I know it's just using the common turn of phrase, but I wish we'd stop "handing out suspensions" altogether in workplaces. It's a trapping of academia that's creeping into the real world, when we should be shrinking academia and pushing reality back into it.

School children are the only people who should be "suspended". There, you're punishing the child and taking the child out of the environment so they don't detract from other students. But you still have an obligation to try and educate them.

Employers have no such obligation and shouldn't have such an obligation. If an employee's behavior makes them a negative, fire them or reassign them to other duties where they don't detract from the overall enterprise. But punishing employees like they're children at School? Ridiculous.

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I would frame the problems Barro describes not as "insubordination" but as a breakdown of compartmentalization norms. A healthy compartmentalization norm both trusts and expects people to follow different rules on-the-job vs off-the-job. The expectation part is that while on the job you must follow professional rules and serve the organizational mission, even if that conflicts with your personal convictions. The trust part is that as long as you do that, your fellow employees and your boss should not police how you act off the job.

I think of compartmentalization norms as an important tool for protecting liberalism, including social/cultural liberalism, in a complex society with deep moral disagreements. Part of the motivation for compartmentalization is justified horror at e.g. Henry Ford's practice of sending inspectors to the homes of Ford employees to make sure they were behaving "uprightly" in their personal lives: the trust part of the norm is what says employers shouldn't do that. And the expectation part of the norm is what lets us say to a pharmacist: feel free to express off the job your personal moral opposition to contraceptive and/or abortifacient medications, but on the job you must dispense those like any others. Or to Kim Davis: feel free to express your personal opposition to same-sex marriage rights off the job, but on the job you must sign same-sex marriage certificates anyway.

Activist employees of the sort who cause Twitter dramas often violate both parts of this norm: they don't expect to have to follow professional rules on the job themselves or to take professional actions that violate their personal convictions, *and* they don't trust co-workers to keep their off-the-job behaviors separate from their professional conduct. Their animating moral convictions are usually very different from those of Henry Ford or an anti-contraceptive pharmacist, but their anti-compartmentalization reasoning is the same, and a healthy compartmentalization norm should push back on that reasoning in the same way.

Yuval Levin would probably say this norm breakdown is rooted in the move from formative to performative institutions: a formative institution naturally checks the expression of personal convictions while a performative one amplifies it. You, I'm guessing, would invoke "the religion that persecutes heretics": i.e. if you believe passionately that yours is the one universal moral Truth with which no decent person can disagree, it gets harder to keep that conviction out of your work life, or to trust that others who do disagree with you can still be good co-workers. Both may be contributing factors, but there may be other more positive ones as well: e.g. this may be an inevitable downside of a world where more people have the financial security to choose jobs based on intangible meaning-making aspects of compensation rather than just the salary and benefits.

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Jun 12, 2022·edited Jun 12, 2022

<i>My inclination is to add another iteration of that last sentence, substituting “Ivy League University” for “the Post.”</i>

The only institutions that have any business limiting speech by employees this way are those whose entire job amounts to publishing opinions. A newspaper qualifies; a government bureau may; a university does not.

Extending rules like this to other institutions produces gross injustices such as that just now inflicted on the head coach of the Washington Commanders, whom the NFL fined $100,000 for comparing BLM's George Floyd riots to January 6.

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>>My inclination is to add another iteration of that last sentence, substituting “Ivy League University” for “the Post.”

Really surprised to see you say this, Arnold. I thought you missed the time when universities were more supportive of open dialogue.

Professors are supposed to disagree with each other and argue over questions of substance. I doubt one could draw a bright line around the behavior that counts as team playing without a chilling effect on other important discourse.

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Jun 13, 2022·edited Jun 13, 2022

Boy, this really misses the point. A good example is what happens in a trial in a court room. The lawyers are allowed extremely wide latitude to make whatever arguments are relevant and probative as to the elements of the charge or cause of action. They are absolutely prohibited from and will be severely sanctioned for making irrelevant and personal attacks on parties or opposing counsel, or from threatening the judge, or intimidating witnesses, or members of the jury. Penalizing such bad behavior is not 'constraining' the dialogue but enabling it. The triumph of liberal civilization was, once upon a time, in the replacement of rule of men by domination or the popularity contest of informal social pressure with institutionalization of formal and neutral rules applicable to all. But that means actual rules and actual punishments for violations.

The debate inherent in any state of dialogue which could be remotely characterized as 'open' is like any competition or sport which requires adherence to norms of fair play and good sportsmanship to channel efforts so that they are productive and pro-social, which thus blocks off the antisocial ways of winning by restricting it so far as possible to one where the winnign is done on the merits by means of meeting high standards of rigor and excellence. People trying to win by underhanded means by bullying, chilling, mobbing, threatening their opponents are making personal fouls in this sport. You need honest referees who are going to call them out on this out-of-bounds bad behavior and expel them from the game *on that basis of foul play*, which has nothing to do with the content of their speech or the viewpoint they are trying to express.

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I think that a review of Graeber and Wenslow's The Dawn of Everything (https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/your-book-review-the-dawn-of-everything), which was submitted to Slate Star Codex's book review contest, is relevant here. To review the review very briefly, it notes that anatomically modern humans have been around for at least 10x longer than the oldest known civilizations (~ Gobekli-tepe) recognizable as such, and suggests that the reason for this lag is that humans have been stuck in the Gossip Trap: there are too few people around for formal structures to be necessary, so they didn't exist. Instead, societies worked by raw social power - bullying, chilling, mobbing, threatening opponents, passive aggression and so on - so that people's energies were completely spent on reputational management and they had none left over to develop arts, techniques or civilization. Basically all human societies worked like high school. The review then asks an unsettling question:


[W]hat would it be, mentally, to atavistically return to the gossip trap? Well, it sure would look a lot like Twitter.

I’m serious. It would look a _lot_ like Twitter. For it’s on social media that gossip and social hierarchies are unbounded, infinitely transmittable. An environment of raw social power, which, despite its endless reign of terror, actually feels kind of good? Wouldn’t we want to go back to forced instances of fission between human groups, exiling those we don’t like? Wouldn’t we punish crimes not with legal proceedings, but via massive social shamings?

The difference between the horror of crabs in a bucket and a human tribe or group living in a Gossip Trap is actually that the humans are generally quite happy down there in the bucket. It’s our natural environment. Most people _like_ the trap. Oh, it’s terrible for the accused, the exiled, the uncool. But the gossip trap is comfortable. Homey. Of course we like it—_it’s our innate evolved form of government_.

One obvious sign you’re living in a Gossip Trap is when the primary mode of dispute resolution becomes social pressure. And almost everywhere you look lately, it’s like social media is wearing a skin suit made of our laws, institutions, and governments. Does it not feel, just in the past decade, as if raw social power has outstripped anything resembling formal power? How protected from public opinion does a judge feel now? How protected does a tenured professor feel? How protected do _you_ feel? To what degree is prosecution of crime a matter of law, or does social media have its billion thumbs on the scale? [...]

[W]ith the advent of social media, and the resultant triumph of the spread of gossip over Dunbar’s number, we might have just inadvertently performed the equivalent of summoning an Elder God. The ability to organize society through raw social power given back to a species that had to climb out of the trap of raw social power by inventing civilization [and it took a thousand centuries for it to do that! - C.]

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Good review of the review.

I think this discussion and that review help illustrate the distinction between several ideological tendencies in the current discussion of 'liberalism', etc. in terms of one's position on the object level of norms about open expression, and on the meta level of institutional rules supporting / enforcing such neutrality and openness among members, which includes the meta-institutional level of the state and whether it should have a role of insisting on such support within certain key social institutions.

For simplicity's sake, I'll focus at the level of an institution, and attitudes about whether the institution should enforce rules to support a goal regarding discourse, and what that rule should be.

So one could have:

1. Firm, Narrow = 'theocratic', for example, a strict organized religion like the classical Catholic Church, or, a more contemporary example, 'woke institutionalism' as it exists in most elite American universities.

2. Firm, Open = 'institutional liberalism', trial court rules of conduct and procedure, organizations which are neutral as to viewpoint but which punish underhanded troublemaking.

3. Loose, Open = 'individualistic liberalism', people should be free to say what they want, but they shouldn't expect any entity to intervene on their behalf to defend this right or protect them from consequences, even underhanded ones short of physical violence.

4. Loose, Closed = 'mean girls' / 'clique-based gossip-trap social dynamics' / 'high school Hobbesian status war' / 'office politics'.

We can see that when one clique starts to dominate in type #4 conditions, it is usually keen to transition to type #1, either by establishing, coopting, or appealing to an institution. This happened to many 'Big Tech' social media companies, and is part of 'Gramscian Long March' phenomenon which has driven many formerly liberal institutions to ever greater heights of leftism / wokeism.

When people are getting crushed in type #4 conditions, they may hope for an enduring and spontaneous (i.e., without state compulsion) restoration of norms supporting a #3-type equilibrium, though the historical evidence we have suggests this is pretty unlikely. They may also organize to use their power to impose a type #2 condition to protect their state of freedom, at least within their particular institutions, and perhaps on the meta-level as a meta-rule imposed by the state on certain key social institutions.

My view is that this thread started with a critique of a call for #2 which arose out of confusing it with #1, but that's a mistake because the rules operate on different levels.

There are certain formerly """conservative"""" commentators who have become professional apostates who criticize (some might even claim, 'in bad faith') #2 by saying only #3 is True Scotsman 'liberalism' and righteous and American, even if, in practice, supporting #3 in principle always leads directly to #4 and #1 scenarios dominated by one's very anti-liberal opponents.

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Jun 15, 2022·edited Jun 15, 2022

Yes, good discussion. It all depends on what the definition of "underhanded troublemaking" is in #2. If it's a content-neutral definition that equally protects speech which peacefully advocates authoritarian ideas, but punishes authoritarian *actions* like de-platforming, I have no problem with AK's suggestion that punishment should be handed out for "underhanded troublemaking."

Because Arnold was implying that the sort of action he'd like to punish is widespread among university faculty, though, it seemed to me that he was talking about punishing faculty for things like claiming that their colleagues' values or motives are "racist." To me that doesn't fall under a reasonable notion of what #2 should look like, but maybe I was misunderstanding Arnold's suggestion.

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For truly open inquiry to occur in fields like epistemology, it needs to be up for debate *what the "rules" of the debate ought to be.* If these rules hadn't been up for debate in the past, we'd still have the Church putting Copernican astronomers under house arrest.

Of course the university also needs to function as a community, so faculty and students must be restricted from defaming and harassing each other, etc. But the rules governing such behavior should be content-neutral, in the spirit of the First Amendment and in accord with principles of academic freedom.

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I assign a much higher % of causation to ignorance vs. envy. My observation of ineffective leadership at large institutions goes something like this:

- First generation leadership uses critical thinking in novel spaces to develop a tool set effective for solving a particular problem in a specific environment.

- Second generation leadership inherits the tool set but is much less adept at critical thinking because the space/problem combination has been defined and systematized.

- Second + N generation leadership has grown up watching the execution of tool sets accomplish an objective but has no exposure to critical thinking in novel environments borne from either the evolution of the problem or the environment in which it operates. They blindly flail at a new problem with old solutions.

Today's leadership class increasingly comes from a narrow set of Ivy and Ivy adjacent institutions which actively select for individuals who have spent the entirety of their formative years checking pre-determined boxes to pass all the filters. The complete lack of diversity in background and mindset has churned out a ruling class that inherits a tool set inadequate to the both the problems they face and the environment they are operating in. When they encounter failure they just try the same thing harder and externalize blame to "mis-information", "Russia", "maga", etc... It has to be something besides them because they are following the playbook exactly!

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"Trying to use a linear model to analyze a nonlinear process will do that to you."

There is not particular reason for the Fed to use linear models. The point of targeting is that each new data point leads one to adjust course (the model).

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Cactus's is just a variation of the meme that liberals favor intervention in markets not to improve things for everyone or someone but to exercise power.

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Re Barro: Perhaps Sonmez' firing is a good change, but I doubt it. It is is probably a one-off contrary outcome in a trend that is likely continue.

Re Cactus: Motives are always tricky to determine. In this particular case, I wouldn't assign this to envy as much as I would to stupidity and inexperience of how the real world works.

Re Taylor: I call BS on both numbers, or employers are are doing it all wrong (not impossible). After 30 years, pay should reflect 100% the work you have done and do, and probably also after 10.

Re Postrel: A lot of what is happening today reminds me of Spring/Summer 2008. I think I will be reminded of 2008 again late this Summer and Fall.

Re Bowles: Of course the Disinformation Board was intended to police what Americans say online. Anyone who believed Mayorkas' testimony is a fool. And they will continue the operation under new management despite the claims to have ended it.

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Re Taylor: maybe, but if entry skills decide to use starting salary and future salaries are based on adding X% to that starting base you should never have zero reflection of where you started. That is probably as much measuring the type of work you do and the general career arc than your personal skill.

are Cactus: some of the stupidity is probably steering people to motivated reasoning regarding why their envy is correct. Most people seem to reason and create beliefs to justify their feelings as much as anything, and “thought leaders” certainly come up with rhetoric to act on feelings more than reason.

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