JADE is for what you're trying to avoid:
It is a good heuristic. There are other times and places it might be worth having a deeper conversation, especially if this is going to be a long-term, recurring thing. There are some cases where it might be better to justify, defend, or explain--e.g. in a situation with legal consequences. (Talk to your attorney.)
Duff gives some caveats about these principles being used to defend harmful behaviors. A lot of stuff can be twisted around.
How should you respond to peer pressure? When someone tries to get you to do something you don't want to do:
- Have a handy catch phrase that affirms your position (Duff uses the example, "I choose what goes in my body")
- Say NO kindly and politely the first 3 times
- The 4th time, make it clear that you would like them to respect your decision.
- Practice saying NO before it happens
The strategy is from Andrew T. Austin.
This also applies to when you've done something wrong. When you've done something wrong:
- Genuinely empathize and apologize for harm
- Only if you are absolutely sure you will follow through state you will do differently; don't deepen the problem through broken promises (otherwise this procedure will become recursive)
- Until you are sure you can keep your word, make the changes in secret
All of this is pretty helpful for me. I've had trouble dealing with peer pressure in the past; my usual response is to feel ashamed for saying no. I'm embarrassed at coming across as stubborn when people just want me to have fun. So I avoid situations where there might be peer pressure. That is a lot of situations. When I do myself into social situations I have in the past expressed this embarrassment and frustration as anger.
The concrete technique of saying no kindly and politely three times before asking people to respect other people's decisions is very helpful.
Originally posted at http://olimay.dreamwidth.org/242384.htm
I would start from the assumption that most ponies are straight, or at least bisexual, since they seem to have a human-like family structure with the major exception that ponies seem to leave home for good younger than is common in 21st-century America (but not younger than was common in the America or Britain of 1850-1900, which had a comparable technology to Equestria). In general, the Ponies seem to fall in love and get married (generally to members of the opposite sex, though there is at least one possible same-sex couple in canon), and have children mostly in wedlock. Since there is no evidence of any medical technology (or magic) which would enable same-sex procreation, it probably either doesn't exist or only exists on a very high level of their capabilities.
[Addendum: it's occurred to me that there is probably a sex-changing spell, because Twilight bluffed Trixie with the claim to have one, but that it's fairly high-level magic. So I guess at least the Major Alicorns could use it].
Their culture seems sexually restrained compared to that of early 21st-century America, and I would guess that their society is more "traditional" in the sense of having less casual sex (note though that even in the 19th century pre-marital sex was very common between engaged couples, or couple close to a formal engagement). They are, however, very romantic and sentimental about love and affection (possibly in part because "friendship is magic"). There is no sign that they are "puritanical" in the sense of considering sexuality between those actually in love to be bad.
We should keep in mind possible biological differences. Humans are unusual among animals, even among sapient animals, in being in a constant state of potential sexual arousal. Most animals, including actual equines, have either a monthly or a yearly estrus cycle, during which time they are extremely receptive to sexual advances. Real horses have a slightly-shorter-than monthly estrus cycle. As the Ponies are very obviously not real horses, and probably not even in the genus equus, they may have whatever sort of cycle the writer wishes. Also, as the Ponies are not only fully-sapient but actually civilized, it is very improbable that they go mad with lust during their estrus cycles and simply mate randomly -- even real horses have stronger emotional preferences than that!
One obvious clue is that the Ponies have an actual romantic holiday (their equivalent of Valentine's Day) called "Hearts and Hooves Day." It is extremely likely that this holiday coincides with some sort of yearly peak in their monthly estrus cycle. Since horses carry their young for about a year, if Hearts and Hooves Day takes place toward spring, this would mean that there would be a surge in births during late winter / early spring.
This is significant if we imagine the pre-industrial predecessors of the Ponies. Before they had steam power, enabling adequate heating of homes and the transport of foods to areas where there were shortages, the winter would have been a very rough time for foals. Those foals born at the end of winter and start of spring would be born when their mothers were once again able to obtain food, and then would have most of a year to grow before the next winter. This would very definitely aid their survival.
One obvious aspect of Pony culture is that they seem to be considerably less aggressive and vicious than modern humans -- though they are far from perfect: we've seen at least bullies, scoundrels and snobs of various kinds in various canon episodes. We haven't seen actual organized crime, though there very well may be brigandage in the wilder areas. I imagine Princess Celestia would not long tolerate any organization in her society willing to perform murder for hire or in the routine pursuit of their business, and with her abilities, it would not be hard for her to suppress such serious malefactors.
The Ponies being generally nicer than humans would make it easier to have "free range children" (the most obvious example in canon being the Cutie Mark Crusaders), as they would be much safer from sexual and other forms pf abuse or harm than would be the case in our society. Remember that even in our society, we allowed children to run around essentially unsupervised when not at school until the 1980's, and that this sort of thing goes in cycles.
Another implications of their being nicer might be that they might be willing to accept variations of love that 19th-century America and Britain found repulsive, particularly homosexuality, bisexuality, and various forms of polyamorous marriage. I've noticed that most fanon assumes this despite the complete lack of evidence for this in canon: I suspect that the fanon is actually right here, especially because it's the sort of thing that in canon "dare not speak its name," thanks to commercial considerations.
Thus there's nothing, in my view, to prevent any particular members of the Mane Six being gay or bi. It's unlikely for statistical reasons that all of them would be so oriented -- though one should remember that the Mane Six are not just six random mares -- they are Celestia's champions chosen to channel cosmic forces against evil, and each one of them has in canon what amounts to low-level (and in Twilight Sparkle's case not so low-level) superpowers. This could cut either way: for all I know, wielding the Elements of Harmony and becoming Fire-Forged Friends has given them all massive lesbian attractions to one another!
They would, however, have to behave with "discretion" (whatever that means in their culture). Merely being lesbian or bi might not be seen as shocking: publicly mating in the middle of the town square would probably be considered at least tasteless. And there is absolutely no way they are not celebrities (unless you assume that Celestia imposes absurdly ironclad censorship in Equestria): they've not only saved their country and perhaps planet 3-4 times already by my count, but have repeatedly been seen rushing into danger or assuming leadership in various crises.
This means pretty much what it would in our world. It means, for instance, that if Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy walk down Main Street openly cuddling and kissing, there is a very good chance that this will wind up in every gossip rag from Canterlot to Las Pegasus. Unlike in 19th-century Western societies, this might not be viewed as terribly shocking, but it would get noticed and talked about. And I suspect that Fluttershy, for one, wouldn't want it to be, because she's ... well ... shy. (This was one of the reasons she didn't like being a fashion model).
Rainbow Dash acts very butch, and she acts a bit lesbian (or bisexual -- note that in canon she's shown some sort of attraction to male Wonderbolts, but it's not obvious whether it's romantic, friendly, hero-worshiping or some variant of all three). There's strong hints of some sort of history of mutual feelings with Fluttershy, and there's the whole almost slap-slap-kiss-kiss thing with Applejack. So -- maybe.
On the other hand, RD also acts emotionally rather immature for her likely age and job responsibilities, and it strikes me as possible that she doesn't have any serious romantic attraction to anyone. It also may be that she [i]does[/i] but is totally inept at any display of softer emotions. It's even possible that (as some people imagine) she is sexually promiscuous. IMO she'd be the most likely member of the Mane Six to be willing to have casual sex, because she's so "masculine" in many ways.
[Addendum: I've somewhat changed my mind on the plausibility of RD's promiscuity. RD's dislike of "mushy stuff" is more an unwillingness to show her feelings than a lack of such feelings, and she doesn't seem sufficiently capable of the act of emotional detachment necessary for casual sex. She would probably be deeply hurt if somepony had sex with her and then treated it as nothing special -- though she'd also probably be afraid to show it. However, her impulsivness would put her in danger of falling into exactly such a scenario].
Fluttershy seems to regard RD in some sort of sexualized manner, or feel that RD regards her in some such manner. But, well, she's Fluttershy, so even if the show was willing to go that route, it might be a while before we ever found out. If Fluttershy was romantically-attracted to someone, that pony would have to make the first move: otherwise she would just blush, stammer and hide behind her own mane. I'd say there's a decent chance she's lesbian, or at least bisexual, if only because she probably finds most stallions even scarier than she finds most mares.
Applejack, despite her fairly butch attitudes, doesn't seem to be particularly lesbian or bisexual. I've simply never seen her display any sexual attraction toward anyone. The most I've seen her do is dance with a stallion (and I mean public folk-dancing, not romantic slow-dancing). Given her personality it's quite plausible that she isn't willing to get romantic (let alone have sex) until she's sure she likes that somepony that way, and that it will be serious and long-lasting. She's Honesty, after all.
Pinkie Pie is ... well ... Pinkie Pie. I have no idea to whom or to what she is sexually attracted ... if she has sexual feelings, which is far from obvious. She parties a heck of a lot, but this mostly involves her bouncing all over the room, greeting and hugging everybody, and eating and drinking lots of sweet stuff. She has in-canon never been paired even tentatively with anyone. The PonyPOV idea of her being a survival from a lost timeline that didn't have sexual reproduction (the G3 verse) is surprisingly plausible where she is concerned. It is canon that she has genuine equine emotions, but mostly at the level of a filly rather than a full-grown mare.
[Addendum: FWIW she obviously comes out of a very puritanical family by Equestrian standards. OTOH in reality people often revolt against such upbringings and go out of control rebelling against them when they have the chance to leave. OTOH (remember, Ponies have four hooves), throwing constant parties is a form of rebellion. OTOH, her family accepted[ at least the first party she threw (though I suspect she may have had to go it on her own if she immediately started throwing constant parties ... Wow. That was run-on. Now I feel like Pinkie.]
Rarity has in-canon been romantically attracted to at least two males (Prince Blueblood and Spike, though the first ended the first time she had to spend much time with him, while she probably doesn't act on the second because Spike is an underaged member of a different species) and has been shown to have at least one possibly-romantic friendship with another (Fancy Pants). She is also an outrageous flirt -- but only with males. So I think she's straight. Note, however, that the nature of the game she plays with most males means that she wins by getting what she wants without having sex with them, while the male she seems to love the most is an incredibly-inappropriate mate for her. So I don't know that she actually has sex with anyone.
[Addendum: At least one person has pointed out to me that Rarity just views Spike's attention as a coltish crush. Sure, and that's why she wouldn't act on it now, but I also see her in canon doing things to encourage it, and Rarity does not act blindly in matters of the heart -- under the whole melodramatic emotional display, Rarity is highly intelligent, logical and even ruthless compared to the rest of the Mane Six. And she views displayed emotions as ways to manipulate others (I'm sure she knows, for instance, that her friends have seen through most of her emotional posturing and continues it with them as a form of teasing and entertainment).
[Would you want to -- as a cruel game -- lead on a dragon (whom has morphed into an Economy-Sized form twice so far in canon) whose adopted big sister is one of the most powerful mages in Equestria and the known favorite of the ruler of the land? Now, none of the parties named are particularly vindictive sorts, but aside from the fact that two of the ones named are her friends, one would think that social climbing would dictate quite the opposite strategy. Also, I've never seen any sign that Rarity is cruel -- at least to those who have done nothing to merit cruelty from her.
[It strikes me as far more likely that Rarity genuinely finds Spike attractive on some level but is confused by her own emotions. Spike's love for her is pure and intense, and this has been proven in-show by its ability to override his normal draconian instincts. Rarity is complex: on the outside, there is a definite veneer of romanticism covering cynical calculation, but under that cynicism she is truly very romantic. And who with a warm heart could not love the tale of Beauty and the Beast?]
Twilight Sparkle spent most of her life as an extremely asocial person: the only males she seems to have spent much time around were her father, brother, and adoptive younger brother. She very recently crushed on Flash Sentry -- a crush that (notably) began when she was in humanoid[ form (probably of a race having a human-like constant sexuality, too). There's no evidence in-canon that this crush has lasted since that brief flustered moment when she got to see his Pony analogue. I would say that it's extremely likely that Twilight has no sexual experience -- I don't even know if she's ever had a real kiss. I do think that her sexual orientation, such as it is, is probably straight, since we've never seen her have any sexual attraction at all to females of any species.
[Addendum: And I write this in full awareness of what I'm doing in the Twi/Luna fics I've been posting. Let's just say that giving characters good reasons for internal emotional conflict makes great drama, though it is arguably less fun from the POV of the characters involved in it].
The writers do seem to like dropping Under the Radar hints about the sexual attractions of the characters, far more so than in most such shows, so I wouldn't assume that nothing will come out. After all, in canon we've already had one wedding and one foaling, involving two different couples, so we shouldn't assume that this is bound by the extreme limitations of most shows assumed to be "for children."
I had a particularly strenuous workout at cardiac rehab, on a cold morning where I had been seriously tempted to pack it in. So my post-workout reward of one (1) Dunkin’ Donuts decaf iced coffee was exceptionally satisfying.
And I was tempted to Tweet my one word of triumph:
Which would have been a valid thing to Tweet. I mean, there’s no invalid thing to Tweet. It’s your social media, and you define your voice.
But my voice is generally not in-jokes, and that’s what I think of an in-joke Tweet – it only makes sense in context. If you know me well enough to know my mild addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee, my fulminating rants about how Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in Ohio is never quite as good as it is in New England (which is stone-cold truth), and my joy at finding one, then you’d know this all-capped shout is some sort of joy. If you knew me really well, then you’d know this was early morning on a weekday, and I must have just finished my workout, and thus would be able to piece together the context of this joy.
But otherwise? That’s not a Tweet for an audience. That’s a Tweet I posted for me, and maybe a secret signal to a select handful in the know.
That’s an in-joke Tweet.
And I see a lot of that mysterious social broadcasting going on, particularly on Facebook – which works really well for those who do know these people, and that cryptic cry of “DUNKIES” often leads to conversational threads like “…whup that treadmill!” and “Check the hottie!” and reinforces a small and exultant culture. For these kinds of social profiles, you really had to be there.
But to those of us on the outside, a constant stream of “Jerry said what?”s and “The tuna boat: incoming”s and so forth make literally zero sense. And I don’t know whether people who primarily interact with their social page of choice realize they make no sense to much of their audience – because quite often, I’m their friend and I have no frickin’ idea what they’re going on about – or simply don’t care, because to them Twitter is just a place for them to blurt out random things from their brain whenever they see fit.
As for me, though, I usually try to be a little more informative, so that Tweet might read something more like:
Just finished a brutal cardiac rehab session. Soaked in sweat, will soon be filled with delicious iced coffee from Dunkies.
Which is definitely contextual. It’s also pretty mundane.
Weirdly enough, this second sort of Twitter-broadcast – which I call the factual, as opposed to the in-joke – gets a lot less response. If I post DUNKIES WHOO, then the handful of jamooks who got the reference feel an urge to reply to show me they’re one of the club, and as such the in-jokes pile up replies. But if I frame it all in context, then what I have here is pretty run-of-the-mill. I mean, it wasn’t an exceptional workout – no medical injuries, no breakthrough treadmill times – and I do it three times a week, so maybe I’d get a scattered “Go you!” or two, but mostly people would nod their heads and e-move on.
It keeps you in touch with me, for sure, so when we meet you’ll have conversational grist for the mill – “How’s your rehab going?” – but as far as inspiring a network of online interaction, it ain’t much. But you’ll at least be able to follow what the hell is going on in my life from a distance, unlike the in-joke world.
And then there’s the performance Tweet. This is what John Scalzi and many other popular Tweeterers specialize in, where you take the mundane thing you’re doing and make some kind of joke out of it, like:
Just worked out to clear the fat from my sclerosed veins. Now in line at Dunkies to get iced coffee to refill said veins with coffee-flavored cream.
No, wait, that’s not terribly witty. How about:
My post-workout ritual: double-cream, double-sugar iced coffee from Dunkies. I AM THE KING OF UNWISE IDEAS.
No, not punchy enough. How about -
- and so on. Which is the problem of the performance Tweet – you feel a little stupid if you spend more than a minute or two thinking up a Facebook post, because crap, it feels all kinds of egotistic to spend fifteen minutes composing The Perfect Tweet. You worry you’re becoming the Plus 97 Guy, pouring ridiculously amounts of effort into something nobody cares about. And then if nobody responds, man, have you lost your edge? Where’s the validation in social media? Man, I’m down twelve likes from last week, what do I need to do to grab these people?
Which, you know, stupid. You’re not writing for How I Met Your Mother, you’re talking about a goddamned iced coffee. Idiot.
But there I am, waiting in line at the Dunkies, composing…
I usually oscillate between the factual and the performance Tweet, starting by trying to say something terribly witty and then degrading gracefully (as they say in the web biz) into a mere factual Tweet if I can’t find a funny spin that fits in 140 characters. And honestly, I’m probably a worse Tweeterer because if I just used the sweat of my brow to put in the good time, devising a truly funny joke before I dare hit post, I’d be magnificent. But I go for the cheap joke, and man, where is my commitment to the form?
But that’s the downside, isn’t it? When you’re a performer, you’re a performer. And I’m not entirely sure I do want my Twitter to be performance art. I want it to be me, and I want it to be inviting so that you’re welcome to become a part of my online world, and if you want to know me, well, ‘ere I am, JH.
(That last bit was an in-joke. But that was a movie reference. SOMETIMES I DO THAT OKAY?)
So I dunno. It’s just odd to think that hey, for a throwaway line on Twitter to chronicle the oh-so-pressing business of my coffee consumption, I can think of at least three serious approaches to spamming 3,000 people with covert Dunkin’ Donuts advertisements. There are probably more.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/359261.h
A few weeks ago, Little Mama brought her most recent litter of kittens around and I've been trying to befriend them. Today one of them, a gray tabby tux, was hit by a car and killed. I buried it behind the house, near Miss Lady's grave. Two kittens survive: one black with white paws, and a buff tabby male.
“Forgive him , for he believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature.” -George Bernard Shaw
Our tribe has a custom of dividing into Right and Left. The Right supports economic laissez-faire and traditional social norms. The Left wants economic regulations and greater civil liberties.
(unless of course a Democrat is in office)
If you live too long under this system, you start thinking the Left-Right division is a law of nature. I like the Libertarians’ pet Two Dimensional Political Compass because it reminds people that they’re allowed to mix and match.
And so, glory be unto the infinite variety of human thought, we have moved from an unwillingness to credit more than two possible visions of a flourishing society to a grudging acceptance that maybe there are as many as four such visions.
(one of which nobody will admit to believing)
“The limits of our language are the limits of our world”. If the only two words in political discourse are Left and Right, it becomes hard to realize libertarianism is a possibility, let alone evaluate it. What equally coherent possible views might a four-word discourse be missing?
What if we abandon our tribe’s custom of conflating free market values and unconcern about social welfare?
Right now some people label themselves “capitalists”. They support free markets and oppose the social safety net. Other people call themselves “socialists”. They oppose free markets and support the social safety net. But there are two more possibilities to fill in there.
Some people might oppose both free markets and a social safety net. I don’t know if there’s a name for this philosophy, but it sounds kind of like fascism – government-controlled corporations running the economy for the good of the strong.
Others might support both free markets and a social safety net. You could call them “welfare capitalists”. I ran a Google search and some of them seem to call themselves “bleeding heart libertarians“. I would call them “correct”.
I think I only realized how committed to this position I was when I read an article about the BART strike. Workers on the BART, a San Francisco area mass transit system, were striking for higher pay. A tech CEO suggested solving the problem by firing the workers and automating their jobs. Some other people didn’t like that, said that BART Worker was one of the only jobs that people without college education could get and make good $60,000+ salaries, said employees were mostly old and wouldn’t be able to get other work, said even if their jobs could be automated it would be cruel to destroy their livelihoods just for the sake of profit.
And my first thought was: if your job can be done more cheaply without you, and the only reason you have it is because people would feel sorry for you if you didn’t, so the government forces your company to keep you on – well then, it’s not a job. It’s a welfare program that requires you to work 9 to 5 before seeing your welfare check.
Suppose BART work really can be done just as well by a cheap machine. Compare the current system – in which BART is prohibited from firing the workers and replacing them with the machine because that would be greedy – to a system where BART fired the workers, bought the machines, but continued giving the workers their old paychecks for no reason. BART gets the same profits either way. The workers get the same amount of money either way. The only difference is that the workers gain forty hours of free time a week.
That suggests that long hours worked by BART employees under the current system are deadweight loss, and the role of BART work is the same as those legendary New Deal welfare programs where they made people dig ditches and fill them in again.
Assuming society has decided it wants to give people welfare, it can do it in one of two different ways: the traditional way, where the government sends them a simple welfare check once a month. Or the sneaky way, where it gets billed as a “job” at the BART.
In the “Simple Check” condition the welfare is funded by the tax base, which presumably is the general population, with rich people paying significantly more. In the “Sneaky Job” condition, the welfare is funded by mass transit users – disproportionately poor people – and the increased cost inevitably disincentivizes mass transit. You may remember mass transit as the thing that cuts down on traffic, sprawl, and carbon emissions – you know, that thing we are trying to desperately convince people to do more of.
In the “Simple Check” condition the recipients of the welfare are the entire impoverished population, although the system may place more emphasis on those who are poorer or need more. In the “Sneaky Job” condition, the recipients of the the welfare are those few well-connected people who get cushy jobs at the BART, chosen somewhat at random but with the usual biases of employers being more likely to hire attractive, tall, Caucasian, etc people. They get $60,000 + no doubt excellent benefits, and everyone else misses out.
In the “Simple Check” condition, the recipients of the welfare can live enjoyable lives doing their hobbies – as the woman in the article puts it, hair and makeup. In the “Sneaky Job” condition, the recipients have to work long hours doing busy work, suffer the normal vagaries of jerkwad bosses and office politics, and suffer the constant stress that they might be fired for underperforming.
With all these advantages of “Simple Check”, what exactly is the “Sneaky Job” condition good for that makes it so popular? As far as I can tell, it is good for fooling people. People do not like paying welfare. But if welfare is placed in work boots and wears a big sign with the word “JOB” painted on it in bright letters, they will walk by it without grumbling. Also important, people do not like being on welfare, and as the Rogers & Hammerstein song goes, “when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well”.
[lest I be accused of being insensitive by pointing out how other people's jobs are welfare, I will freely admit I have a job partly because the government pays my hospital $100,000 to employ me (of which I get less than half). This is a sufficiently complicated system that a full explanation will have to await another post.]
Welfare has even more clever disguises than this. Let’s talk about those fast food workers who want $15 an hour.
No one denies that it’s pretty crappy to have to live on $8 or so an hour, which is about what fast food workers currently make. But if fast food workers get $15 not because they do $15 worth of work, but because we feel sad that they’re living on too little money, then once again it’s welfare.
And once again we can give them that welfare in one of two ways. We can send them a check, or we can pressure fast food places to pay them more.
If we send people a check, it goes to everyone, whether employed or unemployed. If we pressure fast food places to pay more, then it’s only employed people – the people who need money the least – who get anything.
If we send people a check, who gets the check is presumably determined by need. If we pressure fast food places to pay more, then who pays more is determined by media exposure and political clout. Fast food workers seem to have good union and good public visibility, so they can demand their wages get raised to $15. Garment workers aren’t as well-organized or are less sympathetic, so their wages stay at $8. It encourages a system of “squeaky wheel gets the grease” in which “squeaky” means “go on strike a lot and act miserable”.
If we send people a check, the costs are passed on to the taxpaying public, which includes rich people who pay extra taxes and does not include poor people who get out of a lot of taxes because of their low income. If we pressure fast food places to pay more, the costs are passed on to fast food consumers, who are less likely to be wealthy and more likely to be black than the general population.
And if we send people a check, there’s not much taxpayers can do to get out of the extra cost. But if we pressure fast food companies to pay people more, we punish them for hiring workers. If the workers do $8 worth of work for the company, and the government makes them pay $15, it’s the equivalent of fining companies $7 an hour for hiring poor people. Not only is this morally unfair, but companies will probably respond rationally by automating as much work as they can, hiring fewer people, or trying to figure out how to replace multiple poor people with fewer wealthier people (for example replacing several clerks with a programmer who runs a computer system).
This is a somewhat harder case as the demand for higher wages among fast-food employees seems endogenous – they’re threatening to strike and show the companies how much they need them – rather than exogenous – motivated by government fiat or popular demand. Labor negotiations are coordination problems that are more opaque to analysis than I like. But I think a case can certainly be made that here, too, people are shooting for a noticeably inferior solution just because it helps them avoid thinking about the poor. It’s not about complicated problems or a changing economic landscape – just make that greedy Walmart behave and somehow I will be freed of all responsibility and all consequences.
At the moment, I might support higher minimum wages just because doing things the right way is politically impossible. One can make all sorts of stupid political policies attractive when they are combined with other stupid political policies. But I am not pleased about it and any time people say we need minimum wages to “punish greedy corporations” it just makes me question the life choices that have made me end out on the same side of a political issue as they did.
But combining market values and compassion isn’t just about solving everything with basic income guarantees. Let me give another example of a government program meant to increase social welfare and how a more market-informed version would be better than a brute-force regulation.
Affirmative action and minority rights. I don’t trust people on this blog to think clearly about any actual minority group, so let’s pretend we’re worried about affirmative action for Martians, who have been a disempowered underclass ever since their giant heat-ray-bearing tripod machines broke down.
Modern affirmative action says that given the choice between a Martian or an equally qualified Earthling, one must hire the Martian. One big obvious problem here is that “equally qualified” is a matter of opinion. It may be that a boss is prejudiced against Martians, and so tells an excellent Martian candidate that ve is underqualified for the position – the Martian may never know. Or a Martian who was genuinely underqualified may paranoidly believe ve was denied out of prejudice and start a costly lawsuit.
There are other problems as well. Some jobs may have legitimate reasons not to hire Martians – maybe Martians make lousy pilots because their single lidless eye gives them terrible depth perception. Certainly a Martian actor is unqualified to play Abraham Lincoln in a historical biopic. One could offer to let these jobs apply for exemptions, but this means a costly bureaucratic process, and is likely to end with large companies with good lawyers obtaining the exemptions, small companies with poor lawyers not obtaining the exemptions, and no concern about fairness to Martians in any case.
In the worst possible situation, a non-prejudiced boss may decide not to hire Martians because it would be harder to reprimand or dismiss a Martian when they could threaten to sue the company or start a viral Tumblr post accusing the company of speciesism.
Compare a market-informed solution: run a bunch of controlled studies in which bosses get identical Earthling and Martian resumes, find out exactly how strong the prejudice against Martians is, then levy an appropriate tax on hiring Earthlings (or give a subsidy for hiring Martians). Maybe hiring Earthlings costs 5% extra, which is funnelled into scholarships for impoverished Martian larvae.
Now there’s no question of a company wriggling out of their obligation – no matter how stylish their lawyers’ hair is, they’re going to pay the tax. There’s no question of lawsuits – if a company didn’t hire a qualified Martian, that’s their own business and the Martian community can laugh all the way to the bank. But on a statistical basis, we expect companies to be indifferent between hiring Martians or Earthlings.
Any company that has a legitimate reason to not want to hire Martians can just pay the (small) tax. And there’s no problem with firing Martians anymore – if you decide to fire the Martian in favor of an Earthling you like more, you’re perfectly welcome to do so as long as you don’t mind paying a little extra.
If ten years later the social scientists do some studies and find that companies are still more likely to accept Earthling resumes over identical Martian resumes, they can raise the tax until that’s no longer the case. If they find that companies are more likely to accept Martian resumes now, then prejudice has decreased and the tax can decrease as well.
I think everyone has a lot to like about this proposal. Martians can rest assured that with enough time to tweak the tax level, they will have a provably equal playing field in this area. Non-bigoted Earthlings can rest assured that they’re not going to be unfairly accused of bigotry and taken to court by some Martian playing the planetary origin card. And bigoted Earthlings who just really don’t like Martians – maybe someone’s father was killed by a heat-ray-tripod during the invasion and she’s had PTSD every time she sees Martians ever since then – can stand by their “principles” as long as they’re willing to pay a little extra.
(This is my answer to Jim’s question of “How many cities are you planning to burn, how many women are you planning to have raped with large objects in order to achieve equality of opportunity?”, which I honestly have to admit is not a question I ever really considered before reading Jim’s blog)
Someone will object that small fees can’t eliminate as pervasive a social problem as prejudice, but I’m not so sure. Consider the Islamic Caliphate (7th – 12th century AD). Their modus operandi was to march into a new territory, tell the non-Muslims there that they were perfectly welcome to continue to practice their old religion as long as they paid a tax, and if they ever wanted to save those couple shekels or dinars or whatever, they could also convert to Islam – but no pressure. The current religious makeup of the Caliphate territory (Northern Africa and the Middle East through Iran and Pakistan) should be taken as some evidence of the effectiveness of this policy.
In my opinion the biggest advantage of a market-based system for improving social welfare is that it allows more flexibility – it leaves your options open.
Suppose the government, noticing mercury is toxic and has few good industrial uses, bans the use of mercury in industry.
A month later, some chemist discovers a really really lucrative industrial application for mercury that will make billions of dollars and cut the price of automobiles in half.
Probably this chemist can’t single-handedly convince the government to relax its views on mercury. She could consider selling her idea to a really big company like Dow Chemical, who could afford the necessary lobbying. But then she’s lost the ability to profit from her own invention, and we’ve replaced what could have been a nimble startup with yet another Dow product that they’ll overprice and destroy a couple of Indian villages producing. And the brilliant scientist becomes a mid-level drone working for morons in suits.
Or maybe it’s worse than this. Maybe she goes to Dow, but they don’t want to take the time to understand this fringe idea. Or maybe Dow is mildly interested but not interested enough to throw all its lobbyists and lawyers at the problem. Or maybe Dow does throw all its lobbyists and lawyers at the problem, but the Sierra Club reasonably believes that this is just another evil company trying to gut vital environmental legislation, and successfully blocks them. Sure, Dow says “This will halve the price of automobiles!”, but they probably make grandiose claims about all of their products when they’re trying to look good in front of the government.
So suppose that instead of banning mercury, the government just places a tax on it. The tax could be the cost of mercury cleanup, it could be enough money to treat and emotionally compensate mercury poisoning sufferers, or it could just fund public health programs that do more good than fighting mercury ever could. It could be all these things combined plus a little extra. Let’s say the tax on mercury is 500%. Every company that has any possible alternative to mercury switches to that alternative. The companies that have no alternative to mercury close down if the benefit of their product to society is less than the cost of the mercury they produce. And the companies that use mercury in a way that net benefits society stay open and subsidize lots of environmental and public health programs.
Now the chemist who discovered the brilliant unexpected use for mercury is able to start her startup – at increased costs, sure, but if it’s as lucrative an idea as she thinks she’ll be able to get the investment or just swallow the losses. In any case, it’s nothing compared to the cost of pushing around an entire government agency. The price of automobiles decreases by half, the taxes are more than enough to clean up the mercury and improve public health, and everyone is happy.
The problem with banning and regulating things is that it’s a blunt instrument. Maybe before the thing was banned someone checked to see whether there was any value in it, but if someone finds value after it was banned, or is a weird edge case who gets value out of it even when most other people don’t, then that person is mostly out of luck. Even people operating within regulations have to spend high initial costs in time and money proving that they are complying with the regulations, or get outcompeted by larger companies with better lobbyists who can get one-time exceptions to the regulations.
In short, the effect is to decrease innovation, crack down on nontypical people, discourage startups, hand insurmountable advantages to large corporations, and turn lawsuits into the correct response to everything.
The problem with not banning and regulating things is that the rivers flow silver with mercury, poor people starve in the streets, and Martians get locked out of legitimate industry and are forced to turn to threatening innocent cities with their heat rays just to get by.
The position there’s no good name for – “bleeding heart libertarians” is too long and too full of social justice memes, “left-libertarian” usually means anarchists who haven’t thought about anarchy very carefully, and “liberaltarian” is groanworthy – that position seems to be the sweet spot between these two extremes and the political philosophy I’m most comfortable with right now. It consists of dealing with social and economic problems, when possible, through subsidies and taxes which come directly from the government. I think it’s likely to be the conclusion of my long engagement with libertarianism (have I mentioned I only engage with philosophies I like?)
Douglas Starr compares the Reid technique with the PEACE technique.
Reid is a method of getting confessions-- once the police officer decides (on very little evidence) that the suspect is guilty and ignores all denials. If you suspect you are being subject to the Reid method, try arguing vociferously for an hour-- this may be taken as evidence of innocence. Reid uses people's impulse to be nice and cooperative against them. Reid gets false confessions.
Hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide, have been trained to use the Reid technique.
A major part of the Reid technique's reputation was based on getting what turned out to be a false confession.
There's a description of research which find that people (including police) are just plain bad at detecting lies-- and do worse if they focus on body language.
PEACE is a long, dull, open-ended cognitive grind-- an effort to elicit memories and find out whether the details make sense.
I get the impression that trained US military interrogators (not the folks at Abu Graib) use something of the sort.
It's tempting to me to hear about something like the Reid technique and then hate and despise everybody, but the truth is that suspicion of the Reid technique got started when a researcher noticed that confession was a common feature in convictions which got overturned, and scientists looked at it and found that its premises about lying and anxiety weren't sound. The British government developed the PEACE technique after a series of false confession cases. There has been institutional pushback against Reid.
After reading a lot about false confessions, I'd come to the conclusion that confession simply shouldn't be part of the judicial process. However, I also thought that the idea was so radical it couldn't get a hearing. It turns out that the British have given up on using confession-- it's physical evidence or nothing for them.
Unfortunately, the NPR transcript is just highlights, and the New Yorker article it's based on is behind a pay wall. I think hearing the whole interview is worth spending a half hour.
Two accounts of the police getting false confessions: American and Canadian
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/102854