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Because the actual history is messy and embarrassing to every-one.

The early medieval church was clear enough that belief in witch-craft-as-real-magic was superstition left over from the bad old days (think 800 AD). Witch-craft-as-baseless-superstition was heresy and subject to punishment, but you could get in trouble both ways. You committed heresy if you put yourself forward as a witch who could really do the magic. You committed heresy if you tried to protect society against some-one who you asserted was a threat because they could really do the magic.

Then, starting around 1400 AD (but slowly at first) mankind regressed, becoming afraid of witchcraft-as-real-magic.

This is obviously embarrassing to the Catholic Church, who knew the truth and lost it. But it is embarrassing to Enlightenment thinkers too. First, the deterioration happens late; the early stirrings of modernity are making people less rational. Second, the Enlightenment could have taken witch burning as showing the fragility of human knowledge and a case study in losing truths once known. But instead it just ignored the real and troubling story in favour of bashing the Church as always in error.

Recall the story that Columbus met opposition to sailing West to China from people who believed that the Earth was flat. It originated in a "biography" that changed the story to make it more dramatic. Then anti-Catholics took it up, because the flat earth myth was a convenient stick to beat the Catholics. There is a problem with anti-religious campaigners just making stuff up.

I find this disillusioning. As a young man I believed that the 18th Century Enlightenment guys were the good guys who were opposing the Catholic Church (who were the bad guys because they just made stuff up). Now I find that every-one is just making stuff up. And twisting the witch craft story to bash Catholics isn't the only example, so I cannot excuse it as "just once".

In 2009 I suggested Saving forums from themselves with shared hierarchical white lists Linking to archived page: project name Outer Circle. It was discussed on https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=920110 My health deteriorated. Nobody else tried implementing the ideas.

Where do I even go in 10 years?

That allows for planning ahead and maybe writing your own version of Outer Circle. The core idea is

Current approaches fail because they try to create a single forum, which requires agreement on what is good.

Shared hierarchical white-lists are a mechanism for allowing "multiple forums" to peacefully coexist with the same "comment base". You don't see shitty comments because you don't white-list them. The shitty commentators don't try to ban you because they never white-list long boring intellectuals and don't know that you exist. But there is overlap. The forums have the potential to reach critical mass, with enough commentators to sustain interest. And "freedom of speech" benefits from all content being opt-in. Every-one can ban any-one for any-reason, and that ban doesn't extend beyond their personal version of the forum.

That is a bad comment. You are replying to a comment that claims there have been twenty-four years of disasters and laments that people are not learning. Have there been twenty-four years of disaster? Does past performance predict future performance? Is this time different? There is plenty to engage with. But your comment is negative, low effort, and unresponsive.

I had a very negative reaction to this article. I think it reads much better with the following set up to contextualize it.

Start by contemplating the power of bench top science and theory. The partnership of bench top science and theory has some spectacular successes to its credit. You can experiment with Newtonian mechanics in your laboratory, verifying the basic laws. Then you get a top mathematician (Euler) to work out what those laws imply for gyroscopes. Later engineers build a gyrocompass for a submarine. Will this really work? Underwater? A thousand miles from the laboratory? Yes!

Or think of James Clerk-Maxwell, taking the bench top science of Ampere and Faraday and coming up with Maxwell's equations. The equations predict electromagnetic radiation. Hertz does the experiments in his laboratory and finds them; a great triumph for theory. Later Marconi takes this out into the real world. Theory shows that electromagnetic radiation goes in straight lines; Marconi's attempts at radio communication beyond the curve of the earth are not going to work. And sure enough they fail. Wut! Marconi actually succeeds! But rather than concede that there are problems getting out of the laboratory and into the real world, we discover the ionosphere and chalk it up as another spectacular success for the partnership of bench top science and theory.

Move on to contemplating the contrasting situation in medicine. The human body is too complicated for the human mind to comprehend. Basing medicine on theory works badly for the patient, no matter how much money it brings in for the doctor. This has lead to evidence based medicine. Never trust the combination of lab bench chemistry and theory. Always do a randomised controlled trial to check that medicines really work. Theory said that vitamin E was an anti-oxidant and would reduce oxidative stress and prevent cancer. Epidemiology confirmed this. Randomised controlled trials refuted it. Examples are so numerous that you can fill a book.

Returning to climate science, we must ask whether it is like gyroscopes or like Vitamin-E/Vioxx/vertebroplasty. Doing bench top science with an infrared spectroscope and a sample of Carbon Dioxide yields uncontroversial results. But does it have implications for the weather?

I've picked up the impression that every-one agrees on the importance of feedback loops. If you believed that climate science was a like a gyroscope, you would compute warming on the basis of the infrared characteristics of Carbon Dioxide and conclude that we are in for some warming, but not enough to constitute a crisis. No-one believes that climate science is like a gyroscope. Some think that warmer air means more water vapor which means more warming and more clouds and more clouds mean mumble. Subtle feedback in the atmosphere is putting us on a course for disaster. Others disagree.

The article emphasizes one particular disagreement. Scientists attempt empirical confirmation of the theory, but they mess it up. All the empirical work is heavily contaminated by theory. It cannot refute the theory because it assumes the theory.

I clicked your link and saw "Deleted by user" when logged in (as me, not you). So yes, there is problem. But I'm merely a peasant, tilling my freehold outside of the Bailey, so I cannot help :-(

You will sometimes see a medical study described as a "blinded randomized controlled trial" and other medical studies as an "open label randomized controlled trial". Whether a study is blinded or open-label is a separate issue from having a control group and separate again from having random assignment to treatment. The Wikipedia page on GRADE doesn't mention blinding. Checking the website of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) the reference to randomized controlled trials does not mention blinding.

A study on breast augmentation can qualify as a randomized controlled trial, generating top quality evidence, with the following design: recruit 200 subjects. Randomly assign 100 to have the operation. The others are the control group. Researchers must keep in touch with the all 200 to find out how things worked out for them.

Keeping in touch with all 200 might be tricky. Some of those in the trial group might be disappointed with the results of the surgery and feeling disillusioned with medical intervention may reject further contact with the trial. Some of those in the control group may interpret being rejected for surgery as being rejected from the trial and disappear. Such people are lost to follow up. How to analyse a trial with large loses to follow up is controversial. Do we blandly say "we don't know"? Should we interpret losses from the trial group as bad outcomes? One might vary the design. 100 breast augmentations. 50 get psychotherapy that aims to persuade them that they don't need breast augmentation. 50 get regular contact to keep in touch, but bland contact, merely reminding then that they also serve who only stand and wait.

Scott's deep dive into Alcoholics Anonymous is my goto article for the practical importance of having a control group. Or should that be the disappointing effect of control groups?

If a trial does not have randomization, it is vulnerable to Simpson's Paradox. One may find that a medical treatment is beneficial, but partitioning the data into two exhaustive and mutually exclusive subgroups, find that the treatment is harmful to one of the subgroups and also harmful to the other subgroup. Wut? The analysis may collapse into baffling incoherence. Actually it is worse than that. The laws of arithmetic are chaotic evil, and permit that a conclusion that has been reversed by one partition may yet be swapped back by a finer one (if the Chrome browser objects to a faulty certificate, using incognito mode will work.)

The two issues, of needing a control group, and of needing randomization, are widely understood; I would not expect Dr Hilary Cass to restate the arguments in her report.

Edited to fix link to Simpsons Paradox, spotted error way too late :-(

My thoughts meandered to a financial analogy, prompted by the phrase "zero lower bound". One sees the phrase "zero lower bound" in the context of macroeconomics and interest rates. Governments like to stimulate the economy by cutting interest rates, but once they are cut to zero, they cannot go any lower. They have reached the zero lower bound.

Ordinary men have a similar problem with reducing the amount of rape they do. They are on board with the message "Don't rape" and would like to help women by raping less, but they are already at the zero lower bound. To do less, they would have to find a way to go negative and unrape. Ordinary men just aren't in charge and cannot actually do anything, just like ordinary men dislike money printing and inflation, but aren't consulted and cannot say "No!".

Solving rape by teaching men not to rape has the same kind of energy as solving inflation by teaching men not to print money. You actually need to target rapists and central bankers.

I've just watched this footage of Rand Paul asking Anthony Blinken for information relevant to the lab leak debate. It seems clear that there is information on file that would settle the debate, one way or the other. The AstralCodex article is about sifting the information that we are allowed to see, hoping to work out the answer from that limited information. This seems futile; once the real information comes out, it will trump all that we learned with our attempts at Bayesian integration of piles of weak, probabilistic evidence. Worse still, the refusal to release the information that we are not allowed to see is also informative. I think the fact of the refusal is in itself sufficient to prove that it was a lab leak.

This reminds me of my puzzlement at the reception of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. I imagined that English politics in 1651 had a right-wing that favoured monarchy and the divine right of kings, and a left-wing, that favoured Parliament, diggers and levelers, and if the diggers and levelers got too rambunctious, a Lord Protector. I further imagined that the right-wing would love Hobbes. Why? Because they would notice that a mystical faith in the divine right of kings wasn't persuading everybody. Some persons had a more mechanistic, materialist take on how politics worked, and Hobbes' reasoning, about needing a king to maintain order, would persuade them, perfecting social harmony as both the pious and the mechanistic/materialists agreed on the need for a king.

I was wrong. Quoting wikipedia "The secularist spirit of his book greatly angered both Anglicans and French Catholics" and "Hobbes was terrified at the prospect of being labelled a heretic, and proceeded to burn some of his compromising papers." The divine right of kings was a mystical doctrine and one profaned it by offering worldly justification.

So yes, the rightist mind finds the enigmatic, such as monarchy, beautiful. The tiny minority of rightist (just me?) who distrust enigma and construct mechanistic/materialists accounts of why we should be right-wing are rejected by the right. And then there is the left, which offers mechanistic/materialist accounts of why we should be left-wing (that I find unconvincing due to neglecting the details of the mechanisms).

Perhaps my final paragraph needs spelling out explicitly.

I think that there was a gentlemen's agreement that kept electoral fraud at a low level, just lone wolves doing too little to change the result. I think that agreement is breaking down, which is a bad thing. The two manifestations of the bad thing are (1) Too much electoral fraud, partly driven hyperbole and polarization (2) Senior Democrats liking, rather than resenting, the help they get from lower level Democrats spontaneously cheating, and the senior Democrats ending up complicit rather that opposed. Both are bad and need to be opposed.

Do you make the same commitment that you will .... absolutely accept the result of this election?

I've added emphasis to a question that I see as a disgusting example of linguistic trickery. I don't know the name for this trick, I'll provisionally call it Schrodinger's Context.

The question is being asked ahead of the election. How absolute is absolute? What if Dominion program their machines to ignore Republican votes and the Democrats win with 100% of the votes counted? Clearly there has to be some limit, at which one notices that the vote is rigged and one rejects the result. So absolute isn't to be interpreted in the most literal way possible; there is an implicit context and that context contains limits on the extent of electoral anomalies the the candidate is expected to tolerate.

The context is not spelled out. It is just understood that the election will be basically honest. But, if after the vote, some amount X of fraud gets discovered, that is like Schrodinger opening the box and discovering that the context was really about accepting the result if there is ≤ X amount of fraud.

I think the traditional context goes like this:

Politicians get to campaign hyperbolically. They can rile their base by saying that the Chinese are building car factories in Mexico and these cars will flood the American car market causing job loses among American auto-workers. Politicians are allowed to describe the these jobs loses as a bloodbath as if the Mexicans themselves will flood across the border, armed with machetes, and hack the American auto-workers to death in a literal bloodbath. No, it is just job loses, no actual blood spilled, but the hyperbolic rhetoric is allowed. "Every-one" knows not to take it literally.

"Every-one". There is a problem here. There is always some-one who gets over excited and attempts electoral fraud, thinking that they are the good guy, because they are averting a literal blood bath. Hyperbolic rhetoric is permitted, and the cost of this is that some people are not quite right in the head and break the rules on counting the votes because the hyperbole wound them up to the point of madness.

So the traditional context has two more parts. First, a few nutters attempting electoral fraud doesn't invalidate an election. It can be literally true that some Democrats cheated, and yet perfectly reasonable that Donald Trump concede the election. Second, there is a gentleman's agreement that rival politicians police their own side and try to prevent electoral fraud in their own cause. If a Democrat cheats, fellow Democrats call them out, and a Democrat Attorney General prosecutes. That is the quid pro quo for Trump conceding despite a small amount of fraud.

That is my understanding of the traditional context. I think current problems are due to the gentlemen's agreement breaking down. If a few nutters are committing electoral fraud, well, smirk Donald Trump should still concede, without asking "how much?" and without expecting Democrats to police their own side.

It has come to a point where I have to face an awkward alternative: Either most people I know are wrong (including learned men and experts) or I am insane.

I'm going to treat this as a request for an explanation of what is going on in the heads of the learned men and experts.

They are trapped in a language game, made toxic by linguistic poverty. My explanation will involve coining two neologisms and deploying them in a two stage explanation.

semi-grift Contrasts with the existing word grift. Grifters get prosecuted. But some grift-like enterprises do more good than harm. Even when individual practitioners do more harm than good, they still don't get prosecuted, because society doesn't want the chilling effect on the others, doing more good than harm and producing (in the case of psychiatry) a very substantial net benefit. Call those pro-social grifts semi-grifts.

turbo-real Are bricks real? Drop one on your foot and the pain will tell you: Yes, absolutely real! Are centers of gravity real? Put your brick on the table with the center of gravity over the edge. When it falls off and lands on your foot, the pain will tell you, err, what exactly? The center of gravity is too abstract to be absolutely real, yet the pain insists that centers of gravity are of such practical importance that they could only be one degree less real: turbo-real.

stage one The vocabulary of the elite includes semi-grift and turbo-real. You ask a member of the elite whether psychopathology exists. You persist. Eventually, when you are both naked in the hot tub, he decides that you are not wearing a wire, and the noise of the bubbles and water jets will hide the conversation from prying microphones. He levels with you: psychiatry is a semi-grift, psychopathology is not turbo-real.

Why the precautions? He explains that if he is overhead saying "psychopathology is not turbo-real" the normie eaves dropper will look up turbo-real in the elite-to-normie dictionary and find that it means that psychopathology does not exist. Then the normie eaves dropper will translate the other way. Since the normie term "exist" smushes together both turbo-real and semi-grift, translating back to elite speak from exist also hits semi-grift. Psychopathology is not even a semi-grift, it must be a grift, it must be banned and grifters prosecuted. Your elite informant is terrified of the disaster that would be caused and that is why he is so cagey. end of stage one

Now we must confront the impossibility the conversation above. semi-grift and turbo-real are my neologisms. No-one can give you the answer above because they don't have those words.

stage two In reality the elite suffer the same linguistic poverty as the normies. They have only one word, exist, which they decorate with elaborate qualifiers, hoping to distinguish strong forms of existence, such as being turbo-real, from weak-forms of existence, such as being merely a semi-grift. They know that their single word conceals a real distinction, that they grasp towards. They know that the stakes are high and being misunderstood by normies would be a disaster. Fearing that their struggle to be understood correctly might fail, they clam up.

This is where you end up bashing your head against a brick wall. The learned men and experts are surely clever enough to see that psychopathology is not turbo-real (though you use the word exist). But they will not come out and say it. Sometimes they fob you off by saying "Of course psychopathology exists" but that only adds to your confusion, because you can read people well enough to tell that they don't really mean it (or don't exactly mean it, or don't fully mean it, or something; there is definitely something hidden and wrong). The experts hear your questions. They smell disaster in the air. They don't have the words to articulate the actual difficulty, so they clam up, leaving you doubting your sanity. end of stage two

The answer to your hypothetical is already in the constitution under Article V.

The governance issue is choosing the venue for public policy debates. Perhaps the policy issue is whether to have an exception to the first amendment for anti-social speech. The trade-off is that if the government gets to decide what is "anti-social speech" the ruling party will attempt to consolidate power by declaring that the opposing party's talking points are "anti-social speech" and banning them.

The constitution currently goes 100% on not letting the government consolidate power by limiting speech, and 0% on banning novels and films that celebrate degenerate anti-heroes. Is that the right trade off? Maybe. I'm not sure about the policy issue. But the governance issue seems clear enough, the public policy discussion takes place in a constitutional convention, not the Supreme Court. That might seem obvious. If the Supreme Court balances public policy trade-offs themselves, that replaces the Republic with a Kritarchy.

But there is a second, more subtle issue. Contemplate the likely arguments in a constitutional convention. There will be those who are sick of the mass media pushing degenerate narratives and wish to grant the government broad powers against "anti-social speech". There will be those who are terrified of the dangers of such powers and want a narrow amendment that only grants congress the power to ban speech that advocates shoplifting and porch-piracy.

Let us suppose that it is the narrow amendment that is passed. Congress decides that calls for reparations are in really just a nudge and a wink for shoplifting and bans it also. Those who advocate for reparations sue, claiming that there remaining free speech right are being violated. Do they get to have their case heard by an independent tribunal? The traditional idea is that the Supreme Court is that independent tribunal. The constitutional convention thrashed out a deal. Yes to restricting speech, but narrowly. Who upholds the deal? The Supreme Court.

What is supposed to happen if the Supreme Court is debating and making the trade-off? One idea is to have a Super-Supreme-Court. Once the Supreme Court has decided that some speech restriction are permitted, who hears cases claiming that speech restrictions are too restrictive? The Super-Supreme-Court! But this is getting silly. On the other hand, if the case is hear by the Supreme Court itself, does it hear the case as though its previous ruling were carved in stone, or does it revisiting the issue, acting as free-wheeling kritarchy that makes it up as it goes along. What a mess!

Eric Raymond merges the Coltian and Stallmanian concepts of equality.

Coltian? I got nothing searching for 'Eric Raymond Colt'. Help!

Do you believe Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is true?

This strikes me as a Socratic question. Socrates used to ask Greeks questions that were slightly off. Being polite, the Greeks would refrain from nit-picking the questions, and try to answer. Then Socrates, being an arse-hole, would nit pick the answers. He would entangle his victims with his verbal dexterity, and skillfully obscure that bad answers were down-stream from bad questions.

There are many stories to tell about gravity. Kepler discovered that the planets moved in ellipses. Newton invented a theory of mechanics and new mathematics. Then he was able to respond to speculation that the ellipses were due to an inverse square law of attraction by filling in the details of what that actually meant, and solving the mathematical problems to demonstrate it.

Newton went further, spotting that gravity was "universal". By "universal" Newton meant that the attraction was not a specific property of the Sun (which would leave gravity on the surface of the Earth as a separate mystery) but was about all matter attracting all matter. So a cannon ball fired by an artillery man follows an elliptical trajectory with one focus at the center of the Earth. Obviously an artillery man uses the parabolic approximation (until the Paris gun in 1918. But (unless my memory is playing tricks on me) Newton had the idea that a cannon fired horizontally with sufficient force would cause the cannon ball to orbit the Earth, just as the moon orbits the Earth.

"Universal" creates a loose end. Jupiter is attracting Saturn and Saturn is attracting Jupiter. The Sun is not the only player in the solar system. That loose thread went unpulled until it was noticed that Jupiter was spiraling in. Jupiter's orbit was decaying and it would in time destroy the Earth. Then a French mathematician (LaPlace?) got stuck into the details. Jupiter and Saturn are nearly in a five to two orbital resonance. The difference frequency is about 800 years. Four hundred years of Jupiter spiraling in and Saturn spiraling out get followed by four hundred years of Jupiter spiraling out and Saturn spiraling in. Theory and accurate astronomical observation agreed; panic over.

Other stories include Halley working out the orbital parameters of a comet and predicting its return. That was a big deal at the time, because comets were traditionally seen as bad omens. If they simply moved in obedience to Kepler's Laws, they stopped being frightening. The comet returned as predicted and is now called Halley's Comet.

After Hershel discovered Uranus, both John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier puzzled over anomalies in the orbit of Uranus. Could there be another planet. Verrier go Johann Galle and Heinrich D'Arrest to look, and there was Neptune, discovered in 1846 by mathematics and Newton's Law of Gravitation. Verrier tried to repeat his success with anomalies in the orbit of Mercury, and inferred the existence of the planet Vulcan. Which wasn't there, leading eventually, by a circuitous route to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

For me, this raises questions about the word believe. I'm comfortable with three interpersonal meanings. Do I believe a person's testimony: did the things he tells me actually happen? Do I believe a person's promises: will he keep them? Do I believe a person's predictions: will they actually happen? But how does one extend the word believe to cover scientific theories? The tale that I've told goes well beyond my personal experience. The largest telescope that I have looked through is a twelve inch reflector. Maybe the story about Neptune is made up; I've seen Saturn, but neither Uranus nor Neptune. Interpersonal belief is at issue. Yet when we talk of belief in Newton's Law of Gravity, we assume the honesty of astronomers and are talking about something else. I'm not clear what. Contemplating the long narrative that I have sketched is valuable because it gives a concrete example of what successful science looks like. Trying to abstract a high level concept of "belief"? That is the kind of unmotivated abstraction that confuses things.

I'm comfortable with two meanings of the word true. One is person testimony (again). Did that actually happen? The other is in my books on mathematical logic. When is (A and B) true? When A is true, but not just A, B must also true. Add in first order logic, sets, and model theory and there is lots to read about. But neither notion of truth fits well with generalisations arising from empirical investigations.

The most promising notion of truth, appropriate to empirical investigation, that I have encountered is Probably Approximately Correct learning theory and Vapnik-Chervonenkis Dimension. Those are crap links. To get the basic idea, image rolling a d6 six hundred times to estimate the probabilities of each face. You get numbers like 100, 118, 95, 88, 114, 85 or like 112, 103, 93, 104, 99, 89. Empirical work always has a certain about of random slop and your empirical estimate will never be true in the sense of being exact. But what about being approximately true? Fix an unambitious goal for accuracy and ponder the probability of being approximately correct. Things can still go horribly wrong; an unlucky sequence of rolls could give you 600, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 and your empirical work is not even approximately correct. But something interesting happens when the Vapnik-Chervonenkis dimension is finite. Fix your desired level of approximation and keep rolling the d6. The probability of not meeting your approximation goal eventually starts to decline exponentially with the number of rolls. Exponentially! You are on the route to the practical man's version of certain knowledge. Well, that is nice, but God is it complicated.

Asking "Do you believe Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation is true?" is doing the 20000 foot overview thing. It can only lead to vague waffle. On the other hand, waffling vaguely is rather fun; what am I actually proposing as a rival ideal? I think that interesting gap is between social science and "hard" science. There is a gap between "hard" science and ideal certainty, but it seems unimportant compared to the gap between social science and "hard" science. Let me give a concrete example of how little we know in social science so that you can see how well Newton's Law of Gravity compares.

Think about Laffer Curve effects. Here are four theories.

  1. The Laffer Curve is bunk. If the government increases income tax from 40 pence in the pound to 83 pence in the pound, that will increase revenue. Revenue will probably double.

  2. Rich businessmen are trapped by their commitments. If their take home pay falls, they won't be willing to give up their yacht or their mistress. They will draw more salary from their business, to maintain their take home pay. Rather than pay themselves $1,600,000 to take home $1,000,000 they will pay themselves $5,882,353 to take home $1,000,000. Tax revenue will rise from $600,000 to $4,882,353 Eight fold, not two fold.

  3. Don't ask where we are on the Laffer Curve, ask when we are. The government is taxing fifty year old businessmen, expecting revenues to hold up indefinitely. But in thirty years time they will all have retired. Will today's twenty year olds replace them? No, once Boxer goes to the knacker's yard, no-one is taking his place.

  4. Laffer Curve effects are prompt. When taxes are low the rich businessman pays his mistress from after tax income. When tax rates soar, he cuts the money that he withdraws from his business as personal income, and preserves his lifestyle by having his company employ his mistress as a secretary. Tax revenue falls.

What would it be like to have a theory of taxation with the accuracy of Newton's Law of Gravity? The very idea is mind boggling. A good philosophy of science would help us construct a scientific theory of tax revenue. A good discussion of the philosophy of science would look at areas of science where we are doing badly and wonder how to do a little better. Perhaps a good discussion of the philosophy of science would also look at successes, such as Newton's Law of Gravity and try to extract lessons, about how to do science, that we could apply to where we are failing. That is very different from looking at Newton's Law of Gravity and worrying about miracles or something.

Searching his name, I find his videos https://youtube.com/watch?v=tKfpXVce9c0

I'd never heard of "The Mind and Society" so I had a poke about. https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/search/author/Vilfredo%20Pareto are selling a new copy for £26. But wait, that is only volume 1. Where is volume 2? Checking https://archive.org/details/ParetoTheMindAndSocietyVol4TheGeneralFormOfSociety/Pareto%20-%20The%20Mind%20and%20Society%20Vol%204%3B%20The%20General%20Form%20of%20Society/page/n11/mode/2up?view=theater there are four volumes, a total of 1900 pages. Pareto seems to be stacking his concepts, maths style, with Greek letter names.

My Dover edition of The Prince runs to 71 pages of ordinary English. Brevity and language make it accessible to a boy, even if the topic does not. But is "The Mind and Society" not a little heavy going?

The situation in the UK makes more sense if you think of the "abolition" of the death penalty as an unpopular privatization. Non-state actors still have rules, such as "snitches get stitches", and a willingness to get very stabby if you cause them too much trouble.

This meme raises the question succinctly. The bald bipeds beasts that bestride the Earth in 2024 are really into lying, scheming, manipulating, and cheating.

They are clever, and have won great victories in the competition of Man against Nature. They are clever, and have created terrible weapons in the competition of Man against Man.

The rationalist project is that science and reason get used to build utopia. Are we actually headed towards global thermonuclear war, or towards a Lebanese style multicultural kakistocracy? The rationalist project has failed because it refused to engage with human greed, selfishness, and delusion.

The discussion moves on to the theory of second best. What is possible within the limits of human nature? If space aliens turn up and their space ship is an ant heap with monoclonal genetics, they will diagnose our problems easily enough. The scientist who values truth and refuses to sell out, is a nerd and doesn't get the girl. The scientist who monetizes "truth" and sells it to the richest corporation marries and has a mistress and propagates his anti-science-and-reason genes into the next generation. That is the diagnosis, but it offers no treatment.

One idea is bringing up children to believe in God. A God who commands scrupulous honesty and always is watching, even when all humans present are in on the scam and bought or compromised.

That probably gives the interstellar ants a good laugh. Humans have such a complicated relationship with self-awareness. What happens when the children brought up to believe in God work out that God is a pro-social myth? Some of them retain the honesty in worldly affairs that they were brought up with, and work to promote and preserve the pro-social myth. This involves an attitude adjustment from telling the truth because God commands it, to participating in the lie and the cover-up because society depends on the prosocial myth. But that is rare. Most fall into these two camps. Those who blurt out the truth in front of the children, as though the God they no longer believe in was watching, ready to punish them for telling the lie that He exists. Those who revert to instinct and seek reproductive success by lying, scheming, manipulating, and cheating, while also believing that they are choosing a variety of behaviours for themselves, not simply following their genetic programming.

Do you have an alternative idea? The rationalist project implicitly assumes that man was created by God with a divinely granted capacity for good. The rationalist project implicitly denies that man is an evolved creature, whose self-defeating duplicity is enforced and created by human genetics. The rationalist project, in as much as it ignores the true horror of being an evolved creature, is just another high fantasy. What is there left to discuss?

I believe that prohibition works less well than its mainstream advocates expect. I think the gap is huge. Mainstream advocates of prohibition never grasp how poorly it works and never admit the extent of the problems. Within the constraints of Western Morality (you cannot just take the addicts out and shoot them) the problems are unfixable, we didn't merely do a bad job of it.

On the other hand I notice a fatal flaw in my reasoning. I assume, based on pure optimism, that there is a good solution to the problems of substance abuse. I see that prohibition works very badly. Legal permissiveness is an alternative. I have my unjustified axiom that there is a solution, so I hope that legal permissiveness is that solution and does actually work. This is embarrassingly silly. In general terms nothing prevents legal permissiveness from being an even worse disaster than prohibition.

Of course the details of the particular substance in question are decisive. Legal permissiveness works very well for coffee, but it might turn out to be a mega-death disaster for fentanyl.

I accept that you are 95% right about the big picture. The huge difference between coffee and fentanyl is the only thing that really matters.

Notice though, that I zoomed in on the specific issue of timing. Who dares to doubt an intervention that works well for the first year? I dare.

Looking at my reasoning, we see that it is mostly about social dynamics. Friends put out feelers to friends. The black market slowly becomes monetized and professionalized. Since it is illegal to offer bribes to policemen, there are several years of nudges and winks before police corruption takes hold. The social dynamics set a slow time scale that is not obviously related to specifics of what has been prohibited.

Scott's post is worth re-reading.

I'm keen to get some mention of budget or money into the short name.

Why? I reckon that the way that Support fails is that the proponents come up with a plan. The plan is good in itself, but costs ten times what is politically feasible. The plan goes ahead anyway, with 10% of the funding that it really needs. Fails badly :-(

A good comment reminds us of Scott's epic critique of addiction research. Perhaps we don't have affordable answers to addiction, and Suport has a good plan that requires 100 times the politically feasible funding. Gets 1% of the funding it needs; fails very badly.

Does this argument work the other way? If ODs had in fact dropped 50% the next day, would we likewise be asking if this was only a temporary effect, and entirely dire outcomes were still to be expected at some indeterminate future date?

I bite the bullet on this. I claim that America's experience with the 18th and 21st amendments is the template for how these kinds of things usually play out.

Its starts off with X fully legal and embedded in society, despite a vociferous minority pointing to the substantial harms that X causes. Eventually X is prohibited by law. The shop shelves are swept bare. The factories shut down. Xaholics get a brutal wake up call. Many quit X cold turkey. Some get medical help tapering. Perhaps some die of withdrawal or toxic substitutes. By the end of the first year prohibition is looking like a great success. Skeptics predicted a tidal wave of prosecutions for X-offences, but it doesn't materialize, because people cannot get X.

(Possession of alcohol was never illegal, just manufacture, sale, and transportation. Initially that was tactically shrewd. Ordinary people could see it coming, stock up, and then consume their private stocks, expecting others to do the hard work of campaigning for the 21st amendment. The day of the last bottle of wine was different in different households, weakening coordination against prohibition. In the long term that was perhaps the undoing of prohibition. Only the seller faced legal penalties, so the black market that developed was asymmetrical, with lots of undeterred buyers and a few sellers, well paid for their legal risk.)

Time passes and the initial success wears well. At least it seems to. Networks of friends are gradually forming. Brewing at home. Making a still. Getting hold of a bottle of wine to share with trusted friends over Sunday dinner. It is all metaphorically flying under radar. The Prohibitionists don't see that their victory is rotting. Now-a-days there would be drone smuggling, literally flying under radar :-)

Home brewing and piece meal smuggling are annoying for those who just want a drink. Money starts changing hands. The black market grows. Prohibitionists start to realize that alcohol is still for sale, but covertly and for a fancy price. Some are inclined to turn a blind eye. If it is too expensive for people to afford to become alcoholics, that mitigates the harms. Other prohibitionists resent the disobedience and insist on stronger penalties.

Full time employment in the black economy now splits into insiders and outsiders. Outsiders get rich on the high price of booze, but they sometimes get caught and go to jail. Insiders don't get as rich because they share their money with the police as bribes. It gets complicated. The bribe-taking police need to make a show of doing their jobs. The insiders resent the endless supply of outsiders in search of easy money, increasing the supply and lowering the profits. Fortunately they have the police on their side to enforce their monopoly of the alcohol supply. They tip off "their" policemen. It gets more complicated, with rival groups of insiders setting their own paid-for police on intruders on their turf who are also insiders, just bribing other policemen.

Meanwhile the smugglers are tackling the volume issue. The secret compartment has a limited volume V. The more potent your version of X, the more doses you can fit in V. In the 1920's that meant smuggling spirits rather than beer. Today that means smuggling fentanyl rather than heroin. Then there is the business of cutting drugs, adulterating them to increase the bulk after smuggling.

Eventually the situation is out of control. Every-one who wants X knows the secret handshakes and the special places. They get their hands on it. Some of it is adulterated and death rate is higher than before prohibition. The point I like to emphasize is that this takes twenty or thirty years. By the time the death rate comes back up and exceeds the old death rate from legal X, the world has changed.

The world has changed, but how much? You get one group of public health experts saying that prohibition has failed and must be repealed. Others saying that we must pivot to harm reduction. Still others say that the world has changed a lot and for the worse. Thank God that we have prohibition keeping a lid on the problems of X. If we repealed prohibition the death rate would soar still higher. Who is right?

My claim is that prohibition is a dangerous policy option because it may well fail, and that the American experiment with the prohibition alcohol was untypical in exactly one way: it proved possible to repeal it. You should expect that prohibition of X works well for the first five years. When thirty years have gone by and it has clearly failed, you will not be able to repeal it. Campaigners for prohibition will have happy memories of the first five years, and consider that short term success proves the eternal correctness of prohibition.