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Will Truman

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

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95 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    Ec3: We had a similar case in a previous job. To be clear, this was a criminal case, not civil. The devil is in the details. The Australian guy eventually got off. Our guy didn’t, unless that happened after I left. What I find most interesting about the Australian case is that the bank didn’t go after him to collect the debt. This makes sense in a “blood from a turnip” perspective. He obviously was judgment proof. But I would have expected the bank to be pissed off enough to go for a judgment anyway, then follow him around for the next ten years. The moral seems to be that if this ever happens to you, spend the money on hookers and blow. The bank will figure it out eventually, and you don’t want to have any cash lying around that they can seize.Report

  2. Chip Daniels says:

    Maybe the reason few economists are considered public intellectuals is things like this:

    Free trade, competitive markets and monetary stability explain the bulk of the 60 per cent per capita GDP gap between Argentina and Sweden.

    Really? No other explanations come to mind? The sole variable is economics?

    This turns markets into a One Weird Trick concept, a magic sauce that works every time, everywhere.

    Argentina, once a prosperous nation equal to the United States, underwent a long period of debilitating political instability, marked by war, dissension, distrust and collapsing faith in their institutions.

    Sweden largely avoided war, and built a culture marked by powerful faith and trust in their government and social institutions.

    The econo-centric argument lends itself to a cultish fanaticism because it assumes that abstract Systems do all the work of improving a society. There isn’t any need to dialogue, negotiation, sacrifice or trust building compromise. You just need to find the right mix of laws and regulations and presto, things turn out well.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I would say that competitive markets and monetary stability are common results of avoiding war and building some manner of institutional trust.

      Of course, if your economy is big enough, you can still experience wars and low trust and still have competitive markets and monetary stability (see: The USA).Report

    • pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The reason economists are rarely considered public intellectuals is that successful economists tend to get real wealth and political power instead of just a reputation for being smart and writing engaging books for totebaggers.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    Ec2: Many free market types like to imagine the bad things in society as something forced on the people by the government. This is because they see the State as a Cthulhu like entity with a mind of its’ own. The idea that segregation existed because that is what White Americans wanted and the government and the market provided it is beyond them.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    Ed4 – I think mostly they’re basing it on a moral case of not taking financial advantage of other people’s misery, but there’s also some history which may or may not apply to this specific company.

    The article alludes to some of history of the PR debt crisis, which well pre-dates Maria. The main points have been, if I recall correctly, 1) the bondholders always have been asking for full repayment, never willing to negotiate a haircut. Moreover 2)the bondholders got allies in Congress to tweak the US code so that PR isn’t considered a ‘state’ regarding this debt – as PR normally is for almost every other federal administrative purpose. Thus, they can’t take advantage of the same bankruptcy procedings. I am not sure if this company specifically was a party to closing off that escape hatch, but they’re certainly taking advantage of it.

    The whole thing of course is a collective action problem that’s similar to the kind of thing Bono tried to do something about in the developing world. It’s also there are several religions that make (or used to make) such a big deal about lending money at interest.Report

  5. Oscar Gordon says:


    Note that this dynamic is always one way. There’s no opportunity for the customer to punish the shop that has wrongly slandered you when your artificial hip/library book/nostril ring has set off the shop’s alarms. There’s little chance of imposing a fine of the train company that has left you eight hours late for work. What chance of a fine when your bank cocks things up?

    I would love it if our legal system had an answer to this beyond Caveat Emptor.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    Since there’s an economics group, a question for the economists. South Dakota is attempting to impose a Medicaid work requirement, but only for its two most populous counties. I view such a move as punishing the cities of Sioux Falls and Rapid City in at least two ways: (1) they have to track* additional information on Medicaid recipients, and (2) the local hospitals will incur more indigent health care costs when people who no longer qualify for Medicaid show up at the emergency rooms. Will often talks about how businesses should look to smaller cities in more rural states (I seem to recall him using Sioux Falls as an example at least once); does having the state government impose added burdens on its urban areas make a state more or less attractive from an economics perspective?

    * I’m too lazy to take on the research question of how South Dakota does eligibility determination. In Colorado, where I worked for the state legislature, all eligibility is determined by the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) software. While CBMS is flexible in theory, adding new data fields and the rules for applying them to eligibility and benefit level is slow in practice: generating the test cases and doing full regression testing is a bitch. If the Colorado General Assembly were to attempt a work/study requirement, it would not be surprising if it could not take effect for 18 months or so, because that’s when the change in the CBMS software would be scheduled for release.Report

    • I mention Sioux Falls more as a place where things are happening, rather than as a speculative place where things might. It’s a good setup for satellite offices and the like of some kinds of businesses, though not an alternative to a major metropolitan area.

      Regarding the Medicare thing, the increasing right-wingery of the state is probably not helping it too much. I’m not sure about the bottom line of this in particular – you’d have to counterbalance it with SD being such a relatively low cost and low tax state.

      I will say this, though: Their hospitals are flush with money. Or, at least, they’re offering really good pay for cities of its size and COL. Five years or so ago they were offering 50% more than my wife was making for a job with fewer hours. So the hospitals might be in a position to absorb some costs, as far as that goes.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        It seems that most hi-tech businesses prefer high taxes if it means they could avoid right-wing nuttery. They have lots of Asian-American and immigrant employees. They probably don’t want to expose them to the excesses of the low cost, low tax states even if African-Americans and Hispanics are the main targets.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

          There is some truth to this, but it can easily be overstated. Texas and Utah are attractive destinations for a lot of operations. South Dakota’s biggest problem is size. It’s just not that critical mass needed. But as I said its recent rightward lurch probably hasn’t helped. But it already has a white collar niche and doesn’t need tech.Report

      • I would have guessed an accreditation issue of some sort before I would have guessed that they were flush with money, but quite possibly that’s my biases showing. The medical school in Iowa City has apparently been notified that if Iowa’s new abortion law stays on the books, the school will lose its ob/gyn accreditation.

        In Nebraska, one state south from SD, “punish the urban areas” strategies have a limited shelf life. Unless there is some dramatic population shift, after new districts are drawn based on the 2020 census, 25 of 49 members of the Unicameral will be elected from the Big Three counties. Outstate areas are already running scared that those 25 will simply do as they damn well please.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

      What are the minority populations of those cities like? Michigan’s legislature attempted or is attempting a similar carve out. Medicare work requirements for Detroit and other minority-dominated areas, exemptions for white and rural counties. The fair speculation on the left is that these are attempts to create a Trumpian Herrenvolk democracy.Report

      • Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls) in 2010 was 88.0% white, 3.8% black, 2.5% Native American, plus assorted other things. 4.1% Hispanic of any race. From the other direction, though, two-thirds of the black population of the state lives in that one county.

        Myself, I expect to see this fail in court. I don’t think “We’d like to punish poor people generally, but there are only two counties with enough population to make a jobs/job training requirement viable” is a winning argument, even before you hit the racial thing.Report

  7. Oscar Gordon says:

    MS6 = SS2?Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    Ec2 – eh, my personal internal historiography on segregation has changed over the years, and I do believe there’s a different dynamic for large interstate businesses (like the railroads of the time) than for more local firms (like theaters of the time)Report

  9. Ms6 and Ss2 [“paltering”]: I’ve longed believe that the essence of a lie is in the intent to deceive (or perhaps alternatively in trying to manipulate in the reckless disregard for whether something is true). So that article confirms my priors.

    I’ve known this to come up in places where I’ve worked, where there was something we weren’t supposed to divulge to the customer but were instead supposed to say something that was technically true, but left a false impression.

    I won’t say paltering is always wrong anymore than I’d say lying is always wrong, however.Report

  10. Richard Hershberger says:

    Ec5: I agree with the writer’s point that automated customer service systems work well except when they don’t. They generally work well so long as your problem is among those the systems designers considered. If it doesn’t, then you need to deal with not only an actual person, but one with the authority to actually deal with your problem. Often the system is simply not designed for this.

    Also, outgoing phone messages and phone trees. I frequently call medical offices in my work. The outgoing phone message invariably begins with a piety about calling 911 if this is a medical emergency. It then segues to the injunction to listen carefully to the options, as they have recently changed. By the time it gets to useful information, my eyes have rolled backwards and I am in a coma. The true horror is when I fade out and don’t come back in time to hear what button I have to push.

    Voice recognition software: I know some people have good results, but I, with my entirely unexceptional standard white American accent, do not. If I get into a voice recognition software phone tree I just start pressing 0 over and over.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I am with you on the VR phone tree. I have a bit of a mush mouth so the systems are constantly asking me to repeat what I said or taking the wrong answer. It is guaranteed to send my rage level through the roof.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Aaron David says:

        Agreed. Related, I subscribe to Visual Voicemail from Verizon. It transcribes voice messages to text and the results are often as not hilarious, particularly names.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Aaron David says:

        I’m usually pretty bad at getting IVR phone trees to spit out the information or action I want. This is frustrating if I’m trying to accomplish that.

        I’m pretty good at confusing them so utterly that they just give up and pass me on to a human. I just rant nonsense at them about gnomes in the plumbing and we can’t have that because the Portuguese royal family is coming over for tea and the crown prince is a yeti and he’d probably rip the walls apart to get at the gnomes. This provides an entertaining diversion not just to me but to those around me, while I am delayed by the IVR system.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Many modern phone trees allow for you to say the number instead of having to type it in. From what I understand, there are a handful of these menus that automatically route you to an operator if they hear a curse word.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      When I call customer service, my need to talk to a human rate is nearly 100 percent.Report

  11. Road Scholar says:

    Ec5: I ran into a maddening situation recently where I’m calling the “Customer service” line and none of the available automated options even came close to addressing my issue and there was no option, at least as far as I could tell, to talk to a human being. I even went so far as to swear at the computer, knowing that some of those systems are set up to recognize frustration, to no avail.

    The truly aggravating, and not a little ironic, twist to the situation was that the website had very specific and normal sounding business hours listed. Like, what? The computer has to go night-night and gets Sundays off?Report

  12. Mike Schilling says:

    Ec2 — not at all hard to believe. Obvious, even. And the reason that the CRA’s public accommodation laws were completely necessary.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Also worth noting, the public accommodations provision was what really pissed off the CRA’s opponents. We still find people who, while piously disclaiming even a hint of racism, will lecture us on the evils the the public accommodations provision. See also: wedding cakes for gay weddings.Report

      • Jesse in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        The thing is, I would totally accept a wedding cake provision for wedding cake makers who were actually orthodox Christians – but that also means no wedding cakes for divorcees, people who have had pre-martial sex, etc. as well.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Jesse says:

          As long as you’re offering…

          orthodox Protestants recognize divorce (mostly), so they could do re-marriages.
          orthodox Orthodox allow for non-sacramental 2nd marriages, so those would be ok.
          orthodox Copts allow for divorce in the case of adultery, so a good questionnaire…
          orthodox Catholics would be the only group concerned with non-annulled remarriages.

          Pre-marital sex isn’t an impediment to any marriage… so that wouldn’t be a legitimate requirement.

          Shall we send over the papers?Report

          • Maribou in reply to Marchmaine says:

            @marchmaine also there are disagreements among orthodox Catholics. I mean, the Pope keeps making more wiggle room… if communion is okay, are wedding cakes really going to be that big a problem?Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to Maribou says:

              We can add a category to the law:

              German/Maltese/Argentinian Catholics don’t allow divorce, but don’t care either… so they can bake Divorcee cakes too.

              I’ll hold off on the orthodoxy debate.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Marchmaine says:

                @marchmaine Works for me. I mean, North American Catholics who want to bake divorcee cakes are probably going to go whole hog and bake SSM cakes too…. statistically speaking. So they’re not going to mind what the rules say. (If there was ever a definition of a prototypical – not orthodox! – North American Catholic, I suspect not minding what the rules say would be part of it…)

                (Of course, unlike Jesse, I woulda signed those papers without requiring any doctrinal proofs or consistencies in the first place (much to the horror of some but not all of the other inhabitants of the QUILTBAG I know), so I probably shouldn’t be negotiating anyway….Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Maribou says:

                I’m just trying to play by Jesse’s rules.

                But sure… according to Pew, about 67% of Catholics who wouldn’t *have* to bake a cake for SSM might just anyway. So a pretty cheap exception to carve, all things considered.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Well, an annulment essentially decertifies a wedding, so it decertifies the wedding cake. The rule should be one wedding cake per person.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

                Well, now you’ve introduced a difficult metaphysical/physical conundrum.

                The annulment doesn’t “decertify” it makes it never to have happened. The cake, however, cannot be made never to have been baked. So, like Children, the Cake was validly baked even if the Marriage never took place. So we can’t unmake the cake and therefore we can’t limit the validly annulled to just one cake.

                But yes, it is important that we consider all angles before rushing in to legislation.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I would say rather that the annulment recognizes that the marriage never happened. The cake remains a cake, but is no longer a wedding cake. But, if that’s true, wouldn’t an annulment make the children bastards?Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

                Agreed, saying that it recognizes it never happened is better… I was going to rephrase myself, but missed the edit window.

                As to children, that’s something of a trick question… the relevance of “legitimacy” is a civil matter not a church matter. Illegitimate children are fully Christian and are baptized and have access to all the sacraments* as any other. Whether or not you can inherit land or property or belong to certain orders isn’t determined by the Church; the church may weigh in on whether a Marriage exists and what constitutes legitimacy within Marriage, but the implications are civil.

                So the real question would be what laws in America (or elsewhere) depend upon legitimacy? And the place to change them would be civil, not ecclesial.

                *Up until 1983, being illegitimate was considered an irregular impediment to the priesthood that would require dispensation.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Pinky says:

                I thought annulment was supposed to be for marriages that were never consummated. The presence of a child would make the marriage a thing that cannot be retconned out.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to dragonfrog says:

                Failure to consummate is but one reason an annulment could be granted.

                Absent very specific impediments, like, say already being married or being in holy orders, or consanguinity (Henry VIII’s formal petition)… most (modern) annulments that we hear about are determined on matters of Consent.

                If I had to boil it down to one and only one Canon, I’d point to this one:

                Can. 1101 §1. The internal consent of the mind is presumed to conform to the words and signs used in celebrating the marriage.

                §2. If, however, either or both of the parties by a positive act of the will exclude marriage itself, some essential element of marriage, or some essential property of marriage, the party contracts invalidly.

                But like all law, the canons are just the bones on which real practitioners build the framework… so don’t read too little or too much into the basics.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Marchmaine says:

                The cake, however, cannot be made never to have been baked

                I for one would love if we could make it so the cake was never baked. My waistline would greatly appreciate it (I assume if the cake was never baked, the calories would never accumulate in my belly fat).Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I tried to figure out what conjugated tense that would be but my Latin memories fled in fear.

                With enough machine learning, I’m sure its only a matter of time…Report

              • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

                “cannot be made never to have been baked” = absolute temporal non-conditional tenseReport

              • Anne in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The Cake is a lieReport

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Did you ever read Magic, Inc? A common magical products is desserts that disappear after you’re done eating them.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                The Heinlein short?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              • Mike Schilling in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Maltese Catholics can only bake cakes in the shape of falcons.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                As long as we’re making laws, I’m not seeing any good reasons not to require *all* wedding cakes in the shape of falcons. Lets be honest, Falcon > Circle. Always.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Marchmaine says:

                @marchmaine I’d be willing to compromise with “raptor”, honestly. Imagine an Andean vulture with its wings spread shaped wedding cake. That’d be something no one else had. Well, until they saw mine, and then everyone would want one…Report

              • greginak in reply to Maribou says:

                I think any good leftie should want the cake to have evenly distributed frosting flowers of equal size. Everybody gets a frosting flower without having to bribe the cake cutter or rudely cut in line in front of others. Not that i’ve done either. Well not when my wife was present.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Maribou says:

                Hmmn, alright we’ll give you raptors… but no Owls!

                Falcons, Hawks, Harriers, Kites, Vultures, Eagles and Osprey. There that wasn’t so hard, was it?

                One Falcon (Raptor*) cake per marriage, excepting that the marriage was declared invalid** by a competent authority whereupon a second or subsequent cake (still needing to be in Raptor form) may be commissioned. In so far as bakers adhere to these religious conscience clauses, so too may they abide not to participate in other marriage events against their conscience. Unless the cakes be circle and unadorned, everyone is entitled to unadorned circle cakes. Under no circumstances may a baker be compelled to make a pie; for if pie is served, it is not a valid wedding in any culture or religious observance. (Go ahead, just ask your gay friends about the pie).

                *see above list for approved Raptors.
                ** Invalidated by Divorce for Protestants recognizing the principle of divorce; for Orthodox solely in the case of non-sacramental second marriages; for Copts in the case of adultery; and for Catholics (excepting Germans, Maltese, and Argentines ***) only in the case of a valid decree of nullity issued by the appropriate tribunal.
                *** German, Maltese and Argentine Catholics are now participating in the newly discovered Franciferan theory of “The Orgy of Sacraments”.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I still don’t see how public accommodations law is just.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Pinky says:

          I suspect that you are looking at the question from the perspective of American individualism. In this light, there really isn’t anything such as civil society: just a bunch of individuals who happen to live in the same area. So if you have an intense dislike of left-handed redheads, and you refuse to sell doughnuts to them, that is simply you exercising your individual right. But civil society is a thing, and we all have to live in it. If your dislike of left-handed redheads is simply an odd idiosyncrasy, and there are lots of other places where left-handed redheads can get their doughnut fix, that is no big deal. Civil society can absorb this idiosyncrasy and carry on just fine. But if anti-left-handed-redheadism is becomes a general thing, then there is a problem. People who happen to be left-handed redheads are now excluded from participation within civil society. If you want to talk justice, contemplate the justice of this exclusion.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            If the secondary effect of getting rid of an unjust law is the possibility that people misuse their freedom, I would generally see that as an insufficient reason to not get rid of the unjust law. There’d have to be a high probability of calamity to persuade me otherwise.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Pinky says:

              No need to think in terms of probabilities. The calamity of Jim Crow was an actuality.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                On reading your comment, my first impulse was to retreat. Jim Crow was terrible, and I wouldn’t want to go back to it. But what exactly are we talking about here? Jim Crow voting restrictions, I’m against. Jim Crow segregated schools, I’m against. But Jim Crow-era lunch counters, I have to say that I’m ok with them, or rather I’m ok with them not being illegal. Freedom includes the freedom to be awful. Free exchange of goods and services allows the buyer and the seller to participate or not as they choose.

                Am I lacking in empathy? What if it was me being discriminated against? It’d bother me, no doubt. It could really eat away at me. But I think I’d find it consistent with a free society.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Pinky says:

                @pinky People who owned lunch counters (or other businesses) *weren’t* free to make those decisions though. Despite the lack of laws, business owners were harrassed, attacked, vandalized, discriminated against not only by their peers, and the clan, but *by corrupt law enforcement* if they didn’t conform to the ruling social norm of discrimination at their businesses as well. The law became those people’s *shield* for doing what they wanted to do anyway, which was to not discriminate.

                Laws don’t exist in a vacuum.

                (And I say that as someone who would generally prefer that no one is made to bake particular types of cakes. It’s still important that I acknowledge the arguments on the other side…)Report

              • Murali in reply to Maribou says:

                Given that public accommodations law was created as a shield against such harassment, what is the case against currently getting rid of them today, when such harassment seems unlikely? Its not the 1960s anymore.

                Btw, I’m really surprised that people are not worried that the baker would spit into their cake batter if they were forced to make the cake.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Murali says:

                “when such harassment seems unlikely”
                My kids (student workers) still get called the n-word to their faces and behind their backs. I’ve been called (shouted at) faggot enough times that I don’t have enough digits to count, and shoved around a couple times by people who sure seemed to have issues with my obvious queerness. (And I assume I get that particular attack less than actual men.) One of my best friends got beat up for being gay *every week* in gym class and those folks are in their 40s now, own businesses, etc.

                It might be unlikely in some places, but it isn’t in others.

                The 50s aren’t all that long ago. People haven’t changed all that much.

                I don’t agree with the arguments, as I said, but they’re not uncompelling to me on a public interest level.

                (I wouldn’t want a wedding cake made by people who didn’t wish me well, regardless of my opinions about the laws… and I think artistic expression is different from straightforwardly feeding people.)Report

              • greginak in reply to Murali says:

                Just this week a long time Repub and current congressman, Dana Rohrbacher, said realtor’s shouldn’t have to sell to gay people. Yeah he got immediate negative feedback from realtor’s. Maybe he wont’ win reelection and in CA he wouldn’t be able to put that preference of his in place. But to have someone at his level say thing like that says the public accommodation laws are still important. The worst harassment is unlikely, but it’s not gone nor without advocates.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

                I don’t think this is true. Trump got elected by speaking with an unbridled bigotry. He said the quiet parts loud and a lot of people really liked it. We are seeing rising bigotry and xenophobia across the world.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I’d say persisting, not rising. Much that is loud now was taken for granted before. Think of Thatcher’s Britain.Report

              • gabriel conroy in reply to Murali says:


                I guess I have three ways of looking at this.

                First, I do think public accommodations laws are indeed an intrusion into a business owner’s liberty. Such laws limit a prerogative they otherwise would enjoy. That prerogative is defining whom and under what circumstances they may serve. Such laws also, if taken to certain extremes, can impede freedom of association. As @maribou points out, with the example of her bookstore being pressured to accommodate certain known thieves, the “public accommodations” mentality can theoretically be taken too far. And I tend to agree with her about the wedding cake thing.

                Second, I have to sign on to what and others here have said about a return such harassment as we saw in the 1960s being more likely than it seems if such laws are repealed. I don’t think we’d see a tit for tat return to Jim Crow.* We might in some environments or parts of the country. But generally, and what I fear most, is that we would see a consolidation of some practices that currently exist. Recall the recent flap over Starbucks allegedly targeting black visitors because of their race. That type of thing happens (I hear) with a lot of businesses, many of which are not nearly as eager as Starbucks to want to appear open to all comers. Especially at the local level, even in a supposedly cosmopolitan** place like Big City, there are many, many places in my own neighborhood where I wouldn’t be surprised if business owners would exclude persons of color to protect the delicate sensibilities of white snowflakes.

                Third, I’d be inclined to support something like public accommodations laws even if systematic harassment weren’t likely to result from their repeal. I think there’s something to a limited requirement that businesses open to the public should take all comers. I know I’ve linked to this before, but I really like what Mike Munger says about “implied contracts.”:

                This is is in the realm not of private individual, but of a commercial enterprise. I advertise prices and goods/services, and when someone makes a valid offer I have substantial–not absolute, but substantial–obligations to honor the offer implied by my being “open for business.” For me not to act on the advertised terms is a kind of “bait and switch,” bordering on fraud. So, for example, if I open a pizza restaurant with prices, sizes, and toppings I am obliged to provide such pizza and such toppings at such prices. If I present a bill where all my prices are arbitrarily doubled, that would violate the contract implied by my posted prices. There are limits on this: I may run out of toppings, or one topping, I may find that my oven breaks and I can’t cook pizza that night, etc. Further, I might have the right, under some circumstances, to refuse service to someone who is very drunk, very noisy, or might otherwise prevent other customers from enjoying their pizza.

                I’m not a legal scholar to know how much currency this idea has, but it seems to strike the right note for arriving at a generalizable public accommodations law while respecting freedom of association concerns.

                *And we should remember that Jim Crow was itself a dynamic system that evolved and declined over time. It’s not as if we got the whole Jim Crow package when Reconstruction ended in 1877 and it disappeared when the CRA was passed in 1964.

                **One of the myths about “cosmopolitanism” is that it represents the triumph of tolerance and people living together in close proximity. While it does represent a success of sorts (there are inclusive spaces and business districts and if one neighborhood isn’t accepting, one has a greater chance than in a smaller city of finding one that does), it’s not what I’d call a “triumph.” Ethnically and racially exclusive enclaves can thrive in supposedly “cosmopolitan” cities. I think that’s true that I’m very skeptical when people tout the virtues for inclusion when it comes to big cities. (Trump is from Jamaica, Queens…that doesn’t seem to have provided “cosmopolitan enlightenment” to him.)Report

              • P.S. At the link above, Munger links to a law review article [PDF] that I haven’t read yet, but seems to discuss the history of public accommodations law. Here’s the citation:

                Joseph William Singer, “No Right to Exclude: Public Accommodations and Private Property,” NORTHWESTERN LAW REVIEW, 90 (Summer 1996),Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                I think a good part of the disconnect here stems from a paradigm that posits a strict binary dichotomy between “public” and “private” spaces. In reality there’s at least two orthogonal dimensions to this, ownership and access, and some further shading along the access dimension.

                So the inside of my home is different from my front yard. The lawn is different from the sidewalk that runs across the front of that lawn. There exist private offices in publicly owned buildings. That same public building will have restrooms open to the public which then contain very private toilet stalls.

                A retail shop, simply by virtue of its purpose, has a public aspect orthogonal to its private ownership. So I don’t see anything contrary to justice in public accommodation laws per se, although any particular instance may or may not be wise.

                That said, I think it was terrible strategery to immediately go after discriminating bakers and florists in the aftermath of the tremendous victory achieved by the LGBT community wrt ssm. It may be correct in principle but there’s such a thing as wisdom in choosing your battles.Report

              • That’s a very thoughtful comment. And I agree with most of it.

                The only exception I’d raise (and it’s kind of a pedantic one), is that I see a little injustice in almost every law, even very just ones. Law all have to strike a balance (as, for example, in defining how to distinguish different points along the spectra of ownership and control you outline), and to strike that balance, the laws have to draw some arbitrary lines. So I’m inclined to say (almost) every law will have an application that in “any particular instance may or may not be wise [and here I’d add “just”].”

                You’ll notice I hedge my bets here and say “(almost) every law.” My inclination is to say “every law,” full stop. I really do think that whenever we do good, we inevitably do at least a little bit of evil. However, it’s more my way of looking at things and not something I’m prepared to defend in toto or something I believe I can prove for every instance.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Road Scholar says:

                The boundary between public and private has never been very strict or binary for the same reason that that interaction of the individual to the collective has always been flexible, negotiated, and conditional.

                The binary vision of public/ priivate maybe looks like
                this map of Rome drawn around 1750 where it shows all the public spaces as a continuous fluid space, where the open space of the street flows into the Pantheon and markets.
                The private houses and apartments are shown as solid.

                Graphically there are only two states of being, public or private.
                But in reality, there is a lot of gradation in how we relate to each other.

                The florist shop may be “private” in one sense, but its very existence is predicated on the collective construction of law and property, on the affirmative consent of the very people it wants to exclude.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                Freedom includes the freedom to be awful.

                Why should I feel compelled to support this view? What good things are supposed to come from it?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yes, absolutely. That’s why we have to throw people who inject weed into prison and outlaw abortions.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                We all have different opinions as to what’s right. You wouldn’t want to live in the world where I made the rules, and I wouldn’t want to live in the world where you did.

                But deeper than that, freedom actually does include the freedom to be awful.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Pinky says:

                @pinky But on that deeper level, does freedom not also include the freedom to collectively protect ourselves / each other from other people being collectively awful?

                If not, why not?

                If so, it’s a matter of agreeing on where to draw the lines.

                For me, the lunch counter thing (primarily but not only because of the massive and massivly unfair effect it was having on so many people and on *their* freedoms) is clearly on the “ok to make it stop” side of the line. Barring some individual perpetually drunk guy from hanging out in your store and verbally harrassing people? Not ok to make it stop, leave the store owner alone. (And I didn’t pick that example at random, the cops were trying out some “community policing” initiative at one point that involved them trying to negotiate us letting vituperative drunkards and known repeat thieves back into our store, it was SERIOUSLY obnoxious to be pressured by cops about something like that.)

                Being unwilling to bake cakes that celebrate marriages you don’t believe in is somewhere in the middle of the “ok to make it stop” continuum and I can see why for some people it falls on the wrong side of the line. Even though I strongly disagree with them, it’s not at one end or the other of the spectrum.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

                You wouldn’t want to live in the world where I made the rules

                And yet…You and I both live in a world where there are rules, made by others.

                Your statement was a maximalist posture, without nuance or boundaries.
                Ironically it was the stance commonly heard from liberals in the early 70’s, in the wake of the cultural upheavals and sexual revolution. Shocking the squares, and all that.

                Conservatives, (rightly in my opinion) pointed out that all the good things we like about liberal society such as democracy, rule of law, respect for the individual all were tenuous constructions.
                They don’t exist in nature, they don’t just arise spontaneously whenever two or more people gather. It takes a lot of hard work and trust to create them, and they fall apart pretty quickly.

                Where does that path lead, where I am “free to swing my fist until it stops at your nose”? What is the likely outcome when we allow our darkest instincts to rule and generally just be awful?

                I’m betting that’s not really what you had in mind.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

                Maribou and Chip, thanks for responding to this.

                I guess I have to clarify this. I’m talking about two different aspects of the concept of freedom. Maybe two and a half. It’s that moment when you realize that concepts that the most profound people have been debating for thousands of years are actually kind of complicated.

                My statement that freedom include the freedom to be awful is, first and foremost, a reference to the philosophical concept of freedom. If we have free will, we have the option of choosing multiple paths, good and bad. The only trump cards to that position are a denial of free will, or a theological argument that freedom cannot be used to choose evil. I’d guess that none of us wants to pursue that any further.

                The second kind of freedom I’m discussing is social, as it developed within a Western framework (particularly Anglo). It shows up in a lot of ways, from the presumption of innocence, to the vote, to the notion that a man’s home is his castle. It isn’t just that the individual has rights with regard to the state; he has rights with regard to other individuals that the state has no say about. Freedom of association and freedom to make contracts are pretty open-ended. I can’t think of a restriction that the state historically makes between individuals, at least this side of hookerdom.

                Society follows the rules of the intersection. Each individual has to stop at the stop sign. The state can run the stop sign only when the emergency lights are flashing. If you want to wave the other guy through when you have the right of way, you can, but it’s your choice. This isn’t something that society should mess with.

                I suspect I’m also referring to a more practical sense of freedom, closely related to the social sense. For a state to interfere in interpersonal relations, it would need too much power. We can argue about when a state should interfere, but we should always keep in mind that danger of state expansion. A state that’s big enough to prevent us from being awful is too big.Report

              • Road Scholar in reply to Pinky says:

                … the notion that a man’s home is his castle.

                And so, is a privately owned and operated business establishment exactly the same thing as your home? I say no, and I suspect you would say yes, and therefore lies the heart of the disagreement. I would note that even where there’s a close physical connection between the two, say when the living quarters are attached to the shop, there’s still the maintenance of some distinction and separation between the two.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                There is the observation that the cause of liberty has generally been pursued by unpleasant people. Even for the freedoms we like.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

          It allowed people of good will who wanted to open their businesses to customers of all races to do so without being boycotted.Report

  13. Marchmaine says:

    [Ss4] A couple decent negotiating nuggets… best one that professionals internalize is: silence (pause)… learn not to talk. Makes most other people keep talking and either weaken their initial stance or give you a nugget about why they made the offer they made in the first place. Both are very valuable for *your* next formulation.Report

  14. Jaybird says:

    For those of you who are fans of the marshmallow test, I have good news!

    They tried to replicate it.

    We replicated and extended Shoda, Mischel, and Peake’s (1990) famous marshmallow study, which showed strong bivariate correlations between a child’s ability to delay gratification just before entering school and both adolescent achievement and socioemotional behaviors. Concentrating on children whose mothers had not completed college, we found that an additional minute waited at age 4 predicted a gain of approximately one tenth of a standard deviation in achievement at age 15. But this bivariate correlation was only half the size of those reported in the original studies and was reduced by two thirds in the presence of controls for family background, early cognitive ability, and the home environment. Most of the variation in adolescent achievement came from being able to wait at least 20 s. Associations between delay time and measures of behavioral outcomes at age 15 were much smaller and rarely statistically significant.


    • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

      Interesting. I had thought that the finding of “willingness and ability to wait for the second marshmallow is correlated with later success” had been fairly well demonstrated, but that the attribution “impulse control is the major predictor of willingness and ability to wait for the second marshmallow” was not so much.

      e.g. that those children who reasoned that this unknown adult would be like other adults in their life – dishonest or unpredictable, not at all reliably forthcoming with a second marshmallow – have nothing wrong with their impulse control. Likewise those who find one marshmallow to be nice but perfectly sufficient, and two marshmallows to be too much of a good thing.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

        “an additional minute waited at age 4 predicted a gain of approximately one tenth of a standard deviation in achievement at age 15”

        I have no idea what a p value of .05 would be for this test but a tenth of an sd strikes me as being pretty damn close to noise to me.

        I’m not sure that this should be thrown on the pile of social science’s reproducibility crisis (a tenth is a tenth, after all, and the study did seem to indicate that the wait predicted a gain) but it should be thrown on the pile of “it sounds a lot better in the headline than it does in the actual paper itself”.Report

        • James K in reply to Jaybird says:


          I have no idea what a p value of .05 would be for this test but a tenth of an sd strikes me as being pretty damn close to noise to me.

          That depends on the sample size – if the sample size is large enough a 0.1 sigma result could be statistically significant. I suspect it’s too small to matter in practice though.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          I personally am throwing this on the pile of “Sociological data which are immediately seized upon by laypersons to justify a deterministic view of the human person which just so happens to reassure them of priors”.

          Its over there, next to tattered copies of “The Bell Curve”, “Phrenology Today” and “Crack Babies- The Superpredators of Tomorrow?”Report

  15. James K says:

    Ec6 sounds about right to me, but then it confirms my priors so I suppose I would say that. The trouble with argument by narrative is that the author has total control over what happens in the story. Ultimately it’s just words and you can prove anything with words.Report

  16. Ms1 – I’m surprised there’s been no chatter here on the absurd concepts of the singularity and Roko’s Basilisk.Report

    • @christopher-carr

      Roko’s Basilisk reminds of Pascal’s Wager in that they are both attempts to win an argument via rhetorical shenanigans rather than by outlining actual evidence for your position.

      The Singularity is too broad a concept for me to dismiss outright. Kurzweil’s conception of it is certainly painfully naive, but the general idea of a technological change having society-altering effects too large for us to comprehend in prospect isn’t hard for me to imagine – after all that’s what the Industrial Revolution was.Report

      • Murali in reply to James K says:

        There are two possibly related issues here. The first has to do with dealing with infinities. Pascal’s wager has that business with infinite bliss and infinite suffering (on the assumption that God exists). (Pascal’s wager has the additional problem that we can’t just choose to believe in God even if believing in God does have higher expected utility, but we can leave that aside) Similarly, Roko’s basilisk promises eternal torture if you do not help create him.

        The problem here is that the likelihood that we are simulations conducted by Roko’s Basilisk is extremely small. Let’s grant that the likelihood that we are in some kind of simulation or other is about 0.4. Let’s also grant that the likelihood that we are simulated by an evil being given that we are simulated at all is 0.5. But there are a near infinitude of possible evil beings of which Roko’s basilisk is only one. While each evil being would certainly be willing to torture us if we do not help create them, they would not refrain from torturing us if we helped to create some other evil being instead. The probability that the being we must create in order to avoid torture is specifically Roko’s basilisk is arbitrarily close to 0. Calculating the expected probabilities here is going to require more math than I can manage. Those of you who have a better grasp of infinites may want to help me out here.

        The second issue is that decision theory (at least in its classic form having to do with the maximisation of expected utility) does not have an elegant way *of handling side constraints. And pace Nozick and Kant, a good chunk of morality is side constraints. And it seems to me that one obvious side constraint is do not under any circumstances ever try to create an evil AI which would torture/kill everyone.

        *Sure you could place an arbitrarily low utility value on options which involve you doing things which you believe you have side constraints against, but this solution is somewhat inelegant as it involves building your own actions into the state of affairs and even building in things like whether you intend to do things or not. From a theoretical perspective, this is kludgy and messy.Report

      • Interesting. My wife and I were just having a conversation about how the cult surrounding the singularity resembles religious faith. You’ve added another dimension to the comparison by analogy to Pascal’s wager.

        And yes, I agree with you that the Industrial Revolution was a singularity, as was the invention of stone tools, as was the advent of writing, as was…Report