The Fall of Rome, II: Energy Problems?

Ooh, this is a fun theory. Possibly causality reversed? Adam Smith's old doozy is "the degree of specialization is limited by the extent of the market" or something like that. If the empire is collapsing and trade becoming more difficult practices switch to more local economies. Some products require a certain scale of market to be viable. Feudal Western Europe was quite fragmented, 100 different toll gates as you went down the Rhine and whatnot, so trade was very reduced, extent of market low and so specialization low and so capital requirements for production had to be low.

Stone quarries could be abandoned because there was tons of stone available for reuse and the current owners didn't care about civic pride the way the old ones did(can't afford to care about it when you're fighting for your life). Feudal/medieval monumental construction meant castles and cathedrals, not bath houses.

Roof tiles as compared to straw roofs, ceramic amphorae compared to wooden barrels, cremation compared to burial, the use of glass, even the toga seems to have required extensively boiled wool

These are Mediterranean things, as the Western Empire is taken over by Germanic people's why would Gaul preserve these building styles. 

For amphorae: what is the dominant mode of transport? Barrels will survive land transport in a more localized economy a lot better. How much capital does barrel production vs amphorae production require. If the economy is more village centered maybe clay-related production becomes uneconomical.

My opinion: chain mail is better than Lorica segmentata, but more expensive to make(require more iron actually, is heavier, better protection, better maintenance since a segmentata you just have to scrap if it cracks, way more manual labour to produce). It's not really clear why the segmentata was used in the ~50BC-300AD period. Maybe it was just cheaper to mass produce. By the time lorica hamata(the chain) production caught up they abandoned the segmentata. 

Also related to market size: if you had to buy armour for yourself you'd buy hamata, since it'd be way more maintainable, and generally better protection and mobility. Well oiled and maintained you could probably pass it on to your son or resell it. The segmentata is much more of an industrial army's armour, it needs to be fit much better to the individual and any puncture requires a professional to replace the segment.

The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken

I agree, but keep in mind just the city itself was like twice the size in the later period. Population wise 2nd Punic war Rome was around 3-500k, 410 Rome was around 8-900k. Presumably the greater southern Italian region was also way more populous, tho also less able/interested in coming to the city's aid.

Different comparison: https://old.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7v15js/why_was_roman_military_so_small_during_the/ Late Roman armies were crippled by a loss of 75k men, despite similar losses being overcome by just Rome's Southern Italian coalition centuries earlier.

The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken

Synthetic 'civilization' scores are unavoidably subjective

Just to be clear, the Ian Morris graph is Western Eurasia vs Eastern Eurasia(since it can't be Western Europe vs colloquial East, as Western Europe was a backwater pre-Rome)? I'm very skeptical of these historical score approaches, they obscure more than they enlighten and depending on how actual data is weighted the author can come up with any conclusion they want. 

For instance, why wouldn't population density be the defining characteristic of a successful society(higher energy density, more efficient use of space, all sorts of engineering style arguments favour that)? China would utterly dominate Western Eurasia in that model. I don't necessarily prefer that metric, I'm just pointing out synthesized metrics are very subjective though of course they have pop-history appeal.

Pet theory: Rome collapsed because all the greedy farmer soldiers became serfs

The fall of (Western) Rome has been the subject of 15 centuries of scholarship, so I'll just toss my personal favourite single cause to rule them all(it wasn't just one cause, it was multifactor but whatever): the collapse of the small-scale citizen farmers and the rise of the latifundia and the general demilitarization of roman citizens.

Disclaimer: the Romans were the historical villains of the region, in my opinion, I'm not glorifying them or their society.

The key contrast: Hannibal killed >100,000(?) roman soldiers while in Italy, yet never felt able to besiege the city. His army was maybe 100,000 strong. In 410 Alaric takes Rome with ~40,000 soldiers, despite the city being larger than the one that faced Hannibal, with no resistance worth mentioning. 

The problem is the composition of Roman society had changed. 

Growing Rome was a society where most fighting age males knew a bit of how to fight and could be drafted and would answer the draft out of patriotism/religious/civic devotion or greed. Late Rome was a society where a lot of people were coloni(proto-serfs) or fully slaves. They were purposefully not allowed to fight since their owners were afraid those skills might be turned against them. Late Roman society also wasn't expanding => the wars being fought wouldn't result in plunder => the incentive for citizens to join the army was greatly reduced. 

Early Roman soldiers had arguably unlimited upside, conquer some rich city or tribe and your share of the loot leaves you set for life. Late Roman soldiers just had a salary and much more competent enemies.

There were tons of rich land owners in the Italian peninsula, tons of people? How could the city fall to a mere 40,000 soldiers? No one really cared to defend it. The latifundiaries made their own deals with the 'barbarians', not caring about the fact that their families would slowly lose control of the land over the coming centuries. The religious(?) obsession with long-term legacy of the Republic and early empire were gone, the men of the Late west were short term focused. Early Rome elites cared about their prestige in Roman society, they saw themselves as part of the population of one city, at the end of the day they'd fight together against external societies. Late Roman elites had their wealth and power in the provinces and didn't see other latifundiaries as part of their in-group and worth fighting along with.

Plot twist: the latifundia grew because the farmer soldiers were too successful and wouldn't stop

The reason the latifundia grew and the old Roman system collapsed was the very success of the old Roman system flooding Italy with slaves and money and allowing elites to buy out small landholders. Furthermore a good reason for the Roman state to allow this process to happen was that the old get rich quick Roman war strategy ended up being used against Rome itself as Imperial pretenders persuaded our heroic yeomen farmer soldiers to turn arms against the state(since there wasn't much worth conquering outside the borders). Damned if you do damned if you don't.

Just for fun: modern democracies fuse roman legalese, revived roman civic religion, dying christian feudal ideas of obedience to authority and feudal cultural practices for peacefully transferring power

Epistemic status, wild fun speculation.

I'd argue that Western Europe continued evolving culturally and politically after Western Rome collapsed. The key technology that developed in Western Europe was the (comparatively) peaceful transfer of power from one monarch to another upon death, without lobotomizing the monarch and replacing him with a weaselly bureaucracy the way the Ottomans/Chinese harem systems solved the endless succession civil war problem. 

The ability to ACTUALLY transfer power, as opposed to sidestepping the succession by having real power embodied in a constantly regenerating collection of people is the enabling cultural technology for modern republican democracies. Better put: both elite and popular culture expects a peaceful, legally codified transfer of power. It's this ingrained instinct that's valuable and is essential(and can be lost, as Republican Rome lost it and Imperial Rome never acquired it in the West), rather than the formal rules for how you transfer power. 

That and Europe's weird obsession with separating the person of the king from the institution of the monarch(see Britain's linguistic weirdness around King/Queen-in-parliament, possibly related to Christian weirdness around the Trinity, maybe the religious mental calisthenics got applied to political ideas as well) creates a neat interface where you can cleanly replace a monarchy with an elected government and it sort of all just works the same in the minds of everyone involved.

How can we stop talking past each other when it comes to postrationality?

I have a shallow read a few posts about it overview of the post-rationality vs rationality debate, but to me it just seems like a semantic debate.

Camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" argues that rationality is the art of winning. Therefore any methods that camp "post-rationalism" uses that work better than a similar method used by people in camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" is the correct method for all rationalists to use.

The rationalist definition is sort of recursive. If you live the ideology correctly than you should replace worse methods with better ones. If it turns out that bayesian thinking doesn't produce good(or better than some alternative) results, rationalist dogma says to ditch bayesianism for the new hotness.

Taken to an extreme: in a brute survival context a lot of the current ... aesthetics or surface level features of rationalism might have to be abandoned in favour of violence, since that is what survival/winning demands. 

But it can't be that simple or there wouldn't be a debate so what am I missing?

Defending the non-central fallacy

I need to read that Huemer book, it sounds very interesting from what you've quoted in this and the other thread here.

You're right, I am being unfair to the actual philosophy. I have a negative emotional reaction to the political movement that uses the name. I have quite a lot of ... sympathy(?) for the actual philosophical movements' conclusions, however I still think it collapses to being a bunch of heuristics on top of utilitarian arguments in the end. Also I think objectivism(libertarianisms' radical grandkid(?)) is ... evil? Not utilitarian compatible, at least.

I feel like you side stepped the core issue in the party analogy: if I/we/the state can't restrict access to our property because someone might die without it ... that kinda means we can't restrict access to our property almost at all. Is anyone dying in the world of a preventable disease? Clearly the state isn't providing enough healthcare access or private healthcare providers are immorally restricting access to care.

The actual criticism then goes back to: States do not have legitimate claims for their property. I realize you address this in:

Second, it is perfectly consistent to argue for property rights in the abstract while holding that most actual claims to property in the real world are illegitimate.

But there's no legitimate property if analyzed on a long enough time horizon. At some point some primitive human bashed some other human in the head and every one of us is the infinitesimal beneficiary of that crime. Hence Christian redemption and baptism, actual legal code statutes of limitations, moral principles that only active purposeful harm is morally bad and all sorts of other coping mechanisms civilizations have developed over the ages. The alternative is literally eternal blood feuds or wars that can only end in complete annihilation of one of the factions.

The question then becomes why don't these coping mechanisms apply to states, but apply to every other human organisation? What makes state ownership illegitimate, but corporate ownership built on top of government contracts legitimate? At what degree of indirection does the sin wash off? What about children of employees of companies that sold goods to slavers?

Yes, it's consistent to argue for property rights while recognizing the illegitimacy of current property allocation... but the only moral remedy for that(if taken as a serious axiomatic moral principle) is some sort of tabula rasa society, which would obviously be crazy utility destroying and nobody supports. Ok, Bakunin et al, but come on.

I don't think libertarian principles have something unique and practical to say about where to draw the line when it comes to 'tainted' ownership rights. Even in that Nozick quote: why are we stopping with the USA? What about even more ancient history in Europe, or indeed North America. Obviously an absurd rabbit hole. We stop when there are still living descendants that are angry about this issue... well if you start providing a monetary incentive for grievance you're going to find a lot of historical grievance. Hell, looking outside the US bubble there's plenty of historical grievance globally right now everywhere.

Hopeless attempt at clarity

Trying to clarify my criticism for myself as well: libertarianism seems to present axiomatic moral principles, commandments that if unbroken will produce a just society. In practice, even philosophers treat the axioms more like heuristics layered on top of utilitarianism: "You mustn't violate private property rights ... unless you have good reason for it. Property should be justly acquired but if enough time has passed we gotta move on and get things done." Well, ok, so what does this actually produce for us?

Government should do useful things with tax money. Unironically revolutionary idea in Locke's time, but this stuff is in the water like flouride in the modern era. And going full circle, actual political movements that use the label seem built around objectivists, in that they're willing to say: the principle is more important than the utilitarian outcome of its application. Taxation is bad even if it helps people. Except, of course, modern political movements are awful and don't say that in public, that's just for the inner circle. In public they just lie(in my opinion) and claim that all government activity is net utility desroying. 

Defending the non-central fallacy

Before I go off on a rant about "taxation is theft", I want to respond to the actual theme of the post: the fallacy depends on your metric(?) function(not sure what the term is). How do you graph types of events, how do you determine proximity?

For instance, are micro-aggressions just as bad as physical violence? Or at least should we attempt to prevent them with similar amounts of force and regulation?

If your metric is physical damage done then probably not. If the metric is self-reported emotional or physical suffering, then maybe. But the category becomes very different if you change the metric. For instance, people inflicting pain in ways that don't leave a mark is a failure case for metric 1, but not metric 2. People lying about their inner state is a problem for metric 2 but not 1. 

This then breaks down into an argument over what the 'true' metric should be. If someone calls this fallacy against someone, presumably they're flagging a disagreement about the metric being used.

Rant about taxation is theft

I hate the taxation is theft argument(in general, it's a good one to bring up in this post). States are associations of citizens with particular rules, that own the land of their territory(and various other assets), if you don't like their rules leave. But all the land belongs to some association... so what? Tough cookies? 

Disclaimer: not a libertarian, but trying to take the ideology more seriously than its advocates seem to, at least what I've encountered so far.

By remaining resident/citizen of a country you are implicitly consenting to the laws of that country, including taxation. Just like using a website implies you tacitly accept its Terms of Service(legal interpretation of how enforceable this is varies for private company ToS, of course).

The only countries where this argument is at least emotionally persuasive are those that don't have exit rights, ie. you can't leave and renounce citizenship. Even there, in a geopolitical anarcho-capitalist sense, you don't have the right to just be resident for free. The state owns the land you are on, you owe it money. The only real moral wrong here, in my interpretation of natural rights libertarianism, is that you are being denied exit rights.

Granted even if you leave one country you'd still have to be accepted by some other country where you end up paying some taxes.... buuuut and this is why I hate this argument so much.... that's because citizens have 'collective' private property ownership over the sovereign nation they are a part of. The libertarian argument against taxation reduces to abolition of private property! 

Also obviously, taxation is explicitly consented to if you are an immigrant.

As strawman libertarians might say, you don't have a right to healthcare. Well you don't have a right to standing on dirt owned by the United Commonwealth of SomewhereLandia either. But every piece of dirt is owned. Tough luck. So is every piece of diamond. Build a rocket and sail off west young fellow.

Covid 11/5: Don’t Mention the War

I feel like the herd immunity section is overly simplistic given how much IFR varies based on age group. 

Using https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.23.20160895v7

The estimated age-specific IFR is very low for children and younger adults (e.g., 0.002% at age 10 and 0.01% at age 25) but increases progressively to 0.4% at age 55, 1.4% at age 65, 4.6% at age 75, and 15% at age 85.

65+ is like 45,000,000 in the US. Half of them get infected, generously let's say 3% die that's 600,000 dead. A big part of the IFR in the spring for NYC and Sweden(and probably lots of other places) was determined by the virus getting into care homes or not.

This being said I am leaning towards herd immunity being a decent solution with 2 major caveats:

1. You really need the 65+ demographic to stay reasonably locked down while you're burning through the rest of the population. And for countries where multiple generations are living together that's not possible. And for countries where a ton of older people don't worry about the virus that's also not possible.

2. You can't variolate(?) too quickly, otherwise you just blow out your hospital system and suddenly those nice 0.4% death rates blow up into ?? who knows.

Briefly looking for estimates of hospitalization rates I found https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7493765/ 

I'm super worried about Europe, because I think several countries are going to get pushed to medical system collapse and beyond. Assuming the study above is reasonably representative, let's say 4% of 40-59 year olds are admitted to hospital, based on the graph above(a group with an IFR of like 0.2%). If the hospital is full what percentage of people that needed to be admitted dies? Does he IFR go up x3? x5?

Was hoping to visit my family in Romania for the holidays, but at this stage I'm probably hunkering down in good old blighty til spring :(


EDIT. Basically I think the situation for herd immunity is both better and worse than what I derive from your post: The IFR for the groups of people we want to get the disease is well below 0.4% on average. But we REALLY want at risk groups to be in close to lockdown mode while variolating. 

As an extra wrinkle, viral load seems to have a significant effect on disease severity. If a country is purposefully going for herd immunity, at the peak of the process viral load in closed spaces will be a lot higher than it is these days. That may or may not shift IFR higher for a while.

Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About

Authorities seem to think the masses are stupid, but then fail to do the bare minimum to educate them on the metrics that matter.

The sad thing is people are definitely smart enough to realize that just raw case numbers don't matter. But then they don't take the additional, and granted fairly tedious step, of figuring out which numbers do matter(hospitalization rates, positive test rates, death numbers, ICU usage rate in their area).

Or maybe it's pure red tribe blue tribe on a global scale(or rather with variations in different countries) and I'm being naive and hopeful.

Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis

I think he just meant the curves would match, ie. referring to the peak from the previous wave: https://twitter.com/jeuasommenulle/status/1320682552257089538 

Oh actually, I think he just means they'd get back to that peak level in 25 days, not that it would get better after that. I misunderstood what he was saying. I'll correct my post above.

Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis

As a follow up to my previous comment, here's a really amazing Twitter thread breaking down the situation in France: https://twitter.com/jeuasommenulle/status/1320682084973858816 (threadreader version: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320682084973858816.html)

The poster also tries to estimate R0 using hospital data(which should be more reliable than case data, since the Spring wave was so undertested). He finds a R0 of 1.2, which means a doubling every 20 days. 

He estimates ICU usage levels will be as high as the spring peak in France within 25 days, if the trends stay correlated with the spring outbreak.

Lots more nice graphs in the thread too.

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