Political Ignorance

The Growth of the "Cultic Milieu" and the Spread of Harmful Ideas

Historian Stephen Davies provides a good explanation of why fringe "cultic milieu" ideas are growing in influence. It's a troubling development, but not one that should lead us to categorically abjure non-mainstream political ideas.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Historian Stephen Davies has an insightful article describing the growing influence of the "cultic milieu"—trends that make it easier for what were initially extremist fringe ideas to gain new adherents and begin to enter the mainstream:

The concept of the cultic milieu (hereafter CM) was formulated by a British sociologist called Colin Campbell, in an article published in 1972….

This is a kind of subterranean world or counterculture with a whole range of ideas that are strongly opposed to conventional beliefs and knowledge. These included highly heterodox and unusual religious systems (such as neo-paganism or Theosophy or Satanism), marginalised political ideologies…  and theories that rejected central elements of orthodox science, such as rejection of vaccination….

Campbell's insight was that these fringe beliefs did not exist in isolation from each other. They rather all mingled in a social space in which accepted and dominant ways of thinking about the world were rejected. Frequently people who started holding just one of these countercultural beliefs would come into contact with and pick up other ones with no apparent connection to the original belief….

One reason why it matters is that the boundaries of the CM are permeable—it is not clearly distinct from the orthodox mainstream in a fixed or permanent way. Ideas, symbols, and even ways of life can move in both directions between the orthodox mainstream and the counterculture of the CM. One of Campbell's main arguments was that although there was little formal connection, mainstream organisations such as established churches could draw upon the ideas that were being produced in the cultic milieu and make use of them or incorporate them.

Sometimes a whole body or wider system of ideas will move from fringe and countercultural status to being part of the mainstream conversation….

Right now the size and influence of the CM is growing. Ever more people subscribe to fringe beliefs and the availability of the kinds of ideas that circulate in the cultic counterculture has increased dramatically. This has happened before, notably in the period between roughly 1890 and 1930….

Colin Campbell's original model has been used to explain contemporary phenomena, above all the persistence and growth of radical right collectivist ideas, as well as radical left ones and other movements such as Islamism….

Economics can help explain why the size and influence of the cultic milieu is increasing now and grew in the earlier period….

For economists a clear factor is technological and economic developments that make it less costly to both spread ideas and information and to discover them, even when people holding those ideas do not have access to the dominant modes of communication. In the late nineteenth century cheap printing did this, along with the telegraph and telephone. By contrast the dominant communications technologies of the twentieth century (radio and television) did not because it was more difficult for proponents of non-mainstream ideas to use them.

Today social media and the internet are playing the same role as cheap printing but on an even larger scale (because the cost reductions are greater). Economic history also suggests that a growth of the cultic counterculture is a response not to secularization but to the social disruption brought about by episodes of rapid innovation…

Such episodes lead to a feeling for many people of social disconnection and displacement and bring what are seen as serious social costs. Ideas that reject received opinion then become attractive to many people as well as more accessible.

As Davies explains, this is a problematic trend, because many CM ideas are dangerous and likely to cause great harm if they come to be widely accepted, especially if they thereby public policy. Davies notes that the previous era of growing CM influence—1890-1930—was also the period when harmful ideologies communism, fascism, and eugenics, entered the mainstream, leading to large-scale atrocities and oppression.

I would add that the dynamic Davies identifies is particularly dangerous in the case of political ideas, for reasons I highlighted in an earlier post on misinformation online (see also here):

There is no shortage of nonpolitical con artists and hucksters online. But most internet consumers have learned to avoid them, or at least minimize the risk.

By contrast, we do a much worse job of minimizing the risk posed by political deception and disinformation. If you get an e-mail from a wealthy heiress who offers to pay you a million dollars, or see a website that promises to increase your sexual potency at a bargain-basement price, you are likely to be highly skeptical… [M]any people don't apply anything like the same degree of common-sense scrutiny to political snake oil – especially when it conforms to their preexisting views. Politicians and activists who peddle dubious conspiracy theories, promise to give you something for nothing, and otherwise spread disinformation, often gain a wide following….

In most private-sector contexts, we have strong incentives to guard against deception and keep wishful thinking under control. If you believe the promises of the self-proclaimed Saudi prince who e-mails to say he will send you a million dollars tomorrow if only you will forward him a much smaller sum today, you will probably lose your money…

By contrast, if you find a website or Twitter feed that promises we can promote social justice or make America great again by supporting some dubious candidate or public policy, incentives for skepticism are much weaker. If you get taken in and end up with false political beliefs that lead you to vote for the "wrong" candidate on election day, the chance that your vote will make a difference to the outcome is infinitesimally small. And even if your mistaken vote does somehow end up being decisive, most of the cost of the error will fall on the rest of society, not you or your family.

As a result, most voters have strong incentives to be "rationally ignorant" about politics, often remaining unaware of even very basic information. They also tend to a poor job of evaluating what they do learn – including believing extremely dubious claims that reinforce their preexisting views, while ignoring strong evidence that cuts the other way.

This suggests that the cultic milieu is more of a menace when it comes to political issues than beliefs on matters where individuals have more incentive to be wary of misinformation. If political CM ideas provide you with psychic gratification, you often have little incentive to carefully scrutinize their validity.

Unfortunately, it is easier to describe the problem than to solve it. It may be tempting to respond to this analysis by concluding that we should just abjure all non-mainstream ideas, especially political ones. But that would be a mistake. History shows that what start out as radical non-mainstream ideas often turn out to be right: abolitionism and gender equality are famous examples. Of course, you might expect me to say that, since I am, after all, a libertarian and hold some pretty radical views myself! But it's true nonetheless. The correlation between the truth of an idea and its degree of acceptance by mainstream public opinion is often weak, at best.

Another possibility is to try use the power of government to prevent, or at least impede, the spread of harmful fringe ideas online. Examples include various efforts to use government regulation to prevent the spread of "fake news." However, such ideas have all the same flaws as more traditional forms of government regulation of speech. Rarely can governments be trusted to sift bad ideas from good ones, and they have strong incentives to use such power to suppress opposition speech, regardless of the true merits of the opposition's ideas.

In assessing non-mainstream ideas, we ideally want a reliable way to separate out the wheat from the chaff—preferably one that is easy enough to use that it can be employed by nonexperts. Sadly, we are far from fully achieving that. And the dynamics of political bias and ignorance I described above ensure that at least when it comes to political ideas, many people won't bother to use reliable sorting methods even when they are available.

While there is no easy way to neutralize the dangers of the cultic milieu without simultaneously suppressing many potentially valuable ideas, there are some modest steps people can take to reduce the  likelihood of being taken in by quackery.

One is to give serious consideration to expert opinion, while taking due account of experts' various limitations. Other things equal, a non-mainstream idea that has significant support among experts in the relevant fields is more likely to have some real value than one that lacks it. It also pays to take some of the steps I summarized here, such as becoming more aware of one's own possible biases, distrusting "gut feelings" on complex issues, avoiding heavy reliance on social media, attempting to consider a variety of different views, and refraining from forming strong views on issues you know little about. But none of these precautions is foolproof, especially when it comes to issues we know little about and do not have time to study carefully.

Ultimately, the most effective remedy for political snake oil may be to reduce the size and complexity of government, and and make more of our decisions in settings where we have better incentives to seek out good information and use it wisely. We cannot completely eliminate the cultic milieu. Doing so would be a bad idea even if we could. But we should recognize the challenges it poses, and do more to incentivize people to be properly discriminating consumers of its "products."

 

 

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  1. “Of course, you might expect me to say that, since I am, after all, a libertarian and hold some pretty radical views myself! ”
    Is this where we show that a full open borders policy is a fringe belief?…. But I tease.

    I will add on a factor that Ilya missed, which is a federal system that encourages a diversity of viewpoints (as far as possible) on the local level, while not necessarily expanding it to the federal level. There are several policies that are…unwise…that nevertheless are tried on the state/local level. If successful there, then they can be expanded to the federal level. And if they fail, they can be discarded, without destroying the entire country. A good federal system will allow for this.

    1. Bravo A.L. To build on this, something which seems critical is to avoid things which tend to lock us into any particular approach, especially at the societal-and-above level. Retaining the ability to learn and adapt is essential to our prospering in the long term. This calls for humility, which isn’t exactly our strong suit; so it’s good to remind ourselves that in the scenarios where it’s most important (those which our progeny experience open-ended growth over a geologic timescale), it’s *very* important. If we can avoid locking in horrible decisions while we’re still immature & dumb, we just might get there.

    2. ” There are several policies that are…unwise…that nevertheless are tried on the state/local level. If successful there, then they can be expanded to the federal level. And if they fail, they can be discarded, without destroying the entire country.”

      You’re assuming that the difference between success and failure can be objectively determined, and will be recognized as such by ideological partisans.

      1. Worse, there are policies that can appear to be successful on a local level, but would be highly destructive on a national level, either because they don’t scale well, or because they survive only due to being subsidized in some way by the surrounding society.

        Socialism, for instance, is basically the idea that the family scales. But it doesn’t!

        Urbanists think cities are the future of mankind, when cities have been population sinks for all of human history, and are today.

        Basically, even if a policy looks like it works locally, it shouldn’t be imposed top down, if it’s to become nation-wide, it should only because every locality decides to adopt it. Otherwise the cost of escaping that policy when it proves not to scale can be ruinous.

        1. “when cities have been population sinks for all of human history”

          Available recorded history maybe, but not all of human history. Cities are not viable until a society advances to a point where the % of the total labor pool for that society that must be devoted to food production falls below a certain level (and no, I’m not going to claim knowledge of where that point is).

          1. OK, granted: Cities were not population sinks before they existed.

            But the point remains: People stupidly envision a future where everyone lives in cities, when never have cities ever been able to sustain themselves without non-cities to draw replacement population from. Arguably the reason developed countries are all losing population and relying on immigrants to make up the loss, is that they’re too urbanized to survive!

  2. “Davies notes that the previous era of growing CM influence—1890-1930—was also the period when harmful ideologies communism, fascism, and eugenics, entered the mainstream, leading to large-scale atrocities and oppression.”

    So…fascism, communism and eugenics became conventional wisdom? Maybe there should have been some CM against those movements.

    1. No, they didn’t become “conventional wisdom”… they entered the mainstream. For example, most free peoples still don’t think much of communism, but the Chinese still stick with it. Eugenics is fine as a voluntary choice but was actually implemented as mandatory in various ways in the US, before being brushed away.

      1. Mainstream, not conventional wisdom, I beg your pardon.

  3. The problem is an expansive government, which really means all governments, because all want to expand.

    Government is a zero-sum game. The more it interferes in daily life, the more people decide there’s more to gain from weaponizing government against others before they weaponize it against you.

    We have long since passed the point where most people could just ignore government for the most part and get on with their lives. People you don’t know have made their lifestyle yours too.

    In my lifetime, I’d put a lot of it down to ending government Jim Crow with government reverse racism, and of course government Jim Crow was just an end to government slavery. But when freedom of association went out the window, a lot of liberty went with it, and the pattern was set for ever more government intervention in daily life. Now idiots think it perfectly fine to find the one baker or florist or photographer who doesn’t like them, and force him to bow down before government almighty.

    Everyone spends their time tussling over government instead of just getting on with their life. It won’t end well.

    1. Yes, the cause of this, like all other bad things, is the growth of governments.

      Not cultish sounding at all.

      1. You aren’t attacking the message or the messenger — are you just … what?

        1. I’m noting that if every problem in the world seems to have one solution to you, that says more about you than it does the world.

          1. I don’t think he said that too much government was the cause of EVERY problem. Just of a class of problems.

            1. His first 2 paragraphs seem a lot more sweeping, and certainly don’t delineate a class of problems.

  4. “Other things equal, a non-mainstream idea that has significant support among experts in the relevant fields is more likely to have some real value than one that lacks it.”

    Like the anti-Nazi zealots in German universities?

    No, bad example…maybe we can say eugenics became bad just as soon as some scientists began questioning it, but until then, we should have just assumed eugenics was a fine idea.

    1. Its funny, because eugenics was a movement of the intellectual elite and scientists!

      1. When it was the intellectuals and scientists thinking eugenics was a neat-o idea, they were assuming it would be voluntary. If you know that your genes are likely to contain a genetic disease, you might want to take that into account when you’re deciding how many kids you might want to have.

        That’s not quite the same thing as deciding that (trait) must be excised from the species by sterilizing all the people who have it.

        1. Yeah, right. It’s not like an intellectual ever said anything like, “Three Generations of Imbeciles Are Enough”.

          Eugenics was all about involuntary sterilization before the Nazis gave it a bad name. After that it was mostly about encouraging it by making it cheap and readily available, which is why Sanger was so big about locating PP clinics in black neighborhoods.

  5. The threat of the CM seems, to me, to be merely an argument from the status quo, which is a logical fallacy. The antislavery movement developed outside of the political center for decades, gradually building its momentum in the churches and developing strong religious and secular reasons against slavery. Then it emerged and slowly transformed into a mainstream idea.

    Thus, we have shown that the threat of the CM is only in the eye of the beholder of each idea in that universe. Sometimes unconventional and extreme ideas are very good. Sometimes they are very bad.

  6. “Cultic milieu” is an interesting theory, but like much of the ‘science’ cited by Somin on any topic, it doesn’t measure up. Over the past almost 50 years, no one has been able to quantify CM or turn it into a predictive measure.

    It isn’t useful for description, it isn’t useful for prediction, and it can’t be quantified. What is it? It’s “social science”!

    1. Coming from physics, I used to be a snob like you. And I’m skeptical of this particular concept as too much narrative not enough of anything else.

      But that just makes it bad social science; not that social science is all bad. Just because it’s not got enough metrics and predictions doesn’t make it not robust. Qualitative descriptive social science is a thing. I don’t know that it’s science as I learned it, but it’s not making things up; properly done it’s difficult and it’s scholarship.

      1. Your views on social science are a bit cultish milieu-ish. You like the descriptive unmeasurable bits, but reject the bits that can be measured. Let us hope this doesn’t spread to physics.

        1. Cute, but did I say I was against quantitative or predictive social science?

          1. You did. You said you didn’t accept the IQ test metric.

            And that’s the most quantitively robust and predictive bit in all the social sciences, not to mention being the founding father of all quantitative techniques used across the social sciences. Throw out that baby, and the bathwater’s going too.

            1. As a metric for merit or mental ability? Yeah, I don’t accept IQ.

              Using IQ like that is not social science though, it’s more like neo-eugenics. Using science to push a matter of values taken on faith or intuition isn’t science.

              1. How about as a measure of, you, know, intelligence? (No one said anything about merit–a normative quality–for goodness sake)
                You need to come out and say state your own categorical imperative that if it hurts the feelings of minorities then it is, ipso facto, bad science

                1. It’s not a measure of intelligence – this is my entire issue. What we see as Intelligence has a lot of facets that are at best weakly correlated – intuition, creativity, rationality, judgement, quantitative ability, big-picture synthesis, perspicacity, analogizing….Created pretty early on IQ measures some conglomeration based on some turn of the century German notions that are pretty outmoded today.

                  It’s a standardized measure of something mental, but projecting what that is onto intelligence is where the science leaves and the more values-based social choices come into play.

                  1. IQ tests measure the ability to take IQ tests. Once you try to extend the scoring on particular tests to other tasks, you get onto shakier ground. Some analogize well, and some do not.

                    IQ tests tend to focus on measuring certain forms of mental acuity (often, coincidentally, the kinds that the creators of the test happen to be good at) while ignoring others (often, coincidentally, the kinds that the creators of the test happen to be not good at).

                    Standardized testing introduces a bunch of other measurement errors.

                  2. Let’s be clear. Here’s a thought experiment:
                    10,000 12th graders are given a reputable IQ test.
                    Of that group 500 who score above 135 and 500 who score between 95 and 105 are chosen at random.
                    They are all sent to random Ivy League schools.
                    Neither the student nor the school knows whose IQ is what.
                    After 4 years, what would you expect the correlation (0-1) to be between IQ and GPA?
                    You sound like the NFL scout who refuses to attend the combine because “I’m not drafting a 40 time; I can get all I need from the film.”

                    1. Maybe the I in IQ should stand for Ivy quotient?

                      You make my point: there is more to intelligence than performance in the Ivys. Your choosing that as your alternate metric is a values choice, not a scientific one.

                      Your analogy is also tellingly off-point. The IQ isn’t the combine; it’s a metric. Actually meeting the student would be the combine, with all of it’s more qualitative information.

                    2. They don’t call the combine the “Underwear Olympics” for nothing.
                      The one thing you will never see at the combine is a single live 11 on 11 football play.
                      The analogy is almost perfect.
                      The combine is a data point, just like an IQ test.
                      It has legitimate uses, just like an IQ test.
                      Refusing to ack

                    3. Also
                      They administer an IQ test at the NFL combine.
                      It seems to correlate well with success at certain positions, like QB and O line.

                    4. My outside of the game football understanding is weak – that kind of beginner’s luck is how I won my office’s fantasy football last year.

                      But observing an individual’s real-live mechanics has a lot more subtlety than a standardized test.

                      Glad to see that whatever amorphous basket of things the IQ test measures, it correlates to reactivity on the gridiron.

                    5. IQ tends to correlate to success in basically everything. It’s almost like we’re big brained primates that evolved to rely on our brains, and everything we do hinges on them working well.

                      But also because IQ tends to correlate with health, due to the fact that a long list of things like prenatal nutrition that impact IQ also impact how healthy you are.

                      It may seem like piling on, but the stupid really are usually sickly and ugly, too, for basic reasons of biology.

                    6. Lots of stuff correlates to success in basically everything, and also to IQ.

                      Your assumption of causality is not very good science.

                    7. “Let’s be clear. Here’s a thought experiment:”

                      Let’s be clearer. Here’s another thought experiment.

                      1 person, you, is given an IQ test… in Farsi. Is the resulting score accurate? To check, we’ll give you another IQ test, this time in Mandarin. Yep, consistent results.

                      After all, there is high correlation between speaking multiple languages and high intelligence.

                    8. Your assumption of causality is not very good science.

                      An assumption of causality with inadequate evidence may be poor science, but a mere correlation may be an excellent heuristic.

                      If you find that half the people who come for an interview sporting a nose ring turn out to be excellent employees, anf half are meh – but that when people come to an interview wearing a baseball cap, half turn out to be meh and half turn out to be terrible; it makes perfect sense to be prejudiced in favor of nose ring wearers (unless and until the numbers shift.)

                      You may have an intellectually satisfying theory as to why nose ring wearers turn out better than baseball cap wearers. Or you may have no theory about it at all. Doesn’t matter. Poor science. Good heuristics.

                    9. mere correlation may be an excellent heuristic

                      May be. Huh.

                      Careful, lest your heuristics turn into stereotypes.

                      So the IQ test doesn’t measure anything like intelligence, but is a good heuristic for success. (I mean it tracks socioeconomic class, so…) Even if you’re right, you’ve left the realm of science far behind now.

                      It’s a values proposition to insist on using your test to call some people smarties and others dumbies.

                    10. “Careful, lest your heuristics turn into stereotypes.”

                      There are worse things, most stereotypes are reasonably accurate.

                    11. So the IQ test doesn’t measure anything like intelligence, but is a good heuristic for success.

                      No. IQ tests may well measure something very like “intelligence” for lots of plausible values of “intelligence.” But we do not need to debate and agree the meaning of “intelligence” in order to note that IQ tests are a good predictor of success, merely as a heuristic.

                      The question of what “intelligence” means, how it can be measured once we’ve settled on a sufficiently precise meaning, and what its relation to intelligence as so defined is, can be left for another day. (I note that your list of mental categories – intuition, creativity, rationality, judgement, quantitative ability, big-picture synthesis, perspicacity, analogizing – is full of ideas much too vague to belong anywhere near an actual experiment.)

                      For today, we merely note that if we put a cannonball of this size and weight into the cannon, with a charge of this size, and aim it at this angle at the castle wall this far away, it will usually hit roughly there. If there is no wind. Moreover we have developed a ready reckoner to allow us to calculate where it’s likely to hit when we adjust charge and angle. But we have not yet worked out any theory for why the cannonball behaves like this on a consistent basis.

                      But that certainly doesn’t require us to abandon the idea that there is a theory that will explain it. We have several ideas, but as yet Sir Isaac is working on other things. You are welcome to regard this as unscientific, though many scientists trying to explain patterns which they have noticed, but for which they have failed to develop entirely satisfactory theories yet, may look at you with cocked eyebrow.

                      I mean it tracks socioeconomic class, so…)

                      So it does, though how you know this is a mystery since you reject the statistics by which such tracking is measured. Your implication, of course, is that the real causality flows :

                      socioeconomic status => success in life outcomes (and IQ tests)

                      But this implication is at odds with the numbers. Which show that success in life outcomes is more closely correlated with IQ than with parental socioeconomic status.

                      Even if you’re right, you’ve left the realm of science far behind now.

                      I refer you to the aforementioned eyebrow raising scientists.

                      It’s a values proposition to insist on using your test to call some people smarties and others dumbies.

                      Until you trouble to define intelligence is some measurable way, I don’t see that you have any cause for complaint. If you don’t like :

                      smarties = people who score high in IQ tests
                      dummies = people who score low in IQ tests

                      come up with something better. In the meantime, smarties and dummies are simply those who fall into the defined value-free categories.

                    12. Brett : There are worse things, most stereotypes are reasonably accurate

                      As measured by the same statistical methods that are used across the social sciences ☺

                      https://heterodoxacademy.org/are-stereotypes-accurate-are-scientific-generalizations-accurate-are-these-questions-the-same/

                      I think the point in denying that IQ tests even might be measuring anything real about mental ability, and still worse, anything that might be even partly innate is a cognitive defense mechanism to protect against the mental anguish that would be caused by acknowledging the possibility. Precisely the same thing goes for stereotypes and stereotype accuracy. One must have contempt for stereotypes because otherwise the sky would fall.

                      The pace of modern genetics research seems likely to nuke some folks’ conceptual world from orbit. Let us hope that it proceeds slowly enough to save some of the older ones from such turmoil.

                      For myself, while I think it very likely that genetics research will confirm my expectation that a substantial genetic basis for differences in mental powers* will be found (and testable with things like IQ tests) – for me it’s just an expectation not a theology. Should it be discovered that differences in mental ability are in fact caused entirely by how a baby is tickled in the first few months of life, and that all we need to raise the lowest in mental power to the level of the highest is a program of tickling lessons for parents, that would be just fine with me.

                      * I also think, btw, that the boffins will also be able to demonstrate, in due time, that a goodly chunk of difference is caused in the environment purely by random factors – ie neurons branching this way or that at random during early brain development. Thus, unfortunately, I think we will find that a good chunk of the non genetic influence is immutable.

                  3. What we see as Intelligence has a lot of facets that are at best weakly correlated – intuition, creativity, rationality, judgement, quantitative ability, big-picture synthesis, perspicacity, analogizing…

                    No, they’re quite highly correlated, and certainly so by the standards of other social sciences metrics. Which was (one of) my points. If you say “meh, but the numbers are weak” about IQ metrics, you have to give up on all social science metrics. because everything else is weaker.

                    Moving on. Smooth has fallen into your trap. Whether IQ is a good measure of “intelligence” depends on what you mean by intelligence. But it doesn’t matter what you mean by intelligence, or whether IQ is a good measure of it, for IQ to be a reliable and useful metric.

                    To be reliable metric it just needs to keep on delivering consistent results each time you test. And it does. So whatever it’s measuring, its measuring something real.

                    And to be useful it needs to be able to predict things. And it does, consistently, at ….. I repeat myself…. considerably better correlations than other social science measures.

                    So whether IQ tests measure “intelligence” is a red herring to usefulness. Maybe as Mr Pollock insists they only measure the ability to take IQ tests. But it turns out that that ability is well correlated with other things – a long list of which you will find in those chapters of your favorite book that have nothing to do with race.

                    1. First, off, what are you arguing IQ is predictive of?

                      You think creativity is well correlated with, say, mathematical ability?! Or did you misspeak?

                      You’re just wrong about social science metrics. Intelligence is an abstract idea. Social science metrics aren’t going to be good at measuring it or other mental type stuff. That’s more neuroscience, which is very elementary at the moment.
                      But social science metrics are good at measuring less abstract and more behavioral ideas. Conflating the two is again your values seem to be writing your science for you.

                      IQ is a metric of something mental, but making policy like it’s measuring intelligence is not a scientific choice, it’s a values-based one. And, at best, you seem to be valuing simplicity over completeness.

                      Radio Lab literally just did a series on measuring intelligence – I recommend it.

                    2. “You think creativity is well correlated with, say, mathematical ability?! Or did you misspeak?”

                      Yeah, actually it is. Sorry about that.

                    3. That’s good stuff Brett, but childhood development papers don’t seem relevant to the matter at hand. Pretty easy to see general maturity as a confounding factor there.

                      I’m trying to google for adult papers but not having a lot of luck.

                    4. “No, they’re quite highly correlated”

                      No they aren’t. Being good at one aspect of cognition does not imply anything about being good at another.

                      Computers are very good at performing arithmetic at high speed. What does that tell you about their ability to be creative?

                    5. Being good at one aspect of cognition does not imply anything about being good at another….blab blah …computers

                      Of course not. The relation is not necessary as a matter of logic, it is merely observed (in humans – doh !) as a matter of empirical fact. There’s certainlty no necessary a priori reason why different mental capacities should be correlated – it just so happens that they are.

                      Thus if A does better than B on the verbal bits of an IQ test, it’s probable that A will do better than B on the spatial bits. Not certain, merely probable. Also there are modest sex differences in different zones of an IQ test, so the probability described above is higher for intra-sex comparisons than inter-sex ones.

                      We may speculate that the correlations imply some general reasoning engine whose wattage in each individual contributes to their score on different questions. But the small sex differences imply that there’s likely to be more involved than just one engine. But what speculations ultimately turn out to be right or wrong is perfectly irrelevant to the fact that empirically there are correlations between success on one type of question in an IQ test, and other types.

                    6. Intelligence is an abstract idea. Social science metrics aren’t going to be good at measuring it or other mental type stuff. That’s more neuroscience, which is very elementary at the moment.
                      But social science metrics are good at measuring less abstract and more behavioral ideas.

                      You’re still horribly confused. The primary difficulty in measuring intelligence is that t is poorly defined. If you manage to define it clearly, then you may be able to measure it. But it is you, not I, who keeps babbling on about intelligence. I’m talking about IQ tests. If the I in IQ tests bothers you, call them by another name – which will smell just the same.

                      What IQ tests measure is the extremely concrete matter of how many questions you can get right in an IQ test. What we also discover – concretely – is a correlation between how many right answers you get in one area of an IQ test -(eg verbal) and how many you get in another area (eg arithmetic.) And we also discover correlations between IQ test scores and things like – income, health, criminality (inverse), marriage stability etc (each defined by reference to a concrete measure.

                      Conflating the two is again your values seem to be writing your science for you.

                      And you still don;’t seem to understand that the correlations within IQ tests, and between IQ scores and income, health etc do not involve any value judgements at all.

                      You are quite free to speculate that IQ tests do or do not reflect “intelligence”, however you choose to define it. Or not. It doesn’t matter. Likewise you can take the view that low income is better than high, more criminality is better than less. Pick whatever values you like. It won’t change the empirical correlations.

                    7. “No they aren’t. Being good at one aspect of cognition does not imply anything about being good at another.”

                      On the contrary, the correlation between different aspects of cognition is basically unavoidable. If I hit you in the head with a hammer or drug you, or restrict blood flow to your brain, or any of a thousand things, you’re likely going to decline in all areas of cognition.

                      Once you realize that much of the variation in IQ between people is due to forms of damage, this becomes perfectly obvious. Poor childhood or prenatal nutrition doesn’t pick one aspect of cognition to compromise, and leave others alone. It’s indiscriminant.

                      Now, maybe in some ideal world where everybody had the chance to achieve their full potential, different aspects of cognition would be less correlated. I doubt it, because it’s really unlikely that these different aspect don’t share any hardware even at a cellular level, but it’s possible.

                      We’re not in that world.

      2. As I’ve mentioned before, I taught statistics to social science majors and worked with social science professors on their research.

        There is good science in those fields – see the many, many papers written based of the GSS. There is also bad science in those fields – see “implicit bias” for an excellent example.

        “Cultic milieu” is neither. It isn’t science. It cannot be used to describe something, it cannot be used to predict something, it cannot be measured or quantified or detected. It’s a neat theory, but until someone can show it being useful it has as much science behind it as someone claiming that those people are possessed of devils.

        1. On this, I think we’re on the same page. Your comment here agrees with mine from 7:15pm yesterday.

          Social science itself isn’t bad, but this is a bad example of the field.

        2. I agree with you.

          The idea is poorly defined, or not really defined at all.

          One claim is that

          “Right now the size and influence of the CM is growing. Ever more people subscribe to fringe beliefs and the availability of the kinds of ideas that circulate in the cultic counterculture has increased dramatically.”

          The first part of that looks like the sort of thing that ought to be backed up by some sort of data, not based on vague subjective impressions. The second part is true sort of automatically – the availability of all sorts of ideas, good and bad, has increased dramatically.

    2. Dr. Jane’s “Drivel”.

      Dr. Jane’s Science Notes, Off-Centaur Publications

      You come up with a theory, a questionable theory
      But you’ve got to prove a theory, if you want to write a paper
      Oh–Ho, No–Oh, Science

      You gather up some data, then bias all the data
      And manipulate it shamelessly, and throw it in the paper
      Oh–Ho, still no, Science

      Drivel, she come down (x 2)

      You take a stack of numbers, a random stack of numbers
      Then you tidy up the numbers, so they look good in the paper
      Ho–Ho, no ho, Science

      You take a big statistic, an undefined statistic
      Then remove it from its context, so it fits into your paper
      No ho, still no, Science

      Drivel, she come down (x 2)

      So now you’ve got your theory, all dressed up in statistics
      And you organize the paper, so it reasons in a circle
      Oh–Ho, social, Science

      You leap to some conclusions, they needn’t fit your data
      But you have to have conclusions, if you’re gonna end your paper
      Oh–Ho, social, Science

      Drivel, she come down (x 2)

      Of course you need a buzzword, a nice impressive buzzword
      So you settle on “empirical”, and put it in your title
      Oh–hum, snow-’em, Science

      And now you have a paper, with an unsupported theory
      In a big prestigious journal, to enhance your reputation
      Ruthless, Truthless, Science

      Drivel, she come down (x 2)

  7. Ultimately, the most effective remedy for political snake oil may be to reduce the size and complexity of government

    If that’s not Cultic Milieu Dweller talk. I dont know what is.

    Though I admit I inhabit the same swamp. There’s a technical reason why this is correct btw. Where private persons or groups have cultic milieuish notions, then unless they use machetes to spread them, the consequences of these notions are largely visited on the milieu dwellers themselves. And so we get the happy regulatory effects of the market (in its widest sense,) If milieu-ish notions turn out to be useful, they can spread. If they’re not useful, they can fade away.

    The trouble with milieuish notions in the political realm is that once the governmet gets its hands on a silly idea, it has the power and money to run with it for a century.

    1. Where private persons or groups have cultic milieuish notions, then unless they use machetes to spread them, the consequences of these notions are largely visited on the milieu dwellers themselves

      But see conservative paranoia about liberal agendas in everything from twitter to corporate advertising.

      But see Hobby Lobby. Not saying they’re cults (leave that to RAK) but it’s certainly a counterexample proof of concept to your above thesis.

      1. Your Hobby Lobby reference is too cryptic for me. My only familiarity with Hobby Lobby (aside from being dragged there once by Mrs M to buy something) is the court case in which, IIRC, they were trying to dodge a government machete rather than deploying one of their own.

        Do you mean Christianity is a cult ? Perhaps so, and it has at times been supported by the awesome machetes of the state. But not around here since the Brits were thrown out.

        It certainly wasn’t my expressed view that private cults can’t survive. If they’re useful. And quite a few people seem to have found Christianity useful, over an extended period. It doesn’t appear to be noticeably harmful to its adherents. And it wields remarkably few machetes these days.

        1. Hobby Lobby certainly imposed their particular point of view on people beyond themselves. Which means a more cultish PoV can as well. A counterexample to your these notions are largely visited on the milieu dwellers themselves.

          If the government hadn’t stepped in, they would have succeeded as well.

          Didja see how I said they’re not cults? Come on, man.

          1. Hobby Lobby certainly imposed their particular point of view on people beyond themselves

            Really ? Who ? How ?

            Do they secretly operate some kind of press gang to drag people off the street and force them to work in their stores. Customers too ? I hadn’t heard. I am not an MSNBC viewer so I may have missed it.

            As I said, I’ve actually been to one of their stores once, and I never once saw a shackle. Must not have been paying attention. Admittedly I was there against my will but the threats were coming from the wife, not Hobby Lobby.

            Tell me more.

            1. They impose their values on the people they pay. If you don’t think economic force is a force that has meaning, then you should be cool with a lot of stuff the government does.

              Other businesses seek to exclude customers based on their values, cultish or no. You seem to think that’s fine, even as you say that businesses ability to project their power is largely internal. That’s contradictory.

              1. Ah, we saw that one coming. They impose their values by making an employment offer that’s not the one you’d make, and then people voluntarily accept that offer, damn them!

                1. Brett, we can talk about Hobby Lobby’s policies later. Again.

                  But my current point is that Hobby Lobby’s policies contradict Lee Moore’s sanguine statement about nongovernment crazies: Where private persons or groups have cultic milieuish notions, then unless they use machetes to spread them, the consequences of these notions are largely visited on the milieu dwellers themselves.

                  Crazy or not, Hobby Lobby sure is visiting it’s notions upon others, and if it can do so a more crazy business can do so. Just because it’s be economics and not machetes doesn’t make it less true.

                  1. Crazy or not, Hobby Lobby sure is visiting it’s notions upon others

                    No, it’s not. Any more than you are visiting your opinions on me by scribbling them down here. I am perfectly at liberty to ignore them – which I frequently do – and there are a thousand other scribbles I can peruse elsewere when I get bored with yours. Ditto Hobby Lobby and its employees.

                    Hobby Lobby has zero economic power over wannabe employees. Such folk have a large choice of employment opportunities – there are no Hobby Lobby company towns fifty miles from the nearest habitation.

                    If people take jobs with Hobby Lobby despite hating Hobby Lobby’s views it is not because Hobby Lobby is oppressing them, but because they prefer that bargain to whatever else is available, and to welfare.

                    1. Management has zero economic power over prospective labor?

                      The labor market has a force to it. Hobby Lobby is making use of that force to push it’s values.

                      If you believe otherwise, I point you to the economic studies of the 1800s through today, which you seem to be ignoring.

                    2. Have you looked at unemployment rates lately?

                      Yeah, Hobby Lobby has precious little coercive power, which is the only sort of power we concern ourselves with; The power to encourage people to do things by offering to make them better off if they do it is categorically different from the power to compel people to do things by threatening to make them worse off if they don’t.

                      Otherwise a mugger would be the moral equal of anybody selling something you might want.

                    3. Brett, you do not think that maintaining or attaining employment has a compelling force to it? So long as we’re in a capitalist society, it surely does!

                      I don’t see why you would think all compelling forces have the same moral moment. Hence why the police aren’t as bad as an invading army.

                    4. The labor market has a force to it

                      No. Mother Nature has a force to her. She insists you eat on a regular basis, while not getting eaten youself. She sends floods to drown you, hurricanes to destroy your shelter and snow to freeze you. Robinson Sarcastro would face all these trials even if there was not another human on Earth.

                      But there are other humans. Some of them will beat you on the head for the coconuts you’ve collected. Those are the ones “visiting” stuff on you. But the ones who offer you a job are not “visiting” anything on you. If you take the job, it’s because you find the offer better than what Mother Nature is offering. It’s because you think the offer makes your life better.

                      They could walk right by you and not offer you a job, leaving you to your relationship with Mother Nature. Is that “visiting” something on you ? Hardly. You’re exactly where you were until they happened by.

                      But if they make you an offer that you decide is going to make your life better, then they’re visiting something on you ?

                    5. Sarcastro is operating from a common position on the left, that any failure to follow the demands of liberalism is a form of attack.

                      If I offer you $5 to mow my lawn, and Sarcastro would have offered you $7 to do the job, I’m robbing you of $2. At least from his perspective.

                      That’s how they claim that the poor are victims of the wealthy, when objectively all the cash flow is in the other direction. The wealthy “victimize” the poor by not giving them even more.

                    6. A form of attack.

                      Oh, go stuff your strawman, Brett. Not all force or coercion is an attack.

                    7. Things like hunger, cold, etc tend to produce desperation. There are several ways to reduce desperation… but some are ruled out by a capitalist society.
                      For example, you can’t deal with your hunger by going to the woods and killing and eating a deer, because the woods, and the deer in it, belong to someone else, whether they would have eaten that deer or not, and even though you did all the work to catch and kill the deer yourself. If you get desperate enough to go do it anyway, you may expect a visit (that verb chosen intentionally) from the local law-enforcement establishment.
                      Wealth creates power, and power creates wealth. If you have neither, the people who do can affect you, whether you wish it or not.
                      For some people “libertarianism” means that the government, and only the government, is prevented from limiting your choices. For some other people, “libertarianism” means that everybody, both public and private actors, is limited in their ability to limit your choices. Not surprisingly, the people with wealth and power tend to shy away from that second definition.

                    8. For some people “libertarianism” means that the government, and only the government, is prevented from limiting your choices. For some other people, “libertarianism” means that everybody, both public and private actors, is limited in their ability to limit your choices. Not surprisingly, the people with wealth and power tend to shy away from that second definition.

                      What part of

                      But there are other humans. Some of them will beat you on the head for the coconuts you’ve collected. Those are the ones “visiting” stuff on you.

                      did you find particularly difficult to understand ?

              2. And if you work at law firm X, you need to show up at a particular time, and join certain clubs to help you develop a client base.
                And if you teach History at Z High School, you have to show up at certain times and follow a curriculum.
                And, if you work at certain business, you have to be willing to work the occasional Sunday.

                …So, what, precisely, is your problem with Hobby Lobby, again…?

                1. I’ll leave my issues with Hobby Lobby for another time. I’m just using it as a counterexample to Lee Moore’s breezy libertarianist dismissal of the private sector’s ability to spread ideologies.

      2. conservative paranoia about liberal agendas in everything from twitter to corporate advertising

        I can’t speak to conservative paranoia generally, only my own. My own paranoia is not at all exercised by liberal agendas that are wholly divorced from government action (private sector machetes, such as Antifa, excepted.) Liberal agendas which are converted into government action (see bakers, florists and, oh, Hobby Lobby; and a thousand other things that liberals insist on insisting on) are the problem.

        Ditto liberal agendas which are directed at affecting elections (which determines who the government is composed of) and what the government does next (the size and shape of the Overton window) are also concerning. Which is not to say that “the government must do something !” to combat these agendas – merely that I’m perfectly entitled to exercise my paranoia gland not just about government overreach, but also the threat of it.

        1. So you’re okay with twitter and commercials featuring not enough smart white men. Saner than some!

          So your paranoia isn’t really paranoia, it’s just the usual conservative agenda with a libertarian mask badly pasted on.

          Do you want to contract the franchise, or just make it harder for people to vote?
          Were the Civil Right Act an example of the liberal agenda?

  8. The ‘cultic milieu’ stuff is a fairly easy and lazy way to dismiss attitudes, beliefs, etc. that one finds silly, and it supports the notion that most people don’t ‘know’ a hell of a lot about anything. It is, of course, like most social science, not formulated in a way that can be easily refuted/falsified (meaning that counterexamples are commonly accepted without concern for the validity of the theory).

    In fact, however, there is a lot of political science research that suggests that, despite a lack of factual knowledge, most people have a reasonable grasp of what they want out of politics and of what the differences between political parties and other partisan ideological groups are promoting (this research is limited to Western state, of course). Nonetheless, in a country with 350 million people, there are going to be a lot people who don’t know much about politics and a bunch of people with crazy ideas about politics. I’m a university professor and I run into both types every day. I call them colleagues.

  9. If you can’t explain a topic without making up nigh unpronounceable terminology, then you may be a professor. Have fun talking to academics about [whatever]. All those conversations are actually mostly about how impressed you are with yourself.

    1. You seem more a small words, random capitalization, Tea Party spelling, and general disregard for standard English guy, Ben.

      Good luck with that, and with the culture war.

    2. “. . . without making up nigh unpronounceable terminology. . . .”

      Is this sarcasm?

  10. And another thing, Prof Somin.

    Go easy on that Red Stamp. That’s the sort of gaudy look you try out on campus flyers, and leave behind when you quit college.

    Oh wait….

  11. It is simply unfathomable that a university professor would omit the most simple and cost effective solution which would be THE remedy to this situation: public education.

    People need the mental skills of research, reading comprehension, comparative reasoning, and introspection in order to make sound decisions.

    And I don’t mean at some PhD level; simple 9th grade skills are adequate to debunk the garbage.

    1. I believe the technical name for this is “cognitive dissonance.”

      The US already spends over $1,000,000,000,000 a year on public education. And yet we still wallow in cultic milieu-ery.

      Perhaps the cultish milieu-ery is what is being stuffed into people’s heads by public education, and common sense is what it being sucked out to make space for it.

      Item – can men get pregnant ? What should the schools be teaching our children on this difficult question ?

      1. “And yet we still wallow in cultic milieu-ery.”

        Um, wallow?

        Yeah…no.

        Correct me if I wrong, but we still are the greatest nation on the planet.

        1. Well, step 1: Define “greatest”.

          1. There are a number of ways to define “greatest” that puts the US on top. For example, if you measure greatness by counting the number of citizens who have walked on the moon, the US has a HUGE lead on everybody else.

            We also come out on top if you count “number of nuclear weapons ready to deploy against other countries.”

            And the winner of the recent Fortnite World Cup was an American, too.

            1. Let’s not forget that US teams have won the World Series 112 times out of 114.

              1. Well, except that they’ve been using imported players. Teams made up of American players have won EVERY Super Bowl.

                1. Drat – Canadian Luke Willson in Super Bowl 48.
                  Um… maybe the College Football Playoffs? That’s only a few years old, so maybe Americans have still got that one locked up.

                  1. “Drat – Canadian Luke Willson in Super Bowl 48.”

                    Football is not an individual sport.

                2. That’s one of our strengths, James: We’re not above recognizing foreign merit, and importing it.

                  1. So you’re another “open borders” nut, huh?

        2. As apedad is not one of those folk who makes a habit of deliberately misunderstanding other folks comments, I will spell it out more clearly.

          And yet we still wallow in cultic milieu-ery was intended as a stipulation for the purposes of argument. Somin proposed the problem, apedad’s reply appeared to accept it – I was content to accept it too, for the purposes of argument.

          What I was laughing at was the idea that combatting this stipulated problem required a program of public education. Because we already have such a program, with a trillion dollar price tag.

          Had Somin proposed that threre was a problem of excessive cheese on pizzas, and had apedad suggested that the problem was best solved by a program of public education, my reply would have taken precisely the same form.

          I apologise if this was too difficult to follow, though how it could have been is beyond my imagination.

          1. “What I was laughing at was the idea that combatting this stipulated problem required a program of public education. Because we already have such a program, with a trillion dollar price tag. ”

            This is akin to me complaining that there isn’t a road directly between the house I currently inhabit and the favorite restaurant I like to patronize, requiring a long, roundabout path to get there. A solution would be to build such a road*. Your response would be to laugh that off because we already have a multi-billion-dollar federal highway system, and it isn’t solving the problem.

            *This is an oversimplification; the true problem is that there is such a road, but it was closed for most of the summer due to a construction project. Having redundant paths allows maintenance on one without disabling access; this is the core principle of the Internet.

      2. “The US already spends over $1,000,000,000,000 a year on public education. And yet we still wallow in cultic milieu-ery.”

        You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think. The schools get kids for 7 or 8 hours a day, but the parents get them for the other 16, and get a five-year head start, and in a lot of places demand the power to keep the kids out of those darn public schools which keep indoctrinating them to trust science and demonstrated results rather than relying on faith alone to make things come true.

        1. Yes.
          The public education system sucks (in the places it does suck) because it’s carrying all that dead weight from home-schoolers.
          HAHAHAHA.

          1. Considering that home-schooled students tend to outperform public school students, while home-schooling families still pay the full taxes into the public school system, I think you’re right that that assertion is going to need some strong evidence to back it up.

            1. “Considering that home-schooled students tend to outperform public school students”

              Because failed home-schooled students tend to become public school students again.

          2. Who said anything about home schoolers?

            1. So the snide remark was referring to, what, Catholic schools?

              1. So, you didn’t read what I wrote at all before commenting on it?

  12. The difficulty with calling these ideas “cultic” is that many of them have historically been mainstream.

    Will focus on eugenics as an example. Eugenics was popular among and pushed by scientists. It was pushed as a hard nosed application of reason. Famous scientists, people like Sir Ronald Fisher, were big supporters.

    Nor has the eugenics movement entirely left contemporary constitutional thinking. When North Carolina upheld its sterilization statute in 1977, for example, it used Roe v. Wade, and the fact that Roe v. Wade cited Buck v. Bell favorably, as support for the idea that getting rid of undesirables early is a contemporary constitutional value.

    Nor was this a mistake. In the years preceding, Roe, there was considerable overlap between supporters of both, and both claimed they represented science and reason against the forces of darkness and superstition. Eugenics is no longer favored. But its core science-vs.-superstition rhetoric transferred easily, and is still routinely applied, to the subject of abortion.

    1. “Will focus on eugenics as an example. Eugenics was popular among and pushed by scientists.”\

      When it was pushed by science, it was as a voluntary program (still is). The “kill or sterilize all the people who disagree with us” form of eugenics didn’t come along until the non-scientists got ahold of it.

      1. Not so. The Eugenics Record Office for example was founded and staffed by scientists with PhDs as a research organization. But it actively promoted forcible sterilization, segregation, the works.

        1. Yep. Eugenics was some elitist authoritarian pseudoscience all the way down to a pretty dark rotten core.

          1. It’s not that easy. These were real scientists. Scientists today like to believe they were always on the side of what is today considered good and right, and if they were wrong in the past what hey were doing was pseudoscience and not real science. But it’s more complicated than that. The fact of the matter is real scientists have been wrong. And put all the moral force of their positions behind wrong things.

            1. To me, there’s not much difference between pseudoscience adherents and adherents of historically wrongheaded science when it comes to morality.
              Whether you’re going with the consensus or striking out on your own, both are in good faith and trying their best but have some flaw in their process.

              But the elitist authoritarianism of the movement is certainly something we can agree on.

              1. Eugenics isn’t wrong headed from the perspective of science, Sarcastro. It’s about as firmly grounded in science as it gets. Some applications were, however, moral horror shows.

                The understanding that, from a pure biology perspective, humans are as subject to selective breeding as any other species, is distinct from the moral question about whether they should have a say in the matter.

                1. They didn’t know jack about genetics when they went for eugenics, Brett.

                  It was bad science, driven by elitism and wishful thinking and not by results.

                  1. A triple doozy of confusion, as to science, history and etymology.

                    Eugenics just means selective breeding as applied to humans. Humans have been selectively breeding animals since the stone age. Plants too.

                    Several thousand years since humans started selective breeding their plants and animals (and indeed themselves) it turns out that selective breeding has something to do with genetics. Which is interesting but hardly justifies …

                    ….the notion that you can’t engage in selective breeding until you understand genetics. This notion comes from the same stable as the notion that you can’t get a suntan until you’ve cracked the theory of nuclear fusion.

                    1. Right. You don’t even need to know about DNA to engage in selective breeding. There wasn’t anything wrong with eugenics from a scientific standpoint, we had enough science for it about the time of Mendel.

                      The problem was always that its original advocates were advocating that the people being bred not have a choice in the matter.

                    2. They had no idea what they were breeding for. They had no idea what was nature, what was nurture, and what was in between. They had no idea how natural selection actually worked.

                      They just wanted to make people ‘better.’ It wasn’t science. Natural selection was the science, eugenics was the values-based misapplication.

                    3. Sarcastro, you’re just being willfully obstinate. You don’t have to understand the biological basis of a trait to breed for it. Sure, if a trait doesn’t have a biological basis, breeding for it will fail.

                      But eugenics wasn’t abandoned because increasing scientific knowledge revealed it was impossible. It was abandoned because the Nazis gave it a bad name.

                      Don’t confuse science and morality. Immoral things can be perfectly scientific, you don’t have to claim that things that shouldn’t be done wouldn’t work if you tried them. It’s enough that they shouldn’t be done.

                    4. ” we had enough science for it about the time of Mendel.”

                      Except that science didn’t really know about Mendel until long after Mendel himself passed on.

                      There was enough technology (not science) to practice selective breeding all the way back in prehistory.

            2. ” The fact of the matter is real scientists have been wrong.”

              This is a fundamental assumption of science. See, for example, Asimov’s multiple references to Michelson and Morley in his science columns… notably, “The Relativity of Wrong”.

              Bottom line… anyone who tells you that scientists have always been right (or are presently always right) isn’t very familiar with science.

        2. Or consider, as another example of many, Karl Pearson’s “The Scope and Importance to the State of the Science of National Eugenics.” It pretty much speaks for itself. The scientists were definitely advocating forcible sterilization as public policy.

          https://archive.org/stream/scopeimportancet02pear#page/24/mode/2up/search/race

          1. Amen.
            It is utter nonsense to assert that “One is to give serious consideration to expert opinion, while taking due account of experts’ various limitations. Other things equal, a non-mainstream idea that has significant support among experts in the relevant fields is more likely to have some real value than one that lacks it.”
            For example, eugenics is cited as a CM idea, yet it passed the expert opinion test for numerous decades.
            Expert opinion is marketable opinion: the market for expertise determines what is expert and what is not. As a result, expert opinion has historically been more frequently incorrect than correct. Again, eugenics serves as an example: the scientists of what Universities opposed eugenics and when did such opposition begin?

            1. So eugenics proves all experts everywhere and always wrong, or at least no more likely to be right than the untrained observer?

              That’s nonsense.

            2. It says “is more likely” to have some real value, not “is fucking guaranteed”.

  13. I hope the point of this post isn’t lost on the morons who pimp for the conversion of the US to a “parliamentary government “, which would nationalize and magnify the CM problem a million fold.

    1. Completely agree.

      Parliamentary govt will fail here in the US.

      Absolutely fail.

      1. I’m interested in this.

        What do you see that makes you so sure?

        1. Parliamentary government is only stable if there are multiple parties, by which I mean at least three, each capable of marshaling a majority of the population. We only have two.

          1. But it also encourages/allows the creation of multiple parties. Given the pressures in the coalitions that make up the parties we have, I suspect that would happen.

            Though there may be something more fundamental in our culture I’m not tracking that apedad is.

            1. It doesn’t just encourage, it necessitates and, magnifies the power and influence of, fringe parties. They become kingmakers.
              Look at Israel, India, France, etc.
              Imagine if the formation of the government required the participation of The Squad, or Louie Gohmert and Co.
              For a society that is anything but extremely homogeneous, it is a recipe for catastrophe.

              1. That’s a pretty great point.

                In school I learned that our style with separation of powers and veto traps was very resolute – once policies are in place, they stay like that which is nice for predictability. A parliament is more agile – they can change policies more easily but with associated lack of inertia.

                I think it’s fair to say that America’s inertia has become an issue, and we’ve lost any predictability we once had with the current setup between Congress and the President. But this cure may indeed by worse than the disease.

                1. But monarchies and dictatorships are stable too. That’s not an unmitigated good.

                  1. Monarchies and dictatorships aren’t inherently stable… the stability (or not) depends largely on the monarch/dictator. Ask Louis XVI. Sometimes you get stability… nice clean succession, for example… but that’s because of factors other than the fact that you have a monarchy/dictatorship.

                  2. Stable is not the same as resolute. In fact rule by individual is less resolute than both a parliament and a representative democracy – individuals are more capricious than groups.

            2. I think you just nailed the big point: the two current parties are giant coalitions, rather than ideologically pure behemoths.

              A parliamentary system, or any legislative system that gave significant power to small parties, would probably fracture the existing parties pretty quickly.

              1. Your distinction is not clear to me.

                Parliamentary majorities often are made up of coalitions of a large party with one or two smaller ones, and by your own description, which I think is right, our major parties are coalitions also.

                It seems to me that fixed terms of office are a significant factor here that adds stability.

                1. While ruling coalitions in parliamentary systems are usually coalitions as well, each party tends to be more ideologically pure (and controlled).
                  It seems, from the outside at least, that these smaller supporting parties are much more likely to break with the larger parties when the party views differ.
                  In the US, the parties tend to have different views, but are required to compromise with the other branches far more often, because the only alternative would be to vote with the opposition – a group that is usually SO different that cooperation with them is a worse alternative than competition within your umbrella party.

            3. “But it also encourages/allows the creation of multiple parties.”

              If there are already three. If there are only two, the two will remain locked in place, as evidenced by… well, you know.

        2. I lived in Germany for 24 years and had some contacts with govt officials, and was also studied comparative govts (Masters in International Relations while I was there).

          It’s because of our size and our various geographies (ocean, farmland, mountains, etc.), which smaller countries don’t have on our scale.

          Parl govt is ok on a relatively small scale (Britain, Germany), but not on our continental size country.

          Also, parl govt has a Head of State (Queen, President [yes Germany has a president], and a Head of Government (Prime Minister, Chancellor).

          Our structure puts the Head of State/Head of Government into one position: the President.

          Other reasons too (too busy to list everything!).

          1. No – that’s good stuff. I’m interested in the causal connection to size that you see.

            I think there is something to that head of state vs. head of government distinction. Personally, that seems a bonus to me. Many of the offices I’ve worked in has one guy for meetings and another that runs the office. In the offices were one person tries to do both things it’s too much.

            Might be neat to see some states try a parliament.

          2. “Parl govt is ok on a relatively small scale (Britain, Germany), but not on our continental size country.”

            Cough, cough, INDIA.

            1. Yeah.
              Great advertisement for parliamentary democracy.
              A country where a major party platform in a recent national election was to reduce public defecation.

              1. Not sure what suboptimal defecation culture has to do with how good a democracy is.

              2. “A country where a major party platform in a recent national election was to reduce public defecation.”

                You’d prefer a country that has to shame its legislators to get them to even consider doing anything about public murdering?

                1. Sorry, dog.
                  I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about.

                  1. Sorry, that comment was aimed at people capable of thoughtful analysis For you, dog, I got nothin’.

                    1. Ahh
                      So the point of your blather was advocating for the complete federalizing of criminal law–and give AOC and you and Beto plenary authority to write and enforce law.
                      …and I’m the one with reasoning problems…
                      Got it.

                    2. “So the point of your blather was advocating for the complete federalizing of criminal law–and give AOC and you and Beto plenary authority to write and enforce law.”

                      Thank you for absolutely confirming my theory that you are incapable of analysis, thoughtful or otherwise.

                2. Yes, it is a shame that we haven’t managed to convince the legislature to make murder illegal.

                  Seriously, “doing anything” DNE “doing what James Pollock wants”. We do plenty about public murdering, we just don’t do what YOU want done.

                  1. “Yes, it is a shame that we haven’t managed to convince the legislature to make murder illegal.”

                    Congress, thus far, has only made a small subset of murders illegal, genius.

                    “Seriously, ‘doing anything’ DNE ‘doing what James Pollock wants'”

                    Seriously, nobody, not even James Pollock, said otherwise.

                    “We do plenty about public murdering”

                    Yes, yes, “thoughts and prayers”.

                    “we just don’t do what YOU want done.”

                    Like, say, preventing some of the murdering.

                    1. “Congress, thus far, has only made a small subset of murders illegal, genius.”

                      And appropriately so, because the federal government lacks general police authority outside places like the District of Columbia. It is sufficient that states make murder illegal everywhere else.

                    2. “the federal government lacks general police authority”

                      Which makes it odd that you would complain that they haven’t made murder illegal.

                      Do you plan on actually addressing the point, or is this tangent all you can summon?

              3. Cultural chauvinism in service of ignoring an example you don’t like.

                Height of class.

  14. One big advantage of the internet is that it lets people connect and find people who share their interests and beliefs even if they feel alone where they live.

    One big disadvantage of the internet is that it lets people connect and find people who share their interests and beliefs even if they feel alone where they live.

    It’s a two-edged sword. For people who are stuck in a small town or area dominated by one school of thought, it’s a wonderful way to find out you’re not a total weirdo and share interests. It’s fun, and it’s good on your mental health to not be isolated. But it also means that people who have truly harmful ideas that they might have just tried to suppress because they knew it wasn’t acceptable will find other people who feel the same way, and suddenly they think that it’s really not that bad a thing to be sexually attracted to kids or want to shoot up people who disagree with your beliefs. I don’t know what the answer is. It’s a hard bell to unring.

    1. The Internet is just one of a long list of technological advances in communication that had this effect. Gutenberg’s movable type, for example, led directly to the pamphleteers who wondered what things would be like without the monarchy in the old country and his majesty’s government taxing the colonies to pay for things back at home.

  15. This is rich coming from a niche law blog hosted on a Libertarian news site. Some opinions are just unpopular and are too esoteric to discover in ordinary circles. Most mainstream circles are so censorious that you can’t even discuss esoteric ideas publicly and the platforms where you can discuss them are often frequented by people who will try to ruin your life for even exploring third way ideologies.

    Maybe before you start talking shit about people in alternative movements, you should actually speak to them. Your post reeks of boomer tier logic where people talk condescendingly about something they clearly don’t understand and only look from the outside in.

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