B Jacobs

I'm not a: scientific-realist, moral-realist, physicalist, capitalist, HBDer, crypto-believer or one who thinks the singularity is near. In other words, I'm not a rationalist.

If you want to read my stuff anyway you can do so here and at the EAF (I may no longer agree with older posts)

Wiki Contributions


I tried a bit of a natural experiment to see if rationalists would be more negative towards an idea if it's called socialism vs if it's called it something else. I made two posts that are identical, except one calls it socialism right at the start, and one only reveals I was talking about socialism at the very end (perhaps it would've been better if I hadn't revealed it at all). The former I posted to LW, the latter I posted to the EA forum.

I expected that the comments on LW would be more negative, that I would get more downvotes and gave it a 50% chance the mods wouldn't even promote it to the frontpage on LW (but would on EA forum).

The comments were more negative on LW. I did get more downvotes, but I also got more upvotes and got more karma overall: (12 karma from 19 votes on EA and 27 karma from 39 votes on LW). Posts tend to get more karma on LW, but the difference is big enough that I consider my prediction to be wrong. Lastly, the LW mods did end up promoting it to the frontpage, but it took a very long time (maybe they had a debate about it).

Overall, while rationalists are more negative towards socialist ideas that are called socialist, they aren’t as negative as I expected and will update accordingly.

Sorry guys. I woke up to another giant batch of new comments and I just don't have the time or energy to respond to them all with the quality that I would want. My comments were already getting shorter and shorter while my longer, more nuanced comments were getting sniped before I could post them. I'm sure some of you made some excellent points.

I cited controlled experiments, you counter with an observation that I have already responded to in both the post and the comments:

I explained this in this section:

One issue that arises with starting a socialist firms is acquiring initial investing.[27] This is probably because co-ops want to maximize income (wages), not profits. They pursue the interests of their members rather than investors and may sometimes opt to increase wages instead of profits. Capitalist firms on the other hand are explicitly investor owned so investor interests will take priority.

A socialist firm can be more productive and not dominate the economy if it's hard to start a socialist firm.


The strength of a case depends on the strength of the evidence, not on the number of citations!

You are not engaging with the evidence I cited.

A spot check is supposed to take a number of random sources and check them, not pick the one claim you find most suspicious (that isn't even about co-ops) and use that to dismiss the entire literature on co-ops.

I cite four different studies that show that the theory doesn't match the observations, Lao Mein doesn't cite anything. This is the most extreme version of being a selective skeptic.

I’m not handwaving anything I wrote a whole section about how experiments contradict this and what could explain this:

“Experiments have shown that people randomly allocated to do tasks in groups where they can elect their leaders and/or choose their pay structures are more productive than those who are led by an unelected manager who makes pay choices for them.[20] One study looked at real firms with high levels of worker ownership of shares in the company and found that workers are keener to monitor others, making them more productive than those with low or no ownership of shares and directly contradicting the free rider hypothesis.[21] It turns out there are potential benefits to giving workers control and a stake in the running of the organization they work for. This allows workers to play a key role in decision making and reorient the goals of the organization.[22] One explanation for this phenomenon is that of "localized knowledge". According to economist Friedrich Hayek, top-down organizers have difficulty harnessing and coordinating around local knowledge, and the policies they write that are the same across a wide range of circumstances don't account for the "particular circumstances of time and place".[23] (For examples of this, read Seeing Like a State by political scientist James Scott) Those who make the top-down policies in a traditional company are different to those who have to follow them. In addition, those who manage the company are most often different to those who own the company. These groups have different incentives and accumulate different knowledge. This means that co-ops have two main advantages:

Workers can harness their collective knowledge to make running the firm more effective. Workers can use their voting power to ensure the organization is more aligned with their values. Interestingly enough, I have yet to come across a co-op that uses the state of the art of social choice theory, so they could potentially get a lot lot better.“

My prior is that other things are less effective and you need evidence to show they are more effective not vice versa.

Appeal to presuppositions always feels weird to me. A socialist could just as easily say 'my priors say the opposite'. In any case, you made a claim of comparison, not me, why is the burden of proof suddenly on me?

Of course. I'm saying it doesn't even get to make that argument which can sometimes muddy the waters enough to make some odd-seeming causes look at least plausibly effective.

I'm trying to explain the scientific literature on co-ops, not persuade you of some scam.

However, in spot-checking whether the statistics were totally wrong, I found myself struggling with wading through signups and links and long mostly irrelevant articles. Of course some nonzero amount of this is likely to happen with spot-checks but it seemed like the layers of links just made it even worse.

This is dishonest, the vast majority of the sources are primary scientific studies and the few times I do refer to secondary sources it isn't irrelevant.

You did handle it right, especially your deleted comment.

OP to explain what data/model it was based on; the problem is that then OP responded back with repeating the links instead of explaining what he had read in the links

Yeah, because the primary source is right there?! What value would me explaining in my second language bring to the explanation, when you can click on the link and immediately download the primary source?

But anyway, no, this link doesn't link directly to the study either, it links to a report that links to the study

You can immediately see a button that says "download report" when you click on that link. I wouldn't call that "digging for sources".

The wall of text doesn't really answer my questions about the independence of employee engagement.

Furthermore they suggest that managers have a huge effect on employee engagement, which seems to point to a potential area where this assumption could fail.

It's not independent, co-ops let you vote on managers which allows productivity to increase.

EDIT: I have apologized to (and thanked) tailcalled via messages, and have added the document as the third source. Once again, thanks for the suggestion.

I've already explained why socialists firms wouldn't necessarily take over the economy even if they were productive in both the post and other comments.

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