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How can we report comments like this?

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In the sense that a diverse ecosystem is more robust, I think this is unironically true. Even if you firmly believe that democracy is on average the best way to decide things it's still better not to have every egg in the one basket.

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USA is a much more complicated polity than Orban's Hungary. Expecting direct correspondence is silly. Biden does not need to appoint leaders of media companies, universities, corporations etc., as with a handful of exceptions they are all on the same page already. The exceptions, of course, stick out like sore thumbs, irritating people on the left to no end. If they become aware of the uniformly progressive environment around these exceptions at all, they tend to perceive it as simply normal and par for the course. It is indeed very different from a government centrally putting its people in positions of power. E.g. to take your school example, the federal government does not appoint public school teachers, but it does seem to exercise an awful amount of control over what public schools can and cannot do. Its powers of legal intimidation are so vast that DOE Dear Colleague letters which are neither laws nor, ostensibly, even regulations, seem to be taken not much differently from direct orders. "Nice school board you got there, shame if it got sued in federal court for Title IX violations." I'm sure Orban would love to be able to do this rather than mess with appointments directly.

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founding

Cleanup, aisle 3!

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I am bit more cynical:

''Dreher was given a paid fellowship by an institute funded by Orban's government'

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I've felt for a while this works the opposite way, There is variety of opinions amoung people and institutes like the Hungarian one just hire the people that agree with them.

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I think most people underestimate how much this is the traditional form of corruption. You don't affect people's opinions in a quid pro quo - you just promote the people that already agree with you. The net result is the same - a bunch of people with audiences or political seats who support your views. Except that you get true believers, rather than mercenaries who would split the instant someone else offered them a better deal.

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Are you under the impression that liberal elites don't coordinate and hand out cushy jobs to insiders/friends? Spend some time looking into the connections between high level reporters, business leaders, and politicians. The Cuomo brothers were more obvious but far less insidious than many of the elite deals that happen every day between those groups.

That goes for high level Republicans as well, but I'm mentioning the left/liberals because there are a lot of people who seem to overlook when that happens in the US, as if Hungary is somehow beyond the pale when it looks awfully similar to what happens in the US daily.

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WHAT US crusade against the Koch brothers? Kicking out the Soros-funded university was state action. What state action has been taken against the Koch Brothers?

And WRT to Facebook, where have you seen anyone talking about Zuck being Jewish? The comparison is ludicrous.

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Very few instances of alleged anti-Semitism by public figures involve direct reference to someone being Jewish. The first link I found re: Orban vs Soros is this: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/george-soros-upset-by-anti-semitic-campaign-against-him-in-hungary which is... incredibly vague about what the alleged anti-Semitism in the campaign consists of. It certainly doesn't involve any mention of Jewishness. It might be as little as "it treats this powerful, well-known Jewish person as a symbol / focus of social ills" which applies just as well to the Facebook coverage as to Soros.

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That's true but you can kinda tell -- in a subtextual way that's hard to quantify -- when something is loathed for weird racist/antisemitic reasons, versus loathed for perfectly good reasons. Can't speak to Soros but Zuckerberg and Facebook are obviously loathed for all sorts of good reasons, and literally none of the criticism against them has ever rung of anti-semitism.

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I am sure you have good grounds, internally, for knowing your criticism is good and pure. But from the outside a lot of the anti-Facebook stuff seems motivated by... not antisemitism, but social / cultural resentment of businesspeople and STEM types-- both demographics that happen to be disproportionately Jewish.

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The point being, what evidence do you have that Hungarians' dislike of Soros feels less pure, from the inside, than your dislike of Facebook? "I know it when I see it" is not at all convincing to me, especially when applied to a foreign culture.

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That crime in my hometown, 6000 miles from Budapest, is up since George Soros's candidate got elected District Attorney is a tribute to Mr. Soros' global influence.

According to the Los Angeles Times on November 3, 2020, Mr. Soros was the single biggest individual donor in the 2020 Los Angeles DA race against the anti-criminal incumbent black woman DA Jackie Lacey, under whom crime had fallen agreeably. Soros gave $2.25 million to anti-police candidate George Gascon, who garnered $12.4 million in donations to Lacey's $7.0 million. The biggest organizational donor to Gascon was Van Jones' group Color of Change with $3.4 million, which has received a half-million dollar donation from Soros.

I greatly admire Mr. Soros's energy and acumen. I just think, in accordance with Mr. Soros's own Popperian philosophy, that he deserves criticism for his role in the sizable exacerbation of the American murder rate since Ferguson and the rise of Black Lives Matter in 2014.

Increasingly, however, the conventional wisdom has become that Mr. Soros is above criticism, precisely because his trans-national political influence is slightly reminiscent of that of earlier Jewish financial geniuses such as the Rothschilds.

It's an interesting conundrum. According to Mr. Soros' own well-articulated political philosophy, he deserves criticism for the role he has played in the unexpected rise in the American murder rate since 2014.

But because his own individual genius and weaknesses are somewhat ethnically stereotypical, it is now increasingly asserted that his sizable role in current events should be completely ignored and that anybody who criticizes Mr. Soros should be cancelled.

It would be interesting to ask Mr. Soros whether he should be above criticism. As an admirer of him, I believe he would disagree.

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Attributing criticism of a specific individual's specific acts to hatred of an entire group s/he belongs to is such a common and toxic rhetorical dark art. When the bar for proving the bias is so low, it's a fully generic way to dismiss criticism, since everyone belongs to multiple groups that are hated by someone.

If you tell most people that some ultra-wealthy person is spending billions of dollars to influence elections all over the globe, they'd probably lean towards that being a bad thing. But then you tell them he's jewish, and they somehow update towards it being OK.

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If anything, for a company owned by a Jewish person, Facebook has been remarkably reluctant to crack down on actual neo-nazis using its platform to spread their filth. It reminds me of the NYT deliberately downplaying the Holocaust during WW2 to avoid being accused of pursuing a Jewish agenda.

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Isn't neo-nazism & holocaust denial officially banned on Facebook? Whereas those would not be under standards endorsed by Scott: https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/12/29/the-spirit-of-the-first-amendment/ https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/02/be-nice-at-least-until-you-can-coordinate-meanness/

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Facebook is for-profit company first.

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I think it’s driven by journalists who have had their lunch eaten by online search engines and social media.

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Yeah, there's not really a way I convince you with 'hard evidence', but I can say with confidence that if you went around asking people who dislike facebook why they do, and then probed as hard as you could, none of them would say anything about Jewishness, and if you mentioned that they would all look at you like you're crazy. It's a total non-issue. Nobody in America (outside of, I guess, anachronistic weirdos?) associates business people and STEM with Jewishness. Not even in the slightest.

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I'll fully grant that there's a lot of social/cultural resentment of

a) businesspeople

b) STEM companies

c) corporate elites, and the like

I'm not aware of the resentment being targeted at STEM _people_ per-se, mostly because the people holding this resentment mostly don't know very many STEM people. Inside tech hubs like SF or Seattle there is targeted resentment at STEM people but I think mostly it's because they tend to be boring / not contributing to the community around them.

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The media absolutely seems to resent the tech industry, despite being located across the country in NYC.

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I didn't even know Zuckerberg was Jewish until this post.

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Arguing that attacks on businesspeople are inherently antisemtic is very different from arguing that attacks on bankers are (especially global finance with a focus on stereotypic looking jews). A lot of the criticism of Zuckerberg is similar to the criticism of Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk (most of which is unfair but very different from what Soros gets).

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As someone who thinks that Israel is over criticised, I do believe we have to allow criticism on bankers. Obviously if there are anti Semitic overtones, then that’s different.

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I agree, what I meant is that there are more frequent antisemitic tropes in criticizing bankers that can be used without explicitly discussing the Jewishness of the targets. I was mostly trying to argue that the standard one should apply when considering if an attack on banker is antisemitic is lower than for an attack on business/tech due to its long history of use.

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They both have anti-Semitic roots. I agree with Hnau's point that the Soros and Zuck stuff aren't meaningfully different, although whereas he seems to be arguing "neither is really anti-Semitic," my argument is that both are inspired from anti-Semitism. It's tempting for right-wingers and left-wingers to call out each other's anti-Semitism while ignoring their own side's, but I feel compelled to call out these toxic ideas wherever they appear.

Do I think the average person complaining about Soros or Zuck is an anti-Semite themselves? No, but that doesn't mean the ideas they're consuming aren't. And while someone pointed out that criticism of Zuck was similar to the criticism of Jack Dorsey, I'd argue that a lot of the Dorsey complaints are also based in taking anti-Semitic theories and repurposing them to target a non-Jewish person, similar to the Q-Anon conspiracy theories against Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga. Which isn't to say there aren't valid complaints to be made against *specific* celebrities, politicians, billionaires, etc., but rather that most of the complaints against "elites" as a single monolithic organization with sinister intentions basically amount to anti-Semitism with the serial numbers filed off.

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How very convenient that any language used to criticize the active, ongoing, and completely brazen inequities foisted by THE ELITES upon THE REST OF US is immediately sequestered and brandished as antisemitic or problematic in any other way. How convenient indeed.

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They _don't_ have anti-semitic roots. That's the point. The fact that there is a superficial correlation to previous antisemitic stances has no bearing on the source of the modern stance.

Basically, I hate facebook for reasons that have nothing to do with antisemitism, because that's laughable, and it's offensive and frustrating that ignorant people keep associating my perfectly valid hatred with antisemitism. Please! I hate them for what they _are_ and what they _do_. Stop telling me that I think something I don't!

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What exactly does it mean for a person who is not "an anti-Semite themselves" to "consume" anti-Semitic ideas?

I guess it's possible that anti-Semites might cause negative media coverage of e.g. Facebook, leading to people who don't themselves have anti-Semitic views having negative views of Facebook. Is that what you mean?

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Suppose I hate Nebraskans and I want to harm them. I realize that I'm not going to be able to win people over to that position, but I can win them over to positions that are just as good. Nebraska's top exports are soybeans, corn, 'nuclear reactors, boilers, macinery etc.; parts'(??!); and beef, so I then act as a motivated reasoner, arguing that soy messes with your hormones, we need to eat less corn because it's part of everything you eat, nuclear power is dangerous and meat is murder. (Coincidence thnt those already exist, or has the anti-Nebraska brigade already infiltrated the media?) Independent of the veracity of those claims, my arguments or advertisements or financial support will lead to more people believing them. Those people are consuming my ideas and being turned into my political weapons.

Genetic fallacy applies, I think. But only if the point was "these ideas have anti-semitic roots, and are therefore incorrect," rather than "and are therefore morally/ethically wrong." I personally disagree with holding beliefs based on ethical concerns, but it's not ridiculous- it at least works to tit-for-tat people motivated in the opposite direction, if they exist.

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I really disagree with this. The criticisms of Zuckerburg and Dorsey come down to these people having massive wealth and power, and (in the opinion of the critics) using that power in selfish and short-sighted ways. The personal criticisms of tech billionaires like Zuckerburg and Musk tend to center on them being nerdy, out of touch, or immature.

None of that is rooted in antisemitism. The antisemitic attacks on big business or the wealthy are almost always rooted in the idea that Jewish elites are acting in secret to enact a sophisticated long-term malevolent agenda. That's very different from criticism of tech ceos as bumbling, short-sighted man-children.

With Soros, the criticisms are close to antisemitic tropes. Critics of Soros think that he's funding/behind all sorts of protests, radical organizations, or sources of social instability that he has nothing to do with, and talk about him as a puppetmaster controlling world events for his own purposes.

I say this by the way as a jew who thinks the criticisms of facebook are wildly overblown.

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Soros is hated for excellent reasons. His university is seen (correctly) by the Hungarians as a device to insert a fifth column – creating an elite which will A, operate the bureaucracy and B, be turbo-liberal in a way that's far to the left of the modal Hungarian. Soros himself doesn't even deny this because the rest of the EU (let alone the elites of the rest of the EU) is also far to the left of the modal Hungarian, so he can just admit to doing it and they'll consider him virtuous for subverting the Hungarian people's will and control of their own state. The Judaism doesn't really figure into any of that, it's just a handy stick to whack Eastern Europeans with since they're also much more antisemitic generally than the rest of Europe.

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Orban's main political consultants were Jews, Birnbaum and Athur Finkelstein.

according to this article (which argues that it was deliberate): https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hnsgrassegger/george-soros-conspiracy-finkelstein-birnbaum-orban-netanyahu

The anti-Semitism that sprang out of the Soros campaign might not be too surprising, even if Finkelstein and Birnbaum did not intend it. They imported ancient themes and modern grievances into 21st-century communications technology. What was new: They had turned Soros into their central political enemy.

The allegation that he was responsible for anti-Semitism pains Birnbaum. He just doesn’t see it. He decided to speak primarily because he wants to refute it. He is, after all, an observant Jew and member of many pro-Israeli charities.

“When we planned the campaign,” he said, “we didn’t think a second about Soros being a Jew.” Birnbaum claimed he didn’t even know it back then, and that he never worked with anti-Semites.

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Yes, I've read a lot of articles about Orban the Anti-Semite but there was very little of substance in them. Most of them seem to come down to: "You can just _tell_."

The other argument is that anybody noticing that George Soros is a remarkably rich and effective and energetic political operator is anti-Semitic.

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It seems that anti-semitism is often a claim that falls apart when the details are probed. I'm by no means a fan of Jeremy Corbyn or the hard left in Britain but it feels like they're constantly being accused (by the right) of being anti-semitic, and when you dig in, it's almost always because they criticized Israeli policy.

There probably is some genuine anti-semitism in there too because Corbyn and his clique are pretty open about their classical Marxism, and Marx was strongly anti-semitic. Also Labour rely heavily on Muslim voters and the classical religious emnity can still be found there. But in practice by now I've just tuned these accusations out - disagreeing with the policies of a foreign government or population isn't the same thing as racism or religious hatred.

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Right. When I looked into the many charges of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn, there didn't seem to be much there either.

Britain has a lot of Muslim voters who don't like Israel and hence a lot of Corbyn's allies were Muslims who don't like Israel. But it's inevitable that somebody in Britain is going to build a coalition that includes anti-Israel Muslims.

With British politics, I can at least read the primary sources in English and judge for myself about the charges against Corbyn. But for Hungarian politics, I am largely at the mercy of the biases of journalists fluent in Hungarian and English, so it takes a lot of work to read all the way through articles denouncing Orban for anti-Semitism and notice that they don't quite ever come up with the evidence that they promised in the first paragraph.

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You are a political pundit who focuses on such things as the crime rate of American Blacks. You have suggested conservatives try to label the Democrats as "The black party" or something close to that, with the notion that most Americans would be put off by that. Where I come from such things are considered racist, but I've been made to understand that a claim of "racism" has no bite anymore, at least in these parts of the WWW.

So instead of calling you a racist I will call you a cocksucker. You spend most of your energy trying to stir up anger against the actions of other races in the USA. I've read your blog for years. I've even commented there, before everyone called me a troll for spouting common sense.

So continue to suck cock, Steve Sailer, keep hard at it. I know you will. It's your first love.

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Mindless rage seems to be a common response to being unable to think of rational answers ...

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"You spend most of your energy trying to stir up anger against the actions of other races in the USA."

Is that why he spends so much time talking about how progressive politics often harms black people more than anyone? BLM homicide spikes etc.

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Hey, Jack Wilson, do you realise that intimating that sucking cock is something bad that only bad people do is homophobic?

Seeing as how you're so concerned about racism and all, surely you remember it's all part of the same grouping.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/start-black-lives-matter-lgbtq-lives/story?id=71320450

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I don't need to read personal insults about commenters (or anyone really). It's also against the rules of this site.

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You should have made counterarguments instead of calling your interlocutor a "cocksucker" and bringing up unrelated stuff that you think you can use for character assassination or something. If we had that betting market moderation system, I would wager that the above post gets moderated.

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I strongly repudiate your derogatory comments about sucking cock, which I do not think are in keeping with the spirit of community we wish to foster.

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>So instead of calling you a racist I will call you a cocksucker

Implying that calling him "racist" was even on the table is a self-own. Your mind is totally controlled by the TV and the ruling class. You are merely a pseudo-rationalist. We need to stop letting people like this ruin our discourse. There are 3 major things to watch out for: ignorance of forbidden truths, charity towards the ruling class, and fear of condemnation. This person displays the first 2, probably as a function of the 3rd. See here: https://www.darkrationality.net/index.php?topic=3.0

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Ah, on any specific charge against The Mighty Jezza Himself, this is reasonably true.

For certain values of True, anyway.

The problem that he has, is that since becoming an MP in 1983, he consistently allied himself, by speaking at rallies et cetera, et cetera, with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, and their allies, who explicitly want to wipe out the Jews, in Israel. And did nothing to distance himself from statements made by others, at those rallies.

The other issue, and the more general charge, is that he did nothing, as Party Leader, to curb the more excitable elements within his internal base - aka Momentum - when more overt statements were made, usually on Social Media, AKA, Publicly.

And that is the point that the report into the whole affair made. He just wasn't remotely interested in doing anything about it, and thus did nothing.

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Corbyn opened himself and his party up to the charge by turning a blind eye to allies who were actually antisemitic, and to abuse of Jewish Labour MPs who were protesting that.

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Once Britain admitted a huge number of Muslim immigrants, it was inevitable that anti-Israel voters would become part of one coalition or another.

Personally, I'm a fan of Israel, but I can't figure out any principal under which citizens who are not fans of Israel should be denied political representation.

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The issue, is not necessarily a Muslim one.

Neither is it a problem with "a huge number" of Muslim immigrants.

It's known as "biraderi" and was basically the problem a Senior Labour MP had in Birmingham way back in the late sixties/early seventies. When net immigration to the UK was about a tenth of what it was now.

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It's not a terribly uncommon position to say that being anti-Israel is a form of antisemitism ("new antisemitism", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_antisemitism). The closest I've come to being able to wrap my head about it "having a Jewish state is a part of the core identity of (modern) Jews, and therefore attacks on the (unique) Jewish state read like attacks on Jewishness as a concept." (I should say that I'm nominally Jewish, although in very few ways beyond the "I would've worn a star in Nazi Germany.")

I'm not sure I agree that Israel is an essential part of the Jewish identity, but as long as enough other Jews do, being pro-Israel and being Jewish will be strongly correlated. This doesn't make it impossible to be anti-one without being anti-the-other (anti-Israel without being anti-Jews), but it makes it natural to suspect that both are happening, and hard to prove otherwise. Cf. also how anti-Taliban sentiments are adjacent to, and often devolve into, anti-Muslim ones.

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Criticism of Israel does tend to be excessive. That said Israel does do a lot that’s criticisable, it’s denying the right to exist of the state itself that most problematic to me.

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How can a state have rights? States are figments of people's imaginations. They can't have rights any more than unicorns and dragons have rights. People have rights. States don't.

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I think it's more like "The world's only Jewish state gets a disproportionate amount of criticism, even though many other states act in ways which are objectively much worse, therefore a lot of this criticism is probably motivated by the state's Jewishness."

By way of analogy, imagine a political pundit who devotes a great deal of time and effort to calling out sleaze and corruption among the Democratic party whilst ignoring or minimising similar scandals involving Republicans. I think it would be quite reasonable to suppose that this pundit is to a large degree motivated by political partisanship, even if the criticisms he makes are all individually merited.

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My view is that George Soros is a great man.

But, tragically, he's likely too old to make a course correction now. He may still surprise: e.g., after the BLM Dallas Massacre of cops in July 2016 helped get Trump elected, he switched some of his financing from street activists to more respectable anti-police district attorney candidates, such as the white man who beat the anti-crime black woman DA of Los Angeles in the last election.

Is there any chance Soros will now say now that the record-setting murder statistics are finally out: "Oh, well, my Plan B didn't work either. I guess I didn't really understand crime and criminal justice in America, so therefore I should cut off these anti-police activists I'm funding before we get even more people murdered?"

Maybe. Soros is a very smart man. But it's asking a lot of any nonagenarian.

Clearly, though, it would be a violation of the best that Soros has stood for for the current trend toward abolishing criticism of Soros to succeed.

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You paranoid right-wingers have pretended Soros was controlling politics for the past couple decades. I can remember a time when the Left-Wing Pacifica Radio crowd was really into being anti-Soros.

In truth, Soros has probably had little effect on much beyond the timing of some currency crashes. Yet people like you have loved to use Soros to spread your conspiracy theories over the years.

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"People like you (us)" would like to point out that there is a lot of Soros money sloshing about, not just meddling in currency markets. $16 billion is a tidy bit of influence, including attempting to influence the result of the Irish referendum on repealing the constitutional amendment banning abortion:

https://www.rte.ie/news/courts/2018/0731/982216-amnesty-international/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Society_Foundations

"Open Society Foundations (OSF), formerly the Open Society Institute, is a grantmaking network founded by business magnate George Soros. Open Society Foundations financially support civil society groups around the world, with a stated aim of advancing justice, education, public health and independent media. The group's name is inspired by Karl Popper's 1945 book The Open Society and Its Enemies.

The OSF has branches in 37 countries, encompassing a group of country and regional foundations, such as the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa; its headquarters are at 224 West 57th Street in New York City. In 2018, OSF announced it was closing its European office in Budapest and moving to Berlin, in response to legislation passed by the Hungarian government targeting the foundation's activities. Since its establishment in 1993, OSF has reported expenditures in excess of $16 billion mostly in grants towards NGOs, aligned with the organisation's mission."

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Yglesias has argued that an electoral hurdle the Democrats have is that they are so dependent on non-profits funded by super-rich people catering to ideological preferences far from the median voters. He doesn't blame Soros specifically as the main cause of this, but he does have a particularly low opinion of Sunrise for supposedly being a climate-focused organization but taking radical BLM/police defunding stances for no good reason:

https://www.slowboring.com/p/climate-left

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I agree with this take.

> about what’s basically an accusation that a manipulative Jewish billionaire is responsible for all the political opinions we dislike, in a way contradicted by all the evidence

It sounds like Scott thinks that the that whistleblower trial was about one thing, and that thing was laughably and obviously false, when it in fact it was about a different thing which is totally true.

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"Trial"? What was the charge?

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Ah yes, I see you know your judo well...

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> And WRT to Facebook, where have you seen anyone talking about Zuck being Jewish? The comparison is ludicrous.

Where have you seen the critics of Soros talking about him being Jewish? I haven't noticed this so far, & when I searched for news articles on Soros ( https://archive.is/2021.11.11-070514/https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=george+soros&iar=news&ia=news ) the only people who treated his Jewishness as important were progressives arguing that conservatives' criticism of him is antisemitic (without much of an argument, eg https://forward.com/culture/477059/george-soros-antisemitic-conspiracy-theory-virginia-governor-terry/ seems to assume that any criticism of a progressive Jewish billionaire's political activity must be motivated by antisemitism rather than anti-progressivism or resentment of the rich) & conservatives arguing that calling their criticism antisemitic is unfair.

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My impression is that, deep down, Mark Zuckerberg is a center-right kind of guy, which is why there is so much more organized hate directed at Facebook by big institutions like the New York Times than at, say, Google, the leaders of whom have managed to come across as acceptably center-left.

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No, it's because most people get their news from their Facebook feed now, not from Google News or the traditional media. They hate him because he's been very effective at stealing their lunch.

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OR, it might be because facebook is super incredibly ovbvious brain poison, and everbot relized simultainiously it is bad for society on every metric

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Not any worse for your brain than left-leaning misinformation hives like Twitter, Snapchat, and even Facebook-owned Instagram. Yet elite ire is directed only at Facebook, for obvious reasons.

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Certainly if look at (open or nearly-open) antisemites, they talk a LOT about Soros being Jewish.

Much less about Zuckerberg, but that may just be because hating Zuck is mildly left-codex.

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*left-coded

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founding

Just as a data point, I found out that Zuckerberg was Jewish today, from this comment section.

I already knew Soros was Jewish, but I learned that because people kept calling attacks against him "anti-semitic". The only people I've ever heard mention that he's a Jew are his defenders, and some alt-right twitter types who are trolling so hard that I can't tell whether their anti-semitism is ironic or not. But most complaints about Soros do not come from these people.

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The Kochs are probably the most powerful people in the conservative movement after Trump, having bankrolled candidates and media. If there's a crusade against them it's gone poorly.

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I'd argue the Mercers have been more effective at getting their personnel placed in positions of power, even if the Kochs have been more effective at getting their policy choices implemented.

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Good general point: cf "personnel is policy". (cards on table - I have sneaking respect for the Kochs and unblended hatred for the Mercers)

Depending on how Trumpy the Rs continue to be, plus how much (additional) political power they regain over the next few years, there's a plausible argument that the near future (5 years?) on the American Right is going to look far more like Mercer than Koch.

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I had to update my priors on the Kochs when I found out how much they fund criminal justice reform efforts. They say they are libertarians, and by this they are demonstrating intellectual consistency, rather than the more usual tribalism.

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> WHAT US crusade against the Koch brothers? Kicking out the Soros-funded university was state action. What state action has been taken against the Koch Brothers?

Quoting this for emphasis, because the second paragraph is partially drowning it out. If distinguishing between state and private action as fundamentally different in kind is the greatest lesson of libertarianism, glossing over the distinction when inconvenient must surely be its greatest sin?

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I agree, this point deserves much more emphasis.

I'd say we can distinguish at least two dimentions of difference.

1) State/private action

2) Degree of centralisation of the action.

The distinction between highly and lowly centralised actions can be as dramatic as between state and private. Actually, I suspect that most reasons due to which we are worried about state actions comes from heuristic that state actions are easier centralizable.

It's annoying how conservative narrative aknowledges the difference between state and private actions when it's convinient and glosses over the distinction when it's not. But it's even more annoying how it totally ignores the centralization of the action. As far as I'm concerned, comparing "crusade against Koch brothers" and kicking out Soros university is bad for both of these reasons.

Actually, it's not just annoying. It's concerning. Nowdays real dictators love blurring the lines between low-medium harm low-medium centralisation private actions (cancelling) and high harm, high centralization, state actions (murder and imprisonment of political opponents).

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If elites control private institutions and other elites who are ideologically in agreement with the first group also control government, and they get their way through brute force power, I'm not sure I'm seeing such a strong distinction.

I'm thinking specifically of the coordinated shutdown of Parler, when it was the #1 downloaded app in the US, and very specifically was coded as conservative. A group of elites (tech companies) coordinated to shut it down. The appeals process for them to complain (antitrust, breach of contract, whatever claims they may have had) would have to go through other elites who may have had ideological ties to the first group.

While it wasn't state action against Parler, it still bothers me a lot how that happened. It bothers me in a similar way to if it were state action, because the state (and press, and other elite powers) showed indifference to the situation that I doubt would have happened in reverse if it were a left/liberal company getting shut out. If you read up on the specific accusations against Parler - that they were fomenting insurrection, violence, terrorism - that was clearly false. They banned posters for inciting violence, and reported it to the FBI, the same as Facebook. They repeatedly reported the coordination of activities on January 6, while shutting down those conversation.

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> I'm not sure I'm seeing such a strong distinction.

There might need to be a recalibration of effects here - it isn't very pleasant to be ostracized from polite society, but you know state power isn't trying particularly hard so long as your house remains unexploded. *That's* the scale a monopoly on force operates at, and the fact that we can take for granted that won't happen is a foundational victory for the distinction.

> A group of elites (tech companies) coordinated to shut it down. The appeals process for them to complain (antitrust, breach of contract, whatever claims they may have had) would have to go through other elites who may have had ideological ties to the first group.

You know Parler was back online barely a month later, right? That's freedom of association in action: one web hosting company chose to stop doing business with them, and they were able to find a replacement in short order. Where exactly do you think state power ought to have intervened?

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Parler was shut down entirely for a month. Can you imagine if a group of companies conspired to shut down Facebook for an entire month? That wouldn't feel like a short timeframe to anyone. How many companies, including giant ones like Google, Apple, and Facebook, could survive an entire month offline? You think that's small??

More importantly, what happened after the one month was not that everything was back to what it had been, they just got new hosting so they could literally communicate with the internet again. They were still blocked from the major distribution networks (Apple Store and Google Play). They were effectively killed off as an alternative social media service. Nobody literally burned down the CEOs house, but he did lose his job, Parler lost some major funders, and most of their user base. Why bother with burning the house down at that point?

I will admit that I'm not a contract lawyer or antitrust lawyer, but both of those avenues seem like pretty obvious options. How does all of the major tech players (Apple, Google, and Amazon) literally conspiring to shut down a company not create an antitrust issue? An FBI interested in pursuing that angle would find plenty of evidence. Microsoft got a major antitrust case against it for much less (prioritizing their browser over competitors, in Windows systems). Microsoft lost that case.

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>You think that's small??

Compared to how the US government deals with its actual enemies? Well, can you see the crater in satellite imagery? I'm not being hyperbolic - you're really not giving the scale of force state actors can bring to bear the respect it deserves.

Parler was and still is in a business largely focused around monetizing outrage. They did this with a nonexistent contingency plan for what might happen if they became a reputational liability for their service providers, and got burned when they had to figure out a backup on the fly. That's the system working as intended in the course of private business, and legal recourse is available in the case of actual violation of rights. And as it turns out...

>I will admit that I'm not a contract lawyer or antitrust lawyer, but both of those avenues seem like pretty obvious options.

...those avenues were tried, and Parler lost decisively because its actual case was lacking. What plays well in the media is not the same as what the law actually is, and freedom of association trumps entitlement to web hosting services.

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I'm not sure we have to care about the difference between state and private action. What action of *any* sort has been taken against the Koch brothers? Various academics have tried to campaign against Koch-affiliated organizations and think tanks, but those organizations and think tanks haven't actually been stopped in any way that I'm aware of.

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I happen to agree that the Kochs are not being public or privately acted against in the way that we are talking about here. I didn't respond to disagree with that, but to make a point that certain kinds of private action can be very detrimental, to a point where it's similar to state action.

What we care about with state action is that something bad happened, and there is no recourse. If private action happens, but there is recourse (criminal or civil court, private causes of action, take your business elsewhere without serious repercussions, etc.), then that's much better than state action that provides limited or no recourse. Even many state actions have recourse, though, including voting for alternative leaders and law suits. Which is worse, then, becomes a matter of particulars, rather than a blanket that says "state/private is always worse." I am more worried about state myself, as a general rule, because it has the potential to go much further. Potential becomes meaningless if the state isn't trying to hurt you, but private organizations are. The Pinkertons were private, but terrible, for instance.

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Agreed.

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> WRT to Facebook, where have you seen anyone talking about Zuck being Jewish? The comparison is ludicrous.

There is a strain of thought that worries about Jews having too much control of what it's acceptable to say in public; I'd be pretty surprised if Mark Zuckerberg didn't get called out there.

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The immigration numbers people were raising to say that overstays are the real problem are also now very outdated. People were quoting 2016 and 2017 numbers; the first person to comment on it quoted the following article, which said there were 410,000 overstays - https://apnews.com/article/illegal-immigration-archive-immigration-cb7493650af7e1a06f6eeaf9628ecf7a

Year to date, there have been over 1.7 million encounters (not total immigrants - just those "caught"!) at the Southern border. People are vastly underestimating how quickly this has changed under Biden and how severe the situation at the border is, and thinking that overstays are the real problem in the current situation would betray deep ignorance of the facts. Source for the numbers, straight from CBP: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-land-border-encounters

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Yup, and further to the visa situation, think twice about it and you realize that it has nothing to do with opposition to illegal immigrants who were not screened. "They're not sending their best" wasn't about people who overstayed visas. My impression is that more than the border wall, the knowledge that the US government fully intended to catch them and send them back was more effective than a completed wall might be

I think Republicans should get really creative with Latin American immigration. Create an "American Dream" immigration side system that allows South and Central Americans to enter a lottery that allows as many immigrants in legally as have traditionally entered illegally. Design the screening process to greatly reduce the pressure on low income Americans in the job market. Suddenly all the new arrivals think you're the great guy who let them in, they aren't systematically depressing the low wage job market and nobody has a clue on God's green earth why the liberals ever thought it was good idea to choose for a similar process to happen illegally in a manner in which either it's too dangerous to be humane to the immigrants or too safe and easy for drug dealers and even terrorists to try to enter the country. An America with a large legal, Republican friendly, socially conservative influx of Latin Americans. MAGLA!

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At least for Mexican citizens, I would submit that program already exists: the TN visa. Did you know that in order to immigrate legally to America, all you need is a US job offer and a Bachelor's degree within any of a broad range of fields? There's no numerical limit to how many people can enter on TN visas; any Mexican citizen with a degree and a job offer can apply at a consulate. It was created by NAFTA, and was left wholly intact by Trump's USMCA.

Expanding TN status eligibility to other Central American countries is an intriguing idea, although the brain drain effect might be serious, I don't know. Either way, that would be a complement, not a substitute for border security, which Democrats will keep demonizing Republicans for demanding. No way around that.

But the interesting thing is that Hispanics aren't a monolith, and increasing numbers of them support border security. The Democratic line that border security is code for anti-Hispanic racism seems to be wearing thin, and Hispanic voters (i.e. citizens) often resent being lumped in with illegal immigrants. So if Republicans can keep the focus on policy and not racial categories, they can still win on this, even with Hispanics.

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> Design the screening process to greatly reduce the pressure on low income Americans in the job market.

No screening required - simply allowing the illegal immigrants to enter legally would mean that they get the benefit of minimum wage laws, meaning they're no longer undercutting legal workers on price.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have already planted their flag firmly on the side of "increased immigration means letting more Democrats into the country," so good luck getting them to support it.

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I understand that a majority, not a plurality, and not just higher than in the past, of Latino/Hispanic voters supported the Republican for governor in Virginia. The switch may already be underway, and Republicans may already be leaning that direction. An interesting note is that a significant portion of the Hispanic voting population is against illegal immigration as well, quite strongly. I've heard it's a majority, but I'm sure it depends on definitions. If true, simply legalizing the currently illegal immigration is still a bad idea. Making people apply to come in, even if the approval criteria is much easier to pass, is still a good idea for Republicans.

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Where did you get the idea that a majority of Latino/Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia? The first source I found shows that 66% of Latino/Hispanic voters supported the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia: https://www.cnn.com/election/2021/november/exit-polls/virginia/governor/0

Perhaps there are some well-known corrections to apply to the initial exit polls, or there is some other source that you're relying on?

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Interesting. I found this Politico report that says polling was inconsistent and the actual numbers may be different than reported. I must have heard one of the poll results that showed Republicans winning with Latinos, but others showed different.

Pretty deep dive if you are interested: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/04/latino-poll-virginia-youngkin-mcauliffe-519425

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Interesting! I had heard there was a lot of confusion, but just thought it was people indirectly reporting the same numbers, and getting confused about whether the number they were indirectly reporting was a relative increase, or an absolute majority. But it looks like there are several sets of numbers that actually show conflicting claims here!

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> "Orban won almost all districts. There is no gerrymendeing that can explain that."

I'm not quite sure this commenter understands how gerrymandering works. (Winning almost all of the districts can be achieved with a little less than half of the vote, even less if you're competing with more than one other party.)

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Yeah that statement is so ridiculous. Orban won almost every district when his party only won 44% of the vote in 2014. I think gerrymandering exactly explains that! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Hungarian_parliamentary_election

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Are you imagining a two party system? With multiple parties running serious campaigns in a first past the post system, it doesn't require gerrymandering for a party with less than half the votes to win many more than half the districts.

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Interesting point. I was looking for analogous elections from Western European democracies to compare it to but only the UK comes close in leading party vote share. Orban got 44% in 2014, in pretty much every multiparty democracy in Europe the leading party tops out at 35%. The exception is the UK which seems to have regressed to essentially a two party system (with regional exceptions).

It doesn’t seem like there are any healthy democracies in Europe/North America that are dominated by a single party to the extent that Orban/Fidesz dominates Hungary.

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Wait a minute. Is the problem here that Fidesz won almost every district despite not getting enough votes, or is it that he got so many votes that of course he won almost every district? Your two comments appear to take both of those views.

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I think that both appear to be problems. Fidesz winning as many districts as they did with >45% does seem to be weak evidence for gerrymandering. Additionally, a single party winning as high a share of the vote as Fidesz in a multi party system is not typical of a fair democracy.

I think the problem here (as alluded to by Scott) is that Orban/Fidesz have thoroughly captured the system to tilt it in their directions, all the while being relatively popular.

While no ~one~ change is enough to entrench their power, as a whole the result seems to be thoroughly undemocratic.

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(I made mistakes in my original comment; I deleted it and updated it here. Sorry to OP who might get two mails.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2014_Hungarian_parliamentary_election_-_Vote_Strength.svg does not look like a crazy gerrymander, at least for the bulk of the country. Outside Budapest, there were only two districts won by the competition, and each district votes in generally the same way as its neighbors.

Inside Budapest, there's a better claim to gerrymandering, but the opposition runs in basically a stripe down the center of the city, north to south. There are a few things that look weird, enough to maybe get a few more districts that would be "fair," but not enough to overturn popular will.

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The fact that orban gets such a consistent 40-70% in every district is highly suspicious. Party vote share usually is not evenly distributed geographically so we should expect the minor parties to have strongholds where they are the majority (at least more than 2 districts outside Budapest).

Even if the districts weren’t gerrymandered, the amount by which orban won would be highly atypical of a well functioning democracies. People elsewhere are blaming it on the opposition’s inability to coalesce into a single coalition, but the only other places where I see that happening is under autocrats like Putin or Lukashenko.

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> The fact that orban gets such a consistent 40-70% in every district is highly suspicious.

If you are alleging vote-counting fraud, say so.

But getting 50-60% in one district and getting 50-60% in another region next door is the opposite of suspicious. He wasn't cramming all his opponents into one district.

> the amount by which orban won would be highly atypical of a well functioning democracies

There were more than two parties. 44-27-20-5.

Clinton got an uncharacteristically low percent of the vote, too, but there's a really good reason for that.

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Find me another example of a multiparty democracy being won by a single leading party with >40% of the votes and a majority of seats without needing to form a coalition. I genuinely can’t find an example of this outside of autocratic countries (and Hungary).

All functioning democracies seem to either be two party systems or multi-party coalition governments, whereas Hungary is dominated by a single party with scattered opposition.

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The UK is technically a multiparty democracy, albeit with 2 distinct major parties, and the fact that those minor parties exist absolutely results in spoiler effects and parliamentary majorities won with comparable vote totals

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The Uk is a good counter example. As an outsider I have a hard time understanding the role that the libdems or UKIP play where they get significant vote shares but negligible representation while the real competition in between Labour/tories plays iut

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The ideal strategy for gerrymandering is to start drawing districts so that each district has just enough of your voters to secure a victory. Below a certain threshold of voters, that means that in the remaining districts the opposing parties will win by an unusually high margin. Above that threshold, however, you have enough voters to secure every district, or nearly every district. So in such cases, you draw districts to artificially reduce the variance in how districts vote. You don't want your opponents to win a district just because it happened to have enough of their votes in it, so you adjust the boundaries to bring it back into line with the others. If you have enough votes to pursue this strategy, then you probably would have won the most seats anyway. But it could help you get a majority government instead of a minority one.

So how do we tell if there was gerrymandering? The golden test would be to compare the results to what we'd get if the districts were drawn according to some reasonable algorithm that tries to make compact districts. If the two sets of results differ significantly, then we know there was something fishy going on.

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Call it the Demagogue Book Club! Orban, Modi, and Erdogan are all similar as leaders of populist-right parties who got elected in democracies with majorities large enough to start changing constitutional rules, and doing so substantially with the goal of changing the country's culture and entrenching their own power. All three continue to run states where opposition parties are real and win important posts (all three capital cities, in Hungary, India, and Turkey, are run by the opposition), and in Hungary and Turkey recent polling suggests the opposition is favored to win the next serious election. (But not in India). There are countries where you could not release a poll suggesting that the incumbent is about to lose (for instance, Belarus is mentioned in this very piece): those are dictatorships. (Or where elections are just not held at all, as an Iran).

On a different note, a question for Hungarian readers, why is there a substantial population of Hungarian voters that remains devoted to Ferenc Gyurcsany? I noticed that his wife did really well, but lost, in the opposition primary earlier this year, which amazed me. I can't believe that anyone would remain devoted to this guy -- even if you think his tenure as PM was a huge success, which boggles the mind, at this point he's lost so many times that you'd have to think his supporters would move on. (I guess this phenomenon sometimes happens with former leaders who never give up on trying to return to power -- there's a Saakashvili cult in Georgia too which keeps Kartuli Ocneba in power -- but I'm interested in hearing more about the Hungarian case. Preventing this sort of thing might be a good argument for term limits, on top of all the others.)

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Iran for Supreme Leader, that is -- obviously Iran does hold elections for other positions, like President, but in Iran the real power is held by the Supreme Leader and he's just chosen by his predecessor like Roman Emperors or Mexican Presidents during the dedazo period.

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Iran is unique in that the Judicial branch is supreme over Executive or Legislative (Vilayat-e-Fakih, rule of the jurisprudent). The Supreme Leader is inherently a (Shia sharia) judicial position.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran is notably influenced by the Ayatollah Khomeini's fascination with Plato's "Republic."

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+1 for "demagogue" as a term that encapsulates the series. It's not perfect (I keep wanting to say things like "authoritarian populist", which as a near-oxymoron speaks to how hard this category is to define) but it has the right flavor.

Just going by media takes, my impression is that Putin, Bolsonaro, and Duterte are all fair game for the series. If Scott is interested in the mechanisms of demagoguery and not just the current right-wing wave he might also consider Chavez (as the featured comment mentioned) and maybe Morales? I'm not very well-informed here, just brainstorming.

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Daniel Ortega, the leftist Sandinista leader of Nicaragua, is coming under a lot of attack by the Biden Administration, rather like how he was also a bete noire of the Reagan Administration way back in the 1980s.

On the other hand, the right wing countries of Central America, seem to extrude more immigrants to the U.S. than leftist Nicaragua, so I don't know what to think about him.

One possibility is that people who get elected to multiple terms (e.g., Ortega was El Supremo from 1979-1990 and from 2007 to the present) tend to have been the right man at the right time during their first term. But as the years go by, the times tend to change and they decline in abilities, which offers a good reason for term limits.

Orban, who is still only in his 50s, appears to be unusually ideologically flexible.

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Is Ortega still leftist? The things I've read (admittedly, none very detailed) say that he has undergone some sort of metamorphosis from a populist leftist demagogue to a populist rightist demagogue (sort of like if Mao and Xi had been the same person).

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Completely off-topic, but mentioning Georgia makes me need to share this link once again - song first heard in the Werner Herzog remake of "Nosferatu" and absolutely gorgeous:

Tsintskaro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3pTaSe4c-s

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Ooooh, I like that. And so far, whatever it queues up afterwards for me has been good too!

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How about the Caesar book club? The 'dictator' voted in when the romans got sick off all the red-blue BS. (it might have been blue-green in Rome.)

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I think the Hungarian fertility deal (which is genuinely a pretty decent increase but from a terrible base) ties in with the fundamental and paradoxical antinatalism of conservatism/authoritarianism. Cultures that value having a ton of kids tend to have decent birth rates, and for Complex Reasons tend to be conservative, but on a broad scale conservative/authoritarian cultures tend to do a lot worse than their peers -- compare the "bad" TFRs of the West to the "holy shit are you going to die right now" TFRs of the developed East (and indeed often the underdeveloped East, North goddamn Korea is sub-replacement), and particularly note the tendency of wealthy nations with strict gender roles/expectations to have even worse situations than those without them. The most nightmarishly low fertility rates are in places like Singapore and South Korea, which fall into a cross-section of significant wealth, cultural conservatism, and political authoritarianism. Western Europe does poorly; Eastern Europe does even worse.

In the case of Hungary's natalist policies, this ties in with cultural conservatism's narrow band of acceptable family structures. Hungary offers free fertility treatments -- unless you're single, over 40, or non-heterosexual, which is to say, unless you're a significant proportion of the people seeking fertility treatments. From a natalist perspective, kicking huge swathes of people begging to have children out the door is lunacy.

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For high fertility and high tech in the 21st Century, there's basically Israel, a polity so right wing that when Bibi Netanyahu was finally kicked out he was replaced by a new Prime Minister to his right, and nobody else.

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The fertility is mostly in the Haredim population, though, and they are almost as under-represented as Israeli Arabs in the high-tech scene. Much of that is because in Israel the IDF hold the same role university has in the US, that's where contacts and friendships are made, and both Arabs and Haredim are largely excused from military service, although that is starting to change for the latter due to resentment among secular Jews.

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The Israeli government subsidizes a breeding reserve in the ultra-Orthodox population, which helps explains why Jews had a higher Total Fertility Rate than Arabs in Israel in 2019 at 3.05 babies per woman lifetime compared to 3.04 for Arabs. Nonetheless, even secular Jewish women have replacement-level Total Fertility Rates, which are well above any other advanced country.

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Are there other policy reasons for this, or is this a siege mentality in action, or something else?

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"The fertility is mostly in the Haredim population"

Not true.

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No. There are breakdowns by religiosity and even secular Jews in Israel have a TFR well above replacement. See e.g. https://www.taubcenter.org.il/en/research/israels-exceptional-fertility/:

> Among Jews, the TFR among Haredim has fluctuated around 7 children per woman since the 1980s, and around 2.5 children per woman among the secular and the traditional who identify as not religious. However, Haredi fertility in the 2007 to 2013 period was lower than in the 1990s, while fertility in the non-Haredi Jewish population has increased since then.

> Even among Jewish women who self-identify as secular and traditional but not religious, the combined TFR exceeds 2.2, making it higher than the TFR in all other OECD countries.

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<i>In the case of Hungary's natalist policies, this ties in with cultural conservatism's narrow band of acceptable family structures. Hungary offers free fertility treatments -- unless you're single, over 40, or non-heterosexual, which is to say, unless you're a significant proportion of the people seeking fertility treatments. From a natalist perspective, kicking huge swathes of people begging to have children out the door is lunacy.</i>

They're a significant portion of those seeking fertility treatments, but a pretty insignificant portion of people who might have children.

As for the conditions attached to getting fertility treatment, presumably Orban doesn't *just* want more people, but more people who will grow up to contribute meaningfully to Hungarian society. Since children from single-parent families are more likely to fall into crime and delinquency, and children of homosexuals are hardly likely to espouse the kind of socially-conservative values Orban wants to promote, it makes perfect sense not to try and make more of them.

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"We need less of the people I don't like" is obviously in tension with "we need more people".

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Very few people see increasing the population as an end in itself -- instead they want more people because they think their economy would be stronger with more workers, or because more people means more soldiers to defend the country with, or because they think it would benefit society in some other way. Increasing the population with people they don't think would benefit society defeats the whole point of the exercise.

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If the point is natalism, then yes, denying fertility treatments to a significant number of people asking for fertility treatments *is* lunacy.

It's only if the point is a certain kind of eugenics, where the *right* people reproduce, that limiting fertility treatments makes sense.

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<i>If the point is natalism, then yes, denying fertility treatments to a significant number of people asking for fertility treatments *is* lunacy.</i>

Did you even read what I said? The "point" is strengthening the country; natalism is just a means to that.

<i>It's only if the point is a certain kind of eugenics, where the *right* people reproduce, that limiting fertility treatments makes sense.</i>

I would submit that this is an instance of the Worst Argument In The World. Not offering someone government-funded fertility treatments is so far from what people normally think of as eugenics (forced sterilisation programmes and the like) that giving it the same name obscures more than it illuminates.

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South Korea is politically authoritarian?

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It used to be quite authoritarian, and still retains some aspects of it.

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My understanding is that South Korea has been basically a normal democracy for a while now.

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I'll ask you rhetorically to define "normal" in that case.

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They've had peaceful transitions of power. What's authoritarian about it now?

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Authoritarian is not the same thing as refusing peaceful transition of power, though there is overlap there. Heavy-handed government control, even if the government leaders can change, is still authoritarian.

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It's still very culturally traditionalist and conservative, like Singapore and Japan, even if it's politically more like Japan than like Singapore.

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A conservatism grounded in conscientiousness and being a high earner / productive member of the economy is going to be absolutely devastating to fertility, especially if your economic growth is concentrated in high density areas.

But bear in mind that european countries have fertilities that mix the immigrant and native population. Without disaggregation the biggest explanatory difference between the two areas is that there aren't large muslim populations in Japan/Korea

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The Amish seem to be high in conscientiousness. They aren't especially high earning, but they don't believe in our welfare state and are above a minimum level of productive.

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I should have said "...is going to be devastating *in a modern/postmodern environment*"

The Amish "economic model" doesn't involve striving after high paying white collar work in high density, high cost of living metros, that also involves schooling people into their early twenties or beyond (and the associated student loan debt).

Formal education ends at a much younger age (8th grade IIRC) at that point you're in an apprenticeship and the typical Amish individual is getting married in their early 20s.

And obviously having social expectations where family formation is seen as part of rather than ancillary to what it means to be productive (or more generally being a good person) will both socially nudge people towards family formation as well as repelling the society as a whole from shifting towards practices that directly disincentive family formation.

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"Before we get there: I interpreted the paragraph Richard quotes as claiming that, if a teacher or doctor protests Fidesz or Orban in their spare time, as part of the normal exercise of their rights as a citizen, they can get fired or otherwise see their career suffer. That doesn’t seem to me like the government exercising control over the bureaucracy, that seems like a nightmarish escalation of the “cancel culture” that both Richard and I are against. In fact, this is an unusual but kind of compelling argument for directionally privatizing education and health care; if the government controls the hiring, promotion, and firing process for people in education and health care, that makes it harder for people in those fields to stand up to authoritarian regimes."

This argument has been made by libertarian intellectuals for many decades. Typically in the context of arguing that undermining "economic freedom" also undermines "social freedom". As well as a general critique of central planning: obviously in the Soviet Union, the government controlled all media and industries and thereby could silence people even without actually arresting them.

I don't have specific page numbers at the ready, but I'm almost certain it would include von Mises, Hayek, Milton Friedman, certainly an implicit point in Ayn Rand's fiction... I think I recall hearing a lecture on this specific point by George Reisman.

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That would just make the private enterprises censorious. Socialists actually had to fight for free speech in workplaces - joining unions or having union meetings on site etc.

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Still an improvement; private enterprises' scope of control is far narrower than the State's.

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Per my comment below, I do not believe that is true w.r.t. First Amendment law in the US. Private enterprise has fairly broad rights to fire employees for their off-hours speech in ways public employers are bound not to.

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All they can do is fire you, which a public employer could also do (the "bound not to" is a restriction the State imposes on itself, and it could reneg at will). But the latter can do many more things to you; I'd say that qualifies the former as having a more limited scope of control.

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All they can do is destroy your livelihood.

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A rather melodramatic description of losing one job; still pales in comparison to what a State can do to an individual.

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> All they can do is fire you, which a public employer could also do (the "bound not to" is a restriction the State imposes on itself, and it could reneg at will)

In the general case, I reject this particular framing: even if only considering strictly legal mechanisms, it makes no sense to treat the State as a unified actor capable of rewriting its own strictures at a whim while denying any private influence on the same.

In the particular: exactly how many public employers are capable of "reneg[ing] at will" on *the First Amendment*?

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In the general case, any public employer outside the USA. We've got a pretty sweet setup here (for the time being, at least), but the State v. private power question transcends the circumstances of a particular time & place.

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> Orban himself calls his regime an “illiberal democracy”, which seems as fair a description as any. Technically people vote, and probably the elections are even mostly fair, but things are rigged enough behind the scenes that it’s really hard for the elections to matter.

This doesn't sound like what Orban or his allies mean by "illiberal". They see liberalism or lack thereof as primarily a property of society / culture not formal institutions. Roughly speaking, to be "illiberal" in this sense means to adopt social / cultural norms that tilt toward a specific vision of a good way to live, rather than aiming for some form of neutrality. For example, when "the illiberal left" is used as a synonym for woke cancel culture it doesn't imply any agenda to repeal the freedom of speech, only an agenda to bake the promotion of certain political views into social norms.

This is, admittedly, confusing because "liberal democracy" does historically mean a liberalism of formal institutions (bills of rights, universal suffrage, nondiscrimination rules, etc.). But taking advantage of fuzziness in such terms is nothing new in politics. Whether or not Orban intends to subvert Hungary's system of democracy I'm confident that's not what he means to convey by the term "illiberal".

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Yes, my impression is that Orban is using "liberal" not in the constitutional or economic sense that John Stuart Mill used it, but in the cultural sense that Spiro Agnew used it.

But, I don't know.

That's a general problem with opining about current events in Hungary: Hungarian is an extremely foreign language.

Over the years, I've written a certain amount about Turkey, another country with a non-Indo-European language. But one general theme I try to emphasize is that Turkey is pretty opaque to me (and most other Americans).

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I don't think anyone is arguing that Orban is a great guy or that everything he has done has been hunky-dory, but he does raise a very pertinent question about "what do we mean by 'democracy'?"

Because when people are talking about how they don't like what he's doing, and how illiberal it all is, and yet it does seem to be what the majority of Hungarian people want, we are coming dangerously close to "We don't like how you govern your country so you better change or else we'll invade and force regime change on you".

Military interventions or economic sanctions or even just international law proceedings (and as I understand it, the USA doesn't hold itself bound by the jurisdiction of foreign courts) may be necessary tools to save people from a tyrant - but is Orban a tyrant? Or simply a Hungarian strong man who is giving the populist line to the people as they ask for it?

Are we afraid he is going to be another Mussolini or Franco or Salazar? If he only was Franco or Salazar, would we be reassured?

Are we going to tell the Hungarian people (and again, this is what Poland is opposed to the EU about) that "So long as you pass laws that we like as liberalisation, we won't have anything to say about how you do it, or undemocratic methods, or using the courts instead of legislation, or foreign money coming in from abroad. But if you don't match up with our current views on social justice/culture war issues, then we very much feel free to tell you what to do and how to do it"?

I don't want to defend Orban. I don't even want to defend a lot of what is going on as "conservatism". But I am uneasy about "unless you bring your country up to the socially liberal standard we think it should be at, we will call you a dictator, your regime illicit, and claim all kinds of bad things are happening".

It seems democracy is only real democracy if it chimes in with what a certain level of technocrats/elite/however you want to call them want and like. If the people will not vote according to how we deem they should vote, let us dissolve the people!

"After the uprising of the 17th June

The Secretary of the Writers Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?"

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Franco came to power as a military leader during a civil war, rather than via being elected.

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And we can all agree that is indeed being a dictator. But if coming to power via being elected under a democratic system is also being a dictator, then what kind of dictator is Orban? Hitler-type or Franco-type? Because if it's a choice of the lesser of two evils, I think everyone would prefer Franco-type.

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As someone I follow on Twitter once said, when journalists talk about democracy being in danger, by "democracy" they usually mean "liberalism".

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Your fondness for this sentiment exemplifies the cancer that currently threatens to destroy this country, and it's been spreading like wildfire since the trump experience. And it is reflected here routinely and breezily with the lazy notion that if people elected an authoritarian then that's simply the people's will, and really it's such a thin line between democracy and dictatorship, isn't it?

All of this softening toward authoritarianism is as dangerously shortsighted as the populist embrace of hitler in the 30s.

Here's the bottom line that should never, never be dismissed or minimized: It simply does not matter how many people such as Michael Flynn have a hard-on for authoritarianism, since there is precisely one way to make our country "illiberal."

To drastically amend the Constitution is an intentionally extremely difficult thing to do. The Constitution overrides any fickle "will of the people." If it is undermined, as trump did, and clearly the vast majority of the GOP is willing to continue doing, THAT is what will destroy democracy in this country. It's not just an abstract political problem, it is the utter violation of our deepest-level social contract.

This rotten and corrupt sentiment is reflected by trump's insistence that since everyone knows he's the best president ever there simply cannot be accountability to other branches of government or the Constitution. The logic is disgusting when coming from a loudmouth at the end of the bar, but it's downright dangerous when acted out by an entire political party who thinks stoking a violent insurrection with the intent of halting government proceedings and then cracking down on "antifa" with martial law is just a dandy strategy. More please!

So this is what you flirt with, Mr X, when you belittle Liz Cheney et al for defending democracy. You are contributing to the flippant anti-Constitutional attempt to shift the Overton Window so that increasing numbers of Americans grow suspicious of democracy itself, as if it were just another partisan issue.

If you think democracy here has grown too inefficient or whatever, then you can either join the struggle again McConnell-style obstructionism, or you can devote your life to changing the Constitution -- legally. Or, of course, you can move to Russia. Extra-legal subversions, however, must not be tolerated.

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Case in point. SCOTUS inventing constitutional rights to abortion and gay marriage apparently doesn't count as subverting democracy, but Trump sounding off represents "a cancer that threatens to destroy this country".

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I absolutely think we should be worried about authoritarianism, but that includes soft authoritarianism.

The Supreme Court of the USA in a close decision (5-4) over-rides states to make gay marriage legal, and the President and Vice-President drape themselves in rainbow flags, and everyone gets tingles down their legs about how wonderful such ruling the country from the bench is:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges#/media/File:Celebrating_a_new_America_-lovewins_58242_(18588276403).jpg

But when the Supreme Court tilts to conservativism, then it is a dangerous threat to Mom and apple pie and Something Should Be Done:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/21/supreme-court-legitimacy-conservative-justice-step-down

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"The logic is disgusting when coming from a loudmouth at the end of the bar, but it's downright dangerous when acted out by an entire political party who thinks stoking a violent insurrection with the intent of halting government proceedings and then cracking down on "antifa" with martial law is just a dandy strategy."

Obviously the Capitol Kerfuffle was stupid, and the people whose responsibility it was should have forseen it as a reasonable possibility and beefed up security to prevent it happening. But I find it very difficult to understand the position of someone who gets het up about that first and foremost, while not even *mentioning* the far more destructive summer-long 'insurrection' egged on by blue team demagogues. I mean - if you're a blue team partisan, fair enough, you're going to be more well-disposed to rioters on your side than rioters on the other side, but you'd think that such a position ought to be defended, rather than just assumed.

(Though I am quite drawn to Anatoly Karlin's argument that the reason January 6th was seen as worse than the BLM riots is that the BLM rioters destroyed the property of peasants, whereas the Capitol rioters trespassed on the property of the elites).

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Was there any attempt to subvert the electoral process in the summer of 2020? If the point is about challenges to electoral government, then it makes sense to focus on the riots that sought to overturn an election rather than whatever events may have involved more people doing something else the year before.

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I will grant you that that is one aspect on which you could consider the Capitol events worse than the BLM events (though don't forget that Antifa poured a lot of effort into attacking the federal courthouse in Seattle; they just had a lot less success in actually getting inside) - though I would note that probably most of the people there thought that they were there to try to *prevent* the ratification of a stolen election (and yes, Trump stoking the fire on that one was a terrible idea) - but is it also worth bearing in mind that the scale of the destruction was nowhere near the cumulative chaos caused by the combined efforts of BLM and Antifa over the summer - figures vary but there seems to be broad consensus that the insurance costs will be over $1B, before you get to the people directly killed in the riots (something in the ballpark of 30, as far as I can tell), compared to ... well, just the one verifiably killed in the Capitol, and she was shot by a cop ...

... and *that's* before you even get to the several thousand incremental people killed in murders above the base rate from the previous year, in a spike which did not seriously get going until after the 2020 riots started. Obviously that's less certain, but it is at least plausible that there was something of a 'Ferguson Effect' whereby to the degree that protesters were successful in getting police to withdraw their presence, they emboldened would-be murderers to go and start shooting.

So all in all, I'd say that in terms of *symbolic* harm to a sacred totem of American democracy, sure the Capitol riot was worse, but in terms of actual damage caused to actual people and property, and to the fabric of civil society, the 2020 riots were at least in the same ballpark, and I find it hard, like I say, to imagine how anyone can be *so much more* upset about the former than the latter.

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Democracy is when the people vote correctly. Or in the case of the Irish, again. Voting wrong is undemocratic.

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> For example, what about a country that elects an autocrat once every four years, the autocrat can do literally whatever they want, and then they stand for re-election (or not) on the strength of their accomplishments.

Isn't that essentially the french system post-De Gaulle?

Relevant post on a substack on french politics that I've been following for a while: https://lacampagne.substack.com/p/camembert-president

Key quote: "France is a monarchy that undergoes a succession crisis every five years, by way of an election. "

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I thought of that post too. Importantly it seems that the legislature is sufficiently powerful to block changes to the rules.

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In general, the U.S. has way more checks and balances than other advanced countries. For example, the British parliamentary system, the most influential of all political models, evolved to give England a strong and nimble government that can get things done in a hurry.

As an American over the years, I've been amazed by the British Prime Minister's power, such as over regional entities. For example, Margaret Thatcher got annoyed at the leftist mayor of London, so she simply abolished his office. Tony Blair redrew the ancient county lines of England.

Projecting American norms of checks and balances as the only possible meaning of "democracy" is provincial.

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Yes, but Blair also engineered devolution, which is why Scotland and Wales now have different COVID policies to England.

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My impression is that United Kingdom nationalism was doomed by the UK being represented by four different soccer teams in the World Cup.

But the idea that, say, Derbyshire and Essex (or whatever they are called now that Tony Blair is done with them) should have local autonomy is foreign to the English.

England was socially constructed over the centuries to be a non-regional polity: e.g., the elites have been sending their sons for a very long time to a small number of national boarding schools such as Eton and Harrow. Hence, at the top of the English class structure, there have long been no regional accents, in contrast to the way that graduates of Dartmouth vs. William and Mary once had identifiable regional accents in the U.S.

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England was ruled by rival branches of the same royal family as France for centuries, and that family had very strong centralizing instincts in both countries. Civil society was stronger in England and more able to push back, but both are very centralized compared to Germany or Italy, the other big Western European nations.

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My impression is that England, which centralized in the 10th Century, evolved as Europe's first nation-state in order to beat the hell out of France (and then other European rivals like Spain and Germany). Eventually, other parts of Europe figured out that they need to centralize upon a similar or larger scale to stop being pushed around so much by the English. But England was the straw that stirred the drink of European nationalism.

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That's complicated by the English being ruled by a set of successful invaders from France (the Normans). Their policy (at least later on) was to stir the pot in Europe enough so that they wouldn't be successfully invaded again.

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As far as I can tell the thing you mention about redrawing county lines and abolishing mayoral offices etc. is simply because of the fact that the UK (and its constituent countries) is a unitary state and not a federation. It has this in common with almost all European countries, sans a few (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, B&H and Russia). This is simply a result of what a unitary state is: not a collection of lesser entities that also have rights and privileges of their own, but the sole state power in its territory.

When a subnational body of government exists in a unitary state -- such as the UK, France, the Scandinavian countries, etc. -- it does so solely because the existence of that body achieves some goal of the central state, such as easing administration (the traditional reason, from back in French pre-revolutionary times), meeting the demands of citizens who desire increased self-government or because it believes that locals make better decisions on matters of non-national importance. Unitary European states do this very frequently -- often iteratively through successive governments, but sometimes by grand reforms. As an example, the Norwegian government recently considerably reduced the number of counties and municipalities by merges, despite large majorities in many counties/municipalities being unhappy with the merges, simply for greater ease of administration and budget savings.

(The case of the UK is, of course, a bit more complicated -- in one sense the UK looks more like a federation now than it used to, but in some other sense Scotland isn't any different from a typical European autonomous region like the Basque Country, which could absolutely be dissolved if the central state found it useful to do so. In the end this is all a bit of a sliding scale -- the UK can't end Scottish devolution because it would make the incumbent government extremely unpopular, but does that actually make Scotland something else than a subdivision of convenience like in any other unitary country? After all, the US federal govt *could* dissolve a state or merge it with another, but it would likely have to send in the army to do so. Scotland could probably be dissolved without involving any armed forces, just some police to handle protests.)

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Right, so it's informative for Americans to remember that things we take as essential to democracy, such as checks and balances and central vs. regional governmental institutions, aren't considered essential by many reasonably sophisticated European countries, even among our own forebears in England.

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Well, my impression is that you are using this as an argument against the necessity of checks and balances -- while the European argument would be that having non-fiat regional government doesn't have much to do with checks and balances. It's important in the US because you have a certain conception of the states being the foundation of the Union, but if you don't have that then checks and balances only at the level of the central state are just as good.

Second, you argue that because the UK doesn't have much in terms of checks and balances, they aren't actually necessary in a democracy. Well, my knowledge on this is admittedly not very detailed, but it seems to be true that it has less than most comparable countries -- although slowly gaining more (e.g. SCOTUK). To be honest, I don't necessarily disagree. However, although I may be misreading you, you seem to chalk the UK's being a reasonably well functioning democracy despite having few checks and balances down to a history of the elites sending their kids to a few central boarding schools (and similar centralization efforts) with the result being that the people atop the class system are similar and able and willing to cooperate in running the UK.

I think this should be generalised into what I mention briefly in another comment: a properly functioning, non-kleptocratic and mostly non-corrupt democracy is possible (and in the modern era when democracy is the leading ideology follows) when the elites are competent and not strongly antagonistic, the members of the general population mostly trust each other and are not divided into factions with contradictory interests, and there's way into the elite. Further details are less important. The UK is weaker on the last point (has a stronger and less penetrable class system) than many other democratic nations, which gives it some peculiar/unfortunate properties. The US is strong on the third point but is getting weaker on the first two points. Hungary lacks all three.

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I've got to admit, that when "redrawing ancient county lines" got mentioned, I have actually no idea what he's on about. Rutland? The division of West and East Sussex? The Hundreds? Mayoral Offices? Sod all to do with Blair.

It was a Blair administration that attempted to re-create Mayors in certain areas. They got voted down in several places.

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Also those lines date back to the time immemorial of 1974. They've

often been tinkered with since they became a modern administrative unit in the 1880s, and for good reason.

What would Middlesex council even do?

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"For example, Margaret Thatcher got annoyed at the leftist mayor of London, so she simply abolished his office."

The Comic Strip was a bit too pleased with itself, but it did a very funny parody called "GLC: The Carnage Continues" about Ken Livingstone and the GLC:

"GLC: The Carnage Continues" is an episode of the British television comedy series The Comic Strip Presents... broadcast on BBC2 in 1990. It parodied a Hollywood telling of the 1980s takeover of the Greater London Council by Ken Livingstone and the subsequent disbanding of that body by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, re-imagining the story as a Charles Bronson / Sylvester Stallone-style action movie."

Complete with soundtrack song by Kate Bush!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8q3Q2JIJQQ

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OK if you are going to call somebody who does nothing that is not legal at the time a "dictator," what word are you going to reserver for a Mao or Stalin? Someone who has people dragged off in the middle of the night and murdered in secret? Who sends tens of millions of people to concentration camps to starve, or executes the Holodomor, the Great Leap Forward?

I don't think this is a trivial issue. If you don't draw a very bright line between violence and non-violence (if nonviolence that is sleazy in all kinds of ways), you end up crying wolf so much that you reduce the psychic defense people have towards *real* dictatorship. You alienate a bunch of people who *don't* find your "dictator" a dictator, because you're calling them a bunch of dictator lickspittles. You're helping fray the social fabric, if only a bit, because you're magnifying a political dispute which is still, at this moment, being settled by peaceful means, and implying it bears no sharp and meaningful distinction from differences that *are* settled by violence. By de-emphasizing a common agreement on that bright line, you help blur it, erase it, so that we cannot count on *everyone* -- however pro- or anti-Orban, say -- from pulling together to resist the lure of the genuine psychopath, the Mussolini who promises to stop all this squabbling and make the trains run on time, breaking a few eggs on the way to that nice omelet to be sure.

I think words matter, when they become widespread and sloganish, and if you're helping spread the idea that a guy like Orban, unpleasant as you (or I) may find him, is not really in any qualitatively different class than Joe Stalin or Idi Amin, this is not helpful, and people with a long view, and an awareness that we cannot take a peaceful resolution of our differences as some kind of God-given natural right -- who are aware it is quite possible for those differences to end up with genuine bloodshed, if we cannot agree on a few Marquess of Queensbury rules about moderating our language -- are right to push back against it.

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Good argument. I was of the opinion that calling it "Dictator Book Club" is close enough for the blog's purposes, we get the idea from the reviews' content, but you've changed my mind. Echoing the "Demagogue Book Club" suggestion from an earlier comment.

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A better term would be "Dissident Book Club:" Orban dissented in 2015 from the globalist position adopted upon a whim by the German Chancellor, yet one foreordained by the zeitgeist (as predicted in Jean Raspail's 1973 dystopian novel "The Camp of the Saints", that of course Europe should import a million military-age Muslims.

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I'd be happy with "Autocrat Book Club" as it would enable me to smugly reference "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" as another Autocrat book 😀

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Autocrat_of_the_Breakfast-Table

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"Dissident" is an appropriate term for someone who has not achieved formal political power. It is no longer an appropriate term for someone who has achieved formal political power. At most you can call them a "former dissident".

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Certainly not „Demagogue Book Club“, as some here propose. As if they resented people rejecting „woke“ teaching and electing „demagogues“ instead. Why not „Elected Strongman Book Club“.

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strongman

noun

a leader who rules by the exercise of threats, force, or violence

How's this supposed to be different from dictator? Demagogue is also bad of course, all politics is demagoguery for the most part, so calling some politician that doesn't say anything meaningful other than that you dislike him.

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It‘s different because it does not specify absolute power, whereas „dictator“ does. And what I get, on merriam-webster.com/dictionary, is not that anyway, but „one who leads or controls by force of will and character or by military methods“.

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I agree words mean things, but if you use the word "dictator" to mean "people who order dissidents to be dragged off and killed", the phrase "benevolent dictator" (which has been around for a while in the context of discussions) no longer seems to make much sense? To me at least.

I don't think the word "dictator" means "someone who rules with violence" and I haven't observed that this is the common agreement of the definition. From my understanding, "someone who rules a country in such a way so it is impossible for people to remove them from office (except by assassination)*" is the common agreement of the definition and Scott seems to be using it.

(* this is a sloppy phrasing because I'm writing this in a hurry, I realise it e.g. doesn't exclude monarchies, which it should, but I hope it gets the idea across regardless.)

Caveat: I live in Germany. I don't know if this is a cultural difference in word usage. I just wanted to speak up because your argument for using-words-correctly really chafed against my existing understanding of the word, and it might be valuable to you as a data point.

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Agreed. I would define "dictator" just based on its surface level: someone who dictates. A dictator is any leader who can enact pretty much whatever policy they want without meaningful checks and balances.

This isn't necessarily incompatible with democracy- it seems plausible to me that Hungary is both democratic and a dictatorship.

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Is it enough that they *can* enact any policy, or do they have to actually go about doing so in some meaningful way? There are certainly governments with weak checks and balances, such that the leader can make significant changes. Not all of them do so, though.

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I would say that it still counts even if they don't exercise their power, although I would say that a strong enough tradition of not exercising the theoretical powers of an office might be enough of a check to keep that office from necessarily counting as a dictatorship.

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It seems as though your "strong enough tradition" has made it ambiguous enough and created a large enough caveat that you could drive a train through it.

A brand new government with the exact formulation of the UK's Parliament would count as a dictatorship in your framing, even if they only enact policies in line with that major Western democracies would have accepted as normal.

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It's not clear to me that that's a bad thing. These terms are inherently fuzzy and deciding a government counts as a dictatorship doesn't mean you now fully understand everything about it.

If your new government holds dictatorial power and doesn't have a track record to judge by, that's reason for concern even if they're not doing anything unreasonable at the moment.

Also remember that it has to be a single person to count as a dictator. Just because a majority in Parliament can do what they want doesn't mean the Prime Minister can (although it may if the PM has strong enough personal devotion from a majority of MPs).

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The Queen of England is still officially a dictator. However, tradition has made it clear that if she ever chose to use her dictatorial power, there would be an instant coup and her Prime Minister would just declare themself the actual formal leader and remove her dictatorial powers. Thus, she has checks and balances on her power, despite the formal dictatorial powers she might theoretically still have on paper.

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Adjectives/modifiers can change standard aspects of a noun's definition.

For example, sandwiches normally have bread on the top and bottom, but an "open-face sandwich" or a "knuckle sandwich" does not.

In the same way, "dictator" suggests various negative things, but "benevolent dictator" does not. This does not mean that dictator shouldn't be expected to be bad, it just means that adjectives/modifiers can be subtractive, not just additive.

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Reminder that all laws everywhere are ultimately backed by the threat of violence. If you break them, men with guns come and force you into a cage. Or they fine you, and if you don't pay, men with guns come and force you into a cage. Or they try to garnish your bank account, and if the bank doesn't comply with that order, eventually men with guns come to the bank and force somebody into a cage.

Whenever anyone votes, he's deciding how to exercise violence against his compatriots, not whether to.

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This is a nice idea under old and traditional forms of government. But I believe there is a possible alternative. In a rich, modern state, you could enforce many laws just by cutting off subsidies rather than actually threatening to lock anyone in jail. If everyone gets a $10,000 basic income, but that basic income is garnished or revoked if you violate minor laws, then we no longer need men with guns to force you.

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Presumably that wouldn't work on anyone paying more in taxes than they get in basic income.

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