site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of February 6, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

What is the liberal argument for why the free market doesn’t solve the problem of “looked over” minority applicants?

If there were a number of minority business applicants who felt looked over in hiring and not adequately promoted, why wouldn’t they want to form their own business? For instance, they can simply form their own trading company. Ostensibly, if the problem is so severe as to warrant large scale national discussion and policy change, there must be hundreds of thousands of minorities capable of making way more money than they currently make if only they are hired properly and placed in the appropriate position. Importantly, they would be making money for anyone who invested in the business. As there are already exorbitantly wealthy minority investors, shouldn’t this be occurring? And if the liberal theory were correct, wouldn’t this just be free money for everyone involved? All you would have to do is establish a trading firm made up of whichever minority applicants are being discriminated against.

As a gratuitous example, if Goldman Sachs weren’t hiring Korean PhDs to work on algorithmic trading, someone could swoop in and make free money just by hiring them. Or better yet, a Korean investor could help someone start their very own Korean version of Goldman. We saw something like this with physics PhDs; someone realized they would be exceptionally good at applying their intelligence to understanding the market mathematically, and those who hired them made bank. Now everyone hires them.

So if I were a female trader, or even better, an Afro-Caribbean female trader, and I were not placed in a position which maximized company gains, I would just need to collect together a few dozen others in a similar position and start my own boutique shop with investment from African and/or female investors, of which there are thousands. This should be an obvious decision for everyone involved. It would be a day 1 decision. It’s how non-minorities often decide to start their own business, feeling like they could be better off starting a new organization. A relative of mine started his own company with some colleagues when he felt he wasn’t being optimally placed for his own economic gain (and the company’s, given that he simply left and took clients). It’s also how, for instance, Jewish Americans involved in banking were able to start their own companies — in some cases being hired by the majority who saw their value, in other cases starting their own companies having realized their own value.

Put another way, why on earth are women and Native American and Black traders who feel discriminated against not forming their own boutique firm with the investment of progressive millionaires and even billionaires? It’s free money! And half of all retail investors could invest in the enterprise (the Progressive half). The Portland school district could put their teacher’s retirement funds into their hands, knowing it’s the greatest bang for their buck. It would be like finding an undiscovered Ivy League school, churning out Yale-level talent without anyone realizing it. Why are we not hearing the success stories of all female or all-Latino or etc trading firms?

Let's invert the argument.

Why doesn't the free market solve the problem of “looked over” white applicants?

Firstly, we know it's happening. Per this survey, for example. Also, common sense indicates that if they're asking to know race on the application, then it's something that affects hiring.

So why don't the underappreciated whites go off and form their own companies? Firstly, they do. But in the US, there are preferential loans and grants for non-whites and women. There were also requirements that boards of directors must have non-whites or LGBT on them in California. A court later ruled against this law, yet it is clear that there's a tendency in the US government apparatus to favor women, non-whites and sexual minorities. For example, government contractors get preferential terms if the business is run by women or 'economically disadvantaged' people which I checked through and discovered to be just about everyone except whites and north-east Asians.

How 'Subcontinent Asian Americans' can be 'economically disadvantaged' in the US is unclear to me, since Indian household incomes are very high and even Bangladeshi incomes are higher than White Americans.

And finally, we have Blackrock in the private/public sector, the fourth arm of the US government and largest shareholder in many large companies. They too are keen on diversity within companies and corporate boards and have immense soft power to wield. When talking about the labor market, soft power is paramount. Everyone is agreed that discrimination mostly happens in informal ways - I posit that informal anti-white discrimination is much more important than the formal stuff linked above. Yet I can't source that. But if we can see the top of the iceberg, there's plenty more that we can't see.

My conclusion is that the free market is not really free. People want more than money, they often have strong political views. If all Gillette wanted was money, why would they pay for ads that harassed their core customers - men? Nobody could seriously think that was the most efficient way to increase profits in a free market. Either they were seeking some progressive brownie points that would pay off later, or they were acting on their own political views.

Another obvious example is various companies voluntarily divesting from Russia. Some have and some haven't. But those who have are taking a major hit, it's a big market. Apple's market share will be taken by their Chinese equivalents, presumably. The European economies took a huge hit in abandoning Russian energy. They did this for political reasons. Markets are innately political, they are avenues to obtain and wield power.

If all Gillette wanted was money…

IIRC they were responding to market disruptions by trying to carve out a niche of progressives wanting to own the cons.

How 'Subcontinent Asian Americans' can be 'economically disadvantaged' in the US is unclear to me, since Indian household incomes are very high and even Bangladeshi incomes are higher than White Americans.

This is because the specimens of our ethnicity that manage to make it to the US are at the very top of the bell curve, else your government doesn't even let us in (barring family visa etc. but families of the top people are also very close to the top). Under any fair system the ones we do send over should rightfully be ruling over you. Well, we sort of do (see how many CEOs, COOs, CFOs etc. of your biggest firms are South Asian) but there are still quite a lot of native whites, certainly far in excess of the proportion of "elite worthy people" that are white in the US these days.

Any level of achievement for South Asians beneath this is a sign that there is systemic disadvantage towards us. The fact that we earn more than the unselected whites means zilch. Also note that this situation is of your own making, if you don't want this to be the case then loosen your immigration requirements to let our average people also come to the US etc.

I fully agree that most Indians in the West are very clever. That is why laws that give them further privileges on the basis of being economically disadvantaged are egregious!

But they are economically disadvantaged. Assuming a no HBD secnario an Indian who is top 0.1% should be top 0.1% in the US too (or rather, their children since immigrants uproot their life to move and have to climb back up, but given enough time this should happen). Such people only being top 1% is a sign of systemic discrimination against them.

Now in an HBD scenario the top 0.1% of India may well correspond to only top 1% (or lower) in the US, but you have to actually make this argument, and nobody of repute in the West is doing so.

Assuming a no HBD secnario an Indian who is top 0.1% should be top 0.1% in the US too (or rather, their children since immigrants uproot their life to move and have to climb back up

No they won't. You'll get regression to the mean. People in the top 0.1% got there by a combination of advantage and luck. Their children may inherit the advantage, but would have average luck, so they wouldn't be in the top 0.1%.

Fair point.

Surely the top 1% in the US have a higher standard of living than the top 0.1% in India. They're more likely to have servants in India and I admit the cost of living is lower.

But this website says we're talking about people with roughly $1-3 million in assets. It's an older website and I'm doing guesstimation.

This website says the top 1% of Americans have at least $11 million in assets. Plus there are probably many things you can only get in the US and can't really get in India at all, I imagine.

By moving to the US and going from 0.1% India to 1% American, they're getting at least a 3-5x increase in wealth! How is this being discriminated against? If being discriminated against increased my wealth like that, sign me up!

Furthermore, European countries belong to Europeans. We are well within our rights to bar or restrict immigration however we see fit. If the PLA or Indian armies march in and burn down Washington and London like we did to the Old Summer Palace, then that would no longer hold. But for the moment, we still hold sovereignty. Poorer countries around the world have broadly gotten a very good deal, getting free access to political and economic institutions we designed, mostly effective security we paid for, an unprecedentedly open trading environment and intellectual property we invented and then provide at charity rates. Compare the Bengal Famine, which was our fault, to the Green Revolution! India and various African nations get cheaper drugs, aid and various concessions on climate action (which is itself a tragifarce but that's another matter). Whatever harm we inflicted with stupid fads like 'overpopulation' and 'socialism' had terrible impacts on us as well. We have been very generous and asking for more is unreasonable.

Compare the Bengal Famine, which was our fault

While I am aware that it is conventional to blame the British for the Bengal famine, it is one of only two wartime famines in history where the aggressor gets a free pass. (The other is the 1920-21 famine in Soviet Russia, which tends to get lumped in with the Holodomor as a "Communist famine" when it actually has more to do with the Russian Civil War). If you believe in food availability theory, then the main cause of the Bengal famine was the loss of rice imports from Burma as a result of the Japanese invasion. If you believe in Amartya Sen's theory of famine caused by failure of exchange entitlement, then the main cause of the Bengal famine was economic disruption caused by the Japanese invasion of Burma. Nobody thinks there is a plausible counterfactual where the Japanese do not invade Burma in 1942 but there is nevertheless a famine in Bengal in 1943.

I thought we were exporting food from India even as the region was in famine, but on closer inspection this doesn't seem to be such a major factor, if it happened at all. It's more that there was a lot of shipping needed elsewhere, natural disasters, a bit of scorched earth due to the war and issues of prioritizing food for warfighting. I suppose the Bengal famine can't really be considered our fault then. Anyway, the broader point I was making still stands, that whatever we did wrong pales in comparison to what we did right.

By moving to the US and going from 0.1% India to 1% American, they're getting at least a 3-5x increase in wealth! How is this being discriminated against?

And black people living under Jim crow were 3-5x better off than if there was no slavery and their ancestors (and themselves) were still stuck in Africa, however they were very much still being discriminated against. What you're saying is like telling a black dude to be thankful of Jim Crow because back in Africa things are worse.

Same here, we were top 0.1% back home, we want to be in the same social stratum here (and yes, for a fixed level of wealth, being at the top has its own benefits regardless, a Medieval lord living 700 years ago didn't have a higher PPP than a SF techbro today but he still got massive advantages from being placed at the top of the social hierarchy that the techbro doesn't get at all).

But the context of our discussion is that I'm literally mentioning affirmative action for 'Subcontinent Asian Americans'! Not only are they getting a huge increase in wealth by coming to the West, they're also getting more favorable treatment than natives! Am I really supposed to feel sympathetic for the plight of an ethnic group earning more than my own, in countries that we founded, wielding disproportionate political influence - such that they can pervert our system to get government aid they clearly don't need?

What is your specific gripe? I know Asians are discriminated against in university entrance admissions. So are whites, to a lesser extent.

Expecting to keep the exact social stratum you were in once you move to a massively different culture is a silly expectation, only our culture could even come up with the idea. People are naturally clannish and distrusting of foreigners. Our elites have been immensely tolerant of their own replacement - see the current PM of the UK! I doubt that any culture in history has been more welcoming to outsiders than us. Complaining that we are still not tolerant enough is ridiculous.

You can't even complain about not getting 'prima nocta', surely the most enjoyable privilege of medieval lords. Our insane system covered up 'Subcontinent Asian' child rape gangs for decades, lest they be accused of racism or Islamophobia for arresting predominantly Pakistani gangs.

Heal wrote that white girls were the main victims, targeted from age 11; the average age was 12–13. British-Asian girls were also targeted, but their abuse was hidden, not part of the localised-grooming scene. The most significant group of perpetrators of localised grooming were British-Asian men. Several employees dealing with the issue believed that the perpetrators' ethnicity was preventing the abuse from being addressed

It became clear to Heal around this time that she was being sidelined. The drug strategy unit was disbanded, and she was told that several officers in her department were not supportive of her or her work. Given that she was reporting the rape of children, she writes that the lack of support "will never fail to astonish and sadden" her.

Complaining that our system unfairly privileges thuggish Muslim rapists over capable Indian workers who'd get obliterated by HR for 1/1000 of what the former does is reasonable. Or maybe the Indian rape gangs are smart enough to not get caught - our dopey police certainly don't go out of their way to uncover these things.

In material terms, the West still rules the world. We could launch a decapitation strike against India and Pakistan's nuclear arsenals this year and be confident of destroying them before they can launch. Their missiles are short-ranged and fairly inadequate. This assumes Russia is included as part of the West. Only China would be a major threat since they're somewhat more secure in their arsenal. We could rule the world (even China if we moved earlier) like gods, raining down fire or nerve gas on anyone who falls short on their tribute payments. We chose not to do so, we chose to advance notions of human equality, we chose to grant independence and considerable aid and privileges to nations we could've dominated absolutely and eternally. We ritually abase ourselves in various international forums, decrying our mistreatment of them! We teach in our own schools to our own children that the great empires our ancestors created were actually evil. We turn a blind eye on the infiltration of foreign elites into our heartland, on various abuses inflicted upon us. This is an enormous historical anomaly. Recall what Mithridates VI did to Roman settlers in what was then called Asia - he exterminated them all.

Nobody else has ever been as liberal and tolerant as we have been, whilst also possessing the power to exploit those he tolerates.

The glaring difference between those scenarios is that you chose to move.

As far as I understand, this has happened when George Mason University decided to hire a bunch of looked-over straight while male libertarian economists, and got a powerhouse is in the form of a single department at an otherwise unknown school with Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan, and Tyler Cowen.

You also see extreme "over-representation" in any new, unregulated area of economic growth. E.g.

  1. The founding teams of most tech startups and the first few rounds of technical employees,

  2. Cryptocurrency

  3. E-sports

  4. Tech Venture Capital (e.g. Y combinator)

  5. AI and AI safety

  6. Effective altruism

It takes time for the problematizers to notice a new power center and bring the eye of sauron to bear. But this is becoming quicker and more predictable, so first movers are pre-emptively playing the optics game with more effort and finesse. I just worry that someday there won't be any new growth centers to move to.

It would be very amusing if the oh-so-harassed techbros finally get a position of overwhelming dominance over the problematizers: traditional media, finance, academia, politics and so on. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to make enemies of people with enormous unrealized power in terms of proximity to AI. Machiavelli said something like 'if you're going to offend and humiliate someone, make sure to totally cripple them so they can never get revenge'.

But on the other hand, wielding power is not something the tech sector is good at doing, systemically. Musk for example has a lot wealth but he struggles to leverage it to achieve his goals and also makes a lot of enemies.

It would be very amusing if the oh-so-harassed techbros finally get a position of overwhelming dominance over the problematizers

I actually think there's a decent chance of this happening, and that a whole host of horrors will be unleashed if it does.

But on the other hand, wielding power is not something the tech sector is good at doing, systemically.

They seemed pretty good at it until about the mid 70's.

They seemed pretty good at it until about the mid 70's.

Do you mean the aerospace or atomics sectors? Defence sort of counts as tech, it certainly would've then when it was the leading sector of the economy... It's an interesting question of how one defines technology.

I meant more stuff like this, but generally wasn't the zeitgeist of the post war period one of science / rationality / industrialization / technology?

Oh technology generally was more fashionable back then. Scientific prestige was higher. Tom Swift was the hero in 'Tom Swift and his Atomic Earth Blaster'!

I really think lobotomies come under the aegis of medicine. Eugenics too, for that matter. Medicine just doesn't feel like tech, it feels like something else. The pharma-industrial complex has a different essence to the military-industrial complex or the big tech that we know today IMO. They tend to hold less of the limelight, the profile of Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson was very low compared to tech. Musk, Zuckerberg, Gates, Bezos... these are mighty names! Who has heard of Alex Gorsky, former CEO of J & J? But on the other hand, they are called biotech companies.

With tech, I think it's a case of the more physics are involved, the techier it gets. Aerospace, ballistics, Silicon Valley, Massachusetts. Computer science is sort of like physics, it's all precise rules and mathematics. I reckon the bombards that were used to break the walls of Constantinople would be classified as tech, that's physics/engineering.

AB 979 requires that by the end of 2021 California-headquartered public companies have at least one director on their boards who is from an underrepresented community, defined as “an individual who self‑identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self‑identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”

... gay or bisexual? Can't a white board member just declare they're gay or bisexual, and pass the requirement? Not like they can check

Didn't ZeroHP Lovecraft have a story about that? Or was it one of the others in his crowd? "We're really hoping to promote you, but we have to promote a woman. Do you understand?"

Who needs fiction? A group of guys in Oaxaca, Mexico were disqualified for election fraud for trying that. Self-ID is just a different form of gatekeeping.

Well, they could. A hell of a lot people pretend to be Hispanic or Native American for the purpose of getting into universities, as was noted by Kendi:

In addition to the humiliation factor of having to pretend to hold a different sexuality, officially, (it makes Don't Ask Don't Tell look good) I suspect they'd just change the system to remove the bisexuals. Just as North East Asians are no longer considered minorities for the purposes of receiving state patronage, bisexuals might be eased out.


A requirement that you ritually, emasculatingly, sexually humiliate yourself for the chance of employment seems like it would be against some human rights law somewhere.