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deletedFeb 7
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Um....some links please.

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deletedFeb 7
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Well see....that's the thing: I have. Not long ago I examined exactly the claim that you just made (due to having become neighbors of a polyamorous household and become curious about the various claims made about the practice).

Which is why I know that your second sentence above is flatly false.

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Well, in the US twosomes lead to divorce 50% of the time. Is there really data on threesomes? And do you get that if one member of a marriage cheats with a third party, that is not polyamory? That is called having an affair. They're different.

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Fair. My one caveat would be that polyamory should be addressed (at least for the purpose of this discussion) as a possible candidate for a luxury belief: the kind of lifestyle that confers status, and maybe some sort of happiness, on wealthy people from the Bay Area, while inflicting costs on the lower classes who are going to watch a gazillion TV shows about polyamory over the next decade and are going to break up marriages and leave children unattended and fuck themselves up even further, because cool people do it. So, from that point of view, it’s perhaps healthy for society that a bunch of narcissists give us their takes on their terrible experiences, so we lowly journalists can write them up and poor people can link to them on their Facebook feeds. Sounds Effectively Altruistic to me.

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deletedFeb 7
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Lower-class people are already struggling to maintain stable relationships with one person. If A and B have a 50% chance of getting along, what are the chances A and B, A and C, and B and C can all get along?

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As someone with friends across a rather wide range of classes, I'm quite appalled at the stereotyping of working class people as being unable to manage their personal lives if given some liberty. Maybe there's a wider spread in outcomes, but I doubt their median ability is much below that of their middle class neighbors. Dudes (and dudettes) with demanding jobs and tight budgets are often more grounded than those who have more leeway - reality has a way of bumping you in the nose.

Honestly it sounds to me like a cheap excuse for authoritarian positions, which should be mercilessly mocked.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Yeah habits change, quite massively. Nobody is arguing they don't. You can decry it if you want for all kinds of systemic reasons, and I'm not getting into an argument about those here.

Individually though, I'll defend the ability of most individuals to make better informed choices for their life than someone from a different social milieu looking over their shoulder saying "if only these people would...".

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"Individually though, I'll defend the ability of most individuals to make better informed choices for their life"

Ok, does that contradict the idea that a lifestyle could be more harmful for one group than another? Should we individuals making informed choices not inform ourselves of that possibility through discussion as we're now doing?

I'm quite appalled at the stereotyping of ACX people as being unable to discuss an "is" without necessarily implying an authoritarian "ought" when given some commenting liberty.

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I suspect this might be getting causation backwards? For example, other things being equal (which they never are), divorce is really bad for people financially.

Also consider that your observations may be due to survivor bias.

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THIS

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If C is auspistizing for A and B and B is auspistizing for A and C and so on, possibly quite high.

If you are in the type of relationship that fights about money, a third income (and reducing housing costs by a third if you all share a home) can fix a lot of problems.

If you are in the type of relationship that fights about sex, a second partner you can have sex with if the first isn't interested that night can fix a lot of problems.

If you are in they type of relationship that fights because chores and childcare take up so much time that you're both habitually exhausted and irritable, someone to pick up a third of those duties can fix a lot of problems.

If you are in the type of relationship that fights because you are both bad at communicating and stop trying very hard when you get emotional, having a third party who knows you both really well and can facilitate communications between you can fix a lot of problems.

Etc.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Indeed.

Perhaps my comment was a confusing mix of rhetorical question and open-ended thought experiment.

Suppose for example that polyamory increases the chance of any two people in a throuple getting along to 80%. Then in a three-person relationship the chance of of all three getting along should be 51%, slightly higher than my monogamous assumption of 50%.

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Um, no

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Like everything else - ill health, losing your job, your marriage or long-term relationship blows up - if you have money, it cushions you more. You have more options. You can access help faster and better. If you want to spend six months curled up in bed crying and eating ice cream, you are not likely to have the electricity cut off because you can't pay the bill. You can write a book that gets reviewed in the 'quality' papers about your vicissitudes.

If you try poly and it doesn't work out, having money means you can afford therapy (like the blackmail Mrs. Winter indulged in, apparently: gave hubby an ultimatum that he goes to couples therapy with her or she closes the marriage) or separate households if you have to split up, etc.

For those who, like the other example the Atlantic writer gave, rely on poly relationships as a network of practical physical and financial, as well as romantic and sexual, support, if it goes wrong then they may be very badly stranded: now they have no place to live, or their finances are reduced, or the person who always brought them to their hospital appointments is no longer around. They don't have the same range of options or spare capacity.

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Why do you think it's an upper-class thing that lower-class people copy unsuccessfully?

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The concept of a luxury belief strikes me as deeply suspect. I could provide an argument for its invalidity, but I think it'd be dishonest to lead with that even if it was true. Because the real reason for my suspicion is almost certainly just that it's too damn convenient.

For intellectuals not aligned with the mainstream intelligentsia, calling something a luxury belief is just perfect. It condemns a belief in a way that makes most possible counter-evidence irrelevant, it frames the speaker as an insightful critic of the WEIRD, and it carries with it a worldview that usually flatters their politics.

I realize that this is rather unfair of me. Sometimes convenient things are true; sometimes one's biases align beautifully with reality. But still, it feels off.

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I like your objection to my objection, I think it's important that we don't let the concept of luxury belief slide into something meaning "stuff that sucks." We already have words for that. So, to address the point of whether polyamory is at least partly a luxury belief or behavior, we need to decide whether a) it confers status to upper-class promoters of that belief and b) it inflicts costs on the lower classes who will ape the behavior. If both conditions are not met, then it's not a luxury belief.

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This sounds like it describes mental math. Are you against mental math?

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I don't see how mental math qualifies as "a belief". You could imagine people advocating that math _should_ be done in your head, and that writing it down as an aid to calculation was sinful, but I don't think avowing that belief would confer status.

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I think (a) is true of many beliefs, but I have a hard time thinking of any real world examples of (b). While something like polyamory could in theory be harmful to the masses, very few people practice it and it's unlikely to take off any time soon. Many of the examples of luxury beliefs I've heard (like "defund the police" and open borders) are really just policy views where the individuals espousing them do not personally have the capacity to implement them and can therefore say whatever they want. I would like to see examples of luxury beliefs that actually hurt the lower classes when they go on to adopt them.

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deletedFeb 7·edited Feb 7
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This is a good point, I had not thought of this side of things.

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“Supporters all live in rich countries” seems to elide the rather large portion of the population whose human potential is not adequate to fend off the challenge posed by the arriving horde.

The luxury belief is that of the Bryan Caplans whose lives at no point touch any of this social decay, and who sincerely believe national unity may be maintained while telling the lower class they are shit people who deserve to be displaced by strivers from other countries.

Not sure what he’s going to tell the strivers’ kids and grandkids.

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If rich people benefit from keeping immigrants out, but poor people are harmed, keeping immigrants out is a luxury belief. If rich people benefit from not being able to immigrate, but poor people benefit from immigrating, then not wanting to immigrate is a luxury belief.

Both of these are aspects of closed borders, but they are *not* the same thing. And you're trying to compare rich people who want to keep immigrants out--the first one--to poor people who benefit from immigrating--the second one. You can't paste together half of each one and still get a luxury belief.

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The ones I've heard most often are casual sex and no fault divorce. Neither idea seems to cause much harm to the upper classes, but are destroying the working classes.

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I don't think no-fault divorce has any real connection to status. I think people just realized how fucked it is that someone (mostly women) would have to stay with someone they hate for the rest of their life if they can't provide what sometimes amounted to very specific evidence of wrong doing depending on their location. No doubt it has done a lot of harm to some people who would have been better off staying married, but it also provides an enormous amount of benefits.

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It seems to me that there are two very broad categories of no-fault divorce. One is which there is something terminally wrong with the relationship (often to the level of abuse) but that would be difficult to prove in a legal context. The alternative is really any other situation, where one or both partners just decides to leave even without a specific problem.

No-fault divorce was implemented for the first group in order to solve some real problems. The second ground was an unintended consequence of the rules changing.

Cultural elites gain benefit from the first and rarely choose the second (they tend to stay married). Lower classes much more often get divorced, and both the couple and their kids suffer significant burdens because of it. In some cases this seems worth the tradeoff (i.e. abusive relationships), but in many others it becomes objectively worse for all involved.

I would much prefer a society in which couples needed a recognized reason in order to get divorced (or at least a strong Schelling Fence against divorce).

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I am fascinated and a bit horrified at how much of this discussion is pivoting around class.

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If I close my eyes, it’s not there!

— baby

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There's an argument you frequently see in conservative circles that society has embraced the luxury belief of "it's okay to deviate from strict Christian sexual morality" or "it's okay to prioritize your self-actualization over your social role". Things have gone okay for the upper class, who have fun premarital sex and marry later but still generally get married before having kids and stay married after. Meanwhile rates of single parent households have risen dramatically among the lower class. And it's not that lower class people have found cool alternative arrangements to nuclear families; it's just lots of single moms and inadequately supportive dads.

I'm not saying I agree with this view. The upper class morality I was raised with "it's okay to have premarital sex but you are responsible for being a good and stable dad" seems perfectly fine and something I think everyone should follow. But I'm just sharing the most common version of "luxury belief" I've read.

There's a related argument that upper class people have the self-control to use addictive substances that are bad for lower class people, so lower class people benefit from tighter prohibition/stigma re: drugs.

The last "luxury belief" I can think of, which I mostly agree is a "luxury belief", is that college is for unfocussed intellectual aspiration rather than following some track to success. This works out fine if you can get a job at your dad's law firm after your wanderings, not so much if it leaves you with a ton of student debt and a job at Starbucks.

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This seems like a different approach to the idea of "luxury beliefs". Rather than being beliefs that confer status, these are behaviors that people can get away with if they have the right resources or self control but that can be disastrous to people who lack these things.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

I think this fits the words "luxury beliefs" better.

The idea of luxury being where you can spend more (time/money/etc.) on something than the bare minimum because it better fits your idea of what it should be.

The other version seems more like a status marker, because it conveys status to *publicly* hold the belief - you don't get anything for privately holding it after all.

I had a friend who was on welfare. He decided to lease a luxury car because he could (barely) afford the lease payments (on a 6 year lease). I think he also made a case that the car would better enable him to look for a job (it didn't). Of course when the lease ran out he was back on foot.

Why not get a cheaper car? Because he liked the heated seats.

Luxury belief.

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That's a good point. I suppose the connection is that the luxury belief is a non-judgmentalism toward and perhaps willingness to indulge in the luxury behaviour.

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Why is it different? When it's clear that belief X is inconsequential for high status persons and disastrous for low status persons, then the claim of "I have belief X" is either a claim to lunacy or a claim to high status.

Should the option of lunacy be disprovable by other means, what remains is a very powerful high status signal.

That is more about "defund the police" categories than "polyamory" categories, though. Not because I doubt the disastrousness of polyamory for low status persons, but because I doubt its inconsequentiality for high status persons.

(IIRC, Sailer has filed polyamory under the orthogonal "nerds lacking the jealousy gene" compartment. I find that to have better explanatory power: for such a group, it is indeed inconsequential, whereas membership in that group is as status-agnostic as is "being born on the 79th day of the year")

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I'd thought that that was the original definition of "luxury belief", but I don't actually know where the term came from.

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What is "I have vast material resources and self-discipline" if not an expression of high status?

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That's how I've always understood the term, which I believe I may have first heard used by Rob Henderson.

Luxury beliefs = beliefs that one group has the luxury of believing without much negative consequence, whereas another group suffers to the extent they adopt the belief. Some examples that spring to mind are 'sexual promiscuity is acceptable' and 'drug use is acceptable'.

Now, there must also be some benefit/upside to holding the belief that makes it a 'luxury' and in many cases it is that they confer status, but that's not always the sole or even main benefit (sex and drugs can be their own rewards lol!)

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Some other ones besides no-fault divorce (and a norm of not marrying at all, which wasn't mentioned), and casual sex:

1. Choosing to be a single mom (tons of high quality studies show the best child outcomes are from stably paired parents).

The median choosing single mom in our (educated coastal elite) social circles is likely highly accomplished, high conscientiousness, and going to give that kid a great education and childhood. This is like <1% of single moms - the vast majority are poor and low conscientiousness and basically breeding a next generation of similar kids.

2. Drug legalization.

I'm actually still all for this on philosophical principles alone - the state shoudn't police what you do with your own body - but it's terrible for lower class and lower conscientiousness people. For educated coastal elites? It's fine, you do shrooms on the weekend once a month with similar friends and get deep into philosophical conversations. Or you smoke weed in a controlled way that doesn't influence your career or family life.

For regular people? It's a huge trap and waster of talent and potential. Yes, you can easily find drugs illegally if you want them, but we're talking the marginal "yes" here that wouldn't happen without legalization. And plenty of young people get trapped in a place of low ambitions and low performance because they have cheap, legal/easy weed and shrooms and video games or whatever. On the margin, it's practically certain that we're causing many people to underperform their potential significantly for many years with drug legalization.

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> 1. Choosing to be a single mom (tons of high quality studies show the best child outcomes are from stably paired parents).

That is true, but those studies tend not to differentiate between parents who are unpaired by choice ("choosing to be a single mom") and parents who have been unpaired without being given a choice ("a drunk driver hit my husband").

My understanding is that the children of single parents whose missing parents did not choose to go missing do not have worse outcomes than the children of stably paired parents, which means that the status of single parenthood in itself does not have the negative impact to which you allude. It's more of an issue of quality of the parents.

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Interesting, I haven't heard this argument. Can you point to some studies showing that?

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A lot, maybe even the majority, of harm wrought by drugs on lower class people is due to their criminalisation.

There are thousands of people incarcerated just for cannabis. The drug trade, which would be massively disrupted by legalisation, is an obvious trade for many to go into given the circumstances they are born into. And criminalisation makes harm reduction and treatment for addiction much harder to deliver.

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I completely agree, and my personal belief is that we should legalize ALL drugs, inclusive of heroin and cocaine. You want to stop the opiod death crisis? Legalization is *literally* the only way to do that.

The actual drugs cost pennies - if they were legally available at a fair cost+20% or whatever at a known strength and purity, there would essentially be zero overdose deaths, and very little negative physical downsides. With pharmaceutically pure stuff, addicts can live and work and function in society for decades. Just look at William Burroughs or Keith Richards!

But I believe my overall point still stands. Definitionally, at the margins will be people whose lives are worse off due to the drugs being legal and easily procurable. Just like at the margins, tens of thousands of people are going to die every year from human-piloted cars, about the same as the amount dying of opiod overdoses. Yet, people choose to drive cars because they perceive their life to be better and more pleasant when driving, even if it comes with some risks. I think that's totally legitimate, and similarly legitimate for the use of legalized drugs.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

If "upper-class" in this context includes liberal elite, or those who aspire to be so, or to be seen as such, then a classic example of (a) + (b) is the luxury belief that mass immigration benefits the economy.

Yes, up to a point it may benefit certain aspects of the economy, for rich people. But for members of the "lower classes", who have to compete with the immigants for housing and jobs among other things, the result is much as that rich guy in the film Titanic scoffs to Jack about his lifeboat deal: "not that you'll benefit from it!"

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"While something like polyamory could in theory be harmful to the masses, very few people practice it and it's unlikely to take off any time soon."

I think lower class/lower status people are engaging in practical polyamory, they just don't bother with any theory and call it either "sleeping around" or maybe "serial monogamy"; the person who doesn't have one main relationship but a lot of casual partners, or is with one person right now but that doesn't mean they're being monogamous if casual encounters are available.

The only thing is that such behaviour is still considered, to an extent, trashy and low-class. But if the NYT reading class, the chattering class, start adopting it and it gets covered in celebrity gossip rags as it trickles down the status ladder, then people may be persuaded into "let's open up our relationship/oh by the way I'm poly now" who would otherwise be dissuaded by the trashy image.

Dan Quayle got dinged for condemning the Murphy Brown storyline about Murphy becoming a single mom, and he probably deserved it, but nevertheless down the line...

https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2019/12/12/u-s-children-more-likely-than-children-in-other-countries-to-live-with-just-one-parent/

"Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%). The study, which analyzed how people’s living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement."

It's not that people will see "Golly, Molly Winter, the wife of successful TV soundtrack composer Stewart Winter, is in an open marriage, we should do that too!", it's that over time things become more acceptable. Famous person does it. Well, that's one of those Hollywood celebs, of course they're like that. Less famous person does it. Well, New York values (to quote someone who got into hot water for that). "A few crazy kids on campus" becomes "our organisation urges our staff to put their pronouns in their email sig". And suddenly what was "nobody decent does that" becomes "everybody decent does that".

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

A couple examples that haven't come up yet:

Drug use- microdosing is cool and high status in some circles, and rich/highly-competent people can usually afford to fix themselves if they go too far (with some famous exceptions). I suspect there are quite many more failure modes for poor people succumbing to drug use, and they have less of a safety net. (Edit: whoops, this did come up. But in a slightly different format. Apologies).

Milder example, veganism. It comes up in ACX/SSC/EA forums fairly often about how it's "not that hard," then people describe their diet, vitamin, blood-testing regimens: if you don't have a strong enough cultural base or a competent neuroticism to make up for that lack, it's easy to wind up with nutrient deficiencies.

>really just policy views where the individuals espousing them do not personally have the capacity to implement them and can therefore say whatever they want.

I would give an alternative version of B: the people espousing the belief do not expect negative consequences from the belief for themselves. This can be the result of being insulated from consequences *or* from (the perception of) having nothing left to lose. Yes, this is a variant of de Jouvenel's high-low vs middle dynamic (https://www.reddit.com/r/CapitalismVSocialism/comments/9oiywz/illiberal_thinkers_1_bertrand_de_jouvenel_what/).

"Defund the police" fits that perfectly, IMO. High-status people saying it are insulated from the consequences (think of Seth Rogen saying having your car robbed is the price of city life- that's easy to say for someone that can afford to replace it without any effort), and low-status and/or poor people saying it have no trust in police anyways.

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> I would like to see examples of luxury beliefs that actually hurt the lower classes when they go on to adopt them.

Well, arguably "sexual promiscuity is fine" is an example of this kind of belief. But that's kind of what the thread is about, so it seems circular to use as an example. I think "drug use is fine" could easily fall into this category. Even aside from just "artificial" consequences like being arrested or drug tested, it's much easier to absorb unexpected costs/risks such as medical side effects or having to take time off work if you have a high-paying salaried job than a low-paying hourly one. You're more likely to be able to afford treatment if you get addicted. It might be easier for you to ensure your drugs are actually just drugs and not mixed with household cleaners or whatever.

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A classic example is divorce. Various commentators have pointed out that the upper-class people most likely to endorse the idea that no-fault divorce is a good thing and the traditional nuclear family structure is oppressive - such people are overwhelmingly likely to get married, stay married, and not have children out of wedlock. Divorce is far more common among working-class families, who have to deal with the social and psychological consequences of broken families and children splitting their time between two households. I believe Ross Douthat even compared this phenomenon to class warfare.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Your comment seems to make sense, but then I read again... how on Earth is polyamory a belief, luxury or not? Wouldn't it be a luxury practice, if it's somehow luxury at all?

That also shows how ridiculous the "luxury XYZ" criticism is. If you can afford something that many people can't and is not a necessity, that's a luxury by definition. People with relatively little money will save and make efforts to allow themselves the occasional luxury, like a family trip or fancy clothes. Assigning negative value to mere luxury seems weird and wrong-headed.

Also, and when we talk about actual beliefs, before we start arguing about whether they confer status or inflict damage on such and such, shouldn't we first maybe have a try at the object-level question of whether they are true?

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> Also, and when we talk about actual beliefs, before we start arguing about whether they confer status or inflict damage on such and such, shouldn't we first maybe have a try at the object-level question of whether they are true?

That would confer status to rationalists and inflict damage on those who prefer to weaponize the conversation in pursuit of their own private goals.

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Lol, good one!!

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

I think the luxury belief would be something like the following:

"Polyamory is superior to monogamy because it's more in tune with human nature and the desire for sexual variety. Everyone would be so much happier if they just were able to accept this, like I have." Or "I the polyamorist, having risen above petty jealousies and base desires of possessiveness, am enlightened and deserving of higher status than those irrational monogamists who don't possess the emotional maturity to handle a relationship where me and three other dudes are banging the same gal on the reg."

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That sounds like a remarkably weird belief. I've seen plenty of groups out there more or less implicitly claiming superiority over the rest of society, but the poly don't really strike me that way. There's always this clear sense of "if you're into that, then...", with an implicit "otherwise, feel free to ignore us".

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I've heard watered down versions of both. I can't say how commonly they're actually held, though.

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This is mostly a straw man I think. Pretty much every poly person I know would say it is not for everyone, and that many people are better suited to monogamy.

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I think the belief is 'non-monogamy is moral'

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Do you think that conferring status is a essential part of a "luxury belief"? I would think that any sort of expensive benefit would be a natural candidate. Some luxury goods are things that people acquire in order to demonstrate status, but other luxury goods are actually really pleasant to have, though they are luxuries, because they are really expensive to maintain, and would be problematic for most people despite their real benefits.

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Seems like a reasonable definition, but doesn't that make many luxury beliefs good things?

Believing that you should be treated with basic human dignity can be very costly to people at the bottom of society. Many of the poor are in a position to be punished quite harshly if they insist on decent treatment.

Are we comfortable classifying our own (often correct) beliefs as luxury beliefs?

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Any luxury belief is negative by definition, in that b) it inflicts costs on the lower classes, while allowing the upper class to reinforce their superior status. It's not metaphorical costs, it's actual costs like those suffered by people who study in shit schools because upper-class people who spend millions to school their own children keep saying that education is overrated and that one should follow their heart and SATs are worthless because holistic admissions making it easier to bribe the Ivy league college to accept their own kids instead. There is no silver lining to luxury beliefs.

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"it inflicts costs on the lower classes who will ape the behavior. If both conditions are not met, then it's not a luxury belief."

This is an interesting question to me, but hard to untangle. We already have a certain level of non-monogamy. How do we tell what fraction of lower class monogamy is due to the upper classes or whatever influenced the upper classes originally? Only the portions that are open and consensual? Does acceptance of polyamory make it harder to police cheating? Possibly. And the notion that monogamy is no longer a cultural standard in dating might be a problem for those who rely on a sort of culture boilerplate to do their heavy lifting. I could understand that. On the other hand, middle class polyamory tends to involve a huge amount of relationship analysis, discussion, etc. And how do we measure the benefit of that added cultural context?

The problem with the notion of 'luxury' is that it implies a certain excess of *material* wealth. I question whether material wealth is the luxury in play here (unless we're talking about distinctly middle class luxuries) as opposed to things like having the intelligence and cognitive empathy to navigate complex relationship dynamics.

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Although material wealth is often involved, I don't get the impression that anyone intended to limit to just material wealth. Having cognitive freedom or emotional stability both seem to fit the bill in terms of the discussion.

As for your first question, I think the rise in unwed mothers over the last 50-75 years is a really good indication. There is always going to be a fraction of children raised without one or both parents - from parental death if nothing else. We can imagine that, say, 1960 (because those are the stats I found) could be considered a baseline for "natural" single parenthood/unwed motherhood and what we have now is more likely the result of the opening of sexual mores and divorce options. In 1960 5% of births were to single women. Today it's around 40%.

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Clarity: status with one group may not equate to status with another. Can we distinguish a "luxury belief" from tribal formation around a set of interests or proclivities?

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I've been living below the poverty line for over a decade, and am poly. I have several friends who range from my status to just making ends meet. Yes, I agree that many poly people are at least middle class or above, but certainly not all.

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I'm not aping anything from my "betters". I've bern poly for longer than most poly people I know.

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You were being pretty evenhanded until you slipped in “the upper classes “

Polyamory has nothing to do with luxury or the upper classes. It’s been practiced by “the peasant class” forever. Just listen to some blues songs; or folk songs.

This one captures the spirit….

https://www.google.com/search?q=woe+is+me+shame+and+scandal+in+the+family&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

If the discussion is about the explicitness of it, if you will, then there is something there.

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Your para is true if you substitute 'non-monogamy' for polyamory, but not true as written, I think. Polyamory is a particular set of ideas that non-monogamy via serial infidelity doesn't correspond to.

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That is a difference of degree, not of kind. Polyamory is non monogamy stripped of a lot of its subterfuge. And, like any other human experience, it is as rich or as barren as the people involved.

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I don't agree with your definitions of "luxury belief" - in my understanding the criteria is simply the various things where it's a luxury to spend your time and effort caring about because the person has the privilege of not having to worry about the many more pressing "lesser issues" that the lower classes *have* to consider, and also often requiring exposure to things or events that aren't common for the lower classes. And while it is *correlated* with status, it doesn't necessarily need to confer status (it might sometimes do it, just as one more visible "class marker"); and the only "inflicted cost" on lower classes is that it may distract them from their priorities, the beliefs required to protect their livelihood and interests.

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> For intellectuals not aligned with the mainstream intelligentsia, calling something a luxury belief is just perfect. It condemns a belief in a way that makes most possible counter-evidence irrelevant

Evidence that the belief leads to positive outcomes would still be relevant (it would disprove the idea that the belief was a luxury belief), so I'm not quite sure what you're objecting to.

The concept of luxury beliefs is just the concept of costly signals, applied to beliefs.

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> You could say someone who lives by a moral code is just costly signaling that they are so good they can be successful even if they never screw others or cut corners.

You could say that, but in that case you wouldn't get very far; most extant moral codes, including the prohibitions on screwing other people over, have obvious direct benefits.

> You could say someone who gives a lot to charity is costly signaling that they can earn so much money they are willing to be generous.

You can say that, no problem. It's a very common viewpoint.

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'Costly belief' is its own term already, it seemed like OP was saying a luxury belief could be have positive benefits for the well-off people who can afford to make it work, but harms poorer people who can't.

In which case, evidence of it helping anyone who can afford luxuries wouldn't count; it's only evidence against the accusation if you can show it consistently helping the poorest and least advantaged, a group who doesn't write a lot of blog posts about their experiences and is hard/inconvenient/annoying to study.

(for example, tests on college students, the subjects of most psychology research, wouldn't count because if they can afford college they're too affluent)

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

I see three definitions in the thread:

1. (mine) A "luxury belief" is one that someone holds despite the fact that it hurts them. In this model, the more strain a person is under, the more likely they are to renounce the luxury belief. I think this fits the concept of a luxury well.

2. (as you just stated) A "luxury belief" is one that is good for some people and bad for other people.

3. A "luxury belief" is one that is avowed by a person who doesn't believe it. (Then, that person remains unharmed by the belief because they don't conduct themselves as if it were true, but someone who falls for it will be harmed.)

It makes no sense to have a term for definition (2); that's most beliefs and certainly all beliefs with any controversy around them. And the only connection to the concept of "luxury" is that we're defining one group to be well off in some sense and the other group to be not well off in the same sense. That is weird. Luxuries aren't things that are good for rich people and bad for poor people, they're things that rich people can afford and poor people can't. They are bad for poor people only when weighed against opportunity costs, and often not then.

(1) and (3) are not the same definition, but I can see the argument for calling either type a "luxury belief".

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I like the first definition you give, though I would replace "the fact that it hurts them" with "the fact that it is costly to hold". There are many different kinds of costs and benefits associated with physical luxury goods, and there could be similar kinds of costs and benefits associated with luxury beliefs.

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Compare my mother's stated grounds for her belief that blacks are no dumber than whites: "I wouldn't want to live in a world where [the opposite] was true."

This belief has many negative consequences at the societal level. At the individual level of being a non-managerial white-collar worker in California, it has no particular direct consequences. Holding the opposite belief would have pretty severe consequences if you admitted to it, but of course it also wouldn't have direct consequences if you kept your mouth shut.

There is not a good match to any of the above three definitions. Which side is the "luxury belief"? Well, I think you could poll a lot of agreement with the idea that the luxury belief is the one where the arguments are "it's true because I wish it was true", as long as you didn't fill in what exactly the beliefs were. Can we do better than identifying luxury beliefs by the spurious arguments made in their favor?

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I associate hypocrisy with luxury beliefs. I tried to think of an example that wouldn't enrage people and failed utterly, so: BMI correlates inversely with income and even more strongly inversely with education; thinking here of the luxury belief of fat acceptance.

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This might be the best example I have heard yet in terms of fitting the framework of (a) conferring status on the person expressing the belief and (b) harming lower class people who adopt it. A fit person can show compassion and reason by expressing the belief that overweight people are largely victims of their genetics, but an overweight person may be better off being prodded in the direction of losing weight.

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This does seem to have the right structure (group with privilege holding status-conferring belief without bearing costs of enacting it) but no longer has to do with class; any thin person can arguably seem compassionate and sophisticated by adopting fat acceptance, and (if it were the case that such attitudes played a causal role in obesity) escape the harms that then accrue to fat people of every social rank. That BMI and income are correlated seems pretty incidental to the question of who benefits and who is harmed. The class angle seems pretty central to how 'luxury belief' is lately conceptualized but isn't essential to it, to my mind. Sometimes roping in class comes with unneeded unjustified assumptions (as here), and sometimes roping in class is needed to substitute for evidence of harm (as in the popular "lower classes are being harmed by permissive attitudes toward relationships" take).

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

When it comes to physique, thin is higher status than fat regardless of any other characteristics a person possesses. Status occurs on many dimensions, not just income and education.

ETA: I re-read your post and I think I better understand the point being made, that the term “luxury beliefs” has strong connotations related to socioeconomic class. This example doesn’t fit the class connotations very well, so you are absolutely correct.

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That's quite right--I think it's useful to understand status-conferring and harm-bearing dimensions as much more variable than the upper/lower class distinction allows.

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> an overweight person may be better off being prodded in the direction of losing weight.

Free semaglutide for all!

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I unironically support this.

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I think the fact that all the examples are political hand grenades is something of an indictment of the term in itself, actually.

And for what it's worth, while some people take "fat acceptance" to a comical extreme, a mild version is good for everyone.

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I don't think that's unfair. I think the problem is that labels like "luxury belief" do two things simultaneously:

a) assert factual properties of the belief

b) assert an interpretation of why someone would subscribe to such a belief.

In this case, "Luxury Belief" asserts a very negative moral interpretation of why someone would subcribe to such a belief, namely that they don't really care about the actual benefit to anyone, only their own status. But even if the facts a) are true, this doessn't imply b) since people have many reasons for subscribing to beliefs, starting with simple error.

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You've described its utitility perfectly -- it's a good term for speaking disdainfully of our social 'betters', but ultimately has no explanatory value.

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On the contrary, I think polyamory is a nerdy gentrification - or perhaps a feminist attempt at harm reduction - of what a lot of people have always done. Historically, monogamy has always been associated with a tradition of quiet infidelity. French culture even pretty much institutionalised it.

The underlying problem is that humans are better at pair bonding than we are at maintaining the sexual spark long term. The natural trajectory is towards a dead bedroom - if this were a solved problem then there'd be something like the 12 Steps, rather than a plethora of different books and couples therapies.

I suspect that whenever a couple avoids the dead bedroom, there's always a hack involved, whether it's exaggerated courtship rituals - second honeymoons etc - BDSM (our bag), swinging, adventure holidays, or - the topic under discussion - poly.

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It could be both. Taking what “a lot of people have always done” and providing it with increased visibility, status and social cachet can also be harmful to the lower class (eg, hick libs) who adopt the behavior.

I agree on your point about pair bonding vs sexual spark. I question how sustainable even the supposedly happy/stable polycules will turn out to be. (“I saw this cute elderly throuple walking in the park today” is a phrase I doubt I’ll ever hear.)

Interesting broader points in this piece about selection effects but I still hate polyamory.

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Or maybe some cultures within the "lower classes" have always had chaotic sex lives and poly would be a good way to help them manage them?

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I just wonder if they can pull it off or if it'll just lead to more social breakdown. But maybe we've reached peak chaos and it'll improve things.

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Seriously, lower class people can't think for ourselves? Hellooo. Class issues ahoy

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How do you define a polycule? For example, my last one involved me and partner (6.5y), partner and their partner (TP) (over a decade), TP and their partner (TTP) (9y), TTP and their partner (TTTP) (3y), etc. I'm still part of their lives, 6y after breakup with partner. Went on vacation with them and others, which TTP paid for, because poor. Many polycules become families.

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I don't think you and various other people here understand what polyamory is. It's not a fancy word for having lotsa hookups or, if you are partnered, for having affairs. It's not swinging. It's a romantic and sexual relationship among more than 2 people. So if there are 3 of them, then instead of being a couple they are a thruple. It is understood among all the members that some or all of them will be having sex with various others in the group. It's out in the open. And often the members of the poly group make some commitments of some sort to each other and to their more-than-one-person love relationship. At least, that is what all the people I know who use the world polyamory mean by it.

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Yes, my understanding from observing my local poly friends is that - as you say - it's not about hookups. It does, however, build variety into the long term.

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"It's not a fancy word for having lotsa hookups"

Not yet, not for the people making up the rules and little groups and discussing this amongst themselves and reading the Ethical Slut books and so forth.

Solo polyamory, to me, looks like old-fashioned sleeping around just with a theoretical construction put on it, but I'm not anywhere near that lifestyle so what do I know?

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-solo-polyamory

"Solo polyamory means that someone has multiple intimate relationships with people but has an independent or single lifestyle. They may not live with partners, share finances, or have a desire to reach traditional relationship milestones in which partners’ lives become more intertwined."

Now, the ethical theoreticians may practice this in a very different manner and not have the same kind of mindset or life as the guy with a string of 'relationships' where he has kids by three different women, none of whom he lives with, and is sleeping with two new sidepieces right now - but to an outsider, it looks the same. Middle-class Robert and lower-class Bobby are not in committed relationships, are having sex with different partners, and are not "sharing finances or intertwined lives".

And as poly disseminates out into the mainstream, if it does, it will be like dye in water as it reaches the level Bobby is at - it will be diluted immensely from the original practice Robert adheres to.

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I remember hooking up with someone in college who asked "how long have you been poly?" I didn't think I was poly, just single.

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Who knows how which way cultural diffusion will go, but my guess is that polyamory, with its awkward greco-latin name, mostly remains a label for "group relationships with lots of agreed upon explicit rules".

The other thing is much more common, and already has the common friendly name of "open relationships". Or as you said yourself, "sidepieces".

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Um, solo poly here for several decades. It can be about lots of casual sex, and I have no problem with that so long as everyone knows that and pregnancy and STI prevention is maintained at a high standard.

The guy with multiple kids by multiple partners you describe? Not poly. Never was, never will be.

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Also, poly isn't just happening in little groups. It isn't common, but it is a full-fledged thing, with international orgs.

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dunno, when is "dead" an "early dead"? Heard once, lesbians have that the early issue, know an ex-hetero-couple, too - me now in 11th year and in my fifties and still wonder: why even bear another person if not for this? Statistics seem to indicate, married(partnered) people do it more and with each other. Anthropology suggests loose partnerships with a prefered partner. Scott once wrote 'Polyamory is boring', I guess he is right (monogamy obviously is, too). But neither: dead bedroom. https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/06/polyamory-is-boring/

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Googling around yields the stats for dead bedrooms or dry spells to be anything between 16% and 50%.

If it's as low as 16%, then I suppose you could argue that those are the folk who *need* specific other arrangements; that these aren't actually hacks but rather revealed preferences.

I'm sure partnered folk do have sex more often *on average* than unpartnered ones. However, most of that probably happens early in the relationship.

> Anthropology suggests loose partnerships with a prefered partner.

Which suggests that some variations on poly are "natural", in so far as poly goes with the grain of human nature.

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Since you mention "natural", what I've heard from the world of ethology, putting humans in the wider context of sexually reproducing animals, is that as a species we're much closer to long-term pair-bonding than to free-for-all, but not all the way so. Hence all these unstable situations, like our tendency to form long-term bonds and then cheat or drop out.

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That's what I'm talking about. We've become "too good" at pair bonding compared or our ability to maintain sexual interest.

I would speculate that this has something to do with developing consciousness and then culture, plus our extended longevity compared to what it was when these instincts evolved.

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If so, why the need to sell so much Cialis?

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

It's not just humans either. I remember reading about a male crow being tracked who they knew was infertile, but his mate kept successfully having children anyways. No points for guessing how that happened. More interestingly, I've personally witnessed a crow couple have a really violent fight (right in front of their child, too), and after that day, only one parent would come visit me with their child. I'm pretty sure they split up, and I'm not even sure if they ever got back together again.

It makes sense that as intelligence increases, behavioral patterns become less consistent. That's the whole point of intelligence, after all; to allow one to dynamically adapt to situations instead of being fixed to a doomed path.

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Poly is usually boring.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Probably both, honestly. Nerds and feminists seem to be a big portion of the people doing it.

As for the kink--you would be surprised how often I got the 'my husband doesn't want to dominate me' thing on OKCupid back in my dissolute era. (Yes, I know it's the other way in your case. The point still holds and, really, I agree with you.)

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Agree that this is gentrifying a universal feature of human mating behaviors, disagree about trying to explain why it happens with generic flaws in human nature/relationships.

Most behavioral strategies are not unitary in a population, there is usually variance between different types of behavioral strategies in different proportions that create a hard-to-exploit equilibrium across the population.

We should expect some number of monogamous people and some number of poly people and some number of whatever other categories we want to draw in every human population, just because a population with a pure strategy featuring only one of those for everybody would be vulnerable to exploitation and invasion by other strategies.

We don't need a universal explanation like 'dead bedrooms trend towards infidelity' or w/e, we can sufficiently explain this with normal human variance.

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I'm not sure these are flaws as such.

It's more like the way we diagnose some kids as ADHD when really all they are doing is failing to thrive in the unnatural constraints of the classroom.

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These are sentences where 'often' would have been uncontroversial, but 'always' stretches credulity. Do you wish to be understood as literally denying the existence of happy monogamous fidelity?

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Absolutely not.

However, I think in most cases - assuming they are sexually active together - the couple in question is applying some hack, maybe as vanilla as strategic second honeymoons or makeup sex, or messing with tantric stuff.

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> or perhaps a feminist attempt at harm reduction

Yeah, I think this is close. I'd describe it as a straightforward continuation of a pattern I associate with 3rd-wave feminism, of noticing patterns of human behavior that were suppressed and stigmatized by the dominant culture, and finding a way to implement them in ways that align with "feminist" values such as consent. (Same as with various flavors of kink.)

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M/f kink is basically a way of laundering traditional gender roles through 'kink'.

You would be surprised how many feminists were into it. Or maybe you wouldn't.

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I basically view gender, as in the "social construct" type of gender, as being a socially approved form of role-playing. I'm not a half-elf paladin or an orc mercenary, but I've played them at times and had fun, sometimes even dressing up for the live-action stuff. Putting on gendered clothes to go to the opera is similar. And yeah, I do have preferences - there's stuff that I can try to play as but it doesn't really click, and other stuff that just fits like a glove the first time I try.

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That's a good example of the same process. Just because an urge is natural, doesn't mean it's good. However, just because an urge is bad doesn't mean you can't have fun with it and maybe scratch the itch. See also martial arts.

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Agreed.

As for the urge being good or bad...I suppose it only makes sense we'd disagree on *this* one, huh? ;)

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I meant "the urge" in the sense of "*an* urge", if you know what I mean. The urges I scratch when playing video games, for example, are probably not good ones.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 8

Hello from Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

I'm in the center of local polyamorous (mostly, but not only, in a broad sense, i.e. ENM) community. Our polycule of 3 lives on ~$2500/month and we are not far from being the richest people in our social bubble. ~$20-25/day is considered an ok-ish salary.

We're always quite surprised when we hear that polyamory is apparently the lifestyle for rich:)

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I have heard it's seeing adoption among less-affluent young people as a way of coping with uncertain jobs and high housing costs, so that may be a third cluster along with nerds and feminists.

Isn't St Petersburg sort of the California of Russia? Long intellectual history, closer ties to Europe, etc.?

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Eh, my experience with lower class relationships doesn't bear this out.

Maybe you could make that argument about casualizing divorce and/or normalizing co-habition or something, but given how common divorce and co-habitation are, the horse is already out of the barn. Marriages already get broken up, children are already out of wedlock, there's not a lot of sacred cows left protecting us against those things.

Whereas for the people who can manage it, normalized polyamory can provide a mechanism for more distributed types of networks of support and mutual aid and tight-knit community.

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Because the Public Discourse world is surprisingly small in some ways, the guy that coined "luxury beliefs" has complained about the nearly-unknown author of the feted poly book getting book events while he can't despite having a much larger audience: https://www.robkhenderson.com/p/book-stores-dont-want-to-host-an

"Right background, check; right boxes, check."

>Sounds Effectively Altruistic to me.

Hahaha, I like this model, yes.

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The "luxury belief" thing was already mostly addressed in the subscriber-only post.

From Scott:

>[quotes from the author]…so you might think the author believes that polyamory is, in some sense, associated with the rich. Any such belief would be false - both of the studies I know of addressing the demographics of polyamory (1, 2) find that it’s about equally common across social classes.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8023325/

[2] https://sci-hub.st/https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2018.1474333

---

From the comments (presented without attribution in case anyone was relying on the anonymity of subscriber-only):

>Wasn’t this article just one of the alt-right criticisms of polyamory as a “luxury belief”, repackaged for the left instead?

--

>The problem with the "luxury belief" conception for polyamory is that polyamory doesn't really buy you any status... at least not outside certain small groups which are themselves low-status. If I, as an upper middle class person, started telling people I was polyamorous then I wouldn't get status, I'd get a whole bunch of "ew, TMI" and "I didn't need to know that".

>I agree that being opposed to polyamory is low status (unless you couch it in a bunch of left-wing blather like this guy did) but actively being polyamorous isn't high status (unless maybe you're really good looking).

---

Even the author of the article disgrees (with himself):

>Meanwhile, others have turned to ethical non-monogamy precisely because our society is not set up to their advantage. They practice it not as part of an individual journey of self-discovery, but as a way to have more support, materially and emotionally. In 2022 the writer and disability-rights activist Jillian Weise wrote a thoughtful essay, also for New York magazine, exploring the freedom polyamory provides to her as a disabled person. That piece did not generate the breathless coverage of either More or New York’s canoodling cats.

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Exactly. Thank you. Disabled, poor and poly here.

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The lower class (at least if defined by education and income) has already been on this trajectory for a long time, while the upper classes have mostly continued on the track of getting married and not having kids outside of it. Arguably the upper class as a responsibility, which they've failed to meet, to use its cultural influence to encourage this behavior. Also arguably, popularizing polyamory in culture could make the problem worse. But the damage is largely already done, and I think it could easily be the case that it stems more from ignoring the upper classes than from paying attention to them too closely.

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I think I object to the idea that people who live a certain lifestyle are morally culpable for the harm done by third parties who choose to imitate or make TV shows about that lifestyle. No one is forcing the third parties to do those things; shouldn't the people choosing to do bad imitations or make bad TV shows have the primary moral responsibility for the effects of those choices?

Maybe if the original person is going out of their way to draw attention or promote the lifestyle, but then you're essentially back to hating people who write books, not all people who live the lifestyle.

I also object to labeling lifestyles as "beliefs". That's just poor terminology.

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Fair points. I would say common sense would apply: there are certain things that I do, that I don't think everyone should do because they would be awful for them (I went to J-school, for example: awful waste of good time and money); so it's fine that you do certain things without the need to turn your own tastes into moral crusades.

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I live in ohio. Most poly people I know are queer and either poor or working class. Seems to work fine for them.

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I mean, I don't think people are going to copy polyamory just because they saw it on TV.

It's way more likely that material reality drives people to poly, and one material reality is that it's easier to afford living on 3 - 4 incomes than on one, and if you have 3 - 5 adults cohabiting you may be able to skimp on childcare costs.

There's that saying about how California rent keeps relationships that are long dead going. I predict that urban rent and cost of childcare is going to create so, so, so many toxic polycules, just as the aspiration for a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs and 2.5 kids thing created so many terrible hetero monogamous marriages (because what are you going to do otherwise? Spinsters and bachelors were seen as suspect, you probably couldn't have gone very far without the wife and kids).

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Sounds like those are precisely the sorts of people who would fuck up their lives regardless. Do you honestly think they'd be great parents and spouses if they'd never heard of polyamory? They just would have found some other excuse to torpedo their relationships and ignore their responsibilities.

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I read section II and thought, "Hmmm. I should conduct a close analysis of the things I do gracefully and effortlessly and try to write about what I discover..."

Then I read section III and thought, "No... I really shouldn't."

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founding

You're allowed to write a blog post. If it gets to a book then yeah, don't :)

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Be careful. Trying to overanalyze something you only unconsciously understand can give you The Yips.

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

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I know this isn't the point of your post, but "Treat every day as a gift from God" is much better relationship advice than non-violent communication, etc.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Seriously! Just being grateful for the simple things in life is such an amazing way to improve it. Having a warm bed! People who recognize you and smile when they see you! The smell of toast! Hot running water! And that's just in my first-world city life.

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But only people who already believe and feel this way would understand what you're talking about. You're not convincing or persuading anyone with this. You're right, but it's not useful.

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From what I've heard, the actionable version of this advice is "start keeping a gratitude journal of the things you were thankful for". I've heard some people who admitted to being instinctively averse to the idea refer to it as being "infuriatingly effective", which is about as high praise as you can give something like that. Rewiring your trapped priors to see the good in life, or whatever.

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Put me in the 'infuriatingly effective' camp. Also in the 'incredibly cringe but effective' camp is the practice of grace at mealtimes; I'm no longer religious, but think a daily dinner practice of being thankful for your daily bread is deeply healthy.

For what it's worth, my relationship advice mostly boils down to 'don't be an asshole and don't hang out with assholes'; it's been very effective for me, but of course, is highly dependent on being able to identify assholery (in yourself and others) and is therefore useless for those who don't already practice it.

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I think there is actually a large difference between "Treat every day as a gift from God" and the "infuriatingly effective" actionable version. The former is vapid, the latter is an actual thing you can do.

It is like the difference between the advice Scott says is given by the healthy and functional, vs the legible but wrong advice from the dysfunctional. Except: this advice is legible without being wrong! Maybe something like a translation service for vapid correct advice is the way to bridge the gap and make advice useful.

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For me at least, the need for gratitude is not something I need to be convinced of, but something I need to be reminded of.

I do have a lot to be grateful for, but it's far too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of life and forget about that. It's too easy to be focused on the things we don't have and forget to be grateful for the things we do.

So, I am grateful to Moon Moth for today's reminder.

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Thank you! :-)

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I'd say it's a description of what the destination looks like from inside, but not a map of how to get there? But if you've been there, it may remind you that you can go back?

To your point, "don't be depressed" has got to be one of the worst pieces of advice ever.

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Ehnhn... bravery debates and all that, I think.

Good advice for spoiled people who are self-centered and have unrealistic expectations and are too upset by minor setbacks.

But also the type of advice that keeps a lot of people in abusive relationships for much too long, or gets them to ignore problems instead of trying to solve them.

The problem here is probably expecting any piece of advice to be 'good' in and of itself, rather than 'good for a specific person in a specific situation'.

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> The problem here is probably expecting any piece of advice to be 'good' in and of itself, rather than 'good for a specific person in a specific situation'.

I agree with this. I'd say, I wouldn't expect telling a random person these specific words would help, but I do think that most if not all people could benefit from getting to a place where they have first-hand experience with what the words refer to.

Recognizing and getting out of abusive situations is a completely different matter. Or maybe it's the flip-side of not taking stuff for granted, where just like we should pay attention to the nice things in life and notice and appreciate them, we should also pay attention to the painful things in life and notice them and reject them. (IMO, one of the key parts of abuse is getting people to the point where they think that it's wrong for them to feel hurt, that their pain is "invalid" and deserved.)

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I separated from my husband of 30 years and the father of my kids for precisely this reason. I wanted to be grateful for the every day joys and not only was he incapable of doing so, he couldn't bear to let me do it either. I'm grateful that the option was available. We did not need to be screaming at each other or hitting each other to be making each other unhappy every day.

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Is it? I think it is exactly as vapid as Scott implies. Or even if it does have meaning, it is probably something close to "Just be a kind and happy person." Which is completely non-actionable to a person who is not kind and happy. (If nonviolent communication fares much better is another question.)

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

"Whenever you feel that your life sucks and your relationship sucks and everything sucks, remind yourself of all the things you have that so many other people don't have, like enough food, a roof over your head, and not having your kids be killed by a missile strike. Then remember that although you could have it better, you could also have it much, much worse."

This is in the same spirit as "gift from God", but more concrete and actionable. And it helps me sometimes, when I feel that my life sucks and my relationship sucks and everything sucks.

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That’s because “gift from God” is a form of toxic positivity for a person that is suffering whereas you are having a heartfelt good faith conversation with yourself about what is really true about your life.

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Good point. The only way I can make sense of "gift from God", no matter how literally or metaphorically you take the word "God", is if this sense of "gift" applies equally when life is treating you badly as when it's treating you well. Which strains the metaphor quite close to the breaking point. It's wonderful when it works though, I've literally seen people be thankful for cancer.

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Goddam it, agree with you. Toxic positivity is exactly the right word for it.

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Good advice if you are a typical reader of this blog, probably.

Bad advice if you are in an abusive relationship you should be escaping, or have real relationship problems that could actually be fixed with the right effort

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There's not a single piece of advice that's applicable to every person in every situation. "Eat less!" - "Eat more!" - "Quit your job!" - "Hang in there!" - "Put more work into your relationship!" - "Get a divorce!" - Each of these can be just the right thing for some and directly harmful for others.

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""Just be a kind and happy person." Which is completely non-actionable to a person who is not kind and happy."

Yeah, SBF forbid that a person ever, ever change in the least.

"But whyyyy I deserve to be happy" "Do you?"

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

You're confusing "this won't make them change," with, "they can't ever change." No, they definitely can change, but your cute quote ain't gonna be what causes it.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

A surprising number of effective philosophies, like stoicism (and its children REBT and CBT) and Bogleheadism, aren't very complex.

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Happy, no, but kindness is a practiced skill. Yes, some people are naturally better at it than others, but anyone *can* get at least a bit better at it with effort.

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Gratitude is a practiced skill, as well, which is why I think the top-level advice here really applies.

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Yes. The person whose relationships have all failed will have 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 advice, not 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 advice.

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Came here largely to say this. Not that it's *useful* advice, but that most good advice is obvious and if you don't get it or struggle to do it, probably breaking it down into smaller pieces and trying to examine each bit of it won't help at all. If it did, the productivity industry would have made us all productive by now.

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Not to someone who doesn't already know the infinite context and cached thoughts hidden behind that simple phrase, I would say.

For example: 'Today is a gift from God, and you are ruining that gift by getting annoyed about me not doing the dishes! What is wrong with you!'

You probably have an idea of how that phrase cashes out in relationship behaviors and perspectives and stuff, but on it's own it doesn't say much.

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Yes, but that's true of any advice you could fit inside a comment section.

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I don't know that I agree, is there a significant part of the population that would benefit from *more* violent communication in their relationship?

I wouldn't recommend that to people who get exploited because they don't angrily stand up for themselves while throwing things, for example; I'd recommend they find someone who doesn't exploit them.

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"Non-violent communication" is a term of art. It has nothing to do with not throwing things.

There is a significant portion of the population that would be hurt by going down the NVC rabbit-hole.

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What? How in the world would this hurt them?

I am not maximally pro-NVC, but a modicum of NVC has sure seemed to help a lot of low income folks I’ve known.

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You must know that it is logically possible for something to be helpful for one person and unhelpful, even harmful, for another.

Personally I have never met anyone who got anything out of NVC long-term, although I have met many who were initially enthusiastic.(and have occasionally been subjected to it myself). Perhaps it works better on "low income folks," I don't know. There may also be cultural issues, I don't know where you're from.

Honestly, for the most part I've found it to be a harmless waste of time, but it can cause two big problems; firstly, although in theory it's supposed to be just for you, in practice it gives people a weapon to accuse others of communicating inappropriately; and secondly, that it discourages judgement and blame - which could be good for some! - but in practice most people seem to have the opposite issue and could stand to be a lot more judgemental.

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I'm slightly disappointed you didn't format "(have I just accidentally re-invented televangelists? Fine, I’ve just re-invented televangelists; I recommend against marrying one.)" as a Song of Myself joke.

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I find that poem so annoying! If only I could pin down the reason why...

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Oh, don't worry, the only part I know about is the one I'm referencing:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

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>I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing;

As the hugging and loving bed-fellow sleeps at my side through the night, and withdraws at the peep of the day with stealthy tread,

Leaving me baskets cover’d with white towels swelling the house with their plenty,

Shall I postpone my acceptation and realization and scream at my eyes,

That they turn from gazing after and down the road,

And forthwith cipher and show me to a cent,

Exactly the value of one and exactly the value of two, and which is ahead?<

Those are some dangerous towels. Some towels from the Sorceror's Apprentice.

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It's a bit hard to get into due to the face-value narcissism, but once inside it is what Scott here spoke of as making the ordinary human transcendent. Whitman invites us to use his words to describe our own experience "(It is you talking just as much as myself, I act as the tongue of you, / Tied in your mouth, in mine it begins to be loosen’d.)".

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Sorry if this is somewhat off-topic, but I don't have a subscription to The Atlantic: did Tyler Austin Harper (a professor of English at Colby College who, I believe, specializes in stuff like late Victorian sci-fi novelists like H.G. Wells) mention how Silicon Valley polyamory is linked to American Golden Age sci-fi authors like Robert Heinlein?

For example, Heinlein worked hard to normalize polyamory in his last book before his cerebral problems, the 1966 libertarian cult classic "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress." Like most people in the Luna colony, the regular guy narrator Manny, a computer repairman, is in a group marriage. This, he explains, is a remnant of the early days of the moon colony when there were far more men than women. Nowadays, the sexes are more equal in number, but Loonies found that they still prefer group marriages for reasons. Manny discounts all the hubba-hubba snickering: polyamory is purely a sensible way to organize that side of life and it's good for the kids!

My impression is that Heinlein had a normal heterosexual man's urge for sexual variety, and he was born without the Jealousy Gene, so, being a reasonable guy, he thought a share-and-share-alike system made sense.

Many of the older tech tycoons like Musk and Bezos are big Heinlein fans. And Heinlein studied his readers carefully and respectfully. Although not a nerd himself -- an Annapolis grad, he struck his fans as a glamorous officer-and-gentleman type who'd be played by Franchot Tone in a movie, which helps explain why they always deferred to him as "the dean of science fiction" even as he got older and crankier -- and he seems to have noted their tendencies such as polyamory and even transgenderism.

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Alas, the only hit for "sci" is "lifestyle fascism".

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There was a TV series a few years ago about Heinlein's pals Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard and their wives: Strange Angel.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

I hate to support mainstream media, but anything with Aleister Crowley, the Babalon Working, and Parsons' attempt to build a homunculus has got to be entertaining. Do what thou wilt.

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You should check out the underrated film Mock-Up on Mu which uses the Parsons-Cameron-Crowley-Hubbard story as its starting point.

https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/mock-up-on-mu

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

I think Heinlein was a gentleman among nerds but would have seemed a nerd among gentlemen.

He's an example of the older libertarian tendency in sci-fi before it got taken over by wokies; I still remember Niven and Pournelle picking on the environmentalist movement in Fallen Angels. That was in the 80s and 90s. Before that you can even count John Norman, author of the notorious male-dominant BDSM Gor hexatrigintology, who apparently got the boot when Donald Wollheim's daughter took over at DAW from him. (OK, it was a hexavigintology at the time.) He's a libertarian. (He's still alive and just dropped the 36th book...)

Apparently his wife, Virginia Heinlein, got him into both polyamory and libertarianism; before that he was just a lefty. The lady was basically your libertarian nerd's dream woman: bright, athletic but feminine, mechanically competent, and libertarian. (Apparently the secret to getting the lady scientist is to be a famous science fiction author.) Heinlein's very unpopular among feminists despite having an obvious taste for strong, competent women.

OK, but wokies are still into polyamory (modern right-wing sci-fi authors like Vox Day most definitely are not). I'd go further and say polyamory makes sense for nerds because there aren't enough female nerds to go around, so there's an obvious solution: share! The male nerds get to sleep with someone, the female nerd(s) get a choice of partners...everyone wins! As for non-nerdy wokies, which is a lot of them, it lets the women indulge their taste for sexual variety, but they put up a lot of feminist stuff to drive off the inevitable supply of men looking to sleep around rather than form multiple relationships.

You may want to read the polyamory subreddit. It is woke as f*** but often unintentionally hilarious, and the single best argument for monogamy I have ever read (likely for reasons Scott says).

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Stuff like "Starship Troopers" leads me to think Heinlein was conservative. I think he mostly could think good, commonsense thoughts, and that most people aren't as far apart on topics as people think they are.

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Seriously, he was all over the political map.

You know how most people's views on disparate issues correlate (pro-gun people are often also pro-life)? Heinlein's an exception to that rule. That 99% correlation? He's the 1%.

(OK, I know a correlation coefficient is the *square root* of the proportion of variation explained by the model, but consider it poetic license.)

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This kind of correlation has long puzzled me. I don't doubt it is true, but have no good explanation for it. My best explanation is people listen to someone pushing an agenda, so they listen to a person, rather than think through issues.

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Factor 1: Any belief with any natural correlation will tend to cluster. People who believe in small government will tend to believe in lower taxes, and vice versa, since you can't make an infinitely big government on no money. The correlation doesn't have to be perfect, because it's then exaggerated by...

Factor 2: People on the other side are annoying and stupid, people on my side are smart and wise, so I listen to the people on my side and disdain the people on the other side. When Ben Shapiro explains how great monogamy is, I nod my head and accept his wisdom as I accepted all his other wisdom.

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For Factor 1, the correlations seem to sometimes be contradictory. Such as gun control and pro-life. Or capital punishment and pro-life. If the sanctity of life is the important thing, aren't these inconsistent?

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

Most people don't have a lot of time to spend thinking out the implications of tax policy or the minimum wage, and are more interested in work and family. They pick the side that has an issue they care about (abortion, immigration, transgender rights), or else pick the side they fit in better with socially (red tribe, blue tribe). Since any practical political change involves voting for one of our two parties in the USA, it doesn't really make any difference what you actually think, and holding heretical views in our polarized era means you can be suspect for belonging to the other side. So thinking for yourself is actually a bad idea.

It may be different in Europe with multiple parties, though I suspect you have a weaker version of the same effect.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

> This kind of correlation has long puzzled me. I don't doubt it is true

You should; it isn't true. (Or rather, the correlation exists, but at negligible levels.)

Andrew Gelman wrote about this - both the issue, and the popular assumption that people's individual attitudes agree with the views of their political party - about ten years ago: https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2012/12/19/a-psychologist-writes-on-politics-his-theories-are-interesting-but-are-framed-too-universally-to-be-valid/ , https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2012/12/21/kahan-on-pinker-on-politics/

> The psychologist I’m thinking about here is Steven Pinker, who, in writes the following on the question, “Why Are States So Red and Blue?”:

>> But why do ideology and geography cluster so predictably? Why, if you know a person’s position on gay marriage, can you predict that he or she will want to increase the military budget and decrease the tax rate . . . there may also be coherent mindsets beneath the diverse opinions that hang together in right-wing and left-wing belief systems. Political philosophers have long known that the ideologies are rooted in different conceptions of human nature — a conflict of visions so fundamental as to align opinions on dozens of issues that would seem to have nothing in common.

> This is all fine—except that attitudes on such diverse issues are not so highly correlated. For a quick check, I went to the General Social Survey website and looked up correlations among attitudes on gay marriage (marhomo), military spending (natarms) and upper-income tax rates (tax rich). The correlations are 0.17, 0.09, and 0.05.

> Before developing a theory of why people’s attitudes on such issues are so highly correlated, we should first measure what correlation is actually there.

He also wrote this paper on the subject : http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/research/published/B&G_PartisansWithoutConstraint_final.pdf

Which, if I'm reading the abstract correctly, found that increasing polarization caused people to more often be found avowing membership in a political party that harmonized with their views, but did not noticeably change the views themselves:

> the authors model trends in issue partisanship—the correlation of issue attitudes with party identification—and issue alignment—the correlation between pairs of issues—and find a substantive increase in issue partisanship, but little evidence of issue alignment. The findings suggest that opinion changes correspond more to a resorting of party labels among voters than to greater constraint on issue attitudes: since parties are more polarized, they are now better at sorting individuals along ideological lines.

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The links seem a bit too dry and uninteresting for me to analyze in-depth right now, but at least I'll take away from this that I should indeed doubt the correlation, as I doubt almost everything anyway.

I do suspect that people don't really think about issues, but fall on the same side as the people they respect and/or associate with. Thinking can be hard work and isn't for everyone, nor, apparently, for most people.

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Yes

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Heinlein was much influenced politically by his various wives. Not much is known about his first wife, but his second wife in the 1930s had him in touch with Hollywood leftist circles, occultists, and so forth. His third wife was libertarian.

Another thing about Heinlein is he got bored fairly easily and then moved on to other topics, which makes him an interesting writer. He didn't have any interest in becoming a cult leader like his friend and fellow sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard or Ayn Rand did, so he didn't bother being politically consistent. Thus, his three main cult novels are aimed at three quite different cults: Starship Troopers is for militarists, Stranger in a Strange Land was adopted by hippies/druggies, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by libertarians.

Note: I'm not familiar with his books written after The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. He had cerebral health problems from 1966-69 and couldn't write. Then he awoke to find himself rich and famous because hippies had taken up "Stranger" and all the old censorship rules were gone. His post-medical crisis 1970s books sound in summary pretty dire, but they sold well and many people today only know him from those.

Heinlein's 1950s juvenile novels for 13 year old boys strike me as his best stuff.

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That correlation has increased over time and is particularly marked in the United States: https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2014/06/12/section-1-growing-ideological-consistency/

The above shows from 1994, I recall the trend continuing to the 50s (where people's views were much less correlated), but I'm struggling to find the research; will reply here if I get around to it.

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It's so amusing to see this debate - Heinlein made a deliberate effort to "get inside the heads of" differing ideas and steelman them on paper. He was not espousing (all of) moon is a harsh mistress, or starship troopers, or stranger in a strange land, off the top of my head.

He was just good enough at writing that it was hard to imagine he was just writing about it.

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Right, there's also "Beyond this Horizon" which has an armed society, and what could be described as eugenics... advising people who to have kids with. I think if you want to get inside Heinlein's head the best lens would be his juveniles.

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Feb 7·edited Feb 7

> hexatrigintology

I'm trying to figure out the construction of this word. hexa- is a Greek root for 6. trigint- is Latin for 30. -log- is Greek again, leading to a conflict where the vowel connecting from trigint- should be -i- but the vowel connecting to -log- should be -o-.

> hexavigintology

This seems to confirm that we're using mixed Greco-Latin numerals for whatever reason. The Greek word for thirty ("triakonta") is clearly cognate to the Latin word, leaving the possibility of confusion open; the words for twenty are not similar.

But then it gets even weirder. Neither language actually allows the formation of numbers this way. It isn't possible to just prefix "six" to "thirty", even if you restrict yourself to Greek. Compare the oktokaitriakontedron,† the figure of thirty-𝗮𝗻𝗱-eight faces, in Archimedes' work: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=o%29ktwkaitriako%2Fntedron&la=greek . Or the much better known triskaidekaphobia, the fear of three-𝗮𝗻𝗱-ten.

An immediate implication is that the word "hexadecimal" is malformed on top of its parallel Greco-Latin construction. (In Latin prefixing without inserting an "and" does occur, and seems to be obligatory, for numbers in the teens, but the "and" appears again in the twenties and presumably higher numbers. The Latin form would be "sedecimal", with no "and". Greek requires the "and"; 16 is hekkaideka (with -ksk- getting simplified to -kk-) but I'm not sure what an adjectival form should look like.

† If someone else knows, I'd like to know why the aspiration at the beginning of "hedron" isn't preserved in the compound form. Does this word postdate the disappearance of initial aspiration in Greek? Does it postdate the transformation of [tʰ] into [θ]?

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It was a joke. I was poking fun at Norman and needed the word for the equivalent of a trilogy with 36 books. I think I saw 'duotrigintillion' somewhere.

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Feb 8·edited Feb 8

If I were to guess, "duo𝗱𝗲trigintillion", where duodetriginti is Latin for 28, literally "two from thirty".

Just for fun, I'll also note that while the Latin and Greek words for 20, viginti and eikosi, are not especially similar to each other, they are still cognate.

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Well, not to mention Stranger in a Strange Land, in which he self described the book as "about a sex cult in an upholstered attic."

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Most poly people don't consider Heinlein's stuff to be poly.

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That's interesting. I had thought that one of the appeals of poly is you can structure it however you want, which would seem to apply to things like the line marriages of Stranger in a Strange Land.

Do poly people generally consider poly relationships to require some qualities that Heinlein didn't include?

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I rather like IMDB's mini-bio of Gaio Giulio Cesare:

> Gaio Giulio Cesare was born on July 13, 100 in Rome, Roman Republic. He was a writer, known for La conquête des Gaules (1923) and Caesar the Conqueror (1962). He died on March 15, 44 in Rome, Roman Republic.

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2471712/bio/

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They left out that Gaio Giulio Cesare was interested in calendar reform.

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Indeed ! They mention some other curious facts about the writer in the "Trivia" block (below the mini-bio), but they completely omitted this one crucial detail.

:-)

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I assume he at least wanted to keep July?

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It was previously called Quintilis, but renamed after him when he died. Sextilis was renamed after his great-nephew.

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> I think this goes beyond polyamory. The people I know from various oft-discussed groups - transgender, super-religious, autistic, rich, etc - are all nicer and more normal than their public representatives would lead you to believe.

I think this may have something to do with how said public representatives are algorithmically selected to be maximally rage-inducing to the "other side".

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Also because it generally requires some annoying over-confidence to put oneself out there as a public representative, yes?

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Perhaps, but I think it's baked in to the process? It's a gradual frog-boiling, of positive reinforcement, where each additional increment of rage-inducement gives more likes