1,551 thoughts on “Open Thread 153.75

  1. baconbits9

    Just a note on how my brain works and wondering how true this is for others on this board:

    I can rarely listen to someone talking about a subject that I have an opinion on without my brain cranking up the internal monologue and I quickly tune people out (or have to turn what I am listening to off if its digital), but once in a while I can listen to something and have my internal monologue on and processing along with the audio and I almost feel high for that brief period.

    1. a real dog

      Sounds like flow. Is the high similar to what you can get in e.g. rhythmic games (guitar hero) when running through a difficult section, or an arcade game when you get far further than usual, you’re on your last life and you just keep going despite the odds?

      FWIW, I can’t listen to lectures/talks because they are inevitably too slow and my thoughts go off on a tangent. Sometimes they are too fast and instead I lose track of their train of thought and the outcome is the same. Haven’t unlocked your secret of flow yet :/

      There should be something like those 1x / 2x / 4x game speed buttons (e.g. in Stellaris or Crusader Kings) but for real life.

      1. DavidFriedman

        There should be something like those 1x / 2x / 4x game speed buttons (e.g. in Stellaris or Crusader Kings) but for real life.

        I’ve been recording audiobook versions of some of my books, mostly using Sound Studio, a free audio program. I discovered that one of the things it can do is to slow down or speed up speech, without changing the tone. So if I notice that I was speaking a little too fast in a passage, I apply a tempo of .9 and it slows down a little.

        You should be able to do the same thing with a recording of a talk. I doubt that changing it by a factor of two in either direction would work, although I haven’t tried it, but more modest shifts should.

        1. Lambert

          1.5 is usually listenable, unless you’re watching a horse auction.

          Youtube has this feature, and it’s quite useful, especially for catching up with livestreams.

          1. Loriot

            I’ve been watching pretty much everything at 2x speed ever since Youtube added that feature, and I wish they would add higher settings. In my experience 2.5-3x seems to be about the limit where people become difficult to understand. It also depends on how fast and information dense the video was to begin with of course.

            I can’t stand listening to people lecture at normal speed. It’s just so slow.

          2. Lambert

            We need a plugin that implements Carykh’s idea of speeding up or completelt removing the silent bits. SO it’s still compreshensible but there’s no pauses.

        2. a real dog

          Yeah I’ve been doing that with recordings, but it’s still pretty inefficient – above 1.3x-1.5x it’s getting difficult to parse speech sometimes. Pitch correction helps a bit. Still, I’d rather just read it, which is easily 3-4x speed compared to listening to a lecture.

          Also it’s impossible with live lectures and conference talks. Covid has been a blessing in this regard, as finally everything is recorded.

        3. Aapje

          I speed up Youtube and noticed that it (rather logically) depends on the speed tempo of the speaker. Some speak very fast naturally, while others speak really slow normally. The latter at 1.5x feels like many people at 1x.

      2. baconbits9

        Sounds like flow. Is the high similar to what you can get in e.g. rhythmic games (guitar hero) when running through a difficult section, or an arcade game when you get far further than usual, you’re on your last life and you just keep going despite the odds?

        I’ve never gotten this from music (I was terrible for a few years and gave it up asap) or sports (slightly less terrible), and not really video games (only ever played SC and SC2 and was not very good though much less terrible). I can remember one night of chess, and several nights of poker (but not many) when I used to play where I felt that sort of immersion.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz

    https://phys.org/news/2020-05-bizarre-species-twitter.html?fbclid=IwAR1VuRbT9rtKSDmPlU-hF3n1sr5G8v4oAM8oThGiD-PwrPcy4pnv0Y_axyA

    This is really cool– someone posted a picture of a millipede on twitter. It had little dots which a scientist thought might be fungus, so she checked preserved millipedes in a collection. Behold! A previously unknown parasite!

    This is remarkable for social media leading to checking stored data to get more information. Also evidence that we still need humans in the loop– we’re not even close to getting computer programs which can look for significance to that extent.

    How far would AGI have to get to have some ability to notice anomolies?

  3. Wrong Species

    At this point, calling yourself a conformist is one of the most rebellious things you can say. Who does that?

      1. Wrong Species

        The kicker is that almost everything we do is about conforming but you aren’t supposed to admit that. It’s the label “conformist” that really sets people off.

        1. Iago the Yerfdog

          According to Aristotle, the ancient Greek word for “ambition” was considered a bad thing, but so was the lack of same. The translation I read uses “proper ambition” as the virtue term.

          I think this could be one of those situation where a term names both the appropriate and excessive tendencies in some area.

    1. Deiseach

      I’m seeing “centrist” being used as an insult/disparagment; apparently being in the centre is just the same thing as being right-wing/conservative which is exactly the same as fascist/alt-right!

      At this point it’s mainly stupid kids saying it (note: to me, if you’re 20+, you are still a kid) but the trend worries me. Moderation is now a bad thing? Not being gung-ho for the progressive side means you are Evil? Who is telling them this, because the shift to making “centrist” = “not on the right side of history, quisling, fellow traveller, doer of bad” has to be initiated and coming from somewhere. I may suspect it’s socialist activists doing it, but I don’t have anything more to go on there than “spider sense is tingling”.

      Anybody else seen this?

      1. Tatterdemalion

        Not convinced this is either a new or a one-sided thing as you make it out to be – DINO and RINO have been terms of abuse for decades, and the Democrats have just selected a centrist presidential candidate while the Republicans have very much not.

        Yes, there are people on the moderately-far left who despise the centre left. In the UK, there are probably more of them than there are people on the moderately-far right who despise the centre-right, but in the US, I think it’s probably the other way around.

        And, of course, there are plenty of people on the centre left/right who despise those further out than them.

        This looks to me like singling out your outgroup for a criticism which, while it accurately applies to a lot of them, accurately applies to a lot of everyone else too.

        1. Deiseach

          This looks to me like singling out your outgroup for a criticism which, while it accurately applies to a lot of them, accurately applies to a lot of everyone else too.

          Well, my lovey, when I see people on the right side of the discussion using the term in the same way, I’ll certainly mention it. How else would you describe, save as liberal or even progressive, people who use “centrist” as a criticism and who have an entire laundry list of Good Causes You Need To Be On The Right Side Of History Of, which is why they are complaining about centrism and centrists as Insufficiently Zealous For The Cause?

          It stood out to me precisely because it was “centrist” the term being used. Give me right-aligned examples of “centrist” used as meaning A Bad Thing and I’ll happily add them on to the list.

          My outgroup is not the same as what you may think it is. My point is that “centrist” or “centrism” is what used to be called temperate or even moderate, and moderation is a good thing. Political polarisation of all stripes, extra right or extra left, is not good. We have to live together, so being able to compromise and be temperate is a good thing, save that now amongst some youngsters it seems that that is not understood.

          1. herbert herberson

            Not gonna speak on what you’re taking umbrage here about, but rest assured, the part you’re not getting umbered over is very true: what you’re observing is both real and almost entirely a result of very straightforward resentments coming out of the Dem Primary. It doesn’t tell you anything about any cultural trends that you couldn’t have already learned from that primary’s trajectory (namely, that there is an overwhelmingly young dem-soc/soc-dem movement in America that views the center-left-liberal Democratic Party establishment as political rivals, the feeling is extremely mutual, and then when the factions came into conflict the former lost)

          2. Orion

            Different words take off in different subcultures. The extremely online far-left likes to call the moderate left “centrists.” The extremely online far-right prefers to call the moderate right “cuckservatives.”

          3. Baeraad

            Well, my lovey, when I see people on the right side of the discussion using the term in the same way, I’ll certainly mention it.

            Don’t be silly. Why would the right side of the discussion use the term “centrist”? That’s what they invented the term “cuck” for. As in:

            The white alpha male must spread his seed! But his sacred duty to do so is being hindered by the evil baby-killing feminists and the evil insidious islamists! And our useless politicians won’t lift a finger to stop them, because they’re CUCKS who secretly get off on being demasculated!

            Are you seriously going to tell me that that doesn’t sound familiar? Jesus, Donald Trump ran and got elected mainly on the basis of him being a REAL MAN who was going to piss vigorously on the weasely liberals trying to feminise red-blooded American society and all the morally inferior foreigners trying to sneak in and steal Americans’ stuff, as opposed to all those cucky mainstream Republicans who only pretended to be against that sort of thing.

            Because if you missed all of that, I hereby submit the theory that your spider sense is actually more of a liberals-doing-things-I-can-get-in-a-snit-about sense.

          4. Conrad Honcho

            I thought the whole “cuck” thing was more like “if you’re going to give away your country to foreigners, might as well let them fuck your wife while you’re at it.”

          5. Deiseach

            Why would the right side of the discussion use the term “centrist”? That’s what they invented the term “cuck” for.

            Let’s do this one last time and then I’m calling it a day.

            Yes, I’ve seen people using the term “cucks”. However, the people I’ve seen using it were people like you, doing a mockery/parody of “there are people out there on the right going on about cuckservatives”. I thought such usage was stupid, whether it was by mockers or by actual far-right people.

            What I wanted to know was “has anyone else seen ‘centrist’ used as a pejorative?” and, as a sub-clause of that, “I’ve sseen it used by what I’d broadly term the left”. I was curious to know if it was in wider use.

            So what you are tellilng me is “No, only the left use ‘centrist’ as a pejorative”. Thanks for that, it’s all I wanted to know.

          6. Orion

            My point is that “centrist” or “centrism” is what used to be called temperate or even moderate, and moderation is a good thing. Political polarisation of all stripes, extra right or extra left, is not good. We have to live together, so being able to compromise and be temperate is a good thing, save that now amongst some youngsters it seems that that is not understood.

            Based on your expressed values, I would have thought you’d consider the emergence of “centrist” as a positive sign, or at least much preferable to the likely alternatives.

            Suppose that we could take a census of just the people you’d describe as “reasonable” or “moderate,” and we plotted their positions on on a left-right spectrum. We’d get a spectrum from “moderate left” to “moderate right.” In American terms, it would go “Mainstream Democrat, Marginal Democrat, Equipoise, Marginal Republican, Mainstream Republican.” Taking the Outside View, some people might argue that “equipoise” is almost certainly the best place be. Personally, I think there’s something to the idea of “moderation in everything, including moderation.” On the Outside View, I think there’s about an equally good chance that any of these positions could be the sweet spot. They certainly all deserve a voice in the conversation.

            On the Inside View, though, I have to live in the spot where I am, which is “Mainstream Democrat.” Looking around from where I actually live, I see that there are some people who are too far to the left, but there are also people who are not, in my opinion, Left enough. It’s inevitable that I’m going to need a way to describe them. Whatever I choose will end up feeling pejorative, because from my perspective it’s not good to be too moderate.

            It seems to me there are logically only two possibilities, here — I can either precisely call out just our point of disagreement, or I can imagine up other defects and try to associate them with moderation. I could call the marginal democrats “Democrats In Name Only,” implying that moderation is a form of disloyalty. I could call them “Democucks” to imply that moderation is a form of weakness or inadequacy. I could call them “Yellow Dog Democrats” to imply that moderation is a form of cowardice.

            It seems to me, on balance, that when I encounter someone who seems to me to be too moderate, that I pay more honor to the virtue of moderation by naming precisely the point of disagreement between them and I — that they are, in my opinion, too close to the center of the public (and thus too far from the center of my party).

          7. albatross11

            Baerad:

            What fraction of Trump voters/supporters do you think would agree with your characterization of their principles?

          8. Trofim_Lysenko

            @David Friedman

            True, but I’ve come across multiple young progressives of my acquaintance using the term in the sense of “cowardly and excessively moderate/compromise-ready liberal”, so it’s entirely possible it’s starting to shift.

            The same way you have a ton of left-wing folks these days using “neoliberal” as a sneer word in a way almost totally disconnected from its original definition.

    2. Well...

      How about a song about a guy who doesn’t want to be a conformist but acknowledges he is one, and justifies his conformity with some pretty good excuses?

    3. baconbits9

      Actual conformists will call themselves whatever you tell them to call themselves, and all you have to do is to call yourself average (while simultaneously thinking yourself above average in the important ways and dismiss the ways in which you are obviously below average).

    4. Erusian

      This is fairly normal in societies where the nonconformist side of things wins out. For example, after the Whigs dominated British politics in the 18th century it became fashionable among certain youth to imitate the non-resistance movement and obedience to authority popular with the royalists of the 17th.

      My mental model is that there are a certain number of natural conformists or non-conformists: people are mostly on a spectrum of conformity. These usually conflict and one usually wins, which makes the other one “edgy” regardless of which one wins. This makes it more attractive to young people seeking to be edgy. This is true even if the nonconformists win, in which case conformity will become countercultural.

      And of course, conformity and non-conformity don’t map well into political philosophy. Liberal conformism is absolutely a thing as is conservative nonconformism.

      1. Wrong Species

        I don’t actually see it as conformism vs nonconformism. Non-conformity is a homeless guy jerking off in the subway. It’s about aesthetics. The 60’s won, and we’ve been living in that shadow since. They were actually rebelling against something, and we’ve taken the aesthetic of that decade and rolled with it. It doesn’t actually make any sense anymore but that doesn’t prevent people from play acting. Call them the cargo cult revolutionaries. No one likes edgy for the sake of edgy. It’s about respecting who we think has the proper authority and disrespecting those who don’t.

    5. Plumber

      @Wrong Species >

      “At this point, calling yourself a conformist is one of the most rebellious things you can say. Who does that?”

      Aspiring conformist (if conformist = “Square”)

      As I said elsewhere (responding to a piece by a friend of decaded ago comparing “Hippies” and “Punks”):

      “…Becoming a punk was EASY!

      Trying to figure out how to be a “square” was much, much harder, I remember telling you (I think around ’90) “I actually want the white picket fence, I just don’t know how to get it”. I finally did, but it took 30 years. It shouldn’t have been so hard, still bitter about it…”

      And on that note;

      Q: What’s the difference between a ‘punk’ and a ‘hipster’?

      A: Around five to eight years. 

      Q: What’s the difference between a ‘hipster’ and a ‘square’?

      A: Around fifty thousand dollars a year.

      Getting to be a square was damnably hard, “hip” was far, far easier. 

      I’ve seen lots of criticism of “hipsters” lately and I’ve never understood it, AFAICT they’re just making the best of limited options and engender pity in me.

      1. Garrett

        > square

        I prefer to think of myself as a Platonic quadrilateral.

        > hipsters

        Better referred to as poverty-chique?

  4. emiliobumachar

    With the benefit of hindsight, what should societies have started doing five years ago to prepare for an incoming pandemic?

    1. Wrong Species

      There are plenty of things we can point to but the bigger issue is that we’re not able to handle disasters. 100 years ago, the US dealt with it’s worst epidemic ever while simultaneously dealing with the fallout from a world war. We then had the Roaring 20’s. You can’t prepare for every contingency but some societies are more dynamic than others.

      1. Loriot

        IMO, we’re much better able to handle disasters than before.

        The coronavirus pandemic is not notable at all as far as historical disasters go. What makes it notable is how *rare* disasters are nowadays. We have much higher standards than in the past.

        1. Wrong Species

          You’re mixing up two different things here. Yes, right now we are facing lesser threats than we did before. But we are less resilient to the disasters that do happen and there’s no guarantee that it won’t get worse. The US basically shrugged off the Spanish Flu. The relatively tame Covid 19 could very well cripple us*. We aren’t as dynamic as we used to be and that’s going to cause more problems down the road.

          *I don’t think it ultimately will but it’s not that unlikely.

          1. thisheavenlyconjugation

            If the US “shrugged off” coronavirus the same way it dealt with Spanish Flu, ~2 million people would die.

          2. Wrong Species

            No, I agree with you. We have better technology and systems to prevent millions from dying and we should absolutely take advantage of that. It’s just sad that we have a harder time bouncing back from disasters.

            China for example shut down the country but they’ll probably emerge from this in a better position than Italy, because they are a more dynamic society. And that’s even with them completely botching their initial reaction.

      2. baconbits9

        We then had the Roaring 20’s.

        And then we had the great depression.

        Edit: Also it wasn’t ‘influenza then the roaring 20s’ it was ‘influenza then one of the sharpest recessions on record from 1920-1921, and then the roaring 20s’.

        1. DavidFriedman

          I like to describe that as the Great Depression that didn’t happen. Somehow, the popular perception of history doesn’t include the fact that the government took almost precisely the opposite policies to those followed first by Hoover and then by FDR, and employment was back up within two years.

          We don’t get to do controlled experiments, and circumstances always differ from one case to another, but that’s at least some evidence.

          1. Creutzer

            This sounds interesting! Could you elaborate or point us somewhere where more information about this juxtaposition can be found?

    2. Evan Þ

      From the United States perspective:

      Abolish the FDA. That way, we would’ve confirmed community transmission and been able to take action much sooner.

      Bring PPE factories home to the United States. That way, we wouldn’t have gotten the short end when China (sensibly) appropriated its PPE production for its own needs.

    3. LesHapablap

      At my airline we are required to have emergency action plans that dictate what actions to take in the event of an overdue aircraft, or any other common emergency. We run table-top exercises to refine it, but we try and make decisions before the real emergency, because in a real emergency it is difficult to think straight and easy to make bad decisions. The minutes after an aircraft is overdue are extremely important, with phone calls that have to be made on time, information collected, or people could die. So we have flow charts and checklists for what to do and we practice and refine them with mock scenarios.

      I understand the military has scenarios like this that they run though all the time in order to be prepared for any eventuality. You don’t need to follow the plan, but planning for it gives a much better result.

      My point here is that you need to plan your decisions before the crisis actually happens. For example, how contagious and damaging does a virus have to be before you close the borders? Before you declare martial law? Before lockdowns? Are you going to recommend people wear masks? These are things you want to figure out in quiet, unhurried rooms with no pressure from the media, terrified people, upcoming elections, politicians worried about saving face and their careers or foreign relations. And then you need to practice: get an epidemiologist and some smart people in to create a detailed scenario, try and use your response plan and see where it fails and where it works.

      That’s important stuff that we are required to do in order to run an airline. So why aren’t politicians required to do it? Why is that if you fly a few thousand passengers a year you are required to take preparation for disasters seriously, with plans in place and training records to verify that everyone in your organisation has been through the training, but politicians in charge of much bigger things don’t need any training or response plans at all?

      I guess for the same reason that getting a DUI disqualifies you from being a teacher but not president.

      1. Deiseach

        Why is that if you fly a few thousand passengers a year you are required to take preparation for disasters seriously, with plans in place and training records to verify that everyone in your organisation has been through the training, but politicians in charge of much bigger things don’t need any training or response plans at all?

        An airline is expected to prepare for disasters involving air travel. You’re not expected to prepare for plague, famine or everyone working in tulip growing losing their jobs. If the creek rises and Louisiana gets flooded, that’s not your problem. There’s a discrete set of problems that can be assigned to “this will harm airlines” that can be set out and prepared for.

        Politicians would have to prepare for a range of disasters from fire, flood to meteor strikes, and if you prepare for every single one of them, it will take up time and money. People are complaining about “why weren’t there stockpiles of masks and PPE sitting in government warehouses from the last pandemic?” but I’m sure that if we had such stockpiles sitting around since 2010 and the swine flu, by at least five years in people would be complaining about the expense and lack of need, and somebody would be accusing the sitting government or the previous one of using this as an opportunity to funnel lucrative government contracts to friends/clients “and instead all this money spent on warehousing masks that nobody wants or needs could be going to [pick cause of your choice – housing, education, trans rights, clean water for Flint, etc.]”.

        Now, if anyone can forecast to me what the next Big Disaster is going to be and what we should be doing for it, go for it! In 2010 swine flu was going to kill everyone, and then it didn’t, and then a little while after that we all forgot about viral pandemics and worried about other problems. We could prepare for “another Covid-19” but what if the Big Disaster is something different?

        1. LesHapablap

          Covering the big X-risks would be a good start.

          This is all largely the CDC’s job of course, but it seemed many of the decisions around the world fell to politicians.

          1. albatross11

            Governments have public health agencies/departments for exactly this reason. You don’t expect the Pentagon to plan for pandemics; that’s the CDC. You don’t expect either one to plan for floods–go talk to the Army Corps of Engineers. And so on.

      2. Tarpitz

        I can’t speak to America, but here in the UK we absolutely did have pandemic plans, and they had been relatively recently wargamed. For various reasons (including the assumption that the pandemic would be a flu not a coronavirus) that does not appear to have translated into a very effective response. I imagine the French Army wargamed the Dyle Plan, too.

    4. alchemy29

      Copy whatever Taiwan did after SARS. Mask stockpiles, creating infrastructure for contact tracing, airport screening and quarantining. Creating a standard response plan in advance to avoid the chaos of 50 independent states each with their own plan.

      More speculative – have a coordinated novel vaccine development team? It seems really silly to have 20+ different plans going at the same time. Maybe 4 – 10 is reasonable since we don’t know which one will work, but with better consolidation I wonder if we could get a vaccine on the order of months instead of years. It will be frustrating if they are so late that we never know which approaches were even effective.

    5. salvorhardin

      Fully fund the Global Virome Project and efforts to create broad-spectrum antivirals and platform vaccines.

      Fully stock the strategic national PPE stockpile. Assess and correct places where strategic equipment production lacks redundancy (i.e. identify “single points of failure” where one or two key suppliers becoming unavailable would lead to mass-life-threatening shortages). Redundancy and buffer stockpiles, not insourcing, are the important goals here.

      Strip the FDA of enforcement powers; make it a research and advisory agency only.

      Invest heavily in mechanisms to reduce viral transmission in large indoor spaces: everything from copper-coating high touch surfaces to using UV to disinfect air in the ventilation loop.

    6. Edward Scizorhands

      I’m going to start with things that are useful even without knowing what specific virus would be coming and which year.

      ECONOMICALLY

      1) Every company submits, along with its annual taxes, a list of what they need to be put on life support. At a minimum, this is rent + payroll. When we have to shut a business down, we can give companies this much money. Some companies might be plausibly turned to half-strength, so see what’s necessary for that as well.

      2) Be prepared to shift employment significantly across sectors. We might suddenly not need a hundred thousand waiters at the same time we need a hundred thousand nursing home workers. Think of how we shape curves to encourage/reward people working in those essential positions. (It might be enough to say “the free market will do it” but recognize that and make sure you aren’t stopping it.)

      3) Companies over a certain size or where outbreaks more likely (prisons, meat-packing, nursing homes) are required to have plans to move workers into shifts. If someone on shift A gets infected, you know for a fact that he only interacted with workers on shift A, so you send all the workers on shift A somewhere (see below) to get tested and bring in another shift. You can’t use a time-shift model for nursing homes because the elderly are a vector, but you can pool workers to elderly. Something like this for schools, too.

      4) As much as we can, pre-categorize companies based on what we need them to do in certain kinds of shutdowns, so we can target aid at them better. This helps with all the above.

      MEDICAL SYSTEM

      5) Every hospital needs to have, on hand in immediate physical possession, a 7-day supply of all the PPE they would need if some serious virus hits.

      6) Make sure each state has their own back-up supply.

      7) Hey, restock the Federal supply.

      SCIENCE

      8) Study the ever-living hell out of each novel coronavirus and flu virus, since those are the most likely candidates for a new pandemic. Come up with vaccine candidates and treatment candidates, even if the disease is under control or gone by the time they are ready. Do what you can in computer simulations and animal testing. We want to increase the total medical knowledge here.

      9) Do the above for Ebola and MERS, too. They are unlikely to be the next pandemic but they are vicious enough that you want to study them.

      10) Notice that Asian countries use face masks and do whatever science is necessary to study this.

      STOPPING SPREAD

      11) Have a plan for how you can quickly activate medical screenings at the border. You need to be able to activate this quickly. The worst case is telling people “the border closes in 3 days, so please surge the border now.”

      12) Have a plan for how you can announce that every incoming foreign national goes into some kind of quarantine for X days, while US citizens get put into home quarantine. Like the previous item, you don’t want a giant fucking queue of potentially sick people at your border, so figure out how you can put them in rooms while you sort things out.

      13) Share these methodologies with other countries. If we slow Europe from catching something from Asia that slows us from catching it from Europe.

      13.1) Consider outbound health screens. They won’t help the US directly, but if we show how to do it right we can pressure other countries to follow suit,.

      14) Prepare hand sanitizer stations or portable hand-washing stations, so we can put them in any place people gather. If I’m at the airport, I shouldn’t have to go into a bathroom to wash my hands.

      15) Figure out how to designate certain hotels as “very clean” and others as “mostly clean” and others as “dirty.” Obviously don’t use those words. But we want workers in places where things are very sensitive (like nursing homes) to have a place where things are kept very clean and these workers can go home for the night and get fed. “Mostly clean” is for places like meat-packing plants, where we are working to reduce the likelihood of incoming contagion but the other mitigation steps mean they aren’t super-critical. Or maybe for people where “they are suspected of having had contact, but we don’t know what the test is yet.” (This might need a 4th category.) “Dirty” is for people who have tested positive but aren’t sick enough to be in a hospital. Send them there so they don’t infect family members. You obviously pay for these people to have room-service meals. Figure out, ahead of time, a way to thoroughly clean and indemnify any hotel that housed sick people when this is all over, so that hotels feel the least pressure possible to resist holding sick people.

      16) The above but especially for nursing homes.

      17) Well before any problem occurs, emphasize that people should be stocked up on emergency supplies. Everyone should have enough to live without public utilities for 3 days, whatever that means in your area. Look at things that have long shelf-lives when coming up with lists of essentials for a variety of disasters.

      TECHNOLOGY

      18) Standardize on one proximity-tracing app. Have the privacy people look at it closely, while we have time to calmly analyze it. Be prepared to roll it out.

      All that is before you even realize “hey, there’s a novel virus going around in some foreign country.” Once you get that, you can start turning up the dial on specific mitigations. Many of these should get activated every few years just for ordinary flu season.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        Thought of a few more, unsorted

        19) Look at global supply chains. Ask “if it hits the fan, not necessarily due to anyone being hostile but tragedy hitting, and other countries will not / can not supply us, what essentials do we need in this country?” Build up stockpiles and build domestic factories. Find some way of dealing with the extra product we make that doesn’t further destroy markets (i.e. no dumping it on Africa).

        20) Encourage a bit less just-in-time-ness for the economy. There is probably some tax lever that can be adjusted to make inventories slightly less expensive to maintain.

        21) Create a universal sick-time benefit, even if we only activate it at certain times, to make sure that people are staying home if ill from jobs with significant contact with other people.

        22) Like Secretary Azar tried to do early this year, fund the ability to do random sampling at airports and other transportation hubs. This should probably run all the time anyway.

        23) Have a plan for how we screen for domestic air travel.

        24) Make airplanes have more personal airspace to stop viruses from spreading inside the plane. (This one may pay off just from reduced flu cases.)

        25) Do the controlled research into how coughs/sneezes/colds spread. (Might get rolled into #10.)

    7. sharper13

      Longer attention spans for politicians, among other things. Probably a derivative of median voter attention spans.

      The Feds had the Strategic National Stockpile (under a couple of names) since 1999, used and then added to after 9/11, then expanded again in 2005-2006 to add large numbers of N95 respirators (at which time the Bush Administration published a pandemic report which encouraged States to create their own stockpiles as well, which many States did over the following year or so). “75 percent of N95 respirators and 25 percent of face masks contained in the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (∼100 million products) were deployed for use in health care settings over the course of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic response” – From a 2017 study. Some were also used for Ebola in in 2014 and Zika in 2016, and for various hurricane relief efforts over the years, but after various budget battles, the Obama Administration never replenished the Stockpile contents which had been used up.

      For example, after the Avian flu in 2006, Schwarzenegger in CA (while the State had extra cash) spent hundreds of million off dollars preparing for pandemics by creating mobile hospitals and stockpiles of emergency supplies: 50 million N95 respirators, 2,400 portable ventilators and kits to set up 21,000 additional patient beds. Some were used for the Swine flu in 2009, but in 2011, facing deficits post-recession, Brown cut the $5.8 M/year required maintain it all from the budget.

      1. albatross11

        This is almost an illustration of the problem with elected political leaders making policies with long-term costs and short-term benefits. Why not burn through the stockpile and never replenish it–not likely it’ll come due on *my* watch. Why not negotiate with civil servants to have lower-than-market salaries but extra-generous pensions? Some other governor decades from now will have to come up with the money for that.

  5. Aftagley

    With all the talk about whether or not the Supreme court is slowly working to overturn Roe v. Wade, I realized today that I’ve heard no talk about overturning obergefell vs. hodges. Not “no talk” as in “it’s only a fridge position” but literally I’ve seen no serious discussion about whether, the supreme court, if it goes fully conservative, should or would re-ban gay marriage. Sure, I get that it’s not quite that simple, but I’m not even hearing it discussed as a talking point on the right anymore.

    Am I just missing some undercurrent of conservative thought, or have we really gone, in less than a decade, from gay marriage being mostly illegal to being nigh-on completely unremarkable?

    1. sharper13

      Part of the problem is the ratchet effect. You can allow States to ban new abortions without having them go back and arrest people for performing abortions last year.

      It’s much more difficult to untangle homosexual marriages in the sense that in order to no longer have any, you’d have to undo lots of them.

      Plus, lots of people believe babies are being killed in the one case, while the ongoing impact of homosexual marriage is more of a signaling issue. Where it’s really going to be fought is that, given two guys are married, what does that require of people around them who don’t support homosexual marriage, such as landlords, cake bakers, churches, etc…

      1. Aftagley

        It’s much more difficult to untangle homosexual marriages in the sense that in order to no longer have any, you’d have to undo lots of them.

        Not really, you’d just have to let, say, the state of Alabama say, “No more gay marriages.”

        while the ongoing impact of homosexual marriage is more of a signaling issue.

        Right, but pre-2013… it really wasn’t. People expressed what they claimed to be legitimately-held beliefs that allowing gay marriage would be harmful to society as a whole.

        I just find this interesting because this means that either those beliefs were largely not sincerely held (i don’t think this) or in the last decade we’ve had an absolutely massive shift on what seemed like a pretty locked-in issue.

        Where it’s really going to be fought is that, given two guys are married, what does that require of people around them who don’t support homosexual marriage, such as landlords, cake bakers, churches, etc…

        Maybe… but that’s rear-guard action and everyone can see it.

        1. Nick

          I remember being in these arguments pre-Obergefell, and even then there was a feeling of inevitability to it. You could see it in the rather pathetic way that Ryan T Anderson (to take someone very much in the public square on this issue) defended his position; his arguments were fine and all, but he just came across as so damn milquetoast about it sometimes. It felt like rear-guard action even before we lost.

          Obviously a lot of the people who changed their minds about same-sex marriage did so by meeting gay people or discovering they knew gay people and considering whether they were harming them by not recognizing a right to same-sex marriage and so on. I don’t want to minimize the role that played or plays in changing social opinion, especially before the law changed our opinions for us. But a lot of folks were basically shamed into silence or simply exhausted by the debate in a way I never really saw among the pro-life crowd, for instance. I’m not really sure why. I think part of it is that marriage had already changed so much by the time the same-sex marriage debate came along—as a matter of law, but especially as a matter of how people thought about it—that it was hard to argue against it without expanding your argument to, say, no-fault divorce. Which of course some of us were willing to do. But realizing only just then that you already lost the key battle decades ago is not exactly reassuring, either.

        2. cassander

          I just find this interesting because this means that either those beliefs were largely not sincerely held (i don’t think this) or in the last decade we’ve had an absolutely massive shift on what seemed like a pretty locked-in issue.

          How much did individuals change their minds and how much did the people who held other opinions die off?

          1. Noah

            That’s part of it, but I don’t think enough people died off for it to be most of the effect.

          2. Aftagley

            I mean, we’re talking about a topic that was politically controversial only 10 years ago. For everyone who cared to have died off means that the average supporter for this cause would have had to have been near the end of their life, which doesn’t match my recollection of events.

        3. Theodoric

          Not really, you’d just have to let, say, the state of Alabama say, “No more gay marriages.”

          If SCOTUS overturns Obergefell, what happens to the gay marriages Alabama has already conducted? What happens if a gay-married couple in Alabama wants to get divorced, except, oops, now their marriage is no longer recognized by the state?

          1. Aftagley

            In the least extreme version, previously conducted marriages are still recognized as valid, as are marriages performed out of state, but the state no longer conducts new ones.

            Most extreme version, the marriages aren’t recognized anymore.

        4. The Pachyderminator

          @cassander

          The change happened too fast for fuddy-duddies dying off to be a major part of it. The percentage of Americans supporting gay marriage doubled, from a minority to a clear majority, in 13 years.

      2. SuiJuris

        Anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage here. I think there are a couple of meaningful distinctions that I see:

        lots of people believe babies are being killed in the one case, while the ongoing impact of homosexual marriage is more of a signaling issue

        I’d go further and say, anti-abortion cashes out at “abortion is a wrong thing and people shouldn’t do it” whereas anti-gay-marriage cashes out at “marriages between people of the same sex aren’t really real.”

        There isn’t any second-best option for me for abortion other than fewer (ideally none) happening. But the second best option for me for gay marriage is that I (and the landlords, bakers and churches who agree with me) don’t have to collude with the fantasy.

        In a liberal society that kind of co-existence feels like it should be possible, and away from the internet (at least here in the UK) it feels like it mostly is: I know gay people who have got married, I haven’t gone to the weddings but I don’t feel the compulsion to go round telling them they are wrong. As Nick implies downthread, the kind of traditional marriage that perhaps once would have affected all social relations around it is pretty rare nowadays, so this causes few problems.

        In other words, I’m not outraged by gay marriages happening (from my POV, they aren’t happening), and while I’d like my culture and the laws I live under to to agree with me, I’m mostly reconciled to the fact that they don’t, as long as they don’t oppress me and those who agree with me.

        The abortion equivalent for me might be a situation where everybody had the right to an abortion but for some reason it was physically impossible to kill a baby in the womb. In that case I’m not outraged by abortions happening (they can’t) but I would have to live with an immoral law. I could probably live with that, as long as I didn’t have say that I thought it was a moral law.

        1. DinoNerd

          Question for you as an anti-abortion person. What are you personally doing to ensure care for abandoned unwanted babies?

          1. DavidFriedman

            I don’t know what the figures are on “abandoned unwanted babies,” but the legalization of abortion and the widespread availability of contraception were followed by a striking increase in the number of children born to unmarried women — precisely the opposite of the effect that proponent of those policies had claimed would occur. There is an old article by Akerlof and Yellin arguing that it was a causal relation. The effect was not small. From the article:

            In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates were 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites. Every year one million more children are born into fatherless families.

            Assuming that you approve of both those changes, what are you doing to take care of those children?

            That seems as fair a question as yours.

          2. matkoniecz

            What are you personally doing to ensure care for abandoned unwanted babies?

            Is it actually a major problem in USA? AFAIK there is quite long queue for adoptions of infants.

            I am not doing anything with specific issue (primarily because according to my knowledge it is not a major issue in Poland), but monastery closest to my home has a baby hatch accessible from a street.

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

          3. ana53294

            There are no abandoned unwanted babies*. The number is 0 in developed** countries. There are huge queues of willing parents who have jumped through hundreds of hoops waiting for the first unwanted baby. A baby doesn’t stay unwanted more than a day, or the time it takes for the expecting parents to hop on a car and drive to take their new baby home. Of course, this process is slowed a bit by social services, so babies are left in temporary foster care for a couple of days before the family can take them. But, if it were up to the adopting family, the time lag would be as close to 0 as possible.

            If there’s a baby that is clearly adoptable and is below 3 years old, it will be adopted regardless of length of life left or disabled status, much less race or sex.

            *To clarify: while babies are unwanted by their mother and thus abandoned, somebody wants those babies, proved by mile-long lists in adoption agencies.

            **And it seems to me that in non-developed countries, babies literally abandoned unwanted are a small minority too. Second-world countries like Russia can’t keep with internal demand for babies; China doesn’t seem to have many babies in orphanages anymore, either. Some countries have a few, but that’s because they banned international adoption for human trafficking reasons. There is so much demand for babies, that the amount of actually unwanted babies can’t keep up, so some companies have engaged in snatching wanted babies from mothers.

          4. Edward Scizorhands

            Some people think “oh, sure, people immediately grab babies, but only if they are white and super-healthy.”

            But a baby of any race gets adopted pretty much instantly. Even normal health issues, like “deaf in one ear,” are no problem either.

            There are problems for babies with extreme health issues. Like, will need a feeding tube their entire life.

          5. Erusian

            If there’s a baby that is clearly adoptable and is below 3 years old, it will be adopted regardless of length of life left or disabled status, much less race or sex.

            Not relevant to the discussion per se, but I’d like to insert a reminder that once they exit that age the chance of adoption drops precipitously. A very young child is highly likely to be adopted but regardless of their disabled status an older orphan is highly unlikely to be adopted.

          6. Dragor

            So is this intrinsically a class thing then? The concern is not that people who don’t want babies will be stuck with them or babies will be left uncared for, but rather that people who don’t want babies will be sufficiently attached to them that they care for them poorly and the babies grow up to become people we don’t like?

          7. John Schilling

            @Dragor: I think it’s mostly just about being able to attack the other side as lacking virtue. Caring for unwanted children is almost universally seen as a maximally virtuous thing, abandoning or killing them the opposite. So, from the conservative side, we can point to a bunch of new mothers who have gone and created children, and would rather abandon or kill them than care for them. Clearly these are Bad People(tm), and we need not take their views into account. From the liberal side, we can point to a bunch of people who have piously demanded that these children be born alive, who are now hypocritically willing to abandon them. Clearly these are Bad People(tm), and we need not take their views into account.

            That none of these children are going to be less than adequately cared for because there’s a third group of actually virtuous people lined up to take on that task with adequate margin, is irrelevant. The goal is to accuse the other side of being Bad People(tm), and there are always people on the other side who aren’t exhibiting this particular virtue when there is a clear opportunity to do so. Point them out, denounce them, imply that the entire group is guilty by association, and presto, you’re done.

          8. albatross11

            DinoNerd:

            I’d like to ask exactly the same question of people who are opposed to infanticide.

    2. Mycale

      I think your perception is correct — there is effectively no one seriously working to overturn Obergefell. If nothing else I think this is tactical: the people who would have been working to prevent same-sex marriage from winning in the courts are now working to preserve people’s ability to disagree with same-sex marriage in their personal / business lives (e.g. Masterpiece Cakeshop).

      1. salvorhardin

        And because they’re the same people, they are less credible when they say “all we’re trying to do is preserve the freedom of religious people to live by their own beliefs in their private lives.” We know what these people did back when they were in power, we can reasonably infer that they’d do similarly (not just getting rid of same-sex marriage but e.g. reinstituting sodomy laws) if they ever got power again, regardless of what they say now, and so part of the reason to deny them even victories like Masterpiece Cakeshop is to make damned sure they never get anywhere near power again.

        FWIW I say this as someone who very much wants Jack Phillips to be able to decide for himself who he wants to bake cakes for. I want mutual tolerance to be a stable equilibrium. But it’s hard when so few people on either side sincerely believe in it and can credibly commit to it.

        1. albatross11

          salvorhardin:

          My guess is that the overwhelming majority of people prefer live-and-let-live. I think it’s a smallish subset of activists who aren’t okay with that.

    3. DavidFriedman

      re-ban gay marriage

      They wouldn’t be banning gay marriage, they would be permitting states to do so. Dealing with the transition would then be up to any state that chose to do it.

      1. Aftagley

        Point acknowledged and accepted. It doesn’t change the larger thesis that this topic seems to have dropped off as a major political issue, right?

    4. salvorhardin

      What I find interesting about this is that it’s the only significant issue I can think of where, in my lifetime, the libertarian position has gone from fringe crankery (I think the LP platform had a same-sex marriage plank in it in like the 70s, and everybody else laughed at them) to overwhelming social consensus. Marijuana legalization is close, and may yet get there, but I don’t think it’s inevitable.

      I’d love to be able to take this as a strategic example of how libertarianism can win overwhelming support more broadly, but my sense is that this is probably a special case because of the lack of downsides: it’s just unusually easy for non-gay people to see that gay couples being able to get married doesn’t have any material negative effect on their lives at all.

      1. Radu Floricica

        How was that saying? It takes 20 years to turn from a reformist to a conservative, without changing a single idea.

        Plus quite a lot of people did a lot of very smart work to promote libertarian ideas. It makes sense to see change.

      2. Aftagley

        What I find interesting about this is that it’s the only significant issue I can think of where, in my lifetime, the libertarian position has gone from fringe crankery (I think the LP platform had a same-sex marriage plank in it in like the 70s, and everybody else laughed at them) to overwhelming social consensus. Marijuana legalization is close, and may yet get there, but I don’t think it’s inevitable.

        I’d hasten to point out that you’ve picked the two positions where libertarian goals closely line up with liberal goals.

        1. DavidFriedman

          A third, at present, is immigration. Practically no Democratic politician says he is in favor of open immigration, which has been the usual libertarian position for a very long time. But, as their critics sometimes point out, that’s pretty much the implication of the policies they argue for. Bernie Sanders is an exception, but he isn’t really a Democrat or a liberal.

          If, at some point in the future, the Democrats hold the White House and both houses, it will be interesting to see if they really go through with it.

        2. viVI_IViv

          I’d hasten to point out that you’ve picked the two positions where libertarian goals closely line up with liberal goals.

          It seems that the liberal positions have shifted towards the libertarian ones on this matter. Wasn’t Obama against gay marriage as late as 2008?

          1. Aftagley

            His personal opinions? Unclear. He didn’t personally support it enough to risk making it a campaign issue in 2008.

            But, Obama =/= liberal, at least wrt this issue. The far left has been active in support gay rights for decades now.

          2. viVI_IViv

            But, Obama =/= liberal, at least wrt this issue. The far left has been active in support gay rights for decades now.

            I would say that Obama is a much more central example of liberal than the far left.

            And btw, even the far left wasn’t in support of gay rights until the collapse of Soviet Union.

        3. salvorhardin

          @Aftagley fair point. I’ve omitted earlier libertarian victories that were the product of more right-wing alliances, but those at least look more fragile right now, e.g. until recently there was a similarly overwhelming consensus that we should not go back to the pre-Carter regulatory regime and tax rates.

    5. Thomas Jorgensen

      Reality is more persuasive than arguments.

      The anti-gay marriage crowd had two classes of arguments: The explicitly religious (Which the courts may not consider) and arguments about consequences.

      The second set of arguments were comprehensively disproved by the lived experience of gay marriage being legal. Lots of people appear to be fully argument immune, but denying your own lived experience is a far rarer level of insanity.

      Also, you cant divorce people against their will by judicial fiat by the tens and hundreds of thousands. Or, rather, you technically could, but even the most fevered conservative recognizes that would set the moral authority of the courts at -9000 and likely result in hilarious constitutional amendments on the form of “The Federalist Society is Hereby Proscribed”.

      1. Creutzer

        The anti-gay marriage crowd had two classes of arguments: The explicitly religious (Which the courts may not consider) and arguments about consequences.

        The second set of arguments were comprehensively disproved by the lived experience of gay marriage being legal.

        I’m not sure which arguments about consequences you have in mind, but the only clever ones, which have to do with the status of relationships and of friendship and the social fabric as a whole, the disintegration of which gay marriage was denounced as being conducive to, never made any predictions that would be clearly falsified or verified within a few years. In fact, they’re going to be awfully hard to verify or falsify in general, because they all just say that gay marriage would be a contributing factor in a wider development.

        So these arguments were not disproved, but they will never be disproved – or proved. It will always look like gay marriage became legal and nothing happened.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Eh. No. Lots of people made “predictions” which were far, far less restrained than that, and thus entirely falsifiable. They just dont get brought up anymore, because they are mortally embarrassing in retrospect.

    6. Radu Floricica

      I keep reading about abortion in US, and since I’m not really up to date, could someone please enlighten me? I understand some states are occasionally trying to ban it or make it harder – that’s a whack a mole game that’s decades old, as far as I know. But other than that, is there anything new? Are people seriously arguing for a full country wide ban? That’s a bit… absurd, from my cultural background. Or only late(er) term abortions?

      Also I understand the left is going a bit overboard with abortion mania. “I want to have your abortion” was shocking 20 years ago, but less so now. Is that the cause?

      1. alchemy29

        No one is seriously arguing for a country wide bad – rather a repeal of the Supreme Court ruling that prevented statewide bans. They want states to be able to ban abortions – usually at the 6 week mark.

        1. salvorhardin

          I mean, they may not be arguing for that very loudly now because they know it’d be unpopular, but there’s little question that if they had the power most anti-abortion activists would vote for a federal ban, no? Sincere federalists are rare on most issues and I’d wager they’re even rarer on this one.

      2. Aftagley

        Sure. Bias warning, this summary is coming from a liberal perspective.

        The current approach from the conservatives to ban abortions is twofold. On a long-term meta level, they are trying to get a supreme court majority appointed that would overturn Roe v. Wade. If this happens, the states could go back to decided whether or not they want abortion legalized. Multiple states already have laws on the books stating the second roe v. wade is ever overturned, abortions are illegal again, so this isn’t a hypothetical. If the case is overturned, you can likely expect most of America’s red states to make abortions illegal. It would likely be a full ban, but only in our rural/southern regions. Blue states would almost certainly not have abortions banned.

        It’s unclear what the current status of this plan is. While there is currently a conservative majority, most court watchers think it’s unlikely Roberts (our current chief justice) would let the court do something as controversial as this… but who can say? Suffice it to say, it’s unlikely to happen within the next year, although I guess it’s a possibility if we see another Trump administration.

        The other way that they’re trying to “ban” abortions is by adding regulation to providers and facilities of abortions. Stuff like, updating building code requirements in ways that the existing facilities can’t accommodate, adding licencing requirements that current providers don’t need/can’t get, stuff like that. Basically keeping abortions “legal” but effectively making it so that they can’t be performed. Again, this is only happening in Red States.

        It’s also working, kind of. As far as I remember (can’t immediately find a good source) there are now around a dozen or so states where you pretty much can’t get an abortion in-state. Sure, if you have money you could travel, but that turns access to abortion into a class issue, which only pisses people off more.

        So, the current state of pro-choice activism is, trying to oppose the states efforts to “soft ban” abortion, trying to ensure that the supreme court doesn’t overturn Roe V. Wade.

        Also I understand the left is going a bit overboard with abortion mania. “I want to have your abortion” was shocking 20 years ago, but less so now. Is that the cause?

        This hasn’t been my perspective, but maybe I’ve got blinders on. I can say for a fact I haven’t heard anyone saying “I want to have your abortion.”

        If I had to critique the left’s recent abortion activism it’s that they draw their primary support (funding, political support and volunteers) from blue states where there is no serious chance that abortion efforts will ever be imposed. This means that the overall feeling of the movement is less, “we’re working together for justice” and more “we can’t let those evil fundies accomplish their goals.”

        1. Deiseach

          The other way that they’re trying to “ban” abortions is by adding regulation to providers and facilities of abortions. Stuff like, updating building code requirements in ways that the existing facilities can’t accommodate, adding licencing requirements that current providers don’t need/can’t get, stuff like that.

          That’s true. On the other hand, there is a risk (even though very low) of mortality with legal abortion, and if your patient is the 1 in 100,000 who gets complications after or during the procedure, being able to get them out of the clinic and into a hospital is vital.

          I think you underestimate the effect of the Kermit Gosnell case on pro-life opinions, where the hideous conditions his clinics were permitted to operate under, because nobody wanted to investigate too closely in the name of “we need to keep abortion provision going”, really shocked a lot of people.

          1. Garrett

            Looking at the various tables (which don’t completely line up with each other), it appears that the greatest risks are for “dilation and evacuation” with gestational age greater than 13 weeks. Another chart shows a much higher risk for those with gestational age of greater-or-equal-to 18 weeks of age. But this involves a lot of co-founders. For example, if DnE isn’t performed on lower gestational ages, maybe it’s the procedure. Or if it is, it’s the gestational age. And this doesn’t separate the cases of “abortion because I decided pregnancy is crimping my style” from “abortion because I’ll die if I don’t”.

            Another issue: I’m uncertain exactly how “admitting privileges” are supposed to actually address these problems. The biggest issue for providers is to recognize a problem and address it in a timely fashion. For example, about half of the deaths listed are from infection. Infection isn’t going to kill someone in 30 minutes. This involves some combination of malpractice, bad follow-up and bad luck. Someone who develops an infection can go to pretty much any emergency room for evaluation and treatment. But those are risks which are associated with *any* procedure. And keeping everybody in the hospital for a while probably increases the likelihood of mortality from acquiring other infections.

        2. DavidFriedman

          The other way that they’re trying to “ban” abortions is by adding regulation to providers and facilities of abortions.

          Exactly the same thing happens with regard to gun rights where I live. The city of San Jose imposes rules designed to make it more expensive and less convenient to own firearms, and the people who come to the City Council meeting to testify in favor offer arguments against gun ownership that have nothing to do with those rules.

          Sure, if you have money you could travel, but that turns access to abortion into a class issue, which only pisses people off more.

          It depends how far you are from a state where they are not trying to suppress abortion. Even poor people in the U.S. are likely to own cars, or have friends who do.

      3. edmundgennings

        There are definitely some on the right, including possibly myself, who think that the equal protection clause means that murder laws can not differentiate by the age of the victim, (particularly so as to make penalties lighter for murdering victims that have more time expected to live). Thus any states that outlaw murder, must outlaw it for all classes of victims regardless of age.
        This position however is far less common than one would expect.

        1. DavidFriedman

          There are definitely some on the right, including possibly myself, who think that the equal protection clause means that murder laws can not differentiate by the age of the victim

          I have an old article on the general issue of characteristics of the victim, not in the abortion context, that you might find of interest.

    7. Deiseach

      Think of California and the problems there. Gay marriage was legal, and then it wasn’t, and then it was again. In the interim, all the protests were about people who had gotten married when it was legal and now what about them – were they still married, weren’t they married, what was the situation?

      If civil same-sex marriage is declared illegal, then does that nullify all the marriages that took place in the meantime? What about divorces, child custody, and so on? It’s too much of a mess.

      From a religious standpoint, if gay marriage is only a civil contract, then gay couples are no better or worse off than they were before; they are still living in sin by co-habiting whether that has the civil contract or not. The legal effects can be thrashed out in court (civil partnerships, for example, could still exist). EDIT: As pointed out in other comments, the main problem would be that okay, gay marriage is civil marriage like same-sex civil marriage, if that is what the State decides is legal, that’s fine. Just don’t go around shopping for legal cases to force bakeries or churches to declare they recognise your marriage when they don’t on religious grounds – going to a string of different bakeries until you find the one that says “sorry, we don’t bake wedding cakes for gay weddings but we’ll sell you any other kind of a cake” and then taking them to court seems too much to contradict the pre-legalisation argument that “gay marriage will have no effect on you at all!”

      Abortion can’t be undone in the same way – you can’t “un-abort” by making abortion illegal. You can only prevent future abortions. And this is a matter of ‘what is the greater evil? murder or sexual immorality?’, so “why don’t conservatives still fight over gay marriage as much as abortion” is (a) that battle has been lost with the greater losses on marriage and sexual morality (b) pick your battles (c) abortion is seen as much graver than legal permission to live together (d) it’s entirely possible for someone to be pro-equal marriage rights and anti-abortion.

      EDIT: And if I’m being snide about it, I’d like to ask the reverse question: why are liberals coming out as “I don’t care if Candidate is a sexual harasser/abuser/rapist as long as he keeps abortion legal”? Why the sudden silence on rape being the ultimate evil? What is so special about abortion as a cause?

      1. Aftagley

        The thing is, the perspective you’re describing here doesn’t match what I see on the ground and I’m trying to figure out if I’m just blind to it or if it doesn’t exist.

        I’m not asking the question, “why don’t conservatives still fight over gay marriage as much as abortion” – if I saw conservatives fighting at all go back to disallowing gay marriage, or even acknowledging it as a goal they’d like to eventually achieve I would perfectly understand why they would still choose to prioritize abortion over it as a topic. That’s just simple prioritization/strategy.

        In fact, your addition kind of makes this point. Even people who think a certain candidate has a bad past are normally walking into it with eyes open, “A yes, this person did/thinks/is bad, but he’s a necessary evil.” I don’t see this from the right on Gay Marriage.

        I guess my question boils down to, if conservatives won every election, packed the supreme court and could implement and societal changes they wanted, would banning gay marriage or changing it into a state-recognized civil contract that’s equivalent to but explicitly not marriage still be a goal, or has that dropped off the dream list?

        1. Deiseach

          would banning gay marriage or changing it into a state-recognized civil contract that’s equivalent to but explicitly not marriage

          I don’t know about American conservatives. My own opinion, for my own country as well, is that civil marriage is civil marriage and I’m cynical enough about the state of marriage that my view (prior to the legalisation campaign in my own country) was “sure, why not permit civil marriage? marriage as it has been rendered now is so weakened that it’s just legal shacking-up with some tax advantages, and as long as nobody is arguing that this is sacramental marriage or that churches should be forced to officiate same-sex marriages, I don’t care”.

          The legalisation campaign in my own country changed that “meh, whatever” indifference to boiling hatred “HELL NO!” because they were pushing not for the ostensible reform of the law they claimed to want (“extend civil marriage to same-sex couples”) but were very much phrasing it as “this new form of marriage is totally and completely the same as traditional marriage and if you say otherwise it’s because you’re a bigot and a hater and a homophobe” and mawkish appeals to “it’s about love” where the implication was no gay person would ever be permitted to fall in love and have a romantic partner if they couldn’t get married. The fact that nothing was stopping Steve and Barry from living together just like Jane and Terrence were didn’t get mentioned; this was trying to use the cause of marriage equality as a bludgeon to change societal attitudes and crowbar acceptance of homosexuality as normal and ordinary and Just Like You Straights and that annoyed me. EDIT: Let me clarify something; I never denied that Steve and Barry couldn’t go down to the council offices and have a registry office civil marriage the way Jane and Terrence could if they decided to regularise their situation, and I’d have been happy if it was no more than that. But the campaigns on TV, radio, outdoor advertising, etc. were relentlessly “Steve and Barry are doomed to loveless celibacy and loneliness for life if they can’t get civilly married! Not even a hand to hold or a kiss!” which made me go “Oh come the fuck off it”.

          To be fair though, basing an appeal for change in the law on romantic grounds rather than rational ones was an appeal always doomed to failure when it came to a staunch aromantic 🙂

          (It particularly annoyed me because the same activists were running off at the mouth about how much better, more talented, more everything LGBT people were by comparison with straight people, but I understood how that worked; when you feel that you are a disapproved minority, you need to do the “ACKSHULLY all the great geniuses and creative people you admire were ONE OF OURS not ONE OF YOURS” thing in order to prop up your psychic economy).

          An appeal to natural justice for equitable treatment? I was willing to entertain that and even vote “yes”. A beating-over-the-head message that LGBT was the superior lifestyle and this new form of civil marriage was exactly the same in every detail as forms of marriage up to now, and if you don’t agree that 2+2=5 when Big Brother tells you this is so, you are the bad person who needs to be shunned? That raised my hackles.

          Would I, if the balance of power shifted, roll it back so that there is no same-sex civil marriage? The vindictive part of me goes “yes” but the centrist (horrors!) part of me says “c’mon, we have to live together, let them have the civil form so long as nobody has to offer the pinch of incense to Caesar about it”.

          1. Aapje

            @Deiseach

            when you feel that you are a disapproved minority, you need to do the “ACKSHULLY all the great geniuses and creative people you admire were ONE OF OURS not ONE OF YOURS” thing in order to prop up your psychic economy

            Yet it implies that the losers don’t deserve that kind of treatment, which…a lot of people probably actually believe, even if they would never say so.

    8. Paul Zrimsek

      There’s a considerable difference in urgency and immediacy between the two issues. If you’re an abortion opponent it’s clear to you in each instance that the killing of this child is an evil, regardless of anything else that happens. While with gay marriage, all you’ve got is a vague intuition that allowing them will undermine “real” marriages somehow. I suspect that the opponents were ultimately no more able to articulate the somehow to themselves or to each other, then they were to the rest of us.

      1. Deiseach

        While with gay marriage, all you’ve got is a vague intuition that allowing them will undermine “real” marriages somehow.

        It’s certainly one more step on the way towards legal polygamy (polyandry/polygyny, take your pick). If sex is not relevant to marriage, what is sacred about number? If now same-sex couples can marry, and it’s the same as opposite-sex couples, why the restriction to the magic number of two?

        Divorce, etc. has weakened “real” marriage, but I don’t think it can be denied that legalising same-sex marriage meant a real and huge re-definition of what marriage was or how it is constructed, so that as I said, what’s so sacred about the number of spouses now?

        1. DavidFriedman

          You take it for granted that there should be something sacred about number of spouses.

          Polygyny was an accepted part of the other two major Abrahamic religions for a very long time, although Judaism eventually abandoned it. It was, I believe, openly part of Christian practice in the early centuries, and de facto for much longer. Polyandry is much rarer.

          What are the strong arguments against either?

          1. Nick

            As I’ve said on SSC before, polygyny is not strictly contrary to the natural law the way that same-sex marriage is. But it does seem to be a bad idea, because it’s impractical and tends to have bad effects on society and on the marital union itself. It is, you could say, in tension with natural law, so it’s not surprising it was eventually prohibited.

            (For Catholics at least marriage as a sacrament is exclusive, by analogy to Christ’s relationship with the Church. So the Church will in any case not be practicing polygyny. Therefore it is literally true there is something sacred about the number. 🙂 )

          2. Dragor

            Yeah, the necessary adjustments to institutions plural entails is the big hurdle for me. Aesthetically Thrupples and beyond seem very cool to me, but I’m cautious surrounding legalizing plural marriage simply because I’m not sure how that would work and what loopholes that would open. Seems calloused when I talk to my friend who is in one, dealing with the ramifications of only being able to marry one of her partners, but that’s how I feel.

        2. albatross11

          Indeed, I’d say easy divorce has done far more damage to traditional marriage than gay marriage could ever do.

    9. albatross11

      My impression from being an active member of a fairly liberal Catholic parish (blue state, English-speakers mostly from the educated professional classes) is that there is *way* more deep and widespread moral opposition to abortion than to gay marriage.

    10. Garrett

      When talking about any Supreme Court case, there’s two separate issues which are rarely separated in the public discussion: the outcome of the particular case, and the logic of the particular case.

      When people are talk about “Roe v. Wade”, what they usually care about is “abortion is legal” (yes, yes, Casey is controlling). But the best arguments against it aren’t policy arguments, they are that the internal logic of the case is basically an incoherent mess. And it’s not really possible to come up with a narrow result mandating access to legal abortion on other grounds while not vastly reshaping legal frameworks.

      Obergefell vs.Hodges is *also* a logical mess (though a much smaller one with fewer wacky implications. However, it would have been just as easy for SCOTUS to have come down and said something like: “Adam can’t marry Steve on account of Steve’s sex. That’s sex discrimination which we’ve long held is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Ergo you have to allow Adam to marry Steve under the same terms as you’d allow Adam and Eve to get married.” The intellectual part of the social conservative movement would likely have accepted that argument. And since that’s an otherwise limited decision which accomplishes the same result it’s not really worth it.

      But Roe is just plain trash and needs to go in one way or another.

    11. Dack

      With all the talk about whether or not the Supreme court is slowly working to overturn Roe v. Wade, I realized today that I’ve heard no talk about overturning obergefell vs. hodges. Not “no talk” as in “it’s only a fridge position” but literally I’ve seen no serious discussion about whether, the supreme court, if it goes fully conservative, should or would re-ban gay marriage. Sure, I get that it’s not quite that simple, but I’m not even hearing it discussed as a talking point on the right anymore.

      Am I just missing some undercurrent of conservative thought, or have we really gone, in less than a decade, from gay marriage being mostly illegal to being nigh-on completely unremarkable?

      The one issue is safe (if distasteful) to discuss in most settings. The other one can get you fired.

      I don’t think any further explanation is necessary, though some good points have been raised above.

        1. Jaskologist

          Their haste to surrender helped kill their credibility with the base, with the consequence that when they banded together to stop Trump, nobody listened. it also helped make the alt-right less outside Overton Window.

  6. salvorhardin

    This result on cross-reactive immunity:

    https://twitter.com/profshanecrotty/status/1261053426475003904

    makes me wonder whether we should try common cold variolation– literally giving people colds on purpose, because hey, it’s just a cold– as a COVID mitigation measure. Am I missing a reason that that’s not worthwhile? Or is it infeasible to get appropriate samples of common cold virus to variolate people with?

    1. Evan Þ

      First, we’d need to confirm that immune response stems from the common cold coronaviruses. They’re one likely culprit, but we should get more evidence before making plans based on that assumption.

    2. eric23

      Haven’t we all had common colds already? This doesn’t sound like it would help much.

      1. Rob K

        There are something like 200 different viruses/strains that cause something we call a cold, and it’s plausible that only some of them would confer cross-reactive immunity. At any given time a person who’s not, like, a kindergarten teacher is only going to have immunity to a certain number of those, possibly not including the most relevant ones.

      2. Derannimer

        My understanding is that the immunity you get from a common cold only lasts 6 months or so. After that your body forgets about it, and you can be reinfected with the exact same thing again. So the question is whether we’ve had a recent cold.

        Incidentally, my sister-in-law is an ER doctor, and a month back or so she mentioned to me that her colleagues thought maybe one reason kids do better with Covid is that they have so many colds, and maybe there was some cross-immunity; and then I didn’t hear any more about the idea for weeks. Be encouraging if it’s true.

        1. Deiseach

          The new complication seems to be affecting children, I’ve seen news reports about England, France, Italy and New York.

          So now it’s not just a case of “it’s only serious for the really old, the rest of us can risk it” anymore.

          1. DarkTigger

            On the positive side, Kawasaki (even the SARS-Corona-2 induced variant) seems to be easily treatable, with cheap, well understood drugs.

        2. baconbits9

          Be encouraging if it’s true.

          No, the opposite. If its true then holding R down for months via lockdowns while cold immunities deteriorate would mean a much larger surge as lockdowns are lifted.

  7. liquidpotato

    My two cents take on this is a combination of four factors.
    1. Polarization. It’s the guys on the other side saying this and the untrustworthy mainstream media.

    2. A real sense of indignation/desperation at the current situation, which is hurting a lot of people in the middle America

    3. Being self centered, in the sense that they are still thinking of the disease in terms of how it’s affecting themselves, not how it would affect others. It’s really evident from the way their argument goes, which usually centers around how a normal mask doesn’t provide much protection from getting the diseases, citing the particulate and filter size. Which is true, but when the question is framed in the other direction, then it becomes very clear how wearing masks, even makeshift ones, helps in suppressing community spread.

    4. The institutions themselves are to blame for their dishonesty. I think it’s important to remember that in the early days, the CDC was saying wearing masks was bad. The sudden reversal, as well as the myriad ways the WHO had messed up, had severely eroded trust.

  8. A1987dM

    The same reason why people opposed to abortion are more likely to be opposed to contraception too, I guess.

  9. Dragor

    Hey, does anyone know anything about regaining diagnoses? Are you assumed to have a diagnosis forever if you’ve had it in the past? I was diagnoses with ADHD as a teenager, and I stayed on various ADHD medications until I decided I was happy enough and functional enough without therapy, psychiatry, or psychiatric medicine and discontinued taking meds. These days, I’m still fairly happy and whatnot, but I’m studying for the LSAT and I’m realizing that Vyvanse + extra time might increase my score outlook and thus my career outlook. So, my question: how difficult would it be for me to reactivate my diagnosis as it were and get back on Vyvanse and extra time? Also, how much could I expect this to cost (I’m uninsured)?

    1. Mark Z.

      Given that all the benefits of a higher LSAT score are positional, why do you deserve those benefits more than whoever you’d displace? Do you think “willingness to cite a possibly-irrelevant childhood diagnosis in order to gain an advantage” is a quality our legal system should select for?

      1. Mercurial

        Deserve has nothing to do with it. Also “ability to use edge cases and quirks of procedure to achieve goals” is exactly what our legal system selects for.

        1. Mark Z.

          “Deserve” has a lot to do with both whether it’s morally acceptable to do this, and, insofar as this person is asking for help executing this plan, whether others choose to help.

        2. Dragor

          What do you think they should select for Dr. Friedman? Also, I would be interested in your views on this moral calculation.

      2. alchemy29

        It’s unclear if you are coming at this from a belief that ADHD either doesn’t exist or is drastically over-diagnosed and stimulant medications are somehow unnatural, unethical or harmful in some fundamental way.

        But if not, I don’t see what your beef is with someone who has a medical condition, taking the appropriate medication for that condition.

      3. Dragor

        I…had never gone that deep with the idea. The legal profession is intrinsically mercenary; pursuing one’s ordinal success is mercenary–> Pursuing one’s ordinal success is proper to the legal profession.

      4. Dragor

        I am unsure how to respond to this, because it seems to closely joined to the question of “in a world of scarcity, why do you deserve resources? To respond to it as posed though, to an extent I considered how I might act to my advantage within the existing social equilibrium rather than considered how I might act to improve said equilibrium; it was previously decided on the basis of cognitive testing that I was generically justified in receiving this advantage, and advantages enable my goals.

        Respond to the more general question, I have little: I am more pro-social than average, probably significantly; and I tend to make those around me happy. This is banal virtue, but other than merciless self interest, that’s what I’ve got to justify my right to thrive.

        I’d be interested in your perception though. What character traits would make me more deserving than the whoever I displace? Laddering up, what are the traits of a human being that make them worthy of advantage?

    2. Konstantin

      It shouldn’t be that hard. Contact your parents, your high school, and the doctor you saw as a teenager and ask for any paperwork they have about the diagnosis. If you go to any primary care physician and be honest with them, saying that you have managed your ADD without medication but are planning to enter law school, which requires extreme amounts of focus, they should put you back on it without too much trouble. People go on and off mental health medications all the time, and it isn’t at all unusual to restart or adjust medication when experiencing significant life changes.

      1. yodelyak

        This is not my experience. A lot of doctors are much more defensive with ADD/ADHD medication than they were in the 90s and early aughts. A lot of colleges–my law school and the attached undergrad, for one–used to let their own in-house psychiatrist prescribe adderall etc., but now require an outside verification of your diagnosis from a shortlist of doctors they’ve vetted for being sufficiently defensive about diagnosing for ADD.

        I think that’s all to the good–I should probably have never been put on adderall by my primary care doc when first diagnosed. What I really had was more akin to depression-related-attentional-deficits, and treating the attentional-deficits but not the depression was not healthy for getting me to face up to having a depressed outlook on my life, and changing it. And adderall changes your body in some noticeable ways (I’m a bit more robotic, a worse dancer, or I enjoy dancing less, and I tend to need to pee about 2x as often as I used to). I would recommend you consider the reluctance of a doctor to prescribe adderall unless clearly indicated as a very strong selling point that they’re good at what they do.

        I’m not a doctor, but my sense is that the clear clinical indications for prescribing adderall are where a) a.d.d.-like symptoms have already caused a *significant* negative event, such as being fired or being broken up with by a serious long-term partner and b) the symptoms continue and other less dramatic interventions have been tried. I guess all I’m saying is, maybe consider whether it’s a better idea to get a great doctor and approach the question of whether you need add meds with an open mind, rather than going in with a pre-rehearsed set of lines in order to guarantee you get the diagnosis you think you need.

        1. yodelyak

          I’m not arguing that you can’t get the drug separately, *if you can get the drug separately*. But you pretty much can’t get the school’s own medical folks (who are much more affordable and available, particularly if you’re on the school’s healthcare plan, which is opt-out, not opt-in).
          To be clear, my law school requires students to buy school-provided insurance, or prove they are sufficiently privately insured, and that school-provided insurance won’t cover any adhd-type medication not prescribed by an in-network doctor, nor cover any out-of-network doctor. My school was pretty serious about not letting ADHD meds become as standard a study-buddy as redbull or caffeine pills, which were something I think >20% of the student body used in dramatic doses (up all night borderline dissociative–I mean, a *lot* of caffeine) at least once a term.

          For another anecdote, a professor I’m friends with at my undergrad recently admitted to me that he’s started scheduling a 3-min break into his one-hour-long class periods, because so many students were asking for bathroom breaks in the middle of class. It’s definitely a side-effect of adhd medication that folks need to pee more.

      2. Dragor

        I actually did some of this last night after posting. I spoke with my mom and she informed me she a) still had the documentation and b) had given it to my college, so they should be able to advocate on my behalf.

        I’ll look into getting a psychiatrist at some point, but I’m less concerned with the Vyvanse than the extra time. I actually found some old vyvanse a few months ago, so I’ll test it out and see if I perform substantially better medicated–but it’s not a primary concern.

  10. Robin

    The moral of the story
    International edition

    Some people complained that Dean Martin is too much of a straight man to be partner of Jerry Lewis. They presented an alternative: Some random kid they picked up from the street. Others disagreed, and there was a big discussion:

    Kid or Dean?

    * * *

    (Before this story, I have to apologize that I cannot do the accents very well. Please bear with me.)

    Two people met on the dining car of the Transsiberian Railway. The first one said:

    “Howdy pardner, my name’s Bill. Nah, I dunno nuthin’ ’bout that tea they’re servin’ here. Back home on the range, we drink only coffee. Here’s my coffee recipe from the west: Take a pound o’ coffee, moist it slightly wit’ water, let cook for half an hour. Then do the horseshoe test. If the horseshoe don’t float, ’twas too little coffee. Oh, lookit them trees outside! Fall is comin’, the leaves are turning red and brown. Looks awesome!”

    The second answers: “Cor blimey! Nice to meet you, I’m Colin. I don’t have the slightest idea about coffee, sorry about that, mate. I love this tea! The Russians make them in a samowar. Of course it’s not like at home. I usually drink Earl Grey tea in the morning and Darjeeling in the afternoon. On special occasions I have some of the vanilla-flavoured tea. And if I have some hard work to do, I go for some Assam tea, nice and strong. Oh yes, autumn is very nice round these parts, look at these splendid red and brown leaves!”

    Moral: Know tea, say “autumn”.

    * * *

    When Ovid had a child, he decided to call it Ovid B, thus creating a generation-long familiy tradition. Eighteen generations later — the Ovid family had long ceased to be poets –, Ovid R proposed to introduce passports in the Roman empire to have some social distancing and flatten the curve of the pestilence. People laughed at this silly idea and always called him Passport-Ovid R.

    Unfortunately, Ovid R was also a terrible antisemite. He tried to convert Jews by torturing them, but his method was not very effective: He used to poke them with their kippah into their low stomach. None of them betrayed their religion.

    Moral: Low kippah’s a poor torment, Passport-Ovid R.

    * * *

    Many people have problems telling Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard apart. But in fact it’s very easy, because Bryce Dallas Howard has a very special hobby: A housefly zoo! Just like Lucky Eddie used to go on a walk with his butterfly collection, wherever she goes, she sports a halo of her pets. Jessica Chastain does not have a housefly zoo.

    Moral: Ohne flies kein Bryce.

      1. Nick

        They’re all puns, but multilingual ones. That’s why the phrases aren’t familiar.

    1. SamChevre

      Why does Sarkozy eat only one egg for breakfast?

      Because one egg, it’s un oeuf.

  11. Nick

    So I’ve read in a lot of historical fiction (and sometimes real history) about this famous figure or that son of whatsit joining the military and becoming an officer. But they’re not fighting, or not most of the time. Often (at least when I’m reading a Russian novel) these are wealthy young men who are flitting about high society while also a decently ranked and rising military officer.

    What were these people’s actual jobs? Were they responsible for the men they commanded in any way? Did they have day to day tasks? Half the time that we see the soldiers they (nominally?) command, one is just a friend tagging along to the tavern or fancy dinner party. Honestly, the men who joined the military don’t seem that different from the ones who are secretary to old Prince Such-and-so in the government, except that the latter sometimes have duties. Can someone explain to me what’s going on? Are my favorite books misleading me? Is rubbing shoulders with the elite* just what the noble ones did, and if so, why on earth are they joining the military instead of being Idle Rich? Is it a sinecure, in a way government posts aren’t? I mean, I can guess—their family expects them to rise to high office somehow, or their allowance isn’t enough to live the life they want to right now—but I’d like to hear the answer from someone who knows.

    *sorry, Aftagley

    1. Lambert

      Prince Andrei Bolkonsky did plenty of staff officer type stuff between the wars of the Third and Fifth coalitions, didn’t he?

      1. Nick

        I read Anna Karenina, I’m afraid, not War and Peace. And though we follow Vronsky for a good bit of the story, we rarely see him do any officer type stuff. But what is this officer type stuff that Bolkonsky was doing, anyway?

        1. Lambert

          Bolkonsky writes a note proposing the reform of army regulations, modelled on the French, but they’re rejected by the Brass.
          Kutuzov later offers him a position as a member of his personal staff, but Andrei declines in favour of staying with his regiment. (out of Tolstoyan disdain for the ‘great men’ perspective of history)

    2. matthewravery

      For a long time, military commissions could be purchased by the aristocracy, IIRC. Many of these folks expected to “lead”, not get dirty. And often times these commissions would be commensurate with their social standing, so not low-level lieutenants but majors and colonels and such. Most of what folks in these stations today do is receiving briefings, telling subordinates to go do a thing, and autographing pieces of paper. I doubt it was much different then. And like most things in management, you can typically delegate these to adequately competent subordinates.

      Plus, if you’re reading books, I imagine the authors would rather spend time on things like taverns and parties than paperwork.

    3. John Schilling

      If they had a regular commission in a line unit, their nominal job would be to train and administer the men they would be commanding in wartime. Historic armies didn’t much go in for the sort of realistic training exercises that modern armies have found necessary, but making sure everyone could march in formation, load and fire a musket three times a minute, etc, were important preparation for the type of battles they had to fight. Also, somebody had to e.g. requisition all the food that the men were going to be eating.

      If they had a staff position, then they were either a gofer for a senior officer or holding down a desk doing the same sort of things a civilian office worker would do.

      And if they had a reserve commission, they were collecting half-pay while standing by to do one of the above in the event of war. Ideally with occasional training, but for e.g. a reserve cavalry officer that may just mean getting together with your buddies to ride horses and get drunk when nobody is looking. That’s a great gig if you don’t really want to do anything, Daddy’s money is enough that you don’t have to do anything, but you don’t want to look like you’re not doing anything.

  12. Iago the Yerfdog

    My guess is that most people here are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of demisexuality: of only being capable of sexual attraction to a person if you’re romantically involved with them.

    One of the criticisms I saw multiple times of the concept is that it’s actually just normal heterosexuality. This always struck me as odd, and I always assumed the critic saying that didn’t really understand the concept, but tonight I happened to think of it and it occurred to me: what if it is normal?

    That is, what if there is, and has always been, a large percentage of the population who are genuinely incapable of being “turned on” outside of the context of a romantic relationship? What if non-romantic sexual attraction was an experience that a large number of people were missing out on without realizing it? It seems to me that that would actually have huge implications for understanding the evolution of sexual mores and sexual jealousy.

    For example, imagine being demisexual but married to a non-demisexual partner, and genuinely not understanding why your partner would be sexual attracted to other people, unless their romantic interest had also shifted toward them.

    I’m curious if anyone else has had thoughts along these lines, or know of any data that might corroborate the idea.

    1. Jake R

      I’m not very familiar with these concepts but if I’m understanding you right then the popularity of porn would seem to indicate a significant majority of people don’t have trouble separating romantic and sexual attraction.

      1. Iago the Yerfdog

        Right. What I’m saying is: what if both demisexuality and non-demisexuality were normal and present in large numbers in the general population? Let’s say the split is something like 30/70 demi/nondemi, or maybe even closer to 50/50.

        1. Gerry Quinn

          I think we’d hear much more than we do about demisexuality if it were the persuasion of a substantial part of the population.

          1. Iago the Yerfdog

            I don’t think we necessarily would. Demisexuality could maybe be easily confused with just be unusually chaste/prudish/frigid.

            And as I understand it, it never really got accepted as a category within the LGBT community, so there’s no real incentive to claim it to be a member of that community, if that’s what you’re referring to.

          2. keaswaran

            We also didn’t hear a lot about aphantasia until recently. And even color-blindness wasn’t really recognized until Dalton published on it.

        2. Radu Floricica

          You really have to find a way around porn – I’d bet on well over 90%, at least in young single men. And I’m also pretty sure both sexes find classically attractive people to be attractive.

          But if you move to a weaker position: not sexual attraction, but “enjoyment of sex with”, I really think you’re on to something. And percentages may be about what you suggest. And yes, there’s no awareness of this in the zeitgeist.

          1. viVI_IViv

            According to this study 60% of women never watch porn, and those who do, watch it far less frequently than men.

            On the other hand, women comprise most of the audience and authors for fiction like Twilight, 50 Shades, or really any romance novel. This is consistent with most women being pretty much “demisexual”.

          2. Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit

            According to that study, 25% of casually dating men report that they never watch porn. Which seems ridiculous to me. Are these uber-Christian Americans or something? Who are these guys?

          3. Kaitian

            @Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit

            Men who prefer masturbating without looking at porn. Men who masturbate to still images or written erotica but don’t count that as porn. Men with very low libidos, or conversely, men with so many sexual contacts that they have no desire to masturbate. Men who have some strong religious or feminist objection to porn. If anything I’m surprised that these groups are only 25% of single men.

          4. Iago the Yerfdog

            @Radu Florica

            One possible confounder is that strictly speaking nothing prevents a porn viewer from injecting the premise of having a relationship with the person into the fantasy while viewing porn, or choosing porn where that is part of the scenario.

            That said, I don’t think that’s likely.

          5. John Schilling

            According to that study, 25% of casually dating men report that they never watch porn [...] Who are these guys?

            By definition, these are men who are casually dating. Which implies that they are having sex with actual girls. And remembering having recently had sex with actual girls, and anticipating having sex with actual girls in the near future.

          6. Iago the Yerfdog

            @John Schilling

            Dating doesn’t necessarily imply sex, even these days.

          7. AG

            Iago has a point – PwP in a fanfiction context means “porn without plot,” but in practice, someone seeking out pwp fanfiction is seeking it out for characters/relationships they already have an interest in.

            A true case of reading porn with a minimal amount of demisexual implications would be someone going into a fandom they have never seen, and picking out pwp fic which has little to mention of people having romantic feelings for each other. Which, to be fair, is a situation that exists. People go into the tags for specific kinks and read whatever is there, regardless of fandom.

            There is, however, evidence that women as a population seem to be more demisexual than men in some regards. There was that study that found that women showed signs of physical arousal (getting wet) basically looking at any kind of images, but there was a disconnect with what they reported. As in, a woman could get wet, but not actually feel aroused.

    2. Kaitian

      I think we should differentiate between two different ideas that could be implied by the “demisexual” concept:

      1) Never actually wants to have sex with a person they meet unless they already have a close relationship. I’d imagine this is quite common. The opposite — feeling a strong desire to have sex with some person you barely know and haven’t been romantic with at all — doesn’t seem like something the majority of people would feel often, though I might be typical-minding here.

      2) Never gets turned on at all outside the context of a close relationship. This is what I think the other comment is getting at with its discussion of porn. I think this is probably not very common, although there are a lot of people who only get turned on by porn if there is a backstory of romance and relationship involved. Stereotypically these people are women, though I’d bet at least some men are like this as well.

      I figure most people who call themselves demisexual would be capable of getting turned on by things like porn, or other obviously-sexual situations, even if they don’t involve their romantic partner. They just don’t have a big desire to seek out sex with non-partners in real life and might be turned off by the situation if it actually came up in real life. And this is indeed an extremely common experience among heterosexual people, though it may be more common in women than in men.

      The part about sexual jealousy in your post goes in a bit of a different direction — it’s generally accepted that, after having sex with a person a bunch, you would almost certainly also develop feelings for them. This is pretty much regardless of what initially attracted you to them. So that’s why many people see an admission of sexual attraction to other people as a warning sign that your romantic loyalty will also shift.

      1. a real dog

        “Wants to have sex” is an unclear proposition as well – what are the logistics of it? How much effort is required and how many strings attached? Will it cause complications within my existing relationship(s)? Trivially, if you could press a button to realize an erotic fantasy of yours, then never have to think of it again, you’d probably do it. I know I would.

        I think demisexuality as not being aroused by non-romantic interests is the only way to have a workable definition.

        1. viVI_IViv

          Trivially, if you could press a button to realize an erotic fantasy of yours, then never have to think of it again, you’d probably do it. I know I would.

          Some people are promiscuous and take as many sexual encounter opportunities they can get, consequences be damned. Other don’t.

        2. Kaitian

          It’s all shades of grey, of course. Clearly there are some people who are really eager to have sex with strangers and go to great lengths to achieve that goal. On the other end there are people who wouldn’t find the idea appealing at all even if you guaranteed a pleasant experience with no negative consequences. And most people fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
          But that’s true about pretty much any human behaviour, and we don’t say “men only count as gay if they are completely unable to find a woman arousing under any circumstances”. I don’t see why we wouldn’t apply the same standard to other sexualities:
          “This man only seeks out sex with [men / his romantic partners], and he describes himself as [gay / demisexual], therefore he is [gay / demisexual].”

          Whether that definition is useful certainly depends upon what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about married middle-aged normies, it probably doesn’t matter whether they’re not hooking up with randos because they don’t want to pay for a divorce or because they don’t find the idea appealing.

      2. AG

        “feeling a strong desire to have sex with some person you barely know and haven’t been romantic with at all” underlines entirely too much of our pop culture to not be significant. Entire swaths of masculinity are all about bagging sex partners with little to no intention of an accompanying romantic relationship, and this is supported by the statistics on cheating, even in cultures where monogamy is supposed to be the thing. And even if it’s not permanent, it seems that adolescence is a hotbed of non-demisexuality, as raunchy teen comedy films/tv wouldn’t have been successful at all.

        Finally, the stereotype about the Olympic village being a big orgy either defines Olympic athletes as a separate populace from the norm, in terms of libido being linked to emotional connection, or a significantly strong form of demisexuality is not common at all.

          1. Kaitian

            Also, going to the olympic games is an extremely emotional moment for all the athletes, and it’s a shared experience. So they might be able to bond to a level where even people on the demisexual end of the spectrum are comfortable having sex in an evening or two.

          2. AG

            Bonding with whom, though? They’re not going for their teammates or rivals, they’re going for the hot piece of ass right over there. Heightened emotions seems to actually confirm that most people do not experience attraction dependent on emotional intimacy, if the atmosphere alone can bypass the need to get to know someone.

        1. Aftagley

          Or just, when you get a bunch of 20 somethings together with not-that-much to do, sex happens.

          How does the amount of sex that occurs at the Olympic village compare to that taking place at your average college dorm? I’d wager it’s not too far off.

          1. AG

            The age bracket of Olympians depends on the sport. It would be interesting to see if the stereotype is correlated with age, such that categories of athletes compete and then go home to their families.

            In which case, that still seems to support the hypothesis that the young are less than demisexual as the norm.

        2. Aapje

          @AG

          Entire swaths of masculinity are all about bagging sex partners with little to no intention of an accompanying romantic relationship, and this is supported by the statistics on cheating

          Surely that behavior would occur primarily among young men, who are actually less likely than women to cheat according to the GSS. To me, it looks more like the main factor is relative attractiveness and opportunity.

          Of course, the validity of this data may exhibit the same bias as studies into how often people have sex, with men exaggerating and women underreporting it.

          1. AG

            My guess is that cheating is correlated with status, not age or gender. The cougar bedding the pool boy, for example.

    3. Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit

      Maybe I’m typical-minding here, but this seems to be very gendered. I would expect “demisexuality” to exist almost entirely among women.

      I would guess almost all single men (>90%) would have opt in to have sex with a hot stranger if given the opportunity. I would expect those men who decline this to be motivated by insecurities, phobias, performance issues etc., not by “demisexuality”. Any demisexual men who wants to tell me I’m wrong?

      I would expect a large group of women to be “demisexual”. This would be a pretty broad cluster of things like “I can only enjoy sex with persons I trust”, “My sexuality is entirely reactive”, “I’m only turned on by my partner and no-one else”, “My sex drive is not strong enough to motivate me to have sex outside of relationships”. These patterns can be quite dissimilar. and there’s probably significant overlap between them. I would expect maybe 10-30% of women to follow these patterns strongly enough as to never/rarely desire sex with strangers, even in fantasy. But this should be a spectrum and many women would be in the grey area (women are a lot less interested in casual sex, after all). Putting all of these patterns under the label “demisexuality” doesn’t make much sense to me but I guess fine if it makes you happy.

      But I’m just a random dude speculating on the mysterious nature of women. Things like the stuff above is what women have personally told me though.

      1. Kindly

        > “I can only enjoy sex with persons I trust”

        This pattern stands out to me a little. It seems to be a natural consequence of, well, life. Enough bad experiences (not with sex, necessarily) and trust becomes a much more important feature of everything.

        The others are all “this is what my sex drive does, why it does that I don’t know”.

      2. matkoniecz

        I would expect those men who decline this to be motivated by insecurities, phobias, performance issues etc.

        I would not dismiss so easily other issues like religious limitations, potentially life-ruining consequences if things will go wrong etc. IMHO putting it into “insecurities” is a poor idea.

      3. Aftagley

        I would expect those men who decline this to be motivated by insecurities, phobias, performance issues etc., not by “demisexuality”. Any demisexual men who wants to tell me I’m wrong?

        I’m not demisexual, but there have been a non-zero number of times in my life where I have chosen to not have sex with a hot stranger because I was pretty sure the negative consequences of doing so outweighed a night or two of fun. Contrary to popular opinion, men can still think with their main head, even when the other one’s active.

        1. albatross11

          +1

          (Not demisexual, but I’ve definitely decided against sex that was on-offer because I didn’t think I would like the likely consequences, or I thought it would make me feel bad about my choices the next day.)

      4. blacktrance

        I would guess almost all single men (>90%) would have opt in to have sex with a hot stranger if given the opportunity. I would expect those men who decline this to be motivated by insecurities, phobias, performance issues etc., not by “demisexuality”. Any demisexual men who wants to tell me I’m wrong?

        I’m a demisexual man and I’m telling you that you’re wrong. Why would I want to perform an act of great intimacy and attachment-formation with a stranger? I may find them physically attractive, but that’s only one prerequisite of actually being sexually attracted to someone – I wouldn’t feel fond of them, and without that, sex wouldn’t really be appealing.

      5. Randy M

        would have opt in to have sex with a hot stranger if given the opportunity. I would expect those men who decline this to be motivated by insecurities, phobias, performance issues etc.

        does your etc. include ideals and commitments, or only negative parameters?

        But yes, of course it’s gendered.

    4. Wrong Species

      “Demisexuality” sounds like something a guy came up with to convince his suspicious wife that he wasn’t having an affair.

      “No, honey, I’m a demisexual. That means I literally can’t be sexually attracted to a woman that isn’t you.”

      1. Evan Þ

        To me it sounds more like what someone would think up when his offer of an affair got rejected. “What, she won’t cheat on her spouse with me? She doesn’t even sound one bit tempted? She must be so weird it’s some new sexual identity!”

        1. Iago the Yerfdog

          As I understand it, the actual history is supposed to be that some people thought they were asexual until they got into a romantic relationship and found they had sexual feelings for their partner.

      2. cassander

        I would say it’s more likely that it was invented by someone who desperately wanted to be able wanted to identify as anything that wasn’t as boring as heterosexual. See also sapiosexual.

          1. Aftagley

            I like to claim that I heard Betty explaining calculus to a fellow folk dancer and fell in love on the spot.

            I don’t care if this is true or not, that’s absolutely adorable.

        1. albatross11

          Sapiosexual describes my romantic/sexual interests better than any other model I can think of.

          1. cassander

            I’ll accept sapiosexual as a meaningful category when I hear someone who identifies as the opposite.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            @cassander

            That kind of sounds like saying “I’ll believe foot fetishes exist when I hear someone say they’re into girls who don’t have feet.”

          3. Edward Scizorhands

            There are, in fact, people who are into girls who don’t have feet.

            uggcf://jjj.cbeauho.pbz/ivqrb/frnepu?frnepu=nzchgrr+srgvfu

    5. Lambert

      I suspect the average person who knows about the term ‘demisexuality’ is disproportionately likely to be a young adult, sex positive and generally in a society where casual sex is common.

      In more traditional sex negative societies, demisexuality is just how everyone’s ‘supposed to be’ (especially women).

      1. Iago the Yerfdog

        That’s kind of what I’m getting at. Maybe a reason that’s how everyone is “supposed to be” is that a significant portion of the population is that way already. If you assume demisexuals are less flexible about their preferences than most non-demisexuals (which seems likely to me), you would expect to get an “intolerant minority” effect of the sort Nassim Taleb has described, and demisexual standards would become the sexual mores of the society as a whole.

        Of course the history of sexual mores is a lot more complicated than that, because this isn’t the only factor. There’s an intolerant minority with the opposite preferences, for one thing.

        1. AG

          Doesn’t seem to match the majority of history, though, where the modern concept of romance didn’t necessarily exist, and there’s a whole lotta expectation that someone not married to someone they love still has sex with their spouse to reproduce.

          1. acymetric

            I don’t think demisexual people are literally incapable of sex outside of a romantic relationship, they just don’t want/enjoy it.

            Plus, while marriage may not have been what we consider romance now, there was potentially some kind of bond or connection between two married people which maybe would have sufficed in context.

          2. Aftagley

            I don’t think demisexual people are literally incapable of sex outside of a romantic relationship, they just don’t want/enjoy it.

            Isn’t this true for every sexual identity?

          3. acymetric

            Of course. Which is why I don’t think @AG’s point really tells us anything.

          4. AG

            @acymetric

            The scenario I’m more thinking of is the husband who still enjoys schtupping his wife while maintaining an actual love for his mistress. He has sexual desire outside of the context of romance.

    6. DinoNerd

      This roughly corresponds to the behaviour/attitudes expected of men (omni-sexual, as it were) and women (only for love) in some recent cultural settings.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a continuum, or if the average position on that continuum were different in a gendered way, if only because of the evolutionary advantages (offspring of females do better if the father stays around to help her raise the baby; males can have lots more offspring if they don’t help support all of them).

      OTOH, it would be hard to research, because of social pressures to pretend a cultutrally appropriate reaction, or even talk yourself into believing that’s what you have.

    7. Lord Nelson

      I assumed I was asexual for almost 15 years. Then I started dating, and after 4 months of dating my now-husband, I realized “oh, I can be sexually attracted to someone after all.” It was like a switch flipped in my brain one day, turning on that specific form of attraction. It was 100% subconscious, and it only applied to the person I was dating.

      The argument that demisexuality is just normal heterosexuality has always confused me. My personal experience seems vastly different from most other peoples’, and also vastly different from portrayals in modern media.

      Also, just to be clear, asexuality/demisexuality is about feeling sexual attraction. It says nothing about someone’s desire to have sex. Some ace people want no sex, some are indifferent, some like it for various reasons.

      1. Iago the Yerfdog

        Thank you for your perspective!

        The argument that demisexuality is just normal heterosexuality has always confused me. My personal experience seems vastly different from most other peoples’, and also vastly different from portrayals in modern media.

        That’s what confused me, as well: you have people saying demisexuality sounds normal, but it absolutely doesn’t sound normal. Certainly it’s not the standard narrative about how sexual attraction works. That’s why I assumed those saying that were confused about the concept.

        That said, I’ve seen multiple random people say that it sounds like normal heterosexuality. It’s quite possible that they all had the same bizarre misunderstanding — I’m not discounting that — but it occurred to wonder if maybe, just maybe, they were demisexual themselves without realizing it, and were typical-minding.

        Some ace people want no sex, some are indifferent, some like it for various reasons.

        IIRC, Scott has said that he doesn’t feel sexual attraction but enjoys certain aspects of sex enough to do it. I might be misremembering, though.

    8. Jitters

      My thoughts:

      “True” demisexuality (the kind described in Lord Nelson’s comment) is rare. By “true” demisexuality I mean “usually asexual, but experiences sexual attraction after falling in love with someone”.

      However, a significant proportion of people are not interested in sex outside of relationships. They can walk down the street and rank people on a hotness scale, but they fundamentally don’t want to have sex with people they’re not romantically interested in. This may be more common in women, but does include some men, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the gender differences are less pronounced than how pop culture portrays them.

      The people saying “just normal heterosexuality” are talking about the second category.

      I’m in the second category. I have a sense of which random strangers I find attractive and which ones I don’t find attractive. I just don’t care. I mostly swipe left on dating apps. When I’ve fantasized about having casual sex, it’s only been about people I already know and like, which makes it really only kinda-sorta casual. I can only ever recall really desiring sex, like lying awake at night thinking about it, in the context of a crush.

  13. FLWAB

    Like most of America, I struggle with my weight. Like most of America, I have tried a few different diets, lost about ten pounds, couldn’t keep the diet up more than a month or so, and ended up gaining 10+ pounds.

    After a period of just eating whatever I want without any plan, I decided to get back on the horse again. But this time I’m trying a new diet. I invented it myself, and as such if it works it might only work because I’m me, and at some level I understand myself. I call it the Sanity Diet. It is extremely simple, though it requires attention and some discipline. I can sum it up in one sentence:

    I can only eat if I’m hungry.

    That’s the core of it. It’s not about counting calories or balancing proteins or encouraging ketosis or anything like that. Just paying attention to my body and only letting myself eat if I can say with sincerity that I feel hungry. The hard part is identifying that. I’ve discovered that despite the fact that I’m a big eater, I don’t actually get that hungry. I just want to eat food. I desire the food, but it’s not hunger per se. I’m used to just noticing that I want to eat and chalking that up to hunger. I’ve gone through more than a couple diets that intended to reduce my hunger (avoiding carbs, for instance) and they never worked for me. I believe that they didn’t work because hunger was never the driving problem in the first place, just desire to eat food.

    I’ve had to add a couple of sub rules as I’ve tried it out. Sub-rule number one is no eating seconds unless I’ve let some time pass to see if I’m really still hungry or if I’m just on a roll. And while I haven’t made a rule against eating, say, donuts and cake for every meal, I am trying to eat good foods that are good for me. I am trying to be sane, after all.

    It’s surprisingly easy. Sure, it’s hard not to eat when I want to eat but I’m not hungry. But I think a lot of my eating came from fear: fear that I would go hungry unless I ate at mealtimes on the dot, and ate a lot. Fear of being deprived. I spent a lot of my childhood wishing I had more to eat (I wasn’t starving, just a kid growing into a six foot frame at rapid speed) so I think I learned to eat as much as I could whenever I had the chance. Now when I feel that fear, I can say “If I get hungry, I can eat. If the worst happens, I will be fine.” In other diets I would get worn down by the fear: “What if I never eat cake again? What if I’m hungry all the time? What if I have to live like this forever?” But with this diet I can calm my fears. Yes, I can have cake if I’m hungry. I won’t be hungry all the time, because if I’m hungry I can eat. If I had to live like this forever, that would be an improvement in overall happiness.

    That’s why I named it the Sanity Diet. I’ve come to realize that my eating habits are completely detached from my eating needs. Eating when you’re not hungry is, from a certain perspective, insane. Not delusional insane, but still divorced from reality, much like a person who eats hair or rocks. I want to be more sane than I am. I would prefer to align with reality. So even if the diet fails to lower my weight, if I can keep it up long enough for it to stop being a diet and start being a lifestyle I will call it a win.

    1. ltowel

      During my time at fat camp when I was a youth, we talked about boredom eating. It’s one of the reasons keeping a food journal can help people lose weight even without changing diets – it adds some friction to bored eating if you have to write those things down.

      Good luck with your sanity diet! I hope it is sustainable and aligned with the things you love in your life

    2. a real dog

      There is this thing called mindful eating where you’re supposed to focus on the sensory experiences of food instead of grabbing a quick bite before the computer screen. It’s supposed to help with with mental health (it’s part of MBSR), but should be a nice complement to your method.

      1. Dragor

        This is a bit of a tangent A Real Dog, but I’ve been noticing over the past few weeks that I find your postings cool. I suspect you are a cool person whom I share interests with.

    3. A Definite Beta Guy

      Sub-rule number one is no eating seconds unless I’ve let some time pass to see if I’m really still hungry or if I’m just on a roll

      This is one of the legitimate biggies for me. I can easily pound down a 16 inch pan pizza without working up a sweat. It’s uncomfortable, but I have to impose “eat till you’re no longer hungry” rule, which is quite different from my normal “eat till you feel like it was a feast!” satiation point.

      Also, I stress eat. I suppose this is better than stress fast, because stress fasting ADBG would probably be dead (see thread on coworker stupidity below, compound with $1.4 million in annual savings now being gone on a major strategic project, where’s my chick-fil-a to make me feel better?)

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        I’ve been successful at controlling my weight for a few years now. And this is still a big issue.

        I’ve eaten what I objectively considered a fair portion that keeps with my diet. And, while sitting at the table, my body is saying “eat more, eat more, eat more!” I’m sure that I will be hungry for hours unless I eat more, then and there.

        20 minutes later, I’ve forgotten all about that. A few hours later, I might think of how hungry I currently am, and realize I have no real desire to eat.

      2. Radu Floricica

        16 inch pan pizza

        “But a 16 pizza isn’t that big…. I also e… wait, inches?!”

        There are quite a few behavioral tricks you can apply, and one of them is that we tend to eat everything in front of us and only then stop and reconsider.

        Unfortunately that’s the environment we live in. Unless and until we manage to change it, as a society, we do need personal effort in managing things.

        My favorite trick lately is focusing on food density first. Under 1 calorie per gram for weight loss, under 2 calories per gram for maintenance.

    4. Robin

      I often confuse hunger and thirst. When I think I’m hungry for some snack, I can fix it by drinking some water.

    5. AG

      People who do fasting diets tend to observe that their body hits them with intense hunger a little ways into the diet, but then the hunger eases off once the body transitions. As previous discussions have noted, the hard part is changing that metabolic setpoint.
      So I’d suggest powering through the hunger a couple of times a week.

      This happened to me when I transitioned to a no-breakfast schedule. I had a few days where I got hunger pangs in the morning, but now I don’t. I’m basically doing a 14 hour fast every day.

    6. Lord Nelson

      I’m a firm believer of “the best diet is the one you can stick with, preferably as a long term lifestyle change.”

      Also, as several others have pointed out, your sanity diet is just good practice in general. I ran across a lot of the same advice during my own foray with dieting (though I mostly focused on counting calories because I’m just anal enough to enjoy tracking portions with spreadsheets).

    7. Randy M

      I’m trying to teach this to my kids early, by being mindful not to stress that they eat the rather arbitrary portions we give them. “Eat ’til you’re full and then stop,” is the motto when they ask if they can be done.

      It helps tremendously to not introduce junk food at a young age so they will actually fill up on more healthy food.

      I definitely notice times when I myself graze out of want of something to do, rather than being hungry. I find carrots are great for this; I’ll get some jaw exercise but can’t binge them like I could chips or something, and even if I did, it’s just carrots.

      1. Loriot

        Sometimes I’ve used raw oatmeal for the same purpose. It’s not very tasty or pleasant to eat, and it’s very healthy.

    8. keaswaran

      This sounds related to the idea of “intuitive eating”, which I think of as careful introspection to see if you really want a fatty/proteiny meal or really want something salty or something else, assuming that your internal senses will give you a better idea of what you are currently slightly deficient in than following some specific diet.

  14. Another Throw

    How much of this is weighing the relative risks of criminal prosecution? If the State in question makes wearing a mask illegal, despite your governors completely contradictory order to making wearing a mask mandatory, you’re in a real bind if you want to go to a protest. With even a tiny bit of anti-alt-right media coverage there is a non-negligible chance of the police deciding to call it a riot and busting it up.

    AFAIK, anti-mask laws make it illegal to wear a mask at a political demonstration (e.g., reconstruction era laws to combat the KKK) or to wear a mask while committing a crime (most other anti-mask laws). If demonstrating without a permit, e.g., carries a $100 fine, but committing a crime wearing a mask makes is a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison, there is no fucking way you’re going to wear a mask at a demonstration.

    It is really bad PR to come right out and say you’re not willing to do a dime over this, and since you are already protesting parts of the governor’s order already, you might as well go all in and call the whole thing wrong. The nuance will get lost on the media and you’re going to be called an anti-mask-boomer-murderer anyway, so you might as well go with the simpler messaging yourself.

    1. Deiseach

      The first thing that came to my mind was “Is this him auditioning to be the VP pick?”

      The second thing was “Trump attack ads write themselves”.

      1. Aapje

        @Deiseach

        Unless he gets a sex change or Biden breaks his promise, he has no chance at being picked for VP.

    2. Loriot

      Bloomberg already promised to support the eventual nominee, whoever it was. Noone should reasonable be surprised.

      1. meh

        Maybe noone should be, but if you back to the OTs during the primaries, this was doubted by a lot of commenters, who speculated it was ploy to get more votes, and he would take his money and walk if he lost. Some even went as far as saying he would give money to Trump if Sanders won.

        1. thisheavenlyconjugation

          I don’t think Bloomberg’s actions with Biden as nominee tell us much about what he would’ve done if Sanders had won.

  15. ana53294

    One of the things I’m finding with thisk whole lockdown thing, is that ideas seem to get tainted by association. And I have a lot more in common with people I thought were the polar opposites to me in values than with my friends, who belong to the same social class and broadly share most of my values.

    Because the only people who are vocally against the lockdowns are anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, potheads, the alt-right, the extreme right, a few other types of wackos and a few principled libertarians (who are a small minority), I feel afraid to speak up. I can feel the guilt-by-association tarnishing my reputation.

    I’m a single-issue voter on the lockdown: if we have an election before this is over, I’ll vote for whoever is against it, even if it means discarding all the rest of my values. I also intend to punish all the politicians who supported the lockdown when it’s over, by voting for whoever has the highest chance for winning among the anti-lockdown parties. But it is deeply frustrating for me that there doesn’t seem to be a non-extreme party which is against the lockdown.

    1. salvorhardin

      Similar here, though I’m not willing to go quite as far in voting behavior– I still think Trumpists are not worth voting for even to reject lockdowns, and of course even most Trumpists don’t. I think you could get a few non-libertarian thinkers like Peter Singer and Ezekiel Emanuel to see the force of an argument like:

      1. Realistically, stricter-than-Sweden lockdowns vs Sweden-level measures might at best save somewhere in the range of 0.1-0.5% of the population from dying of COVID.

      2. Each COVID death averted saves about 10 QALYs on average, so that’s about 0.01-0.05 QALY/person: in round quantities, the equivalent of extending everyone’s lifespan by somewhere between four days and three weeks.

      3. The reduction in quality of life imposed on the whole population by stricter-than-Sweden measures is large enough that extending such measures for several months costs more than that. Would you give up 4-20 days of your lifespan in order to not have to be subject to lockdown orders for an undetermined but probably large part of 2020? I know I would!

      Sadly, I think most of the population is unable to accept that sort of argument for just the same reasons they are unable to reason about the lives saved (or rather lack of lives saved) by anti-terrorism security theater.

      1. salvorhardin

        Thanks, I stand corrected. And of course that only makes the anti lockdown case stronger!

      2. matthewravery

        This is an awful set of arguments.

        1. Saving 1 out of 1000 to 5 out of 1,000 people in the country from dying seems pretty good to me. About 8-9 out of 1,000 people in the US die every year. So according to your numbers, we save the lives of literally half the people who would die in a normal year?

        And since you’re comparing to Sweden, you should note that they limited gatherings, recommended school and workplace closures, and placed restrictions on domestic and international travel. The US peaked at 71.6 on Oxford’s Stringency Index. Sweden at 47.4. The US is about as close to Sweden as we are to Italy (94.6).

        2. Everyone only looks at the costs of death and ignores morbidities. Suppose 1% of COVID cases result in severe lung damage. How many additional QALYs is that? I have no idea, but you’ve uncritically decided it’s irrelevant.

        3. “Lockdowns” are already over in over 60% of US States. Hell, they never took place in any meaningful sense in 99% of the country. I know no one who’s been unable to leave their house when they wanted to.

        I don’t even think that the current mix of policies/restrictions is optimal. (People should be encouraged to do more things outside, and policies should focus reducing instances of people in a single location for a long period of time with poor air circulation.) But these are not good arguments.

        1. salvorhardin

          Yes, I could have emphasized more strongly that Sweden’s restrictions are definitely not business as usual. I’m not arguing for business as usual. I’m arguing against orders that literally say you’re not allowed to leave your house except for “essential” reasons or operate your business unless it’s an “essential” business, where the definition of “essential” is made up on the fly.

          These orders have in fact been imposed in most US states AIUI, and again AIUI many of the loosened versions from the past few weeks just enlarge the definition of “essential” (certainly e.g. California’s Phase 2 does this). Enforcement has varied widely, but making lawbreakers of people going to visit their friends for dinner, or sending their kids over to the neighbors for a playdate, doesn’t become less offensive to a free society because it’s spottily-at-most enforced.

          You are right that there is a QALY cost to long-term morbidity. I also wish we had better data on this– but the estimates I’ve given are generous enough to allow for a pretty significant fudge factor (see e.g. Scoop’s comment that 10 QALYs per death is probably a large overestimate).

          And unless I’m doing the math wrong, wouldn’t 8-9 deaths per 1000 people per year imply an average lifespan of over 100 years?

          1. matthewravery

            And unless I’m doing the math wrong, wouldn’t 8-9 deaths per 1000 people per year imply an average lifespan of over 100 years?

            Only if you assume a uniform age distribution among the population and a stable population size.

            … making lawbreakers of people going to visit their friends for dinner, or sending their kids over to the neighbors for a playdate, doesn’t become less offensive to a free society because it’s spottily-at-most enforced

            Speeding is also illegal, so most of those folks were already “lawbreakers” when they made the drive to their friends’ house. *shrug* I don’t think “lawbreakers” is a useful category beyond rhetoric.

            These orders have in fact been imposed in most US states AIUI, and again AIUI many of the loosened versions from the past few weeks just enlarge the definition of “essential” (certainly e.g. California’s Phase 2 does this).

            Yes, I was responding to your “lockdown orders for an undetermined but probably large part of 2020”. Since most were already altered or ended, I didn’t understand “undetermined” and “large part of 2020”. Of course anything can happen, but it seems like “probably about 2-3 months in April-June of 2020” is more reasonable today.

          2. salvorhardin

            In “undetermined but probably large” I’m implicitly including the threat/prediction that any uptick in positive tests later in the year will cause a resumption of lockdown orders.

          3. Loriot

            I’m arguing against orders that literally say you’re not allowed to leave your house except for “essential” reasons or operate your business unless it’s an “essential” business

            In that case, California never imposed the kind of order you’re talking about. I don’t know of any states that did. Maybe Michigan?

          4. Loriot

            Did you read the Q&A?

            It’s okay to go outside to go for a walk, to exercise, and participate in healthy activities as long as you maintain a safe physical distance of six feet and gather only with members of your household. Below is a list of some outdoor recreational activities.

            Even at the height of the lockdowns, you could leave your house as often as you wanted to, so it is highly disingenous to claim that the orders said “you couldn’t leave your house”. California isn’t Spain.

          5. salvorhardin

            I claimed that the order says– as the plain language right at the top of the page corroborates– that you’re not allowed to leave your house unless you have an “essential” reason. I don’t see how a Q+A giving a bunch of “essential” reasons contradicts that. The part I find objectionable is the part where a government official arrogates to themself the power to decide what counts as an “essential” reason. California has not in practice enforced their version as strictly as Spain has, but the principle is the same.

          6. Loriot

            The headline isn’t an accurate description of the actual policy, but that doesn’t mean that it is useful to radically mischaracterize the actual policies.

          7. matthewravery

            Can we just agree that in the US, the modal state government said “No going out except for essential activity!” and then defined most of the reasons people would want to go out as “essential”?

          8. Loriot

            I guess that is a reasonable take. I just want to push back on the idea that governments here were literally forcing people to stay inside all day, because there are some countries where that actually happened, so it is easy for outsiders to be misled.

            If anything, my neighborhood has been *more* lively during the pandemic than before, since people aren’t away from home working now.

          9. SamChevre

            Seconding Loriot: I live in Massachusetts, my sister lives in Spain. I could at all points go to the grocery store, the hardware store, the dry cleaners; I could walk in the park (but not play a group game–the police were breaking those up) or jog on the sidewalk. My sister could leave her apartment once a week to get groceries.

            These are very different sets of restrictions.

      3. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

        Would you give up 4-20 days of your lifespan in order to not have to be subject to lockdown orders for an undetermined but probably large part of 2020? I know I would!

        It’s not just my lifespan. I haven’t canvassed other people to find out how they feel about dying prematurely as a result of my actions, but I have good reason to think they don’t want to.

        1. salvorhardin

          Let me rephrase: I think most people would be happy to give up that number of days of their lifespan to not be subject to these orders, and if that’s the case, in aggregate they cost more life-satisfaction among the population than they save.

          1. Aftagley

            This depends strongly on where those hours were coming from. Taking them from when I’m 80? Sure, go ahead… but don’t take them from me now.

            The problem is, now is when they would get taken from me if I catch this stupid thing.

        2. unreliabletags

          In Wiley Coyote physics terms, we have already walked off the cliff. Our decision now is about when to look down.

          – If we keep civilization shut down for the years it would take to develop a vaccine, the resulting collapse is likely to be more dangerous than COVID-19, and we may not even retain the capacity to make vaccines.

          – If we reopen any time before then, then that’s when we fall. The acceleration curves are different, but we’ll fall from the same height and hit the ground just as hard.

          1. DavidFriedman

            Sweden seems, on the evidence so far, to have found a tolerable compromise. Deaths per capita are a little higher than in the U.S. but not enormously so, most of the economy seems to be functioning, and it looks as though, at least in the hardest hit region, they have reached herd immunity — numbers going down, not up, according to an article I linked to a little while back.

      4. JPNunez

        The main problem is that I don’t want you to take away the remaining QALYs of my grandma and my grandpa and probably my mother too, and I am not sold on the idea that overall QALYs are falling down enough to compensate that.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          If I’m being purely selfish, the people who want to rush to herd immunity and helping my elderly parents, because they are sheltering in place and the sooner this is over the sooner they can relax.

          I’m not purely selfish and neither are my parents, though.

        2. salvorhardin

          Yes, I acknowledge that many of us have at-risk relatives we care a lot about. That is not a good argument for the justice of trampling the liberty of the entire population to save a few tenths of a percent.

        3. DavidFriedman

          I’m old and male, hence in the vulnerable category. The very best result for me, from a narrowly selfish point of view, would be constraints so strong that the virus went extinct in a couple of months, but I don’t think that is at all likely in the U.S. The second best would be no constraints at all, so that the virus could burn through the vulnerable population in a few months while I and my family self-quarantined, as we have been doing. That’s assuming that neither a cure nor a vaccine is going to happen at all soon.

          The best more or less realistic option, from a less narrowly selfish point of view, one that gives some value to the lives of strangers, is something like the Swedish policy, restraints sufficient to keep the medical system from being overwhelmed but not much stronger than that, to get to herd immunity with a minimal death count as soon as possible.

          But all of that is conditioned on the fact that my circumstances make a strict self-quarantine — I do not think I have been within six feet of anyone but family or more than a few feet from my own property for the past two months — practical. There are lots of other vulnerable people for whom that is not the case.

        1. DavidFriedman

          What consequences the pandemic will eventually have on mortality and life expectancy will depend on the progression of the pandemic, the extent that some of the deaths would have occurred in the absence of the pandemic, only somewhat later,

          The argument for the Swedish policy is precisely that the higher death rate represents deaths that would have occurred any way, just a little later.

    2. Peffern

      What is your reasoning for being against the lockdown, if it isn’t one of the crazy ones?

      1. ana53294

        I value the freedom of assembly and movement higher than the risk of death. I want people to be able to go to church, I want to take my mother to a restaurant on her birthday, I want to travel, and I want everybody to be able to do whatever they want.

        And I don’t believe the deaths we’re seeing right now in countries like Sweden outweigh the rights of people to be free.

        1. broblawsky

          This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because stay-at-home orders and the like don’t just stop you from endangering your own life – they stop you from endangering other people’s by spreading the virus to them once you get infected. It isn’t just you at risk.

          1. salvorhardin

            You endanger others’ lives every time you drive a car. It doesn’t follow that the government is justified in banning driving except for “essential” purposes.

          2. broblawsky

            But the government does regulate driving on public property to reduce risk, and outright bans it on some public property.

          3. John Schilling

            But the government does regulate driving on public property to reduce risk, and outright bans it on some public property.

            Which, in hindsight, we should not have allowed the government to get away with. Because sooner or later some smartass was going to use it to justify an indefinite total lockdown of the entire “economically nonessential” population in the name of public safety. And here we are, locked down indefinitely.

            The government has, so far, regulated cars in a way that preserves 90+% of the total utility of a car while picking a whole bunch of low-hanging fruit in the area of accident prevention. And, in previous disease outbreaks, the government implemented selective closures and quarantines that left 90+% of public life largely untouched while blocking the easy superspreader opportunities.

            These are wholly unlike what is being done today, and using what we let you all get away with in the past to justify what you are doing today is A: not justified and B: highly destructive to public trust. Which we don’t have enough of and won’t be getting more of any time soon.

          4. broblawsky

            How do you know they aren’t vulnerable? People with immunodeficiencies don’t usually hang signs around their necks. Or are you saying you haven’t come into contact with anyone at all?

          5. Evan Þ

            @Scoop, people following the stay-at-home orders still might come into contact with you at places the orders allow them to go like grocery stores, takeout restaurants, and walking trails.

            On the other hand, since there are alternatives for all of these, I think the onus should be on them to quarantine themselves to a greater degree. There might also be more creative solutions, like how my usual grocery store’s setting aside several hours a week just for elderly customers.

          6. ana53294

            Yes, the argument of: “Your rights end where other people’s rights to start.”

            I disagree. Other people’s right to safety end where my God-given inalienable rights to liberty start, dammit.

          7. A Definite Beta Guy

            This isn’t a minor cooridination issue, it’s an economic depression rivaling the big one and a complete suspension of a good chunk of the 1st Amendment.

          8. Derannimer

            @ Scoop*: Are you forgetting that essential workers exist? You say you “haven’t come into contact with a single vulnerable person in two months who hasn’t consciously taken a risk by coming out”; what about the grocery store clerk? The risk he’s running may be conscious, but in a lot of cases it’s not really voluntary. Some of us don’t want to be in public, but don’t have a choice.

            * Sorry if there’s a better way to reply more directly, but I can’t find a reply button on the relevant comment.

          9. DinoNerd

            This. If it were feasible to divide the country into two groups – one group who has chosen to take their chances, and one group who has not – and guarantee that the former never endangers the latter – we’d all be better off.

            But this requires providing essential services to those not voluntarily taking risks, in a manner that’s as unlikely to infect them as at present. So there’d be seperate grocery stores, veterinarians, medical offices, public transit (for those working the essential jobs on the low risk side), etc. etc.

            Otherwise Mr. I Accept the Risks is going to infect Mr. Immunocompromised at the grocery store, possibly indirectly via the family member who fetches their groceries etc.

            I’m personally soft distancing – we wind up visiting some essential service almost weekly, and we’re still walking our dog every day. Those trips to essential services are our major risk, IMO. We’re not as vulnerable as David Friedman, and we accept those odds – given the current low rate of infections in our county under the social distancing rules.

            My current expectation is that we’ll be coming out of mandatory lockdowns too soon, and there will be another spike in cases, possibly a huge one, leading to a greatly increased risk for anyone soft distancing. Fortunately we’re in a position to go full quarantine for a month or more, when the spike gets high enough to worry us – at least if accurate reporting continues.

            Of course a lot of people aren’t as privileged as David Friedman or myself, and some of them are a lot more vulnerable than I am.

          10. ana53294

            I only ever interact with essential workers when I go to the store, and I try to space it, because every visit to the store is a nightmare queue situation, with weird schedules and a very long time to do so.

            So, basically, I only interact with essential workers who aren’t putting themselves in danger voluntarily as frequently as everybody else who still does their shopping.

            And everybody else I briefly interact with in the streets is there voluntarily taking that risk.

            But the point isn’t about me: I’m a lot more upset about the children being jailed and the economy being destroyed than the effects of this on me personally. And while I don’t disobey the law, I will vote against everybody who made those unfair, unjust and unconstitutional laws. As is my constitutional right.

          11. Jon S

            Who are these people I’d be endangering if I chose to take risks with my own life? Wouldn’t they be following the stay-at-home orders, and, if they weren’t, wouldn’t they, too, be choosing to take a chance?

            If we legalize drunk driving, anyone who dies on the roads will have chosen to risk driving around (even more than normal) drunk drivers. That doesn’t make legalizing it a good idea.

            Obviously the quantitative details matter here, along the lines of salvorhardin’s argument above.

          12. John Schilling

            If we legalize drunk driving, anyone who dies on the roads will have chosen to risk driving around (even more than normal) drunk drivers.

            Does the word “drunk” add anything useful here, other than an implied moral judgement.

            Legalizing any sort of driving, places pedestrians, bicyclists, etc, at elevated risk. A risk to which they did not consent, and a risk that is actually quite large unless they constrain their behavior to reduce the risk drivers pose to them. Yet we legalized driving, and at lethally dangerous speeds even in crowded residential areas.

          13. LesHapablap

            Not just that, but once ‘everyone’ drives, everybody else has to drive in order to function in society. So anyone who doesn’t want to take the risk of driving, too bad, you need to get to work. And anyone who can’t drive because they are disabled is in for a very difficult time.

            And yet we still condone driving

          14. Jon S

            @John Schilling
            Drunk driving is an example of a specific behavior that a vast majority of the country is on board with banning (though a sizable minority would prefer increasing the threshold that counts) due to the risks it imposes on others.

            As you pointed out, we legalize imposing risks on others in many circumstances and ban it in others when the negative externalities are deemed too large. The concept is mostly not controversial. Whether to ban or de-incentivize specific behaviors is a quantitative question (though often, unfortunately, undertaken without that understanding).

            You might judge lockdowns to be a too-severe response by orders of magnitude, but qualitatively they’re comparable to much less controversial restrictions like banning drunk driving or having speed limits.

          15. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            And if you think society as a whole has made the wrong decision about lockdowns, breaking them individually isn’t the right way to change things, any more that speeding is a good way to change the speed limit.

        2. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

          I value the freedom of assembly and movement higher than the risk of death

          Same problem: you death or someone else’s? Who gave you the right to affect someone else’s chance of dying?

          1. JPNunez

            Assuming she doesn’t work in a nursing home, who are these people she’d be putting at risk?

            Anyone who is quarantineed but still has to go out and buy groceries from time to time.

            Essential workers.

            Health workers who now may have to treat another sick person for no good reason adding to their already overloaded job.

          2. ana53294

            My liberty or someone else’s safety? Who gave them the right to affect my liberty?

            Safety without liberty is like Asimov’s nightmare scenario of a country with robo-nannies that take away everything that could be dangerous: a jail. And at some point, such a life is much less worth living.

            And yes, my death. I’ll do what I can to avoid somebody else’s death, but it has to stop somewhere. And that somewhere is much further than it is now.

          3. John Schilling

            Who gave you the right to affect someone else’s chance of dying?

            My parents, when they caused me to exist in a universe where it is physically impossible for me to not affect someone else’s chance of dying. Try harder, and preferably without the bit where everything gets divided into “Perfectly Safe” or “Intolerably Dangerous”

          4. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            My parents, when they caused me to exist in a universe where it is physically impossible for me to not affect someone else’s chance of dying. Try harder, and preferably without the bit where everything gets divided into “Perfectly Safe” or “Intolerably Dangerous”

            If you need to go out, you are allowed to, and if you don’t nee to, you, don’t have to. Therefore, ignoring lockdown,etc is imposing an unnecessary risk on others.

          5. John Schilling

            The extreme of safety without liberty is a nightmare, and so is the extreme of liberty without safety.

            So, when you so frequently respond to proposals to increase liberty with some simplistic variation of “but that would be irresponsible because it would cause a finite reduction in public safety”, you’re being an extremist of the sort that generates nightmares?

          6. DavidFriedman

            I think the argument people are offering against Ana depends on the assumption that we are going to get either a cure or a vaccine, or essentially eliminate the virus, before we reach herd immunity. Absent that assumption, the worst she is doing is shifting the risk on someone a little earlier.

            The other problem with the argument has to do with the size of the risk. Anyone who drives is imposing some risk of death on strangers without their consent. We accept that happening as long as the risk is sufficiently tiny.

            In order for Ana’s decision to go out of her house and do things to kill a grocery store clerk, we require the following string of events:

            1. Ana catches the disease.
            2. While she is asymptomatic — I assume that once she shows symptoms she either goes to the hospital or self-isolates — she interacts with the clerk.
            3. The clerk catches the disease from her.
            4. The clerk dies.

            Current estimates are a mortality rate for those who get the disease of between .1% and 1%. The clerk will not be in the high risk group, so probably below .1%. Given reasonable care by the clerk and store, his chance of getting the disease by one interaction with a contagious person is (I’m guessing here — someone else may be able to offer something better) at least that low, so the combined probability is below one in a million. Multiply that by the probability of steps 1 and 2, and my guess is that we are talking about a combined probability of less than 10^-9. Assuming the clerk has sixty years left, the expected cost to him comes out to less than two seconds of life.

            Someone else may be able to do a better calculation, but I think it’s the sort of calculation you have to do to decide whether Ana going out imposes the sort of costs on others for which it might be reasonable to restrict her freedom, or the sort of costs that we take it for granted that we are free to impose on each other.

          7. ana53294

            The lockdown in Spain was already a nightmare for six weeks. Especially for kids living in apartments.

          8. albatross11

            The goal of the lockdowns isn’t primarily to reduce individual risk, like a law requiring bicycle helmets. Nor is it primarily to prevent you harming someone else, like laws requiring you keep your dog on a leash in public. Instead, the point is to accomplish a kind of collective goal–to lower the reproductive rate of the virus sufficiently to get the outbreak of Covid-19 under control. The eventual goal may be simply to prevent overwhelming hospitals, or to actually get the outbreak under enough control that we can more-or-less eliminate it via test-and-trace. But the goal is collective.

            This is something that can only be done by acting together in large numbers. It’s not clear that the {federal, state, local} government properly has the legal authority to require that, and it’s not clear that we can accomplish that goal given our means, but that’s the point of the lockdown, and also the point of stuff like allowing limited reopening, requiring masks and social distancing, etc.

            Probably the closest analogies to this are stuff done in wartime, like requiring a blackout and dusk-to-dawn curfew to prevent enemies from seeing your city from the air and bombing it.

            ETA: The biggest problem I see with this is that it requires centralized coordination and control, and the people in a position to do the centralized coordination and control (the federal government, specifically CDC and FDA and DHS) have done a fairly shit job responding to the pandemic so far. Having inept centralized control seems likely to make things worse, not better.

          9. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            I think the argument people are offering against Ana depends on the assumption that we are going to get either a cure or a vaccine, or essentially eliminate the virus, before we reach herd immunity. Absent that assumption, the worst she is doing is shifting the risk on someone a little earlier.

            Nobody knows that the chance of a vaccine is exactly zero, so nobody should be reasoning “absent” a vaccine.

          10. albatross11

            Also, lowering the reproductive number as we approach herd immunity means we get less overshooting of that number, so fewer total people infected/killed.

          11. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            Someone who uses the roads is knowingly exposing themselves to a certain level of danger, and that level is limited by the duty of other road users to follow the rules. They have given their implicit permission to be endangered. People who legitemately leave their houses under lockdown are likewise endangering themselves, and likewise expect the level of danger to be capped by other people following the rules. Breaking the rules of lockdown is therefor equivalent to speeding — it’s exposing other people to a level of danger that they have not agreed to, even implicitly.

          12. matthewravery

            @David Friedman

            Current estimates are a mortality rate for those who get the disease of between .1% and 1%.

            What I’ve heard based on recent serological studies in France and Spain indicate a CFR between 0.6% and 1.5%. Of course, that’s highly dependent on risk factors and whether you’re able to get treatment.

            Edit: These folks say 0.5 to 1.0% “with significant heterogeneity”.

            Also:

            In order for Ana’s decision to go out of her house and do things to kill a grocery store clerk, we require the following string of events: [etc.]

            Your chain of events only includes direct transmission. It ignores the scenario where she gives it to someone, who takes it home and infects their family, etc. etc. etc., then N steps later, some clerk somewhere gets the disease and dies. Thinking only of single-step chains in disease transmission misses the point.

            The reason you stay in is so the disease doesn’t transmit as much in your community. The clerk interacts with hundreds of people a day, any one of which could’ve become infected indirectly through Ana’s actions.

        3. keaswaran

          I’m a little bit confused by this. Are people in Sweden exercising the sort of freedoms you’re talking about? For instance, my academic colleagues that live in Sweden, although they are still occasionally going to restaurants, definitely aren’t doing so at anywhere near the rate they did before, and are most definitely not doing anything near the amount of travel they would have done. Is it important that they have the *freedom* to do it? Or is it the actual travel that is important? Because it seems to me that it’s the actual doing of it that provides the value, while the supposed “freedom” to do so is of no use if you don’t choose to do it.

          1. DavidFriedman

            Because it seems to me that it’s the actual doing of it that provides the value, while the supposed “freedom” to do so is of no use if you don’t choose to do it.

            Having the freedom to do it means that you will do it when doing so is on net valuable to you, won’t if it isn’t. Having the restaurant closed means you won’t do it at all.

    3. ltowel

      I will be a single issue voter in our upcoming gubernatorial race on the lockdown if and only if the continued legal restrictions prohibit single people living alone from seeing their friends. (I know that this is not enforced, I don’t really care). I believe that this level of restriction is a significant harm to mental health which vastly exceeds any public health benefit, and I can’t in good faith vote against my interest on the single issue that affects my life the most.

      If the restrictions have loosened, I will evaluate all the candidates holistically, however, I think the incumbent has mostly done a good job, and the potential opposition in our state seem unlikely to have any policies that align with my preferences.

      If the restrictions are gone, I will wholeheartedly vote for our incumbent.

      1. SamChevre

        It’s interesting to me how much differing places have differing restrictions. Here. gatherings must be less than 10 people – which means that getting together as families with children is illegal, but getting together with friends as a single person would be fine.

        1. ltowel

          FWIW, That seems more similar to what our state had before we were told to “stay home, stay safe”, and matches with what I feel like reasonable but strict restrictions would be. 3 4 person families seems basically as likely to lead to spread to me then 3-5 20 somethings who live alone. I’d like for gyms to be open too, but it seems like heavy breathing is particularly unsafe.

      2. Evan Þ

        @ltowel, I agree with you that restriction is the single most egregious. If it doesn’t quite qualify as torture (since you can still have contact with other people over the internet), it at least comes close.

      3. ana53294

        If the restrictions have loosened, I will evaluate all the candidates holistically

        But if it’s the same candidate who supported the stupid measures in the first place, when the next flare up happens, won’t he do the same things?

        That’s why I want a burn-the-house, punish-all-sinners contrary vote: so when we have a resurgence of the coronavirus in winter, the elected candidate is the more reasonable one.

        1. Evan Þ

          This, and I’m planning to do it on the state level because they’re the ones responsible for the stay-at-home orders. I’m currently planning to vote for candidates I wouldn’t have considered five months ago, because they’re the ones who aren’t currently in office ripping up the Constitution and sending us into depression on top of it.

      4. JPNunez

        I believe that this level of restriction is a significant harm to mental health which vastly exceeds any public health benefit

        So far we haven’t seen suicides skyrocket so it seems you are wrong.

        1. John Schilling

          Because anyone who doesn’t promptly commit suicide, has suffered no mental harm?

          1. matthewravery

            We seem to be evaluating the merit of COVID interventions based on deaths to the exclusion of other types of harm caused by the disease (long-term lung damage, extended hospital stays, comas, etc.), so for the purposes of this discussion, it’s not unreasonable to apply the same standard to mental health consequences of government interventions.

            It’s also worth asking how being surrounded by death on the scale of NYC or Lombardy would effect people’s mental health.

            Mostly I’m just saying “it’s complicated” here.

          2. John Schilling

            We seem to be evaluating the merit of COVID interventions based on deaths to the exclusion of other types of harm caused by the disease

            What you mean “we”, Kemosabe?

            People who are doing this should be either ignored, mocked. or rebutted, depending on context. Doubly so in a rationalist-adjacent forum like this one. If someone here says that a thing is causing “significant harm”, don’t assume they only mean death and don’t respond by counting only the deaths. Even if that’s what the chattering classes in some other places are doing.

          3. A1987dM

            @matthewravery: I was going to say the same thing (though in a snarkier and more concise way).

        2. Evan Þ

          Epistemic status: Gross speculation

          We’ve seen a surge of people quietly dying at home. The prevailing word is that most of them died either of COVID, or of heart attacks that waited too long for support because they didn’t want to go to hospitals. But among this surge, I wonder, how many suicides could be missed?

          1. John Schilling

            True, that car slamming into a bridge abutment at ninety miles per hour probably made quite a racket. But if a cacophonous suicide happens to an apathetic audience, does it make a sound?

            Suicides that are recognized as suicides, make enough noise to signal “hey, suicide here”. That’s a tautology. But there’s a large category of behavior that includes some number of suicides (single-vehicle car accidents, overdoses of recreational drugs, getting into shootouts with the police), but are almost never categorized as suicides unless someone explicitly states “yes I am in fact trying to kill myself”.

            There’s very little data about how much of these are suicides even under normal conditions, never mind pandemic conditions. If there are enough of them, they’ll show up in the overall mortality statistics. And probably be categorized as undiagnosed COVID-19, I expect.

    4. sfoil

      I think you’ve just discovered that you value conformism a little less than your friends; this doesn’t have to provoke any drastic reassessments of all the other values you share. You certainly don’t sound like you’re exulting in being a dissident per se, an impulse whose indulgence is probably the quickest route into that other camp you can now see more clearly.

      1. DavidFriedman

        On the other hand, it might make her a little less confident in her rejection of other views she considers nutty.

        Our beliefs are largely built on second-hand information, since nobody has adequate first-hand data. If you conclude that what you thought were sources of information that could be trusted are confidently wrong on one issue, that should lower your trust in them, which then lowers your confidence in other things you believe because of them.

        The Internet probably makes that process more common by making it easier to substitute a new source of information, one that agrees with you on that issue, for the old.

        1. ana53294

          Nah, I still consider anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists as nutty wackos. The way I see it, they’re the broken clock that’s right for a change.

          I don’t think the sources of information are wrong; the number of deaths is what it is, the R0 is ~what they say, etc. I just disagree with the policies they come up with as a result of that data.

          I do think they highlight the information they want, not presenting the information that would make people more critical. From the latest figures I could find, ~18,000 people died of coronavirus in elderly care homes, out of a total of ~27,000, or 67%. 95% of deaths are for those over 60. 67% were over 80. But the media highlights the case of the 40 year old nurse or whatever, like they do with other anecdotal information, making it seem a lot more prevalent than it is.

          Most of the lockdown measures are useless in preventing deaths in elderly care homes: the workers there are essential, they have to travel home and back, and, with such a vulnerable population, it’s almost inevitable they will catch it.

          So, I believe you need to put even harsher measures for elderly care homes, and let the rest of society have a freer life, basically. Make deliveries of food for those over 60, and let people get an early pension at 60 (the pension age is currently 65, 63 for early retirement; I think you could lower it for those who are over 60 and at risk, since it’s unlikely they’ll be able to work anyway).

          Basically, I favor voluntary self isolation, and letting people do it.

          1. eric23

            That translates to a steadily rising number of cases, until the virus is universal (i.e. ~70% of people have had it; not all still infectious, but a substantial proportion are). Which guarantees that nearly everyone in elderly care homes will be infected, because various workers still need to come and go. Right now only a small proportion of people are infected, so the chance of an elderly person meeting them is smaller. In essence you are calling for isolation, but making it impossible for vulnerable people to actually isolate.

          2. DavidFriedman

            That translates to a steadily rising number of cases, until the virus is universal (i.e. ~70% of people have had it; not all still infectious, but a substantial proportion are).

            On the contrary. If having had it confers immunity for a substantial length of time, which is what the herd immunity concept assumes, that ends up with almost none of them still infectious, and the number who are going exponentially down, since herd immunity means that each contagious person causes less than one new infection.

        2. sfoil

          Sure, but what do anti-vaxxers and neo-Nazis really have in common besides “dissent”? Mistrust of authority? I doubt ana is as likely to substitute her previous second-hand information with neo-Nazi sources of information as principled libertarian ones.

    5. sharper13

      My experience is that a significant percentage of mainstream Republicans are against continued government lockdowns (as opposed to voluntary measures).

      That’s in a big city (so Democratic Party run) in a traditionally GOP State with a Democratic Governor who hasn’t been as dramatic as some of the other Democratic governors.

      So I’m not sure what environment or circle of online friends he’s in where only those extremes are currently willing to speak against it.

    6. Radu Floricica

      And I have a lot more in common with people I thought were the polar opposites to me in values than with my friends, who belong to the same social class and broadly share most of my values.

      Welcome to the dark side. The cookies are over there.

      You know, there’s a fair chance some of your friends think the same but also hesitate to be open about it. Also there’s a fair chance quite a lot of your friends never even took the opposite view seriously – they think what they’re supposed to, just because they have no reason to question it. Open and very gentle discussion might do a lot of good. Still very risky for your social status, though.

    7. ana53294

      In Spain. I really don’t meet people who are vocally opposed that much. Most people pay at least lip service about the need of the measures.

        1. ana53294

          Yeah, but all the people I interact with (through Skype and Zoom) are in Spain. I don’t have that many acquaintances here.

          So, even though my body is in the UK, it feels like I’m in Spain, because I mostly interact with people there (like 3+h of phone talks a day).

  16. Wrong Species

    Anyone else think that if a Democrat was the US President the left and right would be completely flipped on their views of Coronavirus lockdowns?

    1. John Schilling

      I doubt it. The current Republican president was sufficiently AWOL during the first month or two of the crisis that the current response has been led largely by Democratic governors. I’m pretty sure a Democratic president’s policies would have been aligned with those of Newsom, Cuomo et al, and the Republican reaction would be similar as well. Only difference is that POTUS wouldn’t be one of the ones reacting.

        1. John Schilling

          He’d have done that no matter who was the President, because he didn’t want to see NYC’s economy grind to a halt and he wasn’t willing to accept the inevitability of that.

          And Cuomo would have responded the same way to de Blasio’s idiocy, etc.

          1. Wrong Species

            My point is that it’s can’t just be an issue of “Democrats would always have pushed lockdowns, Republicans wouldn’t”. Much of this is contingent.

            Imagine that everything had indeed been flipped and Republicans were pushing lockdowns and Democrats were opposed. How easy would it be to “explain” this outcome. Very easy, because we already have a well thought article on the subject. It’s not that hard to image how differently people would react based on a different president and partisanship is one of the strongest predictors of political positions in America right now.

          2. John Schilling

            Imagine that everything had indeed been flipped and Republicans were pushing lockdowns and Democrats were opposed.

            I can do that, but why? The question you asked was what would happen if we had a Democratic president. To which my answer is, the Democrats would still be the ones pushing for the lockdowns and the Republicans would still be the ones opposed. I offer as evidence the general behavior of the politicians who are not the president, at a time when the president was offering little leadership. I can offer other arguments if need be.

            You may believe differently, but you’ve offered no evidence or reasoned argument to support your belief – you advanced the premise, asked if we agreed, and now ask us to imagine you are right.

          3. Wrong Species

            Your argument was based on the idea that Democrats were pushing lockdowns and I said look at this Democrat who wasn’t pushing for a lockdown. Albatross suggested an example where a Republican did. You say look at what the governors did when Trump did little, but he was obviously still pushing his viewpoints and that’s what counts when it comes to people’s reactions. His lack of leadership doesn’t disprove the partisan effect.

            I can do that, but why?

            It’s called a thought experiment. I didn’t say it because I thought it definitely proved my point. It’s to get you to see things from my perspective.

          4. John Schilling

            Your argument was based on the idea that Democrats were pushing lockdowns and I said look at this Democrat who wasn’t pushing for a lockdown. Albatross suggested an example where a Republican did.

            That’s it? One counterexample on each side, and you’re going to A: put everything down to tribalism and B: posit that the party with the White House will automatically be the anti-lockdown party? I consider that to be an argument so weak as to not be worth engaging, and I’m not sure why you think it is worth raising.

          5. Wrong Species

            Oh my god, John. I never said either of those things. Look, I get it. Your whole schtick is to be as combative as possible but I’m not interested.

      1. albatross11

        Ohio’s governor was an early adopter of a lockdown, and he’s a Republican.

    2. Derannimer

      Yes. Call me a cynic, but I think there’s at least a strong possibility that the incumbent party in an election year will always have an incentive to say that Things Are Fine. And some elements of the right took the disease seriously well in advance of the left — Rod Dreher, bless his apocalyptic little heart, was worrying about this as early as late January, when most respectable opinion still said that worrying made you a racist. It’s not inevitable that the tribes would take the positions they did.

      1. Wrong Species

        Exactly. That’s why it’s so strange that everyone implies some kind of psychological difference between the right and left when back in early February, it was mostly right wing internet accounts that were concerned. Everything changed when Trump tweeted out his position.

        1. matthewravery

          Perhaps this is selection bias but I saw plenty of concern about COVID-19 on twitter back in Jan/Feb, and exactly none of it was from “right wing internet accounts”. It was mostly doctors/virologists/journalists-I’d-never-heard-of getting re-tweeted by a variety of different sources including media and non-media.

          YMMV, I suppose.

    3. Edward Scizorhands

      It would have taken a lot more than simply flipping the party in the White House to change things.

      The primary people hurt by the lockdowns are small-business owners, so they would always have been the primary opponents. Their employees are getting very significant direct economic aid in ways we and they can see. The PPP is probably doing a lot to help small businesses but it’s very hard to target aid at such a varied group.

      Still, I can imagine a world where Republicans supported lockdowns and Democrats opposed. I just think of my Republican friend who is largely in favor and has been for months. It involves some leaps in logic, but not ones that are completely implausible. It involves the sitting Democratic President ignoring calls to close the border, the virus getting in, the virus targeting old people who lean to the right. And a “look at what you made us do!” nagging against the hippy President who couldn’t bear to do anything that might harm our economic trade because we’ve made ourselves so dependent on China.

      1. albatross11

        This seems like the strongest argument for why lockdowns would always have more opposition from Republicans than from Democrats–businesses of all sizes are being clobbered by the lockdowns.

        Indeed, this also tracks passably well with why some Republican sources seem more inclined to go with the “It’s just like the flu” or “It’s a hoax” line of BS. The problem for businesses isn’t just the lockdowns, it’s the public not wanting to go to businesses where it seems likely you might catch COVID-19 while sitting down and having your hair cut or sitting at a table with half a dozen friends at a restaurant or whatever. Ending the lockdowns won’t fix *that* problem.

    1. sharper13

      Florida: 89 deaths/capita (with a heavy retired population)
      NY: 1417 deaths/capita (with more international travel)

      Yet if you just watched the mass media over the last few months, you’d think Florida’s governor handled it terribly and NY’s wonderfully.

      1. ltowel

        There is no way you could watch media coverage and think New York has done a good job handling this. If you’re on twitter, you might think Floridians are all about to die from Covid-20 (you might be wrong or not) but do not believe there is any media coverage suggesting NY has handled this well.

        1. DavidFriedman

          I think there is a good deal of coverage suggesting that New York state is handling it well, the governor having gotten a lot of good press. The mayor of New York City has gotten a lot of bad press.

          I think the implication of a lot of the coverage is that Covid is particularly bad in New York state for some reason, but that it is being handled well.

          1. ltowel

            Yep, I think I framed this incorrectly. NYC has done an embarrassingly poor job of handling COVID, which has for some god forsaken reason translated into the idea that the governor of New York did an acceptable job of handling the disease even though the vast majority of people in the state have the NYC executive as their executive.

            People who think Cuomo is competent are ignoring the thousands of people Diblasio let die.

          2. matthewravery

            Or they’re just doing a relative ranking, which is how people often process things.

          3. eric23

            even though the vast majority of people in the state have the NYC executive as their executive.

            Actually, slightly less than half of them.

      2. Creutzer

        There are two additional confounding factors at play here. The first and obvious one is population density. The second and less obvious one is different strains of the virus. We know New York was infected from Europe and has European strains. Much of the rest of the US probably has the strains that came from China via the West Coast. Strains are known to differ in pathogenicity, and it seems plausible (I don’t know if that’s been conclusively ascertained yet) that the European strains tend to be deadlier.

        1. sharper13

          Sure, there are plenty of additional factors. I included two myself above.

          New York City is about 2x denser than Miami. In terms of the strain, Spain is 3x better than NY, so as the worst country in Europe, that’s probably about the outer bound for how much difference the strain could make. We can speculate about other things.

          But one fact is that NY State government apparently handled nursing homes terribly, while Florida apparently handled them extremely well, despite (or because?) the fact that they have a high population of them (People in NY tend to retire to FL). I say apparently, because I mostly have media reports to go off of in those regards.

          It’s still tough to reconcile a 16x death rate per capita difference as representing the State with the lower rate being a failure, though, unless you want to suggest that the government’s actions had only minimal effects. That could be true, but should also take much of the blame and credit away from both.

      3. Edward Scizorhands

        All these things can be true:

        1. New York was going to get hit hard no matter what policy they did, which means you can’t compare outcomes simply by deaths.
        2. New York did some bad policies and was excused by the media, which enabled those bad policies to continue.
        3. Florida did policies which the media decried, but which turned out to be reasonable.

        1. matthewravery

          On (3), the coverage of the beaches thing always baffled me. I thought it was a risky move that might end up okay when they initially happened, but the science that I’ve seen since then has broken about as far in favor of opening beaches as you could hope. As longs as you don’t have wall-to-wall people, a beach is probably as safe or safer than anywhere else.

          I also think the centrality of NYC to the media didn’t do COVID coverage any favors. Most coverage emanated from the worst-hit region of the country, which made it even more alarmist than the media is already predisposed to be.

      4. A1987dM

        If you’re only counting deaths rather than all infections, “heavy retired population” and “more international travel” are going to be pulling in the same direction.

      5. albatross11

        The interesting question is whether NYC is worst, or just first. Is it that the spread is going to happen everywhere, but it spread fastest in NYC, and now that things are settling down there, the rest of the country will go through the same basic thing, just later? Or is there something about NYC (density?, public transit?) that explains why they had an explosion when most other parts of the US have so far had a fizzle, including places that have had community spread as long as NYC?

        1. Loriot

          Albany, Georgia seems like a useful point of comparison, since it doesn’t have the size or density or connectedness of NYC.

  17. rahien.din

    Question for those with an informatics / computer science background :

    Imagine three finite objects (such as computer files) : x, y, z.

    We know that there exists a shortest-length program that transforms x into y on a universal Turing machine. The length of this program is the information distance between x and y, ID(x,y). Similarly, there exists a shortest-length program that transforms x into z, and the length of this program is ID(x,z).

    What if we want to know ID(y,z), but all we know is ID(x,y) and ID(x,z)? Is ID(y,z) equal to |ID(x,y) – ID(x,z)| ? Or is it some vector sum? Or something else?

    TIA!

    1. mcpalenik

      I’m not a computer scientist but I doubt you’d be able to figure it out from just that information. You can’t, for example compute the distance from point a to point c if all you know is the distance from a to b and b to c.

        1. Password

          If |a – b| = 2 and |b – c| = 5 you could have |a – c| = 7 (e.g. (3, 5, 10)) or |a – c| = 3 (e.g. (7, 5, 10)), so that’s still ambiguous.

    2. TimG

      I think we can assume that the length of ID(A, B) should be the same as the length ID(B, A). The information distance between the two is symmetrical. In that case, the upper bound would be ID(x, y) + ID(x, z) — because you can append ID(z, x) with ID(x, y).

      [EDIT: Oops, should be ID(y, x) + ID (x, z).]

      [EDIT 2: Actually they aren’t symmetrical, so ignore everything I said. The answer is: the ID(y, z) is not related to ID(x, y) or ID(x, z).]

      The lower bound would obviously be 0. In that case, y and z are identical.

      1. salvorhardin

        Right, you can’t just invert an x -> y program to get an identical length y -> x program, and information distance is a multidimensional, not a one-dimensional quantity.

        I’d look in a textbook on Kolmogorov complexity if I wanted to try and find out more of what’s known about these distance relations. Li and Vitanyi seems to be popular.

        1. TimG

          Yeah, I got ahead of myself.

          On an unrelated note: did you know Apple TV is creating a series for Foundation? My all-time favorite series (though in fairness, I’m not well-read.) I’m cautiously optimistic.

          1. FLWAB

            On an unrelated note: did you know Apple TV is creating a series for Foundation?

            That’s going to be a tough adaptation. I liked Foundation too, but even Asimov himself said (after rereading the first three books before setting off to write a sequel decades later) that “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” It’s so heavy on ideas and conversation that I can’t imagine the adaptation will be particularly faithful.

        2. Gerry Quinn

          Indeed, if the transformation distance were symmetric the situation would I think be exactly analogous to distances in Euclidean space, where Abs(|AB|-|AC|) <= |BC| <= (|AB|+|AC|)

          But the transformation distance is not symmetric.

      2. 10240

        A specific example to demonstrate that distance is not symmetric: x is a low-complexity message (e.g. one symbol repeated many times), while y is a high-complexity message (e.g. a long, random message), independent of x. The distance in either direction is (approximately) equal to the Kolmogorov complexity of the target, which are very different.

      3. matkoniecz

        I think we can assume that the length of ID(A, B) should be the same as the length ID(B, A)

        No.

        A: “0”
        B: entire dump of OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia databases with a full history, xml encoded

        or if you want the same length, just make A string of zeros as long as B

    3. beleester

      I don’t think that’s enough information to compute it. To prove this, we can find two sets of X,Y,Z that have equal values for ID(X,Y) and ID(X,Z), but ID(Y,Z) is different.

      Consider:
      X = 0000
      Y = 0011
      Z = 0110
      ID(X,Y) = “flip the last two bits”
      ID(X,Z) = “flip the middle two bits”
      ID(Y,Z) = “flip the first bit, and the third bit.”
      So it seems like ID(X,Y) = ID(X,Z) = ID(Y,Z). I’m not writing real code, but it seems like all three of these can be done by the same program with different inputs.

      Now consider these bitstrings:
      X = 0000
      Y = 0011
      Z = 1100
      ID(X,Y) = “flip the two lowest bits.”
      ID(X,Z) = “flip the two highest bits.”
      ID(Y,Z) = “NOT the whole string.”

      ID(X,Y) = ID(X,Z) (flip two bits, same as before), but ID(Y,Z) is shorter than both – a single operation!

      I haven’t rigorously defined any of this, but this should sketch out the core of the problem – Y and Z may be connected by some simple pattern that they don’t share with X (such as being inverses), meaning that they can have a large ID from X but a much shorter distance from each other.

      1. Unsaintly

        This is a very good start, and is most of what I intended to post. As a small addition, consider this: you can’t guarantee the files are all different. if X=Z, then (X,Y) and (Y,Z) will be the same, but (X,Z) is length 0. However, there are plenty of chases where (X,Y)=(Y,Z) where XZ. Therefore, there is a trivial case where you can prove that it is impossible to determine (X,Z) from (X,Y) and (Y,Z)

    4. 10240

      I think the only thing we can say is ID(y,z) ≥ ID(x,z) – ID(x,y) (at least approximately, depending on the implementation details). That’s because you can always write a program that transforms x into z by combining a program that transforms x into y and one that transforms y into z.

      ID(x,y) and ID(x,y) definitely don’t determine ID(y,z). If, for instance, each three are the same length, and they are random and independent of each other, then each distance will be roughly proportionate to the length. On the other hand, if x and y are random and independent, but y==z, then ID(x,y) and ID(x,z) are proportionate to the length, but ID(y,z) is 0 (or a small constant, depending on implementation details).

  18. John Schilling

    Does anyone have theories on why so many people who are lobbying to end C-19-related restrictions are simultaneously railing against mask usage?

    Pretty much the same reason people who are lobbying against bans on late-term abortion are simultaneously railing against the petty restrictions on early-term abortion? Or vice versa, of course.

    Yes, many of them clearly believe either that C-19 isn’t that dangerous or masks don’t do much to prevent its spread, but how can they not see that their refusal to wear masks is undermining their efforts to get restrictions eased or eliminated?

    I don’t see that at all.

    First off, nobody has offered them that deal. I haven’t seen anyone in a position of authority say, “If we get to 80% mask usage in public, the lockdowns can end”, never mind the “80% less railing against masks on Twitter” version.

    Second, if somebody did offer that deal, it would be foolish to trust them, in the same way it’s almost always foolish to trust a “compromise” offer where the other side proposes thatt you give them half of what they demand and offers nothing but letting you hold on to the second half for a while longer.

    Third, every ethical system that isn’t consequentialism, says that if you think a thing is wrong you don’t cynically trade it against other wrongs. You don’t let people get away with a thing you think is wrong, just because you think it improves your negotiating position w/re some other wrong thing that they’re trying to get away with.

    And fourth, the math almost certainly doesn’t work out. Consider the possibilities:

    1. COVID-19 is a minor threat. In which case neither the masks nor the lockdowns are a rational response to the threat, they are the result of petty bureaucrats using a thin excuse to seize power. Or, more charitably, of people overestimating the threat and applying the logic of case 3, below.

    2. COVID-19 is a moderate threat. Which breaks down into three subcases:

    2A. Masks are at least moderately effective, enough to reduce COVID-19 to the ignorable minor-threat category, but lockdowns are not. But if the lockdowns are not effective, the fact that we have them anyway means case-1 logic still applies to lockdowns and the power-hungry and/or panicky bureaucrats aren’t going to give them up as part of some utilitarian calculation, they’ll have to be forced into it.

    2B. Masks and lockdowns are both moderately effective, such that either one alone would do the job. In this case and this case alone, your argument works at least at a utilitarian level.

    2C. Lockdowns are at least moderately effective, but masks are not. If this is understood up front, nobody will give up on the effective lockdowns just because you agree to the stupid masks (and again see case 1 for the fact that they are making you wear the stupid masks in the first place). If it is not understood up front, and you somehow convince people to trade lockdowns for masks on consequentialist grounds, the lockdowns will return as soon as the masks are seen to be ineffective.

    2D. Neither masks nor lockdowns are effective. See case 2C for the expected result, except that more people die while we figure out what is effective.

    And, case 3: COVID-19 is a major threat, such that we’re just going to have to muddle through until we get to herd immunity on the far side of a megadeath or so. In which case, the lockdowns and the masks are coming from people in denial about this and going full-bore on “Something must be done, these are some things, therefore these things must be done”. Consequentialist arguments are useless against this.

    Only in one of four subcases to one of the three major cases, does your proposed trade even theoretically work. Mostly, it fails because the people in power mostly aren’t rationalist consequentialists (nor, of course, those opposing them).

    That the issue has become a matter of political tribal identity for both sides doesn’t help, and works against the trust needed to make such a trade work. But the trade mostly doesn’t work in any event.

  19. Odovacer

    If smart generalists are better than experts, why do we have experts at all? Couldn’t one just send the rationalist community to tackle the (any?) problem?

    Maybe I don’t understand the definitions of experts or generalists. Would generalists beat physicists? Can generalists design a “better” jet than engineers? Don’t generalists depend on the data generated by experts?

    1. Two McMillion

      There are more experts then there are smart generalists, and an expert is better then a random nobody (most of the time). You can create a new expert through training, but you can’t create a new smart generalist.

    2. Conrad Honcho

      Would generalists beat physicists?

      On questions about physics? No.

      On questions about physics funding, and the prestige and deference that should be paid to physicists on public policy issues related to physics, yes.

    3. AG

      Gelman Amnesia doesn’t mean that the expert has amnesia in their own field. However, I think we should say that expertise applies very narrowly, and that “disease specialist” is not narrow enough, so amnesia was certainly in play for those survey results.

    4. John Schilling

      Smart generalists aren’t better than real experts. But in some fields we have far more fake experts than real experts.

      Pandemics in first-world nations may be one of those fields, because they don’t happen often enough to generate substantial direct experience and aren’t sexy enough for people to support efforts to maintain expertise in the off years. So instead of real experts in the field, we get experts in writing theoretical papers for high-impact journals, or studying non-pandemic infectious diseases in first-world nations, or studying pandemics in developing nations, none of which are really what we’re looking for.

      In which case, maybe the smart generalist who knows he doesn’t know much about pandemics can outperform the guy who dealt with the last five pandemics in the developing world and doesn’t know how much of what he thinks he knows is really relevant in the new environment.

      1. Matt M

        Yeah, my hunch is that what we need isn’t so much to replace the experts with generalists, but to establish an edifice where the important work of experts is routinely vetted by smart generalists to evaluate the quality and potential biases of the experts’ claims.

        That’s basically what Scott does here, and I consider it an invaluable service.

        1. John Schilling

          That’s basically what Scott does here, and I consider it an invaluable service.

          Very good point; I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before.

        2. RalMirrorAd

          I’d just say that we only accord deference to a group of individuals insofar as they are willing and able to make good predictions.

          1. AG

            Eh, this is negated by “Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” Just look at the people who predicted the 2008 crash.

        3. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

          I’d expect it to lead to good results with Scott doing it, and smoking ruins with Yudkowsy doing it. But they are both “smart generalists”. And who do you think is more likely to volunteer?

    5. matkoniecz

      Couldn’t one just send the rationalist community to tackle the (any?) problem?

      Goodhart’s law

      When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

      If smart generalists are better than experts, why do we have experts at all?

      I can accept that people generally good at making estimates are outcompeting experts in making predictions, even in their field.

      But as soon as question is open ended they will be lost.

      Generalist may be better than surgeon at predicting whatever operation will succeed, but surgeon will outperform in category of cutting through body of ill person, removing tumor and keeping patient alive.

      Generalist may be better in predicting number of dead from epidemic but will be worse at operating ventilator and keeping ill person alive.

      Generalist may be better in predicting how much time I will be writing adapted A* pathfinder for continuous areas, but I will be much better at writing it.

    6. Radu Floricica

      If you see abstraction levels as a sliding scale instead of fixed, you can translate this as: “on a given topic, being on a somewhat higher abstraction level relative to that topic is better”.

      So you do have specialists, of course you do. It’s just that you want their knowledge to cover slightly more than strictly necessary.

      An example in my field: you want a software made. You could go to a technically brilliant programmer. Or you could go to one that has the same total years of experience, but invested about 20% of that in project management experience, and also played with a startup at some point. There’s just no contest which is going to make the better product.

    7. A1987dM

      If smart generalists are better than experts, why do we have experts at all?

      Because not everyone is smart? Your question would make sense if the premise were either “If smart generalists are better than smart experts”, or just “If generalists are better than experts”.

    8. Jon S

      I agree with most of the other answers, and have a couple additions:
      – forecasting is a specific skill. Tetlock’s ‘smart generalists’ are experts at forecasting at least as much as they are generalists. Experts in other fields sometimes must make forecasts, but it’s often not core to their expertise.
      – the experts are an input for the smart generalists (to varying extents depending on the forecasting arena). Similar to how (human+computer) ‘centaurs’ are stronger chess players than either in isolation (at least before Alpha-Zero, I don’t know whether this is still true). Very few subject-matter experts would consider estimates by Superforecasters when making their own predictions – that’s not really what they do… in many cases I’m not even sure they’d call their results predictions of reality as much as output of a model.
      – and, incidentally, in most of Tetlock’s recent work, the best forecasts are actually algorithms whose input is the forecasts made by the smart generalists (though for the Superforecasters, the algorithm doesn’t need to adjust much)

  20. Edward Scizorhands

    Denial explains a lot.

    “If this turns out to be no big deal — or if just getting it as soon as possible turns out to be the right idea — then my earlier behavior will turn out to have been perfectly right.”

    It’s easier to recognize bad behavior in the outgroup, so here’s an example of a Democrat doing it. You can watch Governor Cuomo urgently defended his nursing home policies, even as they got worse and worse. Because as long as there was a chance where something might come out of the fog of war that shows he was right, he instinctively wanted to stick with it.

    1. Matt M

      or if just getting it as soon as possible turns out to be the right idea

      Ah, I forgot, I meant to address this in my above post.

      Yes, anyone in the group of people who believes that the ultimate “answer” to this problem is “herd immunity” and that their local hospital system is not at immediate risk of being overwhelmed, should see virtually no benefit in mask-wearing. And possibly even a net harm, because if herd immunity is the answer, then the best case scenario is to achieve it as quickly as possible so long as you don’t overwhelm the hospitals.

      1. broblawsky

        Universal mask-wearing reduces R_effective and therefore lets you achieve herd immunity faster.

        1. keaswaran

          Ah, this is a useful point of potential confusion to push on a bit, that I hadn’t noticed before! People talk about “herd immunity” as though there is some specific level of infection that provides “herd immunity”. But as you note, the “herd immunity” level depends on R_effective. If you think “herd immunity=60%”, then anything that decreases R_effective slows down the approach to 60%. But this ignores the fact that degreasing R_effective also decreases the infection level that is needed to reach “herd immunity”.

          I suppose if all you care about is the time it takes to get to herd immunity, the fastest strategy is to keep R_effective high for a period, and only later decrease R_effective so that the infection level you’ve achieved is “herd immunity” for this R_effective.

          (Others will of course note that if R_effective can get below 1, then you have *already* achieved “herd immunity”. Which I guess points out that people who like the “herd immunity” strategy must be imagining some societal behavior that they’d like to preserve, and then asking us to reach “herd immunity” for the R_effective that we would have with those behaviors. But they haven’t told us whether that behavior level is the behavior of typical Americans as of Feb. 1 2020, or of typical Japanese people as of March 15 2020, or something else, maybe involving masks.)

        2. baconbits9

          But as you note, the “herd immunity” level depends on R_effective. If you think “herd immunity=60%”, then anything that decreases R_effective slows down the approach to 60%. But this ignores the fact that degreasing R_effective also decreases the infection level that is needed to reach “herd immunity”.

          Only if that behavior continues. Lockdowns might reduce R, but they don’t lower the herd immunity threshold because they are going to be lifted.

        3. JPNunez

          Only as long as mask use is enforced, tho; you’d have to wear masks until a vaccine is developed.

          Which is not a bad idea, really.

      2. Creutzer

        if herd immunity is the answer, then the best case scenario is to achieve it as quickly as possible so long as you don’t overwhelm the hospitals.

        Not necessarily. The fastest way to achieve herd immunity will also mean that when you reach herd immunity, there are still a lot of infectious people, so you overshoot. Herd immunity isn’t some magical threshold such that when you reach it, no more people will suddenly get infected.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          There are a number of parameters that can be tuned to change the infection rate.

          A big one would simply be telling people “hey, we are going to hit herd immunity soon. If you don’t catch it soon, you have a good chance of never catching it at all. So be safe.”

          This isn’t a recommendation for or against trying for herd immunity.

        2. DavidFriedman

          You want to overshoot. Otherwise, as soon as the high risk people come out, or people ease off on social distancing, you are back above herd immunity.

        3. Creutzer

          A big one would simply be telling people “hey, we are going to hit herd immunity soon. If you don’t catch it soon, you have a good chance of never catching it at all. So be safe.”

          My model of human beings does not predict this announcement to cause everyone to change their behaviour in ways that radically drop R_t. For one thing, it’s going to make people thing precisely what they shouldn’t think: that herd immunity is a magical threshold after which suddenly no new infections occur.

          You want to overshoot. Otherwise, as soon as the high risk people come out, or people ease off on social distancing, you are back above herd immunity.

          You want to reach, and not overshoot, the [herd immunity threshold in the default state of your society]. Sure, that means overshooting the [herd immunity threshold given the measures you’re currently taking], except if you’re taking no measures – but I don’t think “herd immunity threshold given measures” is what people usually have in mind when they speak of herd immunity.

        4. DavidFriedman

          @Creutzer:

          I interpreted the comment of yours I was responding to in the context of something like the Swedish model, where vulnerable people are protected and other people adopt enough distancing to avoid overwhelming the hospitals. The overshooting you get there is overshooting what is herd immunity under those circumstances, not as overshooting what herd immunity would be under ordinary circumstances.

  21. Matt M

    I’ll take a swing at this, with the initial caveat that there’s hardly a one-size-fits-all answer, and that “mask skeptics” are a diverse group with highly specific individual reasons for their opposition. That said, I think there are two primary factors in play.

    1. General COVID skepticism. This has a pretty big range from “entirely fake conspiracy so that the Democrats can beat Trump” to “very serious but the costs of lockdown will be slightly worse on net than the benefits.” Even if you’re in the latter group, and even if you believe masks might help, you can feel a strong reluctance to engage in anything that might even possibly be interpreted as endorsing or agreeing with the mainstream position re-COVID. If the general logic in society is something like “masks are needed because COVID is very bad” then not wearing a mask is a good way to signal “I don’t think COVID is as bad as they are saying.”

    2. Completely independent of that, I think you have a subset of people who are very serious about their rights and object to the general notion of being told, by the state, what to do. Even more specifically, I think people object particularly to the ultra-common framing as seen on social media that goes something like “you hate the lockdowns right? well don’t you understand that if we just wear the masks we can end the lockdowns sooner?” Um, no. I object to this logic 100%. Putting aside all the merits of masks, you cannot take my rights away, then offer to sell them back to me in exchange for a different right. If I point a gun at you and say “give me your money or I’ll kill you,” yes, logically speaking, you probably should give up the money, because being killed is worse than being robbed. But the robber is still morally wrong, and you’re still right to be very upset about this choice, and to resist it if possible (run away or defend yourself from the robber if you can). If you complained about the robbery to the police, it would be very weird if they reacted by saying “I don’t see what the problem was, I mean, you didn’t want to be killed right, and giving the money stopped you from being killed, so why would you even complain about that?”

    I think most “mask skeptics” have a little bit of both of this going on. They’re very skeptical about the dangers of COVID, and want to publicly communicate their skepticism. AND they’re very concerned about government overreach and want to communicate that their individual rights are non-negotiable. Refusing to wear a mask is a very good way to signal both of these beliefs at once.

    1. Another Throw

      The choice of which clothing to wear in public, or not do so at all, is a question of free expression and frankly one of the things the Supreme Court is up its own ass about. You’re extremely unlikely to get them to reverse on it because of stare decisis. That doesn’t make it right.

    2. Matt M

      I have yet to hear a convincing argument for why it’s not a violation of your rights for the state to force you to cover your genitals in public but it is a violation of your rights for the state to tell you to wear a mask in public.

      Nobody wants to see your genitals. And the “nobody” in this example is close to 99.9% of the population rather than the 70% or whatever are pro-mandatory-mask.

      Even if the government made it legal, every piece of private property on Earth would ban you from having your junk out on their premises. This isn’t the case for masks.

      Hell, my understanding is that there are a non-trivial amount of small hippie towns where it’s technically legal for women to go topless. And yet, most women choose not to go topless, because they themselves don’t really want to. I suspect that even if your employer said “OK, technically speaking, you can come to work naked if you want,” you’d still probably opt not to.

      1. Matt M

        But not only does nobody want to see your genitals, nobody wants to display their genitals either.

        If the government passed a law that said “Nobody is allowed to feed a banana smoothie to a monkey on Wednesday nights at any time after 11:30 PM” I don’t think anyone would vigorously protest that law. Would it be a violation of rights? Sure. I can feed my monkey whatever I want at any time I want on any day I want. But it’s also something I’m not ever planning on doing, so I wouldn’t really care.

        The notion that since I don’t object to that, I shouldn’t object to a “No meat on Fridays” law does not necessarily follow.

    3. Conrad Honcho

      I suspect that even if your employer said “OK, technically speaking, you can come to work naked if you want,” you’d still probably opt not to.

      I’d be required to attend a lot fewer meetings, I reckon.

      1. Garrett

        > I’d be required to attend a lot fewer meetings, I reckon.

        If that worked, I’d intentionally start showing up to work naked just to get out of the meetings.

    4. rumham

      @Matt M

      Even if you’re in the latter group, and even if you believe masks might help, you can feel a strong reluctance to engage in anything that might even possibly be interpreted as endorsing or agreeing with the mainstream position re-COVID. If the general logic in society is something like “masks are needed because COVID is very bad” then not wearing a mask is a good way to signal “I don’t think COVID is as bad as they are saying.”

      I have had a hell of a time with certain friends being actively hostile to my social distancing. I suspect this is the reason. Calmly explaining my reasoning doesn’t always work, and I have had to manhandle a few people who tried to make it a game (have to nip that in the bud early, or it will get out of hand quick). Seems to be a new ingroup/outgroup and it’s not necessarily mapping to the previous CW sides. At least not in Houston where I live. The thinking is strangely black-and-white. Saying “the lockdowns were a bad idea but we still need to keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed” often results in blank stares. And several of the never maskers are life long Democratic Party voters.

      A friend was talking about not wearing a mask yesterday. I asked him why and he said because they had made it mandatory. I pointed out to him that I knew he had masks in the car and before the lockdown. I pointed out that he didn’t wear them then. I further pointed out that it was no longer mandatory. Back to the blank stare. Now some of this is the crowd I hang out with. Very diverse and rough around the edges. Some of them aren’t that bright. But I have been getting the same blank stares from suit and tie professionals in the group. Not all of the ones I had considered more-or-less bright, but most. There is some psychological principle at play that I can’t identify. Call it lockdown fatigue, I guess. Most of these people were wearing masks at the store before the lockdown.

      (edited to add)
      I should add that during a bad flu season I’ve been known to forgo physical contact, and it was never reacted to with hostility before this.

      1. Matt M

        At least not in Houston where I live.

        Hey, me too! Send me your address so I can come hug you! 🙂

      2. Randy M

        Two annecdotes without really a point between them.
        My wife, who is back home as of a few weeks ago, is immuno-compromised and so being extra cautious. My mother, who’s a bit over 60, has a hard time with the social distancing my wife prefers our immediate family keep when possible. My mother is also not one to trust experts. (I will give her this, apparently she was right, if somewhat paranoid in the reasoning, to be skeptical of the use of ventilators.) It’s causing some friction.

        At work, we’re given fresh masks every week. … I realize that efficacy of a five day old (KN95) mask is rather suspect to begin with. Anyway, over time usage has started to get much more sporadic as people get complacent and uncomfortable. I still eschew the taking lunch in the break room, but that’s just preexisting anti-social tendencies and wanting to listen to podcasts.

    5. Doctor Mist

      the ultra-common framing as seen on social media that goes something like “you hate the lockdowns right? well don’t you understand that if we just wear the masks we can end the lockdowns sooner?”

      Along with your objection to this argument on human rights grounds, it falls apart on purely logical grounds. The lockdowns are currently too effective almost everywhere in the country. Universal masks makes them more effective, which just delays the point where proponents will decide that the lockdowns can be removed.

      1. DinoNerd

        Now I’m really confused. I was unhappy to see a mask requirement added on top of a lockdown that appeared to already be working effectively, and doubly so since it was added without any explanation of what had changed(*).

        We (Santa Clara county) don’t need it unless/until something else changes. and the PTB have never explained why they imposed it (or in the case of Santa Clara, strongly recommended it).

        My best hypotheses are:
        1) some quantity of essential workers feel safer if the customers wear masks, and the goal was to address their concerns/head off bad publicity about throwing the mostly low income and/or minority essential workers to the covid-19 wolves
        2) masks are part of their reopening plan(**), but they wanted it in advance for some reason, perhaps to find out what % would comply, or whether improvised masks actually did any good at a demographic scale, rather than in research simulations.

        (*) Nothing from the PTB about the effects of homemade masks; plenty on the internet, mixed in with half a ton of varying grades of rubbish.
        (**) This is close to what those PTB said, except for the idea of a live experiment to find out if people could and would use the masks, or if that would have any net effect. I discounted that statement because it didn’t come with any significant (to me) reduction in the lockdown. (A couple of things that should probably never have been forbidden in the first place were permitted.)

        Unless the PTB are (still?) trying to get to herd immunity before reopening, which never did make sense, making the lockdown more effective shouldn’t bias them in favour of increasing its duration.

      2. Loriot

        Presumably what had changed was that the evidence in favor of mask wearing had become clearer. You could certainly find many people on SSC arguing such. I don’t really understand why you’re confused.

        1. DavidFriedman

          Scott had a post here on the evidence, well before the CDC changed its position, from which it seemed clear that mask wearing could be expected to reduce the chance of transmission, probably substantially.

          What new evidence did the CDC have?

  22. edmundgennings

    Part of the problem with police shootings seems to be that it is very difficult to come up with norms for when it is appropriate for police to use lethal force (pistol round to center of mass). I can not come up with formal norms that remotely match my intuitions and are not massively subjective or incredibly long. One complicating issue is that in these sorts of prudential matters there should be middle grounds like, probably should not have shot the guy but he should not have run, but me saying those things seems monstrous to myself. If one person can not come up with standards to match his intuitions, then what hope do we as a society with widely varying intuitions have of doing so in a way that does not just paper over differences which then leads to officers breaking the written law and then having that winked at? Thus even before the huge difficulties in applying these standards in rushed high stress settings we seem to have a huge problem.

    1. Edward Scizorhands

      I don’t like to say it, but one issue is that the US has a lot of guns. If most people aren’t armed, the cops have much less worry that this is the One Guy who is going to kill them.

      1. baconbits9

        Google says that 38 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2019 (uh looks like that wasn’t quite full year, that was part way into Dec), with 31 states being completely free of officer deaths. There is no realistic headway to be gained in reducing police anxiety via disarmament.

        1. Dynme

          Unless, of course, the number of deaths are that low because police tend to shoot first, in which case reducing the amount of deadly force police use may increase their death counts.

          But that’s mostly me playing devil’s advocate.

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          We made the point elsewhere that, perhaps, black people are over-emphasizing how in danger they are.

          I suspect cops are doing that, too.

          My impression is that cops in other countries don’t really shoot much. If you don’t worry about people being armed, you are more at easy to talk for a while.

          My impression here might be completely wrong. I admit that. Counter-evidence to dispel that would be appreciated.

          1. Anteros

            My impression is that cops in other countries don’t really shoot much

            I think that might be because they don’t have guns.

          2. John Schilling

            I think that might be because they don’t have guns.

            Cops in just about every country that isn’t the United Kingdom, routinely carry guns.

          3. Another Throw

            And the police in the UK also have guns, they’re just not carried for certain types of duties.

          4. Matt M

            Honestly, I saw more “guys in police/military looking uniforms standing in public places prominently displaying military weapons” when I visited several European countries than I ever did within the US.

            US cops are well armed, but they don’t show it off publicly. They wait until you’re asleep and show up at 3 AM with the tank and the machine guns. They don’t stand around holding them in Times Square.

          5. edmundgennings

            The french police default way of being in public providing security to some function, even deeply boring stuff is to have assault rifles. Italy has similar things for anti terrorism stuff in Rome but that at least has the excuse of being anti terrorism and looks more military. This was a humorously contrary to expectations culture shock for me the first few times I saw it.

          6. Anteros

            Yep, the world is way more ‘policeman-armed’ than I realized. Apparently only 19 of 197 countries don’t routinely arm their police force, and almost all of those are tiny islands. Norway, New Zealand, Ireland and Iceland are about the only sizable countries apart from the UK. link

          7. Aapje

            @Edward Scizorhands

            My impression is that Dutch cops no less prone to shooting if they think that a person has the intent to use lethal force against them, but they are much less likely to believe this.

            However, this is merely based on news stories, so apply lots of grains of salt.

          8. Desrbwb

            Sorry, but the whole ‘cop isn’t a particularly dangerous profession’ angle really bothers me. It just doesn’t add up. Your cited source has cops dying at 12.9 per 100,000 workers. But the overall workforce in America was (according to a quick google) 153.34 million people, with 5147 workplace deaths according to that USA today link. That (assuming I haven’t screwed the maths up, and it’s late, so I might have) works out to an overall death rate of around 0.3 per 100,000 workers. Making cop around 43 times more dangerous than ‘generic baseline job’.

            Also, cop is correctly viewed as a more dangerous job because danger is a core component of doing the job. Facing dangerous people and events is expected of police. The military doesn’t even feature on that top 25 list, but nobody ever claims ‘being a soldier is not a dangerous job’.

          9. tossrock

            Being a farmer is an incredibly dangerous job, and thinking otherwise demonstrates substantial naiveté. Farmers are constantly around dangerous machinery, dangerous animals, dangerous tools, and dangerous structures. Go look up ‘PTO shaft accident’ on youtube if you want to understand the kind of injuries farmers routinely suffer.

          10. matkoniecz

            Sorry, but the whole ‘cop isn’t a particularly dangerous profession’ angle really bothers me. It just doesn’t add up.

            Yeah, this interpretation is bizarre.

            Yes, fishers and related fishing workers (1/1000 of them dying in 2017) have more dangerous job. Seriously, 1/1000 death rate? Is it some outlier year?

            “Being a cop is not a particularly dangerous profession.” is still bizarre misinterpretation of data that you presented.

          11. matkoniecz

            Yes, policeman overreact, gardeners underreact.

            “Being a cop is not a particularly dangerous profession.” is still not true.

            It is both significantly more dangerous than a typical one (though it seems caused rather by large amount of driving) and its danger is significantly overestimated by nearly everyone.

            So being a cop is both dangerous profession and much safer than expected.

          12. Thomas Jorgensen

            …wait, cops have a x20 baseline fatality rate from things other than confrontation?

            How? From what? Are donuts that bad for you, or is there an epidemic of cops pocketing drugs on raids and subsequently ODing? Terrible driving?

          13. Desrbwb

            @Scoop

            Again, do you say the same things about Soldiers? The important thing is that the job of cop involves confronting danger as a core component of the job description. If a cop is shot by a suspect, that’s a known risk of doing the job, you’re confronting potentially violent individuals in extremis. That both makes it inherently dangerous and increases perception of danger even further (‘I can do everything right and still die because the suspect decided to come out blasting’ can’t be a pleasant thought to dwell on).

            Sorry, but ‘”Specific thing” X isn’t that dangerous, it’s only in the top 20 of ‘most dangerous X’s nationwide’ is not a very compelling argument.

            So what if cop is ‘only’ the 18th most dangerous job in the US? That seems like a solid argument in favour of cop being an overall dangerous job, not against.

          14. matkoniecz

            …wait, cops have a x20 baseline fatality rate from things other than confrontation?

            Plenty of driving is one of primary ways that make jobs significantly more lethal than average.

            Police often drives in emergency mode, is less respected than ambulances, they are often leaving vehicles and standing on a road shoulder…

            I found statistics for my country and deaths on job for police was primarily various kinds of traffic accidents.

            “shot by someone” is still important cause for death, but not a sole one.

          15. albatross11

            Traffic cops spend a lot of time on the road, and a lot of time standing by the side of a busy highway writing tickets. It’s not so hard to see how you’d get a fair number of traffic related deaths from that.

          16. Trofim_Lysenko

            And 14-16 hour shifts are not that unusual. Driving + Fatigue is a dangerous combination.

          17. Aapje

            If you work longer hours your chance of dying on the job also increases simply by virtue of working more often.

        3. Aftagley

          Or just the fact that actual risk of getting shot plays very little impact on how policy train and respond to situations.

          This is, ironically, a parallel of the below argument on people getting shot by police. The fact that the statistical risk is low doesn’t necessarily imply that people are going to not treat it as a significant risk. Especially if training, popular culture and professional standards all tell you to assume that everyone you see could be armed and dangerous.

          ETA: Yeah, what scizorhands said.

        4. Canyon Fern

          To provide another important number alongside “38 police officers killed in line of duty,” roughly 1000 (I believe it’s 996) people were killed by police officers in 2019. I provide this number just to help everyone calibrate. I’d love if every news report ever began with a list of absolute numbers, and that goes double for SSC discussions, but I have no dog in this race (besides a pitiful old mutt named Barks-at-Newsmedia.)

          1. FLWAB

            I have no dog in this race (besides a pitiful old mutt named Barks-at-Newsmedia.

            He must be hard to live with: I imagine these days he never shuts up!

          2. Another Throw

            Some of those are hell to read, but browsing around randomly one stood out as kind of weird: died 38 years after being shot from complications during surgery and the death is ruled a homicide.

            Like, I get why you might want to say that especially if you’ve known the guy your entire career and in the sense that there’s nobody to slap the homicide charge on it is mostly symbolic… but it still seems a little off, in the truth in advertising sort of way. At the limit, if every cop that has been shot or stabbed or punched in the line of duty is homicide when they die decades later from age-related reasons——because you can squint hard enough to claim their injury is also a factor in every circumstance if you’re sufficiently motivated——it makes talking about the issue (or even getting good statistics) difficult.

            ETA: Without going through the entire list, it is possible that the number 38 is for the number that have so far died from an injury sustained during 2019, and the discrepancy with those that have died during 2019 is through the addition of those that died from injury sustained during previous years (with varying amounts of connection to the injury).

          3. Anteros

            @Conrad Honcho
            I had a look at your link – it includes things like death from heart attacks. Is this generally what is meant by ‘In the Line of duty’? I’d always assumed it meant a death that was caused the nature of police work, rather than just dying ‘at’ work.

          4. Conrad Honcho

            When a said “a little” I wasn’t being sarcastic. But just the gunfire ones are 48, and then you’ve got things like “struck by vehicle” (which could also be unintentional…remember, if you see a traffic stop on the right side of the interstate, move into the left hand lane as you pass), or traffic accident, which can include pursuing suspect, or rushing to the scene of a crime.

            The number is still relatively low. I’m mostly being pedantic.

          5. Trofim_Lysenko

            And, how many of the shootings were clearly immoral/improper, or even unclear?

            At the risk of being the asshole in the room, I’ll go ahead and lay my cards on the table: I don’t feel particularly bad when a police officer kills someone in the line of duty in self-defense or defense of others unless there is reason to believe based on the evidence available that it was a bad shoot.

            I think a lot of people are coming at this from the exact opposite direction, where every shooting is presumed immoral/unjustified, or at the very least a tragedy, unless proven otherwise.

            Part of my priors for this is that while there are bad/violent/immoral cops out there, they are in the minority, police training heavily emphasizes the continuum of force, and the overwhelming number of confrontations that the police have with the public do not end in shooting, even though many of those confrontations are acrimonious and hostile.

          6. gbdub

            Police should not be shooting people unless they, or someone they are protecting, is under imminent threat of deadly force.

            After a shooting, the justification is inevitably that the officer had a reasonable belief that they had reason to believe that they were under immediate threat of deadly force.

            A 26 to 1 kill ratio is at least somewhat suggestive that the police officers’ judgement of whether they are in immediate danger of being killed before pulling the trigger is skewed.

            Cops may be slightly better shots than the average crook, but not 26 times better.

          7. Trofim_Lysenko

            A 26 to 1 kill ratio is at least somewhat suggestive that the police officers’ judgement of whether they are in immediate danger of being killed before pulling the trigger is skewed.

            I think your naive intuition is leading you astray here. Between training, body armor, and the actual legal and moral standards for the use of lethal force (as opposed to the ones that people tend to presume exist), I don’t find that ratio surprising at all. I mean, actual combat between trained soldiers in wartime often produces ratios just as skewed, if not even moreso.

          8. John Schilling

            A 26 to 1 kill ratio is at least somewhat suggestive that the police officers’ judgement of whether they are in immediate danger of being killed before pulling the trigger is skewed.

            Does this apply to e.g. lawmen in the Old West if we imagine Hollywood Rules apply? The good guy wins in the final shootout, probably 26:1 integrate over all Western movies, because it conveniently holds that the good guy can shoot just fast enough and just straight enough to wait for the bad guy to draw first and still win.

            This doesn’t mean he isn’t really in immediate danger of being killed. It just means he’s really good.

            If you are called upon to engaged in armed confrontations a lot, and you win almost all of them, that means you’re really good at winning armed confrontations. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that you’re going around picking fights, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not really in mortal danger while you do so.

            Cops are really good at winning armed confrontations. And at not dying when they lose, for that matter. It’s a big part of their job, more so even than for criminals, and they’re professionals. They’re professionally trained, they’re organized, and they’ve got first-rate equipment and nigh-infinite backup on call. And they’ve now got body armor, that stops a minority of bullets but a majority of those aimed at vital organs.

            So obviously they’re usually not going to be the ones who wind up dead. But that’s mostly because they usually make the other guy end up dead first. If they stopped doing that, they’d die a lot more often.

          9. gbdub

            Except that winning armed confrontations is not a “big” part of their job, most police will never discharge a firearm in anger. Certainly they have more training than a random crook, but not exactly special forces level.

            Point taken on the better gear and backup. You would need to include injuries in the total to get a clearer picture.

            But ultimately, if police win 95% of gunfights, that suggests that they can afford to be sure they are actually in a deadly force situation before engaging. You should not see “he reached for his waistband” or “he had something I could not identify in his hand” as fully justifying unloading a magazine at a guy, and yet even in those scenarios where that is the justification and the subject turns out to be unarmed, we do not see cops get punished.

          10. DavidFriedman

            One more anecdote possibly relevant to this discussion. At one point in the seventies in Philadelphia I was witness to a shooting, and as a result had friendly conversations with some cops. One piece of advice one of them gave me was that if I shot a burglar in my house, I should make sure he was dead.

            That was arguably good advice, since if he is dead he can’t dispute my account of what happened or sue me. But if police apply the same policy in their own case, it might be a reason why, after firing the first shot, they keep shooting.

          11. Fitzroy

            @DavidFriedman

            But if police apply the same policy in their own case, it might be a reason why, after firing the first shot, they keep shooting.

            I can’t speak for the US, but in the UK (as I understand it) armed police are trained to shoot and assess continually, IE keep shooting while you determine whether your shots have had the desired effect (negated the threat of lethal force by the target) and only then stop shooting. Given the time it can take for people who have been shot to drop their firearm / collapse / even notice that they’ve been shot, and the use of semi-automatic weapons, this almost invariably results in multiple discharges.

            Firing one round and waiting to see whether it worked (headshots notwithstanding, of course) is an excellent recipe for getting shot by a criminal whose adrenaline-soaked brain hasn’t got the message from their body yet.

        5. Trofim_Lysenko

          As I said to Bobob down thread, the perception of risk is absolutely higher than the statistical risk. I’ve had mirror-images of this discussion with both friends in law enforcement and with black friends, acquaintances, and coworkers.

          The part that complicates things from the LE end is that unlike “random law abiding black male” who is not engaging in any risky behaviors, a police officer is as a matter of course inserting themselves into potentially dangerous scenarios every day. Note that I say potentially. Statistically, the vast majority of these scenarios will be resolved without any sort of violence, either on the part of the officer or the part of anyone else, but they all have the potential to. Here are a short list of factors which can help reduce the risk to the officer, all of which are already usually part of police training:

          -Maintaining high situational awareness, being on-guard and ready to react to potential threats quickly. Complacency kills.
          -Being willing to use the continuum of force to control a situation before it escalates.
          -Having the training in verbal and emotional skills to de-escalate confrontations without having to use force at all, if possible.
          -Having equivalent or superior armament to anyone hostile you are likely to meet.
          -Having body armor.

          I could keep going, but as you can see, 3 of the 5 criteria I listed just off the top of my head are positively correlated with both “police officer uses force or lethal force” AND “police officer is at lower risk of injury/death”. It’s probably true that you could trade off police shootings against police officer deaths/injuries, but that’s a hard sell to most law enforcement officers and agencies, especially when to them the more relevant question is how many of those shootings were actually unjustified.

          EDIT: And Edward, I’d say it’s absolutely fine to bring up, but it’s just as fine to point out as Baconbits did (though his numbers were low) that there isn’t a lot of headroom to reduce deaths by disarming the populace, and that based.

          Hmmm, on the other hand, I just checked some numbers, and they’re interesting. The rate of violent, intentional death for UK police officers seems to hover somewhere between 1 to 3 per 100K annually over the past decade or so. For the US, we’re looking at more like 8-9 per 100K (note that this is roughly twice the US murder rate). Whether you want to frame that as “Three times more dangerous being a british cop” and “Risk of being murdered is twice as high for a US police officer as for the general population!” or “the level of risk is extremely low relative to the number of officers and the number of non-violent encounters with the public” is up to you.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            Being willing to use the continuum of force to control a situation before it escalates

            How necessary is it that cops always stay “in control of a situation”?

            Every time I see a video of some encounter between cops and civilians go to shit, it looks like the cops are making absolutely sure that they are keeping the high-status in the situation, so no one gets away with disrespecting them.

            When met with someone who is not responsive to this, like on drugs, or mentally disturbed, or autistic, that doesn’t work at all and someone gets their ass beat. For the last two of those categories, that isn’t helping anything.

            I’m not seeing all the other times this occurs without incident, of course. Is keeping the officers highly respected in each encounter an essential part of staying safe?

          2. Aftagley

            How necessary is it that cops always stay “in control of a situation”?

            Your average cops job is “find people who aren’t complying and get them to comply.” When everything’s going well, this doesn’t require force, but as a society we’ve given cops the exclusive right to use force to achieve compliance.

            The normal and optimal state of affairs is for cops to be high status and controlling the situation, because that means that people are complying without the cops having to use force. It’s only when verbal commands don’t work that force is utilized.

          3. Edward Scizorhands

            So when cops are dealing with someone who is mentally retarded or autistic and doesn’t respond to the cops demands to be high-status, what’s the way forward?

            EDIT: Also, I worry that by making sure every encounter is high-status for the cops, we either (a) select for people who fervently want to be high-status (b) train existing cops to always demand being high-status, or (c) both. And I’m not really sure those are good things. Maintaining high-status in a situation is often the opposite of de-escalation.

          4. Aftagley

            You’re conflating “in control of a situation” with being high status.

            I admit, they look similar, but there not the same. You’ll likely piss off a cop by telling him to F off, but 99 times out of 100 they’ll act like proffesionals and let you keep walking if they don’t think you’ve done anything.

            Sure, that last time in a hundred isn’t going to be fun for you, but that’s the likely result of telling any group of 100 people to f off. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

          5. DavidFriedman

            I admit, they look similar, but there not the same. You’ll likely piss off a cop by telling him to F off, but 99 times out of 100 they’ll act like proffesionals and let you keep walking if they don’t think you’ve done anything.

            My one relevant experience does not fit that. I was arrested for the crime of aiding and assisting in asking a police officer for his badge number. The official statement of the charges, eventually dropped — I missed my plane and I think ended up spending the night in jail along with my fellow criminals (a long time ago so I don’t swear to that) claimed we had refused to move when told to, which wasn’t true. But it was clear from conversation that the officer who arrested us did not pretend that to the other officers, such as the one who drove us to the police station.

            On the other hand, that was a long time ago and in the New Orleans airport, so not good evidence of the present situation, at least in California where I live.

        6. matkoniecz

          Well. Poland has nearly 0 problems of this kind – noone is worried about being shot dead by police.

          I am curious whatever number of dead policeman is substantially lower. Country is about 10 times smaller.

          Page from 2010, but first that I found: http://www.policja.pl/pol/aktualnosci/59384,dok.html

          2010 – incomplete, skipped (1 dead policeman, attacked with knife)
          2009 – 0 policeman dead during work
          2008 – 4 dead in traffic accidents, 1 shot – by other policeman
          2007 – 4 dead in traffic accidents, 3 shot – by a prison guard “for unknown reasons”
          2006 – 6 dead in traffic accidents
          2005 – dead from tropical illness (during UN mission), 1 shot in head by other policeman
          2004 – 4 dead in traffic accidents
          2003 – 1 shot by criminals, 2 dead due to unspecified reasons during arresting someone
          2002 – 4 dead in traffic accidents, 4 shot by criminals
          2001 – 1 drowned during attempt to rescue drowning person, 4 in traffic accidents, 1 shot during a struggle to stop psychically ill person, 1 in train-car collision, 1 was found dead, assumed to be murdered (suicide was considered but rejected)
          2000 – 1 fall from stairs, 5 in traffic accidents, 1 drowned during patrolling frozen lake (fish poaching prevention)
          1999 – 1 found dead shot, 1 heart attack, 3 traffic accidents, 1 shot
          1998 – 1 knifed, 5 traffic accidents, 1 bomb attack, 1 dead during evacuating building with faulty gas installation that exploded
          1997 – 1 stroke during a fitness exam, 1 dead in helicopter accident during UN mission, 8 traffic accidents, 1 train-car accident, 1 died from unspecific illness
          1996 – 5 traffic accidents, 1 dead in a bomb attack, 1 fall through roof window during a chase
          1995 – 1 dead in Iran on UN mission, 5 in traffic accidents, 1 accidentally shot by policeman pushed by someone getting arrested, 1 died during parachute competition due to a faulty parachute

          I am not entirely sure where I am going with it, but I expected much lower number of policeman in my country dead due to a shooting.

          Still 17/15 years, scaled to USA would be about 11 policeman killed by people that are not police/prison guards/army/similar what is lower than USA.

          But I expected more significant difference.

      2. AG

        Is it viable for the cops not to have guns? Hella kevlar defenses, hoses, tear gas, swords, spears, tasers, etc, are fair game, just no guns? If criminals know that the police have everything but guns, does that significantly change the calculus?

        1. GearRatio

          Not if non-cops have guns, I would guess. Is there any country where they’ve disarmed the police(or some/most of them) where they haven’t also disarmed the populace? My intuition says that whatever law enforcement need there is for guns now increases as soon as still-gun-having criminals find out they can do whatever they want now.

          1. AG

            How does “we have guns, they have a whole lotta things that are not guns but can still do some pretty bad things” come out to “can do whatever they want now?”
            My intuition is that this deescalates the arms war. Criminals can stop at whatever is just one level above what the cops have, even if that doesn’t really give them a huge advantage over the cops.

          2. Aftagley

            But them Cops either just escalate to having one level above what the criminals have (resulting in criminals escalating again) or you now have a society where your average criminal is confident they can take your average cop.

            The second society either results in a whole lot more or a whole let less cops. Neither of which is great.

          3. AG

            I don’t believe that cops need to have guns to have sufficient power to subdue criminals. Just because the criminals can kill them, doesn’t mean that they have to kill criminals.

            A more compelling counterargument is that the arms race is against escalating cop defense ability (they get better armor=criminals get higher firepower), but I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. If the cops become werewolves, that doesn’t necessitate that criminals escalate to silver bullets, when disabling scent bombs will do.
            In fact, it may be better for cops to have an obvious weakness that funnels criminals’ efforts towards, so that their tactics are predictable. (This is a theory people have put forward on why Superman doesn’t do a big sweep for any Kryptonite on the planet, or wear a lead suit. A villain that thinks they can get the better of Superman with a green rock is a far easier situation than someone who tries detonating a nuke because they have no clearer options.)

            In RPG terms, the criminals are going for a high-ATK/SPD strategy, and I’m wondering why the police can’t take a lower-ATK/high-DEF strategy instead (slow and steady, after all), which reduces casualties in less intense or false positive conflicts. Currently, if the situation only needs 1000 damage dealt to resolve the situation, the cops have either the -10hp or the -10000hp weapon.

          4. John Schilling

            I don’t believe that cops need to have guns to have sufficient power to subdue criminals. Just because the criminals can kill them, doesn’t mean that they have to kill criminals.

            Barring magic sci-fi “stun guns”, which don’t exist, it does mean they have to use a level of force which will hurt people real bad and thus will sometimes kill them. That’s what guns are for; we’ve spent a century conspicuously failing to come up with anything better.

            Also note that you’re going to get a lot fewer people willing to be cops, if criminals are going to be shooting at cops with deadly weapons and cops can’t respond in kind. Any proposal for police reform that assumes there will always be an adequate supply of good cops waiting to be hired, needs a serious rethinking.

          5. AG

            @John Schilling
            This is still assuming that cops can only counter offensive power with offensive power. If they have sufficient defense, they should be able to subdue criminals just by, say, smothering them with a large rug.
            What this will result in is far more injured criminals than dead criminals, but perhaps the optics of that are worse, more lawsuits, healthcare system burden, etc.
            The other counter would be that guns really are just about speed (gdi Virilio). Without being able to disable a criminal with a bullet, criminals can always just flee whatever countermeasures are left. Again, this reduces deaths, but creates status problems with the level of apprehensions down, as another thread discussed.

            It all comes down to how much we want to trade off against cop-caused deaths vs. cop-caused other outcome. Clean death vs. cruel-and-unusual punishment. I’m not convinced that the US is currently on the right side of that balance.

          6. Loriot

            “Defensive power” is largely an illusion when it comes to firearms though. Bulletproof vests are a mitigation, not an absolute defence.

          7. GearRatio

            AG:

            Serious question: What kind of “defense” are you talking about here? Like I get the RPG concept of just being a big endurance/armor points monster, but I’m trying to figure out what you think this is going to look like in terms of something that could be consistently worn and consistently effective against small arms, knives, and rifles.

          8. Aftagley

            It all comes down to how much we want to trade off against cop-caused deaths vs. cop-caused other outcome. Clean death vs. cruel-and-unusual punishment. I’m not convinced that the US is currently on the right side of that balance.

            Actually it’s not. It’s about how willing we are to accept cops dying. The current answer is “very much not” and we’ve backed up this preference by being, as a society, mostly ok when cops use their overwhelming force and end up killing non-cops.

            The problem, like everyone else has pointed out, is that the current best defense against someone with a gun is a cop shooting said person before they can shoot the gun. Find me an alternative and we’ll talk but until then, well, armed police.

          9. John Schilling

            If they have sufficient defense, they should be able to subdue criminals just by, say, smothering them with a large rug.

            You’re going to have to start being a lot more specific about what you mean by “sufficient defense” here, and I don’t mean describing what the defense should do, I mean describing the specific things that will accomplish that and how they relate to things that exist in the real world.

            Because if we’re ignoring reality, then let’s do away with the cops altogether and just have kindergarten teachers who can make sure nobody ever grows up to be a villainous criminal. But if we are limited by reality, then I’m pretty sure the “sufficient defense” you are talking about does not exist in any fashion compatible with the general duties of a police officer.

          10. AG

            Kevlar isn’t actually bulletproof, but it is an amount of mitigation, which gives them more options to not go straight to “death to the opponent.” Full riot gear would also be less intimidating as the norm if it wasn’t paired with matching offensive power. The mitigation allows them to perhaps first try things like nets, electricity, or rugs.

          11. Aapje

            Kevlar actually is bulletproof, although the extent to which it can stop more powerful bullets obviously scales with the amount of kevlar.

            Unless there is a huge disparity, there is usually some blunt force trauma, but the definition of bulletproof merely requires that prevents penetration, not that there is no damage. However, body armor standards may specify a maximum amount of back-face deformation.

            A common Western standard is IIIa, which stops the most common handgun rounds: 9mm, 40cal, 45cal. In Russia, they have a stricter standard because they have a common handgun round that has better armor penetration.

            Bullets fired from rifles tend to have a huge increase in penetration ability, because the longer barrel allows for better transfer of energy to the bullet. At one point kevlar needs to be so thick (and therefor stiff) & has relatively high back-face deformation, that it is more efficient to use ceramic plates in addition to kevlar. These plates are stiff and heavy, so often merely used to protect the core (lungs & heart). Wounds outside of that region (and the head) tend to be far less imminently dangerous and tend to keep the person functioning, if they refuse to be overly impressed by their injuries.

            An important consideration, especially for the police, is that more capable armor is going to be less comfortable and is more likely to be left in the trunk of the car, which doesn’t help very much if the cop is shot at.

            Anyway, even if the opponent uses a handgun for which the armor is rated, the head is still at risk. Armor that is hit may also be compromised. Furthermore, bullets can do all kinds of weird things, like ricochet from the hip into the heart. You really don’t want to let a person just shoot at you, even when wearing body armor.

          12. AG

            Thanks for the elaboration, that was interesting stuff.
            I do remember that the ceramic reinforcement plates are one-offs. They get hit with a bullet, they break up to disperse the energy, and they’re done. I don’t know if they’re easily replaceable or not.

          13. Trofim_Lysenko

            Actually, IIIA and III will stop quite a bit more. The roman numeral levels are a US Government standard developed by the National Institute of Justice. It basically goes:

            IIA – Stops 9x19mm and .40 S&W rounds fired from short barreled firearms.

            II – Stops 9x19mm and .357 Magnum rounds fired from short barreled firearms.

            IIIA – Stops .357 SIG and .44 Magnum rounds from longer barreled firearms. (This is the minimum level of body armor in common use today).

            III – Stops 7.62x54mm FMJ.

            IV – Stops at least two rounds of .30-06 M2 Armor Piercing.

            Modern high velocity, intermediate caliber rifle ammunition like 5.56mm and 5.45mm can be stopped by Level III or IV plates.

            In short, modern soft body armor (which can be in the form of a concealable vest, or a modern tactical vest which doubles as load-bearing equipment) will stop pretty much ALL handgun caliber/barrel length combinations you are likely to see short of novelty/dangerous game hunting revolver ammo, but once you have moved to realm of rifle cartridges you need to have hard plates, and that generally means either a plate carrier (does just what it says on the tin, carries a III or IV plate or front and back pair of plates but offers little to no soft armor supplementation) or a full-up armor vest that combines kevlar or similar textile armor with strike plates.

            And hard plates will stop more than one round (and in fact they have to in order to be certified), but not necessarily in the same location. Exactly how many rounds and how close together is going to vary by plate material, plate condition, impact locations, the type of round used, the range, and a million other factors. This means that if you’re in the middle of a combat situation you can still have some confidence that your armor will protect you from multiple hits, but each hit to the plate increases the chance that the -next- hit will go straight through by an unknowable percent. Thus, it’s usually policy to replace any struck plates as soon as possible.

            Replacing an armor plate in modern body armor and plate carrier systems is extremely easy. Most have a pouch held shut with heavy-duty velcro. Just open the flap, pull the old plate out, shove the new plate in, done.

          14. AG

            That’s really cool information. I hadn’t realized how far armor ceramics had progressed! Imagine going back to the chain mail days and telling them that fabric and pottery will be able to stop rounds that fly faster and harder than a longbow arrow.

          15. Trofim_Lysenko

            They’d be more amazed by the ceramics. Arguably, kevlar is just a high tech evolution of cloth armor like the gambeson. Layered fabric armor was both way more common and way more effective than is generally appreciated outside of military history/re-enactment circles 🙂

            Although I should take this opportunity to note: Kevlar is armor optimized to diffuse the kinetic energy of a bullet, NOT to resist a sharp object! Ballistic armor IS NOT necessarily Stab armor (though you can buy armor that is rated for both).

        2. Trofim_Lysenko

          There are some (mostly “professional” robbers) who want the gun to enforce compliance but don’t want to shoot anyone. For most of the rest (mostly gang members and drug dealers), it’s for self-defense and to defend territory/reputation (to kill other gang members/drug dealers, to kill informants, to kill those who publically challenge you so as not to lose credibility, etc). I would argue that it would make the latter, who are the majority of armed criminals in the US, significantly more willing to take their chances of starting a shootout with the cops.

          Restricting police to less-lethal weapons only makes sense in a context where: A) the population has already been fairly effectively disarmed and B) police with guns are still available on call. As others noted, even in most countries where the populace is largely disarmed, the cops still carry guns.

          1. AG

            But there are countries where the cops don’t carry guns. Or do those cases have “needs to have homogenous culture” prerequisites?

          2. Trofim_Lysenko

            A homogenous, high compliance to state authority culture helps immensely, but what are you thinking of for examples where civilian gun ownership is anywhere near US levels and the cops don’t carry guns?

          3. John Schilling

            But there are countries where the cops don’t carry guns.

            A grand total of five of them, from what I can tell. The United Kingdom, and four others whose combined population is one-quarter that of the UK. And that just means the normal cops don’t carry guns.

            In the UK, the deal seems to be that if you use a gun, basically all the cops who do use guns will hunt you down (and possibly shoot you down on sight). If you don’t use a gun, the cops will turn a blind eye to levels of criminal violence that wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States – which is a sufficiently good deal that almost all the criminals go for it, so the UK’s modest number of gun-wielding cops can concentrate their efforts on a very small number of gun-wielding criminals.

            I think there are insurmountable cultural and path-dependence problems to implementing that policy in the United States. Which is good, because I don’t want that policy implemented in the United States.

          4. AG

            @John Schilling:
            But we don’t see “if you use a gun, basically all the cops who do use guns will hunt you down” police behavior in the US, either. In other threads, people are advocating for cops using guns against someone without a weapon as justified because fists and feet can be deadly force. US police use guns for a far wider class of crime, even after ti’s established that a gun is not present.

            Seems like we have a bit of “penalty for being late and treason” situation that might account for criminals picking up guns far more than they would otherwise.

          5. John Schilling

            But we don’t see “if you use a gun, basically all the cops who do use guns will hunt you down” police behavior in the US, either.

            I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. As stated, that’s correct. A criminal who uses a gun in the United States, even one who kills someone with a gun, will be the target of a relatively brief and modest police effort. A criminal who goes around beating people up and maybe even to death, will also be the subject of a relatively brief and modest police effort. The deaths will get more attention than the rest, but either way it doesn’t matter whether there was a gun involved.

            This is different than the way it works in the UK. In the UK, a criminal who uses a gun even without killing anyone, is I believe the focus of the sort of investigation the US applies to actual cop-killers. On the other hand, beating the crap out of people is given broad latitude on “yobs will be yobs” grounds, and respectable folk are supposed to avoid the places where yobs are beating people up.

            In the United States, the police response is the same, but guns are more effective for some sorts of crime, so lots of criminals use guns. In the UK, using a gun make it somewhat more likely that you will successfully commit the crime but much more likely that you will get caught afterwards, so they mostly don’t.

          6. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            , the cops will turn a blind eye to levels of criminal violence that wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States

            That’s a way of saying “more bloody noses, fewer deaths”.

            In the UK, using a gun make it somewhat more likely that you will successfully commit the crime but much more likely that you will get caught afterwards, so they mostly don’t.

            Also, much harder to get hold of a gun, to the extent that criminals have to rent them, and armed robbery attracts much higher sentences. Having harsh sentences for everything does not differentially suppress violent crime.

          7. AG

            @John Schilling

            And that doesn’t bother you, that a hugely variable magnitude of crimes are all given relatively brief and modest police effort? From the criminal POV, that should strongly incentivize committing crimes that require guns (because they probably have higher payoff).

            In fact, broken windows policing is the exact opposite of what you’ve descibed the UK does, wherein police prioritize lower-magnitude crime (easier to resolve/enforce, better for the statistics). And we’ve seen the efficacy of that system.

          8. Aftagley

            From the criminal POV, that should strongly incentivize committing crimes that require guns (because they probably have higher payoff).

            Yes, but the justice system isn’t entirely stupid, so this incentive is countered by the fact that committing a crime with a weapon is almost always punished much harsher than committing a crime without a weapon. If two criminals commit nearly identical robberies, but one uses a gun, he’s getting at a minimum, 3-5 more years in jail because of it.

            In fact, broken windows policing is the exact opposite of what you’ve descibed the UK does, wherein police prioritize lower-magnitude crime (easier to resolve/enforce, better for the statistics). And we’ve seen the efficacy of that system.

            More yobs getting in fights?

          9. Aapje

            There’s an ex-mafia jewelry robber whose YouTube channel I’ve been following a bit who said that he only used airguns because using a real gun flips the sentences from being served concurrently to consecutively.

          10. AG

            Didn’t studies show that a higher chance of being caught is the better deterrent than harsher sentence?

    2. yodelyak

      Focusing on solving this problem with rules and written norms seems like bringing a scalpel to a duel. Very precise, but not the right tool for the job.

      1. edmundgennings

        I would agree, but how else does a society set and enforce norms and not have periodic fights about complicated judgment calls.
        Should we just shame people who talk about controversial use of force outside of police review boards and the jury room?

    3. Aftagley

      Part of the problem with police shootings seems to be that it is very difficult to come up with norms for when it is appropriate for police to use lethal force (pistol round to center of mass).

      From who’s perspective? From an LE perspective (at least when I went through training) we used the use of force continuum. Basically it’s an escalating amount of force we’re allowed to use based on the situation around us. A rule of thumb is that we always go one level up from whatever situation we’re faced with.

      Here’s how it works:

      Stage 1: Officer presence – Your mere presence is necessary to keep the situation under control. Think of this as, people are having a loud argument then a cop walks up; without even the cop saying anything, people are likely to back off.
      Stage 2: Verbal commands – Just being there didn’t work, you now have to use verbal commands to control the situation. These should be short, simple and easy to follow. Stuff like “Sit down,” “Stand up,” “Get away from the car.” That sorta shit. You use this when there’s no immediate threat, but you need to control the situation.
      Stage 3: Control tactics – Joint manipulation, pressure holds and other actions that will cause pain, but no lasting damage. This is what you use on people who are passively resisting in order to gain compliance. Use when there’s no threat of violence, but verbal commands were not sufficient to get compliance.
      Stage 4: Punches, kicks and stuns – what is sounds like. This one’s kind of rare, because you’d normally only use this when someone is violently resisting… but it’s almost always better to just get out your weapon and go to the next stage in this case. Only really used if you are clearly a better fighter than the other person and are very confident you can take them without getting injured yourself.
      Stage 5: Less-than-lethal – use of weapons to subdue. This is what most LE officers would go to if someone comes at them with fists. Use your baton, OC spray or whatever to hopefully incapacitate the attacker.
      Stage 6: Lethal force – use of either a firearm or other weapon (IE baton aimed at the head or spine) Default reaction if someone is coming at you with a weapon or if you’re in stage 5 and losing. Also, firearms are always lethal force (at least how we were taught). There is no “well, I’ll just wing him” when it comes to guns, it opens you up to too much risk if the miss and the person takes it in the head or chest.

      So, as I said, at each stage you base your current posture off of what situation your in and then go one level up. If people have their fists out, you go non-lethal. There are some edge cases, such as a very small officer could conceivably justify lethal force if their attacker was massive, or known to be an amazing fighter, but in general you try and stick to the continuum.

      1. DinoNerd

        Is it ever OK for the officer to lose? Where by “lose” I mean that the littering suspect gets away, the disorderly people yell insults at the officer with impunity but refrain from causing property damage, or similar, rather than that the officer has a real chance of winding up injured or dead?

        If so, is there a continuum? I.e. how bad does the potential damage have to be before escalating is justified?

        If not, why not?

        Yes, the above assumes that no one initiated an attack on the officer, but that they may have defended themselves from whatever force the officer brought to bear on them.

        I’ve also picked trivial offences not because they are the only ones that exist, but because common sense says that people shouldn’t be shot for trivial offences, even if they also disobey a police officer, attempt to run etc. (Some people are idiots, or panic, or don’t understand the officer’s commands, or have heard about stories of perps impersonating officers to gain access to victims, or …)

        1. Conrad Honcho

          Do you want the littering laws and the disorderly conduct laws enforced?

          The neighbors are having a loud party at 3AM. You can’t sleep. You call the police to enforce the city anti-noise ordinance. The party host opens the door, the cops ask him to turn it down, he yells “f*ck you, pig!” slams the door and cranks the sound up. The cop comes to your door and says, “Sorry, DinoNerd, I tried, but they were mean.”

          If that’s okay, then, sure I guess the cops can lose.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            Sometimes there are alternate solutions. If a house party is too loud you could cut the power. Or issue a fine.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            cut the power.

            Generator. Batteries.

            Or issue a fine.

            “lol no not paying.”

            Isn’t there some libertarian fable about how if you keep saying “no” to the government you wind up dead?

          3. keaswaran

            > Do you want the littering laws and the disorderly conduct laws enforced?

            Presumably it’s not so much enforcement as compliance that we care about. Enforcement is a way to either ensure compliance by violence, or at least punish people despite their continued lack of compliance.

            In any case, we know for sure that we won’t achieve 100% compliance with things like noise complaints regardless of how we do enforcement. The question is just how much cost in terms of police violence we are willing to pay to get any particular increase in compliance.

          4. thisheavenlyconjugation

            I think the majority of people who think pigs shoot too often would be fine with someone who has a noisy party and thereafter refuses to cooperate with the police in any way and turns all confrontations with them into armed standoffs getting shot.

          5. albatross11

            Once it becomes widely known that when the police tell you to knock something off, you can ignore them and they’ll just go away, there will be a lot less compliance in any case, including the ones where the police can’t just leave and let things sort themselves out. (Or at least where we really don’t want that to happen.) I am not at all convinced that the result will be *less* violence.

            Plus, if the police are unable to enforce laws against noise, drunken and disorderly conduct, trespassing, littering, etc., word will get around, and we will have a *lot* more of those things. People who don’t like it will either find a way to move to a community that doesn’t allow that stuff (see “white flight” for an idea of how this worked out last time we tried it), or they’ll take their own measures to try to avoid it. Again, it’s not clear that there will be less violence as a result, nor is it clear that any resulting violence will be under any kind of social control, even the not-so-great level of control we have over cops.

          6. The Pachyderminator

            @thisheavenlyconjugation Who said anything about armed standoffs? DinoNerd’s question was specifically about situations where the officer’s safety is not under threat, i.e. no one is pointing a gun at them.

          7. thisheavenlyconjugation

            @The Pachyderminator
            Conrad Honcho, when he posited disorderly partiers who refuse to obey the pigs persistently thus necessitating force.

          8. Aftagley

            Yeah.

            The cops whole job is to use escalating levels of force until they achieve compliance. It’s very easy to get compliance from people who are not resisting, so over any time frame longer than a few minutes there’s a pretty strong correlation between “people who are not complying” and “people who are using active force to resist.”

          9. Conrad Honcho

            thus necessitating force.

            Or not! But that means you don’t get to sleep, despite having established a government that set rules you like about acceptable noise levels at night.

            When the libertarians say stuff like “government is done at gunpoint” they’re not wrong.

          10. thisheavenlyconjugation

            When the libertarians say stuff like “government is done at gunpoint” they’re not wrong.

            Indeed, but I’m not sure who would disagree (or disagree that this is the way things should be). There’s a big difference between pigs having guns as a last resort, and pigs breaking up parties by shooting people. Objections are usually only to the latter in my experience (modulo toxoplasma).

          11. Conrad Honcho

            There’s a big difference between pigs having guns as a last resort, and pigs breaking up parties by shooting people. Objections are usually only to the latter in my experience (modulo toxoplasma).

            But in this case it’s both. No, the cops should not no-knock raid the party and blast everybody inside. But if the partygoers are respectfully confronted by the authority figure representing the collective will of the community as expressed in their city ordinances and they do not comply…what do?

            I want the noise to stop because I want to go to sleep so I can go to work in the morning. I live in a community where I voted for “no loud parties after 10pm” laws. I’m paying my property taxes and I’m playing by the rules. I’m not saying “blast ’em,” but if you disagree with the rules, either 1) lobby to change them or 2) disobey them, understand the consequences. Those consequences will eventually include blasting.

          12. thisheavenlyconjugation

            Those consequences will eventually include blasting.

            Yes, eventually. Most people think “eventually” should come quite a lot of steps further down the line. Probably if the policy is “ask partiers to turn down, if they don’t then fine them, if they don’t pay the fine arrest them, if they resist arrest use non-lethal force, if they resist with a certain level of force blast them” rather than “ask partiers to turn down, if they don’t then it’s time to start shooting” then the number of noisy partiers will be somewhat larger. But I don’t think you will find a lot of people who want to join your community that uses the latter policy because the costs are widely regarded as outweighing the benefits.

        2. GearRatio

          This exists; in some jurisdictions police won’t pursue someone who is fleeing in an automobile, depending on what they’ve supposedly done.

          The big difference there is that pursuing someone who is fleeing in an automobile puts unrelated people in danger, so there’s a major potential downside to winning. Nobody wants a car to crash into a daycare to catch a shoplifter.

          Once we leave that “other involved parties” distinction, I think the next logical line for “we can lose here, I guess” would be everything under a clear and present danger to other people. After all, is a guy who steals jeans worse than a fraud guy? Is a drunk with his dick out worse than a car thief? We need a bright line of some kind for when it’s OK to beat the piss out of a cop and have him let you go.

          Maybe there’s a better qualifier than mine, but eventually you draw your line wherever you are going to draw it, and now you have a list of crimes for which your legitimate best move is “fight and run no matter what”. Since “violently resisting lawful police orders” doesn’t trigger the “we must win” condition here by definition (or else this conversation wouldn’t be happening at all), so long as you can consistently beat the piss out of a policeman you are immune to punishment so long as you don’t threaten someone else with serious danger or pull a gun.

          One thing I’m absolutely sure would happen here is that there would now be a lot more physical altercations between police and potential arrestees, since “punch a cop in the face” is now a lot more viable of a tactic for getting out of trouble. I can imagine a world where “so long as I can put up a good fight before he sees my ID, I’m fine” being more popular doesn’t result in more police shootings, but I’m not sure I consider that world likely.

          1. Aftagley

            This exists; in some jurisdictions police won’t pursue someone who is fleeing in an automobile, depending on what they’ve supposedly done.

            I see this said all the time, and it’s true, but it should always be followed up with, “Instead, the cops just put out an APB on the automobile, try to follow at a non-threatening distance and set up roadblocks.” The dude doesn’t get away, the cops just try and avoid the incredibly dangerous high speed chase.

          2. albatross11

            Right. In much the same way, it’s a good rule that the police don’t get into a shootout with bank robbers if there are a lot of bystanders around. That doesn’t mean they’re not planning to use whatever level of force they need to to arrest the bank robbers, just that they’re not going to do it in a way that stupidly exposes a lot of innocent bystanders to extra risk.

        3. Aftagley

          You don’t want your cops losing. Both for the reasons that have been outlined before and because, on the whole, cops are way more trustworthy than criminals. Lets imagine you’re a bystander to a situation.

          In one case, a cop thinks a perp has pulled a knife on them and shoots. The perp is now dead. In the other case, a cop isn’t sure if a perp has pulled a knife on them and doesn’t shoot. The cop is now dead.

          Both of these situations suck, but one has a cop alive and hopefully controlling the situation, the other has a knife-wielding perp alive, who is going to likely not improve the overall stability of our society.

          As sad as it sounds, we need to optimize for scenarios then end up with the majority of cops alive at the end of interactions, because the people who “win” versus the cops are almost certainly going to do more damage.

          1. albatross11

            Also, the cops are the ones implementing the escalation-of-force policies, and they’re definitely 100% clear on whether or not it’s okay for them not to come home tonight….

          2. matthewravery

            You forgot the scenario where the cop is right, the guy didn’t have a knife, and now no one is dead. Of the three, this is the most common situation. Only considering the other two won’t lead you to good policies or decisions.

          3. Aftagley

            That’s why you train cops to be good at figuring out if the other guy’s got a knife.

      2. edmundgennings

        How does officer(s) outnumbered with a not terribly complaint and physically strong group work? I imagine that is not an edge case and closing to us use 3, 4, or 5 does not seem wise.

        1. Aftagley

          Technically, drawing and brandishing your firearm is still level 1 – officer presence, albeit a version of it that is either going to achieve rapid compliance, or result in a pretty immediate jump to level 6.

          In practice, if the officer was aware of a group of people doing something bad and they didn’t respond to verbal commands (but weren’t actively threatening the cop) they’d wait for backup and achieve compliance through the lowest possible level once they had the requisite amount of force.

          But, if the officer gets attacked in this case, well, you’re at lethal force here. The justification needed for using it is the belief that the current situation will result in the officer being in danger of losing their life and/or suffering grievous bodily harm. That’s an easy justification to make when you’re being rushed by multiple assailants.

      3. Tatterdemalion

        Thanks, that’s really interesting to read.

        I think this gives a very clear insight into why America has more problems with police treating people badly than a lot of other countries do: American police training and culture places more emphasis on winning confrontations, and less on avoiding or de-escalating them, than that of, say, British police.

        If I were given the brief of reducing the frequency with which American police treat people – especially black people – like shit without increasing the crime rate, the most important thing I would do would be to try to change that – to emphasise to police that, for example, the default approach to someone who is shouting at you angrily should be to try to calm then down, not to shout back angrily and force them to acknowledge your authority, and that confrontation, escalation and force should be last resorts.

        I think there plenty of police in America who get that, and some police in the UK who don’t, but that the ratios and the mindset emphasised by the training and predominant culture are pretty different.

        1. DinoNerd

          As a Canadian, that’s what I was getting at with my question about whether the cop has to win, except nowhere near as clearly as you just put it.

          Living in the US, I’ve never been treated by the cops in other than a respectful way – but I exude middle-class, middle-aged, etc. I get addressed in terms of respect even when they are pulling me over for a busted taillight. But I’m not sure that’s the common experience.

        2. Aftagley

          I think this gives a very clear insight into why America has more problems with police treating people badly than a lot of other countries do: American police training and culture places more emphasis on winning confrontations, and less on avoiding or de-escalating them, than that of, say, British police.

          If that’s the impression your walking away with, then I didn’t do the best job explaining it. Cops aren’t trying to “win,” they are trying to achieve compliance as quickly as possible.

          Cops cannot go up the chain on their own. It is entirely based off of what the perp is doing. If verbal commands are working, they never have to go hands on.

          to emphasise to police that, for example, the default approach to someone who is shouting at you angrily should be to try to calm then down,

          This is the default response. Most cops are professional, you shout at them, they’ll just take it in stride; they’ve all been called way worse.

          and that confrontation, escalation and force should be last resorts.

          This is a reactive reactive process – they only use force if force is coming at them. At ever level, the cop is also trying to deescalate – no cop who is just using verbal commands wants to go hands on.

          1. albatross11

            It’s useful to remember the availabilty bias of information here. The 99.9% of the times when a policeman deals with a drunken and belligerent guy in a way that ends up with nobody shot, bashed with a nightstick, tazed, or maced will never turn up as a media story or a social media outrage. The US is a very big country with a lot of people, a lot of crime, a lot of cops, and a very wide range of different kinds of city and county governments. Given those two facts, I think it’s very easy to have two things be true at once:

            a. You observe many cases where the police beat someone up or shoot them or otherwise behave in nasty, brutal ways.

            b. Nearly all interactions between the police and the public are no worse than the cop being formally polite while writing them a ticket/telling them about their tail light being out/telling them to turn down the stereo and quiet down their party.

            And it’s going to be quite hard to tell, given those facts, whether unaccountable and brutal police are a big nationwide problem or a small problem involving individual sociopaths or criminals who manage to become cops, or an isolated problem involving a few out-of-control police departments.

  23. Randy M

    Does anyone have theories on why so many people who are lobbying to end C-19-related restrictions are simultaneously railing against mask usage?

    The group of people who do not believe masks are needed are going to include those who think the virus’s infection and/or mortality rates are exaggerated. These people will naturally also be against other restrictions.

    This doesn’t establish that there isn’t a group that thinks the restrictions are unnecessary if we wear masks. But this is a more nuanced position that might not show up as readily in protests/media/twitter.

    Even more nuanced would be the (imo, correct, but potentially risky) belief that some things need to be restricted (like, say concerts or indoor sporting events), some need to be opened with required masks (like, say, shopping), and some should be open without mask scolding, like walking through the park. Also, private establishments should be able to set more restrictive rules, and these should be followed out of courtesy, given litigation risks.

    It seems to me that the strongest argument for eliminating restrictions is that functional adults will act responsibly.

    Never a good idea to assume a limited supply of idiots negates the need to idiot-proof. The biggest argument for eliminating restrictions is their indefinite nature and the fact that various non-essential activities become essential with time. My kids’ friend is in considerable pain because of postponement of his surgery, and should they go ahead and reschedule it, only one parent will be allowed with him and won’t be allowed to leave and return. (although the latter makes sense during the time they are actually opening him up, granted)

    1. Conrad Honcho

      The group of people who do not believe masks are needed are going to include those who think the virus’s infection and/or mortality rates are exaggerated. These people will naturally also be against other restrictions.

      And the people who feel the risks are exaggerated probably dominate in the group of people who oppose the lockdowns strongly enough to bother with a protest. I’m in favor of reopening, but not enough to bother to attend a protest, but I’m also fine wearing a mask to the grocery store.

      1. Matt M

        I’m a little personally conflicted on masks. On the one hand, I respect the private property of a grocery store and their right to declare whatever rules they see fit. On the other hand, I’m 99.9% sure they’ve done zero independent research, and are just blindly doing what Fauci tells them to do because they think that’s what’s best for PR purposes, which is a practice I definitely do not support.

        I’ve solved my moral dilemma by just using instacart.

        1. keaswaran

          > I’m 99.9% sure they’ve done zero independent research, and are just blindly doing what Fauci tells them to do because they think that’s what’s best for PR purposes, which is a practice I definitely do not support.

          Are you saying that people shouldn’t ask others to practice good hygiene unless the people doing the asking have done independent research on the medical value of this hygiene?! It seems reasonable that at least some people might legitimately just trust medical authorities to have some useful information, and therefore ask others to abide by regulations proposed by these authorities, without having to develop the expertise to conduct independent research.

        2. Matt M

          It seems reasonable that at least some people might legitimately just trust medical authorities to have some useful information

          Given recent events, this no longer “seems reasonable” to me.

          These authorities have proven unworthy of our trust.

          Hell, even in this exact specific case. Three months ago, they were saying “masks don’t work.” Were they wrong (or lying) then, or are they wrong (or lying) now?

          Now I get your point. I don’t necessarily think it’s of great societal value for Target to have its own pandemic division and to be conducting its own peer-reviewed studies on homemade cloth mask efficacy. That said, I do want them to do something, a little bit, more than “whatever Fauci says must be right.” I think a whole lot of problems in society, well beyond the scope of COVID/lockdowns/whatever, can be traced to large, powerful, often private, organizations blindly following the self-appointed expert class without offering any sort of pushback or independent analysis.

        3. ltowel

          @Matt M

          I think a whole lot of problems in society, well beyond the scope of COVID/lockdowns/whatever, can be traced to large, powerful, often private, organizations blindly following the self-appointed expert class without offering any sort of pushback or independent analysis.

          I understand you mean this in a general sense, but in the specific sense of COVID, large, powerful, private organizations (big tech) listening to the experts and sending employees to work from home early seems like a (if not the) key reason that CA and WA have manageable outbreaks compared to other early-infected epicenters.

        4. Matt M

          but in the specific sense of COVID, large, powerful, private organizations (big tech) listening to the experts and sending employees to work from home early seems like a (if not the) key reason that CA and WA have manageable outbreaks compared to other early-infected epicenters.

          That’s not quite how I remember it.

          How I remember it is that the large tech companies started social distancing measures before the experts recommended it, and were made fun of at best and accused of covert racism at worst.

          Someone at those companies was doing their own research – and was willing to go above and beyond “We will do exactly what the government says when they say it.” And good for them. I wish the individuals involved would stand up and shout on social media about it so I could recognize them personally.

        5. ltowel

          The New Yorker Article about WA suggests the Seattle tech companies didn’t do mandatory WFH until they got the suggestion from the King County health executive. (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/05/04/seattles-leaders-let-scientists-take-the-lead-new-yorks-did-not)

          I don’t have similar articles on the SF ones, but it wouldn’t surprise me either way.

          I think the differences in actions by the private companies likely boil down to the NY public health people were either silenced from making a suggestion to the private companies (because DiBlasio seems like one of the two least competent people in the country at this response), ignorant of the prevalence of infections (because they lacked ‘experts’ like the Seattle flu study) or ignored by the companies (because investment bankers must be in the office 12 hours a day, goddamn it!)

        6. albatross11

          I think health authorities are allowed to learn and get smarter and make better recommendations, just like everyone else.

    2. Mark V Anderson

      Even more nuanced would be the (imo, correct, but potentially risky) belief that some things need to be restricted (like, say concerts or indoor sporting events), some need to be opened with required masks (like, say, shopping), and some should be open without mask scolding, like walking through the park. Also, private establishments should be able to set more restrictive rules, and these should be followed out of courtesy, given litigation risks.

      +1. This exactly matches my thinking.

  24. Milo Minderbinder

    My guess is polarization, combined with some pretty breathtaking medical/health illiteracy. Masks are being touted as a “necessary” by the same despised outgroup that is promoting the lockdowns, so they get lumped in with the other “freedom curtailing” measures, despite their actual purpose/efficacy being pretty obvious (never mind the more reasonable anti-lockdown voices who understand masks are a crucial part of opening up).

    1. albatross11

      I suspect tribalism / polarization is partly to blame, but I’ll also note that the anti-mask people are holding the same position as mainstream health authorities in the US held three months ago, so it’s not like they’re obviously exhibiting medical/health illiteracy.

      1. GearRatio

        Which in turn exposes another kind of tribalism – a not insignificant portion of people in our commenter community were either fine with those authorities saying “don’t wear masks” or in the “don’t wear masks” themselves camp and nobody found it objectionable until it was perceived republicans/old people/Karens doing it.

        1. Thegnskald

          I’ll contradict that: Please don’t cite your examples. This is less contentious overall if we don’t punish people for changing their minds by bringing them up.

        2. AG

          It will be less contentious if people don’t get to insinuate that their outgroup in this commenting community are politically mindkilled and make sneering insinuations about their beliefs, no matter what they actually said.

        3. GearRatio

          You know what? You’re completely right. I went back to find all the examples I was sure I had seen and they aren’t there – there hasn’t been a single person on either side in the hidden or visible open threads saying not to wear a mask. The closest is one guy saying, as a joke, that the only benefit to the mask was it kept you from touching your face.

          I was being a dick. Withdrawn.

    2. DinoNerd

      One possibility is straight up selfishness. Wearing an improvised mask won’t protect you from catching covid-19, or even reduce your odds much, but it will protect others from you if you happen to have it.

      If we assume some of these people are either sociopaths, or so polarized that they don’t care about outgroup deaths, then their behaviour becomes completely consistent.

      Others then conform to the acceptable views of their in group, and/or have a consistent position that having 1-2% of the population dead is better than the lockdown, inevitable, or both, and masks (for whatever reason) won’t help enough to matter.

      [Edit: re outgroups, this would include those who “know” that only old folks are at significant risk, are not themselves old, and don’t have anyone they care about who is.]

      1. DavidFriedman

        f we assume some of these people are either sociopaths, or so polarized that they don’t care about outgroup deaths, then their behaviour becomes completely consistent.

        The stories I have seen on this involved people who were demonstrating against the lockdown not wearing masks. Insofar as not wearing a mask risks contagion to those near you, it’s their ingroup, the other demonstrators, mainly affected.

      2. John Schilling

        If we assume some of these people are either sociopaths, or so polarized that they don’t care about outgroup deaths, then their behaviour becomes completely consistent.

        If we assume some of these people don’t believe that COVID-19 is a major threat because it’s no worse than the flu, their behavior becomes completely consistent. If we assume some of these people don’t believe COVID-19 is a major threat because only the jet-setting big-city elite is at great risk of getting it, then their behavior becomes completely consistent. If we assume some of these people believe that COVID-19 is a major threat but that improvised masks don’t effectively prevent anyone from being infected, their behavior becomes completely consistent.

        If there are many blatantly obvious hypotheses that are consistent with someone’s observed behavior, most of which are do not involve sociopathy, then saying “hey, these people’s behavior is consistent with their being a bunch of sociopaths” is extremely uncharitable.

        1. Doctor Mist

          I would add that if we are talking about people participating in a mass protest, I totally applaud their willingness to go unmasked. Masked protesters are scary as hell.

        2. DinoNerd

          @Doctor Mist

          I’d rather have them masked and unarmed, than unmasked and armed. Armed protestors are much more scary.

          (Do I need to find an article to cite about the Michigan state house protest, to substantiate my claim that some of the anti-lockdown protestors are armed? It seems like common knowledge to me.)

  25. FLWAB

    Trump recently signed an executive order encouraging commercial mining of asteroids and the moon. Specifically the order clarifies that it is the opinion of US Executive Branch that the exploitation of resources in outer space is legal and not prohibited by any US law or treaty that the US is party to.

    Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.

    The EO specifically points out that the US is not a signatory to the 1979 Moon Agreement which prohibits the exploitation of resources from outer space without the oversight and approval of an international regulatory body.

    Some speculate that this order is meant in part to shore up the US’s legitimacy in it’s long term plans to place base on the moon and at minimum mine frozen water to help maintain it.

    1. Matt M

      So this is what the space force is really for. Securing our territorial rights to exploitable space resources!

    2. Randy M

      I doubt this will accomplish much, but thumbs up anyway. Kind of a shame that the whole rest of creation* is just sitting there*, useless*.

      *Hyperbole and simplification, obviously.

      1. FLWAB

        At minimum it says “Assuming I get re-elected or that Joe Biden doesn’t disagree with me on this particular issue, space mining companies can feel confident that the US won’t shut them down for violating international treaties and will most likely let you keep all your moon helium or whatever.” Which is nice I guess. Good to have slightly more legal clarity on the issue.

        But I think the bigger thing is that it is establishing our position on moon mining in advance of Project Artemis which intends, in part, go to the Moon to “find and use water and other critical resources needed for long-term exploration.” In other words, Trump is making it clear that despite international mood or consensus, the US does not consider the Moon “the common heritage of all mankind” but rather belongs to anyone who can take and hold it. Which if you ask me is a good stance to have if we want to someday colonize space.

        1. Anteros

          Which if you ask me is a good stance to have if we want to someday colonize space.

          By ‘we’ do you mean Americans, or mankind generally? If the latter, how does it help to have a free for all like the gold rush? If the former, that explains why Trump’s relationship with the Chinese has been so good for humanity.

          1. FLWAB

            I mean mankind generally.

            Let me give you an example from a different area: Indian Reservations.

            Indian Reservation land is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of the entire tribe. The purpose of this is so that the land belongs to the entire tribe and not any one particular person. Perhaps most importantly it means that outsiders can’t come and buy up all the tribe’s land. The land forever and for always (in theory anyway) belong to the tribe.

            This has some bad practical effects, however. Since the land belongs to the entire tribe and can’t be sold to outsiders, that means if you want to build a house it’s extremely difficult to get a mortgage. Why? Because normally if you take out a loan to build a house the bank can use the land as collateral and take it if you default. But banks can’t take reservation land, so they rarely give out loans unless you can come up with some form of collateral they can take. Which most people can’t: that’s why we use mortgage’s in the first place. The same is true of building a factory, or a mine, or a power plant: who is going to give you a loan to build something if they can’t repossess? As a result, many reservations are poor, economically undynamic, and have a serious housing shortage.

            Now lets say the Moon belongs to everyone. What this means in practice is that it belongs to nobody. Who is going to invest billions in building, say, a Helium-3 extraction operation on the Moon if they can’t sell the Helium-3 when they get home? Or if they have to worry about an international committee deciding to confiscate their equipment? Who is going to invest in the infrastructure to develop resources in space if they can’t be assured that they’ll be allowed to keep those resources? Private ownership and the assurance that the government will back the claims of private ownership are essential to development anywhere, space is no exception.

            To put in another way: the US was highly successful in settling the Great Plains (a region so unappealing it was referred to for decades as the Great American Desert) by promising people that if they developed the land they could own it. People made huge sacrifices based on that promise, because they could see themselves as profiting in the long term. Do you imagine the US would have been more successful at settling the plains if they set up an international committee who would regulate all economic activity in the plains region, stating as it’s purpose that the Great Plains are the heritage of all mankind? An organization whose charter stated that “the Great Plains should be used for the benefit of all states and all peoples of the international community.” and that “the resources of the Great Plains not subject to individual appropriation by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”?

          2. Anteros

            Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

            Your reasoning seems compelling, though I wonder if Trump is using the same logic. And, to be fair, it’s not exactly in his job description (or disposition..) to be thinking about what is best for mankind. Should the Chinese announce that tomorrow afternoon that they’re going to open a couple of large factories on the moon, I doubt he’d be applauding their entrepreneurship or celebrate the utter lack of any international (or US) oversight.

            And to be even fairer, I’m not sure how I’d feel about it myself.

          3. keaswaran

            FLWAB – I think the question I would ask is whether “settling the Great Plains” was actually a good idea. Over the past century, the Great Plains have been depopulating, which suggests that the subsidies in the previous decades for populating the Great Plains may have been causing deadweight loss by encouraging too many people to relocate far from urban areas.

            The analogies to space seem relevant – is it actually a good thing to encourage people to exploit the resources of space, or would we just be encouraging waste that people would retreat from later on?

          4. FLWAB

            Your reasoning seems compelling, though I wonder if Trump is using the same logic. And, to be fair, it’s not exactly in his job description (or disposition..) to be thinking about what is best for mankind. Should the Chinese announce that tomorrow afternoon that they’re going to open a couple of large factories on the moon, I doubt he’d be applauding their entrepreneurship or celebrate the utter lack of any international (or US) oversight.

            Yeah, I don’t think Trump does much of anything to help “all mankind.” But I imagine he does see this as helping Americans, particularly Americans who would be willing to seek to mine the Moon, provided they believe they’ll be able to own the mine. And in helping particular Americans, I think he will help the world. I personally would prefer that most or all of the Moon belong to the US rather than China. But if we’re going to colonize space it needs to belong to somebody: not just some particular country, but to particular people who are willing to do the work required develop the land. And this is a step in that direction.

          5. Randy M

            @keaswaran
            Isn’t that related in large part to how much more efficient farming has become in the last 170 years? If the plains were never settled, would the urban areas have been as populated as they were?

          6. John Schilling

            If the latter, how does it help to have a free for all like the gold rush?

            Because the alternative is to not settle California until the United Nations decides who it’s going to give settlement permits to.

            Seriously, if a group of US Citizens with the approval of the United States Government can’t build a settlement on the Moon or Mars or whatever, what’s the alternative other than asking the UN? And what’s the incentive for the UN to ever say “yes”?

          7. FLWAB

            @keaswaran

            That’s a good argument not to subsidize space development. But allowing ownership of space resources is really just step one of letting any development happen at all. The homestead act might have been a bad idea in certain areas (I’m not convinced, but it very well could be). But I think we can agree that the Plains would never have been settled at all if people weren’t allowed to own pieces of it.

          8. Anteros

            @John Schilling
            I think you’re right. In that I also can’t see it working any other way.
            I guess I’m overly worried about avoidable conflict.

          9. FLWAB

            If the plains were never settled, would the urban areas have been as populated as they were?

            @Randy M

            My great grandfather and great grandmother came to America from Norway in order to have land of their own in South Dakota (the world’s second most desolate Dakota). They had a lot of kids, who had a lot of kids, one of whom had me. So even if the food provided didn’t increase the population, the Homestead Act at minimum increased the US population by increasing immigration draw.

    3. FLWAB

      As an aside, the 1979 Moon Agreement is a stellar example of useless international agreements: no country that has the capability to send large objects into space has signed it. So it’s just a bunch of countries that can’t go to space solemnly agreeing that they won’t exploit it. I’m sure they also have agreed that they should allow the sun to rise each morning, and are considering a treaty that would bind all member states not to divide by zero.

      1. Aftagley

        he 1979 Moon Agreement is a stellar example of useless international agreement

        I see what you did there.

    4. John Schilling

      This is nothing new; it’s just a more explicit statement of the consensus understanding of international law since the adoption of the Outer Space Treaty and the rejection of the Moon Treaty. I don’t expect the “encourage” part to amount to anything beyond feel-good statements like this. Making it explicit may be somewhat helpful, so long as the fact that it came from Donald Trump doesn’t cause Joe Biden to explicitly renounce it next year. But I expect that he’ll have too much else on his agenda to get around to that.

    5. Mark V Anderson

      Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law.

      I’m a little confused about the word “commons” here. I think individuals should be allowed to exploit space because it is a commons. Kind of like the ocean — we are allowed to fish there because it belongs to all of us. Yes I know there are now lots of treaties that limit fishing in the ocean, but those are laws that just limit the default that anyone can use the ocean. It is still the general case that anyone can exploit the ocean.

      But I did see some discussion above about the right to sell space property that one has exploited. So are people thinking a mining company would set up operations on the moon, and maybe someday selling the mine, which effectively means selling the land on the moon? And I suppose the mine might put up a fence to keep others out, which sounds like land ownership. Does this mean that following this principle means that ultimately land ownership (and asteroid ownership) will go to those who got there first, or maybe the one who first stuck a drill into it? If this is so, I suspect we will need more specific rules than this to explain what constitutes a claim.

  26. salvorhardin

    What did Slovenia do right? Or were they just lucky? NZ’s elimination strategy has been widely reported in the US but this is the first I’ve heard of Slovenia being successful. It’s especially interesting that they’re allowing travel from elsewhere in the EU without quarantine– perhaps betting that people will voluntarily avoid that anyway.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/05/new-zealand-slovenia-declare-coronavirus-pandemic-over-reopen.html

    1. Aftagley

      New Zealand – I’d chalk this up to being a relatively isolated island nation. When you’re 14 hours away from everywhere, it’s easy to screen arrivals. They also didn’t start getting infections until mid-late february, so they had time to prepare.

      Slovenia – Hadn’t heard about this before, but it looks like they had their first case on 04 March and went into national quarantine only a week later on 12 March. I think their success might just be indicative of the power of early action.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        If you are not as connected to the world travel network, you would have less initial spreaders. Without looking I am going to guess Slovenia is not a #1 tourist or business destination.

        To a rough first approximation, the whole world locked down when Lombardy made the global news. If you already had a big supply of hidden spreaders, it was too late for you to completely stop it easily. But if you only had a few, you could do it.

        1. Matt M

          Isn’t it also too early for anyone to have declared victory? If there’s no vaccine, no herd immunity in your population, and the virus still is circulating anywhere in the world, you could catch it again and have to re-quarantine or deal with a second wave.

          Yes I’m sure both NZ and Slovenia have systems in place they are confident will stop that from happening. But they might not.

          1. Matt M

            Agreed. “Cut ourselves off from the rest of the world completely” is not a viable long-term solution.

            But it is interesting to see that “nations should isolate themselves to protect national purity” is in the process of undergoing a tribalism-flip!

          2. LesHapablap

            From a recent tourism industry report:

            New Zealand’s tourism industry directly and indirectly employs about 400,000 people or just over 14%
            of the workforce. According to Tourism New Zealand, the Tourism sector directly employed 8.4 per
            cent of New Zealand’s entire workforce as of March 2019 and, with its associated industries, was
            responsible for about 10% of GDP
            . The total tourism spending in New Zealand was $41 billion
            . For the year-ending March 2019, international tourism contributed 3.8% to the total New Zealand GDP
            .

            The government is adamant that they won’t be reopening the borders except to maybe Aus until there is a vaccine. There is a lot of pressure to allow businesses to operate and open the borders though, and that pressure will only increase.

            The Labour government’s plan is to spend A LOT of money on job creation. Some of it seems alright, other parts I worry will be unproductive. For example, the wage subsidy of $585 per week is extended from 12 weeks to 20 weeks, with the qualification that your business is down at least 50% revenue from last year. That’s great for our company but it will extend the life of a lot of zombie companies and keep people from being productive.

            Part of it is free retraining to work in the trades and manufacturing, which I’m not sure is a great idea given that construction is likely to fall off. In the US the democrats would probably default to free university education instead of trades, so it is kind of refreshing to see that as an example of how undivided NZ is, culturally.

            The Foreign Minister is intent on pissing off China, but that’s a story for another day.

        2. DavidFriedman

          I am going to guess Slovenia is not a #1 tourist or business destination.

          At the point when I cancelled my European speaking trip, the next stop was going to be Ljubljana.

        3. salvorhardin

          So what puzzles me is that Slovenia didn’t have more hidden spreaders at the beginning of March given that they are literally right next to northern Italy. And while they are not a first-tier tourist destination, they are a not-inconsiderable-for-their-size second tier one (nice wine regions, Lake Bled etc).

          I might speculate that it’s far enough off their tourist season that they had unusually few travelers from outside Italy, and that Italy locked down too late to save themselves but early enough to keep infected Italians from going to Slovenia in large numbers.

          1. b_jonas

            > And while they are not a first-tier tourist destination, they are a not-inconsiderable-for-their-size second tier one

            Yes, but nobody goes skiing to Slovenia between april and october inclusive.

        4. 10240

          Slovenia may not be a big destination, but it’s a tiny country, with probably a lot of people visiting or commuting to/from neighboring Italy and Croatia.

        1. keaswaran

          Is New Zealand actually that sparsely populated? It’s misleading to take the total population of a country and divide by the total land area, because most people don’t live on most of that land. And it looks like New Zealand has a greater percentage of its population in urban areas than the United States, Canada, UK, France, Taiwan, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, etc.:

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

          (Japan, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, etc. are among the few countries that are more urbanized than New Zealand.)

          It’s probably true that Auckland and Christchurch are far less dense than places like Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Amsterdam, or even New York. But they’re likely denser than the vast majority of cities in the United States.

    2. Radu Floricica

      Slovenia is a pretty cool little country overall. Not one to get in the news, true, but somehow I’m not at all surprised.

  27. Deiseach

    Well, my online acquaintance with ALS has emailed us all to let us know the disease is progressing faster than originally thought and he’s been told it’s now a matter of “weeks to months”.

    I know there’s a lot of clucking online about the uselessness of “sending thoughts and prayers”, but nonetheless those of you who do pray, I’d appreciate if you kept him and his family in mind. And those who don’t, whatever you may do – be that hold positive cosmic vibrations in mind, shake your fists at the sky and curse death, or whatever.

    Sorry to be bringing sad news to the table, but death is part of life. Community is the candle flame in the darkness. Thank you all.

  28. Matt M

    In financial news (paging baconbits), the $245 SPY put I purchased a few weeks ago, because I was so sure the market was going to collapse, has expired worthless today. So my venture into options trading is off to a solid start of -$350 or so in realized losses 🙁

    1. Aftagley

      Any have any good insight why the market hasn’t collapsed? Or really moved over the last month? Sure, to my untrained eye it’s been volatile, but hasn’t really trended in any direction.

      At this point, even if the quarantine ended tomorrow the after-effects would still be one of the most significant societal impacts in years, but after the initial correction, they seem to be just kind of holding steady. I’m sitting here expecting things to continue to deteriorate, but the market seems to indicate that the damage has already been done. What do they know that I don’t?

      1. Conrad Honcho

        Markets tend to not collapse until they do?

        I’m baffled too. But I kind of feel like Wile E. Coyote has walked off the cliff and just hasn’t looked down yet.

      2. baconbits9

        Why didn’t markets start to collapse until Feb 24th? They weren’t even going sideways into the 24th, the all time high on the S&P 500 was the the 19th and it was up ~5% on the year at that point with steadily increasing bad news about Covid coming out for ~4 weeks prior to the collapse.

        The simple reason is that we have a massive cash stimulus combined with a massive reduction in the number of available investments. Not only has the fed massively expanded its balance sheet meaning there are fewer securities on the open market but there has been a marked reduction in spaces for people and businesses to invest. Who is starting a restaurant right now? Who is trying to get into the airbnb super host game? Oh, and consumption is way down but earnings (household) aren’t. While there is a 20% UE rate only a modest proportion of those people have seen a decrease in income with the extra $600 a week and the stimulus payment, meanwhile the majority of people who maintained their jobs got a stimulus check and have had major spending cuts (we got $3900 for our family plus we canceled what would have been $2-3,000 in travel spending if I was following standard advice that would be an extra $4-7,000 in stocks) So liquidity is being expanded, options are being limited and people are being given cash with few opportunities to spend.

        1. Conrad Honcho

          I understand the “no other good investments” bit. But shouldn’t the smart call be “hold cash?” Why are people still buying stocks instead of stockpiling cash?

          1. Elementaldex

            Some of us are doing both. I have nearly $10K I did not expect to have and about half of that is in cash the other half in stocks.

            I suspect that’s a pretty common response among people who invest manually.

          2. baconbits9

            Just speculating but three main reasons come to mind

            1. There is a wide swath of people who have bought into the ‘markets always go up, just buy and you will be fine long term.

            2. There are a lot of people who are now in bad financial shape and near retirement, hording cash isn’t going to make up for 0.5% returns on 10 year treasuries. Their best chance at a decent retirement might well be to buy that big dip and try to hold on for 40-50% gains before they lose their income.

            3. Complete gambling. total stocks owned via Robinhood trading app have almost doubled since the lockdown started. Boredom+cash = gambling.

          3. baconbits9

            How did I forget the largest reason?

            There is a huge psychological factor at play, a few months ago everyone was being told that millions of Americans would die, then it was reduced to hundreds of thousands then it was reduced to 60-100,000. This gives the dual impression that things are getting better and that government actions are working to make things better, in the short run this is probably (dramatically) increasing people’s faith in government and government projections for reopening (which have been steadily getting worse, but are still way to optimistic). I have seen no one outside of SSC discuss the ‘what happens when the general public realizes that we haven’t beaten Covid AND we aren’t getting a good economic recovery’, and I have seen no one with the all important take that ‘the GFC was the worst crisis since the Great Depression, which makes the two seem equivalent which is why people are so blase about starting another Great Depression’.

          4. Aftagley

            ‘the GFC was the worst crisis since the Great Depression, which makes the two seem equivalent which is why people are so blase about starting another Great Depression’.

            This implies your expecting economic disruption greater than we saw back in 2008 and on the level with the Great Depression?

            Not questioning your prediction here, just wanting to make sure I’m parsing your analysis correctly.

          5. baconbits9

            I expect this to be much worse than the GFC- it might not rise to the level of the Great Depression but I expect high (8%+) UE rates* in the US for 3 years at least. That would be 2-3x (or higher depending on the peak in UE) the recovery rate that we got after 2008 and still substantially more total UE for that duration, but well short of the GD, but that is my 2nd best case scenario, not my medium expectation.

            I haven’t put any thought into how likely it is to be worse than the GD because that seems unproductive and terrifying.

            *If I was going to formalize my expectations I wouldn’t actually use UE since there is a good chance we get a much larger non working caste which might lower the official UE rate while still having many to all of the problems UE creates.

        2. Aftagley

          if I was following standard advice that would be an extra $4-7,000 in stocks

          Isn’t this the issue though? I’m willing to bet most people are going to be like you, even if they have extra money, they’re not going to put it in the market. I certainly am not. I’m pretty much down to matching my 401k at this point, and for a while there I was questioning even doing that.

          1. baconbits9

            If you are like us then you have basically pulled all of the money out of the market that you are going to, we aren’t currently influencing the market. Some people probably panic sold and then regretted it with the bounce, and I don’t think that most people believe this will cause a serious long term economic issue (ie really believe it and are acting on it) support for lock-downs is way to high for this to be a common belief.

          2. Aftagley

            If you are like us then you have basically pulled all of the money out of the market that you are going to

            yes

            I don’t think that most people believe this will cause a serious long term economic issue (ie really believe it and are acting on it) support for lock-downs is way to high for this to be a common belief.

            I’m not sure I understand this, although this may just be me asking the same question I did above. Are you implying that believing this could cause a serious, long-term economic issue and supporting lock-downs are contradictory positions, because that’s kind of where I’m at currently.

          3. baconbits9

            Are you implying that believing this could cause a serious, long-term economic issue and supporting lock-downs are contradictory positions, because that’s kind of where I’m at currently.

            Not necessarily contradictory, but it seems very unlikely that the majority opinion is that exact combination. If everyone thought the economic implications were very serious there would be more people holding ‘Covid is scary, but outcomes of lockdown are more scary’ just because of how large the country is and the broad differences in preferences.

        3. keaswaran

          I think a lot of investors are thinking that the point you mention about preservation of household income means that the recovery, whenever it happens, will be swift. Once people feel safe going to restaurants, traveling for vacation, or buying new loungewear (which they probably already feel safe doing), they’ll have the money to do so, and investors want to be in position to collect that money.

  29. Christophe Biocca

    Is the export-import bank in trouble? Their loan portfolio in 2015 was 48% aircraft and 15.6% oil and gas, neither of which are faring too well right now.

    The loans are secured, but mostly with aircraft and oil wells and the like, so there’s a risk that the collateral won’t be enough to cover the losses since the entire sectors are losing money, rather than specific operators.

  30. rocoulm

    Most modern sci-fi is built on physics approximately like the real world – namely, it often acknowledges relativity and the speed of light as a “natural speed limit” – but usually adds in some technology to circumvent it. Call it a warp drive, hyperdrive, jumpgate, whatever. All these technically raise a problem; from certain reference frames, they constitute time travel. It’s up to the authors whether to play with this or not, but usually it’s just swept under the rug and ignored.

    Suppose I wanted to construct a more robust fictional universe, one where this isn’t possible – we can have fun, galaxy-spanning adventures, but without the annoying edge cases we have to ignore. Would a Newtonian(-ish) universe but with infinite light speed work? Or does it introduce exploitable flaws I’m not thinking of?

      1. rocoulm

        Nope. Kinetic energy and momentum go up just like your basic kinematic equations say they should. Time is invariant across the whole universe.

        EDIT: To be clear, I’m fine rewriting the results of famous experiments from our history. A universe like this probably wouldn’t have wave-particle duality, and Maxwell’s equations would probably be useless. But I’m interested in whether or not a self-consistent universe can be made in this way, not whether it works as an alternate explanation of our universe’s observations.

        1. theodidactus

          just change michelson-morely a bit. Either
          1) they do get differential effects at different directions because of an aether
          2) they don’t but we discover them circa 1910 or wherever when more delicate experiments come about.

          I think people won’t think too hard about the differences, especially if you infuse the whole thing with a slight aetheric steampunk vibe as a lampshade.

    1. Conrad Honcho

      At this point you’re doing science fantasy. In Star Wars, time is invariant across the universe and hyperdrive goes at the speed of plot.

      1. rocoulm

        I mean, I guess it’s fantasy technically, but I’m interested in a story that has the rigorous, logical rules-following of a hard sci-fi story, just with different rules.

      2. JPNunez

        Also you can see one planet exploding from another planet in TFA so light travels instantaneously.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Light travels instantly when JJ Abrams is directing. It’s a side-effect of all the light being shined on the camera.

        2. AG

          Or is it that the sensor cells in your eyes quantum-entangle with what you “see”?

          Given that people are watching screens, that also implies chain-entanglement. The eye sees the screen, entangling with it, but the screen is entangled with the camera, which is entangled with what the camera is seeing. Our senses as ansibles.

      3. sidereal

        Disagree. Hard scifi can violate (or invent) scientific law, it just needs to be self-consistent. See Egan’s Orthogonal universe – a prime example of hard scifi, literally set in a universe with completely different laws of physics.

    2. Radu Floricica

      Intuitively, I think this kind of universe would be too broken to exist. Infinite light speed means instantaneous transport (not teleportation) – there’s bound to be a division by zero somewhere. Say you have a pair of (concave) mirrors and light bouncing between them. Try to compute the density of photons in the space between them.

        1. Radu Floricica

          I was never good at imagining 6 impossible things before breakfast. I just get stuck at “instantaneous isn’t a concept the universe likes”.

          A shortcut would be to just up the speed of light. Not as much as you’d think – newtonian is already pretty tough. You need very advanced tech to travel light years… pardon, parsecs. Add 3 or 6 or 9 zeroes to the speed of light, and go from there.

          1. Lambert

            I suppose it’s probably because conservation laws in continuum tend to give you hyperbolic equations, which have a number of finite characteristic speeds.

          2. rocoulm

            Thinking about it more, I first thought the problem you pointed out might still exist: instead of photon count, you could define *some* measure of radiation flux, and that would be infinite as well.

            But thinking more, that’s not the case. If you have two parallel mirrors (not sure why you’d use concave), there’d be no way to “trap” light between them in the first place, right? You couldn’t stick a light source between them and move it away fast enough to not be blocking the reflection, since it’s infinitely fast.

          3. Radu Floricica

            @rocoulm
            That’s why I said “concave” (would that work? I think that would work).

            instead of photon count, you could define *some* measure of radiation flux

            Yeah, didn’t bring that up because I thought you don’t want to go this way. But any point in space would receive a part of all of the radiation emitted in the whole universe, plus all the reflections of any radiation. Sky would be a lot brighter.

          4. rocoulm

            @Radu Floricica

            Light reflection is still symmetric, though, so no matter the mirror shape it can’t get “trapped”; if it hits a second mirror after the first, it will either continue to reflect in a way that escapes from between them and off into space, or it will follow its trajectory back to you.

          5. zzzzort

            I don’t think there’s as much of a problem as you’re thinking. Locally, you generally don’t need to consider the speed of light to do optics (one way of saying this is that measuring the speed of light requires setting up a specific experiment). The q factor of a cavity (how well light stays trapped) depends on the energy dissipation, which does generally makes sense to think of as a per photon probability of escaping on each collision. So, you get rid of photons (which you probably had to do anyway), which messes up things like the photoelectric effect and our understanding of chemistry, but you’re already making up new physics.

      1. Skeptical Wolf

        Don’t make it infinite, then? Just multiply by 1,000 or so? That would let you travel between stars in a matter of days or weeks, which should be sufficient for galaxy-spanning adventures without zeroing out any inconvenient denominators.

        1. AG

          Yeah, the time scale appears to be that planet-to-moon is intra-city travel (a couple of hours at most), planet-to-planet is inter-city travel (less than a day’s drive), system to system is multi-day roadtripping. After all, they are called ships, so they should follow naval travel timescales.

    3. drunkfish

      I’d imagine you’d just be shifting your edge cases from physics to chemistry. Without quantum mechanics, reconstructing our-universe-biology from our-universe-ish-chemistry is probably a monstrous task, and I’d wager (at low confidence) that it’s not possible at all.

      To keep biology you might have to keep quantum mechanics, but I’d imagine trying to keep quantum mechanics without keeping photons is going to be tough. And if you try to keep photons but not keep relativity you’ll probably end up back at Einstein’s original(?) thought experiment of riding a light wave and immediately needing lorentz transformations again.

      1. Evan Þ

        Or, you can just ignore the details of biology. Yes, even if you’re named Greg Egan – that was one of the things he really didn’t go far into even in Orthogonal or Dichronauts, though there he made it very different from our world’s version.

        1. drunkfish

          Yeah absolutely, but in the spirit of “can we create a properly self-consistent universe”, I think the answer should at least be possible, if not addressed. If it has to be ignored then we’re back to the original problem of sweeping problems under the rug.

    4. NTD_SF

      Greg Egan did something like this in the Orthogonal trilogy – instead of light having ‘infinite’ speed it had variable speed. The different physics of the world have lots of other consequences, including the ability for energy to be created spontaneously. He talks about the basics of the system here link text.

    5. thasvaddef

      If a Newtonian universe is not possible (or not able to evolve life), doesn’t that mean a genius in a cave could discover quantum mechanics a priori with minimal experimentation?

      What is the most complete and consistent fictional physics?

    6. Lancelot

      I don’t think that jumpgates necessarily imply violation of the light speed limit, especially not if they are fixed and naturally occurring. That would just mean that the space has a weird(er) form/topology, without adding a possibility of time travel.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        With a circuit of three jumpgates, you could have time travel back to the time that the first gate was created.

        Edit: If you could MOVE the gates.

      2. andrewflicker

        If the jumpgates aren’t all in the same reference frame, you can violate causality for sure. (I’m guessing that’s what you meant by “Fixed”- ie, they are all moving at 0 velocity relative to each other)

        But I think that also makes them functionally useless, as any interesting real objects, like planets, stars, etc., are going to be moving relative to them quite a lot.

        I think you can also violate causality even with two jumpgates stationary relative to each other if you have a third-party observer that travels at relativistic velocities and communicates with them… but it’s been long enough that I’d probably need to draw light-cone diagrams.

        1. Belisaurus Rex

          You’re right, but it is a lot easier to set up three gates than to have each traveler move relativistically.

    7. John Schilling

      Newtonian(-ish) universe but with infinite light speed work?

      Even if it works, it doesn’t help. The energy requirements for fast interstellar travel are beyond astronomical. We can imagine ways to travel to the nearest stars in a decade or two, consistent with known physics and not quite making our heads explode when we contemplate the engineering practicalities. It isn’t relativity and the speed of light that’s the problem; at say 0.5c that’s a relatively minor perturbation. It’s simple Newtonian E = 1/2 M V^2, with V = 1.5E8 m/s, that’s the problem.

      To do interstellar travel in even weeks, is going to require energy sources five or six orders of magnitude more potent than nuclear fusion. And that’s probably going to break your universe. Those energy sources are going to have to be absolutely unattainable by any purely natural phenomenon, else every random supernova will sterilize the galaxy it occurs in. They’ll have to be understood by humans in spite of never being observed in nature, and they’ll have to be usable by humans in spite of operating at energy levels and behind barriers unreachable by any natural phenomenon. And if you somehow get that, you have to contend with the fact that the Millenium Falcon’s exhaust is now effectively a Death Star, and nobody is going to let a guy who works for Jabba the Hut have access to that.

      We don’t need hyperdrives or warp drives to deal with relativity and the lightspeed limit. We need them well before that, to deal with the energy requirements of interstellar travel in a Newtonian universe.

      You’re probably better off just bringing the stars closer together. Even in our universe, stars in the center of a globular cluster are typically only a few light-months apart. You could maybe bring that down to light-weeks or even light-days if you stick to low-luminosity red dwarf stars (which are still as hot and white as incandescent light bulbs). Maybe throw in lots of interstellar dust and gas to keep the starfield from getting too crowded and bright (at least in the visible; the background temperature will be well above 3 K). These can also serve as fuel for the interstellar ramjets you’ll be using to fly between them.

      Hmm, a one-G ramship can cover a light-week in 100 days; a bit long for traditional space opera, but maybe you can still write exciting stories around it.

      1. DavidFriedman

        Does your conclusion still apply if the source of energy is external — a laser aimed at a light sail, say — or if the ship can pick up fuel and reaction mass by somehow funneling in interstellar hydrogen and using it?

        1. John Schilling

          I was assuming constant acceleration. One G is 9.8 m/s^2 no matter where you’re getting your thrust. You can cover a light-week in 100 days in comfort, or in a bit over a month on the edge of death the whole way.

          Or, I suppose, imagine everybody is from a very high-G world, but to get travel times down to a week would I think break biology.

    8. Thegnskald

      Fires in the Deep features, AFAICT, a variable speed of light, such that the speed of light we observe on Earth is a (basically) local feature to our region of the galaxy. Which doesn’t run into the same kind of issue, and as a generalized solution to the problem allows a lot of flexibility in terms of story-telling.

      1. John Schilling

        There was nothing about variable speed of light in AFUTD, that I can recall. There was definitely a hyperdrive, er, “ultradrive”, that seems to have worked by instantaneous jumps, and there were laws of physics other than the speed of light that determined whether or not ultradrives (or computers, or brains) worked in various parts of the galaxy.

    9. Gerry Quinn

      The “FTL = time travel” problem is created by assuming that the reference frames of special relativity correspond to physical reality, rather than that physical reality supports them via some underlying process. That doesn’t have to be the case. There could be an objectively correct reference frame. As for the ether, that is just another name for the vacuum – to say there is an ether is simply to say that the vacuum has a state of motion.

    10. jolhoeft

      Not spoiler protecting, because the book was published 35 years ago.

      In Charles Sheffield’s Between the Strokes of Night he achieves this with a technology that slows down human perception by a factor 2000, and leaves physics unchanged. This also helps address some of John’s energy requirements.

      1. noyann

        Or have humans in hibernation for long times. The resulting world is the background of Schroeder’s Lockstep.

        1. John Schilling

          The problem with both of these is that they are exceedingly vulnerable to defection. If a group of people decide to live their lives at the normal rate, they’re going to wind up ruling the world while everyone else is “asleep”. And if everyone else waking up would threaten their newfound rule of the world, well, maybe they don’t have to wake up.

          Defection comes with the cost of not being able to partake of the nifty space-operatic world of fast interstellar travel. You’ll have to content yourself with ruling just one measly little planet. Some people will still go for it, which means no one will be able to afford to not go for it.

    11. eyeballfrog

      All these technically raise a problem; from certain reference frames, they constitute time travel.

      This isn’t as big of a problem as you think. Whatever mechanism allows faster than light travel will have its own set conservation laws and hyperbolic equations that have a characteristic speed. What you find is that there are scenarios that seem to allow signals to travel backwards in time, but they have finite-time blowup if evolved backwards. In other words, although the reverse causal scenarios exist mathematically, there is no way to create them.

      1. Lambert

        Replace Maxwell with a set of nonlinear equations that let us increase the characteristic speed to an arbitary extent?

  31. Ketil

    IQ and intelligence again, but I hope not as CW as it may look. I stumbled across this on Wikipedia, attributed to Nisbett et al (2012):

    They also note that studies of adoption from lower-class homes to middle-class homes have shown that such children experience a 12 to 18 point gain in IQ relative to children who remain in low SES homes.

    This caught my attention, because a) it is a really huge effect, one whole standard deviation, and would bring somebody in the lowest 15% up to the average, and b) it goes against everything I (thought that I) knew about intelligence, namely that it is strongly genetically determined, and not affected very much by environment (except for obviously harmful things like poisoning the fetus with alcohol, or severe iodine deficiency).

    I guess I should update my views? But if this is actually correct, I can hardly see a more important task than to isolate the factors responsible for the increase, and implementing across the population. Even if we only manage a fraction of this effect for a fraction of the population, the impact would be fantastic. So I suspect there is more to this.

    Edit: a more moderate effect (about 3-4 pts due to adoption), from a Swedish study here: https://www.pnas.org/content/112/15/4612

    1. viVI_IViv

      They also note that studies of adoption from lower-class homes to middle-class homes have shown that such children experience a 12 to 18 point gain in IQ relative to children who remain in low SES homes.

      Possibly they report childhood IQ, which is known to be fairly subject to environmental factors, as opposed to adult IQ, which, counterintuitively, is much more strongly heritable.

    2. Radu Floricica

      It’s discussed in the Bell Curve. Adoption are a good proxy for “The Environment”, because the max difference you see in adoption studies is pretty much the ceiling on environmental IQ changes. In this light, it’s actually a bad news: no matter what we do, we can’t expect much more than that.

      And the Swedish study also makes sense. Sweden is pretty civilized and there aren’t many starving children. So no low hanging fruits. The easiest to fix cause of low IQ is malnutrition in childhood. One can expect such differences in US, especially between families that give children for adoption and families that adopt, which explains the 12-18 point gain. What remains is the 3-4 point difference in Sweden.

      Malnutrition incidence btw explains most/a lot of the black – white difference, and most/a lot of the Africa – rest of the world difference. All of the controversy is whether it’s “most” or “a lot”.

      Also there’s a strong 80/20 effect, with nutrition being the 80. The best and most expensive educational programs are almost an order of magnitude less efficient, with orders of magnitude bigger costs.

      1. Cliff

        The easiest to fix cause of low IQ is malnutrition in childhood. One can expect such differences in US

        Is there significant malnutrition for children in the U.S.? The poverty rate after taxes and transfers in the U.S. is under 2%. PPP per capita income is significantly higher in the U.S. than in Sweden, and of course there are all the various food stamps and other safety net programs. If malnutrition in the U.S. was causing losses of 1SD in IQ I think I would have heard about it before.

        Malnutrition incidence btw explains most/a lot of the black – white difference

        Isn’t there a big difference between people of the same SES (class)? It seems it would be easy enough to confirm or disprove this hypothesis but I have never come across any serious claim, are there some studies?

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            A lot of breastfeeding research has failed to replicate. A big problem was that ability to breastfeed tends to select for high-conscientious people, especially any research that took place around 2005-2012, when it was really popular among rich white people.[1] Even if you “randomly” assign people, you get more dropouts among people who don’t have the time or freedom to breastfeed.

            [1] I thought Gwern had an essay on this but I can’t find it.

          2. Randy M

            Childhood nutrition isn’t just about number of calories; food quality seems to matter a lot.

            This seems obvious, given a growing child is building itself from scratch, they are going to need more than simply energy.

            When you’ve got your car, maybe all you need is gas and oil and blinker fluid, but while you are building it, you’re going to need some steel. Very inexact analogy for several reasons, of course, including that all food is going to have some structural molecules.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Nutrition is not just enough calories. Its also vitamins and various other micro nutrients, and a somewhat sane balance between fats, fiber and protein.

          An insanely high faction of all african americans are vitamin D deficient, if you run the blood serum test. In northern states, most african americans that take vitamin D, are still deficient, because the standard vitamin D formulation was made for ghostfaces, and is too weaksauce to do the job for someone with high melanin count (Eyeballing the percentages who are not vitamin d deficient, I get the sneaking suspicion that it is mostly simply african americans on the pale end and those who work outdoors who dodge this bullet).

          The fact that the US mostly supplements v d via milk.. which a heck of a lot of african descended people cant drink.. is just.. Did some racist on the public health board set out to make sure that solution would do “the coloreds” no good?

          1. Aapje

            The reason is that vitamin D aids very much in the absorption of calcium.

            According to this study, while very many African Americans are lactose intolerant, this is mostly a moderate intolerance, where very many people can digest a glass of milk a day without symptoms.

            Also, it is possible to produce lactose-free milk products by adding the lactase enzyme. When visiting DSM, it seemed that this was mainly popular in Asia, but it could easily be targeted at African Americans, although cultural reasons may make them uninterested in milk products.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            The fact that the US mostly supplements v d via milk.. which a heck of a lot of african descended people cant drink..

            IIRC, West Africans never evolved the lactase persistence mutation (though individual African-Americans could pick it up from their white ancestors), while it exists at high rates in certain East African peoples whose ancestors have been pastoralists since the early Neolithic.
            Oops.

      1. Anteros

        I hope this isn’t needlessly provocative, but if 2/3 of the difference hasn’t been wiped out, could that not be (partially) genetic?

        1. broblawsky

          I believe that hypothesis fails to add explanatory power, and potentially fails Occam’s Razor. Do you think that all of the socioeconomic, nutritional, and cultural challenges facing African-Americans were wiped out by 2006? Because if not, there’s no reason to add additional entities (e.g. race-linked genetic factors) when we have other entities (socio-economic, etc.) that already have proven explanatory power for the IQ gap.

          1. Nick

            Is this a case where we should expect diminishing returns? After all, we haven’t done everything we could, but we’ve done a lot. If so, greater efforts might only eke out another point or two.

          2. broblawsky

            That’s possible, but I see no reason to believe that it’s true. If a tactic works, and shows no sign of not working in the future, there’s no reason to stop using it.

          3. Cliff

            Is there any mechanism by which race-linked genetic factors could be considered to have proven explanatory power? For example if children of white and East Asian (or Ashkenazi) parents had average IQ scores equal to the average of East Asian/Ashkenazi and White IQ scores, would that indicate explanatory power? Or would anything? What if they found genes that affected IQ and their frequency differed between races?

          4. albatross11

            a. We know there are examples where big changes in childhood environment change IQ distributions.

            b. We know a substantial fraction of IQ is inherited and thus almost certainly genetic.

            c. We see a difference in IQ distributions between two groups which have somewhat different genetic makeups (but still with a lot of overlap) and somewhat different environments (but still with a lot of overlap).

            Let F = the fraction of the black/white IQ difference you think is attributable to genetic differences. My sense is that it is very hard to have a lot of confidence in any estimate of F. It surely shouldn’t be 1 or 0, but someone who claims certainty about the value of F is very likely to be claiming a lot more certainty than they’re entitled to.

            My sense is that the fact that the IQ gap has narrowed in too-short a time for much genetic change should cause us to revise our probability distribution on F downward. And indeed, so should the existence of the Flynn effect. I don’t think the available evidence lets us exclude a lot of the range of possible values of F.

          5. Randy M

            My sense is that it is very hard to have a lot of confidence in any estimate of F. It surely shouldn’t be 1 or 0, but someone who claims certainty about the value of F is very likely to be claiming a lot more certainty than they’re entitled to.

            +1

          6. broblawsky

            @Anteros My pleasure. This is going a lot better than the last time I argued about this topic on this website.

            @albatross11 That’s a good point. This is definitely an area where no one should claim a high degree of certainty on whatever their median estimate of F is.

          7. uau

            Do you think that all of the socioeconomic, nutritional, and cultural challenges facing African-Americans were wiped out by 2006? Because if not, there’s no reason to add additional entities (e.g. race-linked genetic factors) when we have other entities (socio-economic, etc.) that already have proven explanatory power for the IQ gap.

            That’s not correct – socio-economic factors cannot explain the gap. Adoption studies put a cap on how much living situation can affect IQ post-birth. And studies on regression to the mean from high-IQ/successful blacks to their children also show a larger drop than for whites (discussed in earlier threads).

            I don’t know of any way a study could strictly show that the difference has to be genetic (at least if you distinguish long-term epigenetic effects from base genes). But what we can pretty reliably say based on the studies is that any change based on generally affluent conditions and culture is unlikely to be enough to substantially erase the gap.

          8. Le Maistre Chat

            @uau:

            Adoption studies put a cap on how much living situation can affect IQ post-birth. And studies on regression to the mean from high-IQ/successful blacks to their children also show a larger drop than for whites (discussed in earlier threads).

            This is sad for the children of high-IQ Africans who are brain-drained to rich high-latitude countries. It’s possible that the genetic factor is small but very dark-skinned people need optimal nutrition in the environment their ancestors adapted to to max out their potential.