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I would like to see the evidence about lockdowns not destroying businesses as well. I was working for an economic development company in the second half of 2020, and we saw many businesses failing in the region. Not a huge percentage more than usually fail, but that was coupled with a very low rate of new business formation. Instead of the normal churn of closings and openings resulting in small net positive growth, there was significant loss of businesses.

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Second half of 2020 is when lockdowns were gone though, right? Depending on what you mean by lockdown. In any case, most of the economic effects of 2020 were probably due to the reactions of the general public to the pandemic, and it's questionable to try to attribute all of that to the government policies (which is what I assume "lockdown" refers to).

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Not in Pennsylvania. Lockdowns and hard limits on businesses continued till 2021.

As to whether it was just public reaction, that might be some of it, but the desired level of self quarantine varied quite a bit by region. There was a lot of... tension... between citizens and the government due to ridiculously draconian rules locking things down. The long duration was a big reason for business failures, as firms were running out of working capital, due to being closed or forced to run at severely reduced capacity.

Bit of a question for you: how do you go from "Second half of 2020 is when lockdowns were gone though, right?" to "most of the economic effects of 2020 were probably due to the reactions of the general public to the pandemic, and it's questionable to try to attribute all of that to the government policies"? The structure of those two seems to assume there cannot be any effect of lockdown policy, as by the second half they were gone and 2020 was all private reactions anyway.

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I mean, I get that you're saying that the specific incident was not predictable (though animals crawling into boxes and breaking things is a recurring problem that should be predictable enough to warrant putting some mesh over every opening), but that doesn't mean you can't prepare for a general class of "something bad happens to one specific box of equipment, how does the rest of the system cope?". A plan that needs everything to go right is very fragile, good plans allow for a couple of things to go wrong, and have generalised contingencies.

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My question is: Why isn't anyone else doing this specific analysis? You would think that governments, universities, etc. would be motivated to do this type of analysis. (Maybe they are, and I just don't read the right blogs to see those posts?)

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My semi-flippant response is that this sort of heavy meta-analysis will get you close to the right answer. And doing something that will inevitably lead you near the right answer means that you might end up finding out you were wrong. And for many institutions, admitting you were wrong is *bad*

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my semi-flippant response would be 'appearing to be right to the right people is far more important than actually being right'

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Is no one else doing this specific analysis? I feel like it's one I've seen a lot of examples of in my social networks.

I haven't seen anyone try to publish something this general, but the problem for publication is that if you attempt something this general, you'll really have to look at *everything*. Instead, published work has to focus on one method and/or one measure, and those published studies are the fodder for this sort of thing.

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The British Government has been repeatedly requested by backbench MPs in the ruling party to provide a cost/benefit analysis of lockdowns and other restrictions. They have, in turn, repeatedly refused to do them. Perhaps this situation would be a starting point for where to look?

The govt's reasoning ended up being that a cost/benefit analysis is too hard to do. But if it's too hard to know if doing something is a good idea or not, standard practice would surely be to not do it?

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"if it's too hard to know if doing something is a good idea or not, standard practice would surely be to not do it?"

If it's too hard to know if doing X is a good idea or not, then it's *also* too hard to know if doing not-X is a good idea or not. Unless you have some principled way of determining which thing is X and which thing is not-X, and always doing the not-X when you can't determine which is good, this isn't going to be a viable "standard practice".

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founding

Except there's an obvious (and probably arguably pretty reasonable) status quo bias, i.e. not-doing-X-if-X-is-not-something-we-are-already-doing.

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And this is usually what we would do.

What distinguishes this case in particular is that the downsides of the "not-X" scenario are going to be obvious, quantifiable and horrible (N deaths, with the tally updated every day) and the downsides of the X scenario are going to be diffuse, non-obvious and (as this post shows) unquantifiable.

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founding

Sure! That's probably the most common impetus for 'we need to do something, THIS is something, let's do THIS' generally and I would expect it to be an extremely constraining force on any relevant decision makers.

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Yes, but doing something just because it exists is the politician's fallacy.

President Reagan: "Don't just do something, stand there!"

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When in doubt, do the thing that won’t get you fired if you are wrong.

This sounds flippant but I think it’s actually a quite strong explanation of what’s going on.

Also worth noting - while I can’t praise the UK’s handling of COVID (remember they gave up on contact tracing in favor of a herd immunity strategy early on, which led to them being one of the worst countries in the world for deaths), I think they are an example of what happens when politicians simply let public sentiment (or their perception of public sentiment) steer their actions; the public wasn’t asking for a cost/benefit at the time, and wasn’t interested in choosing actions in such a framework. (See “pause AZ because it might kill 1/1000 of the people it saves”, “forbid human challenge trials”, or “delay approval for vaccines that are clearly effective in other countries”.). The public was terrified, and Something Must Be Done.

The core mechanic I’ve seen is that a rational response to changing data looks like indecisive flip-flopping to the public, and feels like such to politicians. Public health policy folks are aware of this too. And the low rationality of the public strongly constrains what paths you can take, particularly once you’ve picked an initial direction.

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"while I can’t praise the UK’s handling of COVID (remember they gave up on contact tracing in favor of a herd immunity strategy early on, which led to them being one of the worst countries in the world for deaths)"

My impression is that many countries didn't successfully do contact tracing, only a few did. Am I mistaken?

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I suppose it depends on what you mean by "successfully". I think the UK did

worse at it than most EU states, and better than the US, though they started off well enough. The issue is that contact tracing is harder the more cases you have, so it's a strategy where you really need to strongly commit early on. Countries like New Zealand (kind of a special case given it's a relatively low-population island country) and S Korea would be some examples where they pushed hard to do contact tracing and seem to have kept a lid on things more convincingly than other countries.

I would argue (as Scott alludes to in his post) that in hindsight, a better approach would have been to do much more intensive contact tracing from the beginning, and this should be one of the lessons we keep in mind for future outbreaks.

I wasn't claiming that the UK was uniquely bad at contact tracing though -- the "in favor of herd immunity" bit was what I think is most damning. In other words, they started off with a plausibly sound strategy in place, and then abandoned it for the worst possible strategy; the delta there is very pronounced.

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I'm not sure if your examples of what the public wants are supposed to refer to the UK, but I don't think they work if they are. The UK never paused AZ use, although it did restrict its use to older people, and did allow human challenge trials (I'm not sure about the timing of vaccine approvals).

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People writing about lockdowns on blogs? There are a lot of people doing this sort of analysis. I've read dozens of them, almost all of which conclude lockdowns are bad and not worth the cost, usually due to weak evidence for the counterfactual but sometimes for other reasons like the impact on education.

Here's a response to Scott posted on the Daily Sceptic, which started out as a UK blog for lockdown sceptics and thanks to the never-ending restrictions is now evolving into something more. It posts analysis of lockdowns and related topics literally every day:

https://dailysceptic.org/2021/07/17/a-response-to-scott-alexander-on-lockdowns/

The tl;dr of the article is: where's the studies showing no impact on mortality; models like CoronaGame aren't "actual evidence", claims about Sweden aren't using age-adjusted mortality and don't use all the data throughout 2020, educational/remote learning impact ignored.

Which, in fairness, is the sort of thing this new blog post is reflecting upon - the difficulty of capturing all the evidence, all the angles and arguments etc.

Here's another article providing a response to a pro-lockdown analysis:

https://dailysceptic.org/2021/07/21/new-paper-claims-lockdowns-do-not-cause-more-health-harms-than-they-prevent-but-it-misses-the-big-picture/

tldr: new paper claims lockdowns don't cause worse health outcomes but ignores all non-health aspects; paper argues no excess deaths in short term which is probably true but what about the long term when you consider restricted healthcare access e.g. missed cancer screenings; the alternative scenario is presented as doing nothing vs focused protection (daily sceptic/lockdown sceptics as a site tends to be in favour of Great Barrington).

I would say that the destruction of schooling is not only an emotional impact but a much more serious pragmatic one, especially given that schools have not at any point been important to health outcomes due to COVID's overwhelming preference for the old and sick. So it seems like it should play a key role in any analysis.

At any rate, if you aren't aware of this sort of analysis it's not because it hasn't been happening but because you aren't moving in the right social circles to find it.

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Re Schooling; Walking the dogs the other day, I was thinking about dog years and time sense. (Do dogs experience time ~7x faster than we do, a daily walk for me is once a week for them?) And this is certainly true of children. I'm sure we can all remember how long the years were when we were 5-10 years old. So a five year old missing a year is a way more important than a 50 year old missing a year.

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I'm not sure that it's they experience time more slowly, but the time expereinced represents a greater proportion of their total memory of time so seems longer, and this sense of "more time" persists because as we get older al time experienced is less of a fraction of the total so it seems faster after the fact, and we remember it seeming faster. Plus the younger we were, the less total information we had to carry, so time seems longer. I.e. Imagine you are locked in a white room for an hour as a child versus an adult. As an adult, you could probably pass the time by thinking about things/remembering things, but as a child you are mostly focusing on your environment/current situation so it seems much longer in hindsight. But it would be hard to see how you were actually expereincing time moving slower in the present moment. I think adults spend more time thinking and perhaps for many of them more time doing tedious, non-memorable repetivie tasks, so it seems like time was longer when everything was relatively new and less internal thinking relative to external perception was done.

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founding

Universities, maybe, but why would governments be motivated to do this type of analysis? Governments are driven by the politician's syllogism, "something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done". In March/April 2020, most Western governments were not in a position to do anything obviously and immediately useful, therefore they had to do something mostly useless(*). Performing an analysis that might reveal the thing they are doing as mostly useless, is not in their political interest.

They could and should have done research on how to selectively target the lockdowns to make them more useful and less harmful in June/July, but that's not quite the same thing as the top-level "are lockdowns net good or bad" that Scott was looking at. It's also more difficult and doing it right has a Copenhagen-ethics mad-sciency vibe.

* And maybe also some long-term useful stuff behind the scenes, but they had to to something visible and immediate.

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What's the market for them? The usual answer to "Why isn't someone doing X?" is "There is nobody who is willing to pay enough to have X done that the people skilled in the art of X are willing to shift their efforts from whatever else they're doing to earn grocery money to X."

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As a statistician, I'm very skeptical of people who crenulate their zeugmas. Just because you have some asymptotic zuegmoyal theory doesn't mean that it applies well to finite samples. If you're going to be a Crenulist, at least verify that Epstein's theory holds in your data set!

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Can you do the crenulation with pinking shears?

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Ridiculous. Spoken like a true Fulminator.

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founding

Aha – you have revealed yourself as an anti-Fulminator!

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So what the author should do, start thinking about finite-sample umpirics? I thought the results like ET are not really relevant unless you are in a field like pulpology where you have a good idea of the underlying umpire principles (and you can draw a rephantasm on blackboard, look at the arms and see them flow). But I have understood that with this kind of moebius, we don't know the umpire, and there are so many plausible rephantasms you don't really have good reason to choose any over other?

I am more of armorical omnitronics person, so the way we were taught to think about crenulation in our armorical statistics class, the Crenulist approach can provide reasonable approximations, as long as you choose appropriate Bacon hamburger crenulates for myriads so that you don't overzeugma them, and plot the paranoids to check for any holisticity. There are tribbleworld R packages for that kind thing.

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But hauscootzes!

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Big fan of tribbleworld.

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But what would Andrew Gelman say? Surely he’s written about such matters

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So I guess you could say it’s complicated.

Yeah, I know. I’m a chronic smart ass

It was an enjoyable read though. You would have had to make it a lot more boring and a lot longer to get away with tl;dr

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> One thing I found helpful was to ask Person A what they thought of Person B's work, relay it to Person B, Person B would say something like "he's neglecting to consider that you need to fulminate the synecdoche", then I would relay that back to Person A, and after enough of this I would get a meaningful sense of where they disagreed (or occasionally one of them would just admit they had made a mistake).

This is *EXACTLY* the model I've found myself stumbling into working on my Georgism follow-up. I've got all the Georgists on one side telling me everything checks out, and then a bunch of skeptics on the other, and all of them have impeccable credentials and PhD's in econ or tons of professional experience, and I'm just a guy who read a book and wrote about it on the internet that one time.

So far the above method seems to work. Speaking of:

@Erusian, if you're around I'd like to get in touch off-site so I can send you some of the best arguments about the practicalities of land assessment so I can start the claim->response->counter-claim->counter-response cycle, if you're up for it. Email me at lars dot doucet at gmail dot com if you're game.

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@Scott please signal boost this followup! I don't have the bandwidth for another blog (sorry Lars) but absolutely want to read the followup.

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(Same goes for any of the other skeptics, to be clear).

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Are you familiar with David Ricardo's pre-Georgist critique of the idea, responding to Smith?

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Critique of which idea specifically? LVT?

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Okay I think I found the article by Ricardo you're referring to, assuming the "idea" you referred to is LVT specifically.

So I am (somewhat) familiar with it, though indirectly. I knew Ricardo and Smith laid the foundation for George but I was a bit fuzzy on their exact positions on LVT. I was pretty sure Smith supported something like it but wasn't sure about Ricardo. A friend pointed out a section from "Taxation: The Lost History" by Terence Dwyer that quotes from the Ricardo piece I think you're mentioning, if you want to confirm:

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> The doctrine that a tax on rent cannot be shifted is given its classical formulation at the hands of Ricardo (Ch. X, Pgf1-3). The tax is on infra-marginal surplus, which does not enter into price, and hence cannot be shifted. However, Ricardo (Ch. XIV, Pgf6), unlike Smith, did not favor the special taxation of rents, in part because it seemed to him a violation of horizontal equity (treating equals equally). Ricardo (Ch. X, Pgf2-3) also objected to the practical difficulty of assessment and the consequent danger of taxing the returns to capital sunk in the soil, but he also recognized that landlords would soon separate land rent from quasi-rent on sunk capital if such a tax were put into practice. McCulloch (1863: BK 1, Ch. 1, 42-44) pressed this objection with even greater vigor against Smith's (BK V, Ch. 2, Pgf47) argument. There is, however, another objection Ricardo (Ch. XIV, Pgf6) mentioned:

> > If it be considered that land, regarded as a fit subject for exclusive taxation, would not only be reduced in price, to compensate for the risk of that taxation, but in proportion to the indefinite nature and uncertain value of the risk would become a fit subject for speculations, partaking more of the nature of gambling than of sober trade, it will appear probable that the hands into which land would ... be most apt to fall would be the hands ... of the gambler than of ... the sober-minded proprietor, who is likely to employ his land to the greatest advantage.

> Ricardo implied here that a tax on rent is *not* neutral, that it will cause land to be less efficiently used. What is startling is that this argument is the opposite of what later writers tended (correctly) to assume. Later debaters, both for and against the taxation of land values, have agreed that such a tax deters land speculation by raising the holding charges paid by the speculator or other under-user of land. It is hard to disagree with Carl Shoup's (1960: 82) conclusion that Ricardo's argument here is "forced" and that his real objection to rent taxation is based on concern for property rights.

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I haven't double checked that with the original source to make sure it's a fair characterization, but I'll be sure to look up the Ricardo citation now that I (presumably) know which work I should be looking for, and add it to my reading list independently.

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The bit of Ricardo I was thinking of is in the _Principles_ and amounts to "land would end up being owned not by those who could use it best but by those with the most political influence." It's an early public choice argument.

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Seems like a testable hypothesis! I love those.

Incidentally David, would you be interested in joining the ranks of Georgism-skeptics whilst I as paidhi* intermediate between the two species? You can email me at lars dot doucet at gmail dot com if you don't want to expose your own address on a public forum.

*The foreigner series is hands down my favorite sci-fi work. Glad to encounter another fan in the wild!

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I think _The Paladin_ may be my favorite Cherryh book, but there is a lot more of the Foreigner series.

A while back I reread Cherryh's first book. It has an introduction by Andre Norton, saying she wished she could write like that.

I was impressed. It was true — the book felt like a Norton book only better. But Norton was a very successful author, Cherryh a nobody, and Norton had the honesty to not only realize but say in print that Cherryh was better than she was.

I'm not all that interested in an organized debate over Georgism. If I want to go into that argument, I can always correspond with my friend and ex-colleague Nick Tideman, who has to be one of the more sophisticated supporters.

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Will do. I have an email I check occasionally: theerusian at gmail.com.

For what it's worth, my reaction to Georgism is basically, "This all makes sense, at least in a general way. But it doesn't appear to actually describe any empirical reality I've experienced or read about or heard of." I've come to have the opinion that the Georgists describe a real problem but their solutions don't work as advertised.

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Much thanks. I think the readers will benefit from your perspective. Also, in case anyone was worried, I'm not planning on singling out Erusian as the token skeptic with the burden of speaking for the entire opposition, I just feel a particular obligation to especially hear out *this* community's specific objections.

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The Georgist land value tax is equivalent to the government owning all land and auctioning off its use to the highest bidder (perhaps with a right of first refusal). This should be enough to be very suspicious of it.

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founding

But market – and auction! – design are important, and an entire branch of academic economics too. The earlier review itself mentioned one possible feature of such a possible design, i.e. only hold the 'auction' when the current owners sell or transfer 'land'.

And property taxes already act as a _partial_ land value tax, and potentially some of them could be higher than what even a 'perfect total land value tax' would be assessed at. People (or other owners) do in fact lose their 'land' too, e.g. when they fail to pay their property taxes.

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founding

Actually, I think the feature was to only demand payment of the tax when the 'land' is sold, but there's obviously a lot of ways a land value tax could be designed.

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that's a feature, not a bug.

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As opposed to the current system, where the government also owns the land, but gives it to people that it likes and charges them some arbitrary value to hold it?

At the end of the day, the state owns defacto owns the land. We observe that this is true, because if you don't pay your taxes it reverts.

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We also observe that this is true because sovereign property supersedes real estate. You own property because your sovereign says you do. That's why Native American tribal land titles aren't enforceable and USA land titles are.

Suppose a Lenape court decided that the purchase of Manhattan Island in 1626 was invalid and therefore all land titles on that island are invalid and it reverts to the heirs of the prior owner, ie the Lenape tribe in common. I don't think their attempts to turn up with bailiffs and demand the Empire State Building would work.

And that's because Manhattan does not belong to its present landowners as a result of a succession of title; it belongs to its present landowners because the United States government says it does and the US government has the capacity to enforce that - ie it is the sovereign power over Manhattan.

This isn't a moral or an ethical position, it's a factual one. You can't restrain government with some outside force, you have to get governments to restrain themselves.

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There is no Federal property tax so under this argument the individual states own the land, not the Federal government.

The issue with this and Gadsden's argument is that it immediately reverts to the most extreme interpretation. The state could take something from you, therefore you don't own it.

If you apply that consistently you get all kind of nonsense. For example, the state can execute you. Therefore, you're already dead. In a sense this is true: you live so long as the state doesn't kill you and you will always eventually die. Yet most people put a high premium on "being alive" and see it as something important and worth protecting. Likewise for owning things.

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I'm only arguing against the most extreme version of libertarian proprietarianism.

Or the most extreme versions of liberal human rights rhetoric.

Governments, if good, are shaped by the people (to quote Jefferson "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"), and the people value being alive and owning things, which is the most secure protection for life and property.

The point here is that you can't stop the state from having power, but you can (and should) shape how it uses it.

On the wider point about real property, I think people value security in their own home, and it should in general be really hard to push people out of their home, and that this should be regardless of whether they own it or rent it.

AIUI, the main point about George and LVT is that he objects to landlords. Owner-occupiers are not landlords, and exempting them or applying LVT more loosely (eg, let an owner-occupier roll up LVT into a charge on their estate secured against the property, so if you're property rich but income poor, you can just not pay and then the house gets sold to pay off the tax arrears when you die) does not seem incompatible with the underlying principles of Georgist LVT.

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Of course you can stop the state from having power. States have wide variance in how much power they have. The state in Somalia has no power. The state in the US has power but less than in Great Britain. The state in Great Britain has power but less than in North Korea. The state in North Korea does in fact own all the land.

Again, the issue is you're turning a spectrum into an absolute and then arguing from that absolute. But no one's granting you the absolute you want because it's wrong. I'm not an extreme libertarian but I think your objections to their point are pretty facile.

As for Georgism: There are some Georgists who argue that. There are also Georgists who actually do argue for the government to literally own all land. Iirc, George himself argued that the government charging rent on all land was ideal but the tax would be more practical to implement.

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founding

I think it's much more common for the government to either sell the land to the highest bidder, or leave it in the hands of the people who got there before the government showed up in force. Selling vs. leasing or quasi-leasing to the highest bidder is debatable, back-room deals where one favored buyer gets the land at a pittance are usually bad, but taking the land away from the people who already own/use it because you have a Great Theory about how to put it to better use is the thing that should set off alarms.

Yes, a strong government has the power to take land away from people. And to take everything else away from people, including life and liberty. Saying "therefore, everything and everyone is really government property and should be treated as such", also should set off alarms.

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Fair enough.

I'm not gonna try to do a fully nuanced theory of land ownership; I just want people to recognize that all land ownership is predicated on theft, somewhere up the line.

If you live in the USA, there is a 99.3% chance you are living on stolen land (Except parts of Pennsylvania, because William Penn was baller as fuck), and the people we stole it from probably stole it in turn, all the way back to the first people across the ice bridge. There are few plots of land on the planet without some skeletons down there somewhere.

Property rights in general can get kinda sticky of you try to be maximally conscientious; land rights are fucked from the get go unless you are pure realpolitik.

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This depends entirely on your theory of property rights.

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Adversarial-collaboration-by-proxy is a wonderful way to get more insight into where exactly the disagreements that matter are, and which disagreements are popular but not important (or of marginal impact).

I took this approach, mediating between a "AGW skeptic" and a "Climate activist" and learned a lot. It seems that one side loses patience very quickly when being called on to explain why the 1940s got colder over the last 20 years.

Yes, you read that correctly. Check historical temperatures for 100 years ago as reported in 2000 and compare with them with values now reported - they differ.

Anyway, that may not be as important as I think it is, its just an example of the kind of thing that emerges through Adversarial-collaboration-by-proxy.

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If I'm recalling correctly, Stewart Brand, when moderating a discussion, does not allow debate to begin until each participant has described the other's position to that person's satisfaction. An excellent habit.

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founding

So, the discussion will be a long attempt by someone else to explain my position and my telling them that they are wrong because [X]. Which, with careful choice of X, allows me to expand on my point in response to their claims. Meanwhile, I'll just claim that their position is incomprehensible and not worth debating. I'll never admit that they truly understand my position, so the only plausible end point is their giving up.

This is in fact a "debate", but a perverse one unless neither side uses that hack. If you can find an environment where neither party will try to hack the rules, there may be some merit to it, but I don't think it is a general solution.

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Isn't that why you have a moderator?

I'd imagine if you tried that a couple times, Brand declarers you to be a big dummy and loser by default.

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founding

Brand declaring me a dummy does not necessarily mean that the audience will believe me to be a dummy, and so Brand declaring me to be a loser does not necessarily make me a loser. That requires particular skill on the moderator's part, and a more nuanced policy than originally described.

And as even generally described, the policy would seem to place Brand at a disadvantage because for that part of the (pre)debate, he has implicitly ceded to me the authority to decide whether other people are smart enough to discuss the matter with me. If I'm even approximately as smart and careful as the moderator, and ruthless enough to "cheat", it seems like I ought to be able to take control of the debate unless the moderator wants to reveal himself as a dummy who will throw a tantrum and quit if things don't go his way.

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Many many years from now the verdict will be that lockdown effectiveness was not worth the negative externalities inherent to the lockdown, regardless of the marginal benefit some lockdown statistics have shown. I know that no one will, but feel free to screencap this and throw it back in my face at some long distant future date, so long as you acknowledge my ability to do the same.

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That seems highly unlikely if you include the net present value of the vastly expanded ability to work from home. Almost every company I know of that has office work types jobs is saying they are going hybrid. That's a lot less time commuting and a lot more free hours over the next decades. A lot less stress, etc.

I think it's points like these that our host was getting at.

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That net present value you're focusing on has significant negative externalities in commercial real estate, business, down-sizing, reduced hours and a million others that it seems like you're choosing to ignore. And they go beyond the economic externalities I just listed, and I could go on.

The pandemic was a bad thing. Period. Pardon me for being among those who still see it as being a net-loss for humanity and believing - I think correctly - that certain actions indeed made it worse. Feel free to screencap it, like I said.

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Am I right that you aren't inclined to credit the pandemic for anything positive? If the rapid advance of mRNA technology is the boon that some claim it might be for cancer etc. would you change your mind?

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"...is the boon that some claim it might be..."

I stopped reading right there. You are going to provide a hypothetical as a 'postitive'? Really?

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You started the conversation with "many many years from now", right? The trouble with the future is that we have very few non-hypothetical observations of it.

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I have evidence of negative externalities from the lockdowns occurring right now. So do lots of other people. Sorry, I'm not going to accept future cancer treatments from mRNA technology that apparently isn't keeping people from contracting covid now as relevant observations of positive future externalities.

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You'd have to make the case that the hypothetical advance wouldn't have happened in world that didn't lockdown. It would be complicated.

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It seems exceedingly unlikely that, coincidentally, mRNA would be first deployed in 2021 even if there was no coronavirus. Do you think if the virus hit us years ago, there wouldn't be mRNA vaccines for it - it hit us just in perfect time for a coincidental breakthrough?

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Well, I happen to think that they designed the working vaccine in 2 days mainly thainks to the previous years of research, but that wasn't my main point. My point was that it's not easy to conclude that *with* the pandemic but without lockdowns, it wouldn't have mappened.

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There is truth in both directions. People were pushing mRNA tech for a long time. However, it was plagued by problems like, er, being too dangerous relative to the phalanx of not-very-dangerous things that remain for people to be vaccinated against, which is why it suddenly emerged onto the scene during COVID when all the normal rules were thrown out of the window.

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I suspect that if there had been a big pandemic any time between 2005 and 2035, it would have been the first deployment of mRNA vaccines, though it might have taken a year or two longer had the pandemic been in the early part of that period.

I think with adenovirus vectors (the technology between AstraZeneca, Johnson&Johnson, and Sputnik V) we actually did have the weird coincidental situation of the first adenovirus vector vaccine being approved in late 2019: "The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was approved for medical use in the European Union in November 2019, and in the United States in December 2019"

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

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I dunno, it seems relatively straightforward. The lockdowns caused considerable pain, which resulted in enormous social pressure (and government $$) to provide a vaccine very early and the mRNA vaccines always had the inherent advantage of being very fast, since you can build one as soon as you sequence the viral RNA.

It's hard to imagine the guaranteed immediate several billion dollar market *didn't* significantly accelerate the mRNA vaccine development. After all, Moderna's revenue according t o a quick check with Google business is up 1100% year over year. Hard to imagine all those people did *not* respond to financial incentives that large. I would guess there were a lot of 100-hour workweeks.

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Are you trying to say that producing a given amount with less work, less commuting and less real estate are *bad* things, overall?

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I'm saying that - economically speaking alone - there are 'negative externalities' that came with (and are coming with) the less commuting, less use of commercial real estate utopia you're giving as an example. And that's just economically speaking...

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This argument is a classic example of the Broken Window Fallacy. There is no economic value in activity (like long commutes) that can be completely avoided without any reduction in economic output.

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There are likely some negative consequences to some people, but there are greater positive consequences to other people, such that it's a benefit on the net.

Also, those "other people" aren't actually other people. When there are many small efficiency improvements around that harm some people a bit, and benefit others more than they harm the former, many if not most people will end up on the losing side of some of these situations and on the winning side of others, probably benefiting on the net. Attempting to forestall these sorts of changes is a recipe for a stagnating society on the long run.

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You ignore the fucking MASSIVE externality that is used highway space and lost, unproductive time and space in yours.

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> commercial real estate

Unless buildings were torn down or something, that one sounds like a *pecuniary* externality to me -- rents going down is a negative externality for landlords but a positive one for tenants (and rents going up would be vice versa)

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Sunk opportunity costs for landlords are not net positives for tenants that aren't in the market to begin with because they've realized they can work from home. A tenant doesn't benefit from rents going down unless they decide to sign a lease, which many are not doing and may never do again. Reduced rents don't benefit people who aren't renting.

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" A tenant doesn't benefit from rents going down unless they decide to sign a lease, which many are not doing and may never do again. Reduced rents don't benefit people who aren't renting."

That literally makes zero sense.

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A tenant does not extract the benefit of a lower rental rate if they aren't a tenant. Tenants don't extract the benefit of lower rental rates if they aren't renting, now or in the future. I think that's pretty self-explanatory.

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Investing is a risk. Most real estate investors didn't price a pandemic into the risk, but neither did Zoom investors.

I'm a multifamily investor and one of our properties in a tourist town struggled mightily. Nonetheless I'm glad fewer people died as a result of not coming here. We lost a year of cash flow, but we'll still do fine on the back end.

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For example, explain how reduced rents on storefront Manhattan property with 75% vacancy rate benefits renters? I would tell you, as many in that market will tell you right now, that 75% vacancy rate DOESN'T BENEFIT anyone, that includes the people that couldn't give a damn.

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If the vacancy rate is 75% the problem is the rents are too high. The reasons behind NYC high vacancy rates are very interesting. Louis Rossmann has done some very interesting work on that.

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The rents are at 50% of what they were 15 months ago. Wrong again. I'm sure if they were giving it away and there were no takers your response would be the same.

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Do you expect the 75% vacancy rate to persist in Manhattan? I expect that in 5 years from now, the retail vacancy rate in Manhattan will be under 10%, as measured by the New York City Comptroller (see https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/retail-vacancy-in-new-york-city/).

I think that, most likely, the largest effects, both positive and negative, to come out of the pandemic will be things which have a small but permanent / long-lasting effect (e.g. a culture shift to more remote work, a more authoritarian culture, increased polarization and international tensions), rather than effects that were time-limited to the pandemic itself (not being able to go to the bar for a year, an 20% increase in mortality over a year or so).

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founding

Those vacancies _could_ benefit lots of people, e.g. were those units to be rezoned for other purposes (for which people are willing to pay a rent profitable to the potential new owners).

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Those 75% vacant Manhattan "storefronts" aren't really storefronts - they are billboards masquerading as storefronts.

In any case, every class of good has a friction rate of "vacancy" that it needs for the market to function well. With housing, it's usually in the high single percent, and with unskilled labor it's usually in the low single percent. With street space, it's usually more like 50-75% (one of the advantages self-driving cars are claiming is that they can reduce that vacancy rate).

Storefronts functioning as billboards for global brands may well have a different sort of natural vacancy rate, but the renters of those billboards do benefit from lower rents, just like drivers on toll roads benefit from lower tolls, even when the road is 75% vacant (as needed for drivers to go fast).

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> negative externalities in commercial real estate, business, down-sizing, reduced hours

How is the first a negative? It seems like broken window fallacy. Same with reduced hours -- if work isn't necessary, then trying to save it is about the same as supporting jobs where people dig holes and fill them again.

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> That net present value you're focusing on has significant negative externalities in commercial real estate, business, down-sizing, reduced hours and a million others that it seems like you're choosing to ignore.

And a million going the other way that you're ignoring: less time wasted commuting, less traffic congestion, less pollution from commutes, and so on.

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I highly doubt this. "x many lives were saved when society came together" is always going to be more morally satisfying than "300 million people couldn't go to the bar".

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That is a vastly asymmetric and sophomoric interpretation.

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When people look back at history, almost all verdicts are both asymmetric and sophomoric.

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Then Mr. Slow will be vindicated in his moral satisfaction that '300 million people couldn't go to a bar'.

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Then why has no one written a take on Prohibition that showed how many lives were saved from drunk driving/alcohol violence/alcohol poisoning/etc.? Or perhaps the point is, that take would look so convincing, and everyone who could write it is so against Prohibition, that none of them want to?

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Prohibition was such a success it was never tried elsewhere outside the Middle East, was repealed in less than 15 years, and took an amendment to the constitution to undo its mind-boggling stupidity. I.E., the negative externalities of prohibition did, in fact, outweigh the 'lives saved' supposedly of the temperance movement.

"X many live were saved when society came together' was apparently not more morally satisfying than '300 million people couldn't go to the bar'.

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It was in fact repeatedly tried in various parts of the world, and remains in place in large parts of South Asia.

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That would explain why it's so easy to get a bottle of just about anything I want in Tamil Nadu. I like my virtue signaling like I like my prohibition, effective.

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Tamil Nadu? Really? The area that according to Wikipedia no longer practices prohibition and where the government actually sells alcohol? That's your counter example?

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Finland and Norway also enacted prohibition for some years, during the same period as the US.

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That's a great point. Let me do a quick brain dump.

Researchers have repeatedly shown us that drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol is bad for health, and that hundreds of thousands of people die everywhere because of the wide availability of alcohol.

https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2818%2931310-2

However, the general consensus today seems to be that prohibition is bad, and that people should be allowed to do what they want. Of course corporations minting billions of dollars selling alcohol fund all kinds of studies saying "alcohol is good for your kidneys" or whatever. Everybody knows it's bad. But they're just hoping against hope that it's not "that" bad because "everybody else is doing it".

I think people mostly tend to justify the status quo, which is precisely what the brain does to justify our instincts and our actions anyway. If the world didn't shut down at all, people would say "of course we can't shut everything down. Use your common sense and wear a mask if you want to stay safe." But because the world has largely shut down, people say "of course we had to shut down. The economy is not that important. We had to save lives."

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There seems to be some kind of an invisible line that puts alcohol on the "bad but not *that* bad" side, and cigarettes and heroin on the "too bad, need to stop" side. And this line kind of makes sense. I suppose the powers to be placed no lockdown on the "too bad, can't risk it" side, especially after looking at other countries reeling from a massive number of deaths.

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sJust to modify that slightly - the consensus is that drinking really quite moderate amounts (1-2 units/day, with no sudden swings) is beneficial to health, but the effect swings dramatically negative as you drink more than this.

This is the famous "J curve", which is still disputed, but is I believe generally still accepted:

https://www.jacc.org/doi/full/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.06.054

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9949793/

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The paper that I cited, which was touted as the most comprehensive study ever done and published in a top journal and all that, explicitly claims that drinking even small amounts is bad (unless you suffer from cardiac problems), and that the analysis done in papers that support moderate amounts of drinking is uniformly flawed

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I'm pretty underwhelmed by that paper. I am in general by massive meta-analyses anyway, but if you look at the raw data plots from which they draw their final curves, it's a giant forest of outliers. Making any kind of firm conclusion is pretty iffy.

In addition, the conclusion that any amount of alcohol is bad is true only for the statistical average person in all the many countries and demographics they studied. But no actual person is a statistical average person, just as no actual family actually has the 1.8 children a statistical average family might have. A better conclusion would be that if your personal risk factors are higher for diabetes and heart disease, then just as other studies have shown, moderate drinking is probably good for you. But if your personal health and family history suggests your major risk factors are cancers, that would suggest abstinence is best for you.

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This paper is definitely interesting, and underlines the point that there is a significant health burden globally (across the 195 countries studies) from alcohol consumption.

On the other hand, it also shows quite clear J-curves for example with consumption vs deaths from ischaemic heart disease (most common cause of death aged >65 in western countries) and diabetes (affecting 20%+ aged >65 in western countries).

That's why I looked at the studies closer to my circumstances for guidance. The increased cancer risk with alcohol consumption is the most personally concerning for me, so I'll do some more looking into that.

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Well-informed people have defended Prohibition quantitatively. There were substantial health benefits from lower alcohol consumption. Other well-informed people have scoffed at these arguments.

One issue is that the costs of drinking differed by ethnicity: Italians and Jews don't feel a huge urge to binge drink once they've had one drink, while English and Irish, not to mention Swedes and American Indians, often do. Germans seem to fall in the middle, and had a beer-drinking culture that seemed to moderate the problems caused by alcohol better than the hard-liquor drinking culture of Northwestern Europeans.

So you hear a lot of different opinions about the costs and benefits of Prohibition, but it's hard to figure out the overall effect because of subtle but substantial differences in resistance to the effects of alcohol for complex reasons of nature and nurture.

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This may or may not be true. But I would agree that we need a few years post covid to allow the political pressure to die down to get more trustworthy results.

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"...we need a few years post covid to allow the political pressure to die down to get more trustworthy results."

I'm not sure this will ever happen again moving forward. Which is a shame.

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Why would the future have any greater insight than the present does? The only surefire test would be to rewind history and run the past two years over again with e.g. no lockdowns at all, and see what happened. If after a year of no particular action you had 680,000 (American) deaths instead of 625,000, or even as high as 780,000 -- which is I think the instinctive assumption of most people, for the same reason that we assume the weather today will be a lot like it was yesterday, sheer inertia -- then it does seem problematic. On the other hand, if with no particular action we had 2 million deaths instead of 625,000, then it would take a pretty high valuation of freedom of movement and/or economic growth to say saving a million lives wasn't worth it at all.

Of course, we can't do this experiment. And since there were no states or countries that took no defensive measures at all, and indeed most of them took pretty similar measures (or measures equally draconian but adapted to their special political (China) or geographical (New Zealand) situation, there's no natural experiment like this. We're in the business of looking at rather small differences in measures or timing of measures and trying to extrapolate all the way out to the stark regime of doing almost nothing. As Twain observed quite some time ago, with a sufficient length of extrapolation you can prove almost any silly thing.

I think a more reasonable expectation is that it will be a subject of endless academic debate, like over whether nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki was "worth it."

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You seem like the sort of person I'd like to make some bets with if we could have a trusted third party hold the funds and adjudicate the bet.

This lockdown effectiveness question is too vague and will take too long to settle one way or the other, so I'm not interested in that. But what other things do you believe with such gusto that might be proven right or wrong in a reasonable amount of time? Let's get some bets on the record!

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I think there is a substantial difference between someone who leans liberal or leans conservative and someone who is an ideologue. If someone like Tyler Cowen - who leans libertarian/conservative - comes out in favor of lockdowns that voice carries more weight with me. Alternatively Freddie DeBoer's writings on human ability, testing and education in general carry more weight with me as he is from the very far left. But in both cases they are calling them as they see them. They are not insisting on finding facts that fit their existing ideology. Or if they are, when the facts don't support their ideology they are open to saying, "My theories don't work in this instance."

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I agree that when someone criticizes their own side's position then it's cause for special interest/concern. But I'm more confused about the opposite question - how do you adjust when somebody supports their own side's ideology? Like, obviously this is suspicious. But how suspicious? And if you're too quick to discount it, then don't you risk never listening to any heterodox opinions (since heterodox people register as "having ideologies", and someone who just says "normal things" doesn't seem like an ideologue, even if they are very consistently and vocally normal?)

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I'll give you an example. We were worried my mother in law needed a hearing aid. We tried to get an appointment with an audiologist which proved to be an issue in her rural area. But we got an appointment at the local Miracle Ear franchise. They did a very thorough test and said her hearing was fine. Now they are in the business of selling hearing aids - if they say you don't need one you REALLY don't need one.

If they said she needed one I would have gone along with that as well. But I have less confidence. If you want to convince me of something your argument needs to be less convincing if you're advocating for something that's not in your best interest.

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And look at you giving Miracle Ear free (and effective!) advertising. It can make damn good business sense not to sell your product if that in turn engenders positive associations and future business down the road. As a not small side effect you can employ honest brokers who care deeply about people getting the best possible outcome for their hearing and not just selling snake oil for a quick buck.

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For some reason I'm not able to pin down, the libertarian, lockdown-bad, guns-good person seems to be more of an ideologue than the socialist, lockdown-good, guns-bad person. Although both of them seem to belong to distinct schools of thought, the lockdown-good narrative is definitely more mainstream (globally, at least) than the lockdown-bad one. I think it takes more ideologue-ness and resistance to criticism to step outside the mainstream and preach your gospel than it takes to stay within the mainstream and spew mainstream ideas.

For instance, I am a capitalist in the generic sense of the word. However, if I was a capitalist in Soviet Russia under Stalin, I would be a Real Capitalist.

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The flip side of that is that there are two reasons to reject the orthodoxy. One is ideology, conforming to a different and currently out of fashion orthodoxy, and for that your point is right. But the other reason is that the evidence or arguments are not consistent with the orthodoxy and you have a strong commitment to truth, in which case your views deserve more weight than average, not less.

So I would give more weight to conservative or libertarian opinions from someone whose background was one in which they were heterodox than from someone who grew up somewhere where they were the local orthodoxy.

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Should I then give less weight to your opinions, given that they generally agree your father?

(Joking, of course)

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founding

Yes, you should! I think the reason to mostly restore any 'weight loss' thru that mechanism would be by reading his arguments for those opinions, which allow you to rely less on a 'general ideological weighting function'.

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I was told, at second hand, that someone who observed me and my father skiing when I was a teen reported that we spent all our time arguing, so the mere fact that he held an opinion isn't a strong reason to expect me to hold it.

You should give less weight to my opinions on climate change or drug legalization because they justify my opposing policies I have other reasons to oppose, just as you should give less weight to the current orthodoxy on climate change for analogous reasons.

http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-revealing-cartoon.html

In both cases you have to actually look at the arguments, not depend on the reputation of those who make them.

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"Spending all your time arguing" is compatible with Freud's "narcissism of small differences". Academics usually spend most of their time arguing with the people that agree with them about subject matter, methodology, question framing, and everything else except for one or two bits of disagreement, and much less arguing with the people that disagree about more.

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Let me address your second point. I think it is intuitively plausible (and historically mostly accurate) that most beliefs espoused by the society you live in are largely correct. If we take an extreme example, say Nazi Germany, most of the beliefs that were espoused by society were morally fine. Be fearful of God, sacrifice for your country, we should work hard to achieve our potential, etc. There were only a handful of beliefs that were clearly wrong: Jews- bad, a racially superior race should take over the Earth, etc. Hence, even in Nazi Germany, an honest dissident would only be at loggerheads with the government and society over just a handful of points.

Hence, the more you are out of the mainstream, the larger the pool of issues that you disagree with everyone over, and hence the larger the possibility that you're not being intellectually humble (and probably just grandstanding to signal moral or intellectual superiority). Of course it is possible that you're right about one thing that everyone is wrong about. However, it is astronomically unlikely that you're right about everything that you're in disagreement with society and the government over.

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Disclaimer, if it wasn't clear from my comment: I'm obviously not saying Nazis were good. It is needless to say that Nazis were horrible. I'm only given an extremal example about how society is mostly right about most things, even in the worst of times.

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Related: Should we trust someone's writing less if it has obvious ideological slant?

My intuition is 'yes': If the author is clearly angry, has an axe to grind, and his writing is peppered with value judgments and with snark towards opposing views, I'm not inclined to trust it at all. If it is written in an dispassionate fashion, withholding strong judgments, I'm inclined to trust it more, *even if* I know that the author has the same political views as the previous, angry person.

But it's not obvious that I should do this. If you are an ideologue, focused on convincing people of your views rather than finding out the truth, then it makes strategic sense to write in a way that sounds objective and dispassionate, but it's actually biased.

However, I believe that intentional, calculating deception on the part of the author is less common than semi-conscious bias. Someone who writes in a dispassionate fashion will be more inclined to actually consider the evidence for his statements. Flippant dismissal of opponents often acts as a substitute for argument; an unproven statement stands out more in an analysis that attempts to sound objective.

Further related: Can we make people's writing less biased by *requiring* them to write in an unbiased-sounding fashion? I have an idea that one way to reduce political bias in social sciences would be to make it inappropriate to include normative judgments in academic papers. Would this make them closer to the truth, or just hide their biases better? I have an intuition that even if the academics involved would hold the same political views, those would influence their research somewhat less. Again, normative judgments can fill in for evidence when the latter is scarce. I also expect that it would reduce peer pressure a bit: if research and politics were clearly expected to be separated (even just in the official parts of conducting the business), it would be more obviously inappropriate to criticize a research paper on the basis that it doesn't come down in favor of the right political side.

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You can also make progress when arguing with someone in good faith by asking for them to steelman the argument. The same goes for both sides of the argument obviously.

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There's a certain type of person who, regardless of ideology, is just inclined to rebel against any received wisdom. I have a friend like that. It doesn't matter what the topic is - lockdowns, politics, music - he's just reflexively against whatever is popular unless it's something his young son likes.

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Do you happen to play Age of Empires?

I ask because you share your name with a streamer of it

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Oh sorry I'm not that person. My handle is just a play on the name "John Snow" from the Game of Thrones

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John Snow of course is the famous founding figure of epidemiology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Snow

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Damn. I kinda figured but it'd be cool.

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You know slothing, John Slow!

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Hah. Whichever of these definitions you are referring to, you're probably right

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Slothing

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Dismissing the science of someone when the science agrees with their politics and their politics is the opposite of yours is basically just a description of why many conservatives don't trust a single word academia says and are considered anti-science morons. I fail to see how liberals who dismiss anti-lockdown studies by a libertarian are any different and think they should all be considered equally anti-science.

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The issue is more akin to bewaring the man of one study [0]. If most studies say one thing and then a scientist with political bias produces results agreeing with their bias, then you should probably discount that study.

[0]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/

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Like that Hoover Institution lawyer guy who predicted no more than 5,000 would die from Covid based on his advanced understanding of evolution.

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That just means liberal academics win any "debate" by default. Having fully captured academia they are now paid by the government to churn out liberal biased studies all day every day, so anyone who tries to decide who's right by simply counting studies will always end up with concluding that the left must be correct about any imaginable issue.

For that heuristic to be useful, all papers and analysis must be of roughly equal quality. But it's not the case. Consider the paper Scott mentioned last time - the Flaxman et al paper concluding lockdowns work. This paper is one of my go-to examples for academic corruption because it's bad in just so many ways. It creates a model the authors know is a work of fiction and which bears no resemblance to reality, and we know this because they tell us so in the paper itself, yet it racked up 1300+ citations and the number is still growing fast.

In such an environment any paper written by a libertarian or conservative is going to end up looking like a lone isolated viewpoint simply because the average libertarian would much rather be founding a startup than pumping out nonsensical papers in an academic office all day.

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My impression is that libertarianism is *more* common within academia than outside of it. The vast majority of non-academics line up with one of the major political parties, while academics more often adopt specific ideologies that are at best tiny niches outside, like libertarianism, socialism, etc.

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Isn’t not about dismissal it’s about credence.

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IT's less dismissal, and more extra scrutiny.

If we get 99 results of A, and one result of B from a guy with a big 'ol B tattooed on his forehead, I'm not gonna take him at his word.

Unfortunately, I don't have the expertise to actually fairly evaluate the arguments in this case, so I just have to go with the consensus.

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I think the only thing you can do, unless you know a lot about the person — for instance that he has sometimes argued against his side's position when he thought it was wrong — is evaluate the argument itself, giving no significant weight to the fact that someone knowledgeable made it.

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One thing you're forgetting is the propaganda angle. On reddit, it's pretty common to see a 'I used to believe X but now I believe Y', even though the user history shows that to be obliviously untrue. It's too the point where I've started instinctively trusting someone criticizing their own side's position _less_

Obviously this is only a problem with anonymous /pseudonymous sources.

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If one side offers a thesis and the other responds with an antithesis and they are both well-thought out and well-supported by evidence ... well, then there is probably a synthesis out there somewhere that could make sense of why both the thesis and the antithesis are somewhat true.

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Maybe it's just my own ideological filter at work, but to me, it seems pretty clear from what you wrote that they said, that the libertarian was the reasonable one and the liberal was not.

The most extreme statement you could find for the libertarian was one comparing lockdowns to house arrest. But I don't see how this statement is extreme. It's just a factual assertion, right? For long periods in the whole world people have been prevented either from leaving their homes entirely, by the police (if self isolating), or from leaving a small zone around their house of a few km, (if not self isolating). This is extremely similar to what house arrest means - you may not leave your house and if you do the police will force you to go back. Thus this statement doesn't seem extreme or even ideological but more like a statement of fact.

The most extreme statement you could find for the liberal called relaxing lockdowns equivalent to "human sacrifice". This is VERY extreme. Firstly human sacrifice is a deliberate murder of someone, whereas living normal life and unknowingly spreading a virus is neither murder nor a knowing act under any moral code that existed anywhere up until about April 2020. And partly because relaxing lockdowns = normal existence. So whoever said that is equating living a normal life i.e. the null state with making human sacrifices i.e. a state that is so barbaric it hasn't existed in the west for thousands of years. That actually looks like quite a good foundational definition of extreme.

I think your level of suspicion is artificially increased by your apparent belief that only one guy finds that lockdowns don't work, which is a conclusion I still find somewhat baffling. I've read dozens of papers, long blog posts, essays etc finding they don't work, especially if by "don't work" you're willing to consider the failure of the modelled counter-factuals to happen at all. I could rattle off dozens of talking points immediately, so how is it possible we ended up living in such different informational worlds?

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Re: house arrest:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/yCWPkLi8wJvewPbEp/the-noncentral-fallacy-the-worst-argument-in-the-world

The noncentral fallacy: "X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member."

The archetypical example of house arrest without due process occurs when there is no pandemic (so meeting people is not unusually dangerous), and is intended to punish the arrestee—while the arrestee's guilt is not proven, and/or the action it punishes isn't (or shouldn't be) a crime (a typical example is a dissenter in a dictatorship). Calling lockdowns house arrest is a rhetorical tactic that attempts to transfer the emotional judgment of such obviously illegitimate house arrests of innocent people to the lockdowns—even though there arguments for the coronavirus lockdowns that don't apply to the archetypical case of putting innocent people in house arrests.

There are good arguments for and against the lockdowns, but the use of such rhetorical tricks reduces someone's credibility in my mind (on either side).

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All you're saying is that because you personally agree with putting people under house arrest at the moment, it's therefore not "really" house arrest, and thus blah blah some claim about fallacies.

How about this: I am under house arrest right now, because someone in my household tested positive. I have not tested positive, nor am I sick, but I am now expected to not leave the house at all for any reason for 10 days, and there is no route of appeal whatsoever, in fact it required nothing more than someone putting my name and phone number into an automated system.

I have committed no crime, the state has no evidence I am posing any harm to others, the justice system is not involved at any point, and we have zero support for even managing the basics of living, something which people under house arrest do get! In fact the display on our cooker broke a few days ago yet the cooker firm won't visit to repair it because of the scary COVID, so we can't even easily prepare food now.

What's happening to me IS in fact house arrest, I do in fact feel like it's a despotic regime, and I am deeply unimpressed by your attempt to rewrite the definition so that something is only house arrest if you personally disapprove of the motivations.

Certainly, describing it as house arrest is orders of magnitude less politically extreme and biased than calling ending lockdowns "human sacrifice".

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I didn't say that I supported lockdowns; I'm ambivalent about them. I didn't say that the one who talked about "human sacrifice" language wasn't also obviously biased. I didn't even say that lockdowns weren't house arrest. What I'm saying is that calling lockdowns house arrest is loaded language, and someone who opposes lockdowns should argue why they are wrong, instead of using loaded terms.

Compare an example from the post by Scott I linked: someone who says "Nelson Mandela was a criminal" is factually correct (he committed a crime by dissenting against the apartheid system); nevertheless, someone who says that sentence is most likely trying to muddy the waters: he's trying to get the listener to apply the judgment we apply to a typical criminal to Mandela—even though the typical criminal has committed crimes that most of us disapprove of, while Mandela has committed a crime most of us don't disapprove of. Again, calling someone a criminal for committing an atypical crime that most of us don't disapprove of is truthful, but it's loaded language; it signals that the speaker has an axe to grind, and is trying to use rhetorical tricks in lieu of arguments. I'm generally inclined to consider such speakers less trustworthy.

What do *you* think is someone's motive to choose to use the term "house arrest" instead of "lockdown" or "stay-at-home order"?

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For all we know he used all those terms - Scott didn't link to the articles he had in mind, so the only info we have is that some economist wrote articles critical of lockdown that did indeed argue against them but which also compared them to house arrest. This was described as extreme, seems we both agree that's not actually that extreme, and so it boils down to is it "loaded language" or not? I mean, sure, I guess? But it's mostly loaded in my view because someone who loves lockdowns wouldn't use that term, not because there's anything wrong with it or even because it's biased, but because it puts in stark terms what they really are, and they'd rather avoid thinking about what exactly they're supporting.

Or put another way, can a factually true statement become "loaded" or suspicious simply because other people get upset when it's used? Maybe that's the definition of loaded. Not very useful concept if so, though.

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I think it’s right to be suspicious about this.

The way I think about it is that people who have political positions significantly far from the median position are likely to care strongly about politics, since people who don’t care much about politics tend to just take on whatever the typical view is among their peers. And people who care strongly about politics are more likely to have bias in their results that have political implications (whether intentionally or not).

That’s not to say that people who have strong political views close to the median are any less likely to produce biased results. It’s just that it’s hard to distinguish them from people who don’t have particularly strong views (which is the vast majority of people, in my experience), so a result from someone with unusual political views rightly stands out as being particularly deserving of skepticism.

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"The way I think about it is that people who have political positions significantly far from the median position are likely to care strongly about politics, since people who don’t care much about politics tend to just take on whatever the typical view is among their peers."

Alternatively, they might care strongly about truth and not much about politics, hence be willing to say things they think are true even if those things are politically out of favor.

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This is the feeling I get lately about expressing my opinions publicly in general. I always imagine the response “Well, of course you believe X- you’re Y.” And I am. I have pretty much the opinions a person like me, demographically speaking, is likely to have. So even if they’re honest is there even any point to expressing my thoughts?

On the other hand, it’s not total alignment with stereotypes, and I’m wary of expressing opinions that would get me lumped in with other people whose identities are on-paper similar to mine, but who are vastly different from me in important ways. Some of those people are ideologues, and some kind of scare me even if we’re living very similar lives and have a lot of similar values and beliefs.

I think this is a driver of political polarization; media (social and otherwise) flattens and reduces us to a few bullet points, which others will use to apply their own categories and assumptions, which you might then have to exert a lot of effort to correct, if that’s even possible. So what we tend to do is signal loudly which side we’d rather be associated with, even when that preference is marginal. You’re never expressing your nuanced ideas- it’s more like all you can do is choose whose extremists scare you less.

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I don't find it very suspicious. When a smart person holds an heterodox opinion, one of the first questions I ask is why this particular person noticed the problem with orthodoxy but all the other people who are as smart as he is did not notice anything. A single smart person making a mistake is much more likely than a multitude of smart people all making the same mistake.

But something like "that person has a different ideology than his peers, so he doesn't have the same blindspots" is a perfectly reasonable explanation that does not require any weird coincidence.

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There's an interesting question about how many sides to consider here. If you don't look too closely, libertarians can *look* like conservatives who have some unusual openness to ideas that criticize "their" side. But once you identify libertarians as a third group with their own distinctive ideology, they often don't look so open any more. Similarly, at first, Glenn Greenwald might *look* like a leftist with some unusual openness to ideas that criticize "his" side. But when you see Matt Taibbi, Tulsi Gabbard, and a group of others that have a similar constellation of views, you begin to wonder if there's another niche with a distinctive ideology.

I don't quite know how to think about whether Tyler Cowen or Freddi DeBoer might fall into these sorts of things, or whether this even really adds anything, or just takes away the original apparent insight.

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founding

Tyler Cowen and Freddie deBoer are relatively special in that you can just evaluate their arguments directly. I haven't read (or watched or listened to) Taibbi and Gabbard enough to judge, but Greenwald seems much more an intermediary for other ideas than Cowen or deBoer – IMO.

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As far as whether a conservative prognostician arguing against lockdowns is more "marked" than a liberal one arguing in favor, I don't think it's necessarily determinative, but I do think it's relevant that under ordinary circumstances, nobody favors lockdowns at all. It's not that lockdowns in general are a liberal position which you'd expect liberal people to be in support of unless the evidence weighed really heavily against it, it's only due to extraordinary circumstances that anyone supports lockdowns.

This is a distinctly America-centric perspective, but I think you could tell a similar story about other countries, where conservatives are biased against taking the pandemic seriously, not because this is an inherently conservative position, but because an important figure, Trump in America's case, took a stand on downplaying the pandemic. If Bob Woodward can be taken at his word on the subject, Trump's efforts at downplaying it don't even reflect his own best understanding of the pandemic at the time, since he thought having people take it less seriously was better for the economy, and likely him by extension. If we had had a different Republican politician in office, someone like George W. Bush perhaps, then taking the pandmic seriously might never have become a tribal signifier in the first place.

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This is a very good point. "I don't like the government telling me what to do" is very much the libertarian position and not the conservative position*. America is unusual in having libertarianism associated so closely with conservatism.

* Throne and altar conservatism for example.

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I partially agree with this, but I don't think it answers everything asked in the post.

There are two issues here, imo. First, instead of the pro-Xer vs anti-Xer dichotomy in the post, there is also the possibility of non-Xers. In Scott's example, the conservative academic is clearly a pro-gunner releasing a pro-gun paper, but the liberal academic could plausibly be a non-gunner, or close to it -- someone who just isn't personally interested in guns rather than an anti-gunner who invests a lot of time and energy into anti-gun causes. In theory, you should discount a pro-Xer's pro-X paper about as much as an anti-Xer's anti-X paper (i.e. somewhat but not entirely), but a non-Xer's paper, pro or anti, should carry more weight.

It sounds like your argument is that in this case, liberals are non-lockdowners releasing pro-lockdown papers, so it's natural to give them more weight. But the problem is, over the course of the pandemic, lockdowns clearly did become politicized. I know that in my peer group, support for lockdowns was the default, not based on an extensive review of the evidence. People simply listened to trusted authorities and followed their intuitions. So it probably is fair to assume that at least for papers written near the middle or end of the pandemic, liberal writers are pro-lockdown to begin with.

So in the lockdown case, not the general case, the reason Scott feels the way he does is probably just a mix of his personal priors about lockdowns and the fact that it's very natural to apply extra scrutiny to minority positions.

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It's not just Woodward's word, I watched the interview, and Trump showed a good informal understanding of the pandemic.

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The upshot seems to be that human societies are complicated, social science is insanely hard, politics is even harder, and even the smartest and most honest politician has to rely on a combination of judgment, intuition, and common sense to implement their policies. That's why open debate and epistemic humility are important.

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Yeah, most of the time people support their own side's ideological positions. Unless you know everything about crenulating zeugmas you're going to have to either A) if orthodox, discount because orthodox ideologues are sometimes sloppy due to most of their peers being relatively uncritical towards the work, or B) if heterodox, discount because it could be a clever arguer trying to sell you a box that you do not want.

Of course, you could be dealing with a clever arguer also in case A, so maybe you should discount orthodox arguments slightly more anyway. I have no idea, this problem stumps me. I feel you.

At least this was a good reason to post that cute bat again. More covid posts, please.

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One issue I have about emotional costs is the comparison point. It's a global pandemic, an intrinsically "bad" event, and life is going to be less "good" than before. There's going to be long term trauma about how poorly it was perceived to be handled and how ill prepared we were for it. Some of the measurements of quality of life are good at showing the impact of the pandemic, but not the cost effectiveness of lockdowns.

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Yeah, I agree that a lot of the time the baseline for those comparisons seems to ignore the entire global pandemic and think the choice is between lockdown and 2019. It stands out to see "missed a family member's funeral" used as an example of emotional damage from lockdown, while the benefits of "_postponed_ a family member's funeral" is pushed to the "it's complicated" section of the original post. (Granted, that's not an impact on hundreds of millions in the US, probably, but hundreds of thousands times an extra decade or so with parents and grandparents is nothing to sneeze at.)

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That jumped out to me too.

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> One thing I found helpful was to ask Person A what they thought of Person B's work, relay it to Person B, Person B would say something like "he's neglecting to consider that you need to fulminate the synecdoche", then I would relay that back to Person A, and after enough of this I would get a meaningful sense of where they disagreed (or occasionally one of them would just admit they had made a mistake).

It sounds like you kind of rediscovered the Delphi method? RAND came up with a consensus-building framework specifically for opposed experts back in the 60's and it seems to work *really* well. I wish all political and economic arguments were given that treatment. Original article here:

https://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P3558.html

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To be honest, I found this post much more interesting than the post it is about.

I have been trying to get this across to everyone who will listen, for over a year now, and I haven't been successful but I can't stop because it's extremely important to my continued survival:

The question "do lockdowns work?" is incoherent and unanswerable, because both "lockdown" and "work" are and will always be underspecified.

You can't aggregate over millions of people, summarize death counts or economic costs or whatever, generate an average, and use that number to judge things. As you point out above, this question is much too multifaceted to do that

But I'll make a stronger claim: you can't even do this in principle. One might be tempted to say "aha, well, maybe there's 50 dimensions but we can analyze all of them and come to conclusions" but you can't! Because people have varied lives and, no matter what conclusion you will come to, somebody somewhere will say "if we did it your way, I would not be alive right now. Eff you" and there is absolutely nothing you can say to that person to change their mind.

There is no way in principle to settle this argument. It is a bona fide conflict, and the way it gets settled is the guy who gets to decide, decides, and then says "tough if you don't like it". That is in fact what our society did last year, and I didn't like it.

All of the mainstream, public scientific discussion about the pandemic is bullshit. It just is. It is not the case that a whole bunch of honest, concerned, and curious scientists all decided to dive in and see what happens. I know we here like to think that's the case, because we here actually do do that. But the rest of the world does not. The rest of the world does the science they're paid to do. If it gives the results that the people in power want, then they get published and publicized. If it does not, they do not. As a result, you end up with a bunch of 'science' supporting what the people in power have already decided they want to do, and the people in power use that 'science' to wash their hands of any responsibility for people being mad at them.

You can see this happen in real time if you pay attention. This is a relatively trivial example, but it is very accessible: Dr Fauci's overnight 180 on masks, and everyone acting like this didn't happen (but was totally fine if it did). Prior to his flip, Fauci and the rest of the medico-political establishment told us that The Science Says Don't Use Masks, and the news dutifully reported that. Then, overnight, Fauci says that The Science Says Use Masks, and the news dutifully reported on that. When questioned on it, all they say is "we're just following the science, and the science evolved". But we know that's a lie. Why? Because Fauci said it was a lie under oath to congress.

In reality, the actual fact of the matter, which I expect most of you here either knew or just assumed, was political. They were afraid of a run on masks, which would put medical practitioners at risk, and so they told the public not to wear masks. Then, when they were satisfied that the medical practitioners were well supplied, like magic, 'the science changed'. In reality, the government gave out an arbitrary order ("do not buy masks") in order to achieve a domestic policy goal ("don't let hospitals run out of PPE"), and instead of just saying that, they lied to our faces and bastardized 'science'.

In fact (I'm not gonna go look this up, so apologies if my memory is wrong), I think that was the conclusion you came to in your original mask post. The public health advice prior to covid was "do not wear masks", and the reasons for this was a) people wear them wrong and it wastes them; and b) that takes them away from people who actually need them.

What is the point of my work-procrastinating rambling? My point is that fundamentally you cannot use 'science' to determine if 'lockdowns work'. The overwhelming majority of the 'science' on this is science in nothing but name. If you do _actual_ science to try and get an _actual_ answer, everyone will ignore that answer with some variation of "yeah but no because thing I care about". You can ask extraordinarily specific questions like "did imposing a 8pm curfew reduce the number of deaths by 500 or more". Even that isn't really a great question, because imposing a curfew doesn't mean people comply with it, and so it equivocates the question of "does adhering to a curfew work" with the question of "does imposing a curfew _policy_ work" which, despite appearances, are two very different questions.

Maybe, if we constrain ourselves the platonic world of abstract thought, that cannot interact with the outside world in any way, we could come up with The Correct Answer to the question of lockdowns. But that's not particularly useful. Implied in the question of "do lockdowns work", is the hidden question "should we implement lockdowns". But as is abundantly clear by now, the decision process we use to implement lockdowns is completely disconnected from the actual answer to the question of whether or not they work. The whole question is poorly defined, and the answer doesn't exist

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I agree with this wholeheartedly, with the addition of - there are lots of OTHER questions about the pandemic that are well-defined, do have potential answers, and could very heavily improve our future responses to them, that we could all be working on instead!

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I agree, although I can't think of any particularly relevant ones off hand.

But also, I am extremely pessimistic about the functionality of our institutions. We _could_ be working on them instead, but it won't happen. It would be really great if it did, but it won't.

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Institutions is a perfect one: so the question would be "how to convince Americans to demand reforms to the CDC and FDA to improve our response to future pandemics?" Not to be a nagging scold, but to me, that's one example of what Scott (and everyone else here) should be working on.

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See, I don't think that's possible. In fact, when I'm feeling charitable I think Scott's prior post on that subject hits the nail on the head. Those organizations are too beholden to politics to be trustworthy, responsible, and useful. It sucks. That's why I'm generally speaking against large political institutions and for small, bottom-up efforts

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I am fine with that, what I am asking for is for us, commenters and Scott, to focus on answering the question "How to convince people to support a small, bottom-up effort to either create a better response to a future pandemic, or persuade enough people to reform/abolish-rebuild the institutions that are supposed to do that"

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Isn't that what these posts and discussion threads are? We're all debating with each other, trying to reach some kind of meta-conclusions about the robustness of science, knowledge, institutions etc. Lockdowns happen to be the proximal topic today but the discussions aren't so different to other threads Scott has hosted.

Personally I'm in the abolition camp. All public health bodies have totally destroyed their own credibility, which it turned out wasn't that high amongst people in the know even before now. Which organization has NOT done a 180 degree turn on supposedly critical issues and then pretended it didn't happen, by now? Fauci isn't the only senior public health official who is a liar. Most countries have them, though they weren't all brazen enough to literally admit that in national newspapers.

If you want to be a group of experts advising the public on something, then it seems obvious to me that fostering trust is goal number 1. All other goals you may have depend on it unless you become totalitarian and just try to take over the world. Public health has gone all-in on totalitarianism in the past year and it just leads to malicious compliance, ignoring their suggestions and eventually more politicians will try to do what Trump did and just defund them. Because it's the right thing to do.

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It strikes me that the Front Line COVID Care Alliance (https://covid19criticalcare.com/) appears to be one of the "small, bottom-up" efforts, but it seems like the larger institutions (government, media) are doing everything they can to discredit it.

The FLCCA was founded an actual ICU doctor treating actual critical COVID patients to reflect the latest information for creating COVID protocols. They don't seem to have any agenda other than providing the latest information about the best-performing treatments in as observed in the field.

The best evidence they don't have ulterior motives is that they're mostly suggesting cheap, readily available drugs that profit no one. In fact, they're actually warning patients not to get scammed into spending too much money on doctors or treatment.

Again, this is a group of doctors treating actual COVID patients trying to provide information to other doctors and patients, including collecting and interpreting as much breaking medical literature as possible.

And yet there's a weird amount of resistance to them.

Some of it is the inevitable protest that tHeyAREN'tUsiINGenoUghlarGEscaLedouBLEBlindTRIals! but the reasons for why they can't base everything on a large scale double-blind trial is patiently explained on their FAQs, which no one seems to read.

But most of the resistance seems to be a weird orthodoxy that nothing except lockdowns and masks and vaccines should even be discussed, with social media sites and search engines actively blocking many posts on the topic.

It's *weird.*

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This seems like a very pessimistic viewpoint - if anything beholden to politics cannot be trustworthy, responsible, and useful, then it seems like we just have to hope for a benevolent dictator, rather than having governing institutions with any sort of social input into them.

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I think the scope and scale of the institutional failure on covid has actually mentally damaged all of us, and our unwillingness to look into the Lovecraftian depths of that failure has made us also reluctant to consider reforms, because we'd have to look at the failures to do so. I still think we should.

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This is likely not a very popular position, but speaking personally, I find the institutional failure of last year so egregious that I now believe I have a moral obligation to stymie their efforts, no matter what it is they're trying to do. They must be punished for their failure and this is the only tool available to me.

I actively sabotage covid efforts now. I'll stop when our politicians grovel on TV

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Well sure, I can see why it's not popular, but do you think we could find a compromise position that A) you would support, B) would be effective at fixing those institutions and C) popular enough to gain support? I think finding that would be more important than determining if lockdowns work or not.

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For the sake of adding a datapoint, I have done likewise. I'll also add the caveat that I don't think merely "reformed" institutions would solve the problem. Rather, no institutions having the relevant powers is preferable due to (imo) the risk of misuse being greater than the risk of no use.

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Just a correction - Fauci never said "don't use masks" or "masks don't work". All he ever said was "we have no evidence that masks work and there is no reason for ordinary people to use masks", which sounds frustratingly similar, and proves that the medical establishment is bad at communication. But he, and people of similar scientific stature, never lied or even said the things we now think are false.

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> But he, and people of similar scientific stature, never lied or even said the things we now think are false.

This is obviously not true; I almost feel like I'm in a "we were never at war with Eurasia" situation. I mean even if restrict to Fauci himself, do "we" now think all of this is true?

https://www.newsweek.com/fauci-said-masks-not-really-effective-keeping-out-virus-email-reveals-1596703

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"The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you."

I think a lot depends on what "really effective" means. I would rather say now that sanitizing your hands is basically irrelevant for this particular virus (though relevant for others). I think most people here will say that the typical modern masks (which weren't available in drug stores in March, 2020) likely have some moderate percentage reduction in probability of transmission, but it's not clear how big or small.

It really is unclear how effective masks are, and the big thing that has changed is just that conventional wisdom says "we don't know how effective they are, and it's really easy, so might as well wear them" where it used to be "we don't know how effective they are, and the medical establishment never advises doing anything that we don't know the effectiveness of".

It's this latter thing that was the big problem.

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The masks issue is extremely frustrating because if you read the pre-COVID literature or do any post-COVID analysis of the mask mandates issue, then they conclude mask mandates don't work. Pre-COVID: there are medical papers arguing this. Post-COVID: where are all the graphs showing sharp drops in incidence 3 days after mask mandates are introduced?

So when the medical world was asked about masks at the start, they appear to have been correctly summarizing the state of knowledge until that point. They said eh, masks, well, we don't have any convincing evidence they work actually. It wasn't just Fauci, they were all saying that. And it appears they were justified to do so.

But then something went wrong, and it's not entirely clear how it happened, but it seems that for political or ideological reasons the idea of universal mask wearing suddenly became very attractive. I think this is not very surprising given the prevailing ideology in public health (collectivism), because these people just love the idea of "society coming together", "solidarity" etc, and they suddenly realized that they could say anything at all and politicians and the public would do it. Hence: universal mask wearing. A WHO spokesperson actually admitted that this was the result of political lobbying to a BBC journalist at some point! The journo put it on Twitter but, what a surprise, didn't make it into a full story. So then of course they had the problem of inverting their position. That's when they came up with this idea of the "noble lie".

Beyond the inconsistency with pre-COVID medical evidence there are other problems with the official timeline:

1. There was no need to lie to ensure medical workers got masks.

Virtually all masks were being made abroad, I recall reading early on that there was only a single company making surgical/N95 masks in the USA and in the beginning they were refusing to increase production anyway because they had been burned before by "fad" demand spikes for masks. So the supplies were all coming in via ports and government could simply have nationalized any in-flight shipments using existing customs infrastructure, then signed long term contracts at above cost to monopolize the future supply. People just didn't have access to masks at scale early on in the epidemic, and if they had done, it would have been trivial to pass a law stating that governments and health care providers get first dibs.

2. It assumes that ~all health experts worldwide can say "masks are ineffective and not very important" yet ~all healthcare workers worldwide themselves will know this is a lie and ignore it, without blowing the whistle to the press, even though masks are supposedly life saving. This is a ridiculous assumption.

3. Even if we take their claims at face value, it means public health experts see lying as such a low cost strategy that they'll deploy it even for managing very short term issues like supply chain imbalances, despite the obvious long term damage it would do to their credibility. Or in other words, it says that public health feels so powerful that the normal rules of accountability and honesty just don't apply to them. This is a terrible message to send to the world!

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Fully agree with this on all points but just want to add one more datapoint - in email communications in Feb 05, Fauci stated a belief that masks in the sense that mask mandates want them used don't work, which is not consistent with his alleged "conspiracy" to sequester masks for healthcare providers. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/20793561-leopold-nih-foia-anthony-fauci-emails page 3027

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> So when the medical world was asked about masks at the start, they appear to have been correctly summarizing the state of knowledge until that point. They said eh, masks, well, we don't have any convincing evidence they work actually. It wasn't just Fauci, they were all saying that. And it appears they were justified to do so.

Frankly, I can't even imagine a world in which they would be justified in saying so. We were dealing with a new virus whose transmission vectors were completely unknown. Why *wouldn't* you recommend masks *just in case* until we know more about this new pathogen? Clearly masks work to some extent or healthcare staff wouldn't wear them at all.

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As of now, healthcare workers are wearing masks to accommodate the customers (patients) who want them to wear masks. It is a signal that we take covid Very Seriously here.

Source: for work I am privy to some of the conversations about this and how most of the office workers and RNs are various degrees of upset over having to wear a mask despite being vaxxed.

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> As of now, healthcare workers are wearing masks to accommodate the customers (patients) who want them to wear masks.

That's not what I meant. Hospital staff were wearing masks long before COVID in certain wards or when doing certain work. Clearly masks work to stem the spread of infection. That's just a fact.

Then COVID came and it was apparently killing people at alarming rates, and we didn't really know how it was transmitted. What moderately intelligent person in their right mind when faced with these basic facts would recommend *against* masks? A health professional is very aware of the precautionary principle.

The only explanation that makes sense of Fauci's recommendations against mask use was his stated fear of shortages.

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There's long-standing public health policy in the "evidence-based" world that you *shouldn't* recommend *anything* unless you have empirical studies showing it works. This has been the source of a lot of our problems, that a more Bayesian approach would do better at.

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> "we have no evidence that masks work and there is no reason for ordinary people to use masks", which sounds frustratingly similar

There is no meaningful difference between a country's leading healthy authority saying "don't wear masks" and "there is no reason for ordinary people to use masks".

Furthermore, Fauci didn't just leave it at that, he also said that wearing a mask could be *worse* than not wearing one, because people fiddle with it, touch their face, and so on.

So yeah, saying that Fauci said "don't use masks" is a very fair abbreviation of his recommendations at the time.

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The "people fiddle with it" is a case where the science really did change. We were genuinely worried about surface transmission at the early stages of the pandemic and then fairly quickly learned it was unlikely to be significant. Therefore people playing with their masks in public (which is absolutely something that happens a lot) is not the problem it seemed like it could be. Maybe it's still a problem for other diseases, but it doesn't seem to be a concern for COVID-19.

If only other public policies and perceptions had updated in the same way. Too much wasted effort on spraying down the streets, cleaning the subways, etc. that are irrelevant to COVID-19.

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But I'll make a stronger claim: you can't even do this in principle. One might be tempted to say "aha, well, maybe there's 50 dimensions but we can analyze all of them and come to conclusions" but you can't! Because people have varied lives and, no matter what conclusion you will come to, somebody somewhere will say "if we did it your way, I would not be alive right now. Eff you" and there is absolutely nothing you can say to that person to change their mind.

You can do a writeup where you try to determine position on all of these 50 dimensions, and end up with: "Lockdowns helped with X, Y, Z; they made Q, W, E worse, and also had effects 1, 2, 3 which are hard to classify as good or bad". Let's say it is backed up by a prediction market, and population generally believes in prediction market's accuarcy, so there's no dispute over facts.

It is possible that after reading this, exactly half of the population believes "Lockdowns worked" - which means "they were net positive". But it's unlikely. It'll probably be skewed. The answer still won't be "objective" - but it can be meaningful. Are serial murderers bad? Vast majority of the population will have one answer. Technically it won't be a fact, but...

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crap I forgot to quote, now it's unreadable, eh. First paragraph is a citation.

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What about smaller questions: Does locking down golf courses and beaches work?

I suspect we can say now with some confidence that the lockdowns of expansive outdoor recreation in the spring of 2020 were a bad idea spread.

It's worth reviewing the almost transparent propaganda tools that were used to promote shutting beaches, such as printing pictures in newspapers of seemingly ultra-crowded beaches taken with super long telephoto lenses that compress distance unrealistically.

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> But we know that's a lie. Why? Because Fauci said it was a lie under oath to congress.

Do you have a source for this?

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