Keeping up with the FITs, No. 21

Robin Hanson, Matt Yglesias, Matt Taibbi, Scott Alexander, Glenn Loury

Robin Hanson writes,

Consider the counterfactual world where the American continents never existed. In that counterfactual, there is never a new big place available to try out a new form of government, which then comes to control a huge empire. Most empires are based on more traditional governance forms, which then mostly win the big world wars, and mostly run the world today.

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things a mostly free society is not the end of history, but a historical fluke. As Hanson puts it,

Democratic governments which ensure many political and economic freedoms may be nothing like an inevitable consequence of industry-era changes. In which case it seems less likely that such freedoms will continue long into the future.

Matt Yglesias writes,

what you don’t want to do, as a political movement, is run around looking for reasons to exile people from your political coalition. A non-trivial number of rank-and-file Democrats have a range of views on LGBT issues that put them at odds with the bulk of progressives. It is very important that those people keep voting for Democrats, or else Donald Trump is president again and progress on things like military service becomes impossible.

He wants progressives to engage in rational political behavior. Tactically, you want to try to tolerate people with whom you do not always agree. But I would argue that Woke progressivism is not a political movement in that sense. Political movements are inclusionary, but it is in the nature of Wokeism to be exclusionary. Exercising the power of shaming, shunning, and excommunicating is at the essential core of Wokeism. The Woke would rather lose elections while retaining their power to intimidate than have it be the other way around.

Scott Alexander’s essay, Chilling Effects, has nothing to do with Wokeism. He is trying to assess the impact of global warming on mortality based on the existing research literature. Note that one of the Fantasy Intellectual Teams scoring categories is “evaluating research,” at which he excels.

I’m not really impressed with the people working in this field. Most people don’t clearly say that excess winter deaths are a combination of season-related (from the flu) and cold-related (from cardiovascular) deaths, even though something like this has to be true. I can’t find anyone who says that flu seems to be a bigger deal in Africa than in Europe, even though something like that has to be true too. I can’t find anyone expressing even a smidgeon of curiosity about the Greenland question, which is why I had to cite a Greenland-specific journal from 1986 for the answer. A lot of these studies and analyses just take the temperature record from London and generalize. So I don’t want to say I 100% trust these people and the naive view is definitely wrong.

I felt obligated to include an excerpt, but you really have to read the whole thing to appreciate what he is able to accomplish. Starting from no specialized knowledge in the field, he vaults into a position where he probably is the expert you should trust the most.

I am not sure who to trust in Matt Taibbi’s article about a new book on the Bidens. If its insinuations are true, then they raise all sorts of questions. Why are some stories amplified while others receive little attention? Are there people out there who could destroy Joe Biden in an instant with the information they have on him, and what might that mean for the country? Or are the accusations in the Schrekinger book something that you could contrive about any public figure by finding people who want to toss dirt at him?

In a conversation with Glenn Loury, Wai Wah Chin says,

I want to go back to the words that you used, which were “underrepresented” and “overrepresented”. I don't like those terms because we're not representing anything, okay? When a kid comes in, he's there for himself. So when a Bangladeshi kid gets into Stuyvesant, he's not representing all of the Bangladeshi people in New York. He's representing himself. He's going to go and do well for himself. Of course, it's great if he could do things back for his family and those of his ethnic roots, but we are judging him not by his representational group. And so to say that one person is underrepresented, to say that somebody is overrepresented, that's pretty offensive to the Asians, actually.

California’s law requiring corporations headquartered there to meet diversity quotas on their board of directors requires at least three women and also has a quota for “other under-represented” that can be met in part with non-hetero sexual orientation. So could a male who claims to identify as female count for both?

The whole group quota approach is backward. I wish we could pass a Constitutional amendment to outlaw it, at least for any government entity or regulation.