the four more leftish Justices, I’m 95% confident in each of Sotomayor, RBG, and Breyer voting to uphold the House subpoena against Trump’s challenge. I’m 80% confident that Kagan will as well– she generally takes a more expansive view of executive power and might well have voted to protect similar privileges of a non-Trump President; she probably will not do the same for Trump, but might grit her teeth and go with her pro-executive-power principle.

    On the right, I am likewise 95% confident that Alito and Kavanaugh, the two consistently most pro-executive-power justices, will rule in Trump’s favor. Gorsuch I would say is 70% for Trump; he is strongly partisan but seems generally much more skeptical of executive power than A + K.

    Thomas and Roberts are the wildcards; I’m rating them both at 50% coinflips for lack of a better intuition about their leanings. Thomas I see as likely to go with his originalist, damn-the-precedents sense of what the Constitution really means, and it’s not clear to me which sort of originalist theory he’s going to go with here. Roberts is going to try his usual triangulation to build consensus and save the Court’s legitimacy, which may well mean he concurs with one of the other sides on narrow and inventive grounds, as he did with the “Obamacare is legal because the mandate is really a tax, not a penalty” opinion, and again that narrowness could go either way. There’s also a distinct possibility that he will try and throw out the whole thing as moot because the impeachment process is over, and not even reach the merits of the question, and he may well get a majority to go with that.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Don’t know enough about the case to apply any analysis to it, but I do think you’re about right regarding the justices’ various motives/biases/priorities.

      Related question: which justice used the bathroom during oral args?

    • BenChaney says:

      What makes you say Gorsuch is partisan? My impression of him is that he is quite principled, even if I don’t always agree.

      • aristides says:

        That is my impression as well. He has voted pretty consistently for the originalist or textualist argument, often against the right wing of the court. He’s so far been much more consistent with his principles than Scalia.

        I only did 10 minutes of research, but I can’t find a good originalist or textualist argument in favor of Trump. I’m expecting an 8-1 decision in favor of Miller, though likely with a lot of caveats and different opinions. Alito is 100% on Republican Executive powers, and even 50% on Democrat executive powers. Kavenaugh is up in the air, just since there are not many opinions from him, but usually votes with Roberts. Thomas is definitely unpredictable in this, since the precedent doesn’t matter to me.

        The one way I could see Trump winning is on the mootness or political question doctrine, but since a bank has the records, not the IRS, I think he’ll lose.

      • valleyofthekings says:

        I think Trump was trying very hard to appoint a partisan Supreme Court justice. I think he did this by asking the Republican party who they thought would be a good pick for a partisan Supreme Court justice, and then nominating whoever they said.

        I don’t know very much about Gorsuch’s voting record, but I think it would be pretty weird if Trump tried that hard to get a partisan justice and he just completely failed.

        • John Schilling says:

          How many SCOTUS justices have the Republicans put on the bench since 1973; how many times have they held a majority on the court with their hand-picked justices? And yet abortion remains legal, with Roe v Wade still the law of the land. Either it’s a lot harder to pick reliably partisan judges than you think, or the Republicans don’t want judges as simplistically partisan as you think.

          Or both, which I think is the case here. Trump, doesn’t want partisan Republican judges, because to Trump being a Republican is a means to an end. He’d want partrisan Trumpist judges, but no reason for the Republicans to give him one of those.

          And “asking the Republican party” isn’t a thing you can do because “the Republican party” is not an entity that can answer questions. There are certainly smart and powerful GOP individuals, who will want judges who will say “no you can’t do that” not only to Democrats, but to stupid Republcan voters, activists, etc who are asking “the Republican party” to do soemthing stupid. Doing the stupid thing gets you voted out of office in the long run, calling the people asking for the thing stupid gets you voted out of office in the short term, passing the buck to SCOTUS avoids the stupidity and lets you keep your cushy gig as a Senator or whatever.

          Also, people who can speak for the Republican party are people, not partisan maximizers. A lot of them have a strongly favorable impression of Antonin Scalia as a principled textual originalist, and when they are asked to recommend a SCOTUS candidate specifically to replace Scalia, are going to lean towards recommending a principled textual originalist to fill those shoes rather than a partisan maximizer hack.

          • keaswaran says:

            How uniformly anti-abortion were Republicans between 1972 and 1992? My impression is that a lot of the partisan sorting along abortion only became more uniform in the decades since then.

    • theodidactus says:

      I concur with what you said 100%, with the exception of being slightly more confident on roberts. I think it’s not a question of IF he concurs, it’s what bizarre niche area he concurs on that settles the issue.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say Trump wins if they get to the merits. That’s just my instinctual reaction from looking at the history, as addressed by Rao’s dissent. I feel like the Supreme Court will give this a more clear-eyed look than it has received in recent decisions, and practical considerations will loom larger than current partisan ones.

  5. Purplehermann says:

    Does anyone have covid sources for south korea, specifically number of serious cases and a source that updates stats the day of (on 5/6 the new deaths and current number of active cases for 5/6 are already up)?

  6. littskad says:

    Physics question:
    Whenever physics texts discuss the principle of least action during their presentation of the Lagrangian formulation, they always mention as an aside that it’s not necessarily that the Langrangian is minimized, but it’s possible that it could be maximized or even a stationary point (saddle). However, in all the examples I’ve ever seen, the Lagrangian is actually minimized. Of course, you could always replace the Lagrangian with its opposite in sign to get something which is maximized, but this seems like cheating. Is there a good natural example where the Lagrangian is maximized, or even better, the physical solution occurs at a saddle?

    • smocc says:

      I will keep thinking to see if I know other examples, but this Physics Stackexchange question is pretty much the same.

    • Alejandro says:

      I think one can construct an example in this way. Consider a particle in two dimensions going from (x = -X, y = 0) to (x = +X, y = 0) at speed v in a time T = 2X/v. If there is no potential, this is obviously a physically possible, action-minimizing motion. Now add a “valley” potential V(x,y) = f(|y|) where f is an increasing function with f(0) = 0. It is clear that the motion remains physically possible and must still extremize the action. Will it still minimize it? Clearly yes with respect to alternative straight trajectories, going only on y = 0 but not at constant speed. But consider an alternative trajectory joining the initial and final points by curving and going slightly around the center. This will require a higher average speed than v (to cover more distance in the same time), increasing the kinetic energy K and the Lagrangian K – V. But it will increase it by a fixed amount, dependent on the geometry of the alternative curve but not at all on V. This means that by making V a function that increases steeply enough, one can make V > K on the alternative trajectory, and have the action be lower than the initial one. Therefore the true trajectory in this case (with sufficiently steep V) will be a saddle point but not a minimum. (Finding a V(y) that does this is left an exercise for the reader.)

      • smocc says:

        I’ve confirmed that this is possible for a power-law potential with exponent between 1 and 2.

        Since the x and y motion are decoupled it’s just a matter of finding a potential and periodic trajectory that has the correct period and arbitrary negative action. Power-law potentials with n > 2 can’t yield negative action. I excluded power-law potentials with n<1 because they have a weird infinite force at y = 0. But other than that given a fixed 1<n<2 it is always possible to choose a strength coefficient for the potential and an initial energy that give the correct period of T and an arbitrary negative action. The expressions are incredibly ugly.

      • smocc says:

        Along these same lines, if we are talking about classical mechanics where the action is the time integral over $K-V$ then it is impossible to find a trajectory that is a local maximum, only a local minimum or saddle point.

        To see this take the true trajectory and at somewhere between 0 and T add a part where the path deviates from the classical trajectory for a brief instant dt at a very high speed but very small amplitude. Because the amplitude is very small the average potential energy of the trajectory doesn’t really change, but the kinetic contribution increases as dt decreases. By choosing dt arbitrarily small you can always find a deviation like this that increases the action.

  7. johan_larson says:

    Our friends the aliens with the giant spaceships have taken all our cars. They left the motorcycles, buses, and heavy trucks. Vans and pick-up trucks used as cargo transports remain; those primarily used for personal transportation were taken. Sedans, sports-cars, and SUVs are just gone. How screwed are we?

    And you know, I don’t think these aliens are actually our friends.

    • Nick says:

      THANK GOD.

    • Bobobob says:

      Somewhere in America, a guy with a warehouse full of Segways is cracking a wide grin.

    • JPNunez says:

      Will they keep taking our cars if we build more?

      I guess everyone who used a car exclusively will switch to some arrangement of motorcycles and side cars.

      Depends. Some populations will be extremely fucked in the meantime, while a bunch of others will benefit a lot (but probably not enough to make up for the people who lost their cars). Contamination wise everyone is better off in the medium future, but maybe traffic accidents go higher than in the car era.

      • johan_larson says:

        Will they keep taking our cars if we build more?

        No. This is a one-time de-car-ification.

        • JPNunez says:

          Then eventually people get cars again, as their fear of getting decarified again fall more and more. Probably not to the same levels as originally, since in the interim public transport will pick up the slack a lot and it will become way more attractive.

          • keaswaran says:

            That assumes that land use reform follows the de-car-ification. A temporary extension of buses into the masses of low-mid density subdivisions in the suburbs is going to fall apart once people start getting cars again, unless they’ve also opened up a new “town center” where you can get coffee and breakfast and groceries and tools within walking distance of most of the houses.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Very screwed. In the US total auto loans are valued at $1.2 trillion dollars, the complete loss of all collateral alone would basically ruin our financial system before defaults on payments started rolling in.

      • johan_larson says:

        Is it really that big a deal to have the collateral disappear? The borrowers still owe the money, right? And nearly all of them will find ways to keep working, despite losing their cars, so they should be able to afford the payments. They’ll hate making them, but they won’t really have any choice. The lenders will just lose a little more than usual, when there’s nothing to repo in case of non-payment.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Yes, the way our banking system works it matters a lot, banks have to estimate the likelihood of you not paying a loan back and then the value of the collateral that they would receive if you default. If the value of the collateral drops the bank has to raise more capital to maintain its balance sheet, this is why Bear Stearns* and Lehman went bankrupt well before the peak in delinquencies. Every bank that had any significant exposure to auto loans would be insolvent (without a bailout) immediately.

          *Technically they avoided bankruptcy.

          • acymetric says:

            You are way more knowledgable on finance topics than I am, so I’ll ultimately defer to your assessment, but banks aren’t limited to repo value when someone defaults. If they repo your car and it isn’t worth enough to cover the loan (damaged, or heavily depreciated), they can sue you for the remainder and probably get an order to garnish your wages directly. If there is no car to repo, they just sue you for the full balance of the loan.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This is true, and the loss of the cars would be less damaging in terms of % of the loan than it would be if the aliens vanished a house, but the banks would still be forced to write the collateral value portion of the loan to zero which would ruin their balance sheets.

      • JPNunez says:

        Won’t some insurance kick in in this case?

        Probably the cars would be declared stealed, particularly if the aliens are forthcoming about it.

        • Lambert says:

          Insurance does not work when everyone claims at once.
          The car insurers and the reinsurers and the insurers of the creditors of the car owners would all run out of money if they had to pay out for that sort of act of god.

          • Tarpitz says:

            It seems to me perfectly reasonable that we should expect the government to step in in cases of massive exogenous shocks that insurers/reinsurers can’t cope with for this reason. We’ve already seen that governments in practice provide de facto pandemic insurance, and I don’t see why multi-trillion dollar extra-terrestrial larceny should be any different. There’s no moral hazard I can detect in a bailout in this scenario.

            Consequently, if this happened under normal circumstances I think we should expect to see a severe but short-lived global economic downturn followed by a v-shaped recovery: we can probably ramp up car production pretty damn quickly, given that it’s simply a case of building more facilities to apply existing processes.

            If it happened now, in the early stages of what is already shaping up to be a global depression set off by Coronavirus, that might be quite different. On the one hand, the immediate shock might not be so bad, because we’re using less transport anyway and can probably compensate more easily in the short term (by repurposing idle vans as minibuses, for example). On the other hand, we’re in a rough spot to start with, with less ability to address an additional major problem.

          • acymetric says:

            Consequently, if this happened under normal circumstances I think we should expect to see a severe but short-lived global economic downturn followed by a v-shaped recovery: we can probably ramp up car production pretty damn quickly, given that it’s simply a case of building more facilities to apply existing processes.

            How long do you think it takes to build new car manufacturing plants (and the parts plants to supply it? The real problem, though, is what do you do with those plants once supply has recovered? I don’t think we’re going to be building a bunch of new plants, we’d likely just ramp up the production at the facilities we have. Maybe re-open some recently closed plants that can quickly be made operational.

            Even with that, it would still take a pretty long time to replenish our car supply. Maybe it hinges on a different sense of what “short term” is, but I would expect it to take a pretty long time to recover from this, with a lot of side-effects that also take a long time to resolve themselves.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Brrrr?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      And you know, I don’t think these aliens are actually our friends.

      I told you so!

    • AG says:

      Gig workers are completely screwed. And most amateurs and small time employees are screwed, as they didn’t yet have the capital or need to schlep around their equipment with a larger car.

      Kids suddenly have to take the bus, but that doesn’t solve how they get to sports practice, without all those minivans.

    • Aapje says:

      The Dutch will defend us all from the aliens with our bicycle army (and then we’ll conquer the world).

      • mendax says:

        (and then we’ll conquer the world).

        I thought you were waiting for the aliens to start draining the ocean?

        • Aapje says:

          To use a Dutch fixed expression: we have multiple irons in the fire (‘we hebben meer ijzers in het vuur’).

          This means that we have multiple options to achieve the same thing.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s also an English expression.

          • Matt M says:

            I always thought the English expression was “too many irons in the fire” and was meant to describe a bad situation, in which one is doing too many things at once and is likely to get distracted, and achieve none of them well.

    • Jake R says:

      In my city most industrial areas are separated from residential areas by a river. The only bridges over this river without going ludicrously out of the way are interstate highways. Assuming the interstate highways were opened to foot and bicycle traffic (but what do the cargo trucks do?) my 15 min commute just became a 3 hour hike, or a 45 min bike ride. I’m not sure how feasible it would actually be for the average person to bike over the bridge, it’s a pretty steep grade.

      If forced to go the long way around, it’s not a 10 hour walk or a 2 hour bike ride. Doable with a bike but a pretty massive hit to quality of life.

      • keaswaran says:

        Any chance that in the event of such a sudden catastrophe, the city would allow some industrial buildings to be repurposes as residences, and some residential or commercial spaces on the other side to be repurposed for industry?

    • Randy M says:

      You know how the economy is imperiled when a significant portion of the workforce is prevented from going in to work?
      Yeah, that.

      “You still have buses!”
      Yeah, can we scale that up instantly, to have capacity for the currently ~85% that drive themselves to work? I doubt it.

      • johan_larson says:

        What portion of the workforce shows up for work the day after the carpocalypse? 75%? 50%?

        I can take the subway and a bus to work, so I could probably make it in, but the system would be absolutely packed, so I’d probably be late.

        • Randy M says:

          Half sounds about right. I assume there’s plenty of slack in the public transit system, especially mid-day, and this phenomenon would probably lead to staggered working times to take advantage of that, eventually. But is there enough slack to take 5-6X as many riders? I really doubt it.

          (Also, if my car disappears, I’m calling in sick so I can figure out what the heck happened to it asap.)

          • acymetric says:

            The day after? Way less than half. Probably somewhere between 10-20%. A lot of people won’t go to work simply because everyone is trying to figure out WTF just happened to all the cars. “Sorry, I can’t come to work today my car was stolen”.

            Even if we don’t account for that, I do not believe public transit could accommodate 50% of the population of a city/area anywhere even if we staggered them across all 24 hours of the day (which wouldn’t be very helpful for work schedules the day after the snatch anyway).

            A non-trivial % of the population has no access to public transit in the area where they live. According to this 45% have no access, which means your max if places with public transit have infinite capacity is 55% (technically a little higher, to account for people who can walk/bike, but since transit capacity isn’t infinite it probably doesn’t matter).

            Also keep in mind we have to move these people to work and from work, so two transit trips per person. According to that same link, there are 34 million transit rides each day. I would expect the system could accommodate no more than 50 million running constantly at max capacity during working hours with no planning (which we wouldn’t have on day one).

          • matkoniecz says:

            everyone is trying to figure out WTF just happened to all the cars.

            With every single car gone I would be worried about leaving house. After all, who knows what and how disappearance was triggered?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, what happened to the people inside cars when they disappeared? Did they disappear with them? Or were they suddenly flying through the air at 80mph on the interstate?

          • johan_larson says:

            Also, what happened to the people inside cars when they disappeared?

            Funny you should ask. Only cars that were stopped were taken. Cars with the engine running and in motion did not disappear, although they did disappear if the engine was turned off or the car came to a stop. A few lucky and industrious people were able to keep their cars by never coming to a complete stop, and never turning off the engine.

            This quirky behavior kept injuries to a minimum, although some very surprised people did find themselves sitting on the street at stoplights. A few people were hurt when they turned off the ignition while their car was in motion; the car disappeared and the people skidded down the street on their butts. But most cars just quietly disappeared from parking lots and garages.

          • JPNunez says:

            How did that work? moving refueling from moving tank trucks, which were then refueled from refueling planes doing low height passes?

            e: *reads reply* oh yeah, forgot that trucks wouldn’t disappear

            lame

          • acymetric says:

            How did that work? moving refueling from moving tank trucks, which were then refueled from refueling planes doing low height passes?

            The tank trucks wouldn’t disappear, only consumer/personal use passenger vehicles disappeared (so you wouldn’t need the plane refueling part).

            You could even just slow down to a few miles an hour and have someone walk beside your car with a gas can filling it up. Or, to avoid walking the fine line of going super slow without stopping, just have someone pass a full gas can in through the window to a passenger and they can refuel the moving car while leaning out the window.

      • fibio says:

        You know how the economy is imperiled when a significant portion of the workforce is prevented from going in to work?
        Yeah, that.

        I mean… things seem to be doing okay right now. Sure everyone’s screaming about the depression but no one thinks the world is about the end.

        • baconbits9 says:

          How many people thought it was going OK in December of 1929? The first 6 weeks isn’t the issue.

        • Randy M says:

          That’s why I said “economy” and not “world”.
          Things are okay because the bills are being paid with IOUs. It’s possible we live in a world where this can go on forever, but I’m doubtful, if not screaming.

    • theodidactus says:

      I despise cars.

      I’ve also lived in china and taiwan, where people get by just fine on scooters most of the time. Really, a scooter is ideal for about 95% of what americans use cars for (moving to and from work and the store a billion times a day)

      Personally, I’m fine: I’ve structured my life so I bike or walk literally everywhere important, or bus on the (rare) occasions I can’t do that. This requires living in the downtown core of a city, sure, but not a BIG city…and all my needs are still met just fine. I haven’t driven a car since 2018.

      • AG says:

        You can’t carry a normal Costco trip’s worth of food on a moped.

        • keaswaran says:

          And you can’t chain together trips the same way on a car (especially if one of those trips is to hang out at the bar). In a world designed around cars, CostCo is a thing and people make those trips. In a world suddenly deprived of cars, people wonder how you do those trips. But in a world that is not designed around cars, CostCo doesn’t even exist, and you get your supplies from more frequent smaller trips to conveniently located retailers or deliveries.

          • acymetric says:

            And you can’t chain together trips the same way on a car (especially if one of those trips is to hang out at the bar).

            Maybe it is different where you live (don’t know where you are from) but you can’t drive a moped after drinking either. Or ride a bike, even.

          • AG says:

            Delivery services are the key here. The majority of Costco customers are buying bulk not because they stock up, but because they have large families with a high consumption rate. They’re going to Costco with the frequency of single people going to local grocery. In a world without cars, that consumption rate is still the same, so they still need to be able to carry a full shopping carts’ worth of food on a regular basis.
            One of the common Costco purchases I see for such families are giant jugs of milk and 36+ cartons of eggs. In the past, this would have been alleviated by a daily delivery from the milkman and such. They can go around with a large cart of their single product. Puts the onus of transportation on the supplier, not the customers, but the supplier is the one who can afford the economies of scale in the first place.

          • keaswaran says:

            acymetric says:

            > you can’t drive a moped after drinking either. Or ride a bike, even.

            Right. But the alternative to a car-centric lifestyle isn’t necessarily a moped-centric lifestyle or a bike-centric lifestyle, or even a transit-centric lifestyle. The most natural alternative is actually a multimodal lifestyle, where you take a bus to work in the morning, then take a bike share to a bar with a friend, then walk somewhere for dinner, and then get a taxi home. The transportation modes where you own a piece of physical capital that moves you around (private car, private bicycle) require you to use that same mode for every trip (at least, for every trip until you get back home) and also require empty land to be set aside for parking, but the modes where the capital goods that move people are owned in a distributed fashion (transit, walking, bikeshare, scooters, taxis) can very easily be linked to each other.

    • S_J says:

      I own a motorcycle (and two car-type vehicles… )

      I would contemplate riding the open roads that are now mostly car-free. It would make weekends much more fun. If my wife would let me disappear for a long ride on the weekend, that is.

      My current employment would not be affected until the next time I need a ride to an airport…

      The near-term economic havoc mentioned by others would make the future very hazy. But the opportunity to ride and not worry about most of the other cars sounds exciting.

    • SamChevre says:

      We are very screwed.

      A lot of essential infrastructure is only feasibly accessible by car, but needs very regular staffing. All the major industrial farming would be hard hit: I would bet on shortages of produce, meat and eggs within the week.

      • CatCube says:

        I’m glad I scrolled down before posting, because I was going to point out something similar. I was out at a dam today, working with the operating staff for it. The only non-alien-stolen vehicle in this hypothetical was the crane. Everybody came from their house, the engineers coming from the city in personally-owned vehicles (because of the ‘Rona, normally we’d pick up a government vehicle and carpool), while the operations staff came in their POVs to their normal clock-in location and picked up all their also-alien-stolen GOV pickup trucks, (except for the crane operator and his crane) and we all drove way out to the site remotely operated from elsewhere.

        Losing all the mid-sized vehicles would get really hairy really quickly. I can’t try to squeeze my inspection kit on a damn bicycle, even leaving aside that I had to travel 110 miles each way. Plus the roving operator would have a great time trying to huff and puff his way between facilities. It’s not like the population density makes a bus worthwhile.

        • johan_larson says:

          So how would this play out?

          Any existing public transit system is going to get swamped with demand and will start running absolutely full out, with every bus, subway train, streetcar, and ekranoplan that can be scrounged and staffed.

          A lot of informal van- and truck-pools get organized to move people to and from work and maybe major shopping destinations. A lot of small-business owners with legit delivery vans will find it worth their while to get in the worker-moving business for a time. Governments will look the other way on safety issues, because there’s no alternative.

          It’s a good time to be a mechanic as a lot of marginal vehicles that were recently consigned to scrap yards or just sitting idle get put back in service. (Let’s stipulate the aliens took all the junked cars that were in pretty good shape, but left the junked vans and trucks, and maybe some of the really junky car-hulks, too.)

          It’s a good time to own a truck or bus of any sort, as demand for them for use as people-movers soars.

          A lot of marginal activities that are currently car-dependent, like children’s sports leagues, shut down for a season and are then reorganized along much more local lines.

          Bicycling comes back in a big way, to the point that some roads that have two lanes in each direction have one lane in each direction turned into a bike lane.

          Things don’t get back to normal quickly. It looks like the world has something like 1.4 billion cars, and produces 70 million per year, so the global fleet is replaced every 20 years. Car manufacturing is heavy industry that can’t just be pulled out of thin air, but maybe capacity could be doubled in a couple of years. That still means replacing all the missing cars would take 10 years.

          Ooh, and police-cars disappear for a while. They probably get some sort of priority during reconstruction, and maybe use military hummers for a while.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Car manufacturing is heavy industry that can’t just be pulled out of thin air, but maybe capacity could be doubled in a couple of years.

            I think this is a wild underestimate of our ability to increase production given an effective global war footing for doing so.

          • JayT says:

            One thing to keep in mind is that while there may be 1.4 billion cars, we don’t need that many to have things run close to normally. I’m seeing that in the US there are about 25% more registered cars than licenced drivers, and there are a lot of multicar families that could get by with one or two fewer cars. My wife and I always had two cars, but the days that we actually needed two cars would probably be less than 10 a year. Most of the time it was purely a convenience. I’d guess that the US could shed almost half its cars without a major hit to productivity.

            That said, if it was just done one night with no warning, the effects would be dire because the infrastructure just wouldn’t be there to absorb all of the people that suddenly needed a way to get around. If the aliens instead gave an ultimatum that was something like “we will take all cars that lack feature X on January 1st, 2025” then I think we could meet the demand for new cars.

    • johan_larson says:

      We need a name for this event. In other posts, I’ve used “de-car-ification” and “carpocalypse”. Those aren’t great. Anyone have a better idea?

      Maybe “car-pe diem”?

    • Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit says:

      Probably worse than the COVID-19 crisis or the Iraq war, but not worse than WW2 or the black plague. So “big fucking problem with major economic impact and headlines for months” but “restructure the entirety of society to solve the problem or perish”.

      If someone could make a scale of disaster badness that would be interesting.

      • fibio says:

        Sure, I’m game. Operating on a log scale from 0-10 where 0 is one death and 10 is the extinction of humanity we get this scale. Note, some examples listed have been scaled with modern population levels so are in a category above their true casualty figures.

        0 – 1 unexpected death. E.g. tragic accident, suicide or illness. Negligible long term impact on society but with ripple effects across a social network.

        1 – 10 unexpected deaths. E.g. A mass shooting, major traffic accident or industrial accident. Negligible to minor long term impact, perhaps resulting in new regulation or criminal charges for those responsible. Large effects to those related to the dead, especially if they were initially clusters, for example the loss of an extended family.

        2 – 100 unexpected deaths. E.g. air-crash, domestic terrorism, major industrial accident, low impact natural disaster. Reported world wide and may result in changes to policy or politics at the local level. Severe impacts on those associated with the disaster and likely will likely define their historical impact.

        3 – 1000 unexpected deaths. E.g. natural disaster, local conflict or major terrorist event. International news and may shape policy and politics for decades to come, especially in the region. Those affected have their entire lives reshaped by the incident and may never fully recover psychologically. Many people only tangentially related can experience major shifts in behavior.

        4 – 10,000 unexpected deaths. E.g. catastrophic natural disaster, small war or contained disease outbreak. Major talking point for months world wide and likely to greatly shape events for many decades to come and cause political shifts far beyond the immediate impact. Societal level impacts are plausible and everyone involved is deeply affected.

        5- 100,000 unexpected deaths. E.g. Civil war, local famine, genocide, disease. Regional crisis that promotes intervention from world powers, to varying degrees of success. Effects on populations can have cultural shifts that last generations but are never the sole driving factor.

        6 – 1,000,000 unexpected deaths. E.g. Regional war, famines, genocide. An international crisis that is quite capable of destroying countries and disassembling established political orders. Will have long term impacts to everyone in the affected region regardless of their links to the victims.

        7 – 10,000,000 unexpected deaths (~1/1000 of all humans). E.g. Major war between two countries, catastrophic famine, pandemic. Represents the loss of a major city’s worth of people and unimaginably disruptive to everyone in the region with knock-on affects on the international order.

        8 – 100,000,000 unexpected deaths (1/100 of all humans). E.g. WW2, a limited nuclear exchange, major pandemic. International order is reshaped by events, leaving the politics beyond hard to recognize or at least majorly disrupted for all concerned. No region escapes unscathed regardless of their proximity to the disaster.

        9 – 1,000,000,000 unexpected deaths (1/10 of all humans). E.g. General nuclear exchange, Black Death level pandemic or dinosaur killer meteor impact. No part of society remains unchanged by the disaster and major changes to future civilization are the norm rather than the exception.

        9.95 – 9,000,000,000 unexpected deaths (9/10 of all humans). E.g. the estimated proportion killed by European contact with the Americas. Utter dissolution of society, although with cultural continuation.

        • keaswaran says:

          So the Tsunami of 2004 clocks in at a 5.2 but the tsunami that caused Fukushima is more like a 1 or 2 if I recall correctly. Does coronavirus rate a 5 or a 6, or maybe even a 7? It seems that some events aren’t properly measured by the loss of life – this loss of life scale makes the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull shutdown of North Atlantic air traffic rate at a 0 or 1 or something, but it was a massive economic disruption for the few days that it lasted.

          • ec429 says:

            Economic disruption leads to loss of life, but in indirect ways that are hard to measure (e.g. less wealth means poorer healthcare, possibly worse diets). So Eyjafjallajokull’s severity might be correctly represented by this scale, but only by a number we can’t readily get. (We could possibly estimate it if we have a figure for the dollar value of a human life that we can use in a conversion, but I’m not sure how valid such an analysis is.)

          • fibio says:

            COVID-19 would currently rank at about a 5.4, so broadly equivalent to a catastrophic natural disaster. It’s probably going to be a 6 to 7 by the time everything is said and done, depending on how well mitigation methods go.

            I’m not sure how you’d map non-lethal disasters to this scale. Probably it would be better to treat the Iceland Eruption as maybe a 3 on this scale, localised large scale disruption even if it didn’t actually lead to any deaths. There’s also a weakness of where you put downstream deaths. 911 caused tens of thousands of additional deaths from to car accidents due to the downtick in flights, but it isn’t something that greatly increases the impact of the disaster.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @fibio:

            COVID-19 would currently rank at about a 5.4, so broadly equivalent to a catastrophic natural disaster.

            I think you aren’t paying enough attention to the local/global difference that comes into play with a scale like this.

            By your own definitions, 100,000 deaths is a regional catastrophe. Globally, several hundred thousand deaths aren’t exactly Tuesday, but they’re pretty close, especially considering the time-frame.

            Purely as an illustration, Poland’s COVID-19 death tally stands at around 750 at the moment after two months or so of the epidemic. That’s roughly how many people die daily under normal circumstances. Daily recorded COVID-19 deaths haven’t exceeded 50 so far, so locally the whole situation looks like a 1, 2 tops. One of the reasons it doesn’t look like a nigh 3 (major local catastrophe) is that it fits the profile of “old people get sick and die” more than anything else.

            So there’s a cognitive dissonance here. On the one hand we’re asked to view this on a global scale, with nothing but numbers to give us a sense of scale. On the other, it sure doesn’t feel like a disaster, in that – as the Nybbler would put it – you actually need the men with guns to get people to act like there is one.

  8. Aapje says:

    Using Dutch fixed expressions increases your perceived IQ by 10 points, according to a survey among Dutch people.

    ‘Bijdehand’ = with-the-hand or close-to-the-hand

    Being smart or a wise-ass. Probably derives from the obsolete expression: ‘vroeg bij de hand zijn’ = early with the hand. This referred to someone who was up early and was ready to work with his hands.

    A similar expression that means smart and wise is ‘bij de pinken zijn’ = being with/close to the pinky fingers. However, the actual meaning of ‘pinken’ in this expression is probably the Bargoen/Rotwelsch Pink(e), which means money. So a person who was ‘with his pinken’ was close to his money aka frugal.

    ‘bij de vleet’ = with the ‘vleet’

    In abundance, with the implied meaning that the thing that is in abundance has little value. For example: she has boyfriends ‘bij de vleet,’ implies that the woman in question keeps attracting and pushing away non-serious boyfriends.

    ‘Vleet’ is an absolete word that resulted from a changed pronunciation of ‘vloot,’ which in the 13th century meant floater and fishing net, where the latter meaning probably comes from a typical kind of language evolution, where a reference to a part of a thing, becomes used for the entire thing (here, the word for the floater attached to the net, was then used for both the net and the floater).

    In both English, you now have ‘fleet’ and in Dutch ‘vloot,’ which have come to mean a different collection of floating things: ships.

    ‘Bij de vodden grijpen’ = Grabbing by the rags

    Grabbing by the collar (which is also a Dutch expression, in fact, we have a lot of expressions for grabbing hold of someone). ‘Vodden’ used to mean old clothes, but is now only used to refer to rags.

    ‘Bij nacht en ontij’ = By night and not time

    When other (normal) people stay at home. ‘Ontij’ is short for ‘ontijd,’ where ‘on’ = not and ‘tijd’ = time. So ‘ontij’ is not the time to do things.

    ‘Bij slot van rekening’ = when locking the bill

    In conclusion. ‘slot’ now means lock, but probably used to be a synonym for closing, where once proper locks became common, it got used to only refer to those.

    • noyann says:

      Using Dutch fixed expressions increases your perceived IQ by 10 points, according to a survey among Dutch people.

      Even backed up by science!

    • Robin says:

      Once again, thank you for all this! It kind of humbles the Dutch learner. Where the English have their cockney rhyming slang, and the French have their verlan, this seems to be how the Dutch make their language a little more opaque to foreigners.

      Do I understand correctly that “slot” today only means “lock”, and the other meaning of “end”, “closing” is outdated? As in “tot slot van deze eerste herinnering”? Or is “tot slot” now kind of a fixed expression itself? Or is it that this show was about fifty years ago, when people still used “slot”?

      Also, I’m pondering that thing about Dutchmen understanding German better than Germans understand Dutch. Thought experiment: Suppose there was a language called Ünglüsch, which is like English, only all vocals are replaced by ü. Üt süünds ü büt lükü thüs. Obviously, the people in Ünglünd will understand English better than vice versa. The English will have trouble, because in Ünglüsh everything sounds the same.
      Would this imply that in Dutch things tend to sound more “all the same”?

      The paper that was linked a while ago, about those children in Oldenburg, gave the example of Dutch “dag” (day), which sounds like German “Dach” (roof) and leads the children astray. I’ve tested it on my son with the Duolingo sentences, and indeed this kind of thing happens.

      Another example: Ik was een kleine jongen could mean “I was a little boy”, but also “I wash a little boy”, like baby parents always do.

      I love the way that learning a new language opens up a big treasure of music on Youtube! You might smile at these songs, but they’re a lot of fun for me.

      • Aapje says:

        Do I understand correctly that “slot” today only means “lock”, and the other meaning of “end”, “closing” is outdated?

        In hindsight, my English translation (and explanation) for this expression was not that great. ‘Slot’ is also used to indicate an ending, although in modern Dutch outside of fixed expressions, it is only used in the context of time (like the end of an evening or the end of a meeting).

        So ‘at the end of the bill’ is probably a better and more sensible translation for ‘bij slot van rekening.’ However, it’s still a fixed expression as you’d never use the same construct for anything else or non-metaphorically. For example, you’d never say: ‘bij slot van brief staat mijn handtekening’ to mean: my signature is at the end of the letter. Nor would you say: ‘bij slot van rekening staat het eindbedrag’ to mean: the final tally is at the end of the bill.

        Or is “tot slot” now kind of a fixed expression itself?

        This is very much a grey area where you can argue that it is barely a fixed expression or not yet, but close.

        A very similar Dutch expression/word that is clearly a fixed expression is ‘ten slotte’ or ‘tenslotte’ (which also means finally). The word ‘ten’ is an old Dutch contraction of ‘te den.’ Here ‘te’ is very similar to the German ‘zu.’ It’s harder to translate to English, as it can mean in, at, to or too. The article ‘den’ is an older and/or dialect variant of ‘de,’ the male article.

        ‘Ten’ is then pretty much the same as the German ‘zum,’ which is the same kind of contraction (‘zu dem’ -> ‘zum’).

        Anyway, people are turning some of the fixed expressions that use this prefix into new words. So ‘ten slotte’ means ‘at the end,’ but people also use ‘tenslotte.’ You have ‘ten minste,’ (= at least) but people also use ‘tenminste’. The word where this has happened most strongly is ‘tentoonstellen’ (= the verb exhibit), which is never used with the prefix separate.

        The lack of separation of the prefix in words is very clear proof that people no longer see it as a separate word that has an independent meaning.

        Would this imply that in Dutch things tend to sound more “all the same”?

        I don’t really get what you mean by this.

        Your example is a basic homonym. Note that the Dutch ‘dag’ is also a homonym for day, hi and bye. Of course, the latter two derive from an expression (basically, the Dutch equivalent of ‘good day’ was shortened to ‘day’). However, to make things easier, there is also ‘doei’ (= bye), which came from a dialect word for day: doeg. So you got goede dag -> dag -> doeg -> doei.

        There are hundreds of English homonyms (homophones and homographs), so that’s nothing special. Eye can right sum hear.

        • Robin says:

          Very interesting about “tentoonstellen” and the like! Once again, I see how similar the laguages are, give or take a consonant shift. “Zumindest” is the same contraction as “tenminste”.

          The thing about the homonyms is a bit speculative and half-baked on my part.
          Consider French, they have even more homonyms. Famous example: Vers, ver, vert, verre, …

          Remember those funny stories a few years back, culminating in a pun on some proverb? I tried to come up with such puns on German proverbs, but couldn’t find any which were any good. Surely, I’m not as creative as our host, but I have a suspicion that these homonyms are a bit rarer in German than in English.

          • Aapje says:

            My German is rather poor (in general, I need lots of exposure to a language to learn it, which never happened for German or French), so I didn’t know you had something so similar. Interesting!

            BTW, the noun ‘tentoonstelling’ can be separated out in components like this:
            ‘ten’ = ‘te den’ = at the
            ‘toon’ = show
            ‘stelling’ = rack or stand

            So an exhibit in Dutch is literally: at the show rack/stand.

    • Aapje says:

      It’s one of the wonders of the world.

  9. SanctaSimplicitas says:

    My apologies for raising a very CW topic.

    I have a question for those who believe there are no significant cognitive differences between different ethnicities and genders. Do you consider your view falsifiable? If yes, what kind of data can falsify it?

    • qwints says:

      Less of this please.

      • AG says:

        Or rather, I’d rather that SanctaSimplicitas first provide an answer to the opposite direction first, instead of immediately framing the other side as the one with the burden of proof.

        • SanctaSimplicitas says:

          No need to get adversarial. I’m not here to represent or make converts for “the other side”. I’ve asked my question to understand the POV of rationalists with an average IQ of 140 and hopefully learn something new.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’ve asked my question to understand the POV of rationalists

            You might have better luck asking on a rationalist forum, then.

          • AG says:

            Yet the way you’ve framed your question sets up “believe that significant cognitive differences” as the default assumption, and that “those who believe there are no significant cognitive differences” are the ones who have to explain themselves.

            This area of the internet is actually more likely to believe the motte of the former position already, so framing the question the way you did has a bit of a punching down subtext, which is likely why qwints replied the way they did.

            Basically, there was no give-or-take in the OP, which can be a rhetorical red flag.

          • uau says:

            are the ones who have to explain themselves

            I think it’s reasonable to ask those you disagree with to explain themselves. I wouldn’t ask why someone believes the earth to be round. I would ask why someone believes it to be flat despite the evidence I know about for it being round.

          • Yet the way you’ve framed your question sets up “believe that significant cognitive differences” as the default assumption, and that “those who believe there are no significant cognitive differences” are the ones who have to explain themselves.

            The default assumption is “we don’t know.” If someone claims either that such differences do or don’t exist, it’s reasonable to ask his reasons or, as in the initial comment here, to ask how one could tell if his claim is true.

            A of lot claims people make are based on the implicit assumption he is asking about, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask how one would test it. If the answer is that it can’t be falsified, the conclusion is that one should not make claims that depend on it being true. If the answer to the mirror image question is the same, one also should not make claims that depend on its being false.

          • AG says:

            @uau
            Like I said, the issue is that the OP was all take, no give. SanctaSimplicitas offered no context for this information query, nor if they considered their own view falsifiable. If a Christian swaggers into a group of atheists and says “I have a question for those who believe there are no supernatural beings that create our reality. Do you consider your view falsifiable? If yes, what kind of data can falsify it,” or vice versa with an atheist swaggering into a church, that’s not asking anything neutrally.

            @DavidFriedman
            I don’t find that the OP starts with “we don’t know” as the default. A lot of claims people make are based on the opposite of the implicit assumption he is asking about. Why is only one side being asked to clarify, without knowing the context that they will be replying to?

            To clarify, I’m not opposed to the topic of discussion. I am, however, leery of the way SanctaSimplicitas worded the OP. Simply providing their own perspective to accompany the questions asked would have assuaged that.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      Do you consider your view falsifiable?

      (Assumption: “significant” in your question can be defined as “sufficiently strong and established to be considered when defining policy”)

      For all practical purposes, no. Not because contradictory data could never cause me to change my opinion, but because current instruments measuring the sorts of cognitive differences commonly discussed in this context are not strong enough to produce data that I would trust sufficiently to make that change. Based on my (admittedly shallow) knowledge of the field, I do not believe such instruments are likely to be created in the forseeable future.

      • SanctaSimplicitas says:

        Thank you. Given the political and emotional pressures surrounding this topic it certainly makes a lot of sense to be wary about the accuracy of any published data. But if your view is not falsifiable what makes you believe that it‘s true (rather than being agnostic about it)?

        • matkoniecz says:

          Because opposite view has nothing convincing behind it and treating it seriously tends to result in terrible effects? With terrible effects including, but not limited to, “millions of people murdered”.

          And that opposite view was (and still is) used as justification to murder, enslave and in general oppress people. With little evidence that treating it seriously is improving situation in any way.

          And there is clear evidence of people often overestimating such differences, primarily to justify whatever evil thing they are doing.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as an aside, if belief that X is true has corresponded in the past with bad behavior, that doesn’t actually tell us anything at all about whether or not X is true.

            Similarly, if you believe that X being true would have bad consequences for the world, once again, that tells you zip about whether or not X is true.

          • With terrible effects including, but not limited to, “millions of people murdered”.

            Can you give examples of that happening? I don’t think the Nazi complaint against the Jews was that they were cognitively inferior but that they were engaged in a conspiracy against the Aryans.

            The belief that blacks were inferior certainly helped support the institution of slavery, but slavery has existed in lots of societies, such as Periclean Athens, with no such justification.

            The obvious reason not to believe it is true — which is not equivalent to believing it is false — is that if you believe it is true and it isn’t you will misdiagnose important problems, interpret differences in outcomes actually due to innate differences as due to something else and so attempt cures that won’t work.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Just as an aside, if belief that X is true has corresponded in the past with bad behavior, that doesn’t actually tell us anything at all about whether or not X is true.

            But the patent office still won’t look at any claims for perpetual motion machines. Anything that’s been asserted that often, and wrong that often, isn’t worth the bother of investigating yet again.

          • matkoniecz says:

            Can you give examples of that happening?

            For start https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_crimes_against_the_Polish_nation

            Germans justified these genocides on the basis of Nazi racial theory, which regarded Poles and other Slavic peoples as racially inferior Untermenschen

            (…)

            developed plans to eliminate the Polish people through mass murder, ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination through labor

            (…)

            The genocides claimed the lives of 2.7 to 3 million Polish Jews and 1.8 to 2.77 million non-Jewish ethnic Poles

            (…)

            On 22 August 1939, just before the invasion of Poland, Hitler gave explicit permission to his commanders to kill “without pity or mercy, all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language.”

            (…)

            Later, all Poles will disappear from this world. It is imperative that the great German nation consider the elimination of all Polish people as its chief task.

            And they had plans to do far more. See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost

            I don’t think the Nazi complaint against the Jews was that they were cognitively inferior but that they were engaged in a conspiracy against the Aryans.

            AFAIK they had weird mix of both claims being present at the same time.

            It reminds me about

            Fascist societies rhetorically cast their enemies as “at the same time too strong and too weak.”

            from Umberto Eco (via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definitions_of_fascism )

          • albatross11 says:

            dinonerd:

            I cheerfully await your rejection of all medical science, since nearly everything medical professionals believed and asserted before 1850 or so was just massively and comically wrong, and since medical science has been used repeatedly to assert various “social truths” as having been handed down from science (women having hysteria, homosexuality being a mental illness, masturbation causing bad physical effects, etc.).

          • albatross11 says:

            matlkoniecz:

            This is a bit like deciding that nobody may every look into any problems with capitalism because of the horrors of the gulags and the engineered famine in the Ukraine. Or that we must never allow ourselves to believe that, say, the wealth distribution in existing countries is unfair, lest we unleash the ghosts of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot upon the world once more.

          • matkoniecz says:

            Just as an aside, if belief that X is true has corresponded in the past with bad behavior, that doesn’t actually tell us anything at all about whether or not X is true.

            Extremely long history of lies, propaganda, bad science, many mistaken people and associated evil is a valid reason for doubting new evidence/research and applying extra scrutiny.

            For the same reason that I treat seriously tax return info statements and delete emails from Nigerian princes.

          • matkoniecz says:

            This is a bit like deciding that nobody may every look into any problems with capitalism because of the horrors of the gulags and the engineered famine in the Ukraine.

            I am really confused about how my comments implies that. I would apply it as “I am not enthusiastic about repeating USSR style economy, how it differs from the previous attempt?”.

            It is not “everything opposed to something evil is perfect”, such claim is idiotic (see Nazi Germany vs USSR).

            Note that my comment had two parts:

            “opposite view has nothing convincing behind” and “treating it seriously tends to result in terrible effects”

            Neither applies to “wild runaway capitalism without rules is a great idea, 20h work day is a good idea”.

            “capitalism should be regulated” has piles of supporting evidence

            “treating it seriously tends to result in terrible effects” is blatantly untrue (unless you go full “any taxation is theft, any regulation is murder”)

          • Filareta says:

            @matkoniecz
            “Because opposite view has nothing convincing behind it and treating it seriously tends to result in terrible effects? With terrible effects including, but not limited to, “millions of people murdered”.”

            And that opposite view was (and still is) used as justification to murder, enslave and in general oppress people. With little evidence that treating it seriously is improving situation in any way.”

            Only if you already have a worldview that supports “millions of people murdered”. If you are strongely egalitarian, opposite view just gives you really, really good reason for affirmative action.
            And if you are anti-egalitarian but not fond of enslaving or murdering others, you just simply don’t care.

          • “capitalism should be regulated” has piles of supporting evidence

            Would you consider the history of transportation regulation in the U.S. — rail, airlines, and trucking — as evidence for or against the claim?

          • matkoniecz says:

            Would you consider the history of transportation regulation in the U.S. — rail, airlines, and trucking — as evidence for or against the claim?

            rail, truck – neither, as I have no knowledge whatsoever here, except that minimal safety regulations are a good idea as far as I know

            airlines – this seems similar in EU and I am pretty sure that safety records of airlines support that safety regulations were a good idea (and as bonus: free competition between airlines turned out to be good for consumers)

            Or at least I like that air travel is ridiculously safe, even if that adds some overhead.

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          But if your view is not falsifiable what makes you believe that it‘s true (rather than being agnostic about it)?

          A combination of consequentialism, pragmatism, culture, extension from other areas with better data, and personal experience.

          From a consequentialist perspective: I believe that the potential negative consequences of making policy assuming greater-than-true differences are significantly greater than the potential negative consequences of erring in the other direction.

          From a pragmatic perspective: There are groups with much stronger evidence for cognitive differences between them (lawyers vs landscapers, college professors vs olympic athletes, young professionals vs retirees), but for entirely valid reasons, our policy does not treat those groups as fundamentally different. I expect those same reasons to apply at least as strongly to divisions where the difference is less obvious.

          From a cultural perspective: I grew up in the rural midwest, where I encountered and absorbed cultural values of treating people as individuals and being wary of attempts to group people and treat the groups differently. This is not necessarily evidence for or against anything, but it informs where my defaults are (and what I assume in the absence of evidence).

          From looking at other areas: I have seen studies looking at more easily measurable traits across demographic lines. Some find statistically significant differences, some don’t. But the vast majority of the ones I’m aware of that find statistically significant differences also find that those differences are swamped by individual variation.

          From personal experience: Among people I’ve interacted with, I’ve seen evidence for cognitive differences between individuals, but those differences do not seem to generalize along demographic lines. I’m well aware that the plural of anecdote is not data, but if my current model were severely miss-calibrated, I expect I would have noticed some confusion by now.

          So I guess you could technically say I’m “agnostic” about the idea. But since my full opinion is “I don’t have strong evidence for or against this, but I expect it to be false, have weak evidence that it’s false, have personal experience suggesting that it’s false, and believe that even if it was true, we should behave as if it was false.”, it feels disingenuous to abbreviate that to anything other than “I do not believe this”.

          Please note that in this case, my reasoning is my own. I am not claiming to speak for anyone besides myself. This is also not necessarily an exhaustive list; it is my attempt to identify the strongest contributors to my opinion.

          • Purplehermann says:

            I’m glad you wrote this comment, it was very interesting to me. I have pretty much the opposite view on whether there are differences, but my opinions on racial policy and my cultural upbringing (at least for the beginning of my life, we moved when I was a young teen) are near identical to yours

            ime people from different groups do act differently, and there are similarities along the different grouping, including demographic, lines.

            [Added: which is probably why we think differently]

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I’m well aware that the plural of anecdote is not data, but if my current model were severely miss-calibrated, I expect I would have noticed some confusion by now.

            Keep in mind that you most likely live in a bubble of people with intelligence and personality similar to your own. If you pay attention you might notice that in your social group certain demographics are under or over represented. The standard PC answer is structural X-ism, but this is typically claimed without evidence.

          • SanctaSimplicitas says:

            Thanks again for a detailed reply.

            the vast majority of the ones I’m aware of that find statistically significant differences also find that those differences are swamped by individual variation.

            In the situation when group differences are smaller than individual differences you can still get very different outcomes at the edges of the distribution.

            I encountered and absorbed cultural values of treating people as individuals and being wary of attempts to group people and treat the groups differently.

            In my experience in recent times it has been more common to use this logic in reverse. If one assumes that all differences in social outcomes come from the environment, it makes sense to argue for giving preferential treatment to underperforming groups instead of treating everyone as an individual. Personally, I don’t like the situation when Asian students need higher SAT scores to get into prestigious colleges, so from a consequentialist perspective I would prefer governments to adopt an agnostic stance on this issue.

          • But the vast majority of the ones I’m aware of that find statistically significant differences also find that those differences are swamped by individual variation.

            If true, that’s a reason not to put much weight on race or sex in evaluating an individual. But lots of claims used to support policies and conclusions are claims about averages.

            Suppose someone observed that men were on average taller than women, rejected the possibility of innate differences along your lines, concluded that women must be on average more malnourished than men, and based policies on that belief. The fact that height varies more within each group than between the groups would not make the conclusion and the policies correct.

          • Filareta says:

            There was a feminist intelectual who argued that skeletons of men differ form skeletons of women only because women have been consistently malnurished because of patriarchy oppression. I forgot her name unfortunately.

          • Aapje says:

            This is a study that makes that claim.

          • Nick says:

            @Filareta
            Charlie Stross on his blog made a similar claim: he suggested that women are shorter than men because the patriarchy has been systematically undernourishing them for millennia.

          • Randy M says:

            Extremely systematic.

            Apropo other discussions in this thread, that kind of conspiracy theory seems like the result of assign high and unchanging priors to strict human equality in all relevant metrics across all groupings.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Yeah, you can guess my reaction to the claim. Academically speaking it sounds rather interesting, but I am baffled that anyone outside academe would suggest it. It parallels nicely with the state of nature view Innuendo Studio expressed above: in both cases the pious explain our fallen state (inequality) by positing an ideal state of nature and telling a story where evil enters the world in the form of human sin, viz., bigotry and oppression, the effects of which were imprinted on humanity and remain with us today.

          • because the patriarchy has been systematically undernourishing them for millennia.

            Charley believes in Lysenko?

      • viVI_IViv says:

        What about the view that there are no significant height differences between ethnicities and genders? Do you believe it? Do you hold it to the same epistemic standard?

        • matkoniecz says:

          Yes, yes.

          AFAIK this is not considered to be controversial and is pretty well confirmed.

          See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_peoples

        • DeWitt says:

          Height is a hell of a lot easier to measure than intelligence is.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Intelligence is nevertheless fairly easy to measure.

          • DeWitt says:

            We can tell that a pig is smarter than a chicken. We can tell that Bill Gates is smarter than the stoner next door. I don’t trust humanity in [CURRENT YEAR] to reliably judge intelligence well, let alone determine why such differences exist.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t trust humanity in [CURRENT YEAR] to reliably judge intelligence well, let alone determine why such differences exist.

            …Why?

          • viVI_IViv says:

            IQ tests correlate well with professional success and don’t show any obvious cultural bias.

            And if you don’t want to rely on tests, certainly you wouldn’t disagree that e.g. the average physicist is smarter than the average person.

      • uau says:

        current instruments measuring the sorts of cognitive differences commonly discussed in this context are not strong enough

        At what level do you believe this? Regarding the specific example of the black population of the US having lower IQ scores than the white population, which of the following describes your position:

        1. Blacks wouldn’t actually score any worse than whites if the tests were administered fairly. It’s racism/biases on the part of the test takers which causes incorrect results.

        2. The tests are administered fairly and blacks do score lower, but ability to perform well is not very strongly correlated with “real intelligence”, so “lower ability to do well on existing IQ tests” does not mean “less intelligent”, and blacks would do no less well on a perfect measure of “real intelligence”. (If you do believe this, do you also believe that things like “does well in this mentally demanding work position” can not match with “does well in IQ tests”?)

        3. The current black population is genuinely less intelligent than the current white population, but this is all caused by things like poor living conditions (exposure to lead, poor nutrition, etc); if current blacks had grown up in at least reasonably good conditions, they would not be less intelligent.

        4. The black population is genuinely less intelligent, and this is at least in significant part caused by genetics, or other long-term issues with no known straightforward fix (this could include explanations like epigenetic effects).

        In my view, number 4 is currently the most credible option. Note that your “when defining policy” is kind of ambiguous. The differences are not big enough for a policy like “choose the candidate based on race”. But they are big enough to invalidate a policy of “assume equality, and view differences in outcome as proof of injustice” (which is in many cases also incorrect because of culture differences).

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m pretty sure the original question was about differences in {intelligence, interests, personality, etc} across race, ethnicity, and sex. That doesn’t require knowing what the cause of any such difference is. If you observe that Dutch people are a lot taller on average than Salvadorans, noticing that doesn’t require you to determine what fraction of that difference is genetic vs environmental.

          • uau says:

            I think your comment is confused and fails to correctly address what it’s replying to. The point was that we do have instruments that indicate differences which are relevant to group outcomes and policies which depend on those, yet he disagrees with the result they show.

            This is not a case of “everyone agrees the Dutch are taller, we’re discussing why” as your post assumes.

            This is a case of “we’ve measured people’s heights and got higher values for the Dutch, yet you say our measuring instruments are not good enough to show the Dutch are taller – which part exactly are you disagreeing with?”

          • matkoniecz says:

            which part exactly are you disagreeing with

            Replication crisis part. Previous claims in this style turned out some time later to be hilariously bad science. Large part of modern (and supposedly better) psychology turned out to be bad science already.

          • uau says:

            Replication crisis part.

            So case 1? You’re saying that they’re simply administering IQ tests wrong, or incorrectly choosing populations to compare?

            I don’t find that at all plausible. This is a very widely reproduced result. And there are a lot of people who desperately want it to be false, yet haven’t managed to get different results.

          • albatross11 says:

            As I understand it, psychometrics has not been much affected by the replication crisis. Probably, that’s some mix of their being on average much more numerate and statistically sophisticated than most of the rest of psychology, and their being so heavily criticized on ideological grounds that they’ve actually had to bring their A game if they wanted to be listened to at all.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            And if you don’t want to rely on IQ tests, you can just walk in a STEM college department or company. Despite all the affirmative actions programs that have being going on for decades, the demographics will still be strikingly different than the general population.
            In an average scientific conference you can easily spot more people wearing a kippah than black people, despite the fact that only a fraction of male Jews regularly wear kippahs and black people outnumber Jews about 80:1 worldwide.

        • Let me suggest an alternative 5 which I suspect is to some degree true.

          5. The difference is due to innate characteristics, but is correctable.

          The characteristics I am thinking of are that black skin does a less efficient job than white skin of converting sunlight to vitamin D, and that blacks are considerably more likely to be lactose intolerant than whites. Those are heritable characteristics, and in an environment with substantially less sunlight than subsaharan Africa, and one where nutritional vitamin D comes largely through milk, mean that blacks are more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which can have cognitive consequences.

          But you can solve the problem with vitamin D supplements, which cost something like a penny a day.

          And a commitment to the claim that the differences can be due only to differences in the environment between blacks and whites will make it harder to recognize that particular possibility.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The characteristics I am thinking of are that black skin does a less efficient job than white skin of converting sunlight to vitamin D, and that blacks are considerably more likely to be lactose intolerant than whites.

            Is there any evidence that skin color and milk consumption correlate with IQ after controlling for ethnicity?

            Intuitively, there do seem to be some problems with this hypothesis: people from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore have possibly the highest avg. IQ after the Ashkenazim, yet they are usually darker than most Europeans and they are often lactose intollerant. Japan and Eastern China aren’t even very sunny for their latitudes (slide 6).
            Moreover, black people in Africa tend to have lower IQ than African-Americans, despite being in the environment their skin color is adapted to.
            (Also recently immigrated Igbo-Americans are allegedly smarter than slave-descended African-Americans despite being as dark or darker, although this might be confunded by immigration bias).

          • Aapje says:

            There is a lot of vitamin D in fish and the Japanese are known for eating lots of fish.

        • Byrel Mitchell says:

          To me the more interesting case to consider is Ashkenazi Jews. They have the largest population mean difference on IQ tests, averaging a full standard deviation higher the the general population. That has several advantages over the ‘black population in the US’ example:

          A) Very few people find the ‘racist test-givers’ a plausible explanation. The other genetic subgroups of Jews don’t have above-gen-pop IQ, so it’s implausible that pro-Jew bias is responsible for the elevated scores of Ashkenazis

          B) While Ashkenazi’s are somewhat more affluent on average than whites and east asians in the US, they’re not as geographically segregated as blacks are. That makes ‘poor living conditions’ a bit less likely as an explanation (and most Ashkenazi’s don’t practice kosher eating, so this probably isn’t diet.)

          C) Very few (if any) ethnonationalists, neonazi’s, etc. are motivated to believe Jews are innately better than whites. That helps avoid the common association of ethnic differences with motivated reasoning to justify discrimination, and makes the entire topic far safer to broach socially.

          There’s obviously nothing fundamentally wrong with discussing this in terms of the US black population, but I usually find the Ashkenazi example more compelling and safer.

          • johan_larson says:

            How confident can we be that it isn’t a matter of culture? Do children from non-Jewish backgrounds who are adopted by Jewish families turn out more or less clever than children who were simply born into Jewish families of comparable socioeconomic level?

          • Byrel Mitchell says:

            One of the interesting things about IQ is that it’s remarkably impervious to interventions. Many different interventions have been invented and tried to increase IQ (for obvious reasons) and they’ve all been failures. An intervention may make you score higher on a particular type of IQ test (for instance, one could learn how to solve progressive matrix style tests by practicing them a lot) but that increase in ‘intelligence’ ends up being completely non-transferable to other styles of IQ test (and so isn’t actually a gain in the generalized intelligence factor that we refer to as ‘g’ or IQ.)

            There’s been a TON of motivated research trying to raise IQ and failing, so I’m skeptical that there’s a culture that can manage a full standard deviation of improvement. I’m further skeptical because other Jewish genetic backgrounds don’t have an elevated IQ, and I would generally expect them to be more similar culturally to Ashkenazi than to the general population.

            But so far as I can tell, the study you suggest has not been carried out. Stephen Pinker noted the lack of such a study in 2006 (THE LESSONS OF THE ASHKENAZIM) and I haven’t been able to find one since then. It would be really interesting if we could get a high enough n, and somehow control for the selection bias of whose children tend to get adopted out. You’d probably need a twin study to really do this properly.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am not quite so convinced that culture can’t affect IQ scores, given the evidence that there is a small IQ boost for additional years of schooling. And as I understand it, in adoption studies, there’s a correlation between adoptive siblings’ IQs in childhood, but it fades away as you get older. Both of those make it plausible to me that deep culture-level stuff can influence IQ.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            A) Very few people find the ‘racist test-givers’ a plausible explanation. The other genetic subgroups of Jews don’t have above-gen-pop IQ, so it’s implausible that pro-Jew bias is responsible for the elevated scores of Ashkenazis

            Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin and his second cousin David Yulee Levy were Sephardim lawyer-capitalists, matching yet predating stereotypes of Ashkenazi success.
            Though maybe that’s just noise because bourgeois elites are all going to look like that?

          • Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin and his second cousin David Yulee Levy were Sephardim lawyer-capitalists,

            A still more impressive example is David Ricardo.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            A still more impressive example is David Ricardo.

            Huh, that’s right.
            “His family were Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin who had recently relocated from the Dutch Republic. His father was a successful stockbroker and Ricardo began working with him at the age of 14.” (he got himself disowned at 21, though)

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          This is difficult to answer because 4 seems to be defined in such a broad way that it includes 3 (as well as both my opinion and some other opinions that I strongly disagree with).

          I am aware of the difference in test results and do not believe that they are due to bias on the part of the test administrators. Bias in test creation is decreasing, but I suspect has not yet been entirely eliminated.

          I am mostly ambivalent on how valuable IQ (as measured by tests) is as a measure. Developing an informed opinion here would require research that I have not done.

          I believe that both complicated long-term issues and more obvious, immediately addressable issues contribute to the gap. I strongly suspect that most of the long-term effects are at least partially environmental (GxE is everywhere).

          A better question to capture my opinion might be “In the long term, how much of the achievement gap do you believe can be eliminated without unjustly allocating resources or harming other groups?” My answer to that question would be “Between 90 and 100 percent of it”.

      • If it can’t be tested, wouldn’t it be sensible to avoid claims or policies that depend either on its being true or being false?

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          Yes. To the extent that this conversation is still about my personal opinions and what backs them, I agree with this entirely and tend to support such policies whenever they’re available.

          Several people seem to be arguing against the “unequal outcomes are strong evidence of wrong-doing” position. While I think that discussion is worth having, that is not an opinion that I hold or support. My actual opinion on the matter is “People should be treated as individuals wherever possible; From a utilitarian perspective, people with poor outcomes are usually a more efficient place to allocate resources than people with already good outcomes; it is very rare for policy that selectively targets a particular demographic group to be good policy”. I apologize if I have created confusion on this front.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        (Assumption: “significant” in your question can be defined as “sufficiently strong and established to be considered when defining policy”)

        By that, do you mean

        “Sufficiently strong and established that in some circumstances we should define policy based on the assumption that they exist”

        or

        “Sufficiently strong and established that we should not define policy based on the assumption that they don’t exist”

        The former is obviously a much, much higher bar than the latter.

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          The former. My intent in calling out this assumption was to communicate that I was applying the higher standard and explaining why my personal opinion did not clear that bar.

    • Kindly says:

      To a first approximation, nobody can notice cognitive differences since nobody can observe what people are thinking, only what the output is. Obviously there are significant differences in how, in practice, people of different ethnicities and genders think, which can be observed by looking at the demographics of a typical engineering department. (That’s a difference in how people think whether or not you decide that different ethnicities and genders are better or worse at engineering, or just that they’re more or less interested; in any case, either one causes the other quite easily.)

      If you want to raise a very CW topic, you probably mean to ask whether these cognitive differences are genetic. That one’s pretty much unfalsifiable since the politically correct alternative is that some groups lack opportunities to learn engineering, or else they are raised to believe they shouldn’t do those things because it’s not cool or whatever, and since there’s definitely at least some of that going on.

      I have no idea how to distinguish “this is going on, and that’s all there is” from “this is going on, and there’s also genetics”, and I have no idea how distinguishing them would change my actions – except that arguing the second one is probably not helpful if you’re writing those diversity essays you need to work at a university in California.

      • In the case of male/female differences, it seems to me that the default assumption should be that they exist, at least if you believe in Darwinian evolution. It implies that humans are optimized for reproductive success, the difference between male and female is their role in reproduction, and it would be a surprising, although not impossible, coincidence if the characteristics that were optimal for the male role and for the female role were the same.

        So far as what the differences are, one can suggest conjectures a priori, but which are true is going to depend on data.

        • matkoniecz says:

          Male/female differences clearly exist (for some reason pregnant males are hard to find), but the question was about significant cognitive differences.

        • albatross11 says:

          My understanding is that average IQ scores are about the same for men and women. Men tend to do a little better on spacial reasoning tasks; women tend to do a little better on verbal tasks. Also, women tend to have a somewhat narrower standard deviation than men, so that men tend to dominate in both the upper and lower tails of the distribution.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It implies that humans are optimized for reproductive success, the difference between male and female is their role in reproduction, and it would be a surprising, although not impossible, coincidence if the characteristics that were optimal for the male role and for the female role were the same.

          Though to paraphrase my grandpa, sometimes evolution produces things as useless as teats on a boar.

          • I have nipples. I don’t have functional breasts — I can’t nurse an infant. My guess is that a boar can’t either.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Right, male nipples are non-functional but still expressed by mammal genes after mega-years of selection pressure.
            Which evolutionary biologist was it who named retained features non-functional for reproductive success “spandrels”? Men and women’s brains could share spandrels rather than each being hyper-optimized for our reproductive roles.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Science done by angels.

      .. okay, that needs unpacking. Historically, many, many claims have been made about differences of ability between the sexes and the races that have subsequently been proven utterly, ridiculously, grotesquely wrong. And all of which were entirely respectable in their day.

      The people claiming women were inherently incapable of math while Ada Lovelace was publishing in the very same city thought themselves the very paragons of rational thinking and disinterested research.

      People proclaimed african americans to be an inferior race, even as Macoy and Woods were working despite all their encumbrances to make railroads work.

      In other words, this is a field in which people have historically been prone to the very most egregious of biases, cognitive error and scientific mal-practice.

      The base assumption that there is no differences in ability is, simply, epistemic humility. The last 293 measures of the differences turned out to be a bunch of humbug inspired by ego and the need to feel oneself superior. Why on earth would you presume measurement 294 to be otherwise? Is this presumption accurate? Eh. Accurate enough. The existence of Ruth Lawrence rather demonstrates if there is any difference in inherent limits, it cannot be very large, and Emeagwali is a rather better bootstraps story than any white man I can recall ever having.

      • uau says:

        The base assumption that there is no differences in ability is, simply, epistemic humility. The last 293 measures of the differences turned out to be a bunch of humbug inspired by ego and the need to feel oneself superior.

        Actively believing in differences being exactly zero does not seem at all like epistemic humility. And your reasoning is objectively wrong if you assert that all conclusions of differences have to be a result of biased reasoning on behalf of those finding differences.

        Look at what IQ tests contain. Do you really believe they have all been somehow intentionally designed to disadvantage some people based on race? That’s absurd. Or do you still claim that if some group consistently scores worse on the tests, “ego” is the only possible reason anyone could consider the results to reflect anything real? That it’s “epistemic humility” to assert that you know better?

      • Exetali Do says:

        Yes, this.

        I mean, it’s clear that there are genetic components to intelligence. But the most popular definitions of “race” are so broad and unscientific as to render useless all generalizations using them. Last I checked, there was more genetic diversity in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined, which makes me incredibly suspicious of any sort of category like “black” or “African”. I find that people using those categories are generally either engaging in uninformed speculation about a dangerously sensitive topic, or have ulterior motives.

        Personally, I find that a good rule of thumb is to only pay attention when a study cares enough to distinguish Igbo from Yoruba. If they can’t be bothered to even do *that*, what’s the point? (For instance, I hadn’t heard of Emeagwali before, but prior to looking him up, I’d have happily bet cash that he’s Igbo. And lo, he is.)

        And besides, for most practical purposes, it’d be better to just use the individual results of the SAT or GRE or an IQ test. There’s no sense in measuring individual people, lumping their results together in broad categories, and then basing decisions on the categories, when you can instead base decisions on the individual test results. IMO, to do so betrays an unhealthy and unscientific attachment to the categories themselves.

        • SanctaSimplicitas says:

          the most popular definitions of “race” are so broad and unscientific as to render useless all generalizations using them.

          Does this mean that you oppose affirmative action policies based on race?

          • Exetali Do says:

            To the extent that people in 21st century USA use those racial categories to discriminate, I’m fine with solutions that also use those racial categories. It’s obviously not as good as an individualized solution, which considers each person’s life uniquely, but I don’t have any deep philosophical objection to it.

            What does an Ivy League educated law professor who can trace almost all of their ancestry back to slaves in the American South, have in common with a 1st-generation refugee from the Rwandan genocide who can barely read and write? If they both get called the n-word and are singled out for suspicion by police, that’s something they have in common, and that’s something that a broad category of “African-American” is suited for.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you observe different outcomes by group, there are a lot of possible explanations. One is different abilities. As best I can tell, an ideological commitment to never consider that possible explanation is a way to sabotage your own brain, so that you simulate being dumber than you actually are. The appeal of a lot of rationalist ideas, to me, is the goal of simulating someone smarter than I actually am, so I find this as unappealing as the idea of an ideological commitment to never consider discrimination as an explanation.

          • Aapje says:

            @Exetali Do

            Do black people actually get called the n-word in a non-negligible quantity nowadays, other than by black rappers and other black people? Do they experience more suffering due to the n-word than white (or ‘white’) people do?

            For example, half-Japanese racing driver Kyle Larson was fired last month for saying the n-word to a white person. Only white people seemed to have been hurt due to that.

            As for being stopped by the police, men are stopped far more than women (just like the scientific evidence suggests that there is a judicial penalty for white men and a greater penalty for black men, but no penalty for black women, compared to white women).

            AFAIK, the evidence also shows that police target people in criminal neighborhoods much more, where those neighborhoods are more often black, but they target white men in those neighborhoods just as much as black men.

            So do you think that men deserve affirmative action based on gender and more so than black women, but less than black men? Should rich black men that live in good neighborhoods be lumped in with black men that live in poor neighborhoods? What about white men in good vs bad neighborhoods?

          • AG says:

            Tangential question, but when does this kind of intersection analysis get into p-hacking territory? The textbook example used for p-hacking is a study that shows that the medication is only working for [age] [gender] [race] subgroup. Is that just about how in an individual study, the sub-group sample is too small?

          • Aapje says:

            The judicial studies have pretty large datasets. Lots of criminals exist.

            In general I would want a pattern that makes sense, as well as the same pattern for different studies using the same methodology and using different methodology.

        • uau says:

          But the most popular definitions of “race” are so broad and unscientific as to render useless all generalizations using them.

          So are you saying that a claim like “blacks have been discriminated against” is meaningless, because there is no definable group of “blacks” that could be said to have faced or not faced discrimination?

          I think at least the groups “black population in USA” and “white population in USA” are definable well enough, show measurable average differences, and are practically relevant to discussion. It’s not necessary to consider whether any results generalize to various African populations – that can be an interesting question, but the topic is not “useless” even if you completely ignore such considerations.

          There’s no sense in measuring individual people, lumping their results together in broad categories, and then basing decisions on the categories, when you can instead base decisions on the individual test results. IMO, to do so betrays an unhealthy and unscientific attachment to the categories themselves.

          This can be a reasonable view, but only if you adhere to it consistently, and avoid claims like “blacks earn less or have less high-level jobs, this is evidence of racism/discrimination” on either national or per-company scale. As long as people make such claims, it’s important to know when such results can be explained by reasons other than discrimination. And people keep making such claims. Thus it’s important to be aware of race-related IQ and culture differences and when those can explain the different outcomes.

          We could perhaps ignore average differences between races if people didn’t care about racism (as in, for example nobody would jump to accusations of racism if some company hired very few blacks, and wouldn’t consider it any more important than whether they hired more people born in the evening than people born in the morning). But as long as accusations of racism are a relevant thing, and people care whether they are true or not, they need to know the reasons other than racism why differences occur.

          • matkoniecz says:

            So are you saying that a claim like “blacks have been discriminated against” is meaningless, because there is no definable group of “blacks” that could be said to have faced or not faced discrimination?

            You are moving goalposts. Initial question was asked about significant cognitive differences.

            Now you are taking comments about “genetic components to intelligence” and applying them in a different context.

            Initial post was troll-baity, but to my surprise resulted in interesting responses. But now you try to take comments out of context and post new troll bait.

            Thus it’s important to be aware of race-related IQ and culture differences

            Please do not present such things like it is confirmed or a known truth.

          • uau says:

            You are moving goalposts.

            No, I am not moving goalposts. People make claims like “worse black outcomes are evidence of discrimination” and then create policy based on that. But if worse outcomes are explained by “blacks have lower IQs”, that means the policy is mistaken. This is one of the most important practical contexts where racial differences come up, and if “black” makes sense for the discrimination claim, it makes just as much sense for the IQ claim.

            Please do not present such things like it is confirmed or a known truth.

            I gave the reasoning behind this position. You didn’t even try to address it, and instead posted a pretty much zero-content reply. Try to make more meaningful posts.

            Note that post I was replying to was itself making various claims as if they were obviously true, but my reply was a lot more constructive than yours.

          • Exetali Do says:

            I agree with matnoiecz.

            Different categories are appropriate to different questions in different areas of life. The original question was about genetics and intelligence, and my response was (roughly) that the standard categories we think of as “race” aren’t especially meaningful there, and that anyone with a serious scientific interest in discovering truth will happily acknowledge this.

            To pick a less controversial example, in some contexts it’s useful to talk about “Asians”, but in other contexts it might be more useful to distinguish “East Asians” from “South Asians” from “South-East Asians” from “Central Asians”. There might be times when it’s useful to distinguish “Chinese” from other “East Asians”, but (IMO) the category “Chinese” is mostly an imperial political construct, bound together by a shared writing system and the Communist Party of China. And if you’re discussing genetics, it is definitely useful to distinguish various ethnic groups in China, such as “Han Chinese”. And there may be many more layers that I’m not aware of, or that no one alive today is aware of yet. Maybe there’s something significant about the Hakka? I dunno.

            Or for another example, sometimes it’s useful to talk about diseases caused by viruses vs. bacteria vs. parasites vs. whatever. And sometimes it’s useful to talk about, say, coronaviruses vs. herpesviruses. But if you’re trying to develop vaccines, you’ll need to be operating at a level where you’re talking about covid-19.

            Please believe me, that to the extent that I have a “side” here, I find it very frustrating when people make bad arguments for what they think is a good cause. I feel your pain, more than I’m willing to share in public. And I don’t know of any good solution to that, but one of the reasons I like this site is that people here don’t do that nearly as often as elsewhere.

            But to go back to what Thomas Jorgensen said, people have a bad track record of making decisions based on “race”, so I err on the side of requiring more proof than normal for those sorts of claims.

          • uau says:

            the standard categories we think of as “race” aren’t especially meaningful there

            Please reply to the specific case I mentioned in my post. That is, do you disagree with the following specific claim:

            The two categories “black people in USA” and “white people in USA” are meaningful enough and have measurable and relevant average differences.

            But to go back to what Thomas Jorgensen said, people have a bad track record of making decisions based on “race”, so I err on the side of requiring more proof than normal for those sorts of claims.

            I could respect such a view, but only if it also meant that you would apply this higher burden of proof to things like accepting allegations of racism, or considering things like affirmative action acceptable.

          • Exetali Do says:

            The two categories “black people in USA” and “white people in USA” are meaningful enough and have measurable and relevant average differences.

            Meaningful? That depends on what is meant, and to whom. But I do agree that those categories have measurable differences. When I said “useless”, I meant more along the lines of “useless for scientific study of the causes of intelligence”, and not “useless for arguing against bad public policy”.

            I could respect such a view, but only if it also meant that you would apply this higher burden of proof to things like accepting allegations of racism, or considering things like affirmative action acceptable.

            That sounds like me, to me. *shrug* As an example, I prefer forms of affirmative action that aren’t directly based on race, but rather on measurable conditions (which can be the result of past discrimination), such as poverty and low SES. We’d lose the affirmation that “past policies were wrong, and we’re sorry, and we’re trying to make up for them”, which can be psychologically important. I hope that can be accomplished through other means. But we’d also reduce stigma and ethnic balkanization. And the policies have the virtue of being self-correcting over the long run. (If we have a Martian underclass in 300 years, they’d benefit too.)

          • Aapje says:

            @uau

            The two categories “black people in USA” and “white people in USA” are meaningful enough and have measurable and relevant average differences.

            Just because there are average differences doesn’t mean that those differences justify policy.

            It is a fact that black Americans are more criminal on average. Does that justify a curfew for black Americans? That is not merely a question on whether there is an average difference, but a subjective moral question on what kinds of discrimination and for what reason, you consider (un)just.

            Treating white people as a group that doesn’t get aid that black people do, suggests that there need to be structural advantages for all white people that are larger than structural advantages that some clear categorization of black people enjoy over white people outside of that category. For example, if white Billy-Bob has ’10’ advantage due to being white, but 20 disadvantage due to being Appalachian ‘white trash,’ while black Malia has the opposite, then Malia is on net, advantaged by 10 over Billy-Bob. So if you affirmative action Malia over Billy-Bob, you increased the lack of privilege of Billy-Bob.

            There are indications that this is happening. For example, black African 1st and 2nd generation migrants are immensely over-represented at top universities, compared to descendants from slaves. Is it then fair to then judge that group of black people who profit from affirmative action by statistics for a group with a far different composition?

            Similarly, Jews are immensely over-represented at universities. Is it fair to judge them based on statistics for whites in general, when the statistics for Jews specifically are different?

            What is the justification for using black and white as categories if it is possible to categorize in a more nuanced way than just by race? Is that even a good categorization or can dis-privilege be determined much better by parental income or such?

            PS. Note that if the original type of intersectionality is true, this gets even worse, as one black/white person may then be (dis)advantaged by their skin color by much more than another black/white person. In fact, some black/white people could be (dis)advantaged by it. Interventions purely by race would then often help the already relatively advantaged and/or harm the relatively disadvantaged.

          • uau says:

            Just because there are average differences doesn’t mean that those differences justify policy.

            I largely agree with your post. If government was truly ignoring race (which would need to include ignoring accusations of racism), then those differences would not give a cause to start enacting race-based policies.

            But as long as there are race-based policies, and when it matters whether accusations of racism are considered true or false, those differences are relevant.

          • people have a bad track record of making decisions based on “race”, so I err on the side of requiring more proof than normal for those sorts of claims.

            Shouldn’t that include the claim “the distribution of cognitive abilities is the same in different racial groups”? That claim is implicit in factual claims on which policies are based. Yet you appear to accept it with no evidence and no a priori reason to expect it. In the male/female case, there is a strong a priori reason to reject it, as I already pointed out.

        • albatross11 says:

          The whole “there’s no such thing as race” line falls apart on a couple points, as discussed here earlier:

          a. Genetic tests very reliably tell you the self-identified race of the testee.

          b. Forensic anthropologists can pretty reliably tell you the race of the person who died, given the skeleton.

          c. There are known genetic disorders and other diseases that occur with very different frequencies across racial groups. (sickle-cell, hypertension)

          d. There are also easily-observed differences that occur with very different frequencies across racial groups (lactose intolerance)

        • Personally, I find that a good rule of thumb is to only pay attention when a study cares enough to distinguish Igbo from Yoruba.

          If you wanted better information to predict the behavior of an individual, that would be desirable. But if what you want to explain is differences in average outcomes for different populations it isn’t essential and may be impractical, since you are more likely to know the color of skin of a large number of people you have data on than where in Africa their ancestors came from.

          If Igbo have an average IQ of 110 and Yoruba of 90 and the African-American population is 90% Yoruba and 10% Igbo, then the statement that African Americans have an average IQ below 100 is true, and could explain differences in average income, or educational attainment, or the like. And the data to confirm it does not require a study that distinguished Igbo from Yoruba.

          • Exetali Do says:

            Yes, I agree.

            I’ve seen various studies that show modest differences in IQ among races. Some of them controlled for different things. I don’t recall seeing any that controlled for enough of the stuff I could think of off the top of my head, that I’m absolutely convinced that a significant gap exists. But on the other hand, it would seem highly unusual if there weren’t any difference at all; that would actually be fascinating news in itself.

            In general, the average gap reported between different races is small compared to the gap among individual people I meet in my day-to-day life. This matches up nicely with my philosophical preference to treat each person as an individual, and not pre-judge them, so I tend to get along fine.

            I mostly come across discussion about average racial IQs in the context of a counter-argument against bad left-wing arguments (such as, pay gaps are 100% caused by discrimination). That’s pretty much the only decent use for the concept of average racial IQ that I can think of. As far as I’m aware, it’s not useful for doing scientific research into the causes of intelligence. It’s at best a minor weapon in the Culture War, and one that has a long track record of damaging the people who use it. And I have enough distaste for the CW, that I think I interpreted the original question as being more about doing scientific research, and less about preventing bad policy, especially since I hadn’t seen anyone discussing a bad policy beforehand.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Last I checked, there was more genetic diversity in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined, which makes me incredibly suspicious of any sort of category like “black” or “African”.

          This claim is often repeated, and it is true to some extent but misleading: most of the genetic variance in sub-Saharan Africa is due to groups of Khoisan and Pygmies who are highly ancestral and quite different than any other human group. Even early European explorers, without any knowledge of genetics, immediately recognized them as different than other Africans. Overall they amount to about 1.3 million people, 1/800 of the population of sub-Saharan Africa. The rest of the population is not that genetically diverse.

      • DeWitt says:

        I agree, too.

        Racist science has an extremely long history of being extremely wrong, which is a good reason to distrust claims made in its favor. It has an extremely long history of being used in favor of horrible policies, which is a good reason to be cautious about using the belief to shape your further worldview. Our understanding of human intelligence is not very good, and the people who want to use their belief in innate differences between races are not very, um, cautious about them even today. It isn’t clear to me that I should start believing in innate differences in intelligence at all, let alone that I should act on such beliefs.

        • uau says:

          It has an extremely long history of being used in favor of horrible policies,

          As already mentioned by other posters, compare these two types of reactions to “group A is doing badly”:

          1. This is due to inferior abilities of group A.

          2. All you people in group A, you should blame group B. It’s due to their unfair behavior that you are suffering.

          The second one has been used significantly more to justify horrible behavior than the first. If you consider bad history as a reason to demand a high standard of proof, “blame (racism of) group B” is at least as bad as “group A is less intelligent on average”.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            Although the history of the US shows pretty unambiguously that group B enslaved and oppressed group A for a few hundred years, and one of the explicit justifications given by group B was that group A was innately inferior. It’s not some wildly unfounded claim that group B has behaved unfairly in its collective treatment of group A.

          • uau says:

            Although the history of the US shows pretty unambiguously that group B enslaved and oppressed group A for a few hundred years

            Missing a few “ancestors of”.

            and one of the explicit justifications given by group B was that group A was innately inferior

            Justification maybe, but quite obviously not the reason they did it, not even in the sense of using it to get others to actively support it or participate in it. Nobody went “those people are inferior, and we have a duty to enslave inferior people”. Their motivation was financial. And even this was with a claim of inferiority a lot stronger than “less intelligent on average“.

            “Blame the racism of group B” is a lot more directly the kind of statement that history should make you wary of.

            It’s not some wildly unfounded claim that group B has behaved unfairly in its collective treatment of group A.

            There are a lot of groups whose ancestors were treated unfairly at some reasonably recent point. You should still be wary of claims like “Unemployed? Blame group X! Just remember what they did in WW2!”

            And my point here is not that any claims have to be “wildly unfounded”. It’s that when you compare the statements “it’s because group A is worse on average” and “it’s due to unfair behavior of group B”, it’s wrong to claim the first is of a type that is historically worse and thus you should set the burden of proof higher before evaluating any specific evidence.

            Saying that you should be really careful about claiming a group is less intelligent, while simultaneously not demanding extremely high standard of proof if you want to blame one group for another’s suffering, that’s nonsense.

          • DeWitt says:

            As already mentioned by other posters, compare these two types of reactions to “group A is doing badly”:

            1. This is due to inferior abilities of group A.

            2. All you people in group A, you should blame group B. It’s due to their unfair behavior that you are suffering.

            The second one has been used significantly more to justify horrible behavior than the first. If you consider bad history as a reason to demand a high standard of proof, “blame (racism of) group B” is at least as bad as “group A is less intelligent on average”.

            Sure, that’s a bad thing to do as well. Why’re you telling me for?

            Saying that you should be really careful about claiming a group is less intelligent, while simultaneously not demanding extremely high standard of proof if you want to blame one group for another’s suffering, that’s nonsense.

            No, really, why are you telling me? I’m not making any such claims!

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sorry for derailing this thread further from its initial starting point, but I want to chime in on a few points:

            Missing a few “ancestors of”.

            If you’re thinking of slavery, yes. Jim Crow, not so much. If my quick Google of black demographic statistics is accurate, something around one fifth of black people alive today were born before the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

            Nobody went “those people are inferior, and we have a duty to enslave inferior people”.

            They absolutely did:

            Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.[…] The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws.

            I know no reason to suppose that Stephens was lying, or covering for a financial motive; in particular, a financial motive doesn’t explain race-based slavery. If slavery were motivated purely financially, one needs to explain why poor whites were never enslaved, and why Stephens considered “subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race” to be a “violation of the laws of nature”.

            A financial motive also doesn’t satisfactorily explain Jim Crow, which did not have any obvious financial beneficiaries. Indeed, famously, the railroad company in Plessy v. Ferguson had opposed the Separate Car Acts as it would require them to buy more railway cars. And yet Plessy still lost his case.

            “Blame the racism of group B” is a lot more directly the kind of statement that history should make you wary of.

            I very strongly dispute this. From 1789 to 1965 there were at most a few years where the majority of black Americans were not, as a matter of law, second class citizens or functionally non-citizens: at various periods in that duration they were enslaved, denied the right to vote, denied equality before the law, were targets of state-enabled violence on a scale comparable with pogroms in the Russian Empire, and were generally not regarded as having rights that whites were bound to respect. This was not just common opinion, but the opinion of the highest court in the land.

            There is basically nothing, nothing at all, that compares in terms of what has been done by a group blaming another group for racism. You are welcome to dispute this point, but you are going to have to give some examples that stand up against a multi-century racially-based caste system that invited violence, oppression, and literal slavery.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            If slavery were motivated purely financially, one needs to explain why poor whites were never enslaved,

            They certainly were in pre-Christian times. With Christianity it was established early on that enslaving a fellow Christian was morally unacceptable.

            Religion aside, the real financial reason why Africans consituted most of slaves in the Age of Sail was that costal West African kingdoms based their economy on capturing slaves inland and trading them with Europeans for guns and stuff. Buying African slaves was much cheaper than trying to enslave anyone else, and since slavery was so common in Africa, the practice was considered culturally acceptable even by Europeans who would refrain from enslaving each other.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            They certainly were in pre-Christian times.

            In context, this is clearly about slavery in American history. The point I and NostalgiaForInfinity are making is that, contra uau, it requires only a brief inspection of American history from the founding until 1963 to conclude that a racial group (African Americans) suffered dramatically, in part justified by arguments about racial inferiority.

            The restriction of slavery in the American south cannot be explained by positing primarily financial motives, nor by the argument that slaves were differentiated based on religion, as many (and eventually most, though I don’t know when this occured) African American slaves were Christians. Moreover, slaveholders on the eve of the Civil War explicitly justified slavery by appealing to racial inferiority.

          • Randy M says:

            Africans were also better suited for tropical plantation work where the NA slave trade originated.

            (That said, it was surely more of an “us vs them” thing than strict economic optimization)

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Moreover, slaveholders on the eve of the Civil War explicitly justified slavery by appealing to racial inferiority.

            So they fact that they forced the slaves to do back-breaking work in the plantations was just a coincidence?

            The financial motivation is quite obvious: plantation agricolture was labor intensive and the American economy was labor-limited, thus it was cheaper to buy an African slave from the West African slavers and pay for his upkeep than to hire a worker or get a slave from anywhere else. Any other justification is a post-hoc rationalization.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            While I am sure this plays a role in explaining African slavery in the tropics, African American slavery extended well north of the tropics in America, but those same regions never saw white slavery.

            And all of this talk about the financial motives only apply to slavery, not Jim Crow or other instances of obvious oppression of African Americans.

            EDIT to respond to viVI_IViv:
            Of course it’s not a coincidence; but nor is it a coincidence that there was never a legal category for white slaves, even though there is no a priori reason why a white slave provides any less financial benefit. The point is not that slavery was racially motivated, but that targeting slavery at blacks was.

            And, again, this does nothing to explain Jim Crow. What financial interest did white southerners have from forbidding African Americans from riding on white rail cars? What was the financial motivation behind lynching?

          • Randy M says:

            “Why was there slavery?” is a different question than “Why were Africans the ones that were slaves”.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            For what it’s worth, I think the best question to ask is: why did slavery persist in the American South against clear moral arguments for abolition? And a huge component of the answer has to be, “because blacks were regarded as inferior, and so less worthy of moral consideration”–the fact that Southern politicians explicitly used this as a justification, both for slavery, and for the post-slavery black codes and Jim Crow, for which other motivations are not well-suited, suggests that this perceived inferiority really did matter.

          • cassander says:

            @Eugene Dawn says:

            For what it’s worth, I think the best question to ask is: why did slavery persist in the American South against clear moral arguments for abolition? And a huge component of the answer has to be, “because blacks were regarded as inferior, and so less worthy of moral consideration”

            I think a much better answer is “because the salaries and social standing of a large number of people depended on it persisting.”

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            How many such people had their social standing and salaries depend on slavery? If less than a majority of southern society, how did they manage to create political institutions that defended slavery that relied on the support of a majority whose social and financial standing was not dependent on slavery?

            And, does that also explain Jim Crow? And popular support for Jim Crow laws among white people?

          • uau says:

            A financial motive also doesn’t satisfactorily explain Jim Crow, which did not have any obvious financial beneficiaries.

            It doesn’t; I’d say Jim Crow is better modeled as a general conflict between racial/religious/etc groups that we have lots and lots of examples of.

            There is basically nothing, nothing at all, that compares in terms of what has been done by a group blaming another group for racism.

            Not using the word “racism”, but that’s just nitpicking. If you take that as a defense, then nobody’s ever done pretty much anything bad at all for believing some group to have “lower average intelligence with enough individual variation that there is still lots of overlap between the groups”.

            Telling one group to blame another for their suffering is very much the kind of thing that has a bad history.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It doesn’t; I’d say Jim Crow is better modeled as a general conflict between racial/religious/etc groups that we have lots and lots of examples of.

            How come it maps to the exact same divide as slavery? How come no other racial or religious groups were subject to Jim Crow? Why was the conflict between white southerners and blacks so much more intense than between any other racial/religious groups?

            Telling one group to blame another for their suffering is very much the kind of thing that has a bad history.

            The implication is that the first group would only blame the other after being told to blame them; when in fact two hundred years of history plainly attests to the fact that one group treated the other monstrously with no comparable mistreatment in the other direction no “telling” is necessary.

            The reason why blacks are justified in blaming racism is because even a casual glance at history validates this view. “Scapegoating other racial groups” has a bad history; “accurately representing the way your racial group has been scapegoated” really does not.

            But this is all very abstract: what specific instance of “blaming another group for your woes” would you stand up against the history of American slavery and Jim Crow? And, if you are certain that slavery was actually motivated by financial concerns, and Jim Crow was simply racial competition, how do you know that these reasons weren’t in operation in this case as well?

          • uau says:

            Why was the conflict between white southerners and blacks so much more intense than between any other racial/religious groups?

            Probably lots of reasons, and I wouldn’t expect to be able to list comprehensive reasons for that or most other conflicts, but I’d expect that at least population size and being very easy to distinguish were factors.

            The implication is that the first group would only blame the other after being told to blame them; when in fact two hundred years of history plainly attests to the fact that one group treated the other monstrously with no comparable mistreatment in the other direction no “telling” is necessary.

            There have been a huge number of injustices in history. It very much does matter whether people go around telling others to keep those in mind. And telling that the current people of some group are bad with light demands for evidence.

            The reason why blacks are justified in blaming racism is because even a casual glance at history validates this view. “Scapegoating other racial groups” has a bad history; “accurately representing the way your racial group has been scapegoated” really does not.

            You’re shifting between present and past. Intentionally bringing up past grievances is bad even if true. Scapegoating present people is worse.

            If you try to justify present scapegoating by accuracy, at the very least you should acknowledge that it does have a bad history, and demand rigor to make sure it really is accurate. As in not having the attitude that it’s a priori bad to say that blacks have lower average intelligence, but just fine to blame white racism, before evaluating the specific evidence for just how accurate either claim is.

            But this is all very abstract: what specific instance of “blaming another group for your woes” would you stand up against the history of American slavery and Jim Crow?

            Lots of conflicts. As already mentioned, the Nazi hatred toward Jews was mostly motivated by “they caused/cause German suffering” (WW1 backstab, and so on).

            And, if you are certain that slavery was actually motivated by financial concerns, and Jim Crow was simply racial competition, how do you know that these reasons weren’t in operation in this case as well?

            In what case? If you mean generally “responsible for some black suffering somewhere”, I don’t know that for sure.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Probably lots of reasons, and I wouldn’t expect to be able to list comprehensive reasons

            You don’t have to list comprehensive reasons, but presumably you formed this opinion based on some evidence? Some books you’ve read, primary sources from the time, etc? Even just a sketch of the reasons that led you to this conclusion would be helpful.

            I’d specifically be interested to hear why you think this is a reasonable explanation even though Jim Crow didn’t arise in the north, despite black people being similarly distinctive, and why Jim Crow was so much more comprehensive, sustained, and long-lived than prejudice against Chinese immigrants, given that they were similarly distinctive.

            There have been a huge number of injustices in history. It very much does matter whether people go around telling others to keep those in mind. And telling that the current people of some group are bad with light demands for evidence.

            It certainly matters how we use history; one possible bad use of history is to dig up old grievances. Another possible bad use of history is to downplay past injustices so that we cannot understand them properly, and can’t properly address their lingering effects.

            You’re shifting between present and past. Intentionally bringing up past grievances is bad even if true. Scapegoating present people is worse.

            Again, it matters why we bring it up. I don’t think small Eastern European states bringing up grievances against Russia is bad just because the grievances are in the past–not if we can learn something about how the relationship between these countries might play out in the present day.

            This standard effectively forbids us to learn from the past, especially past injustices, which seem to me quite important to learn from if we want to prevent future injustices. Scapegoating is bad, but not all presentations of past grievances are scapegoating: some of them are legitimate demands for justices, and forbidding discussion of them forecloses the possibility of achieving justice.

            FWIW I can’t imagine you mean this as categorically as you’ve stated it, so I’ll ask: are there any circumstances you can think of where it’s justified to bring up past grievances? How do we determine those cases?

            As in not having the attitude that it’s a priori bad to say that blacks have lower average intelligence, but just fine to blame white racism, before evaluating the specific evidence for just how accurate either claim is.

            Of course making this judgment a priori would be insane: that’s why I think the ~200 year history of black oppression is important, and particularly the fact that, in my reading, a significant justification for this was the claim that blacks were “inferior”, fit only to be plow hands or manual labourers.

            I think the fact of black oppression is incontestable and overwhelming; if we disagree on this, then I don’t think there’s much point in continuing the discussion. If our only disagreement is on the extent to which claims of racial inferiority were responsible for it, then I’m happy to make a stronger argument for my claim, but for what it’s worth I think there is very good evidence for it.

            As already mentioned, the Nazi hatred toward Jews

            The reason this comparison fails is because, unlike slavery and Jim Crow, there are no incontestable and overwhelming examples of Jews treating Germans badly en masse; this is what distinguishes mere scapegoating from an accurate presentation of historical facts. That’s why the German narrative about Jews is ludicrous, but the Jewish claim that “Jews were treated very badly by Germany” is not mere scapegoating, and is just a plainly true historical fact.

            My argument is that “blacks were treated poorly by whites in America” is much more like the second claim than the first.

          • Aapje says:

            The practice of slavery requires a mechanism by which to create slaves, as well as a way to keep slaves enslaved. For example, in ancient Rome, one of the main ways was to enslave conquered armies (or rebellious people), which led to the logical consequence of very dangerous slave rebellions (made up of military men), including the best-known one, led by Spartacus.

            Another major source was piracy, which can make people rather upset if they notice that you deal with pirates.

            There are logical reasons why America couldn’t get (white) slaves at a reasonable cost from conquest or piracy. Trading with Europe was highly beneficial. Debt bondage and such seems to have been relatively inconsequential in Rome, causing a lot of unrest among the lower class, while providing relatively few slaves.

            Finally, Roman writings appear fairly obsessed with escaped slaves, suggesting that it was a huge issue. Having skin color as a good indication means that it is easier to find escaped slaves and harder to mistake non-slaves for escaped slaves.

          • There is basically nothing, nothing at all, that compares in terms of what has been done by a group blaming another group for racism.

            “Racism” is too narrow. The category originally introduced was “one group blaming another for bad things that happened to it.”

            Quite a lot of antisemitism, from blood libel through the holocaust, fits that pattern.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Quite a lot of antisemitism, from blood libel through the holocaust, fits that pattern.

            Let me be clearer: for bad things that the other group actually did. There is no comparable history of Jews actually doing the things non-Jews accused them of, in the same way there genuinely is a history of black slavery and oppression. If Germans could point to two centuries of Jews denying them rights and treating them as second class citizens, this would be a counterexample. In fact, though, it is the exact opposite: the argument more analogous to the one others in this thread are pursuing would be that it is dangerous for Jews to accurately describe their mistreatment at the hands of non-Jews; that we require equally strict standards of evidence to assert that “Jews were treated badly in Europe and this may have effects on their culture today” as to assert that “Jews control finance and industry, and use this position to advance their own interests”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            AFAIK, at the time Jews were actually overrepresented in positions of power (just like they are today, in the USA). So if one believes that those in power are oppressing others, then it follows that Jews are more guilty of oppressing others.

            Note that if one replaces Jews by men, this is a very common feminists argument.

            I don’t necessarily agree with either argument…

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            AFAIK, at the time Jews were actually overrepresented in positions of power (just like they are today, in the USA). So if one believes that those in power are oppressing others, then it follows that Jews are more guilty of oppressing others.

            If Jews were .75% of the Germany population at the time, then even 1% of positions of power being held by Jews would count as over-representation and yet it would be plainly ludicrous to suppose that this is sufficient grounds to believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories.

            As it happens, this whole point is asinine, as this was not the justification offered by German antisemites, who ignored evidence of Jewish over-representation in the army to argue that Jews were profiteering defeatists who had cost Germany the war; that they were an alien race who did not belong in Germany; that they murdered children and raped women.

            I fervently hope you do not disagree that the actual causes of German antisemitism, unlike charges against Germans for perpetrating the Holocaust and those against Southern whites for inflicting slavery (which are plainly and obviously true) are plainly false.

            Even your imagined causes of German antisemitism (which, again, are only hypothetical) require, are clearly less evidently true than oppression of Jews during the Holocaust.

            But this whole line of argument is devolving into farce, so let me ask you directly:

            Do you think the Holocaust constituted oppression of Jews? Did slavery constitute oppression of African Americans?
            Are the facts of the Holocaust and slavery obviously true for anyone with even a casual knowledge of modern history?
            If you answered yes to the first two questions, do you think it was trivially easy to draw those conclusions, and that anyone with a passing familiarity with these events would draw the same conclusions?
            And finally, do the examples you and David Friedman have offered bear anything but the remotest resemblance to these cases? Do you really think that “Jews say Germans did bad things to them in the Holocaust” and “Germans say Jews did bad things to them in the Weimar era” are remotely comparable statements?

          • uau says:

            I think the fact of black oppression is incontestable and overwhelming; if we disagree on this, then I don’t think there’s much point in continuing the discussion. If our only disagreement is on the extent to which claims of racial inferiority were responsible for it,

            You’re again conflating past and present. I think our primary disagreement is that you seem to be treating “black oppression” as a single monolithic truth – in intentionally exaggerated terms, “Whites took blacks as slaves in the 1700s! This is absolute historical truth! Therefore it’s perfectly OK for Black Lives Matter to spread a narrative of whites killing blacks in the present!”.

            Again, there were a lot of people who were unjustly treated in history. You need to distinguish talking about historical facts, and bringing up past grudges in discussion about current problems. “It’s factually true!” is not a justification for the latter. Even where you discuss past events with relevance to current situation, such as “what caused blacks to adopt a bad culture?”, there’s a difference whether you blame “the 1920s government” for some relevant injustice, or “whites” in a way meant to place blame on current whites.

            So if you want to scapegoat current whites for the current problems of blacks, my view is that you should face a high burden of proof. “Blacks have lower average intelligence” should not be considered a priori a worse explanation than “blame whites” scapegoating. That you point to past injustices does not change this, whether they’re true or not. Scapegoating an existing group requires strong evidence that they’re doing evil now.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Of course it’s not a coincidence; but nor is it a coincidence that there was never a legal category for white slaves, even though there is no a priori reason why a white slave provides any less financial benefit. The point is not that slavery was racially motivated, but that targeting slavery at blacks was.

            There was no supply of white slaves. You couldn’t just enslave a random person off the street, and essentially nobody was selling white slaves internationally. The only people who traded in white slaves were the Barbary pirates who kidnapped people off the coasts of southern Europe, but engaging in such trade with them would have been an international relations nightmare for the British-American colonists. Similar considerations applied to most other ethnicities.

            There were some Native Americans who were enslaved, generally they were captured by other Native Americans during tribal wars and sold off to the colonists, not unlike the African slaves, but after a certain point the the Native American population was small and keeping Native Americans captive was tricky: unless the whole tribe was enslaved or destroyed, the slaves had somewhere to run off to, or their fellow tribesmen could attempt to free them. African slaves, on the other hand, had nowhere to go and nobody that could come to free them.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Therefore it’s perfectly OK for Black Lives Matter to spread a narrative of whites killing blacks in the present!”.

            No one has mentioned BLM before this point; what this thread started debating was whether claims about black intellectual inferiority have an “extremely long history of being used in favor of horrible policies”, and if so, is there a comparably long history of horrible policies justified by claims along the lines of, “blame the racism of group A”.

            To evaluate this, we have to evaluate the actual history the horrible policies each set of claims has been used to justify. This is why I keep harping on slavery and Jim Crow: they are evidence that DeWitt’s initial claim is true; trivially true in my opinion.

            In contrast, you have asserted that

            “Blame the racism of group B” is a lot more directly the kind of statement that history should make you wary of.

            To judge this claim, we very obviously need to compare the historical records of groups claiming “group A are our inferiors” to those of people claiming “blame the racism of group B”.

            I continue to claim that the first kind of statement has a much worse history than the second, and that the supposed counterexamples presented don’t really shift my thinking; Nazi attitudes toward Jews are more like the first claim than the second.

            Somehow, you have determined that my insistence on bringing up history is an attempt to justify statements of the form “blame the racism of group A”, which it is not–I am willing to have this discussion, but as we are already losing track of the discussion, I’d prefer to defer that to avoid further confusion.

            So, to return the actual matter at hand:
            1. Do you agree that slavery and Jim Crow count trivially as bad things done to blacks?
            2. If “yes” to 1, do you count them as part of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “group A is inferior”}?
            3. If “no” to 2, why not?
            4. Do you think the Nazi claims against Jews are better regarded as members of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “group A is inferior”}, or as members of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “blame the racism of group B”}? If the latter, why?

          • whether claims about black intellectual inferiority have an “extremely long history of being used in favor of horrible policies”

            For your purposes, I think you need the stronger claim that the horrible policies would not have occurred, or would have occurred much less often, without the claims.

          • uau says:

            1. Do you agree that slavery and Jim Crow count trivially as bad things done to blacks?

            Yes.

            2. If “yes” to 1, do you count them as part of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “group A is inferior”}?
            3. If “no” to 2, why not?

            Depends on your meaning of “justified”. Did someone use that excuse to justify their behavior? Yes, among others. Was that what motivated people to do it? No. As I already said earlier in the thread, slavery happened for economic reasons, not because people believed it was the right thing to do even if it cost them money.

            4. Do you think the Nazi claims against Jews are better regarded as members of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “group A is inferior”}, or as members of the set {horrible policies justified by claims like “blame the racism of group B”}? If the latter, why?

            Very clearly the latter. Germans were not angry at Jews for generally sucking at their jobs. They were angry at Jews for betraying them and causing the loss in WW1 with bad consequences for all Germans, etc.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @David Friedman

            For your purposes, I think you need the stronger claim that the horrible policies would not have occurred, or would have occurred much less often, without the claims.

            Yes, though of course the same caveat applies to the other set of claims and justifications too.

            @ uau

            Yes, among others. Was that what motivated people to do it? No. As I already said earlier in the thread, slavery happened for economical reasons, not because people believed it was the right thing to do even if it cost them money.

            You certainly said; what you didn’t do is give any evidence why you believe this. And similarly for Jim Crow: you have argued that Jim Crow is only tangentially related to a belief in black inferiority, but I don’t see any reason to believe this true: I think the coincidence between the same minority group first being enslaved and then being subject to onerous restrictions on their freedom and rights is best explained by supposing a belief that the targeted minority differs from the majority in a way that makes it okay to deny them rights. I have already offered evidence that, at least in the case of slavery, this supposed difference was the natural subservience of the minority.

            If this is where we disagree, on whether a belief in racial inferiority was necessary and/or sufficient for these episodes of oppression, I will provide more evidence–but first I’d like to see some evidence for your claim. I’ve already offered some (though certainly not sufficient or decisive) evidence, and have so far only received assertions in return, so I think it’s fair that you point me to some evidence in favour of your view.

            Very clearly the latter. Germans were not angry at Jews for generally sucking at their jobs.

            On this I disagree. First of all, the stab-in-the-back-legend doesn’t really map to blame on the racism of the Jews; it also, as I’ve said, differs in that the racism of white Americans towards black Americans is an incontestably true historical fact, in very stark contrast to the claim that Jews sabotaged the war effort.

            Even more, the stab-in-the-back-legend is very much not the totality of Nazi antisemitism: Jews were literally regarded as inferior people, capable of defiling German blood with “foreign poison”, ineligible for the rights of German citizens. This obsession with Jewish race and ancestry is basically inexplicable in your model, and entirely fits mine. And again, insofar as German grievances were phrased in terms of prior bad treatment at the hands of Jews, they were basically wholly imaginary, and often still had a racially essentialist character–Nazis blamed Jews for the Weimar Republic and its various failings, but not as a matter of Jews instituting bad policies, but rather because Jews were naturally a pollutant of German culture, causing decay simply by their infecting the German race with their presence.

            Given that, again unlike with blacks in America, the alleged harms caused by Jews were pretty much all imaginary or grossly overexaggerated, I don’t think the German case looks much like a grievance for past injustices at all.

          • JPNunez says:

            This is whitewashing a lot of the history of the “This is due to inferior abilities of group A.” kind of statements

            https://www.ushistory.org/us/27f.asp

            Defenders of slavery argued that the institution was divine, and that it brought Christianity to the heathen from across the ocean. Slavery was, according to this argument, a good thing for the enslaved. John C. Calhoun said, “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.”

            So yeah, it was used to justify slavery, and will be used again to justify tons of policies and injustices alive today.

          • is best explained by supposing a belief that the targeted minority differs from the majority in a way that makes it okay to deny them rights.

            That’s a bit odd. Did they also believe that stupid whites should be denied rights?

            If they thought that blacks were all the equivalent of lunatics or imbeciles it might make sense, but it’s hard to believe that anyone routinely interacting with them would believe that. How does “on the average they are a little less intelligent than we are” lead to “it’s all right to deny them rights?”

            How does it even lead to segregated schools? Wouldn’t the obvious implication be that, if you wanted to segregate schools by intelligence, i.e. track them, you would expect the smart track to be mostly white and the slow track mostly black, with no need for further racial sorting?

            The pattern looks more like tribalism, in-group out-group, than a consequence of belief in cognitive differences.

            To take a somewhat analogous case, I’m Ashkenazi. My wife is a Christian. A smart Christian. That makes more sense than marrying a random woman of my own ethnicity, despite the difference in mean IQ of the groups.

          • uau says:

            On this I disagree. First of all, the stab-in-the-back-legend doesn’t really map to blame on the racism of the Jews;

            It doesn’t specifically use the word “racism”, but it is of the “they’re an enemy who’s attacked us” variety, as opposed to the “they suck at everything” variety.

            it also, as I’ve said, differs in that the racism of white Americans towards black Americans is an incontestably true historical fact, in very stark contrast to the claim that Jews sabotaged the war effort.

            I never claimed the Nazi/Jew case was an example of bringing up past grievances. If you want that, look at the Balkans.

            Your comparison is a bad one in other ways too: the Nazi message was that the German suffering was caused by recent and ongoing enemy action. If you apply that to the American situation, it is no longer incontestably true historical fact. And that version (racism of current whites is to blame for current bad situation of blacks) is exactly the version I’ve talked against.

            Even more, the stab-in-the-back-legend is very much not the totality of Nazi antisemitism

            I don’t think that really shows anything. Once the Jews very the official enemy, they were attributed pretty much every possible bad thing.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @David Friedman

            How does “on the average they are a little less intelligent than we are” lead to “it’s all right to deny them rights?”

            Because people rounded down from “on average less intelligent” to “as a group less intelligent” and from there “not much more than beasts”, and the last step to denying rights wasn’t so far from there.

            Just so it’s clear I’m not editorializing or inserting my own opinion here, allow me to quote Nathaniel Beverley Tucker on the matter, from his essay On the Moral and Political Effect of the Relation Between the Caucasian Master and the African Slave, in which he describes Africans as

            hardly bearing the lineaments of humanity, in intellect scarcely superior to the brutes, and mainly distinguishable from them by the greater variety of his evil propensities, and by a something answering the propensities of speech better–though not much better–than the chattering of monkeys.

            Insofar as the pro-slavery faction could be forced to admit that Africans were not quite so brutish as all that, they would chalk it up to the edifying effects of slavery.

            The pattern looks more like tribalism, in-group out-group, than a consequence of belief in cognitive differences.

            The issue is that a belief in cognitive differences can both exaggerate tribalism and be exaggerated by pre-existing tribalism.
            Obviously other beliefs can have this property as well, but the belief that one group of people are, in a more or less unimprovable way, stuck with lower abilities and so will have to content themselves with a lesser lot in life on the whole is unsurprisingly more prone to this failure mode.

            @uau

            I never claimed the Nazi/Jew case was an example of bringing up past grievances

            I asked you for an example of when one group of people blaming another for their woes led to bad outcomes, and you responded by bringing up Nazi Germany. You are welcome to clarify what you meant by that, if not as an example of people justifying terrible behaviour as a redress for past grievancse.

            Your comparison is a bad one in other ways too: the Nazi message was that the German suffering was caused by recent and ongoing enemy action.

            No, that was not the Nazi message. Once again the Nazi message was that Jews were literally subhuman vermin who polluted the Aryan community by their presence; German suffering was merely regarded as an inevitable outcome of having allowed the purity of the German state to be corrupted in this way.

            If you think I am mischaracterizing the Nazi message you are welcome to provide evidence to the contrary. So far you have offered nothing but assertions with no evidence, and I don’t intend to continue this discussion if you are unwilling to provide a single piece of evidence to back up your historical claims.

          • uau says:

            I never claimed the Nazi/Jew case was an example of bringing up past grievances

            I asked you for an example of when one group of people blaming another for their woes led to bad outcomes, and you responded by bringing up Nazi Germany. You are welcome to clarify what you meant by that, if not as an example of people justifying terrible behaviour as a redress for past grievancse.

            I separately mentioned two things, “bringing up past grievances” and “scapegoating another group for current suffering”. You asked for an example of the latter. The Nazi/Jew situation is an example: Nazis blamed Jews (and some other groups) for the loss of WW1, which was causing significant suffering in Germany. This is not redress for “past grievances” significantly in the past; this is saying that the other group is working against you, and is the reason for your problems.

            “Blame white racism for the current suffering of blacks” is comparable to such scapegoating. If you mean that as “racism of 1700s whites” then it could be interpreted as bringing up past grievances instead, but I don’t think many interpret it that way.

            No, that was not the Nazi message. Once again the Nazi message was that Jews were literally subhuman vermin who polluted the Aryan community by their presence; German suffering was merely regarded as an inevitable outcome of having allowed the purity of the German state to be corrupted in this way.

            Even if you believe this was more significant than the backstab for getting Germans to hate Jews, isn’t this quite different from mere “inferiority”? This is itself saying that they’re pretty directly harming Germans.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “That’s a bit odd. Did they also believe that stupid whites should be denied rights?”

            At least one of them did– he had plans (dreams?) of a autocratic Confederacy, and lower class whites wouldn’t have equal rights. I’m hoping I can find the source.

            Not the thing I was looking for, but

            Further evidence of the hostility of the ruling class towards the Poor White is found in the enactment by several southern states of a poll tax, which required an annual payment of $1.00 (equivalent to $28 in 2019),[15] to vote, in some cases, or at least payment before voting. The poll tax excluded not only African Americans, but also the many Poor Whites, from voting, as they lived in a barter economy and were cash poor.

            This is simply about poverty rather than any claims about intelligence.

        • albatross11 says:

          Defining anything that implies cognitive differences between races as “racist science” is a very good way of insulating your brain from unwanted facts, but a pretty lousy way to help yourself think clearly.

          • DeWitt says:

            Defining anything that implies cognitive differences between races as “racist science” is a very good way of insulating your brain from unwanted facts, but a pretty lousy way to help yourself think clearly.

            It’s the term commonly used in English parlance to talk about such science, and terms such as H – beedee tend to get picked up by the comment filter. Sheesh.

          • albatross11 says:

            DeWitt:

            Just to clarify, are you claiming that the normal English language way to refer to mainstream IQ research (which definitely recognizes the black/white average IQ differences) is “racist science?”

          • It’s the term commonly used in English parlance to talk about such science

            (“racist science.”)

            Can you see how dishonest that is? “Racism” doesn’t mean “the belief that there are some differences among races,” a belief that is obviously true. It means, roughly, hating or despising other people because of their race.

            Labeling research in racial IQ differences as racist science is asserting that the only possible reason to want to know whether they exist is because you are a racist. That’s name calling, the behavior of someone uninterested in rational discussion or considering that his beliefs might be mistaken. People who behave that way don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

            Wash out your browser with soap.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Racist science has an extremely long history of being extremely wrong

          Perhaps the most famous example of racial science being “wrong” is the 19th century Samuel Morton’s study of brain sizes based on his collection of skulls from various places in the world, where he concluded that blacks had smaller brains than whites. This was famously “debunked” by Stephen Jay Gould in his book The Mismeasure of Man, which became a bestseller.

          Except that Morton’s skull collections still exists and in 2011 some researchers actually measured these skulls with modern imaging techniques. Turns out that Morton was right and Gould was wrong: the skulls of black people really had smaller brain cavities than those of white people.

          Was “racist” science really wrong?

          • matkoniecz says:

            This was famously “debunked” by Stephen Jay Gould in his book The Mismeasure of Man, which became a bestseller.

            I suspect that this particular debunking was low quality.

            Low quality debunking is not implying that original was better.

            Selecting bottom tier arguments from the other side and replying only to them is not useful at all and.

            but the reviews in scientific journals were, for the most part, highly critical
            (…)
            Reviews in scientific journals accused Gould of historical inaccuracy, unclear reasoning, and political bias.

            In a paper published in 1988, John S. Michael reported that Samuel G. Morton’s original 19th-century study was conducted with less bias than Gould had described; that “contrary to Gould’s interpretation … Morton’s research was conducted with integrity”. Nonetheless, Michael’s analysis suggested that there were discrepancies in Morton’s craniometric calculations, that his data tables were scientifically unsound, and he “cannot be excused for his errors, or his unfair comparisons of means”.[22] Michael later complained that some authors, including J. Philippe Rushton, selectively “cherry-picked facts” from his research to support their own claims. He lamented, “Some people have turned the Morton-Gould affair into an all or nothing debate in which either one side is right or the other side is right, and I think that is a mistake. Both men made mistakes and proving one wrong does not prove the other one right.”[23]

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

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Selecting bottom tier arguments from the other side and replying only to them is not useful at all and.

            Let’s hear the top tier arguments then.

          • Garrett says:

            > Let’s hear the top tier arguments then.

            The problem is that it’s not always easy to find them, even if you are looking for them.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Oh dear. You have far too many inadequately defined terms above. I don’t know what I’d need to believe to be one of the people you are addressing.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      What do you mean by cognitive differences?

      • albatross11 says:

        I would take that to mean any of:

        a. Differences in overall intellectual ability.

        b. Differences in relative strengths and weaknesses among different intellectual abilities.

        c. Differences in interests.

        d. Differences in personality and temperament.

        I think all these exist among different identifiable groups. Those differences are almost never relevant when evaluating or interacting with an individual, since there’s also a huge amount of variation within each group. (For example, men average better at spacial reasoning than men, but a female mechanical engineer is better than the overwhelming majority of men at spacial reasoning.) I think the root causes of those differences are still unclear–probably some are ultimately biological in origin (particularly many of the sex differences), but it’s very hard to untangle that from culture/environment/etc.

        We have imperfect but workable ways to measure all of these. IQ tests seem to correlate pretty well with what we mean when we talk about intelligence, the scores are consistent across an individual’s lifetime, and scores correlate positively with both work performance and school performance, as well as correlating more weakly with all kinds of life outcomes. Both IQ[0] and tests of learning (which also correlate strongly with IQ among people who’ve had approximately the same education) allow us to split out different kinds of intelligence or tasks, like separating spacial/mathematical reasoning from verbal reasoning, or separating fluid and crystalized intelligence[1]. We can also observe what the most intellectually demanding things are that people do, informally, and then note who’s better/worse at them overall. Or we can define things that are extra hard to do intellectually, and then note who manages to do them.

        We also have personality tests, which are imperfect but still seem to give pretty consistent results from the same person over time, and to be useful in making predictions. And there are certainly plenty of observations that seem plausible about different personality types going into some fields, etc. I think there’s some evidence that women and men have somewhat different average personality test scores, and this probably matters in the big wide world.

        To gauge interests, we can look at simple questionaires (“which of these is more interesting to you”), at experiments where we let kids play with whatever toy they like and see which ones they prefer, etc. We can also observe what choices people actually make–when a woman has a choice of going into economics vs psychology, or medicine vs engineering, it’s informative to note that a lot more men choose economics/engineering and a lot more women chose psychology/medicine.

        In all these cases, I agree that the information available isn’t perfect, but I think it’s enough to support an informed opinion about differences between groups in these areas. I’d say IQ tests are very solid, with more than a century of scholarship and experimental results and statistics behind them. I think personality tests are a lot fuzzier, but that’s not something I’ve studied much.

        And of course, if you want to argue that there’s simply no way to say anything about intelligence, then that justifies saying “nobody can know whether there are intelligence differences between groups,” not “there are no such differences.”

        [0] The best way to know that IQ scores are meaningful is that they allow you to make predictions that are more accurate than you can make without them. Give Alice access to a list of students with their race, socioeconomic status, and previous grades. Give Bob the same information, but also their IQ scores. Bob can reliably make better overall predictions about how those kids will do in later years of school than Alice can make.

        [1] Fluid intelligence means how well you solve a new problem; crystalized intelligence means how well you solve problems you’ve already learned to solve. Fluid intelligence is highest when you’re young and declines as you age. Eventually crystalized intelligence declines, but much more slowly/later. Aging genuinely sucks.

    • albatross11 says:

      So, I do think significant differences exist across racial groups, and that the evidence for those differences is overwhelming. I don’t know why the differences exist (you can make a plausible argument for genetics, but it’s very hard to untangle from culture, environment, etc.), but their existence seems hard to dispute, to me.

      That evidence comes from IQ statistics, but also from basically every other standardized test–SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, bar exams, etc. It also comes from observing the racial makeup in STEM fields, among NSF fellows, among winners of prestigious prizes like the Nobel Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, etc. You see it reflected in chess champions, math competitions, science fairs. You see it in graduation rates from high school and college. In a world where black, white, and Asian intelligence is the same, every one of those needs an explanation. In a world where they’re different in the way the IQ statistics claim, they’re all roughly what you’d expect.

      Note that in a world where those test and academic differences are due to racism, someone needs to explain why it is that Asians average better than whites on the tests. Maybe also why people of Eastern European Jewish descent do even better than Asians on average on those tests–something that caused a lot of heartburn when the kids of the big wave of Eastern European Jewish immigrants started taking too many spots at Ivy League schools earlier in the last century.

      The differences between group averages are not very important in daily life–you interact with individuals, not with huge populations. When it becomes important is when you want to know what’s likely to happen with group statistics, or with policies geared toward treating groups differently or changing group statistics.

      For example, many public school systems have tracking by ability–they put kids together in a classroom with other kids who are performing at about the same level. This almost always ends up with the advanced tracks having a high concentration of Asians and a low concentration of blacks. Many school systems also have magnet schools intended to take the brightest kids and give them an advanced education. Those programs tend to be *really* heavily Asian–it’s common to have a population of school kids that’s less than 10% Asian and a magnet population that’s like 50% Asian. Black kids are disproportionately *not* in those advanced classes.

      Now, this is what I would have predicted from racial IQ averages[1]. About once ever few months, there is a big blow-up somewhere about the racial disparities in these programs. Many news articles are written explaining that this must be due to racism among teachers, principals, parents, *someone*. (The overwhelming majority of those articles don’t mention the disproportionate success of Asians–probably because that doesn’t really fit the narrative, and raises a lot of uncomfortable questions.)

      Lots of people seem to believe that any mention of the racial IQ statistics that very economically explain the pattern would be inflamatory and evil. Yet hardly anyone seems to feel that way about accusing teachers or principals or even the whole society of being racist and keeping the black kids down. This seems nuts to me–if talking about racial IQ differences in taboo for fear of causing social unrest, whipping up racial antagonism should be *super* taboo. Yet somehow, it isn’t.

      Understanding racial IQ statistics helps you make sense of the world–it lets you make correct predictions that people without that knowledge will fail to make. It helps you know what the likely outcome of some proposed policies will be–something that will apparently be shocking to everyone else when the thing you were pretty sure was going to happen indeed happens.

      So, what’s the cost of this knowledge? First of all, to make any use of it, you have to *really, truly* get through your head the difference between a population average and an individual drawn from that population. Otherwise, you’re going to make a bunch of dumb predictions at an individual level, like assuming a black mathematician or doctor is not very smart because of population IQ statistics. The other cost is that it’s one of those places where the “social truth” that everyone is supposed to know and believe happens to be wildly out of step with the actual true truth. That means sometimes you are going to know things that are true, but that are socially unacceptable to mention out loud.

      At a societal level, there’s a danger that knowing about IQ differences will lead you to fail to correct for things that would have helped in some situation independent of IQ differences. Baltimore city schools turn in an amazingly horrible performance at teaching kids, and the kids are mostly poor and black, but there are probably a lot of other things wrong with that school system. That’s the flipside of having “everyone know” that all races are equal in intelligence, where you spend a lot of effort trying to fix things like the performance gap in education, by treating problems that aren’t actually responsible for much or any of that gap.

      None of that leads to piles of skulls or a holocaust by any plausible path I can imagine.

      [1] Though I believe there are also substantial cultural and environmental effects going on there–blacks are probably undershooting their native abilities, and Asians are probably overshooting their native abilities.

      • Randy M says:

        This seems nuts to me–if talking about racial IQ differences in taboo for fear of causing social unrest, whipping up racial antagonism should be *super* taboo. Yet somehow, it isn’t.

        I just want to highlight this.

        You know the thing that led to the holocaust? It wasn’t so much thinking Jews were dumb. It was moreso thinking that the Germans were impoverished because Jews were colluding against them.

        The “kinder” narrative of blank-slatism + institutional racism being the default explanation for all differences seems crafted to foment resentment.
        edit: added wishy-washy-ness.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          You know the thing that led to the holocaust? It wasn’t so much thinking Jews were dumb. It was moreso thinking that the Germans were impoverished because Jews were colluding against them.

          I mean, the Nazis were not exactly…unconcerned with races who they thought were dumb. And they definitely thought Jews were inferior; the collusion they alleged was a totalizing racial collusion that was carried in the blood, that could be spread by sexual contact, and that degraded “superior” cultures in a way akin to parasitism. It’s not “IQ differences”, but it’s definitely “biological differences”, and I think much more bears a family resemblance to “IQ differences” than to “Jews have treated us badly in the past”.

          Nazi racial ideology owed a lot more to the racial theories advanced by white supremacists in the States than to anything that resembles modern social justice.

        • JPNunez says:

          The “kinder” narrative of blank-slatism + institutional racism being the default explanation for all differences seems crafted to foment resentment.

          But do you truly think that 0% of the problems of black people in america are due to institutional or personal racism? Because as long as that’s a significant problem, it should not be taboo to denounce it.

          I mean, obviously in Nazi Germany it would be taboo to denounce the Aryans for committing genocide. Why would you want to take away people’s ability to denounce institutional racism?

          • Matt M says:

            But do you truly think that 0% of the problems of black people in america are due to institutional or personal racism? Because as long as that’s a significant problem, it should not be taboo to denounce it.

            What if I think it’s <10%?

            I don't think it should be taboo to discuss it, but I do think it should be taboo to discuss it without any thought to what might be in the other 90% whatsoever.

            I don’t think the currently stated position by most SJ-adjacent people is “institutional racism is just one of many factors that might explain minority underachievement.”

          • JPNunez says:

            Fair, but let’s say that it’s true. What would you be able to do to solve some genetically caused lower IQ in certain populations right now? It’d be science fiction to do propose a fix.

            If you were right, that 10% would still be fixeable today, while the other 90% would be fixeable in ??? so let’s attack what we can fix, and ignore what we cannot and that _we_know_ can cause even further racism.

          • Randy M says:

            But do you truly think that 0% of the problems of black people in america are due to institutional or personal racism? Because as long as that’s a significant problem, it should not be taboo to denounce it.

            By all means, speak the truth!

            My comment, as I perceived albatross11’s, was specifically in response to people who believe we should not consider genetic differences because that can, through some chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning, lead to mass oppression. This objection feels disingenuous when you also push a narrative that is risking social friction.

            I’m cool with presenting evidence largely without regard to how the plebs will deal with it.

            But if you’re good with lying for pro-social reasons, as I’ve seen advocated regarding human subpopulation distinctions, let’s just go all the way and adopt a state church. You might not get to sleep in on Sunday, but we’ll have much firmer footing for stating “All are created equal” than the precarious current orthodoxy which hold that of course evolution wouldn’t be in favor of materially significant inequality now, would it?

            What would you be able to do to solve some genetically caused lower IQ in certain populations right now?

            It’s not a problem!* It’s okay for groups to have different starting and ending points. In intelligence, in life expectancy, in income, in height, in sex appeal, in charisma, in twitter followers or NYT bestsellers. Equality is a false god.

            But there are numerous policy implications if some level of inequality in inherent. Like, perhaps we should try to keep a proporationate number of steady paying, respected jobs around. Let’s value people for their virtues and not (primarily) their brilliance. Let’s not require universities to admit on the basis of mirroring population demographics. Etc.

            *Obviously, some unknown factor that actually makes people dumber than their potential–or known and unaddressed factor–should be addressed. But that applies whether it mitigates or exacerbates group differences.

          • JPNunez says:

            My comment, as I perceived albatross11’s, was specifically in response to people who believe we should not consider genetic differences because that can, through some chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning, lead to mass oppression

            Again, intellectual inferiority of the african slaves was a justification for slavery, so when you say “chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning” it actually means “history”.

            This is super dangerous territory and should be treated like nuclear weapon research.

          • Matt M says:

            If you were right, that 10% would still be fixeable today, while the other 90% would be fixeable in ??? so let’s attack what we can fix, and ignore what we cannot and that _we_know_ can cause even further racism.

            Basically nobody opposes this. Everyone is generally in favor of “doing what we can” to eliminate racism and improve equality.

            But, if you concede that racism is only one of many things causing inequality, that essentially requires you accept that even if we completely eradicate racism, inequality will remain. Which means that “unequal outcomes” cannot be treated, by themselves, as evidence racism exists.

            I don’t think very many SJ advocates are willing to concede this, at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            JP Nunez:

            Without delving into SF, I’d say one thing we could do would be to put substantial resources into lead abatement. Black kids are substantially more likely to be exposed to high lead levels than white kids, and we know lead impedes brain development and causes both lower IQ and behavior problems. The world would be a much, much better place if we took every penny we spend on any kind of affirmative action, set-aside, etc., and put it *all* into lead abatement in low-income housing.

            To understand why that’s not a priority, I think you have to look to public choice theory. The beneficiaries of affirmative action have very little overlap with the people whose kids growing up in a high-lead environment.

            Of course, if you think knowing about racial IQ statistics is inherently super dangerous and so all discussion on the matter should be suppressed, you’ll have a harder time arguing for that, or for other speculative but not crazy stuff like vitamin D supplementation. Why, it’s almost like more knowledge leads to better decisions or something.

          • Randy M says:

            Again, intellectual inferiority of the african slaves was a justification for slavery, so when you say “chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning” it actually means “history”.

            Yeah, “I want slaves, how can I make slaves without being at risk myself?” is motivated reasoning.

            But more important in the syllogism was the idea that it was okay to enslave people. Fortunately, this notion was successfully challenged and not held any longer in Western nations. (This comes off as a little blase; I agree this requires diligence to transmit the value.)

            This is super dangerous territory and should be treated like nuclear weapon research.

            The trouble is, it takes a lot of hard work to uncover nuclear weapons research. Whereas human sub-populations distinctions require sophisticated arguments to cover over.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            To understand why that’s not a priority, I think you have to look to public choice theory. The beneficiaries of affirmative action have very little overlap with the people whose kids growing up in a high-lead environment.

            Lead abatement is pretty popular on the left: here’s Vox making the case. Hilary made it a part of her campaign, and she has been interested in the idea since at least 2003. Obama and Biden also paid some attention to the issue in 2008.

            This cycle, Julian Castro had a lead abatement plan; I don’t think any other Democrats had a specific lead abatement plan this cycle; though I wouldn’t be surprised if Biden ends up with one as his climate change plan already makes some references to Flint, MI and lead in water.

          • What would you be able to do to solve some genetically caused lower IQ in certain populations right now?

            What would you be able to do to solve genetically caused IQ differences among individuals right now?

            Nothing.

            Does it follow that we should pretend they don’t exist, allocate roles in society by lot?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @JPnunez

            Again, intellectual inferiority of the african slaves was a justification for slavery, so when you say “chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning” it actually means “history”.

            It’s also justification for reparations in the form of western spending medical/genetic research since intelligence differentials are not ‘earned’ in a strict sense.

            It’s also not as if belief in underlying cognitive sameness isn’t being used to justify less than honorable behavior. I’m looking at you South Africa.

            The genetic hypothesis might be irresponsible if the people who pushed a 100% environmental assumption were laissez faire libertarians, and the other side was opening pushing for new, expensive, compulsory social engineering schemes based on genetics. But that’s not really the way it has played out at least since the end of WW2.

            It certainly was irresponsible when the players involved were pushing far more and understood the situation far less.

          • JPNunez says:

            Basically nobody opposes this. Everyone is generally in favor of “doing what we can” to eliminate racism and improve equality.

            The world looks very unlike this. I mean, America regularly goes out of their way to supress the votes of african american. For starters.

            Sure, if you ask around, most people will _say_ they are against racism and pro equality, but their actions won’t be exactly 1:1 to these affirmations.

            But, if you concede that racism is only one of many things causing inequality, that essentially requires you accept that even if we completely eradicate racism, inequality will remain. Which means that “unequal outcomes” cannot be treated, by themselves, as evidence racism exists.

            For the record I am talking in hypotheticals. I mean, sure, maybe, very probably racism isn’t the only thing causing inequality, but it’s probably among the main causes. Certainly not “less than 10%”.

            It’s also not as if belief in underlying cognitive sameness isn’t being used to justify less than honorable behavior. I’m looking at you South Africa.

            Yeah I wonder what’s the deal with South Africa. surely their history with racial inequality isn’t to blame, no. Or colonization.

          • Loriot says:

            To be fair, the people doing said vote suppressing claim to be doing it for non-racial reasons. Sometimes they even claim to be doing it for non-partisan reasons. And I think they probably honestly believe this as well.

            Most people don’t think of themselves as racist.

          • I mean, America regularly goes out of their way to supress the votes of african american.

            By “America” you presumably mean both political parties? It looks to me much more as though people who expect African-Americans to vote against their party try to discourage them from voting, and people who expect African-Americans to vote for their party try to encourage them to vote.

          • matkoniecz says:

            @Randy M

            people who believe we should not consider genetic differences because that can, through some chain of paranoid or motivated reasoning, lead to mass oppression

            (1) not considering at all is stupid, but being aware that science was already misused (or pseudoscience was successfully presented as a science) is a good idea

            (2) “paranoid or motivated reasoning” claim shows that you are not aware about history surrounding this topic.

            It was widely used to justify slavery in USA, it was reason and justifications for German occupiers murdering 4.5 million to 5.7 million of people in Poland (and murder of more people elsewhere) ( https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/05/06/open-thread-153-25/#comment-892952 ).

            It was also ideology that fueled WW II German dreams (Lebensraum, Generalplan Ost).

            We already have piles of skulls, claiming that being suspicious about similar claims (significant cognitive differences) is paranoid and has 0 justification makes me just more dubious about quality of your other claims.

          • ec429 says:

            We already have piles of skulls

            Do you seriously think we haven’t noticed them?

            And I don’t think Randy M was saying that ‘theorising that IQ research will be used by racists’ is motivated reasoning, I think he was using that term to describe what the racists so using it would be engaging in.

            If you think that “belief in cognitive differences” was what caused Nazi Germany to atrocitate Poland, rather than “belief that only one’s own in-group should properly be counted in one’s ethical calculus”, may I suggest reading Bill Shirer’s Berlin Diary?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Do you seriously think we haven’t noticed them?

            Do be honest, yes. In a number of threads people have pointed out that a belief in racial inferiority has been used to justify atrocities, and the most common (to the point I think of unanimity, though I may be missing some responses) is to deny that a belief in racial inferiority had anything to do those episodes. That is the opposite of noticing the skulls. That is having the skulls pointed out to you and responding, “What, those? No, those aren’t mine”.

          • ec429 says:

            the most common is to deny that a belief in racial inferiority had anything to do those episodes. That is the opposite of noticing the skulls. That is having the skulls pointed out to you and responding, “What, those? No, those aren’t mine”.

            You’re equivocating with the phrase “belief in racial inferiority”.
            We believe that the population distribution of intelligence has correlations with genetic factors which in turn correlate with traditional indicia of race, in ways that have population-level statistical consequences, but that don’t justify treating individuals unequally on racial grounds.
            Nazis (not just the footsoldiers but the high-level theorists) believed that any given individual Pole was sub-human purely by virtue of Slavic race and that this justified executing that Pole to make room for more Germans.
            Now technically you can (if you choose your definitions carefully) encompass both of those with the phrase “belief in racial inferiority”, but do you really think there are no ‘skulls-relevant’ differences between the two?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I obviously don’t think there are no differences between the two, but I also don’t think that there aren’t similarities. I’d feel a lot more sympathy for people taking the other side of this if they would just say, “sure, I agree that there are some uncomfortable similarities between ideas of racial inferiority’ and ‘white people are more intelligent on average’ than black people, and the more-or-less corollary ‘we should expect black people to predominate in less-intellectually-demanding fields that are not always given much social respect’.
            I’m even more sensitive to this given the bad history in America of justifying unconscionable treatment of blacks on the basis of perceived racial inferiority, which has been one of the biggest and most persistent sources of wide-scale injustice in American history.
            Ultimately though, here’s why I think the two concepts are different enough that we shouldn’t expect people to round off to the worst ideas that have been common in American history; and moreover here’s how I would argue against someone who did try to conflate the two”.

            Instead, I’ve gotten, “racial inferiority? What are you talking about, no one in America has ever done anything bad to anyone else on the basis of racial inferiority”. This does not leave me optimistic.

          • matkoniecz says:

            Do you seriously think we haven’t noticed them?

            Yes. Multiple people in this discussion were unaware about direct connection of nazi ideology of inferior races ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untermensch ) with mass murder of millions.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/05/06/open-thread-153-25/#comment-892952

            There were people unaware that Nazis claimed that Jewish are distinct and inferior and used it as one of justifications and reasons for a Holocaust. (yes, stab in the back treachery was also claimed for German Jews and there was also this supposed conspiracy – but it was not a sole claim)

            Nobody from this people (maybe I missed someone?) admitted that actually idea that “$GROUP is less intelligent” was actually used as motivation and justification for this atrocities.

            So, yes. I am claiming that it is case of standing on a pile of skulls and pretending that it is not there.

            Maybe this new research is of better quality, maybe it is true. But pretending that it is not suspiciously similar triggers very intense doubt for me.

            Someone unwilling to admit that? Then what else is hiding and I am unable to spot it? I am unable to review science behind IQ tests comparison. Genetic vs cultural influence for start and deciding whatever signal is actually significant.

            But if someone is claiming something extremely controversial and at the same time makes clearly wrong claims about history? I am not going to treat it seriously.

            Nazis (not just the footsoldiers but the high-level theorists) believed that any given individual Pole was sub-human purely by virtue of Slavic race

            Also not true, even Nazis were more subtle.

            During World War II, the Polish citizens of German ancestry that identified with the Polish nation faced the dilemma whether to register in the Deutsche Volksliste. Many families had lived in Poland for centuries; and more-recent immigrants had arrived over 30 years before the war. They faced the choice of registering and being regarded as traitors by other Poles, or not signing and being treated by the Nazi occupation as traitors to the Germanic “race”

            See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksdeutsche https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksdeutsche#'Volksdeutsche'_in_German-occupied_western_Poland

          • acymetric says:

            @DavidFreidman

            By “America” you presumably mean both political parties? It looks to me much more as though people who expect African-Americans to vote against their party try to discourage them from voting, and people who expect African-Americans to vote for their party try to encourage them to vote.

            True, but (and this is kind of separate from this discussion) suppressing the votes of people who don’t vote for you is…still not great.

            On top of that, someone who is actively and explicitly targeting black voters for suppression is definitely engaged in racist behavior. That their motivation may or may not be rooted in personal racist beliefs hardly matters.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you were right, that 10% would still be fixeable today, while the other 90% would be fixeable in ??? so let’s attack what we can fix,

            Any institutional racism left in the United States forty years after Martin Luther King et al, is going to be the fruit at the very tippy-top of that particular tree, and I’m not optimistic about your fixing it any time soon.

            The other 90% is going to be mostly cultural stuff that we haven’t touched for forty years because It’s Racism Stupid. Well, OK, MLK made some efforts in that direction, but he somehow wound up dead, and Bill Cosby talked about it some, but he had to be cancelled. I think there may still be some low-hanging fruit there.

      • JPNunez says:

        None of that leads to piles of skulls or a holocaust by any plausible path I can imagine.

        It’s not like the holocaust is the only undesirable outcome possible. Slavery was often justified by the lower intellect of the black people that was being slaved.

    • keaswaran says:

      It seems to me that there are two ideas that possibly get run together here.

      There’s an empirical question – “are there cognitive differences?”

      There’s also a methodological question – “should we act as though there are cognitive differences?”

      It seems to me that there might be very good reasons to accept a negative answer to the methodological question regardless of what we think is the correct answer to the empirical question. This has certainly been the case for many other vexed debates in the past, ranging from religious orthodoxy (since 1648 the accepted view has largely been something like “even if there is a fact of the matter as to which type of Christianity is correct, it’s probably best to legislate as though there isn’t such a fact”) to the supernatural (since 1900 the accepted view has largely been something like “even if we can’t prove that there are no souls and demons and gods and ESP, it’s probably more productive to pursue scientific explanations that don’t involve these things”).

      Of course, actual individuals pursuing the methodological goal might accidentally have it shape their personal beliefs as well, so they might get factually wrong beliefs from pursuing the more productive social/political/intellectual policy.

  10. I have mentioned before an interface problem — sometimes when I search for the next unread (~ n) message I go to the top of the thread instead. It turns out that is usually, perhaps always, something that happens immediately after I post a comment.

    Which explains why I experience the problem more often than most.

    • AG says:

      Usually it’s because you need to click on text in the main column of the page. Once you’ve posted a new comment, you need to re-click text in the main column again. If you click in different columns, then the search will boot you up to the top.

      • acymetric says:

        Are you sure? If I click anywhere (including the center column) while using searching though new posts it will return me to the first match on the page.

        I would definitely not expect it to hold its place after posting a new comment. I probably wouldn’t want it to, either, because it would cause me to miss new comments that had been posted above my new comment between the last time I loaded the page and the time I commented.

        • AG says:

          You have to click such that your cursor is the “text highlight” symbol. If you click empty space, that resets the position again.

    • metacelsus says:

      Also the “Hide” button has disappeared for me (this happened a few weeks ago)

    • bullseye says:

      My observation is that when I comment, the posts marked “new” are still marked “new”, and also newer comments appear that are also marked “new”, and I can’t tell which are which. Also commenting unhides all the threads I’ve hidden.

      So what I do is search for all the “new” comments and read them (or hide the threads I’m not interested in), refresh, and repeat, until there are no new comments. Then I do my own posts, search for new comments in between each one. I’d post more if I didn’t go through all this.

      • Randy M says:

        On the upside, that strategy saves you from repeating what a poster said in the window between opening the page and responding to a given comment.

    • uau says:

      If you post a comment, the web page is reloaded (to show the new version that contains your post). It’s very likely that your browser will not keep the search position from the currently loaded version of the page when you reload and get a new version. It’s not even obvious what it would always even mean to keep “the same position” – if the new page is not exactly the same as the old, what is “the same position” on a different page? Should the browser try to search for a place where similar text occurs, or what?

      In most browsers you should be able to select where to search from; if, after reloading, you select text around the place where you want to continue searching from, then the browser should find the next occurrence of the searched term after that point.

      • if, after reloading, you select text around the place where you want to continue searching from, then the browser should find the next occurrence of the searched term after that point.

        At least in Firefox, that is not the case.

        • uau says:

          Works for me in Firefox – I just tested repeatedly selecting some text from my comment above then pressing ctrl-g to repeat search, and each time it found your following comment instead of continuing to other new comments.

          • Viliam says:

            It sometimes happens to me; I use Firefox.

          • AG says:

            Yes, would like to post a correction to my previous comment. In Chrome, I had no issues.
            In Firefox, if I post a new comment, and then select text after it, and then search, it boots me up to the top. But after that first search, I can select text and it will search after.

          • But after that first search, I can select text and it will search after.

            My experience as well.

    • Chalid says:

      This happens to me sometimes when I use Safari on my wife’s MacBook, but never on any other system that I’ve encountered.

  11. Randy M says:

    Is anyone watching the Amazon series Tales from the Loop? I’m three episodes in and wondering whether to continue or not.

    So far there’s not much overarching narrative in his sci-fi quasi-anthology about a town researching something underground. The McGuffin is implied to be a collapsed star; it basically enables them to do magic once per episode to tell character dramas … and put like that you would think I would like it, but for a couple things. The pace, like the scenery, is glacial, with the hour or so run time usually being padded with introspective walks in the snow. And the characters never really seem to actually think about the consequences or possible uses of the tech that’s literally lying around. Time travel, body swapping, time stop… world changing, surely, but apparently not worth pursuing for anything beyond some teen nookie.

    • Tarpitz says:

      world changing, surely, but apparently not worth pursuing for anything beyond some teen nookie

      Is Peter F Hamilton involved?

      • DarkTigger says:

        What makes you think of Hamilton? Randy said nothing of ending everything by deus ex macchina yet. scnr

    • zoozoc says:

      Was going to warn you about an episode, but it seems it was episode 3, which you already saw.

      I was definitely interested in watching, but episode 3 was a little too much for my tastes and don’t intend on continuing.

    • Matt C says:

      A couple different friends of mine said it was excellent, so my wife and I started watching it.

      I’ve been disappointed, for about the same reasons as you. We watched 4 episodes and took a break after that. (If you thought the first 3 episodes were too slow, don’t watch the 4th.)

      We had thought about giving it another shot, but your comment got me to looking around on the internet. Seems the rest of the season is more of the same. We’ll give something else a chance.

    • Baeraad says:

      I also got to episode 3 before giving up. It’s just… so… angsty. Nothing much happens, there’s just a lot of people walking slowly through snow-clad forests and staring broodingly out of dark windows. All the reality-warping sci-fi elements are just there to emphasise how life is all, like, HARD and stuff. :p

      I’m too angsty to find angst very interesting. I can gaze into my own dark soul just fine, I don’t need to watch other people gaze into theirs.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I was sort of impressed by the production values: like an art-house movie but in smaller bites. And I was very impressed by their willingness to go 100% show-don’t-tell even if sometimes it meant you weren’t sure what was being shown. But in the end two episodes was as far as I could go.

  12. Two McMillion says:

    Is anyone here familiar with the youtube channel Innuendo Studios? What are your thoughts, especially your thoughts on his videos about the alt-right?

    Speaking as someone who is fairly right-wing, I find the channel intriguing and bizarre- intriguing, because this is a person who has clearly spent a lot of time thinking these things over, and bizarre because he somehow manages to grasp quite a lot about how conservatives think while managing to miss the point entirely. His “I hate Mondays” video strikes me as a prime example: he correctly grasps that conservatives see bad things as more of a “fact of life” then liberals do and tend to see the law as more about punishment then teaching, yet somehow, in a lot subtle ways I can’t quite grasp, he takes all that and makes it into something terrible rather than the really rather good way of living life that I know it is.

    It’s odd.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I had not heard of this before, but checked out the Mondays video based on this post.

      I do not share your positive interpretation; this looks to me like “boo outgroup” with high production values. Even ignoring the dialog, look at the visuals of the “before work” scene. “New guy” and “Payroll” are shown next to each other. “New guy” is wearing a blue shirt with no tie, has a full head of brown hair, is taller, is thinner, and is initially smiling. “Payroll” is wearing a grey shirt with a narrow red tie, bald with a grey beard, shorter, slightly broader, and never smiles throughout the entire exchange. We can clearly tell which of these characters is sympathetic even without the dialog. Even more tellingly, the expressions on the bystanders faces change not when “New Guy” brings up the contentious topic, but when “Payroll” appears to respond.

      The discussion he follows up with does not accurately reflect the views of conservatives as I understand them, but I am more conservative-adjacent than conservative myself, so my opinion on this probably shouldn’t carry much weight. Would you mind highlighting a couple things you think he got right? Am I correct in assuming that “If we can’t save every life, there’s no point improving healthcare” is not one of them?

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        I wonder what he intends to do with right-wingers once he wins? They’re not going away, they’re not staying out of politics, and they’re not going to always lose. With the extra powers he’s wanting to give the government, right-wing authoritarians can do way more damage than they could otherwise.

      • Deiseach says:

        “New guy” is wearing a blue shirt with no tie, has a full head of brown hair, is taller, is thinner, and is initially smiling. “Payroll” is wearing a grey shirt with a narrow red tie, bald with a grey beard, shorter, slightly broader, and never smiles throughout the entire exchange.

        So… this is “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” updated?

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          Same theory, but less subtle. Imagine if “I’m a PC and I’m a Mac” wasn’t a commercial but instead a presentation at a Mac-users conference.

          • noyann says:

            Now I’m worried I inadvertedly rekindled a different culture war, mentioning OSs twice. Sorry.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @noyann

            I seem to recall there’s a correlation where Mac users are significantly more likely to be Blue Tribe than Windows users; I wonder if there’s a similar Linux/Grey Tribe skew?

            (Full disclosure: I typed this on my Windows PC. My two laptops are Mac and Linux, however, and my tiny Beelink PC runs Linux as well.)

            EDITED: for clarity

          • Deiseach says:

            I seem to remember, though I may be mistaken, that the effect of the ads was opposite to what was intended: by making Mac the Cool Guy and making PC the Underdog, people instinctively identified with PC and started preferring him to Mac, or feeling that Mac was picking on/bullying him.

            Unintentional effects could come into play here as well!

          • ec429 says:

            I wonder if there’s a similar Linux/Grey Tribe skew?

            It’s only one datum, but go and look who’s behind that “Armed and Dangerous” entry in Scott’s blogroll*. (And if you want another datum… well, I’m a Linux kernel dev at $DAYJOB.)

            ‘Course, that could be Linux/libertarian rather than Linux/Grey Tribe; I’m not entirely sure what the difference is but there seems to be one.

            * Incidentally, is it just me who finds the term “blogroll” ridiculous, or does every Brit think it sounds too much like “bogroll”?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Do you think Eric Raymond is gray tribe? I’m realizing I’m not sure what gray tribe is.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you think Eric Raymond is gray tribe?

            I’m pretty sure the guy who compiled the Jargon File is grey tribe. And for a definition of the admittedly fuzzy term, “Grey Tribe”, you could do a lot worse than “the sort of person characterized by the Jargon File, even if their thing isn’t specifically comp sci”.

          • Lambert says:

            esr is mostly grey but he co-opts/affects parts of red culture for anti-blue purposes, IMHO. Classic alliance of convenience with the fargroup.

            He’s too much in favour of zen, paganism, anarchy, (sex positivism and nonmonogamy too, IIRC) and against organised religion to be truly at home in the red tribe. He’s also very contrarian in a world where the blue tribe makes a lot of decisions about what the conventional wisdom is.

          • Eric Raymond is certainly not red tribe or blue tribe, and grey tribe seems closer to describing him than any alternative candidate.

          • albatross11 says:

            Basically if you’re not in either the blue or red tribe, you’re likely to have positions and beliefs that read as blue-tribe to red-tribers, or as red-tribe to blue-tribers.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling, it’s been a long time since I’ve read The Hacker’s Dictionary, but I remember it as being fannish. Maybe that used to be gray tribe.

          • John Schilling says:

            In the 20th century, at least, there was a pretty strong overlap between Hacker culture, Fandom, and what would become Grey Tribe. “Hacking”, in the non-perjorative sense, was probably the modal occupation of the proto-Greys, and (SF-ish) Fandom their modal entertainment. And all three were considered nerdy things that normal people oughtn’t be involved in.

    • Iago the Yerfdog says:

      Just watched the “I hate Mondays” video. He’s eloquent, and I think he makes a good point on conservatives’ tendency not to think in terms of systems.

      The biggest problem I have with the video is the constant undertone of illiberalism: he doesn’t seem to see conservatives as reasonable people who believe the things they do for reasons that don’t boil down the bigotry. They’re just icky, bad, nasty trogolodytes.

      Another thing is that while the video is ostensibly about the alt-right, and he talks about them toward the end of the video, Payroll Guy is just your stereotypical Fox News junkie, and there’s no acknowledgement that there is a significant difference between them. This is, ironically, the sort of thing your stereotypical Fox News junkie would do to the left by treating New Deal liberalism as a front for, and a slippery slope to, socialism.

      The biggest irony is at the very end, where he pretty much straight up says that the stereotypical Fox News junkie is right. Makes the whole thing sound a bit like projection: my moderate views are just a front, so yours must be, too.

      • Purplehermann says:

        I haven’t read up much on NDL and have heard it called socialism a few times. What are the differences (in broad sweeping terms) between socialism and New Deal Liberalism?

        • Iago the Yerfdog says:

          The fundamental difference is that NDL still thinks the market is basically the right way to allocate resources. The non-market institutions favored by liberals since FDR are supposed to be a hedge against the worst failure modes of the market, not a replacement of the market as such, except in a select few cases such as municipal utilities and nationalized healthcare.

          “Socialism” is a slippery term because both socialists and anti-socialists use it to mean whatever is beneficial to them, but traditionally the socialist ideal was to replace the market economy with one that allocates resources through either central or collective planning.

          • Purplehermann says:

            Thanks

          • The position of he New Deal Liberal isn’t full scale socialism, but it’s a shift in that direction, since it replaces some market decisions with decisions made by the central government.

            Socialism isn’t a binary category. Two of the largest industries in the U.S., K-12 schooling and the military, are socialist (in the former case mostly socialist) in the strong sense. In the Soviet Union some allocation was through markets, although much less than in the U.S. The USSR was much more socialist than the U.S., but the U.S. today is more socialist than it was a century ago, in part due to the New Deal.

            Also, of course, “socialism” is sometimes used to describe the Scandinavian welfare states, which are in most respects no more socialist in the economic sense than the U.S., and New Deal Liberal types at present tend to regard those as an attractive model.

      • Yeah, my biggest problem is that he talks about “influencers”, conservatives, and neo-nazis like they are the same people for all practical considerations. He does distinguish them in the sense that he believes people like Joe Rogan have people like Ben Shapiro on who encourage people to check out Richard Spencer, but then when it comes time to arguing against philosophical and political points, he mashes all right wing positions into some kind of inconsistent gestalt.

        Indeed, in a series about the alt-right he’s talking about bogstandard conservatism, and saying they don’t think in terms of populations and systems, and then flashes up a picture of Richard Spencer, who is a racialist, wants universal healthcare, and thinks coronavirus lockdowns aren’t severe enough. He then starts talking about the Nazis.

        It’s fine if he wants to say that conservatism leads people to Nazism, but he should at least acknowledge the difference in thinking about issues if most of his point is that conservatives don’t think systemically.

        I saw his video on radicalization as well, and I think it’s largely bad faith content for an internal breadtube audience. He mixes in the neutral sense of radicalization as bad while making clear he wants radicalization towards the left instead, so it comes across very muddled. He attacks the alt-right worldview as seeing a narrow history defined by group battles, without acknowledging the recursion problem of anti-group groups. He also argues from a standpoint that their bigotry is propped up by economic anxiety, and so the left can salve all wounds, without really addressing the plentiful non-economic arguments about demographic change. Anyone who comes to his videos with that worldview is going to find it strengthened, not weakened, and so as deradicalization content, it fails miserably.

        Culture war note: let’s not take this as an indictment of the left in general. There’s a whole level of argumentation that is simply above the shallow strawman level this individual content creator is operating on.

        • Aapje says:

          He also argues from a standpoint that their bigotry is propped up by economic anxiety, and so the left can salve all wounds, without really addressing the plentiful non-economic arguments about demographic change.

          A common mistake is also to mistake the desire for work with the desire for income, where many people want the benefits of work other than income as well.

    • Nick says:

      I went and looked up the video, since I’m already procrastinating. And… wow. Here is the argument, summarized as best I can:
      0:00-3:29: Progressives speak out about how they want to change the world with policy measures like gun control and universal healthcare. Conservatives, meanwhile, respond by arguing about how this won’t really fix problems; bad people will still get guns, and sick people will still die eventually.
      3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.
      4:53-5:41: We know this because progressive arguments are obviously right.
      5:41-6:10: Conservatives typically agree about what the problems of the world are; they just don’t think these problems can be solved, because they think solving these problems means completely doing away with them forever.
      6:10-7:10: So the conservative basis for morality is just commiseration. Evil is a thing to sit around lamenting about, not a thing to be reduced. And this is a social, or particularly a ritual, basis: the proper ritual response to evil is “thoughts and prayers,” not discussing solutions. Hence conservative outrage when the new guy in the office advocates gun control immediately after a tragedy.
      7:10-7:58: And conservatives are consistent in that they believe that laws, like anything else, won’t reduce evil; so, the reason they uphold them is just to punish the bad people. Laws exist to separate The Good People who walk The Narrow Path from The Bad People who lead A Life of Sin.
      7:58-8:35: Conservatives don’t even care about what policies work or don’t work; we can see this in the way they support abstinence and oppose contraceptives (remember, on points like this, that progressive arguments are obviously right). If they cared about reducing those things, they would support contraception; since they don’t, they don’t really care. Instead, we can infer what they really care about is sending the right message, in keeping up appearances.
      8:35-8:50: This is starkest where conservatives want certain lifestyles put in the closet. They don’t care that such lives are in fact being led; they just don’t want that to interfere with the message about how the world is supposed to look. And since law is all about punishing evil, conservatives are trying to send the message about who should fear the law and who shouldn’t.
      8:50-9:45: So, law shows the path everyone is supposed to be on, and punishes deviation. From this we can see why there’s a religious right and but no religious left: religious conservatives can very comfortably put this view into religious terms, of a world drenched in sin which cannot be saved, but containing a narrow path by which you might save yourself, and the law just might keep you on it. Changes by degree don’t fit here because it’s all about mortal sins, you see, and you can’t very well go to heaven with fewer mortal sins on your conscience, it needs to be zero. Thinking in terms of populations doesn’t work because the world is all about testing you, your integrity, your piety. So it’s hard to be a religious liberal, but easy to be a religious conservative.
      9:45-10:30: But don’t go thinking all reactionary conservatives are Catholics. (This is apparently who we’ve been talking about all this time, when we discussed e.g. people who oppose gun control or universal healthcare; not conservatives in general, but specifically reactionaries!) There are also Protestants (the video image for these folks is a kay kay kay member), pagans, and atheists (this one’s Rich*rd Sp*ncer). But even the atheists are basically Christian atheists, in the sense that their ethics and worldview is very strongly informed by Christianity.
      10:30-12:05: Yet “people whose ethics and worldview is very strongly informed by Christianity” spans most of the US. Even liberals fall into this when they say something like “I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.” Liberals or not, they’ve made the mistake of not being consequentialists. Liberals may have rejected Christianity or talk of staining one’s soul with sin, but they still think this way; just less commonly or less intensely than conservatives.
      12:05-13:24: And this is how fascism happens, and why conservatives are especially susceptible. Fascism is politics-as-faith: the N*zis made Ary*ns into their savior. It doesn’t even have to come from Christianity; it happens wherever people “want their egos flattered and their sins absolved and to be folded into an authority structure that privileges them.”
      13:24-15:00: One must counter with the narrative that problems can be solved, that there’s mostly no such thing as human nature, and that nature doesn’t determine right. After all, nature would say the solution to a pandemic is everyone susceptible dying. Humanity today exists in defiance of nature, and most of our problems, from bigotry to oppression, are things we’ve created, from which it trivially follows that we can do away with them. (I’m saying it’s trivial that it follows, not that we can do away with them easily.) This view is secular, and while it can be reconciled with Christianity, it cannot be reconciled with “reactionary fundamentalism.”

      There are a lot of things I could say about this argument. There are a lot of things the rest of you could say about it, and I look forward to reading them. My own comment is that this is the epitome of Easy Mistake Theory. He’s so convinced his side is obviously right that he concocts a theory to justify why conservatives keep disagreeing. Surprise surprise, it’s not because we think the facts are different or the arguments don’t work; it’s because we think there is such a thing as human nature and/or that nature has something to say about morality, which we are just wrong about. I know this sounds like a values difference, but it’s not at all clear to me he thinks so, at bottom; he continues to talk about it, even at the end, as if it’s just obvious that this is a dumb thing to think, whence his “pandemics are natural” argument.

      Folks, don’t watch this video.

      (ETA: clarity)

      • Randy M says:

        Random comments, which I acknowledge may be slightly off-base as they are in response to a summary rather than the original, and I don’t fault Nick for accidental misunderstanding on my part.

        3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.

        This reminds me of an exchange in “Hunt for Red October”.
        “You see everything in black and white.”
        “Not black and white. Right and wrong!”

        In that case, a conservative applause line. But it’s clearly not just conservatives who do this. A common strand of libertarian believes there are things government is not meant to do, no matter how much utility it might bring. Some for deontological reasons, some for long term consequentialist ones. Progressives are often in favor of equality, full-stop. A sign of black and white thinking is pointing stating the negatives or positives only, without talk of trade-offs. This may be done because the proponent has done the math themselves and moved on to the rhetoric stage, or because they are simply not thinking about the full context. I’d have to think about it to know if one side is more guilty than another, but I think it’s close.

        8:35-8:50: This is starkest where conservatives want certain lifestyles put in the closet. They don’t care that such lives are in fact being led; they just don’t want that to interfere with the message about how the world is supposed to look.

        This actually sounds like a rather nuanced view on the matter. A toleration without promotion, to put it charitably.

        From this we can see why there’s a religious right and but no religious left

        I assume this is a paraphrase? Because clearly there is both a religious left, and religious elements to the secular left.
        But, broadly, I agree that religion and leftism tend to be opposed, because religion (at least in the Western sense, perhaps not Eastern?) believes that some things are known, whereas progressives have to be open to the possibility of figuring out new ways that we’ve been wrong all along.

        And this is how fascism happens, and why conservatives are especially susceptible. Fascism is politics-as-faith: the N*zis made Ary*ns into their savior. It doesn’t even have to come from Christianity

        I (and likely Nick) would counter argue that Christianity in fact would be protective against fascism (or other statisms) because we already have a savior, and thus cannot make our race or our class or the government or the innate goodness of man into one. Whereas, “Something must be done!” thinking is, not exclusive to, but certainly closely aligned with a secular progressive ideology.

        13:24-15:00: One must counter with the narrative that problems can be solved, that there’s mostly no such thing as human nature, and that nature doesn’t determine right.

        One out of three. And isn’t “problems can be solved” rather black and white thinking? “Problems can be reduced in scope, but we should be careful, supposed solutions can backfire” is conservative, more nuanced, and more true.
        The blank-slatism is still the core of the new Progressive Person, I guess?

        • Nick says:

          I assume this is a paraphrase? Because clearly there is both a religious left, and religious elements to the secular left.

          If it helps, his exact words were “we have a religious right and not so much a religious left,” with emphasis on “not so much a religious left.”

          I (and likely Nick) would counter argue that Christianity in fact would be protective against fascism (or other statisms) because we already have a savior, and thus cannot make our race or our class or the government or the innate goodness of man into one. Whereas, “Something must be done!” thinking is, not exclusive to, but certainly closely aligned with a secular progressive ideology.

          Certainly I would counter with that. But if I gave every criticism of the video that occurred to me while writing this summary, I’d be here all day. 🙂

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick >

            “…his exact words were “we have a religious right and not so much a religious left,” with emphasis on “not so much a religious left.”…’

            I sincerely hope that I’m not cracking the ice but his statement is so demonstrably false (and intuitively to me as well) that I’m really bugged, and want to chime in.

            Going by:

            contemporary U.S. Left = Americans who don’t vote for Republicans

            and

            contemporary U.S. Right = Americans who don’t vote for Democrats

            a quick look at the Political Preferences of U.S. Religious Groups chart from Pew Research shows that many denominations still have decidedly “Left” leanings, some even more “Left” than ‘atheists’.

            To cite two denominations of what (to me) look to be very similar theologies: the National Baptist Convention (which is the denomination of the church across the street from the house I spent most of my childhood in) leans decidedly Democratic Party (and the more church-going the more likely to vote for a Democrat), while adherents of the Southern Baptist Convention lean Republican (and the more frequently they attend church the more they tend to vote Republican).

            There’s been a trend in the last couple of decades towards more folks who lean Left being “religiously unaffiliated’ (a growing category), and a higher percentage of believers leaning Right, but most of the Left is still religious, and most of the religious are Christian (as is the Right) – just like decades ago.

            Is there a word for claiming something already exists that’s just the possible end point of a recent trend?

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @Plumber

            On top of what you mentioned, there’s a quite plausible argument that the fact that we had a Religious Right instead of a Religious Left was basically a freak accident: evangelicals had been consistently left-leaning on economics and social issues prior to Francis Schaeffer’s rise to prominence — and that included Schaeffer himself.

            I like to imagine there’s a timeline where Democrats courted Schaeffer instead of the Republicans, and where the lady I heard in the store in 2016 saying she liked Hillary but couldn’t vote for someone who supported abortion said that about Trump instead.

          • Plumber says:

            @Iago the Yerfdog,

            Your “alternative history” timeline sounds pretty good to me.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m going to defend him on this one. The Religious Left is a spent force in America, and has been for about a decade now.

            This is not a fact of nature, and has not been true historically, but it is true currently.

            (For a good example of Past Religious Left, read the 1896 book “In His Steps,” which popularized the phrase “What would Jesus do?”)

          • S_J says:

            @Jaskologist, @Nick, @Plumber:

            there is a Religious Left in America, and members of it publish think-pieces about “Why does a Christian nation not care about poor people who simply want to emigrate into the United States and find a job?”, with accompanying think-pieces about “Why does a Christian nation treat poor-and-minorities so badly?”

            I can’t tell how influential the Religious Left is: they appear to latch onto Left and/or Progressive causes, and add their own version of “can I create a religious-sounding slogan to support this cause?”

            There are cases where the Religious Left seems to want to take on the Secular Left, but I don’t get the feeling that the Religious Left is in the driver’s seat.

            On the other hand, the Religious Left often criticizes the Religious Right for the behavior of “grab a political cause and wrap it in a religous slogan” behavior, so I suspect that it is a problem that is common to both groups.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I can’t tell how influential the Religious Left is: they appear to latch onto Left and/or Progressive causes, and add their own version of “can I create a religious-sounding slogan to support this cause?”

            This is what I mean; they’re just an echo at this point. What issue does the Religious Left care about that they would stand up to the rest of their coalition about?

            The Religious Right, for example, cares about abortion. The rest of the coalition cares about this because the RR cares about it, and not vice versa. Similarly for social conservatism in general, and religious liberty.

            What issue does the RL bring to the Left?

          • acymetric says:

            @Jaskologist

            Chicken/egg issue. There are a lot of issues on the left that likely had religious origins (you don’t have to go that far back in the past for basically everything everywhere to have religious origins), but I suspect it would difficult to convince you of that (as opposed to the other way around, where the RL adopted the left’s ideas and then added religious reasoning to it).

          • Deiseach says:

            The Religious Left is a spent force in America, and has been for about a decade now.

            Seriously? Okay, declining mainline Protestantism numbers back up the “spent force” argument but the influence in society always vastly outweighed the numbers in the pews anyway; see a comment elsewhere about it being advantageous to switch denominations to Episopalianism from whatever your original denomination/faith was, because that was the church of the elite.

            At its peak, The Episcopal Church had 3.4 million members in the 60s. It has dropped down to around 1.8 million members. But what is the denomination which is the home of the National Cathedral?

            There is a definite Religious Left which crosses denominational barriers (yes, you get them amongst Evangelicals as well) and which does get disproportionate influence and attention, but simply because it’s part of the Zeitgeist does not get identified as “religious”. Take the much-fought over issue of abortion – any time religion is mentioned in that context, it’s in the terms of the pro-life/anti-abortion rights side being the “religious Right”. Organisations such as The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which are part of the religious Left, are never mentioned in terms of “religion” in that sense, but rather as the kinds of moderate, sensible, ‘everyone thinks this way’ reporting on such issues. Do you think that, for example, their advocacy on who and how to vote in the November elections is going to draw the same kind of “preaching from the pulpit about who to vote for is not permitted” opposition or coverage? I think I’ll be holding my breath a long time waiting for a Guardian article on “Christian mainliners worship Planned Parenthood more than Jesus”, don’t you?

          • Nick says:

            @acymetric
            How far back are you thinking? Prohibition is an obvious example in the early twentieth century and civil rights a huge one some time later, but I wonder if there are any good examples in like the 90s.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @acymetric

            It would be easier to convince me if you gave examples. What is a current issue where the Religious Left has a distinct identity, and cares enough for it to matter?

            @Deiseach

            I feel like you’re agreeing with me. The Religious Left used to exist as a significant force. Now it doesn’t. (in America)

        • cassander says:

          This reminds me of an exchange in “Hunt for Red October”.
          “You see everything in black and white.”
          “Not black and white. Right and wrong!”

          In that case, a conservative applause line. But it’s clearly not just conservatives who do this.

          Put that in Josh Lyman’s mouth on West Wing, and it’s a perfectly good liberal applause line.

          • Randy M says:

            You know what? I was wrong, it wasn’t Hunt for Red October, but A Clear and Present Danger (same protagonist still but now played by Harrison Ford, iirc), apparently in reference to a government action in South America. So in this case the line codes liberal (though I’m not coming out in favor of the villains in this film or any given South American military action either!).

          • Jake R says:

            It was Harrison Ford in Danger but Alec Baldwin played the protagonist in Red October.

      • Purplehermann says:

        The naz/ argument makes me think he isn’t such an innocent soul.
        Haven’t watched it (no desire after your comment)
        I’d say 7 parts easy mistake theory, 2 parts aggressive outgrouping and 1 part seeing anyone who doesn’t agree with him as one large, amorphous group (though he at least recognizes differences in intensity of not-himness)

      • Deiseach says:

        From this we can see why there’s a religious right and but no religious left

        There very goddamn is a religious left, I haven’t watched the video so are you sure this is what he’s saying? Or is he just saying “religious left don’t believe in sin and punishment so this is why this vision of the law is the one the religious right uphold”?

        • Nick says:

          I’m pretty sure his argument is that religion can accommodate the conservative view as described but cannot, or cannot nearly as well, accommodate the liberal view as described. That is, if you are religious, it is easy to accept that evil can’t be reduced and the law exists simply to punish those who will inevitably do wrong, and harder to accept that laws can guide or shape society.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        This is a very good summary.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Folks, don’t watch this video.

        Unfortunately I have already lost 6 minutes and 40 seconds of my life.
        I do agree that Monday’s suck and that videos like this are just a fact of life, though, so maybe dude has a point?

        I think he has a hard time finding conservatives who disagree with him. My disagreement on health care isn’t that we cannot defeat Death, it’s the trying to ape a federal health payment scheme is not going to obviously mimic better health care and certainly doesn’t imply automatically better health outcomes, and any actual reduction in health care spending will require the magic wand Jaime Lannister used in Game of Thrones Season 8 to move his army around.

        Gun control is a particularly odd argument for this video to make, because the criteria “end all mass shootings” is not a conservative tenet, it’s the gun control advocate tenet. I’ve never seen a gun control advocate make the argument that we should only seek to avert 5% of mass shootings, or 10% of mass shootings, or whatever. Quite frankly, I never see them make the same argument about health care, either: it’s always “people should get the healthcare they need” not “everyone should have guaranteed access to healthcare that adds 1 QALY per $50,000” (especially since that implies they should NOT have the right to 1 QALY per $100,000, but I should be allowed to purchase insurance that accomplishes the same effect).

        • any actual reduction in health care spending will require the magic wand Jaime Lannister used in Game of Thrones Season 8 to move his army around.

          Every country that is not the US has achieved cheaper healthcare somehow. I though magic was supposed to be exceptional.

          • John Schilling says:

            How many countries have achieved an actual reduction in health care spending? I think the answer, at least in the developed world, is zero. There are a bunch of countries that didn’t spend the 1960s and 1970s creating ridiculously expensive health care, but that’s a different thing entirely – path dependence matters, the United States did create ridiculously expensive health care, and actually reducing health care costs seems to be a thing nobody knows how to do. Magic required.

          • albatross11 says:

            On the contrary, the US has managed this trick over the last couple months–total healthcare spending has gone *way* down. There may, however, be some small downsides to our method of accomplishing this….

          • JayT says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z
            Keep in mind that it is always politically easier to not give something to a group compared to taking something away. Especially when that group is an extremely high status group that is routinely called “heroes”.

            Nurse and doctor salaries are something like a quarter of the healthcare costs in the US, and both of those professions make almost double what they do in every other first world country. There is no way the US can lower its healthcare costs without lowering salaries, and that just isn’t going to happen, hence the need of a magic wand.

          • AG says:

            and that just isn’t going to happen

            Sure it can. Those salaries are partly driven by med school costs. Stop artificially throttling the supply, and customers spoiled for choice will go shopping for the best price, and suppliers will have to compete. Didn’t Scott write about what it would take for him to offer bare bones lowest price services?

          • JayT says:

            Those salaries are partly driven by med school costs.

            And how will you lower costs without lowering the salaries of extremely high status professors?

            Stop artificially throttling the supply

            And how will you do that with every nurses union and doctor’s association fighting you every step?

            It looks to me that a magic wand is the only possible solution.

          • AG says:

            By having them take on more students? More students = more tuition to pay.

            Healthcare is currently in a Molochian dip, where a good number of people are not even getting healthcare because they can’t afford it. Lower the prices for everyone, and make up the revenue in volume.

          • LesHapablap says:

            As suggested by Scott in one of his more popular blog posts (tulip subsidies I think?) stop requiring an undergraduate degree to go to med school, which is what other western countries do.

          • If you have rules that make cheap healthcare artificially difficult, such as the rule that healthcare providers can’t bargain down the cost of drugs, that would be a non magical starting point.

          • John Schilling says:

            stop requiring an undergraduate degree to go to med school, which is what other western countries do

            That’s going to be a very small gain, I should think.

            First, the biggest factor in the “cost” equation is the opportunity cost of spending twelve years in the training pipeline before you can start earning real money. Reducing that from twelve to ten, is only a modest gain.

            Second, the bottleneck as I understand it isn’t medical schools, it’s residency slots. Supply and demand won’t change, so the market-clearing price won’t change and doctors will still be able to command the same salaries. That their costs are reduced makes them richer, not cheaper.

            And third, wages are very sticky. Existing doctors aren’t going to take a pay cut, so it’s going to take a generation for any gains to materialize. If they materialize at all, because a two-tier system in which new doctors cannot hope to make as much money as their older peers is likely to be somewhat demoralizing for the newcomers that you are hoping will flock to this new opportunity.

            There’s probably not much we can do about the first issue; it likely does still take a decade to learn to be the sort of doctor first-world nations will demand so long as they are piously insisting that everyone gets The Best Possible Health Care.

            The second, we could deal with by creating more residency slots.

            For the third, the United States needs a time machine to go back and not push its doctors into the Upper Upper Middle Class in the first place. Or we need a generation or two of persistent social engineering.

          • albatross11 says:

            The practical solution here is to leave the MD track alone, and allow more and more practice by NPs and PAs. In a primary care setting, I rarely see an MD anymore. The PAs have lower educational costs and shorter time in training and are starting out expecting a lower salary/lifestyle, so there’s no painful attempt to force cardiologists to sell their McMansions and Tesla Roadsters in favor of townhouses and Honda Accords.

          • JayT says:

            I largely agree that using nurse practitioners more is a good way to help lower costs, but keep in mind that an average nurse practitioner in the US makes more money than an average doctor in Europe, so we are still in a place where to lower our healthcare spending significantly we will have to lower the income of our healthcare workers significantly, which I believe is a non-starter.

            Adding more students doesn’t lower education costs, if anything we’ve seen the exact opposite. As more people go to university, the universities increase spending, they don’t decrease admission cost.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Undergrad should take four or five years, not two years, right? So that would result in a career that is at least 10% longer, so even with the same number of people becoming doctors you’d have more supply.

            As far as wages, aren’t salaries for just about every profession higher in the US?

          • But an unavoidable part of the high cost of U.S. health care is how much we pay doctors — twice as much on average as physicians in other wealthy countries. Because our doctors are paid, on average, more than $250,000 a year (even after malpractice insurance and other expenses), and more than 900,000 doctors in the country, that means we pay an extra $100 billion a year in doctor salaries. That works out to more than $700 per U.S. household per year. We can think of this as a kind of doctors’ tax.

            Doctors and other highly paid professionals stand out in this respect. Our autoworkers and retail clerks do not in general earn more than their counterparts in other wealthy countries.

            https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/10/25/doctors-salaries-pay-disparities-000557/

          • A few more thoughts on salaries:

            Real salaries can be reduced by holding nominal salaries constant.

            Reducing qualification times would reduce student debt and debt repayments, meaning MDs could have the same take home pay at a lower nominal salary. (something like this already applies to military sponsored MD’s).

            US MD’s don’t have the option of moving somewhere else where wages are even higher.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        0:00-3:29: Conservatives, meanwhile, respond by arguing about how this won’t really fix problems; bad people will still get guns, and sick people will still die eventually.

        You see similar low-quality argumentation of this kind with respect to, say, Marijuana. But there are steel man versions. “It won’t really fix the problem” if literally true. In practice it’s more ‘expected outcome’ vs. ‘expected cost’… but there’s a lazy pedestrian version of the argument where ‘fix’ = ‘perfect outcome’

        3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.

        Social conservatives tend to be deontological and non-quantitative.

        4:53-5:41: We know this because progressive arguments are obviously right.

        This smells like a straw man to me. Did he actually say that? I mean yes, watching the video for myself is easy but in theory someone who paraphrases a video should basically eliminate the need for doing that.

        5:41-6:10: Conservatives typically agree about what the problems of the world are; they just don’t think these problems can be solved, because they think solving these problems means completely doing away with them forever.

        Agree with liberals or with each other? I assume liberals. In which case I disagree. cons and libs only agree on what problems are if the ‘problems’ are phrased in such a way as to leave them open to interpretation. Even when there’s consensus that X constitutes a problem generally X ranks high on one group’s list of priorities and low on the other group it ranks low.

        But this is a truthy statement if we’re talking about Burkean conservatism. Human beings are not perfectible. In that world, you don’t “abolish” things like income inequality or violence, your only practical responses involve manage, mitigate, and/or deter depending on what the root causes are. I’m kind of assuming though that we’re talking about fox news watcher conservatism.

        6:10-7:10: So the conservative basis for morality is just commiseration.

        See above

        7:10-7:58: And conservatives are consistent in that they believe that laws, like anything else, won’t reduce evil; so, the reason they uphold them is just to punish the bad people.

        I think psychologically a conservative has a much stronger desire to “punish” people who violate norms. Political correctness is interesting in that it constitutes a highly novel set of norms where liberals think, feel, and act like conservatives.

        If your would-be conservative isn’t going strictly by implicit beliefs, they’d tell you the point of punishment both to deter offenses and also to keep people who don’t respond to the threat of deterrence away from the rest of society so they can’t re-offend. It’s easy enough to see that, if more than zero crimes occur, it’s not evidence that your criminal justice system has failed. Unless of course you think mankind is perfectible and abolishing violent crime is feasible.

        That said, if the *most* optimal criminal justice system actually did involve next to no punishment, it would probably be hard for a conservative to accept even if you had enough data to prove it. Ditto for liberals and broken windows policing.

        Again I think that the instinct to punish often isn’t explicitly designed to deter, but evolved to do just that. I don’t think that instinct would exist if punishment had no deterrence effect.

        7:58-8:35: Conservatives don’t even care about what policies work or don’t work; we can see this in the way they support abstinence and oppose contraceptives (remember, on points like this, that progressive arguments are obviously right). If they cared about reducing those things, they would support contraception; since they don’t, they don’t really care. Instead, we can infer what they really care about is sending the right message, in keeping up appearances.

        If you value chastity as such (deontologically), pointing out that contraceptives ‘work’ is rather silly. Even if you’re a consequentialist and you are partly motivated by a desire to avoid unwanted pregnancies, you might have multiple competing considerations such as fertility rates or the stability of relationships that you think are imperiled by the use of contraceptives.

        There is a bit of truth to this though, in that because small c conservative social values are often 1. implicit 2. the product of historic circumstances, your sense of disgust at sexual license was forged in a world where unplanned pregnancies and STIs were extremely dangerous. It’s not unreasonable to question the utility of chastity on those grounds (in a world of modern medicine) but most liberals are not that “meta”. Note this is not the same as saying a view is outdated because ‘the progress of history says so’

        8:35-8:50: This is starkest where conservatives want certain lifestyles put in the closet. They don’t care that such lives are in fact being led; they just don’t want that to interfere with the message about how the world is supposed to look. And since law is all about punishing evil, conservatives are trying to send the message about who should fear the law and who shouldn’t.

        This attitude makes more sense then the speaker gives it credit. If something is undesirable but it can’t be eliminated completely, then manage it in a way that the potential damage it can do to bystanders is limited.

        It’s also reasonable if you think something straddles the line of being bad and you don’t have the stomach or righteous fanaticism to kick down the doors of people who are violating the norm and string them up for their wickedness.

        An example would be de-criminalizing marijuana.

        8:50-9:45: So, law shows the path everyone is supposed to be on, and punishes deviation.

        ‘Left wing’ religiosity certainly was a thing when left wing and right wing had more to do with issues like monarchy, private property, the means of production, etc. An example of this would be liberation theology.

        If left wing means, athetistical, then the statement is trivially true. Left wing is non-theistic, QED.

        I’d say political-correctness-as-law in the mold of the UK fits his model fairly well. Even the pessimism seems to come into play where it’s kind of a bad thing to NOT admit to being a sinner racist.

        But again I’m not one of those people who thinks that by analogizing something with religion means it’s wrong/false/bad/stupid etc. I just don’t think the speaker is being very introspective.

        It would be interesting for the speaker to ponder how much more dangerous conservatives would be if they were, in fact, optimists. If they thought sin could be abolished with the right policies in place. If they weren’t willing to look the other way when the sinners of the world were discrete about their practices.

        9:45-10:30: But don’t go thinking all reactionary conservatives are Catholics. (This is apparently who we’ve been talking about all this time, when we discussed e.g. people who oppose gun control or universal healthcare; not conservatives in general, but specifically reactionaries!) There are also Protestants (the video image for these folks is a kay kay kay member), pagans, and atheists (this one’s Rich*rd Sp*ncer). But even the atheists are basically Christian atheists, in the sense that their ethics and worldview is very strongly informed by Christianity.

        Well… “Christian theology is the grandmother of Bolshevism”

        But then again, the key word here is theology, which is an explicit moral system, versus small c conservatives who are predominantly implicit moralists.

        12:05-13:24: And this is how fascism happens, and why conservatives are especially susceptible. Fascism is politics-as-faith: the N*zis made Ary*ns into their savior. It doesn’t even have to come from Christianity; it happens wherever people “want their egos flattered and their sins absolved and to be folded into an authority structure that privileges them.”

        This is falling into word-salad territory. Blending all the things I dislike together in a way that makes sense to me and no one else.

        Italian Fascism (if we’re going to use it the way the self-identified would have, rather than just using it as slur) had no equivalent the concept of Aryan, and at least perceived itself as a third way between the excesses of Communism [as it was being practiced in russia] and atomic individualism. Hitler used god in his speeches but so did FDR and Churchill.

        13:24-15:00: One must counter with the narrative that problems can be solved, that there’s mostly no such thing as human nature, and that nature doesn’t determine right. After all, nature would say the solution to a pandemic is everyone susceptible dying. Humanity today exists in defiance of nature, and most of our problems, from bigotry to oppression, are things we’ve created, from which it trivially follows that we can do away with them. (I’m saying it’s trivial that it follows, not that we can do away with them easily.) This view is secular, and while it can be reconciled with Christianity, it cannot be reconciled with “reactionary fundamentalism.”

        There’s lots of bouncing around and bait and switch here. Human nature being fixed and immutable is not incompatible with the notion that any particular problem is unsolvable, as long as you accept that any action which pushes the state of the world in a more preferred direction is part of the ‘solution space’. I think the problem is that once you jettison the idea that humans are a blank slate and that people can be environmentally perfected, the solutions that account for this are not glamorous or cathartic.

        _____________
        Aside:

        On problem with people like this is that they often see Science(tm) as basically debunking old bigotries. That’s their implicit definition of science. It’s therefore impossible that anyone could use scientific methods to conclude that there are innate biological differences between ‘males’ and ‘females’, or between those who excel in sports or academics and those who don’t.

        • Nick says:

          This smells like a straw man to me. Did he actually say that? I mean yes, watching the video for myself is easy but in theory someone who paraphrases a video should basically eliminate the need for doing that.

          I put times on everything so you could easily check my work; anyway, I was short with that part because there was very little to say. To flesh it out, he thinks conservatives make the basic mistake of extrapolating from “if a criminal can still get a gun … then every criminal can get a gun” or “if a poor person can get a gun then every poor person can get a gun.” He then beats this ridiculous strawman, and goes on to build other parts of his argument on conservatives just being obviously wrong on these and other policy questions. I think it’s fundamental to his whole argument, as I say at the end: conservatives are obviously wrong, so we need this big complicated theory to explain what they’re “really” thinking.

          It would be interesting for the speaker to ponder how much more dangerous conservatives would be if they were, in fact, optimists. If they thought sin could be abolished with the right policies in place. If they weren’t willing to look the other way when the sinners of the world were discrete about their practices.

          This is something CS Lewis pondered in his book That Hideous Strength. The gist is that punishment is, in a way, a lot less scary than medicalized “treatment.” The prison gets you for a set number of years; the mental institution can have you for as long as it likes.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            The gist is that punishment is, in a way, a lot less scary than medicalized “treatment.”

            I forget which of his essays it was but there’s one where he points out that punishment requires you to have done — or be attempting to do — something wrong, while treatment (and I’d add deterrence) can in principle be forced on you preventatively.

            What I got out of that wasn’t that punishment is the only legitimate aim of law, but that it ought to be a part of it.

        • Iago the Yerfdog says:

          This smells like a straw man to me.

          I think what Nick is referring to is how he makes few real arguments for his object-level positions and the overall argument doesn’t work without assuming he is correct on those. I think that’s somewhat defensible since the video is targeting his fellow progressive activists, not trying to persuade conservatives, but it exacerbates what I think is the overall portrayal of conservatives as inherently unreasonable in their views.

          I’m kind of assuming though that we’re talking about fox news watcher conservatism.

          He keeps switching targets. Payroll Guy is a Fox News junkie; but then he starts talking about Catholic conservatives (and apparently was all along?) and immediately hops to “Protestants, Pagans, and Atheists,” who are portrayed as Nick mentions.

        • Deiseach says:

          7:58-8:35: Conservatives don’t even care about what policies work or don’t work; we can see this in the way they support abstinence and oppose contraceptives (remember, on points like this, that progressive arguments are obviously right). If they cared about reducing those things, they would support contraception; since they don’t, they don’t really care. Instead, we can infer what they really care about is sending the right message, in keeping up appearances.

          Ach, stuff like that is the same argument often trotted out that “if you conservatives/pro-lifers really wanted to reduce abortion, you’d support contraception and sex education in schools!”

          Funny, but whenever conservatives/prolifers have given in on contraception access being liberalised (see the Lambeth Conference of 1930 and what came after it), abortion comes trotting along right after it. Whenever the argument has been successful about “for the sake of humanity, permit abortion for rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother!”, then down the line it becomes “These controlling bigots only allow limited abortion!” (see Northern Ireland, which for a long time was regarded as more liberal than the South re: contraception and availability of abortion – for the rape etc. exceptions – but which now is being pilloried for not having the same laws on abortion as the rest of the UK, which in practice if not law is abortion on demand).

          Yeah, as someone opposed to abortion, I am not whit convinced by “allow contraceptives if you really want to reduce abortion”, because that’s the camel’s nose under the tent – after all, sometime contraceptives fail, how can you be so cruel as to force a woman to go through with an unwanted pregnancy? No liberal has ever offered the bargain “give in on contraceptives to prevent abortion, and on our side we’ll agree no abortion in the case of contraceptive failure”. So why on earth would I agree to this bargain, which gets me to give in on a matter of principle, and which I know will only evoke further demands for further concessions?

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            “Why give in on anything if they’re just going to turn around and demand more?” explains a great deal of the culture war in general.

            I forget who it was, but someone once pointed out that demands for compromise these days boil down to “You get nothing of what you want and I only get half of what I want.” That’s a formula for polarization.

          • A related point is that a large part of the argument for making abortion and contraception relatively easily available and providing sex education in schools was in order to prevent “unwanted children,” assumed to describe essentially all children of single mothers. Those changes occurred, the percentage of children born to unmarried mothers went sharply up instead of down and, so far as I can tell, nobody who supported those changes responded with “Oops. We were wrong.”

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        After all, nature would say the solution to a pandemic is everyone susceptible dying. Humanity today exists in defiance of nature,

        Thinking more about it, this line of argument irks me. It’s too close to being the anprim worldview with the evaluations reversed: “Boo nature! Yay civilization!”

        Also,

        One must counter with the narrative that problems can be solved,

        Problems can be solved. Predicaments cannot. And you can’t wish the latter into being the former.

        • Nick says:

          The evaluations arguably aren’t reversed. He thinks all bigotry and oppression are things we created (13:55, if you don’t believe me). In other words, he is positing an ideal state of nature, too. (It’s hilarious, by the way, that he says just after this that evil in the world being mostly due to human fallibility is irreconcilable with “reactionary fundamentalism”; he has apparently never heard the story of Adam and Eve.)

      • Progressives speak out about how they want to change the world with policy measures like gun control and universal healthcare. Conservatives, meanwhile, respond by arguing about how this won’t really fix problems; bad people will still get guns, and sick people will still die eventually.

        I’ve heard both points from conservatives many times.

        3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.

        Proven by the above.

        4:53-5:41: We know this because progressive arguments are obviously right.

        Errmm..we know that black-and-white thinking is wrong because of maths. Not all non-zero numbers are equal, as I like to say.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Perhaps different people think in black and white about different things. The things about which people think in black and white probably match pretty closely to their core values. Are there any things on which progressives will not compromise, even though others might see them as existing in varying degrees?

        • Randy M says:

          3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.

          Proven by the above.

          “Conservatives cannot do X” is itself black and white thinking. Also, two examples do not “prove” an inability to do otherwise, and, while we’re at it, the word “prove” is black and white thinking.

          edit: Wait, are we really rehashing “Only a Sith deals in absolutes?”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Conservatives cannot do X” is itself black and white thinking.

            “Only the Sith deal in absolutes!” Tom absolutely said.

          • Randy M says:

            hmm, that was a bad post on my part. It’s not black and white thinking if he leads with “to put it generally” and “tend to”.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Yes, the video does use the words “tend to.” Amusingly, though, its illustration is that, even if you say that Australia or the UK have fewer gun shootings, conservatives will just find an example of one anyway, as if to say, “Look, they still happen.” So our hypothetical conservative points to a real event as evidence, while our real video writer points to a hypothetical conservative as evidence; who is the one engaging in poor reasoning here? 🤔 Evidence that this is a general problem for conservatives outside his imagination, and one whose scale is unique to them and not afflicting liberals in equal measure, is never provided.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @Nick

            It’s mostly the bubble I live in, but these days the response I see most often to “countries with gun control have fewer mass shootings” is either (1) challenge the definition of “mass shooting” or (2) point out that gun violence was already falling prior to those laws, and actually ticked up a bit afterward.

            While I still agree that conservatives tend to not think in terms of systems enough — but vice versa! — these are not failures to think systematically.

        • JayT says:

          In this gun control example the liberals are the black and white thinkers. “Guns do bad things, they should be illegal” is a much more black and white answer than “guns can be used for good and bad, making them illegal won’t do much to restrict the bad, but will very strongly restrict the good, therefore they shouldn’t be illegal.”

        • DarkTigger says:

          Errrmm… how do we get from:

          3:29-4:53: Conservatives, to put it generally, tend to think in black and white, unable to reason in terms of scale or degree.

          Proven by the above.

          to:

          4:53-5:41: We know this because progressive arguments are obviously right.

          Errmm..we know that black-and-white thinking is wrong because of maths. Not all non-zero numbers are equal, as I like to say.

          Because to me that sounds like saying:
          “We now that black and white thinking is bad, and we now that conservatives use black and white thinking, because we are right.”

          To misquote John Oliver: “This has a certain roundness to it.”

      • gbdub says:

        If he’s interpreting the conservative objection as “black and white thinking” I think he is badly modeling conservatives. On gun control, the objection is not “we can’t fix everything so let’s fix nothing” it is “Your proposals will be ineffective AND they will punish the law abiding by making it harder to exercise their rights”. So it’s more of a cost trade off issue.

        On the flip side, the failure mode you see much more often is “This is a problem that is not solved. Therefore, the government should DO SOMETHING to fix it”. That strikes me as much more “black and white” thinking (and it is not limited to one side of the spectrum, but this “do something” bias is probably much more common on the left than “if there is no perfect solution we should do nothing” is on the right)

    • Rolaran says:

      I’ve been following his content for a while, and I’m generally positive about it.

      I think he is generally more realistic about where we are as a society than a lot of leftist commentators, in that he doesn’t seem to expect things to change magically or easily, and acknowledges that for a society to function the way he prefers would take work, incur costs, and have disadvantages. Obviously he still views the benefits as outweighing the drawbacks, but he doesn’t ignore them or downplay them. I would describe it as someone who understands how things are, but doesn’t believe they have to be that way (see for example the end of his Mainstreaming video where he talks about the phrase “this is not normal”, how it is misused, and how it could be legitimately useful as a rallying cry).

      Most of his early work was examining and picking apart bad-faith claims, and I think his analysis generally fares much better when examining people who are acting either in bad faith or from behind a layer of irony, than examining people who genuinely believe what they say (such as Payroll Guy). That being said, he seems to have a good ability to acknowledge that the people who have a conservative worldview really have that worldview, and aren’t just saying they do as a smokescreen to be evil.

      As a side note not related to his alt-right videos, but I highly recommend his video “The Artist Is Absent” to anyone interested in media analysis or narrative theory, as it covers in just over half an hour more than I learned from a semester-long class on the topic.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Would you say that “I hate Mondays” isn’t really representative of his views overall?

        • Rolaran says:

          I don’t think I’d call it unrepresentative of his views, but I would say it’s certainly not a natural starting point. There are ten previous videos in the Alt-Right Playbook series, and as with most series like this, the early ones cover larger and better-defined ideas, and lay groundwork for ideas that are covered in later videos; by this point, it’s more about detail work and edge cases than capturing the main sweep of the group.

  13. BenChaney says:

    What makes you say Gorsuch is partisan? My impression of him is that he is quite principled, even if I don’t always agree.

    • Urstoff says:

      Are partisan and principled mutually exclusive?

      • BenChaney says:

        Generally? No. In the context of Supreme Court Justices? There is some middle ground, but I would put them at opposite sides of the spectrum.

        • Noah says:

          You can be unprincipled and unpartisan: rule in favor of whoever offers the better bribe.

        • keaswaran says:

          Really? This sounds backwards to me – being principled seems to lead people towards partisanship. Most people seem to think that in my lifetime, some relatively principled justices include RBG and Scalia (two very partisan ones) and the most unprincipled justice was Sandra Day O’Connor (one of the least partisan ones).

          • zzzzort says:

            Agree, but it all comes down to the positive valence on the term principled. My side is principled, your side are ideologues.

          • being principled seems to lead people towards partisanship.

            They might correlate, but they can easily enough come in conflict in the judicial context. A principled strict constructionist is more likely to be a Republican, but there will be some things a Republican administration wants to do that are inconsistent with a strict construction of the Constitution.

        • Jacobethan says:

          I find the tendency to discuss the current Court in terms of being “partisan” or “politicized” quite interesting. Because one of the things that most strikingly separates the modern-day SCOTUS from its predecessors is its professionalization, and in that sense insulation from the political branches, whereas within living memory Justices were routinely *actual party politicians*.

          Earl Warren was governor of California when Ike made him Chief Justice. William Douglas was widely expected to be FDR’s running mate in 1944. Both Truman (Tom Clark) and LBJ (Abe Fortas) appointed close personal and political allies as Justices; LBJ cleared the way for Fortas by offering then-Justice Arthur Goldberg a spot as UN Ambassador; later he successfully maneuvered Clark out by making his son AG, in exchange for which the father stepped down, enabling Thurgood Marshall (then SG) to assume his seat.

          That sort of entwinement between the Court and the ordinary processes of politics was standard then; it would be unthinkable now.

  14. Bobobob says:

    Headline on NBC News. Are we getting intersectional yet?

    “Illinois Target worker threatened to call police on unmasked special needs woman, dad says”

    • AG says:

      This is low effort. I don’t even know what you are darkly hinting at, and you’ve actively cut away context. Not kind, not necessary, and unclear truth value. Do better.

      • Bobobob says:

        I think you may be reading too much into it. Just from the headline, it was unclear whether NBC wanted me to be angry at Target, the police, COVID-19, concerned dads, or people not wearing masks.

        I think I am looking at too much news lately…

        • Noah says:

          Mispost deleted.

        • keaswaran says:

          It seems to me that the natural hypothesis is that NBC doesn’t actually want you to get angry at someone in particular, but just wants you to think about the moral complexity of the world that exists. If we weren’t so primed by the idea that every news agency must be a nefarious political actor in disguise, this would be the natural hypothesis.

        • AG says:

          @Bobobob

          Thanks for clarifying. What set off my alarms was “intersectional.” What did you mean by that?

          • Bobobob says:

            AG, I’ll admit that I used the word sloppily, it’s not in my normal vocabulary. I think Keaswaran nailed it above–sometimes when I read news headlines I think, “who, exactly, does the headline writer want me to be angry at?” when they’re actually just presenting the information in a clumsy way.

            On a related note, has anyone else noticed that headlines have become much more tendentious lately? As a blue person, I’m used to getting my news from CNN and NBC, and I don’t recall noticing this trend until very recently. I imagine the situation is similar over at Fox News.

            (BTW, I used to be a headline writer, though not at a major news organization)

          • Bobobob says:

            Let me take another stab at this, since it may lead to some fruitful discussion. My basic prior about an NBC headline is, “this news outlet would like me to be angry about a person who refuses to wear a face mask to Target.” However, in this case, the person not wearing a face mask had special needs, so now I am not sure what to think, and I’m guessing the headline writer didn’t know what to think, either.

            By the same token, if the police had been called because a red-state protester had gone into Target without a face mask, NBC would have been assuming/courting my approval, but threatening to call the police on a special needs person is, once again, what? An overreaction? Standard operating procedure? A social-justice violation? Once again, I don’t know, and neither does the headline writer (or the person who wrote the article).

            Like I said, I consider myself fairly liberal, but my usual news sources seem to be going off the rails in how they package and present information.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’d have to read the article, but the special needs part could be relevant. My workplace just issued guidelines that everyone has to wear a mask, but there’s an exception for people with “medically documented breathing difficulties.”

            Does the special need have something to do with being unable to wear a mask for medical reasons?

          • AG says:

            Thanks again for the clarification. As to your question, I don’t think the headline was trying to get anyone to be mad at anyone. Instead, it’s trying to maximize curiosity in the reader. “What in the hell was going on in that situation?” leads to more clicks. Outrage is but only one avenue to interest. People love a good Florida Man level of bizarreness.

    • Bobobob says:

      Here’s another one. Consider this the weird COVID-19 headline thread, honest, I’m not trying to darkly hint at anything.

      “Woman killed in alligator attack was manicurist on a house call during lockdown”

  15. Randy M says:

    Steve Sailor has suggested something similar, and if he were here he’d point out that Raj Chetty was given similar access to tax records in order to do his demographic studies a few years back.

    • Aapje says:

      I like how you subtly illustrated how errors in the data would frustrate researchers (his actual name is Sailer).

  16. Does anyone else feel a weird brain-bliss feeling after they eat meat? I noticed the difference after eating just vegetables for a while. It might just be me, but the closest thing I can relate it to, is a kind of inverse headache, where your brain feels really comfortable. The brain doesn’t actually have any feeling, so really it must be something to do with blood vessels in the head.

    I also feel somewhat smarter. I swear this isn’t pro-meat propaganda.

    • broblawsky says:

      On occasion, after eating a large portion of meat on a mostly-empty stomach. I figure some of it is endorphins rewarding me for a good day’s “hunting”, and part of it is blood being diverted away from the brain.

      However, I wouldn’t say it makes me feel smarter. If anything, I feel a little drunk, even without having any alcohol at the meal.

    • Urstoff says:

      Is it meat in particular that makes you feel that way or just anything particularly calorie-dense?

      • I spent a week eating extremely calorie dense stews of carrots, potatoes, dumplings etc without any meat, and it doesn’t really have the same effect. Both provide satisfaction of appetite, but only meat seems to affect my alertness and “brain comfort” (for lack of a better world), and it’s way more noticeable after subsisting on only vegetables for a while. Perhaps I was lacking proteins? Then again, I was hardly wasting away.

        • keaswaran says:

          If your stew contained large amounts of beans or lentils, then this might be a useful control, but it does make a big difference whether you have that protein. You’d probably also want a lot of oils added, whether from coconut or avocado or whatever.

        • There was a fair amount of beans so actually, yeah, that’s a protein source.

    • Beans says:

      As I’ve gotten older (though I would not yet be classified as old by most) I’ve found that protein-rich foods reliably make me feel better than any others, even if I overeat them. I can fill my every crevice with steak and feel perfectly good afterwards, if a little plump and sweaty. Meat is definitely especially satiating, and feeling satisfied encourages feeling content and collected, which in turn probably makes one’s mind feel clearer… but I don’t think there’s anything fantastic going on here. Eating a big fat steak does put me in a good mood, but I think that’s just attributable to it being really great tasting.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I certainly get that effect with steak over say chicken or meatloaf, but nothing makes me feel cleaner, healthier, and more right than eating fish. In stark contrast to other foods I could eat sushi and sole meuniere and oysters and finish it off with a light vigilia and still sprint home afterwards feeling refreshed.

    • Beans says:

      I’d like to take this chance to gush more about meat. I’ve been indulging in steaks during this troubled time, since I’m not spending much money in general. I have just recently come to understand the true value of meat quickly seared to hell on the outside but left nearly raw on the inside. I always regret it if I end up cooking it for more than about 5 minutes, and when I get it right, it’s better tasting than just about anything I can think of.

      I also have been re-frying any thick chunks of edge fat I that aren’t done after the initial cooking, and those are almost more delicious than the meat itself. They also create a lot of amazing grease that I’ve been reserving and using to cook other foods. That steak fat grease is both very flavorful, and seems to stand up very well to cooking, and prevents sticking to the pan better than say, bacon fat.

      • SamChevre says:

        If you haven’t tried using that fat to panfry cubes of potatoes, you should–they are amazing.

        Just cut peeled potatoes into half-inch cubes, soak in water for ~5 minutes, drain and shake in a towel, then put in a pan with ~1/8 inch of beef fat, sprinkle with salt, and fry until soft inside and crunchy and brown outside.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh gosh yes, meat fat + starchy carbs + frying = the heaven of the tastebuds, the hell of nutritionists and dieting 😀

          Personal taste, fry some sliced onion in with those spuds in the meat fat, yum yum yum 😉

          • Silverlock says:

            Nobby Nobbs, is that you?

          • ec429 says:

            meat fat + starchy carbs + frying = the heaven of the tastebuds

            And yet when we English eat potatoes roasted in the fat from our rosbif, everyone says we’re Bad At Food. Seriously guys: we don’t eat Sunday Roast to show off how boring and conservative we are, we eat it because it’s delicious.

            /me tries very hard to resist arguing with Deiseach over whose Full Breakfast is better. Fried bread = food of the gods.

          • Deiseach says:

            If His Lordship the Earl of Ankh and I are in agreement on onions and spuds fried in meat fat, who am I to disgree with my betters? 😉

            The only thing that makes it better is if you have a bit of leftover meat from the day before, such as the remains of the roast beef or some of the boiled bacon or whatever else, fry that up until crispy and plate it up with the fried carbs – delicious!

            Bubble and squeak is even healthy – look, it’s got greens in! 😀

    • 205guy says:

      Yes, I get this too. I’ve always eaten small amounts of meat, but my family meals were vegetarian for several years, then pescatarian, now we eat an occasional (humanely raised) chicken. I definitely feel very happy after eating the chicken, and this usually happens after several days of no meat and low protein. And I had the same observation as you, that it likely comes from the meat after no-meat effect, a hunting-feast effect as broblawsky suggests. I also think that the meat being grilled/rotisseried and also eating the skin and drippings (fat, usually on potatoes) also contribute, because the reheated leftovers don’t nearly the same effect (even with a day or two of no-protein in between). Similarly, a juicy grilled steak sounds really good, but a pot roast not as much (even though I love pot roast). So I wouldn’t be surprised if some neolithic hunter genes were involved, and I can understand how a chicken-in-every-pot can have an oversized effect on voters.

  17. Chalid says:

    I’d been thinking along those lines too. I do think that in the US, even without waiving regulations, you’d have a huge data-integration mess to deal with before anything useful could happen.

    However, I’d expect someplace like the UK’s NHS to have enough data to weigh in fairly definitively on some burning questions. In principle this could be an advantage of centralized government-run health care, but I’m not seeing any of this research being produced. In practice of course these agencies may not be centralized enough, or if they are centralized they may not be competent enough.

    e.g. lots of people think hydroxychloroquine will, if given early, prevent covid-19 from becoming serious. About 1.5% of the population is on a prescription for HCQ; the UK has had ~30K deaths so if HCQ had no effect you’d expect about 450 people to have died while on HCQ. Obviously you then need to control for a bunch of stuff, but if the effect of HCQ was very big then the details of the controls shouldn’t matter too much.

    The NHS ought to have all this information, I think, and it could do all the research internally without releasing any patient data so I don’t think there are privacy issues. I don’t know enough about its internal workings to know what obstacles there are to producing research like this. (And ditto for all the other countries, and for other common medicines besides HCQ.)

    • dodrian says:

      As I understand it, there’s no central store of records in the NHS, and attempts to unify things with technology have failed miserably.

      That’s the impression I get from a friend who manages a complex disease and visits several specialists in different NHS trusts – she’s reliant on them mailing pertinent information about her condition (blood work, etc) to each other, or she carries a copy herself to appointments to make sure her doctors have the latest info on file.

      • Chalid says:

        That’s really a tragic waste – there is so much science that could be done with 60+ million complete medical histories. Not just for COVID, but generally.

      • There seems to be a lot of potential for exploiting data from natural experiments. For example …

        I take Losartan as blood pressure medication. There has been some speculation that Losartan might block the Coronavirus. Also some speculation that it might make one more vulnerable to Coronavirus. I gather some research on the subject is currently being done.

        If one had large scale data on what prescription medications people were taking, whether they got Covid and what the outcome was, you would have evidence from a natural experiment much larger than any deliberate experiment.

      • Evan Þ says:

        @DavidFriedman, that’s been happening on some scale, and it was what gave rise to the suspicions Hydroxychloroquine might be an effective preventative.

  18. Skeptic says:

    I agree. But for the sake of steel manning the Devil’s Advocate:

    1) the true mortality rate for those under 50 with no serious health problems will be so low it will cause a backlash to effective lockdown policies

    2) infection and mortality rate will be different for different ethnicities or protected groups (illegal immigrants, immigrants, homosexuals, whatever) and this could be used to incite fear or hate of said groups

    3a) data collected could be used against the individuals – some patients will have open arrest warrants or deportation orders

    3b) even if a firewall is established, data collection will cause those with warrants and illegal immigrants to avoid treatment

    4) data could be used for nefarious other purposes if identity can be backed into (you really want addresses, or at least neighborhoods or 50m radius)

    5) do you trust the government with your medical records?

    None would be a game changer for me policy wise.

    • ec429 says:

      1) the true mortality rate for those under 50 with no serious health problems will be so low it will cause a backlash to effective lockdown policies

      And this is supposed to be a bad thing? There’s very little evidence for the proposition that locking down the young and healthy does anything to protect the vulnerable that’s not already achieved by the social distancing measures that people (at least in civic-minded societies) seem to be willing to take without being forced to. As far as I’m concerned, “true facts becoming known that provide rhetorical ammunition for lockdown sceptics” is an unalloyed positive.

  19. alchemy29 says:

    Since it’s topical – what is the most likely event that could destroy modern civilization and take us back to the Industrial revolution or even before? Yellowstone erupting? A pandemic 10 times worse than the current one? An Asteroid?

    My initial guess is a coronal mass ejection. It’s almost inevitable – they are pretty common events. Take out a significant chunk of our electrical infrastructure and large swathes of society collapse.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      Take out a significant chunk of our electrical infrastructure and large swathes of society collapse.

      1998 called. Obviously not the same kind of event, but a ton of infrastructure was actually physically destroyed and it took a few weeks to get back to more-or-less normal (some smaller/less-populated areas were affected for longer). We wouldn’t have the luxury of using a continent’s worth or resources to fix a few cities’ worth of powerlines like we did in 1998, but that just means it takes longer to get everyone back online. As I understand it, generators would still work, so a lot of short-term problems can be managed while this happens.

      The analysis by Lloyd’s of the damage by a serious CME is also worth reading. It falls well short of what you’re predicting.

      • matkoniecz says:

        And 2012. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_2012

        It missed the Earth with a margin of approximately nine days, as the equator of the Sun rotates around its own axis with a period of about 25 days.[1] The region that produced the outburst was thus not pointed directly towards the Earth at that time. The strength of the eruption was comparable to the 1859 Carrington event that caused damage to electrical equipment worldwide, which at that time consisted mostly of telegraph systems.[2]

      • alchemy29 says:

        That’s exactly the sort of analysis I was looking for and it seems pretty reassuring and well researched. Thank you.

        • MisterA says:

          This came up like two threads ago – there are analyses that are much more grim, for values of grim up to and including ‘total collapse of civilization and death of the bulk of the population’.

          The basic problem is the supply chain and how interdependent everything is, and how dependent on very thin margins to gain maximum efficiency. You know how every city in the first world has two or three days of food on hand, with the rest needing to shipped in on a Just In Time basis?

          A modern day Carrington Event stops all the food from getting to the cities for weeks, maybe months.

          So the question is, how quickly do you think we can rebuild a destroyed power grid while the majority of the population are starving to death and a significant portion have turned into roving Mad Max cannibal gangs instead? And also most communication technology is gone?

          If the answer to that question is anything greater than “weeks” then most people die.

          (And consider the answer to this question in light of just how much trouble something comparatively minor like this virus is giving us.)

          • matkoniecz says:

            A modern day Carrington Event stops all the food from getting to the cities for weeks, maybe months.

            AFAIK it is not certain. It is not entirely clear how widespread damage would be.

            For example https://blog.givewell.org/2015/08/21/coming-down-to-earth-what-if-a-big-geomagnetic-storm-does-hit/

            These four lines of evidence combine to produce a strange state of knowledge. Theory and field tests reassure. Statistical correlations and evidence from specific cases such as in South Africa suggest that not all is well.

            And https://blog.givewell.org/2015/07/02/geomagnetic-storms-historys-surprising-if-tentative-reassurance/

          • alchemy29 says:

            I was most reassured by the claim that a Carrington level event would not hit the entire Earth uniformly. Previously I thought it was a given that almost every transformer on earth would be off-line. Obviously we don’t know for sure what will happen but that worse case scenario might not be the case.

          • John Schilling says:

            A modern day Carrington Event stops all the food from getting to the cities for weeks, maybe months.

            How? A Carrington Event affects long-distance electric power distribution networks. And satellites, but that’s pretty much it. It is not a magic EMP that destroys everything “electronic”. It does not affect trucks, locomotives, ships, barges, tugs, or even airplanes. It does not affect farm equipment, except that the farmer has to fall back on his diesel generator. It does not affect radios.

            So unless you are going to assume that people are completely inflexible in their methods and will e.g. curl up and die when it is no longer possible to schedule deliveries via the internet, it’s hard to see how this “stops all the food from getting to the cities for months”.

          • Lambert says:

            Why would you join a roving mad max cannibal gang when you could join a purposefully walking to Ohio or somewhere that suddenly has a bunch of food it can’t get rid of foraging gang?

            Manhattan to the midwest is about 25 days on foot or 10 on a bike.

          • matkoniecz says:

            It does not affect trucks, locomotives, ships, barges, tugs, or even airplanes.

            It may affect them via collapse of fuel production and distrubution. Not sure how likely is this effect.

          • MisterA says:

            Yeah, that was part of what I was thinking. A massive global infrastructure is required to keep gas in everyone’s car. Shut off the grid and the fuel goes away too.

            That said I definitely did think the list of things affected would be larger – just read up on the difference between a CME and EMP and updated my understanding.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yeah, that was part of what I was thinking. A massive global infrastructure is required to keep gas in everyone’s car.

            Fortunately, we only need to keep diesel fuel in a small fraction of the trucks and locomotives, which is a much easier problem.

            Shut off the grid and the fuel goes away too.

            All of it, in a matter of weeks?

            There’s way too much absolutism going on here. Coronal Mass Ejection, mumble-something-electricity, therefore anything within three degrees of separation of “electricity” is 100% gone in effectively zero time, because reasons. You all are smarter than this, when you want to be.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            While there’s a lot to be desired in how American society and government responded to coronavirus, one encouraging thing is that lots of people just said “do what seems right to keep things working like they were before.”

            So if electronic communications over 100 miles somehow became impossible, people would keep on shipping things while waiting for the mail to come through.

          • John Schilling says:

            So if electronic communications over 100 miles somehow became impossible,

            We’d adapt with a bit of delay, almost certainly before starvation sets in, but electronic communications isn’t going to become impossible. So why are we even having this discussion?

      • Bobobob says:

        Oh, man, thanks for giving me something else to worry about. On the Wikipedia page for CME: “According to a report published in 2012 by physicist Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc., the chance of Earth being hit by a Carrington-class storm between 2012 and 2022 is 12%.”

        • keaswaran says:

          Seems like the chance of Earth being hit by one between 2020 and 2022 is about 2.4%, assuming the risk was equally distributed within that decade. Did the risk go down later? Or was it supposed to be a constant 12% risk per decade, and we just happened to go 16 decades in a row without one?

          • matkoniecz says:

            Solar cycle is 11 year long so I suspect that it should be a constant rate?

            0,88^16 = 13% so it is not ridiculous, especially with recorded near miss in 2012.

    • matkoniecz says:

      Since it’s topical – what is the most likely event that could destroy modern civilization and take us back to the Industrial revolution or even before? Yellowstone erupting? A pandemic 10 times worse than the current one? An Asteroid?

      WW III remains (currently) low probability but with awful consequences. Widespread use of nuclear weapons would be bad.

      A pandemic 10 times worse than the current one?

      10x worse still would not have so massive results.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_catastrophic_risk has an entire artticle

    • bullseye says:

      We don’t have the equipment or know-how to run a 19th century civilization. If the power goes out and doesn’t come back on, we all die.

      Even the Amish would be in for a bad time. Their only metal tools would be what they can forge by hand (which I don’t think would include guns or saws) and they’d be generally poorer without the “English” to trade with. And that’s assuming the starving masses don’t murder them in the first year.

      • Lambert says:

        How do you think prople made guns and saws before steam hammers came along?

        And I’ve got books from the 19th century about how to run 19th century civilisation which I can consult, if I need to.

        • bullseye says:

          Certainly it can be done, if you know what you’re doing. How many people do?

          How many people have those books? How many Amish (who, according to a previous open thread, have 8th grade educations) own 100+ year old books that are of interest only to historians?

          • Lambert says:

            Not many, but you can learn basic blacksmithing in a few days.

            And you can move books.

      • John Schilling says:

        We don’t have the equipment or know-how to run a 19th century civilization. If the power goes out and doesn’t come back on, we all die.

        You die, a bunch of people like you die, the rest of us figure out how to get along without you. And if things go well, we maybe help you not die after all.

      • Nornagest says:

        Quite a few people make saws by hand, actually. They’re one of the easier tools to do — all you need is a steel plate of the appropriate gauge (21st century: buy at Home Depot. 19th century: hammer out from bar stock), tools for cutting the saw plate to shape (21st century: angle grinder. 19th: heavy shears), and a file for cutting the teeth. Plus the handle, but carving wood was a solved problem in 9000 BC. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Amish make their own, although I don’t have any particular knowledge.

        Hand forging is impractical for modern guns. It’s just barely practical for older styles of shotgun, but still tough — the process involves working strips of steel in a Damascus-like pattern around a mandrel, and it gives you a barrel too weak to work with modern loads. On the other hand, if you’ve already got a gun drilling machine lying around it might be possible to refit it to use another power source. The main reason they’re tough to make from scratch is that it’s hard to accurately bore long, straight holes in stock, and that’s solved with tooling, not with power.

    • Chalid says:

      I think a CME is a pretty good bet too. There’s no reason to think that a Carrington Event is anything close to an upper bound on how intense these could be.

      SSC thread on CMEs from 2017

      Thread from earlier this year

      Givewell papers which say we should be concerned but perhaps not panicked.

      TBH the other SSC threads are not that great. The Givewell papers seem quite good to me.

    • Erc says:

      Take out a significant chunk of our electrical infrastructure and large swathes of society collapse

      Some thought that would happen in Germany. Didn’t happen.

      • matkoniecz says:

        Some thought that would happen in Germany. Didn’t happen.

        When?

          • matkoniecz says:

            It works (very poorly) if you occupy other countries and have no problems with stealing their food. What just moves some starvation deaths to other places.

            And in long term requires external help anyway.

            Also, world population tripled since that time (2.5 billion -> 7.5 billion). With agriculture and logistics depending more on parts that require electricity.

          • Erc says:

            With agriculture and logistics depending more on parts that require electricity.

            A tiny proportion of the world’s electricity output. And much of it isn’t necessary anyway: we could pick and plant crops by hand. Some people would hang themselves rather than do so, but the rest would get on.

          • matkoniecz says:

            And much of it isn’t necessary anyway: we could pick and plant crops by hand.

            This is absurd for multiple reasons.

            Farming is requiring skills and tools, both that would be totally unavailable.

            Fine, switch to scythes. Now find tens of thousands scythes and sharpening tools needed to handle that. People will not magically learn to us them. And supersized fields are not going to be easy to process this way.

          • Erc says:

            Now find tens of thousands scythes and sharpening tools needed to handle that.

            You don’t find them, you build them. There are shops where metal products are produced. Look around you: there is far more iron and steel than there would be in the hovel of our peasant ancestors, yet you think we couldn’t equip everyone with scythes?

            People will not magically learn to us them

            It won’t take long to learn. There will be some eggheads unwilling to do so, sure, it’ll be a bad time for them.

          • matkoniecz says:

            It won’t take long to learn. There will be some eggheads unwilling to do so, sure, it’ll be a bad time for them.

            Not sure whatever you underestimate skill needed to manual farm labor or overestimate how easy is to learn them.

            there is far more iron and steel than there would be in the hovel of our peasant ancestors, yet you think we couldn’t equip everyone with scythes?

            That is because making scythes is also requiring skill and tools, both nowadays are really rare.

            Yes, there is plenty of iron around. Turning it into scythes is not trivial.

            Village of my peasant ancestors had more scythe making skills and knowledge that entire modern city.

            And they were not making scythes from scratch every year.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is functionally impossible to swap from industrial farming to labor intensive farming in a short time frame without mass starvation. The collapse in irrigation alone would probably cause a billion or more deaths.

            It won’t take long to learn. There will be some eggheads unwilling to do so, sure, it’ll be a bad time for them.

            Farming requires a wide variety of skills and has an unforgiving learning curve. This isn’t learning a sport or studying for a test, failure doesn’t lead to embarrassment it can lead to literally not having the strength to try again.

          • Erc says:

            That is because making scythes is also requiring skill and tools, both nowadays are really rare.

            There are metal shops which make a variety of products. Give them the design, they’ll make it. Might not get it right with the first batch, but they’ll figure it out.

            It is functionally impossible to swap from industrial farming to labor intensive farming in a short time frame without mass starvation. The collapse in irrigation alone would probably cause a billion or more deaths.

            Of course. There are parts you can’t replace: irrigation is very hard and with fertilizers you need a big industrial process.

            Farming requires a wide variety of skills and has an unforgiving learning curve.

            The urbanites will be overseen by experienced farmers. Will they do it well? No. They don’t need to. There’s a lot of slack in the system: look at all the meat we consume. What happens there is we take many calories of corn and turn it into few calories of beef and chicken. Stop doing that and you find you can lose a large proportion of your corn production and still wind up with more calories than before.

          • matkoniecz says:

            There’s a lot of slack in the system

            In case of electricity (and therefore most of mechanization) stopping we have no slack whatsoever.

            In times of manual farm labor (scythe level) the employment in agriculture (% of total employment) was ridiculously high. Currently in USA it is about 1%, nearly none of them familiar with fully manual labor. Even today it is 70% in Uganda.

            And that old manual labor relied in large part on animals that we no longer have in sufficient numbers.

            https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.AGR.EMPL.ZS
            https://ourworldindata.org/employment-in-agriculture

            Going back to manual farm labor means that vast majority of population dies. Half of farming degrades this way? Still, large part of population will starve.

            (maybe we assumed different meaning of “Take out a significant chunk of our electrical infrastructure and large swathes of society collapse”?)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Farming requires skills even though there’s also a lot of repetitive heavy work. In particular, knowing where and when to plant, how to take care of the crops and protect them from non-humans, and preserve the food– all require considerable knowledge, and there’s no slack for major mistakes.

          • Another Throw says:

            Look, the problem is with what tools. Without electricity, all of the tools we have are useless. All those three phase motors don’t run on pixie dust and unicorn tails. And if we are back to whacking things with hammers (a) that is an incredibly skill intensive task that took thousands of years to figure out (b) I’m not sure there are enough hammers in the US to pound out the numbers of scythes you would need (c) we don’t have any build infrastructure for the “where you put the fire” part of the whacking things with hammers process (d) we don’t have the infrastructure to kiln all the bricks, sans electricity, you would need to build all of the places to put the fires (e) we have neither the tools nor bricks to make the kilns to make the bricks to make the forges to make the tools.

            Nor the axes to chop the trees, nor the planes to shape them into handles for the hammers, and axes, and planes. Nor the shovels to dig the pits to make the charcoal to fire the kilns and the forges. Nor the knives to skin the animals to make the leather (much less whatever the hell you use for tanning agents) to make the bellows. Nor the, well, fucking everything.

            And you have about two weeks to figure it out from first principle without the internet (or probably even talking to your neighbors very much) before you’re too weak to swing a hammer.

            A global loss of the electric grid that lasted very long would be really, really, really bad. Regional breakdowns for various lengths of time are demonstrably survivable. Global? We’re fucked.

            Whether a sufficiently global loss is actually possible under plausible circumstances is a different discussion.

          • John Schilling says:

            Look, the problem is with what tools. Without electricity, all of the tools we have are useless.

            And with less electricity, some of the tools we have are useless. A Carrington Event is not a Magic Electricity-B-Gone Field, it is a thing that disrupts long distance power transmission networks. That’s some of our electricity, not all of it. There will be some electricity available in the aftermath. And since the actions being proposed require only a tiny fraction of the electricity currently produced, I’m guessing there will probably be enough.

            And I think I need to bow out of this discussion before I say something I’ll regret.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now find tens of thousands scythes and sharpening tools needed to handle that.

            Horse drawn mowers, threshers, etc. are A Thing. Granted the wider point that they’re not just lying around and people in general don’t know how to manufacture or operate them, but at the same time, we wouldn’t be back to the days of the scythe (which, um, include my early childhood so well within living memory).

          • baconbits9 says:

            The urbanites will be overseen by experienced farmers.

            What farmers have experience in overseeing a massive influx of inexperienced workers with tools they have never used themselves?

          • Look, the problem is with what tools.

            I think you greatly underestimate the number of hammers, knives, etc. presently available.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Horse drawn mowers, threshers, etc. are A Thing.

            But horses to pull those machines aren’t.

          • AG says:

            At last, the dog-powered society will have its day!

        • edmundgennings says:

          I think he means around 1944.

    • I’m really not clear on the specifics of how charged particle ejections from the sun interact with stuff here.

      What would a worst case scenario coronal mass ejection do beyond the power line/electrical infrastructure level? Do individual computers get “destroyed” in some way that even if you plugged them into some fresh electrical power source after it was over, all the components would be fried? Would it matter if the computer was off or on? Would harddrives be magnetically scrambled? What about classic HDDs versus solid states?

      Generally, how can I protect my data? What’s the penetration of the effect? Could I protect an SSD with enough shielding?

      • matkoniecz says:

        Generally, how can I protect my data?

        If you care about data – multiple regularly created and tested backups. Including ones kept in other locations. And if feasible – online on someones else servers.

        But for this specifically:

        Do individual computers get “destroyed” in some way that even if you plugged them into some fresh electrical power source after it was over, all the components would be fried?

        Not a real concern.

        First of all, power to do this would need to go beyond solar storms and into gamma-ray bursts. This is funny to consider, but chance of that happening are basically 0.

        Cosmic weather strong enough to erase SSD/HDD or damage electronics would be enough to kill enough power transformers that you would not worry about your data.

        Bad scenarios for solar storms are AFAIK for power grid that is more vulnerable to this kind of danger, in particular transformers.

    • S_J says:

      The Carrington-event style Coronal Mass Ejection seems to generate a lot of discussion… but no one took you up on Yellowstone erupting.

      Yellowstone National Park contains a very large volcanic caldera. It’s not what people think when they think “volcano”, because it’s not a single peak with a big divot out of the top from the last time it erupted. The caldera is large enough (35 miles by 45 miles) to contain the base of Mount Saint Helens (cone was ~6 miles wide before the 1980 eruption) comfortably, and have lots of room to spare for other comparably-sized volcanoes.

      Geologists say that the Yellowstone caldera had several major eruptions, ranging from 630,000 years ago to 2.1 million yaers ago. There may have been a lesser, but still very large, eruptions and/or lava flows on the order of 170,000 to 70,000 years ago.

      Some predictions of the effects of a super-eruption range from “make large parts Wyoming/Montana uninhabitable for a year” to “put enough ash into the sky to make another Year without a Summer“. That last option might include a thick blanket of volcanic ash across the grain-growing regions of the Great Plains.

      From what I can make out, the Yellowstone caldera may be more active than was suspected a decade ago, but there isn’t a major risk of an eruption anytime in our lifetimes.

      Which is, I think, good news.

      Also good news: the geology of the Yellowstone caldera would give us many months, and possibly years, of warnings before the next eruption.

      • matkoniecz says:

        The Carrington-event style Coronal Mass Ejection seems to generate a lot of discussion… but no one took you up on Yellowstone erupting.

        There is nothing that we could do to stop Yellowstone eruption. And it is monitored, so fortunately it seems to not be a big issue.

        Also good news: the geology of the Yellowstone caldera would give us many months, and possibly years, of warnings before the next eruption.

        From what I remember (I like reading about natural disaster scenarios) decades of advanced warnings are likely and it is closely monitored. With no signs of things getting worse.

      • keaswaran says:

        On the plus side, a Yellowstone eruption might create really cool new fossil beds containing whatever megafauna have replaced the extinct rhinos of the Great Plains (most likely turning Omaha or other cities in a similar radius of Yellowstone into Pompeii).

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

  20. Related to the Innuendo Studios discussion downthread:

    My YouTube tastes run towards the “man talks about video games at extreme length” genre. All the cool people tell me that this is the domain of the all-trite and similar nasties, and I should expect to be radicalized any second now. So why isn’t YouTube recommending any of this content to me? Thanks to its recommendation algorithms, I’m subscribed to several openly left-wing channels. I’ve stopped watching several channels it’s recommended because the content was too far left for my tastes (e.g., self-identifying as a social justice warrior, overtly Marxist, etc.). I’m failing to recall any instance of YouTube recommending right-wing content to me. (It did recommend the IS video discussed below, though I haven’t watched it.)

    So what’s going on? Are the panicked thinkpieces made up out of whole cloth? Has YouTube neutered its algorithm? Does it just think I’m much farther left than I really am? Color me confused.

    • matkoniecz says:

      Yes, Youtube noticeably changed algorithms relatively recently.

      My YouTube tastes run towards the “man talks about video games at extreme length” genre. All the cool people tell me that this is the domain of the all-trite and similar nasties

      This is not really productive.

    • FLWAB says:

      YouTube (more like JewTube amiright?)

      None of this please. Even ironically.

      • matkoniecz says:

        +1 It neither OK, nor funny, nor interesting, nor original. It is not 4chan.

    • Randy M says:

      Sidestepping all of that, Shamus Young has started posting his column in video form on Youtube and it’s always entertaining.

      I have no idea what his politics are, which says a lot.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        I read Shamus Young a lot when I was younger, and have checked in on him occasionally. If I’m remembering right, he’s a computer programming evangelical Christian homeschooler with a variety of kids – but who has a trans daughter who he is very proud of.

        I ‘m not certain what his politics are, but I think they can fairly be described as interesting.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Is someone named Shamus Young praising his kids nominative anti-determinism?

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I’ve been reading Twenty Sided since it was a place for Shamus to write up his DnD campaigns. To my knowledge, Shamus has mentioned his politics only once, in the context of refusing to ever discuss his politics, but he hinted at libertarian-ish tendencies. I could go digging for the post, I suppose, but digging through someone’s old blog posts to find their hidden political beliefs when they’ve repeatedly made public that they rather not have their political beliefs public knowledge feels squicky.

          He does an excellent job avoiding hot-button culture issues and sticking to the games, and is probably my favorite video game commentator on the Internet.

      • I am subscribed to his Patreon, but I much prefer text articles over video.

    • albatross11 says:

      Go take a crap in someone else’s living room, halfwit.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      My YouTube tastes run towards the “man talks about video games at extreme length” genre.

      As do mine, and I’ve never noticed politics in any of these programs. They usually just talk about, ya know, video games. Who are these cool people who are telling you these things?

      The only time I’ve seen anything like what you’re talking about would be anti-feminist rants during The Antening.

      • This is the premier example of the phenomenon.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Then that’s a pretty weak phenomenom. They barely mention video games in the article. Here are the applicable sentences:

          They knew that a video calling out left-wing bias in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” might red-pill movie buffs, or that a gamer who ranted about feminism while streaming his Call of Duty games might awaken other politically minded gamers.

          and

          Over years of reporting on internet culture, I’ve heard countless versions of Mr. Cain’s story: an aimless young man — usually white, frequently interested in video games — visits YouTube looking for direction or distraction and is seduced by a community of far-right creators.

          There’s no evidence provided, and they don’t even claim the video game streamers themselves are making political content. So yes, to answer your question, they appear to have made it up out of whole cloth.

    • toastengineer says:

      Youtube still consistently recommends hard right and hard left content, no matter how many times I click the “I don’t like this recommendation” button. The majority of my recommendations are CW-related even though I try hard to avoid that kind of thing – I think it just knows that outrage gets clicks.

      Speaking specifically to people talking about video games, I’ve noticed a tendency for channels that start out explicitly trying to be neutral going hardcore anti-SJW (not necessarily right, just that one cluster of ideas) over time. A central example would be SidAlpha; he gave off a blue-triber who doesn’t really care about politics vibe, until he covered a story about a person doing something bad who happened to also be transgender, and you could watch the backlash he received push him right in real time over the course of a couple months.

      Personally, I think people are massively overestimating how effective these recommendation systems really are. The vast majority of recommendations I get are stuff I would never click on, usually just “oh, he watched a video from a guy who talks about conlangs, let’s recommend him a ton of conlang videos.”

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Gamers tend to be anti-SJW because of that incident in 2014. The fact that they continue to get attacked for it only adds to the resentment.

    • Nick says:

      (It did recommend the IS video discussed below, though I haven’t watched it.)

      I visited Youtube earlier and discovered it’s recommending Innuendo Studio videos to me now. Dammit.

  21. AJD says:

    I need a referral for a female therapist in Manhattan or Jersey City. I have a client who is looking for one and I don’t have any connections of that kind. Scott, can you help? My client is late twenties, no mental health issues other than the general angst of being a gay man, living through covid-19 and being in slightly over his head in a high-growth tech startup .

    • inhibition-stabilized says:

      In case Scott (or anyone else knowledgeable) doesn’t see this, there’s a list of recommended mental health professionals linked in the top menu bar. (Apologies if you’ve already checked this!) No idea if it’ll have what you’re looking for, though, or if it’s up-to-date.

  22. broblawsky says:

    So, it sounds like Trump is warming up the (trade) war drums on China again. This is, I think, also connected to the assertion on the part of the Trump White House that China is directly responsible for COVID-19.

    On the one hand, it makes sense as an election year move – Trump’s stance on China is probably his single most broadly politically popular position. Trying to paint Biden as soft on China and himself as being hard on them is probably his best bet.

    On the other hand, if Trump reimposes tariffs, the recession precipitated by COVID-19 will get substantially worse. The last thing you want to do in a slump like this is raise taxes, and tariffs are particularly regressive taxes. A V-shaped recovery was already unlikely, but a resumption of tariffs will make it impossible. Trump might not reimpose tariffs, but if he doesn’t, I don’t think he’s going to get much political benefit from playing at being a China hawk.

    On the gripping hand, Trump and Pompeo do seem to genuinely kind of believe that China is directly responsible for COVID-19. I’ve perceived this stance as getting increasingly popular on the right recently, and the largest consumers of right-wing media I know are signal-boosting it more and more. We’ve already seen the feedback loop between rightwing media and the Trump White House; this could potentially turn into something more than just a trade spat.

    Thoughts?

    • FLWAB says:

      On the gripping hand, Trump and Pompeo do seem to genuinely kind of believe that China is directly responsible for COVID-19. I’ve perceived this stance as getting increasingly popular on the right recently, and the largest consumers of right-wing media I know are signal-boosting it more and more.

      I’ve noticed this as well, and I have been meaning to do a deep dive into the claims to see how much merit they have. Since I haven’t looked into it hard, here are the scraps I’ve been hearing in the rightosphere.

      -Ted Cruz says that offical documents from some program (this is all off my memory) where we fund medical research in collaboration with some global program shows that the US did provide grant money to China that was for the express purpose of studying wild coronaviruses and the possibility of them transfering to humans from bats, and that the viral research lab in Wuhan was performing that research.
      -The Washington Examiner says that a “senior intelligence official” told them that a majority of the 17 US intelligence agencies believe that the coronavirus originated with an accidental lab escape from Wuhan.
      -I heard a claim on a Daily Wire podcast that somebody somewhere (again, off memory here) has claimed that the wet markets in Wuhan where the virus started don’t even have bats for sale.
      -A lot of coverage of Pompeo saying that “there’s enormous evidence” that the Wuhan research lab was the source of the virus.

      The general thrust I’ve been getting is the idea that the virus was a wild strain being researched at the Wuhan Virology Institute that accidentally escaped, not an engineered virus or one that was intentionally released. I’m interested to see if this goes anywhere, or if all these claims will disappear with time. In any case, anti CPC rhetoric is ramping up in the right-wing media I’ve been consuming.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The general thrust I’ve been getting is the idea that the virus was a wild strain being researched at the Wuhan Virology Institute that accidentally escaped, not an engineered virus or one that was intentionally released.

        Yes, I haven’t paid close enough attention to these claims to form my own opinion, but I have seen several mainstream outlets “fact checking” Trump by explaining that the virus appears to be naturally evolved and not genetically engineered. I don’t think the claim is that the Chinese government intentionally created COVID-19, just that it escaped from one of their labs.

        If I claim a tiger escaped from a zoo, chiding me because tigers are natural animals and not genetically engineered does not debunk my claim.

      • keaswaran says:

        Of course, this whole theory conveniently ignores the role of the pangolin as the intermediate species that hosted the virus for several years between bats and humans.

        https://www.sciencealert.com/more-evidence-suggests-pangolins-may-have-passed-coronavirus-from-bats-to-humans

        Relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/2302/

      • broblawsky says:

        The general thrust I’ve been getting is the idea that the virus was a wild strain being researched at the Wuhan Virology Institute that accidentally escaped, not an engineered virus or one that was intentionally released. I’m interested to see if this goes anywhere, or if all these claims will disappear with time. In any case, anti CPC rhetoric is ramping up in the right-wing media I’ve been consuming.

        This seems to be the most common iteration, although I’ve seen stronger versions that suggest COVID-19 is the product of actual engineering.

        The problem is, I don’t see any way to falsify these claims – they’re too vague, linked together by a web of assertions without actual evidence.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Whatever happens, Trump finds someone else to blame. This was an established pattern long before Covid-19. His opinions in this case cut no ice with me.

        I find slightly more persuasive the interview with China’s “bat lady” (a scientist working at/leading the lab in question). She recounts being terrified in the early days that her lab was responsible, and relieved when detailed virus sequencing convinced her that the human cases could not have come direct from any bat virus in their collection.

        At this point, we’ll never know. Lots of people are invested in “proving” whatever it is they want to believe, and have the power to both create excellent forgeries and suppress inconvenient facts.

        • albatross11 says:

          Lab accidents can happen, and if that’s what happened here (probably not, as far as I can tell, but I’m no expert), then that means the lab needs to tighten its procedures and maybe someone ends up going to jail or getting fired for cutting corners.

          But scapegoating exercises also can happen, and in fact are common as dirt in politics. My default (admittedly based on my own biases) is to put about ten times as much trust in claims from the bat lady (the Chinese woman who is a genuine world expert on bat coronaviruses) as I do in claims from any politician. And it would monumentally suck if we somehow ended up sacrificing the world’s expert on bat coronaviruses as a scapegoat to cover the failings of politicians and bureaucrats, either in the US or in China.

    • Erc says:

      They also told us to stop feeding antibiotics to farm animals. Did we listen?

      • keaswaran says:

        You seem to be willing to accept a lot of moral luck here. The swine flu pandemic of 2009 is said to have most likely emerged in Kansas, and we just got lucky that it was nowhere near as dangerous as covid 19. If you’re just counting dangerous novel disease that emerged from zoonotic sources, China has SARS and covid 19, Egypt has MERS, United States has H5N1, Indonesia has H1N1, and something like Congo has HIV (and maybe Ebola?). On a per capita basis, that leaves a ranking of Congo worse than Egypt worse than Indonesia worse than United States worse than China.

        The only reason to scale this responsibility in proportion to the danger of the viruses is if something about human practices in the different places makes it more likely that dangerous or benign viruses will emerge in one place than another.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Agreed. And don’t forget jailing doctors in December who were trying to get the word out about a new disease. The other failings of the Chinese government could conceivably be corrected, but freedom of speech is an existential threat to the CCP and can never be adopted.

    • mtl1882 says:

      On the gripping hand, Trump and Pompeo do seem to genuinely kind of believe that China is directly responsible for COVID-19.

      I think they see it as a way to distract from the blame placed on the Trump administration for all of this, while they figure out what to do next. (I’m sure both assign a lot of responsibility to China, but I doubt they see things in such simple terms, and assigning blame doesn’t suggest much of a course of action.) I think both sides are stuck in pre-COVID thought patterns, trying to use old plays that will no longer work, and whoever can break out of this first has the best chance of victory. The timing is really rough, though. There is so little time to change course before the election, or for the public to come to terms with the new reality. The illusion of normalcy can be somewhat sustained until around that time, I suspect.

      What China did doesn’t absolve our leaders of responsibility to defend against issues plausibly caused by other countries, and both parties are in trouble here. But I think for most people, assigning blame is going to take a back seat to what we need to do to function right now. Even if we got China to acknowledge 100% responsibility, it’s not going to do much to help us. And we’re reliant on them, so it’s just bad idea right now to pick a fight. Someone needs to articulate a game plan for dealing with this reliance, and, presumably, reducing it. Trump’s best move is probably to pair some anger at China with a concrete plan to rebuild, and let go of the stock market measurements so that he can abandon clinging to the status quo. As in, a V-shaped recovery is never going to happen, so let’s face reality and do the work needed to restructure the economy, which includes de-coupling from China. But in the short-term, this is risky, and it is hard to know what will happen in the next few months.

      I think Trump and Pompeo also want to keep China and pro-globalization elites nervous by reminding them that their position and narrative is much less assured than it once was. It also baits them into risky responses like trying to defend the Chinese government’s response or existing business arrangements with China, or derailing into arguments about xenophobia. They’re trying to figure out whether a major shift will happen, and whether the old election year moves are tenable or not. The best move for Trump would be channeling his anti-China support into a vision of a constructive domestic program, but there may not be enough time for this. (Talk radio people probably enjoy the ratings that result from the controversy and playing to existing anti-China sentiments, and therefore help with the distraction.)

      • Aapje says:

        That is not viable because they produce our stuff.

        • John Schilling says:

          Only 3% of the stuff we buy is labeled “Made in China”. A larger amount of the stuff we buy is labeled “Made in America” because the final assembly of Chinese-made parts and materials occurs in an American facility. But numbers on that are harder to come by.

        • JayT says:

          That 3% number is misleading though because the biggest expenditures for Americans is not on “stuff”, it’s on things that largely can’t be produced in China, like housing, healthcare, dining, and taxes. in other words, the things we buy largely isn’t “stuff”, it’s services and existing goods.

          Could we shift all of the manufacturing of stuff out of China? Theoretically, sure, but it would be extremely painful.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          it would be extremely painful.

          4 u.

          Also, in that 3% are they counting all the stuff that’s made in China and then assembled in Canada or Mexico and shipped into the US under NAFTA?

        • JayT says:

          Eh, I’d weather it better than most, but it still would be at the very least uncomfortable.

          In the article they mention cars as something not made in China, but they don’t mention car parts, so I’m guessing they are only counting finished products, which would mean cutting trade would be even more painful than I first assumed.

        • JayT says:

          I’m positing that it would be extremely painful in both the short term and the long term, because you would be losing a whole lot of productivity for little gain.

        • JayT says:

          1. Forcing those mfg jobs out of China ships them either back here, helping working class Americans who have seen negative wage growth in the past 40 years, or to other cheap-labor nations with non-evil governments, giving those governments relatively more power when compared to the evil government that lost out. Big win.

          America isn’t manufacturing less than it was 40 years ago, it’s just consuming more. The losses in manufacturing employment since then is almost completely due to automation. There would be some new jobs, but it wouldn’t be a massive boon to blue collar workers.

          Minor win.

          2. The decision of China and other trading partners to ban exports of vital medical supplies has been a vivid illustration that outsourcing such stuff makes it harder to get when you really, really need it. Bringing it back would make us more resilient in future. Big win.

          I will concede that it would be good to keep a good portion of medical production nearby for emergencies, but that could also be accomplished with stockpiles.

          Moderate win.

          3. China certainly isn’t an avowed enemy right now, but it’s clearly a country with an evil government that sees us as a rival. Depending on such a country for anything you consider vital is just stupid. Would we have let the Soviet Union make half our drugs if they promised to do it cheap? Moving it back or sending it to friendly nations makes us more secure. Big win.

          The best way to make a nation friendly is to tie their economy to yours. The best way to make an enemy is to be hostile to them.

          Major, horrific, possibly world-ending loss.

          3a. Reliance on China for things that we find vital makes it very hard for us to protest to loudly when the CCP does something really horrible. Decoupling our economy from theirs would allow us to act in whatever way we thought was right. Big win.

          I read that as “we can’t wage war on them if we are trade partners!” That’s not a negative.

          Another huge loss.

          4. Trade with us is one of the vital drivers, if not the vital driver, of the growth that is allowing the CCP to build a world class-military that is menacing our allies. It is also the source of the money that is allowing China to do the Belt and Road Initiative to extend its malevolent influence elsewhere. Decoupling our economies slows that up. Big win.

          Again, acting hostile to the second most powerful army rarely has positive outcomes. Also, the US only accounts for 20% of China’s exports. This would slow it down, but not by much.

          Big loss.

          5. A lot of the supposed gain we get from trading with China is false because the products we import are not the products we’re paying for. Witness the millions of surgical masks that don’t work at all. Analysis of generic drugs made abroad find that most of them are either out-and-out counterfeits or not identical to the brand drug . Patients are dying. Moving production back costs more but at least the drugs would be real and the masks would work.

          The US is just as capable of producing bad products. I’ve never seen any studies, but my gut feeling is that there aren’t any more recalls on Chinese-made products than American-made.

          Possible win, probable nothingburger.

          Things that I could see as a win, but I’m not as certain.

          1. Formally decoupling from China would allow us to ignore their IP in the way they have ignored our IP forever. That wouldn’t have been too valuable twenty years ago, but they’re finally cranking out some real discoveries, so an arrangement where both sides ignored the other’s IP rather than them just ignoring ours, would probably be a net benefit.

          I agree with this, but we could also just agree to do this without halting trade.

          2. If we were really committed to decoupling with China, we could, in fact, get China to pay us back for much, but not all of this: We could cancel the more than $2 trillion in US government debt they hold. The key here would be convincing the world that we were merely collecting payment that China rightfully owed us and not establishing a pattern of default that would increase the interest we’d have to pay on future bonds. This might not be possible, but I think there’s a decent chance we could convince the world’s lenders that, if they don’t unloose a pandemic that costs us trillions, they don’t have to worry about default.

          Again, this really sounds like war drums that I’d rather not be played.

          1. Doing business with evil regimes in a way that supports them (rather than, say, providing food to starving North Koreans) is a bad thing. The original argument for why it was morally OK to do business with China was that opening them to the West would inevitably lead them to loosen their oppression of their own people and democratize. That hasn’t happened and it’s clearly not going to happen so that entire argument for dealing with China is gone.

          This hasn’t worked in the past (North Korea, Iran, etc) why would we expect it to start working now? Trade on the other hand, has absolutely improved the quality of life of the Chinese people, and I would argue that they are freer today then they were under Mao.

          Sorry for this absurdly long response, which will look particularly silly because it covers only half the screen.

          Likewise.

        • broblawsky says:

          I largely agree with @JayT’s analysis, but I would like to add that this:

          2. (25% probability of win. Would proceed with extreme caution.) If we were really committed to decoupling with China, we could, in fact, get China to pay us back for much, but not all of this: We could cancel the more than $2 trillion in US government debt they hold. The key here would be convincing the world that we were merely collecting payment that China rightfully owed us and not establishing a pattern of default that would increase the interest we’d have to pay on future bonds. This might not be possible, but I think there’s a decent chance we could convince the world’s lenders that, if they don’t unloose a pandemic that costs us trillions, they don’t have to worry about default.

          would be utter madness. The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency because every meaningful financial institution is confident that the US government will pay back their debts come hell or high water. If we arbitrarily cancel Treasury securities because we don’t like the people holding them, T-bills become junk bonds, and (as far as I understand) interest rates and probably inflation in the US spike massively. The economic consequences would be worse than COVID.

        • cassander says:

          @broblawsky says:

          would be utter madness. The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency because every meaningful financial institution is confident that the US government will pay back their debts come hell or high water.

          The dollar is the world’s reserve currency because people want to invest in US financial markets, not because Tbills are steady. that’s not to say that there wouldn’t be consequences from unilaterally cancelling Chinese debt, there would, but not as dire as you claim.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you owed someone $200 and they did $500 of damage to your stuff, you’d be morally justified in canceling the debt.

          If you do so unilaterally, you’re probably getting sued, and if you’re somehow immune from being sued you’re probably going to find a lot fewer people willing to loan you money. Or both. You’re almost certainly better off eating the $500 loss.

        • JayT says:

          This seems like it would be true, but I don’t see much evidence for it. All wars of succession, which are quite common, involve highly integrated economies, as did WWI, WWII, and about half the other wars I can think of. In life, I’d say it’s much more likely for people who interact a lot to fight than people who interact a little.

          The Nazis had a policy of discouraging trade with countries outside their sphere of influence. They may have still been fairly tied to the rest of Western Europe, but they were actively trying to get rid of trade with countries like the UK.

          Decoupling from their economy is not hostility. It’s simply deciding you don’t want to do business with them. I’m not even arguing we should rally the world to follow suit.

          If the US cut off trade with China it would most likely cause China to go into a depression. That is absolutely a hostile move.

          I’m open to the possibility that Chinese imports are of a lower quality than American, but I do wonder what happens if you look at like products. Skimming the document you linked they mention things like toys and hoverboards which tend to be very low cost items that don’t have American-made equivalents. I know some people in the toy industry, and they have told me they couldn’t bring their manufacturing back to the US at any price due to environmental laws. So we are in a situation where almost 100% of toys are made in China, and therefore 100% of recalls are for Chinese toys. That doesn’t necessarily make Chineses toys dangerous.

          The things like tires and drywall are a more compelling argument, but as far as I saw they didn’t break things down in a way that I could see if these were uniquely Chinese issues, or just issues that happened recently. The tire one, for example, mentions two deaths. There was that whole Firestone/Ford Explorer fiasco back in the 90s that killed far more people, so again, it’s not like this is purely a Chinese issue.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firestone_and_Ford_tire_controversy

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        There is denial on parts of some people who neglected the early spread of the virus, roughly summed up as “if this turns out to be not that bad, and/or there was nothing we could do, and/or our response was wrong and/or those lives weren’t worth it anyway, then it doesn’t matter if I neglected it.” They’ve built up barriers to listening to counterpoints.

        I’m seeing a weird and disturbing strain of something I can only think to call anti-denial. “Yes, it will be super super bad, yes there was everything we could do, we should be mourning a daily 9/11 like it was its own 9/11 every day, every life is infinitely valuable.” They’ve built up similar barriers to listening to counterpoints.

        And “100% China’s fault” and “0% China’s fault” each slot into their own place in there.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Funny thing is that wet market explanation, which is of course far more plausible, imho shows Chinese government in worse light than lab accident explanation.

      Lab accidents with dangerous viruses also happen in the West. So far none of them resulted in a huge epidemic, but perhaps we have just been lucky.

      But Chinese “wet markets”, which Chinese government allowed to reopen even though they already caused previous SARS epidemic in 2003, are something that does not really have a Western equivalent imho. Perhaps we should be careful in what level of human interaction we allow with a country with such low hygienic standard.

      It is interesting that this line of thinking is not really popular among people who are vocally “anti-China”. Perhaps because it does not fit the narrative that Chinese government is all powerful totalitarian machinery, showing it instead as corrupt and captured by private interests?

      But it is not really true that ALL is fault of the Chinese. There would not be an pandemic of such catastrophic proportions in both Europe and US if Italian authorities had not bungled handling of their local outbreak.

      • oriscratch says:

        Remember that the virus was not created by China, it simply showed up there first.
        So I think a better analogy would be: Europe and the US are getting mugged. SARS-CoV-2 is the mugger. China is the parents who adopted SARS-CoV-2 as a child, and had bad parenting skills that let his bad qualities get out of control.

        So yes, China’s poor parenting is part of what let SARS-CoV-2 start running around mugging people, and that certainly gives them some responsibility. But if, say, the US had adopted that child instead, how much better parents would they be? Would the child still grow up to be a mugger anyway? And if so, whose fault would it really be?

      • Aapje says:

        A proper analogy is not that SARS-CoV-2 is the child, but that being a mugger is SARS-CoV-2.

        Then the initial bad parenting consists of having wet markets that allowed COVID to pass to humans aka the child to become a mugger. For example, by allowing the kid to have criminal friends.

        Then the later bad parenting consists of not containing COVID well enough aka not preventing the already rotten child from mugging people.

        China is very guilty of the first kind of bad parenting and moderately guilty of the second kind. Italy is not guilty at all for the first kind, but more guilty than China of the second kind.

        There is no reason why people can’t consider one parenting mistake to be morally worse than the other.

      • keaswaran says:

        When you talk about “wet markets”, are you using the term in the general sense (markets that sell meat and produce, as opposed to dry goods) or in the more specific sense of having live animals of species other than pig, duck, chicken, cow, goat?

        I’ve noticed a lot of people use this word in a very vague sense, shifting back and forth between these different definitions.

        It probably makes sense to ban the sale of live animals in markets.

        https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/04/ban-wet-markets/609781/

        It probably also makes sense to ban the sale of meat, given its importance in so many other epidemics of the past century (and the continuing role of slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities as a source of outbreaks of the current coronavirus). But for reasons of cultural sensitivity to non-vegetarians (which would make it very hard to enforce a full ban anyway) it makes sense to just impose reasonable safety regulations on the meat industry. And probably both the American meat industry and the Chinese wet markets need more regulation (probably even more so for the latter, but there’s no reason to play coy and pretend that one of these is innocent).

        • AlesZiegler says:

          You overestimate my knowledge of Chinese food scene. I mean “that thing where they are selling meat without proper hygienic standards, which caused two epidemics in two decades”. I´ve read that it is called “wet markets”, but apparently it is just bad terminology, so I am going to avoid it in the future.

      • John Schilling says:

        Do we really want to set the precedent that a state can be blamed for an essentially natural catastrophe because it allowed its markets to sell goods that some people were good at producing and other people wanted to buy, with insufficiently draconian regulation?

        • Randy M says:

          Given a libertarian state, no. Given a state that’s more authoritarian anyway, it seems fair.

        • matkoniecz says:

          After the practice already allowed at least two other diseases that could have been this bad to jump to humans and many scholars warned the Chinese government that it was inevitable that this would eventually happen? Yes. Yes we want to do that.

          +1. Especially that it is about pangolins(?) and bats for human consumption that can be easily banned.

          Given a libertarian state, no. Given a state that’s more authoritarian anyway, it seems fair.

          +1 Put a bit less resources into oppressing religions and a bit more into blocking sale of bats/pangolins as food, everyone will benefit.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Yeah, we don´t want that. To be clear, I am personally opposed to any demands for “reparations for coronavirus”, and that would not change even if it turns out that it really originated in Chinese laboratory.

          However perhaps more stingy visa regime unless they clean up their house with respect to public health would be appropriate.

        • JPNunez says:

          While I oppose any kind of sanctions to China, they really should put their house in order about eating/selling whatever animals without proper precautions.

        • Evan Þ says:

          While this’s a good reminder to be careful not to advocate overbroad bans, I believe there’re two narrower principles that do press to ban this:

          First, things with readily available alternative options should be banned long before things without them. Animals can be slaughtered off-site and their meat displayed for sale at the market, just like in most other countries.

          Second, things posing a high risk of pandemic contagious illness should be banned long before things posing risks only to participants, or even only to a few people nearby. This’s sort of similar to the principle where we ban private ownership of nuclear bombs but not firearms. Yes, if we extend this a ways, we end up with all sorts of food sanitation restrictions targeted against norovirus. I might not be fine with that, but I won’t vigorously protest.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, what’s odd about this is that the complaint boils down to something like “The Chinese government was insufficiently totalitarian and should have done a better job of using force to restrict and eliminate indigenous dietary traditions.”

          Which, you know, call me skeptical that the people criticizing them for this right now would have highly praised the draconian action it might have taken to bring this about pre-COVID.

        • Lambert says:

          Also IIRC, they tried to shut down that kind of market but only suceeded in driving it underground.

        • Randy M says:

          Great, what’s next, mole-meat virus?

        • John Schilling says:

          call me skeptical that the people criticizing them for this right now would have highly praised the draconian action it might have taken to bring this about pre-COVID.

          Or in another, better-liked country (or their own).

        • Chalid says:

          I don’t know about that. Imagine a pandemic had started due to an Ohioan hunter eating a diseased squirrel. I don’t think the US government would have any luck at all shutting down hunting for wild animals, and I doubt it would even try, and the rest of the world talking about our disgusting filthy habits would just piss off the hunters in the population all the more.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Wouldn’t the analogy be someone buying a diseased squirrel from a hunter, at a legal marketplace? That we would expect the government to do something about.

        • Chalid says:

          The point was about the difficulty of getting people to change their behavior, not about the specific circumstances surrounding this epidemic.

    • Garrett says:

      There are reasons to look at imposing tariffs on things like healthcare materials. The lack of US domestic production capability combined with China limiting exports has seriously harmed the US ability to respond to SARS-COV-2.

      Speaking more broadly, the significant foreign manufacturing of pharmaceuticals makes the US more fragile. And it’s having an impact on US domestic law – the US has been having troubles performing executions due to EU export laws on drugs no longer made in the US.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Do we need tariffs on goods? Or to just build / subsidize more domestic production?

        • Randy M says:

          What’s the practical difference between the two?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            One of them makes things more expensive for the people consuming them, the other makes things cheaper (subsidized by the government). While the end result may be the same for Chinese companies exporting to the US, one of them looks less aggressive if you are selling it politically. “I’m just helping my brother” is more rhetorically defensible than “I’m stopping you from selling here.”

            It’s a different place to put your thumb on the scale to distort the market.

            If we put a 1-cent tariff on each unit of stuff made in China and then get stuff being made in the US, and then China gets more efficient, do we automatically re-up to a 2-cent tariff?

            In the other method, the government just agrees to buy stuff from domestic manufacturers at some price if no other buyer can be found to ensure that domestic capacity survives. (What does the government do with it then? Dump it back onto the market driving the price back down?)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      if Trump reimposes tariffs, the recession precipitated by COVID-19 will get substantially worse.

      That is not obviously true. Before the previous round of tariffs we were warned tariffs would hurt the economy or cause a recession or cause prices to skyrocket and they largely didn’t.

      I don’t want to get into round 4,278 of “Tariffs: Best or Worst Thing Ever?” with DavidFriedman, but suffice to say, neither I nor Trump think tariffs would make the recession worse, much less substantially worse.

      • matkoniecz says:

        There’s nothing China does for us that countries with non-evil governments couldn’t do nearly as well.

        Except ridiculously cheap labor part that is, from what I know, pretty important.

        Are there places with non-evil governments and similarly cheap labor?

        Also, rebuilding factories would take some time.

        • toastengineer says:

          Isn’t the whole ridiculously cheap labor thing going away already anyway?

        • Aapje says:

          Yes and they now produce quite a few things better than we can, because we forgot how and/or stopped improving.

      • keaswaran says:

        It seems that this is an important point to remind people that governments and nations are different things. You start by talking about separating from China, and from all the discussion of what you’re talking about, it’s China the place and people. you’re talking about. But then in the last paragraph you say something about an evil government. It doesn’t seem like the *government* is involved in any of the things we need out of China.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I might, in theory, be on board with “let’s stop doing business with China until they stop being evil.”

        Y’know, things like building concentration camps holding 1.5 million people.

        But we need to be really careful that we know what we’re doing, and have it written down what the end conditions are when we decide they aren’t being evil any more.

      • broblawsky says:

        Yeah, based on our previous discussions I don’t think I’m going to convince you on this. Suffice it to say, even if there are long-term economic benefits on this, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find economists who would say that the middle of a serious economic crisis is a good time to introduce new taxes.

      • broblawsky says:

        Chinese manufacturers are, in my experience, really good at setting up assembly lines quickly and well. It’s not just cheap labor, they have way more tooling engineers per capita than we do.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This is one of the other long-term reasons I want manufacturing moved back to the US. The assembly lines here means the engineers are here which means the advancements in manufacturing processes happen more quickly here.

        • broblawsky says:

          There are substantial barriers to that, given that a) being a tooling engineer doesn’t pay very well and b) tooling engineers are the first people to be let go when a business downsizes, since you only really need them when you set up an assembly line.

          Edit: Tooling engineers actually get paid reasonably well (~$60k-$80k, depending on location) but not much better than you’d expect for any other associate degree-requiring position, to be clear.

    • zzzzort says:

      I find it funny/sad that some of the same people who pushed the Iraq war are now calling for indemnities from China over coronavirus.

      If holding China to account just means a tougher stance on trade and foreign policy than I’m for it (and I’d like to imagine that my views are not exceptional). But the idea of having legal liability for coronavirus in any meaningful sense is borderline ludicrous; the amount of concessions a country could extract would have no relationship to China’s culpability, and every relationship with that country’s ability to extract concessions. And personally, china’s handling of coronavirus was bad, but probably not in the top 3 beefs I have with them.

      • Randy M says:

        Agreed, hopefully “blaming China” means considering the likelihood of future danger in our trade & diplomacy policies, not that we consider this an act of war.

        • Evan Þ says:

          If the virus had been intentionally released from a Chinese government lab, I would’ve considered that an act of war.

          As it is, I agree, it isn’t.

    • The story as I think I saw it is that the U.S., for some time, subsidized research on viruses, some of it in China. The research was controversial because, while it might provide information useful for dealing with viruses, it also could result in a dangerous virus escaping from the lab into the world, and it was conjectured that that might have happened. The research was supported by some in the field, including Fauci, opposed by others. I’m not sure if the research was supposed to involve modifying viruses or simply culturing and studying them.

      If that story and conjecture are true — someone here may know more about it — then the U.S. government, under several administrations, is in part to blame for the pandemic.

    • PedroS says:

      Scoop said “One way or another, all this is the fault of the Chinese government.

      Said government either let the disease escape from a research lab or allowed for its creation by allowing unhygienic food markets where diseased wild animals spread this disease to humans and started a pandemic in exactly the way experts had predicted dozens and dozens of time.”

      This reasoning proves too much: using the same logic, San Francisco’s refusal to close bathhouses in the early 1980’s can easily be framed as implying that the AIDS epidemic among gay men in SF is the fault of whoever refused to close them and that those SF officials (and only them) should be on the hook for the AIDS consequences on US gay men. Are you willing to bite that bullet?

      Anyway, I think that the urge to blame China for COVID-19 is much more a consequence of other grievances agaist China than any objective “blame” or “responsibility” pertaining to their actions or inactions regarding the pandemic. I would bet you 20:1 that if COVID had appeared at allegedly unhyigienic markets in Lesotho or Laos there would be no calls for punishing their governments, even if they had done everything exactly like China did. But that is “like, my opinion, dude”…

      • keaswaran says:

        “AIDS is all the fault of the FAA, who didn’t impose a vow of celibacy on flight attendants, despite knowing that many of them like to have sex in multiple cities”

      • PedroS says:

        Everybody knew, for centuries, that unprotected sexual practices with multiple partners (or with partners who, themselves, had had multiple partners) has an extremely high possibility of spreading STD: syphilis, gonorhea, genital herpes, chlamydia, etc. , etc. The overwhelming majority of the medical establishments throughout centuries have urged “sexual restraint” , not because of “purity”/morality concerns but because of basic hygiene. If your attribution of blame is correct, every official, legislator, lobbyist or member of the public who pushed for the 1976 “”Consenting Adult Sex Bill” who made sexual conduct in bathhouses legal as well as the activists who fought the 1984 SF Health Department decision to close them (many of whom were themselves gay and considered that move was borne out of bigotry) is liable for at least part of the cost of the AIDS epidemic. Are you willing to condemn the sexual revolution as vehemently as you condemn China, and to advocate its reversal through the policing powers of the state?

        Incidentally, I am yet to find any neutral description of what exactly goes on in the infamous “wet markets”, and how the ones in CHina compare with the ones elsewhere. I have found too many emotional video snippets shared by outraged Facebookians , but remarkably little in the way of an objective comparison of the Chinese markets with other traditional live cattle/ live poultry markets in rural regions. For example,I remember seeing, in my childhood (35 years ago), live chickens being sold at my local farmers’ market , in a Western European country. What makes the Chinese wet markets different: the fact that they sell what we consider “exotic” animals? The conditions where those animals are kept? (but then, how humane are those conditions in industrial cattle-rearing places)? Honestly, it looked, to me, too much of “look at the different things those foreigners are doing. That proves they are barbarians!”

      • John Schilling says:

        Some people in China chose to take a risk, but they weren’t risking just their own health. They were risking the health of everyone on planet earth.

        And AIDS is now a global disease that’s killed tens of millions of people most of whom never participated in or benefited from the promiscuous gay subculture, so how is that very different from the current situation?