Weekly Digest 5/10/18

Scott Aaronson weighing in on the controversy caused by Robin Hanson’s article – Robin’s original post and follow-up. Scott notes that Robin has spawned many important, original ideas, and that though he can be tone-deaf or insensitive, he is a genuine person. Robin’s original post noted that there is liberal sympathy for people who lack access to money but not for those who lack access to sex, about as taboo of a comparison as is possible to make. But as Scott points out, Robin doesn’t hold your hand or slowly walk you through his ideas, which is why I prefer Scott’s article instead. He handles the topic much more delicately, and his article won’t invoke the involuntary feelings of disgust that Robin’s might. The biggest takeaway is that we don’t consider Muslim extremists as representative of all Muslims nor do we consider leftist extremists to be representatives of all leftists. So similarly, we should not consider extremist involuntary celibates as representatives of all involuntary celibates. And since we recognize that the majority of Muslims are normal, decent people, and feel compassion for their plight in combating discrimination, we should recognize that the majority of involuntary celibates are decent people as well and extend our compassion for their plight in finding human connection. No, I’m not saying you should feel compassion for the minority that sexually harasses the other sex (mostly women) or demand sex as a right, just like I wouldn’t expect you to feel compassion for Muslim extremists who terrorize the population. But do recognize that most are deserving of your compassion.

Scott Alexander’s classification of the levels of disagreement – The article provides a breakdown of the types of disagreement ranging from the uncharitable to the ideal. Scott notes how public discourse rarely gets above the lowest levels and provides guidelines for better debates.

Review of Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant – Blight praises the biography but pushes back on some of Chernow’s conclusions. Blight points out that we shouldn’t completely absolve Grant of all the corruption that was going on during his presidency. Grant is such a captivating figure and the way we interpret him will not only depend on his actions but also on the time period and the person doing the interpreting.

Megan McArdle on the difficulty of achieving the programs left-wing Americans dream of – “Notably, almost all the foreign programs that American social democrats envy were enacted during Europe’s long post-war economic and demographic boom. That meant that the initial cost of these systems was fairly low — young people don’t need much in the way of health care or pensions, and economies at full employment don’t spend a lot on unemployment insurance or job retraining. As incomes soared, it was comparatively easy for government to skim some of the surplus for their new social insurance schemes, because even as their taxes went up, workers still got to take more money home every week. Governments ran into problems when the boom stopped, of course, but by then, political sentiment had cemented those programs in place.”

William Broyles, Jr.’s essay Why Men Love War – Originally published in 1984, Broyles explains why men love war: self-discovery, brotherhood, the thrill of skirting death, and the intense love with others that develops when faced with constant danger.

Felix Salmon on Food for the Poor – The nonprofit inflates its revenues by using an overstated value for the donated goods it receives in order to appear more efficient than it actually is. And pharmaceutical companies might be reporting overstated donations using the same method.

“My Effing First Amendment” by This American Life – Podcast episode about an incident at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln about conservatives triggering liberals who then trigger the conservatives. There is no clear “good” side and you end up empathizing and getting angry at all the parties involved.

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