Linky Friday: Sex, Sin, & Science

Science:

mad scientist photo

Image by raindog808

[S1] Ideally, the policy should follow the science rather than the other way around. The thing is, when I see a study about the relative less risk of ecigarettes, I can be somewhat confident it didn’t come out of the United States.

[S2] Brian Palmer argues that twin studies are useless. Alex Tabarrok responds. We could just settle this once and for all with one neat trick (errr, policy).

[S3] Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky argue that universities are protecting rogue scientists due to bad incentives.

[S4] Maybe we can file this under “Part of the Problem.”

[S5] Hurry up, I’m getting older.

[S6] Not gonna lie: I only vaguely understood this article because I recently read The Atlantis Gene trilogy.

Relationships:

[R1] Hook-up culture appears to be primarily a campus thing. The whole thing seems rather dependent on being surrounded by peers in a way that’s hard to accomplish without college.

[R2] Laura Kipnis is worried about sexual paranoia on campuses.

[R3] When it’s not porn addiction that’s the problem, but the perception of porn addiction?

[R4] The reasons we often think of for divorce occurring may be more likely to actually be the final straws.

[R5] Three words: Moose Sex Corridor.

Sex Crimes:

Best Buy photo

Image by JeepersMedia

[C1] I had missed this: Subway is being sued by Jared Fogle’s ex-wife, who believes they knew about his pedophelia and did nothing.

[C2] It turns out that targeting johns may also be bad for prostitutes.

[C3] Marina Benjamin argues that we ought to start treating rapists like regular criminals.

[C4] Reporting requirements may be hurting the fight against child abuse.

[C5] Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do whatcha gonna do when Best Buy comes for you…

[C6] Not that this is the important thing, but diet and health are actually important if you want a woman to get pregnant.

[C7] Ugh.

Smoking:

smoking photo

Image by cagrimmett

[Sm1] Scott Gottlieb to the FDA is starting to look like my favorite Trump appointment, though still no word on whether he’s going to do anything about the deeming regulations that threaten the industry, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/oupu-erm040417.php

[Sm2] Here is a rare public policy victory from an unexpected place. Yes, not losing counts as winning now. But seriously, it will probably help people quit smoking and maybe prevent them from starting up. {More}

[Sm3] Maybe medicinal marijuana doesn’t make things better? Canada may not care about reported medicinality, however.

[Sm4] Other smokers. That’s who.

[Sm5] In addition to the fact it will make them run from the police slower, there may be other reasons we want criminals to smoke.

Business:

company restroom photo

Image by Anne Worner

[B1] This strikes me as a good idea. You need Twitter to be free, but there are quite a few power-users who will pay for the right stuff. They could even put a generous cap of fifty tweets a day or something, and a lot of people would need to pay.

[B2] Suppliers are getting pinched as Amazon and Walmart engage in price wars.

[B3] Maybe if you want your organization to perform, you need cleaner bathrooms.

[B4] This is an interesting thought: Should fund managers have to disclose what their investment boycotts are costing their consumers?

[B5] This is inevitable, and likely positive: AirBnB is going to have to police itself to keep everyone else at bay.

Games:

[G1] Wichita State is making the jump to the American Athletic Conference.

[G2] This could save the Big 12 Conference. (Actually, the likelihood of UNC and NC State leaving the ACC is near-zero.

[G3] What was once the cure for short-term boredom was the child of a prolonged boredom.

[G4] Video games apparently need luck variables.

[G5]


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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150 thoughts on “Linky Friday: Sex, Sin, & Science

  1. R1: Makes sense. There are some unique structural features to college, lots of young people in one place and relatively large amount of free time that make hook-up culture more possible than other place.

    R2: Kipnis has strong opinions.

    C1: As a lawyer, I’m failing to see what the ex-Ms. Fogle’s exact injury in this case was. I can see Mr. Fogle’s victims suing Subway for negligence but not his wife. I’m not terribly surprised that Subway knew of Mr. Fogle’s crimes but failed to do anything about them. That seems to happen a lot with pedophiles with institutional support.

    C2: Just legalize as much commercial sex as the law and society could tolerate already.

    C5: I’m torn about this. Child pornography is evil but I don’t like it when law enforcement gets too creative in trying to find criminals. It creates some very bad incentives for law enforcement.

    C6, C7: When I read stories like these two, I just wonder what it is with some people that they can be so evil. It also seems that a depressing high percentage of humanity can be like this because of the regularity these types of stories crop up. They seem almost animal in behavior.

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        • One thing she said actually made a strange bit of sense. How many High Schools have Sex Ed that focuses largely upon the dangers of sex (VD, rape, pregnancy) and presents little, if anything, about intimacy and emotional reactions inherent in the act? I mean, even if it’s not a moralizing Abstinence Only program, if it spends the bulk of the time talking about the dangers/negative aspects – I could see how that sets up ideas that sex is dangerous.

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          • Talking about the dangerous/negative aspects of sex is always the safer option even in liberal school districts for the school. Parents are going to have strong opinions about sex and parents from strict religious cultures who will object obviously. Even more liberal parents would object if the school teaches the positive aspects of sex in the wrong way like extolling polyamory to the kids of parents who believe in monogamy. Since nobody can really come up with a broad enough acceptable consensus on what is the positive aspects of sex but we can come up with something approaching consensus for the negative aspects of sex, the latter gets taught.

            You also are going to have to deal with the fact that at least a minority of students are going to be completely excluded from romance and sex for a variety of reasons. Having them learn about the positive experiences of sex will be just as motivational as having poor teenagers from low socio-economic backgrounds watch Life Styles of the Rich and Famous repeatedly. It will make them even more miserable and feel more excluded from the fun for the most part.

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          • I think what Lee said. Being technical is safe and not going to get anyone in hot water.

            I mentioned this on another thread but we were discussing SexEd on LGM once and some people there had some interesting ideas about what it should be like that caused my inner “Fuck that Social Engineering shit” person to flare up. One woman’s version of Sex Positive SexEd was watching videos about a single woman whose sex was many friends with benefits situations and who was also engaged in “meaningful work” like running a soup kitchen.

            I pointed out that I grew up in a blue and liberal school district but even the parents there would react to a video like that with Hell No.*

            Others pointed out (usually guys who were in the outs on High School) that a video like that would make them miserable and that when you are shy, introverted, and generally not popular monogamy is great because it is much less work. The woman with the multiple partner sex ed video idea also pointed out that she was introverted and liked the idea of string-free sex because it meant down time when she was not in the mood. So people have wildly conflicting ideas.

            I personally thought the video scream social engineering.

            *I grew up in a very liberal school district in a very blue Congressional district but it was also the kind of school district where parents looked the other way as long as their children got into a very good college or university (read: Ivy League or the equivalent) seemingly. I suspect the LGM crowd also hate this kind of bourgeois liberalism as being materialistic. Hence the part of the video showing “meaningful work.”

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            • Women are generally still the approached gender so heterosexual or bisexual introverted women are going to probably receive more attempts at courtship or casual sex from than heterosexual introverted men, especially if they are attractive.

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            • I’m not being critical of HS Sex Ed, as such, for exactly the reasons you list; it’s a hell of a needle to thread, and focusing on the negative is more straightforward and acceptable.

              But focusing on the negative has consequences, especially if parents are not stepping up and filling in the gaps (for all their faults, this was something my parents did actually do – one benefit of being raised by a pair of hippies, I guess).

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      • Kipnis is right on a lot of things but she is going against a lot of current thought about sex. Sex is always going to be an issue where people are going to be more than a little irrational on because of a variety of factors. There are always going to be a lot of contradictory thoughts regarding sex. Trying to impose some type of reason or logic on sex like Kipnis is attempting to do will come across as immoral or evil to other people because of their own beliefs about sex.

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        • I get the sense in reading her that she places zero weight on issues of race, gender, and privilege. In other words, she comes across as the type who says, “Well, I’m by definition a ‘good feminist,’ therefore I’m by definition not capable of being the ‘bad guy’.” Which, that’s a trap.

          I get the sense that she long ago stopped listening to people unlike her.

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          • I chuck that up to when Kipnis came of age intellectually, which was during the 1960s and 1970s and the entire Sexual Revolution was a new thing and ideas about privilege did not really enter into liberal-leftist thought yet. Being an independent women who is not in a relationship but has a fulfilling sex and non-sex life was as revolutionary as it got when Kipnis formatted her ideas.

            Sex is always going to be a complicated issue but I think it was an especially complicated issue for Feminists of Kipnis’ generation. One way that men attempted to control woman through out history was to control female sexuality and extol female purity. The entire Madonna/Whore complex. Another and somewhat to very contradictory way that men attempted to control women through the centuries was to insist that women be pleasing to men in appearance, demeanor, and personality.

            For feminism I think this always presented something of an intellectual dilemma. Going against the idea of female sexual purity and take control of their own sexuality is definitely a form of female empowerment. At the same time women who are by appearance, demeanor, and personality pleasing to men are going to be more able to take control of to have a romance/sex life than women who are not for the most part. This means that breaking way men have controlled women historically might reinforce or another way men have done so. A lot of ink has been spilled trying to square the circle.

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              • Kipnis is wrong, though, in the idea that sex on campus hasn’t changed over the years. Quid Pro Quo sex with professors is dramatically increasing.
                The fact that she doesn’t know this (living in that milieu) makes me very reluctant to listen to anything else she has to say.

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        • I think it’s the opposite. From my view it’s the folks insisting on the Title IX witch-hunts and viewing all sex through the lens of truthy, social justice shibbeloths that are trying to impose a rigid framework.

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  2. G2 – I used to think the same thing about Maryland. And you know how much Carolinians love to seceed.

    If the SEC ever gets in trouble, I could see an all Carolina – Georgia conference.

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      • Any school east of the Blue Ridge shouldn’t be in the Big Ten at all. (& btw, that there’s another Veep-ish thing – Confusion over what the definition of ‘Ten’ / That’s not how math works)

        But what I was trying to say is that Duke and UNC have enough basketball cachet that whatever conference they go to – or rather, form around themselves – there they are.

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  3. [B3] a different correlation could be that organizations that are struggling either cut back on services like custodial, or jobs like cleaning stuff up get ignored because people are in “survival mode.” Or they fired the custodians and told the regular employees to clean, and either the employees aren’t that good at this or else, because this isn’t Japan, they resent the idea of “service work” like that….

    Also, I know exactly which stores in my usual shopping round I will and will not use the restrooms at. I would also unlikely invest money in the corporation that owned the stores near me with the filthiest bathrooms.

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    • Or they fired the custodians and told the regular employees to clean, and either the employees aren’t that good at this or else, because this isn’t Japan, they resent the idea of “service work” like that….

      My guess is that they fired the custodians and the told the regular employees to clean, without reducing those employees’ other responsibilities to allow them time to clean the damn bathroom. Indeed, custodian work is not typically highly paid, so it is entirely likely that those other employees were paid more. Actually making a serious attempt to have them do the cleaning would mean replacing a lower paid person with a higher paid person doing the same work.

      As for the linked article, it lost with the update about making your bed in the morning. Keeping the bathrooms, whether literal or metaphorical, clean has clear benefits. What is the stated benefit of making your bed in the morning? Because having accomplished one thing in the morning will motivate you to accomplish more things. Huh? Even if we stipulate to the motivational benefits, this is just another way of saying that you need to get started in the morning. Why do it with make-work? (If you prefer the aesthetics of having a made bed, then this is not make-work for you and no additional argument need be made for doing it.) Are we so devoid of useful housework that we have to invent make-work instead? I certainly don’t have this problem.

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      • I use practicing the piano for 20 minutes instead of “making the bed” (I often like to let it air out; I sleep “hot”). Playing the piano feels more useful to me – I need to practice anyway and it reminds me first thing in the morning before I go to work that I am more than just my job.

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  4. B2: I have been seeing articles like this about WalMart for decades. Some supplier is thrilled to be picked up by WalMart, because that opens up a huge market. Then WalMart starts putting the squeeze on the supplier demanding ever-lower prices. At some point this puts the supplier operating at a loss. Wackiness ensues. Rubbermaid is the classic cautionary tale.

    This led to two responses. There was a spate of stories about companies that were approached by WalMart and said thanks but no thanks. These often were companies with established reputations for quality products. The argument was that it would be impossible to maintain this quality under the WalMart regime, and it was better for the company’s long term prospects to stay away. The other response was to go with that regime and maintain profitability by producing a separate line of cheaper goods, labeled just like the old line, just for WalMart. This is why I won’t buy any but the most anodyne products at WalMart. Just because it comes with a good label doesn’t mean it isn’t cheap crap inside the box.

    With B2 we see the same thing, but with the new twist that Amazon is doing the same thing. Back in the old days WalMart was up against K-Mart, which was in the midst of its corporate implosion, and Target, which aimed at a slightly more upscale market than does WalMart and is willing to have slightly higher prices.

    I am kind of fascinated by this new twist. Here we have two behemoths with buckets of cash reserves locking horns. Something will have to give, but what? I can’t wait to see. Will Frito-Lay be willing to sell bags of cheaper faux-Doritos in WalMart, with the same packaging as in other stores? It seems unlikely. But they might go for specially branded cheaper faux-Doritos. Or they might be willing to walk away from WalMart. Or WalMart might blink. I am on the edge of my seat!

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    • I figure this practice is why my local wal-mart (the only game in town, pretty much) will carry some wonderful product I actually like for about 2 months, and then it disappears, usually replaced by a lesser brand (or their own house brand, which I’ve had bad luck with). And yes, I also have suspected the ‘wal-mart version’ of some named products is lower-quality than the non-discount-store version.

      I could totally see Wal-mart going the Aldi route, and selling only their own house brands. Not sure what customers would do then. Hell, I’m not sure what *I* would do. I can’t afford the time for a weekly hour-long round trip to the nearest Kroger.

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      • I have lived in places far away from good shopping. My solution was a monthly massive shopping trip, concentrating on non-perishables, supplemented by the crappy local shopping for perishables. Of course this requires the cash flow to be able to drop hundreds of dollars on the massive trip and the space to store the purchases. I haven’t been in this situation since online shopping became a thing. Even apart from Amazon, I would think that the regime would be pretty doable nowadays.

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        • This is pretty much how I do it. There is a small local grocery that has decent produce so I can get fresh produce there, it’s just, their meat is not great and they don’t carry some of the brands I like, so….

          The problem with Costco is the nearest one is a 2 hour or more round-trip from me and I’m just not up for that these days. Also, I have a small house and am a single person, so an eight-pack of mayonnaise or whatever doesn’t quite work for me.

          I’ve heard that amazon grocery sellers tend to be very spotty – some send stuff that is very close its expiration date, which kind of defeats the purpose of stocking up. I haven’t used them for much other than stuff like tea that doesn’t really spoil.

          I DO have an extremely nice (and pricey, but I don’t spend a lot of money otherwise) natural-foods store within that 1-hour circuit and I usually plan a trip there and to the Kroger’s once or twice a month.

          It’s been rumored for over a year we are to get an Albertson’s, which would help, but I’m not holding my breath; I think wal-mart has a stranglehold on the town.

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      • The railroads did it to coal producers, too. The large producers could fight back, but a small producer with only one rail line was pretty much screwed.

        Railroads were the Internet Service Providers of the 19th century. If a town didn’t have a rail line they begged the railroad to come in. Once it had, the town quickly learned to despise the railroad, usually with good reason.

        Abuses by 19th century railroads is a fascinating topic. I have only picked up bits and pieces here and there. I would love to read a work devoted to the subject, and the formation of the Interstate Commerce Commission in response.

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    • My old boss ran a Chinese artificial X-mas tree factory for some years (long story how that happened). He won distribution a couple of big retailers (think major warehouse and home improvement). However, he wouldn’t go to Target or Walmart because of how they margin squeeze suppliers. One move he described was Target would put their products on sale for 20%, then go to the manufacturer and say, “Hey, we put these on sale, now you have to pay to cover for the discounting, even though you never agreed to is.”

      This is part of why Unilever bought Dollar Shave, they’re interested in looking at direct-to-consumer web platforms.

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      • Lots of people still don’t have internet access, or live in areas where a package shipped to their house would promptly be stolen. That’s my best guess.

        Though of late I’ve read for lots of people, now Wal-mart is the “luxury” option, and the dollar stores are where they usually shop. If you want a data point that suggests how far in the crapper our economy is….

        (We have something like five dollar stores in a town of 15,000, but they don’t tend to carry groceries other than a few odd canned goods)

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      • Anecdotally… locally, WalMart or the Kroger chain stores on Friday evening see a large number of customers paying in cash. One of the cashiers at the local Kroger store told me that I wouldn’t believe how many crisp new $100 bills they handled on Friday evening. When I worked for giant cable company, I was peripherally involved in a project that interviewed customers in East LA. One of the unexpected (by the HQ managers) outcomes was finding out just how big an advantage cable had over satellite there because of month-to-month service, little storefronts where customers could pay in cash, and no need to have a credit card at all.

        Somewhat more statistically, there are tens of millions of Americans who lack both credit cards and checking accounts. With Amazon, the only way I know to get around that is with pre-paid gift cards, which is a hassle.

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  5. S2: Palmer’s piece has a fair bit of hyperbole. Tabarrok features classic indignant disagreement. The one neat trick makes for a fun piece, but doesn’t work. After nine months of labor, it’s not at all easy to give up a child.

    It turns out, though, that’s what my mother did. You see, I’m adopted. My perspective is that genetic influence is real, but also overrated by the culture, which appears to never consider the situation of the adopters/adoptee.

    I would say also that the assumption that you have cancelled out any “nurture” factors by studying twins is deeply suspect. Children don’t get treated the same. Stuff happens in the family, crises, distractions, and so on.

    Now there are studies of identical twins separated at birth and raised separately. They show some fascinating similarities. Sometimes its almost spooky. So genes definitely influence things. But the numbers produced – twenty-five percent, fifty percent, etc. – are suspect.

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    • I would say also that the assumption that you have cancelled out any “nurture” factors by studying twins is deeply suspect.

      There’s no such assumption. Twin studies don’t attribute traits to some combination of genes and environment, but rather to some combination of genes, shared environment, and non-shared environment. Non-shared environment is the thing you and Palmer are saying twin studies don’t account for.

      Tabarrok’s response isn’t “indignant disagreement.” He’s pointing out basic, fundamental errors in Palmer’s piece that indicate that he lacks anything beyond the most rudimentary understanding of the issue on which he’s pontificating.

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  6. Sm3 – I haven’t looked into this in a while, but it used to be widely accepted in the medical profession that cannabis wasn’t the best way of treating anything. It may have benefits in for appetite or pain mitigation, but there was always something better. It’s like the guys who smoke pot and talk about the quality of hemp rope. If you want to make your case, make it. Don’t try to trick people. Stoners aren’t as clever as they think.

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    • I always thought that is was a decent mild pain medication/anti nausea, but the overarching “medical” benefit was simply a backdoor to legalization. A co-worker from years ago talked about getting his card in CA and the medical question was basically “do you have any symptoms of anything? OK then here is your prescription.”

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      • Anecdotal, but my brother reported that pot worked much better for dealing with chemo than anything prescribed. Texas doesn’t have medical marijuana, but his oncologist hinted very heavily that if the medications didn’t work that he might look into that.

        I think, with my brother at least, is that pot both stimulated appetite, reduced nausea, and reduced stress/disassociated him from the remaining issues. And then being able to get more food in you, and keep it down, added a lot more to his resilience. (In short, it’s not that pot was better — it just did multiple things well enough, in a low side effect and easy to administer way.).

        Then again, my brother’s case was unusual. He was so sick prior that he gained a great deal of weight during chemo. (The tumor, by the time it was found, was interfering heavily with his breathing. Among other things, he’d spent six months with constant chest infections and constant — as in every 20 to 30 minutes — sleep interruptions.).

        Sadly he’s still got a tiny bit of tumor left, but it’s very operable — as soon as it grows big enough for the surgeon to locate easily. (It’s nestled in scar tissue from radiation, which makes imaging it difficult). Unfortunately, it’ll be open thoracic surgery — he’s not really looking forward to a surgery that involves using a rib spreader. (I suspect he’d enjoy legal pot now, to avoid thinking about it during the wait…:) )

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        • in a low side effect and easy to administer way

          This is the part that is actually relevant (I think) regarding medical marijuana. It’s not that it’s the best drug for X, it’s that it’s the best drug with the least unpleasant side effects for this particular person to treat X. In a meta analysis, the statistical significance probably isn’t great, because enough people will handle the side effects of a given treatment well enough, but for the outliers, the difference is considerable.

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  7. R1: There as a This American Life story where a guy talked about hitting the bar scene after basically being with the same woman from 17-30 and then deciding they were maybe not right for each other. His observation was that anyone can go home with a stranger from a bar, all you need to do is stay out until closing time and radically lower your standards. But generally I would say that a college campus makes hooking-up easier for the reasons mentioned in the article. Lots of young people, filled with hormones and other substances, in a relatively to very sealed universe. A “walk of shame” is probably more bearable on a closed campus on Saturday at 8 A.M. as compared to the sidewalks of a major city or driving in your car in the burbs.

    That being said variants exist, Key Parties might have been overly reported but they do seem to have been a thing in the 1970s. There are still Swinger’s clubs where one can theoretically have sex with strangers.

    B4: My inclination is no but I think there are deep ideological divides here. One of the things that I would like to see go away is the cult that corporations/companies only exist to increase and maximize shareholder value and this is the best way to make the world wealthier. I think it leads to a lot of bad short term decision making for immediate profit and disagree with the overall philosophy. There is starting to be some pushback against it but the proponents of maximizing shareholder value are still strong. Too strong. There is always going to be tension between a person as a worker and a person as a consumer but I’ve yet to meet a convincing argument about why we should value ourselves as consumers/investors more than we should as workers.

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    • One of the things that I would like to see go away is the cult that corporations/companies only exist to increase and maximize shareholder value and this is the best way to make the world wealthier. I think it leads to a lot of bad short term decision making for immediate profit and disagree with the overall philosophy.

      What seems noteworthy to me is that this has become something I hear about more from the left than the right these days. Either in (a) criticizing corporations and explaining why they needed to be regulated, or (b) explaining why having religious beliefs or donating to political campaigns is antithetical to their existence.

      Not to say that the right and libertarians have abandoned this line of thinking. I suspect I hear it more from the left because I spend more time conversing with them rather than that they make the argument more frequently. But far from a cult, it has adherents on both sides.

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      • I don’t quite get your phrasing. Are you saying that people on the left defend the cult of maximizing shareholder value?

        I haven’t seen that. What I see is a lot of liberals fighting against the notion and libertarians and the right defending it.

        Lee is right on the fundamental split between liberals and libertarians. Liberals believe you need some kind of redistribution method and libertarians are adamant about increasing absolute wealth alone.

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        • They sort of do defend it, when they use that as a reason that corporations shouldn’t have political or religious beliefs because they can’t have these beliefs as they exist as soulless entities to make money.

          But mostly they validate it as the status quo. Some more regularly than conservatives do.

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          • I think this is partially because the cult of shareholder value is the dominant force now in the United States. Generations have only known it.

            I don’t hear what you are saying but when I think of ending the cult of shareholder value I think of it to create long term planning and my investment in worker morale and long term planning.

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            • I am really quite consistent in my belief that corporations do not exist solely to maximize value or to make money. When corporations lean on that (United being a recent example) they’re making excuses (usually for being assholes). Now, with your formulation, you might think that when I make this argument, I am almost always making it against libertarians and conservatives. That used to be true, but hasn’t been true in at least five years.

              Next time we’re talking about corporate political donations, or corporations and religion, pay attention to who is talking about how corporations exists solely to make money and that ideology and religiosity doesn’t belong.

              Granted, the next conversation the same people might be celebrating some boycott of a Carolina or whatnot, though even then they will often try to put it in market terms (“Actually it’s good business to tell conservatives to go to hell”)

              It’s part and parcel to the increasing romance between liberals and corporate America.

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          • a reason that corporations shouldn’t have political or religious beliefs

            My sense is that this is more of a “gotcha” argument, turning the “shareholder value” shtick against conservative positions.

            My observation about “shareholder value” is that there is a hidden cultural component about time scale. The present corporate world seems to think it perfectly reasonable to take a success company built up over generations and burn it off for a quick profit. People who are good at this will be lauded. This hasn’t always been the case. Why the change? I’m not sure. It may in part be technological. If you can day trade sitting at home, investment as a long term commitment doesn’t have the standing it once did. Probably revolving-door corporate culture has much to do with it. The CEO who started in the mail room and has risen through the ranks is less likely to burn down the place for a quick buck than the CEO who was brought in a year ago and expects to leave in a couple of years anyway.

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            • Maybe it is a gotcha, but it’s like those things where I am hearing “X are saying” more than I am actually hearing X is saying. I would say nine of the last ten times I’ve heard something like “If a CEO is not maximizing shareholder value he is not doing his job” or “he can be sued” it is not actually coming from a libertarian or conservative.

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              • Maybe this makes sense. Most conservatives and libertarians are really skeptical of government regulation of business—that’s one of their chief areas of agreement. Most liberals, on the other hand, are quite happy to see a powerful regulatory state. There’s also a good deal more enthusiasm for the welfare among liberals than among conservatives.

                This means, for liberals, there’s a lot less of a problem with companies that just exist to make the shareholders rich. You just tax those rich shareholders, give corporate officers who step out of line atomic wedgies, and things will be fine.

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            • I suspect that the change is because fewer companies are family owned or passed down through at least some generations. When you think that your kin, most likely children or other relative, your going to want it to last. Institutional owners have less loyalty and just want money.

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          • They sort of do defend it, when they use that as a reason that corporations shouldn’t have political or religious beliefs because they can’t have these beliefs as they exist as soulless entities to make money.

            As I’ve heard that argument, it boils down to “Because as it stands now a corporation’s primary duty is to it’s shareholders, therefore…”

            Which doesn’t so much validate the status quo as admit there is a status quo. Whether or not they approve of it would be immaterial, unless the topic was should corporations primary duty be towards it’s shareholders…

            It’s perfectly common to believe that the current status quo is suboptimal in of itself, and still make arguments about how things should work or change under the current system.

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            • It assumes facts not in evidence. This Linky actually has an item referencing a counter-example. And there are counterexamples every day. We dismiss them as “Actually, it is still about long term because blah blah blah” but that takes a conclusion and applies it backwards. Unconvincingly, much of the time.

              Increasing shareholder value as the sole rationale for a corporation is something I hear from die-hard libertarians, corporate types trying to excuse bad behavior, and liberals. That the last of these may in some way “lament” this state of affairs doesn’t change that they are in effect normalizing it.

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        • Personally, this libertarian would like to see less focus on shareholder value, and more on customer value (this is something I’ve said often). Shareholders are, of course, important, but shareholders don’t provide income, so I don’t understand the focus on them, except perhaps by public financial firms.

          Why should Boeing be more focused on quarterly shareholder value versus customer satisfaction with their aircraft? That customer is going to be around for years, possibly decades. Most shareholders could care less, and will execute buy and sell orders by algorithm, rather than whether or not a company is making them feel special this quarter.

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          • I generally think that a broader view about stakeholders–not only customers, but workers, vendors, even neighbors of corporate facilities–is a healthier approach. Being too narrow and ruthless really seems to invite attitudes that justify all kinds of bad behavior, and viewing people you do business with as nothing more than marks (which seems to be a common if not inevitable corollary) will tend to lead to corporate officers who view shareholders the same way.

            That makes agency problems worse, not better.

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        • Huh. Libertarians, IME, are much more fussed about regulation than they are about distribution. Of course, that’s biased towards libertarians who I think have interesting things to say, and I tend to find, “Taxation is theft!” kinds of arguments incredibly tedious.

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      • Companies mistakenly undervalue the importance of goodwill. Or at least the long-run value of it. They know that they’re one beaten airline passenger away from trouble, but they don’t appreciate the benefit of having a long-standing reputation for decency. Companies have to be answerable for their bottom line every quarter (or every minute on the stock market) but it’s a perfectly viable strategy to enhance your momentary bottom line by being responsible.

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          • My problem with that formulation is that it encourages corporate wrongdoing. What’s cheaper — cutting costs on pollution controls, violating labor law or paying the fine when caught?

            Too often corporations find that violating the law and paying the consequences when caught makes business sense.

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              • I agree, James.

                And I don’t see the other formulations doing any better of a job with that situation either. Using Burt’s formulation would lead to the same result. If we pollute, we can sell our stuff to our customers for less money, which is one way to take better care of your customers. Because its likely the bulk of the people harmed by their pollution will not be customers.

                Companies don’t maximize value because we as a society determined that that’s what they should do. Company’s maximize value because they want to deliver a return to their investors, so that they can get them to invest again the next time they need money. Eventually, building up a track record of providing a return to investors is likely to lead to being able to secure more investments. From Investors who only invest to make a return. And investors aren’t typically going to make a market return making an investment in a company who is willing to handicap themselves playing by a more moral set of rules than have been set up in that market.

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        • I disagree with this. It only focuses on one side of the equation. Taking care of customers better will nearly universally result in more revenue, of course. Looking only at that, however, could very easily lead one to overlook that taking care of customers also means extra costs. Companies who take care of customers but lose money due to excess costs quickly find out that their ability to continue taking care of customers has come to an end, to their shareholders detriment.

          Shareholder value really just means the value of the company. So of course, every company should do things that make it more valuable rather than less valuable. Taking care of your customers is typically a priority for any given company. Keeping expenses manageable is another.

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    • On swinger’s clubs, I have a friend who spent a lot of his lawyer career in the Miami-Dade area, which apparently is a wilder place when it comes to sex than NYC. According to him that men can only get into swinger’s clubs if they come with a woman. Otherwise, they are out of look. Single women can get in just fine though.

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      • I can confirm that every Swinger’s club I knew about in South Florida had exactly this rule.

        I can say, the New England poly-kinky space is very different from Florida swinger space. Here it is more about your social circles and getting an invitation, which can be a very different kind of social maze, but one that is not so rigid.

        (That said, I’m sure that South Florida has it’s own kind of poly spaces, just I wasn’t poly when I lived in Florida. Likewise, I assume there must be swinger spaces up here in New England, but I don’t know about them.)

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        • I’m not doubting him and that rule makes intuitive sense even if it seems unfair because I imagine that the number of men that want to get into cis-gender heterosexual swinger’s clubs is going to be larger than the number of women. Its a way of ensuring some gender balance.

          When my friend moved to NYC, he found the cultural differences regarding sex between NYC and Miami-Dade to be remarkable. He found NYC to be very private about sex while South Florida is open even though NYC lacks the Evangelical presence and its libertine reputation.

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    • “There is always going to be tension between a person as a worker and a person as a consumer but I’ve yet to meet a convincing argument about why we should value ourselves as consumers/investors more than we should as workers.”

      Out of curiosity, who do you think are these investors? Monocled owners of orphan mines? The bulk of these investors are the workers. These are the means of funding pensions and 401K’s. Literally, the workers are the owners. So unless you want people to work until death, this is the funding mechanism.

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    • There is always going to be tension between a person as a worker and a person as a consumer but I’ve yet to meet a convincing argument about why we should value ourselves as consumers/investors more than we should as workers.

      Defining oneself by what one consumes is a fairly old game. If you’ve seen any recent t-shirt shops, you’ve noticed any number of brands on t-shirts. Rock bands, drink products, snack products, entertainment products, sports teams, and, of course, kinds of drugs.

      “Do the companies pay the people to wear a shirt with the artwork from the front of a box of Trix cereal?”

      “No, the guy paid $24.99 plus tax to buy that shirt.”

      I don’t think “should” has anything to do with it.

      Not that workers is *THAT* much better.

      “So, what do you do?”

      We all know that there are good answers to this and bad answers to it.
      “Oh, I’m in the army. I’m in infantry!”
      “Oh, I’m a patent lawyer.”
      “Oh, I work at Autozone.”
      “Oh, I’m an ethics consultant. I travel around the country and give speeches to hospital ethics advisors.”
      “I’m an aspiring actor but I wait tables at On The Border.”
      “I am a chemical engineer at Dow.”
      “I own my own sewage company. When you drive around town and see a port-o-potty at a work site, it likely came from us and, even if it didn’t, we’re the company in charge of emptying it!”

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    • One of the tings that makes corporations so effective as institutions is that they is focused on one easily-measured goal. Adding a nebulous “social responsibility” goal on top of that is more likely to make them bad at everything than produce anything good. That doesn’t mean I support a total free-for-all, imposing some limitations on corporate activity by law is a good idea (though the list of things I would legislate is probably smaller than yours). But corporations are a very specific cog in the machine that is a modern society and they perform best with just one clear job to do.

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      • Maybe but this is a goal with a specific launch date. Milton Freidman’s essay in the New York Times Magazine from sometime in the early 1970s. I think 1973.

        I don’t know if it needs legislation, just a change in philosophy. Before this companies were able to think about things like pension plans, long-term employee well-being/morale, social responsibility.

        But somehow Freidman’s message caught on and is not going away. Partially because a lot of investors made a lot of money and now make large donations to their alma maters on condition that shareholder value uber allies be the guiding post.

        I am not saying that shareholder value should not be a goal but easily measureable goals seem to have high costs and I think we can give up on stuff being quantitative if it makes things more complete.

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        • The idea that prior to Milton Friedman, companies didn’t try to maximize shareholder value doesn’t hold much water for me. The idea that prior to that article, there wasn’t someone who would respond to “Hey, we should double our pension, the employees will love it” with “Umm, yeah, but that will mean we have to sell double what we currently sell or double the price of what we currently sell, or we go out of business” doesn’t pass the smell test.

          My belief is the majority of companies that have ever thought about things like pension plans, long-term employee well-being/morale, social responsibility, have always done so with shareholder value/organizational value in mind. If providing a pension on net was a benefit for Company A, because the benefits of having higher skilled employees exceeded the additional cost of providing a pension, Company A would implement a pension. The fact that fewer and fewer companies do this anymore is probably decent evidence that, on average, providing a pension was a net cost, which hurts shareholder value, so the average company would lose value by offering a pension. So they don’t.

          And i get that this sucks, but I think its better than any alternative. Like Syria, I’m not sure what could be done. The second and third order effects of attempting to legislate how companies define “success”, particularly in a way that dispenses with shareholder value, is I think wholly unworkable.

          Possible thats just a failure of my imagination.

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          • Providing a pension that’s actually going to be paid means putting money aside for that purpose, and trusting that neither future management nor future investors will find other uses for that money. It’s a bad bet.

            Unfortunately, a company with any goals other than maximizing total management compensation is an unstable situation that is not going to last. See, for instance, what Carly Fiorina did to ruin Bill Hewlett and David Packard’s legacy.

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          • switters,
            Germans don’t maximize shareholder value in the NEXT THREE MONTHS.
            Germans have 50 year plans for their businesses.

            This is what we should be trying for. Unless, of course, we’re UBER, in which case we shouldn’t plan on lasting another year.

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            • Like you, everyone else’s issue appears to be not the goal of maximizing shareholder value, but that many executives/companies/boards do a bad job of it, or actually sacrifice it in the name of some other shorter term benefit. No argument here. But when i watch the CEO of some company try to juice his short term stock numbers at the expense of his/her company’s long term health, I don’t take issue with the underlying goal of “maximizing shareholder value”, I take issue with the way his contract was structured that allows him/her to gain by doing tings which ultimately don’t maximize shareholder value.

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              • I think the idea here is that so-called “activist shareholders” put the pressure on C-Suite executives to get a dividend or a short-term profit. These are not mom and pop owners with a few shares but people who own a lot of shares and make it their full-time job to get temporary high stock prices and dividends so they can sell.

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              • Exactly. If the contract says “We’ll pay you a million dollars a year in cash. If the stock prices reaches $X, your options are worth $30M. If the company is sold, your severance package is worth $100M. Given the size of the numbers, the CEO’s goals are obvious. Of the three times I saw this from the inside, the CEO who impressed me was the one who told the board that there had to also be options for all, and that there had to be generous severance for all the people with lots of years if the company were sold.

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    • Saul Degraw: B4: My inclination is no but I think there are deep ideological divides here. One of the things that I would like to see go away is the cult that corporations/companies only exist to increase and maximize shareholder value and this is the best way to make the world wealthier.

      The thing is that after you get away from “maximize shareholder value” you’re typically getting into “do what I want you to do at shareholder expense”.

      There are tools society has to enforce society’s ethics and rules, they’re called “laws”. So no amount of shareholder profit lets you engage in slavery, child labor, etc, those things are illegal. Similarly society sets a minimum wage (which I dislike but whatever, it’s a law).

      After that we have…. what? Things which various groups want but they haven’t convinced the rest of society that they’re important enough to make into law?

      Global Warming is a great example, there used to be sharp disagreement on whether or not it was a thing, and there’s still sharp disagreement on what’s the best approach to maximize human benefit (eliminate carbon, deal with the side effects piecemeal, global climate engineering, etc). The various proponents of various approaches want to inflict their approach on industry without society’s blessing and without further debate on what is the way to max human benefit. Some approaches are horribly expensive, and are probably a net minus to human “good”.

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          • Joe,
            Oh, that so doesn’t work. 1 billion refugees in 20 years… backed by nuclear weapons.
            So if we don’t pick carbon neutrality, we don’t get to keep this nice place we call America. (and you wonder why genocide is now “official plans on the books”).

            I don’t think we can pick carbon neutrality, in case you’re wondering. Although, if you’re hellbent, well, a bomb or two at Davos wouldn’t go amiss.

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        • Maximize Human Benefit? Who the fuck comes up with that sort of shit?

          The best way we have to measure what people collectively want is markets. That’s how we balance society’s desire for cat food against society’s desire for cars, etc. GDP is a rough measurement of the amount of “good” that an economy does for it’s people, and per person GDP is the average for individuals.

          Non-money ways to measure Human Benefit by definition are arbitrary and imprecise. The measurer by definition is putting their thumb on the scale. They also overvalue what people claim to want rather than what they actually do.

          Society puts a very high value on human life and on keeping civilization going. We routinely deploy a money cannon to deal with problems that threaten either (the military is a good example).

          Right now, we’re trying to save civilization. And it’s not working.

          The current evaluation is that we’re better off mostly with carbon rather than mostly without it. So do it for less money and without train-wrecking the rest of society.

          The Greens’ big effect on that evaluation has been to advocate for burning Carbon over Nuclear energy. So not only does Society have other priorities, but so does the Green movement in general.

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    • One of the things that I would like to see go away is the cult that corporations/companies only exist to increase and maximize shareholder value and this is the best way to make the world wealthier. I think it leads to a lot of bad short term decision making for immediate profit and disagree with the overall philosophy. There is starting to be some pushback against it but the proponents of maximizing shareholder value are still strong

      I think you have phrased this exactly wrong and a lot of people have become confused.

      The problem is not ‘The business is operated for the benefit of the stockholders’. Of course it is operated for their benefit. They own it!

      But there are two, completely different ways to operate a company ‘for the benefit of the stockholders’.

      1) Issue dividends years after year (Well, except when profits are not made), so people who earn stock make money from that.

      2) Attempt to make the price of the *stock* go up so current holders can ‘make money’ by selling it.

      You will notice the second thing allows *extremely shortsighted behavior*, especially since the people demanding the stock-pumping behavior *will no longer be stockholders* later. (That is, indeed, the premise of that.) Hence ‘make money’ is in quotes…it’s not actually *making money*, it’s inflating the value of something and selling it so *other people overpaid* for it.

      You will also notice that #2 gives a lot of incentive for companies to lie about future prospects, and hide liabilities, and all sorts of misbehavior, whereas they can’t really do that with #1….they either actually made money, and can hand it to their owners, or they did not.

      In fact, it’s pretty obvious that almost *every single person* is better off when corporations operate under the idea of #1 instead of #2. When corporations focus on *profits* (Which requires pleasing customers and customer support and maintaining operating capacity and, you know, actual capitalism.) instead of *stock prices*. The employees are better off, the customers are better off, the long-term stock holders are better off…

      …everyone except stock market speculators, really.

      So, of course, stock market speculators have won. Mostly by creating incestuous boards and CEOs where they all vote each other bonuses if they manage to bump up stock prices.

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  8. G4 – “Today, players almost always perceive patterns of manipulation where there are none” It’s a worthwhile article to read on its own, and even moreso if you think about politics.

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  9. H1 — It’s not only campuses. For example, they should ask around in the Boston queer poly scene. Yeah, we have “hookups.” We also have longer term things. It’s nice.

    We’re also (many of us) older than the young adults in that article. We have jobs. We make better decisions, which includes decision about casual sex.

    I notice many of those stories were as much about substance abuse as about hooking up. The author glosses over this fact. I suspect this was a deliberate sin.

    Or this:

    Heidi, 20, was shocked to read a story in Cosmopolitan about a 38-year-old woman who never wanted kids. “Okay, I understand where you’re coming from, but you’re crazy. Because that’s kind of the biggest point in life,” she said “More than falling in love, more than your house, more than your money, more than anything is keeping your family alive, keeping the world going. That’s what you’re put on this earth to do.”

    Heidi is entitled to her opinion, but honestly she can fuck off sideways. If she wants kids, then have kids. If she wants to follow the monogamous life plan, then by all means do so. But don’t pretend that your “good life” will generalize to me. Certainly don’t call someone else “crazy” for being unlike you. Myself, the path I took ended up being very different from whatever Heidi imagines, but I’ve found it deeply rewarding.

    I won’t have kids, but all the same, I’m a person in the world. I touch those around me. They touch me, and not just physically.

    Furthermore, I know plenty of middle aged people who are hateful and bitter at how poorly the conventional monogamous life plan turned out for them. After all, the divorce rate is pretty high, and not just among we “coastal elites.”

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  10. S2: wait, if we do this policy, does that mean that Maribou and I might be assigned an Asian, Latino, or African-American baby to raise?

    I think I need to oppose this.

    Every child a wanted child!

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  11. Oh, right, Kipnis. The one who made a stand defending professor-student romantic relationships. She certainly has the libertarian tendency to pick the absolute worst hill to die on.

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    • Yeah, that’s my main issue. Whatever issues there are with Title IX and such, I thought the one positive cross-partisan issue was, “hey, no relationships with weird power dynamics being basically shrugged off by administrations when if it was happening six months earlier, we’d be throwing the book at the guy or gal in power.”

      The way she moves from, “well, I knew people who had a good professor/student relationship” to “this obviously proves college girls today are weaker and want to be protected” is pretty terrible.

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  12. Re: C3. I like a clean bathroom as much as the next guy, but I find it virtually impossible to take anything a “Transformation executive and change agent” says at all seriously.

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  13. S5: Is exciting but also frightening. If I wanted to destroy the fishing world I can think of few things that would be more likely to accomplish that end than inventing and selling a modestly priced immortality drug. My God(ess?) where the hell would we all stand? We’ would need to get the hell into space, like, NOW or it’d be hell on earth inside a few generations one way or the other.

    C7: Homosexual rights, the lovechild of feminism and the civil rights movement, is born into certain advantages. Gays come from all walks of life, are distributed across the population and, once convinced to stop hiding, have enormous impact on the attitudes of their friends and family. Considering those upsides it’s not hard to see how gay rights have advanced so swiftly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the prohibitions on homosexuality are likely historically outdated and that the greatest opponents of gay rights seem to invariably devour themselves with towering hypocrisy like C7. It’s also why I feel a cold chill run up my spine when I see the more extreme fringes of the gay rights movement start dabbling in similar hypocrisies. Do they honestly to God(ess?) think the worm can’t turn again?

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    • S5: Is exciting but also frightening. If I wanted to destroy the fishing world I can think of few things that would be more likely to accomplish that end than inventing and selling a modestly priced immortality drug. My God(ess?) where the hell would we all stand? We’ would need to get the hell into space, like, NOW or it’d be hell on earth inside a few generations one way or the other.

      Nah. Unless you cure a lot of OTHER things you’d probably just extend media lifespan 50 years, max. Doesn’t cure cancer, doesn’t cure clogged arteries, etc.

      I recall a study done on immortality that basically came out to “If you assume people will never get sick and can only die do to immediately lethal injuries (that is, medicine can recover you 100% if you live long enough to get to a hospital) the average lifespan hits about 600 years.”

      Don’t get me wrong, eliminating old age is good for plenty of extra room. But it’s not immortality, or even close.

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      • Hmmm, good points though I’m still not convinced we wouldn’t destroy each other over a 50-100% lifespan increase. And while curing aging would not cure cancer it would ameliorate a lot of other life threatening issues and make them a lot easier to tackle. If birthrates didn’t absolutely plunge in response we’d be looking at a catastrophe in pretty short order.

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        • First world birthrates have already plunged, and fertility wouldn’t really extend. I mean yes, with a great deal of money and donor eggs you can get IVF, even now, at a quite old age. But natural fertility will still peak relatively early, well before most hypothetical treatments would take effect.

          In short, birth rates would be dependent more on contraceptive access and culture (like the Boomer bulge — the result of a generation used to large families, because lost of kids never made it to adulthood and you needed lots of help on the farm — meeting modern medicine and industry. You had a generation of large families who, contrary to the previous generation’s experience, tended to make it to adulthood. Then the Boomers went on to have only 2 kids on average…).

          You’d have real problems, of course, if you froze people at biological 22 with perfect health. High fertility, until the woman ran out of eggs, and a genetic urge to reproduce RIGHT NOW.

          Assuming you’re just getting rid of the aging process, not the maturation process, things wouldn’t really change. Average number of kids would stay the same. Bluntly, people would just look 40ish until they died of cancer, organ failure, heart attack, etc at 120 or so.

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    • S5 is one of the more balanced articles I’ve seen on the topic, but in general it’s been overhyped. There are several fundamentally different forms of damage that contribute to the aging process. Getting rid of any of them is great, of course, and will likely help, but all of them need to be addressed to truly halt or reverse aging.

      Contra Morat, I do think it’s plausible that a senolytic drug could reduce risk of cardiac death, though I’m not 100% sure about that. Maybe even cancer, if senescent cells damage the DNA of surrounding cells or interfere with functioning of the innate immune system.

      Ultimately, though, this isn’t going to turn 70 year olds into 30 year olds. There are still issues with cross-linking of proteins in the extracellular matrix, telomere degradation (although that may be fixable, too), neuron damage (senolysis doesn’t help if you’re not making new neurons to replace the senescent ones), a bunch of other stuff I don’t remember, and probably some stuff not yet discovered.

      Overpopulation isn’t really an intractable problem, even with a true cure for aging. Just reversibly sterilize people at birth or when they get the anti-aging treatment. Then auction off (or whatever) the right to reproduce.

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      • I was thinking clogged arteries more than anything. Getting rid of aging doesn’t clear decades of gunk accumulation and the associated issues.

        Although honestly, with the stuff we’re starting to do with gene editing, I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing tailored viruses and the like in the next few decades. (“Yeah, you’ve got a nasty build-up here. We’ll put in a stent for the time being, to keep you going for the next few months without issue, but we’re gonna treat it with this little virus. Bugger’s engineered to to eat that stuff. Your arteries and veins will be 20 again when this thing has finished eating through decades of cheeseburgers and we’ve flushed it…”

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      • BB, thanks for the info, that’s interesting to know. I suppose if we ever develop a true anti-aging drug we could also potentially develop the institutional capability for an enforceable global reproduction regulation regime. Suffice it to say both would be fishing difficult.

        And also, we really do need to get into space. Like in the long long run we really do, so it’d be a good excuse to jump start that.

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  14. Anti-Israeli activists make blood libel accusation against Israeli Jews during Passover. This is part infinity on why most Jews really don’t believe anti-Israeli activists when they say that they are merely anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic. They keep reaching into the most base and vile anti-Jewish images when they are trying to make a point. The blood libel is one of the oldest and most disgusting accusations levied against Jews. Jews were put on trial for blood libel in the 20th century because people still took it seriously.

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