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#4 (both parts) is activating my old-school Jeffersonian anglophobia like you would not believe.

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If you follow the link you'll see the guy got 18 weeks jail. While in my view nowhere near enough (especially given he came back to assault them a second time), the guy did in fact get jail.

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Suspended sentence means he didn’t actually have to go to jail.

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Ah. I'd missed the suspended bit.

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It's pretty messed up. Given it's the UK, I honestly wonder if the perpetrator went to the same private school as the judge or something like that - the UK business and political establishment feels so incestuous.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

You're correct that the UK's judicial and political establishment is incestuous - but no, this has got nothing to do with that. Judges have very limited control over sentencing - they're following pretty tight guidelines. And sadly, the problem of repeat violent offenders receiving light or non-existent sentences is not limited to scumbags from the upper classes.

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Yep, this is it. Here are the ABH guidelines for reference:

https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/magistrates-court/item/assault-occasioning-actual-bodily-harm-racially-or-religiously-aggravated-abh/

This looks like either a low-ish 2B, with either a 25% or 33% reduction for a guilty plea. That puts it under 2 years, where the default option is that the sentence is suspended.

Also, with these numbers more generally, you only serve half of any sentence under 7 years, and for any sentence under 4 years you get released on tag.

The whole system is designed to keeping the public (a majority of whom support hanging) happy with long-sounding sentences, keep liberals happy by pretending you’re rehabilitating people, and cost nothing to run because everyone pleads guilty and no-one goes to prison (yet still with the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe).

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

There’s not much negotiation in the UK, as the prosecution has in theory little role in sentence, and in practice basically none. There are just fixed % reductions to your sentence if you plead guilty:

First hearing in the magistrates’ court: 33%

First hearing in the crown court (everything starts in the mags): 25%

Day of trial: 10%

If the US sentences more harshly than the UK, I suspect it’s down to elected judges and lack of awareness of social class. Everyone in Britain knows 90+% of our crime derives from fundamentally unreformable underclasses whom it’s kind of hard to blame for their actions as they have no real moral agency (it’d be like punishing an escaped tiger for eating someone) and are too thick/impulsive to be deterred, so you just have to learn to live with them. Americans either don’t grasp this or round it off to racism (African Americans have a proportionately larger underclass), so they treat crime as if it had been committed by their next door neighbour.

I don’t know for sure that the US is harsher, once you factor out third strikes and mandatory minimums. My vague sense of how much worse US crime is bigger than the gap in incarceration rates.

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I find it interesting that you feel that the adoption of the mindset that "90+% of our crime derives from fundamentally unreformable underclasses whom it’s kind of hard to blame for their actions as they have no real moral agency" and "are too thick/impulsive to be deterred" would necessarily lead a society to support more *lenient* sentencing. It's true I wouldn't morally judge a tiger for eating somebody, but I'd also want to make damn sure it was never able to set foot outside an appropriate holding facility again.

In the US context the people I meet who want more lenient sentencing seem to largely base that position on their belief that most criminals are inherently reformable in ways that make incarceration counterproductive, and/or are only criminals in the first place out of desperation/accident of circumstance. That's basically the opposite of what you put forward as the UK perspective on criminality.

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" too thick/impulsive to be deterred"

They can be deterred by the same conditioning you give an animal to make it behave, but since they are humans (idealist position)/those who could apply the deterrents are too squeamish (cynical position), we don't inflict the kind of punishment on them that would serve as a deterrent.

Cue Chesterton:

"It is quite tenable that the doctrine of necessity makes no difference at all; that it leaves the flogger flogging and the kind friend exhorting as before. But obviously if it stops either of them it stops the kind exhortation. That the sins are inevitable does not prevent punishment; if it prevents anything it prevents persuasion. Determinism is quite as likely to lead to cruelty as it is certain to lead to cowardice. Determinism is not inconsistent with the cruel treatment of criminals. What it is (perhaps) inconsistent with is the generous treatment of criminals; with any appeal to their better feelings or encouragement in their moral struggle. The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, “Go and sin no more,” because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment."

We don't put people in boiling oil any more, for various reasons. But I think writing off a large swathe of people as having no more moral agency than a man-eating tiger is the wrong solution, and it is dangerous for society in the long run to shrug and accept it.

It's certainly true that there will always be a hard core of people who don't have any kind of notion of belonging to human society or of any duties to others, or restraints on themselves, and whose only consideration is gratification of their impulses, desires, and appetites, and unconcern with the effect on others. You can see this most clearly in the underclass, so-called, but it's not confined there.

Abandoning people to a state of feral nature, under the guise of doing away with restrictions because humans are naturally good and if we make allowances for circumstances, then people will grow up with the virtues and disciplines needed to live in a community just out of natural instinct has been a terrible ideal. Once again, it has mostly been something that percolated from the upper and middle classes of society, where there is the practice of families teaching their kids not to be savages, or if they do turn out savages there is enough money and resources to deal with that (use family influence and connections to help them avoid jail time, pay off and/or threaten those injured by them, pack them off to rehab or discreet private mental hospitals and clinics, if all else failed send them abroad as remittance men), and those attitudes percolating throughout social reform, mixed in with diluted Marxism in theory taught in academia, and finally impacting on the bottom classes. Take discipline out of schools, engage in "values-neutral" education, remove things like prison sentences, emphasise "it's society's fault" and "you have rights and the world does owe you a living". 'Oh the parents will teach them' - no, the parents aren't teaching them, either because they don't have the tools or they are the results of this feral upbringing themselves.

And it wasn't wholly wrong! It was a reaction to overly harsh conditions, where people *were* being punished for being poor - again, another Chesterton example:

"Now here is an actual instance, a small case of how our social conscience really works: tame in spirit, wild in result, blank in realisation; a thing without the light of mind in it. I take this paragraph from a daily paper:—“At Epping, yesterday, Thomas Woolbourne, a Lambourne labourer, and his wife were summoned for neglecting their five children. Dr. Alpin said he was invited by the inspector of the N.S.P.C.C. to visit defendants’ cottage. Both the cottage and the children were dirty. The children looked exceedingly well in health, but the conditions would be serious in case of illness. Defendants were stated to be sober. The man was discharged. The woman, who said she was hampered by the cottage having no water supply and that she was ill, was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment. The sentence caused surprise, and the woman was removed crying, ‘Lord save me!’”

...I here challenge any person in his five wits to tell me what that woman was sent to prison for. Either it was for being poor, or it was for being ill. Nobody could suggest, nobody will suggest, nobody, as a matter of fact, did suggest, that she had committed any other crime. The doctor was called in by a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Was this woman guilty of cruelty to children? Not in the least. Did the doctor say she was guilty of cruelty to children? Not in the least. Was these any evidence even remotely bearing on the sin of cruelty? Not a rap. The worse that the doctor could work himself up to saying was that though the children were “exceedingly” well, the conditions would be serious in case of illness. If the doctor will tell me any conditions that would be comic in case of illness, I shall attach more weight to his argument."

But the end result has been that the hard core of "fundamentally unreformable" have been let run riot, because nobody wants to impose their values on them or interfere or go back to the Bad Old Days, and the results are plain to see. More are allowed to sink or swim on their own ability, and not given any guidance or discipline. They have the seeds of moral agency, but those seeds are not cultivated or helped to grow, and so people are left floundering between the messages disseminated by the media, and the results of living with the unreformable.

Schools are meant to be all kinds of everything, not just education, and they can't do that. Social workers in the main won't interfere because that's not the model they've been taught. So we get absurd cases where children are being actively abused even to the point of death, but somehow fall through the cracks even though allegedly the family is being visited by social workers.

I'm not suggesting that the simple solution is to turn back the clock and go back to some idealised view of how things used to be, but writing off a chunk of society as, basically, animals raises questions. We can't simply "learn to live with them" because if they are no more than animals, then we treat them - how? The same way we would if a pack of dogs were roaming around the neighbourhood, attacking people and rummaging in bins and being destructive and dirty?

As it is, we get the worst of both worlds: neither the ability to deal with the public nuisance as we would if these were animals, nor the changes of trying to ensure the next generation does get raised as humans, not beasts. If you can be impulsive and aggressive like a dog attacking a person, then you should be dealt with like an aggressive dog, not permitted to roam around attacking people, knocking them down, and stamping on their heads. If we consider you a human, we should hold you accountable to human standards. Which is it to be? Because the current halfway measure is not sustainable long term.

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I think you should replace "Everyone in Britain knows" with "I personally think".

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"Everyone in Britain knows 90+% of our crime derives from fundamentally unreformable underclasses whom it’s kind of hard to blame for their actions as they have no real moral agency (it’d be like punishing an escaped tiger for eating someone) and are too thick/impulsive to be deterred, so you just have to learn to live with them."

If this were true then it would obviously be much better to get rid all of the tigers than learn to live with them. Each tiger has massive negative externalities and you have the power to stop those negative externalities. Some combination of:

1. lifelong incarceration of chronic offenders (perhaps in VR pods on utilitarian grounds)

2. penal transportation to somewhere they can be useful

3. spaying and neutering to reduce the stray tiger population

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I think it's worth keeping in mind here that the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, so the more sensible framing is probably not "why are UK incarceration rates so much lower than in the US?" but "why are incarceration rates in the US higher than everywhere else?"

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Not having much prison space is major factor , too.

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Yup. Knife possession worse than drunk driving? Saying mean words online worse than shoplifting? Saying mean words in person worse than bike theft or *upskirting*? Give me a break.

This chart convinces me that the British public is tough on crime *in all the wrong ways*. Anarcho-tyranny, essentially.

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'Possession of a knife' in this context isn't 'I own a butterknife', it's 'walking into a club with a kitchen knife hidden in your jacket'.

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Knives are the go-to weapons for violent criminals in the UK, so I've never really understood why so many Yankeelanders think it's obviously absurd to stop people carrying them around. Like, are they seriously under the impression that British law forbids people from keeping and using knives in their own homes?

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I have definitely encountered Americans on the Internet who think that British knife laws are stricter than they really are. Though I've also encountered Brits in real life who think that too!

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Just so people have them:

You’ll get six months for having a knife in a public place without a reasonable excuse (decided by a jury, but you’ve got to prove you’ve got the excuse on balance of probabilities).

It’s illegal (recently) to have certain kinds of knives in a private place (eg at home), specifically “zombie knives” and samurai swords); there’s not yet a sentencing guideline so your sentence will basically be random but the maximum penalty is a year. It’s a summary offence in England, so no jury.

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But... is anyone who doesn't care that it's illegal to stab people going to care that it's illegal to carry a knife?

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Yes. It's much easier to arrest someone for carrying a knife (stop them, search them, oh look, a knife, you're nicked, chum) than it is to arrest them for stabbing someone (which is a rare occurrence even in the most stab-happy neighbourhoods, plus the cops tend not to be there to witness the actual stabbing). Mild but likely punishment is a stronger motivator than harsh but unlikely punishment.

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Can the police really just stop someone and search them for no particular reason in England? Among us unwashed colonials, the police are obliged to have an articulable, based on more than "he looks suspicious to me" feeling, that someone is up to no good before they can detain and search someone.

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I think a lot of Americans - presumably because guns are more available here - just don't instinctually put a locking blade pocket knife or filleting knife in the category "weapon". Which on the one hand is silly, people get killed with knives in the US too. But I carry a knife that would see me arrested in the UK every day, and use it frequently, and never would have felt the need to think twice about it. If I wanted an actual defense tool I'd carry a handgun.

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Data point: I once walked across Oxford with a six-inch kitchen knife held openly in my hand to see what would happen. Nobody arrested me, or even noticed. That was twenty years ago, but knife-crime panic was a thing then too.

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

Let's be blunt here: you can also tell by appearance who is likely to be carrying a knife for a legitimate purpose and who is the shady type using it as a weapon. Profiling may be a naughty no-no thing, but the chance that a respectable looking guy is carrying a knife because he's heading out to cut a bitch is much less than the scowling ne'er-do-well in a hoodie.

We had a case here recently where a 17 year old was sentenced for a murder carried out when he was 14. He went out, with a knife, looking for people to rob. He accosted a woman walking home, demanded money, and when she said she had none, stabbed her in the neck which led to her eventual death. That's why knife crime is considered serious in the UK and here:

https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/courts/2023/02/20/teenager-sentenced-to-life-for-murder-of-urantsetseg-tserendorj/

"The accused, who was 14 years old at the time of the offence and cannot be named because he is a minor, had denied the murder of Ms Tserendorj but had pleaded guilty to her manslaughter on January 29th, 2021. He was found guilty of her murder by a jury last year following two trials. The first trial ended with a jury disagreement.

Ms Tserendorj was stabbed in the neck on a walkway between George’s Dock and Custom House Quay at the IFSC, Dublin on January 20th, 2021, after the teenager attempted to rob her.

...At a sentencing hearing last year Detective Sergeant Brendan Casey said both of the teenager’s parents were chronic drug addicts. His grandmother gave evidence of him becoming involved in the abuse of drugs from an early age.

Det Sgt Casey said that the teenager had 31 previous convictions, including two attempted robberies and five robberies, one production of an article, one assault causing harm, and a number of drug offences.

...On the same night as the murder, the teenager attempted to steal a phone from another woman, Tayo Odelade. Det Sgt Casey said she resisted and swore at him, to which the teenager said he was only messing. Ms Odelade replied that he was not messing and again cursed at him. He got offended and said: “That could have been a lot worse for you.” He then took out a knife from under his jacket which she said was about five inches long. She apologised and he put the knife away and left.

The teenager was also charged with an incident that occured in a Spar shop on O’Connell Street at 5.30am on the same date. Det Sgt Casey said the teenager went to the till with sweets behind his back and said to the shopkeeper: “I have a f**king blade, what are you going to do about it?” Another employee arrived and the accused left the shop, but as he was leaving, he said: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

Now, it's undeniable that he came from hard circumstances and was only a minor, but on the other hand - if he had been put into a juvenile facility after the 31 previous convictions, maybe he wouldn't have been out to kill this woman (be it manslaughter or murder) at the age of 14-15.

It's not the guys walking around with kitchen knives, or having a pen knife in your pocket, or tradesmen, or people with legitimate reasons to have a knife in their possession at that time, that are the reason for people having opinions about sentencing.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

I'd be interested to know how they recruited their sample - the poll is published in the right-wing Spectator magazine, so it's possible it's biased conservative. Also worth noting that knife crime is constantly demonised in the British press, so probably survey participants are interpreting it as "going equipped to stab someone" rather than "walking around with a knife for some legitimate reason". IIRC the law in the UK is that you can carry a non-locking penknife up to 3" in length without having to give a reason, and a longer or locking knife if you have a good reason to do so (which is left up to the discretion of the police, so I expect is enforced much more stringently against some people than others), but switchblades, gravity knives and butterfly knives are illegal to carry for any reason. But even though the penknife in my EDC is within the terms of the law (no doubt a deliberate choice on the part of the drafters and the manufacturers), I still occasionally meet people who are surprised it's legal for me to carry it.

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What defines a "locking" knife? Most folding knives are designed so it requires some additional action to close them, for obvious safety reasons.

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From https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives (so an official source, but not the actual text of the law): "have a button, spring or catch that you have to use to fold the knife". So yes, the knives you're thinking of are illegal for EDC in the UK (that page is talking about English and Welsh law, but Scottish law is similar). They're not illegal to own, or carry if you have "a good reason" - I own several myself, and don't hesitate to take them out of my toolkit if I think I might use one - but I can carry my non-locking Swiss Army knife routinely in a way that it would be illegal to carry my locking Leatherman. Which is annoying, but I can see how a locking mechanism would also make a knife more useful as a weapon.

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I can think of a lot of legal things that would be more effective weapons than a pocket knife with a 3" blade that locked.

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Sure, but a knife or "possession of an article with a blade or point" (such as a sharpened screwdriver) is easier to conceal in a pocket and try to explain away. And if you're 10 years old and need something to threaten others with, or even feel that you need it for self-protection, then a pocket knife with a 3" blade is possibly the only/easiest thing for you to get your hands on.

Statistics and reports here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/knife-and-offensive-weapon-sentencing-statistics-july-to-september-2022

From the Excel spreadsheet for year ending September 2022:

Possession of a knife or offensive weapon offences resulting in a caution or conviction by age group

18 and over, total number of offences: 15,355

18 and over, offences resulting in immediate custody (this is the most severe of the various penalties): 5,348

Aged 10-17, total number of offences: 3,463

Aged 10-17, immediate custody: 217

As seen from the Irish murder case, the risk is the 14 year old petty criminal/thug grabbing something from home to go out and threaten others with in order to rob. Somebody older/smarter could indeed use "a lot of legal things that would be more effective weapons", but someone older/smarter might not be out on the streets mugging and robbing corner shops.

18 and over:

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Oh, absolutely - I'm not claiming that UK knife laws are perfect, or even particularly sensible. But I can see at least some rationale for why they're written that way.

FWIW, I think the safety benefits are somewhat overstated - in thirty years of carrying a non-locking folding knife I don't think I've ever cut myself that way, and certainly not seriously. But I'll happily agree that a lock eliminates a whole class of possible failures.

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I think one thing to keep in mind is that because Britain has strong gun laws, most of their violent crime is committed with knives. It is a bit of a different context than America.

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So after they get rid of the knives, what's next, banning sporting equipment like golf clubs unless you can prove you've got a tee time booked at a registered course?

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

I was going to say "don't be silly", but actually the history of our gun laws shows exactly this kind of slippery-slope trajectory. But really what it would take to ban golf clubs would be a tabloid panic about EPIDEMIC OF GOLF CLUB BEATINGS ON OUR STREETS, BAN THIS SICK FILTH. Because tabloids can drive voters here, and hence politicians pay attention to them.

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

If you see a bunch of inner-city youth suddenly walking around carrying a single golf club in their hands on the streets, then yeah - it's more likely than not these are going to be used as crude weapons rather than heading off to the local pitch-and-putt club.

(Before anyone jumps on me, no, "inner-city youth" is not the American euphemism for "black kids". We have plenty of 100% white thugs and wannabe gangsters over here).

You're coming at this from the angle of "Well this is plainly silly, I regularly carry around items with me that would warrant at least a caution under these laws, and I'm no criminal!"

Exactly. You're *not* a criminal, you are not (let us hope) planning to threaten a shop keeper or a random person on the street that you will stab them if they don't hand over money, or you're not on your way to attack someone you had a fight with.

Remember the shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant? A terrible mess all round, and likely to have resulted in a death no matter what the police did. And in its wake, there were idiotic tweets (quickly pulled) by people about "teens have been fighting with knives for ages, no big deal":

Valerie Jarrett, the former Obama administration adviser, offered her idiotic notion, echoed by many others.

“A Black teenage girl named Ma’Khia Byrant was killed because a police officer immediately decided to shoot her multiple times in order to break up a knife fight,” Jarrett tweeted. “Demand accountability. Fight for justice. #BlackLivesMatter.”

“Teenagers have been having fights involving knives for eons,” tweeted Bree Newsome, a prominent defund-the-police activist. “We do not need police to address these situations by showing up to the scene & using a weapon against one of the teenagers. Y’all need help. I mean that sincerely.”

And a 13 year old girl was killed by another 13 year old girl in a similar stupid row:

https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/crime/2022/10/19/judge-girl-who-fatally-stabbed-friend-during-fight-guilty-of-murder/69574640007/

"A girl who was 13 when she fatally stabbed her friend in the neck during a fight is guilty of murder and felonious assault, a Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge ruled Wednesday.

The fight happened April 19, 2021. Both girls were 13 at the time and had been best friends for several years, Judge Kari Bloom said in a five-page written decision."

So it's understandable to see these kinds of laws as absurd over-reach - what next, will they ban sweeping brushes? - but there's genuine reason for being wary of teens going around with knives, and that's what the cautioning etc. for possession of knives/items with blades or points is all about. Try and stop them before they get to the point of using them. Discourage them from going around with such items. There's all too many cases of "X and Y got into a fight, X went home and grabbed a knife and came back after Y/X got a knife as protection and then later when Y jumped X, X stabbed Y", even where there is not intention to use the knife for criminal offences.

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Anything that's carried with intent to be used as a weapon is something you shouldn't be allowed to carry, because weapons are for hurting people and you shouldn't do that.

Yes, establishing intent can be a bit complicated, but it's worth it. A gang of people with one golf club each roaming the streets at night is a different situation from one person taking a golf bag to a golf course and back.

Maybe proving you've got tee time booked is a bit much (I don't know how golf courses work though tbf) but if the police think you look like you're carrying a weapon, they can ask you which golf course you're going to and what your address is and check you're at least plausibly on the way.

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Weapons are also for defending oneself, and, as evidently that prison sentence; the state sure ain't gonna do that for you.

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The state can, however, make it much less likely that the other guy is armed, reducing the likely severity of the outcome.

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

Yeah no. I most definitely am going to hurt someone -- with as final and brutal a weapon as I can lay hands on -- if they are a threat to me or my family. And fortunately I live in a jurisdiction where the right to defend myself like that is considered a right the state cannot abridge for its convenience.

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They're more likely to be a danger to you and your family if they're carrying weapons though. Raising the stakes doesn't make you safer.

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Drunk driving is a weird American obsession - I’m with you on the other two because they shouldn’t be crimes, but I’d give the knife guy a much harsher sentence than a drunk driver.

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Depends on what exactly the knife guy is doing, but I'm A-OK with treating drunk driving harshly.

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I always thought the opposite -- Americans are ridiculously lenient on drink-drivers.

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Well, we drive pretty fast. On my way to work if I want to blend with the traffic flow I'll set the cruise control to 80 MPH.

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Mar 12, 2023·edited Mar 12, 2023

Merely having a knife is not inherently dangerous. Drunk driving is inherently dangerous to life via increased risk of accident (and in particular, multiple-vehicle accident, which can kill nonconsenting strangers).

Very much doubt that Cody would consider *menacing* someone with a knife less bad than drunk driving. But if I walk around all day with a longsword on my back, I don't see where this harms anyone.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Knife possession because gun crime, though increasing, is not at the American level yet. A thug or weaselly little scumbag who, in America, would have some kind of gun, in Britain is more likely to have a knife. It's why the British police wear anti-stab vests:

https://www.police-life.co.uk/products/do-you-have-the-right-body-armour-for-the-job-a-guide-to-the-different-vests-available-for-police-officers

"For many in the Police, stab proof vests will be the most basic protective equipment required. This is not because they are commonly used, but because they are the most common weapon available. Unlike elsewhere in the world, firearms are very rare in the UK and the majority of Officers are unlikely to face firearms. However, there are sadly a number of instances over the past several decades of Officers being killed with firearms, and even though crimes involving firearms make up only 0.2% of all recorded crime*, the threat still remains, and some may wish to have protection against firearms."

*(This is in 2014 so for 2023 doubtless that figure is now higher).

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> Knife possession worse than drunk driving?

Turns out memes about loicenses are quite real.

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An idle thought I've had: the free speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights were apparently of little value in the 19th-20th centuries. During most of this time, an Englishman could quite plausibly call them an overreaction -- the unwritten constitution works just as well or better for securing our ancestral English freedoms!

It's only in the 21st century, when His Majesty's Government will apparently punish you more harshly for saying mean things on Twitter than stomping on women's heads, that the value of the Bill of Rights has been made fully visible.

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founding

But also parliamentary supremacy, so their bill of rights can be amended by a simple majority of (essentially) a single house. The UK might as well be unicameral. It's my understanding that when the unwritten/common constitutional and administrative law of the United Kingdom conflicts with statute, the statute always wins. I have some reservations about judicial review (and I know that the UK is attempting to institute it), and I don't think the de facto judicial supremacy we have in the USA is ideal, but parliamentary supremacy strikes me as even more misguided.

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It’s not just that - any law passed after it which contradicts it, because it’s just an ordinary law. It doesn’t restrain parliament, or reflect how other laws are interpreted.

This, ironically, is about the only thing the Bill of Rights actually does. It never gave people many rights if any, the main one being that Protestants can bare arms appropriate to their station (still basically the law, minus handguns).

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There are three major lines of defense in the British system. The first is the self-restraint of Members of Parliament, where the decline to vote for tyrannical measures out of genuine belief in freedom and democracy and out of a sense that it would be wrong to vote against fundamental constitutional norms. The second is the good sense of the voters to vote against politicians likely to be tyrannical in office and to disincentivize bad behavior by being likely to punish it retrospectively at the polls. Together, these seem to work better than I would expect, although I'm guessing it's the second of those doing more of the heavy lifting.

The third and final line of defense is the monarch's reserve powers. The King has de jure power to absolutely veto any legislation, fire the PM and cabinet at will, prorogue Parliament, and forbid Parliament from even debating a measure that would infringe on the Crown's prerogatives. Apart from the last of these (King's/Queen's Consent, not to be confused with Royal Assent), these are by convention either newer used or used only on the advice of the government. And trying to use them arbitrarily or for partisan reasons would almost certainly be seen as severely illegitimate. But if a government controlling a majority of the House of Commons were to try something sufficiently outrageous, like banning political oppositions or indefinitely suspending elections, then the reserve powers could probably be used as a last-resort emergency measure. And knowing that the possibility exists might help keep politicians honest, or at least moderate in their dishonesty.

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We colonials have a similar but appropriately coarser saying: There are three boxes we can use in defense of our liberties: the soap box, the ballot box, and the cartridge box. Fortunately we've only had to resort to the last box twice.

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I thought there was one more, with the order traditionally being:

soap box, ballot box, _jury_ box, ammo box

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WP says it's not clear whether the King actually has the legal ability to veto bills of his own initiative (in the UK; the Australian case is clearer).

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Mar 12, 2023·edited Mar 12, 2023

In practice, the House of Lords has done a lot to moderate the Commons' more authoritarian impulses over the last couple of decades, though they can be overridden by the Commons invoking the Parliament Act if the law in question was in the ruling party's manifesto. Also, we used to have the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights as additional backstops, but Theresa May (a famously harsh Home Secretary) was keen to cut all ties with them. I wonder why?

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The Parliament Act and the Salisbury Convention are two separate things. The former lets the Commons override a rejection from the Lords on any bill on their third attempt to pass it (which have to be in separate sessions, which are usually a year, but the shortest was a few weeks). The latter is a convention that the Lords won't block legislation that's in the government's manifesto at all, but it's a convention as opposed to a law. However, breaching it would probably be seen to justify the use of artificially short sessions.

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ECJ: Because it's only for EU members and people voted to leave.

ECHR: Because it likes to pass extreme rulings on asylum and immigration that hugely upset voters, like saying you can't deport anyone ever for anything.

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Lots of countries have meaningless Bills of Rights, so I think political and judicial culture is more important than whether your rights are written down in a special document or not.

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This is one of the issues that make me right-wing here in Europe despite being quite left-wing in an American/Canadian context...but the (Western) European left seems to be really bad for the average EU citizen from an utilitarian perspective...

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It's just the difference between answering a polling question, and actual choicemaking i.e. voting in elections.

The first is easy and has zero costs/tradeoffs, and is therefore in no sense a reflection of what any society "really thinks".

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founding

Sure, I understand that. It still activates my anglophobia. And in any event, I think the vast gulf between the two data points does paint the nation in an extremely poor light. To be clear, the light sentence given to what appears obviously to me to be attempt murder, is the worse data point of the two.

Day in the life of a true Brexit geezer: wake up and meet the wife, Susan. Answer a poll saying people should go to jail for social media posts. Then it's off to the courthouse for jury service and give a dude who should probably be executed probation. Then finish up at the fortress of dreams.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azSYS5WDJLQ

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Do you think the US justice system is getting it right, or at the other extreme?

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founding

No. I think what we have is maybe better than what the UK has, but I really only have these data points for my understanding of their system.

As to how ours would be reformed, I think we should greatly decrease and increase, in some senses, punishment. I think we should do a lot less incarceration and a lot more probation (and/or house arrest, ankle monitoring type things). I think that, generally speaking, non-violent crime should be punished with probation etc., and that violent crime should generally be punished by execution.

That second one would essentially be a two-strike system. Your first violent crime you'd get maybe a year in county jail, followed by 3 years of ankle monitoring, then 6 years of probation. Your second offense, you get one automatic appeal that must be concluded within 6 months and then you go to the gallows, guillotine, or firing squad. I'm not too worried about the deterrent effect (though swift and certain execution would almost certainly be a better deterrent than what we have). I'm more concerned with just retribution and removing undesirables.

As to both violent and non-violent crimes, there would of course be discretion on the margins based on severity, but not a whole lot. For things like questionable self-defense, say, or your Bernie Madoffs (who might actually go to prison).

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That’s the opposite of what basically every European country has historically gone for. Non-homicidal violent crime has never been taken that seriously because it’s a momentary lapse and boys will be boys, but dishonesty offences are beyond the pale because otherwise society can’t function. The idea that punching someone is worse than stealing their bike is pretty novel.

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founding

I understand that is the trend, and I think it's wrong. I would much rather have my bike stolen than be punched in the face. I can get a new bike. I only get one set of teeth, eyes, and one brain. If you would honestly prefer the reverse, I'm not sure you and I are the same species.

As I said though, there would be discretion. Juvenility would be part of that, obviously.

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Sentencing in the UK is done by judges, I believe, so your Brexit geezer isn't going to be giving anyone probation, deserved or not.

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Yep, English juries have no role in sentencing.

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founding

That was my bad; I was thinking of sentencing enhancements (like priors, gun usage), which are part of the jury's findings in the US. Not sure if they exist in the UK.

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Nope, they’re called aggravating features and they’re dealt with by the judge.

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

The only aspect of sentencing in US law that I know is handled by a jury is imposition of the death sentence, which can only be done by a jury, or more precisely, only if the jury recommends a death sentence can the judge impose one (he need not, however). Is the same true in English law?

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I could be entirely mislead here, but I don't think there's much overlap between people who voted in favor of Brexit and people in favor of jailing people over rude social media posts...

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Would be good to see cross-tabs - some people may have just reflexively wanted to lock everyone up.

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Do you think Jurors pick sentences, or decide on probation?

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founding

That was my bad; I was thinking of sentencing enhancements (like priors, gun usage), which are part of the jury's findings in the US. Not sure if they exist in the UK.

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It’s also a universal problem of elite vs popular consensus; there’s an elite consensus in favour of “reforming” people and a popular consensus in favour of punishing them. You can’t form a viable political party without elites (look at what’s been happening to the Republicans for the last decade), so elite consensus will always win.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

It’s the Tsar (not Czar) and we are mourning Topol at this time. 😞

Edit: Tsar, Czar, Tzar, and Csar are all correct, my apologies.

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author

In what sense is it Tsar and not Czar? I thought they were both equally acceptable English transliterations?

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You are correct that they are both correct and I apologize. It was an emotional reaction because of the passing of Topol.

I've performed in Fiddler and it's written Tzar in the script; the scene in question sounds like they're saying "Tzar" in the 1971 film version. So my own correction was wrong, apologies!

(Videos with various spellings can be found)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP4zke613s4

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As far as I'm aware, the Russian word is tsar (but in Cyrillic, царь), and the English spelling "czar" is mostly motivated by the fact that the word descends from "Caesar".

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The mapping of the sound "ts" to the letters "cz" is likely from Polish.

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That wouldn't make a lot of sense; in Polish that sound is spelled "c", not "cz".

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Damn, the wrong Topol is gone

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

#26 there actually was a gun found at the scene, he was hanging from a limb of the tree by a noose (not tied across the torso to the trunk in the way that “tied to a tree” implies), there were no defensive wounds or other signs of a struggle, and he had depression. Source: https://nypost.com/2023/02/23/shotgun-was-found-near-body-of-clinton-aide-new-details/amp/ plus the original link

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

from what I can tell the entire "no gun found" thing was because the police report said (paraphrased) "I searched the car and it contained a gun case with no weapon." I don't think whoever wrote it meant to make it a big mystery why the gun wasn't in the car.

Edit: Honestly a good example of the whole "media very rarely lies" thing. An extremely reasonable read of the story is "guy who briefly worked for Bill Clinton 25 years ago commits suicide by hanging from a tree and shooting himself in the chest, family tries to block grisly details from becoming public. (oh and he had an empty gun case in his car)" but nobody is going to come away from that article thinking that without the writer ever actually saying anything false. Their (single paragraph long) source doesn't explicitly *say* that the person who committed suicide with a gun had a gun near them, so they must not have been able to find one. Kind of suspicious that a person who killed themself by hanging was tied to a tree, huh? Anyway, that epstein guy, you know? Did we mention BIll Clinton? Draw your own conclusions. (It even explicitly says "Others whose deaths have been linked to the Clintons without foundation have been..." which seems to be a phrasing that would still be true if they followed it up with Abraham Lincoln and Jesus. ) It's actually impressive how well they avoid saying anything even arguably untrue while still pushing an obvious narrative.

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Sure, don't blame the guy who wrote that. But do blame the Arkansas sheriff office for illegally suppressing the document that says that they found the gun, until the Daily Mail kicked up a shit storm.

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What’s crazy is the Bush family controlled not only the federal prosecutors AND state prosecutors…but also the defense attorneys!?! So Ken Starr somehow convinced the US Attorney that Epstein was an intelligence asset and Acosta bought it without asking around?!? And had the state prosecutor not been doing Jeb’s bidding Jeb could have appointed a special prosecutor because sex trafficking obviously doesn’t just occur in one county in a state. So it’s strange how the Bush family is never questioned about their connection to the sweetheart deal Epstein got??

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To describe "hanging from a branch by a noose" as "tied to the tree" goes far enough beyond deliberately misleading to count as straight-up lying, I'd say. That goes well beyond the usual selective cherry-picking of facts, such as making a big deal of the fact that he worked for Clinton decades ago while neglecting to mention that he had been suicidally depressed recently.

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I'd agree that's it's deliberately misleading to the point of being malicious, but it's not literally a false statement. In fact, the article basically trips over itself trying to make as many insinuations as possible without ever saying anything that's not true if you read it completely literally. I think it's interesting as a particularly brazen example of how deceptive media works.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

I think it is "literally false", within the constraints of how people use the English language. Even looking at it from a logical point of view reveals this: the *noose* is tied to the tree, and no native speaker would say the man is tied to the noose, ergot the man is not tied to the tree.

It's like saying a child sitting on a rope swing is "tied to a tree". It's a false statement.

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If a dog's leash is tied to a branch, you would say the dog is tied to the tree. The only difference in the arrangement of objects here is that man had no contact with the ground.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

>If a dog's leash is tied to a branch, you would say the dog is tied to the tree.

I would not if the dog isn't actually attached to the leash. Like if the leash isn't clipped to the collar. Or if, for example, I know he can effortlessly slip his head in or out of the collar. Then I would be overtly lying if I told his owner that I "tied him up" before he escaped.

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This is why I disagreed with Scott's posts about the media rarely lying. If the total sum of your article is "X is true" and the composite parts you cite support "X is true" but you know that X if actually false - you lied.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

I guess what’s really fascinating to me now is moving from Scott’s “media rarely lies” take into “why?” I’m not super familiar, but I’m pretty sure the Daily Mail is more of a tabloid publication, so most people don’t expect much of it anyway, and most people who do read it aren’t going to read beyond the headline. At this point of brazenness, why not just straight up lie?

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Harder to get sued for libel, and a tabloid publication operating within the notoriously more plaintiff-friendly British libel laws would be even more adept at non-libelous insinuation than their American counterparts.

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I've long observed that the phrase "linked to" is usually one of the surest signals that someone is lying to you without technically lying.

What is a "link"? How tenuous does it have to be before we call it a lie? He sold you a used car in 1978? Definitely a link. You worked in different offices at the same large corporation at different times? Eh, probably not a "link" in anything resembling "prestige" media, but for a hungry freelancer might be enough to generate clickbait articles: "What surprising link do [powerful person] and [serial killer] share? Click to find out!"

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Yes. This is abused on all sides and is definitely a tell.

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On the other hand, if that reporting is accurate, 30 feet is really far away for a shotgun to fall after being fired.

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Yeah, my immediate thought when Scott asked "can someone offer an innocent explanation for this" was "it is almost certainly bullshit," and that was without clicking the link.

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I’m kind of surprised that you were convinced by Haidt’s arguments. It looked to me like a handful of graphs with an arbitrary vertical line at 2012 and a whole lot of hand waving. To be clear, I buy that social media could contribute to declining mental health among teenage girls. It certainly makes intuitive sense. But nowhere in any of Haidt’s posts is there anything resembling a rigorous statistical argument. Isn’t a meta-analysis the bare minimum in situations like this? Why is everyone giving Haidt a pass?

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Richard Hanania did a pretty good piece on this a few days ago. https://richardhanania.substack.com/p/how-i-changed-my-mind-on-social-media

I think a few of the studies aren't quite as strong as he portrays them, but his argument is at very least directionally correct.

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Anyone else freaked out by not being able to do #6 as described? I couldn't find anything for the first 10+ seconds I was looking at it and I had to scan it row-by-row to find the fourth mismatch.

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I couldn't do it after 20 seconds and gave up.

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I can’t either

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I found three fairly quickly (20-30 seconds), but gave up on the fourth after about two minutes.

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I found two in a few seconds without doing the trick. I didn't realize there were two more until I saw your comment, so I went back to look for the others and found them in a few seconds. Possibly relevant: My job involves a lot of looking at numbers and making sure they match.

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Were you just looking, like normal? The trick is to do the thing you do to see Magic Eye images: either cross your eyes or unfocus them, just enough to make two adjacent columns overlap. Then the errors pop out at you, like in a Magic Eye image.

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I guess I never learned to do this!

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I've never been able to do get those Magic Eye images to resolve, either.

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This is also a quick way to solve spot-the-difference puzzles.

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Important note for anyone trying this - you have to click through the link and view it on Twitter. The preview image is truncated, and does not show all four aberrant values. The actual image has 24 rows, the preview only shows 14.

I spent several minutes on this and was convinced this was a troll post before I clicked through.

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Might depend on platform/browser; I could see all 4 in the preview.

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I did it as described and found all four almost immediately (no more than 3 seconds). It probably helped that I loved the 'magic eyes' books when I was a kid and learned to see the 'stereoscopic images' quickly by adjusting my focal point. I still do it occasionally in weird situations - like orderly arrays of mini-tile in a restroom.

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I learned how to do this at a young age, probably through sheer boredom. It's really useful for quickly spotting differences in code, documentation, mechanical drawings and electrical schematics, especially scanned or hard copy documents which don't work with textual diff tools. It's like the world's lamest superpower!

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Now that I'm thinking about it, similarly lame superpowers:

1. If you wear eyeglasses, chromatic aberration at the edge of the lens will let you analyze the spectral content of light. This is really dramatic with RGB LEDs. White LEDs will show a faint blue peak from the exciter.

2. Rapid eye movements sidestep persistence of vision, showing whether a light is flickering. With some practice you can see full- vs half-wave rectification, pulse width modulation and duty cycle, approximate frequency, and digital coding.

Don't let anyone see you crossing your eyes, peering around your glasses, or making rapid eye movements. They might start to suspect your secret identity.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Try scrolling the image back and forth rapidly. That works quite well for me. I think recruiting the "movement detection" circuitry in the retina and visual cortex probably works eve better than the putative recruitment of 3D processing. Being superb at movement detection is part of visual circuitry going all the way back to insects.

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Did you click on the image to seel the full version?

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A quick primer:

1. Don't look at anything in particular. Let your eyes unfocus and relax. Sufficiently relaxed, they will drift apart and you will have double vision.

2. Your brain is wired to converge your eyes onto a single target, and process it as an object having depth. With a little playing, you can choose apparent convergence on visually similar but different elements in your stereo field of view. The images will "snap" into convergence. Similarities will look "normal", while differences will pop out in 3D.

This is a lot easier than the magic-eye pictures, which I still find fairly difficult and unfulfilling. You're just trying to overlap images, and see if anything stands out.

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My brain isn't wired that way. Sorry. ;-)

When I unfocus my eyes and relax, I get a grid pattern of brighter columns and rows—two vertical and three horizontal. The grid pattern moves as my focus wavers a bit. But if I can hold the grid in place, the numbers of the grid maintain their brighter white character, but waves of orange move across the grayer non-highlighted matrix of numbers.

Anybody see the same effect that I see?

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

weird, i'm also seeing some rows as brighter than others (not where the wrong ones are; I can kinda change it at will). I'm also mostly unable to quickly spot the numbers — it's hard to stop my eyes from refocusing when i'm looking for something. (People who are succeeding, how close is your face to the screen/how zoomed in are you?)

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For me, it took over a minute after stabilizing the row jitter, for the color waves to start. Frankly, after reading everyone's responses, I think my qualia provide me with more interesting programming. It's as if everyone else is tuned into Wheel of Fortune while I'm watching 2001 a Space Odyssey — relatively speaking.

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I found 3/4 after about 15 seconds. I scanned vertically the first & last positions.

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What works best for me is NOT to search, but to step back and view the pattern as a pattern.

The individual numerals can, of course, be found by exhaustive search, but my brain spots the “glitches” in the pattern much more quickly.

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I’ve always used the crossed-eyes technique to play those “spot the difference” games. Been doing it since I was a child. Now, as an adult, I can spot the difference between two images — no matter how complex — almost instantly. This has been an amusing party trick: print a page of random text of any size font. Print a second page of the same text with one character changed. I can spot it instantly. Can do the same with “white noise” or Gaussian noise (Photoshop). Change one pixel and I can find it almost instantly. I’ve used this to proofread before/after computer code edits written in code that is gibberish to me.

In California bars there are these game “consoles” that sit on the bar where you pay to play poker or trivia or whatever. One of the games is Spot The Difference. I have high score on every machine I’ve encountered. One time I came across a machine in another city that I knew I had played but saw that I was no longer high score. I was dumbfounded. I sat at the machine for 1/2 hour until I got high score. And then when I went to type my name in the leaderboard I realized that I had been playing against myself. That WAS me at number one. I had just used one of my other screen names. Strangers watching me play accuse me of cheating. “You work for the company!” insisted one guy who was playing me for a drink. He was angry. The owner of a local restaurant told me that lunch was on him if I could beat the existing high score on his Spot the Difference machine. Free lunch!

Another use for this is to correct for the Ponzo illusion. By crossing eyes and superimposing the two objects their relative size becomes immediately apparent. This works in real space just as well as it does in printed examples. By superimposing the two images you are using each eye’s monocular image. The tricks that binocular perception of depth play on your abilty to judge relative size disappear.

Another use is to spot where apparently random decorative surfaces (flowered wallpaper, say) begin to repeat or copy/paste. Or spotting where use of the Photoshop “clone” tool has been used to alter a photograph.

The cross-eyed technique doesn’t work very well for me when the “difference” is color. It only works well when the difference is shape/geometrical.

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Really interesting, thanks for sharing. I'm kind of tempted to try and get good at this now!

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I looked at the original image on Twitter to see all the rows, but nothing popped out at me after half a minute. I ended up having to scan row-by-row. After spending several minutes on it, I only found a single mismatch — a 592 in the 10th line from the top. However, I've known for a long time that I perceive patterns differently from the general population. I've given up worrying about it. I think I would likely be classified as mildly dyslexic but my perceptual quirks are much more profound than simple dyslexia.

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I can do most stereograms very easily but here you have to impose the same image on itself a few pixels apart. That’s not possible for me.

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I found a couple before I got bored. I didn't time myself, but I certainly spent more than 10 seconds.

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#18: The argument given seems to be a pretty poor one. It only seems to work if you assume:

A) Peoples' willingness to date is substantially sensitive to how bad the dating market is for them (i.e. there are substantial numbers of people who might just decide to be alone forever instead if the market is bad enough).

B) Men and women have similar willingness to put up with a shitty dating market.

C) The market clears at the point of equal participation. There being more women than men in the dating market does make things a little better for women, but not infinitely so. If social norms were really terrible for women in the dating market, maybe most women might not be willing to participate until the ratio was 2:1 in their favor.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Yup, both (B) and (C) sound unsupported to me. There is a similar-sounding biological argument for why sex ratios at birth approach roughly 50:50, but in that case the odds of getting one's genes into the next generation acts like a common currency. In this case I don't see anything analogous that gets driven to equilibrium matched across the sexes. Subjective (dis)satisfaction may well not even be measured/perceived/tolerated comparably by men and women.

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The proposition seems equivalent to this one:

1. People with hemorrhoids poop just as much as people without hemorrhoids.

2. Therefore, people with hemorrhoids have just as easy a time pooping as people without hemorrhoids.

It doesn't make sense. You gotta poop because you gotta poop, it doesn't matter whether you have an easy time of it or not.

Dating isn't quite as necessary as pooping, but it's close?

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Um, I think you drastically overestimate the number of people who date. Is there a bunch of articles being run about how almost everyone under the age of 20 is a virgin and has no intention of dating? obviously a bit exaggerated, but I definitely remember seeing something about this in zvi's fertility roundup

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Yep. Though you could argue that just means we're out of equilibrium and new standards and approaches will arise that cause us to gravitate back towards equilibrium.

I think this is partly true, though the equilibrium is ultimately about fertility, not a specific mating ritual called "dating" (which is loosely correlated with fertility but definitely not something that exists in all times and places or that is guaranteed to be the norm in the future).

Over a long enough horizon, human beings will gravitate towards an equilibrium in which most women will attempt to (or be forced to) bear multiple children, and most men will make some sort of attempt to be the ones that reproduce with them. Either that, or the human race will go extinct. But there's no reason this couldn't be out of whack for 100 years or more due to shocks that disrupted the previous equilibrium.

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Actually, the past few hundred (maybe few thousand) years are arguably the ones that have been out of equilibrium due to novel cultural forces like religion instituting strong legal and social norms in favor of monogamy. With the rapid decline of religion as a cultural powerhouse throughout most of the world and the freeing of women from cultural norms surrounding promiscuity, we seem to be going back to more prehistorically typical human behavior, where women are highly hypergamous and most men never reproduce (estimates from DNA evidence range from 60-94% of men never reproducing). https://genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2015/03/13/gr.186684.114.abstract

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

(B) is the real problem to my mind. Men want pussy more than women want anything.

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You are confusing things. There are short term desires and long term desires. The short term desires are often stronger for short periods of time, but this doesn't make them stronger on the average.

It does seem true that men get a *LOT* more out of a short-term relationship than women do, but this doesn't mean that their average commitment is stronger. And certainly the costs of a sexual relationship are unequally distributed. So a best guess would be that women have a stronger commitment to a relationship than men do...but it's less intense at certain moments.

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Per #12, it’s pretty interesting to me that Scott “wouldn’t have predicted” Instagram being worse than other social media sites. It kind of illustrates how different our priors could be based on culture (in this case generational), and how this can cause massive blind spots. I just turned 28, so Instagram was the top social media site in most of my late teens to early 20’s. I have first hand experience with the way teen girls are using the site, and I wouldn’t have to look at any data to now that Instagram was obviously going to be especially terrible for them. There is immense pressure on Instagram to convey social status for women, and the competition for status is actually graded by objective measures of “likes”, “followers”, and “ratio” (of followers to following). This means a lot of pressure on girls to sexualize themselves (to get a lot of “likes” from guys), and overall convey themselves as attractive and interesting as possible. It is a literal popularity contest, one you really don’t have much of a choice to compete in if you want to have a social life. Men have much more leeway, and Instagram isn’t quite tied to social status in the same way (though there’s definitely some of that). I’m not sure why at all, but most guys my age use Instagram to show off their hobbies and what not.

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author

I get all sorts of awful emotions from social media, usually because I see people have horrible opinions and express hatred for me and my friends. I have to make a strong effort to will myself to believe that even a fraction of the harm from social media could come from *body image issues* of all things.

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Sounds to me like a difference between a teenager and an adult. For an average teenager, being popular (among teenagers) is extremely important. Finding out you will never be popular because of your body shape is devastating.

Adults live in a world with different rules.

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I mention below that I think it’s more about social standing overall, and body image is just one (albeit important for girls) factor involved in that. I think it just takes all the worst aspects of female intrasexual competition, and turns them up to 11. & there really is no choice to opt out.

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I think it’s more about a hyper awareness of one’s social standing, which is being continuously evaluated at all times through Instagram. You can ask them to log out but the evaluation is still going on, and their social life will suffer as this is the “town square” where social events are organized/communicated. “Body image issues” are just one of a number of different ways this ends up hurting young girls. I think it’s actually deeper than that. There is no solution other than to ban it outright under 18, imo.

But I get what you mean, social media manages to create its own unique hell for every individual unless you’re constantly vigilant about what content you interact with. Being somewhat well known, as you are, definitely has a whole host of nightmares I’ve never had to deal with.

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Um, you’re a fairly prominent public intellectual who’s publicly linked to a couple of movements that have vocal detractors. You’re not the average social media user, for whom “people think I’m fat” is about 100,000,000 times more likely than “the New York Times will devote a whole article to baselessly smearing me.”

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Yea. Tangential, but I think being subject to omnipresent and relentless metrics on all aspects of your personhood is a kind of meta-problem that if anything the anti-woke/merchant liberal/nominal "right" is more complicit in than progressivism.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

What's even funnier, in a sad way, is the people raging with jealousy and envy *because* there's no likelihood of “the New York Times will devote a whole article to baselessly smearing me.”

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author

Many, many people I know have the same experience. If you're white, black, Democratic, Republican, a man, or a woman, there are people on social media who hate you for your identity, working to develop the most biting and traumatic ways to belittle you, and openly trying to organize coalitions against you.

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You probably rarely see them unless you look for them though (they’ll be on blogs, Reddit, Twitter or Tumblr), and most people’s big identity tags aren’t as anywhere near as salient to them as their view of themselves. The very-online SJW/Alt Right are a pretty small share of the US population. The worst most people will have is their weird uncle or high school friend posting about Obama/Trump, which people just filter out.

Not to mention that most people will never voluntarily read something long enough to get a scary point across, and might not even have a concept of people actively trying to load you negative affect and the consequences this could have.

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My take is that you can find many ways to have a bad experience on social media. My wife for some reason seems to seek out hateful content ("someone has to witness it"), so her experience is similar to what you're describing. She also tends to see things like school shooting and other atrocities on social media much more than I do.

Having said that, I can also easily believe that bullying/lack of social acceptance are much bigger issues for teens.

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"people...express hatred for me and my friends"

*claps you on the back* I know the feeling exactly 😁

I think it depends what corner of the hell that is social media you explore. I stay away from places like TikTok and Instagram and Twitter, and only venture onto a strictly delimited area of Tumblr, so I miss a lot of the worst of the influencer stuff. Thanks be to God I'm not a fourteen year old girl today being told she has to look at this site here or else be totally out of the swim and a social pariah, because that is a sure ticket to crazytown (I was a social pariah fourteen year old, but never bullied for it, and there were way, *way* fewer things you had to be au fait with back then to be in the mainstream).

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> I have to make a strong effort to will myself to believe that even a fraction of the harm from social media could come from *body image issues* of all things.

I hope this prompts some humility. A majority of women and probably many fathers, in other words billions of humans, would intuit this instantly.

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I'm guessing you spend almost no time on Instagram looking at pictures of beautiful young women.

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A friend of mine with a teen daughter thinks that a lot of the gender dysmorphia with teen girls springs fro this dynamic. They feel like they have to either be a Kardahsian online, or invent another interesting visual persona.

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Oh yeah, there’s a ton of people who think that. People like Jessie Singal and the like, they get absolutely skewered for it but it’s probably the truth. There is immense pressure on young girls to cultivate and interstating online “brand”, and it could take a ton of different forms. For those girls who don’t fit the mold, they’re driven to LGBTQ+ communities where they’re told they’re granted immediate status just for coming out (even mostly meaningless made up labels like “pan sexual”).

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Or maybe it's a way to opt out of the rat race. The young men aren't participating and don't feel the need, so it's one way to get out of the requirement without losing face (the frumpy nerdy girl may also opt out, but in a way that demonstrates they are not socially competent and are low status).

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This tallies with my very limited experience - young women get obsessed with beautiful/thin women on instagram which forms a big part of eating disorders as they obsess that’s what they *should* look like. Twitter feuds are the hobby of a fairly small subset of the population.

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That’s not even close to what I said though, and if you see my follow up comments I make a point that “body image issues” is the wrong way to look at things. Rates of anorexia are way down, but also the ideal body in pop culture has changed from rail thin to kardashian curvy (which is equally unrealistic). But that’s beside the point, the real issue is that Instagram puts immense social pressure on girls to cultivate an online “brand”, which is then constantly evaluated by very public metrics (likes, followers, etc). There is a hyper awareness of social status at all times, and there’s not really an option for young girls to “opt out” of the game because Instagram has become the primary forum for organizing their social lives. Looks and body image are just one part of the equation here.

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I agree but I think the focus on looks misses the forest for the trees... there is overwhelming pressure on young women today to convey social status through the endless cultivation of an online “brand”, of which looks are just one part of. There’s also endless pressure to make yourself look fun and interesting or showcase how cute your relationship is. Body image issues a are just one part of the larger “Instagram problem” that forces girls into a perpetual status evaluation that they don’t really have the option to opt out of without major consequences for their social lives.

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There isn't "pressure on them" to do this. They just understand that being an attractive woman grants you vast power over men in our society, and they want to exercise that power over men.

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I think you’re way off here. Putting aside whether I agree about your broader point about the power of women, it’s not really relevant here. We aren’t talking about women here, we’re talking about girls. Its not just attractive young girls using Instagram, it’s all of them. I’d be willing to bet the mental health effects disproportionately fall on the less attractive girls, not the hot ones. But even the hot ones it’s a nightmare for, because Instagram isn’t just a place for showing off your looks. It’s a place to show how “amazing” your life is, then get evaluated on that based on what other people think (likes/followers).

& yes, there is immense pressure to use Instagram for teens. Just like there’s immense pressure to wear clothing that are in style, or watch popular tv shows. But it’s even more crucial than that. There are huge social costs to not joining Instagram, as that’s the forum where social lives are organized these days. If you meet someone new you will normally follow eachother on Instagram rather than exchange phone numbers. You can keep your kid off of it, but it’s basically guaranteeing them to be somewhat of an outcast.

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What you're not getting is that a large percent of boys (maybe 30% or so) *are* those outcasts already. Either because they're not popular or not physically attractive or both, they simply accept that they will be outcasts. They aren't on social media. The deleterious effects on social life affect them as well. But this group is either completely invisible or actively hated by society at large, for whatever the reason of the week is - they listen to Bad Man YouTuber, they are socially awkward, they are ugly ("creepy"), etc. This is the group that kills themselves at 5x the rate of girls, despite girls "attempting" it at 3x the rate. Because when girls attempt suicide, it means taking one too many Advils, but when boys do it, they actually mean it. And yet the girls are the only ones we talk and care about. Similar discussion, but about boys on the low end of social hierarchy instead of girls, is met with "They're not *entitled* to be popular! Maybe if they stopped acting so creepy, people would talk to them." We give any excuse we can to continue to exacerbate the suffering of boys. But for some reason society feels immediate and intense empathy toward socially unsuccessful girls, and considers their strife to be a serious problem that society has a responsibility to solve.

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No I’m actually getting that 100%. You don’t have to sell me on the manosphere 101 talking points, I agree that there’s a crisis among men and that society is indifferent at best to the disproportionate suffering of men vs women. I empathize with that and agree.

But this is talking about social media specifically, and it’s obvious that social media had different effects for girls vs Boys. It’s clear that it’s way worse for young girls, even if society as a whole is worse for boys and social media is bad for both.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

#9 Oh hey, the weird FFXIV lawsuit showed up here! I haven't heard anything else about it, and I thought it was a spurious "get our name in the news" kind of lawsuit, but I don't know anything about how these things go. Also I want to note that Final Fantasy XIV is made by Square Enix, a Japanese company. The potential trade war would most likely be with Japan.

Incidentally, the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest parts of Square Enix seem to be the only parts that actually have their act together. Forspoken just flopped so hard the sub-studio got shut down, a dozen good western IPs got sold off to invest in crypto/web3/insert trend here/etc. stuff last year, and the CEO that did that just got replaced with a different crypto/web3/etc. infatuated guy.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

I don’t know much about the merits or lack thereof of this particular lawsuit, but certainly allegations of IP theft from indigenous communities, especially in Mexico, are an definitely issue in the fashion world right now.

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Rent seeking.

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This is the last place where I would have expected FF news, but glad to hear that they canned Luminous Productions. Nothing good came out of that, FFXV was still sort of lucky that a lot of people were intrigued enough into an open world FF that it could fly despite being a terrible game, not much of a surprise that Forspoken flopped. Although I kind of wanted it to be good, a Japanese Isekai action rpg about a sassy black New Yorker girl being reincarnated in a fantasy world where she fights with magical nail polish is retarded enough of an elevator pitch to be great.

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It was mentioned on the FFXIV subreddit that the supposed cultural property rules are based on an agreement between the Saami Council and Disney. Also that the Saami council isn't a government entity of any kind - just a voluntary organization.

The more likely suspect for problems is the New World gearset: https://ffxiv.eorzeacollection.com/gearset/new-world

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#28 Ayn Rand was an incredibly gifted writer. No comment on her political views. Most of what look like flaws to modern readers (plodding pace, moralising, soliloquys) are stylistic artifacts of the period.

I read The Fountainhead and photographed 20+ pages on my phone, because I liked certain phrases and passages so much (I didn't want to highlight my book and didn't know about Book Darts). I was really impressed by it.

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When I find a quote I like, I save it to a quotes file on my computer. Occasionally, I'll mail it to myself as a backup.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

Ayn Rand's political/economic views were incredibly prescient. She wrote a novel foretelling, in the 1940s, almost exactly how the Soviet Union would collapse 40 years later from a slow unraveling of economic and political incentives under communist/socialist systems. This was at a time when few politicians or economists were predicting it (though some, like Hayek, were), and in fact, most were hailing socialism/communism as an enormous success because of the rapid early industrialisation that they had achieved. I'm always mystified that the current American perspective is so rabidly anti-Rand.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

" I'm always mystified that the current American perspective is so rabidly anti-Rand"

The American media is enthralled with communism ... and utopian theories in general. A fault of being overeducated fools. These utopian theories are wonderfully complete, well rounded, beautiful ... of course they all fall flat on their face when exposed to the real world and real people. But of course to a highly educated utopian, government is good and people are the problem.

There's always a police force to deal with that

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Objectivism is also a utopian ideology.

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Yeah but it's an elitist utopia. American culture (and the media in particular) is very very middlebrow populist. It instinctively recoils from anything that even smells like elitism.

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Of course, Atlas Shrugged includes its own Utopian fantasy, where billionaires are charging each other pennies for trinkets in the mountains.

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I'd have to read that bloody thing again to properly comment on your praise of her foresight (which I doubt). However as a systems analyst I can definitely say that here proposed social system would fail even more quickly than Marxist-Leninism (which had failed by the time Stalin took over). Neither is based around systems that would scale at all well. Marxism is an extrapolation from communism, which can work quite well for small groups of people. As it gets above 40 you start needing a really good charismatic leader. And the groups need to be relatively isolated from the rest of society, because when you get above around 15 it's only meta-stable.

Objectivism is less stable than even primitive communism, and would scale more poorly. It would extremely quickly turn into some form of "might-makes-right" tyranny. Either that or collapse into anarchy. Or possibly both. I suspect that even at the scale of 10 people it would require a very charismatic leader.

This claim is backed by experimental testing. There are lots of failed communes in the US that lasted several years. I don't know of any such Objectivist groups, so there can't have been any large number of them. There have also been "successful communes" that lasted for generations. (Not many, but some.) I don't know of any candidates among the Objectivists. (This may be a comment about my knowledge, but I sort of doubt it.) The closest I've come is some of these "planned cities", and that's not very close.

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I don't think the small community of very elite people with similar philosophies that she portrays in _Atlas Shrugged_ is the Objectivist view of how to run a large society — that's just where the productive people are taking refuge while waiting for the greater system to collapse. What Objectivists propose is capitalism with minimal government.

A market system of private property and exchange, unlike either a commune or a socialist economy, does scale.

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>However as a systems analyst I can definitely say that here proposed social system would fail even more quickly than Marxist-Leninism

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Rand's proposed social system is one of the most unremarkable parts of her philosophical writings, and had already come pretty close to being implemented in Gilded Age America before she was even born (her ideal version wouldn't have had Jim Crow laws, among other differences, but I doubt that's what you're talking about). The really out-there parts of her philosophy are about her ideas regarding the proper behaviour of individuals, not social systems.

My best guess is that, like many of her harshest critics, you're conflating the response of her fictional heroes to a hypothetical dictatorship with her proposed response to real-world social issues. Rand knew full well that a society modelled after Galt's Gulch wouldn't work in reality, and she said so explicitly when asked about it in interviews.

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I mean that it has multiple modes of failure which are to the advantage of those who fail to follow the ethical guidelines. There's more, but that in and of itself suffices. Systems need to have error checks that prevent rogue processes from being successful. The checks are never perfect, as that would usually be too costly, so systems tend to collapse.

An example of a control mechanism and a failure mode is: regulatory commissions fail because of regulatory capture which is enabled because there are no penalties for taking a deferred benefit from those being regulated. This is a currently existing failure of the current system. Even so they act as a friction brake to slow the worst excesses.

As far as I have been able to determine the only Objectivist control mechanism is to say "Nobody decent would every do that" until somebody they approve of does it. I can't even call that a failure mode, as it's part of the system design.

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I wasn't asking for a general explanation of how systems fail. What I meant was that I'm not sure what you are referring to when you say "her proposed social system", because the most straightforward interpretation of that phrase is that you're talking about a free-market economy with limited government, but it seems from context like you're talking about a society modelled after Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged, which is something Rand never seriously proposed. Your additional comments here only leave me more confused.

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"Atlas Shrugged" is the principle work to which most people who call themselves Objectivists refer. If that's not what you meant, I have no idea what you did mean. I'm sure not going to wade through everything she ever wrote.

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founding

how to decide what's the limit for that government? what happens if the limited government gets into conflict with the free-market part?

discussing political ideologies is almost moot, because all real world manifestations almost instantly regress into ugly power plays, indoctrination/propaganda/education trench warfare, and so on

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Generally, Rand has realistic villains and unrealistic heroes. Perhaps the same applies to the societies she described.

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I didn't know about Book Darts, those are pretty neat. My usual technique is I have a paper zettelkasten (https://zettelkasten.de/posts/overview/). When reading books, I'll write down quotes and put them in, and reference them to a master "book" reference card so I can find them again.

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If you read *The Early Ayn Rand*, you can see that she really improved over time. The short stories in that collection from the 1920s are really rough. *We The Living* is quite good in comparison.

I am long past my Objectivist period, but I remain fond of Rand's novels. *Atlas Shrugged* is overrated among Rand fans; *We The Living* is very underrated.

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Some of the improvement likely also had to do with the fact that she didn't grow up speaking English and only learnt it when she moved to America?

I agree, We the living was quite good. That one character felt quite a bit like the horse from Animal Farm.

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Taste is of course subjective, but I couldn't disagree more here. I think her fiction is terrible. Shallow characters, generally wooden prose, and a plot that obviously serves an ideological purpose. I consider Atlas Shrugged to be the worst, longest book that I've ever finished. But hey, The Da Vinci Code was terrible too. If either Rand or Dan Brown care what critics think, they can cry all the way to the bank.

It seems blazingly obvious that Rands' fiction was/is popular because of its ideology. Like the (sigh) Da Vinci Code, it was a book of ideas. Those books do very well when they hit the zeitgeist in the right way.

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Interesting that Equatorial Guinea stands out so much on the graph for #7. Out of all the backwards autocratic petrostates it's the one I don't remember ever hearing about; between that and its (relatively) sky-high average income it must be doing something... well, not _right_ exactly, but more _successfully_ than the other autocratic petrostates at least.

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Mar 11, 2023·edited Mar 11, 2023

Well, yeah, they have rich people. Of course their Gini coefficient is massive. The Gini coefficient does not measure "inequality" - in most cases, it simply measures whether or not your country has any rich people at all.

(For instance, consider a country with a million people who have zero wealth, living paycheck to paycheck, and one person, the king, who has some wealth. This is a very equal society - considering two random people, their wealth is extremely likely to be very similar - and yet the Gini coefficient for this country is 1! This would be considered *the most unequal* society by that metric! In fact, that exact same country if the king left would have a Gini coefficient of 0! It would go from the most unequal country in the world to the most equal simply by the rich guy leaving, despite the vast majority of the population still having the exact same wealth. The Gini coefficient fails to capture the "expected difference in wealth between any two random individuals in the society" sense of inequality.

You may think this scenario with zero wealth is unrealistic, but in fact a large proportion of the world has negative wealth. I've heard socialists say something to the effect of "Elon Musk has more wealth than the bottom 3 billion people in the world combined," but if you understood this flaw in the Gini coefficient, you'd also understand that a homeless guy with $10 to his name has more wealth than the bottom 2.5 billion people in the world combined. Adding 0 billions of times is still 0.

A better metric would be the Gini coefficient for PPP-adjusted, welfare-adjusted income, or even better - the same coefficient but for consumption of goods and services.

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I thought I mentioned it above. "The expected difference in [X] between any two random individuals in the society" seems to capture much better what we consider inequality to be than "how rich are the rich people."

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deletedMar 12, 2023·edited Mar 12, 2023
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Do you mean Colombia?

"There [isn't] equal distribution" is very different from "inequality". The actual equality *between people* would be very high in that case.

> Thats a classic stats fallacy.

Which one?

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I usually hear about it having the lowest scores for various measures of good things for a country's population.

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What it does 'right' is having a lot of oil-per-person (1.6 million people, versus, say, Angola's 34 million and Nigeria's hundreds of millions).

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Hagbard Celine is using it for his money laundering operations.

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Equatorial Guinea isn't like anywhere else, it is just a surreal regime around a tiny family combining genocidal singing Santa Clauses, eating the opposition and spending millions on Michael Jackson memorabilia.

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I am shocked by the suggestion that Tolkien and Tolstoy are equally notable prose stylists.

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I'm reminded of people who think that George R. R. Martin is one of the greatest writers of all time, few of whom (I'm guessing) have read much outside the fantasy genre.

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Neil Gaiman writes in the fantasy genre, and he really is a great writer.

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I'll give you that one. "A Study in Emerald" is *fantastic*, and it shows what can be done if you actually *like* the characters that you are using in your writing.

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I think people conflate "good writing" with "good prose." GRRM's prose is nothing special, but he's a superb storyteller.

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Not superb enough to have finished his story, decades after he began publishing it.

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