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That is a great story and I was going to recommend it as relevant to the discussion. Realistically, though, I doubt many people would opt to reduce their aesthetic reaction to any stimulus, let alone faces, since it provides so much pleasure. Otherwise, if you wanted to be consistent, you would have to reduce your aesthetic reaction to beautiful voices, great writing, and so on.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022Author

Curious how many of these you would agree with:

1. It's society's fault that incels don't have sex

2. Incels are being oppressed

3. All of us are partly responsible for the injustice being done to incels

4. If, after legalizing sex work, some incels can't afford sex, the government should provide them enough money that they can.

5. The amount of money given in (4) will not be enough to redress the injustice until incels are having exactly the average amount of sex (assuming they want this much)

6. Even after this, some incels will want loving relationships (and not just sex with prostitutes), and until we figure out a way to provide that, we are complicit in injustice.

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deletedMar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022
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Thank you, I understand your position better now and it makes sense.

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Actually, no, now I'm unsure again.

Suppose we repealed laws against sex work, but kept laws against rape. Some poor people would still be unable to get sex, and it would be because of society's laws.

It sounds like the difference is that the law against rape is justifiable, and the law against sex work isn't. But suppose someone tried to argue that the law against sex work *was* justifiable, for example it prevented crime, or prevented moral decay, or so on.

Does whether the existence of incels constitutes an injustice or not depend on whether that person is correct about the anti sex work law decreasing crime? How would you draw this line?

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“Some poor people would still be unable to get sex.” How poor are we talking? Are you operating on the conception that most sex workers are high-priced call girls? There is a McDonalds of prostitution just as there is a Cipriani of it. Ahh, capitalism. (And in fact the lower SES tiers of prostitution - which of course also shade right into trafficking and coercion - is the most resistant to criminalization actually eliminating the practice, for those exact reasons.) The incel-justice analogy just isn’t ever going to wash if we’re discussing prostitution specifically, because as some folks have already pointed out, the mainstream (if such a thing can be said about a tiny subculture) incel position on prostitution is seething, misogynist rage. (Then again, sex workers are all too familiar with that.)

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Given that some poor people are currently unable to get food, I'm sticking with my original claim.

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>Suppose we repealed laws against sex work, but kept laws against rape. Some poor people would still be unable to get sex, and it would be because of society's laws.

This reduces the problem to one of economic justice, no? There are lots of things poor people can't buy, why should we define a special type of justice for this one thing they can't? Is it any more meaningful than "car justice" for people who can't afford a car?

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I think what you're getting at is that some types of "unjustice" are impossible to solve without causing bigger problems.

Both poverty and incelibacy are bad. Forcing rich people to give money to the poor seems worth it, but forcing me to share my wife with incels is not.

Paying for prostitutes may be a good solution that helps more than it hurts. But if the harm of prostitution (if any) is unacceptable than we either have to think of another solution or accept that there's nothing we can do to help incels.

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I don't think people generally support laws banning prostitution primarily because of the ancillary crime, or in hopes of preventing moral decay, but rather because the life of the typical prostitute is miserable and violent, not uncommonly cut short, and if prostitution itself is illegal it's much easier to prosecute pimps, who are loathsome scum.

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It sounds like arguments for drug prohibition, and there's a similar problem with them: bad parts are caused mostly by prohibition itself. If prostitution would be legal, it'd be possible to ~assure safety and such.

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What Sinity said, and also it's entirely possible to make Pimps illegal while legalising self-employed prostitutes, which I believe is the current state of the law where I live, in Victoria, Australia.

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Considering that prostitution bans are one of the main reasons pimps even have a business, I don't think I buy that argument.

You want to cut down on prostitution? Be tough against human trafficking and legalize drugs, institute programs to help addicts. Point in case: Switzerland. They did the drugs thing and prostitution dropped a lot. Turns out women don't like to have sex with filthy old men; but still do when addicted.

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I think you have been meeting the wrong prostitutes.

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I think you’ve been meeting the wrong prostitutes.

Slavery is a problem, not prostitution.

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Can you explain what laws about rape have to do with your example?

“Suppose we repealed laws against sex work, but kept laws against rape. Some poor people would still be unable to get sex, and it would be because of society's laws” - this sounds an awful lot like suggesting that laws against rape are laws against people being able to get sex for free. If you’re not trying to suggest that, then why bring laws about rape into the example at all?

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I mean, ignoring morality and taste entirely, laws against rape *are* laws against people being able to get sex for free, because that's what rape is. People just don't like saying that explicitly because it looks like they're making light of Rape As A Special Kind Of Evil. However, in this blog certainly, this should *not* be read as advocating for rape, but instead using the obvious impermissibility of rape as a way to frame the debate by one extreme, effectively bifurcating valid moral stances - "this view is obviously acceptable, but has costs" + "this view is obviously inacceptable" -> "let's figure out where between the two the moral cost-benefit is optimized."

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> lacking sex isn’t *that* bad,

Are you fucking serious ?!

Look, maybe you have a way below average interest in sex and relationships, but let me assure you: For most people sex and relationships ARE *THAT* important, and not having it is about as bad as not having enough to eat.

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wait, it is that important for most people?

I think im a bit demisexual, but altough i would really like to have a relationship or boyfriend in the future, im not super frustrated by it or anything

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You can use words to describe your sexuality that aren't genders or sexual orientations, you know. It can be a useful shorthand for saying you think that you need more of an emotional bond to feel attraction than is typical

I got a bit of a reverse-wokescold vibe reading that comment, frankly

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"sex and relationships": I think you just unnecessarily inserted "relationships" into the conversation and it makes your standpoint stronger but isn't required.

Meaning, I think it's at least plausible that having good relationships doesn't require sex and makes the need for sex less. I also think it's at least plausible that having good relationships does not require sex.

To be clear, I'm not sure if I agree with you or the OP.

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While I agree that "relationships" is by far the more important part of the pair, my limited understanding of incel communities online is that they are complaining about lack of relationships far more than lack of sex per se, for all that they talk about sex as the denoter of a romantic relationship. Principally, they want to feel valued by another human being, which is precisely why most of them don't believe paying for sex addresses their complaint.

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I think that both varieties are well-represented. Many incels are very redpilled and believe that all male-female relationships are cynical zero-sum transactions, where women are all ruthless gold digging hypergamous manipulators looking to sell themselves as expensively as possible. Of course, both varieties are largely hypergamous themselves, unwilling to consider less attractive women outright (including cheap prostitutes).

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<i>Meaning, I think it's at least plausible that having good relationships doesn't require sex and makes the need for sex less. I also think it's at least plausible that having good relationships does not require sex.</i>

Indeed, and I think that at least part of the reason for the incel phenomenon is that modern society makes close platonic friendships and extended families harder to achieve, especially for men. Wanting a wife/girlfriend and not having one is always going to sting, but it's going to be much more unbearable if you have little hope of building a close emotional bond with people outside of a romantic relationship.

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Wait, what? Really? (I'm assuming that by "relationships" you are referring to romantic relationships, and not just all kinds of close relationships.)

I have not yet succeeded in quitting the use of pornography (I believe this use to be harmful to me, and likely immoral), but,

what you say seems very strange/surprising to me!

Now, I do recognize that someone I've spoken to often has, I guess, repeatedly had very strong feelings about his feelings for someone not being requited?

(Or, usually not requited? idk. whatever.)

But I thought that was just him being like, unusually invested in that,

not like, something typical of people.

(There's like ~4 people I've been at least briefly slightly romantically interested in, and the one which I was a bit more interested in than the others, as it turns out, describes herself as aromantic (this was mentioned offhand and not in response to me saying anything.), and learning this just caused me to, simply discard the idea? It did not cause me any distress or emotional pain.)

I have thought that maybe I should like, expose myself to more media depicting simultaneously healthy and realistic romantic relationships as a core feature of the work, in order to better internalize the cultural scripts involved and such, to make it more of a possibility for me, but I haven't gotten around to it. (It would be nice for my parents to eventually have grandchildren, after all.)

If it really is such a big deal to most people, that seems like a big surprise to me. A big way in which my understanding of the common person is lacking.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

>It did not cause me any distress or emotional pain

"Finding out someone I was mildly interested in is unavailable" wouldn't cause me much pain.

Finding out my partner didn't feel as strongly about me as I did about her caused me to become so depressed for so long I gave up on the rest of life, and ended up a heroin addict for almost a decade.

I think my reaction was unusually strong, but not *that* unusually strong. It's a really big deal for most people, having their affection requited.

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How unusual do you have in mind when you say you don't think it's *that* unusually strong? That doesn't sound one-in-a-million unusual, but I think it'd at least be "within the top one percentile" unusual.

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I can definitely agree about relationships (I think COVID taught many of us that). Would you still say that not having sex for a protracted period of time is as bad as not having enough to eat?

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

People who never eat starve to death. People who never have sex arguably live longer than otherwise.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

I think one needs to separate "craving" from "need it or you die". Many (most? most younger males?) crave sex, in the way that a drug addict craves drugs. They don't need it for survival, in the same way that the drug addict doesn't need drug to survive (assuming the detox isn't so brutal it kills them), and to your point the drug addict probably lives longer without the drugs, but that doesn't change anything about the fact that they crave the drug badly, and suffer tremendously without it, and in the case of sex it's not like they can wean themselves off it short of taking libido-reducing drugs like those (allegedly sometimes, according to TV shows i watch...) given to asylum inmates. But i mean the urge to have sex and reproduce is arguably the greatest imperative living beings live under, so just flippantly telling people to go without seems very Mary Antoinette like.

Also, people on calorie-restricted diets age slower, live longer, have much lower risk of cancer etc. By this logic it should be fine to restrict poor people to 1000 calories a day?

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Some people that never have sex kill themselves over that. Some others kill other people over that. Lack of sex can also happen in relationships and be disastrous (see dead bedrooms and the likes). I don't think that your claim that people that never have sex live longer than otherwise is true at all, and even if it was, the sibling comment about caloric restriction addresses that really well.

Other point: the need for sex is very different from people to people. It's a popular topic in trans communities: trans women usually go through a period of asexuality, and even after that don't have the same desire as before, and trans men can have a hard time adapting to how much testosterone makes you want sex.

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>For most people sex and relationships ARE *THAT* important, and not having it is about as bad as not having enough to eat.

this is extremely hyperbolic. A lot of people are single for long periods of time, they are often unhappy about it, they definitely do not suffer to the same level as if they were starving. cmon

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I agree that it's hyperbolic on average, but speaking as someone who doesn't suffer much from lack of sex, but has experienced starvation, I'm not so sure it's hyperbolic for some people.

I've experienced two types of extreme hunger. One was acute: I was diagnosed anorexic for a couple of years, and spent most of that time subconsciously suppressing most of my hunger. During that period, I rarely felt truly hungry, but when I was finally starting to recover, I woke up one morning so intensely hungry that if I had to, I would have attacked someone in order to eat. I gorged myself to maximum stomach capacity on foods which I normally wouldn't tolerate, because they were what was available.

The other was chronic. I engaged in a period of intense deliberate weight loss for a couple of months in college, during which, through strict calorie restriction and intensive exercise, I was losing an average of one pound every two days (or a calorie deficit of about 1750 per day.) This involved a major decrease in quality of life, and essentially dropped me to the bottom of Maslow's pyramid. I was almost constantly preoccupied with thoughts of food, to the point that seeing a smashed pumpkin on the ground outside sparked an immediate reaction of "Oh, food!" (I allowed myself a small nibble.) Upon finishing a meal, I would immediately become fixated on thoughts of the next one. But, this was a self-inflicted state, and within the limits of my willpower to maintain, and it wasn't *completely* inconsistent with some measure of happiness during. I definitely wouldn't have wanted to live my whole life that way, but I suspect that quite a lot of people around the world do.

Between the two, my experience of acute hunger was overwhelmingly worse. It was a level of suffering where, if I had to endure it for an extended period, I would have been prepared to kill someone to make it stop.

I'm not sure the suffering of sexual deprivation ever gets as bad as that experience of acute hunger. But, I've heard enough people describe suffering attendant to sexual and romantic deprivation which sounds *closer* to my experience of acute hunger than to my experience of chronic hunger that I find it doubtful that they're all making it up.

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It's important to point out that in the US, 'economic justice' is applied to the circumstances of many many people at no risk of starvation or severe malnutrition. Which means I think its unfair to compare the situation of victims of 'sexual injustice' to the most extreme examples of victims of 'economic injustice'.

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That seems...well, inexperienced, let us say. There's a whole lot of situations of which I can think without really trying hard that rank way above sexlessness in terms of misery. How about suffering from severe CHF and being unable to catch your breath -- ever? Or coping 24/7/365 with chronic pain from an amputed limb that occasionaly dials down to a 3 out of 10, at best? How about being in Mariupol right now (actually on either side)? Going blind? Developing Alzheimer's, or watching it happen to your best beloved? Losing a child, to disease or accident? On the downslope of addiction, having to sell your body to strangers and being beat up by a pimp for fun?

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Don't eat for two weeks and experience for yourself what this does to your sex drive ...

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As someone with a very strong libido (when in a relationship I usually want to have sex with my partner multiple times a day)- if sex is so important to you that you compare going an extended period without it to starvation, you have some bizarre fixation on sex that certainly isn't shared by "most people". The only people who I've seen put sex as a central tentpole in their life to that degree are either incels or sex addicts. Now, it could simply be that I've coincidentally interacted only with the small minority of people who don't have that kind of compulsion, but frankly given the number of horny people I know I've only encountered ONE who thought about sex this way, and they were deeply pathological about both sex and many other things in their life.

This isn't to say that a "dry spell" is some enjoyable activity or that celibacy is trivially-easy, but to elevate it to the same level as food on that axis is going too far in the other direction.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I'm neither an incel nor a sex addict, yet if I am being honest sex is a 'major tentpole' in my life. Realistically if not for that I'd probably descend into hermitage and seclusion because it's the only form of socially mediated/external validation I can't do without

I think sex is MASSIVELY motivating for a great deal of men, not necessarily in a sex-addicted way but in the sense that we significantly organize our lives around securing it

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Huh, I guess this may just be a cultural thing or a case of many people having different mental processes. I have a few close friends I've known for a long time, and between them and my family I have plenty of people in my life whose opinions of me I respect and who think well of me (I assume this is what you're getting at with "external validation"). I'll fully yield that someone who lives a more atomized life might struggle with finding external validation anywhere but in a relationship, and I do think that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed- but its address is in building stronger communities and not through any kind of "sexual distributive justice" or even "relationship distributive justice".

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Deformity-incel-justice probably looks more like subsidized cosmetic surgery or similar.

(edit: and I'm totally biting the “correctable deformaties are a fashion statement, not a source of injustice” bullet)

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And eventually AI-controlled sexbots. Who will at some point rise up in revolt as the desire for more realism leads them more and more towards consciousness.

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That doesn't take care of e.g. elderly women.

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‹bites harder›

Only if you maintain “elderly” as a distinct category that isn't worth spending society's efforts fixing.

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Don't nursing home have surprisingly high rates of sexual activity, and isn't this usually presented as a problem?

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One hears that occasionally, but I don't have any reliable statistics. Moreover, there are many more elderly women than elderly men.

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My understanding is, nursing home sex is usually casual rather than based on monogamous romantic relationships, so that's not necessarily an issue. If some proportion of men and women still want to be monogamous at that age, they can likely partner up while leaving the others to have casual sex.

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Insofar as the cost of correcting them is not onerous, I agree with your bullet biting, but where cosmetic surgery is both expensive and somewhat dangerous it is important to consider the very real costs of it

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Isn't the relevant social technology here simply marriage? Societies where basically all young adults marry exist around the world and have existed in the Western world until very recently; the natural gender balance of the population takes care of the rest. While obviously early or socially-pressured marriages can be very bad, the solution space here is characterized as either more mysterious or more dystopian than I think it really is.

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Then how come our society has marriage but there are still incels?

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We don't have the part where an expectation of marriage is built into coming-of-age.

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You make it sounds like there were no incels in medieval times.

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Were there? I think that would be good evidence against this line of thinking.

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The question is whether the "expectation of marriage" is sufficient to make it happen, and also whether it creates additional injustices (for instance, to gay people, and to people who end up in hateful and/or harmful marriages) that more than make up for the injustices it rights.

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Absolutely, since marriage is still an option and so many people don't take it, it seems clear that the higher marriage rates of the past represented a lot of preference-violation. People enjoying their single lives and freedom very likely outweigh the suffering of the un-partnered. My point is that you don't need complete bewilderment or some kind of unspeakable sci-fi dystopia to imagine what a social solution looks like here.

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Are you now claiming that incels aren't getting married because they don't have enough pressure on them to get married? Because again, I think that's silly.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I'm claiming that monogamy and exclusivity naturally give rise to a kind of equality (everyone gets one spouse) that short-term and casual arrangements don't. In our present culture of "capstone," delayed, or optional marriage, more people are navigating a short-term and casual scene, in which it is easier to get left behind.

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More like, if everyone got monogamously married at a relatively young age, you wouldn't get a situation where a small percentage of the most attractive people get the majority of sex. It'd be a bit like a wealth redistribution programme: those at the top would have less, but those at the bottom would have more.

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By what standard is the existence of incels an injustice, but the existence of people who stay in marriages they're unhappy with because of social pressure isn't?

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I think the reason you'd be staying in a non-first-choice partnership is that your preferred partners are themselves taken. Not the rosiest thought, to be sure. But is it an injustice?

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I'm confident there are lonely people out there right now who would be married to each other if only their lives had turned out a little different. If only one hadn't been forced to drop out of school, if only one could have afforded a cheap car to get to work, if only they had received good medical treatment when they were young, if only...

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In a sufficiently large society you should expect there to exist exceptions to a great many generalizations. So some people starve to death in our wealthy society. The relevant question should be how many, but I don't think we have good data on that.

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The relevant social technology is marriage for everyone.

Stronger norms promoting marriage for more people would reduce the number of incels, but to fully solve the 'injustice', you would likely need some sort of matchmaking / arranged marriage system.

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Ehh if you do that with the social expectation that marriages last, you get exactly what western society was so happy to leave behind - lots of people (typically those with the least bargaining power) stuck in bad marriages.

OTOH, if you do that *without* the expectation of lasting marriages, you'd probably solve unemployment at the same time with the sheer number of people needed to process the formalization of all those relationships and their eventual dissolution.

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We lament that people are stuck in bad marriages because of e.g. economic dependency, moreso than the conflicting monogamous commitments of their preferred partners. Definitely don't bring back economic dependency.

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None of the stuff I've read from pre-1960 leads me to think that a large portion of people were really "stuck in bad marriages". Some were, of course, but I think their number gets exaggerated as a justification for casual sex.

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As I said in the other comment in this thread, many people find certain kinds of marriage arrangements to constitute their own kind of injustice, particularly if you're matched up with someone of the wrong gender for your orientation, or with whom you end up in a harmful domestic arrangement. It may well be that these issues are less common in societies where arranged marriages are normal (perhaps gay people don't see their marriage as relating to their sex life, and people learn to make a household work as a business rather than as a love relationship) but it's at least highly non-obvious that the net result is more justice rather than less.

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I didn't mean to imply that this is a good choice. Just that this is what would be required to solve 'sexual injustice'.

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I think it is one conceivable approach. I don't see any reason to think that it would be a better approach than something that involves creating better public spaces for social engagement and a decrease in all the things that atomize societies, from automobiles to the internet. (Such things would of course have their own problems, but there are many things to consider trying.)

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"the natural gender balance of the population takes care of the rest"

Are you under the impression that incels in the west aren't getting married because the genders aren't balanced? Because that seems silly. The gender balance has been slightly skewed more female for at least the past 60 years but marriage has significantly declined.

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I'm under the impression that if the people at the top of your list of potential partners are themselves marrying other people, you'll look further down the list, and that this is how the not-super-desirable have gotten by through most of history.

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Okay, and what's your grand plan for radically altering the dating preferences of millions of people?

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he's saying that when casual dating is the norm, a small number of men can be 'dating' a large number of women. Monogamy 'frees up' those women from the perspective of single men, forcing the pairing equilibrium to actually be based on the local gender ratio. (also, fwiw, local gender ratios can be extremely skewed - historically, migrant worker populations skewed very male and there are incel-type examples form a long time ago as a result. Today, look at SF for an excess of educated men, or NYC for an excess of educated women (and class divides are very real barrier for dating))

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Okay, so what? There's no obvious fix for casual dating other than coercive means, therefore ending it isn't really a viable solution.

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I feel like the agency of the women involved in these “solutions” is getting lost in the discussion.

I understand the frustration of not getting laid, but its never occurred to me to blame anyone else for that.

I fail to see how “incels” are suffering an injustice, unless there are concrete obstacles being placed in the way of their fulfillment (i.e.They are singled out, and forced to wear some insignia that says it it is illegal for someone to have sex with them. Or we all apply for a license to have sex and some are denied one.)

I don’t think an individual woman deciding, on a case by case basis, not to have sex with someone rises to that level.

Hard cheese…

Cosmic dice rolls may be arbitrary and possibly described as unfair, but justice don’t enter into it.

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Sure, I'd accept this and address your questions the same way the justice movements do - by moving attributions of blame and causation from particular policies and people to systemic ones embedded in our ideology and social structures.

I'd never conceived of the issue in these terms. However, I 100% believe this is the case. The biological and social forces putting pressure on teenage boys and driving their maladapted behavior are overwhelmingly powerful and pervasive, same as the ideologies leading them to adopt mistaken and self-sabotaging world-views.

They're lied to by everyone and fed BS solutions/strategies that don't have a chance in hell of succeeding. It's akin to how members of oppressed groups are misled into attending schools they'll wash out of, in majors with no job prospects, while taking on ruinous student loan debt; both experiences leave their victims beaten and embittered, entering their mid-20's to try and pick themselves up and build a new life from the shards of the one they expected.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Your elaboration has helped me identify some of my own feelings on the topic. The incel situations, both ideal and misogynist, have elements of injustice which should be rectified by society, as well as elements of unfairness which are unfortunate but should not be rectified by society, as well as elements of personal responsibility which are influenced by but transcend both.

Some of the argument around calling the ideal incel situation unjust feels like an error in categorization or in semantic confusion to me. There's no surplus of sex piled in a warehouse, I can't build more affordable sex, my neighbor's sex emissions don't poison the air I breathe.

Outside of sex but on the topic of bodily autonomy, it's unjust of me to cause you physical pain by hitting you, but it's not unjust of me to not cause you physical pleasure by caressing you.

And yet, you rightly point out that there are unjust social structures that contribute to the problem. From my point of view, especially around social mores, conversations, and media representation of bodies, relationships, love, and sex.

I appreciate the thought experiment that conflates the various subjects of justice and how it shines a light on each, but in the end the best I can do for myself is feel that the lens is more applicable in some situations and less in others.

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I don't disagree, but this is where I think the systemic move really is insightful and helpful.

Nobody forms their views on sex and intimacy in a vacuum; incels, and those who choose to be with them (or not) form expectations of what their future intimate lives can or will be, and adopt behaviors and patterns of decisionmaking accordingly, as social creatures.

As with choosing baby names, we tell ourselves it's our tastes and preferences driving our decisions, and the changes from how things were done before. But if one steps back, one sees whole cohorts of people all changing in the same way, indicating strongr and more pervasive forces are actually driving things.

In other words, systemic forces, and systemic changes in society, have created the conditions which prevail today. They leave vast swaths of people somewhere between unfulfilled, embittered, and enraged.

We refuse to change these conditions to improve them for these people, because those of us not suffering benefit from them and have adopted the ideology underlying them - same as I'm not giving up my car or AC to solve global warming.

In that context, their suffering is a justice issue, one which I bear some responsibility to ameliorate if I'm unwilling to allow the fundamental changes that would be needed to address it.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

I agree with you, mostly, and have tried to sit with the balance of responsibilities if one is "unwilling to allow the fundamental changes that would be needed to address it."

There still feels to me like a quality or category difference between "sexual justice" and "climate justice" in which it is not the same as not giving up your car. Other subthreads have explored fungibility and harm to others via the natural right of bodily autonomy. They both seem to capture some nuance to it here.

I think the only other thing to add in terms of a categorical difference may be simply a moral one: are there situations in which the only correct path is "to allow the fundamental changes that would be needed to address it", rather than the path of "ameliorating" the effects?

Back to punching people, we don't say that's okay because we compensate them with caressing credits. If it were a societal problem (and analogous ones may be), the only valid recourse seems to be to address the unjust portions of the causes of punching, while allowing the possibility of unfair but not unjust causes to continue, with punching remaining (less frequently, as a subset of causes have been removed).

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I wish we could like Comments; as we can't, take this as my +1

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Regarding

> Outside of sex but on the topic of bodily autonomy, it's unjust of me to cause you physical pain by hitting you, but it's not unjust of me to not cause you physical pleasure by caressing you.

Sex is not mechanical: whether a particular sensation is pleasurable depends on the state of mind of the person feeling that sensation.

You know the experience that you've having sex and the sensation is either neutral or starting to get mildly unpleasant and you think you need to use more lube, then your partner says something hot and suddenly it starts to feel good again?

I think this effect is observable in rats, they will demonstrate approach behaviours to mild electric shocks in comfortable for rats conditions, but avoidance behaviours in uncomfortable for rats positions, I can't be bothered looking up the actual citation but I am getting this from Emily Nagoski's /Come as You Are/

I think it very clear that consent is much more important than the kind of sensation when it come to morality of touching other people: painfully spanking me because I asked you nicely too is much more just than going round caressing people's shoulders without asking, but then I tend to take bodily autonomy as close to the root of all ethics, i.e. I think murdering people is wrong because you can't be autonomous when you're dead.

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I agree with all of that. It was just shorthand.

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Sorry, the general framing of this argument probably had me looking for something to jump on a bit.

I still don't quite get what you're using it as shorthand for, is having sex with incels getting punched, and giving you money for it being caressed? Is it a reference to something earlier in this comment thread or in the article I'm missing?

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>Outside of sex but on the topic of bodily autonomy, it's unjust of me to cause you physical pain by hitting you, but it's not unjust of me to not cause you physical pleasure by caressing you.

It's not unjust of me to not cause you utility by giving you my money

Furthermore, all laws including taxation are coercive. It may not look that way because everyone goes along with it, but if I don't want to pax taxes to fund other people's utility, then the government will literally force me to, to the point of throwing me in a cage and shooting me if I resist this.

Of course, I think this is a good thing, but the idea that 'economic justice' doesn't literally involve the use of force (including the threat of deadly force) the way forcing people to have sex involves force is trivially false.

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Here is my take:

1. There will always be people that are unable to secure a sexual relationship for themselves, regardless of societal conditions, just like there will always be people that are born with some kind of health issue. So no, it is not society's fault.

2. Incels are not being oppressed, because no one is taking active steps to prevent them from having a sexual relationship, with the exception of prostitution being illegal.

3. No.

4. They can use their UBI to pay for prostitutes.

5. See #4

6. A loving relationship is a separate issue from sex, and now we are not talking about just incels, but anyone that does not feel loved. Love is a harder thing to quantify and this comes close to trying to claim everyone has a right to feel happiness, rather than just the right to pursue happiness. This probably goes beyond society's ability to address through any kind of policy.

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Just because there will always be some instances of X doesn't mean society isn't to blame for many instances of X.

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No one is taking active steps to prevent a poor person from having money.

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Restrictions on immigration do so, as do minimum wage laws, occupational licensing, and a variety of other things.

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"no one is taking active steps to prevent them from having a sexual relationship" well then i could mention laws about minimum age for sex, social mores about extra-marital sex, laws against soliciting prostitutes, restrictions on import of sex workers from abroad, not to mention nowadays the risk of getting outed on social media as a creep if you proposition a girl awkwardly and she feels harassed.

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That seems a bit of a stretch. Not a one of these things is *designed* to prevent a poor person from having money, even if they have that as an ancillary and perhaps even unexpected side-effect.

I mean, if we are to follow that logic, then I can bitterly accuse everyone in my high school who studied hard of conspiring to keep me from being admitted to Harvard. That's pretty narcissistic reasoning.

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Actually, in the early days of minimum wage laws the "Progressive" advocates were explicit that they wanted to reserve jobs for able-bodied white men and let others die off in a eugenic process.

https://fee.org/articles/7-quotes-that-reveal-the-racist-origins-of-minimum-wage-laws/

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

Immigration laws are supported to do pretty much that. Just because people often don't say this aloud doesn't mean it's not their motivation. And it's not exactly rare for people to just say it (not even that un-PC). Politicians certainly know this.

The logic is usually that immigration would not protect interests of (current) citizens, because it'd increase competition in the labor market and drive down labor prices. Or more simply, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-kgb1QtSnU

Which is built on a tragic misconception / mental shortcut which is probably partially responsible for crap economic growth: that "jobs" _itself_ are desirable stuff to have.

Without that crap it should be obvious that doubling the workforce means halved workload (ignoring additional demand caused by them, which means there's no problem anyway). _Just cut the damned workweek if there's significant unemployment_. Eh.

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Restriction of immigration laws simply change which people are poor. Open borders simply means different people are poor, or e.g. many current Americans are made poor in order to make many third worlders slightly less poor. Open borders would mean hundreds of million, if not >billion people living in poverty in the US (unless you have a fairytale view of the world whereby America can take in an unlimited number of people with at least living standards plumetting, if not total societal collapse).

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It's not a mere shuffling of wealth, a "pecuniary externality" with no net change, but a reduction in deadweight loss that increases the size of the total pie for every worker able to get a job here. There are arguments against open borders, but the sophisticated versions of such arguments have to first recognize that basic argument for them.

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5. Most people wouldn't demand this kind of equality when discussing economic justice. The economic equivalent would be the government paying everyone below average salary the difference.

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4. While I would agree in principle, I think it is important to note that the vast majority of incels *could* afford the services of a prostitute several times a month, at least, since prostitute sex is actually pretty cheap.

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Maggie McNeill noted that the sex workers' rates have been fairly constant throughout history. I forget the exact ratio, but it was something along the lines of one hour = half a day's wages of her expected client base or some such thing.

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Wouldn't we expect that to be true of essentially all service occupations? Id est, should we not expect a similar ratio between the wages of the concert violinist and the hourly rate of a lawyer or physician? It seems likely the only time wage ratios diverge radically is when one profession enjoys some massiv new technological leverage, e.g. as soon as courtesans discover some kind of robofuckery tech that lets one lady satisfy 15,000 clients an hour, then their wages (or more precisely those of they who master the new tech) will reach Google AI engineer levels.

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> 1. It's society's fault that incels don't have sex

At least in part.

> 2. Incels are being oppressed

In a sense, yes, though oppression comes in degrees, and the situation is more oppressive for some than for others.

> 3. All of us are partly responsible for the injustice being done to incels

Basically, in the same sense that basically all of us are partly responsible for the injustice of the patriarchy and the injustices of climate change. Though I think it's conceivable that some people quite a bit less so than others.

> 4. If, after legalizing sex work, some incels can't afford sex, the government should provide them enough money that they can.

Yes, but this follows from the more general principle that, in a society as rich as ours, the government should provide everybody with something like that much money even before we consider sex work.

> 5. The amount of money given in (4) will not be enough to redress the injustice until incels are having exactly the average amount of sex (assuming they want this much)

I don't think "exactly the average" is the relevant target. I don't particularly like the "justice" terminology for some of the reasons discussed in the previous post, but figuring out when it has been appropriately redressed is one of the most difficult things.

> 6. Even after this, some incels will want loving relationships (and not just sex with prostitutes), and until we figure out a way to provide that, we are complicit in injustice.

In an important sense, yes. If there are young people going without friends, and our society is organizing itself in ways that lead to this happening, that is an injustice. I don't exactly know about "complicit", but again, I don't exactly like the phrasing that goes with justice.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I don't believe sex work really provides the same thing as actually having sex (namely, human connection and validation). Maybe it accrues some of the benefit but does not seem to cut to the core of the issue.

One may also think of "popularity justice" which would not be remedied by having paid attendants sit with unpopular kids at school lunch.

There's obviously no solution here, and a I strongly believe a majority of people would not equate social justice and sexual justice, even if they could not come up with a general principle which separates the two. I think we have an intuition that "economic goods" should have some semblance equitable distribution where "status goods" are not.

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If you squint, therapy is pretty much exactly having a paid higher status individual sit and talk for an hour.

Not that this contradicts your point, as it resembles actual intimate friendship in some of the same ways that various forms of prostitution resembles actual romance.

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<i>I don't believe sex work really provides the same thing as actually having sex (namely, human connection and validation). Maybe it accrues some of the benefit but does not seem to cut to the core of the issue.</i>

Indeed; if it were really just a matter of the physical sensation of having sex, giving them a box of tissues and a copy of Playboy magazine would be enough.

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RETRACTED: Scott, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but if a random person had posted what you just posted, I'd think they were just making excuses to avoid legalizing prostitution. I don't recall anyone arguing for points 5 and 6; and I don't see any point in arguing over points beyond "legalize prostitution", because that's much less morally ambiguous than further steps. So now it just sounds like a slippery-slope argument.

EDIT: Oops, I interpreted "Curious how many of these you would agree with:" not as a question, but as the statement "I find it curious how many of these I think you would agree with."

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And how does this change when we observe:

7. Incels routinely reject opportunities for relationships and/or sex with their low-status female peers.

So sure, maybe "housing is a right," but what happens when everyone thinks they have a "right" to a Malibu beachfront mansion?

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Aren't we at the point where an internet connection and a smart phone are "basic human rights? "

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I take the view that government taxation to provide benefits is exactly as legitimate as government mandates to provide sex to the sexless.

So you can either accept government coercion to provide sex to the sexless, or you drastically cut my taxes.

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It seems to me that if there were a workable solution to the proposed problem, and it presented a more just alternative to the status quo, it would be fair to characterize it as injustice if we didn’t pursue it.

For things like economic justice, environmental justice, and social justice such an alternative can be suggested even if reasonable people disagree on the particulars. If you are able to articulate a similarly considered form of “incel justice” perhaps it would be worth considering actually advocating for it rather than employing it as a rhetorical device.

For example suppose there is a rare form of childhood cancer which is universally fatal and occurs randomly. We couldn’t really label it “childhood cancer injustice” because no one has the ability to effect an alternative more just world. However if a cure is available or plausible but simply withheld or not pursued it would be fair game to discuss it as a matter of justice.

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I disagree. Using words imprecisely lets people get away with bad reasoning, and ignoring their connotations lets them convince others of claims they've never made explicit.

"Justice" implies perfection. If Jane charges Fred $12 for a cheesecake, and charges everybody else $10, we call that unjust. If next time, she only charges him $11, we still call that unjust. Using the term "justice" implies that we aren't going to make gradual improvements; we're going to solve the problem completely. In real life, this turns out never to be the moral thing to do; the marginal cost of justice seems to approach infinity as injustice approaches zero.

I think the Social Justice movement wants to expand the use of the word "justice" precisely because it smuggles in all these connotations of perfection and absolutism. They perceive micro-aggressions as an intolerable level of aggression. They want perfection, even if--preferably if--they have to destroy society to achieve it. The word "justice" connotes the use of force. They're uninterested in compromise. "Justice" connotes no compromise is possible; we don't call it "justice" when a criminal plea bargains. They're uninterested in other viewpoints; "justice" implies an absolute standard and an objective judge. They're uninterested in gradual improvements; "justice" implies reaching a final solution at one blow.

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In what world can we only call something just if it is perfectly so? In this conception there is no such thing as justice given that no such perfect state of affairs will exist from the perspective of all parties. Also strikes me as odd that your conception of perfect justice would exclude the free exchange of goods through bidding or haggling since different prices will be reached for the same good based on individual preferences.

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I didn't say it was /my/ conception of justice. It is society's conception. It is society, not me, which has for thousands of years, all around the world, called it unjust when a merchant charges a customer more money for some good than the merchant paid for it, or charges customers in remote areas that are more-expensive to reach than customers close at hand.

Yes, "justice" can never be achieved, given the conception of justice as necessarily perfect (which is society's conception, not mine). That's a feature, not a bug, for the people slinging the word "justice" around today.

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Mar 27, 2022·edited Mar 27, 2022

Ok so it sounds like you’re more interested in engaging with “society” and its definitions than with me so I guess we will just have to leave it at that.

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It's a great counterfactual, maybe to show the contradictions in someone's justice argument about something else. And we all know that winning an argument isn't about convincing the other person, it's about convincing the room that you won it. (Hence owning a blog and not stooping to comments). But as you're getting into the weeds, I'd ask:

What good does it do to point out the logical flaws in someone's worldview if they'll only weasel out of it? A view of the world which contorts the word "justice" to mean "what I want" isn't something you can neutralize with logic, or shame someone out of. That's like trying to fight Id with Superego. It goes against human nature.

The flaws in the argument for the redefinition of justice along these lines are so self-contradictory and glaring, that they really only need a few people to coherently point them out, as you have. Like any self-serving system that can't create value beyond grievance, it'll quickly collapse under the weight of its own inherent contradictions. In particular because it incentivizes infighting over what "justice" is for a smaller and more personalized group of people, until by reduction everyone's identitarian justice becomes limited to their own petty wants which no one gives a shit about, and we're back in a state of nature. I mean, I already see this constantly - in the antifa scene, which I'm adjacent to - where most time is spent arguing one's CV / bona fides to establish pecking order on the grievance pyramid. At the end of which comes a long conversation preaching to the converted, and zero accomplished in terms of changing anything in the real world.

Going after SJWs at this point is almost just a gratuitous pile-on, because we're already well into the recoil from it as a society. As annoying as these 22-28 year olds are, it's already become clear that their impact on the course of history will be nil. I'm already a lot more worried about the 16-21 year olds under them who seem obsessed with fascism.

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I just don't think "injustice" is the right word here. There's no right at issue, since we agree that we're not willing to impose the corresponding duty. All we have is some people being more miserable than others. And I don't think all cases of "helping the less fortunate" fit under the category of "rectifying injustice".

It is, almost certainly, still *good* to help such people how we can (independent of whether prostitution is the right way or not). But it just doesn't seem like a category fit to "justice work".

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author

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it sounds like you're almost *defining* right by "thing where we're willing to impose the corresponding duty".

Isn't this circular? We're not going to help incels, because they don't have a right to be helped, because we're not going to help incels?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a better theory of rights (which is why I try not to use the term), but it does seem fraught. It sounds like in cannibal tribes I wouldn't have a right to life, since the cannibals are unwilling to impose the duty of not killing me. What am I missing?

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I think the implication is "if you think something is a right, then you must be willing to impose the corresponding duty," i.e. that willingness is a necessary condition for something to be a right, but it's not the definition of a right itself. Whether you agree with that being a necessary condition is a different question.

To put it another way, I think Crotchety Crank's claim is akin to "this shape isn't a square, since we agree it doesn't have four sides," which isn't circular as long as all parties agree that squares need to have four sides.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

I don't think it's circular, it's just a weighing act. There are two rights in play - the right to sex, and the right to not be compelled to provide sex. These two rights conflict, because one requires imposing a duty that infringes on the other. Seeing the conflict, just about everyone thinks the second is more important.

I think the "rights=duties" conversion scheme makes conversations like these easier to think through. We might intuit that people have rights to a safety net, but we also think they have some rights to the fruits of their labor. These clearly conflict - the duty one right imposes breaks the other right - so we find a compromise (or go hard-in on one at the expense of the other). If we think we've gotten the compromise wrong, then the result is a violation of one of those rights - injustice.

The cannibal tribes are, indeed, choosing to prioritize the cannibals' right to eat you over your right to life. Pretty clearly, this would be getting the compromise between those two rights wrong, which makes this injustice.

If you're missing anything, it's that the cannibal tribe has recognized a *civil right* in conflict with *natural rights*, which is why the phrase "right to eat you" sounds so weird. It might be a de facto civil right in the cannibal tribe. But that doesn't convince us it's a natural right.

(Edit to add:) in my first paragraph, "the right to sex" and "the right to not be compelled to provide sex" are two *civil* rights we could potentially recognize. Recognizing that they conflict, we end up thinking that we should recognize the latter, because that one is more in accord with *natural* rights.

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author

It sounds like here you're using "justice" as a term grounding rights, which determines which rights we should and shouldn't have (ie the fact that the cannibals should not assert a right to eat you is because this is unjust).

I thought in the original comment, you were using rights as a term grounding justice - ie the incels' plight isn't injustice, because they don't have a right for it to be otherwise.

What am I missing?

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Um, I lean towards rights being prior to justice (i.e. defining justice in terms of rights). The (natural) rights and their strengths exist first, and the cannibals shouldn't eat you because of them. Their doing so would be unjust, because of the rights.

With that said, you could definitely make it work the other way around. One could think that first, there are unjust acts, and that grounds "rights" - as a shorthand for patterns in those unjust acts.

Regardless of which one of the above you think is true metaphysically, you can run it either way epistemically. So, you can either see an act, intuit that it's unjust, and infer a right from the injustice. Or you can intuit a right, see an act, and infer that it's unjust because of the right. Both of these patterns of reasoning are valid, regardless of which one you think grounds the other.

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I think your reasoning has a considerable weight of history behind it. As far as I know, the concept of "justice" in Classical to late Classical tradition consisted of exactly what you said: the balancing of the traditional rights of one person, or group, against a conflicting traditional right of some other person, or group. That's still preserved in the English common law concept of "equity" which is part of our modern ideas of justice.

I would guess all this was changed considerably by the dominance of the Catholic Church in medieval Europe, since that promulgated the concept of justice arising from conformity with external definitions -- God's law, to begin with. This, too, has become ensconced in our tradition, so that at least in the Anglosphere we have these two distinct roots for our ideas of justice: first, conformance with law (God's law, or "natural" law, or at the least statutes laid down by man), and second, equity in the balancing of the rights of one against the other.

Traces of this are seen in the two distinct corpuses of law (civil and criminal) and the distinct traditions and practitioners of each, although this has become muddled with the introduction of the notion since approximately the Civil War that government has a major role to play in defining and defending the rights of the individual against infringence *by other persons* as well as by the state itself.

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"These two rights conflict, because one requires imposing a duty that infringes on the other. " But in that case there is no right to poverty alleviation, because it will impose a duty that infringes on some other person's property rights through taxation, redistribution etc.?

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Plenty of people do bite that bullet, so maybe Crank does, but they're distinct from the people Scott's original post was talking about, I believe.

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I think this is exactly the question I have in mind in my "safety net" paragraph. A compromise can be struck between these two rights; you don't need to go all-in on one.

What the "rights=duties" framework correctly identifies is that however far you extend one right, you weaken the other. Totally guaranteeing a right to the fruits of one's labor must involve harshly limiting, or eliminating, welfare. Guaranteeing a right to sufficiently comprehensive welfare must involve taking all of citizens' income to fund it. Those are two consistent positions, but there are plenty of positions on the spectrum between those two extremes.

For the record, I am not a libertarian, but I think property rights are currently undervalued by the governing class, at least in the US and Canada.

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ok so either i was replying to an earlier version of your comment that was worded differently, or I misread what you wrote, because rereading your comment now I don't disagree, and don't really know what mine is referring to now either. Anyway, will leave it up there but just FYI to anyone who bothers to read this.

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If you don't have to go all in on a right, and can compromise on it, what makes a right different from a priority?

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I think what you're getting at has to do with relative fungibility. In the old USSR (and "Dr. Zhivago" is my only point of reference here) people rich enough to own their own homes were forced to share those homes with mobs of poor people. But this was beyond what even X-justice people are now demanding; usually they just want taxes and spending. But there is no fungibility in a sexual encounter: someone (to continue the analogy) must actually take a hobo into her house for the day.

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don't really want to go further down the rabbit hole here, but found it interesting you instinctively used "her" in your example above, implying there is a large imbalance between sexes in terms of number of people frustrated by ability to get enough sex (either because guys need/want it more or because higher % of women are able to get it) so that the problem affects mostly guys. is this a gender justice issue then?

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No, because of "+power."

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Every time I've suggested that incels should pay for sex, I've been told they (a) shouldn't have to pay and (b) need/deserve relationships, not just sex.

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(c) We have multiple layers of laws which make that illegal in the first place.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Is it flight injustice that a bird with malformed wings plummets to death upon leaving the nest?

I don't think the "injustice" framing is helpful at all here, and to be fair this _is_ a difference between sex injustice and climate injustice. What happens to the unfortunate incel is a natural phenomenon (how many incels are there among, idk, the birds from the example above?), what happens to a community that gets climate-changed out of their homeland is not*.

* - yes, natural climate change is a thing, but it's neither anthropogenic nor happening on the same timescales

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But what of "economic injustice"? that does seem more directly analogous

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Not really. You can choose who you trade with and on what terms, you cannot choose who you are attracted to. And let's face it, pity sex, even if it happened, wouldn't solve incels' problems.

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Why don't the incels just have sex with each other? (This is a semi-serious question, and not just a variation on "let them eat cake".)

It seems to me as though (all else being equal) the incels could offer consensual sex to other incels and clear the market. However, presumably the objection is a question of taste: the incels don't want to have sex with other incels (or this would already be a solved problem: if Tinder isn't clearing the market of incels, why not?).

Instead, presumably the incels have some criteria which limits their available partner pool to approximately nil. At some level, this is like a hungry person turning down fish and saying they'll only eat steak. (Maybe they find fish distasteful, but it is food, and does provide nourishment, and does solve the problem of hunger, if they can keep it down.)

If economic justice doesn't mean filet mignon for everyone who wants it, then sexual justice should not need to mean a preferred partner for everyone.

Sex-bots and soylent and UBI for all.

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The following may be a stereotype, but if we assume the majority of incels are heterosexual men, the problem is obvious. (I'm sure there are significant numbers of heterosexual women who long for a match, but I'd guess they're still inferior to the numbers of male incels; and regardless, it seems to me they're not usually organised/formalised as part of the loose "movement", or at least recognised social phenomnon, of "incels".)

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Legalize prostitution and implement a UBI.

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Assuming there is an UBI, what would be the incentive for the prostitute? Legalizing drugs and helping those in need alone already cuts down on prostitution a lot, as evidenced by the experiences in Switzerland. Turns out women don't really like sex with filthy old men and only do it when forced to.

And what exactly is an UBI? Does it cover the average cost of living a middle class life? And middle class where? And middle class when?

In Germany we already pay to anyone without a job or wealth more money than required to exceed the material level required to maintain a middle class lifestyle of 1900 in Germany easily. Yet people generally don't perceive it as just, sufficient or an UBI.

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First of all, my comment was a little facetious, I truly do believe in those two policies, but I presented it simplistically. Switzerland is not a good example here: drugs are not legal, however brothels are - and are plentiful. There is clearly enough supply and demand.

Next, UBI needs to be universal to be a UBI. It wouldn't need to cover the average cost of living for the middle class? I am not sure why you take that as a starting point? For now it would just have to alleviate stress of the poor, help people save (and spend) money thus making the job market more liquid and competitive as it becomes easier for people to look for new jobs.

Lastly, I chose those two policies in conjunction because then incels could pay for sex work. Thats it. Thats the tweet.

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So was mine. But still: Switzerland has taken a pretty sensible approach vis-à-vis drugs with remarkable results: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/focus-page-drugs-policy_how-far-is-switzerland-willing-to-go-when-it-comes-to-decriminalising-drugs-/45810320

As for UBI: I didn't suggest the starting point you were debating against in your reply. I did say, that UBI is just a buzz word with no real meaning; and used middle-class as an easy to understand reference to explain, that even if you settled on such a definition, it would quickly become useless as society and its expectations evolve, by projecting that reference in the past. Feel free to do the same exercise with any other standard of living. The result will be the same.

And you completely missed the point of my reply: How exactly would an incel pay for sex work? You stating that makes so many implicit assumptions. If UBI only covers food and shelter; where do you derive money from to pay the prostitute? If there is UBI, why would anyone prostitute himself or herself for the small amount of money which possibly could be deducted from the UBI?

I guess what I meant to hint you at was the fact that UBI by its mere existence would also radically change the market of prostitution; as the offer would shrink dramatically, whereas demand probably would not. Even with UBI I still see a market for high class prostitution. But how would you pay this with UBI? The offer for cheap sex on the other hand would dwindle, since basic needs of everyone would already be met. So I don't see how UBI would help incels with getting sex at all. Quite the opposite: it would hurt their chances even more (and to me that's a good thing, considering where the offer would stem from before UBI).

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> Turns out women don't really like sex with filthy old men and only do it when forced to.

"forced to" is a strong term to describe voluntary and unnecessary self-driven behavior

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"Voluntry and unnecessary self-driven behavior" is a pretty stupid description of addiction.

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And productive members of society don't really like to give money to the filthy unemployed and only do it when forced to.

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But that wasn't the point of this post, wasn't it? For the sake of the argument assume that the UBI was paid for by god. Everything I stated would remain true.

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One important way incels are different from poor people is there is no sexual equivalent to a billionaire. There might be a billion women who would rather sleep with Brad Pitt than an incel, but Brad Pitt doesn't actually own sex with those women and there's no sense in which Pitt could give away the surplus sex he's not using or that he could be taxed to redistribute it.

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> there's no sense in which Pitt could give away the surplus sex he's not using or that he could be taxed to redistribute it.

For starters, he could allow me to legally use his photo in my Tinder profile. :D

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Strictly speaking, this is already legal, just strongly frowned upon. But regardless of whether he gives you permission, he can't offer to let you look like him when you show yp.

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It's amazing how people think a bilionaire's tax would permanently lead to huge amounts of tax revenue. Even if you could tax 100% of Bezos' present net worth (which would be impossible because attempting to do so would cause his amazon stock to become vastly less valuable), that's about 10 days of US government spending (which is already heavily in debt) and that's a one time thing. He's not making another $200 billion for you to keep doing this. Even extended to all billionaries and making the compltely false assumption that their behavior wouldn't drastically change as a result, this is not some thing that would transform America's fiscal situation.

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I meant "billionaire" as shorthand for "the top 10% of people who own 69% of the nation's wealth." Some people argue that a significant portion of that wealth was created using force or fraud and that redistributing some of it would be an act of justice. There's no equivalent hoard of sexual relationships.

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I don't think many people ascribe to a definition of "billionaire" where you could be in "the 99%" and still be subject to a billionaire tax.

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Mar 26, 2022·edited Mar 26, 2022

In 1944, the top rate peaked at 94 percent on taxable income over $200,000 (which would be about $2.5 million in today's dollars). So yes, there was definitely a time when all those people were lumped together into the same tax bracket.

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People are all lumped into the same tax bracket at a point in the six figures now, but that doesn't mean people who want a billionaire tax consider this satisfactory.

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Mar 26, 2022·edited Mar 26, 2022

But all that is beside my point which was just about why it doesn't make much sense for Scott to conflate incels not having girlfriends with alledged injustices in wealth distribution.

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The sexual equivalent would be for the Brad Pitts of the world to all settle down in faithful, monogamous relationships, leading all the women who are no longer able to have sex with them to look elsewhere.

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So over the past decade, Google has migrated from "how can we show the best search results" to "how can we show the most cost-effective search results".

As an outsider, this appears to have changed roughly around 2017, when "Google Instant" was cancelled - it is quite expensive to do searches for partial query terms, and not very useful to anyone.

Google Search has various corpuses, with code names like "Big Bird" and "Hoagie". If your query can be answered by a smaller corpus, they don't run the query on the larger one. And Google doesn't really make money on people who go to page 20 of search results, so they appear to have silently stopped letting people do those searches ...

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The fact that no serious competition emerged in the last five years implies that either there's not enough demand for better search or the cost of building it from scratch are prohibitively high, so we're basically screwed.

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Most people do not even recognise there is any problem, so the demand for better search is close to zero.

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I tried DuckDuckGo at some point and quickly reverted to Google because the quality of the searches was so bad. I don't suppose Google has hit the sweet spot of searches, but relative to the alternatives it seems to be pretty damm good.

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A note on hog farming. I grew up in a region where something similar was a risk (i.e. a hog farm might someday have opened across the street from us). I once asked my father about what would happen if a farm did so, and whether we could seek renumeration for the inevitable loss of our land values. He answered "no" because the possibility of a hog farm opening was already a known risk (and thus factored into the land values). If Tesla had opened a shuttle launching platform next door, because that was an unkown risk, we might be able to sue, but not for hog farms.

Anyway, the point is (assuming that the efficacy of the lawsuits as postulated above is accurate), it would seem they weren't being "oppressed" by the hog farm. They bought land at a discount (because a hog farm might someday open) and then chose not to buy insurance. One could probably say the same thing about anyone buying land in Miami right now wrt ocean level rise.

None of this is to say that having a hog farm next door wouldn't be terrible and worthy of sympathy, just that it probably doesn't fit as well into the justice/injustice matrix (once again, assuming this legality is correct, which it very well might not be. If some lawyer wants to say it isn't, I'll probably just trust them and delete this post).

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author

Is this working off of a model where some land is zoned for hog farms, other land is zoned for not-hog-farms, and everyone is aware which is which?

If so, I agree that changes things, but I think from a philosophical perspective it's still useful to consider the alternative where that isn't true. Although maybe then the answer is that a society without zoning would be unjust, but ours is fine.

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I would say that you could probably not have opened a hog farm in town, but we lived in the middle of farmland where it would be more appropriate. So, I'm not sure about formal zoning laws, since we didn't really live in a town, but I think that there would be reasonable expectations around where one may or may not have a chance to someday be built, and one could have feasibly made a purchase/insurance off of those expectations.

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author

I feel like this is getting close to saying "If you outside of town, you knew you were getting into a situation where people could poison you with impunity, so you have no right to complain". What am I missing?

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I'm not sure that you're missing anything about the setup.

My point is more as follows: Imagine I need to buy a toy for my friend's kid. So, I go online shopping and I buy the cheapest thing that I can find. Now, this thing is probably going to quickly break, but I know that, and it's factored into the price. So, if it does indeed break, I'm not going to really have much room to complain. I probably could've bought the add-on warranty at check out, but I chose not to.

If you buy a house in the country, someone might open up a hog farm next to you, and you'll be subjected to foul odors and noises. But, you knew that might happened, and you decided to buy a house in the country anyway and not get an option on your home insurance against hog companies opening nearby. Then, once one opens nearby, I guess I don't really feel like you have a right to complain.

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author

Suppose I buy a toy for my friend's kid, and it's coated in some sort of horrible poison from being manufactured incorrectly, and the kid dies. Can the company come back with "Well, it was cheap, so you should have predicted there was that risk"?

Suppose I buy a house in the ghetto, and some people rob me and beat me up. When the police come to arrest them, can they come back with "well, it's the ghetto, you should have known that would happen"?

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I don't fully endorse this, but: Perhaps the difference is that society currently does advertise laws that apply everywhere (including laws against poison), and a police force that is supposed to enforce them everywhere?

Suppose another society that really does create and mark Anarchy Zones and Risky Goods Stores. If you went into the Anarchy Zone and complained that you got robbed, or if you bought something from the Risky Goods Store and complained that it was poisonous, I'd have a whole lot less sympathy.

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Suppose you go out dressed provocatively in some manner and get assaulted. "With what you were wearing, you should have known what would happen."

I think the distinction is that while a hog farm is unpleasant it isn't illegal, though it is unpleasant. Being assaulted or buying a poisonous toy or being robbed is actually illegal so there is a higher expectation of it not happening

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Both of those things are illegal, so you are assuming 1) it shouldn't happen, and 2) you could get renumeration from the culprit if it did happen.

But if you buy a (legal) medicine, and the medicine says "side effects may include horrible nausea, pain, or in rare instances, death" and you consume that medicine, do you think that the manufacturer should be liable?

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

You've got at least two issues conflated here. The first is mens rea, a very important concept in the law (and ethics). The people who robbed and beat you *intended* to cause you harm. The people who manufactured the toy carelessly did *not* intend to cause harm. The law (and most systems of ethics) treats these two offenses very differently, because the concept of criminal intent is extremely important. We do not generally punish people for bad things they caused but did not intend to cause, unless they were unusually careless.

The second is "reasonable expectations," another well-worn concept in the law, which is largely how we judge questions of harm caused inadvertently. You have a case against the manufacturer of the toy because it's "reasonable" to expect that they will exercise enough care in their manufacturing to prevent their toys from being coated with poison. On the other hand, it's not "reasonable" to expect a cheap toy to last as long as an expensive toy, so if you buy a cheap toy and it breaks, you don't have a case.

As for the question of what is "reasonable" and what is not, that's why we have juries. If you can convince 12 of your peers that your (violated) expectations were reasonable, you win. Otherwise, not.

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founding

> Suppose I buy a house in the ghetto, and some people rob me and beat me up.

Actually, yes. As a society we set limits to "getting beat up", and we decided that's on the universal extreme on the specific-universal axis. So yes, people will be a lot less sympathetic to you getting beat up in the ghetto than in a kindergarten, but police will take you seriously.

And to prove that yes, there is a continuum and there is an extreme where you'll get beat up and police doesn't protect you: Russia and Ukraine. You can get beat up on the street there now, and good luck getting any form of justice or reparation.

So yes, society's expectations exist and matter.

Another argument is that I'm in a much less justice-happy country, and for me the idea of requesting compensation for a business opening next door is rather extreme. It's within the Overton window of things you talk about, but not really for things you actually do. Again, society sets expectations of risk and they matter.

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I feel that a lot of this discussion is hinging on whether a hog farm is merely a noisy and stinky neighbour, or actively polluting the river such that it poisons everything that uses the water - the later feels like it should be illegal, while the former is merely an issue of zoning.

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Yeah, we already have mechanism in place for demonstrable harm.

The land where I built my house was cheap, because it's between a gun range (that's been there since the '40s) and an airport (which is newer. One of my neighbors recently had a petition to get the gun club closed by the town because "this is a neighborhood now."

I refused to sign, and put in an application to join the gun club.

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If someone is actually poisoning you, you have a tort against them, regardless of zoning?

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> If someone is actually poisoning you, you have a tort

And if they build a hog farm, you have a pork

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Well if they also build a bakery, you have a torte which goes down nicely after a well-roasted pork.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

What if a Cinemaplex had opened up across the street, and the value of your land skyrocketed? Two developers are competing to pay you $1 million/acre for it. Would you have also argued that this was immoral, and that a court should compel you to sell, if you sell at all, at the price/acre in effect *before* the Cinemaplex opened? Or should you be require to donate any excess to the Cinemaplex, since that is the root cause of the rise in your property values, just as the hog farm was the root cause of the drop in your property values in the other scenario?

I don't see how one can ethically argue the risk of loss should be socialized, or imposed on some indirect cause, unless you also agree the possibility of gain should also be socialized, or remitted to the indirect cause.

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i think it's perfectly reasonable to forbid/disincentive behaviour that has negative externalities while even encouraging behaviour with positive externalities.

In the example: you should not be allowed to open a polluting hog farm, or at least compensate those who are affected, but you're very welcome to open a cinema you might even get a tax incentive to do so. I don't see anything unethical about that.

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the point is that the incentive to open a cinemax and improve the community would be much higher if the Cinemax got to absorb all the positive externalities on land value.

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Unless you agree those who open the cinema -- or a hospital, or a high-end shopping district, or make a nice park -- should reap *all* the benefit that has on surrounding property values, then you have no business arguing someone who opens a hog farm should pay for the full reduction in property values that causes. That would be almost definitionally inequitous.

I get that most people identify more with the property owner next to the hog farm than the entrepreneur laying out an attraction, but I never mistake self-interested rationalization for ethical reasoning.

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I would argue that this is already incorporated into the cost. That's pretty much what speculative investing is, you buy a place that you think will go up in value because of development. You're paying a premium for a lotto ticket (basically reverse insurance).

This might feel different, but it's actually standard practice for oil. Many people with a lot of land sign a lease with an oil company. The deal is that if oil is ever discovered on or nearby your property, they're allowed to investigate and possibly drill. This is fundamentally you collecting against the possibilty that oil is found.

So, the point I'd make is that you've already paid for the possibility of the Cinamaplex opening when you bought the house, and you could've done a fancy leasing-type deal to bet against it opening. Just like the hog farm shouldn't have to pay if it opened in a reasonable area (and wasn't doing blatantly illegal things), it seems fair to treat the Cinaplex similarly.

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Well, yes, this is what I was getting at. It's absurd to say "oh! the hog farmer should compensate me for the bad luck of his plans that I didn't anticipate" and then say "oh! But I don't need to compensate anyone for the good luck their plans brought me, that's all mine to enjoy."

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This is only tangentially relevant, but I was amused at how much this stuck out at me: "‘well maybe instead of calling this state of affairs unjust we should remember what human nature is like, and design systems around it, think about what’s more effective, have a positive narrative’" - there are in fact people who do this! "How would we design a political system that doesn't require us changing human nature but gives good results" is definitely a past time of some people. (I'd go as far as to refer to David Friedman here, but I'm not sure if he'd feel misrepresented by my impression.)

...as I write this I notice I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, since you were involved in fictional micronations; after all, some people in that hobby do the same thing (though definitely not all, or even a majority). :)

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Isn't this also famously a justification for the USA's "separation of powers" and "checks and balances" where different parts of government are allowed to stop other parts under various circumstances?

I thought everyone was introduced to this idea in grade school.

(Being aware of the idea is, of course, different from believing that this idea is *sufficient* to actually stop all corruption.)

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Came here to say this. Likewise, limiting the power of government to choose winners and losers in the economy limits the scope of potential corruption, so strong protection of property rights are a big check on corruption.

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This is drifting slowly towards a clump of ideas I've noodled with a bit; it's related to Orthodoxy Privilege, and also related to The Schrödinger Interpretation of Ethics; the clump of ideas are, vaguely, about the context in which we evaluate these kinds of questions.

The issue is one of context; we can see this in the "Does nature actually provide any of these things?" line of reasoning. And we can see this in the way people react to a lot of these things; for a large number of the kinds of "injustice" discussed here, the degree to which people take the injustice seriously seems more or less directly proportional to whether or not they themselves take their own relative position of "privilege" for granted.

For a society in which people routinely starve to death, nobody is going to think somebody starving to death is injust; it's just another tragedy. It's likely not sensible from within the framework of that experience to see it as unfair in a human sense; for it to be unfair in such a sense, it has to be outside the domain of what we see as normal.

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This is an underrated comment and you've given me a lot of think about.

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I think that sort of context is implied. Let's say we cure aging in the future. Access to anti-aging technology would then be considered a human right.

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Yes, but not everyone will perceive it as a right at the same time.

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It is, sure, but it's the kind of implication people accept without noticing or thinking through. And a lot of Scott's post is basically trying to understand the nature of exactly this kind of creep.

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I agree. Take the right to free speech: its obvious that everyone is born with (or rather, everyone soon develops unless malformed) the ability to communicate. To coerce someone into not communicating certain things is the government taking away something you were born with. Similarly freedom of religion: while we are not all born with religion, all humans naturally create or choose systems of belief about how the world works, and the government coercing you to not believe on system or believe another would be taking that something away from you that the state of nature provided.

See also how this does not apply as easily to the more controversial parts of the Bill of Rights! For instance, the right to bear arms. We are not born with guns. One can argue we are born with the ability to perform violence to defend ourselves or our rights, and every State in the union holds that there is a right to self-defense. But does it have to be guns? Thus, far more debate about the second amendment than the first.

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The right to bear arms may, in a sense, be taking away rights; a central argument of the pro-gun side of things is that guns level the playing field between the strong and weak. So in that particular sense, guns may be seen as taking away natural advantages conferred on birth by "the strong".

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It's tricky, because my owning a gun does not take away your strength. I does make it more dangerous for you to infringe on my rights, however: my right to life, my right to speech, my right to religion, my right to freedom of movement, if you try to use force to take those from me then a gun is very helpful in defending my rights. So it really only removes your right to use your strength if you are using that right to infringe on mine: and, of course, if I use my right to own a gun to infringe on your rights, then you're in your rights to use your gun to defend yourself. The only imbalance is if I have a gun and you do not.

So, funnily enough, if the second amendment is repealed then I am not able to defend my right to use my strength against those who have a gun. If everyone can own a gun, then everyone has equal access to "unnatural" power guns give, but if only a select few have guns then they can infringe on the others "natural" strength without fear.

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What actually happens is that guns empower criminals more than they empower you, since they now can attack you even easier without fear of retribution, as they can chose the time and the place to do so. That's even showing in the criminal statistics in the US.

Whereas if carrying guns is illegal, guns become an additional liability for criminals. Since even if they did nothing wrong otherwise, if stopped by the police, them carrying a gun puts them into jail.

If you accept that logic, and you should, the sweet spot then becomes Switzerland, where owning a gun is legal. This leads to criminals still perceiving carrying of guns as a liability, while also having to fear that people might own one and use it for self-defense.

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founding

Guns don't actually make it all that much easier for criminals to attack unarmed citizens, because most criminals have a fairly specific definition of "attack" that doesn't really match the advantages of a gun. Guns, in theory, allow people to kill from a distance without warning. Almost all criminals, if they kill their victims from a distance without warning, will have completely failed in their objective (and earned far more police attention than they can afford). And if they just scare the victim into running away, something guns are also pretty good at, that's usually a loss as well. To succeed in their criminal attacks, they need to corner the victim, close to conversational distance, announce themselves, and cede surprise and initiative. At that point, the gun isn't giving them much that a knife wouldn't, assuming they are at least moderately strong and skilled and not squeamish about blood.

For the person defending themselves against a criminal assault, the requirements are much more flexible; both "I scared him and he ran away" and "I just shot him dead, the end" count as wins for the defender. So guns start looking pretty good there (though you'll want a lawyer on speed-dial for the "I just shot him" case).

There is a subset of criminals who attack hard targets (e.g. banks) where a gun provides a real advantage. But the main reason for criminals to carry guns, is for defending themselves from *other criminals*. Most criminals are not apex predators, and there's a lot of criminal-on-criminal violence. And when that happens, nobody wants to be the guy who brought a knife to a gunfight.

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We're not born with any kind of property in general, except our bodies I guess, but the right to property isn't too controversial yet, thankfully. I'd say that guns in particular are controversial for other reasons.

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We're not born with newspapers either. We don't just have the right to communicate, we have the right to communicate effectively. Likewise we don't just have the right to defend ourselves, we have the right to defend ourselves effectively. Therefore, guns.

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