# Morning Ed: World {2016.03.03.Th}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

### 151 Responses

Re: Coincidences and clusters. Aside from Bayes’ Theorem, which seems to be all the geeky rage these days, another bit of useful math is the binomial theorem. Given a background probability P of some occurrence per day what’s the likelihood of witnessing any particular number of occurrences on any given day?

I’m pretty sure the folks in our safety department and management chain have a dim understanding of such given how they will freak out over a mini-cluster of accidents over a weekend. I mean, given a normal background rate of, say, one accident per day in our fleet, seeing two or three on any particular day doesn’t mean we’ve all gotten unusually reckless nor does seeing zero mean we’re all being unusually careful. It’s just the way random events naturally cluster.Report

• Brandon Berg says:

That sounds more like Poisson than binomial.Report

• Chris says:

‘Tis.

Which, it should be noted, are commonly used in Bayesian statistics.

Also, the two are not unrelated, of course.Report

• Stillwater says:

That sounds more like Poisson than binomial.

So, you’ve picked your Poisson, eh?Report

• Kolohe says:

He was saying there was something fishy about the comment.Report

• Chris says:

Poisson, an 80s hair metal cover band made up of statisticians.Report

• Kolohe says:

and their hit song “Any Given Rose Has A 98% Chance at the 95% Confidence Interval Of Having One Or More Thorns”Report

• Glyph says:

“Never Trust A Big Butt And A Smile (Check Your Math)”Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

damn…Report

• Stillwater says:

“Any Given Rose Has A 98% Chance at the 95% Confidence Interval Of Having One Or More Thorns”

A powerful song of love and loss, hope and sorrow, familiar to everyone who’s ever loved before. Well, 98% of us, anyway…Report

You sent me to Wikipedia (Mathematical Statistics was depressingly long ago) and you’re absolutely correct. Doesn’t change the point though.Report

• Joe Sal says:

As an aside, do they record near misses? In some circles I work, we have become more interested in near misses than actual contacts, as near misses can tell you a contact event may be evolving.Report

Sort of. Keep in mind my workplace is the public highway and street system rather than a factory floor or some such so many near-misses go unrecognized or recorded. But our trucks are equipped with Critical Event recorders, essentially accelerometers, that trigger on hard swerves or braking. There’s also a camera system that looks out the front glass AND back at the driver that captures ten seconds on either side of an accident or critical event. (I can also manually trigger it if I witness an accident or impaired driver.)

Data from CE’s, accidents, tickets, vehicle inspections, and good guy / bad guy road reports from an outfit that does that sort of thing under contract — think Mystery Shoppers for truckers — all feeds into a Risk Analysis score. The higher your score the riskier you are. Mine’s negative so… yay, me!Report

• Kazzy says:

MLB has seen 23 official perfect games over its 135 year history. 3 occurred in a 5 month span in 2012. There were 2 more in May of 2010 and another the year before.

When this was going on, I remember readers writing into ESPN’s Keith Law and insisting all these perfect games really meant something because it was just too weird for them to cluster this way. He pointed out it would be MUCH weirder if they were perfectly distributed with one game occurring every 6 years. I thought that was a great counter.

And while there is probably a relationship between the overall run scoring environment in the game at a given time — which fluctuates over time based on a number of factors — and the likelihood of a perfect game being thrown, it is ridiculous to assume that more than 25% of perfect games occurring in a four year span really means anything other than exceedingly rare things are going to occur in strange ways.Report

• El Muneco says:

Clustering is also a major headache for the people studying the “hot hand”. Just being able to determine how a real effect would differ from a typical pattern of successes/failures is nontrivial. Showing that it’s repeatable (necessary to show that there’s an underlying ability, not just artifact) is next-level hard.Report

• Kazzy says:

Hasn’t the math/science flip-flopped on the hot hand? I thought now they believe it is a real thing and the reason it wasn’t initially born out by the data was because they failed to account for how “feeling it” changed the way players played? Specifically that shooters would take shots with a higher degree of difficulty (i.e., further from the hoop) and therefore a relatively flat shooting percentage during supposed “hot hand” moments actually indicated a real hot hand because they were making more difficult shots at a similar rate to what they had been making easier ones at?Report

• Chris says:

It turns out the math for detecting streakiness is really hard. I have a friend who’s spent much of his career trying to sort it out, obsessively, as is his wont.Report

• Glyph says:

Being a functional math illiterate, this seems weird to me.

1.) If in fact the math to detect it is so difficult, it seems like that *itself* points towards non-streakiness (or at least, insignificant streakiness), since it really seems like experimentally validating the phenomenon shouldn’t be THAT hard. It should jump out.

2.) OTOH, if the math finally DOES point towards significant streakiness, then either humans just happened to be right about a long-held superstition, or humans are able to intuitively-understand and “calculate” something that is extremely difficult to demonstrate mathematically.Report

• Chris says:

The problem is separating random clustering from correlated instances from causally clustered instances. You can detect streaks pretty simply, but determining whether the streaks are because of a hot hand or correlation with the previous instance(s), or if there’s actually a causal relation (so that performance at instance x is causally related to performance at x + 1) and such is difficult. If you look at the literature on the “hot hand,” all three of things get a lot of attention.

My friend who’s researched it since the early 90s actually published on streakiness back when, but his data (from things like golf putts) is likely “random” (or rather, it’s just a product of natural, predictable fluctuations in human cognitive and sensorimortor interactions with the world, so not really random, but not causally related). His work is now generally considered not to show the existence of a “hot hand,” but other research might. Or maybe not.

If you really want to get a psychophysicist started, give him or her a few drinks and then bring up the “hot hand.”Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Speaking of Math & Stats, courtesy of our Mr. Rowe.

(warning, SlatePitch)Report

• Alan Scott says:

Well, I’m a fan of Daniel Willingham, whose criticisms of the argument are quoted toward the end of the piece. And I agree with what he has to say.

My take (having read a few articles, but not Hacker’s book):

It’s a solution in search of a problem. I agree that Algebra 2 isn’t going to be super-useful to most graduates. But failure to pass Algebra 2 has never been the problem–It’s failure to grasp more basic algebra and even arithmetic that’s preventing students from achieving academic success. And those more basic skills are necessary for graduates. You’d have to do a lot more tweaking that swapping out Algebra 2 for a statistics class, otherwise, you’ll just get the next generation’s Andrew Hacker talking about how our nation’s children are dropping out because they’re failing a useless statistics course.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

As I believe we’ve discussed before, this is a favorite topic of mine, having struggled with math all through public school.

In short, American schools largely suck at teaching math. You probably know more about this than I (you are the budding math teacher, IIRC), but the author of the article gets it right here:

I found Hacker overall to be pretty convincing. But after finishing The Math Myth, I kept thinking back to how my husband talked about derivatives, how he helped me connect the abstract to the concrete. As a longtime education reporter, I know that American teachers, especially those in the elementary grades, have taken few math courses themselves, and often actively dislike the subject. Maybe I would have found abstract math more enjoyable if my teachers had been able to explain it better, perhaps by connecting it somehow to the real world. And if that happened in every school, maybe lots more American kids, even low-income ones, would be able to make the leap from arithmetic to the conceptual mathematics of algebra II and beyond.

I’m not sure why, but overall we seem to lack any real pedagogy when it comes to primary math education, and, as the article notes, there just aren’t enough school teachers with a background in math to support one if we did.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

I imagine that the VEEN diagram for really good at math and really interested in teaching middle and high school students is not overlapping. My well to do public high school (one that sent a disproportante number of students to elite universities) had one or two math teachers that was good at both and passionate about both.

Meanwhile my HS physics teacher was a former engineer who just was not very good at teaching. He was friendly but not great at teachingReport

• Oscar Gordon says:

This is truth. I’m not sure why there is a dearth of teachers with some kind of math background (probably related to pay & career satisfaction issues), but it’s one of those things where if we seriously want more kids to grow up comfortable with math, we need to develop the human resources needed to make that happen.

If that means math teachers with a background in math get paid more, then do it.Report

• LeeEsq says:

A lot of math education is also very abstract. Kids might be taught algebra, trigonometry, and calculus but they aren’t told what they are used for in the real world even at good schools. Science has the same problem but practical uses tend to be more graspable without being explicit.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

I think probably pay and respect. Being a quant in finance is a lot of hours but you get paid a lot of money and treated with more decency than a high school teacher gets.Report

• Kim says:

Working for wall street is being treated with less decency than working for a high school. More status, sure, but less decency.

“You must be in enough debt that you can’t afford to quit” is an indecent work environment.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

My mom loved math. She also was a dedicated teacher. She nearly flunked differential calculus in college. When she was in grad school for her Masters in Education, she learned that a lot of teachers who were would be math majors get felled by differential calculus. The reason being is that math came easily to them until that point and they did not know how to ask for help in differential calculus.Report

• DensityDuck says:

That’s exactly what happened to me–I did my homework the hour before class, right up until I hit DiffEQ at which point I was utterly lost.

Part of the problem is that most teachers’ method of teaching DiffEQ seems to be “this is a refresher for people who already know how to do this stuff”.

The biggest thing that got me sorted out for DiffEQ was the realization that basically what you’re doing is cheating; you’re saying “okay, the first thing we do to solve this problem is to make up a solution that works. The next thing we do is declare that the Existence And Uniqueness Theorem means the solution we just made up is the only possible solution, and therefore we don’t need to keep looking.”Report

• Michael Cain says:

According to my prof as an undergraduate, differential equations has always been about “cheating”. Find something that works for some class of equations. For practical situations that don’t match any of the known cases, numerical approximations by computer.

One of my bitches about economics is that economists tend to simplify until they can get closed-form solutions, rather than say up front that any problem large enough to be interesting is going to require numerical/simulation sorts of approaches.Report

• Kim says:

E&M as taught is also completely about finding simple problems and solving them. Any decent problem requires a computer.

I’m not sure who has a problem with DiffEq — that’s the MOST cookbooky class ever.

Now, past DiffEq, you get into real math… where it’s all mostly theory, and you stop solving real problems anymore. That’s the part I couldn’t stand.Report

• Michael Cain says:

Many — almost certainly a majority — of people who declare as math majors going into college are, in fact, very good at applying a cookbook of techniques to the set of problems for which those techniques apply. At some point in the first two years, that’s not enough. Someone who’s going to graduate with a math major is going to need the right kind of creative spark to prove something from scratch. Often, somewhere in calculus is where it happens. Integrals more often than derivatives. Given the rules, you can take the derivative of anything. It is trivial to write down an indefinite integral problem for which a closed-form solution is ridiculously difficult.

This is a problem for math departments. The profs want to find and teach the people who can do the theory. The large majority of students in the class are interested in another set of cookbook rules.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

We don’t need a lot of math majors teaching math in high school. Teachers with a minor in math, or a specialization in math pedagogy/education would probably fit the bill. The trick is how to incentivize that education.Report

• Michael Cain says:

Agreed, pretty much. Certainly anything before high school should have someone who’s studied teaching math, which is a different thing entirely. Part of the difficulty with rote learning in lower grades is, for lack of a better term, notation. The particular notation for long division, or how to multiply two multi-digit numbers, isn’t taught for no reason — hundreds of years of experience has taught us that those notational methods give the best chance for getting the right answer. OTOH, there’s a calculator built into everything that will always get the right answer. Mathematica is better at symbolic differentiation and integration than I ever was. Reality is that we need to be teaching story problems — math as a way to think about the world — more than mechanics. Tough choices.

These days in high school, I’d be more inclined to teach them Python and make them do some soft-real-time embedded sorts of projects — some appreciation for why your car tried to kill you, and how easy it is to make such mistakes, is probably more important than the quadratic formula.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

The quadratic formula, hell, polynomials in general, made no damn sense to me until someone thought to plot them on a graph & explain what the roots were on that graph.

The fact that such a thing did not happen until I was in college should tell you something regarding HS math classes.

And story problems were a mess. You can’t teach via story problems if you don’t understand yourself how the elements of the problem feed into the mathematics, and the answer/explanation in the teacher’s edition isn’t going to help.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

I actually did alright in DiffyQs, but that had more to do with a small class & the fact that I’d already has Quantum Physics & a few computational physics classes by then. So I’d already been exposed to a lot of real world applications of ODEs & PDEs which made the concepts easier to wrap my head around.

Calc 2 was my hobgoblin.Report

• Kim says:

A friend of mine programmed Calc 3 into his graphing calculator during Calc 1 (needless to say, he was inventing most of it as he went along)…

The teacher didn’t care, as he saw that the guy was doing harder work than the actual class he was taking.Report

• El Muneco says:

I ended up with a math minor in college, but I have to say that my high school pre-calc class gave us (well, me at least) no conceptual framework at all for what we were doing. Totally unprepared to make the leap, and I never really caught up (I was a lot better at finite math, which was more interesting to computer science if you’re not hardcore into algorithmics).Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

@el-muneco

Mine didn’t either. I had to retake Algebra & Trig in college because I’d struggled so hard in HS. Luckily my community college Alg & Trig & Calc 1 instructors were amazing and I was able to catch up. Of course, the University math teachers were crap because they didn’t give a sh*t, but my engineering classes at the time usually paralleled my math well enough that I was able to bridge the gaps.Report

• Kim says:

I know a guy who failed algebra in high school 4 times, and only managed to graduate because the school was due a big bonus if he did (had aced a state physics exam, and the ONLY way they were getting the money was if he graduated…) — yes, one can actually understand that “sin” on the calculator converts angles into distances, without actually getting the math much at all…

He didn’t even have arithmetic down until college, when someone bothered explaining 2’s complement to him.Report

• Morat20 says:

I’m not super up to date on modern math methods (which are generally, and derisively referred to as ‘Common Core math’) but as I understand it, the modern methods used are designed to do just that.

To get kids — younger kids — thinking about math both more abstractly and more concretely, and internalize the ability to handle multiple approached to a problem (rather than be taught a rote method).

Which leads to parents complaining about “common core math” and posting confused images on Facebook, because they were taught rote methods which start failing once you hit algebra (where you need more mental flexibility, symbolic reasoning, and the ability to reason through a problem rather than applying strict algorithms to generate a response).

Honestly, though, 20 seconds of googling and about five minutes of reading would allow them to help their kids with any confusing math homework. But the horror of New Math and nostalgia run deep….Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

@morat20

Agreed. Can you ask your wife if her school district makes an effort to educate parents about the new math curriculum and what it is trying to do? I think a lot of parents get frustrated because they see this as coming out of the blue, so I’m curious if it really is, or if the schools have been trying and these parents are just not listening to the schools.Report

• Morat20 says:

I’l ask, but I don’t know if our district even uses it — and since she teaches HS, well — she’s in more familiar territory math wise. Although these days they go up to Cal II, and the really savvy ones do dual credit for Cal III (maybe two or three a year though). Cal II is pretty common among seniors heading to college.

Back in my day, you got Cal I (although the curriculm actually covered much of Cal II, just not quite enough to pass the AP test.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

My HS offered Pre-Calc, which was kinda like intro to college algebra & trig. That was the max it went to (rural farming community school don’t need no higher math).Report

• DensityDuck says:

The reason you keep seeing “my kid got the right answer but they marked it wrong!” is that Common Core isn’t about Get The Number, it’s about the process. Most parents are used to Get The Number, and they don’t understand why the process could possibly matter.Report

• Morat20 says:

I think it’s mostly because adults have internalized the process. As a parent (with a wife who was an educator who could and did keep pulling me up short to remind me) — kids aren’t miniature adults, and they don’t know things we’ve internalized so heavily we don’t even have to think about it.

As adults, we prioritize getting the right answer on math because math is a tool, and we’re using it for a result. And so many methods are simply automatic to us.

But yeah, I rather applaud the changes in the math curriculum. Process is important. Realizing that multiple processes can get you the same answer is even more important. If there’s one thing that kills people on higher math, it’s not being able to grok that there’s no “one rule” to solve a problem. What you have is a complicated puzzle and a toolbox.

And once you get into needing a tool or two just to expose the guts of the problem, well….:)

I mean, good lord — you try doing integration problems in the real world. They don’t line up neatly with the method you just learned last week in class. “This week we’re learning integration by parts. All your problems will be integration by parts!”.

OTOH, you can also ask Mathematica to solve it for you. (Or in my case, write a program to do it….I can’t remember the method, but you make lots of little tiny rectangles and calculate the area…)Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

I can’t remember the method, but you make lots of little tiny rectangles and calculate the area…

Hi, welcome to my world. The conversation can be a bit dull, but we have lots of pretty pictures!Report

• Morat20 says:

Indeed. Seriously, I could code it….

I did spend some time about a year ago cobbling together an old but reliable method for determining if a point is inside a polygon with the actual parameters of the problem (closed shapes that included lines and arcs, the latter of which could be drawn in either direction, and in which the shapes could be nested) with code snippets from the internet (“Seriously, I don’t care to work out how to find the closest point of a line segment to another point when someone has solved this already”) with what I remembered of geometry from 20+ years ago.

And then promptly forgot it all. The end result works, is fairly portable within the applications we create, is pretty elegant and easy to read/troubleshoot, is fairly efficient and…..prevents the user from having to enter a single piece of information on a pop-up.

No one will ever know how the poor programmer struggled with trying to remember geometry. They’ll just know they put a point on a drawing canvas, and the computer can recognize the clear fact that this point is inside a shape not outside.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Sounds like a Closed Hull Search Algorithm.

This is the curse of our field, that there are so many thousands (millions?) of algorithms that have already been worked out to solve various problems and even if they happen to exist in a library somewhere, because code documentation is so horrendous, the effort to locate the library, or even a pseudo-code or other higher level description of the algorithm can be such that it’s easier to just write the damn thing yourself (thus needlessly replicating effort).Report

• DensityDuck says:

“Realizing that multiple processes can get you the same answer is even more important.”

I don’t think Common Core is about multiple processes.

I think it’s more about “wax on, wax off”.

It’s about doing the arithmetic in what seems like a very strange way (number lines, “make 10”) because the skills you learn turn out to be extensible to all classes of problems (like multiplication and algebra).Report

• Kolohe says:

At universities with graduate programs, tenure-track faculty members teach only 10 percent of introductory math classes. At undergraduate colleges, tenure-track professors handle 42 percent of introductory classes. Graduate students and adjuncts shoulder the vast majority of the load, and they aren’t inspiring many students to continue their math education. In 2013, only 1 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded were in math.

Right after saying ‘hey we need to teach the kids about stats and using math in context’ they pull out a stat that’s divorced from context because it matches what they want to talk about.

Sure, they’re are very few math degrees. But all those math classes *are* required for other people majoring in engineering and various science disciplines. So that ‘1%’ is really quite meaningless. Not to mention the question begging on whether or not 1% of all bachelors degrees is sufficient for the job market and/or societal demand (and/or the limits of the talent of the general population) for math majors.Report

• Kim says:

Yeah… I know a guy who’s published papers in math journals, despite “not understanding” the set theory. (I presume he’s just fudging it… and that it’s more “hey, look at what cool idea I had!” … and then having to figure out how to talk to mathematicians about it)

… this is compression theory, so it has a rather easy metric for “is this interesting enough to publish”Report

2. Saul Degraw says:

Techie Microstates: I can’t ready articles like this without remembering the geeky kids in high school who would say things like “The problem with fascist governments is that people like me are never put in charge.” I read the seasteaders and techie microstaters as saying “Whhhhhyyyy haven’t I beeeeeen made supremmmmeeee overloooord yet?”

Tablet: Oh Tablet. Tablet Magazine is an extremely weird place. The magazine tries to have its cake and eat it to. On the one hand they will publish plenty of articles that are aimed at keeping Judaism as being liberal and cosmopolitan. But when it comes to Israel, they are pure Likudnik and I say this as a strong Zionist. Liel Leibovitz just seems to be ragging at those dreaded liberals. Never mind that because Israel is parliamentary, right-wing Likud controls the Education Ministry. The comment sections on Tablet’s facebook feed seem to be 80 percent spittle at Reform and Liberal Jews. This is done by the 20 percent of Jewish-Americans who are not Democratic voting.

How does this remind you of here? Do you really think that American educators create reading lists with aim of “America is bad and you should feel bad.” What specific books are taught in American English classes with that goal? Man social conservatives can be rather butt hurt for people who talk about how tough they are. The United States (and Israel) are diverse countries with histories that can often be dark. All countries have unfortunate histories and incidents. These shouldn’t be avoided because they make social conservatives feel bad.Report

• Will Truman says:

That comment was more in reference to the piece and the discussion than actual texts.

For my part, though, my high school history book did read rather slanted, if someone subtly so. Things like talking about the Red Scare while treating the notion of Communist activity as more-or-less a silly paranoid fantasy (I went to college having no idea Alger Hiss was anything more than a convenient cultural target for the Red Scare crowd). Right now there is a lingering debate back home over high school texts where the right-wingers are trying to write history to their own satisfaction. I don’t agree with them, though I do wonder if at least some of it isn’t an overreaction to the otherdirectional tilt they (or their kids) had going through.

(I should always note, however, that there was one big exception: The portrayal of The Civil War was an inaccurate one of nuance. And that is indeed a really big exception.)Report

• Brandon Berg says:

In addition to Alger Hiss, there was a Congressman, Samuel Dickstein, who spied for the Soviets.Report

• Chris says:

To the extent that Dickstein’s case is known (which is a small extent, as the entirety is the evidence is one dude who saw the archives and wrote a book about them), it has little to do with him being a communist and everything to do with him being greedy, because the report is he spied for whoever would pay him (which included the Brits).Report

• Don’t forget Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, and George Marshall.Report

• Richard Hershberger says:

I am of two minds on the Red Scare. On the one hand, the Red Menace was not illusory and there were in fact Soviet spies in the US government. On the other hand, declaring a political stance to be illegal badthink is extremely problematic, even if we overlook that communism was within the Overton Window just a few years earlier. And while some American communists were Soviet stooges, many had broken away in disgust over the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. What actually happened was indescriminate othering of a large group. This never ages well, for all that it is popular at the time.Report

• LeeEsq says:

Even at the height of the Great Depression, communism was never in the American Overton window.Report

• Art Deco says:

Communist Party members were welcome in certain subcultures and had serious influence. See RWB Lewis on the publishing business ca. 1945. Movie studios also had nests of Communists. The political work of Melvyn Douglas was to some extent motivated by this. They were also on union staffs, notably the west coast Longshorement and the United Electrical Workers.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

You are correct-
Socialism has a much larger and longer pedigree in America than most people know.

Political and fraternal groups like the Grange, art movements like the Arts & Crafts and Bauhaus, Futurists, even things like city planning and functional zoning, all sprang from that same well of ideas.
Many of the theologians who wrote the papal encyclicals from 1890 to the present were literally card-carrying members of various Socialist or Communist parties.

The Cold War caused these connections to be downplayed or denied outright. But maybe now, finally, the history can be given its proper place.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

For every Hiss, how many other Americans had their lives ruined because of just having political sympathies towards socialism? Yes Hiss was a spy but that doesn’t make McCarthyism justifiableReport

• Will Truman says:

Nobody said otherwise.Report

• gingergene says:

During the red panic:

(1) America had enemies, a few of them working from the inside.

(2) America effectively criminalized a particular political philosophy because its enemies claimed it.

It seems to me that (1) has always been and will always be true as long as America exists.

OTOH, (2) is considered deeply antithetical to American values by many* Americans, yet still rears its head regularly, starting with the Alien and Sedition Acts continuing to the current demonization of Muslims.

Given the limited time available in school-year-long history class that has to cover, at minimum, 300 years of history, I think it is very understandable why (1) is given the short shrift and (2) is well-covered.

*actually, most Americans, I hopeReport

• LeeEsq says:

Most Americans have a weird relationship with freedom of speech and religion. There has always been a big plurality happy with censorship and restriction of things they consider UN-American from the Roman Catholic Church to communism to pornogrsphy.Report

• Art Deco says:

Read the 1st Amendment. It’s a guarantee of activities which derive from deliberative processes re public institutions, which nude dancing at the Kitty Kat Lounge is not.

The biggest restriction on the Catholic Church has always been the refusal of the state to allow Catholic parents to opt out of the government school system without effective financial penalties. The people who fancy that are meatheads on the faculty of the teachers’ colleges and the staffs of the teachers’ unions, and the issue is quite topical (though far more consequential regarding evangelicals than Catholics nowadays).

Legal-formal restrictions on speech and association may fall into desuetude. There absence does not mean we have a culture open to robust deliberation. In the ruin that is higher education, we do not. The purveyors of social media services cannot even handle Robert Stacy McCain, whose viewpoint is fairly unremarkable anywhere outside the arts and sciences faculty.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

The Oregon Supreme Court noted that Oregon’s free speech statute protects nude dancing!!

Regardless of originalism, modern First Amendment jurisprudence is well over 100 years old. The pioneering free speech cases are mainly over 50 years old. Do you really think you are going to turn back the clock to a time when police conducted raids on pornography owners and selling Howl was a prosecutable crime?

How do social conservativesintend to do this with the Intetnet being around?

What is amazing about American social conservatives is that they think they can do so.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

It’s the same lie everyone tells themselves: if we just get the right people at the levers of power…Report

• Saul Degraw says:

@oscar-gordon

That combined with the Big Sort and you are right. Art Deco could very well live in an area where no one would think of owing Howl.Report

• LeeEsq says:

During the 19th century and a good chunk of the 20th century, Catholic parents had a legitimate grip against many public school systems because they were effectively Protestant schools in all but name. The Catholic response was to try to get funds for Catholic schools. The Jewish response was to sue for violations of separation of religion and state. Likewise, I really don’t think you want to go back to the days of Comstock or if that is even possible with modern technology.Report

• Art Deco says:

Jessica Mitford came from an exceedingly prominent British family and (with her husband) had a lengthy association with the Communist Party and front groups. She actually was injured by a discrete act of a federal agency (taking her account at face value). Some FBI agents showed up at her job one day and told her supervisor she’d been a Communist Party member. She was terminated. Her job was selling classified ads for a newspaper. Harassing people like this is not a proper function of federal agents. Still, I’ve see worse injustices in offices in which I’ve worked. There was a fellow named James Kutcher who was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He had a series of run ins with federal agencies ca. 1955. He was the poster child for that party for this, so I don’t think there were too many other cases.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

And her sisters loved the Nazis!!Report

• LeeEsq says:

I had a more generous take on the article. It was pointing out that Israeli high school curricula already had plenty of bovels with Jewish and Arab romance and the decision to exclude this one is being used as a political point by Israel critics. The novel in question could simply be not very good or superfluous.

There is always going to be political issues that ding teaching the humanities in schools. One person’s version of history might seem nothing more than propaganda to another person. Will’s point on anti-Communism is a good point. There was a witch hunt against people with leftist points of view but most anti-Soviet Countries did have citizens spying for the Soviet Union in them more so than we had Soviets spying for us. The Cold War history you learn is dependent on the politics of your town.Report

• Richard Hershberger says:

I can’t ready articles like this without remembering the geeky kids in high school who would say things like “The problem with fascist governments is that people like me are never put in charge.”

Did they actually come out and say that? I mean sure, you don’t have to read very far between the lines to get that, but in my experience most of them had just enough vestigial social sense to not be quite so explicit.

But yeah, some of the most authoritarian people I know self-identify as libertarian. I’m not saying that all self-identified libertarians are this way, but there is a thread of “libertarian” outrage at the government not letting them oppress other people. (Exhibit A: Ron Paul and racists.)Report

• Brandon Berg says:

You have something in your eye. Seems to be a beam of some kind.Report

• LeeEsq says:

There were a few kids we knew that said this in high school.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

I shared a room at Model Congress with kids who said things like that. I also needed to help them tie their ties. Make of this what you will. fWIW I think they probably (or hope they) got over this attitude eventually.Report

• Kazzy says:

This makes me giggle. I can see a scene where we are zoomed in tight on @saul-degraw impatiently listening as his roommate drones on about what a benevolent dictator he’d make only to pan out and see that Saul is changing the guy’s diaper and wiping his wittle butt.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

FWIW I knew a guy who identified as right-wing libertarian and was a real strident asshole about it. The guy is now on the left and is still unbeatable with his holier than thou attitudeReport

• Richard Hershberger says:

The switch doesn’t surprise me, going in either direction. My brother once said of Glenn Greenwald that he could wake up any day as a fascist. And he wouldn’t miss a beat.Report

• Will Truman says:

I have a long-time friend that was an embarrassing right-winger for the longest time. And by “embarassing” I mean “Ranted about illegal immigration to my soon-to-be in-laws that he just met at my wedding rehearsal dinner.” If pressed, the only racists he could name would have been Barack Obama and Sonya Sotomayor.

Around 2010 he switched sides, and in 2011 I found myself on the wrong side of his associations of people who are with and not with the KKK.Report

• LeeEsq says:

Greenwald is already something of a fascist. He has been known for some rather unsavory connections with Neo-Nazis.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

I knew a guy who identified as right-wing libertarian and was a real strident asshole about it. The guy is now on the left and is still unbeatable with his holier than thou attitude

My ears, they are burning.

Actually, I second this, that there is no greater zealot than the convert.

Part of it is the sense of betrayal, that all the things you believed were lies, that realization that it wasn’t innocent idealism but cynical manipulation…

So now I try to temper my leftism, not wanting to make the same mistake as I did in my youth (which lasted until my hair began to fall out).Report

• Jaybird says:

I know that my libertarian tendencies tend to spring from the knowledge that I know myself better than anybody, I tend to think that I’m an okay guy, all things considered, and I wouldn’t trust myself with power… and I wouldn’t trust myself with power because of my authoritarian tendencies.

From there I ask myself “why in the hell should I trust you with power?” when I encounter Bright New Tomorrow If Only We Do What I Think kinda people.Report

• Damon says:

Bingo.

And the fact that you and I realize this but a lot of other people don’t also gives me pause. And I’m supposed to trust THEIR judgement?Report

• Art Deco says:

but there is a thread of “libertarian” outrage at the government not letting them oppress other people. (Exhibit A: Ron Paul and racists.)

You’re not oppressed because someone refused to serve you a plate of chicken.Report

• El Muneco says:

I hear it more often said about monarchy, but occasionally about authoritarian regimes as well.

It kind of ignores the fact that dictators are self-selecting, in that they are the most Machiavellian strongmen to work their way out of their particular crab bucket. So what do you expect they’re going to be like when they actually achieve the power they set out to gain? You’re not going to get a Kerensky coming out on top when there’s a Stalin in the house.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

That whole “those who seek power are precisely the people whom power should never be granted to”.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Micro-states

Despite the impracticality of it, there is a salient point here:

“It’s actually very hard to fix problems with government,” says Montreal-based Guillaume Dumas, one of the people behind Sui Generis. “We’ve had democracies for over 150 years in some countries, and we’re still struggling with making things work the way we want.

It’s no easy thing to upset an apple cart, especially, it seems, when it’s full of rotten apples. Entrenched interests are not going to accept change easily. Take a look at countries that undergo coups. Even when the victor has the power of a dictator, forcing change, even for the better, is hard to do because someone has gotten fat & powerful on the status quo.

Starting fresh in a place with no entrenched players has an appeal that should not be so casually dismissed.Report

• Saul Degraw says:

How are we defining rotten apples? Are they actual corrupt people and entrenched interests or are they people and organizations with an honest and sincere but very different philosophy on the point and purpose of government?

One of the reasons I roll my eyes at the concept of First Principals is that the concept seems implies we can all agree upon the same basic first principals and then move up from there.

I don’t think this is true. There is ample evidence that suggests liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have different first principals. Conservatives seem to see themselves as being truly pro-Liberty and pro-Freedom but I don’t see this because of their mono focus on business issues and ignoring of social freedoms like the rights of minorities and dissenters to fully participate in civil and economic life without prejudice. Likewise conservatives probably roll their eyes at bleeding hearts like me who believe that freedom from want is a right.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

It doesn’t even need to be a discussion of first principles. Not everything has to fall back to that.

Think about police in the US (not the only example, or even the worst, just my current favorite). Here we have a pretty rotten apple that is so dug in and entrenched in it’s own special brand of privilege that despite considerable social pressure to change, it continues to largely play a shell game in the hopes that people will get bored & go away & let it get back to enjoying its privileges.

Changing police culture will be a hard, long slog, and I doubt it will ever be fully reformed. Most likely it will eventually accept just enough changes that people go back to just being mildly disgusted, instead of openly outraged. There is too much tradition, legal history, and inertia for the culture to ever fully root out the worst aspects. When you see the trajectory police culture largely follows, and you grasp the scope of the problem, then yeah, scrapping the whole thing and starting over is appealing.Report

• Jaybird says:

This goes back to the difference between “you’re a racist” and “you said a racist thing”.

Are you merely hoping to hear that entrenched players aren’t bad people, just people who were given incentives that incentivized bad actions?Report

• Saul Degraw says:

I think it depends. There are entrenched interests that are bad apples. I am sure we can find common ground on many.

However, I still think government regulation is necessary to stop other bad apples and the welfare state is necessary to protect people from the whims of fortune and Capitalism.

I wonder if there are studies into why people with different ideologies support different bad apples.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Why do you assume such a place would be free of regulation? Having a place be pro-business does not mean it’s going to be Happy Pollute-A-Lot Land, or Screw-The-Workerstan. Sure, it could be, but you constantly assume that is the goal, rather than merely a possible outcome.

It all depends on how it is setup.Report

• Art Deco says:

ignoring of social freedoms like the rights of minorities and dissenters to fully participate in civil and economic life without prejudice.

If the right of minorities to do that is an enforceable entitlement, someone’s freedom of contract and association is being impaired. This is zero sum and reflects a judgment on the relative merits of the parties crossing paths.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

The reverse is also true, isn’t it?

That is, giving freedom of association priority over the ability to participate fully, is also making a judgment on the relative merits of the parties.Report

• Lyle says:

To go a bit further, a large number of political arguements in the US are essentially the same issues (at their basic level not in details) that Hamilton and Jefferson/Madison argued over during the Washington Administration. The scope of government being the biggest of these issues,Report

• Don Zeko says:

I think the Trump campaign demonstrates pretty well that intellectuals and op-ed columnists and some activists care about the size of government, but plenty of people instead care about who pays and who is paid and for what, with those categories often defined in very icky terms.Report

• dragonfrog says:

Starting fresh in a place with no entrenched players has an appeal that should not be so casually dismissed.

It got us the genocides of 18th and 19th Century colonialism, and the ongoing colonial oppressions and genocides of the 20th and 21st – certainly not casually dismissable.

There are even fewer places now with “no entrenched players” than there were in past centuries, so the only way that’s going to happen is the same way colonialism ever happened – by declaring the interests of the entrenched players invalid, and possibly the players themselves nonexistent or at least not fully human.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Despite the lessons of the past, there are still people who represent the current, legitimate government who are happy to exercise genocide to remove “entrenched interests”, so the problem isn’t limited to those who would seek a fresh start.

At least the folks in the article are looking for a government to donate land (preferably something not currently occupied), and seasteaders are looking at areas not claimed by anyone.Report

• Autolukos says:

Man, someone is going to have to explain the jump from “find a European country willing to allow an experiment on its territory” to “declaring people not fully human.”

This is also, of course, why the seasteading folks seized on the idea of literally building offshore.Report

• dragonfrog says:

Sure, as long as it stays in the fantasy territory of “asking a country to donate some farmland where the owners can be bought out” it will be harmless – both because no one is forcibly dispossessed of their land, and because no one is willingly dispossessed of their land either because it ain’t going to happen.

I’m just saying – the idea of a “fresh start” on unoccupied land has been tried before. Mostly it has been achieved not by finding actual unoccupied lands (since those ran out some millenia ago), but by declaring the current occupants to not be “legitimate” occupants on account of their skin or non-christian faiths.Report

3. Saul Degraw says:

Here is Tablet being liberal and cosmopolitan:

4. Damon says:

Hotel: Interesting hotel room 🙂

Burma: She knew this going in and already has “contingency” plans. She’ll make all the decisions, but someone else will be the figurehead.Report

• gingergene says:

Re: Myanmar

I think the military is shooting themselves in the foot here. If they could just get over their ASSK-hate, they would realize it’s in their own interest to deal directly with her than have to play telephone with her appointee. Not to mention that it would demonstrate that they are taking the election results seriously.Report

• Damon says:

I don’t disagree, but it seems they don’t want to play.Report

• Kim says:

Many things are in someone’s own interest.

But making deals over the telephone works surprisingly well in the middle east…Report

5. PD Shaw says:

Immigration controls: I am not British, and cannot understand how this would be perceived as persuasive: “What is the point of spending British public money to educate hundreds of thousands of students, only to politely but firmly show them the door after graduation?”

Do taxpayers in other countries like to pay for the education denied their own children? I know how this would play out in Illinois: bipartisan outrage. Currently, the U of Illinois has agreed to stop increasing the number of foreign students admitted, but the previous increase was a product of decreasing taxpayer support being offset by outrageously high tuition rates that could be charged the wealthy abroad. At some point, the purpose of a state-funded school has to be to serve the interests of the taxpayers of the state.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Only in so far as the taxpayers support the school. If a school budget is >75%* taxpayer funded, then hell yeah it should serve the state above all others (no matter how nice outside tuition money is). If it is <25%*, then I'd say the taxpayers have clearly relinquished their interest in the service the school system provides.

*numbers being complete WAGsReport

• PD Shaw says:

To me it raises the question of what is the purpose of a public university anyway?

But in the British context, the writer is complaining that if the UK leaves the EU, then its school will no longer be a part of the free-tuition pact. I can see why the citizen of Fenwick likes the idea of attending one of the top universities in the world for free, instead of Central Fenwick by the Sea. I can see why Oxford would like such an arrangement. But so long as there are limited seats available in higher education, its hard to see what the benefit is for the British taxpayer who now has to send their child to the almost bankrupt CFS, and everybody knows Fenwick is landlocked and “by the Sea” was just a marketing gimmick.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Very true. I was addressing the issue of US state universities. The UK/EU issue is different.Report

6. Chip Daniels says:

The techy microstates are based on the same assumed can opener as most proposed “solutions” to political gridlock, namely that politics is optional, or that political problems are at heart technical problems to be solved.

Even the most fundamental technical problem in Utopia, e.g., how to handle water supply, is at base a question of values and ethics.
Who are the stakeholders in the decision? Whose interests are given priority? What is the best way of resolving these issues? How do we assess whether any of this is “working”?
And so on.

It is really a subtle insult to everyone else (which may be why it is so easily read as authoritarian) because it treats the current battle of values as trivial and unimportant. It presumes a single moral framework by which all things can be resolved, the underlying premises of which are not open to question or challenge.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

This assumes that other moral frameworks in use are open to question or challenge in some easy manner.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

Right, most groups of people work very hard to place certain frameworks above question.

Which is why its important to value negotiation and compromise, and the messy battle of politics where people are allowed to question everything.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Which, I would suggest, would provide a pretty obvious flag regarding the kind of society one would find.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

So the existence of rights is above question?
The humanity of the fetus?
The equality of races?

I mean, this is the point I have made a few times here, that what we consider foundational “self evident truths” of the liberal society are really just agreed-upon moral norms, subject to challenge and reassessment.

This leads to all sorts of messy and unpleasant places- like with abortion, where good and reasonable and decent people are either being forced to witness a horror of mass murder, or the oppression of half the species.

Is there a nice clean way to resolve this without coercion, or corrupting political compromise? Not that I know of.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

@chip-daniels

Did I say that rights were above question? Are we talking about the same thing here?

That misses the whole point here when it comes to micro-nations or seasteads. These are not governments being imposed upon people who are geographical rooted, but rather places that will, in order to thrive, be forced to attract people to their borders. The whole structure of governance would have to be laid bare for all to examine, and if a person found it wanting, they wouldn’t move.

Of course, the danger with any such experiment is highlighted by stories like The Mariana Islands, and I have no good answer as to how to avoid such a tragedy in the future that does not involve extensive improvements to global education efforts, or very strong UN powers to inspect, investigate, and sanction bad players.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

These are not governments being imposed upon people who are geographical rooted, but rather places that will, in order to thrive, be forced to attract people to their borders. The whole structure of governance would have to be laid bare for all to examine, and if a person found it wanting, they wouldn’t move.

How is this any different than existing nation-states?
I mean, if France isn’t a wonderful place, no one would move there, right?

And in the Seastead place, how are the future generations of native born citizens any different than you and me here in America? Born into a society governed by norms and rules to which they never agreed, yet obliged to obey and conform?Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Ideally? The right of exit would be respected a lot more than it often is today.Report

• Chip Daniels says:

Serious question-
What prevents anyone from leaving?Report

• Autolukos says:
• Oscar Gordon says:

Depends on the state being exited. It could be a physical barrier (wall, ocean, desert, etc.), or a political one (see East Germany/East Berlin). Could be financial (asset freezing/forfeiture for those attempting to leave). Could be familial (don’t want to leave sibling/parent/grandparent behind). Could be cultural. The list goes on.

I don’t expect any given state to facilitate an exit (no free bus tickets or boat rides), but they have no right to hinder an exit or make it more difficult that it should be (by erecting artificial barriers, putting remaining family in prison, or levying financial penalties on family or the exit-er, etc.).Report

• Francis says:

” they have no right to hinder an exit”

Interesting turn of phrase. On what basis does a state not have the right to hinder exits, some kind of natural law theory? What happens if a majority of the citizens of that state disagree with your point of view?

It’s worth noting, for example, that a majority vote of the citizens of any State in the US is insufficient to exit from the Union. (Lincoln v Davis). To dissolve the Union legally (if that clause has any useful meaning, which I’m not sure it does) would require a Constitutional amendment.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Actually, it’s the wrong turn of phrase. It’s an individual right of exit, so I have that right. Governments have no rights, they have powers. So, government should have no power to hinder the lawful* exit of a citizen.

So I personally have the right to leave the US if I desire, and the government of the US should not attempt to stop me or in any way prevent me from leaving through an exercise of power. But that doesn’t extend to cities or states, even through a majority vote, because the city or state is not simply moving to a new location but is instead severing a political tie and redrawing borders. That is a very different thing.

That said, the right of exit is generally assumed as part of the right of travel, although that is dependent upon the rights framework in play.

*Assumes the citizen is not otherwise legally embroiled such that an exit would constitute fleeing to avoid obligations.Report

• Morat20 says:

Right to exit is unfortunately complicated by “no right to entry”.

You can leave the US all you want (well, unless you’ve a warrant out). Nobody’s got to allow you in, and there’s a real dearth of unclaimed land out there.

So that might be a problem, these days.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

It is (hence SeaSteading and my aching desire for a space elevator and that damn EM Drive to be something real).

Still, this discussion is rolling around the abstract, I have little confidence any stable region will allow a micro-state to be born, which leaves just failed states, and the history of such movements in those areas is grim indeed.Report

• Francis says:

just buy an island. listings here

now, building a functional economy and a sufficient deterrent to the nearest Navy, that’s something else altogether. The Pitcairners didn’t get all that much sympathy, irrc, when the NZ Navy showed up and took over.Report

• DensityDuck says:

Ah-heh. The EM Drive(*) isn’t going to do anything but get people around once they’re in orbit. Moving around is only the tiniest part of what you need to survive out of the atmosphere; it’s really not like sending criminals to Australia and saying “you’ll be fine as long as you stay near the water hole and kill every spider you see”.

(*) which is nothing more than the Pioneer Anomaly reproduced on EarthReport

• Oscar Gordon says:

Yes, yes, I know the EM drive, however it shakes out, will not be a lifting engine (you forget my degree is Aero/Astro?). That’s what the damn elevator is for. If it scales, it might be a main drive, but that is a big if. Still, a “reactionless” control thruster and/or orbital putt-putt drive is still amazingly handy to have.

If we got an elevator built, we can put small craft together in orbit. Give me a reactionless drive, and I can toss it out to an asteroid with a bunch of it’s friends and either deflect a potential collision, or catch the damn thing & bring it home for mining.

Now, if I get some asteroids in stable orbits I can do all sorts of exciting things with them.Report

• Morat20 says:

Charles Stross wrote a novel about a superhuman AI that, rather swiftly, moved most of the people off Earth and throughout the galaxy. And dictated, among other things, that you aren’t allowed to violate causality within the range of it’s historical light cone — no going back in time to erase the Overlord.

The story is, by and large, about human agents running around doing “stuff”. (Which is, in fact, all prompted by low-level automatic processes of said Overlord, tasked with — one would assume — preventing causality violations, given that was at the core of the book).

Back to the point — he noted that the Overlord had a bit of a sense of humor, and while it scattered most of humanity across terriformed worlds (with access to a cornucopia that produced pretty much anything you wanted, including nukes, which was a fun new social problem) it really liked to stick Objectivists in asteroid colonies, O-Neill stations, and basically places where “cooperation = survival” just for the lulz.

I think having grown up in a modern society we often tend to discount how much cooperation is really necessary for life to go on like we like it. America, with our frontier mythos and ‘One Great Man’ mythos, really double down on that failing.Report

• Kim says:

I tend to point the survivalists and such towards Argentina.

If you want to survive when everything comes crashing down around you, you need friends to watch your back.

Guns won’t save you.
Cigarettes won’t save you.

But with some solid friends, you stand a chance.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Well, friends with guns don’t hurt (2nd rule of a gunfight).Report

• Kim says:

Truth. My friends are good at building anti-siege bulwarks and embankments. (Yeah, like seriously. Also the guy who has combat training with yoyos. And ninja-style training, but that’s almost normal these days (you can see all the parkour videos online if you don’t believe me).)Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

From my (admittedly) shallow understanding of Objectivism, there is no reason the philosophy would necessarily be at odds with cooperative society. I think it would struggle with finding the balance between individual needs and collective rights, but isn’t that common in many other philosophies?

Such a setting (asteroid colonies, etc.) would tend to blunt the sharpness of any strident Objectivist (your One Great Man). That, or the push out the airlock will. An alternative setting would be any professional military. Anyone who has honorable discharge has probably learned the value of social cooperation.Report

• DensityDuck says:

Objectivism doesn’t say that giving money to the poor is immoral. It says that there’s no moral duty to do it. If giving money to poor people makes you feel good about yourself, then go for it, but don’t kid yourself that someone who doesn’t give to the poor is morally inferior.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

That’s the point (I think) of putting the strident Objectivist in a place that is highly dependant upon cooperation. In such a setting, there is a stronger moral duty to help everyone out. You can’t go it alone in such a place, so it’s help if you want to be helped, or exist as a parasite on the labor of others.

Now a well developed colony, where all the bits are working smoothly, can have wealthy residents who pay for the privilege of not helping. Which is Morats point, Pure Objectivism is fine if you truly are a man alone, or if you are in a wealthy, modern place.Report

• DensityDuck says:

“That’s the point (I think) of putting the strident Objectivist in a place that is highly dependant upon cooperation. In such a setting, there is a stronger moral duty to help everyone out.”

Cooperation isn’t charity. The assumption of charity is that you’re taking existing wealth and giving it to someone who has less, and that person is going to use it for their own needs. Cooperation, on the other hand, implies an investment–that you’re giving someone wealth which they will use to produce something desirable to society beyond their mere existence. Saying “you should cooperate” is a statement which can be backed up by math and logic; saying “you should donate to charity” is a moral admonishment.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Perhaps it’s a trope, but usually the Strident Objectivist is someone who has a hard time parsing the difference between cooperation and charity.Report

• Kazzy says:

@densityduck

Isn’t there a difference between saying, “You have no moral duty to do this,” and “It is morally superior to do this”?Report

• DensityDuck says:

Doesn’t the concept of morality have an inherent assumption that, when presented with multiple choices, it is unjustifiable to select a less-moral one over a more-moral one?Report

• Kazzy says:

I really don’t know. I think we’re in way over my head here. That would seem to indicate that morality — at least human morality — is a binary. You are either moral or immoral. And you are the latter if you ever fail to choose the most moral option.

That would seem to make assholes of us all.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

Well yeah.

Didn’t you get your asshole t-shirt?Report

• Stillwater says:

there is no reason the philosophy would necessarily be at odds with cooperative society.

Depends on how you define “cooperative” and whether that concept entails altruism, and then of course how you define “altruism” and whether it’s necessary for the functioning of a cooperative society (for a given definition of “cooperative”), and so on.Report

• Oscar Gordon says:

There’s a fun discussion to have someday…Report

• Stillwater says:

Heh. That topic would cut down to the bone right quick, I’d guess.Report

• Morat20 says:

That was apparently the outcome. Some people ended up breathing vacuum and everyone else’s philosophy adjusted as needed. Ideology is often secondary to survival — even for those whom ideology is king will, I suspect, quickly discern which parts are truly worth dying for….

I’m not sure where the superhuman AI shoved all the computer scientists, but IIRC it had a similar feel.Report

• James K says:

@chip-daniels

I agree with your assessment of how many techie people / physical scientists react to politics. The ought side of the is-ought problem can be ignored most of the time in the physical sciences, but not so much in the social sciences and not at all in politics.

That said, a lot of things in any given government are done for little better reason than that’s the way they have always been done – starting from scratch would address that issue at least, though I don’t see it working out in practice.Report

7. LeeEsq says:

To be fair to techies and physical scientists, there are a lot of people who believe that the problem with politics is the politicians. Politicians tend to share certain characteristics across the belief spectrum. Most of them are very social, like being the center of attention, and have an intense emotional need to elicit strong reactions from admiration to fear in other people. Its why they go into politics in the first place. You can’t really effectively run for office without a certain type of emotional makeup and personality traits.Report

• Art Deco says:

Most of them are very social, like being the center of attention, and have an intense emotional need to elicit strong reactions from admiration to fear in other people.

I think you’re about 0 for 3 in describing Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter. Your last criterion is pretty dubious re Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale. The first would not apply to Gary Hart and the 2d and 3d are debatable. The 2d and 3d are debatable re Michael Dukakis.Report