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Culture War Roundup for the week of August 14, 2023

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Are you stupid or am I evil?

There is a political quote which says that "the Right thinks the Left is stupid while the Left thinks the Right is evil". Today/yesterday there was a poll floating around rationalist twitter which I think is the best example I've ever seen of this dynamic.

It asks you to choose between two options:

  1. (Blue pill)
  2. (Red pill)

And what happens is that:

- if > 50% of ppl choose blue pill, everyone lives
- if not, red pills live and blue pills die

Now if you think about it for even 30 seconds, it clearly makes sense for everyone to choose Red Pill here: if everyone chooses Red Pill nobody dies, which is the best case scenario from choosing blue, and on top there is no personal risk to yourself of dying. You can even analyse it game theoretically and find that both 100% blue and 100% red are Nash equilibria, but only 100% red is stable, and anyways, choosing red keeps you alive with no personal risk (not present in case you choose blue), so everyone should just choose Red, survive and continue on with their lives. Indeed this poll is equivalent to the following one (posted by Roko):

  1. Walk into a room that is a human blender
  2. Do nothing

And what happens is that:

- if you choose the blender, you will die, unless at least 50% of people choose the blender as well, in which case the blender will overload and not work, making you live
- if you do nothing, you live

You would have to be monumentally, incorrigibly stupid to choose the blue pill (walking into the blender) here and we should expect Lizardman's constant level support for blue.

If only our world were really that simple...

The poll can be found here on Twitter: . Currently there is a 65% majority for choosing the blue pill ::facepalm:: . At least this number is over 50% so nobody is dying. What justification is provided for people choosing Blue over Red? Well, one of the top replies is that "red represents the values of intolerance and fascism". Now this is an extreme example of a reply but even then personally I am stunned that there are a non-negligible proportion of people who actually think in this way. The best response explain what's going on here seems to be this one:

I’ll take the over on preference falsification driving these results.

If all voters were in a position where the non-zero chance of death for a blue vote vs zero chance of death for a red vote was salient and believable, red would win.

Cost-free signaling is a hell of a drug.

Perhaps expectedly enough, no matter how many Red supporters try to explain to people that choosing Blue is stupid, making the choice really really clear using examples like this:

Your plane crashes into the sea. Everyone survives, and exits the plane with their life vest.

Someone says, “If over half of us turn our life vests into a raft, it can save everyone without a life vest! Otherwise, we’ll drown!”

Everyone has a life vest.

Everyone wearing a life vest will not drown.

Do you build the boat, or just put on your vest?

And yet, large amounts of people still support blue (taking your life vests off to build a raft). The fact that such people get to vote (and make up a majority of at least this twitter poll) is a fucking scary thought. This is why we can't have nice things people!

</rant over>

In more encouraging news also ran this poll here: . Fortunately people there were sensible enough to vote for Red by a 90-10 margin, which is basically everyone once you discount the ultra-edgy maximally contrarian nodule on the site ("I want to die, so I pick blue") which will always vote to pick the maximally dramatic option (which on the site would be Blue).

I'd be interested in trying this out here on the Motte too, but unfortunately we don't have poll functionality on this site...

&&Blue Pill&&
&&Red Pill&&


For people who say "Blue" is the right choice for pro-social reasons:

Consider a slightly changed version of the poll where instead of choosing for yourself whether you have Red/Blue you are making this choice for a random stranger who's also taking part (and in turn some other random stranger is making the choice for you). In this case it makes sense from a selfish perspective to choose Blue for that random stranger, since there's a chance that the person choosing for you chooses Blue for you as well in which case you'd want 50%+ Blue as you want to live, while from an altruistic perspective it makes sense to choose "Red" for your stranger, since that way you're saving them from potentially dying.

In this case we'd expect everyone to end up choosing Blue if they play rationally, even though the "altruistic" pro-social option is to choose Red. If you still think that everyone should choose Blue then you agree that there are cases where the non-(pro-social) thing is the right thing to do.

If you say that in this case we should each of us now choose Red as that's the socially good option then since people generally value their own life at least as much as the life of a stranger (note: I say "at least as much", not "more" here) you must also agree that it's just as fine for people to choose "Red" in the case where they're deciding for themselves instead of a stranger.

There is a political quote which says that "the Right thinks the Left is stupid while the Left thinks the Right is evil".

While this quote gets repeated, I don't think it's quite true. Instead I think at the level of running a society there is no difference between stupid and evil and the right doesn't quite get why the left doesn't get that.

Granted that Mao was not a good person, he didn't set out to kill 100 million people. He made some bad decisions that inexorably led to a famine which killed 100 million people. But that wasn't his goal, his goal was to do what Deng would wind up doing. He simply happened to be incompetent at it. And from a right wing perspective, the results speak for themselves- Mao's incompetence killed more people in a war against sparrows than Hitler did in a war against a continent spanning superpower. The lesson if you're a right winger is pretty obvious- pick the cold and competent guy even if he's a little bit evil. That's probably why the right bet so big on capitalism in the later 20th century- capitalism is not very nice, but it works better than anything else anyone has ever tried and there's no getting around that.

The left, on the other hand, doesn't seem to grasp that right wingers see no practical difference between stupidity and evil in running a society. The trying to help people is what's important, that's why the political left doesn't like arguments about tradeoffs and side effects and whether or not their climate change and gun policies work. It's easy to write this off as a bit, or virtue signaling, or whatever, but I think a lot of them really do inhabit a world where as long as the people in power are willing to commit strongly enough to solving whatever problem it will inevitably be solved through the power of positive thinking. Maybe that's uncharitable, but my experience has not been that, say, gun control activists consider "whether assault weapons bans actually prevent mass shootings" to be a particularly relevant factor in whether there should be assault weapons bans to prevent mass shootings, more like it's a distraction from the broader issue of whether mass shootings are a tragedy.

While this quote gets repeated, I don't think it's quite true.

It's not quite true for a far simpler reason: both think the other is both stupid and evil.

The left thinks that the right are a bunch of parochial, bigoted morons. They hate education, they hate vaccines, they hate minorities, they're religious authoritarians, they're greedy capitalists or their useful idiots, they'd rather shoot themselves in the foot rather than pick up a free lunch if meant they had to see an immigrant, etc...

The right thinks the left are a bunch of degenerate, lazy airheads. They're soft on crime, they're soft on pedophiles, they don't want to work, they want free money for existing, they're corrupting the youth, they're race-baiters, they're cowards, they don't understand basic economics, they want to regulate everyone to death etc...

Instead I think at the level of running a society there is no difference between stupid and evil and the right doesn't quite get why the left doesn't get that.

This line of thinking is not peculiar to the right.

there is no difference between stupid and evil

This has bad implications when it comes to HBD. It's one thing to say that your worth as a person isn't the same as your IQ, but that falls apart really quickly when you also say there's no difference between stupid and evil.

I know you have your caveat, "at the level of running a society," but that doesn't give me much hope considering universal suffrage. When the people are stupid, how can democracy work?

I think you’re taking stupid very literally to mean low IQ, when in reality I’m using it to mean ‘incompetent or prone to doing stupid things’. Sure, low IQ is probably the most common reason for that in genpop, but the people in position to make society-wide mistakes are doing stupid things for other reasons- they may have the wrong goals(equality before economic growth), they may be blinded by ideology(communism), they may be mentally ill. Etc, etc. The most important and influential people are disproportionately not low IQ.

You can make the argument that low IQ people vote for candidates who are stupid for non-IQ related reasons, but the best example I can come up with is South Africa, which plausibly has other reasons for corrupt incompetent single party rule(the other big example of corrupt incompetent people getting elected and re-elected until they broke the country is Argentina, which has a respectable 90 some odd average IQ). In any case I’m not exactly going to go to bat for universal suffrage but I don’t think that IQ is the sine qua non of filtering voters.

When the people are stupid, how can democracy work?

Well, it largely can't, and I think we're observing the failure of democracy right now.

The claim above was that there's no difference between stupid and evil when it comes to running a society, and yeah, I would endorse that sentiment from @hydroacetylene and buy-in on the downstream implication of HBD as it would relate to that. Someone that's quite dim might be a fine enough individual when given a simple task and happier to do it than someone with more brainpower, but trusting mentally impaired man to design bridges will get you the same result as a mustache twirling villain that just wants people to die. Likewise for putting a communist in charge of your economy - they might mean well, but the millions that starve will be just as dead whether they meant it or not.

Which is an argument against universal suffrage. And indeed, most people are against universal suffrage (10 year olds often don’t get to vote).

Of course there are no perfect solutions.

I unironically think land-owning was actually a pretty good Schelling Point, at least for state-level elections. The people who own land in a state have skin in the game and have demonstrated at least some level of competence and future orientation.

Since non-landowners "don't have skin in the game", are they exempt from laws?

Anyone who can be arrested, or have to pay taxes, or who needs the government's permission to do something, has skin in the game. Back when the franchise was restricted to landowners, the government was much smaller; there were fewer laws, few taxes, and certainly few regulations.

Back when the franchise was restricted to landowners, the government was much smaller; there were fewer laws, few taxes, and certainly few regulations.

Sounds good to me.

Okay then, get that first, and then go talking about people who "don't have skin in the game". In this world, everyone has skin in the game.

Smaller government is a feature not a bug

Unironically, I think returning to male only suffrage is a good idea even if it will never happen. Not because of the original reasons from the anti suffragettes, although all of those are perfectly valid, but because the average difference in neuroticism has too much influence in our politics.

I do also think property requirements are a good idea because they tend to demonstrate future orientation.

I think the idea of “Voting Gangs” by Moldbug largely accomplishes something similar without explicitly being gendered.

The idea is that your vote, like a share in a company, is 100% your property and completely transferable. So people would naturally transfer their voting power to interested parties they feel aligned with.

The simplest example is my wife simply allowing me to add her vote to mine in the interest of time since I follow politics more closely than her and she trusts my judgement and ability to represent her.

And if I have friends or family who trust my judgement or vice versa I could sign my vote off to them, or them to me, etc etc.

This would also allow households to vote together, one good thing from a pro-natalist perspective would be to give children the vote but in the stewardship of their legal guardian until they come of age. If a household had two adults and two children they would have four votes in total.

I suppose the effect over time is that it concentrates political power in those interested in wielding it in a transparent, traceable way. Many people want their interests protected but find politics incredibly dull or simply unfathomable. Some dude wants to sell me his vote for an ice cream? That’s fine, he clearly wasn’t interested in it, and I am.

This creates a natural, scalable democracy with basically infinite parties joined together.

It sounds like a radical pipe dream but I’m becoming less convinced it’s unrealistic over time, and I’m becoming more convinced it’s the natural evolution of a liberal democracy if it seeks to survive and overcome it’s obvious deficits.

Some dude wants to sell me his vote for an ice cream? That’s fine, he clearly wasn’t interested in it, and I am.

Laws affect third parties. Having the guy sell you his vote instead of not voting or voting randomly dilutes the vote of third parties. The third parties may be interested.

Also, poor people would end up all selling their votes and the resulting government would be bad for poor people.

Also, poor people would end up all selling their votes and the resulting government would be bad for poor people.

In less developed countries, this tends to happen anyway, so it misses the point.

I debated including that bit for this very reason, there’s a bog standard response that relies on a bunch of assumptions that don’t stand up to much scritiny.

Poor people already vote at much lower rates than members of other classes, and I don’t imagine a single vote would be worth very much at all.

When I was poor, and I my case was rather typical, the thing I lacked more than money was time and energy. Politics requires quite a bit of both. Lots of my poor brethren had the instinct that they didn’t have the time, inclination or knowledge base to make a very informed decision at the ballot box, and so would forgo the whole process. There’s certainly something to that instinct, people want to use their power responsibly.

But even very poor people generally have someone they can trust in their lives, someone who is either more informed or more inclined towards political action.

I honestly think the ability to vote by proxy would rather increase turnout among the poor, especially for local politics. From personal experience when I was poor and living somewhere where I was unfamiliar with the local political scene I would have gladly gave my vote to a trusted friend who is similar politically to me and has my interest at heart.

Now that I’m financially stable and more informed I vote more regularly. And members of my social circle are also more interested in asking about my politics.

And for those people who will likely never be interested in politics for one reason or another, they still have the ability to directly benefit from their voting privileges as a citizen.

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The arguments of the anti suffragists are actually quite complex. One interesting thing is that it turned women’s activities into political instead of apolitical.

I’d be open to a return to that as well. Landowning with kids might be my ideal

What should be the cutoff point? One acre? One square foot?

See "swamp men" of 19th century Norway.

When there was land ownership qualification for the right to vote, local labor party bought worthless swamp lands and distributed them among voters. Hail to new land owners!

Free and clear estate worth ten times the average GDP per capita in the year of the election.

I'd worry about games being played with the valuation. You could base it off of estate tax so that high valuations are expensive and reasonably consistent/objective. Still, giving the government the power to decide who votes just seems inherently risky. When only landowners were enfranchised the idea of the government interfering to the extent it does now was unthinkable.

Dunno — presumably a lot large enough for a small house.

Under the International Zoning Code, that would be 6,000 square feet (0.14 acre, 560 square meters; a 78-foot (24-meter) square).

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Granted that Mao was not a good person, he didn't set out to kill 100 million people. He made some bad decisions that inexorably led to a famine which killed 100 million people.

Absolutely nitpicking, but I don‘t think Mao killed a hundred million people in the Great Leap Forward. The commonly quoted numbers are anywhere from 18 million (CCP official estimates) to 60 million (some of the more loony estimates), with most reputable estimates going from 30 to 45 million. (The commonly quoted one I grew up with was 36 million.)

100 million sounds like something right out of the Black Book of Communism, which has very artistic ways of arriving at casuality figures.

You're right, that is an absolute nitpick. But Mao is still the bloodiest-handed figure in world history, especially when you account for non-great-leap-forward deaths(like in the cultural revolution), although a few figures like Pol Pot might have technically killed a higher percentage of population.

You get some weird questions if you try to determine "who killed a higher percentage of ruled population". Like, if I'm in charge of nation A, and I lead an army to conquer and genocide nation B of equal population, is my percentage 50% (because I clearly had power over the B-ers) or 0% (because they were my enemies and I never had any intention to rule them as subjects)?

This is relevant to the ancient custom of warfare where conquered populations were often just massacred.

Oh, yes, no question.