(Disclaimer: This post refers to a certain political party as being somewhat crazy, which got some people upset, so sorry about that. That is not what this post is *about*, however. The article is instead about Less Wrong's social norms against pointing certain things out. I have edited it a bit to try and make it less provocative.)


A well-known post around these parts is Yudkowski’s “politics is the mind killer”. This article proffers an important point: People tend to go funny in the head when discussing politics, as politics is largely about signalling tribal affiliation. The conclusion drawn from this by the Less Wrong crowd seems simple: Don’t discuss political issues, or at least keep it as fair and balanced as possible when you do. However, I feel that there is a very real downside to treating political issues in this way, which I shall try to explain here. Since this post is (indirectly) about politics, I will try to bring this as gently as possible so as to avoid mind-kill. As a result this post is a bit lengthier than I would like it to be, so I apologize for that in advance.

I find that a good way to examine the value of a policy is to ask in which of all possible worlds this policy would work, and in which worlds it would not. So let’s start by imagining a perfectly convenient world: In a universe whose politics are entirely reasonable and fair, people start political parties to represent certain interests and preferences. For example, you might have the kitten party for people who like kittens, and the puppy party for people who favour puppies. In this world Less Wrong’s unofficial policy is entirely reasonable: There is no sense in discussing politics, since politics is only about personal preferences, and any discussion of this can only lead to a “Jay kittens, boo dogs!” emotivism contest. At best you can do a poll now and again to see what people currently favour.

Now let’s imagine a less reasonable world, where things don’t have to happen for good reasons and the universe doesn’t give a crap about what’s fair. In this unreasonable world, you can get a “Thrives through Bribes” party or an “Appeal to emotions” party or a “Do stupid things for stupid reasons” party as well as more reasonable parties that actually try to be about something. In this world it makes no sense to pretend that all parties are equal, because there is really no reason to believe that they are.

As you might have guessed, I believe that we live in the second world. As a result, I do not believe that all parties are equally valid/crazy/corrupt, and as such I like to be able to identify which are the most crazy/corrupt/stupid. Now I happen to be fairly happy with the political system where I live. We have a good number of more-or-less reasonable parties here, and only one major crazy party that gives me the creeps. The advantage of this is that whenever I am in a room with intelligent people, I can safely say something like “That crazy racist party sure is crazy and racist”, and everyone will go “Yup, they sure are, now do you want to talk about something of substance?” This seems to me the only reasonable reply.

The problem is that Less Wrong seems primarily US-based, and in the US… things do not go like this. In the US, it seems to me that there are only two significant parties, one of which is flawed and which I do not agree with on many points, while the other is, well… can I just say that some of the things they profess do not so much sound wrong as they sound crazy? And yet, it seems to me that everyone here is being very careful to not point this out, because doing so would necessarily be favouring one party over the other, and why, that’s politics! That’s not what we do here on Less Wrong!

And from what I can tell, based on the discussion I have seen so far and participated in on Less Wrong, this introduces a major bias. Pick any major issue of contention, and chances are that the two major parties will tend to have opposing views on the subject. And naturally, the saner party of the two tends to hold a more reasonable view, because they are less crazy. But you can’t defend the more reasonable point of view now, because then you’re defending the less-crazy party, and that’s politics. Instead, you can get free karma just by saying something trite like “well, both sides have important points on the matter” or “both parties have their own flaws” or “politics in general are messed up”, because that just sounds so reasonable and fair who doesn’t like things to be reasonable and fair? But I don’t think we live in a reasonable and fair world.

It’s hard to prove the existence of such a bias and so this is mostly just an impression I have. But I can give a couple of points in support of this impression. Firstly there are the frequent accusations of group think towards Less Wrong, which I am increasingly though reluctantly prone to agree with. I can’t help but notice that posts which remark on for example *retracted* being a thing tend to get quite a few downvotes while posts that take care to express the nuance of the issue get massive upvotes regardless of whether really are two sides on the issue. Then there are the community poll results, which show that for example 30% of Less Wrongers favour a particular political allegiance even though only 1% of voters vote for the most closely corresponding party. I sincerely doubt that this skewed representation is the result of honest and reasonable discussion on Less Wrong that has convinced members to follow what is otherwise a minority view, since I have never seen any such discussion. So without necessarily criticizing the position itself, I have to wonder what causes this skewed representation. I fear that this “let’s not criticize political views” stance is causing Less Wrong to shift towards holding more and more eccentric views, since a lack of criticism can be taken as tacit approval. What especially worries me is that giving the impression that all sides are equal automatically lends credibility to the craziest viewpoint, as proponents of that side can now say that sceptics take their views seriously which benefits them the most. This seems to me literally the worst possible outcome of any politics debate.

I find that the same rule holds for politics as for life in general: You can try to win or you can give up and lose by default, but you can’t choose not to play.

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Ladies and gentlemen of Less Wrong, moderators, system administrators,

Regarding these serious matters, I feel obliged to take a moment to state the view of that party which I have the honor to represent in this discussion - the Troll Party.

We trolls enjoy irony. We like to play with people's minds. As a troll you look for weakness and foolishness, something you can exploit and highlight. But sometimes life itself trolls the troller, by offering up an excess of opportunity. Look here, it says, at this buffet-sized triple-decker irony sandwich: are you troll enough to take advantage? And sometimes the wise thing to do is just to decline the offer, and say, well-played, life, well-played!

Today we have before us, for our consideration, a proposition from the representative for Eindhoven: that Less Wrong has a political bias. And what is the nature of this political bias, and what is the evidence for it? It turns out, according to the representative for Eindhoven, that this bias originates from lack of bias. More specifically, it originates from Less Wrong's failure to publicly share the same political biases as the representative for Eindhoven. Because of this biased lack of bias, the ... (read more)

Best rant I've seen in a while.

This comment thread itself is a perfect example of why the ban on political discussion at LessWrong-itself is a good idea. Putting it simply: Sophronius and other commenters here are being absolutely clueless about what it would take to have an instrumentally-rational discussion about politics in an online environment. Make no mistake, this is an extremely hard problem which LessWrong must nonetheless take some interest in, inasmuch as it is part of the mission of 'raising the sanity waterline'. (Perhaps AGI folks could think of it as the collective-intelligence, human-focused version of the FAI problem.)

But still, if there's anything that we know about this problem, is that it needs to be addressed through discussing the problem itself at the meta level, not object-level discussion of political issues. Having such discussions about politics on LessWrong will necessarily be unpleasant, wasteful and quite possibly harmful to our broader goals, given the way the site currently works. Moreover, a strong case can be made that such discussions will always require some kind of specialized effort, whereas LessWrong should keep its focus on the rather different problem of promoting everyday rationality.

It's very hard to discuss politics rationally because it has to do with decisions about a very very complex system - the aggregate activity of all human beings. A good starting point would be to adapt the tools we have for discussing AGI, since AGI is also about very complex systems. It might be possible to talk about things in broad strokes. Again, though, AGI is a distant and abstract concept that does not stir strong feelings in people. With politics I suspect all of this would break down.

The problem isn't knee-jerk apoliticism, it's that LW delights in whatever seems clever and insightful, whether it promotes good and justice or not, and standard political talking points are familiar and boring.

I don't even think this is a smokescreen for innate political leanings, which you're dancing around from mentioning. It's quite possible an early 20th century LW equivalent would find radical socialism as intriguing as today's LW is finding the various strains of libertarianism and neoreaction, since that would have been the anathema to the intellectual mainstream back then, with many low-hanging fruits of intriguing unthinkability.

This is a very good point. Less Wrong has definitely shown strong signs of delight in being contrarian. If this is the real explanation for the skewed political leanings of Less Wrong, I would still suspect that the "don't discuss politics" unwritten rule is used as a means to defend these beliefs from criticism. I don't see how it could be shown either way, though. Hm.
I think the rule gets invoked easier for boring political discussion, basically repeating the talking points everyone is already familiar with. If you can make the criticism into something that's actually insightful and interesting, it could be received a lot better. But given how the LW discussion dynamics seem to keep driving many politically inclined users up the wall, this doesn't seem to be the way discussion in a political forum is expected to operate. Unless you can start typing up stuff like the Non-Libertarian FAQ you might just resign to the political discussion environment being what the forum's insight porn focus makes it.
Do you think that there's enough of a consensus on what constitutes "good and justice" to marginalize those who disagree? E.g. call them "crazy" and not listen to them?
It's tricky. You do want to call some people crazy and stop listening to them. The question is which people.
That is true. A more general question is: On which basis (e.g. their values? your values? rationality? smell?) should you decide which people to not listen to.
I agree with most of this post, but you seem to have an implicit assumption that the good and the just should be promoted. An alternate view would be to promote what is true in any area regardless of utility. The reason for said view would be that replacing rational with irrational beliefs in anything, regardless of direct utility, improves the sanity waterline and thus has minor benefits. Therefore any post which overthrows irrational views and replaces them with rational, no matter how irrelevant the subject matter, does more good than harm.
... unless promoting said view has other costs which exceed the value gained by it's contribution to the sanity waterline. The recent posting by Josh Elders on 'celibate pedophelia' is a prime example of this issue, where there was a non-trivial cost associated with having the article even present on LW.
It's hard for me to respond now given that the post appears not to be there any more. Could you clarify by explaining the content of the article and what problems it caused?
The post used a lot of words to say very little of interest (I think it was things along the lines of "Vg'f nccnerag gb zr gung zbfg crbcyr jub ner frkhnyyl nggenpgrq gb puvyqera qba'g zbyrfg gurz, vg'f whfg gung lbh bayl urne nobhg gur barf jub qb" and "vg'f boivbhf gung encvat n puvyq uhegf gurz, ohg vg'f abg boivbhf gb zr jul cresbezvat frk npgf jvgu n puvyq jub nterrf gb qb vg vf vaureragyl unezshy") and reading it made me feel uncomfortable. I used rot-13 because we don't want Google keyword searches to turn up any unfortunate associations.
Well, it generated some interesting discussion in the comments. What about it made you feel uncomfortable? It's arguments aren't that difficult to refute (and were refuted in the comments); however, the refutations also apply to a number of other popular beliefs. I suspect it's this fact that is the real source of discomfort.
I was being facetious about the political discussion pattern where everyone thinks it's a foregone conclusion that their beliefs side up with good and justice and they can just proceed to trying to win the rest of the argument as a battle.

I'd like to take a second to recomend that people re-read Politics is the Mind-Killer because it doesn't say what almost everyone seems to think it says.

This has come up before. At this point, I think it's fairly well understood that the point of that post isn't "don't discuss politics" so much as it is "discuss politically sensitive topics at the object level if possible, and don't sling mud gratuitously".

That doesn't, however, mean that the norm that's subsequently grown up around politics is a bad one. In view of the phrase's origins it might be better named something else, but all else equal I'd prefer a culture that avoids political alignment when possible to one that enthusiastically embraces factionalism, and for pretty much the same reasons that the catchphrase connotes.


I'd gather that if there were a lot more religious people posting on Less Wrong, there might have been a similar injunction about discussing religion. More religious people might have resulted in more threads devolving into atheism vs religion debates (not really "debates" but flame wars) which would detract from the goal of the blog which is about improving rationality.

It probably doesn't help that a lot of the initial posts on Less Wrong -- meaning the Sequences -- are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) anti-religious. Which probably functioned to dissuade more religious people from joining the community initially, since religion was seen as a go-to example of irrationality.


What is the value of political discussion at LessWrong supposed to be? Why would anyone come here for political discussion in the first place?

For the same reason that there are articles on Less Wrong that give dating advice. Because people are interested in it.

I think dating advice has presumably the value of improving someone's dating.

When it comes to political discussions it not as clear. To you have a political discussion on LessWrong to arm people with arguments to win arguments with their real life friends. Do you have the discussion to effect political change? Do you have the discussion to fulfill your obligation of being politically informed as a citizen in a democracy? Do you have the discussion to learn something structural about how politics works and transfer your knowledge to another problem domain?

All those are plausible goals that you could have when discussing politics on LessWrong. Depending on what of those you value, you might prefer a different kind of discussion on LessWrong.


There are already way more discussions of politics than discussions of dating here!

Politics, dating, anyone got a third topic where Lesswrong varies between being useless and immensely frustrating compared to the usual standards of discussion around here?

Well, mileage clearly varies, but I find these periodic superficial discussions about the nature of LessWrong to meet both criteria. Nothing really new gets said, and old stuff doesn't get built on, just repeated at mind-numbing length.

Oooh, right, and discussions of how the rules for karma etc. should be changed! (probably falls under the same heading though)

I guess it's not clear to me what LessWrong could contribute to political discussion that you can't get elsewhere. The instant-failure modes that typify most political discussions, even among the highly educated, could be avoided and...then what? What correct answers to what questions would LessWrong settle upon that economists and related professionals would not?

What I'm asking here is whether you have a specific question you want answered or if you simply enjoy the conversation. If it's the latter, I can certainly understand why you would want to have political discussions on LessWrong.

Ok, here are my reasons:

1) I would like to be able to talk about politics with rational people
2) Understanding more of how the world works could be useful in other areas.
3) I want to be able to make references to things that might be construed as political without having the entire post downvoted to -6 because I'm not allowed to talk about politics.
4) I am increasingly worried about the radicalisation (Assuming it really is increasing) of Less Wrong and I think the problem is that crazy views get too much credence here, due to an unwillingness to criticize by more rational people. (Biggest issue for me)

Edit: I don't get why I receive so many downvotes in a matter of minutes for answering a question as honestly and helpfully as I can manage. I see the same in some of my other posts. I somewhat suspect this is entirely based on party politics, where I am perceived to be criticizing party X in the original post, and so have unrelated posts downvoted by angry people. But maybe I'm missing something.

I'd suggest a distinction between "politics" and "policy", at least in the American English prevalent on LessWrong. "Politics" implies party politics, blue versus green, horse races (by which I mean election horse races), and tribalism. I think your post suggested an interest in this. Personally, I don't want this here. If, however, you want to talk about policy, using the analytical language of policy, then I say go for it. However, your original post, with its reference to parties, made me doubtful.
But that doubtfulness is precisely the point. I want to be able to make references to contemporary issues, without having to worry all the time whether or not someone might interpret it as being a sneaky and subtle way to signal affiliation for... whatever. I don't frequent too many sites, but it's only Less Wrong where people are so paranoid about this. And what's worse it's skewed, because if I complain about crazy political parties the response is "How dare you insult the republican party!", as seen in at least one post in this thread.

If you don't want to be seen as sneaky, don't mince your words so much. Everyone here knows what you're alluding to anyway and to be honest your views themselves don't seem anything other than solidly mainstream. You're not being persecuted for being a slightly-left-of-center liberal / social democrat, it's a question of content.

If you don't want to be seen as signaling affiliation... signal your affiliation less? Lots of us are open about our political views, in fact that seems to be a big part of your complaint, but even then most of the time it involves more substance than just saying "Yay X" and watching the Karma counter. You can be proudly liberal / marxist / Bokononist / whatever and people will generally be cool with it as long as your posts have some substance behind them.

I don't want to strawman your position, but I really can't see what you would prefer other than just having more posters here agree with your politics. Is that an inaccurate assessment?

I am curious now. What makes you think I am slightly left of centre, or liberal, or a social democrat? I mean, I admit that it's quite obvious which party I am calling crazy in the OP. But that's because there is only one crazy party in the US, and everyone knows this, so that's easy to infer. But bear in mind that in Europe, almost everyone agrees that US politics are crazy, so I don't see what you could infer from that. Maybe it was the comment that I don't vote for the racist party? That makes you think that I am centre left? Or the fact that I don't like Ayn Rand? The only other thing I can think of is that I am not obviously crazy, but if that means I have to be centre-left, there is something wrong here.
As I said before, your allusions aren't terribly subtle. If you think the Republicans are too far right then you're left of center and if you can find anything to agree with the Democrats about you're not very far left either. That leaves Green and Social Democrat parties mainly, and their ideologies are all variations on the same tune.
You're assuming I frame my political beliefs in terms of US political parties. I do not. You should bear in mind that according to the average European (which I am) your entire political discourse is nuts. It's not even a question of left or right. So no, the fact that I think one of your parties is more crazy than another of your parties does not mean I am centre left. The most right wing party in my country is to the left of the US democratic party, crazy as that may sound to American ears. The fact that politics in the US have been becoming more and more extreme over the years does not in any way mean that my country is now more left-wing, either. Frankly, I don't care about left vs. right. I just want people to be able to discuss individual issues based on actual argumentation without turning it into a shouting match. I want to be able to ask what if anything we should do about climate change, without people claiming that I am showing colour politics because my being "in favour" of climate change means I am clearly left wing, or something like that.

I just want people to be able to discuss individual issues based on actual argumentation without turning it into a shouting match.

Have you found calling people crazy achieves or helps achieve this goal? Can you formulate a logical and probable pattern of events where calling people crazy will help achieve this goal in the future?

For what value of “anything”? It can't be the literal one, as I'd guess that Obama and Stalin both agree(d) that 2 + 2 = 4.
LOL. There's one party that's conventionally called "crazy" in the mainstream media. And..?
The problem is with who you'd consider to be "rational people". Rationality doesn't touch values. Epistemic rationality is just an accurate map and instrumental rationality is just about reaching your goals whatever these goals might be. So if, for example, if I axiomatically hate redheads and want to kill them all, that's fine. I can be as rational about it as I want to be. Are you quite sure you want to talk politics with rational people who have radically different goals?
Two spaces at the end of a line forces a linebreak.
Can you please expand on 4)? Maybe give some examples of "crazy views", "radicalization" or "unwillingness to criticize"?
Ok, a while back I had all my posts downvoted because I referred to Ayn Rand as an example of someone who I thought was crazy. Someone replied that Less Wrong should be ashamed for allowing "Ayn rand derangement syndrome" and that anyone who held the view that Ayn rand was crazy should be downvoted. His post got upvoted while my posts got downvoted to -6 as a result. This is one (small) example of what I call crazy views that get a surprising amount of support on less wrong. Another example would be this thread about using global warming as an example. ChrisHalquist notes here that it's pretty worrisome that that post got downvoted so much (it's a bit higher now but still negative), which I agree with. Admittedly, it could just be that the article wasn't very well written... but I don't think so. 30% of Less Wrong being libertarian. Yes I think that is an example of radical views. Again it's entirely possible to be sane and call yourself libertarian. But I definitely think this number supports my experience, where if I even vaguely mention republican policies or Ayn Rand I get instantly shot down. On the other hand, criticizing the Democratic party does not seem to have the same effect . If my hypothesis is right, I will now get a ton more downvotes purely for having mentioned which party/group I'm talking about, by exactly those people. Let's see.

If you say "I think Ayn Rand is crazy" what is that supposed to accomplish that waving a big Blue flag wouldn't? You're not starting a reasoned discussion, just drawing battle lines.

If you say "I think Ayn Rand's philosophy is incorrect / immoral and here's why..." then you'll actually be able to have a constructive debate. You can learn why people might believe something you think is crazy, they can test their beliefs against your arguments, and in the end hopefully both sides will have adjusted in a more evidence-supported direction. That kind of communication is what LW is about; approaching areas where we are heavily biased with caution and rigor to separate out truth from myth.

(Note: I'm not an Objectivist and don't vote Republican, although you'd probably consider me more radical than either of them anyway. The downvote was for poor logic, not a slight against a political group/philosophy.)

But I don't want to talk about Ayn Rand. The article was never even about her. I just gave a list of people and things that I perceived were damaging or crazy as an example to illustrate my point in that article. As a result, I got pulled into an angry shouting match where people insisted I should be ashamed to have criticized their favourite author, and all of my (entirely unrelated) posts got downvoted. I take issue with the fact that there is this one group of people (no idea how large) on Less Wrong that gets to silence dissent like this, and everybody else just sits there and nods along because they're not allowed to discuss politics. It doesn't matter to me how radical your political views are. What matters to me is whether you are willing to entertain people with other views, or just want to shut down all dissent.

What matters to me is whether you are willing to entertain people with other views, or just want to shut down all dissent.

Good, then we agree; we should avoid behaviors which shut down dissent and dismiss people with opposing views out of hand.

So the next time someone puts an unsupported personal attack on a fringe political philosopher into an article, how about we all downvote it to express that that sort of behavior is not acceptable on LW?

How about we clearly and rationally express our stance instead of assuming massive inferential silence is any more meaningful than more moderate inferential silence?
Compare your implicit expectation in this comment to how one should react to some casually mentioned their position is "crazy", with your recommendation here to how someone should react to a casual anti-gay statement. What accounts for the glaring difference?

I think that your Ayn Rand comments were downvoted based on their anti-rational tone, rather than on substance. For example, when Multiheaded writes in a similarly emotional and combative style, he gets downvoted just as much.

I am not sure why the AGW-test post was downvoted so much. Maybe because it mentioned the US Republican party as an example?

30% of Less Wrong being libertarian. Yes I think that is an example of radical views.

This might be a confusion about definitions. Libertarianism has many different meanings, from valuing individual freedom over other considerations to advocating "radical redistribution of power". Some of it is indeed quite radical, but when an average LWer thinks of libertarianism, they probably don't mean to support an armed uprising.

If my hypothesis is right, I will now get a ton more downvotes

This type of remark tends to screw up the vote-measuring experiment. The subjects must be unaware that they are in an experimental setting for the results to be representative.

Can you expand "anti-rational tone" here? I'm not sure what you're talking about and it seems like the kind of phrase that cognitive biases hide behind.
You're right, it is indeed entirely possible that that article was downvoted for reasons unrelated to Ayn Rand. The fact that someone literally said that all of Less Wrong should be ashamed for allowing "Ayn Rand Derangement Syndrome", however, and that that person went on to suggest that I and everyone else who'd dare criticise Rand should be downvoted, and that this person got upvoted for this post... can not be explained in such a convenient way. The same holds for another comment in this thread, where someone calls me out for criticizing "their" party (I did not mention any party by name) and for criticizing "their" beliefs and saying that I should not be allowed to call "their" party crazy unless I could "defeat" them in a debate about economics.... and this person got upvoted for this, again. This to me signals, at least weakly, that there is way too much support on Less Wrong for the view that dissent against politics X should be culled. This worries me to say the least, since it skews Less Wrong politics in that direction.


This is SUPER obvious because your dissent is just calling people crazy over and over, and saying it's obvious that they're crazy and you don't understand how anyone could think they're not crazy. YOU ARE MINDKILLED. You are not capable, or at least have not SHOWN yourself to be capable of dissenting against the politic you hate in anything like a reasonable fashion.

The point of this website is that lots of things that normal people take as obvious or intuitive are not in fact true, and based largely on their own biases. You seem to completely be missing this point in this and your other conversations about politics. So either do your research, come up with a refutation of objectivism based on actually reading it, or DON'T TALK ABOUT IT. Mentions of things you disagree with as crazy in an offhanded way is exactly what we don't want.


(I did not mention any party by name)

Part of the negative reaction to your post, I think, is that this came off as disingenuous. Everyone knows the party you think is crazy is the Republican Party. I understand the point you were trying to making is more meta than that, but it's hard not to be wary of someone who wants to talk about politics when they lead in with the suggestion that a large fraction of Less Wrong is aligned with a crazy party.

There is a harm in talking about all these things at such an abstract level: it probably exaggerates the extent of actual disagreement. I don't really have many hard-and-fast political views right now but if I take a political identification quiz I'll usually end up listed as a libertarian (with slight movement to the left). But the content of my libertarianism is basically "society should do the things most economists think they should do". There are a few other assumptions built into it but it has little to do with anything Ayn Rand talked about (and I've never voted for the party you think is crazy).

So I wonder if people might be more receptive to a post like "Hey, guys. I see a lot of you identify as X. It seems like part of X is believing Y. Y seems like it is obviously bad to me, so I'm wondering if those of you who identify as X could explain if they identify that way despite Y, or if they really believe Y. If you believe in Y maybe you could explain why it is not as crazy as it sounds to me."

Again, mischaracterization of what I wrote. My original post: http://lesswrong.com/lw/iqq/a_game_of_angels_and_devils/9tat I suggest that's one reason you're downvoted - mischaracterizing what others say in a self serving way.

30% of Less Wrong being libertarian. Yes I think that is an example of radical views.

30% of LessWrong are liberals, 30% are socialists, and 30% are libertarian. 3% or so are conservative.

That's the progressiveness of LessWrong showing -- even if we stupidly use the sides in American politics (where libertarians are weirdly considered allied to the Republicans) that'd a 60% that would vote Democrat vs 33% that would vote Republican.

But I wouldn't want to use the sides of American politics -- the world is NOT the battleground for a fight between Republicans and Democrats and the stupid politicals alliances of America needn't be our concern. Libertarianism is the ideology that says "stop throwing people in jail because they smoked marijuana". I think that's a very fine thing it says right there. Even finer than gay marriage (which I also support) btw.

And I'm saying this as someone who called himself a socialist in that poll. And who has voted for libertarians in the past also. If you're seeing a right-wing bias in LessWrong, despite only 3% calling themselves conservatives, then you're suffering from seeing everything through the prism of American parochialism where Only Two Sides Exist.

Libertarianism as defined in the LW survey question says more than that. I agree we should stop throwing people in jail because they smoked marijuana but I still answered “socialism”. (IOW it doesn't generically refer to the bottom half of the Political Compass plane but to the bottom right quadrant specifically.)
As I already said above, I also answered "socialism". My point was that "the stupid political alliances of America needn't be our concern". My own politics of interest are such that I consider libertarianism is allied to progressivism in the issues that I'm most concerned about -- Sophronius however seems so focused on the American political alliances, that, because by historical accident rightwingers in America are currently allied to libertarians, he sees this as evidence of rightwing bias.
I saw those comments. they were of terrible quality and largely based on nothing but hearsay about Rand. They deserved to be downvoted regardless of your viewpoint.
That was me! And it's you again! I should have known! Although you're mischaracterizing what I said. Again. Though I'm not surprised, as it was your modus operandi the last time we spoke. First of Rand, then sympathizers of Rand, then me, then the LW community as a whole. For anyone who wants to claim that my characterization here is unfair, I invite them to read the original thread and get back to me if they still think so: http://lesswrong.com/lw/iqq/a_game_of_angels_and_devils/ You continue true to form here: I'll give you another hypothesis. You're getting the response you're getting because you're screaming that you're an internet crank at the top of your lungs. And I'm guessing that many of those downvotes are coming from the Progressive side of the field. Maybe most, as another guess is that the Progressives are more intent on driving cranks out of the LW community than the Libertarians are. Do you really fail to see how your last was the usual ridiculous posturing of the internet crank who can only see disagreement with him as a moral and intellectual failure of others, and then tell it to them, like they're going to believe it and be impressed by it? And your initial post here was condemning the Progressives here for not condemning the Libertarians loudly and viciously enough. Did you expect gratitude from that self supposed keen insight? By the way - responding 25 times in a thread? Crank crank crank. The only thing missing are the red and green flashing gifs.
Saying that Ayn Rand is crazy is contains no useful political information that helps someone who reads your post to update his map of the world in a productive way. Saying Ayn Rand is crazy is no criticism of Ayn Rand. It might be defamation. The post basically says that you should judge someone rationality by he willingness to believe in scientific authorities and signal that belief instead of judging his rationality by direct empiricism or by choosing effective strategies that help him win. One of the core Lesswrong dogma's is that rationality is about winning. The post basically disagrees and doesn't explain why he disagrees.
How do you plan to tell who downvoted you, and why they did so??? Doesn't look like very sound experiment design to me.
I don't need to, all I need to examine is whether I suddenly get a huge influx of downvotes after this. This happened before when I off-handedly mentioned Ayn Rand as an example of a crazy person. If it happens again, it's weak evidence in favour. You're right though, the lack of control and analysis makes this mostly just a joke hypothesis. Edit: Oh there we go, I'm at -12 now. It didn't seem to happen until after I mentioned Ayn Rand though, so maybe it's exclusively mentioning her that somehow causes people to go off their rocker. Or possibly it's entirely unrelated, but still. Edit 2: And now I went from -12 to +20 within minutes. I guess the other team just arrived? This is actually pretty funny to watch. It's a bit like a football match, only my ego is the ball. Edit 3: And now I am at -5 again. Looks like some people just downvoted all my posts in this thead again. I wonder if there is any pattern behind these waves of up-and-down voting, or if it's just statistical clustering.
I think of Rand as someone who took a few steps outside the consensus and found both true and false things there. She wasn't simply crazy.
Your ego is entangled with your karma on LW? What a poor choice.
Wait, what? At the moment, this comment is at -3 with 33% positive... which implies it has gotten 3 upvotes and 6 downvotes; 9 votes total. This is not strictly inconsistent with it going from -12 to +20 to -5... it's possible that 6-12 of the initial downvoters retracted their votes while 20-26 new voters upvoted, and then 17-23 of the upvoters retracted their votes and 0-6 new voters downvoted, but this seems so implausible as to not be worth taking seriously. I assume I'm just misunderstanding you. Are you perhaps comparing time-stamps of your overall karma and deciding that this comment is the cause, rather than anything (or everything) else you're posting at roughly the same time?
He's probably talking about either votes on his top-level post, or maybe his 30-day karma. Doesn't matter much.
Please link to the comment so people can verify the context for themselves.
The comments above include suggest this as the thread under discussion. That link is not provided by the OP, though, so it's possible they meant something else. OTOH, Googling site:http://lesswrong.com "Ayn rand derangement syndrome" only turns up that thread, so it seems likely referent. (To my amazement, removing the site parameter still only turns up that thread, which seems implausible... is this some kind of automatic Google-tuning? Do others get the same result?) For my own part, I think a charitable reading of the OP's summary is close enough to accurate, but in the context of their comments more generally I'm no longer willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt implied by a charitable reading.
I'm getting the same results. It's a relatively recent neologism (~10 years), and most uses focus on modern political leadership or modern organizations, which may be why. Still, a surprising Googlebomb.
Right. It's those damn greens. Damn those greens, with their votes for... crazy green things! Not like us blues, who want nothing but good and rational blueness! [ETA] My mind has been killed. This is why I don't want party politics -- as opposed to policy -- on LessWrong.
Couldn't you instead exercise self-control?
Don't worry, the last crazy post on politics I saw was voted down to -10
The last survey compared to the previous one showed a big shift in favor of socialism away from the libertarian/liberal founding crowd. But I'm pretty that isn't what you mean. What is actually happening is that people are noticing the initial demographics had views that are at odds with the average views of the New Atheist cluster (with which we are converging) and this bothers them.
How about very progressive and very libertarian people having a less wrong discussion about politics?
It would be nice-- I think there's significant overlap between libertarian and progressive ideas on drug legalization, immigration, and probably other issues, but each group has built up a huge ugh field around the other.
I suggest that such the ugh field is largely one way, of Progressives for Libertarians. One example. Years ago I bumped into a Progressive fellow from my freshman college dorm who I remembered having your typical freshman dorm political arguments with. On seeing and recognizing each other, I say hi and reach out my hand to shake his hand - and he refused. Ha! What an ideological ass! Yet it still cheered me to see him, though he apparently still gnawed the bones of his ideological resentments decades after we had last seen each other. Progressives think nothing of showing such personal resentment and animosity toward those they disagree with. Indeed, as our current poster demonstrates, they often consider such public displays of hostility a feature, and not a bug. Libertarians are too much an ideological minority to hate unbelievers with much fervor - we'd have to hate most everyone. We don't have the luxury of living a life in an intellectual walled garden where we can get away with the same kind of venom, loathing, and intolerance. If we couldn't divorce the memes from the meme carriers in our minds, we'd all be in prison for mass murder. For example, I think the Bible is a moral abomination. But I often quite like serious religious believers, and end up gravitating toward them. Similarly, one gal I know started with plans for the seminary, then became a Marxist, and now is a Wiccan Progressive dirt over humans tree hugging Socialist. Likely she's a utilitarian as well. She's endorsed most every ideological horror common in western societies, but I like her just fine. In fact, I feel a bond to her because of her lunacy. For me, the salient division isn't between what people profess to believe is true, but whether they seem to care about what is true.
... If you are genuinely interested in that dialog you shouldn't use language like this (Edited for unnecessary harshness). Come on, you know how progressives reading that first sentence will react. You basically describe them as heartless. You know that even the exceptions to your statement will take it personally. Why phrase it that way? You could just as easily write: "Since there are so many progressives it is easy for them to isolate themselves from ideological opponents and avoid considering that possibility that libertarians aren't evil. The fraction of libertarians open to that conversation is much higher." With the second sentence why "loathe"? Why load your mental model of progressive policies with negative emotional valence? That kind of stake-raising is exactly why conversations about politics are so hard. Surely "disagree" or "believe misguided" convey your position without telling progressives you think their ideas are loathsome. "Remake the world to efface their effects" is scary, stake-raising language too. I understand that it doesn't literally mean anything other than "I would like to replace progressive policies with libertarian policies" but words have connotations and imagery.
Do I? First, I doubt that projecting their emotional reaction was foremost in my mind. And no, this is not all Progressives, all the time. Context of my comments - Progressives have a greater Ugh field for Libertarians than Libertarians for Progressives. Which I think is true, and I think shows up as them displaying more of the behavior in my generalization than LIbertarians. No. Plenty of heart. But a human heart has more emotional range than Barney's. Because I have values. The negative emotional valence comes as a by product of those values when confronted with things that contradict those values. HPMOR: Yet another moment where I cheered Harry. And in this case, the emotional valence was particularly relevant to my point: it's not just that you don't have to hate people with ideas you disagree with, but you don't have to hate people whose ideas you hate. And, you don't have to hate them if they hate your ideas either. Your suggestion seems the be that the latter is too much to hope for. Yes, and in this case they're relevant to the point.
Seems like it should have been somewhere in your mind. I mean, I guess if you were just complaining to other Libertarians it's fine, but it seems like the productive audience for your comment would be progressives. Don't disagree. I have values too. They result in negative emotional valence for bad things happening to people. And inevitably they leak over a bit into the policies and people I think cause those bad things. But I do my best to hold the tides back and keep my values judgments out of my policy analysis. That way I can change my mind on policy if I hear new arguments or learn new information. I don't think that's the same as Yoda's poor advice. I have no idea if it is too much to hope for or not. How is it going so far? It would be great if political discourse lived up to your ideals -- but why not make it easier for everyone?
Analysis disconnected from values sounds rather pointless to me. Particularly in politics. The first step in good faith negotiation is a communication of values. If I don't clearly communicate my values, how is a Progressive supposed to come up with an argument to satisfy them? I'm trying. The goal isn't yet another pointless political discussion, or talk for talk's sake. If they don't know my values, the discussion will be unproductive. If knowing my values means they can't have a productive conversation with me, then we won't be having a productive conversation. End of story. The only people I might have a productive conversation with are people who can talk to the enemy. Further, having to self censor information flow does not make the conversation easier for me. In fact, it doesn't make it easier on anyone. It's a cost, an impediment, a friction in the exchange in information. This is where I disagree with Crocker. Why should I have to pay that cost, if I'm not requiring it in others? Two people playing by Crocker's rules can get things done. On a more personal note, I find people who require their tender feelings to be stroked and soothed 24/7 tiresome. If soothing their feelings requires me not being honest about mine, I find it even more tiresome. No doubt they find me tiresome too. Fine. I'm not an appropriate playmate for those people. And they aren't for me. I can live with that. Also, I find the culture of offensitivity highly manipulative. Hurt feelings become a trump card to stifle expression of opinion. It's the new blasphemy. I'm not interested in playing that card, particularly in a political discussion on the web, and see no compelling reason to consent to having it played on me. I've had this discussion before on LW. It's admittedly a trade off, and one that varies by personality. But in the case of radically opposed political views, demanding that one side refuse to fully communicate their position strikes me as a non starter. Saying that I
Can you unpack "grotesque" and "abomination"? When people use words like that I mostly understand them to be conveying disagreement, along with the desire to rile people up in unproductive ways, but I understand you here to be claiming to have different goals than that. I'm not sure what they are.
Disagree really isn't right at all. I disagree that 2+2=5. Progressivism is a set of values and programs to implement those values that runs counter to my values. Strongly counter to my values. I'm not disagreeing, I'm disvaluing.
For my own part, I have no difficulty talking about people disagreeing over values, but I'm content to talk about people having values that run counter to each other's values instead, if you prefer that. So... when you call a system "grotesque" or a moral foundation an "abomination," you're conveying that your values run strongly counter to it? Did I understand that right?
Well, I'm not Spock tallying up a spreadsheet of values, so another part of what I'm communicating is my emotional reaction, and the intensity thereof. And indeed, that my reaction is a moral reaction, with some of the associated multi-ordinal punishing and disapproval characteristic of moral reactions. Though in this case, not punishing as much as a withdrawal of goodwill and a will to protect when they get screwed by the systems they advocate. Grotesque and abomination also connote the twisted evil of the systems. One example. The poor who are supposedly so cared for are systematically punished if they take actions to improve their situation. Get a job, and face effective marginal tax rates, counting government benefits, often in excess of 100%. Find a partner to share the burdens of life, and likewise lose benefits. Not just harmful, but a perverse and twisted harm, punishing someone for trying to do the right thing and improve their lot in life. When the "unintended consequences" of the system look similar to what a sadist would do who was trying to cripple people, I think "grotesque" and "abomination" applies.
So "grotesque" and "abomination" are meant to convey that the other side is not only incorrect, but also to express your moral judgment of the other side's position as twisted, evil, and perverse, and also to express your withdrawal of goodwill from the individuals who hold that position, and your reduced willingness to protect them from certain kinds of harm (specifically, from harmful consequences of that position). Do I have it right now?
No, not right. The same issue as "disagree". 2+2=5 is incorrect. I'm not saying that their position is incorrect. Clippy isn't "incorrect" either. Both the loss of goodwill and willingness to protect are contextual on the same types of situation, while I read what you wrote as making the loss of goodwill general.
Analysis that is connected to values doesn't have to mean embedding the values in the analysis. Pick a policy. Talk, in neutral terms, about what you think it will do. Then express how you feel about those impacts. Then the progressive you're talking with can say "oh, I don't care about that impact at all" or "I certainly care about that impact but disagree that the policy does it." You can't have conversations about terminal values. You can have them about policies which is why you have to take terminal values out of your conversations about policies. Right, so clearly express those values. But don't attach the values to progressive policies. If it is the policies themselves that you loathe, how is a progressive supposed to argue for them? I think this is probably wrong for (most) humans. We're immediately distracted by status signals and emotions. Once the conversation is about that that is all it's about. Most people can't play by Crocker's rules. I'm not even sure the people who say they play by Crocker's rules do all that well. Fair enough. To be clear: if you had said "I loathe libertarian policies" I would have made the same objection. Both sides ought to lower the stakes. This is interesting and I would be interested in hearing you expand on them. Part of why your language seems unnecessary to me is that I'm somewhere between a libertarian and a Progressive and I don't see any differences in values so much as I see Progressives not understanding how incentives work.
Sure you can. You can explain yours to the other guy, and likely discover something about them yourself in the process. I agree about the possibility of discussing the likely outcomes of a policy divorced from the valuation of the policy. But the valuation provides both the motivation for the discussion and the punchline to it. He argues by showing me how I am mistaken or not fully aware of things entailed by the policy that I would value positively. I suppose for some people. But since I think the valuations are an important part of the conversation, if those people can't do valuations and objective analysis, they won't be very fruitful partners in the discussion. Nope. Both sides should be as clear as they can about what the stakes are. I think that's what's missing. Here are my values. Here's why I loathe your policies. Once put on the table, I think there is some hope of setting aside for moments and doing the objective analysis. But until honestly confronted, I'd expect the "objective" discussion to be polluted by both attempts to insert them, and interpretations on the look out for them. There aren't, necessarily. But I think statistically, there are. I don't think they care to understand. It's not rocket science. They are motivated by something other than achieving outcomes. Some people want to do something. Some people want to be something. I think they tend toward the latter.
That's an interesting statement. Would you mind expanding on it?
Preferences, likes, dislikes. I prefer A to B. I value A more than B.
I wish I could agree with you, but I run into (Reaction-influenced?) libertarians who conflate liberals, progressives, and Stalin.
When you say conflate, what do you mean? Normally, one conflates ideas, and not people. Do these libertarians see similarities between Progressivism and Stalinism, or do they have the same emotional reaction to Progressives that they have for Stalin?
As nearly as I can figure it, they think that the ideas held by progressives and liberals are so similar to state communism that anything faintly leftish is on the short route to genocide.
Or at least the Road to Serfdom. People failing to see degrees of a problem, is a problem. But notice that you've identified hatred of ideas, though unfairly exaggerated, and not hatred of people, or even attributing malicious intent. Even Hayek, who had some of that all or nothing attitude, didn't even attribute malicious intent to Socialists, to whom he dedicated The Road to Serfdom. Me, I've started to question intent more closely, as I see the theocratic impulse to force others to live by your values as one of the worst possible intents.
What you describe sounds pretty common among people who are either capable of detaching emotionally from the topic at hand, or who lack emotional investment to it in the first place, as a description of people who aren't and don't. There's a lot of different labels that can be applied to this condition depending on how one wants to frame it; rather than get into framing wars I'll just label it X for convenience. And X is hardly limited to how libertarians view progressives, of course. All of that said, you may be right that libertarians are more likely to demonstrate X than progressives are. You might further be right that this is because libertarians are too much of a minority, because they lack the luxurious walled-garden privileges that progressives enjoy, because they would otherwise commit mass murder, etc. That said, I would caution against inferring any of that with significant confidence solely from personal experiences. I would also caution against describing the situation the way you do here unless your intention is to upset progressives who lack X. That said, upsetting people in this way can of course be a very effective way of maneuvering for status, as the people you upset will typically express their emotions, which in a social community like this one allows you to roll your eyes and dismiss them with community support. If that sort of social status maneuvering is your goal in the first place, then of course neither of those cautions apply.
Not as goal in itself, but it appears to frequently be a necessary first step to getting progressives to the point where it's possible to have a reasonable discussion.
I'm sure my generalizations would be wrong for lots of individual Progressives and Libertarians, but that won't make me dismiss my conclusions from my lifetime of observations. What can we reason, but from what we know? I'm a libertarian, loathe Progressive doctrines, and would remake the world to efface their effects from existence. If they're Progressives and lack X, I don't see a way to sugar coat those facts that will make them happy. Do you? Yes, and framing someone's statements as intentionally upsetting people to maneuver for status is effective in maneuvering for status with some people too.
We can't. But we can do things that increase the reliability of what we know. Nope. Absolutely.
People here generally put in their due diligence in constructing reasoned well-sourced arguments, tend to admit when they were wrong on something and most importantly force you to look at your own assumptions. That puts it leaps and bounds over any other political debate I've ever seen.
If a group of economists and other relevant experts were polled on various policy matters and compared to the answers reached by LessWrong users if policy was discussed on LessWrong, how much do you think the answers would differ, and would it be the experts' errors or LessWrong's errors causing whatever discrepancies?
This depends a lot on the proportions of the economists that are from each school and what constitutes "other experts." If you get a representative slice of economists, I'd expect much better predictive value on any given policy than LW because a) they have a quite a bit more expertise dealing with the models and b) we've got a lot of Austrian School / Prediction Markets people here to skew away from the consensus. If you weight them too heavily to any one school, especially the really funky ones, then you might see us start to pull closer but I still doubt the gap would close. If you get a representative slice of Sociologists, PoliSci folks, X-studies professors and whatever other political talking heads you can find in academia and put them in a room together, it'll disprove the notion of a just universe when the building isn't hit immediately by an asteroid. And they'll also be wrong much more than LW, although we still wouldn't beat any of the handful of real scientists hiding in the back (Anthropologists / Social Psychologists mostly). I'm not saying we're some kind of amazing truth engine here, just that this is an abnormally reasonable environment with a lot of abnormally smart and well educated people.

I fear that this “let’s not criticize political views” stance is causing Less Wrong to shift towards holding more and more eccentric views, since a lack of criticism can be taken as tacit approval.

I think in general, people here are much too willing to take contrarian viewpoints. That is an interesting hypothesis, though.

I get what you mean by Less Wrong's willingness to take contrarian viewpoints. However, what you need to remember is that these viewpoints do not seem contrarian within the less Wrong community. Taking Cryonics seriously for example is considered normal here, even by those who don't attach a high probability to it working. And the reason for that is that Yudkowski has declared this view to be mainstream within Less Wrong. Similarly, Yudkowski has declared politics to be mind-killing, so that subject is off-limits. My issue with this is that in deciding what is and isn't "normal" or "up for debate", 90% of the debate has already been decided. And any post that disagrees gets downvoted to -6 and shut down, because "we don't talk about that around here." Given this, I think I can see why Less Wrong has a reputation for group-think.

There is lots of political debate amongst lesswrongers "just around the corner" in various personal blogs and websites. So I'm not convinced the fact that it is taboo here is the cause.

I am not convinced either. I think my explanation is plausible, but it's certainly not the only plausible explanation. However, I certainly think it's important to pause and reflect about this. I also think it's very worrisome that any posts criticizing Less Wrong get down voted (Unless you're Holden and you spend about 10 pages praising Less Wrong first and couch all criticism in disclaimers).

I also think it's very worrisome that any posts criticizing Less Wrong get down voted (Unless you're Holden and you spend about 10 pages praising Less Wrong first and couch all criticism in disclaimers).

How confident are you that this is actually true?

Literally speaking not at all, since it was an exaggeration. 10 pages of praise is clearly not necessary.

That said, I strongly believe that posts containing criticism of Less Wrong on average get many more downvotes (and less upvotes) than posts which remark on how great Less Wrong is. For example, I have seen "joke" posts on how Yudkowski is god that get about +50 points (was a while ago, would need to check to confirm memory). On the other hand, every time I post a criticism of Less Wrong, it gets a lot of downvotes (though usually some upvotes as well), and as for criticism posted by other people.... well I don't see a lot of that, do you?

Maybe your criticisms of Less Wrong just aren't all that well-reasoned. Plenty of Less Wrong criticism gets upvoted here. The most-upvoted post of all time is a criticism of MIRI, and several of my own most-upvoted comments are direct criticisms of Eliezer, e.g. this and this. See also this much-upvoted post.
Thanks for the reply. When you suggest that maybe the problem is on my end, are you really just offering that as a mere possibility, or do you believe that that is actually the case? I'm asking because while it is of course entirely reasonable to say that the fault lies with me, nobody as of yet has told me what specifically is wrong with my posts (other than: "not enough facts", or: "You sound left-wing"). If the latter is the case, please tell me what specifically I could improve. The first post you link to is the one by Holden that I specifically referred to above as the only type of criticism that does get upvoted. The reasons for this are varied: 1) Holden is high status: Nobody is going to tell Holden to shut up and go away (as I've been told to) because the mere fact that he is taking the MIRI seriously is good for the MIRI and Less Wrong. 2) Holden is exceedingly polite and says nothing that could even be taken as an excuse to be offended 3) Holden goes out of his way to praise Less Wrong as a community, which of course makes people here feel good. 4) Holden has spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort writing and supporting that exceedingly lengthy post, well beyond normal standards. 5) Holden doesn't actually say anything that is considered Taboo here on Less Wrong. His post defends the proposition that donating to MIRI isn't the best possible expenditure of money. That's hardly going to rile people up. Holden's post is the equivalent of James Randi going to a dowser's forum, and writing a 10 page thesis on why he thinks dowsing isn't 100% effective, while repeatedly saying how he might be wrong, and he really wants to be able to change his mind, and isn't the idea of dowsing wonderful and aren't dowsers great people. Of course the dowsers would be very happy with a post like that: it only validates them to have something like James Randi say all that. This does NOT mean that dowsers are all rational individuals who are happy to receive criticism of
I agree that Yudkowsky hero worship is extremely creepy and should stop.
Fair enough. What's the most recent example of Yudkowsky hero worship you've observed here?
(nods) That's a far more defensible statement. It might even be true. I'm not sure what you mean by "a lot". I've seen more criticism of LessWrong here than I've seen criticism of RationalWiki, for example, and less than I've seen criticism of the Catholic Church. More than I've seen criticism of Dan Dannett. I'm not sure if I've seen more criticism of Less Wrong than of Richard Dawkins, or less. What's your standard? We could instead ask: should there be more of it? Should there be less? I suspect that's a wrong question as well though. Mostly, I think the criticism should be of higher quality. Most of what I see is tedious and redundant. Of course, Sturgeon's Law applies in this as in everything. All of that said, if I were to list off the top of my head the top ten critics of LessWrong who post on LW , your name would not even come up, so if you are attempting to suggest that you are somehow the singular contrarian voice on this site I can only conclude that you haven't read much of the site's archives.
There is also more criticism of Less Wrong here than there is criticism of people who think that the world is run by lizard-people. This is because Less Wrong is more relevant to Less Wrong than Lizard-people, not because the lizard-believers are actually considered more credible. The only reasonable standard to me is comparing the amount of criticism with the amount of praise. I see much more posts talking about how great Less Wrong is than I see criticism of Less Wrong. More worryingly, the criticism of Less Wrong that I do see is on other forums, where it is widely agreed that Less Wrong is subject to group think, but which is summarily ignored here.
I assume you aren't actually suggesting that RationalWiki, the Catholic Church, Dan Dannett and Richard Dawkins are as irrelevant to Less Wrong as lizard-people. I picked a few targets that seemed vaguely relevant; if you think I should pick different targets, let me know what they are. Why is that? This doesn't seem true to me at all. Why does this worry you? This might be true. Can you unpack what you mean by "group think"? (Or what you think those other people on other forums whom you're reporting the statements of mean by it, if that's more relevant?)
No, I am saying that comparing criticism of Less Wrong with criticism of other websites/people is not a valid metric at all, since the total amount written on the subject differs between each. You can't look at absolute amounts of criticism here, it has to be relative or merely the total amount of posts would determine the answer. It worries me that a lot of the criticism of Less Wrong is made outside of Less Wrong because this indicates that the criticism is not accepted here and Less Wrong exists in a bubble. The exact criticism of Less Wrong usually isn't very good, since people tend to not spend a lot of time writing thoughtful criticisms of websites that they aren't affiliated with. It usually amounts to "gives off a bad vibe", "uses their own little language", "Copies Yudkowski in everything they believe" or "Disproportionally holds extreme views without thinking this is odd." All of this indicates what I call group think, which is the act of paying too much attention to what others in the in-group believe and being isolated from the rest of the world.
All right. Thanks for clarifying.
You realize this is still true if one replaces "Less Wrong" with any other community.
Which would mean there is no genuinely rationalist (inviting updates) community anywhere,
How specifically would it mean that? Imagine that you have a community X, which is perfectly rational and perfectly updating. (I am not saying LW is that community; this is just an example.) Of course there would be many people who disagree with X; some of them would be horribly offended by the views of X. Those people would criticize X a lot. So even with a perfectly updating super rationalist community, the worst criticism would come from outside. Also, most criticism would come from outside simply because there are more non-members than members, and if the group is not secret and is somehow interesting, many non-members will express their opinions about the group. Therefore, "a lot of the criticism of Less Wrong is made outside of Less Wrong" is not an evidence against rationality of LessWrong, because we would expect the same result both in universes where LW is rational and in universes where LW is irrational.
You write "so", but that doesn't follow. You are tacitly assuming that a community has to be held together by shared beliefs, but that does not match genuine rationality, since one cannot predetermie where rational enquiry will lead -- to attempt to do so is to introduce confirmation bias., You also seem to think that the "worst" criticism is some kind of vitriolic invective. But what is of concern to genuine rationalists is the best -- best argued, most effective -- criticism. If the group is discussing specialised topics, then good criticism can only come from those who are familiar with those topics. You are still missing the point that a genuine rationalist community would invite criticism.
How specifically? For example, should we ask all the critics from outside to publish an article on LW about what they think is wrong with LW? Do we also need to upvote such articles, regardless of their merit? Do we also have to write supporting comments to such articles, regardles of whether we agree with their points? Do we have to obsess about the same points again and again and again, never stopping? ... What exactly should a community do to pass the "invites criticism" test?
Why not? Your other comments are strawmen. But inviting opposing views regularly happens on, eg acaemic philosophy.
Thank you for the specific suggestion! I made the strawmen suggestions because I wasn't sure what was your point, and I wanted to have also an "upper bound" on what the community is supposed to do to pass the "invites criticism" test. Because defining only the lower bound could easily lead to later responses of type: "Sure, you did X, Y and Z, but you are still not inviting criticism." The simplest solution would be to contact people already criticizing LW and invite them to write and publish a single article (without having to create an account, collect karma, learn markdown formatting, and all other trivial inconveniences), assuming the article passes at least some basic filter (no obvious insanity; claims of LW doing something backed up by hyperlinks). There is always a possibility that we would simply not notice some critics, but it can be partially solved by asking "have you noticed any new critic?" in Open Thread. Somehow I don't like the "behave like a dick and be rewarded by greater publicity" aspect this would inevitably have, since the most vocal critics of LW are the two or three people from RationalWiki whose typical manner of discussion is, uhm, less than polite. But if we don't choose them, it could seem from outside like avoiding the strongest arguments. Let's suppose this is a price we are willing to pay in the name of properly checking our beliefs -- especially if it only happens once in a long time. Seems like a good idea to me; at least worth trying once. I guess the invited opponents in this situation are other academical philosophers, not e.g. a random blogger who built their fame by saying "philosophers are a bunch of idiots" and inserting ad-hominems about specific people. So if we tried in a similar manner to speak with the polite equals, the invited critics would be people from other organizations (like Holden Karnofsky from GiveWell). Which kinda already happened. And it seems like not enough; partially because of the polite argumenta
No, what gets downvoted is when a newbie starts criticizing aspects of lesswrong in a way that indicates he has no clue what he's talking about.
I suspect that Adele_L means "contrarian within LW". There are vocal opponents of cryonics being a rational choice/investment, of many worlds being a "slam dunk", of UFAI being an x-risk and of other prevailing opinions here. When they present their arguments in a thoughtful manner, they don't necessarily get downvoted below the default visibility threshold.

We have a good number of more-or-less reasonable parties here, and only one major crazy party that gives me the creeps. The advantage of this is that whenever I am in a room with intelligent people, I can safely say something like “That crazy racist party sure is crazy and racist”, and everyone will go “Yup, they sure are, now do you want to talk about something of substance?” This seems to me the only reasonable reply.

The flip side of that advantage is that anytime anybody criticizes anything about that party, there's some social pressure for you to just nod along and say "Yup, they sure are crazy and racist", even if you don't actually agree with the criticism. I don't find that very conductive to truth-seeking either.

This is true to some extent, but much less so than the inverse. I have at times found myself "defending" the racist party by pointing out that even though they get much of the racist vote, they aren't actually explicitly racist. And they do actually have a point on a couple of issues. Rarely if ever have I gotten in trouble for this. On the other hand, I hear these stories from the US where on thanksgiving, some uncle will state that "the gays are getting uppity, somebody needs to put them in their place", and nobody says anything in order to keep the peace. This silence bothers me much more than the inverse.
It helps to remind yourself that the silence strongly indicates that everyone is extending the courtesy of allowing him to have wrong opinions. If someone reinforces with, "Damn straight!" it sends a different signal entirely. Often times, the best you can do it politely signal that you'd rather talk about something else, strongly implying they have said something offensive. People tend to pick up on that on some level.
This can come across very differently if you're the target of the comment.
A lot can come across differently when you're trapped behind an inescapable cognitive bias. ETA: I should probably be more clear about the main implication I intend here: Convincing yourself that you are the victim all the time isn't going to improve your situation in any way. I could make an argument that even the sympathy one might get out of such a method of thinking/acting is negatively useful, but that might be pressing the matter unfairly.
It sounds like you believe that treating silence as a way of expressing that the opinion enjoys social support is the result of bias, but that treating silence as a way of expressing that the opiner deserves courtesy though the opinion is wrong is not the result of bias. Do you in fact believe that? If so, can you provide any justification for believing it? Because it seems implausible.
I'd need an expansion on "bias" to discuss this with any useful accuracy. Is ignorance a state of "bias" in the presence of abundant information to the contrary of the naive reasoning from ignorance? Please let me know if my stance becomes clearer when you mentally disambiguate "bias."
If you feel like responding, you can assume I mean by "bias" whatever you meant by it when you used the word. Conversely, if you feel like turning this into an opportunity for me to learn to clear up my mental confusions and then demonstrate my learning to you, that's of course your call. If I experience such an epiphany I may let you know whether your stance thereby becomes clearer to me.
Hah. I like and appreciate the clarity of options here. I'll attempt to explain. A lot about social situations is something we're directly told: "Elbows off the table. Close your mouth when you chew. Burping is rude, other will become offended." Others are more biologically inherent; murder isn't likely to make you popular a party. (At least not the positive kind of popularity...) What we're discussing here lies somewhere between these two borders. We'll consider aversion to murderers to be the least biased, having very little bias to it and being more a rational reaction, and we'll consider asserted matters of "manners" to be maximally biased, having next to nothing to do with rationality and everything to do with believing whatever you're told. It's a fuzzy subject without fully understanding psychology, but for the most part these decisions about social interaction are made consciously. In the presence of a biased individual, for whatever reason and whatever cause, if you challenge them on their strong opinions you're liable to start an argument. There are productive arguments and unproductive arguments alike, but if the dinner table is terribly quiet already and an argument breaks out between some two members, everyone else has the option of "politely" letting the argument run its course, or intervening to stop this silly discussion that everyone's heard time and time again and are tired of hearing. Knowing all to well how these kind of things start, proceed, and stop, the most polite thing you can do to not disrupt the pleasant atmosphere that everyone is pleased with is simply not to indulge the argument. Find another time, another place. Do it in private. Do whatever. Just not now at the dinner table, while everyone's trying to have a peaceful meal. There's an intense meme among rationalists that whenever two rational agents disagree, they must perform a grand battle. This is just not true. There are many many opportunities in human interaction to solve th
OK. Thanks for the clarification.
Also, while we're on the subject, would you mind tabooing what you mean by "racist".

Your main point is basically wrong. Political differences really are about values. Parties do differ in their factual claims, but these claims are usually merely to undermine the other sides' advocated policies. It's funny that you brought up this evil "racist party" as an example, since racism is obviously about preferences rather than facts. The fact that your friends agree they are awful doesn't mean their preference is wrong, it just means your friends don't share their values. It's hard to believe you don't realize this, but I guess most people are unable to take the outside view of their own beliefs.

Mainly, it seems like you just want another place to complain about how evil, stupid, and racist your political enemies are. Are there not enough places to do that online?

Preferences can be wrong, in particular if they are caused by mistaken factual beliefs. It's the same principle as with mistaken emotions: correctness conditions on factual beliefs extend to correctness conditions on consequences of those beliefs, so that consequences of incorrect factual beliefs are potentially suboptimal, and corrections to the beliefs could be propagated as corrections to their original consequences.

racism is obviously about preferences rather than facts

Is it? If I publicly state that the mean IQ of black people is about a standard deviation below the mean IQ of white people, I will be labeled a racist in an instant. Which preferences did I express?


Is it? If I publicly state that the mean IQ of black people is about a standard deviation below the mean IQ of white people, I will be labeled a racist in an instant. Which preferences did I express?

Of course, preferences can be inferred from what facts you choose to publicly state. For example, if you publish a pamphlet all about crimes committed by blacks, people can infer from that something about your goals (i.e. to encourage distrust of blacks).

Perhaps some people would claim merely believing black IQ is lower is racist. But this clearly is not the sense in which Sophronius was using "racist." It is Sophronius' context to which my comment applies.

In case it wasn't clear to you, Sophronius was referring to the Dutch Freedom Party. Whether they are "racist" or not simply depends on your definition of the word. You could use the term "nationalist," or whatever. It doesn't matter. The word "racist" is just being used as a shorthand about their beliefs. It is clear that the salient point of disagreement between liberals like Sophronius and the Dutch Freedom Party is their values.

That wasn't evident to me at all, I was reading you as making an observation about racism in general. Sophronius clearly wants to discuss issues beyond those specific to Dutch politics.
Sophronius' desires aside, I am interested in your thoughts about knb's answer to your actual question.
Whether racism is about preferences or facts? Though there is a variety of definitions, I think it's mostly about beliefs (which may or may not be based on facts and which may or may not be expressed as preferences).
OK. Thanks for clarifying.

It depends on where you state that, and which words you use.

A preference for saying politically incorrect things?
And is that preference racist?
Political arguments usually involve falsifiable factual claims which may or may not be wrong. It's possible that political differences are, at their core, really about values, but political debates are often more about fact rather than values, possibly because people might be embarrassed to publicly state their actual values and/or want to convince people with other values. For instance, if you are in the upper class and don't particularly care about the welfare of strangers, then it is probably in your best interest to advocate for tax cuts funded by cuts of public expenses on things you are unlikely to benefit from, such as public healthcare. But of course very few people are going to openly claim that they want public healthcare cuts for their personal interest. They will argue that the taxation level is so high that it stifles economy, that public healthcare is inefficient, that it creates "death panels", etc. Factual claims are made to justify a policy as serving the public interest.
Even if I disagree with the assertion that this article is merely for that purpose, you raise a compelling argument: Upvoted.

Pick any major issue of contention, and chances are that the two major parties will tend to have opposing views on the subject.

I think that's a tautology. Major issue of contention means in the US the the major parties have opposing views on the subject. If both parties share the view, then the US doesn't treat the matter as major issue of contention.

One example would be the war of drugs. Another would be whether the US president is allowed to kill US citizens that live abroad without due process. In the core US debate those aren't major issues of contention because the two parties basically agree on them.

As a result, I do not believe that all parties are equally valid/crazy/corrupt, and as such I like to be able to identify which are the most crazy/corrupt/stupid. [...] I can’t help but notice that posts which remark on for example retracted being a thing tend to get quite a few downvotes while posts that take care to express the nuance of the issue get massive upvotes for being so brave and fair.

I don't think post with nuance get upvotes because they are fair. Nuance helps people to understand the world better. A post that just says X is crazy doesn't help anyone to update his map of the world.

In most political a good post isn't about judging which side is stupid or crazy but about actually understanding the issue at depth.

A tautology is when the two are the same by definition, I think you mean that there is almost complete overlap. The latter is something I would still disagree with, as in cases of for example gay marriage, the general populace was much more in favour than you would guess from listening to either political party until recently. As for your second point, I was not taking issue with nuanced posts. Nuance is great for dealing with complex issues. The issue I have is with the tendency to upvote posts that show both sides of an issue as being equal regardless of whether or not this is actually the case.
No, I mean to say that "major issue of contention" can mean in the US that it's a topic where there contention between the two major parties. Latest gallup poll indicates 52% to 43% for the general population approving of same sex marriage. I don't think that's far of what y Could you give examples? I personally haven't observed that pattern on LessWrong.

I would upvote an attempt to actually measure LW's political bias.

Well, there's a Lesswrong census every year, and that includes questions on political affiliation.

link to 2012 results

Other than that, I'm not sure how you would measure political bias.

Bias is something different than having a political affiliation. Bias means that you make are irrational in some way.
And humans, even lesswrong readers, are all varying degrees of irrational. Therefore understanding the distribution of political affiliation of people that use the site is a significant step towards understanding the site's bias.
It may be evidence, but it still leaves as an open question whether political affilitations are slanted as a result of greater rationality or a political bias. Without some sort of controlled experiment this would be hard to tell. If they aren't slanted, it either means that what we discuss is not related to politics (implausible) or that Lesswrong doesn't have an impact on such matters.
I'm not sure how to measure it, either-- hence my pledge of karma for whoever figures it out. :)

I can safely say something like “That crazy racist party sure is crazy and racist”, and everyone will go “Yup, they sure are, now do you want to talk about something of substance?” This seems to me the only reasonable reply.

LOL. So you've safely signaled your tribal identification. And it seems you think it's the "only reasonable" thing to do :-D


Why not name the party you think is crazy, what is gained by this indirect approach? Let me do it for you: Republicans are crazy. Monarchy has its flaws certainly, but it is better than the other forms of government mankind has tried from time to time.

Disagree, but upvoted because I'm in favor of people openly expressing their political views on LessWrong.
I do think Monarchy is preferable to a Republic in general, but I should perhaps clarify the above post was a joke, meant to show precisely that whether Republicans in particular are "crazy" for the particular reasons that Sophronius stated elsewhere is a question that makes sense only in a narrow political view of 2013, give or take a few years.
I actually do identify myself as a republican, though with some reservation: We've been a kingdom around here for so long now that getting rid of it would likely be more trouble than it's worth. It's all about the pragmatism.
I don't think Republicans are significantly more crazy, either in the sense of not sharing my values or having a bad map of reality, in their policy than Democrats, both are pretty crazy. Maybe one of them has slightly easier to detect craziness.
For what it's worth, I see more Republicans leaving their party because they think it's gone mad, while Democrats become Republicans because they come to believe the Democrats are wrong.

If "everything that can be destroyed by the truth should be", why aren't we discussing Edward Snowden?

In what context? As an example of agency/heroic responsibility?

I don't think that would be yield much insight. I'm more interested in the dynamics of mistrust, especially as an obstacle to collective intelligence. And although the NSA scandal provides some rich material for thinking about that, I have refrained from bringing it up because I too have, perhaps falsely, perceived LW as a place where political topics are sniffed at.

I think Charlie Stross knocked that one out of the park. (Longer version, login-walled.)



The best way of handling mindkilling is to look at hard data.

To some extent you may have a valid point, but parties are extremely diverse entities. Even if one looked at small, fringe parties, there's heavy variation in the beliefs. So, you might have a more valid point if you said something like "Self-identified Republicans are on average more likely to believe crazy things than self-identified Democrats." Now, this will run into other issues because party identification if fluid, but it would be a start.

So, let's use some beliefs that are by ... (read more)

This is not actually all that objective since it's not clear what constitutes a "crazy belief". Is it simple a matter of how much easily available evidence there is against it? Or does it also include considerations like what proportion of people believe it and how much effort smart people have devoted to rationalizing it?
Ideally, yes (and I upvoted this for its insight), but that can easily becomes a Fully General Counterargument if we aren't EXTREMELY careful - since "how much effort smart people have devoted to rationalizing it" can look like "how much easily available evidence there is against it", and vice-versa. As people have mentioned, this is a Very Hard Problem.
That's a really good point. I was thinking purely in terms of evidence levels against the belief but how much resources is spent rationalizing it might matter. I was trying to avoid thinking too much of that by using the most obviously crazy beliefs all around, but if there's systematic rationalization attempts more for one than another that might not help.
Well, your examples are not very well balanced by level of evidence against, although it's hard to compare this across different domains.
Could you expand why you think they don't have about the same levels of evidence against? They seemed to to me, but it is possible that I'm missing something. I agree that making such comparisons across domains may be tough.
Oops. I was comparing Birtherism to controlled demolition theories and forgot that not all 9/11 Truther theories were that crazy.

while the other is, well… crazy

Which is which? But be warned as a former state senate candidate for one of the major U.S. parties and someone who thinks he knows a lot about economics and foreign policy I will have a very low opinion of you if you think my party is "crazy" unless you have a sufficiently impressive understanding of economics and foreign policy so that you can dismiss as crazy someone with my background. After all, if you are calling my party crazy, you are calling my beliefs crazy and you think that if we were to get into a debate about U.S. economic policy you could easily defeat me.

A politician's irrational beliefs about economics have a much larger effect on his ability to do his job than irrational beliefs about historical biology.

Politicians don't always say what they believe. Plus, conditional on the Christian God being real, you should reject evolution and almost all American politicians claim to believe in the Christian God.

Wait doesn't the Catholic Church accept evolution (with certain qualifications)?



I think the Catholic Church is PR savvy enough to realize that at this point wholesale denial of evolution is like wholesale denial of heavier than air flight (in both cases, the phenomenon is so well established that there are businesses that rely on it).

It looks like the Catholic Church was never strongly against evolution, and has since taken up the idea that evolution happened, though God was involved in the evolution of the human race.


Opposition to evolution is a distinctively Fundamentalist position-- it's not characteristic of Christians in general.


Imagine all politicians of party A know a lot about economics. But because it polls better party A has an economic position that completely irrational.

Would you say it's fair to summarize party A as irrational in the aspect of economics?


After all, if you are calling my party crazy, you are calling my beliefs craz

That's only true to the extent that the party, as an organization, accurately reflects your beliefs and desires (unless your belief is "my party is right", in which case you've been mindkilled).

If the example of a political party is too contentious, consider a lynch mob or a committee. Group psychology is more than just the sum of over its members; in extreme cases, the group can act in ways that no particular member approves of.

If you have devoted a lot of resources to a "crazy" political party there is probably something wrong with you.
Well, maybe. If your investment goes back decades and the party only went crazy recently, then at worst you're a victim of mental inertia. If your investment is part of a plan to de-crazify the party, then at worst you're tilting at windmills. It's hard to write anything else without abandoning the pretense that we're discussing a hypothetical, so I'll leave it there. A general point, though: I've long suspected that it's bad mental hygiene to think of any particular political party as "yours", even if you've been elected on its platform. It's a special case of keeping your identity small.
But when you run for office as I have and have friends who have run in the same party it almost has to become "yours".
This is telling and frightening. Do you earnestly believe the entirety of half a nation agrees with you?
While I disagree with the strong form of Aumann's agreement theorem, by the time we're talking a state senatorial position, you probably should be exchanging enough information with everyone responsible for your party's position as to at least reduce any gaps. There are possible stable orbits outside of complete agreement, but the mechanic involved for state senators favors strong agreement. Also, folk often conflate the position of individual politicians with the positions of their party just as the reverse, so it kinda is meaningful in that setting, as well. This is different from the actual populace of the entire nation agreeing with you, since: * Much of the population doesn't vote at all. * A non-trivial amount of those voting do so based on erroneous information or no information at all. * The political alignment of a party changes drastically from location to location. * The relevant political topics changes depending on position, due to federalism.
Not if you consider it the "least crazy" alternative, and with only two parties in your country there doesn't seem to be much choice.

Upvoted because even if the answer is "no," it's still a question worth asking and one that takes courage to ask.

Downvoted because the original post didn't so much ask a question as make an assertion which I personally didn't find so valuable. As you point out, why would anyone come here for political discussion in the first place? So I downvoted it, because that's what the karma system is for. In the end, a karma point is just a karma point. Nothing personal in it.

Nobody seemed to me to suggest there was anything personal in it in the first place, so I have to wonder why you're giving a disclaimer about something nobody said or seemed to think.
I think it's a bit silly to call it "courageous" to criticize an online forum. At worst it makes me feel slightly bad when my posts get downvoted as a result. But I appreciate that you are trying to encourage meaningful criticism on Less Wrong, which I feel is badly needed. So thank you for that. Upvoted for trying to make Less Wrong a better place.
Well said! Well said indeed! And for that I will award you...a karma point!