2,535 thoughts on “Open Thread 155.75

    1. Nancy Lebovitz

      Thanks for the link. I’ll note that this is an article, so it’s a more efficient way of getting Hughes’ ideas than listening to a podcast.

  1. albatross11

    My not very informed speculation:

    I bet, if you carefully examined a lot of the Twitter mob/woke cancellations of people, a really large fraction of the time, you’d see that there was a personal beef behind the whole thing. Joe and Fred never did get along, Joe is standing in the way of Fred’s advancement into a better job, and so Fred has a strong incentive to either try to start a mobbing, or to get behind it and push so he can get even with Joe/get Joe’s job.

    This tracks with a large number of minor hate crimes (one kid spray paints a swastika on another kid’s locker at school, say). The perp is almost always either someone with a personal beef with the target, or the target himself trying to get attention.

  2. viVI_IViv

    People downthread were saying that the torn down were mostly statues of Robert Lee of no artistic value made in the 60s to spite civil rights activists.

    Then statues of Winston Churchill have been defaced in London. Now a statue of Thomas Jefferson has been torn down in Portland, OR. I fully expect Washington to be cancelled next.
    It seems that the cultural elite in the Anglosphere now hates the founding myth of its own civilization. Can a civilization that not only is not proud of, but actively hates its past, persist, let alone progress?

    1. baconbits9

      There has also been defacement of abolitionist statues 1 and 2 a memorial to an all black civil war regiment.

      It seems that the cultural elite in the Anglosphere now hates the founding myth of its own civilization. Can a civilization that not only is not proud of, but actively hates its past, persist, let alone progress?

      This isn’t civilization, its a small group of people who have discovered that they can act without consequences for a time.

      1. viVI_IViv

        This isn’t civilization, its a small group of people who have discovered that they can act without consequences for a time.

        With the full endorsement of all the major cultural and financial elites. It definitely is a crisis of civilization.

        1. baconbits9

          This isn’t full endorsement, this is temporary and local abandonment of restrictions on such behavior with a bunch of cheer-leading. This might morph into full endorsement from the left eventually which will be a major step down to road of very bad things, but this isn’t that.

        2. viVI_IViv

          Major corporations have publicly endorsed the riots and said they will pay the bails of anybody arrested. Anybody who dares to publicly criticize what is going on gets purged. If this is not endorsement by the elites then I don’t know what it is.

        3. thisheavenlyconjugation

          What actions are you taking based on this crisis? I think “crisis” implies something acute enough that you should be buying put options for a couple of years in the future.

        4. LesHapablap

          Here in NZ, the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has said that he “won’t pander to the woke brigade.” And:

          The debate this week made its way to New Zealand, with Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer calling for the country’s colonial statues to be removed.

          “Why do some woke New Zealanders feel the need to mimic mindless actions imported from overseas?” said Peters, referring to protests in the US and the UK where colonial statues have been vandalised, torn down, and thrown in lakes.

          Earlier on Friday, a statue of Captain John Hamilton was removed from Hamilton’s Civic Square following a request from Waikato-Tainui. The council said the request came amid “growing international drive to remove statues which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression”.

          “A self-confident country would never succumb to obliterating symbols of their history, whether it be good or bad or simply gone out of fashion,” Peters said in a statement. “A country learns from its mistakes and triumphs and its people should have the knowledge and maturity to distinguish between the two.

          “The woke generation are the equivalent of a person with no long-term memory, stumbling around in the present without any signposts to guide them.

          “Deal with it, grow up and read a book.”

          For context, Winston Peters is of the NZ First party which is currently allied with the Labour Party to form the current government. He’s known for being opportunistic and selfish, and extremely politically savvy. NZ First is a sort of populist anti-immigrant party.

      2. albatross11

        I strongly suspect that this has a lot more to do with “it’s fun to tear shit down” than a deep ideological evaluation of the person being depicted in the statue.

    2. 10240

      Can a civilization that not only is not proud of, but actively hates its past, persist, let alone progress?

      Why not? What does it have to do with whether it persists or progresses? I may be wrong, but I have a hunch that this is a fake consequentialist argument against something you oppose for different, emotional reasons.

      1. viVI_IViv

        Well, do you have an example of a civilization that destroyed its symbols and did not collapse? All examples I can think of of cultural destruction are associated to collapse.

        1. herbert herberson

          Well, do you have an example of a civilization that destroyed its symbols and did not collapse? All examples I can think of of cultural destruction are associated to collapse.

          The Byzantine Empire’s iconoclasms were in the 7th and 8th century; its fall didn’t occur until the 15th (and contrary to the vague popular conception of a steady fall into decadence, there were two significant periods of expansion between those two dates).

        2. 10240

          No, nor do I have an example of a civilization that destroyed its symbols and did collapse, let alone one where there is a clear causation from the cultural destruction and the collapse. I don’t have a sample. Most cases of cultural destruction I can think of involves a new culture destroying symbols of the old culture after the old culture has already “collapsed”. The “collapse” of the old culture can be anything from a collapse of civilization (e.g. as the result of a conquest) to just a few elements of the culture being replaced.

          (One example of a culture sort of destroying its own symbols I can think of is when protestants painted over frescoes and stopped praying to saints. This happened after Catholicism was replaced by Protestantism, it generally didn’t involve societal collapse, and the new Protestant culture has been living on for centuries.)

          Most societies that exist for a long time have elements in their past they find abhorrent today. I also think it’s unjustified and meaningless to be either proud or ashamed of past things one had no part in. I’m not on board with destroying all symbols that are associated with both good and bad, but I can see that some people disagree with me.

          Can you explain how not being proud of, or even hating ita past would lead to the collapse of a civilization, either through examples or general?

          I guess you can argue that repudiating elements of the culture that made a civilization great means people will behave in a way that worsens the state of the civilization. But I presume the symbols being destroyed here (when it’s not just random destruction) are destroyed because of their (supposed) association with aspects of the past that most people now repudiate (largely for good reason), not for their association with positive elements of the past.

        3. LesHapablap

          China’s Cultural Revolution? It didn’t collapse but the outcome was pretty awful. If I had to pick a most likely worst case scenario for the US then that would be it. Still very unlikely though, unless somehow we get a die hard social justice person in power.

      2. The original Mr. X

        If you think that your country is evil, you’re less likely to act in ways that help it survive (serving in the army, paying taxes, following the law, etc.).

        1. 10240

          They are thinking that their country was evil, not that it is evil. (Maybe they think it’s still evil, but it is not implied by the destruction of old symbols.)

          1. 10240

            @viVI_IViv A country is a group of people with a territory. Moreover, it’s a group people are part of mostly through the accident of their birth, rather than a group people voluntarily join for a particular purpose. What does it mean for it to stand for something?

            If you mean something like “what are the values most people in the country agree upon?”, the answer is the country’s present values, not its past values.

      3. albatross11

        Can you make a near-term prediction (say, for the next couple years) based on this?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Here’s Google’s cache of a post on Reddit announcing the creation of a “Conflict Resolution Advisory Council” for the CHAZ, post since removed: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:gGAbDVrgO54J:https://www.reddit.com/r/CapHillAutonomousZone/comments/h7vov1/clearing_up_the_raz_disinformation_introducing/+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    It’s since been taken down, but it was up for over two days and went through multiple edits. As far as I can tell, Reddit is the only place this was ever announced. Unfortunately, google didn’t catch the craziest edits, including the following two bits:

    The Council will mandate that more than 25% of its members must have a violent criminal history with previous or current incarceration experience.

    And most absurdly:

    Some women have expressed to us that they wouldn’t feel comfortable presenting a case involving a sexual offence to a Council that is partly made up of criminals with a history of committing sexual offences. We are placing a cap of 50% on the proportion of Council members who have performed one or more premeditated sexual assaults or rapes in the preceding twelve months. Homelesspersons and disabledpersons are exempt from this cap.

    I haven’t seen corroboration elsewhere, but I also haven’t seen a straight-up refutation. This is fake (and/or satire), right? Can someone confirm authoritatively, and if not, do people generally agree with that assessment?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Right-wing sites picked up on it quickly and included that text in their articles on the topic. See, for example, this gloating summary from a particularly skewed source. The post was cross-posted to different subs, and some comments specifically quoted the “criminal history” parts google didn’t catch (example), so I don’t think those sites made it up. The most parsimonious explanation seems to be that Google cached a copy, then the post was edited further, then it was removed before Google’s spiders got around to caching it again.

    1. AG

      The fact that the post hasn’t been put up on any other sites (except by reporters) shows that there’s not general agreement. No one has come forward to defend the post, or be outraged that the post is gone. The fact that the original post went up on Reddit, rather than any more official site, also supports this.

      Can anyone tell me if a manifesto that got mainstream traction ever went up on Reddit first?

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        Lots of things haven’t been done on reddit but are still happen on reddit for the first time, because reddit exists now.

        I was suspicious of it being a troll. I know people who are good at these troll things, and this has their handprints all over it. Especially the footnote on the reddit post. That’s where they are winking at the camera.

      2. keaswaran

        The obvious candidates would be the incel shooters, but Wikipedia says the guy in Isla Vista e-mailed his manifesto to 34 people, and the guy in Montreal didn’t mention a manifesto.

    2. Trofim_Lysenko

      In the specific case of the whole CHAZ/CHOP thing it’s not clear to me how much actual organization there IS, but if you can’t trace the source back to someone with a real name actually from that area I would tend to dismiss it as a troll.

      More broadly, the problem with inchoate movements/protests/etc that lack a clear organization or leadership is that it becomes very difficult to start drawing lines betweeen “official communication”, “true believer going off message due to zeal/extremism”, “false flag by counter-revolutionary elements”, and that ambiguity is going to be exploited to cover BOTH any gaffes by “real” members AND any actual troll posts/agent provacateur actions. This works equally well for physical actions and behavior, it’s not just a phenomenon for messaging.

      So as a general rule, if you see something that looks crazy and popped up without attribution, treat it as non-representative unless:

      A) You see it tied to an actual person known to be a representative of the given group/organization/etc under discussion.

      OR

      B) It gains traction and currency among those supporters anyway.

      For Physical actions, you add in other factors like whether they occurred as part of a group or physically separated from them.

      That’s my approach, at least.

  4. albatross11

    There is a paywall, so I won’t link it, but for anyone who has a Wall Street Journal subscription, they had a reporter spend a couple days wandering around the CHAZ (BLM/Antifa run few blocks of Seattle). His description was that he didn’t see any violence or chaos, and that it was kind-of a party atmosphere. He interviewed a street medic who commented that he hadn’t seen major injuries since the police pulled out–since then, he’d seen occasional minor injuries, but nothing serious.

    I’m concerned about the ability of major media sources to actually report bad things associated with BLM right now, in light of various Twitter-mob-led purges. The WSJ seems relatively unlikely to have such purges, so it’s interesting that so far, their reporter didn’t see any sign of chaos or violence there.

    1. S_J

      In my bubble of the Internet, a gun nut and long-time blogger (born in Idaho, lives and works near Seattle) went down and visited Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

      He notes that the Capitol Hill area seems to attract “young people trying to figure out who they are”.

      When he visited CHAZ, he expected checkpoints and armed patrols of some kind. Instead, he found a relaxed, block-party style atmosphere. The photos are interesting.

      His opinion was that CHAZ was effectively a bunch of young people throwing a tantrum.

      1. Aftagley

        He notes that the Capitol Hill area seems to attract “young people trying to figure out who they are”.

        That’s the nicest way of describing a hipster neighborhood I’ve ever seen?

        When he visited CHAZ, he expected checkpoints and armed patrols of some kind. Instead, he found a relaxed, block-party style atmosphere. The photos are interesting.

        So, where did this expectation come from? My entire exposure to the Seattle thing has been, this is just dumb kids doing something well-meaning in a city that’s probably being slightly too indulgent. Where is this pervading message of it being some kind of militarized gulag coming from?

        1. cassander

          >That’s the nicest way of describing a hipster neighborhood I’ve ever seen?

          we used to play a game, “hipster or homeless person.” You pointed to someone and the people you were with had to guess which were they were. You had to be at least a block away, though, because if you got any closer you could smell the hipsters.

        2. suntory time

          So, where did this expectation come from? My entire exposure to the Seattle thing has been, this is just dumb kids doing something well-meaning in a city that’s probably being slightly too indulgent. Where is this pervading message of it being some kind of militarized gulag coming from?

          One reason may be Fox ran digitally altered images suggesting it.

        3. Trofim_Lysenko

          At a guess, association from phrases in the media (mainstream or social) like “seized control” and “declared autonomy”. Bonus points for framings like “expelled” or “driven out” the police.

          “In the face of mounting community pressure, Seattle PD withdrew from….”

          Vs.

          “Today protesters seized control of Capitol Hill in Seattle, expelling police from the neighborhood and declaring it an ‘autonomous zone’.”

        4. 205guy

          From people who believe that one Russian “friend” I have on Facebook who always seems to post leftist AND rightist scissor memes. According to his “sources” the CHAZ is full of rioters burning buildings to the ground and the hells angels are banding together to come “retake” the city.

    2. John Schilling

      Get with the times, man! The CHAZ is so yesterday; it’s now the CHOP. And tomorrow, no doubt the Capitol Hill People’s Front (splitters!).

      As with Haight-Ashbury or Occupy Wall Street, the block party with delusions of grandeur is phase one. It really is harmless fun while it lasts, but it can’t last.

        1. John Schilling

          I think they both had the phase with lots of drug dealers mostly selling to townies, the free love getting a bit rapey, way too much trash and worse on the streets, and the whole thing becoming not nearly as much fun or politically inspiring. That’s phase 2.

          Whether you go through the “then men with guns come in and restore/impose order” phase before you get to the “and then even the lowlife opportunists give up and go home” phase is optional.

    3. theredsheep

      IIRC they have pledged not to leave until [set of implausible demands] is granted, so I expect either this will end like Occupy–forcible eviction, everybody slinks away grumbling–or like Waco. These do not seem like people with a plan or an exit strategy.

  5. metalcrow

    There’s been a lot of use of polls lately to determine if Americans support the protests that have been happening, with the results being…unclear to some degree. By coincidence, i happened to stumble across this analysis of polls during the civil rights movement, which offers some very interesting perspective.

    – 1961: “Americans were asked whether tactics such as ‘sit-ins’ and demonstrations by the civil rights movement had helped or hurt the chances of racial integration in the South. More than half, 57 percent, said such demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience had hurt chances of integration.” — Gallup

    – 1963: “A Gallup poll found that 78 percent of white people would leave their neighborhood if many black families moved in. When it comes to MLK’s march on Washington, 60 percent had an unfavorable view of the march.” — Cornell University’s Roper Center

    – 1964: “Less than a year after [Dr King’s] march, Americans were even more convinced that mass demonstrations harmed the cause, with 74 percent saying they felt these actions were detrimental to achieving racial equality and just 16 percent saying they were helping it.” — Gallup

    – 1964: “A majority of white New Yorkers questioned here in the last month in a survey by the New York Times said they believed the Negro civil rights movement bad gone too far. While denying any deep-seated prejudice against Negroes, a large number of those questioned used the same terms to express their feelings. They spoke of Negroes’ receiving ‘everything on a silver platter’ and of ‘reverse discrimination’ against whites. More than one‐fourth of those who were interviewed said they had become more opposed to Negro aims during the last few months.” — New York Times

    – 1965: “In the midst of the Cold War, a plurality of Americans believed that civil rights organizations had been infiltrated by communists, with almost a fifth of the country unsure as to whether or not they had been compromised.” – Cornell University’s Roper Center

    Given that these polls seems to paint a picture that, at the very least, most Americans were not clearly in favor of the protests during the civil rights movement, i was wondering if anyone might be able to provide perspective on how the movement actually ended up working. Are these polls non-representative? Did the movement only work after the next generation which was more positive towards them started voting en-masse? Does this indicate anything for the current movement?

    1. Ninety-Three

      “In the midst of the Cold War, a plurality of Americans believed that civil rights organizations had been infiltrated by communists, with almost a fifth of the country unsure as to whether or not they had been compromised.”

      This makes me think of North Dakota. In the midst of the Cold War I wouldn’t be surprised if a plurality of Americans thought the Boy Scouts had been infiltrated by communists. It is not obvious to me how much this statistic tells us about the civil rights movement in particular.

      1. metalcrow

        That’s very fair actually. In fact, digging into that poll in particular it looks like the exact question asked was

        “Most of the organizations pushing for civil rights have been infiltrated by the communists and are now dominated by communist trouble-makers. Do you agree with the statement or not?”

        which is the double whammy of North Dakota and privileging a positive answer.
        Although the breakdown itself does have 35% disagree, 19% don’t know, and 46% agree. So a uncertain answer was possible, and 46% is more than the North Dakota constant of 33%.
        Regardless, it is probably less significant than the other polls.

    2. AG

      It indicates that while the journalist tweeting that study should not have been fired, the study itself shouldn’t be taken as gospel, either, and should be subjected to the skepticism all self-report studies should be.

  6. Belisaurus Rex

    Despite how much Bayesian statistics is used in Rationalist communities, it’s really not all that common or popular among actual statisticians. Is it just an educated way to say you’re open-minded, like how every politician says they support “evidence-based” policy?

    Isn’t it kind of condescending to suggest that other people don’t use evidence or do not update with new information?

    1. meh

      Isn’t it kind of condescending to suggest that other people don’t use evidence or do not update with new information?

      It’s pretty well accepted that all humans have intuition and emotional decision making that runs quite contrary to probability. For a popular review of such, see https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Ariely/e/B001J93B34?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1592151373&sr=8-1

      See also this for peoples ability to update on evidence (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/mnS2WYLCGJP2kQkRn/absence-of-evidence-is-evidence-of-absence)

      In my experience, especially with those more conflict theorist oriented, updating on evidence is not a given.

      Is it just an educated way to say you’re open-minded, like how every politician says they support “evidence-based” policy?

      not just open-minded, but open-minded in a particular way; specifically how you evaluate evidence, and have it confirm to actual probability. (ok, maybe more accurately, how you *try* or *strive* to evaluate evidence). Most people tend to a strict True/False evaluation. So if there is not enough evidence to switch them from True to False, a theory on why the evidence must also be False needs to be formed. Claiming to be Bayesian and dealing with probabilities instead of T/F lets you be more open minded, since you don’t need to reject any evidence in this way. It all gets incorporated.

    2. Lodore

      Despite how much Bayesian statistics is used in Rationalist communities, it’s really not all that common or popular among actual statisticians.

      If you were to say ” it’s really not all that common or popular among people who use statistical methods”, this might might be true. But amongst actual mathematically trained statisticians, Bayesian inference is a mature and developing area.

      Isn’t it kind of condescending to suggest that other people don’t use evidence or do not update with new information?

      Absolutely it would be, except that I don’t think that’s what’s being said. The polemical claim is that frequentist reasoning gives you access to only one hypothesis (“the null hypothesis is false”), whereas Bayesian perspectives adjudicate between at least two hypotheses (“the null hypothesis is true” vs “my competing hypothesis is true”). In the frequentist case, updating and evidence collection doesn’t change the fact you have access to only one hypothesis.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        I have friends working in statistics and none of them touch Bayesian statistics in their day to day work. They’re familiar with it, but perhaps it’s more useful as a theory than in practice.

      2. keaswaran

        I think you can count on one hand the number of Statistics departments that have a Bayesian plurality. (Maybe even just one finger – I can’t think of any other than Duke.) My impression is that it’s a lot like Continental philosophy within academic philosophy – most departments are dominated by frequentist statisticians/analytic philosophers, but a small minority are dominated by Bayesian statisticians/continental philosophers. Every department will offer some classes in Continental/Bayesian, but it’s much more prominent in Physics/English departments than in Statistics/Philosophy departments.

    3. Tatterdemalion

      Isn’t it kind of condescending to suggest that other people don’t use evidence or do not update with new information?

      Almost all non-rationalists absolutely don’t handle using evidence or updating with new information at all well.

      Almost all (aspiring) rationalists don’t handle using evidence or updating with new information at all well.

      One of the main virtues of the aspiring rationalist movement is that it provides some mental tricks that, if followed, would let you do it a little less badly, although still not well (you’ve been issued with defective hardware; running error-correcting codes on it can pick up small mistakes but not large ones).

      The danger of the aspiring rationalist movement is that understanding those tricks makes it easier to fool other people, and much easier to fool yourself, into believing that you are less irrational than you, and pretty much everyone else, actually is.

      The other virtue of the aspiring rationalist movement – and the one I prize – is that it can teach you to be more aware of just how irrational you are, and to mitigate some of the consequences. Reading SSC hasn’t enabled me to be right about things noticeably more often, but I think it probably has enabled me to be confidently wrong less and tentatively wrong more.

    4. thisheavenlyconjugation

      When do Rationalist communities use Bayesian statistics, as opposed to using Bayesian-inspired jargon to refer to changing their minds.

    5. Creutzer

      The Rationalist community likes Bayesianism for two reasons. First, on philosophical grounds, with credences (degrees of belief) being fundamental.

      Second, it likes to refer to Bayesianism as a source of inspiration for cognitive tools. People are, indeed, bad at using evidence right, and they are bad at thinking in probabilities. Bayesianism, with its emphasis on credences, makes people more comfortable with uncertainty. Bayes’ Theorem gives a nice intuitive handle about how evidence relates to hypotheses. These simple notions, when taken seriously, change the way people think.

      Bayesian statistics is a different practice entirely, and not that wide-spread in the Rationalist community, either. I can’t recall a single essay that makes use of it, really. People may understand philosophical Bayesianism, but that doesn’t mean they have any clue how to do Bayesian stats. Bayesian stats are less cook book recipe-like, so it’s harder to just plug numbers into a readily available tool and get some numbers out. The Rationalist community, as such, has relatively little need for doing statistics in the first place (though I certainly wouldn’t mind the SSC survey ditching classical statistics!).

      The question of the adoption of Bayesian statistics in the practice of scientists and statisticians is a totally different one. I’m not a statistician, so I can’t speak to the depths of the math, but it absolutely is useful in practice at least for some people, not least because sometimes you absolutely need to answer questions that don’t fit well into a null hypothesis testing framework, or you want not to have to deal with the issue of stopping rules and multiple hypothesis testing. As for why your statistician friends in particular don’t find occasion to use it: what do they say when you ask them?

    6. keaswaran

      “Evidence-based medicine” is exactly this kind of condescending idea, and it is essentially based in frequentist statistics. Unless there’s a randomized controlled trial, they say we don’t know anything. They’re the reason every health authority outside of East Asia was against wearing face masks.

      1. DavidFriedman

        My complaint about frequentist based statistics is that almost everyone who isn’t a statistician misunderstands and so misuses them. What you want is the probability of your theory being false, conditional on the evidence. What the statistics gives you is the probability of the evidence (I oversimplify slightly), conditional on your theory being false (in a particular way — the null hypothesis). So you pretend the latter is the former.

        1. Aapje

          IMO, a bigger issue is that it is assumed that the errors are random (noise), even though there is very strong evidence that non-random errors are both common and significant.

        2. viVI_IViv

          What you want is the probability of your theory being false, conditional on the evidence. What the statistics gives you is the probability of the evidence (I oversimplify slightly), conditional on your theory being false (in a particular way — the null hypothesis).

          But I don’t think it’s really possible to do much better in a formal way, since you don’t have a formal prior over theories.

          Yes, some rationalists like to talk about universal priors based on Turing machines, but these aren’t really usable and they aren’t actually that universal (except in the uninteresting case of infinite data, where everything converges to the same thing anyway) and they definitely are not what statisticians use when they apply Bayesian statistics. In actual Bayesian statistics, che choice of the priors is itself part of the theory.

        3. albatross11

          Aapje:

          I think that’s just a problem with the fact that probability models that are tractable to work with also have to make a lot of simplifying assumptions, not something specific to Bayesian or Frequentist statistics.

  7. albatross11

    This article claims that the Buffalo police who resigned did it, not because they supported the guys knocking the old man over, but rather because they’d been informed by the police union that if anything happened and they were sued for it, they’d be on their own.

    1. rahien.din

      The more I hear about police unions, the more it seems that their primary victims are cops.

      1. albatross11

        If police unions work like other unions, they will likely spend most of their time defending the worst of their members, because those are the ones who mostly get into trouble and are in danger of being fired or demoted. I gather this is also often true of teachers’ unions, for the same reasons. The employment protections that keep the boss from firing you because he’s having a bad day or he has a grudge against you for some past thing also prevent the boss from firing the guy everyone knows has a bad temper and seems to always show up at the station with guys who’ve resisted arrest and are covered in bruises.

        1. rahien.din

          It’s worse than that.

          Everything you describe is feature, not bug. An essential aim of any society is to pull up the weakest member. (If it wasn’t, then all societies would each consist of exactly one person.)

          What’s bad is when police unions make it impossible for cops to support each other in the moment.

          The officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck needed help in order to avert a murder. In an alternative world, one of the three three other officers might somehow intervene. But it would be worse for him if he contravenes his fellow officer – and it seems like the reason for that is the police union.

          You can see it on the one guy’s face. He seems to be thinking “This situation is fucked and there is no way out.”

          1. albatross11

            Every society needs to have a balance between pulling the weakest members up, punishing misbehavior, and removing the weakest members from critical positions where they will cause a lot of damage.

            It *is* good for the union to support pulling the weakest members up, but it’s very bad when the union prevents either punishing misbehavior or removing people from critical jobs they can’t do. I mean, I want the airline pilots’ union to help the pilots who are having problems and pull the weakest ones up, too, but not so much so that they keep pilots on the job flying planes who are dangerously incompetent, or who occasionally show up to work drunk.

  8. Mark V Anderson

    So how come now when I do ctrl F for the comments for any search factor I use it says there is one comment. This is whether I use cedille new, or date, or what ever else. Maybe my computer is messed up somehow? This doesn’t always happen, but it’s been doing it a lot this week. It’s like my computer is rebelling at all the comments.

    1. Creutzer

      cedille new

      Off-topic, but: you mean “tilde new”. The cedille is that thing that distinguishes ç from c.

  9. Eric T

    Good news everyone! I got a time machine. But I can only send each person back in time once. For some reason upon seeing my time machine, your inner Roman patriot awoke, and now your goal is to use my time machine to stop the fall of the roman empire. You can bring anything you want back with you, but any technology not yet invented in the year you arrive won’t function/will cease to be. Where/when do you go and how do you do it?
    Caveat: You will mystically learn Latin upon arrival and look like a Roman if you do not already.

    1. Belisaurus Rex

      “Why should Caesar just get to stomp around like a giant while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar, right? Brutus is just as smart as Caesar, people totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar, and when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody because that’s not what Rome is about! We should totally just STAB CAESAR!”

      But right before he crosses the Rubicon instead of a few years later. Alternatively, encourage Crassus not to invade Parthia, if that is easier. The Roman Republic was doing fine, and while the peaks of Empire are higher, it is not quite as stable as Republics seem to be.

      Many people would consider the Roman Republic to have been an empire, in the same way the French Republic(s) had imperial possessions despite not having an emperor.

      1. cassander

        Many people would consider the Roman Republic to have been an empire, in the same way the French Republic(s) had imperial possessions despite not having an emperor.

        So france’s republics were empires. That fits, because napoleon’s empire was officially a republic!

      2. The original Mr. X

        But right before he crosses the Rubicon instead of a few years later. Alternatively, encourage Crassus not to invade Parthia, if that is easier. The Roman Republic was doing fine, and while the peaks of Empire are higher, it is not quite as stable as Republics seem to be.

        Are you being ironic here? The Republic had been trapped in a cycle of violence ever since the murder of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC. There had already been seven or so (depending on how you count them) civil wars or rebellions during Caesar’s lifetime.

    2. WoollyAI

      You can bring anything you want back with you, but any technology not yet invented in the year you arrive won’t function/will cease to be.

      Well, the obvious thing is to bring back a ton of gold or other rare minerals, along with notes on a variety of medieval and renaisance tech, such as the gunpowder, the compass, better smelting techniques, printing presses, etc. It’s not like you won’t be able to make a printing press or mix the right ingredients to get blackpowder.

      When is the more interesting question. I think the best time is 10-15 years before the death of the eldest Gracchi brother and to do your best to prevent that. That’s really when the Republic started to fall apart and the Republic is far more worth saving than the later empire. You could try your luck with Sulla, it’s definitely simpler because you do have an absolute dictator committed to restoring the Republic, but I think it’s too late for that.

      Honestly, gunpowder is good, but military power was never really an issue for the Romans. I think the printing press is the real game changer, be the first in mass media and use that advantage to steer the empire away from collapse.

      Also, being in Israel/Palestine during the reign of Tiberius could be enlightening.

      1. Wrong Species

        military power was never really an issue for the Romans

        The fifth century emperors would strongly disagree. They tried and failed multiple times to stop the various barbarian groups. It’s possible they could have lasted a longer if they could have stopped the Vandals from taking North Africa.

    3. cassander

      Gunpowder is key. there’s no reason that you can’t make guns with roman levels of technology. They didn’t because guns require more than just take stumbling onto the the fact that mixing charcoal, sulfur, and bird shit makes a good incendiary. You had to do that, then spend a couple centuries refining it, purifying it, and realizing that was more useful to use it to shoot projectiles than to light things on fire. Once you have them, though, they largely eliminate the ability of “barbarians” to threaten settled peoples. They also, though this is more contentious, drove state formation by increasing the capital intensity of warfare. I’m not sure if you can save the roman republic or not, it’s that possible its city state institutions would simply never have been able to scale up, but you can definitely save Rome.

      1. Trofim_Lysenko

        I’d argue that the development of firearms are also a deathblow to warrior aristocracy as a feature of social hierarchy, in the long term. Which is not to say that they necessarily prevent OTHER forms of undesirable social structures, and in fact they probably make other bad structures EASIER to form, but that’s another point in the favor of firearm technology.

        Firearms, the Printing Press, and increasing literacy are a really potent combo.

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            Stability and overall welfare, basically. Elsewhere you may have seen me being down on naive democracy/majoritarian rule, but an entrenched aristocracy can be just as bad.

            A truly wise and just noble or monarch is great, arguably the best form of government overall, but kings and nobles aren’t immortal, and the social and cultural dynamics associated with the establishment and maintenance of an aristocratic class make ensuring that ALL the monarchs and nobles impossible, and the failure state is fairly ugly.

            I would prefer a system of government that discourages the normalization of having entire families killed to secure the succession, and periodic wars for either new territory or over successions that aren’t secure.

            Note that firearms and explosives aren’t the only thing that led to these social changes, and we’re talking a multi-century process, but I don’t see any reason not to help set conditions that will start the transition early.

      2. johan_larson

        I don’t see any particular reason why the empire has to be so darn big and cumbersome. A smaller state that fits naturally defensible borders might work better. It might be worth thinking about where those defensible strategic boundaries are. If you control the entire Italian peninsula, the line from Genoa to Venice at the top of the boot is only 280 km, which should be defensible. Pisa to Ravenna, a bit further south, is even shorter at 170 km.

        I’m not sure where the cut points are further north, but there should be plenty of fortifiable passes in the Alps.

        1. cassander

          Because if you’re smaller, that means leaving space for someone else, and when that vacuum gets filled, whoever fills it can threaten you. the security dilemma is unending, which is why the modern US is defending Guam, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Latvia.

      3. Tatterdemalion

        Gunpowder is key. there’s no reason that you can’t make guns with roman levels of technology. They didn’t because guns require more than just take stumbling onto the the fact that mixing charcoal, sulfur, and bird shit makes a good incendiary. You had to do that, then spend a couple centuries refining it, purifying it, and realizing that was more useful to use it to shoot projectiles than to light things on fire. Once you have them, though, they largely eliminate the ability of “barbarians” to threaten settled peoples.

        Are you sure about that? My (admittedly third-hand) understanding is that trained bowmen were actually more effective than early musketeers; the big advantage of the gun was that you could make a hastily-raised peasant militia much more dangerous, and for the Romans, with their big standing armies, that’s probably not so relevant.

        1. Hazzard

          It’s a mix of issues. Guns were more reliably at dealing with armour than bows. Bullet-proof armour was expensive in the renaissance and had its drawbacks. I doubt the Romans would be able to produce the bullet-proof armour. I think guns would make things worse for Rome, rather than better.

        2. cassander

          First, being a trained bowman is a lifestyle choice. Keeping in shape to pull a serious bow requires constant practice, and an army of people in that shape all but requires a culture that produces very large numbers of archers as part of daily life. Almost anyone can use a gun, and it takes far less effort to get someone to use a gun well.

          Second, guns are loud and scary. Battles are won more by making the enemy run away than by killing them, so this matters. this applies doubly to artillery, which can also inflict destruction that puts any archer to shame.

          third, as Hazzard says, guns were good at piercing armor, which is one of the reasons you see the proliferation of full suits of plates in the 1500s. less settled people aren’t going to be able to produce armor like that in enough quantities to protect themselves. The Romans could. 1500s level matchlocks and canon would be devastating against the goths and huns.

          For most of history, there’s back and forth between settled and unsettled peoples. The settled are usually better organized, and usually have the upper hand, but when they get sloppy or the unsettled get organized, the settled people could be in for some serious trouble. once you get serious guns, though, that pretty much stops being the case. the logistics of moving into unsettled terrain means the settled can’t go and wipe them out, but the unsettled lose the ability to attack even disorganized settled people, because they can’t produce weapons and armies that can stand up in a straight fight.

        3. Wrong Species

          If anyone knows better they can correct me, but I believe that there weren’t that many bowmen left by the end of the 16th century.

          1. John Schilling

            Mostly correct, except for nomadic populations that couldn’t make guns. The settled populations, even the ones with a long tradition of producing good bowmen, pretty much all switched to guns by the time early muskets were available.

            For approximately the reasons already stated: Good enough at killing from a distance, good enough (with a bayonet) at killing in close combat, very good at penetrating armor, very good at producing concentrated raw terror. The superiority of a good bowman in only the first of those categories was not nearly enough to offset the other advantages of the musket, which was really a well-balanced all-in-one tool for doing the things you need to win a battle.

          2. Trofim_Lysenko

            They lasted longer in China for a combination of reasons, but basically, yes. In PRACTICE, Firearms were superior enough to bows in the vast majority of actual battlefield applications that they had mostly displaced them by the late 1500s. One of the best discussions of primary sources on this is a defunct blog I really hope doesn’t lose hosting anytime soon. Of particular note:

            In actual combat, there are no recorded instances of bows outranging muskets, whereas there are multiple primary sources attesting to the opposite.

            -16th-17th century texts generally refer to musketeers and arquebusiers requiring MORE training than bowmen, not less.

            But there are a ton more great entries. In short, once you have early 1500s-era matchlock muskets, you have a weapon that is pretty much flatly superior in practice to most bow designs for most purposes.

            And it’s worth noting that if you’re talking going back in time, you can bring back a simplified design with you that incorporates at least some of the design refinements of later weapons without necessarily requiring the sort of mechanical complexity and cost of later lock designs, so you don’t even have to limit yourself to the original 1500s designs. If nothiing else, you can design more ergonomic wood furniture and better sighting systems.

          3. cassander

            @Trofim_Lysenko says

            -16th-17th century texts generally refer to musketeers and arquebusiers requiring MORE training than bowmen, not less.

            Archers don’t take decades to train, but they do need continual practice. Guns and powder cost more money, and especially early on when there were few guns in private hands, the average person had little experience with anything mechanical, and there were no good systems of training yet I can see the training being laborious. But once you’ve taught someone to use a gun, they can leave for a years and still be pretty good when they come back. Not so much for bows.

            And it’s worth noting that if you’re talking going back in time, you can bring back a simplified design with you that incorporates at least some of the design refinements of later weapons without necessarily requiring the sort of mechanical complexity and cost of later lock designs

            That’s the fun question, isn’t it? When’s the earliest you could go back to and still be able to make mass numbers of Ferguson rifles?\

            Also, there’s a great discussion of the bow vs. musket question in John Francis Guilmartin’s Gunpoweder and Galleys.

        4. The original Mr. X

          If that were the case, we would expect bow-based armies to regularly defeat musket-based ones except where the latter seriously outnumbered them. In fact, we see the complete opposite.

      4. The original Mr. X

        Once you have them, though, they largely eliminate the ability of “barbarians” to threaten settled peoples.

        Most of the “barbarians” who overthrew Rome were themselves settled peoples.

    4. Deiseach

      As a Barbarian sitting at the Western edge of the Known World: Oh, this is gonna be good

      “Do you think we should stop slave-raiding into Britannia?”

      “Nah, they started it”

    5. Hazzard

      I’d stop Christianity from taking over. I think you have to accept that the Roman Empire will have civil wars, but you’ve got to contain them. How to do that is easier said than done.

      I think the best options are to stop Julian the Apostate from dying, or otherwise stop Christianity from taking over. That leads to a lot of internal stability and makes religion another dividing line in Rome.

      There’s several options.
      Save Julian from dying
      Stop Constantine the Great from winning the Battle of Milvian Ridge
      Try to wipe out Judaism/Mess up Jesus’ life/do something about early Christianity.

      1 and 2 I’d solve with introducing grenades. Wouldn’t create a huge military shakeup like introducing guns, at least not immediately. And firearms would show up earlier, but in a more organic way. Frag Grenades could mess up enemy formations, be difficult for anyone else to copy due to being perishable and the spread can be easily controlled.

      Also, the only Roman Enemy that could really take advantage of grenades and later firearms would be established states like the Sassanids, or Roman Breakaways. But keeping grenades only used by the Emperor personally and who he trusts is a way to keep an advantage over everyone else. I’d also introduce stirrups. This would even out against the later migrations from the east, which would make their cavalry a little less deadly.

      I have a soft spot for saving Julian over destroying Constantine because Julian was a Pagan Thinker who could see what was wrong with Christianity and would be on board with my plan if I could prove it worked. And after he died, Christians seized the reigns for the rest of the Empire.

      Plans 3a, 3b and 3c are much more complex.
      3a) Kick off a much earlier Jewish revolt in history. This could easily be done by having Roman Emperor statues put up in Jerusalem when the Romans were persuaded by some of the more pragmatic Jewish leaders not to.
      3b) Kill Jesus when he’s young, or kill all his disciples during the crucifixion or during the Aftermath. Peter and Paul are the most important ones to my understanding, but it can’t hurt to be thorough. At the very least, it would shake-up the foundations enough that they might not spread throughout the Empire, or butterfly effect things to stop the initial rise of Christianity among the elites.
      3c) Track down and kill some of the early cults which are the letters from Paul’s audience. And make sure Peter doesn’t make it to Rome.

      1. MPG

        What does Christianity have to do with Roman civil wars? It’s not the motivation for Julian’s war with Constantius II, and the succession from Julian through Jovian to Valentinian I is surprisingly peaceful.

        Do you blame it for the failure of the Tetrarchic system? That looks to me pretty straightforwardly like dynastic ambitions on a collision-course. Maybe Diocletian appointed Severus and Maximinus Daza because he suspected Constantine and Maxentius of Christian sympathies, but not even Lactantius alleges that, when he’s dreaming up a conversation between Diocletian and Galerius on the succession. Once Constantine is hailed as Augustus in York–nothing to do with Christianity there–the system has to give and, in the event, not even Maximian seems really to have been on board with Diocletian’s plan.

        Christianity is the motive force, or the excuse, for Constantine’s successful war with Licinius. One could, I suppose, make a case that the war ruled out non-dynastic succession for the foreseeable future, except, of course, that it did not (witness Jovian, Valentinian I, Theodosius I, scads of later Eastern emperors…) Rulership by two unrelated people at once? Regret it or not, the Romans seem not to have been comfortable with the idea. Dynastic ambitions aren’t going away any time soon and, again, Christianity seems scarcely more than incidental: its theology can hardly suggest that blood heritage is more important than adoption or other bonds created by law.

        If you think that Eugenius’ revolt was driven by a desire to restore paganism, you have a second data point, but it’s limited. I don’t see how appointment of a senator by yet another “barbarian” warlord (Arbogast, in this case) is going to change the underlying system at all.

        Or do you think the fifth-century pagans were right, and Rome failed because the gods were angry that sacrifices had ceased? I think the sixteen hundred years since show that European states can do pretty well without worshipping the primordial gods of their families, nations, or places, but you might have a counter-argument.

      2. Deiseach

        Friendly reminder that Heliogabalus wasn’t Christian and that was its own unholy political fuck-up. When your own granny is the one orchestrating assassination plots against you, then it’s not about religion.

        Can you develop your point more? Are you going for Gibbons’ “Christianity made the Romans weak and effeminate and they lost all the good old martial virtues and vigour of the pagan times?” because that’s an argument whose basis boils down to “they were no longer cruel and ruthless enough to put down rebellions and crush conquered territories with such force that the natives were too afraid to try again”, and if we take it that part of the long collapse of the Empire was the pressure on the borders from incursions by ‘barbarians’, those barbarians fleeing from invasions and problems in their own lands are not going to care if you’re Christian or pagan, or if you are Exemplary Ancient Roman Virtues because war, famine and plague are flogging them onwards.

        If you mean “pagan Rome will be on good terms with other pagan cultures and won’t be bothered about trying to convert them to the One True Faith, so a lot of problems will be averted there”, you have a pagan Roman Empire that is still very interested in squeezing the last drops out of client territories via tax farming and hoping to be sent in some official capacity to a rich province so you could make your fortune there, and that isn’t going to endear you (or the Empire) to the locals.

    6. Evan Þ

      Now that WoolyAI brings it up, my current inclination is to go to Galilee c. 32 AD and ask Jesus what to do with the time machine. No need to speak Aramaic; I can identify Him as the one who understands my modern English perfectly.

      Even from a secular perspective, Jesus is a wise Jew who’s neither in bed with the Roman occupation nor violently resisting it. He’s well positioned to tell apart the good and bad things about Roman rule from the perspective of the subject peoples, in a way we might well be missing from two thousand years later. Our intervention should be informed by that, to maximize the good and minimize the bad. We don’t (shouldn’t?) want to just make Rome last longer (we arguably got it till 1922 in our timeline); we want to make it better or at least keep it from getting worse.

    7. Wrong Species

      I really don’t believe that you could preserve the empire, unless maybe if you invent gunpowder. Everything was a stall.

      That said I would probably assassinate Honorius. He was weak and pathetic and everything that happened during his reign would bring Rome to an end. The only issue would be how would the Eastern half of the empire react. If they left the West alone to proclaim their own emperor, then great. If they try to unify the empire under Arcadius, then you have the same problem of a weak emperor. In that case, maybe just assassinate Theodosius before the Battle of the Frigidus. Then the whole issue of his sons goes away.

        1. Wrong Species

          Byzantium had a really good geographic position though. It explains why the Eastern Roman Empire had inactive emperors in the first half of the fifth century and did alright. They were well protected from the Germans. Even after the Arabs invaded, they still had Anatolia for the next 400 years, which is extremely defensible territory. And of course, they had Constantinople, which we’ve talked about before.

          1. cassander

            I actually think the real difference was the city itself being effectively unsiegable. This made things difficult for the enemies of the empire, of course, but it also cut down on civil wars. Ambitious generals couldn’t just march into town and depose an emperor, if they tried they’d be stuck outside the walls while the emperor stat inside them with the treasury, militia, fleet and any forces that were still loyal. Emperors were deposed, of course, but by action of palace intrigue of the mob. These could be inspired by people outside the walls, of course, but ultimately only someone inside the city could depose an emperor, which made everything a bit more stable.

          2. cassander

            There were definitely civil wars, I didn’t mean to imply that there weren’t. But there were definitely fewer than there were in the late western empire, and they often took the form of a general marching up to the walls, camping outside them, and hoping the mob or the high officials did away with the emperor. 717 is a relatively rare example of a full on civil war with armies clashing.

          3. Wrong Species

            But there were definitely fewer than there were in the late western empire,

            Sure, but the late Western Empire was more unstable than most places with the same issue of hereditary succession as the Eastern Empire that caused unstable dynasties. The civil wars were sometimes just a general camping outside of Constantinople but there are plenty of times where actual battles were fought. My question would be how they compare to other places during the Middle Ages. France had one dynasty for 800 years(although part of that is outside the time frame).

          4. cassander

            @wrong species

            well, the succession wasn’t really hereditary in the east (or west), at least not until the Palaiologos showed up. There’s actually a book about this. There’s a lot of dynastic turnover, but it comes about by coups. Sometimes a threat of war plus coup, but it almost always involves either the mob or place elites losing faith in one side or the other more than direct battlefield results, which made it much less damaging for the empire.

          5. Wrong Species

            the succession wasn’t really hereditary in the east (or west),

            That’s what I meant. Since they didn’t have an entrenched system in place, it meant that Roman leadership was chaotic. Even if most of those involved coups/riots, it still leaves plenty of military conflicts.

            Take Basil the Second. His early reign was extremely unstable as he tried to assert power after being under the thumb of generals and eunuchs. When the general Bardas Skleros rebelled, there were apparently three battles before he was defeated at the Battle of Pankaleia.

            You could also look at the Battle of Kalavrye which helped Alexios Komnenos establish a power base in which he could later become emperor.

            We could go back and forth on how representative these are but based on my reading of the Byzantines, they certainly weren’t unique.

          6. Deiseach

            So then the question becomes: do we want to try to preserve the entire Empire, do we pick the Western half, or do we go with the Eastern half and let the West go hang, because the Eastern is stronger and we can make it last even longer and more effectively?

    8. James Miller

      Rome fell in 1453 when the Turks took Constantinople. I arrive in 1450 Constantinople with as much gold as the rules allow, give it all to Emperor Constantine XI and suggest he use it to hire lots of mercenaries.

      1. cassander

        if you really want to save Constantinople, you have to go back a lot further. I say you go back to 1303 and sink the ship the catalans officers are taking to the city.

        1. Belisaurus Rex

          Yeah, if it’s the Byzantines you want to save, maybe convince Alexios Komnenos to help the Latins during the siege of Antioch. In hindsight this does not hurt Alexios much since the Latins would win anyway, but this is the pivotal moment of the First Crusade and the Byzantines look horrible for not showing up. This is their chance to be the heroes and save the crusade, which maybe gets them on better terms with the West.

    9. albatross11

      Paper hadn’t been invented yet, but the main thing you’re going to need is information. Some gold would be good, too, but mainly you need to bring back enough information to kickstart the industrial and scientific revolutions a couple thousand years early. There’s obvious stuff–the recipe for gunpowder, how to make halfway decent lenses for glasses, telescopes, and microscopes, the germ theory of disease + recipes for making soap, techniques for making a good still for both antiseptic and industrial-revolution-funding purposes, instructions for making steam engines and hydraulic presses/jacks, maps of useful mineral deposits to be discovered in the next 2000 years, instructions for making a sextant and doing stellar navigation, etc. 30 years after your arrival, your gun factory is using production lines and control charts and your trade ships are selling mass-produced goods in China and India.

      1. salvorhardin

        Helen Dale’s _Kingdom of the Wicked_ is an entertaining exploration of what might have happened in that sort of scenario.

      2. Lambert

        I think there’s more to seafaring than the sextant.

        TBH I’d try to shortcut that part by sending ships full of mutineers and iron tools off the Eastern end of Eurasia promising to give them land and pardon if they come back with some willing proto-polynesian shipwrights and seamen. Might have to wait for the favourable winds of El Nino.

        Also start marking nice trees for the Navy.

        1. Lambert

          Well it was invented in 2nd century China, reaching Europe in the High Medieval. If you set your mind to it you could probably figure out how to make paper from rags and wood using Roman technology within a few years. Paper mills may or may not be viable, depending on the effect of slavery on capital vs free labour costs (and ultimately land costs).

          I suppose the other question is the cost of paper vs papyrus.
          And the medieval era saw the introduction of parchment, which was superior to both but very expensive.

    10. Well...

      any technology not yet invented in the year you arrive won’t function/will cease to be.

      I’m hijacking slightly here, but if we truly consider the breadth of what “technology” might encompass, how many people living today could really travel in this time machine more than a few hundred years pastward and emerge as something other than a useless oaf? Language, clothing, eyeglasses, dental fixtures, learned methods of problem-solving…all of these are technologies, the modern instantiations of which we mostly take for granted.

      1. albatross11

        Yeah, if information can’t be brought back (you can’t use Arabic numerals because they haven’t been invented yet), then I think you’re stuck bringing piles of gold to give to someone you think could save Rome.

    11. John Schilling

      What’s my budget for scribes to handwrite the Encyclopedia Britannica in six-point minscule on vellum scrolls? Alternately, how pedantically anal are your arbiters of forbidden technology?

      Regardless, I’m bringing silver coin for spending money, gold for capital, the best sword and mail shirt your tech-censors will allow to dissuade silver-hungry thieves until I can hire proper bodyguards, some select natural poisons refined as best I can get away with, and books. Britannica, probably a mid-20th century edition, and The Way Things Work (Simon & Schuster, not MacAuley), and a few others if they’ll fit.

      What to do with them: weapons are overrated. Yes, we can teach the Romans gunpowder. And it would be silly to stop there; anyone who can do gunpowder can do fulminate of mercury, rifling, Minie bullets, and socket bayonets. That’s your sweet spot for preindustrial armaments. But the periods where Rome faced any serious martial shortfall, are the periods in which demographic and political rot were going to bring down the system with or without guns. If you’re trying to save the Republic, it hardly helps that Caesar crosses the Rubicon with an army of musketeers – especially as the reserve armies at home will probably have the older weapons. On the other hand, a decent telegraph network might let the Senate keep closer tabs on distant affairs, rather than have to appoint autonomous unaccountable dictators.

      Beyond that, which Rome am I trying to save? Republic, Western Empire, or Eastern Empire?

      Republic, I think I might try buying my way into the Senate and establishing bureaucratic reforms in parallel with the military reforms of Marius. And maybe poison Sulla just to be safe.

      Western Empire, you pretty much have to get in early before the rot sets in and the throne becomes a salable commodity. The easy answer is to poison Commodus in infancy and get myself a job as tutor or advisor to whomever Marcus Aurelius chooses as a successor. Then try to lock in systematic reforms, because competent emperors adopting/appointing competent successors wasn’t going to last forever. Telegraph network, modern bookkeeping, probably printing, and some political theory.

      Eastern Empire, I might actually go the military route and try to give Romanos Diogenes a force of musketeers at Manzikert. That eliminates a major military threat, keeps Anatolia in the Empire, and probably prevents the Doukas family from screwing over the Empire from within. Also probably results in an Empire strong enough that it doesn’t need Frankish crusaders to deal with the Turks and the Saracens, so Constantinople isn’t sacked in 1204.

      1. Lambert

        >The Way Things Work

        Ah I see you’re a man of culture as well.

        I kind of want to get the original »Wie Funktioniert Das?«
        Mostly to laugh at how literal technical vocabulary sounds in German.

        There’s also the 1967 Volume 2 which goes both deeper into things like nuclear reactors and more abstract into things like road junction design. But the diagrams are annotated in a grotesque font, so it’s not really the same.

      2. Nancy Lebovitz

        I’m reminded of Heinlein’s “Elsewhen” which included somewhat of the replicating technology project. I remember a sliderule and books (the Rubber Handbook?) of physical and chemical constants. Neither of them are permitted, but the Romans would probably benefit from abacuses.

        Stirrups and horse collars are just ideas, so they can presumably be brought back. All you’d need is to make prototypes and convince people to try them.

        Would Rome benefit from border collies?

        I’m admittedly operating on the assumption that anything which makes Rome more prosperous would help keep it from falling. This is a guess.

        Anything I want? No weight or volume limits? Can I come back with a team?

        *****

        I checked. Invention of paper in China, 100 BC. Fall of Rome, 100 AD. I can probably have some kind of paper.

        Could the Romans benefit from tea and silk? Maybe. Is there other Chinese tech they could use?

    12. MPG

      I’d have to be sure, first of all, how long I’m supposed to keep the Roman Empire from falling: have an emperor, titled thus and recognized by his eastern colleague, at least nominally ruling somewhere west of Illyricum after 476? Sure, that might be doable. Making it past the climatic and pandemic catastrophes of the mid-sixth century? Going to be a lot tougher. There’s a reason why that’s the best bet for a hard cultural dividing line and serious systems collapse in Italy and Gaul, and it’s not just the Gothic Wars of Justinian.

      Second, I’d want to be sure just why–for a requisite value of “fall”–it did fall. I rather like Peter Heather’s theory, so let’s run with it. The Western Roman Empire fell due to a spiraling loss of territory and revenue. Land falls out of the control of the central government, taxes stop coming in, the army has less money to keep it going–and the army, make no mistake, is the big expense in a pre-modern state: none of this nonsense about Robert Baratheon wasting the whole fisc on tourneys–the army therefore has fewer men, loses more territory; rinse, repeat.

      Where does one stop the cycle? Sure, we can fantasize about setting up an alt-Rome sometime earlier, but once we get to a point where the “fall” of Rise and Fall appears in hindsight (always in hindsight!) to have begun, there are three obvious places:

      1. in 376, before the Tervingi and Greuthungi crossed the Danube. Stopping that, however, is either going to take some very clever statecraft on the part of the local Romans or stopping the Huns several steps back (yes, yes, I know: it’s not just “barbarians moving in lines on a map,” but the Huns do seem to be providing a good part of the motive force for what’s happening). None of the archeology or politics is understood well enough for us to be sure what will help–I’d certainly not risk bringing gunpowder and possibly, accidentally, setting up a rival ex- or para-Roman state, which might just bring down the empire based in Italy.

      2. At Adrianople in 378. More than doable. Just get Valens to wait for Gratian or, better yet, keep Valentinian I from dying (perhaps impossible: a stroke isn’t going to be curable even with future knowledge of anatomy), and sheer numbers may win them the battle. Better tactics, enable by future knowledge, wouldn’t hurt either.

      3. In 408-409, when Alaric has invaded Italy and is trying to get himself made Generalissimo (TM) of the Roman Empire. After he sacked Rome, people knew they didn’t have to work in the system anymore. Probably too late already, however.

      Any of these steps immediately bogs us down in the fundamental problem of contrafactual history. We never know what would have happened, and the knock-on effects simply cannot be predicted beyond the very short term (as in, the rest of that battle, that day), as we do not understand the overlapping nexuses of causes well enough to know why everything did happen to begin with. That’s what rules out buffing Rome earlier on, or meddling with tech, which others can always copy. There’s no telling whether there will be a Roman Empire when you’re done. You might have set up a cultured state with continuity to Roman institutions that will last another millennium–we have empirical proof it was possible, after all–but it stoutly calls itself “The Republic of Ravenna” or the “Empire of All the Spains” or some such. At that point, we might just persuade Justinian not to invade Italy and throw our money behind the Ostrogoths. You know, lest darkness fall.

      The safest bet, therefore, is to strengthen the institutions of the Roman Empire at a point where 1. We can be reasonably sure such strengthening will do any good; and 2. What we produce will still look like the Roman Empire. That means post-third-century “crisis,” as we can have no idea whether meddling with Marcus Aurelius or Elagabalus or whoever might not lower that date from 476 to 451 or something. We also have to be able to do so while navigating the impossibly complicated political structures of the late Roman world, without any of the social connections that made such navigation actually possible. I mean, even a court doctor or a prominent bishop, the obvious respected outsiders, could be, or could have once been, on the career-track of the imperial bureaucracy. A private army, equipped with miracle weapons (more gunpowder!) or not, is likely to get itself crushed pretty fast. Somebody will abscond with the blueprints and the experience, and the Romans love to copy others’ stuff. All the more if I’m a weirdo outsider, and my men split on me with the goods.

      The obvious way out is to do the trick of every budget alternate history: mind-melding with some identifiable personage. We will want to arrive at a time when the empire already has reasonably strong institutions, and gain as close to centralized control as we can, avoiding war with Persia and keeping the less-organized barbarians at bay. We will also want to achieve ideological unity within the Empire, on terms intelligible to actual ancient people and not to the 21st-century projections of modern historical fiction.

      Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the emperor Constantine. Justinian was the Roman Empire Restoration Society of the 23rd Century’s second-best shot, and Julian the bizarro-world creation of a late night at a surprisingly iffy bar a few blocks from UCLA.

      In all seriousness, however, I’d want to be an emperor. I don’t think any system of inheritance or governance is going to prevent weak governance, but keeping child-emperors out of it would be a good idea, and splitting the empire, though pragmatically necessary, also splits its army. Constantine’s my first pick, then. Don’t kill Crispus, and make the other members of the imperial family go through a bureaucratic training program: perhaps by being actual members of the bureaucracy. Make the best your Caesars. Try for a more laissez faire religious policy, just to keep from wasting energy on disputes you won’t really resolve. I doubt that made any meaningful difference, however.

      After that, it’s anyone’s bet. The empire was doing pretty well for most of the fourth century. A nudge might be all it needs to keep going for a few more decades, and, after that–well, nothing lasts forever.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Land falls out of the control of the central government, taxes stop coming in, the army has less money to keep it going–and the army, make no mistake, is the big expense in a pre-modern state: none of this nonsense about Robert Baratheon wasting the whole fisc on tourneys–the army therefore has fewer men, loses more territory; rinse, repeat.

        So whatever Aragorn’s tax policy was, it was functional and George R.R. Martin’s wasn’t.

        1. MPG

          I’ve never actually read A Song of Ice and Fire, still less watched A Game of Thrones, but I hear complaining about that feature of it on the internet. My guess–if I had to guess–is that the Baratheon treasury is actually emptied out by the expense of building and rebuilding a navy. That’s exorbitant.

        2. Tarpitz

          My impression is that Westeros’s fiscal position has been deliberately hollowed out by Littlefinger to help contribute to the chaos he needs to enable his continued rise to power. When the treasury secretary is not subject to any effective oversight and is not only skimming personal fortunes off the top but intentionally wasting money on every conceivable outlay, I assume the books can get pear-shaped very quickly indeed. Bobby B’s fighting, drinking and whoring may not be a satisfactory explanation from the point of view of a 21st Century economist, but they’re perfect as a way for Littlefinger to explain to his betters (and the mob) why the sad realities of the situation are beyond the capacity of even a fiscal genius such as he to fully remedy.

          1. Nancy Lebovitz

            A just for the fun of it theory: I listened to a podcast about the Iron Bank as a major player in the Winds of Winter.

            Part of the overarching story is that cooperation breaks down– what of the Iron Bank breaks down into factions competing over the Iron Throne?

      2. Deiseach

        The safest bet, therefore, is to strengthen the institutions of the Roman Empire at a point where 1. We can be reasonably sure such strengthening will do any good; and 2. What we produce will still look like the Roman Empire.

        Hmmm – so go back to when Augustus was the first Emperor and sort out his tangled family line so that we get a proper successor and dynasty founded, not the mess of nephews and grand-nephews falling out of favour, dying, and being exiled that meant the succession then bounced around from Tiberius to the rest and resulted in the role of emperor becoming a saleable commodity for whoever had enough gold to bribe the army to back him.

        So maybe get his marriage to Clodia to stick, and produce sons and grandsons in the direct line, and keep him away from Livia. Difficult, as the Romans didn’t want an emperor or a monarchy and the creation of a dynasty like this would have been too overt, but much tidier.

        The problem in preserving the Empire is not the technology as such, it’s the politics. Imperial politics is every bit as bad as Chinese imperial dynastic politics, with potential heirs rising and falling from favour, fighting each other, mysterious sudden deaths, and all kinds of plots being discovered that warranted wholesale executions. Everyone is allying and marrying with each other, then launching wars against their ‘allies’.

    13. DeWitt

      I choose to save the Eastern Empire, since I don’t think the Western empire has a reasonable hope of survival. Even then.. Oof. That thing where the Romans and the Persians use Arab auxiliaries to such a degree that they make their own empire isn’t something I know to avoid. Ditto their defeat at Manzikert, which owes to poor rulership over Armenian subjects enough that I’m not sure how to avert such a defeat. The fourth crusade looks like much more of a fluke: the previous crusaders had not been on good terms with the Romans, but outright sacking their capital and occupying their land is a different matter entirely. Murdering the then-doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, might have helped a lot, as the man did a hell of a lot to steer the crusaders that way. He’s also in his nineties by the time, so such a murder shouldn’t be too difficult an endeavor. The best bet is likely to murder Isaac II, who was a schemer among schemers, a terrible person by all accounts, and someone without whom the Greeks might be able to maintain the Komnenian restoration. Maybe.

      Now, the Western empire? No way. That it hasn’t been recreated ever since should clue people in that it isn’t a matter easily recreated or preserved. The empires of China, India, and Persia formed about places offering uncommonly good agricultural potential, which gave them natural centers around which to expand. Rome isn’t even the most arable part of Italy, where the land is much better once you go north, and the Western emperors didn’t have the same base to draw from as their foreign colleagues did. It could remain strong and prosperous as long as it had an organisational advantage over its neighbours; the Romans knew this, and destroyed whatever kingdoms formed outside their borders that they could, but it didn’t last, and never could. I don’t see how it could last into the modern era the way an empire centered around Constantinople could at all.

      1. MPG

        But it did last, and for several centuries, too. Sicily and Africa are the agricultural heartland of the Western Roman system, and, despite the revolts of Firmus and Gildo, on the whole pretty loyal, though Mauritania was never as heavily Romanized. The political base of the empire has shifted north by the end of the fourth century, anyway, to Trier, Milan, and then Ravenna, so the challenge is not to preserve the importance of Rome itself, but of the Roman state. That is quite a different matter.

        If you wanted to daydream about continuation into modern times, you might come up with a scenario for establishing a quasi-federal system with strong loyalty to the central power. I’m not sure that’s realistic in the ancient world, where the typical pattern seems to be profound affection for one’s city and love of the idea of Rome, with much less attachment to “Africa” or “Gallia” or “Hispania,” let alone to the subdivided microprovinces of the post-Diocletianic empire. Still, there might be some way of making it happen convincingly enough to be the basis for a novel or something. The expansion of the Roman state under and after the Tetrarchy gives one possible approach; so, alternatively, might a route that rejects state centralization and expansion to harden the de facto splitting of the empire during the 250s. Individually weaker, a Gallic, Italian (= Roman?), and Palmyrene empire might, being less unwieldy, endure against outside threats for longer and, sharing an educated culture, form a kind of shared commonwealth. I’m not sure that’s any advantage over fourth-century centralization, but I don’t see any inherent reason why Rome should not survive so long as it can avoid the loss of land and the East-West split, both of which are products of particular choices made in the second half of the fourth century. Just because it did fall does not mean it needed to fall.

        It’s only daydreaming, of course, because I can hardly think of a state that has actually been continuous for the last two millennia. China, I suppose, Persia, or Japan, but that’s really only–to my outsider’s judgment–by a convention that calls them by the same names despite multiple ruptures in state organization and cohesion.

    14. Lambert

      Assuming a strict ‘no inventing physical technology before its time’ interpretation, maybe agrarian reform?
      Which is maybe what other people are talking about vis-a-vis the Gracchi.
      Fewer latifundia, more small farms. Possibly change inheritance law to not be quite so promogeniturey (without going so far as Salian partible inheritance) Maybe bring about some financial innovations like options or insurance to allow smaller estates to better weather risk.

      Discourage slavery to increase the wages of the free poor.

      Maybe start felling the Hercynian forest to settle. Or maybe that would go wrong and facilitate the formation of Germanic Protostates.

      Engage in diplomacy with the Han and powers in the Indian Subcontinent, with the aim of weakening the Parthian grip on the silk road. Maybe try to conquer/ally with cis or transcaucasia and enough of Chorasmia to link up with the Han parts of the silk road in the Taklamakan Desert.

      1. cassander

        what tears apart the republic isn’t class conflict, it’s the failure of the senate to develop proper state institutions. The generals start winning thees huge victories, which gives them huge wealth potentially huge networks of patronage which unchecked would let them totally dominate the state. So the other senators try to deny them the ability to do things like give land to their soldiers, which makes the soldiers angry enough to march under their generals. the marian reforms needed to be paired with a system for ensuring that winning huge military victories didn’t give you the power needed to overawe the whole political system, and that’s a really tall order.

    15. John Lynch

      Someone did use a time machine and saved half the empire for a thousand years.

      They made sure Constantine won the battle of Verona. He went on to turn Byzantium into a second capital which withstood the attacks of the barbarians which overthrew the western empire. It didn’t fall until 1453, to the Ottoman Turks. That’s a pretty good historical intervention.

    16. John Lynch

      To save the Eastern Empire, you need to beat the Turks at Manzikert in 1071. Or, failing that, convince the Byzantines not to fight that day.

      Alternately, stop the war with the Sassanids in 602. That war weakened both empires so much that the Arabs were able to take over half the Byzantine and all of the Sassanid territories.

    17. Erusian

      The reign of Commodus was probably the last time you could stop the Crisis of the Third Century, which is the real fall of Rome. Depending on the amount of influence I have, boosting up Pertinax could prevent the century of anarchy and civil war that followed. Or perhaps preventing Commodus’s New Year’s Eve massacre. There were certainly wider historical forces at play but the economic policies were not so bad and desperate yet and anything that prevents a century of armies roaming the countryside would do a lot to prevent the huge economic destruction that permanently weakened Rome.

      As for how to do this, it depends on my situation. I’m going to presume I’m a Roman citizen with upper class manners because Rome was a highly stratified and snobbish society, especially as time went on. In that case, probably the late 180s (perhaps 187) where I can ingratiate myself with Pertinax during his wilderness period (and be away from Rome for Commodus’s massacres). I’d then convince him to pay a normal donativum to the Praetorians plus the donativum promised by Commodus. And make sure everyone gets their full pay. And also to hedge against them with his own forces as far as possible. Even if this doesn’t lead to a smooth succession, it will at least hopefully lead to a shorter and less destructive civil war.

      1. MPG

        The reign of Commodus was probably the last time you could stop the Crisis of the Third Century, which is the real fall of Rome.

        Do explain. It certainly wasn’t the fall of Roman Africa, nor of the urbs Roma, and something that lasts two centuries after 235 by even an ungenerous reckoning has an awful lot of fall left in it. “Permanent weakening” hardly seems to describe the empire of Constantine, or even of Valentinian I, either. It may well be that the experiences of the third century produced a bureaucracy with much greater social penetration, but ultimately weaker institutional power: it was ossified, inefficient, etc. I’m doubtful, because any explanation on the level of such systems has to account for their success in the even more bureaucratized East.

        I really do suspect, at least under the pressure of these sorts of contrafactual games, that Guy Halsall is right and the Western Roman Empire never had to collapse. There was nothing in it that made it happen. It simply did, due to a long series of mistakes and failures in the course of the late fourth and early fifth century. Any other conclusion simply begs too many causal questions.

        1. Erusian

          “Permanent weakening” hardly seems to describe the empire of Constantine, or even of Valentinian I, either.

          Strong rulers do not mean strong nations. By every imaginable measure, the Empire after the Third Century was weaker than the one before it. This includes contemporary opinion where people thought the empire had almost fell. There’s also plenty of charts like this that show a huge decrease in economic activity during the long civil wars to follow.

          After that the Empire was in a cycle of taking increasingly large percentages of a shrinking economic base to create larger and larger armies ultimately leading to proto-feudalism. Preventing that, it seems, would be key.

          1. MPG

            I return to this rather late. Briefly:

            Yes, of course fourth-century Rome is economically weaker than second-century Rome. Indeed, second-century Rome was probably economically weaker than first-century Rome. Fourth-century Rome had, however, a more organized bureaucracy and greater state penetration, and so was not weaker “by every imaginable measure,” only by the measures most relevant to its continued survival against external threats. It was, however, a great power, and remained so at least into the 420s. “Permanent weakening,” yes, then, but with a real rally that a focus on the third century does not recognize. Can we agree on that score?

            I cannot see how to apply a phrase such as “the real fall of Rome” to the third century. There is no systems collapse, not like happens in the sixth century, and no loss of a person, ruling in his own right or as figurehead, under a title such as “Augustus” or “Caesar,” as happens in the fourth century.

            If what you really mean is, “the third century saw the step toward Rome’s eventual fall that I consider decisive,” well, sure, you can say that. Plenty of those here would put that step back as far as the Gracchi (there is, after all, an old and honorable custom, even among Roman historians, of imagining that what was truly Roman ended, or was about to end, sometime before Augustus–it’s certainly been true of Roman religion). But to put the “real fall” of Rome before a span of continued existence almost as long as the United States has existed–and much longer than united Germany or Italy, to name two other obvious comparanda–beggars belief. Even if you put the true fall of Rome at the loss of Africa–an idea I’m certainly willing to countenance–it’s still two centuries, and that’s a long time in human affairs.

          2. Erusian

            If what you really mean is, “the third century saw the step toward Rome’s eventual fall that I consider decisive,” well, sure, you can say that.

            That is what I’m saying, but a little further. After the third century Rome was caught in a cycle that would inevitably lead to its destruction or devolution in one form or another. The west could have doddered along like the east but then it would have been like the east: a quasi-feudal entity in a state of decay for centuries (though the east would eventually recover more fully). You bring up an increased bureaucracy: yes, because they needed increased revenues and increased control to extract bigger armies from a smaller base.

            Also, mind you the question is how to prevent the fall of Rome. That doesn’t mean you have to be there at the point of the fall. Like, if I wanted to stop the American Revolution then 1775 would be a very bad time to show up.

      2. cassander

        the death of the principate was inevitable, I think. From augustus on, the emperors worked to marginalize the one institution that could theoretically threaten them, the senate. But doing that meant marginalizing the only real institution that had any sort of legitimacy granting ability. By the 3rd century, the secret of empire was out, and I don’t see how there was a way to get it back in the bottle.

        1. Erusian

          Perhaps. But if the civil wars that resulted were less destructive, it may have been different. Not every transition to monarchy destroyed the power base of the nation.

    18. DinoNerd

      This is hard. Rome’s problem was that it didn’t have the social technologies we have for accomplishing various large scale activities, and got too big for the social technologies it had. It invented and switched to new designs for government and production over time, but they arguably weren’t good enough to hold an empire that large together, and contained the seeds of their own destruction. (Or maybe not – the Roman Empire lasted longer than most modern poilities, even if it was bumbling from coup to coup, shedding peripheral portions, and ceding internal areas to external tribes in exchange for their help in defending the whole. It could perhaps be argued that those social technologies were better, than e.g. the US system that hasn’t even kept the country going for 300 years yet.)

      Note also: learning Latin on arrival is in no way enough. You need to also know Greek to have any chance of passing as upper class; in the Eastern Empire (perhaps only in in most periods) you need to know Greek more than you need to know Latin, even to be a normal person-on-the-street, never mind an elite or adviser to same.

      If you bring in lots of military technology, it’ll be used in support of an autocratic emperor, probably self-promoted from the military. It may help you defeat barbarians on the fringes; it won’t do any good to speak of when some other general decides to become empreror. And if the barbarians can learn how to make and use it, they will. (And not just the barbarians – there were other empires.)

      If you bring in public health measures, and e.g. defeat the plague of Justinian, you delay some problems – but my guess is that you only manage to delay them. A larger population would help with some of the problems, particularly in the West. But it would like as not make others worse, or not help with them at all.

      A plentiful supply of slaves works against the acceptance of all kinds of economic improvements that would seem obviously desireable to a person from the current era. [Sound bite summary: who needs machines, or a more efficient process, when you can simply get more slaves.]

      1. cassander

        If you bring in lots of military technology, it’ll be used in support of an autocratic emperor, probably self-promoted from the military. It may help you defeat barbarians on the fringes; it won’t do any good to speak of when some other general decides to become empreror. And if the barbarians can learn how to make and use it, they will. (And not just the barbarians – there were other empires.)

        the barbarians can use guns just fine, but they can’t make them or powder in sufficient numbers to fight settled peoples. And the guns do help the rival generals problem somewhat, if you can arrange to have your field armies not to have the sort of artillery that would be needed to take your forts.

        This is hard. Rome’s problem was that it didn’t have the social technologies we have for accomplishing various large scale activities, and got too big for the social technologies it had.

        I think this is really the heart of the matter.

      2. matkoniecz

        the Roman Empire lasted longer than most modern poilities, even if it was bumbling from coup to coup, shedding peripheral portions, and ceding internal areas to external tribes in exchange for their help in defending the whole. It could perhaps be argued that those social technologies were better, than e.g. the US system that hasn’t even kept the country going for 300 years yet

        In 1776, in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress declared the independence of the colonies as the United States – about two centuries ago.

        Roman Empire lasted five centuries.

        Roman Republic lasted also about five centuries.

        It is easy to forget that it is a long time.

    19. valleyofthekings

      I believe that Rome fell apart because it got too successful and everyone got complacent.

      To keep Rome stable, my plan is to convince it that it’s under threat of attack by ghost lizard people from Atlantis.

      My army of projector drones make nighttime appearances, creating moving images of lizard people. Their voices taunt the Romans, mostly in an unintelligible language but occasionally in heavily accented Latin. If the Romans mobilize a “defense” against the “lizard people”, they are driven off; if not, my drones blow up a building.

      The Romans will feel united against an external threat, and this will keep their empire strong.

      The hard part is how to make sure the threat lasts after I personally die. Perhaps I should program an AI to carry out the simulated attacks after I am gone. It will need the ability to build its own drones, and it will need the creativity to vary the attacks slightly over time.

      What could go wrong?

    20. original-internet-explorer

      The water wheel was already used by the Romans engineers to produce kinetic power deployed in clever ways. I can put that into my brain for Roman arrival with a small change.

      They already are receptive to the technology – I can show them it is possible to increase the power by changing the wheel orientation. This is described in a quality documentary – The Ascent of Man – Jacob Bronowski.

      It sounds small but hydropower was the key. A society can use serfs or slaves to do many things – that is the benchmark. To invent a technology that justifies not using near free labour is the automation rocket equation.

      http://history.alberta.ca/energyheritage/energy/hydro-power/hydro-power-from-early-modern-to-the-industrial-age.aspx

    21. TomParks

      Hmm. Give Julius Caesar a copy of the homonymous play by Shakespeare? Teach germ theory before the Plague of Justinian? Those might be too random to work. Maybe you’d get a fallen empire sooner rather than later. In fact, here’s my quick stab at an answer: The duration of the Roman Empire is such an outlier that any random counterfactual change to its history would be more likely to shorten it rather than lengthen it.

    22. bullseye

      Some people mentioned bringing knowledge of firearms. Would Roman steel be up to the task? I’ve read that metallurgy advanced throughout the Middle Ages.

  10. Belisaurus Rex

    Model this, the paperback version of Tyler Cowen’s Big Business is more expensive than the hardcover on Amazon.

    1. sharper13

      Interesting… so something below spaced out trips a filters on SSC. Had to post this three times to get it to actually show up. Only worked after disguising the names of the publishers.

      Check the publishers. P i c a d o r for the paperback reprint vs. St. M a r t i n’s Press (who also has the eBook rights and makes more money on selling those).

      1. anonymousskimmer

        P i c a d o r
        is an indefinitely banned user. Since Scott uses simple text searches to ban that’s what happened.

  11. Ninety-Three

    Some journalists and other prominent figures have been getting canceled recently for not being sufficiently on-board with Black Lives Matter, and it’s shaking my general willingness to defend cancellation. Normally I say the righties complaining about such things are mistaken to infer political bias: the Such and Such institute cancelled So and So because PR is important and you can’t have prominent figures pissing people off like that. Firing him is just their attempt to serve market demand and make the profit-maximizing move.

    I have a much harder time making that argument about the current situation. Most Americans, even most Democrats oppose looting, endorse the use of force against looters, and oppose defunding (let alone abolishing) the police. If I were a soulless journalism robot telling my audience what they wanted to hear, I’d be fired from the New York Times. I’m not sure if this indicates anything about the validity of my defense more broadly, but it seems like at least this time the disconnected liberal elites really are running the show and they seem to be disregarding Joe Average in petty pursuit of their own narrative.

    I can still tell a just-so story where this is profit-maximizing: controversy gets more clicks, something something Toxoplasma of Rage. Alternatively, journalists get paid in peanuts and prestige so you can’t take away their ability to fire an unwoke coworker without them noticing that their compensation sucks and abandoning your publication. But those explanations feel a lot flimsier than the obvious practicality of “Richard Stallman lost his job because he was the head of a PR organization and the normies hate it when you talk about pedo stuff.”

    I’m still annoyed by talk of liberal elites, so rather than converting to standard Republican talking points I’m asking for a steelman of the latest round of George Floyd-related cancellations. Can they be described as anything other than politically motivated (or for half marks, at least motivated by politics whose approval is closer to majority than to the lizardman constant)?

    1. Viliam

      I think that however crazy a belief might seem to you or me, generally speaking, there is a person on this planet who sincerely believes it, or at least endorses it as “maybe technically wrong, but backing this statement contributes to greater good”.

      In this spirit, I think it is likely that there are people out there who sincerely believe that the cancellations were the right thing to do, or at least that they were sacrifices necessary to create a better world.

      (I am talking in general here, because I don’t know what exactly the “latest round” refers to, and I think I prefer it that way. There are so many outrageous things out there that learning about yet another one does not seem useful.)

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        A few people in my area have begun digging up years-old text messages with racial slurs, sending them to Universities and employers, and getting students expelled and workers fired.

        No, the context of the racial slur is irrelevant–quoting rap lyrics is no defense.

        1. Lambert

          The career prospects of sociopaths with photoshop must be looking pretty good right now.

          1. Belisaurus Rex

            Even easier, click F12 or rightclick “Inspect” on your computer and change the text through the command prompt there. You can CTRL+F to search for their text in the console, then change it. Then take a screenshot. This works on Facebook AND Twitter…

            Edit: For my next post, instructions on how to build a nuclear reactor in your basement using only household appliances.

          2. Lambert

            I hear a Farnsworth* Fusor isn’t that hard to get running, if you’re comfortable with vacuum pumps, glassblowing and lethal power supplies.

            *Yes, namesake and cannonical ancestor of Prof. Farnsworth

      2. albatross11

        The problem here isn’t just the people sending the messages (probably some mix of volunteer thought police, crazy people, folks trying to settle a score, and folks trying to eliminate a rival or an annoying boss), it’s the people responding. The right response to this from an employer isn’t “Well, then, Jones is fired,” it’s “Thanks for your input. We will consider this matter using our normal HR procedures, and if there’s sufficient reason for any action on our part, we will take it, though of course our internal personnel decisions will not be made public.”

        1. Belisaurus Rex

          Yeah, I guess the panic response (“If I don’t crack down hard they might come after me too!”) is a lot worse than what “They” would actually do to you. Irrational or not, people are still afraid of internet mobs.

          Edit: There HAS to be a Star Trek Original Series episode where there’s a whole planet full of people that all live in fear of some deity or robot that doesn’t actually have any power.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            I can’t think of many cases where the employer says “thanks for the information” and shuts up. So I can’t say whether they get dragged or not for not complying.

            There is a guy in Europe who has made it his personal mission to delete from the Internet any mention of how he once harassed a bunch of teenagers because it’s stopping him from becoming a lawyer. And so he harasses the hell out of any people that dare to support the website that keeps the archive of his harassment allegations alive.

      3. Conrad Honcho

        In this spirit, I think it is likely that there are people out there who sincerely believe that the cancellations were the right thing to do, or at least that they were sacrifices necessary to create a better world.

        While I’m sure there are True Believers out there, there’s also an awful lot of power-tripping fools. It’s not the ideology. If Evangelical Christianity had social power right now they’d be out hunting for sinners who play Dungeons & Dragons or something and trying to get them run out of town.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          Have you read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. He talks about how much fun it is to be in a twitter mob (he was in the one that went after Justine Sacco and it took him a while to see there was something wrong with the mob), how much damage they do to their targets, and how they have nothing to do with justice.

    2. 10240

      Normally I say the righties complaining about such things are mistaken to infer political bias: the Such and Such institute cancelled So and So because PR is important and you can’t have prominent figures pissing people off like that. Firing him is just their attempt to serve market demand and make the profit-maximizing move.

      I do think that it’s usually mostly to protect their PR. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no political bias, it just puts the blame on the customers who like the company less if it retains the employee in question than if it fires him, rather than on the company.

      It’s us, the customers and the general public, who decide what is good or bad PR! When I demand that companies don’t fire employees for their political speech, I’m trying to make it worse PR to fire them, and better PR not to. It’s in the company’s interest to fire him, but the only way we can try to reverse their incentives is to nevertheless punish them if they fire the employee, and reward them if they don’t.

      Beyond PR, there is the dictatorless dystopia effect. Scott relaying Bostrom:

      Bostrom makes an offhanded reference of the possibility of a dictatorless dystopia, one that every single citizen including the leadership hates but which nevertheless endures unconquered. It’s easy enough to imagine such a state. Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person. Suppose these rules were well-enough established by tradition that everyone expected them to be enforced. So you shock yourself for eight hours a day, because you know if you don’t everyone else will kill you, because if they don’t, everyone else will kill them, and so on.

      I believe something like this takes place among managers. I suspect major contributors are harassment laws and overbroad anti-discrimination laws: it’s too risky for a company to hire an outspoken opponent of left-wing identity politics as a manager, so all executives are either raging SJWs or know to hold their mouths. Other contributors are that some are true believers, and that some believe (perhaps wrongly) that suppressing allegedly-racist thought is necessary to preserve PR.

      Another effect is that many people on the left consider anyone to their right on identity issues racist/sexist/homophobic, which they consider the worst sins in the World. On the other hand, even most people who oppose these firings of people for being insufficiently left-wing treat them as just one of many concerns. So the left-wing hardliners have outsized influence, both as customers (influencing PR) and as managers.

      OK, this wasn’t really a steelman that it’s not politically motivated, more of an attempt to explain how the political motivations work. It’s not exactly “liberal elites” as much as some reasons why progressives among the elites have outsized influence. Also, I mostly care about organizations that are not inherently political. Inherently politicized organizations like journals are a different matter, I think.

      Alternatively, journalists get paid in peanuts and prestige so you can’t take away their ability to fire an unwoke coworker without them noticing that their compensation sucks and abandoning your publication.

      I don’t think so. I presume journalists get paid little is that supply and demand are not working in their favor. Unless you think that journalists are underpaid even compared to what their market-clearing wage would be, they don’t have a lot of market power. I’d actually find the opposite likely: commenters have said (I haven’t verified) that funding for journalism has dropped in the last few decades, which suggests that demand for journalists has decreased. Since wages are downward sticky, it’s more likely that journalists get paid above their market-clearing wage than below. Furthermore, journalists as a whole are to the left of their audiences, so there is more supply compared to the demand for left-wing journalists than right-wing ones.

      1. Eric T

        I don’t think so. I presume journalists get paid little is that supply and demand are not working in their favor. Unless you think that journalists are underpaid even compared to what their market-clearing wage would be, they don’t have a lot of market power. I’d actually find the opposite likely: commenters have said (I haven’t verified) that funding for journalism has dropped in the last few decades, which suggests that demand for journalists has decreased.

        My ex has been working in journalism since college and actually has some clout. She basically told me the exact thing you’re saying here.

        1. albatross11

          The common claim I’ve heard is that more and more of the output of even top media outlets is written by unpaid interns who are being supported by their parents. The threat to strike or walk off the job is a lot stronger, when you’re an unpaid intern. What’re they gonna do, not pay you anymore?

          1. cassander

            . The threat to strike or walk off the job is a lot stronger, when you’re an unpaid intern.

            I’d think the opposite. If there’s enough supply that people are working for free, replacements should be easy to find.

          2. albatross11

            It depends on how many replacements there are who can write at the required quality and can afford to work for nothing.

          3. Aapje

            @cassander

            If there is a large supply of people who are willing to take little pay to advance a certain agenda, but a small supply of people who are willing to take little pay advance a different agenda, you might get the situation where:
            – the media is more left-wing than the populace, because left-wing journalists are willing to work for less pay, so they undercut right-wing media on price
            – left-wing media can abuse their workers to an extreme degree, but only if they stick to a certain agenda

            the media can get stuck in a situation where deviating from that agenda too much will balloon

          4. cassander

            @Aapje

            I think out disagreement is a matter of degree, not kind. Those writers wouldn’t work for free for Rupert Murdoch, but if a bunch of them quit, I think a lot of them would work for the times, especially if the times was even modestly adept at painting it as “they were fired for insubordination”, not because times editors lacked revolutionary zeal.

          5. albatross11

            I suspect that there’s also a large part of your salary writing for the NYT that is paid in prestige (“I write for the New York Times”) rather than in cash.

          6. Le Maistre Chat

            @Aapje:

            – left-wing media can abuse their workers to an extreme degree, but only if they stick to a certain agenda

            I just want to draw attention to how this is not only cruel, but obviously backwards.
            If you had to say what was the one stated goal of the Left from the French Revolution through the collapse of Communism…

        2. Clutzy

          I mean, its hard to build clout as a journalist if you are replaceable to your sources and your readers, and most are. Because they don’t vet sources strongly, particularly anonymous sources, there is no reason for readers to believe reporter A more than reporter B. There are some people who have developed followings (mostly on the right in our current environment) because their reporting was counter-narrative and ended up prevailing, particularly with things like the Mueller investigation. But most people aren’t doing that. So the people don’t believe you.

          But also if there are a thousand hacks willing to leak the leaks that FBI and State Dep. officials want them to, you have no value to them either, so your sourcing is also worthless.

      2. Ninety-Three

        Everything you said about a politically motivated public is my standard argument, what I find striking about this case is that rather than journalists canceling someone for using a racial slur on behalf of the racial slur-hating public that makes up their market, the current month seems to be canceling people for e.g. supporting military intervention while their market supports military intervention. In recent weeks, “what you get canceled for” and “what the public considers bad PR” seem to have become decoupled, and the current set of things you get canceled for seems best explained by “A faction of uncommonly woke liberals have seized the cancellation gun and are using it for purposes other than maximizing market share”. The steelman I’m seeking is an explanation other than that.

        I kind of see your point about outsized influence. It does not seem unreasonable to propose that that the leftmost 20% of customers are way more willing to boycott over insufficient praise of BLM than the rightmost 20% are willing to boycott over excessive BLM praise, and this gives the left more bargaining power in determining what counts as bad PR than simple polling averages would suggest. I can imagine data that would test this hypothesis, and now I’m wondering if anyone has tried to gather it.

        Unless you think that journalists are underpaid even compared to what their market-clearing wage would be, they don’t have a lot of market power.

        I think that the market clearing wage for journalists is $X, or $Y plus benefits, and journalists are currently making $Y while substantially valuing the sense of importance their job brings, which includes the right to police the opinions of their fellows. This is analogous to how US soldiers get paid way less than private military contractors because Blackwater can’t offer the warm fuzzy glow of nationalism and serving your country.

        1. 10240

          Everything you said about a politically motivated public is my standard argument

          Yes, that part of my post didn’t intend to explain the current decoupling, but to question your point that we should consider PR concerns to absolve the companies when PR concerns are the reason for the cancelling.

          Actually I don’t really think the decoupling is a new thing either, at least as long as we assume that PR concerns should be a function of how far someone is from the median views (my point about left partisans being more enthusiastic about race/sex issues than right partisans weakens that assumption). For instance, I believe Damore’s views are well within the Overton window of the general public. Actually they probably aren’t extreme even among techies, at least as long as you ask in private: IIRC according to an internal poll, some 40% of Googlers agreed with him.

      3. Nancy Lebovitz

        Eric T:

        “I’d actually find the opposite likely: commenters have said (I haven’t verified) that funding for journalism has dropped in the last few decades, which suggests that demand for journalists has decreased.”

        Just realizing the the colloquial and economic meaning of demand diverge here. As I understand it, Craigslist is what tore the guts out of newspaper journalism because the classified ads were what was supporting newspapers.

        Does this imply that people never cared very much about the articles? Or that somehow the articles needed to be bundled with the ads to get people to buy the newspapers so that the classified ads were worth buying?

        Or that there used to be a good niche that no one thought to exploit of having a non-news newspaper which was nothing but classified ads and a comics section?

        1. SamChevre

          a non-news newspaper which was nothing but classified ads and a comics section?

          I grew up with those–Pennysavers.

    3. WoollyAI

      If I were a soulless journalism robot telling my audience what they wanted to hear, I’d be fired from the New York Times.

      I think you misunderstand the NYTimes’s business model. Profit no longer comes from advertising, it comes from subscriptions, especially digital subscriptions. The NYTimes has about 5 million paid subscriptions, including ~4.5 million digital subscriptions, with a digital subscription costing ~$17/month.

      Who pays $17/month for the NYTimes and what do they want to read? From a financial standpoint, the majority of the country doesn’t matter, what matters is their subscriber base. If their subscriber base doesn’t care about looting and wants to abolish the police, then the NYTimes will privilege those views. 4.5 million subscribers is 1-2% of the country, so you can have views heavily outside the mainstream become standard talking points in what has become a niche paper.

      Can they be described as anything other than politically motivated

      I think the argument goes like this:

      #1 Google and Facebook have eaten advertising and that’s no longer a viable business model for media.

      #2 The new business model relies on deep engagement and upselling. Maybe this is NYT subscriptions, maybe this is Hannity’s new book, maybe this is a Patreon, but the core goal is no longer to get as many views as possible but to identify and upsell to people who are deeply invested and willing to spend $10 or more on your reporting in some way.

      #3 Modern “media” is stuck chasing the extreme left/liberal wing. There’s no way the NYT et al can upsell to the right/conservative side because there’s a long history of mistrust between the right and traditional media and also they’d be competing against established brands like Fox News. And the independents/centrists just don’t engage with news as strongly as the extreme wings. So the only market you have left is…the left.

      That’s why the NYTimes might be making these moves. General PR doesn’t matter, PR within their niche is what matters.

      1. albatross11

        Presumably if you’re on the right and want a high-end newspaper, you’re reading the Wall Street Journal, or maybe The Economist.

      2. Edward Scizorhands

        I don’t think we actually know that the NYT base wants.

        One person reported cancellations were 50/50 over “angry over Tom Cotton op-ed” and “angry over the opinion editor being fired,” and a super-majority of letters that they published were in the latter camp.

        It’s easy to say “NYT is liberal, their audience is liberal group-thinkers,” but the subscribers tend to be older non-woke people who are used to paying for news instead of something they get for free. They are willing to pay for good information and often eager to pay to hear something that conflicts with their worldview.

        (IIRC, Jesse Singal said 40% of liberals favored military intervention. Tom Cotton’s viewpoint was not anything outside the Overton window even only among liberals!)

      3. DinoNerd

        *thoughtful* I’d probably be willing to pay at least New York Times prices for a daily news source I had good reason to expect to (a) get their facts right (b) publish retractions when (a) failed and (c) not select topics/emphasis to please/support any specific political positions. Bonus if they covered world news, not just US news or their own locality + US news.

        I’m not willing to pay NYT prices for the NYT currently, much as I enjoy some of their editorials. On a bad day, I don’t trust them to manage spell checking and proof reading, never mind fact checking – and I absolutely don’t trust them to be neutral or middle of the road.

        FWIW, I don’t see how the NYT could be neutral with regard to US politics once the US president began a public vendetta against them. They are kind of between a rock and a hard place.

        Also I tend to except an tolerate a certain amount of pro-elite bias from anything expensive and highly literate – that would include both the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, and perhaps the NYT as well. (I don’t like it, but I can see who pays their bills.)

        What I don’t know is how many other potential customers feel the way I do.

        1. DavidFriedman

          FWIW, I don’t see how the NYT could be neutral with regard to US politics once the US president began a public vendetta against them.

          I would have thought that being visibly neutral in that situation would be an advantage. Once they start acting as the other side of a feud, Trump’s behavior looks much more reasonable. “Of course I attack them — they are attacking me.”

          1. Ninety-Three

            I think it’s more that given the existence of such a vendetta, their actions fall under a cloud of suspicion even if not obviously litigating the feud. Would you trust a nominally neutral NYT to not merely be taking a subtler approach to scoring political points in that situation?

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            It would be tough, but the NYT often manages to report on itself well. It’s a challenge but an editor who gives some reporters the mandate “you will not take a dog in this fight, write it as an outsider” can often get good results.

            That was before the recent brouhaha. Who knows what would happen if a bunch of people on the news side decided the independent reporter’s version was violence.

    4. viVI_IViv

      I can still tell a just-so story where this is profit-maximizing

      No newspaper other than perhaps celebrity gossip borderline-pornographic tabloids like The Sun is run to maximize profits. At least not directly in terms of sales or ads. Most of them in fact operate at a loss. All the “reputable” newspapers are owned by old-money families or big financial groups with political interests which use them as mouthpieces.

    5. Logan

      I think you should consider the possibility that you have miscalculated the level of public support for the things “these people” were fired over. This could mean you’re using a single outlier poll, or the questions used in the poll don’t match exactly the issue actually raised by the fired reporters.

      I say this because your representation of the public will doesn’t match my own conception. For example, you say the majority support violent suppression of looting, but wasn’t the controversy at NYT about violent suppression of the current protests, not hypothetical looters? What percent think the current protests are looters? I’ve seen polling numbers all over the place and highly dependent on the precise question asked, so I’m skeptical you can ascertain with confidence that recent journalist firings aren’t supported by the public.

      1. Derannimer

        The Cotton op-ed distinguished between protesters and looters, saying, “a majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants.” The initial Times statement apologizing for the op-ed conflated the two, then was quietly amended.

        From the Taibbi piece making the rounds:

        In classic Times fashion, the paper has already scrubbed a mistake they made misreporting what their own editorial said, in an article about Bennet’s ouster. Here’s how the piece by Marc Tracy read originally (emphasis mine):

        James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by a senator calling for military force against protesters in American cities.

        Here’s how the piece reads now:

        James Bennet resigned on Sunday from his job as the editorial page editor of The New York Times, days after the newspaper’s opinion section, which he oversaw, published a much-criticized Op-Ed by a United States senator calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities.

        Also not sure why you say “hypothetical looters”; there are actual looters, and there were more at the time Cotton wrote the op-ed.

        1. Aftagley

          Right, but this is also when militarized cops were being used to beat down peaceful protesters. The largest story in the world when the NYT published this piece was Trump using federal forces and supporting police to tear gas, shoot and beat protesters for a few blocks so that he could go take a photo.

          In the face of direct evidence that federally controlled forces are being used to violently suppress peaceful protesters, it’s pretty easy and accurate to draw the conclusion of “more federal involvement = more violent responses”

          1. DavidFriedman

            The question is what Cotton was calling for, not what it’s consequences might have been. The original version of the Times editorial lied about that.

          1. Aftagley

            I mean, I was there. We were protesting in front of the white house, then a bunch of guys come out, used irritant gas and flash bangs to get our crowd moving, advanced with horses to keep us moving and shot sting rounds and OC spray at the people who weren’t moving fast enough. We went from people lawfully protesting to people running away from police force, how is that not suppressing us?

            It’s not like we reformed at that point and kept protesting. Maybe this speaks ill of my steely resolve, but after I’ve been tear-gassed I go home. It 100% suppressed me and a bunch of people I was there with.

          2. cassander

            @Aftagley

            It wasn’t suppression because you could have kept reformed a block a way. Or you could have acquiesced to being relocated a couple blocks and skipped the teargassing entirely (though I realize that this was, at best, poorly explained at the time). the motive of the action was reclaiming a particular piece of real estate, not ending the protest.

          3. Aftagley

            the motive of the action was reclaiming a particular piece of real estate, not ending the protest.

            Even accepting this is true, which I don’t, since when has motive mattered? If I’ve just been driven off patch of real-estate A via force, why do you think I should have been able to understand and trust that I could totally and legally stick to piece of real-estate B and be totally fine? Would you trust the cops to no just keep going?

            Also, have you ever been OC sprayed? Or gassed? Or hit with a sting round? I’m 3/3 on those and they make you want to stop doing what you were previously doing. The fact that we could, legally protest somewhere else doesn’t matter if they make use physically unable or at least strongly unwilling. You don’t have to set out with the specific intent of suppressing someone’s rights to still end up doing so.

          4. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            Even accepting this is true, which I don’t,

            what motive are you claiming? the story seems to be agreed on by all.

            since when has motive mattered? If I’ve just been driven off patch of real-estate A via force, why do you think I should have been able to understand and trust that I could totally and legally stick to piece of real-estate B and be totally fine? Would you trust the cops to no just keep going?

            Because they stopped at the edge of their perimeter.

            You don’t have to set out with the specific intent of suppressing someone’s rights to still end up doing so.

            As I said at the time, we’ve long accepted that presidents have carte blanche to wall off huge swathes of cities and roads in the name of security. I don’t like this, I wish we wouldn’t do it, but this is not that different. Free speech zones are a long established absurdity.

          5. Aftagley

            what motive are you claiming? the story seems to be agreed on by all.

            In short – that the administration was looking for something to prove their strength against the protesters and this is how they chose to do it. This NYT piece is a good primer on it. I don’t think it was all or nothing, but the show of force was a factor.

            Because they stopped at the edge of their perimeter.

            This isn’t really an answer to my question, and they didn’t stop at any perimeter edge, they forced some people up 17th and pushed others down H street. Also at both ends of these streets were collections of DC metro PD – uninvolved with the current operation and just as clueless as us, but we didn’t know that. Again – why should any of us have expected that this wouldn’t be a precursor to them holding us, continuing to advance or, i don’t know, delaying us for a couple minutes than arresting us for violating curfew?

            As I said at the time, we’ve long accepted that presidents have carte blanche to wall off huge swathes of cities and roads in the name of security.

            And, like even else said at the time, that’s not how this normally happens.

          6. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            In short – that the administration was looking for something to prove their strength against the protesters and this is how they chose to do it. This NYT piece is a good primer on it. I don’t think it was all or nothing, but the show of force was a factor.

            Never blame malice where stupidity is sufficient. Trump wanted this photo, someone told him the crowds hadn’t been moved yet, he got frustrated and he said get rid of them. Or maybe barr said get rid of them, and then they did it, badly.

            This isn’t really an answer to my question, and they didn’t stop at any perimeter edge, they forced some people up 17th and pushed others down H street.

            So they forced the crowd one block north and one block west, like I said.

            Again – why should any of us have expected that this wouldn’t be a precursor to them holding us, continuing to advance or, i don’t know, delaying us for a couple minutes than arresting us for violating curfew?

            Because, you know, they didn’t do anything and weren’t involved.

            And, like even else said at the time, that’s not how this normally happens.

            No, it’s normally done with more competence. They fucked here. but let’s not pretend it was a categorically different action than a presidential motorcade, or that you guys would have dispersed if you’d been told that they were just making room for trump to have is photo taken. Because you wouldn’t have.

          7. Aftagley

            Never blame malice where stupidity is sufficient.

            Why not both?

            So they forced the crowd one block north and one block west, like I said.

            No, they were forced roughly two blocks west, then split and some were forced northward and others west.

            Because, you know, they didn’t do anything and weren’t involved.

            So you’re saying that protesters should have thought… “Hmm, these cops just forcefully ejected us, but I’m sure these very similarly dressed cops are our friends?”

            but let’s not pretend it was a categorically different action than a presidential motorcade

            It was 100% different. For those, individual streets are cleared at ingress points, traffic is allowed to filter out then the remaining stragglers are dispensed with. They don’t run down the street with a bulldozer.

          8. Cliff

            I read they didn’t use tear gas, just smoke bombs, but protestors assume those are tear gas?

          9. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            Why not both?

            because malicious schemes are a lot rarer than you’d guess. Fuckups are far more common.

            No, they were forced roughly two blocks west, then split and some were forced northward and others west.

            So 2 blocks. how exactly does that change things?

            So you’re saying that protesters should have thought… “Hmm, these cops just forcefully ejected us, but I’m sure these very similarly dressed cops are our friends?”

            No, they were supposed to assume that the cops that were standing around doing nothing instead of assisting the others were doing nothing.

            hey don’t run down the street with a bulldozer.

            they don’t use bulldozers, but I wouldn’t risk standing in front of a presidential motorcade and refusing to move. Would you?

          10. DavidFriedman

            I read they didn’t use tear gas, just smoke bombs, but protestors assume those are tear gas?

            I believe a later statement from the park police conceded that they had used a gas that had teargas-like effects, just not the particular gas that “teargas” usually refers to.

    6. Matthew A

      Some journalists and other prominent figures have been getting canceled recently for not being sufficiently on-board with Black Lives Matter …

      I think conversation tends to go better if you first substantiate it with some examples so we know specifically what is motivating your post. Folks may only know of some examples or may know of others (with different characteristics) from the ones you’re thinking of. This will improve clarity, help ensure folks are on the same page, and make for a more fruitful discussion.

    7. John Lynch

      Don’t underrate fear. It’s not the cancellation that threatens free speech, it’s self-censorship out of fear of cancellation.

      I think journalists used to call it the “chilling effect.”

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        Don’t underestimate how many people read 1984 and fantasized about being the boot stomping on the face.

    8. keaswaran

      “Some journalists and other prominent figures have been getting canceled recently for not being sufficiently on-board with Black Lives Matter”

      Do you have any examples? The only one that comes to mind is the opinions editor of the Times, and he was fired because there has been several years of grumbling about him, and he finally did something they decided was big enough.

  12. Error

    My understanding is that culture war topics are still acceptable in the hidden open threads. If I’m wrong, someone please report this, and Scott please nuke it.

    Background: I’m increasingly anti-political and increasingly irritated by partisans (on both sides of the aisle) outraged that I’m not On Their Side.

    A couple days ago a friend linked me to this “poll”, courtesy of Trump et al; and also to this other “poll”, apparently (see later) courtesy of the SJWs. Both manifest colossal bad faith, in very similar ways. It occurred to me that I might be able to use this.

    I want supporting exhibits for a statement along the lines of “Dear partisan, observe here the epistemic bankruptcy infecting both current political Sides. Wake me when that changes, until then, fuck off.” The examples must be invulnerable to objections like “that’s not representative” or “Poe check needed”, and well enough matched that even partisans can see the similarity — I want as little room as possible for “but Example A (from Us) is not the same thing as Example B (from Them)”. The ideal example will make insiders cringe.

    The Trump example above should work as-is; the site is an official campaign mouthpiece (Snopes checked), and at least one Trump voter has told me they found it cringy as hell (though more confirmation might be useful). Good enough for now. But the blue-tribe equivalent appears to be from a parody account, so it won’t do. Neither will J. Random Social Media User.

    I’m looking for something blue-aligned, coming from an official-ish source, recent enough to be relevant, and demonstrating a similar complete disregard for good faith. Ideally the suggestion should come from a blue-triber themselves, so I know it’s something even true believers will recognize as cringe-worthy; but I’ll take what I can get.

    1. Edward Scizorhands

      I think the “other poll courtesy of the SJWs” was an anti-SJW troll.

      In fact, they pinned the tweet to their account, so we know they are anti-SJW trolls.

      1. Eric T

        Yeah this definitely has a certain banned term written all over it.

        @Error, I’ll keep my eyes open. Nothing is screaming to mind right now but I’m sure I’ll run into something. Maybe next time Uncle Joe sends me a campaign email.

      2. Error

        I did point out that it appeared to be a parody account. If it had checked out, I wouldn’t be here asking.

    2. Conrad Honcho

      I don’t think either of these things are supposed to be taken seriously, and I don’t know why you’re seriously engaging them.

      I mean, if you asked me to pick between the Epic Games Store and White Supremacy I would pick White Supremacy, not because I like White Supremacy but because screw the Epic Games Store. Or at least I would have done that before they pledged to give me Total War: Troy for free if I snag it on launch day, so now I’d just ignore the poll.

      1. Mycale

        Hey, in the defense of Epic Games / the Epic Games Store, apparently they’re bankrolling Old World, which is a very interesting looking 4X game developed by the lead designer of Civilization IV. It’s still in Early Access but already fun (I went ahead and got it on a recommendation). Reportedly, the studio developing Old World would have went under without financial support from Epic Games, so I’m willing to cut them some slack (and use their subpar launcher . . . for now).

        On-topic: as someone on the right, wow is that Trump campaign poll cringy. This is where I have to tell myself, “Think of the judicial appointments….” Sigh.

    3. Tatterdemalion

      I want supporting exhibits for a statement along the lines of “Dear partisan, observe here the epistemic bankruptcy infecting both current political Sides. Wake me when that changes, until then, fuck off.” The examples must be invulnerable to objections like “that’s not representative” or “Poe check needed”, and well enough matched that even partisans can see the similarity — I want as little room as possible for “but Example A (from Us) is not the same thing as Example B (from Them)”. The ideal example will make insiders cringe.

      You’re screwed, frankly. No single example could ever be invulnerable to – or even slightly resistant to – the accusation that “that’s not representative”.

      I think you will be very easily able to prove to most people that people with terrible opinions/behaviours exist on their side; I think that most people already believe that. What you won’t be able to show anything meaningful about with anecdata is the distribution of those behaviours vs better ones on either side, and if you present yourself as doing so then, frankly, you deserve everything I expect you’ll get.

      What you might be able to sometimes do with a relatively few examples, though, is show some things to your interlocutor that most people will think are terrible. If they defend them, you will be able to demonstrate to third parties that they are willing to defend things like the thing they have just defended, and this may convince people to give their opinions less weight. That’s arguably a dark art, but arguably legit, depending partly on how precisely you do it.

  13. Dragor

    I believe this is an odd fractional thread and thus CW friendly? If not, correct me and I will delete this post. Anyhow: can anyone link me to articles or research that look into deadliness of encounters with police separated by race and encounter type (I’ve read the SSC post). I’m generally into police reform, and I like the idea of a lot of different cities trying different things to improve US policing, but I am not sure some of the specific claims being made are accurate or correctly leading.

    1. albatross11

      Disclaimer: I’m an interested amateur here, so I don’t know how well regarded these statistics are by criminologists, but they all seem quite solid to me.

      This paper by Ronald Fryer looks into police use of force, including shootings.

      This is the Washington Post’s database of police shootings for 2019. They also have compiled data for 2015-the present. This is the best source I know for police shooting numbers, and spending a few minutes making simple queries on the page will teach you more about police shootings than several hours of watching/reading most media coverage of the subject.

      The national crime victimization survey asks people whether they’ve been victims of a crime, and also stuff like the sex and race of the offender. This gives a check on other arrest numbers–any bias in policing won’t show up in the victimization survey, but there could be bias in the responders; by contrast arrest statistics probably involve a lot more third-party-convincing evidence, but also incorporate any biases by the police.

      This FBI report from 2018 talks about all kinds of crime as reported to the FBI by (mostly) local police forces. I think they’re mostly reporting arrests or charging someone, not convictions, but I think this is the best data on who’s getting arrested for various crimes, and it also has demographic data.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        The WaPo database is a good resource.

        Before you click the link, make predictions on what you think the data will show, and write it down to keep yourself honest.

    2. Mark V Anderson

      Here is another database on police killings. It has similar data to the Wash Post data base, but I like it better because it goes back to 2000, and it has more information.

  14. Nick

    Edmund Burke turned decisively against the French Revolution when he heard about the events in Paris:

    Initially, Burke did not condemn the French Revolution. In a letter of 9 August 1789, he wrote: “England gazing with astonishment at a French struggle for Liberty and not knowing whether to blame or to applaud! The thing indeed, though I thought I saw something like it in progress for several years, has still something in it paradoxical and Mysterious. The spirit it is impossible not to admire; but the old Parisian ferocity has broken out in a shocking manner”.[84] The events of 5–6 October 1789, when a crowd of Parisian women marched on Versailles to compel King Louis XVI to return to Paris, turned Burke against it. In a letter to his son Richard Burke dated 10 October, he said: “This day I heard from Laurence who has sent me papers confirming the portentous state of France—where the Elements which compose Human Society seem all to be dissolved, and a world of Monsters to be produced in the place of it—where Mirabeau presides as the Grand Anarch; and the late Grand Monarch makes a figure as ridiculous as pitiable”.[85] On 4 November, Charles-Jean-François Depont wrote to Burke, requesting that he endorse the Revolution. Burke replied that any critical language of it by him should be taken “as no more than the expression of doubt”, but he added: “You may have subverted Monarchy, but not recover’d freedom”.[86] In the same month, he described France as “a country undone”.

    He went on to found contemporary conservatism as we know it. He’s still read today, especially his Reflections on the Revolution in France. He’s considered a liberal conservative in contrast to the throne and altar conservatism of contemporary Joseph de Maistre.

    Roger Scruton in 1967 was a pious Cambridge liberal. But while visiting Paris in ’68 he was caught up in the student protests. In his own words,

    I suddenly realised I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.

    Scruton went on to be possibly the most prominent conservative intellectual of the last fifty years, at least in Britain. He’s strongly influenced by Burke, but his interests were often as not in aesthetics, and Scruton brought a stronger traditionalism into contemporary conservatism than did Burke.

    Folks have lately been comparing 2020 to 1968, as the Floyd protests have broadened their scope and their base. 1968, of course, was only a reflection of 1789. So what great conservative intellectual has just been minted? How will he (she?) develop conservative ideas?

    (If it’s not obvious, this question is mostly in jest. But take it as seriously as you like.)

      1. cassander

        He’s (barely) smart enough to know what side his bread is buttered on. And actually getting mugged didn’t change his mind on things, I doubt any of this will.

    1. Belisaurus Rex

      Someone in Minneapolis who had their personal safety threatened as the news continually reassures them that they’re completely safe?

      1. salvorhardin

        This goes both ways. My friends in Minneapolis, who were liberal before but by no means anti-police radicals, are now much more radically anti-police than they were a month ago due to observing the behavior of the police up close in a way they had not had occasion to do before.

        1. albatross11

          Yeah, the video of the police slashing tires was pretty striking. It’s like they decided “hey, let’s make sure everyone believes all the bad things people are saying about us!”

        2. Clutzy

          Same, I have a long term friend that has experienced, as far as I can tell, a total mental breakdown over this. He is posting stuff everywhere, going to protests, defending arson (with the now meme-worthy Boston Tea Party analogy), etc.

    2. Well...

      I think this was kinda Candace Owens’s story. She’s not “newly minted” in 2020, but on a “history book” timeline she could be considered so. IIRC, she was a more stereotypical left-wing young lady who was the subject of apparently racist attacks, and it was witnessing the response of liberals around her that caused her to identify as conservative. I’m probably telling that story wrong in important ways, but that’s how I remember it and it seems to fit the Scruton mold.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        She was a left-wing grifter who decided to become a right-wing grifter. The reverse path of David Brock.

    3. keaswaran

      For anyone who wants to think seriously about this, you should also look for newly minted conservatives in 1776, and in 1848.

  15. Ninety-Three

    An exercise I think might get interesting results with the local commentariat: What is your most controversial/unpopular political view that doesn’t put you in an obvious political camp?

    Personally, I’m opposed to privacy. I think it’s a spook and I hate almost every argument I’ve heard for it, most of which I feel are attempting to spin a disgust response as rooted in consequentialist harm reduction. It’s not that my fondest wish is a city with every square foot under camera surveillance, but when I am elected as ruler of the world, bioethicists are first up against the wall and second are the privacy advocates.

    1. Beans

      Is this about the politics of privacy, or literally, privacy in the most neutral sense? If the latter, I hope you don’t mind if I stand outside your window for a few hours. Please leave the bathroom door open.

      1. Ninety-Three

        A little of column A, a little of column B. In a world where everyone’s windows were left open, I assure you that the view through mine would be thoroughly unremarkable and I imagine you’d get bored pretty quickly.

        1. Beans

          I dunno, if nothing is going to stop me, why don’t I hang around just in case I learn something that will allow me to take advantage of you? I might be a bad guy, after all, and if privacy is not a thing, you’re going to need another justification to prevent me from eavesdropping into stuff that isn’t my business. You’ve got no grounds to tell me to stop watching you, so I’ll just wait around until I learn your schedule and where you hide the spare house keys. Hypothetically.

          1. Ninety-Three

            You can learn my schedule by observation in the current world, as can you spot my spare house key if I’m stashing it somewhere outside my locked doors (and if I’m not, I don’t particularly care whether you know which kitchen drawer it’s in).

            So why don’t you do those things?

      1. Ninety-Three

        Partly decades-old habits and partly signaling. Using your real name on the internet has a certain stuffy formality to it, not only do pseudonyms avoid that but they let me choose a particular thing to project rather than going by Bob Johnson because that’s what chance stuck me with.

        1. Well...

          Is Bob Johnson actually what chance stuck you with, or was “Bob Johnson” just a generic name you used as an example?

          [ETA] Another question for Ninety-three: when you shit in a public bathroom stall, do you close the door?

          Also, do you believe in other people’s privacy? Like, do you think it’s ridiculous that the women’s lockerroom at the gym should be hidden behind a wall and a door?

          1. Nick

            If so then I’m pretty sure, FWIW, that using a short name like “Rob J” would not have anybody groaning in exasperation at how boring you are.

    2. Eric T

      I’m also pretty opposed to privacy arguments too but that’s more a side issue for me.

      My most controversial view in my Leftist camp would probably be that I’m a big believer in strong national borders and controlled immigration.

      It seems to me that there a certain moments in history, where depending on the nation’s economic status, more or less immigration would be a boon. If a nation has a dearth of low-skilled workers or an aging workforce, taking in lots of immigrants would be a good thing to do (Japan could probably benefit from this).

      But if a nation is suffering from high unemployment then it seems pretty clear that more workers isn’t going to be good for the country.

      1. anonymousskimmer

        I want immigration to be something that countries negotiate bilateral treaties about.

        But if a nation is suffering from high unemployment then it seems pretty clear that more workers isn’t going to be good for the country.

        Then you switch immigration preferences to prefer capital.

      2. Belisaurus Rex

        I’ve been reading your posts in the past few open threads, and what makes you believe that you’re a Leftist?

        You believe in racial IQ differences, strong borders, controlled immigration…what’s next, no universal healthcare either?

        1. Eric T

          You believe in racial IQ differences

          Yeah but like… only a little. I still think that systemic or historic biases make up far far more of an exploitative factor. The fact that I learned that modern immigrants from some African countries outperform even Chinese Immigrants make me even more confident of that over a Racial IQ difference since I got here. I am more of a believer in cultural differences but that’s not too weird I think.

          Strong borders, controlled immigration

          As I mentioned, this is probably my most anti-Leftist view.

          Things I do believe in in case you doubt my leftist cred:
          -Universal healthcare
          -Free college/cancelling student debt
          -Lowered military/police spending
          -Reparations of some sort
          -Welfare Good
          -Abortions Ok
          -LGBT Rights
          -Legalized Weed/Maybe All drugs??
          -Criminal Justice reform (freeing nonviolent drug offenders is a chief priority)
          -Anti Private Schools

          The list goes on XP

          ETA: Also was the 4000 word essay on systemic racism not enough to convince you? guess I need to try harder next time.

          1. Well...

            -Legalized Weed/Maybe All drugs??

            I don’t see this as a left-wing thing. For one thing, progressives were the inventors of the war on drugs, and for another thing, progressives have always been there ready to help it along and make sure it never ends. Joe Biden is only one example.

            -Anti Private Schools

            I don’t see this as particularly left-wing either. I guess anti-public schools would be right-wing, or at least libertarian, but anti-private schools to me just maps as some flavor of pro-civic participation.

          2. Eric T

            For one thing, progressives were the inventors of the war on drugs, and for another thing, progressives have always been there ready to help it along and make sure it never ends. Joe Biden is only one example.

            I think this confuses the Democratic Party with the more Left Wing/Progressive part of the Tribe. We’re very pro legal weed.

            I don’t see this as particularly left-wing either. I guess anti-public schools would be right-wing, or at least libertarian, but anti-private schools to me just maps as some flavor of pro-civic participation.

            Maybe? The only other people I know who are against private schools are Leftists

          3. Well...

            I’m aware of the progressive/Democrat distinction, but I used the word progressives deliberately there. It really was progressives who started the war on drugs. They happened to be Democrats too but that’s neither here nor there.

            I don’t think people’s thoughts on weed represent very much else. I suppose if someone was very anti-weed it might predict them being very mainline/partisan/big-R Republicans, but that’s it.

            I’ve met very few people who earnestly support the full legalization of all drugs, and the sentiment doesn’t seem to be concentrated on the left more than anywhere else. If anything it seems to be more common among people who expressly reject well-known ideological packages.

          4. Matt M

            I think the crossover between “weed should be legal” and “vaping should be illegal” is actually pretty big.

            Which shows it’s more about aesthetic preferences than deeply held ideological values regarding individual autonomy or whatever…

          5. Aftagley

            For one thing, progressives were the inventors of the war on drugs

            This is wildly inaccurate.

            President Nixon is the us president who created the War on Drugs and established the DEA. Nixon also established the schedule and codified our perspective on drugs which drugs were illegal. Reagan expanded it’s scope and doubled down on the stricter sentencing laws and Bush senior is the president who began shaping our foreign policy and military/Intel assets to go after drug producers internationally.

            If you want to go back, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was the original federal agency designed to go after illegal drugs, founded in 1930 by conservative president Hoover.

            At best you can say that the war on drugs was a conservative-led effort that progressives went along with because they didn’t want to look weak on crime.

          6. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            The war gets started with Harrison Narcotics Act and Prohibition under Woodrow Wilson, and both were firmly supported by progressive. It’s true that the progressives eventually gave up on alcohol, but you can’t write that out of the history of prohibition. And calling hoover a conservative is a bit silly, he was the was the most progressive president in american history in 1930.

          7. Aftagley

            The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act? The one that kept them legal and prescribable but imposed a tax and meant you couldn’t advertise them?

            I think you really, really, have to squint if you want to tie that to our modern drug war. Heck, you can make just as compelling an argument that this was a natural outgrowth of the 1906 Pure Food Act (under Teddy, arguably someone who could fit in either as a conservative or progressive depending on the topic). For the record, I think even the 1934 act was separate enough from our modern prosecution of drugs to not really be applicable.

            As for prohibition, maybe? But there were just as many evangelicals marching out there with the suffragets to end the tyranny of booze.

          8. cassander

            @Aftagley

            I think you really, really, have to squint if you want to tie that to our modern drug war.

            Not nearly as hard as you have to squint to (A) ignore alcohol prohibition, and (B) ignore the importance of the legal precedents that the Harrison act established.

            As for prohibition, maybe? But there were just as many evangelicals marching out there with the suffragets to end the tyranny of booze.

            Implying that the religious were’t progressive, which definitely wasn’t the case.

          9. DavidFriedman

            The fact that I learned that modern immigrants from some African countries outperform even Chinese Immigrants make me even more confident of that over a Racial IQ difference since I got here.

            You can’t assume that all African populations are the same. Quite a long time ago, the Ibo were being described as the Jews of Africa. I could be wrong, but my guess is that that’s who the Nigerians immigrating to the U.S. mostly are.

            I would also expect African immigrants in general, under current circumstances, to be on average from the upper levels of African society.

            I am more of a believer in cultural differences but that’s not too weird I think.

            That’s Thomas Sowell’s view as well, at least in Ethnic America. As I remember the argument, he thinks southern plantation slavery, basically living in a miniature centrally planned society, created a much less functional culture than West Indian peasant slavery, and that that explains the relative success of West Indian immigrants.

          10. Le Maistre Chat

            As I remember the argument, [Sowell] thinks southern plantation slavery, basically living in a miniature centrally planned society, created a much less functional culture than West Indian peasant slavery, and that that explains the relative success of West Indian immigrants.

            ???
            Caribbean plantations were famous for working the slaves to death, while cotton and tobacco plantations were humane enough that slave populations continued to grow by internal fecundity after the British (Navy) abolished the trade.
            That’s a downright Nietzschean analysis of which social experiences produce better cultures, if you’re remembering it correctly.

          11. John Schilling

            Slaves who are worked to death in three years don’t produce a better culture; they produce no culture at all. Or at least no enduring one. By process of (literal) elimination, the Afro-Carribean culture would have been dominated or at least disproportionately influenced by the small minority of slaves working in domestic or other service positions, with little cultural input from the short-lived agricultural work force.

          12. Thomas Jorgensen

            …Yhea, that is daft, if you want to look for an origin of dysfunction in african american culture, the obvious big thing is Jim Crow and other relatively recent mallet blows to the noggin that subsection of the US got. Jim Crow was literally a terrorist campaign that promised death to any african american that became visibly successful. See: Tulsa. And a lot of other crap. That sort of thing is going to leave scars.

          13. Jaskologist

            The rates for out of wedlock births in the AA community have roughly tripled since 1965. Whatever the cause, it doesn’t seem plausible that it’s Jim Crow laws, which have gotten much better in that time span.

          14. bullseye

            Slaves who are worked to death in three years don’t produce a better culture; they produce no culture at all. Or at least no enduring one. By process of (literal) elimination, the Afro-Carribean culture would have been dominated or at least disproportionately influenced by the small minority of slaves working in domestic or other service positions, with little cultural input from the short-lived agricultural work force.

            The high death rate doesn’t mean there weren’t many agricultural slaves at the time of abolition; it means that the agricultural slaves at the time of abolition were mostly new arrivals from Africa. So I’d expect black Caribbeans to have more African culture than African-Americans do, and looking at religion it appears that is the case.

          15. Edward Scizorhands

            20 years I spent a few years trying to disprove genetic causes for AA under-performing. It became a “God of the gaps” exercise. I could create an Objection, because maybe theory X was true instead or you hadn’t accounted for explanation Y. That would last a few months until I found someone who could take it apart. Then I would repeat the cycle, with the same result.

            It’s probably true that there is a significant genetic cause. [1] It will take a long time to really prove, probably after I’m dead, because racists desperately want it to be true and will flood the zone with all kinds of bad studies, kind of doing the “God of the gaps” from the other direction by making stupid assumptions that can shortly be dismissed. There’s some irony. [2]

            If we accept it, we can work on better social remedies. For example, stop insisting that Just One More Educational Fix will change our underclass into architects. Right now it’s universal Pre-K. Each time the Just One More Educational Fix fails to produce results, support for the welfare state weakens. Admit that we aren’t going to fix it, that we’re just going to have millions of people (of all races, whites may well outnumber blacks here) who cannot excel at intelligence-oriented tasks, and proceed from there.

            [1] The basic argument for is that there is some genetic basis for intelligence and distinct population groups will always drift on things that have genetic components. So you can either disbelieve in evolution, or disbelieve in intelligence. You see a lot of “well I don’t think there’s any such thing as intelligence” among certain people, and that’s because of the repugnant conclusion it leads to. [2]

            [2] Just because racists want it true doesn’t make it false. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence, and reversed racism is not justice.

          16. albatross11

            Edward Scizorhands:

            I think the situation is too complicated to conclude that the IQ gap is mainly environmental or mainly genetic in origin. Probably some of each, but who knows? Untangling that looks like a hard research question, to me. Also, genetic isn’t the same as intractable. For example, suppose it turned out that the IQ gap was caused by vitamin D deficiencies in blacks because of darker skin–that would be a genetic cause of a difference that could be solved by giving blacks vitamin D supplements or buying them all sunlamps or something. Suppose it turned out that the IQ gap was caused entirely by some deep-seated thing in American black culture, and the only way to repair it was for black kids to be raised in middle-class white homes. That would be intractable–to try to solve the problem would be a godawful crime against humanity.

            But I think we have another problem that gets missed a lot in the (IMO kinda dumb) debate about whether group differences should be mentioned in public.

            What most everyone gets: The existence of a difference in outcomes does not imply that something bad is happening, in the presence of group differences. Blacks go to prison more than whites and also commit more crimes per capita than whites, so problem solved, right?

            What most everyone misses: The existence of group differences and outcome differences in the same direction doesn’t mean that you know how much of the outcome differences come from the group differences. Maybe blacks commit more crime per capita than whites, and also the police come down on them harder when they do. Or maybe they come down less hard. The answer isn’t obvious, you have to look for evidence and try to untangle what’s going on. The answer is probably knowable, but it’s not automatic.

          17. Edward Scizorhands

            Sure, it’s not fully genetic. I just said significantly genetic.

            There is some good evidence that some cops are racist. And this is probably worse when you are poor, if you have a police system set up to be run for profit.

      3. Simulated Knave

        Interestingly, there are some solid arguments that adding immigrants doesn’t help that much with aging populations (unless they’re immigrants who have lots of kids, obv).

        The thing is, most immigrants bring their families soonr or later. Including their elderly relatives. So their actual contribution to the average age of the country is less than one would expect.

        Since one of the major concerns about the aging workforce is the massive cost to healthcare systems, the potential follow-on problems are obvious.

    3. anonymousskimmer

      I want the military to transition from the caste-influenced enlisted/officer division.

      My preferred mechanism of doing this is:

      Currently the US military academies take a certain portion of their cadets from the enlisted ranks. I want this to become 100%. I also want the same for the ROTCs, with the sole exception for non-command specialties (e.g. surgeons, lawyers, etc…). For the non-command specialties I want the warrant officer ranks expanded all the way to W-11, and I want the non-command officers to have these ranks instead of the standard O ranks.

      For these non-command ranks I want to introduce enlisted-to-officer conversion paths for the likes of EMTs/nurses->doctors/nurse-practitioners and paralegals->lawyers, etc…. And then maybe eventually do the same for them as for the command-line ranks (e.g. require those who want to be surgeons/doctors/lawyers to serve as EMTs/paralegal grunts first).

      Every command-line officer will have served as a grunt for at least 6 months to a year before getting the opportunity to command grunts. Even then this will only be an opportunity – should they not get a place in an academy or an ROTC they’ll have to serve out their 2 or 4 year term of as a grunt.

      Castes have no place in a republic of equal citizens.

      1. albatross11

        Have any other countries done this? It seems plausible to me that it would work out, but I have zero experience in any military organization. I wonder what the SSCers who’ve been in the military or know a lot about it think.

        1. johan_larson

          It’s not quite the same, but all officers in the Finnish military have served as ordinary conscripts first. To be accepted to the military academy you have to completed your conscript service, and have done well enough during it to be selected for extended NCO or reserve-officer training.

          1. nimim.k.m.

            To add some viewpoint on this.

            For me, the enlisted – commissioned officer hierarchy has been always difficult to mentally translate into Finnish every time the subject comes up. There is a word literally translated as “underofficer” which corresponds to NCOs, then there are “officers” who have ranks and duties approximately corresponding to “commissioned officer” (those I suppose would include both active duty and reserve officers, where reserve officers are conscripts selected for officer training, and active duty officers who have completed academy and will try to get into the higher command hierarchy). From technical point of view, they all form a hierarchy of ranks as in any NATO-compatible Western military, and all separate officer classes, active duty career officers, reserve officers and “underofficers”, have had different training for different tasks and duties. However, the words for enlistment and commission (and also the weird thing “warrant officer”) are quite meaningless if directly translated. Also, idea of officers who become officers without going through at least a part of same basic training as everybody else sounds like a weird class thing from Britain, like in Marryat’s Royal Navy nautical boys’ book that I read as a kid where grunts were brought in by press gangs and officers were a separate thing consisting of gentlemens altogether.

        2. John Schilling

          There are a number of countries, including I think Germany and Israel, in which officers are required to serve a year in the enlisted ranks. This seems to work fairly well. However, it is I think pretty clear from the start who are the actual enlisted soldiers and who are the officer candidates putting in their year.

          I don’t think this is realistically avoidable. The job requirements for enlisted and commissioned positions are sufficiently different that you can’t expect to find good officers (as opposed to NCOs) by observing the performance of the enlisted, and you can’t expect people who know they would be good officers to enlist on just the hope that their talents will be noticed. “Mustangs” are a thing, but the good ones are too rare to be the basis for a national military command structure.

          There have been attempts to build classless “people’s armies”, with chains of command but no other rank hierarchy; they generally don’t work very well once the initial wave of revolutionary fervor wears off.

          1. Belisaurus Rex

            The idea that a commissioned officer straight out of undergrad ROTC could be the superior of a noncom with 30+ years experience just because of a college degree seems mind boggling to me. (Yes I know that in practice the officer would be dumb to boss the noncom around.)

            Is there a justification to this?

          2. Trofim_Lysenko

            The short version is that it’s the same reason someone hired as a manager with the ink barely dry on their MBA can boss around a subordinate with 20-30 years of experience but without the MBA and the managerial authority: position in the chain of command matters.

            The longer version is that while the skillsets overlap somewhat at the lower levels of organization (Squad, Platoon, and Company), they diverge more and more the higher up you go.

            Officers’ primary task is to provide combat leadership. Their primary expertise is (or at least is supposed to be) tactics and strategy and the ability to read and respond to the tactics and strategy of the enemy in a timely and appropriate manner. This includes other disciplines, the most important being a healthy understanding of logistical issues and how they impact both your and the enemies’ operations (amateurs talk tactics, experts talk logistics), but the other stuff is secondary. Especially secondary, although a lot of militaries tend to forget this, especially in peacetime, is routine HR/Admin type work.

            Non-Commissioned Officers’ primary responsibilities are: moment-to-moment direct supervision of subordinates in the execution of their basic skills, training those subordinates in their skills, and managing the administrative paperwork associated with training and professional development.

            So, an example of how this blends together at the Platoon level (a lot of this comes straight out of what used to be FM 7-8 and I don’t know what they renumbered it to when they redid all the FMs and TMs after I got out of the Army):

            The Platoon Leader (an O-1 or O-2) is in ultimate command of the platoon. He or she is personally responsible for everything it does or fails to do.
            -Maintains “big picture” awareness of his platoon’s status, the enemy’s status, the overall mission per higher, and what his actions need to be to support and accomplish that mission.
            -Is always determining what the next move or series of actions in the overall plan is going to be. A platoon leader always needs to have an answer to “what next?” or “now what do we do?” ready BEFORE the question is asked.
            -Controls the maneuver of his subordinate units (squads) and coordinates them.
            -Requests and controls supporting assets such as CAS, Artillery, UAV recon, etc.

            Now, because the Platoon Leader is a very junior officer, he is almost unique in the military in that he is expected to consult closely with the Platoon Sergeant, and take advantage of the platoon sergeant’s experience.

            The Platoon Sergeant (mopst often E-6 or E-7, preferably an E-7) is the second in command of the Platoon, and just as the Platoon leader is unusually tied to consultation with the PL, the Platoon Sergeant is unusual for an NCO in that he has an active command responsibility IF the PL is taken out. The Platoon Sergeant:
            -Provides expert advice on technical and tactical matters, giving the PL the information the executive needs to make the command decisions.
            -Is focused on translating the PL’s current command into action.
            -Handles logistical issues and resupply and keeps the PL informed of supply states.
            -During peacetime, oversees individual skills training and professional development of junior NCOs and enlisted soldiers.

            Again, note that this is as much overlap as there is. A good Platoon Sergeant pretty much CAN do a Platoon Leader’s job. A Good First Sergeant cannot necessarily do a Company Commander’s job, and a good Battalion or Brigade Command Sergeant Major is definitely not going to be as good as the equivalent officer at the role of Battalion or Brigade Commander. I’m going to stop here and then make another post comparing and contrasting the duties at the Battalion or Brigade level.

          3. cassander

            To add to Trofim_Lysenko’s excellent response, there is a doubtless apocryphal story of a young cadet being asked what he would do if, while in command of a platoon, he got an order to set up a flag and flagpole. He responds “well, I’d start looking about for some rope and a flag and some men to raise the poll.”

            “Wrong cadet” the instructor responds. “You find a capable sergeant, tell him where you want the pole raised, then move on to your next task.”

          4. Trofim_Lysenko

            EDIT: Not THAT apocryphal, Cassander, at least in principle. I can personally report to having been (and having seen others) counselled for getting too caught up in the details of execution when in a position where the emphasis is supposed to be on command responsibility.

            So, in my first post, I gave you the example where the is the MOST overlap between Enlisted and Officer functions, at the Platoon level. What about when we get higher? What is a Brigade Commander doing and what is a Brigade NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) doing?

            A Brigade Commander’s basic tasks are:
            -Managing and driving the “operations” process by providing overall leadership, vision, and guidance to their staff and to subordinate commanders. The “operations process” is a cycle of Planning an operation, Preparing for an operation, Executing an operation, and Assessing that operation’s successes and failures and using that information to prepare for the next operation. Again, note how “big picture” this is. Also note that the first three phases of that operations cycle are where the expertise in maneuvering and employing your units and in large unit strategy and tactics is critical
            -Developing functional teams within the Brigade organization and with external units or partners. In other words, the Commander makes sure his Staff knows how to work together, that his Infantry Battalions can work with his Artillery Battalion, and that he has good working relationships with other brigade commanders, foreign units he may be expected to work with, and other branch assets like Air Force aviation, naval support, etc.
            -Having a total knowledge and understanding of the tactical and strategic situation, the capabilities of your unit and your supporting units, the overall intentions and goals of higher command, enemy capabilities, deployments, and intentions, and any factors that might affect your ability to carry out your mission. Obviously this is never 100% possible, but this is the -goal-.

            So what about the Brigade NCOIC? The Brigade NCOIC’s job is to:
            -Act as the advisor to the Brigade CO on any issues pertaining to management of the enlisted. The closest analogy here would be “Human Resources” in civilian corporatese but the parallel is only partial as at this level you also have dedicated S-1 or Personnel Officer (who the CSM is going to work very closely with).
            -Ensuring that policies are communicated and enforced across the Brigade. This is everything from uniform appearance and facilities maintenance to professional bearing, attitude, and conduct.
            -Ensuring that standards for individual enlisted readiness and training are being met (think Physical Fitness and Weapons testing here as well as personal professional development and counselling for enlisted).
            -During actual combat operations, the Brigade NCOIC becomes a roving representative of the commander, assessing enlisted morale, acting as an agent of the Brigade Commander where needed to send messages or set standards, and pitching in wherever the weight of their authority and experience is needed.

            Note that this is more general because A) the higher up you go the harder it is to get detailed without going into a huge amount of detail that will make this a slog to get through and B) I have less personal experience with this level of organization. However, I think comparing and contrasting the two NCOIC/OIC pairings illustrates the difference. If you take some time to think about it, I think you can see how the two tracks diverge in terms of focus and expertise.

            A butterbar is getting at least as much training from their nominally subordinate Platoon Sergeant as they are from the Company XO and CO, but by the time they’ve become an XO themselves they’re -mostly- getting guidance from the CO and Battalion Commander and Staff and much less from the First Sergeant and Battalion NCOIC. By the time they’re a Company CO, and from that point on, their mentoring and professional development is almost entirely in the hands of the Officer chain of command, not the NCO chain of responsibility.

          5. Simulated Knave

            cassander:

            George McDonald Fraser mentions it in his McAuslan books as a test: what orders are given in order to erect a flagpole?

            The only appropriate order is, “Sergeant, get that flagpole up.”

          6. John Schilling

            The idea that a commissioned officer straight out of undergrad ROTC could be the superior of a noncom with 30+ years experience just because of a college degree seems mind boggling to me.

            Aside from the points already made: so what? The reason we make officers out of people straight out of undergrad ROTC is not that these are the people we want leading or commanding our soldiers, it is that we expect they will become the people we want leading or commanding our soldiers.

            Stipulated that a thirty-year NCO would probably do a very good job of commanding an infantry platoon. Who commands the infantry brigade? The same guy twenty years later?

          7. anonymousskimmer

            @John Schilling

            Stipulated that a thirty-year NCO would probably do a very good job of commanding an infantry platoon. Who commands the infantry brigade? The same guy twenty years later?

            High year tenure is a ridiculous requirement. If the 30-year NCO can meet the PT requirements and knows what’s needed to run a brigade 20 years later, why not?

          8. John Schilling

            If the 30-year NCO can meet the PT requirements and knows what’s needed to run a brigade 20 years later, why not?

            First, he doesn’t know what’s needed to run an infantry brigade. Second, on the off chance that he does know, he didn’t learn any significant part of that during his thirty years as a grunt or NCO.

            And third, he’s a minimum of sixty-eight years old. Realistically, somewhere in his seventies – and late seventies by the time his tour as brigade commander ends. That’s a bit much for a job that involves anything remotely resembling infantry combat. In the real world, mandatory retirement age from that job is 64.

            If your plan is that the only people who can command infantry brigades are people with mental flexibility and temperament to perform well in all of the very different jobs between “rifleman” and “brigade commander”, and will be healthy enough to command an army in the field in their seventies, I think you’re going to run out of qualified candidates before you run out of brigades.

            Hmm, maybe we can find a viable cell sample and start cloning Carl Mannerheim?

        3. Trofim_Lysenko

          I think there’s value at least for the Army and Marines in having officers with enlisted experience and tasks, but I think that John Schilling made an excellent point some years back when I brought this up (which he has partially reprised here) that the higher up in rank you go the less relevant this experience becomes. I also think this experience matters a lot less in the Navy and Air Force where there isn’t really a base level skillset. “Every Marine a Rifleman” makes sense philosophically in a way that “Every Sailor a ____” doesn’t unless you maybe fill in “damage control party member” or something similar.

          And as others have pointed out, I don’t think this will get you away from the social dynamics you find distasteful. Egalitarian and Democratic norms have no place in a functional military organization, which is not the same thing as saying that officers can or should get away with abuse of authority or wanton disregard or disrespect of the input of NCOs and enlisted. As the saying went in the US Army when I was in “You’re here to defend democracy, not to practice it.”.

          1. anonymousskimmer

            Egalitarian and Democratic norms have no place in a functional military organization,

            The institutional changes I’m proposing are not “within” a functional military organization, they are “prior to”.

            To paraphrase your informative comparison between NCO and Officer ranks and cassander’s apocryphal:
            We place a head of state on top of the military and funnel all expense requests of the military through a congress for a reason. It is the head of state’s and congress’s jobs to recognize when the operational parameters of the military are contrary to the fundamental mission of The Republic.

            It is the officer corps job to hear this and incorporate it in military practice.

            Perhaps the Space Corps would be an organization in which to try my experiment out?

          2. cassander

            @anonymousskimmer

            Space force seems dead set on changing things as little as possible. I’d be shocked to see anything bold come out of them, and it’s a shame.

          3. Aftagley

            🙁 Coast guard then?

            Former CG officer here. Not likely, for most of the same reasons as listed above.

        4. Purplehermann

          Israeli army has officer and non officer ranks, everyone starts as a non-officer

      2. Dragor

        I am super into this. I have always thought this ever since I learned that there’s a ceiling on advancement if one joins as a grunt. Struck me as unjust probably for the reasons you identified.

        1. sfoil

          The only real “ceiling on advancement as a grunt” is the reality of human biology — you’re going to have a hard time putting in twenty years working your way up to sergeant major and then another thirty getting to be a field marshal. Otherwise there’s nothing stopping an enlisted man from applying for a commission whenever he wants, indeed there is a bit of a thumb on the scale in their favor (not needing congressional recommendation for academies, more scholarships, etc).

        2. John Schilling

          Admiral Jeremy Boorda, General John Foss, General Tommy Franks, General Alfred Gray, Admiral George Kinnear, General John Shalikashvili, and General Larry Spencer would like to have a word with you about that “ceiling on achievement”. All of them enlisted at E-1 and retired at O-9 in the post-WWII US military. Shalikashvili, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the military commander of all US military forces period. So if there’s a “ceiling”, it’s that you have to go through West Point to have the government invent a unique six-star rank to promote you to.

          However, the path from E-1 to O-9 does not involve being promoted to the very highest enlisted rank and only then being made a lieutenant. If you’re going to be doing anything but the lowest sort of officer-type work, it would be a waste of your time to do high-level enlisted work (and a sign of foolishness or lack of confidence for you to follow that track). If you’re going to be an officer, you jump from the Enlisted to the Officer track fairly early in the process, by some combination of your own determined request and the service’s recognition of your aptitude.

        3. Trofim_Lysenko

          For example, in the Army it’s the Green-To-Gold program. I was invited to apply and encouraged by my command right after I made E-3 (which took closer to 2 years time in service rather than one since my particular military occupational specialty takes a long time), and to be honest there are days when I think I made a mistake deciding not to pursue that opportunity.

      3. cassander

        For the non-command specialties I want the warrant officer ranks expanded all the way to W-11, and I want the non-command officers to have these ranks instead of the standard O ranks.

        Why? There’s definitely an aesthetic appeal of dividing up the army into grunts, officers, and highly trained non-command officers (warrants), but is there anything that’s actually accomplished by this that isn’t accomplished by, e.g. the Navy’s distinction between restricted and unrestricted officers or the split between command and technical NCOs?

      4. Incurian

        I am in favor of way more warrants, especially in the air force. Also I’d like to bring back specialists above E-4.

        I used to be in favor of requiring enlistment prior to commission (though I didn’t take that route myself) because it has a certain logic to it, and because that’s how the military worked in Starship Troopers. I eventually turned weakly against it…

        It’s possible that this is entirely the result of selection bias, but most of the prior-enlisted officers I’ve worked with had a sort of arrested development. Something about the enlisted mindset they just couldn’t shake, to the detriment of their performance as an officer. They were all great lieutenants and even junior captains, but those are basically internship roles where their relative experience let them stand out. As cohorts get promoted though, the experience equalizes and the share of officer-specific work increases.

        I don’t understand the comment about castes. The castes would still exist but require [additional] prerequisites. Also rank would still be a thing.

        ETA: The enlisted ranks are extremely overrepresented here, and they all seems great.

        1. cassander

          I’ve come to feel it’s the sort of thing that makes more sense in some services than others. I could see it working well in the marines, but it would be pointless in the air force.

        2. CatCube

          I had a (mustang) major tell me that prior service was a big help as a platoon leader, it helped a bit as a company commander, but once you got above that what you were doing as an officer was so different from being an EM it didn’t help you at all.

        3. anonymousskimmer

          I mean caste in the sense of varna, not jati.

          Edit to add: Yes, they still would exist, but they would be less rigid than they are today (and they are less rigid today than in centuries past).

          Our modern military structure separating grunts from officers ultimately comes (I haven’t researched this, just guessing) from the plebian/equestrian/patrician castes of Rome, the gentry/commoner castes of Britain, etc….

          Rome had three primary varnas (not including non-citizens) and three rank structures (plebian rank ladder, equestrian rank ladder, and patrician/senatorial rank ladder). https://www.warhistoryonline.com/ancient-history/12-ranks-roman-military-officers.html

          Many feudal societies around the world seemed to follow this model as well (nobility / knights / commoners).

          The post-medieval British had two primary varnas, and two rank structures (enlisted and officer).

          The US inheritance of this structure doesn’t make it natural, or even the best system.

          It’s possible that this is entirely the result of selection bias, but most of the prior-enlisted officers I’ve worked with had a sort of arrested development.

          It took me around two years to behaviorally overcome having been a biotech technician who couldn’t order supplies and was expected to implement what I was told to do after getting a new job as a research associate who was expected to order supplies and plan DNA assembly strategies. I’m sure there will be an adaptation period during and after getting an M.S. and Ph.D. too. This is a sociological artifact of what you are 1) expected to do, 2) allowed to do, and 3) any hazing rituals you went through. The best way to deal with this in my opinion is to treat adults as adults, regardless of their rank.

          1. sfoil

            The US inheritance of this structure doesn’t make it natural, or even the best system.

            The US is hardly the only nation that has “inherited” the system of having separate populations of officers, enlisted, and technical specialists. In fact I’m not aware of any militaries where this distinction isn’t present.

            In the US, this system is exactly as democratic as the rest of governmental functions: certain positions are elected and then they appoint people who appoint people etc, via a bureaucratically automated process. In fact this is exactly how military commissions work in the US: at regular intervals the Department of Defense presents the President with a big list of names for appointment as officers and he “signs” them without reading them.

            And as far as egalitarianism, the requirements to be a commissioned officer are public and the process is open to any citizen, and it is in fact illegal (via those democratic processes mentioned above) for the military to reject candidates who are too poor, too black, etc.

          2. Trofim_Lysenko

            Your guess is incorrect. Ranks and organizations often have very old names (the oldest in modern use go back to the middle ages, the newest are less than a century old), but the organization structures and means of selecting officers and enlisted have changed RADICALLY over the years.

            You should probably spend more time researching the military, and more importantly how “non-hierarchical” and democratized militaries have actually worked out.

          3. anonymousskimmer

            I spent time in NJROTC and one year in ROTC. The fact that 4 years of JROTC is sufficient to get one an automatic E3 after boot camp is absurd. That fact that 4 years of ROTC is sufficient to get one an automatic O1 is likewise absurd.

            I’ve known people who generationally followed in their parents footsteps straight into the enlisted ranks (e.g. my brother following in our father’s footsteps) or into the officer ranks by networking with the JROTC/parents into ROTC or getting the politician’s sign-off on the academy recommendation.

            This is typical for the US military (my father only differed in that he followed his step-father into the Navy enlisted ranks to avoid the Vietnam draft [his step-father was enlisted in WW2, then went in to construction] instead of his absent biological father into the Army officer ranks). This is a caste system. It existed in the pre-US Revolutionary military where the command officers were typically new-world gentry. It existed in the Civil war system where the officers were typically scions of wealth. Heck, despite knowing that I never wanted to join the military I went into NJROTC and ROTC primarily as a means of trying to feel closer to my father.

            This is a caste system inherited from the systems of Rome and feudal Europe. It still exists, though is far less rigid than in the past. I want it to be even less rigid than it is now.

            It’s the same crap where STEM parents want their kids to follow them in to STEM, and are disappointed when their kid wants to be an artist.

            I don’t want “non-hierarchical”, I want the hierarchical pre-selection process to change in the ways I specified above. That is all.

      5. sfoil

        I also want the same for the ROTCs, with the sole exception for non-command specialties (e.g. surgeons, lawyers, etc…).

        Why exactly do you think it’s necessary that every battalion commander has spent six months as a private but not that every surgeon spend six months as a medical orderly?

        1. thisheavenlyconjugation

          I think the idea is rather that a military surgeon doesn’t need to spend six months as a private.

        2. anonymousskimmer

          1) The morality of commanding other people to possibly kill or die.

          2) Read further. I think something like this might be a good idea, and want to see something like it, though not necessarily 100%, and not necessarily immediately.

          3) The sheer amount of education necessary to become a doctor starts becoming prohibitive of other time sinks.

          1. sfoil

            I think the idea is rather that a military surgeon doesn’t need to spend six months as a private.

            Right, but his objection seems to be that you can spend decades as an enlisted man without entering the “officer caste”. But you can also spend decades as a medical orderly without entering the “doctor caste”. The solution in both cases is the same: go to ROTC/med school. Gaining experience as an orderly obviously doesn’t eventually add up to being able to perform surgery. Likewise digging foxholes doesn’t suddenly make you competent to run a large combined-arms unit. This is a very old problem, armies had and have a hard enough time with the fact that being in command of a large formation doesn’t indicate that you’ll be able to manage a huge formation.

            I might be overstating the case here. There might be something to this idea with ground warfare services. But it’s obviously not the case that we should even intuitively expect a mechanic or security guard to translate his skills into effectively flying an airplane or navigating a submarine as a matter of “egalitarianism”.

            1) The morality of commanding other people to possibly kill or die.

            What of it? Junior officers also get ordered to kill or die, and it is true in both modern or historical armies that they die in combat at greater rates than enlisted soldiers.

            The problem of opportunity cost is not unique to doctors. Right now the Army and Marines expect about five years of experience to be a company commander and fifteen to be a battalion commander. These figures are comparable to what it takes to be an attending physician. If you don’t want to waste a potential surgeon’s time doing menial tasks as a barrier to entry then I don’t see why you’d want to do it anywhere else.

      6. John Lynch

        Most enlisted are not officer material. I know, I was enlisted. Anyone who has been in the military is welcome to speak up, but I met some real characters who had no business having power over anyone. There is already a system to promote those with good officer potential, but it’s hard and requires a lot of self-motivation. That’s OK with me.

        I’m not sure wasting the time of good officer candidates by having them do menial tasks for years on end is a good idea. It seems like a poor way to compete with the civilian job market. Requiring a college degree for officers serves pretty much the same function that it does in civilian life- it’s a “first cut” which weeds out people who shouldn’t be there.

        Ultimately, military effectiveness, the ability to fight and win wars, is what matters. If going all-enlisted wins wars, then I’m for it. But I doubt it would help. The Finnish example is different because everyone is drafted, so it’s the whole society. In an all-volunteer force you are getting the subset which volunteers. It’s not the same thing.

      7. Aftagley

        The skillset for being a good officer is wildly different than the skillset for being a good enlisted. I’m not talking in terms of differing perspectives on leadership, I’m talking about the good, say, 40-60% of an officer’s career that is basically just serving as a functionary in a hierarchical bureaucracy. Most enlisted just wouldn’t be great at this and the ones that would normally get identified and shunted into either an officer-like rate (IE intel or one of the incredibly technical specialties) or just get a ticket to ROTC.

    4. Space Hobo from Hobospace

      You can’t expect transparency from the government, and informational asymmetry will only make tyranny cheaper.

    5. Dragor

      I’m for the right consume drugs and have sex while being broadly speaking against sexual activity and drug consumption. Individually they fall into camps, but conjoined I think my views are unusual.

      1. Eric T

        I don’t want to needle you or ask any uncomfortable questions, but what’s up with being broadly against sexual activity? From my perspective sex is a fun, enjoyable thing that if done responsibly has little to no side-effects.

        Legitimately just curious!

        1. Well...

          a fun, enjoyable thing that if done responsibly has little to no side-effects.

          If by “responsibly” you mean “in a way that ensures no pregnancy” then one of the side-effects is that humans go extinct.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Side effects may include headaches, herpes, and human extinction.
            Ask your doctor if sex is right for you.

          2. Akrasian

            What do you mean? Unintended pregnancies are hardly the only thing ensuring the survival of the human race. People can use protection for recreational sex and *also* decide to have children.

          3. Well...

            Given the context, I took “responsibly” to mean “always with effective contraception” rather than “always with the intended result, whether that be pregnancy or lack thereof”.

        2. Noah

          Not Dragor, and based on his response below, we’re probably not coming from the same place, but I would generally agree with you if I didn’t have a moral problem with abortion. As it is, a lot of people’s attitude seems to be something like “well, worst comes to worst I’ll murder* someone, only a 2% or so chance of that happening, totally worth it”.

          Sex where you’re happy to bring to term and bring up any resulting children is a different story.

          *Though I personally don’t think that abortion is quite as bad as murder (nor for that matter is infanticide).

      2. Dragor

        Not a sensitive topic at all! I’m by no means sex phobic, it’s just that I view it as similar to any other craving such as the craving to watch a television show or something. The absence of the craving for sex seems preferable to the craving plus its satiation.

        1. Well...

          I used to say that drugs ought to be legally permitted but culturally restricted. (Right now they are legally restricted but culturally kinda permitted, which is the worst possible combination.) It felt like an unusual view at the time, and still does now.

    6. anonymousskimmer

      https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/what-its-like-to-get-doxed-for-taking-a-bike-ride.html

      But the Park Police had made an error. “Correction, the incident occurred yesterday morning, 6/1/2020,” they wrote in a follow up tweet. As with most such clarifications, it had only a fraction of the reach: a mere 2,000 shares.

      It was based on that initial, false information that Weinberg had become a suspect for the internet mob. To his surprise, the app that he used to record his regular rides from Bethesda into Georgetown via the Capital Crescent Trail shared that information publicly, not just with his network of friends and followers. Someone had located a record of his ride on the path on June 2, matched it to the location of the assault from the video, matched his profile picture — white guy, aviator-style sunglasses, helmet obscuring much of his head — to the man in the video, and shared the hunch publicly.

    7. Wrong Species

      Every argument to the effect of “You can’t ban X because it will have no effect/exacerbate the problem” is wishful thinking. It’s obviously stupid when the other side does it but everyone thinks it’s different when it’s their position.

      Take free speech. Free speech is great and I certainly don’t want to get rid of it. But you’ll see people make the argument that goes something like this:

      “If you ban an idea, all you’re doing is pushing it underground. It will fester and never be refuted. The best way to silence a wrong idea is to debate it so that everyone sees its wrongness and knows not to believe it.”

      Of course, this is wrong. The best way to keep people from an idea is to make sure they never hear about it. That’s why governments have been doing that for thousands of years instead of holding a debate club at court. But people will still make the argument because its convenient.

      1. Tatterdemalion

        Prohibition feels like it’s an obvious counter-example to this theory.

        I agree that it doesn’t seem to be one that generalises well, but I think that if you want to claim this as a near-universal rule, you do need an explanation as to why it didn’t apply there.

        1. Ninety-Three

          Prohibition proves this theory a lot better than you’d think. Despite being much less effective than its proponents would have hoped, you can hardly look at the figures for 1920s alcohol use and claim no effect.

          1. Tatterdemalion

            Sure, but I can and do claim that it “exacerbated the problem” – alcohol consumption was clearly a worse problem in the prohibition era than previously.

      2. albatross11

        You can’t totally stamp most things out. You can reduce them, but that often comes at an unacceptably high cost, as with prohibition.

      3. eyeballfrog

        The problem here is that the power required to completely suppress an idea is the power to suppress any idea. If you have that power, then free speech is gone–it exists only at the whims of those in power. If you don’t have that power, then people will still be talking about it, and your ban on discussing the idea is just playing whack-a-mole.

        So a slightly more detailed version of the argument is “Unless you’re planning on abandoning free speech altogether, all you’re doing is pushing the idea underground.”

    8. Well...

      I don’t know if it’s a political view exactly, but I don’t believe in being “informed” in the sense of knowing what’s going on in the news.

    9. Trofim_Lysenko

      These days? To quote Tom Lehrer:

      “I do have a cause, though, and that is: Obscenity!
      …I’m for it.”

      That one was never that popular on the Right, and is still iffy on the Left (sexual license in PERSON seems to enjoy wider acceptance there than potentially exploitative/objectifying/etc artwork/prose/photography these days).

    10. salvorhardin

      Radical cosmopolitan anti-nationalism (i.e. patriotism is a vice, countries do not rightfully belong to their citizens but rather all the earth belongs to all humanity, preferring your fellow citizens to other humans on the basis of your shared citizenship is immoral) is probably mine. It certainly narrows down your options to leftist or libertarian, but is a minority position among both, and I have lots of other disagreements with both its leftist and its libertarian adherents.

      I am also a privacy skeptic– having been persuaded by David Brin’s arguments in _The Transparent Society_. Awhile back there was a thread on books that substantially changed how people thought about the world, and that one is high on my list.

      1. Tatterdemalion

        I would struggle to compose an argument against this that I would find convincing, but I will point out that virtually all humans ever have felt the other way very strongly, and that constitutes one hell of a Chesterton’s fence.

        1. salvorhardin

          I think the ev-psych explanation (roughly AIUI, nations feel to us like the sub-Dunbar bands whose genes we evolved to preferentially propagate) is a pretty compelling argument for why the fence is there and why it’s so hard to tear down. I don’t find it a good normative argument for why the fence ought to stay up, much as the fact that humans everywhere love sugary desserts is not a good reason to believe they’re good for us, nor is the widespread psychological propensity to believe in supernaturalism a good argument that supernaturalism is true.

    11. DavidFriedman

      Open borders may do it for me. The right accuses the left of being for open borders, but not many people on the left are willing to say they are.

      Market anarchy would be the other candidate.

      You can find my thoughts on privacy here.

    12. johan_larson

      What is your most controversial/unpopular political view that doesn’t put you in an obvious political camp?

      I think we are doing airline and airport security inefficiently. We are spending too much time and money putting everyone and their luggage through security processes and too little trying to identify who might actually be a threat. It would probably also make sense to spend some of the money on back-end security, directed at airline and airport workers. Also, in the case of the US, the No Fly List is an affront to liberty, and should be made smaller and more accurate, and more open to challenge. Or maybe the whole thing should be scrapped. And using the list for foreign carriers on flights that happen to cross US airspace without landing there just seems asinine.

      Here’s a good article about it, sourced from an Israeli security expert.

      As far as I can tell, no one in mainstream politics is proposing to do anything about this. It just isn’t on anyone’s radar.

    13. Logan

      I agree that privacy is about a disgust response more than consequentialist harm reduction. There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy. Secrecy is about the actual act of observation, privacy is about the state-of-mind of the one being observed. That’s why the backscatter machines were an invasion of privacy, even though there’s no actual harm in having the TSA see you naked. I wish people would talk more about the value of privacy in itself, rather than the value of secrecy.

      Loss of privacy is up there with any non-physical torture I can think of. If the government required teenagers across the country to read a list of porn they’d looked at to a local cop, and you responded that it didn’t materially harm them so it wasn’t cruel, you’d be a sociopath. As a former closeted gay teen, I’d claim that current government policy isn’t all that different.

      Maybe you don’t value privacy, but I value it more than anything except food and water. Surely you don’t think it should be illegal for me to purchase privacy, if it’s so valuable to me. Yet the government is trying to make it more and more difficult for me to legally obtain privacy. No consequentialist argument is necessary, privacy is good because I want it and the government can fuck off.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        In re the TSA seeing images of naked people: you’re underestimating how obnoxious people can be. There was reasonable concern about the TSA sharing images of people who were unusually odd or sexy.

        1. Logan

          That’s still an issue of privacy, not secrecy. If you are a sexy looking person, and someone shares a picture of you naked, that’s doesn’t reveal a secret about you. There’s no real information in that picture that people couldn’t have guessed or shouldn’t know. I mean, it can in theory (maybe the TSA finds out you have a large penis) but that’s not necessary to create an invasion of privacy. I’m not worried about the damage it will do to my career if people find out I have a large penis, I just want a general sense of control over dissemination of details of my private life.

          The actual damage is the mental exertion in having to care about things you didn’t before. When I’m testifying before Congress, I care a lot about my appearance and my words and my demeanor. When I’m walking in public, I care a medium amount. When I’m alone in my apartment, I barely care at all. When I’m thinking in my own head, I don’t have to exert any mental resources to self-censorship and wondering how I come across. Invasion of privacy merely asks you to wonder how you are perceived, it’s just about knowing that perception is happening and hoping that you are perceived well, the damage is done right there.

    14. Aftagley

      Let’s see, I’m pretty solidly left, but I’m a bit heterodox on:

      1. Abortion: I support it, but it doesn’t have the same gutpunch for me that it does for others in my party. I never want it outlawed where I live, but I have a hard time mustering up energy to care when, say, Alabama makes it more difficult. I just peg that as yet another reason never to live there and move on.

      2. Nationalism: I’m strongly nationalistic and get viscerally angry when I hear leftists bash America, talk about how much better obviously-worse places like Canada are (sorry) or what have you. This extends to strongly supporting the military and intel agencies.

      3. Privacy: Kind of like Ninety-Three I think that it’s a bit of a red-herring and public debates over it are so full of bad faith arguments.

    15. Purplehermann

      Jewish punishments are superior to modern punishments, Eved Ivri (a specific form of slavery in Jewish law) in particular, and laws based on that particular concept should be put into practice ASAP.

      (There are a few others that might be less popular, but I hold less strongly)

        1. Purplehermann

          1. I was referring to the actual punishments, not when to apply them.

          2. There is this odd tendency I see to take jewish laws out context, generally by people who understand little hebrew and are unfamiliar with talmud or halacha.

          3. The disobedient son has to have some very specific circumstances. The justification given by Jewish sages is that a son who acts like this will inevitably turn to banditry and kill people.

          You can disagree with their reasoning, but should be aware of it and what the necessary circumstances are:

          He must steal and eat/ drink (he must glut himself on) at least a certain portion of wine and meat (in one go I believe) from his father within the the 3 months after turning 13 (or growing two black hairs in his pubic region) and even then only if the parents decide to take him to court as a disobedient son.

          (There are further requirements which I don’t quite understand, like his father and mother being equal in voice. The talmud actually debates whether the disobedient son is a hypothetical case only as the requirements are very strict.)

          A boy who steals and gluts himself on his father’s wine and meat, and who has parents willing to press charges for his general disobedience does seem like a probable candidate to turn to banditry.

          I doubt his parents will do a good job raising him from here, he already acts like a bandit, and if he doesn’t learn a trade, how else is he getting his wine and meat?

    16. Baeraad

      Personally, I’m opposed to privacy.

      I’m not happy about it, but yeah, I’m with you.

      If the last years has taught us anything, it is that we are not capable of behaving ourselves for five seconds without someone watching us. I’m sick of reading about scandal after scandal after scandal that just proves beyond all doubt that everyone does whatever they think they can get away with. Long live Big Brother! We’re apparently such absolute moral imbeciles that we can’t stop doing bad things in the shadows, so let’s just abolish all shadows so we can finally have some peace.

      I do think that once absolutely everyone’s private behaviour is a matter of public record, we’re going to have to reconsider the badness of a lot of behaviours, because it’s going to turn out that absolutely everyone is guilty of them. But that might be for the best too. Once it turns out that there really is no one righteous, no, not one, we’re going to have to either give up on the idea that moral purity is a reasonable thing to expect from anyone or else purge ourselves into extinction. And seeing the worst of the hypocrites and busybodies start wailing, “I’m only human! Don’t judge me!” is going to be hilarious, so there’s that.

      And as for other responses in this thread, let me just say: I am fine with you watching me piss, as long as I don’t have to watch you watching me piss. Leaning over the edge of my stall is obnoxious. But you can put as many discreet cameras inside of it as you please. If I can have the illusion of privacy, I can live with giving up the actuality of it.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        “If the last years has taught us anything, it is that we are not capable of behaving ourselves for five seconds without someone watching us.”

        The problem is that we can’t trust the good will or good sense of the people watching us, eigher.

    17. Jon S

      How about: organ sales should be legal (possibly with heavy regulation). I think that our current policy is barbaric relative to legalizing it.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz

    A couple of times recently, I try to post a comment and get a “you must be logged in to post” notification, even though I’m apparently logged in. I have to log out and log in again to post.

    Has this been happening to anyone else?

    1. Nick

      I get this once in a while. Not sure what does it.

      Another reminder to always copy your comment before posting.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        You’re right, I should save before trying to post.

        Mercifully, when I get the you must log in warning, and I log out and log in, my comment appears in the top text box. I can’t remember whether I can post it there and have it show up where I intended, or if I need to move it to where I wanted it.

    2. John Schilling

      Sporadically, yes. Haven’t systematically studied the issue; it seems to be less common but not completely vanished now that I’m posting almost exclusively from a single computer.

    3. DarkTigger

      This happened to me several times.
      I have half a feeling, we get auto-logged off after a certain amount of time (24h?) on the Serversite, but this does not get reported to the browser. So when I logged in during lunch break on one day, and than log in again the next day, the timer ticks of while I’m reading, and than doesn’t show that I’m logged of when I want to comment. Closing and reloading the browser does fix it for me.

    4. Viliam

      A similar thing happens to me, but I only have to log in.

      I open a page, and I am logged in. I type a comment and submit it. Now somehow I am logged out, and I get “you must be logged in to post”.

    5. Mark V Anderson

      Constantly. It sucks. This has happened to me ever since we’ve had to log in to comment.

    6. Nancy Lebovitz

      Does if matter if you check “remember me” when you log in? I don’t always remember to.

      1. Mark V Anderson

        I think it happens more often when I don’t check remember me. But it happens either way.

  17. b_jonas

    There’s a pair of statements repeated frequently about how effective condoms are for preventing unwanted pregnancies. Where do they come from and should I trust them?

    The first says that if a man and woman has an active sex life and wants to use condoms for contraception, then there’s 18% (or 20%) chance per year that they’ll get pregnant, and that most of this chance probably comes from the couple having sex without a condom or using the condom incorrectly a few times. I can more or less believe this number, because this is something that should be easy to study if you just give people free condoms and free pregnancy tests, and in exchange ask them that you’ll call them back a year from now with one simple question.

    The second claim is that if a man and woman definitely uses a condom every time they have sex, and they don’t do something stupid like reusing condoms, then there’s a 2% (or 3% in another source) chance per year that the woman gets pregnant. I don’t understand how anyone could have figured out this number. The two numbers together imply that many couples sometimes choose not to use condoms, even if they don’t want children. So to get this statistics, you would have to get someone to observe the lady in the bedroom every day and check whether they’re actually use condoms for sex. And you’d have to do this with thousands of couples for at least months, and with hundreds of couples who do always use condoms for a year. It seems unlikely that anyone could have actually done such a study. Instead, the 3% number sounds like something a condom manufacturer has invented because it sounds reasonably safe, but also makes it unlikely that someone will try to demand compensation if they do get pregnant despite using condoms. So can you please point me to an actual primary source for where this statistics comes from?

    1. Thomas Jorgensen

      At a guess, they just asked people in the above study if they ever neglected to use condoms and assumed 100% honesty from their respondents, and that gave them the 98 number as a lower bound.

    2. Oldio

      IIRC the 3% number is perfect use, the 18% number is typical use, aka assuming they made a mistake using them a few times. 3% assumes they made no mistakes.

      1. Ninety-Three

        That doesn’t address b_jonas’ question of how exactly cases are getting labeled as perfect or typical use in order to generate those percentages.

        1. Oldio

          Having never used the things, I’m not really sure what constitutes perfect use, but had a general understanding that it contrasted with the “spherical chicken in a vacuum mathematical average of users” in some way.

    3. TomParks

      This is a 2011 review of data from multiple studies: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638209/

      The authors address limitations in what can be known through self-reporting about contraception use, so even if you’re more interested in questions of epistemology than in the efficacy of different contraception types, you may find the whole thing worth reading.

      Side note: This is my first post, so if I haven’t violated commenting standards, it’s purely accidental.

        1. TomParks

          I’ll be relying on beginner’s luck, a cursory glance at the directions, attention to role models and a willingness to leave if the sort of thing I like isn’t this sort of thing. That’s as far as I’m willing to go.

          1. Anteros

            I don’t think @TomParks needs those – strikes me as a naturally civilised being already. But yes, recommended reading nonetheless.

          2. b_jonas

            @Anteros: You can tell that from just two comments, despite that we’ve got several reports when a reader was confused about a ban for a regular commenter, but later changed their mind when they looked at specific (but not deleted) comments that Scott linked to?

          3. Anteros

            If I gave the impression that it wasn’t worth @TomParks reading the comments policy, it wasn’t one I intended.
            First impressions, that’s all.

          4. TomParks

            Thank you for @b_jonas for the link to Scott’s comment rules. That was what I was obliquely referencing in my commitment to giving a cursory glance at the directions. I know I’ve seen them before, but they were hard to find again when I was trying to locate them.

      1. b_jonas

        Thank you. That article references two studies, a larger one with publication date 1999 and a smaller one with publication date 2003. The second study is unconvincing, but the first study does seem good. The study is based on self-reporting, but the method is good enough that the results are believable. Hundreds of participants agreed to record every intercourse in a diary for six months, and there were very few dropouts.

        The study also randomizes latex condoms (the commercially more common type) versus non-latex condoms, and finds that non-latex condoms are harder to use correctly. The alarming conclusion is that if you agree to participate in such a study, you have a few percent chance to get pregnant just because you were assigned a non-latex condom. Now I’m curious if there are any new studies, because maybe commercial latex condoms have improved in quality in the two decades since.

        1. Protagoras

          Nonetheless, over a six month period I would expect a considerable number of reporting errors, so I would trust the numbers for perfect use for methods that require less effort on the part of the user to be more accurate. Though I suppose even if the condoms themselves almost never fail, and it’s almost always user error, telling people that means people who are overconfident about how prone they themselves are to error (which is to say, people) will overestimate how well the method will work for them. Still, I think that’s better than the situation where some people use “they have such a high failure rate” as a reason not to bother to use condoms.

    4. keaswaran

      My impression is that some of these numbers for the year are likely extrapolated from smaller time periods. We figure out the half-life of certain radioisotopes in the millions of years, because we look at large samples for small periods of time, and presumably we can do the same thing for condom use – look at a large enough sample of couples for a small enough number of sexual encounters, where we can be highly confident that a condom was used correctly in each encounter.

  18. johan_larson

    The G7 countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy) have differences, but they have a lot in common: they are all first-world democratic nations with mixed economies. But these rather similar nations have very different death rates from COVID-19.

    UK 611/million
    Italy 566/million
    France 450/million
    USA 353/million
    Canada 213/million
    Germany 106/million
    Japan 7/million

    If we include Japan, we have a difference in death rates of 87:1. If we don’t, it’s 5.8:1, which still seems pretty big. It’s strange that similar organizations and institutions trying to solve the same problem end up with such dramatically different results.

    1. Eric T

      I spent quite a bit of time in Japan, and let me tell you something about them, it is a clean culture. If you’re even a little bit sick, you wear a mask. The subways are so pristine that you could eat food off of the floor (though if you tried the people would glare angrily at you). In my entire stay I don’t think I saw one rat. It’s just…. clean.

      I have no idea if this matters or not, but my intuition says the Japanese are probably uniquely good at following guidelines designed to keep them safe. The culture there values the community over the individual much more than say the USA

      1. Jake R

        Also, there are zero public trashcans and nobody litters. Not even once, not even a little bit, not ever. I’ve seen parks in the US with trash cans every 20 feet and trash on the ground in between them. Not in Japan.

        1. Eric T

          Yes this! My first week in Kyoto I was out at a park and had bought some food from a vendor and was eating it outside. VERY aware of the cleanliness, I tried to ask someone where the trash cans are, and they just took my trash from me and put it in their pocket. To this day I feel bad about this interaction.

          1. anonymousskimmer

            You gave a person the opportunity to do a good deed for a newbie. Don’t feel bad.

          2. Anteros

            I was going to say something similar. The person who took the trash probably has a good feeling about the interaction. Time to let that bad feeling go!

          3. cassander

            I’ve often said that the Japanese have a very peculiar sort of nationalism about them. They understand that all foreigners are inferior to Japanese, but they try not to hold it against us, at least to our faces. After all, it’s not our fault that we grew up in horribly uncivilized places that aren’t Japan and never learned any better.

      2. DarkTigger

        One big thing in Japan might have been sheer luck. The head of the Japanes epedemic prevention agency started his career during the first SARS epedemic, and he applied lessons learned back than to Covid-19. Like if you see a cluster, of cases identify where those people met and put them in quarentine even before you got a diagnosis.
        This was unexpectelty succesful since (like the old SARS) Covid-19 depends on super spreader events.
        Other countries did not do this, because they thought Covid-19 would rely on Superspreader events less. This was an misconception.

    2. Tarpitz

      I suspect there are also some big differences in reporting standards going on. Death data is the best way we have of tracking the progress of an outbreak within a country (albeit with significant lag), but I’m not sure it’s good for accurate international comparisons right now.

    3. viVI_IViv

      It’s puzzling that there are no clear patterns. By geographic proximity the UK is closer to France than Italy, by culture is closer to the US and Canada, by age structure Japan, Germany and Italy are most similar to each other while the US has a much younger population.

    4. noyann

      Some random ideas.

      The chief of political health decisions in Japan had gotten a crash education during SARS-1 and, lacking hard data in the early phase, reacted from mostly a gut feeling, with a diagnostic emphasis on clusters and immediate isolation of everybody in a detected cluster. Turned out to be the right strategy for the variability in Covid-19’s R.

      The federal chancellor of Germany is a physics professor (show her a formula and she groks the implications), she didn’t have to wait for rising numbers to be alarmed early on. Germans have a high trust in their NPR and in science in general. They believed the early information and started a social distancing before the official lockdown began; the effect can be seen in retrospective.

      The UK suffers the consequences of the early ‘let it burn through’ strategy.

      1. Edward Scizorhands

        It might be the people, not the leadership.

        The Asian countries had experience with various outbreaks in recent memory. The people were ready to respond even before the government did.

        France, from what I heard, responded hard to SARS-1, and the people thought it was an overreaction.

        To mix metaphors, experience is a dear teacher and some people get what they need to learn good and hard.

        Germany did well because it’s full of Germans.

        1. noyann

          Or a better approximation is the combination of people and their government, more precisely, the values selected for by voters and enacted by the elected. We are governed by whom we elect, for criteria important to us, and who we elect lays the foundation for reelection and for trust through demonstration of such criteria. For Japan and Germany, my gut says that transparency, accountability, and demonstrated competence are important parts of these values, but then I wonder about the (rich, industrialized, cultivated, democratic, educated) Switzerland with 224 deaths/million.

          My current feeling is that the search for a simple pattern for Covid-19 death tolls will fail, there is too much interacting here. First it will take some years to get realistic numbers out of the cover-up countries. Then an analysis is bound to include factors as disparate as the wealth of a nation, the culture of compliance with authority*, trust in (and correctness) of media, air humidity and wind speed during the Covid season, style of life (indoors/outdoors; elderly living in family/separately), population density and its variation, group sizes in recreations, schools, and at work, general level of health (smoking, nutrition, sports), … and, and and…
          Create a score for each (easy, eh) and correlate, and my guess is that wildly disparate combinations of factors will have led to similar outcomes.

          * In spirit, not just grudgingly only when observed… A blogger reported from Wuhan that some of the infected smeared their sputum under door handles. To stick it to the Man? “Because If I suffer so shall everybody”?

          1. Viliam

            I think that Switzerland can be explained by having many Italians working there. Closing the border with Italy would have greater economical impact for them than for any other country, which is why they didn’t do it.

          2. noyann

            There was an argument saying that, by culture and mentalities, Switzerland was basically a nation consisting of three large chunks that are similar to the three large neighbors.

            But a comparison of Covid numbers and language regions (as a proxy for political culture) doesn’t show more than a crude germanic-romanic distinction (with the Valais being influenced by closer ties to Italy?).

    5. 10240

      Early on there was a pretty fast exponential growth. Italy had a doubling time of about 3 days, other countries were similar. A 5-fold difference in the total number of cases may be something like a week’s difference in when they ordered a lockdown.

    6. Derannimer

      Do the death rates represent “Covid deaths / total pop” or “Covid deaths / Covid cases”? If it’s the former, then isn’t that reflecting both chance of getting Covid in the first place, and also chance of dying once you get it? Those seem like they’d be influenced by very different factors. Idk, it just seems like kind of a messy number.

      1. Eric T

        Does Japan have a history of lying about this sort of thing? I mean they’re a very open democracy with freedom of the press and a robust civil bureaucracy, you’d think massive death coverups would be really hard for them, at least way more hard than for China.

        1. salvorhardin

          I don’t think they’re lying. I wonder if they might be fooling themselves. The obvious way to check is to look at overall excess death numbers which aren’t affected by choices on how to classify cause of death– did these not show the spikes in Japan that they did elsewhere?

          1. keaswaran

            I’m getting conflicting reports on a quick google search, but both claims seem to suggest an overall number of covid deaths that are much lower per capita than the others. (One says the number of excess deaths was negative, and the other says the number of excess deaths in Tokyo was 200 even though the number of reported covid deaths was 16.)

    7. DavidFriedman

      One issue is how they decide whether someone died of Covid. I believe in some places, possibly they U.S., they test any corpse that could have been due to Covid, which would include flu deaths among other things, and classify it as Covid if it tests positive. If there is a significant false positive rate, that could substantially inflate the figures. At the other extreme would be only counting people who were hospitalized with the appropriate symptoms, tested positive, shows the usual sequence of further symptoms, and died.

  19. sharper13

    File among things I learned today and found illustrative:

    The entire active duty Canadian Army (23K) is about half the size of the NYPD (36K).

    Edited to add: Also appears to have twice as many police per capita (411/100K) as Canada (180/100K) does, while Minneapolis (221/100K) is much closer.

    1. Trofim_Lysenko

      That’s more like 1.6x and I’d argue says waaaay more about the Canadian Army than the NYPD. 3 brigades and change, call it one medium-weight division, and it only makes medium weight because of the 80 or so Leopard 2s they recently bought, and I don’t think they even have all of them in service.

    2. SamChevre

      I remember reading in something — I think from the 1920’s–that England conquered the world with an army the size the the New York City police force.

    3. Ninety-Three

      Also appears to have twice as many police per capita (411/100K) as Canada (180/100K) does

      This is what I would expect given the much lower crime rate: there’s just less cop-work to be done in Canada. As an illustrative example, the Canadian city with the most murders per capita is still below the American average.

    4. Austin

      C’mon man, that’s almost like 2/3rds the size of the NYPD. The state of our armed forces is pretty poor, sadly.

    5. sfoil

      Expeditionary warfare is much more capital intensive than policing. So the Canadian Armed Forces has has a $22 billion dollar budget compared to the NYPD’s $5.6 billion. Even if only a third of the CAF’s budget is going to “the army” (an estimate, since Canada doesn’t seem to really allocate its budget by service branch), they’re still outspending the NYPD by several billion dollars. Also, even if New York had the same per-capita police presence as Minnesota (and how’s that working out for them lately?) they’d still be at 19K police, which is at least in the ballpark of the Canadian army’s numbers. That being said, NYC is a notoriously heavily-policed city.

  20. Le Maistre Chat

    So in A Confederacy of Dunces, is Ignatius Reilly someone the reader is supposed to look down on in contempt for liking old things and being dependent on his mother, or someone wise enough to perceive the link between “monarchy with a tasteful and decent king who has some knowledge of theology and geometry” and enough freedom of thought to cultivate a rich inner life?

    1. Nick

      Ignatius’s problem wasn’t liking old things, it was… well, every other conceivable personal problem a man can have.

    2. jewelersshop

      Ignatius likes old things for all the wrong reasons; Nick pretty much nailed it. The bit about Ignatius’ dog is not exactly a “rich inner life.” And the girlfriend who is into all the hot new ideas is not an improvement on Ignatius. (Jones is, I think, the main one to root for, though it’s nice to see Mr. Levy and Patrolman Mancuso and Miss Trixie improve their lots.)
      Just as an aside, I’d never heard of those writing tablets Ignatius uses for his academic diatribes – but my parents were familiar with them as the lined paper that 1st-graders use when learning to print.

    3. Well...

      I think we’re supposed to lovingly, admiringly, laugh at him for his lack of self-awareness (among other things). We’re supposed to have a similar relationship to characters like Frasier Crane, or Lisa Simpson. And given John Kennedy Toole wrote Ignatius (IIRC) somewhat autobiographically and then killed himself, maybe it’s a “God I fucking hate myself — but please take pity on me” kinda thing.

      Now I’m trying to think of a protagonist we’re supposed to look down on in contempt…maybe Beavis and Butthead?

    1. original-internet-explorer

      As I see it some of Liberalism’s new generation are people like Scott who move like comets – and others are in a decaying orbit.

      It’s hard to wrap my mind about the phenomena. The biggest ‘viewquake’ I had was – thanks to The Three Body Problem of Liu Cixin – that there aren’t two factions left/right on a spectrum. I believe the book was written using the Straussian technique as critique of the West’s political system producing crisis or as a criticism of Humankind’s political nature causing conflict. Westerns are familiar with the idea that a writer under a totalitarian society might write differently but I don’t believe they spot the same in reverse describing their own society because Barrack Obama endorsed the book.

      The setup starts with a description of the Cultural Revolution – which sounds to a Westerner like a criticism of China. It’s not that.

      There exist three factions and their behavior is similar to orbiting bodies. We live on a planet as it were with Three Suns representing the Left, the Right and the Liberals. The gravity of each body affects the others. In our history we see the consequences of historical orbital relations. One special event is where the suns converge on a path to our planet called the Trisolar Day – in each three different species of political crisis rip the planet apart.

      I mention this because I think the best description of what is happening right now is that the Liberal body had a dalliance with the Left body. It now moves back to the Right body and we see the chaos spreading across the planet by these disruptions.

      The nice idea is that it kills the belief in centrism or moderation. There is no origin point for the political order since the West dissolved the monarchies. Instead of having a back and forth between the Left and the Right policies we see the possibility of total disaster were the wrong synchronizations to happen.

      The dangerous delusion of the West is that the political system has a natural Equilibrium. This hypothesis says it does not and this explains the extraordinary events in our history. It also chimes with descriptions of the West’s political dynamism. There are lots of ways to read into Three Body symbolism but really any of them would be an improvement on the prevailing metapolitical discussions.

      I’m very suspicious about Brett Weinstein and Eric Weinstein’s descriptions of the world because though I believe they are sincere advocates of Liberalism they are using the political compass model of the world and that I am convinced will fall down horribly as story of what we are seeing.

      I was triggered by Matt Taibbi because he’s like Brett and Eric – sincere but friends don’t let friends use bad maps. I want to hear what Tyler Cowen really thinks about what is going on because he is woke to the idea the different factions are telling themselves tales of convenience.

      1. Wrong Species

        Interesting take on the Three Body Problem. It’s certainly not an endorsement of liberalism. The series is about survival and how you need to do what you need to do to protect your people. Choices that feel wrong can in fact be the right choices. It’s a refreshing perspective. One of my pet peeves in media is when some character says “If we do X, then how does that make us any different from them”. Your principles mean nothing if you’re all dead. If a Westerner had written it, more people would recognize that.

        1. albatross11

          I thought the author was drawing a comparison between the Chinese who adopted a foreign (weatern) ideology and loyalty and wrecked the old Chinese society, and the humans who adopted an alien ideology and loyalty and strove to wreck human society.

          1. original-internet-explorer

            Mao’s favorite book was Dream of the Red Chamber. It is a complex tale unknown in the West but the theme is about the fall of a noble house. Mao probably identified with it so strongly because he saw stagnation of his society and I guess he blamed that on the West. I can understand that because I have a relationship of that sort to the Book of the New Sun – it describes the stagnation of our society to me. Recall if you have read the chapter called The Picture Cleaner the Knight in White Armour with Golden visor bearing a strange stiff banner in the Desolation. We know that one.

            I think any criticism of China or the CCP contained in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past is accepted in Chinese society. Liu Cixin is an insider – he won’t be turning up on the Steve Bannon podcast.

            Supposing Liu Cixin’s view Wrong Species mentioned to be correct – then we are seeing now a Cheng Xin in Seattle where it would have been better to have a Luo character.

            The star of the Right is probably rising now and when it reaches the zenith the gravity of it will be difficult to resist. My worry is that one of the factions is torn apart – my belief is if that happens our civilization is ended – the dynamism of the three factions is the impetus that drives our scientific and technological projects.

        2. original-internet-explorer

          I’ve found it frustrating trying to explain Liberalism. It’s like political dark matter.
          When somebody already believes they have the answer it’s hard to get through.

          The majority conflate Liberals for a Left or Right faction. I think the political scientists and historians of political history see the world differently but they are so niche they are ignored. It is like Moravec’s Paradox in Robotics – in the field everybody knows and externally the public is delusional. I’m sure David Friedman can give examples where different species of economist have converged but the public believes something impossible. There is a wiki for Liberalism where it is obvious why it can’t be Right or Left.

          The star of Liberalism waxes and wanes with the social evolution of the middle class – what I prefer to call the information processing class because I can’t swallow the top/middle/lower model of society coupled with “Progress” where we all transition into the middle.

          Confusion is compounded by the common understanding of the word Liberal. Sophisticated commentators use liberal-left/liberal-right and far left/far right but this is adding epicycles.

          The Liberal faction has a red or blue orientation it calls Right or Left in our Liberal world. Which orientation it has depends on the last encounter with another orbital. Obviously in the 60s a close encounter was had with the Left and in the 80s with the Right. This confusion is probably a feature of the system. The reason why it isn’t clear is that it is rare for a leftist influence to affect our planet at the same time as a rightist influence. When we see two stars in the sky – it signals conflict. If we see three it’s probably a new Dark Age.

          In the Three Body Problem it takes a while for the Trisolarians to work out the existence of a third orbital because their historical past doesn’t reveal it. This is because they were always conflating one of the Suns for another. They never saw three Suns at any one time because that was the Trisolar Day where all records would be destroyed. It’s a powerful metaphor – Liu Cixin is a genius – the model adds Time and vectors to the political model instead the beautiful static view with equilibrium. If there is one message to take away – it’s that there is no equilibrium.

          You can believe progress is desirable without believing progress is inevitable. The belief progress is inevitable becomes complacent thinking if there is no equilibrium. As I see it – Elon Musk and Peter Thiel – this is something they are strongly correct about that the middle class does not understand. We don’t have much time to make the world better – the clock is ticking.

    2. Erusian

      I wonder how much of the toxicity he’s describing is linked to the precariousness of most media sources.

      I’ve long thought there’s a direct link between media sources appealing to “mainstream/acceptable” (read, left wing college graduate) sentiment and their lack of funding. That’s a smaller group than most people think. About a third of people, a rough supermajority of whom are liberal, meaning about 20% of the population. Probably less because these effects become much less important at a community college. This means there are slightly more members of the New York Times set than there are African Americans. Yet we somehow intuitively understand that as a niche market yet see mainstream media as… well, mainstream.

      One thing people forget about the golden era of news or orchestras is that common people went to them too. Imagine if opera stars could fill stadiums the same way pop stars could, something that was true within living memory, and you understand intuitively one reason for the decline of opera. Likewise, where opera is the healthiest (Eastern and Central Europe) it’s cheap and easy to get into (or if it isn’t easy, it’s because it’s sold out).

      But investors and reporters are almost universally upper class, white, and leftist, members of that privileged minority. Even the right wingers are mostly heretics from that group. So you have a glut of publications fighting for a small but wealthy part of the populations that already has dominant brands. As with any oversubscribed niche, this means there’s a lot of competition and a lot of people starving trying to win that battle. (This is a similar problem as how tech tends to produce a lot of solutions for technical people, to the point things like cloud hosting for software engineers are hugely overinvested in, while other sectors basically get no attention. This is because most software engineers are software engineers and relatively few of them are, for example, garbagemen. Or ever have been.)

      This is one of the reasons conservative news outlets outcompete liberal ones. Conservative outlets are in a less competitive market, less competitive means more profitable, more profitable means more money to invest or make acquisitions. This point has been made explicitly by Sinclair and the Daily Wire. Of course, it doesn’t have to be political news: one imagines news about anything that doesn’t appeal to that set would work.

  21. ltowel

    Yes, we mean literally abolish the police.

    The surest way of reducing police violence is to reduce the power of the police, by cutting budgets and the number of officers.

    But don’t get me wrong. We are not abandoning our communities to violence. We don’t want to just close police departments. We want to make them unnecessary.

    I get it. Police brutality is horrible. But I can’t imagine there’s a better way to stop muggings from happening after all the bars let close then having a beat cop on the corner. Maybe the socialist utopia will solve envy and greed and we’ll only have 5 deadly sins to deal with. I don’t envy the people with the hubris to make public policy – it’s much easier to tear it down then to build it up.

    1. Eric T

      So something to note: the actual policy proposal the author advocates for is reducing uniformed numbers by half. I don’t know about elsewhere, but that wouldn’t actually be that insane here in NYC. Then NYPD currently has 34,440 uniformed officers, but has operated historically quite well with around 20-25,000 uniformed officers. So maybe half is overzealous here but a 33% cut would actually probably be totally fine for the city.

      1. ltowel

        I read it as “the least we can do is cut it in half”. In any case, police budgets are getting cut – there’s gonna be municipal budget crisis world-wide.
        I think it’d be disingenuous and irresponsible to publish an op-ed that doesn’t literally mean abolish the police with the title “Yes, we mean literally abolish the police”

      2. teneditica

        Nah. If someone literally says that they literally want to abolish the police, I’m not going to be lectured on what the policy proposals they advocate actually are.

        1. Purplehermann

          Specifically, accusing someone of ‘lecturing’ you when they draw attention to what’s written, and otherwise add to the thread… less of this please

      3. souleater

        he idea of cutting police doesn’t strike me as particularly objectionable… cutting by half still seems extreme, but I could meet then partway and maybe do a 20% reduction and revisit the issue in a few years. but I feel like I’m trying to craft policy with a group who are promising different things to different people.

        It makes me feel like meeting their written requests wont satisfy them, and they will immediately move the goal posts closer to what they’re telling each other they want. I don’t want to try to meet them halfway only to have the rug pulled out from under me. I want to work with people I disagree with here, but if they are asking for a complete nonstarter like abolishing the police, I don’t think we can have any sort of meeting of minds.

        What percentage of these protesters would you guess really truly want to abolish the police? My guess is its 50-70%

      4. Conrad Honcho

        So something to note: the actual policy proposal the author advocates for is reducing uniformed numbers by half.

        I don’t think that’s a fair reading of the article.

        I’m having a really hard time putting this into words after seeing the back-and-forth with Guy in TN and ECD last OT where everyone couldn’t decide on what “to police” means rather than the current incarnation of “police forces in the United States,” but I’ll try my best.

        She literally wants to abolish the police, and replace what the police do with other types of civil servants who help people solve their problems rather than arresting them.

        … Tracey Meares, noted in 2017, “policing as we know it must be abolished before it can be transformed.”

        So, abolish the current police forces and organizational structures, and transform them and society as described by:

        People like me who want to abolish prisons and police, however, have a vision of a different society, built on cooperation instead of individualism, on mutual aid instead of self-preservation. What would the country look like if it had billions of extra dollars to spend on housing, food and education for all?

        Yes, she literally wants to abolish the current police forces, and the idea of the way in which we “police” society. However, if we can’t get on board with all that right now:

        I’ve been advocating the abolition of the police for years. Regardless of your view on police power — whether you want to get rid of the police or simply to make them less violent — here’s an immediate demand we can all make: Cut the number of police in half and cut their budget in half.

        So, she spends the entire article explaining that yes, she wants to abolish the police and replace them with other types of people who try to solve the problems we have the police solving in different ways, and this is important to do because lots and lots of attempts to reform the police have failed. And she’s got one line where she says that if we can’t do all that right now, at least start by cutting them in half. I don’t think it’s fair to throw out all the ways in which she advocates for abolishing the police, but since there’s one line where she’ll settle for abolishing half of them right now, that means she doesn’t really want to abolish the police. She really wants to abolish the police (and transform society).

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          If I was in charge of irony, and I had to roll up all the insanity of “New York Times publishes article that puts lives in danger” and “no, ‘abolish the police’ doesn’t mean abolishing the police,” I would order this op-ed to appear in the New York Times.

      5. John Schilling

        I think there’s been enough ink spilled over this exact subject that when someone literally chooses the headline “Yes, we mean literally abolish the police”, we should probably take them literally (but not seriously).

        If they also propose a compromise wherein we start by literally abolishing half the police, I’m going to expect that there will be further “compromises” to come which add up to Zeno’s Abolition of the Police.

        1. The Pachyderminator

          The author almost certainly didn’t choose the headline. It’s not safe to conclude anything about authorial intent specifically from that.

          1. Matt M

            Uh, if I submitted a piece for publication and the editor used a headline that is clearly not at all what I actually believe, I would be very publicly making a big stink about it.

          2. John Schilling

            And in the immediate post-Cotton era, that stink would be heard loud and clear. The idea that the NYT’s editors are, here and now, choosing op-ed headlines that make Social Justice look bad, is not plausible.

          3. albatross11

            Oh, I’d say building an echo chamber within the NYT makes it very likely they will run op-eds that make social justice look bad. Not intentionally, but still….

        2. Aftagley

          to come which add up to Zeno’s Abolition of the Police.

          Bad news Bob, hey just decided to fire another 1/16 of you. Tell your left forearm not to show up on Monday.

    2. Atlas

      One thing that I think is very important to note is that there’s nothing radical, novel or progressive about suggesting that there shouldn’t be a government police force. That was the case for most societies throughout human history, and is still the case for some societies today like Somalia. (See also Rachel Kleinfeld’s very interesting book A Savage Order on how nominally extant but effectively feckless police forces lead to high rates of homicide in contemporary societies like Colombia and Bihar.) In the absence of a centralized state with a monopoly on violence, the overwhelming tendency historically has not been for local communities to find innovative non-violent ways to cooperate, but for highly frequent small-scale brigandage, predation and feuding between clans/gangs to occur, as in e.g. the Scottish Highlands or Papua New Guinea prior to state pacification. (And for that matter the famous American Wild West; it’s a myth that it’s a myth that the Wild West was highly violent.)

      This is vividly demonstrated by the massive reduction of homicide rates in European countries over the past several centuries with the expansion and consolidation of states (most of the decline happened prior to the advent of modern medicine).

      Granted, this wasn’t just a change in hard incentives; as scholars from Lord Kames to Norbert Elias have argued, it also eventually produced a change in cultural norms. However, changing those incentives can lead to reversal of those norms.

      PS: I’m not unsympathetic to arguments made by anarcho-capitalists like David Friedman in The Machinery of Freedom that the state’s legal and policing functions could be privatized, but only as long as that’s done in a very, very careful and very, very gradual way.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        In the absence of a centralized state with a monopoly on violence, the overwhelming tendency historically has not been for local communities to find innovative non-violent ways to cooperate, but for highly frequent small-scale brigandage, predation and feuding between clans/gangs to occur, as in e.g. the Scottish Highlands or Papua New Guinea prior to state pacification.

        Got it in one.
        A city of significant size can’t even go 16 hours without government police without dropping us back to past levels of violence so overwhelmingly unpopular that elected rulers call in the Army.

        1. Mercurial

          To be fair, it seemed like people were already on the edge of rioting just before the police went on strike. I wonder if the army would have been called in regardless (see recent riots) regardless of the cop’s attempts at maintaining law and order.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          The “AnCap Somalia” discussion on the English internet appears to leave the country frozen in 2006.
          The rise of the Islamic Courts Union caused Ethiopia to send in its Army to support a United Nations-appointed transitional President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

          1. DavidFriedman

            Ethiopia being Somalia’s traditional enemy, with which they fought a war under Barre’s dictatorship. Rather like straightening out a situation we don’t like in France with the use of the German army.

            People interested in the traditional stateless institutions of Somaliland, northern Somalia, will find a chapter on them in my Legal Systems Very Different from Ours. For more expert information, take a look at the works of I.M. Lewis, an LSE anthropologist who started studying the area in the 1950’s and became the leading expert on it.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            People interested in the traditional stateless institutions of Somaliland, northern Somalia, will find a chapter on them in my Legal Systems Very Different from Ours. For more expert information, take a look at the works of I.M. Lewis, an LSE anthropologist who started studying the area in the 1950’s and became the leading expert on it.

            Yes, Somalis have non-Islamic mores/legal institutions called Xeer that are understood to be compatible with Islam, which is the only religion present, and Somaliland and Puntland are ethnically homogeneous (Somali). Combined with an economy where pastoralism (traditionally hostile to states) was still common, it was only minimally surprising that the stateless cities didn’t descend into block-by-block chaos.

      2. SamChevre

        One additional possibility is extra-legal groups that serve as law enforcement, but with fewer constraints than the police. The last time we had reasonably widespread, effective private law enforcement within the US, the Force Act was passed to allow the Army to suppress the private militias.

        1. BBA

          reasonably widespread, effective private law enforcement

          I mean…uh…that’s certainly a way to describe them but…

        2. TheSkeward

          The Enforcement Act of 1870, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1870 or First Ku Klux Klan Act, or Force Act was a United States federal law written to empower the President with the legal authority to enforce the first section of the Fifteenth Amendment throughout the United States. The act was the first of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks on the suffrage rights of African Americans from state officials or violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

          Just to confirm your position: the Ku Klux Klan was an effective private law enforcement organization crushed by government overreach?

          Other than the KKK, are there other vigilante groups you’d be in favor of? What are your thoughts on how extra-legal groups serving as law enforcement with fewer constraints than the police are working out in, say, Mexico?

          1. DavidFriedman

            are there other vigilante groups you’d be in favor of?

            The original Vigilantes, the Committee of Vigilance in San Francisco, is viewed by some as the good guys, responding to a corrupt law enforcement system, by others as the bad guys.

        3. SamChevre

          The Ku Klux Klan was an effective private law enforcement organization crushed by government overreach because it was not even close to providing equal justice to everyone.

          My point was diametrically opposite to your comment: there’s a very good reason to have public police forces, and not private militias serving as quasi-police. The second isn’t a new idea: it’s an already-tried bad idea.

          (The Klan is tricky because it was also an anti-colonial resistance movement. Those tend to be remembered very differently by the two sides.)

      3. Nancy Lebovitz

        I’ve wondered how private organizations can build up sufficient trust ex nihilo to be able to function as courts and police.

        1. John Schilling

          You don’t need trust to function as a police force or court. You only need trust to function as a good police force or court.

          And you certainly don’t need universal trust. A vigilance committee can be trusted by the Right Sort of People, thoroughly distrusted by the Wrong Sort of People, and yet be very effective at keeping the Wrong Sort of People in line (or just running them out of town).

    3. DinoNerd

      I suspect that there are many better ways than policing as currently practiced in parts of the United States.

      It’s very easy to go from “we need something that does X” to “we need something called Y” and from there to “we need a Y exactly like the one I am personally familiar with”.

      It’s also easy to do the converse – “the Y we have has problems”; “we need to have nothing called Y” and/or “we need to have nothing like Y”.

      I don’t think we’ll solve anything with this kind of rhetoric.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        I suspect that there are many better ways than policing as currently practiced in parts of the United States.

        It’s not just the United States. The Lego police meme is like five years old.

        It’s terrifyingly irrational that we’re being forced, for fear of being censored and also losing our ability to make a living, to agree with the framing “the problem with police brutality is anti-black racism and the quantity and social trade-offs are exactly as bad as we assert without evidence.”

    4. Wrong Species

      It’s as depressing as it is predictable. And the process is now on turbo.

      “Nobody believes that”
      “Only a few wackos believe that”
      “Only a few op eds advocate that”
      “Only the extremists believe that”
      “Not all of us believe that”
      “If you don’t believe it, you’re a monster”

    5. salvorhardin

      So this seems to me to be a problem that should be familiar to software engineers like those I assume are overrepresented here.

      You have a terrible, old, crufty legacy system that’s part of your critical infrastructure. You’ve come to realize, belatedly, that it is not only riddled with bugs but full of fundamental design flaws, so that patching and point-fixing is not a long term sustainable strategy. This is one of those rare times where the thing really does need to be rewritten from scratch.

      But that doesn’t make it easy. You can do cool thought experiments about how the new thing should work. You can make prototypes that give great demo but don’t scale. And you need to do all this to get the new thing to eventually work! But it’s all too easy to believe that it’s sufficient: to believe that because you see how the prototype could work, you see how the production system could work. Smart, well intentioned people keep making that mistake all the time.

      And the old awful system, because it is critical infrastructure, can’t just be shut down while you stand up the new thing. So instead you have to keep running people through the meat grinder of maintaining the old awful thing while you hash out the hard design problem for the new thing and qualify it for production. And even once you do that, the migration process is a pain and a half.

      And it’s totally legitimate to point out the problems to the starry-eyed enthusiasts of the new vaporware way– as long as you don’t neglect to acknowledge the very good reasons they have for wanting to burn the old thing down. If you can propose a better incremental migration path than a rewrite that satisfies the same requirements, they *should* be all ears– of course they aren’t sometimes, and that’s a problem– the presumption should be that incremental fixes are better than rewrites the vast majority of the time– but on your end, it should be a rebuttable presumption.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Generally the consequences of burning the old software down don’t include people being killed or losing 100% of their private property.
        Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is actually entirely about this, though he was writing too early to be a software engineer.

        1. salvorhardin

          Software breakages kill people pretty frequently, as it happens, and this will get to be a much bigger problem as more of our infrastructure is software-ified. Bruce Schneier is good on this.

      2. cassander

        This is the great virtue of capitalism. It’s constantly burning down legacy efficient systems and generating new ones in a way that makes sure the lights stay on.

      3. Ninety-Three

        the presumption should be that incremental fixes are better than rewrites the vast majority of the time– but on your end, it should be a rebuttable presumption.

        Man, I would be thrilled if that was the discussion anyone was having. Is there some bubble separate from mine where anyone is trying to either rebut or defend that presumption rather than simply declaring themselves correct?

        1. ltowel

          I … kind of feel like this oped is doing that? It felt like an a attempt to rebut that presumption by arguing for literal police abolition.

          1. salvorhardin

            There’s also the more cynical political argument that if you want major yet still moderate reforms passed, you need the abolish-the-police people to be out there with a big megaphone to make those reforms look moderate, because proposals at the very edge of the Overton Window rarely actually get enacted.

            I’m hoping that’s true here and that it results in something close to federal enactment of the whole Campaign Zero reform agenda, which is pretty nuanced, well-thought-out, very far from both the status quo and police abolition, and was at best spreading slowly locality-by-locality before recent events.

            The analogous phenomenon in software engineering– someone comes in with a bold design proposal for a complete rewrite, the rewrite doesn’t happen but its best ideas get incorporated into a more evolutionary set of fixes– does also happen sometimes, and can be a very good outcome.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            There’s also the more cynical political argument that if you want major yet still moderate reforms passed, you need the abolish-the-police people to be out there with a big megaphone to make those reforms look moderate, because proposals at the very edge of the Overton Window rarely actually get enacted.

            By that logic, every policy proposal by a Republican needs far-right street protests going on when they’re proposed. Should that strategy be upheld as Constitutional?

          3. Ninety-Three

            There’s also the more cynical political argument that if you want major yet still moderate reforms passed, you need the abolish-the-police people to be out there with a big megaphone to make those reforms look moderate

            Even if that logic is true, I doubt that describes the motivation here. The slogan wasn’t picked by seven shadowy men in smoky rooms strategizing for success, some rando just said it one time and it caught on. If it were a poor tactical decision to campaign on abolishing the police, there’s no central authority capable of turning the messaging around. If Joe Average isn’t behaving tactically (hint: he never is), whether or not someone is behaving tactically seems like it might not impact sloganeering.

            Personally I think they’re just LARPing. Abolishing the police sounds hardcore and fun if you don’t think about it too hard, just like burning down random buildings does.

      4. Edward Scizorhands

        If you really want to know how a system works, yank it out and watch what breaks.

        If the system is a web browser, okay.

        If the system keeps people from being raped, not okay.

        1. John Schilling

          The current system keeps some people from being raped and causes other people to be raped. But the people it causes to be raped are mostly lower-class and often criminals, so I guess that’s supposed to be OK. OK-ish, better than letting middle-class people be raped?

          Maybe the “abolish the police” crowd have something going for them after all.

        2. ana53294

          @John Schiling

          The people who are raped as a result of the system are raped as a result of the prison system, not policing.

          Marginalrevolution has ran several blog posts about how the US spends too much on prisons and too little on policing. You can modify the prison system without modifying the policing system, thus avoiding both prison rape and the type of rape police prevents.

          I think many people would be a lot more on board with “abolish prisons” than “abolish the police”. At least I would be, for certain values of “abolish prisons” (more paroles, more community service, shorter sentences, fewer prisons, nicer prisons, minimum wage for prisoners, free calls from prisons, no for-profit prisons, a reduction in the number of prisons, etc.).

        3. John Schilling

          The people who are raped as a result of the system are raped as a result of the prison system, not policing.

          I’m not convinced there’s a difference between the two, particularly at the level of city and county jails that are run by the police. But in any event, the police don’t need to wait for their preferred victims to be sent off to prison before they get busy with the raping.

          And then there’s the Rotherham dynamic where the police will cover for whoever is raping members of the local underclass, to the extent of harassing or arresting people trying to stop the rapes, because that’s the minimum-effort, minimum-bad-PR path.

      5. albatross11

        Salvorhardin:

        This is basically how I see it, too. The current system is screwed up in a ton of different ways, many of which look very hard to fix. (Also, it’s not one current system, it’s about a thousand interlocking ones–local police departments, state and federal departments, courts and prisons at every level, etc.) Indeed, I think broadly the same thing is true of medical care, and to a lesser extent of both K-12 and college education and local NIMBY/zoning/environmental laws.

        The question is, how do we reform these systems when:

        a. We rely on them for critical functions and can’t shut them down for a few years to switch over to something better.

        b. They are full of interlocking networks of entrenched interests, each of which will fight to keep their existing goodies.

        c. These interlocking networks of entrenched interests are also critical to keeping the system working. (Examples: Policing for a profit is a terrible idea, but ending it will put a largish number of municipal governments into an immediate fiscal crisis. Opaque cross-subsidies in medicine mean that nobody can know how much something will cost them, or get a clear idea of how much it actually costs to provide, but substantial parts of the medical care system that we need will stop working without the cross-subsidies.)

    6. viVI_IViv

      Tucker Carlson makes the argument that when the left says “Abolish the Police” or “Defund the Police” what they really mean is replace the current, mostly Trump-leaning but generally politically neutral police force with a partisan militia that will perform police functions while enforcing leftist orthodoxy. When I heard him first I thought he was being uncharitable, but man, given the stuff the leftist establishment is saying and doing, Tucker may well have a point.

      Other people have commented on how close the current situation looks to the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the only difference being that the Maoists had the Red Guards and the People’s Liberation Army with coercive enforcement power. If the push to “abolish” the police succeeds, then whatever will replace it will be the People’s Liberation Army to the BLM Red Guards.

      (And history teaches us that the People’s Liberation Army suppressed the Red Guards once the CCP consolidated its power, just like Hitler’s SS suppressed the SA once he got into power. Prediction on the fate of BLM is left to the reader as an exercise)

      1. Ninety-Three

        Man, Tucker Carlson is a shameless partisan and I resent his characterization of the Democrats as always seizing power (especially as opposed to the Republicans who supposedly never do) but other than that… he’s not wrong. Of the people who have thought the slogan through enough to not endorse its literal meaning, “Replace Republican-leaning cops with some kind of woke diversity initiative” is the stated goal and “The new cops hate Trump and Trump voters” is while not a goal, at least a predictable and desirable side effect of the plan. Reword his speech to hit the same points with positive affect instead of negative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the New York Times.

        I still think he’s being uncharitable in implying the intent behind it is some kind of Machiavellian power grab, but just in terms of proposed policies and the effects they’ll have, he’s not wrong.

    7. meh

      how many twitter wars were just fought over people taking the claim literally and being told they were wrong?

    8. Paul Zrimsek

      The real puzzle to me is how all these people who generally regard themselves (I think it’s fair to say) as intellectuals and nuance-meisters, keep adopting these maximalist slogans which then have to be laboriously walked back. We just got done seeing it with #BelieveWomenWaitNotThatOne, and here it is again.

      1. cassander

        because the maximalist slogans get attention, and the elaborate walking back proves their sophistication to themselves.

        1. albatross11

          I wonder how much is the Twtter-mobbing and witch hunts. If 90% of dedicated liberals and progressives in media think “abolish the police” is a terrible slogan, it may still be the case that most of them don’t feel secure enough in their position to say that out loud.

    9. Conrad Honcho

      Just to add, I do think the slogan is bad because it’s confusing.

      Yes, they literally want to abolish police.

      No, they do not want to end the act of policing society for bad behavior or government responding to crime.

      Given that what they actually want to do is to replace The Police with other institutions for policing society, they should call it “Replace the Police!” That sounds slightly less insane, and is the start of a dialogue. “Wait, replace them with what?” That’s a much better in than “you’re crazy” followed by “what I really mean is…” So, massive rhetoric fail.

      Also interesting in light of all the stories about Trump disbanding the NSC pandemic unit. When sure, that’s technically true, but the unit and its responsibilities were combined with those of other units into a new unit. The duty it was intended to perform (pandemic policy advice) was still being done, just by a slightly different organization.

      So, “Abolish the police!” Technically true but misleading as to what they actually want to do.

      “Trump disbands pandemic unit!” Technically true but misleading as to what actually happened.

      None of this is to say that replacing the police or reforming the NSC were good or bad ideas. I’m not making any judgement call on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the policies in this post, I’m just pointing out how annoying all the semantic disagreements are.

  22. Atlas

    Sean Last had a post critically reviewing the evidence for alleged hiring discrimination. He concluded:

    In summary, call back experiments are invalid because we have no reason to think that equally qualified blacks and whites will be equally productive employees. Actually, because of the way in which thresholds works with normal distributions, and because of affirmative action, we have reason to think that whites will be better employees than blacks when qualifications are held constant. This is what the direct data on job performance, as well as the literature on cognitive ability and educational attainment, suggests. This model explains why hiring discrimination against African Americans has increased with time while the “racism model” cannot. This is all assuming that the research literature has been reported honestly and it clearly hasn’t. The actually degree of bias against black Americans is less than what the published research implies, and this is unsurprising since a close look at the relevant literature actually suggests widespread discrimination in favor of blacks rather than against them.

    1. Tatterdemalion

      As I read this, you’re saying – or at least, quoting someone saying – that “treating black people worse white people when all the information about them other than race that you have is the same, purely because of their race, because black people are worse that white people” falls outside your – or at least their – definition of racism.

      Have I understood that correctly?

      1. SamChevre

        I think you are misunderstanding what Sean Last is saying: this is an issue with statistical data. “Equally qualified” is hard to define–is everyone with a high school diploma “equally qualified?”

        Sean Last’s point is that is there is significant discrimination, equal paper qualifications will not reflect equal expected abilities. So it’s to be expected that employers’ expectations aren’t the same for people with “the same qualifications”–just as colleges don’t consider a high school diploma from Bronx High School of Science and one from a random high school in the Bronx the same.

        1. Tatterdemalion

          I’m not quite sure what you mean, I’m afraid – I can see two possible interpretations – either

          1) In the real world, employers have information about employees rather than their qualifications, which may correlate with race even when you control for correlations, and which it may be legitimate to discriminate on the basis of

          2) How good an employee someone will make correlates with race when you control for qualifications, and so it is legitimate to take race into account when choosing between two identically-qualified people about whom you have no other information.

          If you’re saying 1) then my response is that that is possible (although I’m somewhat sceptical about it being a strong effect; I suspect that controlling for qualifications filters out a lot of things). But identical-resume tests specifically filter out that effect – the only information available to hirers other than race in those tests is identical – so that effect, if it exists, can’t explain the discrimination they find.

          My response was based on the assumption that Last and Atlas were arguing for 2), and I think anyone arguing for 2) has to answer that question.

        2. Tatterdemalion

          1) In the real world, employers have information about employees rather than their qualifications, which may correlate with race even when you control for correlations, and which it may be legitimate to discriminate on the basis of

          It’s too late to edit this paragraph, so I’m just going to have to rewrite it. I was sober when I wrote it, I swear.

          In the real world, employers have information about employees other than their qualifications, which may correlate with race even when you control for qualifications, and which it may be legitimate to discriminate on the basis of.

        3. AG

          One example is discrimination against the homeless. Two people may have gone to college and gotten the same CS degree. Both join startup companies. One of the startups craters, leaving that person homeless (living in their car, or couch-surfing). Job applications commonly require having a permanent address.

      2. Spookykou

        I think the implication is supposed to be that the ‘information’ about them is the same, in that they both were admitted to college X but if college X practices affirmative action, and you are cognizant of this, then them both having been accepted does not actually mean they have the same ‘information’ because(You assume) the black student got into the program because of affirmative action and so presumably did not actually have the same level of attainment to get into the same university program. Effectively, the claim is that the information is a lie, not because a black person is inherently worse than a white person, but because AA means you can’t trust the information you are getting because it preferences people who otherwise have worse performance in this particular way.

        Of course this seems like it should only apply in a situation where the only information you can get from the applicant is that they were accepted into a university program, which seems like an oddly limited supply of information on a perspective applicant.

        Generally my understanding is that racism in hiring is hard to justify from an efficiency standpoint because even a brief interaction can reveal that the black applicant is actually smarter/better suited than the white(or whoever) applicant, or vice versa, and or if the two applicants actually have any meaningful differences at all.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          .. Okay, I am just going to inject this here. If you give two cents about affirmative action and are also not literally waving a sign outside a college protesting legacy admissions, you need to take a very, very hard look in the mirror. Far, far more, and far less qualified people benefit from the second.

        2. Tatterdemalion

          .. Okay, I am just going to inject this here. If you give two cents about affirmative action and is also not literally waving a sign outside a college protesting legacy admissions, you need to take a very, very hard look in the mirror. Far, far more, and far less qualified people benefit from the second.

          Absolutely. Also athletic, musical etc scholarships are heavily abused.

        3. SamChevre

          I think “far more” is accurate, but my recollection was that the qualifications were much more similar for legacies than for African-Americans–for legacies, it was much closer to a tie-breaker.

          I’ve argued in favor of legacy admissions before on SSC.

        4. Thomas Jorgensen

          Being a legacy and being african american are both reported to be worth 150-200 sat points, depending on the school.

          But legacies tend to go to better than average primary and high schools, so if they still need a 150 point lift to get in after that, their native intelligence is going to be quite a lot worse than the african-american affermative action admit at the same score. And there are so. Many. More. Of them.

        5. SamChevre

          reported to be 150-200 points…

          Do you have a source handy? I definitely want to update my priors if that’s the case.

          The data I was remembering was from Michigan (Gratz case) where the difference was considerably larger (340 points, or 3.0 vs 4.0 GPA)

        6. Conrad Honcho

          Great, but I don’t think employers have the information about whether or not someone from Degree Program X was a legacy admission or not.

          So it’s not, “employers don’t bias against legacies but do bias against blacks because racism,” it’s “employers bias against people they know may have gotten extra help to get their credentials.” If the “education” section of resumes for applicants who were admitted on a legacy basis came with an asterisk you’d see the same behavior.

        7. Tatterdemalion

          So it’s not, “employers don’t bias against legacies but do bias against blacks because racism,” it’s “employers bias against people they know may have gotten extra help to get their credentials.” If the “education” section of resumes for applicants who were admitted on a legacy basis came with an asterisk you’d see the same behavior.

          Disagree. Racial discrimination was a thing well before affirmative action, and is a thing in fields where people don’t have qualifications. Affirmative action is mostly just an excuse – and a transparent one at that – for racial discrimination, not a big part of the reason for it.

        8. albatross11

          Affirmative action programs are usually an instance of discrimination, though I think the original version of the idea was just to make an extra effort to recruit people from underrepresented groups. Basically, send recruiters to historically-black colleges and womens’ colleges, advertise for jobs in Spanish-language media, stuff like that. And that part seems perfectly reasonable and inoffensive to me, whereas the intentional racial discrimination seems like a terrible policy.

        9. Nancy Lebovitz

          Thomas Jorgensen

          Thanks for raising the point. What proportion of Ivy students are legacies? For other prestigious universities?

          What about in-state students at state universities?

          Athletic and other talent scholarships?

        10. johan_larson

          What proportion of Ivy students are legacies? For other prestigious universities?

          About a third of Harvard students are legacies.

          https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/07/harvards-freshman-class-is-more-than-one-third-legacy.html

          In fairness, some of those legacy students would have made it without the legacy bump. The brains and diligence to make it to Harvard, and access to the sort of resume-building preparatory program that makes you a viable candidate, almost certainly run in families.

          The interesting figure would be what portion of current students would not have made it if legacy status didn’t count for anything

        11. Thomas Jorgensen

          … And so would some of the african american students. Since the bump in admittance odds is about the same, roughly the same fraction.

          Note, using any of this for hiring is asinine in either case- if they are a graduate, the relevant measure of their skills is their performance at uni, not prior to it, just bloody well ask for a full transcript.

          But most of the complaining about AA is from parents clutching their pearls about their offspring having worse odds of admittance, (or, uncharitably, their precious offspring having to hang out with non-melanin deficient people) and by raw number of spots being handed out in a less than perfectly meritocratic manner, the people they should be directing their wrath at is not minorities, it is the legacies.

          Since I hardly ever see anyone want to make reforms that impact them, well.. I dont feel I am making a huge leap when I suspect racism. Just a very small step.

          Note that AA is also pretty asininely designed given its goals – One of the theoretic points of it is that minorities get a crappy deal in pre-university education, and thus, a 1450 sat score earned after graduating from “Inner City Slum School, Metal detectors everywhere variant 2b” indicates rather more potential than a 1450 score from “Hothouse school, variant 7a”. But the actual effect is, of course, to give AA who go to 7a a huge leg up while not helping the kids (regardless of race) from 2b at all, and that fact also makes most of the rest of the goals pretty moot – The AA kid from 7a is going to be a whole damn lot like whity-mac-whityface from the same school.

          If the Ivies wanted actual diversity of students and to mine for brilliance being overlooked in rough circumstances, the SAT is not the way to go, just use raw class rankings.

        12. albatross11

          But most of the complaining about AA is from parents clutching their pearls about their offspring having worse odds of admittance, (or, uncharitably, their precious offspring having to hang out with non-melanin deficient people) and by raw number of spots being handed out in a less than perfectly meritocratic manner, the people they should be directing their wrath at is not minorities, it is the legacies.

          Okay, so imagine that the policies worked the other way: say black students had slightly higher admissions requirements than white students. In that case, wouldn’t the complaining also be from parents “clutching their pearls about their offspring having worse odds of admittance?” Or might there be other reasons someone would object to racial discrimination in education, even if they weren’t concerned for their own kids’ admissions outcomes?

          If we lived in that world, black parents would be pissed off, and I’d agree with them. In our world, however, policies that disadvantage my kids in admissions are acceptable, and policies that disadvantage Asian kids are even more acceptable. You’re welcome to think ill of me for thinking those policies are bad ones, but that’s not going to win my support for a policy of intentionally disadvantaging my kids.

          Also, if you look around a bit, you can find a lot of people arguing against racial discrimination in university admissions on principle. It’s possible to assume they’re (we’re) all secretly racists who don’t care about principles, in much the same way it was possible that everyone who supported the invasion of Iraq was a secret America-hater who loved Saddam. And indeed, those two arguments are equally convincing.

        13. DavidFriedman

          Legacy admissions and affirmative action admissions both result in admitting people with lower qualifications than they would otherwise have. If your objection to either is that doing so is unfair it applies to both. If your objection is that both reduce the value of the information provided by a degree, and so result in a worse sorting of people into jobs, that also applies to both. An employer can partly compensate for the distortion produced by affirmative action by taking account of it in hiring decisions, since he can tell if an applicant is black. But he cannot compensate for the lower quality of information about black applicants, since he doesn’t know which ones would have been admitted even without affirmative action. Since he does not know if an applicant was a legacy, he can compensate for neither the worsened information about legacy applicants vs non-legacy applicants nor the lack of information about which legacy applicants would have been admitted even without the legacy advantage.

          The main difference between the two cases is their objective. Legacy admissions has, I think, two related objectives. One is to encourage alumni donations. The other is to make the body of students and alumni into an ingroup, an “us,” an extended family, a pattern dramatically visible in college football games. Affirmative action has as its stated objective making African-Americans better off.

          The negative effects described above undercut the latter objective. African-Americans are less well sorted into schools. As Thomas Sowell argued a long time ago, the mathematically talented African-Amerian, in the top ten percent of the American population by that measure, ends up in MIT, where he is at the bottom of the class, the rest being from the top one percent, instead of at RIT or IIT where he would fit in just fine as an average student. One result is that he gets a less good education. Another is that his fellow MIT students observe who is in the bottom of the class and draw the obvious conclusion, whether or not they are willing to admit it. Both undercut the objective.

          The second effect is to encourage rational discrimination, because of the reduced value of the degree — what a Harvard degree tells a potential employee is different depending on his race. That effect might benefit the African-American who otherwise would not have been admitted to Harvard, but harms the one who would have been.

          So the main difference I see between the two cases is that legacy admissions achieves its objective while having undesirable consequences in terms of other desiderata. Affirmative action has undesirable consequences which, among other things, undercut its objective, possibly enough to make the net effect on African-Americans negative.

        14. DavidFriedman

          The interesting figure would be what portion of current students would not have made it if legacy status didn’t count for anything

          And what proportion of black students would not have been admitted if race didn’t count for anything. Those, not the total number of each group, are the relevant measure of the size of two biases.

          An even better measure would be that number weighted by how far below the normal cutoff each accepted student was.

        15. Thomas Jorgensen

          … And if people argued for strictly meritocratic admission, or admission by lottery, I would respect that. Hell, that is the system I live and studied under under, and I am fine with it.

          It is the fact that people want to strip the advantage AA students get due to their parentage from them while preserving the advantage legacies get due to their parentage that gets my goat. US university admissions are twisted into a 9 dimensional pretzel, only straightening out the part that helps the downtrodden while leaving the rest in place is not reform, it is just top down class war.

          Also.. Encouraging endowment donations? Harvard has an endowment of in excess of 40 billion. They should be ashamed of themselves both for charging tuition and for accepting donations. Seriously, they are supposed to be an university, not a hedgefund.

          And again, what is wrong with asking for a full transcript? Does any real employer really give two shits how conscientious someone was in the middle of the puberty hormone storm that is highschool, or is this just a fancy sounding rationalization?

        16. johan_larson

          And what proportion of black students would not have been admitted if race didn’t count for anything.

          That figure, we have.

          The Harvard admissions office conducted a study of what the representation of various groups would be under four scenarios:
          1. Admission by academics only.
          2. Admission by academics, legacy status, and athletics.
          3. Admission by academics, legacy status, athletics, extracurriculars and personal factors.
          4. Admission by all of the above, plus demographics.

          The portion of the class that would consist of African Americans in each case would have been:
          1. 0.67%
          2. 1.83%
          3. 2.3%
          4. 11.2%

          So, best bet, if Harvard eliminated AA, and kept the rest of its admissions criteria the same, it would admit roughly one in five of the African American students it currently admits.

        17. AliceToBob

          @Thomas Jorgensen

          But most of the complaining about AA is from parents clutching their pearls about their offspring having worse odds of admittance, (or, uncharitably, their precious offspring having to hang out with non-melanin deficient people)…

          Acknowledging that your comment is uncharitable doesn’t make it any less ignorant.

          …and by raw number of spots being handed out in a less than perfectly meritocratic manner, the people they should be directing their wrath at is not minorities, it is the legacies.

          I, and many others I know, have plenty of disdain for *both* AA and legacy admissions.

          Since I hardly ever see anyone want to make reforms that impact them, well.. I dont feel I am making a huge leap when I suspect racism. Just a very small step.

          Yes, the predictable judgement: “you’re a racist”.

          Look, I don’t like legacy admissions. But I’m also not going to support any policies based on race that limit educational opportunities for kids, mine or otherwise. I don’t care what euphemism is fashionable right now: AA, racial rebalancing, personality tests… it’s all grotesque. Part of that is due to the (thankfully, limited) racism I’ve encountered, and the extensive racism my parents and grandparents faced in their time.

          Yours is a cute rhetorical trick; people push back against racial discrimination in the admissions process, and you manage to label them racists for it. I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot with this tactic, so please continue.

          Anyhow, I just kissed my mixed-asian kids before sending them off to daycare, and now this racist is going to do some work so I can save for their 529s.

        18. Matt M

          I think part of the reason people hate AA more than legacies is that AA seems newer, and also less an inherent/intuitive aspect of the human condition.

          Like, no matter how meritocratic we’re told America is supposed to be, I think most of us just sort of expect that the natural order of things is such that Harvard will prefer the sons and daughters of rich alumns. We may not like it, but we don’t expect we can do much about it. Society has pretty much always worked that way, and do what we might to try and resist it, it’ll continue to.

          But AA is not only very new (therefore, we know it’s not inevitable), but it also seems almost opposed to human nature. We naturally prefer our own – setting up incentives to punish our own and reward others seems almost deliberately counter-intuitive.

          So if your son loses out to a legacy, your reaction is “Well that sucks, but that’s kinda just how society is and there’s not much to be done about it.” But if your son loses out to AA, it’s “wait a second, we can reverse this injustice immediately, AA is an intentional policy we recently adopted and we can just as easily un-adopt it.” We are generally accustomed to the idea that we might occasionally lose out, even though our merits would suggest we should win, to people of greater wealth and status (the conventional view of privilege). We are very much not accustomed to or expecting that we might lose out to people of less wealth and status (the modern form of privilege) and whom are lower than us on meritocratic grounds as well.

        19. albatross11

          Thomas Jorgensen:

          For public institutions, I think we want as close as possible to pure merit-based admissions. I understand that there’s some fuzziness about what that should entail (how much weight do you give extracurriculars vs test scores vs personal story), but I think any form of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, native language, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or sexual identity should not be allowed.

          For private institutions, I think it’s their business whom they let in, and not really a matter for public debate. But for that to be reasonable, it has to apply to everyone, not just Ivy League schools with great connections and wealth, and it has to apply to all directions of discrimination, not just the ones acceptable to the powerful. Harvard can continue to discriminate against Asians and I can continue to think they’re doing something nasty and getting away with it (not facing much public backlash) thanks to their vast influence.

        20. DavidFriedman

          I think part of the reason people hate AA more than legacies is that AA seems newer,

          I think part of the reason is that our society in general, and especially that part of it that most supports affirmative action, claims that what is particularly virtuous about us is the opposition to racial discrimination. Lots of people are unhappy with the fact that things are better for rich people than poor people, but nobody claims they aren’t.

          And then the same people who say “isn’t it terrible that some employers discriminate against blacks when blacks who done nothing to deserve it” support discriminating against Asians and for blacks.

          A further cause of annoyance is that the previous round, a few decades before I was born, consisted of universities discriminating against Jews for the same reason they now discriminate against Asians.

        21. Matt M

          They’re still discriminating against Jews (as Jews are lumped into the generic category of “white”, which is discriminated against). Just not as heavily as Asians, and not as specifically targeted.

        22. DavidFriedman

          @Matt:

          Given that they are discriminating in favor of blacks and against Asians, I’m not sure if the net effect on whites is positive or negative.

          Checking some numbers, it looks as though total Asian college enrollment is probably a little lower than total black enrollment, since the black population is a little more than twice the Asian and the black enrollment rate a little more than half the Asian.

          But that’s looking at all schools, and my guess is that there are few would-be students of any racial groups who can’t get in somewhere.

          If I look at the Harvard figures, the number of Asians appears to be more than twice the number of blacks. I haven’t seen figures on how much Harvard discriminates against Asians, but if non-discriminatory admissions would let in 50% more Asians, the current discrimination frees up more places than are occupied by all of the black students.

          So it may well be the case that the net effect of discrimination by Harvard, positive and negative, is that they admit more white students than a race blind admissions policy would.

          P.S. Some more googling gives a lower ratio of Asians to blacks admitted to Harvard than I first came up with, so my calculation above may be off.

        23. Matt M

          David,

          The same mechanisms they use to discriminate against Asians, they also use to discriminate against whites (that is to say, whites also score lower on personality assessments, are less likely to be admitted at any given SAT score, etc.)

          You just don’t hear about it as much because Asians have it much worse, and are far more sympathetic of a group.

        24. Aapje

          @Matt M

          They’re still discriminating against Jews

          No, by lumping Jews in with gentiles, the discrimination is offloaded to gentiles. They are underrepresented, while Jews are very overrepresented.

          It’s very similar, (but with the opposite sign), to how the lumping in of recent African migrants with the ancestors of slaves results in the 1st/2nd generation African migrants being immensely overrepresented, while the descendants of slaves are very underrepresented.

        25. 10240

          @Aapje I don’t follow. If Jews are lumped with white people for discrimination/affirmative action purposes, then they experience the same discrimination in the same direction as whites. That is, if whites are discriminated against, then so are Jews: they are overrepresented, but less overrepresented than if there was no discrimination.

        26. Aapje

          @10240

          Jews will be slightly less represented compared to the general population when it comes to admission to university, but this will already be far less true come graduation, because exams will filter out some of the less able.

          However, American Ivy universities tend to not fail out students if they can, but let them graduate with a lesser degree, which employers are going to account for. So in reality, the students that do get in on merit will tend to graduate with a top tier degree and will have less competition from others with a top tier degree.

          Due to AA, Jews will probably be more, rather than less over-represented among those with top tier degrees & will probably also be more over-represented at the jobs that demand top tier degrees and/or select both for Ivy degrees and actual ability.

        27. 10240

          @Aapje So your argument is basically that discrimination benefits the very good (in any group), because they do get in and graduate regardless of discrimination — but discrimination worsens the overall student pool, so fewer people will be good and have a top-tier degree. I guess this is true for certain values of “good” (especially if the graduation requirements are fixed, rather than adjusted so that approx. a given percentage of students graduate). Among a Jew, a non-Jewish white and a black person of equal abilities, the non-Jewish white and the Jew still have the same chances, and worse than the black person if they are not among the very best; if they are so good that they definitely get in, then they are in an equally good position, and discrimination may benefit them all a bit.

  23. Le Maistre Chat

    Breaking news from Woke Capital.

    Summary quotes:
    David Shor is a 28-year-old political data analyst and social democrat who worked for President Obama’s reelection campaign. On May 28, Shor tweeted out a short summary of a paper by Princeton professor Omar Wasow. The research compiled by Wasow analyzed public opinion in the 1960s, and found violent and nonviolent protest tactics had contradictory effects.
    … despite its superficially innocuous content, Shor’s tweet generated a sharp response. To take one public example, Ari Trujillo Wesler, the founder of OpenField, a Democratic canvassing app, replied, “This take is tone deaf, removes responsibility for depressed turnout from the 68 Party, and reeks of anti-blackness.” Trujillo Wesler repeated the accusation of racism (“YOU need to stop using your anxiety and ‘intellect’ as a vehicle for anti-blackness”), and then tagged Dan Wager, the CEO of Civis Analytics, the firm employing Shor, “Come get your boy.”
    … Civis Analytics undertook a review of the episode. A few days later, Shor was fired. Shor told me he has a nondisclosure agreement preventing him from discussing the episode. A spokesperson for Civis Analytics told me over email, “Out of respect for our employees and alumni, Civis does not publicly discuss personnel matters, and we don’t plan to comment further.”’

    1. Eric T

      Wait. Maybe I’m totally wrong but isn’t the triple parentheses around the name thing like some kind of anti-semetic thing? Not trying to justify this but maybe this is the wrong person to be holding up as the innocent harmed by the masses?

      Idk am I wrong about this? I’m bad on this kind of stuff.

      1. Canyon Fern

        The triple parentheses was, and is, the anti-Semite’s way of implying Jews are controlling such and such thing. Jews have since reclaimed the punctuation style as, I think, some sort of symbol of defiance: “here I am, haters!” If you see someone calling himself (((Bill))), he’s most likely a Jew announcing that fact.

        [Or, of course, they’re just doing whatever. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re an intelligent plant. -L]

        1. Eric T

          Ah, that explains it. Thanks muchly!

          Yeah, revise my position to: bad bad SJ twitter stop doing this.

      2. Eltargrim

        The triple-paren is used more ironically than in earnest. My understanding is that this David Shor is jewish.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          I would guess that sincere antisemites on 4chan invented it. These people are chan-exposed Jews operating on anywhere from 1 to 17 levels of irony.

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          I think he is Jewish, but lots of Gentiles throw the triple-parens around their names to stand in solidarity with the Jews.

          “Oh, you’re gonna make them wear a Star of David? Well, now I am too. I am Spartacus.”

          1. Nancy Lebovitz

            “Man alone of the animals that plays the ape to his dreams.”

            Extra credit for recognizing the quote without looking it up.

      3. Mercurial

        Yes, you’re wrong. It used to be/is a thing that anti-semite types did to call attention to who’s Jewish. There’s a lot of Jewish people, especially on twitter, that put parentheses around their own name. It’s either them declaring they don’t care if people know they’re Jewish, or trying to “reclaim” something anti-semetic.

      4. DinoNerd

        Oh for crying out loud. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these people could just come out and say whatever it is they mean – even if it’s “I hate Jews” instead of coming up with stupid code after stupid code.

        1. Lillian

          It’s not a code exactly. The usage originates from the Coincidence Detector browser plug-in, which will enclose Jewish names in parenthesis as you browse the internet so as to illustrate the high degree of Jewish over-representation among academia, the media, the wealthy, and appointed government bureaucrats. It is as it happens, it is indeed quite a lot, to the point that it’s difficult to believe it is pure coincidence. The people behind the plug-in wish to imply the explanation is that the Jews have conspired to become America’s ruling class. So the point of the code is not to say, “I hate Jews” exactly, though it does certainly tend to imply that. Rather it is to remind the reader that, as the plug-in’s website puts it, “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to parenthesize.” Ironically this means that Jews parenthesizing themselves are doing the plug-in’s work for it, something which has caused the /pol/tards no end of amusement.

          For the record, I personally reject theory of Jewish collusion to influence and control the American halls of power. Instead, I believe that what has happened is that America has successfully built a mostly meritocratic system and high IQ populations rising to the top is what happens in meritocracies. That the system rewards high IQ and Ashkenasi Jews happen to be high IQ is in fact a coincidence, as the roots of the system predate there being any significant numbers of Ashkenasim in the US.

    2. Canyon Fern

      then tagged Dan Wager, the CEO of Civis Analytics, the firm employing Shor, “Come get your boy.”

      Hnnnnnnnnnrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. Busybodies, tattletales, holier-than-thous!

      My editor, Ludovico, has thought about programming his website to auto-post new articles to Twitter, the better to put his (meager) writings in front of more people. But the last thing he needs is for some namby-pamby do-gooder to tell him off for daring to study a foreign language and the corresponding culture… and I’ve seen American leftist terms getting exported to the Chinese intellectual class in bulk, especially recently with the “don’t call it a Chinese virus!” nonsense.

      [I would pattern match to “privileged white oppressor” in most woke activists’ eyes, and the last thing I need, as someone who gets all his business online, is for someone to smear my personal domain name all over Twitter as a cultural appropriator. -L]

      EDIT: Maybe I’m overreacting, but I am just so goddamn tired of the new practice of digging up dirt on people and getting them fired.

      1. Nick

        I’ve never heard a plant growl before!

        Seriously, though, that sucks. I’m sorry you have to worry about that sort of thing. It makes me glad I don’t write for a living. =/

      2. souleater

        I’m learning Mandarin, and I’d be interested in reading his blog

        Can you provide a link?

    3. Atlas

      Jon Chait discussed this alongside other incidents involving Intercept journalist Lee Fang and Senator Tom Cotton recently in a column. (Edit: whoops, didn’t realize the column was the OP’s source.) Some excerpts on the Fang case:

      A somewhat more typical example of the dynamic played out last week through a drama surrounding Lee Fang, a left-wing Intercept reporter. Like many Bernie Sanders supporters, Fang often lacerates mainstream liberals (including me) both for insufficient populist zeal and, on occasion, for excessive focus on identity at the expense of class. His views on economics put him well to the left of the Democratic Party, while his views on race and gender would sit comfortably in the middle of it, and often put him at odds with fellow leftists.

      During the first few days of the George Floyd protests, Fang set off a firestorm first when he tweeted a corrective about Martin Luther King, who is often quoted out of context as though he defended violent protest tactics:

      Lee Fang

      @lhfang
      Seeing so many manipulate the MLK quote that riots are the “language of the unheard.” Read the actual speech. It’s a passionate argument against riots and in support of nonviolence at a time when much of the radical left despised MLK and embraced violence. https://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/index.htm

      A few days later, Fang recorded several interviews with participants in a Black Lives Matter rally in Oakland. One of his interview subjects, a young African-American Black Lives Matter supporter, told Fang he wished the movement devoted more attention to non-police violence faced by minorities in his community. Fang posted the exchange without comment, other than labeling it a “measured critique…”

      But the interview became the match on the kindling. Lacy called him racist in a pair of tweets, the first of which alone received more than 30,000 likes and 5,000 retweets:

      Akela Lacy

      @akela_lacy
      Tired of being made to deal with my coworker @lhfang continuing to push narratives about black on black crime after repeatedly being asked not to. This isn’t about me and him it’s about institutional racism and using free speech to couch anti-blackness. I am so fucking tired

      33.8K
      12:06 AM – Jun 4, 2020
      Twitter Ads info and privacy
      6,293 people are talking about this

      A journalist friend of Fang’s told me he felt his career was in jeopardy, having been tried and convicted in a court of his peers. He was losing sleep for days and unsure how to respond. “All of us were trying to protect his job and clear his name and also not bow to a mob informed by an attitude that views that you disagree with are tantamount to workplace harassment.”

      The outcome of this confrontation was swift and one-sided: Two days later, Fang was forced to post a lengthy apology.

      I find this in particular interesting because The Intercept likes to cultivate an image of itself as a haven for adversarial, fearless, independent-minded journalism. (Which is often well justified.) Yet, in this case, one of its reporters faced enormous pressure to disown even the slightest suggestion of skepticism about a narrative that is supported by powerful politicians like Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, hundreds of major corporations and influential mainstream newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. These are precisely the institutions that The Intercept claims to fearlessly challenge in other contexts.

    4. Aftagley

      Didn’t we already discuss this downthread? Maybe I’m crazy but I remember already getting worked up about this. Anyway, controversial take: I don’t really mind this whole chain of events.

      1. He wasn’t tweeting this into a vacuum. He was already positioned as someone who pushed back against the identitarian wing of the party and his tweeting this, on the day when right wing propaganda was trying to completely tar the burgeoning protest movement as being nothing but riots and looters was pointed. Don’t try to tell me it’s not. Nobody just “happens” to find a study from a couple years back and post it. He knew that, despite only posting a summary of a paper, he was making a concrete political point and using data science to recommend political action. If you’re going to object when climate scientists swerve outside of science to recommend politics, object to it here.

      2. He didn’t just “work” at an analytics company. He was their head of political analytics. Head. He was management and the face of the company’s political market which they are trying to expand. He is then on twitter using analytics to push a point potentially contrary to the company’s interest or at least with the high possibility of tarring their company. I’m somewhat on board with a company not punishing their line-level employees for taking political stands, but, imo, management doesn’t have that right. You are, you represent your company.

      3. On a specific level, what he’s saying is kind of controversial. He’s saying that the current pain, suffering and outrage being felt by a non-insignificant portion of this country… is less important than which of two old white dudes will run the country in 6 months and that they need to modify their expression of that feeling to avoid upsetting the electorate. Now, you can agree or disagree with this point, but it is controversial. The african american segment of the democratic party often and accurately points out that the white wing of the party ignores them except when it comes time to count votes. This tweet is, for better or worse, a perfect crystallization of this.

      4. I didn’t want the guy fired. I don’t want anyone fired. I want everyone to be happy.

      1. albatross11

        Aftagley:

        On a specific level, what he’s saying is kind of controversial. He’s saying that the current pain, suffering and outrage being felt by a non-insignificant portion of this country… is less important than which of two old white dudes will run the country in 6 months and that they need to modify their expression of that feeling to avoid upsetting the electorate.

        Okay, so it’s insensitive and off-message and divisive and controversial and probably just reflects his white privilege and all those bad things, but is it true? I mean, it really does seem kinda important to me which of those two old white dudes ends up running the country. And in fact, in five months, a big majority of the people who’ve been protesting so far will agree that this is a really big deal.

        Liberals and progressives in the future will be *really careful* not to bring those issues up, for fear of being hounded out of their jobs. But elections will continue, and if the Democratic party and broad liberal/progressive movement is unable to have internal discussions that take account of how something happening now is going to affect the elections in six months, then we’re probably going to see a lot of Republicans continuing to win elections. Self-satisfied Twitter mobs can rage about this to their hearts’ content, convince themselves that all those Americans who voted the wrong way because they thought rioting and looting were bad and abolishing the police department was a terrible idea are really racist sexist homophobic deplorables, but the folks making the actual decisions and laws may not care so much.

        I mean, that’s only important if you think elections have consequences. Otherwise, no problem.

        1. Aftagley

          Good point and good question.

          I don’t know. Even setting aside my inability to accurately gauge the accuracy of the study that he linked, I’m unable to determine if the electorate of 1968 with 1968’s streams of information will behave the same as 2020’s. This might be the kind of question that only gets answered in another 30 odd years when someone does a study about voting patterns in this coming election.

          I’d argue that not only do I not know if this was true, whether or not it’s true is unknowable.

          1. albatross11

            My point isn’t whether Shor was right, but rather that this is exactly the kind of discussion that needs to happen within a political movement, in order to make good decisions. Punishing anyone who questions the wisdom of some actions by people on your side is blinding yourself. Maybe Shor was all wrong and violent protests were totally the way to go. But next time when your broad political movement is doing something that scares the hell out of the normies whose votes you’ll need to actually be able to get into power and make any changes, people who are pretty sure that this is happening will know that saying so out loud is as much as their job is worth.

            This is the Darth Vader school of management, right? Someone tells you they failed, so you gruesomely kill them. The next person tells you of a problem and you force-choke them to unconsciousness and leave them in a heap on the floor. You propose a plan to destroy the Rebels that has a big hole in it, someone points it out, and you chop their head off with a lightsaber. Pretty soon, you will never hear any bad news from your own side, even when it’s bad news you urgently need to avoid losing a battle or suffering some other terrible loss.

        2. Atlas

          One highly relevant thing to consider is Professor Erica Chenoweth of Harvard’s Kennedy School’s research which finds that non-violent movements are generally much more effective than violent ones at achieving their political goals. This global finding is consistent with Wasow’s in the cited paper.

        3. Ninety-Three

          Okay, so it’s insensitive and off-message and divisive and controversial and probably just reflects his white privilege and all those bad things, but is it true?

          Doesn’t matter to the company. They’re enforcing a norm that management shouldn’t draw too much liberal ire, not that management shouldn’t draw too much liberal ire unless the things management is saying happen to be true.

          The rest of us can despair at living in a society where the generation of ire is not dependent on whether a thing is true (and even where it is counterproductive to the goals of the irate), but the company doesn’t and shouldn’t care about that. His job was in part a PR position and truth is no defense from bad PR.

          1. albatross11

            truth is no defense from bad PR.

            The more this statement is true of an organziation, movement, or society, the worse its prospects for future success.

      2. Atlas

        1. He wasn’t tweeting this into a vacuum. He was already positioned as someone who pushed back against the identitarian wing of the party and his tweeting this, on the day when right wing propaganda was trying to completely tar the burgeoning protest movement as being nothing but riots and looters was pointed…If you’re going to object when climate scientists swerve outside of science to recommend politics, object to it here.

        Chait didn’t argue that he did. As he put it:

        It is easy to see why a specialist in public opinion whose professional mission is to help elect Democrats while moving the party leftward would take an interest in this research.

        Shor made a very modest and reasonable brief passing comment on the subject of his expertise. This should not be a terminal offense.

        I’m somewhat on board with a company not punishing their line-level employees for taking political stands, but, imo, management doesn’t have that right. You are, you represent your company.

        Shor obviously isn’t being punished for “taking a political stand”—which is sort of a weird way to describe one cautiously phrased tweet posted on Twitter dot com in any case— but for taking an anti-BLM stand. Or rather, for posting a tweet that suggested that he was less than 100% in agreement with every possible thing that everyone in BLM’s vast orbit does, which was interpreted as an anti-BLM stand.

        I wonder if there’s any limit to how aggressively he could have publicly praised BLM while retaining his job.

        This is worrisome because it seems that, within the Blue Tribe at least, the beliefs, actions and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement are increasingly being sanctified as beyond debate or examination, with censorship and ostracism rather than argumentation being used to respond to (real or imagined) criticism.

        Whether the company itself or the people pressuring it from the outside are is at fault is an ancillary question; the salient point is that the pressure to fire him was unjust.

        3. On a specific level, what he’s saying is kind of controversial. He’s saying that the current pain, suffering and outrage being felt by a non-insignificant portion of this country… is less important than which of two old white dudes will run the country in 6 months and that they need to modify their expression of that feeling to avoid upsetting the electorate. Now, you can agree or disagree with this point, but it is controversial. The african american segment of the democratic party often and accurately points out that the white wing of the party ignores them except when it comes time to count votes. This tweet is, for better or worse, a perfect crystallization of this.

        Shor was not taking a hugely controversial stance in opposing rioting and looting:

        About 1 in 6 (17%) approve of the looting that has taken place and 76% disapprove. More than 1 in 5 say the burning of a Minneapolis police precinct was a justified form of protest, and 65% say it wasn’t.

        Note that he wasn’t questioning the core beliefs or goals of the Black Lives Matter movement (which I think would in any case be entirely legitimate to do); he was questioning the tactical efficacy of some behavior that is theoretically not approved of by its high-profile leaders and supporters. Trying to make that a taboo does not reflect a healthy or rational intellectual culture.

        1. Aftagley

          This is worrisome because it seems that, within the Blue Tribe at least, the beliefs, actions and goals of the Black Lives Matter movement are increasingly being sanctified as beyond debate or examination, with censorship and ostracism rather than argumentation being used to respond to (real or imagined) criticism.

          Rioting and looting wasn’t a goal of BLM or the ongoing protests, it was an isolated and quickly suppressed unwanted side effect. And the criticism wasn’t imagined; right-aligned networks are still labeling these overwhelmingly-peaceful protests as being full of rioters and looters.

          Shor was not taking a hugely controversial stance in opposing rioting and looting:

          Again, messages don’t happen in a vacuum. If overwhelming discourse is either category A: “all protests are good because of their goals, despite instances of violence” or category B: “all protests are bad because of the rioting, despite the overwhelming lack of violence” the nuances of a message that critiques specific instances violent protesting are going to get lost and people will, accurately, sum up the contents of your message into category B.

          But let’s say this wasn’t his intention. Let’s say he just randomly saw that study, found it interesting and decided to tweet it out independent and completely removed from the ongoing situation. I’d still fire that guy. I don’t want my head of political analytics releasing public messaging that entails analytics in a way that’s going to piss of a huge percentage of my potential customer base. As mike berbiglia once said, what he should have said was nothing.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            I don’t want my head of political analytics releasing public messaging that entails analytics in a way that’s going to piss of a huge percentage of my potential customer base.

            Are a significant percentage of the domestic potential customer base in the Red tribe? Or is saying hurtful things about them safe business practice because of the financial disparities between Blue and Red?

          2. Atlas

            Rioting and looting wasn’t a goal of BLM or the ongoing protests, it was an isolated and quickly suppressed unwanted side effect. And the criticism wasn’t imagined; right-aligned networks are still labeling these overwhelmingly-peaceful protests as being full of rioters and looters.

            Very well; why was his tweet (again—his one or two tweets) controversial then? Regardless of whether the rioting and looting is acknowledged to exist by the left, it will be and is mentioned by the right. Shor cited credible academic research that seems likely relevant to the possible political effect of that. As Chait noted, that’s entirely natural given his profession and expertise.

            Again, messages don’t happen in a vacuum. If overwhelming discourse is either category A: “all protests are good because of their goals, despite instances of violence” or category B: “all protests are bad because of the rioting, despite the overwhelming lack of violence” the nuances of a message that critiques specific instances violent protesting are going to get lost and people will, accurately, sum up the contents of your message into category B.

            The overwhelming discourse does not seem, at least to me, to resemble that characterization. As one polling analyst (I’m afraid I can’t remember who specifically; I thought it was Harry Enten, but I can’t find any articles by him on this subject) put it, “Americans mostly support the protesters, oppose the riots and support the police.”

            I find the idea that beliefs have to be judged on their hypothesized net contribution to a cause rather than truth or falsity highly unnerving. This a theory of political discourse with obvious potential for serious abuse, in which the most radical fraction of a movement can browbeat potential dissenters into refraining from criticizing its mistakes, falsehoods, lies or crimes. A movement with a solid intellectual basis does not need to rely on this theory.

            If the suggestion is that Shor might secretly disagree with Black Lives Matter, but is too afraid to openly state his critique, so he posted a tweet about what academic research suggests about the riots as an implicit message dilution critique….well, I think we now might have some idea why he’d be afraid of openly criticizing BLM in that case, and I don’t think that reflects well on his would-be cancelers.

            I’d still fire that guy. I don’t want my head of political analytics releasing public messaging that entails analytics in a way that’s going to piss of a huge percentage of my potential customer base.

            As above, if we stipulate this for the sake of argument, it changes little; the issue in this case then becomes that a “huge percentage of my potential customer base” is pissed off because he once expressed a reasonable opinion in his area of expertise in passing.

          3. Ninety-Three

            And the criticism wasn’t imagined; right-aligned networks are still labeling these overwhelmingly-peaceful protests as being full of rioters and looters.

            To sort of defend their point: when one city has twenty buildings razed and dozens more burned, the ratio of peaceful protesters to rioters becomes much less important than the fact that holy shit, that’s a lot of rioters. And with Minneapolis arsons still rolling in a week later, I’d say it wasn’t suppressed that quickly.

          4. Ninety-Three

            I find the idea that beliefs have to be judged on their hypothesized net contribution to a cause rather than truth or falsity highly unnerving. This a theory of political discourse with obvious potential for serious abuse, in which the most radical fraction of a movement can browbeat potential dissenters into refraining from criticizing its mistakes, falsehoods, lies or crimes. A movement with a solid intellectual basis does not need to rely on this theory.

            I agree, but the company is not trying to build a healthy political movement, they are trying to turn a profit given the political incentives that currently exist. It’s clear that his tweet did draw ire, I argue that it was predictable it would draw ire, and at that point why should the company retain employees who make foreseeably bad PR decisions?

          5. Edward Scizorhands

            Rioting and looting wasn’t a goal of BLM or the ongoing protests

            I think you’re right.

            But a lot of white liberal institutions are burning their reputations to the ground to defend the rioting and looting as essential to the Black Experience, so it’s not surprising to see conservatives think that black people are defending the looting.

          6. albatross11

            This reminds me so much of the firing of Jason Richwine. In both cases, you make statements that are true in the narrow technical sense of being factually accurate summaries of the current state of human knowledge, but not in the broader and more important sense of being what the powerful people want to hear, and so you get fired.

          7. Edward Scizorhands

            If only we had some cultural institutions whose job it was to speak truth to power.

          8. Nick

            @Ninety-Three

            I agree, but the company is not trying to build a healthy political movement, they are trying to turn a profit given the political incentives that currently exist. It’s clear that his tweet did draw ire, I argue that it was predictable it would draw ire, and at that point why should the company retain employees who make foreseeably bad PR decisions?

            Two points. First, a common theme of these pileons is that everybody forgets about it (except the victim, of course) a few days later, but by then the damage is done and the employee has been fired. The fact that the tweet drew ire should, frankly, not have been a big deal.

            Second, setting aside whether it was predictable, why didn’t his boss just have a talk with him about being more careful next time? Why is the first step “throw his ass out on the street”?

          9. Nancy Lebovitz

            From what I’ve been seeing on facebook, there are black people excusing rioters, but the proportion is lower than white people.

            Anyone have a better overview?

      3. Le Maistre Chat

        1… he was making a concrete political point and using data science to recommend political action. If you’re going to object when climate scientists swerve outside of science to recommend politics, object to it here.

        Sure. However, there’s no symmetry between his punishment for using data science to recommend political action and the (non-)punishment when a climatologist does it.

        2. He didn’t just “work” at an analytics company. He was their head of political analytics. Head. He was management and the face of the company’s political market which they are trying to expand. He is then on twitter using analytics to push a point potentially contrary to the company’s interest or at least with the high possibility of tarring their company.

        What kind of world do we live in when saying “BLM is awesome! More would be accomplished by peaceful protests than violent ones!” carries the high possibility of tarring their company and so should be beyond the pale for management?

        3. On a specific level, what he’s saying is kind of controversial. He’s saying that the current pain, suffering and outrage being felt by a non-insignificant portion of this country… is less important than which of two old white dudes will run the country in 6 months and that they need to modify their expression of that feeling to avoid upsetting the electorate.

        Well how important is it which old white dudes will run the country in 6 months?

        This brings us to a line where some black people’s outrage is ethically and epistemically superior to the truth. This is the whole social danger of postmodernism every conservative with the erudition to do so has been warning about our whole adult lives (or depending on the individual, since de-converting, like an earlier generation had people like Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz de-converting from Trotskyism.)
        It’s self-refuting to say that the pain, suffering or outrage of a select list of peoples your ideology has identified as Oppressed means nothing they say can be analyzed for truth or falsehood and even saying “I’m on your side; let’s only use non-violence” is an unethical act deserving censorship and loss of livelihood.

        Try applying this epistemology and ethics break somewhere outside US parochialism:
        You go to Southeast Nigeria and meet a lot of poor black people, most Igbo. They tell you their suffering includes crappy higher education there and limited access to universities abroad, the fact that the Muslims and Yoruba teamed up to commit mass murder of their grandparents’s generation, unethical distribution of oil revenue, and rampant heresy in overseas dioceses/provinces of the Church. Then go north and Muslim Nigerians tell you the Igbo’s behavior is outrageous and they should go away. If everyone is poor, black and outraged and questions of “What’s the truth here?” are unethical enough to deserve punishment… then what?

  24. Tatterdemalion

    I’m afraid I’m deeply sceptical of this. Controlling and not controlling for things is tricky; it’s easy to manipulate deliberately, and even easier to screw up accidentally.

    The gold standard here is identical resume tests, at least in one direction (absence of discrimination in identical resume tests doesn’t prove absence of discrimination in the real world, but discrimination in identical resume tests does prove discrimination in the real world), and those are still pretty consistently finding significant discrimination (see here).

    I don’t think that one study that a result contrary to most of the rest of the field should be given much weight.

    (On edit): that said, the fact that it looks as though that conclusion runs against the authors biases makes me slightly less dismissive of it that I would otherwise.

    1. Eric T

      I haven’t read this analysis but if true, seems pretty compelling evidence for hiring discrimination. I’ll dive into this analysis tonight.

    2. Austin

      I thought the concern with those types of studies were that the names chosen for the resumes coded for both race and class, and we don’t know how much is attributable to each component, e.g. “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”

      Would “Are Cletus and Nevaeh More Employable than Ta-Nehisi and Malia?” have different results?

      1. Statismagician

        +1. Those studies are just as, if not more supportive of the ‘no, it’s really just about perceived-SES-as-proxy-for-reliability’ position.

        1. Eric T

          I wonder if there’s a way to do this study without this issue. Like could you find a job where the hiring manager knew your race. The issue is that step is usually an interview – which is impossible to control for.

          Growing up in small-town America I applied for lots of jobs where I physically handed someone my resume or picked up an application. I wonder if that would work?

        2. Statismagician

          I could see that possibly working, but my impression is that mostly it’s entry-level stuff like retail and restaurants which still works this way and I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that minorities aren’t adequately represented in service industries.

          Also we still wouldn’t necessarily be able to separate culture, SES, and race, though I admit reasonable people can disagree about the degree to which that’s a sensible thing to even try to do in the first place.

        3. Edward Scizorhands

          I vaguely recall resumes that used middle-class names but put other markers of race in the resume, like “organizer for campus chapter of NAACP.” I can’t remember or imagine what the marker would be for being white, though.

        4. Conrad Honcho

          I can’t remember or imagine what the marker would be for being white, though.

          Just pick any of the things from “Stuff White People Like.” “President of Taylor Swift Fan Club.” “Organized Annual Country and Western Music Festival.”

    3. Cliff

      I recall an Australian study where they experimented with race and sex-blinding resume reviews and found that blinded resumes resulted in less diverse outcomes.

  25. Clutzy

    Actually, those ratios look like a pretty significant amount of reverse discrimination. Equal credentials are not equal because of affirmative action.

  26. ada668ed

    Bit late but some points regarding the “welcoming” party for Eric T.

    Throwaway account as I am not eager to further discuss these especially as some examples were used that is understandably controversial/not-your-view-but-you-haven’t-needed-to-point-that-out-yet.

    First things – happy to have you on board. Hope we don’t drive you too crazy(ier).

    You did mention this earlier, but you really need to decouple the issues between small r and big R.

    For example, advocating to use big R to reduce small r (ie. affirmative action) without being a hypocrite.
    Another may be in cases where you are stating “I’m not saying they are small/big r – they are being perfectly rational”. Instead, it may be better to specify – It does not matter if they are big R (it would be bad, but not the point), their actions are contributing to small r. The fact that going against it might not be rational/work in capitalism, means that it may be necessary for the state to get involved to force them.
    Probably a bit lighter than that, but right now I feel you are too wishy-washy even in stating your desires.
    Other times it might be more subtle. For example, say 20 years ago, I shot you in the leg (sorry) causing you to be disabled. Now, you are still disabled, and are advocating gun control. I may say “Why? I said I was sorry, and don’t even have a gun at the moment. Plus after the “Dance, boy, Dance” practice was banned, the few incidents of permanent leg injury are mostly stair-related”. If you point to your leg, while it reasonable to have caused you to dislike guns and to use that as motivation. But as a logical argument, some especially here may feel you are stuck in the past, irrational, or muddling the waters between the two issues.

    You probably also realized, but your moral philosophy is not exactly universal.

    In fact, I am seeing a lot of similar disagreements with those that have issues with utilitarianism, which despite being rational adjacent, many in this community do not have high regards for.
    One point is of your challenge to find a policy that doesn’t hurt “large” group. Most of the examples others have been pretty tame. Here’s a spicy one that still fits your criteria-
    Limit the maximum lifetime healthcare cost (NOT out of pocket cost) of individuals.
    Medical costs are rather concentrated on a small subset of people that have chronic issues. Not chronic diseases in general, though that is also true, but individual people that have outsized medical costs. (5% accounted for half by this study)
    Though this is true for most distributions, for this area it is particularly fat tailed and for which negatively affects the rest of the curve.
    Remember that the rational community though perhaps not this one, previously tried to quantify how many minor inconveniences are comparable to a fatal one.

    Lastly, rather than (just) the Asian minority, it may be useful for you to look at another minority group – Native Americans.
    Not only did they face arguably similar or worse treatment, which happened many generations ago, they also have faced less “inertia” and had many of even the more radical policies – repatriation, preferred treatment, limited sovereignty, etc. Plus, most would not think that they are in a particular good spot now.
    This can be used to both strengthen your arguments and/or to question them.

    1. Eric T

      Thank you for the post. I understand that you’re not interested in discussing this further, but I wanted to get my points out there and neither of us needs to continue the discussion. I feel like despite me saying this 5 people are going to respond to this thread XP.

      For example, advocating to use big R to reduce small r (ie. affirmative action) without being a hypocrite.

      Earlier today on this very forum I made a joke that went like this:

      It’s a shame that SSC doesn’t have signatures on comments, mine would be …
      “Stop telling me why Affirmative Action doesn’t work, I’m not Pro Affirmative Action. Please I don’t know how many times I can say it.”

      Can I get that signature now?

      Another may be in cases where you are stating “I’m not saying they are small/big r – they are being perfectly rational”. Instead, it may be better to specify – It does not matter if they are big R (it would be bad, but not the point), their actions are contributing to small r. The fact that going against it might not be rational/work in capitalism, means that it may be necessary for the state to get involved to force them.

      That may be a way to put it, but I think an issue a lot of people have with Social Justice is that it tells them they are doing something Wrong. What I wanted to get across with the big R/little r distinction is a lot of us SJ types truly believe you can be acting perfectly rational, do nothing wrong, and still contribute to little r because the system has been set up to be that way.

      For example: let’s envision a society where everyone was Racist EXCEPT the bankers. The bankers giving loans are perfect rational robots who give loans perfectly rationally. However because of all the other Racists out there black people are more likely to be poor, arrested, not have a stable family etc. etc. etc. The rational banker robots decide (correctly) that being black is causally linked to being a worse investment, so the rates they give out are worse. It’s not BankerTron3000’s fault, he’s doing the right thing (I mean some SJW would argue the right thing would be for BankerTron to sacrifice some of his own well being to help those less fortunate than him, but let’s push past that for now). However that doesn’t mean we should be fine with the fact that Black people are struggling to get loans. In that society, a policy designed to help them get loans so they can dig their way out of redlined districts or whatever would be a good and fair thing.

      Other times it might be more subtle. For example, say 20 years ago, I shot you in the leg (sorry) causing you to be disabled. Now, you are still disabled, and are advocating gun control. I may say “Why? I said I was sorry, and don’t even have a gun at the moment. Plus after the “Dance, boy, Dance” practice was banned, the few incidents of permanent leg injury are mostly stair-related”. If you point to your leg, while it reasonable to have caused you to dislike guns and to use that as motivation. But as a logical argument, some especially here may feel you are stuck in the past, irrational, or muddling the waters between the two issues.

      This is a good analogy, but it falls victim to the response I get from a lot of people which is “don’t judge me by the sins of my father” – lots of people rightly point out they weren’t the ones passing Jim Crow laws, why should they pay them back. In order to sidestep the issue, I try to focus on how those policies still materially impact people today, so it’s more like your grandad set up a gun to automatically shoot me in the leg every once in a while, and I’d really like you to turn it off now please.

      You probably also realized, but your moral philosophy is not exactly universal.

      No, really? 😛

      One point is of your challenge to find a policy that doesn’t hurt “large” group. Most of the examples others have been pretty tame. Here’s a spicy one that still fits your criteria-
      Limit the maximum lifetime healthcare cost (NOT out of pocket cost) of individuals.
      Medical costs are rather concentrated on a small subset of people that have chronic issues. Not chronic diseases in general, though that is also true, but individual people that have outsized medical costs. (5% accounted for half by this study)
      Though this is true for most distributions, for this area it is particularly fat tailed and for which negatively affects the rest of the curve.
      Remember that the rational community though perhaps not this one, previously tried to quantify how many minor inconveniences are comparable to a fatal one.

      I, sadly, know a lot about history and rockets and not a lot about medicine.

      Lastly, rather than (just) the Asian minority, it may be useful for you to look at another minority group – Native Americans.

      I’m currently reading An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States to broaden my knowledge on this topic. It’s a heavy book so I’m taking a break from it for now.

      Thank you for the time contributing to my welcoming party!

      1. DavidFriedman

        1. Thanks for your contributions to the conversation.

        2. At some point when you are not overwhelmed with arguments about Social Justice, I want to engage with you on issues in moral philosophy. You made an odd and interesting statement a few days ago, to the effect that if some group, such as Asians, who were innately more productive ended up doing better than the average but not as much better as they should due to prejudice, then you would want changes that made them even more better off than they were.

        That raises interesting questions about how you distinguish things people are entitled to benefit by from things they are not.

        3. “and still contribute to little r because the system has been set up to be that way.”

        Earlier, I believe, you said you didn’t accept the action/inaction distinction. If so, doesn’t everybody in the world who could do something to make African-Americans better off contribute to r?

        If that is your view, aren’t all of the African-Americans who fail to donate a large fraction of their income to people elsewhere in the world, say in Africa, who are much poorer than they are, contribute to unjust inequalities much larger than r? How does your line of argument imply that anyone should be making any effort to reduce r when there are many people in the world who are unjustly much worse off than African-Americans?

        1. Eric T

          At some point when you are not overwhelmed with arguments about Social Justice, I want to engage with you on issues in moral philosophy.

          I do too. I can say a little now but I think its probably best we save any kind of protracted discussion about philosophy for a future OT.

          You made an odd and interesting statement a few days ago, to the effect that if some group, such as Asians, who were innately more productive ended up doing better than the average but not as much better as they should due to prejudice, then you would want changes that made them even more better off than they were.

          That raises interesting questions about how you distinguish things people are entitled to benefit by from things they are not.

          I think that’s fair. My view here is… complicated. I think people should be given as much a fair shake as possible. My ideal world would probably be one where everyone’s success and failure is based solely on their individual merit, but also one that has a sizable security net so failure=/= death or misery.

          In the context of race this would mean allowing each person of each race the ability to thrive. If we could actually excise all racist bias and aftereffects of Racist policy from modern world and there was unequal outcomes, I’d probably be fine with that. I understand that things like IQ are still part of the lottery of birth, but I think the other stuff is at least solvable. I’m not sure if that one is solvable in a way that doesn’t completely obliterate individuality.

          Earlier, I believe, you said you didn’t accept the action/inaction distinction. If so, doesn’t everybody in the world who could do something to make African-Americans better off contribute to r?

          If that is your view, aren’t all of the African-Americans who fail to donate a large fraction of their income to people elsewhere in the world, say in Africa, who are much poorer than they are, contribute to unjust inequalities much larger than r? How does your line of argument imply that anyone should be making any effort to reduce r when there are many people in the world who are unjustly much worse off than African-Americans?

          So I mentioned this before in the original discussion: my views on this matter fall pretty in line with what Scott once posted about Infinite Debt.

          1. On an abstract moral level I accept that I should be donating all of my money to like the AMF or MIRI or something. I can construct arguments that appeal to my intuition about how this causes things that feel deeply wrong (like justifying organ harvesting) but I can’t really logically persuade myself that they are actually wrong.
          2. I acknowledge however that I, like everyone, am a deeply flawed human. If I tried to help everyone in Africa or whatever the most important cause was to maximal ability, I’d quickly get dejected/overwhelmed/angry/tired/whatever and give up. I think the world would be a better, more moral place if that WASN’T the case, but it is.
          3. I know that I care deeply about social justice. My caring isn’t rational in the sense that my moral system is (I think it is at least): it comes from my upbringing, my job, my life and my intuitions. But these are so much more powerful motivators to me, and I am selfish enough a creature, that I can continue doing this work and advocating for it far better than I ever could for something like MIRI.
          4. This in turn leads me to believe that it would actually be immoral for me to try to shift gears and focus on like global poverty, because I’d likely get nothing done to actually help. Helping a less important cause is still better than not helping the Most Important Cause
          5. I acknowledge therefore that we all are kind of trapped by this Infinite Debt, but seeing how I can’t even motivate myself to get out and help the global poor, it seems like me trying to make other people, especially those less fortunate than I, do it is both doomed to failure and hypocrisy. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t think that’s the moral solution. If I could press a button that would give us all the motivation, temperament, and selflessness to devote all of our beings to helping the global poor, I’d almost certainly press it.
          6. So yes while poor americans are, by virtue of the fact they buy non-necessities instead of Malaria nets, contributing to Malaria, they’re doing it A. Less than I am, and B. so is everyone else, so engaging in Moral Condemnation is just a giant waste of my time.

      2. haroldedmurray

        That may be a way to put it, but I think an issue a lot of people have with Social Justice is that it tells them they are doing something Wrong. What I wanted to get across with the big R/little r distinction is a lot of us SJ types truly believe you can be acting perfectly rational, do nothing wrong, and still contribute to little r because the system has been set up to be that way.

        This is reminding me of one of Scott’s articles:
        https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/social-justice-and-words-words-words/

        Everyone is a little bit racist. We know this because there is a song called “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and it is very cute. Also because most people score poorly on implicit association tests, because a lot of white people will get anxious if they see a black man on a deserted street late at night, and because if you prime people with traditionally white versus traditionally black names they will answer questions differently in psychology experiments. It is no shame to be racist as long as you admit that you are racist and you try your best to resist your racism. Everyone knows this.

        Donald Sterling is racist. We know this because he made a racist comment in the privacy of his own home. As a result, he was fined $2.5 million, banned for life from an industry he’s been in for thirty-five years, banned from ever going to basketball games, forced to sell his property against his will, publicly condemned by everyone from the President of the United States on down, denounced in every media outlet from the national news to the Podunk Herald-Tribune, and got people all over the Internet gloating about how pleased they are that he will die soon. We know he deserved this, because people who argue he didn’t deserve this were also fired from their jobs. He deserved it because he was racist. Everyone knows this.

        So.

        Everybody is racist.

        And racist people deserve to lose everything they have and be hated by everyone.

        This seems like it might present a problem. Unless of course you plan to be the person who gets to decide which racists lose everything and get hated by everyone, and which racists are okay for now as long as they never cross you in any way.

        And this one:
        https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/03/10/response-to-current-affairs-on-against-murderism/

        And, unfortunately, this is the entire point of my Against Murderism article. In real life, leftists will say that racists are inhuman monsters. Then as soon as someone points out this is bad, they will retreat to saying that obviously nobody believes that, racism is just a collection of structural subconscious privilege discrimination IAT

        ALL of the social justice advocates I know (read: everyone I know) do NOT act like people who are “racist” are “doing nothing wrong”. They act like they’re inhuman monsters and the worst people ever. Until I see them being more charitable and consistent, and stop yelling at and Cancelling everyone they can possibly can, I cannot really put my faith in them or their ideology, and I cannot really think that it’s coming from a good, constructive and genuine place.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Thus if they’d repent about people like Donald Sterling, we could feel safer.

        2. Eric T

          Until I see them being more charitable and consistent, and stop yelling at and Cancelling everyone they can possibly can, I cannot really put my faith in them or their ideology, and I cannot really think that it’s coming from a good, constructive and genuine place.

          At the risk of repeating myself…

          1. haroldedmurray

            I know you probably meant this to be that your presence proves that some SJWs actually have pure motivations. But from another standpoint, you’re just serving to provide the motte in the grander motte and bailey of the blue tribe.

            I believe your personal motivations are pure and you’re not trying to do this. But I still think you are serving that function. Too many others of the blue tribe seem to be not following your lead, and honestly, I almost never see anyone calling them out on it. The few times I do see it, the people who are calling them out get shamed for “tone policing” or speaking “from a place of privilege”.

          2. Eric T

            I know you probably meant this to be that your presence proves that some SJWs actually have pure motivations. But from another standpoint, you’re just serving to provide the motte in the grander motte and bailey of the blue tribe.

            Even if your personal motivations are pure and you’re not trying to do this, I think you are still serving that function. Not many others seem to be following your lead.

            This is a very pessimistic/cynical view of things. I’m genuinely trying to put my best foot forward as a positive example of what kinds of people the SJ community contains once you get past the screaming wave of twitter/tumblr/wherever they congregate.

          3. Nick

            @haroldedmurray

            I know you probably meant this to be that your presence proves that some SJWs actually have pure motivations. But from another standpoint, you’re just serving to provide the motte in the grander motte and bailey of the blue tribe.

            That is not how motte and bailey works; motte and bailey applies to individuals, not to groups.

          4. haroldedmurray

            That is not how motte and bailey works; motte and bailey applies to individuals, not to groups.

            Why not? What’s to stop the memetic evolution of motte and bailey-style arguments across groups, where some people are those who provide the motte for easy consumption, and others take advantage of this for getting all the gains of the bailey?

          5. Eric T

            Why not? What’s to stop the memetic evolution of motte and bailey-style arguments across groups, where some people are those who provide the motte for easy consumption, and others take advantage of this for getting all the gains of the bailey?

            Because you never get discussion and growth then. If every time a pair of Red-Tribers did this to me on an issue I got upset and thought of it in motte and bailey terms for the entire Tribe I’d likely have 0 conservative friends.

            The SJ movement is vast and multifarious. Some of us believe very different things than others. It will ALWAYS be possible to view this disagreement as a motte and bailey problem. If you do, then what’s the point of me even being here talking to you? No matter what arguments I make, no matter how persuasive I get, no matter how kind I try to be I’ll never change your mind. If that’s the case, I think its a sad world.

          6. Eric T

            Perhaps we need to introduce the idea of systemic motte-and-bailey. Or perhaps a distinction between Motte-And-Bailey and motte-and-bailey.

            I see what you’re doing here you cheeky bastard.

            ETA:
            I still stand by what I said: approaching discussions in this way will likely kill any chance of productive discourse imo. If you can’t accept that people of a major social movement can have very different points of view I’m not sure how you will ever meaningfully engage with that movement.

          7. Aftagley

            where some people are those who provide the motte for easy consumption, and others take advantage of this for getting all the gains of the bailey?

            Because fallacies can’t be enacted collectively.

            To be a bit more verbose, the world you’re advocating for here is one where every example of outreach and bridge-building from your outgroup should be met with scorn and suspicious since it’s all evidence that they’re trying to pull a fast one on you collectively. That’s a path towards bitter loneliness and never-ending conflict.

          8. Nick

            @haroldedmurray

            Why not? What’s to stop the memetic evolution of motte and bailey-style arguments across groups, where some people are those who provide the motte for easy consumption, and others take advantage of this for getting all the gains of the bailey?

            As the others say, this applies equally to every group; so your objection, if it worked, would work anywhere for any thing. There’s always some idiot on your “side” who will present the dumbest possible argument for your position, but you’re not beholden to them.

            I think in general people should repudiate them, but it is already clear in most cases that one does. It should be clear enough from his posts that Eric didn’t come to SSC to defend the latest Twitter pileon, and it’s not fair to hold him to that.

          9. haroldedmurray

            Some of us believe very different things than others

            That’s kind of my point. I think that these ideas propagate very well because of the multiple definitions for the same stuff across different people. Some of the definitions are easy to consume, and others are useful, and that why gains are made so rapidly.

            Because you never get discussion and growth then.

            You’re taking my statement about how I beieve things are happening and countering with “you shouldn’t believe this, it’s bad for you”. That might be true, at least in some situations. But that doesn’t disprove my initial claim that this is happening.

            You seem to be providing reasons why we should be charitable to each other, saying that it’s better if we trust each other. I generally agree with this. But you haven’t proved this this style of memetically-evolved group motte and bailey isn’t actually happening. Just because trusting people different from you is generally good for people and the world doesn’t mean that some people aren’t taking advantage of this. I really think it is happening which is how many ideas that would have been tenuous ten years ago have taken such strong root in social discourse.

            Because fallacies can’t be enacted collectively

            In this context, motte and bailey is not a “logical fallacy” perpetuated by an individual, it’s a memetic pattern, a pattern that propagates itself because it works and succeeds in spreading itself.

          10. Aapje

            @Eric T

            This is a very pessimistic/cynical view of things. I’m genuinely trying to put my best foot forward as a positive example of what kinds of people the SJ community contains once you get past the screaming wave of twitter/tumblr/wherever they congregate.

            The issue is that I’ve seen all kinds of abuses by SJ people where no or far too few SJ people spoke out against these abuses to stop them. That’s one of the major things I’m judging the movement by.

            I’ve also read (parts of) many of the most popular SJ works and found that most contain very strong bias (what I consider sexism and racism), which most SJ people, including the nicer ones, tend to deny. This is also a major part of my judgment.

            That there are a few people that call themselves SJ advocates, but don’t have such strong biases or that speak out against abuses of their friends is good, but individuals that are very un-prominent and non-influential just don’t have significant weight. To put it bluntly, a thousand of you don’t add up to one Peggy McIntosh or bell hooks.

            That doesn’t mean that we can’t discuss things nicely, but I see you as an example of an outlier that stands at the sideline, while a majority in your movement demands things that are really bad.

          11. Eric T

            @haroldedmurray

            Nick and Aftagley expressed my points above pretty much exactly how I would so just to add:

            The difference between Motte and Bailey and people having different interpretations is that the former is intentional. Nobody sent me here to lure you in with honeyed words, and I’m not going to change up my definitions on you (barring people convincing me I should, in which case I’ll give you all fair warning lol).

          12. haroldedmurray

            For the record, I’m not trying to say Eric is personally doing anything malicious, duplicitous, or ill-intentioned.

          13. Paul Zrimsek

            Perhaps we need to introduce the idea of systemic motte-and-bailey. Or perhaps a distinction between Motte-And-Bailey and motte-and-bailey.

            N.B. This quote is from a deleted reply of mine, intended as a light and playful reaction to the subthread as a whole; I deleted it because it sounds hostile and sarcastic when considered as a reply to Eric’s at 5:24, which hadn’t yet appeared when I started typing.

          14. Aftagley

            In this context, motte and bailey is not a “logical fallacy” perpetuated by an individual, it’s a memetic pattern, a pattern that propagates itself because it works and succeeds in spreading itself.

            Ok, so your proposal is to take a pretty useful term that applies to specific logical errors that people make in arguments and make it now apply to vague group action? Are you putting this up for a vote? Can I vote against it?

            Motte and Bailey as it currently stands is useful, imo, because it helps me understand when I’m arguing across definitions. It lets me know when I’m being unfair and makes me think before I start invoking works like racist, sexist and homophobic.

            Just pick a new term, my dude. You’re describing a separate phenomenon so pick a separate word. Call it, ummm… cup-caking.

          15. Nick

            +1 to Aftagley. You’re describing a different phenomenon, which for clarity’s sake deserves a different name.

          16. Eric T

            N.B. This quote is from a deleted reply of mine, intended as a light and playful reaction to the subthread as a whole; I deleted it because it sounds hostile and sarcastic when considered as a reply to Eric’s at 5:24, which hadn’t yet appeared when I started typing.

            For what it’s worth, I thought it was pretty funny.

          17. DavidFriedman

            I still stand by what I said: approaching discussions in this way will likely kill any chance of productive discourse imo.

            That’s close to my feeling about “racism.”

            People don’t get what they deserve, it’s far from obvious what “deserve” means, there is no plausible set of institutions that would consistently give people what they deserve, and institutions that justified themselves that way would probably make the world less just and worse off, since claims about desert provide a blank check to help those you like at the expense of those you don’t like.

            It makes sense to object to behavior that hurts people unfairly. Going from that to objecting to any feature of the society through which disadvantages from past unfair treatment can propagate, such as the policy of hiring people on the basis of how able they are when one of the reasons for differences in ability is that some of them went to bad schools or grew up in neighborhoods with a lot of lead, is a mistake.

          18. original-internet-explorer

            @Eric T

            There are redeemable parts of SJ.

            The thing most wrong about the Liberal faction is their blindspot on tacit knowledge. This has been exploited by the left and right before. Imagine for instance the Essential Workers coordinated a General Strike.

            SJ talk of lived experience which is a part of the tacit. The problem is that it is easy to strawman the way SJ people use it but the steelman version of this is very strong.

            Tacit knowledge is a scientific reality. It is measurable. The Liberals take lived experience to be nonsense – that anybody with empathy or effort can insight the experience of another person. This is true for some but I don’t see SJ leaning in and saying in rebuttal that this is not economical to be a human emulator and also tacit knowledge is notorious for being easy to observe and difficult to achieve. That is all true – it’s the metapolitical dollar on the sidewalk nobody is picking up.

            The Liberal faction has been claiming it possess knowledge it does not have access to for decades. If people here recall the answers Hayek gave – he was saying the Soviet was not being scientific by ignoring a type of decentralized knowledge. The Liberals are now performing the same mistake for reasons of class because they are all middle class information processors and see the integration of blue collar insight or the observations of minorities as a moral affront. The distance between the social justice advocate and the blue collar right winger is not as wide as people think.

          19. Eric T

            That’s close to my feeling about “racism.”

            People don’t get what they deserve, it’s far from obvious what “deserve” means, there is no plausible set of institutions that would consistently give people what they deserve, and institutions that justified themselves that way would probably make the world less just and worse off, since claims about desert provide a blank check to help those you like at the expense of those you don’t like.

            Not to turn this into another SJ debate but I think its a bit unfair to compare this to what haroldedmurray was discussing. I think we can have reasonable discussions about what policies to provide reparations for, how to do it, why, who gets it, whether its just if it harms other groups etc. etc.

            Certainly I feel like I’ve had plenty of logical, fair, calm, and rational conversations with people on the topic. But the idea that you should view a member of the opposing Tribe putting their best foot forward as a “Motte and Bailey” type of trick means you’ll just never engage with opposing views in good faith. Here’s an example of what I mean

            I’ve divided my opinions on racism to the historical and modern types: basically Part 2 and Part 3 of my post. Your objection provides fair grounds for the historical, but what about the modern? If I were able to prove to you that unfair biases existed today, we could discuss how to solve those biases rationally without hitting into the issues you bring up. There is plenty of room for rational discussion and that’s even before the question of if what you are saying is true (I don’t think it is)

            But with the “Motte and Bailey” approach we just never get that kind of discussion about anything, because you’re too busy thinking this is all some kind of rhetorical trap by the Blue Tribe, and I vice-versa.

          20. Nancy Lebovitz

            I see this as a case of “not all SJWs”.

            My exposure to SJ has greatly increased my concepts and vocabulary for fear, anger, and resentment, and I’m unsure of what to keep and what to throw away.

            Part of the situation is that there’s a substantial toxic aspect to SJ, and it affects people on a large scale. Some people, like Natalie Wynne (ContraPoints) and Lindsay Ellis have taken damage from it, and a lot more people are frightened.

            At this point, I think people who don’t use SJ as a tool for emotional abuse are displaying their own emotional health, but are generally not clear about how destructive their side is.

          21. Nancy Lebovitz

            original-internet-explorer

            One of the ways SJ works out in practice is that they produce a curated version of the experience of marginalized groups.

            You’re supposed to just accept their version, and not notice that a lot of women don’t agree with each other. Nor do poc. Nor do poc sub-groups.

            What’s worse, if you aren’t in a marginalized group, you aren’t supposed to ask members of that group about this because that would be bothering them and they’re already suffering enough.

          22. DavidFriedman

            If I were able to prove to you that unfair biases existed today, we could discuss how to solve those biases rationally without hitting into the issues you bring up.

            Perhaps I was unclear, or am misunderstanding you. As far as I can tell, “racism” as you use the term means “black people ending up with worse outcomes than they deserve, for whatever reason.”

            It was that position I was responding to.

          23. Eric T

            As far as I can tell, “racism” as you use the term means “black people ending up with worse outcomes than they deserve, for whatever reason.”

            Ah to be clear as I said in my post:
            I acknowledge some difference may be caused by things internal to minorities control: culture for example. But the things like bias or historically Racist policies that still have knock-on effects today, I would categorize as racism. I guess the important part is setting the line at “what they deserve” and I tried to do that very thing in my response to your question about my moral philosophy.

            I guess I don’t see this as an infinite regression, rather as an answerable question and part of the, admittedly difficult, process of figuring out the right way to fix all of this.

          24. original-internet-explorer

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Marxism/Liberalism/Monarchy are political religions and Social Justice is closer to a political cult. When we look back to Soviets and the Fascists – each also developed a mythology and retcon of history – so that is reason to worry when we see the New York Times promoting projects which promote racial SJ interpretation – the 1619 Project is the tip of something large. You might know already the Marxists say “not in my name”. There is a radicalism in Liberalism that isn’t springing out of the heart of the Left or Right – that is why I call the New York Times our Isengard.

            This is impossible in the standard political spectrum model where Liberals are supposed moderates. I describe in my other comments a political model by the science fiction author Liu Cixin that implies a blindspot exists for the failure modes of Liberalism. The Marxists still remember events like those that form the basis of their reaction but the West has forgotten.

            The mask isn’t off the New York Times and the other liberal papers yet – but it is slipping and I believe we are going to see something that isn’t nice.

          25. Nancy Lebovitz

            original-internet-explorer:

            What distinction are you making between a religion and a cult?

            The way SJ is moving in on education is a big deal, since people tend to not change their minds about what they were taught in school.

            I’m not sure I’d file SJ under Liberal. They’ve made some use of Liberal values which makes it attractive to a lot of liberals, but SJ might be its own thing.

          26. original-internet-explorer

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            The conventional one where a religion is a later formalized version of the cult with the rough edges sanded off. The cult is the one obsessional with their burning truth.

            SJ and Liberalism. I dissent from the idea it’s sharing some values – it looks like common descent with mutation. I don’t agree with Jordan Peterson – they are not Marxists. What we see there is a coalition of convenience like the libertarians and the conservatives under the liberal-right banner. They are in the same train car until they reach the next stop – which has happened in both groups.

            What you need to explain to me Nancy to persuade me otherwise is this –
            not SJ – but why so much cognitive real estate has been ceded to SJ by who? A little from the Left – but it’s mostly the Left Liberals caving and providing cover.

            There exist no blue collar men in the SJ. Zero nailguns per 100,000. Half of blue collar are left wing. Liberalism is the political ideology of the people who process information. Where does SJ become the most infectious? The strongholds are in Silicon Valley, the Universities and Journalism. Even the strongholds of the Left like Healthcare, Unions and Manufacturing aren’t as allied.

            SJ cannot exist in an environment where Left Liberalism does not flourish – you are very welcome to contradict me if you can.

          27. Nancy Lebovitz

            @ original-internet-explorer

            I’ve been following some discussions about cults, with the definition of cult going in a somewhat different direction. Some people don’t like talking about “cults” and instead talk about organizations being more or less cultic.

            I like the description of cults as being high-demand organizations, or in the case of SJ, a high demand ideology. Cults or high demand organizations (I’m going to call them HDOs) aren’t necessarily religions– they include multi-level marketing, political organizations, human potential systems, and, arguably, some abusive families and relationships.

            John McWhorter has described SJ as a religion and mentioned writing a book about it. I hope he does.

            From my point of view, SJ is related to liberalism to the extent that liberalism has a major focus on helping people. And for historical reasons in the US, helping black people by ending violent and mostly government-enforced injury to black people. Some of it was active injury, some of it was forbidding voting, which made it easier to commit other sorts of injury.

            Descent with mutation seems like a reasonable way to look at it, with several roots. There’s the liberal desire to help, what I think is a Marxist belief that the existing system is so bad it must be destroyed, a Freudian belief (possibly not actual Freud) that you can make accurate deductions of other people’s disreputable motivations, a Christian belief in original sin, and an American belief that you have to do something.

            There’s at least one more place with a lot of SJ– science fiction, both professional and fannish. And it does tend liberal, though there’s enough conservatism that there’s been something of a split.

            My tentative theory of why so much cognitive territory got ceded to SJ is partly that the easiest way to organize people is by opposition to another group, and partly that a lot of what people need to live in peace with each other is tacit cooperation. Tacit is natural and efficient, but it’s vulnerable to ideological attack because it isn’t in words.

        3. Eric T

          @Aapje – I responded to the wrong thread but eh. Screw it I’ll just leave it here.

          The issue is that I’ve seen all kinds of abuses by SJ people where no or far too few SJ people spoke out against these abuses to stop them. That’s one of the major things I’m judging the movement by.

          Am I allowed to say the same thing about the Red Tribe and Trump? My brother is disabled, is the fact that the Red-Tribe elected a president who flagrantly made fun of the disease my brother had proof that too few of them care? Can I castigate them all because they refuse to excise their most influential, and most problematic member?

          I’ve also read (parts of) many of the most popular SJ works and found that most contain very strong bias (what I consider sexism and racism), which most SJ people, including the nicer ones, tend to deny. This is also a major part of my judgment.

          We should talk about this sometime. Not now mind you, I’m approaching 200 comments on this OT and I really should take a break.

          That there are a few people that call themselves SJ advocates, but don’t have such strong biases or that speak out against abuses of their friends is good, but individuals that are very un-prominent and non-influential just don’t have significant weight. To put it bluntly, a thousand of you don’t add up to one Peggy McIntosh or bell hooks.

          You say that now, but just you wait until I’m president. Then you’ll see. You’ll all see.

          1. Evan Þ

            …but just you wait until I’m president

            Are you running? We really need some better candidates this year!

          2. Ninety-Three

            Can I castigate them all because they refuse to excise their most influential, and most problematic member?

            If you disapprove of Trump, it seems perfectly reasonable to castigate both individuals who voted for him and the movement as a whole that elected him. Extending that castigation to the non-Trump-voting members of the movement could be described as noticing that while they may not be Trumpist, their continued advocacy for the movement caused and perpetuates trumpism.

          3. Tatterdemalion

            Am I allowed to say the same thing about the Red Tribe and Trump? My brother is disabled, is the fact that the Red-Tribe elected a president who flagrantly made fun of the disease my brother had proof that too few of them care? Can I castigate them all because they refuse to excise their most influential, and most problematic member?

            Speaking as a mostly-non-SJ liberal leftist, my answer would be “not just yes, but hell yes, but you can’t then generalise from that to “all other groups””.

          4. Conrad Honcho

            Except, for our part we don’t think he was making fun of the guy’s disability. While Trump might have met the guy decades before, it’s highly unlikely he remembered his disability, and certainly no one in the crowd was aware of it. It’s far more likely he was making a generic mockery of timid/weak men, and whoops, the reporter happened to have a specific disability with a resemblance to that.

            So, no, no one actually has antipathy for your brother’s condition. You can choose to hold it against Trump supporters anyway, but we don’t think it’s fair, because we don’t hate the disabled.

          5. Le Maistre Chat

            While Trump might have met the guy decades before, it’s highly unlikely he remembered his disability, and certainly no one in the crowd was aware of it. It’s far more likely he was making a generic mockery of timid/weak men, and whoops, the reporter happened to have a specific disability with a resemblance to that.

            Donald Trump doesn’t practice the expected norms around how to mock weak men. Was he wrong in that case? Absolutely 100% and morally he should have apologized. To give a different example, women are often on their guard against male “creeps”, but “creepy” can be an unjust interpretation of recognizing a subtle disability like Autism Spectrum Disorder.
            But there’s all this baggage in politics around apologies being a sign of weakness.
            People voting for Trump was in part a howl of rage at upper class speech norms.
            Imagine if the British Labour Party was allowed to contest free and fair elections in, say, 1918, but candidates had to speak posh because working-class slang was punished as hate speech. That’s how the Red tribe felt.

          6. Conrad Honcho

            Was he wrong in that case? Absolutely 100% and morally he should have apologized

            I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you think Trump knew the man was disabled when he mocked him, and used his disability to mock him?

            In my heart of hearts I do not believe he did. Now, in Normal World, if I did that, I would apologize profusely for the appearance of having mocked someone for their intrinsic characteristic (disabled) when I only meant to mock them for their extrinsic characteristic (being a weasel under social pressure). But in Political World an apology is an admission of guilt, so don’t ever do that. It would not at all be reported as “Trump apologizes for mocking man not knowing was disabled and is hereby forgiven” it would be “Trump admits to heartlessly mocking man specifically because he was disabled.” So you’re better off not doing it.

          7. Le Maistre Chat

            @Conrad: Candidate Trump was under-informed about the man’s life and in Normal World should have apologized upon being informed that mocking his behavior was actually mocking a disability.
            We can compare this to the whole set of norms around male “creeps” (basically “suspected sexual predators women should protect themselves from”): prejudice against an innocent-hearted man who comes across “creepy” because of Autism Spectrum Disorder is bad.

            I agree with what the incentive structures around apologies in politics are, which says very bad things about universal-suffrage elections under modern social conditions. 🙁

          8. Aapje

            @Eric T

            who flagrantly made fun of the disease my brother had proof that too few of them care

            Trump is a dick, but there are immense differences in severity at play here. I see universities being increasingly purged of people with views different to that of a certain group, threatening to corrupt science, but also to remove trust in science by large parts of the population. I see outright discrimination being increasingly institutionalized (not merely informally by biased people, but with explicit policy). I see people being fired for criticisms. I see biased kangaroo courts being instituted that refuse to adhere to basic principles of justice that are crucial to even a semblance of fairness. Etc, etc.

            At the end of the day, all that Trump did, is hurt some feelings. He didn’t propose cutting funding for disabled people or do anything else that would impact them beyond hurt feelings. To me, this is not on the same level at all to the things I named, which in my view, threaten to destroy the fabric of society.

            Making fun of true or imagined traits that people have is also not specific to an ideology (or the right side of the political spectrum), but seems to just be asshole behavior. There is no political movement that is free of assholes, so if you dismiss a movement/ideology/party for this, you’d have to dismiss the Democrats and SJ as well, where I’ve seen this same kind of behavior.

            Frankly, your argument here is what I see as a result of the toxic outrage culture we have right now, where people share & get upset over outrage porn that has a strong emotional resonance, but typically has extremely low importance. These are usually just temporary hypes that lots of people talk about briefly and that nearly anyone then quickly forgets again.

            We should talk about [SJ works] sometime.

            Sure, if you want you can propose something we can talk about (preferably a paper or part of a book, so the effort isn’t too large).

          9. Aapje

            @Conrad Honcho

            The performance by Trump is very dissimilar to the actual disability of the reporter, who has a hand & arm that are permanently flexed in front of his chest. There is none of the flailing that Trump did.

          10. Le Maistre Chat

            @Aapje:

            At the end of the day, all that Trump did, is hurt some feelings. He didn’t propose cutting funding for disabled people or do anything else that would impact them beyond hurt feelings. To me, this is not on the same level at all to the things I named, which in my view, threaten to destroy the fabric of society.

            Yes, so very much this.

          11. John Schilling

            At the end of the day, all that Trump did, is hurt some feelings.

            Using the moral authority and privileged media access of the presidency to blatantly and gratuitously hurt someone’s feelings, will cause a lot of people to discount the moral authority of the presidency and too-pointedly ignore whatever is said from that bully pulpit. Since presidents not named Donald J. Trump usually take care to exercise that particular presidential power in broadly positive ways like promoting national unity in a crisis, damaging it for the sake of a cheap shot causes incalculable but nonetheless real harm.

          12. Eric T

            Trump is a dick, but there are immense differences in severity at play here. I see universities being increasingly purged of people with views different to that of a certain group, threatening to corrupt science, but also to remove trust in science by large parts of the population. I see outright discrimination being increasingly institutionalized (not merely informally by biased people, but with explicit policy). I see people being fired for criticisms. I see biased kangaroo courts being instituted that refuse to adhere to basic principles of justice that are crucial to even a semblance of fairness.

            And I see Trump rolling back a variety of LGBT protections, environmental regulations, passing frankly useless immigration bans on countries that actually send us high quality immigrants and imposing nationally accepted rhetoric that may have something to do with the sudden spike in hate-crimes.

            Look Trump’s an incompetent oaf but let’s not pretend he’s not doing some damage here. He’s not just “insulting people”

            Furthermore I agree with John Schilling, Trump’s flagrant lying and insulting, dogging on the Press regardless if they’re actually telling the truth or not, and overall tone is immeasurably damaging what little trust Americans had in their institutions at all.

            Sure, if you want you can propose something we can talk about (preferably a paper or part of a book, so the effort isn’t too large).

            Yeah let’s. I’ll think of something, but the SJ world is vast, is there a specific topic you’d like to focus on? I know you said you found some SJ writing problematic.

          13. Ninety-Three

            will cause a lot of people to discount the moral authority of the presidency and too-pointedly ignore whatever is said from that bully pulpit.

            Shouldn’t they? Donald Trump, as we agree, doesn’t seem to deserve that authority. And if this makes people question the office more generally, I repeat: shouldn’t they? This seems like a mirror of a common debate regarding journalism: is the problem that people don’t trust the institution, or that the institution has proven it lacks the safeguards that would make it deserving of trust?

          14. cassander

            @Eric T says:

            And I see Trump rolling back a variety of LGBT protections, environmental regulations,

            trump supporters want less regulation.

            passing frankly useless immigration bans on countries that actually send us high quality immigrants

            If the ban in useless, why care about it, but more importantly the idea that the use is getting a lot of high quality immigrants from yemen, iran, somolia, libya, and sudan is hard to credit and makes one question your veracity

            and imposing nationally accepted rhetoric that may have something to do with the sudden spike in hate-crimes.

            Christ, what’s next? blaming him for the weather?

          15. thisheavenlyconjugation

            Iran is one of only 10 countries to have won the International Mathematics Olympiad (as a team) and is 12th by number of medals.

          16. John Schilling

            Shouldn’t they? Donald Trump, as we agree, doesn’t seem to deserve that authority. And if this makes people question the office more generally, I repeat: shouldn’t they?

            No, they should not.

            The track record of presidents not named Donald J. Trump is that they wield this particular aspect of presidential power in a broadly positive and useful fashion, e.g. mitigating civil disorder by reassuring peaceful protesters that their concerns are being heard at the highest levels while calling on rioters to knock it off. We want presidents to be able to keep doing that, so we want people to keep looking to the bully pulpit with some measure of respect.

            The bit where Donald J. Trump does not have the temperament to safely wield this power, does not mean that we need to take this power away from the Presidency. It means that we may have erred in electing Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

          17. metalcrow

            @cassander

            trump supporters want less regulation.

            This is true, but isn’t really relevant to the ethics of the actions themselves. If Trump and his supporters were to roll back the FDA (which is accurate to wanting less regulation), they would be barely 1 step removed from the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the coming years. The rollback of the regulations Eric T mentions are, while not as harmful as removing the FDA, do cause harm, which is backing the statement made that “let’s not pretend he’s not doing some damage here. He’s not just “insulting people””

          18. Aftagley

            @Conrad honcho

            The reporter in question was a former New York Daily News reporter and had interviewed Trump several times, one on one in his office and claims that at the time they were on a first-name basis. The guy’s disability is also pretty immediately evident. So, any such defense of this rests on Trump having forgotten the guy, but not forgotten the facts of a story he’d written and the surrounding controversy. This is not especially likely.

            The performance by Trump is very dissimilar to the actual disability of the reporter, who has a hand & arm that are permanently flexed in front of his chest. There is none of the flailing that Trump did.

            This is not true. While Trump did flail his arms, you can clearly see that he has both hands flexed down while doing so.

            Also – what are you claiming? That while insulting a disabled reporter, he just happened to start flailing in a way that was incredibly easy to mistake as being insulting to the guy’s disability? Flailing in a way that he doesn’t when imitating most other non-disabled people? Give me a break.

          19. Ninety-Three

            @John Schilling

            We want presidents to be able to keep doing that, so we want people to keep looking to the bully pulpit with some measure of respect…

            It means that we may have erred in electing Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

            Exactly. We want presidents to be able to do that, and Trump clearly isn’t. The Oval Office does not magically imbue a man with competence, and Trump proves that process for putting a man there does not always select for competence. If Trump makes people think of the next guy “Wait a minute, what if he’s an idiot too?” then good, because he might well be!

            Any moral authority the office of the President may have is derived from the process that selects him, and if the process reveals itself to be flawed that authority should be diminished.

          20. Evan Þ

            If Trump and his supporters were to roll back the FDA (which is accurate to wanting less regulation), they would be barely 1 step removed from the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the coming years.

            That hasn’t yet been proven. If Trump had actually rolled back the FDA last year, so they weren’t able to block COVID early response, that would have quite possibly saved 117,000 American lives already.

          21. metalcrow

            @Evan Þ
            true, but i’m not sure that is significant enough to count. Like, the FDA does a looot of other things that save lives, from drug testing and checking to food inspection and recall and safety mandates. Even just the food part, The Jungle lead to the establishment of the FDA (vis-a-vis the Pure Food and Drug Act), which has been saving lives since 1906. How many lives have been saved by preventing food-borne illness outbreaks? (actual question, i can’t find a study on this, but i would be shocked if it’s not more than 100,000). I feel that more than just one failure on their part is needed to establish that the FDA is a net negative.

          22. cassander

            metalcrow says:

            This is true, but isn’t really relevant to the ethics of the actions themselves. If Trump and his supporters were to roll back the FDA (which is accurate to wanting less regulation), they would be barely 1 step removed from the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the coming years.

            Only if you assume those regulations are saving hundreds of thousands of lives, which I don’t think they are. Given the FDA’s recent performance, I don’t think you should either.

            “let’s not pretend he’s not doing some damage here. He’s not just “insulting people””

            Passing policies you don’t like isn’t “dealing damage”, or at least, you can’t just blithely assume it is. And when making public statements and tweeting, which is what is under discussion here, insulting people is all he can do, because policy requires paperwork.

          23. albatross11

            “Abolish the FDA” is a bit like “abolish the police.” The interesting question is which functions done by the FDA you plan to stop doing, and which you plan to assign to someone else.

            As an example, you could imagine making FDA approval advisory. Medicare and Medicaid and the VA and Tricare and such won’t pay for non-approved medicines, but you can buy them as long as you sign a disclaimer acknowledging that they’re not approved. (Maybe there’s a process by which FDA can ban things they think are extra-dangerous.) And you could imagine making FDA approval happen by default for medicines that have been approved in the EU, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, or South Korea, with the FDA having a process to un-approve them for sufficient cause. That wouldn’t abolish the FDA, but it would take away a lot of its power. I don’t know whether the result would be net-positive or net-negative, but it’s certainly not obvious to me that it would be a lot worse than what we have now.

          24. albatross11

            I could certainly be wrong, but I think most of the prevention of food-borne illnesses is happening at the federal level from the Agriculture department (which doe