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This post about jokes and attitudes the provide cover for bad social actors really caught my interest. But the blogger's position is one that is often met with hostility round these parts, for reasons that are unclear to me.

The point of the blog post is that jokes about certain gender and relationship stereotypes (men are idiots, women are the ball-and-chain) allow actual abusers slide by under the radar by asserting that they are joking whenever they are publically called out on inappropriate behavior. It really resonated with me - and to be frank, it seems aimed at the parts of social engineering that I think LW is worst at.

But the blogger's position is one that is often met with hostility round these parts, for reasons that are unclear to me.

I object most to is what is left unsaid. For a faint second the author talks in gender balanced ways, then she drops it to spend the rest of the discussion showing how men do this thing wrong. The author could have used an additional anecdote about how women the equivalent, or a gender neutral anecdote, or an offhanded comment noting where women do it too.

But she didn't.

Instead we're left with the impression that unconscious oppression is something men perpetrate on women. It's a similar trick to what she's talking about in her post. Her post is still insightful regarding feminism, but it could have been more. Underneath the overt message I hear her saying that oppression and abuse is a male thing, and her responses in the comments reinforce that. Again, a very good post for feminism, but I had been hoping for humanism, and I left disappointed.

I thought she was saying it was a consent problem. The specific example involves a man, but I didn't see her as saying that women can't violate consent. In fact, her mocking of the January issue of Cosmo magazine includes calling out glamorizing of female-perpetrator identity theft. More generally, can't an advocate notice that the plurality or majority of the perpetrators of this type of problem are male, even while calling for a better social dynamic for both sexes? I don't think the blogger would disagree.
I don't think the majority of the people who do this are male. I can think of half a dozen occasions just over the holidays where this was done by a woman (and I can recall only one male counterexample). She probably sees it otherwise given her politics, but I'd say it's equally split at best. I do not expect her to make an equal opportunity blog post. However, you wanted to know why it's met with hostility by some people. The post sends out hostility towards men in an unspoken way, so it is responded to in kind.
One reason gender politics is especially "mind-killing" is that the two least interesting/statistically significant/improbable positions (males are more THIS than females, females more THAT than males) also happen to be the two positions seen as the "strongest".
You have high standards. (shrug). It looks to me like Not-Your-True-Rejection, but it would look that way to Mindkilled-Me whether it were true or not. (shrug). Thanks for articulating your reasoning.
I was in the past a regular reader of her blog, until an incident (inspired in large part by a rebuke authored by me, in point of fact) which is still referred to on other feminist blogs as evidence of her... unbalanced perspective, to put it politely. Holly is not a rationalist by any stretch of the imagination, and her blog is very "Our team versus their team."
You mean this? Sorry - don't agree with your position. Potential downvoters - would you rather a long argument or a polite expression of disagreement that doesn't spawn into a huge debate?
That title looks correct, but I do not visit her blog anymore as a rule - I was asked to leave, and I won't violate that - so I'm not 100% certain. It wasn't my position in the argument; the worst apparently came after I had left, when she started attacking random commenters. AFAIK my main role in the debacle was getting her riled up. My information on what happened after I left is secondhand, however, so I can't point you at specific comments.
This may come back to haunt me re: prisoner's dilemma but- I don't respect rules that have vanishingly small chance of negative consequence if violated. Surely she's not monitoring IP addresses to call you out in public that you visited her blog when you said you didn't? And even if she were- proxies! Google cache!
I'm an egoist, specifically of Objectivist bent; my rules exist and are followed for my sake, not hers. And I don't stay where I'm not wanted; I can go where I am wanted, and it will be both a more productive use of my time, and more emotionally healthy for me.

But the blogger's position is one that is often met with hostility round these parts, for reasons that are unclear to me.

I think some of it is a defensive reaction to perceived possible vaguely-defined moral demands/condemnation. Here's a long comment I wrote about that in a different context.

Also simple contrarianism, though that's not much of an explanation absent a theory of why this is the thing people are contrarian against.

the parts of social engineering that I think LW is worst at.

What are those?

More sympathetically, people might (well, I'm sure some people do) see avoiding stereotype-based jokes as a step towards there being things you can't say, and prefer some additional risk of saying harmful things to moving in that direction (possibly down a slippery slope).
On the object level, it isn't a success of rational discussion that assertions like "privilege is a social dynamic which exists" turn immediately to the defensive reaction you mentioned. Reversing the discrimination is an extreme remedy, and like all extreme remedies, it gets deserved push-back. But there's no sustained discussion of middle ground positions. Although I may be mindkiled about this, I think that I am open to discussion of less extreme ways of reducing the pernicious effects of the privilege social dynamic. But even if one thinks that this social dynamic is not pernicious, it booggles my mind that people don't acknowledge the dynamic occurs.

I think a significant amount of that hostility isn't necessarily denying the existence of privilege, but denying that it's a useful way of framing problems.

I also suspect a lot of it is backlash from over-enthusiastic social justice advocates trying to shoehorn absolutely every social problem imaginable into a context of unilateral power dynamics.

It once was the case that privilege was seen as unilateral and one dimensional. I'm not sure this is the case anymore on the cutting edge of so-called privilege theory. A black man in the United States might suffer from some effects of white-privilege (vs. white men) while benefiting from some aspects of speaking-English-privilege (vs. recent immigrants). More generally, I'm not aware of any other framing analysis that is (1) acceptable to anti-feminists and (2) sufficiently nuanced to be useful. Hansonian status analysis is not really capable of providing insight into what we should do to solve the perceived problem - even if it is descriptively accurate (at a high level).

Speaking for myself, I find the privilege framework to be the one lacking in nuance or pragmatic application. I use the term "unilateral" because its core mechanic appears to be "person A has power person B doesn't, and person B suffers as a result". Coming from a game-theoretic perspective, which routinely deals with unexpected and perverse outcomes from agents being given different sets of choices, this seems crude in the extreme.

On the subject of multidimensionality, I've read up on intersectionality in good faith, and made an effort to engage with it, but it seems to boil down to multivariate analysis, only instead of using data, simply making stuff up.

So we have no agreed framework? That . . . kinda sucks. Is there anything we can do about it?
What do you want out of a framework? What should it do, and why is agreement important? I will quite happily construct a model to try and capture the behaviour of real-world social problems, drawing on a variety of methods and disciplines. I'm not sure I need agreement from any other party to do that. How well it describes or predicts real-world events is an empirical question. When I see people talking about privilege, it generally isn't because they want to go out and solve social problems, but because they want to show how sophisticated and moral and liberal they are, or to identify other sophisticated moral liberal people by engaging in exclusive dialogue with them. If that's what such a framework is used for, I'm not entirely sure the absence of one is all that important.
I want analysis that tells me what to do to create the changes that I want in society. Not just imposed top-down, but deeply settled as part of how society works - on the level of "get a job" or "be polite." The sort of thing "equal-pay-for-equal-work" aspires towards, but maybe hasn't reached. The privilege-framework says that the way to do that is to call out privilege when you see it. If someone makes the non-consent joke the blogger highlighted, say "Wow! That's not right." (Then change the topic, probably). Do you think that response won't work, isn't worth the effort, is aimed at a non-problem, or other criticism? Assuming the counter-parties share terminal values but are applying inconsistent interventions, at least one party is doing something that doesn't help solve the problem, and may even be interfering with the good solution. Worst case scenario is that both parties are doing it wrong.
I have a lot of time for the sentiment in the blog post you linked to, but don't think privilege is a necessary concept in order to appreciate it. I don't even believe it's the most obvious criticism of the behaviour in question. By way of analogy, lets say Pat wanders around everywhere with a sword and Chris doesn't wander around everywhere with a sword. If Pat stabs the defenceless Chris in the chest with a sword, you could frame this in the context of power dynamics, and bemoan how Pat has "sword privilege", but this doesn't really get to the core of the problem. Calling out Pat's sword privilege doesn't offer any explanation as to why Pat has the sword, or why Pat was motivated to stab Chris. It provides us with a narrative for establishing blame and victimhood, but it doesn't actually tell us anything about the underlying situation or how to remedy it, at any level.
Ultimately, I think that a lot of ordinary social injustice arises because no one speaks out loud "Don't do that." Essentially, unwillingness to discuss social rules. Saying "Parental Abuse is Wrong" is a useless Applause Light for most people. Saying "It is not normal to be afraid of your parents, and not normal to be unhappy whenever you're at home" is more likely to be effective at creating good change. In case it isn't clear, I agree that calling out sword-privilege is only worthwhile if it reduces similar sword-privilege-abuse in the future. It's an empirical question whether (1) calling out privilege reduces abuse or (2) explaining why Pat has the sword is helpful to anything (figuring out what the abuse is, how to response effectively, or anything else). I suspect yes for both. But even if the answer to (2) is no, that doesn't demonstrate the answer to (1) is no.
Does it not seem odd to you to view the case of an unarmed person being stabbed by an armed assailant as an issue of social justice by default? This is perhaps an unfair question, because I placed it in that context to begin with, but one of the things that's so maddening about the whole subject is how (for want of a better term) privilege is so privileged as an explanatory mechanism. There are certainly circumstances where it has merit, but it seems a ridiculous weapon of choice in circumstances where more appropriate explanatory mechanisms exist.
Perhaps? :) I choose not to fight your hypothetical and you get upvotes for closing the trap. Not a big deal, but not cool. I'm interested in hearing about them, and using them to figure out how to be more effective in figuring out what social changes are better for my terminal values and causing those changes. Edit: Also, let's not forget that there are high status locals who deny that the problem we are talking about even exists.
It wasn't intended as a trap. Part of the point of the hypothetical was that "sword-privilege" is a bit of a silly idea, and not an obvious go-to choice for reasoning about people stabbing other people. I genuinely didn't expect you to put up a defence for it. As for explanatory mechanisms, I tend to favour explanations from economics and systems-based sciences, as they have a rich catalogue of unusual behaviour patterns that arise from interacting parties being given different choices. I'm generally quite cautious in their application, though, because it doesn't take much for an elegant and aesthetically-pleasing model to be subtly wrong.
Fair enough. As you noted, the risk with any analytical framework is that it intentionally or unintentionally becomes a single variable analysis - and thus useless. My sense is that economics applied to social interactions is particularly at risk for this type of problem - leading either to Marxism or blogosphere ev. psych. Ah, I see. You were trying to change the topic - and I missed it. I certainly agree that privilege is a terrible framework for analyzing actual swords-in-unarmed-people situations. But that wasn't the topic and I didn't want to talk about those situations - so I assumed you were making a somewhat hostile metaphor and choose not to call you on the hostility in order to keep engaging in the conversation. Talk about long inferential distance. :)
I think I'm going to start explicitly stating my discussion goals in advance. If it doesn't keep me on topic, it will at least keep me honest.
EDIT: WTF, copypaste. I meant to quote this bit: Be careful not to confuse "Online SJ-oriented callout culture" with "the idea of power gradiants and institutionalized privilege as a tool for analyzing complex social and cultural phenomena."
This raises a problem I've seen in other forms.... is it fair to ask how an idea works out in practice?
Absolutely, but it's not necessarily as simple as patternmatching to "claims label" and "is visible and obvious to me personally." Especially when you're dealing with stuff like religion, ideology, culture or politics, it can be hard to make any really meaningful statements that generalize usefully. How does socialism work out in practice? It's tempting for some folks to point to the USSR, but that's just because it's a big obvious thing with the word "Socialism" prominently emblazoned on it. The EU is pretty darn relevant there as well. When most Westerners think "Islam", they don't think "polyandric, matrifocal, highly-educated pluralists comfortable with secularism" either, but the Minangkabau people outnumber al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban combined. Those latter have a lot more to do with the first things that spring to mind when Westerners hear the word "Islam" though. What I'm saying is, "How does this work out in practice" is terribly vulnerable to the availability bias.
For what it's worth, I don't think socialism (State Communism) and socialism (western Europe-- I'm not sure what the best name is for democracies with strong safety nets) are the same thing-- they have extremely different practices and trajectories. I think this supports your point that you need to actually know something before you try to address the question of how an idea works out in practice. If it's any consolation, I don't just wonder that sort of thing for social justice. I've thought how Atlas Shrugged, a novel which is an extended attack on crony capitalism, has led to people who support corporations in general. Now that I think about it, Rand's "concrete bound mentality" (grabbing on to a specific and not necessarily relevant example-- she's against it) is a special case of availability bias.
Social democracy.
nod But they both draw from a common wellspring of thought, and are influenced by many of the same formative works (having since developed themselves in greatly different directions). They're both socialism, in the same sense that a platypus (lays eggs, sweats milk, senses electricity, has simple teeth) and a human (gives live birth to well-developed offspring, has dedicated milk glands, no electroception at all, complex teeth) are both mammals: it's a fact of their origins. They've simply diverged substantially -- but this divergence isn't so great that it's meaningless to speak of them as both forms of mammal (has hair, endothermic metabolism, produces milk, three middle ear bones, has neocortex, is of amniote clade -- the critical bit is that these commonalities are not coincidental, they are not convergent traits).
If I'm doing something analytically wrong here, please feel free to give specifics. Crocker's Rule: I promise not to withdraw or lash out simply because I'm defensive about your criticism - I'm saying this to you, not the world. PS. I don't understand the relevance of the quoted text. PPS. "SJ-oriented callout culture" --> SJ = ?
SJ = abbreviation for "social justice." The discussion here appears to be talking about "privilege" in a way that looks, from the outside of the conversation, like the use of the term "privilege" by both participants is based on attempting to reverse-engineer its theoretical structure from the way it's used online by social justice activists. The idea of "privilege", as an academic notion within critical theories, does not boil down to "the thing that when you see it, you should call it out." Exploring and unpacking the idea may or may not come with exhortations to any particular course of action; this is especially so in the case of texts where the idea is being formulated, criticized, elaborated upon or revisited. That isn't even necessarily implied. On the other hand it's very common to the use of the term by a certain subset of online activists, and it seems like for a lot of LWers group is their first or primary exposure to the idea. The result is akin to talking about socialism in general, by modelling it in terms of the Red Guard youth movement during China's Cultural Revolution.
Here was my attempt at a brief articulation, early in this conversation. I'm trying not to just reverse engineer from social justice blogging. But if I screwed things up, I'm open to suggestion. I agree that privilege isn't inherently unjust. It just turns out that certain kinds of privilege are antithetical to my terminal values - and calling out appears to be the best response. Yes - I suspect this causal story is the reason why my original complaint - that LW is bad at this type of social engineering theory - is true.
Well, I didn't say that (I'm not aware offhand of a plausible instance of the thing the term refers to that doesn't strike me as undesirable/wrong insofar as Jandila's morality function ouputs wrong). From the bit you linked: Your wording makes me wince a little but I'm not sure if I can unpack why here (something about the implied model of intellectual discourse). In any case, you are quite correct that a simplistic analysis of the idea is not the best that critical theory has to offer, although LW doesn't have many people in the cluster (it's more than a matter of just reading a couple texts).
Yes, the core problem is that LW lacks this population - and doesn't seem to care. Maybe it's a relic of fact that most of my contact with "soft" academics is legal academia. Legal issues go from non-existent to unsettled to settled. Tenure lies in writing only about unsettled. Cutting edge legal theories are a thing, even for practicing lawyers (I've even got one I'm waiting for the right case to test). Then the caselaw thickens - and your theory is now settled practice or Timecube level crazy. In short, sorry for making you wince. Well, sorta sorry. :)
nod It's pretty synonymous with stuff like the Sokal affair to them. That does go rather a long way toward explaining it, yeah. I come at it from anthropology and linguistics, with a side order each of biology and semiotics, so my go-to ideas about "the progression of theories and the state of the art in this field" are...substantially harder to capture, but basically it looks a bit like evolution in language or biology with a generous dose of lateral transfer a la art. A law graduate friend of mean feels compelled to add: "Or both." No worries, nothing like upsetting.
On a different topic: Is there any discussion in this literature about whether this cluster of theory necessarily implies an anti-realist metaethical position? My own metaethical theories have mostly been driven by the implications of these types of social theories - but it wouldn't surprise me if my conclusions in that regard were unsophisticated and suspect.
I generally find it worthwhile to separate the action-motivating aspects of a framework from the universal-acceptance aspects. That is, if I endorse the privilege framework because I believe it effectively motivates right action according to my values better than the alternatives, then one option is to embrace it and act accordingly. If my belief is correct, one consequence of that will be that I am more reliably motivated to act rightly by my values. If I also talk about my actions and my motivations for those actions, I will provide evidence of that to others, thereby encouraging them to also embrace the privilege framework (at least, insofar as they share my values, and possibly even if they don't). In the meantime, they won't, and (as you say) we won't be perfectly efficient. Hysteresis is like that. The advantage of hysteresis is that if it turns out I'm wrong and the privilege framework doesn't optimally motivate right action, there's a greater chance of collecting evidence of that truth before we've collectively invested too much in a suboptimal practice. Given how often we're wrong about stuff, that seems like a worthwhile advantage to preserve. I could probably word that more succinctly as "Practice beats proselytizing."
Whatever happened to the corresponding-to-reality aspect?
It didn't seem directly relevant to TimS's comment. That said, it would be a remarkable coincidence if a framework reliably motivated right action without corresponding to reality.
Depends, how are you judging which action is "right", do you have any way to judge independent of the framework? A lot of religions motivate a lot of right actions. They motivate even more if you let a religion judge the rightness of the action it motivates.
Agreed that if the only metric for right action is whether the action is motivated by my framework, then it's not a coincidence at all that my framework motivates right action. It's also true that if I know of no metric at all for right action, then I can't know whether a framework reliably motivates it.
That in a marriage, the natural and desirable order of things is that man shall be the absolute ruler and woman the slave, and that any other arrangement is a futile struggle against our fundamental biological nature that if pursued will bring only doom and destruction?
Some of my motive is reducing inferential distance. Some of the response to daenerys' recent post on female experiences was essentially "I didn't realize that type of harm was occurring." Ideally, having a useful framework will help others notice those types of harms more easily. Also, I think there's a certain amount of hypocrisy inherent in some anti-feminist frameworks. To use a totally different example, I expect most Republicans in the US House of Representatives hate Alinsky, but they sure seem to have learned his lesson that procedural rules benefit the status quo - and therefore, those who oppose the status quo have less reason to respect them.
I'd generalize the point more broadly to say that jokes are a good way to get things you otherwise can't say past the radar.

That's the opposite of the point being made in the post, not a generalization of it.

At least, if I've understood you correctly — you're saying that when people make jokes about coercive/irresponsible men and passive-aggressive/nagging women, they are expressing a universal truth that society refuses to hear stated. To grossly oversimplify, we could state the blurred view proposed by the jokes being referred to as "All relationships are abusive".

The post TimS links to asserts, rather, that these jokes represent a blurring of distinctions that society fails to recognize. There actually do exist relationships that are more consensual and ones that are more abusive — the distinction — but insofar as everyone pretends that all men are coercive and all women passive-aggressive, they blur this distinction.

Moreover, blurring this distinction provides cover for the actual abusers by making the good relationships out to be just as bad as the abusive ones. If everyone is required to talk about their relationships in nonconsensual/abusive terms, then the people in consensual relationships cannot distinguish themselves as such. Hence, the post: "Even though Rowdy's brother-in-law... (read more)

There's a lot of truth in stereotypes. Not all women nag, but more do than men. Not all men are irresponsible, but more are than women. Since it's very difficult to make statements like that seriously in modern society - usually, you can only say it either anonymously or in groups of close friends whom you trust to not take it personally - a lot of people embed it in comedy, where the filters are lower, and where there's more reason for it to come up in the first place than just expressing bias. It's not a harmless practice, of course, but it does provide a useful safety valve sometimes.
I seriously doubt that most people who make up jokes or stereotypes truly have enough data on hand to reasonably support even a generalization of this nature.
Stereotypes are largely consensus-based, which gives them a larger data pool than any individual would have. If a comedian starts making jokes about the foibles of a large group, and most people haven't experienced those same foibles, they're not going to find it funny. Now, smaller groups can get a lot nastier treatment, both because there's less evidence to contradict a stereotype, and because they can turn into the token butt of jokes(Newfies being the stereotypical example where I'm from - nobody actually believes the jokes, but everybody makes them just because they're the group you make dumb-people jokes about). But "women" is a far too common group to get much in the way of false stereotypes, for example. At this point, I should also point out the dangers of stereotypes that are true only because culture forces them to be. For example, saying that women needed protection in the 19th century was basically true, but it was largely true because we didn't let women protect themselves. Feedback loops are a real danger.
I think you are discounting effects such as confirmation bias, which lead us to notice what we expect and can easily label while leading us to ignore information that contradicts our beliefs. If 99 out of 100 women don't nag and 95 out of 100 men don't nag, given a stereotype that women nag, I would expect people think of the one woman they know that nags, rather than the 5 men they know that do the same. Frankly, without data to support the claim that: I would find the claim highly suspect, given even a rudimentary understanding of our psychological framework.
It's a system seriously prone to false positives, of course. But I think the odds of a true stereotype getting established are sufficiently higher than the odds of a false one getting established that it still counts as positive evidence.
What are you envisioning this "safety valve" averting?
Groupthink. Edit: Per discussion below, I should clarify that I'm referring to a particular think that a particular group engages in("political correctness"), not the psychological phenomenon in general.
Ah, I see what you mean. Thanks for explaining. And, sure, if nobody can seriously express the sentiment that women nag more than men do, or that men are more irresponsible than women, then being able to humorously express the sentiment that all women nag and all men are irresponsible is, as you say, a useful way of averting groupthink. It's not good, but it's better than nothing. I'm not nearly as confident as you sound that the premise is true, but I agree that the conclusion follows from it.
If people are making a large number of similar jokes, then that's another sort of group think.
(nods) It's sometimes helpful to draw a distinction between "lots of people do X" and "nobody is allowed to do Y." The groupthink Alsadius is positing is the latter; it involves nobody being allowed to express certain sentiments. As I said, I don't see where he's getting his confidence that this is true, as I don't see much compelling evidence for it, but accepting it as a hypothetical I agree that the "safety valve" theory he's talking about follows from it. The groupthink you're positing is the former and suggests different tactics.
FWIW, I don't think it is true - you don't have far to go to find a claim that, say, women are crazy, or black people steal, or half a dozen other terribly politically incorrect things(true ones and false ones). But a big part of the reason is because we have these unofficial lines of communication. Good luck finding official data on things like racial crime stats - self-censorship has basically destroyed that. Chris Rock is all we're left with.
Huh, it seems it's not as bad as I've thought. I've heard a lot of debate over the years about police forces not collecting the data, but I suppose that's not true everywhere. Good to know.
Oh. So, OK, if you don't think it's true that the use of stereotypes in humor is a safety valve to avert groupthink, I'm not exactly sure why you said that when I asked, but I'm happy to drop that line of discussion. Now you seem to be saying that the use of stereotypes in humor is a safety valve to avert censorship... do you actually think that?
It's a way of saying things that aren't supposed to be said. Whether the level of "supposed to" is a bit of moral outrage(like it is today), or a gulag(like it was in the Soviet Union), people use jokes to get around barriers. That serves the function of evading censorship sometimes, as well as the function of undermining certain kinds of groupthink to a certain extent. It's not perfect, but it serves a role.
And now we've switched from talking about the value of stereotypes in humor to the value of humor more generally. I agree with your statements about the value of humor more generally, and am otherwise tapping out here.
I tend to think of stereotypes as a comedic aid, at least the sort that can easily be discussed here. I think that's why the conversation has shifted. I will admit that I sort of lost the plot, though. The stereotypes I actually use to guess at people's traits tend to be embedded in details of how people dress, talk, and act - I've successfully pegged people's personalities pretty closely from nothing more than the glasses they wear before - but that's not the sort of thing you can discuss very easily on a text board. For stereotypes specifically, I think the only dangerous thing that they really avert is excessive political correctness. Insisting that people be perfectly blind to observable characteristics of others is a silly position to take, and stereotypes are sort of an implicit summary of the evidence attached to an observable characteristic. Actual data is preferable, when it's available, but for some of the soft attributes it's not. "Groupthink" was a bit of a snarky way of phrasing it, and not a particularly accurate one. I'm not speaking about groupthink in general, I'm speaking about a particular kind that happens to be present in some parts of modern society.
I agree that insisting that people be perfectly blind to observable characteristics of others is a silly position to take, and I can see where using stereotypes in humor stands in opposition to that position, and therefore provides some (though not necessarily net) positive value.
Yes, it's amazing how easy it is to dismiss opposing arguments when you start by "grossly oversimplifying" them into something clearly false.
I didn't think I was dismissing an opposing argument; rather, pointing out that the article TimS linked to was making the opposite of the claim that you stated as a generalization of its point: not "these jokes express unstated general truths" but rather "these jokes express false generalizations ... and thereby leave significant distinctions unstated and, indeed, more difficult to state."

This is true regardless of whether the "things you can't say" are true. Furthermore, the whole contrarian/red pill/pretty lies/uncomfortable truths meme is toxic. It's a death spiral. All opposition demonstrates your superior insight, and all agreement demonstrates your superior insight. Everything demonstrates your superior insight, which together with the normal repertoire of human biases makes it pretty much impossible to encounter any evidence that you're wrong.

There are no red pills, only blue pills with red sugar coatings.

Not quite. The joke is more likely to resonate with the audience if it corresponds to their experience. Nevertheless, I agree that the joke is no substitute for an argument. It's necessary to get society to the point where it's possible to make the argument without being declared unfit for polite company.

The joke is more likely to resonate with the audience if it corresponds to their experience.

Nonsense. All it takes is that the audience want to believe it. Experience is not truth; a large part of people's "experience" is their own beliefs. This is just the same death spiral again. If they laugh, that proves I'm right; if they boo, that proves I'm right.

It's necessary to get society to the point where it's possible to make the argument without being declared unfit for polite company.

The argument for what, in the context of the original posting? That in a marriage, the natural and desirable order of things is that man shall be the absolute ruler and woman the slave, and that any other arrangement is a futile struggle against our fundamental biological nature that if pursued will bring only doom and destruction?

Experience is not truth; a large part of people's "experience" is their own beliefs.

Heck, a large part of people's "experience" is fiction.

For instance: By the age of fifteen, if there are no doctors and nobody chronically ill in your immediate family, you've likely spent more time watching and reading fiction about doctors and medicine than you've spent discussing medicine with actual doctors. So your ideas of what doctors do are going to be based more directly on fiction than reality. One consequence of this is that there are a lot of common false beliefs promulgated by medical fiction. (Warning, TVTropes.)

For that matter, I suspect many fifteen-year-olds have heard more lawyer jokes than they have heard sentences spoken by an actual lawyer other than a politician. (Though one can hope they've taken more of an impression from Atticus Finch than from kill-all-the-lawyers jokes.)

(And yet, many fifteen-year-olds decide to become doctors ... and lawyers ... and other professions whose reputation and habits they have learned about chiefly through fiction, jokes, and stories rather than through observation.)

For that matter, the claim that "the joke is more l... (read more)

Ceteris paribus yes.
This seems like heresy to me from a Bayesian perspective.
Note the difference in meaning between the two italicized phrases? What did I say that could reasonably be interpreted this way? (Edit: thinking about it, I think I see how you got that impression: Laughter is evidence that you're right, an extreme negative reaction is weaker evidence that you're onto something. Indifference, or a non-extreme negative reaction is thus evidence that you're wrong.) Seriously, could you at least try not to straw-man my position?
Consider "proves" replaced by "is evidence in favour of". It doesn't change my point. That's the other half of the pattern -- which you obligingly go on to complete:
Did you read the sentence I wrote after that one?
Yes. The whole argument's a crock.
Consider "proves" replaced by "is evidence in favour of". It doesn't change my point. That's the other half of the pattern -- which you obligingly go on to complete:
Consider "proves" replaced by "is evidence in favour of". It doesn't change my point. That's the other half of the pattern -- which you obligingly go on to complete:
Maybe it's just me, but your comments here seem a bit hostile. I don't think you should call an idea a death spiral. It is vulnerable in the way you say, but that doesn't reflect on the idea, it just means we humans have to be really careful with it. We do have a whole sequence on how to deal with such ideas. None of the advice is "don't believe it". Again, we have plenty of material on LW for conserving expected evidence and watching for biases. If you are arguing that things you can't say are toxic outside LW for the untrained masses, I recommend that you spend your time convincing them to study rationality instead of convincing them to believe things for reasons other than truth. Come on, this is a straw man. The OP was talking about abusers, not fictional extremists. Eugene had explicitly generalized to other taboo issues anyway. There are idiots who say such things, but there are also a lot of really interesting ideas (in the sense that they are important and debateable) that don't get discussed enough because people punish anyone who brings them up. Censorship of whole topics doesn't really seem like a good way to handle a few vile idiots. Tone is usually uninteresting, but I think it's worth noting in the case of these "red pill" ideas; The red-pill types tend to use careful argument (because they have to to be taken seriously) while the maintream responders use weak arguments and social bullying (because they are surrounded by fellow believers). This apparent difference in the power of the arguments can confuse naive open-minded people (like myself a few days ago). Please consider this when responding to dumb ideas.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill pusher.
This is a good point. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I've been having a crisis of faith on quite a few of those "red pill" ideas recently and I'm sure this will be useful next time I think about any of it. That said, it seems to me that the standard cult attractor advice and conservation of expected evidence is sufficient to diffuse this effect. Do you think so, too? Or do you think we are not good enough at it such that we have to add extra caution? Or something else? Basically what do you recommend for a well-sequenced LWer to do to entangle their beliefs with reality on these sorts of issues? Huh. I wonder why. I don't really hang out anywhere like PUA forums or racist blogs or anything like that, so maybe I only encounter the good stuff that has enough sensibleness to it to filter into the rest of the internet? I guess then we would see the opposite on PUA forums; mostly average idiots who can't handle the is-ought distinction, and a few intelligent mainstreamers coming in and poking holes in people's tripe (I also might expect a few more troll raids from mainstreamers than there are troll raids from PUA to mainstreamer areas, though this could easily be confounded by other factors) That article is fucking gold. Thanks for the link. Now unfortunately that was not the point you were trying to make... I did notice (since you sent me there looking for it) that it was callous and condescending and such (even for cracked). I also noticed that I don't usually notice that kind of stuff outside LW and other "intellectual areas". If you hadn't pointed it out, I would have just filtered the crusty crap and kept the good advice at it's core. I guess it's a habit I picked up from 4chan. I've got a better one. I summed up the whole thing with "Just Do It!". However, I don't think it's a good idea to dismiss an article because you can say the same thing without 99% of the article. Here's why: I run into pieces of genuine good advice all the time, on LW and elsewhere
Like cracked.com and 4chan? Sensibleness is not the filter for popularity on the internet. Different people respond to different forms. Some are suckers for a man in a white coat intoning "studies have shown". Some will lap up Deep Wisdom from anyone in Tibetan robes. Some will believe anyone who shouts at them loudly enough. (Makes for some interesting dynamics on PUA and NLP forums, where assertion is alpha, but both agreement and disagreement are beta.) It's more that you can write the same content with a completely different 99%, with many completely different 99%s. Ayn Rand, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Feynman could have written the same content, in different ways. How does one determine whether one is responding to the clothing of the message, rather than the content? The red pill idea is particularly attractive to anyone who thinks they're smarter than those around them. And look where we are, LessWrong, where "contrarian" is a compliment, as if reversed consensus were intelligence. Skilful means, as the Buddhists put it. But of those who think they learned something from that article, how many would have learned whatever message the writer might have expressed in the same style?
Can you link to an example of someone using it as a compliment? I don't think this is actually the case. It's simply much less of an insult here than it is in most "skeptic" communities.
Yes: Yes (a self-description rather than a compliment to someone else, but clearly intended to be read as a worthy attribute): Here is someone excusing themselves for not being contrarian:
In the first link you quoted me describing Moldbug, I should clarify it was used as a put down. I've said quite explicitly in other posts that I strongly agree with Hanson on contrarianism. In the second link the person continues: The third is a good example but it is in an article talking about how weird LessWrong is for its love of contrarianism.
I'll take your word for your intentions, but the article itself gives me no impression that it was intended anything other than seriously.
I did mean "and most of all contrarian" quite seriously, I just didn't expect readers to take that as good. It was meant as a warning since I think Moldbug would be a better thinker if he was less contrarian but I'll update on you reading of it when using the term in the future. This apparent misunderstanding on second thought isn't surprising since this community is self-selected for the kind of people who like enjoy contrarian arguments. Weird out there (not saying incorrect) beliefs such as buying cryonics being a good idea otherwise wouldn't be popular here. In addition to this if you visit a site where examples of human cognitive failure are investigate every day and individual debasing techniques discussed, but little ephasis is given on how to build communities that have good epistemology or avoid the biases one seems likely to find the story of "lone genius exposes establishment consensus as nonsense" more plausible than otherwise.
For what it's worth, I agree that this poster is at least as characteristic of the meme cluster we're talking about as its more polite/locally celebrated/refined advocates. What's worse, I suspect that it's the locally celebrated "red-pill" contrarians who are shrinking from the conclusions of many of their (anti-egalitarian, etc) memes and that this poster just logically extrapolates the "red-pill" premises to produce his alarming view of gender, "deviancy", etc. Another far more famous example is Theodore Beale/Vox Day... and a few other bloggers whom I'd rather not link to.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill pusher.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill pusher.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill merchant.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill merchant.
I'm expressing disagreement with a common meme around here. Of course that will seem a bit hostile. But I shall not engage in any red-pill framing of that uninteresting fact. I'm not talking about the things you can't say, but about the idea of things you can't say. That idea is a shield against reality, a mirror that makes everything behind it seem real, when it is just a distorted reflection of oneself. Ok, I would not seriously attribute the view I described to anyone on LW. But there are people who explicitly believe in exactly that view, exactly as extremely as I portrayed it, and surround it with red-pill rhetoric. There is at least one on LW (who has not posted in this thread) who holds at least to a lesser form of men's rightful power over women, and who I confidently expect would express approval of the joke in the original article. This is not fiction; I did not make any of it up. That is not my observation. The article linked here is a good example of red-pill performance ranting. The whole thing could just as easily be expressed as platitudes of Deep Wisdom: "ask not what other people can do for you, but what you can do for them", "to give is to receive", etc., and in other places it would be. There's not much argument there, careful or otherwise. Of course not -- it's cracked.com, that's the sort of thing that people go there for. I previously linked another example of the genre here. Working through the Google hits for "red pill" turns up few specimens of conspicuous rationality, and to talk about "mainstream responders" is already to have yielded to the tainted insight of the red pill merchant.
Whoa, damn, you mean to say you recanted? That's cool, I guess. Now join me in my meta-meta-meta-contrarian ivory tower; you're smarter and more diligent than me. Although less interested in politics, I guess.
I've sort of gone back on one specific piece of evidence, which was that contrarians on some issues tend to have much stronger arguments, and therefor are probably right. Yvain explained that quite well by noting that believers of popular belief have no incentive to seriously engage contrarians, lest they "legitimize" them or appear like they were taking them seriously. It is much more individually beneficial to point and laugh. An extension of that, though is that you can get signalling absurdity arms-races that cause the mainstream position to become as absurd as possible. (see for example, Australia banning small-breast porn and most of the world banning drawn loli porn because "can't let those damn pedos get off"). Yvain ignored the implications for mainstream belief quality (at least as far as I could tell). But it seems pretty damning to me. That's what the quoted comment was referring to. I'm unsure where I stand relative to you, Konkvistador, Moldbug, etc in all this. I'm still mostly Universalist in morality (universal brotherhood fuck yeah, let's tear apart and rebuild the universe if it disagrees, etc), but pretty much reject all of its factual claims about literal equality, effectiveness of collective governance, etc. If you like, we could talk in more detail about this. (I would like that; I'm interested in your view, but haven't had a chance to figure it out). Don't know why you think I'm smarter or more diligent, but you're right that I think politics is a waste of time (except to root out political crud that you didn't know you had, which is what I've been doing recently). Lulz. Thank you for inviting me.
Good luck with that.
This seems a straw man.
Or their biases, or their culturally-acquired beliefs...
I think you may have quoted the wrong thing here?
Yes. Had that happen over on the other one too. Thanks for pointing it out.
I've been thinking of making a new political slogan aimed at the "thoughtcrime" crowd: "What you need is red ink, not red pills!" Meaning that there really aren't horrible truths about society that are hidden from the ignorant masses but revealed to the brave and sufficiently cynical few; most people (even the "average" ones) do actually perceive all the information they might need about the society they live in, but cannot articulate and communicate it, so on some topics only a scrambled message of discontent and anger can be heard.
It is certainly an attractor people here would find themselves vulnerable to given the support for contrarian positions like cryonics.
As a rule of thumb, I assume that anyone claiming to be only joking is lying. They are saying exactly what they think while pretending not to.
So you endorse calling them on it, ceteris paribus?
What you do about any particular instance will obviously depend on the situation. Some things are worth speaking up about. Some things are worth making non-verbal indications that their joke is bombing. Some just deserve to be ignored. You don't want to be this guy.
I don't? If the expected social improvement exceeds my personal cost (taking into account my opportunity cost), why shouldn't I act? Taking that xkcd to mean what you assert suggests you think all social advocacy is wasted. More generally, the blogger I linked is complaining that the joke didn't bomb and generally doesn't bomb.
You have just defined the set of cases in which you should. Deciding when you are looking at such a case and what to do about it is the non-trivial part.
I've all but explicitly been asserting that this is a time to act. You seem to agree there is a problem (Jokes are statements of true belief / in vino veritas), yet you seem to disagree that taking action is a good idea. I obviously misunderstand your position in some way.
I was just saying that seeing something objectionable, and deciding whether and how to object to it, are two separate things. I do find "jokes" like the one in the original article objectionable, but if I was present at Rowdy telling this joke about the dog, I don't know how best to tackle it, even having the leisure of taking as long as I want to consider the hypothetical, let alone face-to-face with about one second in real time to get my brain in gear. But that's just me. Or to put it another way, my short answer to your question: is "yes".

(Not sure whether this should go here or the Open Thread.)

We frequently discuss the difference between epistemic and instrumental rationality. Most political discussions seem to be "epistemic politics" - what political beliefs to have and why. I see very little discussion of "instrumental politics" - what kind of political actions to take and why. Beyond mind-killing, this is probably the main reason I currently have no interest in politics: I don't have a good conception of what kind of political actions are available to me. How would I go about fixing this?

A while ago I was in an online discussion with someone from an East European country who was demostrating to end the current government.

I asked the person for an article that explains the evils of the government. He told me that I didn't know of an English article that explained the issue in detail.

I told him that instead of being the 10,001st person at protest it would be much more effective to write a English article that explain the evil of the government and submit it to the Guardian's Comment is Free section.

He didn't think he was qualified to write the article and instead continued to demonstrate. Writing such an article is something that doesn't need special connections or money.

On the other hand it does take courage. You might come under attack. It takes real political understanding of the situation. It takes writing abilites.

Most other effective political action involves talking to people who have influence or donating money.

This probably hardly counts as "political action", but one of the most efficient ways of voting is probably with your feet - move to a place whose policies you like.
My general policy is "Most political action is counterproductive; the silent vote is the least likely to engender resistance." That said, I'm probably wrong on this matter. Loud political movements are frequently also effective political movements, even though they do engender high degrees of resistance. The issue is it's hard to identify quiet political movements and evaluate their influence.

A response to Yvain's article An analysis of the formalist account of power relations in democratic societies.

Social Power and Utility

The things people actually care about, like money, success, influence, and psychological health, come entirely from structural/unconscious power.

No. Social Power is very much tied closely to Psychological Health. That people with lots of "structural power" are on average Psychologically healthier is mostly not the result of structural power. Higher IQ, conscientiousness, low time preference and other things tha... (read more)

Nitpick: Those people would usually be considered neurotypical, unless you think they have some congenital neurological condition that causes them to enjoy high scores. Which isn't inconceivable, I suppose. That people are not equally competent or "virtuous" is trivially true; that lacking these things means that it is less important that they have Fun is, in my experience, a common product of confused thinking. That you seem to have this as an instrumental goal of producing more total Fun is interesting; I would advise avoiding the word "deserve" to avoid confusion, though.
Could I ask you to taboo 'deserve' in this context?
A society where extraordinary achievement due to skill or effort isn't matched by appropriately rewards is neither aesthetically pleasing nor fun to live in. We should somewhat try and shape society according to this observation.
Please be careful not to treat these as one-place functions. Consider the position of a person who is now being told that despite their and their teachers' and parents' best efforts, they simply have not accrued enough "extraordinary achievements" to make (say) medical care for their chronic pain an "appropriate reward" for them. That person may not agree that this makes society more aesthetically pleasing or fun to live in.
To be clear; you're saying that equal distribution of fun things is less fun? I can see how that'd be.
I'm a little confused by what you are saying? Do you believe the General Anti-Leftism, or oppose it? Also, social power seems to me like a non-zero-sum thing. (possibly the amount that is non-zero-summable could be called respect.)
That part is the one I haven't finished. Check out in a few days.
[Unfinished Draft for Essay which will not be published as a Discussion or Main article] Originally part of the above comment but I've decided it fits more as an independent essay. Still in a very rough draft form. Democratic society: A vista of horror as seen by reactionaries We want the sum of structural power over nature, the amount of wealth a society has available to be ceteris paribus as high as possible. Isn't it interesting how Pareto Optimality while being one of the most reliably benign goals is systematically neglected in pursuit of the misfiring heuristics of our mind. The heuristics I speak of are the ones that do not understand institutional power and demand to use the same "social power" mechanism field tested and efficient only on Dunbarian scales for the distribution of resources in the large societies of civilized man. Note how this relates to a currently popular hypothesis on the origin of our intelligence as driven by the parts of the brain that deal with optimizing for social power by bending and breaking explicit rules. It is I hope I have shown to me far more terrifying than your virtual Conservative feels it is. !Unfinished! tldr: Make it so that institutional power matches the virtues we claim to value rather than the ones our revealed preferences show we value in social power games. The former are mostly more conductive to civilization and the common good. General Anti-Leftism: People are not equally competent, nor virtuous, nor do they deserve equal social power as compensation for their lack of ability at accruing institutional power (starting positions on such capital tho may best be equalized).
I should emphasise I am not at all saying the nature of institutional power in our society can't perhaps be reformed to more closely match this.

Say Not Universalism, a criticism of Moldbug's position on Progressivisms ties to Christianity.

I disagree with it mildly, since I think there are features of Progressivism that are more or less uniquely attributable to its Christian heritage, but I do think Progressive like memes would have developed in a non-Christian descended implementation of what is often called The Cathedral (political belief pump associated with demotist forms of government).

It is a reminder to Reactionary readers that while the explicit justifications of modern political and socia... (read more)

I think this is quite likely to be the case, since Progressivism (which one might think of as "altruism gone rampant") might actually emerge in time from the mating patterns and the resulting genetic structure of a population.
hbd* chick has built a compelling case with rather high quality scholarship over the past few years and I strongly recommend her blog. You shouldn't however neglect other forms of selection that have shaped humans recently and are relevant to the question. For example see Peter Frosts' arguments on genetic pacification and the fall of the Roman Empire. Peter Frost thinks Christianity served as both a symptom and a cause, exasperating the trend to domestication causing decline when faced with less pacified peoples. A similar argument can be made about the fall of societies due to outbreeding which I won't touch for now... If you are familiar with hbd* chick you should also be familiar with just how darn important Christianity was rearranging mating patterns in Western Eurasia in the form of the Catholic Church reducing inbreeding. Low inbreeding also probably reduces the barrier to entry for Christianity in the first place. So the critics of Christianity might be still right, no Christianity no Progressivism. Not because of pure memetics but because of the feedback between memetic evolution and genetic evolution. We know which one is faster. Perhaps it would also mean no industrial revolution, but the Chinese civlization would probably have pressed forward eventually. Maybe state control would need to wane again (see The Discourses on Salt and Iron if you want to be particularly depressed about the potential of human societies to respond to reasoned argumentation and learn from history) or if perhaps particularly large invasion of relatively competent barbarians might be needed to shake things up again. It is unfortunately an unanswerable question for now whether we would see in a post-industrial alternative history China altered so, the resurgence of a progressivism quite as virulent as ours growing out of something like Mohism.

China and the politics of human biodiversity

Half-Sigma's probably last post on his old blog. HBD has no future?

I believe that the taboo against HBD will last indefinitely. As the scientific evidence mounts ever more so in favor of HBD, the taboos against speaking about it only seem to grow stronger. In 1994, the Bell Curve was published and generated massive coverage in the media. Now, if it were published today, it would be blacklisted and left unmentioned. I remember first becoming aware of HBD in 2005, when Cochran, Harpending, etc. published their ar

... (read more)
Assuming HBD is correct, as the west becomes less white, it will also become less intelligent and hence less powerful, this will mean that the Chinese have less reason to care what the west thinks of them.
Let's note that you are equating "human biodiversity" specifically with "white supremacy" here.
Not entirely, I was merely going off the fact that the groups whose populations in the west are expending the fastest tend to be groups who HBD researchers consider less intelligent than whites.
You need to make lots of other assumptions, such as no generational Flynn effect stile rises in IQ amng non-white immigrants,

Why is having only one class of citizen a good idea?

Because it works well as a Schelling fence.

Good answer.
I don't think it did much for Soviet or Chinese citizens.
The Chinese don't have only one class of citizens: 1) Ethnic minorities (Tibetans, Mongols, etc.) have a legally recognized status, with affirmative action policies, (some) exemption from the one-child policy, etc. 2) More importantly, the Hukou system is basically a passport/visa system inside China, and migrant workers from the countryside are pretty similar to immigrants (or worse off) in Europe or the US: they don't benefit from social services like schools (they have to send their kids back in their home province, or not have them in school, or send them to a private school), government jobs, etc. The Hukou system is also as hot a topic in China as immigration is the West.
By that standard Western countries also don't have one class of citizens.
Depends of which country you're thinking of! The US has officially designated categories, but those are pretty much illegal in France, and any official mention of one's "ethnicity" is pretty much a taboo concept (and I found it weird to have to fill in that field in all my paperwork in China). And even the ethnic categories in the US don't seem as "legally relevant" as ethnic minority status in China; the law is (from what I understand) that you can sue if you believe you've been denied an opportunity because of your ethnic background, but that seems much more vague than having explicit ethnic categories, with different laws applying depending on which category you belong to. (unless you were referring to to immigrants, but then they aren't citizens) (convicts would make a better example of a "different class of citizens")
It's seen as a formal license to spread any specific group-on-group antagonism to all members of the associated formal class/caste. All aristocrats/capitalists/cool people are entitled condescending parasites, all serfs/poor workers/uncool people are dull, crude and amoral; all Jews/Anglo-Saxons/Irish/Slavs/Blacks/Westerners/Catholics/Hugenots/heretics... My model is, divides along official or semi-official lines in society have practically always tended to accumulate resentment in "quiet" times and blow up in a crisis. Just imagine how much more peaceful and nicer South Africa would've been today, if the goddamn Afrikaners could've got along with colored people like the British did in India! And you'd add a new faultline just for some tactical gain?
The comparison of India to Africa isn't valid because the starting conditions are sufficiently different. Also note that the question is somewhat rhetorical. We de facto do have several kinds of citizen. Can you think of which kinds? To provide a counter point the Ottoman Millet system seems to have worked pretty well at keeping the peace in that state. Also India is a bad example for your argument for another reason, recall some of the biggest problems the British had there was when they tried to abolish or weaken or even just ignore the traditional caste system.
Informal divides, including ones with consistent disparities of power and wealth, certainly exist everywhere. I'm arguing that it's not clear how government enforcement of them has much point. European countries like Poland or France enforced religious segregation too (Catholic and Orthodox, Catholic and Hugenot), and still had lots of strife along religious lines. And still their rule eroded it in practice - and who would mourn it? And OK, why not look at British colonies compared to French and Dutch ones and try to see what policies correlated with less blow-ups.
Because you don't want to have different classes of citizens to fight against each other.
You have to first make the argument that an explicit hierarchy is more violence prone than an implicit one.

the best example of a successful non-democracy in the modern world is China. Their internal party system is extremely convoluted, but basically the party internally appoints members to positions, notionally on meritocratic grounds, though corruption and manipulation is endemic. Here is a more detailed summary.

Given the seeming economic success of this model would it be sensible for other countries to adopt it?

Is it possible to introduce sufficient additional safeguards against corruption and abuse of power?


the best example of a successful non-democracy in the modern world is China.

I thought the go-to example for a successful non-democracy was Singapore - it's a much nicer place to live in than China!

True, the standard of living in Singapore is much higher. But I didn't choose it as the example because: the transition has not been as dramatic (they had a better starting point) and there's lots of reasons to think that a system that works in Singapore won't scale well (island city state heavily dependent on trade and immigrant labour). By contrast the Chinese system has made great changes over a short period and has been applied to a much wider area and diversity of situation.

there's lots of reasons to think that a system that works in Singapore won't scale well

A couple of centuries ago, common wisdom was the opposite - Democracy was a nice idea but it could never work on something bigger than a city. From Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws:

It is natural for a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot long subsist. In an extensive republic there are men of large fortunes, and consequently of less moderation; there are trusts too considerable to be placed in any single subject; he has interests of his own; he soon begins to think that he may be happy and glorious, by oppressing his fellow-citizens; and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country.

In an extensive republic the public good is sacrificed to a thousand private views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one, the interest of the public is more obvious, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have less extent, and of course are less protected.

[...] Excepting particular circumstances, it is difficult for any other than a republican government to subsist longer in a single town. A prince of s

... (read more)
The U.S. may have been lucky because initially it was strung out along a seaboard which provided good transport and communication for the time, and as the U.S. spread into the interior, massive improvements in communication and transportation came along just in time, so we could have the cohesion that up til then was very hard to achieve except in a small state. Some of the Federalist papers argued the opposite of what Montesquieu's point -- that a surplus of talented and ambitious people would tend to keep each other in check. Anyway, Singapore poses a different question -- not whether small or large countries are best suited to democracy, but whether Singapore's (undemocratic) system could be made to work in a big country with rich and poor sections, and other wide variations of interest. Maybe Singapore, due to its nature could be administered well by one great CEO, but we haven't seen that sort of thing work well on a continental scale except maybe for short periods of time (usually followed by a traumatic succession crisis).
By the way Bryan Caplan has a blog post questioning how "undemocratic" Singapore really is.
Yet it only ranks 90th place on the Happy Planet Index
That seems like a pretty nonsensical ranking. It ranks 11th on Life Expectancy and 33rd on "Experienced Well-being" whatever that is, and 12th on Governance. It appears to be weighting ecological footprint too strongly (at least for purposes of this discussion).

Given the seeming economic success of this model would it be sensible for other countries to adopt it?

No. The gains from not being stupid about economics and not engaging in centralized planning and actually industrializing are so enormous that they compensate for even wretched leadership. Soviet Russia industrialized and grew for a long time despite having awful and wasteful leadership, and the same thing is happening to China.

The question is, can they, with their wretchedly corrupt non-democracy, reach similar per capitas as Japan and America? Or will they remain in a middle-income trap? If the former, then their government could indeed be considered something other countries might adopt; but if the latter, they will merely have demonstrated what all acknowledge: the Industrial Revolution is pretty damn awesome.

I think there's a valid alternative narrative where China's explosive growth is the result of enormous quantities of previously untapped natural resources and a previous lack of infrastructure. One could argue that prosperity was inevitable for China as soon as it eased up on its isolationism, almost regardless of what government was in place.

Previously untapped natural resources are a good thing, esp. along with a well enough educated population with a good work ethic. Previous lack of infrastructure? I'm not sure how that can be an advantage.
One way to a have a fast growth rate is to start out very low.
May be referring to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leapfrogging ; but in general, we'd expect fast growth just from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convergence_%28economics%29
I was thinking more in terms of transportation infrastructure, though maybe from having so little they will end up with one that doesn't reproduce a lot of past mistakes. It's just hard to launch an industrial revolution with having as little of that as they had to start with.
China is playing catch-up, not innovating. When you're as far behind as China was 30 years ago, all you have to do is make yourself less awful to grow explosively. They became an economic success by emulating us somewhat, but the reverse will not hold true, because most places where they deviate from us they bias in the direction of more corruption which is hardly a good model.
Do you consider The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution a success? That's only about 50 years ago. When you're trying to judge the performance of a system of government, some historical perspective is required.
China has been governed quite different since Mao died. I don't think it quite fair to treat pre-Mao and post-Mao China the same way.
I agree that there has been a huge difference. That's my point. The system has not demonstrated long term stability in it's methods and results.
Although I disagree with FiftyTwo's conclusions, I am nevertheless disappointed that it has received net downvotes.... it's a perfectly valid question after all, and we're not supposed to be doing downvote==disagree, right?
The original post indicates that upvotes and downvotes should be based on how convincing an argument is, so at least a bit closer to that than usual.

Just curious... who is downvoting this post, and why? Politics is the mind killer, I know... but this regularly-occuring thread is supposed to be an accepted exception, isn't it?

People who don't want a regularly-occurring exception.

The entertaining thing from my perspective is that the discussions here have been polite, informative, and honest, and overall I'd consider them to have been productive thus far. It is of course possible that the tone or nature of these debates will change over time, but it seems on current evidence to be that a lot of people are mindkilled about whether or not politics is in fact a mindkiller. Granted, the voting system here generally encourages controversy - fifty votes yay and forty nine votes nay is better than an uninteresting post with one vote nay, after all.

Maybe the "mindkiller" business is largely a rationalization for the opposition to political discussion, and not the motivation for the opposition. Some people like having their ideas questioned in a group, some don't. Mindkiller talk is a convenient rationalization for those who don't like it to pressure those who do like it to shut up.
Yes, I've noticed that too, which was part of why I was confused that people objected to it.
I upvoted Vladimir's post - but I don't think the lack of "accepted exception" means you should stop these discussion threads.
I'll continue them as long as they seem to remain productive and polite, and as long as they seem to be isolating politics rather than spreading political discussion around. A failure on either count would be a failure of the purpose of these threads.
There isn't an an official ban on politics either. The much cited "politics is the mind-killer" post, merely argued against using political examples in non-political contexts.

but this regularly-occuring thread is supposed to be an accepted exception, isn't it?

What do you mean by that? Supposed on what grounds, accepted by whom and in what sense? (There's also a distinction between following a rule and agreeing with it, and there is no rule in this case.)

I was under the impression that this was an "official" thing, but it sounds like I was wrong.

I downvoted this post because I don't want to see more attention to politics here. I don't see it as an "accepted exception" but as a recent push for more political discussions.

It can be interesting to talk about social issues, but doing this under the explicit heading "politics" header is likely to prime people into paying more attention to the political implications of the topic.

I take the debates that have occurred in these topics so far as evidence that LWers are capable of following the disclaimer. As such, unless it starts bleeding over into other topics, it seems okay. I prefer having a contained place with a disclaimer than to let arguments start getting political in other threads and either derail the thread or get cut off even though an interesting point was being made.
I disagree that one could talk about any kind of "social issues" whatsoever without it being 100% "political". Politics is what's going on in the polis.
The question isn't whether an issue is political or not (I'm not sure that's an interesting/meaningful question); the point is to avoid the problems of partisan thinking, and one way of doing that is to pay less attention to political alignment. If you put a big banner over a discussion saying "HEY THIS IS A POLITICAL DISCUSSION", and you have people adding "AND THEREFORE, REPUBLICANS ARE RIGHT!" at the end of their posts, or reply with "OH, THAT'S A SOCIALIST ARGUMENT YOU'RE MAKING THERE", then everybody is necessarily going to pay more attention to partisan alignment. They may suspect others of trying to advance partisan points. They may be more selective in what arguments they accept. They may be less inclined points that go against their political inclination. It may degenerate into "Well you're just saying that because you're an anarcho-monarchist!".
I don't see any examples of people actually doing that, though.
Well, the first one is basically this thread, I don't think the second one happens without being downvoted to oblivion, and I think there have been a few cases where replies highlighted the political alignment of a post or comment that wasn't ostentatiously about color politics (probably in one episode of The Konkvistador And Multiheaded Show).
By "the first one" do you mean "AND THEREFORE, REPUBLICANS ARE RIGHT!"? If so, please cite examples. I've been abstaining from LessWrong for awhile now, so I've missed a lot. Can you link me to some examples of what you mean by "The Konkvistador And Multiheaded Show"? It sounds highly entertaining.
I agree that talking about partisan labels is unlikely to lead to useful analysis (although the game-theoretic and principal-agent issues in the recent budget stand-off in the US are interesting). But I think noting the contours of ideological movements (like socialism, feminism, or Moldbuggery) is valuable. The sentence: Just as useful: Some of our disagreement might be that in the US, socialist (or green or monarchist) is not a partisan label because there is no serious political party that asserts those views. Europe has more diverse active political movements.

It's been on my mind for some time that we obtain a lot of our sense of the world from fiction — for instance, that unless your family are unwell or are doctors themselves, you probably spend more time with medical fiction than with actual doctors. David Brin's recent Locus column applies a similar idea to our beliefs about the competence of our fellow-citizens and our social institutions, as reflected in popular fiction:

If movies and novels were our basis for judging – say you were an alien relying only on the testimony of our adventure flicks beamed in

... (read more)

New political position:

Reactionary Caplanism

  • "You say second "class citizens" like it is a bad idea to have more than one kind of legal status for a resident in a country and scale benefits of those to create good incentives."
  • "I agree it is an outrage! Deporting illegal immigrants engaged in productive work is almost as terrible as giving them the right to vote."
  • Limits on immigration are an unjustifiably crude method of discrimination, we need to open borders and legalize better less centralized means of discrimination.
  • So
... (read more)
Immigration would be much better if we approached the issue of "How much do immigrants cost us vs how much do we benefit from them" and made laws in light of this, instead of approaching it from the moral difference between "This is our home and we shouldn't let strangers in" or "Freedom means allowing anyone to join us".
I think you're implicitly making an moral statement (putting aside whether its "correct"). Your focus on "costs to us and how much do we benefit" means we downplay or eliminate any consideration of the moral question. However, ignoring the moral question has the same effect as losing the moral argument to "this is our home and we shouldn't let strangers in" -- in both cases the moral argument for "joining us" is treated as irrelevant. I'm not making an argument, just an observation i think is relevant if considering the issue.
I don't see why this treats the moral argument for joining us as any less relevant than the moral argument for not joining us. And yes, this does downplay or eliminate consideration of the moral question, which is what I was going for. Or to put it another way, the moral statement I'm trying to make is that the moral value of absolutist moral considerations is less than utilitarian concerns in regards to costs/benefits. I don't actually care about moral arguments for or against immigration that aren't consequentalist.
Look, there is no doubt an equivalency in your method in that "they should join us" is put on the backburner along with "we should penalize them." I'm simply highlighting this point. In limiting the "consequentialist" argument to the "home country's" benefits and costs, you've by default given credence to the idea that "they should be penalized" in that you're willing to avoid penalizing them if they add value to your country -- another way of looking at it is to say those that want the immigrants to "join us" aren't benefited in any way by saying that the opposite moral argument was ignored. You've softened your statement now by using "moral value....is less," but you're actually going further than that -- you're saying that the utilitarian concerns on cost/benefits are SO GREAT relative to the moral issues that the moral issues should be ignored completely (or that's how your solution plays out). This is a bold statement, irrespective of its merits. How else would you interpret your statement?: Your point only works if you completely ignore the moral argument. Once it matters even a little, the luxuries offered by cost/benefit analysis are thrown out the window because you now have a subjective consideration to incorporate that makes choices difficult. Again, just highlighting the consequences of your argument, don't really have an opinion on your particular argument. Part of the problem with politics is we just say things and don't think about what they mean, since our focus is more on being right and presuming the potential certainty rather than understanding the sources and consequences of various political arguments and appreciating the inherent uncertainty that is unavoidable with any governance regime (or so I would argue).
What point are you trying to make? I'm really not sure. Completely ignoring the "Moral argument" seems obviously the correct thing to do, so I have to assume I'm misinterpreting what you mean by the moral argument.
nope, i'm just asking why you think that the moral argument should be ignored, and why that position is obvious. we're talking about a group of humans and what laws and regulations will apply to their lives, likely radically changing them. these decisions will affect their relatives, who may or may not be in similar positions themselves. when legislating about persons, it seems there is always some relevance as to how the laws will affect those people's lives, even if broader considerations (value to us/cost to us as a country) are also relevant. to be clear, i'm NOT saying you're wrong. I'm asking you why you think you're right, particularly since its so obvious. EDIT: i totally appreciate i jumped in mid-conversation and asked a question which is now a chain and that might come off as odd to you, so sorry -- you asked about my point -- fair question, I'm not sure I really have one other than understanding your point of view. perhaps silly, but thought you made an interesting point and wanted to see how you thought through the issue before you made it. a "non-expert" can't tell anyone they're wrong, can only try to learn why others think they are right :).
So from my point of view the moral argument is as I stated it earlier: We either should or should not allow immigrants because of moral laws. This argument is stupid because it is not based on consequences or information. Your point seems to be that the consequentialist point of view should take into account the impact on immigrants, which is different than what I meant by the moral argument. I'm pretty sure I agree with yours. A country is made up out of people. The costs/benefits to those people are a subset of the costs/benefits to a country, and should be factored into same.
interesting, so you are dividing morality into impact on immigrants and the idea that they should be allowed to join us a a moral right, with the former included in your analysis and the latter not. putting aside positions, from a practical perspective it seems that drawing that line will remain difficult because "impact to immigrants" likely informs the very moral arguments I think you're trying to avoid. Or in other words, putting that issue (effect on immigrants) within the costs/benefits analysis requires some of the same subjective considerations that plague the moral argument (both in terms of difficulty in resolving with certainty and the idea of avoiding morality). Regardless, seems like the horse has been dead for hours (my fault!). Thanks for engaging with me.
Give absolute power to several UFAIs and hope that they dutifully compete for everyone's labour, and graciously don't cooperate against troublemakers? Um... have you ever read much about the history of the labour movement in the West? Have you heard, say about the labour struggles in China right now? Have you wondered what a megacorporation with a 100% secure source of rent would act like? I hardly understand how this'd be supposed to work at all in your vision. (Or in anyone's.)
I'm no fan of rent-seeking corporations, but the actions Gazprom tends to get criticized over are in its dealings with countries which are attempting to leverage transportation monopolies against it. There aren't really any innocent parties in those exchanges.
Oh, I wasn't referring to that at all. What I had in mind was how it doesn't seem to put the vast rent it extracts to much good use in my own country. And how it (and lesser rent-extracting corps like Transneft) joins into the massive state-oligarchic system of corruption that we live under. But yeah, I wouldn't expect Western media to report much on its place in Russian economy.
Laughs I'm too ignorant on the specific matter at hand to continue this vein of conversation in any depth. I can only comment on the general case, so I'll continue it there: I think in general Russia got screwed over in its conversion to capitalism. Not even the first time, either; a major incitement to the rise of communism was how it ended feudalism, by putting all the serfs in massive debt to their landlords to pay for "freeing" them. (Granted, their debts were discharged a few decades later, but that was less a fix than a band-aid at that point, and it's not like they got a generation's worth of payments back.) Its modern patterns don't seem to have deviated much; take everything the state owned, effectively give it to the people who were already in charge (nominally sold to them, but it wasn't exactly like they were sold in public auctions; the auctions were pretty deliberately manipulated), and call it privatization because now they own it instead of the state, nevermind that very little has actually changed, except that all obligations that went along with their government roles were discharged in the conversion. It would be like if a corporation seized all its shareholder's shares and gave them to the board of directors. I'm a fervent capitalist, mind. And I don't think Russia's conversion to capitalism, in the manner it was conducted, actually did Russia any favors. They should have stuck to the voucher program. I have some choice words to describe Yeltsin.
Did you ignore the disclaimer?
No, I understand this is not your current position. However, I have specifically noted that your disclaimer includes the words "seems reasonable". This felt to me like a contrast with the suggestion's apparent absurdity. Had you not claimed that this is all supposed to relate, however tangentially, to ordinary LW-style reasoning and not just aesthetics or ideological applause lights (and I have nothing against those in moderation), I wouldn't have attacked this. I was merely confused about your intent and level of seriousness here.

Paul Gottfried’s Calm Despair

John Derbyhsire's review of a collection of essays. The chosen title speaks volumes as Derbyshire is no optimist himself. It touches not so much on the content as a readable take on the life and positions of one of the Paleoconservative intellectuals I admire most.

On immigration, not necessarily limited to the united states. I find laws that discriminate based on national origin to be unfair, in the sense that they limit good outcomes arbitrarily. On the other hand, I do not know of a way to transition to more lenient immigration laws successfully (though I haven't thought about it much and it's far from my areas of interest). I want to know if there are arguments for limiting the rights of immigrants (legal or not) that aren't rooted in excessive self-interest ("they took our jobs!") Or perhaps xenophobia.

It is clear that some countries are more productive and generally nicer places than others. Why is that? A large part of it is because of the people in those countries. (I'll not get into the question of whether genetic or memetic differences are more important since it's not directly relevant to my point.) Thus it makes sense to restrict immigration from the type of people likely to make the country a worse place to live.
Would they, actually?
I think you're arguing at a cross purpose; Eugine is, I believe, suggesting that there are other potential costs; for example, the -politics- of immigrants could cause problems. Suppose, for argument's sake, that socialism is the best economic system (you can easily reverse this argument for the sake of argument; I'm a laissez-faire capitalist, so I'm choosing a hypothetical that fights me); if laissez-faire capitalists immigrate to a socialist area because it has more opportunity, their subsequent demands for economic reform could destroy the very economy that brought them in to begin with.
I don't think Eugeine_Nier is talking about wages.
I'm unsure whether you want arguments for limits on (1) immigration in itself, or (2) the rights of immigrants once settled in a new country, but I'll focus on arguments against (1), since they can be turned into arguments against (2) by observing that policies in favour of (2) are likely to encourage (1). I don't know how you draw the line in terms of excessive self-interest or xenophobia so I've set those worries aside in listing these arguments; take 'em or leave 'em. 1. Potential immigrants might be worse than current residents, however you choose to define "worse". (Similar to Eugine_Nier's point.) 2. The sheer rate at which people would immigrate to a given country in the absence of limits might overwhelm that country's resources. 3. The loss of migrants from their home countries might harm those countries. 4. Immigrants themselves might actually be worse off in a different country. 5. Immigrants, regardless of their personal characteristics, might generate a negative reaction from the existing residents, institutions, and/or economy of their destination country. 6. Other countries might suffer negative externalities from immigration even if immigrants, their countries of origin, and their destination country all enjoy a net benefit. 7. Allowing certain immigrants to enter a country could provoke interference or punishment from their home country. 8. Limiting (or outright banning) immigrants from a particular country could be a useful signal or sanction against that country.
What is this "fair" thing? Life isn't fair. The governments are responsible to the citizens a single country, not the whole world, so they are unfair to non-citizens when it makes sense economically or politically. The immigration laws will be relaxed once it's in the interests of the country to attract more immigrants and tighten when there are enough. Happens all the time all over the world. You can pretend that this is about human rights, but it's really economics, with a healthy dose of politics.
"Life isn't fair" is one of the least effective arguments I have ever heard, though it is a great example of naturalistic fallacy (this thing is better because it's natural / don't try to mess with the way things are meant to be). I also said why I thought unfairness in this particular case is bad, so I'm down voting.
You said "I find laws that discriminate based on national origin to be unfair, in the sense that they limit good outcomes arbitrarily." Good outcomes for whom? Often a good outcome for one person is a bad outcome for another. What are the reasons you would prefer one person over another?
Society is thankfully not a zero sum game. In many cases, an immigrant having the option to move to a new country is gaining a significant amount of utility, and the citizens of that country do not lose as much as the immigrant gains (they usually even benefit from the immigrant's presence). And in the cases where the immigrant is taking too much, there already laws in place to counteract antisocial behavior such as stealing or fraud. We already have laws to limit bad outcomes, so restrictions on immigration should tend to cause more harm than good by blocking outcomes regardless of utility. This is in the case where I do not give any advantage to the citizens already in the country by valuing their happiness more, and I don't see a reason why I should.
Tragedy of the commons. On the margin, what a first world society loses and what the immigrant gains from coming to a vastly better country are unbalanced in the favor of the immigrant. On the other hand, unrestricted immigration can lead to cultural shifts, more crime, etc. Eg, if I live in a mansion by myself, and I let someone move in from out on the street, I'm a little worse off and they are vastly better off. If I let every homeless person into my mansion, it very quickly becomes its own slum, I am vastly worse off and on margin each homeless person is slightly better off. Not only do I now not have the use of all that space for my own pleasure, I have to deal with more crime, smelly housemates, and drugs and alcohol. Maybe I don't want to raise a family there anymore. It's easy to argue that a nation should take a small loss to its citizens to greatly improve the life for a non-citizen, but a lot harder to argue that it should screw itself over to make life better for a lot of non-citizens.
On your account I am worse off with one person in my house, albeit marginally, and I am vastly worse off with lots of them in my house. In other words, on this account people are negative-value, and I am best off living alone in my house while the homeless people stay outside. At some point it seems worth asking under what conditions (if any) an additional person in my house provides positive value (for example, if they can provide valuable labor or entertaining company). It also seems worth asking whether and how we can make those conditions obtain more generally, and whether the cost of doing so offsets the value obtained by doing so or not.
I think the most popular solution is rent but it's hard to generalize to nations
Rent is a popular solution, yes. So is an exchange of labor (e.g. spouses, household servants, children). The latter is easier to generalize.
It refers to aspects of behavioral symmetry that the speaker prefers and is willing to use power to enforce in his or her environment of interest. (At very least via an attempt at moral persuasion.)

In a successful democracy, there is a process for electing the members of the government that appears, based on the past track record, to work.

If China has done any things right historically, perhaps it is education, and the cultivation of a disciplined workforce, and maybe a communication system that reaches into every village, and maybe these things are really quite big, esp. when combined with good natural resources.

China seems to have reasonably responsible leaders at the top for the moment, maybe because the most extravagant examples of corruptness at... (read more)

The US didn't had an engineer as president since Herbert Hoover. China is currently run by Hu Jintao who studied hydraulic engineering. The president before Hu, Jiang Zemin got a degree in electrical engineering. China's current vice president studied chemical engineering. Having more people with science and engineering backgrounds into political leadership positions seem like a good idea.
I'm not convinced.
In authoritarian countries, hi..storically, engining and science has provided some of the best independent thinkers. In the US, I think we need much better education in science and engineering, including an appreciation for scientific thought processes and scientific culture -- not necessarily engineers in the White House, but somebody there who appreciates engineers and science.
And yet, it is the US that tends to be ahead of authoritarian countries in science and technology.

Let's get a bit meta. I posit that there are certain political discussions where rational debate is entirely useless, because they largely consist of choosing an axiom. Abortion is the most obvious of these - people who believe the right to life begins at conception(usually for religious reasons) are almost universally pro-life, and people who do not are almost universally pro-choice. It is not possible, even in principle, to convince either side of the other's position, because there's no argument that can change an axiom.

It's good to keep our limitation... (read more)

Even if we're talking about axiomatic disagreements, rational debate is still useful. Eg, we can still use rationality to help identify which axioms we're disagreeing with.

Case in point is your abortion example. I think you've messed up your lines of cause and effect there. Being anti-abortion either causes or has a common cause with believing that life begins at conception. Being pro-abortion causes or has a common cause with believing that life doesn't begin at conception.

Let me posit an axiom that causes anti-abortion. Instead of the whole 'soul' thing, lets go with "Women deserve to be punished for having sex," and that 'life-begins-at-conception' is just a rationalization. If this were true, anti-abortion should coincide with religiosity (it does) and pro-abortion should coincide with women's rights (also does). Both axioms correctly fit the existing data. How could we tell the difference... which axiom is the true axiom?

My rationalist shoes say we'd want to identify a differentiation point where these two axioms would cause different results. Have there been any occasions where "reduce number of abortions" and "punish women for having sex&quo... (read more)

Every pro-lifer I've ever met has shared two characteristics: they don't think women who have abortions should go to jail, and they think that women who have abortions are worse off than women who choose to give birth. That doesn't fit with the pregnancy-as-punishment theory. (It does however, expose another type of misogyny: they refuse to believe a mature woman in a sound mind could ever choose abortion.)
The first characteristic, even if it doesn't fit the pregnancy-as-punishment theory terribly well, fits far worse with the abortion-as-murder theory.
"don't think women who have abortions should go to jail" I'd be open to it personally (though I think prisons have a slew of their own problems) but it makes for lousy arguments if your goal is to slowly shift public opinion. rather than being scrupulously consistent.
Many religious objections to birth control consist of "It's actually abortion, just a bit more subtle" - preventing implantation of a fertilized embryo is the same as a surgical abortion, if you don't distinguish between a day's gestation and two months'. Most of the rest seem like generalized objections to sex - human biology being what it is, the punishment for that will inevitably fall largely on the shoulders of women. It doesn't seem like it's just a female-specific objection, though - I doubt your average religious objector would get too worked up at the thought of alimony or a shotgun marriage, and most seem to actively encourage adoption. As for your proposed strategy, it seems like it's basically trying to do the same thing, given how liberalized sex and liberalized religion are so tightly bound in practice.
What about ways to prevent the ovum from being fertilized in the first place, e.g. condoms or vasectomy?
The objections there are mostly "It'll lead to evil nookie!", and to a lesser extent "It's not 100% reliable"(as though anything in life is...oh wait, abstinence can't lead to pregnancy, because the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down - how could I have forgotten?). They're stupid objections, but to people who literally believe that sex outside of marriage will lead to an eternity of torture, I can sort of see how they connect the dots.
If there are objections on the soul level, you should still expect to see a hierarchy based on preventing/allowing fertilization per birth control. For example: Going by pure number of 'abortions' (counting as any termination of a fertilized ovum), there is a continuum for birth control. IIRC it's pill -> patch -> condoms -> spermicide+condoms -> shot -> implant -> IUD -> surgery. Implants and especially IUDs cause up to an order of magnitude fewer of these 'instant abortions' compared to the pill. We should expect to see pro-life campaigns saying "get an IUD, NOT the pill!" (Or supporting vasectomy / tubal ligation, but fat chance on those.) But again, we don't see that. Because those 99.9% effective things will lead to sin.
This isn't necessarily a good argument given that they have theological objections to birth control. This maybe indicates a general value which is an objection to technological modification of issues connected to reproduction as part of what may be a general reactionary attitude. This is consistent with for example, the early objections to IVF and the use of anesthesia in pregnancy. However, the second one of these could also be construed as a "punish women" goal, even as it has become uncommon. It might be noteworthy in this context that the IVF issue still is an issue for Catholic official doctrine but not almost any Protestants, and the objection to anesthesia in pregnancy is essentially gone completely. On the other hand, maybe looking at something more connected to male biology might help: if this is purely an objection to technical intervention in sex, then one would expect objections to Viagra and similar drugs. But they don't exist. So that's an argument against the technical intervention hypothesis. Another possibility is that trying to understand is part of a general attempt to give broad explanations for what amounts to an attempt to modify old theology to handle modern technologies and dilemmas. Thus the exact results may be to some extent essentially stochastic. One example that might prove an interesting contrast in this context to the Christian right outlook is that of Orthodox Judaism. In some respects, Orthodox Judaism has more of an objection to birth control than it has to abortion. Fitting this sort of norm into any of the above hypotheses really seems like shoehorning.

Why do people insist on comparisons to -Viagra- when discussing birth control? Vasectomy would be a better comparison. Of course, it doesn't illustrate the same kind of point, because religious objections to vasectomy do exist (and get almost no media coverage compared to religious objections to comparable procedures in women).

So this is an interesting point but actually reinforces the sorts of claims being made by Xachariah, since the amount of objection to vasectomies is much smaller than the amount of objection to birth control, which is consistent with his hypothesis. But I suspect that in fact the reason vasectomies aren't used as an example are far the same (actual) reason that they don't have nearly as much objection: they aren't that common. Thinking more about this though, there's another interesting hypothesis that hasn't been discussed yet: the goal might not be punishing a specific gender for having sex, but punishing sex in general. That seems by and large consistent with almost all of the discussed issues here with viagra being possibly a counterexample.
If you're thinking about US politics in 2012, most of the "objection to birth control" was objection to Obama's mandate that insurance companies to fully cover birth control for women, but not men.
More generally, in the US there's much more objection to birth control. This is a long-term trend independent of any recent issues. Moreover, the objections made about the recent health-care mandate were not made by and large based on gender equality issues.
Sure. My point was that no one was requiring employers to cover vasectomies, so of course no one will get angry about having to provide vasectomy coverage.
Vasectomies(and tube-tying) tend to be used very differently than temporary birth control. Usually they're done either in the context of a married couple who has as many kids as they want, or someone with serious enough medical issues that reproduction would be ill-advised. As such, the impact on casual sex is dramatically different than the impact of the Pill or abortions.
Someone started a rumor last decade that a large portion of health insurers cover Viagra but not birth control. It's not true.
I'm not sure that state laws mandating specific corporate policy make a good basis for defending corporate policies. That said, even if it were true, I am not sure it's really that objectionable. Viagra is intended to treat a dysfunction of the body, whereas birth control is intended to prevent a function of the body; they're not comparable in kind, even if they both enable the same behaviors.
Given that there's no god to specify what theology you get, this just raises the question — why do they have those theological objections? You're proposing what amounts to a null hypothesis in your notion that "the exact results may be to some extent essentially stochastic". Or the various cultures wherein are found the murder of women who have extramarital sex and other forms of "honor" violence. The differences do not seem to be described well as theological differences, since some of the same behaviors exist across different religions in some regions of the world. It is easy for atheists to come to the conclusion that religious people do nasty things because of religion. I suspect that it would be more accurate to say that religion provides a set of powerful rationalizations for certain emotional reactions; and that which reactions a person manifests has as much to do with other elements of culture as with their theology.
Funny, from my point of view this evidence suggests that pro-lifers are actually more concerned with controlling women's sex lives, than with saving unborn babies.
Can't it be both?
Yes, I suppose so. Good point. Edit: Seriously? Downvotes? For conceding that my political opponent made a good point? Seriously?
I bet the down votes are for re-iterating the parent comments main point as if it were novel and original to you? Didn't you understand what this meant: "lets go with "Women deserve to be punished for having sex," and that 'life-begins-at-conception' is just a rationalization"?
Re-reading the grand-grand-grand-grand-parent post, yes, I now see that you're correct that that was what he was trying to get at - although he certainly wasn't being particularly clear. But regardless, downvoting someone for conceding a point to someone they're engaged in debate with is pretty lame.
Your model assumes that all people believe in a position for the same reason. In my debates with different people about abortion different people seem to hold their positions for different reasons. Thinking that all people who disagree with you are on one side and think exactly the same is a good way to prevent rational debate.
It's not obvious a priori that being anti-abortion isn't caused by believing that life begins at conception (but I agree that, except for people deep down the valley of bad rationality, it's way less likely that their morality depends on their definition of the English word life than the other way round).
I don't think it's a matter of different axioms - humans aren't expert systems after all! It's more about a tension between two systems for regulating reproductive behavior. In system A, girls are expected to abstain from sex until marriage, girls that don't are shunned, men are discouraged from marrying "used goods", and anything promoting sexual promiscuity is dangerous. Parents are expected to have an important input into they're children's decisions, and women are expected to be mostly dependent on a man. This is what you'd get in traditional "farmer" communities, i.e. most of the civilized world in past centuries. In system B, Marriage is about Love, which is considered kind of mysterious and spontaneous; sex is not frowned upon, though it's expected that girls will take the reasonable steps to avoid unwanted pregnancy. The law also steps in to make sure fathers take their responsibilities. Basically, both feature ways of avoiding unwanted pregnancies, though system A is much more gung-ho about doing so; probably mostly because in a village a couple centuries ago, having a fatherless child would be one of the worse things that could happen to a girl. But many of the norms in this are not considered as "ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies", but rather as things that are valuable of themselves (and the norms are supported by connotations in the language, common stories, etc.) - they are lost purposes. So from the point of view of someone raised mostly with System A values, abortion looks like something that reduces the bad consequences of immoral behavior, and thus encourages immoral behavior, so of course it's bad! They ignore the fact that the main reason such a behavior is considered immoral is because it leads to those consequences! ... or at least, that's one part of the story. There's also a good deal of identity conflicts involved (religion and culture more than politics), and of course it's entirely possible that overall, System A does work better th
For a better example of a case where rational debate is useless, I'd take an exiled Tibetan and a Chinese Nationalist debating about the status of Tibet.
I think that's somewhat more amenable to rationality - the "Screw Tibet, free China!" bumper sticker I once saw comes to mind here. But I mostly picked abortion because it's the most prominent such example and the one I've thought most about, not because it's necessarily the best illustration.
If someone believes something about the moral implications of conception, that is something they likely just took in as a social truth, and then later learned and crafted a rationalization for. I don't think we have moral instincts about cellular organisms. To the extent that their in group remains constant, it would take a lot of serious moral argument to overcome that social truth. The problem with political arguments is that people don't seriously have them. They volley a couple of bumper stickers at each other, and then go off in a huff. They may do it a million times - but a million bogus arguments designed to achieve nothing individually will likely achieve nothing in the aggregate as well. The social truth remains intact - no serious moral arguments oppose it - why would we ever expect a change? Where you might expect a change - when one moves between social groups, or when one commits to and is capable of serious moral argument. The social aspect is at least theoretically testable - how big are the moral shifts when people change in groups? I suspect pretty large. And in the relatively rare ideologue class, the shifts are often pretty big too. I knew a gal who went from seminary->Leninism->WIcca/EnviroProgressivism. Lots of atheist ideologues are former fundamentalists. Conservatives who were former marxists. Arguments work on people who engage in them. I'd guess that a changing social truth works even better on most.
This kind of stuff happens very often among people in their late teens in my home town. (Most but not all of them just support political ideologies the way they'd support football teams.)
That's it. A small class of people care about and are interested in ideas. You can change their minds through argument. The vast majority are Green Team Blue Team, and they change their ideology if required by a change in their social affiliation.
Actually there are many more possible position in the abortion debate than pro-life and pro-choice. The fact that the position exist like this in US society is a result of the fact that the issue didn't get resolved democratically via congress but via the Supreme Court. Different European countries have different abortion laws and it makes sense to discuss with laws around the issue are best. If you want to have a senisble discussion about the topic, don't treat it binary. You look at a bunch of different legal solutions to the abortion issue and start comparing which laws you prefer over which other laws.
Restrictions on procedures can take a lot of shades, but the basic choice of yea or nay is pretty binary. For comparison, Canada also had abortion law determined by the Supreme Court(it was legal but heavily restricted before, and now we have literally the loosest abortion law in the world - there are no restrictions whatsoever), but the issue is nowhere near as controversial. I think the difference has a lot less to do with the Supreme Court, and a lot more to do with the US level of religiosity.
Accepting that a woman, who was raped and has complications with her pregnancy that would mean that she would die if there was no abortion, is a long way from accepting that every pregnant woman in a late stage pregnancy can just decide to have an abortion. When you start talking rationally about the shade of gray of different laws it also becomes easier to have a rational discourse about the extremes.
One exemption to anti-abortion views I've seen expressed almost universally among pro-lifers is that abortion is okay if the mother's life is at risk(because at that point, abortion isn't murder, any more than an operation that kills one Siamese twin to save the other is). A lot of people try to start blocking out other exemptions for semi-random reasons, mostly because of the hemisphere fallacy, but the arguments are usually the sort of incoherent nonsense you only hear from politicians.
That's why it makes sense to give them multiple laws that regulate abortion and ask them to rank them instead of asking them for their ideal abortion law. They will have to give you reasons about why they prefer one exception over another even if they would reject both exceptions in a perfect world. That usually requires them to reason in a way that's more than just reiterating talking points.
Agreed, that seems like a good approach to teasing out details of a stance. (Most real people will just ignore you in various ways, of course, but if you can make them sit still long enough it's viable)
If you tell people that they are doing things wrong, they usually dont ignore you but get emotional about what you are saying. If people just ignore you, maybe you are arguing against straw mans or otherwise not addressing the real reasons of why they acted the way they did in the past.
Upvoted, beacause I agree in principle, but I don't actually see any examples of this in this thread.
I agree with you, but I'm not sure that "moral value conflict" is the mainstream position in this community (or in society in general).
I think the mainstream position in society is "People who disagree with me are evil", so that's not saying a lot. But fair point.

I'm curious about the general stance towards alcohol, from Lesswrong. It (1) lowers the quality of life, and life expectancy (3rd highest cause of preventable death in the US), for almost all people drinking, or closely linked to people who drink, (2) costs a fair bit (The money spent per year in europe on alcohol-related damages could fund a manned mission to mars), (3) and offers little to no positive effects (Only proven short-term effects are temporary loss of motor control and some brain functions like balance and memory, anything else seems to be a placebo).

So, I'd like to know if you're for or against limiting alcohol (through laws lowering sales, altering public opinion etc.) and why.


That "offers little to no positive effects" comment suggests to me that you have limited personal experience with alcohol. The primary benefit I (and I think most drinkers my age) derive from alcohol is social: it helps me make new friends and connect more closely to existing friends. Lots of people drink, and it's easier to become friends with those people if you also drink. If that isn't enough LW lingo for you, drinking is a Schelling point.

Also, what do people have against placebo effects? Quoting myself seems dangerously egotistical, but "a placebo effect is still an effect." Maybe someone should write a top-level post about this.

I've had enough experience to compare interactions with and without alcohol, and I've noticed it's much more difficult to connect with anyone who's been drinking, even if I've also been. Merely personal, but with no alcohol in my regular life, I still gain friends easily, now having gained far above my Dunbar's Number. Have you tested if it actually is more difficult if all parties are sober? I'm against this particular one, since as a placebo, something lacking the negative effects while achieving the positive placebo effects would be much more awesome.
Doesn't agree with my experience. I generally find that people are more relaxed and open when not sober. I am also generally skeptical of arguments of the form "if we counterfactually modified aspect X of the world to aspect Y, the world would be more awesome, therefore we should start trying to change X into Y" because they ignore transition costs. (A simple example is X = imperial units and Y = metric in the US.) The world would probably be a better place if the social role of alcohol was replaced by a less destructive drug, but I don't think it's feasible to actually force such a replacement to occur, or at least I don't think it's a good use of political resources.

Moderate drinking can offer some health benefits. Plenty of sources, here's one.

Just because many abuse alcohol does not mean it cannot confer health benefits in controlled doses.

One should also distinguish between different kinds of alcohol. Unpasteurized beer or organic dry wine, for example, I imagine is way less likely to be a problem for one's health than cheap beer or wine with all sorts of additives and shortcuts with the process.
Alcohol causes temporary loss of motor control and some brain functions, and this is exactly the point. Any mistakes can be blamed on 'being drunk', and thus people are able to cast of the shackles of social inhibition, and enjoy themselves more unimpeded. Our society is rather oppressive when it comes to making mistakes or looking 'low status' in normal situations, so alcohol is the perfect way for many people to compensate, and allow themselves temporary spans of time where they're less afraid to make mistakes or look incompetent (and I would argue this general fear of making mistakes or looking incompetent is one of the main plagues in society, preventing all sorts of people from improving their lives). Call it placebo if you want, but placebo is great if it works. Anything is great if it works.
I've never noticed it used as an excuse, and to me that seems a lot like saying "I was biased!", to cast away blame. Though I have a different frame of reference - here you're accountable for anything you do, sober or drunk, including making mistakes/looking incompetent. Where is the line drawn where you can just shrug off any blame? I can't think of any rational reason to want to drink, then, unless you want to... Act incompetently and get away with it? Is this then a good thing? I agree on the placebo bit, anyway.
Does increasing the tax on alcohol count? I'm in favor of that (at least in the US), for basically the reasons given by Mark Kleiman here. Problem drinkers are a relatively small fraction of the population but they account for a relatively large fraction of the alcohol market - one statistic that Kleiman mentions elsewhere is that (in the US) half of all alcohol is consumed by people who average 4 or more drinks per day.
It's one of the more effective ways of lowering consumption. It's not the problem drinkers that cause the worst effect though - it's the casual drinkers that cause the most damage (for example by overestimating themselves and driving). Taxes would still work on most groups, so yes, it definitely counts.
Does this put me in the "Against" category too? I don't care if people drink alcohol in moderation, but I'm in favour of minimum alcohol pricing laws for Kleimanesque reasons. But minimum pricing is unlikely to reduce most groups' alcohol consumption by much, as only the cheapest booze would go up in price.
I'd actually put you in "for", as you're favouring a suggestion that raises prices and lower consumption. For this I'd say effect is more central than opinion. And no, it wouldn't lower it much - on average just under 7 percents, but it'd reduce health care costs as well.
Oops, I'd misread the voting question (as a question about being for/against alcohol rather than being for/against limiting alcohol). Good thing I didn't vote yet!
Neutral. I don't drink and I think it's a waste of money, but I think worrying about it is an even bigger waste of money. Also, I don't work for the government.
Neutral. I'm against legal alcohol prohibition, for lots of reasons. And of all the things I could devote effort to altering public opinion about, alcohol isn't a priority. That said, I don't drink, and I don't tend to serve alcohol at parties (though if guests want to bring some they're free to, and I made an exception at my wedding because to do otherwise seemed inhospitable), and I tend to push back on the assumption more generally that social interactions have to be lubricated by alcohol. If alcohol became as unpopular tomorrow as, say, chewing tobacco is today, I wouldn't mind.
Well, hedonics is a positive effect. Kind of. Would probably go for altering public opinion.

John Derbyshire Wonders: Is HBD Over?

The flourish of HBD books and talk in the years around 2000 was, to switch metaphors, early growth from seeds too soon planted.Had the shoots been nourished by a healthy stream of scientific results, they might have grown strong enough to crack and split the asphalt of intellectual orthodoxy.But as things turned out, the maintenance crew has had no difficulty smothering the growth.

Even the few small triumphs of HBD—triumphs, I mean, of general acceptance by cognitive elites—have had an ambiguous quality about them.


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Related article: John Derbyshire Wonders: Is HBD Over?

Quoted in the post A word of warning from Lev Navrozov:

Tsar Nicholas II and his advisers. In 1914 the mere though that Russia might become a German colony was horrible for ethnic Russians. But after 1917 the Kaiser’s Germany seemed in Russia to have been an idyllic, humane, civilized country. Nicholas II should have made any concessions to the Kaiser rather than plunge into the war which undercut the European civilization perhaps forever and ushered in something no European could even imagine in his most fanciful diatribes against the existing regimes be

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Edit: low quality rambling comment, sorry. Retracted, might redo it later.

An interesting post on some transhumanist blog/community about dominance and counter-dominance (and not equality/inequality or the method of governance per se) as the possible underlying political "drives" between Left and Right.

The blog itself is thoroughly unimpressive - all the standard transhumanist applause lights, and the modern progressivist ideology smuggled in as common sense. Yet my ears perked up at this particular argument. I've been thinking across similar lin... (read more)

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