Category Archives: Coffeehouse

I was sent this story, about free-market reformer of socialism within France’s Socialist Party:

Previously an aide to French President François Hollande, he was appointed as Finance Minister with a mandate to, in a word, liberalize France’s economy in a desperate bid to boost employment and rescue Hollande’s abysmal poll ratings. Macron then embarked on a frenzied program of free market reforms, in a country that is one of the most anti-market in the developed world, and which voted in a Socialist president and parliament three years ago.

Macron has been unashamed. Instead of keeping his head down, he keeps making remarks in the press almost designed to rile up his own side. He has called for reforming civil service rules, a longstanding demand of the right and anathema to the left. According to reports, he said privately that Hollande’s plan to raise taxes on the rich would make France “like Cuba but without the sun,” and almost resigned as presidential advisor because he felt a pensions reform plan didn’t cut enough. He talks about being part of the “reality-based left” and of being a “left-wing supply-sider.”

I’m not really going to explore the French political aspect of this, but the link got me thinking about party names. Specifically, the slight oddity that a party that calls itself the Socialist Party would have a free-marketeer at its financial helm, and more than that about party names. {Note, this post contains minor spoilers for Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series, mostly as a jumping off point.}

In Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series, in the 1880’s the Republican Party having been elected only twice and twice having presidents lead them into losing wars becomes so disgraced that it is considered beyond redemption. Abe Lincoln, one of the two presidents to lose said wars, turns coat again and helps found the Socialist Party, which over time replaces the Republican Party as the second major party. Even without the southern states, the country is not ready for a the sort of Socialism that the party offers and while the Socialist Party and Republican Party split the opposition the Democrats have the presidency completely uninterrupted from 1885 to the 1920’s.

Now, as a matter of political science, Turtledove is far too comfortable with one-party rule as there is a similar dynamic in his Confederacy where one political party, the Whigs, obtain uninterrupted power from the formation of their parties (whenever that occurred) to the 1930’s. The dynamic in the Confederacy is explainable in part due to corruption as well as a minority party (Radical Liberals) whose base of support is both regional (Chihuahua, Sonora, and Cuba) and a disregarded minority. In the United States, it’s mostly due to the spoiling Republicans and the intransigence of the Socialist Party. The best I could do to justify that occurance is that a party so built on an unwavering socialist foundation wouldn’t be able to expand its support to a majority (indeed, throughout the novel they seem to mostly be speaking a foreign language, though presumably the tenets and terminology of socialism are at least somewhat more familiar in that timeline).

What occurred to me is that by calling themselves Socialists, they sort of painted themselves in a box that made it extremely difficult to win. Perhaps if they’d gone with Social Democrats! That would, at least, give them room to have more than one wing to try to cobble together a majority. While Social Democrat has a particular meaning, it is one that at least seems more subject to evolution over time. And indeed, it has evolved over time. Christian Democrat is the conservative alternative in Germany, though as a name it may make it harder to bring Turkish-Germans into the coalition.

I may not be a fan of the two political parties we have, but I will say this for them: They have good names. There is nothing in the word Democrats or Republicans that nails them down to supporting a particularly ideology. There will never be the oxymoronology of the free-marketeer Socialist. The coalitions have changed considerably over the years, but the names have never become as disjointed as with the conservative Liberal Party of Australia or Liberal Democrat Party of Japan, nor as awkward as the Labour Party’s transition to being the party of the university and the professional class that has to watch what it says about the working class? And unlike the Tories and the two major parties Canada, it gives us room to talk about the conservative wing of the GOP versus the moderate, without having to constantly specify “lower case c” and “upper case C” and so on. Ditto for their Liberals (which have been using that name for considerably longer). Though, how long will the New Democrats be new?

The rival party to the Socialists in France go by the name Republicans, though that is something of a recent development. The name of the Gaulist/center-right party has changed over time through some splinters, mergers, and rebranding. That also works and it would actually be a lot easier if each time a coalition died the next coalition came back under a different name (like Federalist to Whig to Republican) instead of the same name with a different meaning (Democrat to Democrat). But if the party names are hard-coded in there, I’m not sure we could have better names.

Category: Coffeehouse

UPDATE: Adam Gurri informs me that he extrapolated these tweets into a post:

Increasingly I’ve come to believe that trust is the most important aspect of faith in this respect. How is coordination and cooperation among millions of strangers possible? A widespread trust. How are we able to learn anything? By trusting in certain authorities and in the authority of certain sources. How has science advanced? By creating specialized communities of inquiry who trust each other enough to learn from each other, and develop standards of evidence that they believe will be employed in good faith.

What you believe is, I think, much less a factor of your theoretical pre-commitments, or your religion, or your politics, than of who you trust. Indeed, your pre-commitments, religion, and politics are largely determined by a combination of who you trusted in the first place and your own judgment.

Category: Coffeehouse

The Wall Street Journal had a piece about dating sites and grammar. The article opens up talking about the ever-increasing crimes against grammar. That, to me, is something of a lost cause as we increasingly type things on our phone with autocorrect that will take things that are right and make them wrong. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really judge. I think decoding odd grammar and the occasional wrong word is going to start being on the reader. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is.

That being said, I’m not sure that applies to dating profiles. The article goes on:

Dating site Match asked more than 5,000 singles in the U.S. what criteria they used most in assessing dates. Beyond personal hygiene—which 96% of women valued most, as compared with 91% of men—singles said they judged a date foremost by the person’s grammar. The survey found 88% of women and 75% of men said they cared about grammar most, putting it ahead of a person’s confidence and teeth.

“When you get a message that is grammatically correct and has a voice and is put together, it is very attractive, it definitely adds hotness points,” says New Yorker Grace Gold. “People who send me text-type messages, and horrific grammatical errors? I just delete them.” She recalls the red flag raised by one potential suitor who had written his entire dating profile in lowercase. {…}

One reason people judge grammar and spelling snafus so harshly is that they can reflect the level of effort, or lack thereof, that folks put into their bio. “People use quality of writing as an indication of work ethic,” says Max Lytvyn, co-founder of automated-proofreading company Grammarly.

I think this was true of me, to a degree, when I was a part of that world. The article highlights someone who wrote an app that screens people with bad grammar and use acronyms. Depending on the dating site, you might want as many indicators as possible of a bad match. LavaLife (which was the last one I used regularly) charged you for each connection you initiate. So you wanted to make sure that each person you reached out to was worth the coin. (This probably acted as a good filter for the ladies to prevent spam-suitors and the like.) It’s a bit ironic the degree of superficiality there is in Internet dating, but because there are so many people the inclination to look at superficial criteria – especially pictures – can actually be quite strong. Grammar partially falls into that category.

That being said, if somebody had a profile that absolutely jumped out at me, but contained grammatical errors, I would probably not let that get in the way. I say grammar “partially” falls into that category because in addition to being a matter of education level it is also a matter of personal expression. Which you can glean some information off of (the same way you might be able to with the personal expression of a lip ring or a tattoo) but it’s pretty limited. I am myself rather prone to typos and the like, so I might tend towards sympathy. But if that’s you it might not be a bad idea to have someone look over it for you or something. And on a superficial level – if it’s a personal expression – it seems like a good indicator that we’re not soulmates (like a lip ring or a tattoo).

I was talking on Twitter about this with someone (the guy who wrote Thomas and the Bitter Hand) and he commented that the woman that became his wife communicated in emails with absolutely dreadful grammar and it was a good thing he didn’t take the attitude of the people in the article and all that. He was talking, though, mostly about email. Emails are less formal than a profile (which is meant to be the first impression), so some slack there. Also, grammatical errors or no emails tend to be more involved. So if there are superficial errors, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to see through that and into the person’s intelligence.

So, in summary, I’m glad I’m not single anymore.

Category: Coffeehouse


Contexts some really interesting data on sexuality and sexual fluidity of women. Here is one of the more interesting sections:

How Common Is It for Lesbians to Have Sex with Men?

As the graph below (drawing from Tables 1 and 2) shows, depending on the measure used, between two-thirds and four-fifths of lesbians have had sex with a man sometime in their lives. Eighty one percent report having had either oral sex, vaginal intercourse, or anal sex with a man, while 67% report having had a male intercourse partner sometime in their life. By either measure, the proportion of lesbians who have ever had sex with a man is drastically larger that the proportion of heterosexual women who have ever had sex with a woman.

However, if, we restrict our focus to the year before the survey, we get a very different picture. Only 22% of women who identify as lesbian have had sex with a man last year. If these are all women whose behavior is inconsistent with their identity, then it seems a sizable share—over a fifth; it is very different than the under 2% of heterosexual women who had sex with a woman in the last year. However, it is also possible that some sizable share of the 22% may be cases where women changed their identity and behavior in the last year, but identity was consistent with behavior at most all times. The data don’t allow us to tell which it is.

This is less than entirely surprising. Straight is the social default, both due to raw numbers and social norms. It makes a lot of sense that most lesbians would at least start off with guys before determining that it isn’t right for them. Even the 22% makes sense, and not just for people whose sexuality was determined in the past year. Given the low numbers of practicing homosexuals and practicing bisexuals, I would imagine that their “dry spells” can often be longer, and more lonely, and that while sex with a man may be unsatisfying it’s better than nothing. And while finding another lesbian may be difficult for those who live outside liberal hubs and large cities, finding a guy willing to have sex is probably less difficult.

The stats for bisexuals is also interesting, though less so to regular Hit Coffee readers who remember my rants about Goth-Pagan-Bisexuals. Essentially, bisexual women are considerably more likely to have sex with men than women. This makes sense in the context of the above – men being more available, generally speaking – as well as the GPB phenomenon. In a large number of social circles, claiming to be bisexual is a relatively costless affair. Lesbians, on the other hand, are at least ostensibly signalling a lack of interest in sex not only with half of the population, but the half of the population that is more likely to be available and interested.

So, there’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I would be interested in seeing the results for men.

Category: Coffeehouse

Noah Smith has had it up to here with economists and pseudo-economists calling everything “signalling“:

Talk to economists, and you’ll find a large number who believe that college — that defining institution of America’s privileged youth — is mostly signaling. It makes sense, after all — don’t most people go to college because they think it will get them a job? And honestly, when was the last time you actually used any of the things you learned in college at your job?

Possibly the biggest promoter of the signaling theory of education is George Mason University’s Bryan Caplan. Caplan believes so passionately in the model that he’s writing a book about it, called “The Case Against Education.” He has already written enough blog posts on the topic to make a small book!

Caplan’s message is bound to appeal to people who dislike the institution of college, whether because they think it’s too politically leftist, or they’re worried about high tuition and student loans. But there are some big holes in the case. Caplan’s GMU colleague, Tyler Cowen, is rightfully skeptical of claims that college is mostly signaling. Let me add my voice to the skeptical chorus.

The piece isn’t just about college, and I’ll get to the rest later, but let’s start with college. He goes on to say:

So is college a way to signal conscientiousness and willingness to work? Maybe. But an even better way to signal that would be to actually work at a job for four years. One would think that if young people needed to do some hard work to signal their work ethics, some companies would spring up that gave young people real productive work to do, and provided evidence of their performance. Instead of paying through the nose to send a signal of your industriousness, you could get paid. But we don’t see this happening.

When you think about it this way, the whole idea of college-as-signaling becomes a little absurd. People’s careers last for 35 to 45 years. But after you’ve been working for a while, prospective employers can look at your work history — they don’t need the college signal anymore. Caplan’s theory therefore is that many young people are spending four years — and lots of tuition money — on something that will only affect the very beginning of a career.

Well… it depends. In theory, at least, going to work for 3-4 years may convey useful information about your work ethic… but will employers see it that way? More importantly, will the employers you want to work for see it that way? It depends on the job, I’m sure. I wouldn’t spent 3-4 years on a job you can get with only a high school diploma finding out, unless I could get the right job on the right track out of high school, which isn’t easy in large parts of the country.

The problem with going straight into the workforce is that it can put you on a single track and it can be hard to get off that track. Unless you have somehow gotten a job where you’ve learned some useful work skills that employers want, I’m not sure “But I’ve shown up at McDonald’s every day for the last four years” is going to be that strong an argument. Now, maybe Smith would argue that’s proof that it’s value-added… but only if the employer is correct. More likely, the employer would just assume that you couldn’t go to college, are unambitious, or 100,000 other assumptions that don’t reflect well on you. They might just assume that you are the person who is meant to work at a job where you need to wear a funny hat. It’s a stages-of-life thing. Working at McDonald’s as a teenager might reflect well on you or might not, but working at McDonald’s past the stage where you’re supposed to be working at McDonald’s makes it look like you were held back a grade.

I didn’t realize how much I felt that employers felt this way until I moved to Deseret, where that was very conspicuously not the attitude. Some of it may be the big city vs small city distinction, but say what I will about Deseret and Mormons, they are people that seriously, seriously value a good work ethic. “You spent two years answering phones about cell phone service and were promoted to a vaguely supervisor job title? Wow, that’s great! You can probably learn XHTML! And completely not in a condescending way!” At best, the sense I got from Colosse is that at best you were biding your time. And why weren’t you going to college? A lot of this is really a collective action problem. By going to college, or not going to college, you’re putting yourself in a particular category with particular people. Which is sending a signal (whether in the way that economists are supposed to use the term or not).

I am not nearly as skeptical of college as Caplan is. I believe a lot of people really do get something out of it. I believe that I did. I believe that most people who spend their free time reading and commenting sites like Hit Coffee and Ordinary Times do. I also believe, as Smith goes on to mention, that there can be significant networking effects. Even at a non-stellar school like Southern Tech, you meet people. This is one of the reasons why for-profit universities so often have such terrible returns, and why which school you go to can matter a great deal at either the high end (Ivy Leagues!) or the lower end (bidirectionals, community colleges, or workbag schools).

Smith goes on to talk about other things, where the arguments range from particularly weak to particularly strong. Fashion? Yeah, a lot of fashion is signalling. Quite conscious and deliberate signalling at that. Leisure, though, is far less likely to be a signalling activity. Is its value embedded in other people knowing about it? Then signalling is probably involved. But if you don’t care what others think about it, then it’s probably not (or, at least, less so…).

Category: Coffeehouse

Burt Likko responds to Kristin Powers, speaking of how universities can walk the line between free speech and hostile-environmentalism. Powers says that official speech codes are the worst, and Likko goes into the legalities involved.

I don’t know what they taught at Georgetown, where Ms. Powers went to law school, but I know at my own law school, anti-discrimination law was not taught as something that had all that much Constitutional implication. A significant lacuna in my professors’ presentation of anti-discrimination law. As a newly-minted attorney I believed, because I had been taught, that anti-discrimination statutes were an unambiguous good and a moral imperative upon the body politic to enact. The corpus of larval lawyers of which I was then a member had been exhorted: “Go ye forth, and enforce these laws, through civil litigation!” Such preaching convinced me — a younger, more conservative version of me than the me actually practicing this brand of law today — that being a private attorney general like this would be a way to simultaneously seek both personal enrichment and public justice.

Turns out, soon after picking up that banner I encountered defendants who protested, “Don’t I have freedom of speech?” The answer is, “Not if your speech creates a hostile workplace environment, you don’t.” Which sat uncomfortably with me because freedom of speech is important, too. So there has to be some point of balancing if we are to have both a discrimination-free environment and freedom of speech for individuals.

I think Powers is wrong. Speech codes are talked about because they sound scary, ominous, and Orwellian. The bigger concern I personally have is among the student body, and more importantly how the universities respond to the views of the student body.

I’m less worried that schools are going to formally declare that certain words and thoughts are out of bounds than I am that administrators will indulge student bodies’ determinations of what’s reasonable by using the powers they invariably have. There’s no question that universities have the power to, for instance, decide who to pay to bring to campus to speak at a commencement or other event. They are responsible for recognizing clubs, and in many cases forming them. If they’re doing their job, they or one of their subsidiaries arrange student events of all kinds. They permit, or don’t permit, displays on campus. Often, as a practical matter, they have to limit who can do what, because not everyone can always be accommodated even if everything is completely viewpoint-neutral.

But it doesn’t have to be viewpoint-neutral. And if it’s not, it doesn’t have to come out and admit it.

Over at Ordinary Times, I briefly became the symbol of millenial-hatred by refusing to automatically grant the protests over American Sniper as being reasonable. Maybe they were, if it was just a matter of the time and place of the screening. That, you know, it wasn’t the showing of the movie but the showing of the movie at this particular mixture. But controversies erupted at the University of Maryland and George Mason over special screenings, and people at Eastern Michigan actively disrupted a screening there. So I still don’t think it’s unreasonable to interpret these objections not as “Can’t we have a mixer without this movie?” but “I don’t want this movie to be shown on campus.” You can “how about not doing that here” something into being nowhere.

The UMd and GMU stories have happy endings, only because the universities or other student groups stepped up to make sure that it happened. That only happened because of the backlash, and past performance is no guarantee of future results.

The left is experiencing a cultural apex at the moment, especially at universities, and seem to be wondering why they should have to tolerate speech that they’re not comfortable with when can theoretically have the tools at their disposal to displace it without actually having to go afoul of the First.

It can become even harder if things reach a certain tipping point, where people with unpopular ideas simply stop speaking up. The window of socially acceptable dialogue – even if protected by Freedom of Speech – can move to the point that young people who voted for the side that just won a national election feel the need to keep their views to themselves.

Here in the University of North Carolina student paper expressed grave disappointment that Duke University invited Mitt Romney to speak at their campus. Romney, who came within a few million votes of becoming the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of its military.

Just as they concede with Romney and David Horowitz, who the piece is primarily about, have a right to free speech, I will concede that the Tar Heel has a right to run stupid editorials. The University should not pull its funding and they should not be thrown in jail. Like I said, this isn’t especially about the First Amendment. It’s not that the Universities will shut down speech. It’s that they’ll stop stopping the students and some faculty from running speech off.

Category: Coffeehouse

Someone writes in to Prudie about learning that the One That Got Away considers her The One That Got Away:

Aside from a fun weeklong fling over a decade ago, we’ve always kept it platonic, mostly because one of us was always dating someone in the couple of times a year we’d see each other. Flash forward to this year when I told him my boyfriend and I were getting married. He seemed shocked, but happy for me, came out to help me prepare for the big day and was an all-around champ. After the wedding I talked to my new mother-in-law and was shocked to find out that he referred to me as “the one who got away” in his own life

Prudie responds:

I don’t find it a charming plot twist that your friend confesses to your new mother-in-law (!) that you’re the one who got away. Instead it is rude and passive-aggressive. Yes, it’s possible he blurted this out to your mother-in-law after too much to drink, and by way of praising your charms. But it doesn’t have that feel, does it? Presumably, he thought she would pass on this tidbit, thus putting a pall over your honeymoon. That’s not something a friend does. There’s a reason your dreams of this guy never became reality. As he’s demonstrated, in reality he sounds kind of manipulative

I was initially set to agree with her, when I read the title and before I got to the specifics of his little confession. There was a scene in Friends where Rachel is flying across the Atlantic to tell Ross that she loves him before he gets married. She’s telling the story to a random guy (played by the guy who plays House) who, at the end, tells her that she is an utterly terrible person. She manipulated him and then, when he finally found happiness with someone else, wanted to re-insert herself into his happy life.

Those of you who have reading me for a while know that this actually sort of happened to me. I hold no ill-will, though my wife is not a big fan of her.

But here’s the thing… this guy didn’t actually make a play. He didn’t say “I object!” at the wedding. He made a comment to the mother of the groom. A comment which actually strikes me as being something along the lines of “Your son got a real winner here” rather than an actual profession of love. Or it may have been a “Jesucristo I screwed up” and failing to keep it inside. It may have been a passive-aggressive way of making a declaration, but it would have been a particularly incompetent way of doing so. The odds of the mother-in-law relaying the message are somewhere below 100%.

My advice would have been along the lines of “Lady, he may or may not have really meant what he said. If he did mean it, there is a good chance it was a passing thought. You don’t want to step on that ice.”

Category: Coffeehouse

Paul Krugman makes the following observation about Atlas Shrugged:

After all, what is Atlas Shrugged really about? Leave aside the endless speeches and bad sex scenes. What you’re left with is the tale of how a group of plutocrats overthrow a democratically elected government with a campaign of economic sabotage.

As it happens, I watched the third and final movie recently, which has it fresh on my mind. As I watched it, the phrase “economic terrorism” came to mind, with regard to Galt’s tactics. The book does attempt to establish the moral basis for what it’s doing, with the pirate only sinking ships of ill-gotten gains and Wyatt and d’Anconia destroying what was theirs to destroy. From a certain vantage point – Rand’s – doing anything else out of kindness or decency would have been the self-treachery of living for another man.

Nonetheless, I found Wyatt’s actions distasteful, and it was something I never quite got over and never could square with my most libertarian of instincts.

That being said, Krugman’s argument here is even more of a stretch than Jonathan Last’s seminal piece in defense of the empire from Star Wars. Even from a liberal prospective, and no matter how much one disagrees with Galt’s (and Rand’s) solution, the democratically elected government of Atlas Shrugged was rotten to the core.

That touches on a comment I made from a previous post on the book:

By far, the most surprising thing to me – perhaps the only really surprising thing – was the extent to which the villains were roughly as wealthy and individually powerful as the heroes. The poor were the hordes at the gate, but collectively a villain in the background. The bigger villains were corrupt businesspeople, unions, and the government they were propping up. The unions being there weren’t a surprise, obviously, but I wasn’t expecting corrupt and self-serving businesspeople to get much more than a passing mention, if any at all.

It’s not just that the Thompson regime was liberal and socialist and ideologically bad (from Rand’s POV), but they were hopelessly corrupt. They had their blindness, but it was pretty transparent from the book that the ideology was a means to an end. Not even along the usual critique, which is that they use big government to become powerful, which they then use to increase their own wealth relative to everyone else. They’re shoplifting on a sinking ship, after having stolen the floorboards, but they were lining their pockets as best they could. The government presented isn’t just a failure by conservative or libertarian standards, but by liberal ones as well.

Which gets us to the “democratically elected” part. While it is presumably true that Thompson was elected, it’s difficult to ascertain the circumstances surrounding it. Putin was elected, and would almost certainly be elected in a free and fair election, but there’s enough going on to cast a shadow over the entire regime. Once incumbents have enough power, even accurate elections are somewhat beside the point. And you can have multiple candidates that are essentially fronts for the same regime. Which is a criticism I hear of the American system… from people on the hard left as much as anywhere else. The legitimacy of the regime is in question.

Democracy may be better than the alternatives, but it does not render corruption legitimate. And corruption that runs deep enough can, under at least some circumstances, render legitimacy to a coup. Or at the very least can justify a war of secession. Which is kinda sorta what’s going on.

From an ideologically secular standpoint, Atlas Shrugged would, to me, be a more interesting book if it actually did involve familiar states (either of the nation-state or the state-state variety). If, say, Galt and company were to relocate to Washington or Oregon instead of Colorado and set of a Free State sort of deal, with an eye towards independence. And in the time and place of the novel, both in our timeline and theirs, it would be incredibly difficult for a western Freedonia to gain a foothold. It would be giving their opponents a nation to attack, after all. On the other hand, with sufficient economic sabotage and stealth…

Such a plot runs counter to Rand’s political thesis, though, so from an ideologically sectarian standpoint it’s a non-starter. It also, at least arguably, points to a flaw in the hyperlibertarian model, which is that freedom needs to be defended. That requires organization. If not conscription, then a lot of people. More people than could ever meet the stiff threshold of the competence required to be invited to Rand’s Atlantis.

Will Wilkinson (H/T Dave Pinsen) said the following:

By the way, Atlas buffs, the point of Atlas Shrugged is not that you are John Galt. The point is that you are not John Galt. The point is that you are, at your best, Eddie Willers. You’re smart, hardworking, productive, and true. But you’re no creative genius and you take innovation — John Galt — for granted. You don’t even know who he is! And this eventually leaves you weeping on abandoned train tracks.

Willers is, of course, left behind right next to Hannity and Beck. The problem is that you would need Willers – an army of him, really – to be able to secure the sort of (dare we say it?) state from future pilfering. In addition to the magic power generator that Galt built, there is also the magic cloaking device. Which may work, for a time as the pieces of the former United States of America rebuild. But eventually they will. And though Galt imagines a confederacy of colonies, eventually a society will rebuild and conflict will erupt. Probably a fascist one. A Monroe Republic. And while it might take them longer to find the hidden colonies than the Free State of Washington, find it they eventually would. The only defense would be the equivalent of Project X in the hands of the Atlantians.

Which leaves Atlas Shrugged ultimately as a contest between the corrupt government of ruin, or the likely promise of ruin in the future. Whatever the morality of the cause, it’s difficult to entirely shrug off the looters and the moochers, when they have you so severely outnumbered.

-{Ed note: The bulk of this was written a few weeks ago. It got lost in the shuffle.

Category: Coffeehouse


The island of Pitcairn is giving away free land to people who want to move there. So far, no luck:

The population on Britain’s smallest colony has been dwindling for years, and there are now fewer than 50 islanders left. But locals are struggling to find new settlers to follow in the footsteps of Fletcher Christian, who led the mutiny.

Only one application has been received to move to the island, even though the government provides all immigrants with a plot to build their own house and temperatures stay above 62F (17C) all year round. {…}

Since then, the Pitkerners have been sustained by government aid as their population has shrunk. At its height, just before the Second World War, 200 residents lived on the sub-tropical island, which measures two square miles.

Notably, Pitcairn is known for a pretty horrific scandal some years back.

Jason Kuznicki suggested that would-be libertarian seasteaders take it over. It’s an… interesting proposition. Like the Free State Project, except for an entire island.

Church_of_AdamstownThe first issue, though, is that Pitcairn isn’t independent. I don’t know what strings might be attached to the aid that Pitcairn receives, but at least as long as it is a dependent on the crown. I also don’t know what freedoms they might gain by becoming financially independent, if they could manage to do so (which would be hard, as they don’t have reliable 24-hour electricity). But it would be a libertarian paradise that exists at the mercy of the crown (or, really, parliament). If they get wind that a bunch of outsiders are planning to hijack the island, the open invitation could close really fast.

The next issue is that the expansion possibilities are limited. Pitcairn itself is really small. So if you have a successful run at it, then what? You have to start working to keep people out, or it becomes so crowded that you have to start passing laws and more laws to try to sort everything out. Density and liberty (as defined by those not-on-the-left) are not very compatible, ultimately.

HendersonSo you’d be left with two options. first takes you right back to seasteading. The second is to work towards inhabiting the other of the Pitcairn Islands. Britain would probably object if you tried to inhabit Henderson Island, because of its unique ecology (an attempt to develop it in the 80’s was approved by Pitcairn but then vetoed by the British), but it is an order of magnitude larger than Pitcairn itself. So you’d have to be mum on your plans to take it over. There are two other islands or island-sets. Oeno serves as a holiday island, and Dulcie is an interesting looking atoll that doesn’t have any people on it.

It’s rough going for making a country, even if you could somehow get away with it, especially since all of these islands are really far apart from one another. But it could, conceivably, serve as a base for a series of seasteads. Maybe.

But you gotta get past the crown first.

Category: Coffeehouse

I was looking up whether we’re supposed to call the organization running rampant in Iraq by the name IS(IL/IS) or DAESH. The latter is a derogatory term from the region, and France and Australia have chosen to use it over IS/ISIL/ISIS on the basis that DAESH doesn’t get to “represent Islam.” I prefer Daesh for a couple of reasons. First, because it gives us a demonym (Daeshians). But mostly because they hate it and that works for me.

Anyway, this Guardian article reminded me of what I like about British English. I am not a fan of the superfluous ‘u’s, but there are a couple of things I really do like. For example, they drop the period on initials like Mr and Sr. You’ll notice that I tend to do the same, because I think periods should generally go at the end of a sentence. So I’ve adopted that, when I can. I also think some of their uses of “s” over “z” are better, and they don’t eliminate the “e” on judgment, which would be preferable (though not so much that I bother flouting our convention. Also, we switch “re” to “er” when their spelling is cooler (spectre is cooler than specter, and theatre to theater). Also, we eliminate duplicate “l” when we shouldn’t, like traveler vs traveller, or cancel vs cancelled.

Pertaining to the opening paragraph of this post, if an acronym is pronounced, they don’t use all-caps like we do. So the FBI is the FBI, but NASA is Nasa. I think this is better. Not the least of which because of the demonym thing for Daesh (Daeshians works better for me than DAESHians), but mostly it provides a cue as to whether it’s supposed to be pronounced or spelled out. The downside is that you don’t necessarily know when something is an acronym. But how much does etymology matter? And it’s something that can be clarified. I will honor our convention when it comes to Nasa, but not Daesh.

Category: Coffeehouse


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