Dear Libertarians: Please Learn What Markets Are and How They Work Before You Claim They’re the Answer to Everything

Gather ’round children! We’re going to talk about markets. Anyone who’s actually had an introduction to microeconomics course can skip this part.

Hrm, I’ll take note that there are still a lot of self-professed libertarians in the room. I find that weird – given how much libertarians seem to think that the market will solve society’s ills, you’d think that they’d be experts on markets?

But of course, they aren’t.

Given our audience is now a bunch of libertarians who love to go on and on about how markets will solve everything, maybe we should focus on particular problems that markets solve terribly, why, and what the usual solutions are. Guess what? In all cases, the usual solution is BIG DIRTY GUB’MENT!

Market Failure Number 1: Public Goods

A public good is a kind of thing that when someone purchases it, “everyone” gets it, or at least part of it. Let’s get an example – street signs.

When I read a street sign, it gives me information about where I am and helps me decide where I should go. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to prevent you from reading the same street sign. It’s non-excludable – I can’t keep you from reading it once I’ve put it up in a easily seen area.

Let’s let the market solve street signs – well, each one costs a lot. More than the value we each get from them in our one-off need. So the price of each sign is high, but the value is low. Based on pure price mechanisms alone, we wouldn’t buy that many – not nearly as many street signs as we have.

But because street signs aren’t consumed on use, their value to overall demand is immense. One street sign can serve all of society – the cumulative value of each individual’s need for that sign in the right place at the right time easily overcomes its individual cost. Alas, since we allowed the market to dictate how many street signs there’d be, we bought too few. The few that are up were bought by really rich folks for whom the marginal utility of the sign outpaced its marginal cost to them.

Why are you glassy-eyed when I used the terms marginal utility? Oh right, that’s because libertarians don’t go to economics classes and have no idea what I just said. Let’s just say there’d be fewer signs.

But wait, what if we all decided to band together, put just a tiny bit of money into a common pool (far less than the cost of a single street sign on a per capita basis) and put up hundreds if not thousands of street signs we could all share!

COMMUNIST!

Suffice it to say, goods like street signs that cost too much for any one person to buy but can be used by everyone once bought are great goods for the government to buy. The government will buy just enough, while the markets will under purchase them and society as a whole will be worse off (less utility for all of us!)

Guess what’s another great example of a public good that free markets would under purchase? The National Fucking Defense. Y’all libertarians really need a government to pay for an army, otherwise Canada is going to waltz right in here and take over.

I know that Libertarians complain about “men with guns” coming and taking their “rightfully earned money” (more on that in a second), but at least they’re Americans with guns. It’s way worse when its Canadians with guns because you decided that the “market” would purchase the perfect amount of national defense.

Okay, one more – you know what else is an example of a public good?

MONEY. Look who’s picture is on that piece of paper you constantly claimed you rightfully earned with no help from BIG DIRTY GUB’MENT.

Sorry, that last sentence too me awhile to write as I kept laughing so hard, whiskey came out of my nose.

Market Failure Number 2: Negative Externalities

Markets are great at getting society to build just the right amount of X to help the most number of people for the lowest cost. This is because they use the price mechanism to represent all of this information.

You don’t need to interview millions of people, spend years planning delivery and logistics routes all to figure out the optimal amount of bread to bake. Just let people who want bread and people who can make bread decide on a price and you’re done.

But what if the price can’t reflect the total negatives and positives of a good? This happens frequently. Let’s talk about a coal-fired power plant.

The price of electricity is paid to the power plant. The power plant’s prices are largely dictated by how much coal costs, the capital costs of the plant (amortized of course), the salaries of the workers, plus any interest on loans that the owners of the plant took out to keep it running. The coal miners get paid, the employees get paid, the banks get paid, and the manufacturers of the equipment get paid. Huzzah! Markets in action.

Wait, where’s my pay check?

That’s right, we forgot to pay “the public at large” since we also bought their clean air for free and gave them back air with smog in it, which they didn’t want. But come on, that’s the price of progress baby!

Actually, no, that’s an underestimated price of progress. Since no one’s paying for the smog (except for the public at large), buyers of electricity will get electricity cheaper than what it actually “costs” for society to have it. This means electricity will be overconsumed.

How do we fix this? Well we can’t rely on markets – after all, the coal plant could just use some of its profits from the over-consumption of electricity to, say, fund some misinformation campaign about the dangers of smog. Now people are dying and they’re blaming themselves instead for not eating enough vegetables. Perfect!

So maybe in idealized markets, enough information about the dangers of smog comes out that a bunch of folks voluntarily stop buying coal and switch to cleaner fuels. But that’s still not the right amount of coal to burn. Coal runs hospitals, so it probably cures more cases of cancer than it causes. We just have to remember that it does cause some cancer. We need that amount to be reflected in the price mechanism, and then we’d naturally find the invisible hand buying the ‘right’ amount.

I know, what about men with guns who take our hard earned money? Other people just call these “taxes”, but it seems like if society at large is paying for smog in increased health issue rates, we just figure out an estimate on the cost of that and then tax the coal burners enough to pay for that. Now the equation is balanced – we don’t accidentally over consume coal and over produce pollution – we buy just the right amount.

Market Failure Number 3: Merit Goods or Positive Externalities

What if smog cured cancer? But we still didn’t put a price on it because we’re dumbass libertarians who don’t know how markets work and assume that “rational individual freedom” will figure everything out.

Well, then we’d be under producing smog.

A much more intuitive example might be vaccines. The value of a vaccine to you, and just you, you perfectly rational economic agent, you – it’s, say, $100. You don’t want to get the flu, you figure the flu is worth $100, so you get a shot to ensure you don’t get the flu.

If shots cost $100, you’d buy one. Your friend, who’s decided the flu is worth only $80 to him, decides not to get a shot. He’d rather risk getting the flu and keep his money.

But here’s the thing, when you buy a vaccine, you’ve lowered the risk of your friend getting the flu.

Did you charge him?

WHY NOT?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A PERFECTLY RATIONAL ECONOMIC AGENT!

You should raise funds for your flu shot from all your friends, set at precisely the value they have for a slightly lowered risk of getting the flu.

You want to set up the LLC, or should I?

OR, and just hear me out here, OR – we could ask everyone at large to pay just a tiny bit, and then we use that money to lower the cost of flu shots for everyone. It’ll pay for itself many times over since we’ll make the vaccine cheap enough that a lot of people will get it, and we’ll have ‘herd immunity’, which is like, the best kind of immunity.

I’ll bet some people won’t turn over the money voluntarily – after all, they benefit whether they get the shot or not, since now all of their friends are immune. We might have to do some coaxing. I know some folks will do it out of their feelings of social contract – I, as an individual, get some benefit out of being in society, so I owe it back to society to chip in on things.

Or we can use the libertarian code for “social contract” and all rant and rave about men with guns coming to take our hard earned (government supplied) money.

Let’s talk about that for a bit more. Do you, as a moral person, not murder others because you’re afraid that men with guns will come and get you? No? That doesn’t make any sense. You should only act because men with guns force you too! Not out of the goodness of your heart!

Why is it that if you don’t murder people simply due to trying to avoid the consequences, that somehow paying taxes is different? That paying taxes you only do because of the threat of being locked up? I mean, let’s face it, the IRS isn’t that efficient (thanks libertarians). The likelihood of you actually getting locked up is low. Still, a lot of people try their best to pay their taxes.

Huh. I guess maybe it isn’t men with guns. Or maybe libertarians just think all tax payers are suckers.

Market Failure Number 4: Monopoly

Wait, wait, wait a second. A monopoly can’t be a market failure, it’s the point. The whole point of markets is for smart white men to compete with each other over who’s the smartestest, and when they win, they get all the gold and get to run things how they see fit.

I mean, some weiner economists might say that there are actually different types of markets, and that perfect market competition is great for both buyers and sellers equally and all this other theoretical bullshit. But we really know that markets should only be good for sellers, and buyers are all suckers.

Bro, do you even economics?

Monopolies tend to set prices too high. Given that other market forces can’t compete them down, the only real competition they have is from people just outright giving up the service. They extract all of the “market surplus” – this is the excess value to society gained from trade for those of you just realizing that people have studied markets for a lot longer than you have been alive – and so the demand side of the equation gets none of this ‘market surplus’. They’re only slightly better off than if they didn’t buy the product to begin with.

Meanwhile, the monopoly is WAAAAAY better off. Or at least its managers are, since monopolies can and often do use their market surplus to:

  • Negotiate lower expected rates of return with lenders and investors
  • Negotiate lower taxes and regulations (i.e., lobby) with the government
  • Build a wider moat to discourage any future competition

None of that sounds like a very efficient way to use a surplus. Remember when suppliers of a good would often use their share of the market surplus to supply the good better? You know, innovate, use technology, create better products or more of them for the same cost? Remember when profits made us all better off?

Yeah, so do I! Only that happened in non-monopolistic markets!

What’s the solution here? Well, there’s two, and they both involve the BIG DIRTY GUB’MENT.

First, we can use government power to bust the trusts and break the monopolies. You know, men with guns and all that shit. Yeah!!  Show those fat cats who’s boss!

This can return a monopolistic market to a more competitive market.

Alternatively, we can just say that a monopoly is okay, but to control the prices we should all become managers and shareholders of that monopoly. This ends up looking a lot like government, and is why the government builds the roads. Roads that compete with each other are really expensive and would over produce roads – instead there’s a ‘natural’ monopoly here. To prevent an actual predatorial monopoly from forming and charging as much as possible to use the roads (meanwhile not building any MORE roads. Also this works for telecom, wink wink nudge nudge), we say the government is in charge of building roads.

They build shitty government roads, but they’re free!

Conclusion

This isn’t even all the ways markets can fail. There are others. And often they have regulatory solutions like taxes or men with guns or rules, and we’re all better off because of it.

Why?

Because free markets optimally allocate goods. All the above market failures are situations where a truly free market needs a little help to get started. The government can and should provide the means to get these markets going since, as we all know, markets – when they work – are fantastic.

But markets are not the same as “every man for themselves.” It’s not “no government involvement”. Again, remember, the government obviously builds the roads, issues the currency, and raises the army. There are not many libertarian arguments that any of these things ought to be done by anyone else. But all of those things are required for markets to form.

Markets can’t form if you can’t get to them (no roads). They can’t form if there’s no trusted medium of exchange (money). And they can’t form if robbers are going to steal your shit on the way too and from the market (armies). The government already plays a very large role in ensuring markets function.

The best markets are free ones, and free markets need the government to be free.

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Why the Mainstream Left Must Abandon its Love Affair with Non-Violence

The Takeaway

Non-violence is just one tactic in affecting change. Where and when to apply nonviolent tactics and where and when to apply potentially violent ones depends on the context of the situation. While causing harm is morally wrong, it is understood that morally justified harm can often be done to prevent a potential greater harm in the future.

This is truer now than other social conflicts when one side celebrates a narrative of power and violence as a means to an end.

The Argument:

Let’s talk about two kinds of ‘violent’ protest – ‘defensive violence’ and ‘offensive violence’. Defensive violence is primarily what this argument covers – that is to say, they may hit first, but we hit back.

Offensive violence is covered to a lesser extent by the thought process below. I don’t think we’re in a situation where we need folks pre-emptively seeking out racists and punching them.

My main argument is in the defensive use of violence, that is, willingness to punch when punched.

I’ll admit there’s a huge gray area in between – it’s silly to argue that you have to wait to be punched to punch them. But at the same time, a defensive use of ‘first strike’ violence often implies a very well founded belief violence is about to be done to you, so you have the right to strike first. I think if you’re at a rally with Nazis and they have clubs, helmets, and guns, you should believe they intend to use them against you.

What’s with the Mainstream Left’s Struggle with Violence?

Can I Punch a Nazi?

Nearly a decade ago… Wait, no, only a few months. Sorry, it seems like it’s been that long. Anyway, a few months ago, we saw a well-known fascist punched on camera.

Some on the left celebrated this as a bit of a catharsis for all the rage brewing, whereas others got out their scolding scowls and decided that while racism, fascism, and authoritarianism is wrong, it’s more important to ensure other lesser leftists know it is morally inferior to take joy in someone else being hurt.

Oh, I won’t get into it too much, but this sanctimonious infighting over who’s the most enlightened probably had a lot to do with why we lost the election, BUT I DIGRESS…

The point is that for some reason, a complete asshole having a sore jaw was a cause of moral concern between folks on the left. This faded a bit as the gravity of the national situation sunk in – even the most enlightened pacifist liberal now thinks there are bigger fish to fry than whether or not a nazi gets punched.

The nation also turned its lonely eyes to Bob Mueller.

Sheet Cake and Clowning Around

Then Charlottesville.

An otherwise “lone wolf, mentally disturbed” young white man tried to kill a whole bunch of people using the most recent terrorist tactic de jour – ramming his car into a group of them. Only for once, the right didn’t go for the “lone wolf, mentally disturbed” narrative. This guy was a racist asshole and he was trying to kill innocent bystanders.

Murderer.

For the first week, there was some righteous worship of those who counter protested the white supremacists in Charlottesville, and the left was united in its message that anything is justified to interrupt the ascension of authoritarian, racist power.

Unfortunately, some leftists were only able to maintain their boner/ladyboners for justice for about a week before they remembered how much pleasure they derive from telling the rest of us what to do.

Tina Fey actually encouraged people to not show up, and eat cake instead.

She’s going for a laugh so I wouldn’t take it too seriously. But still, I can already hear murmurs of folks around me asking themselves “If someone gets hurt, is it worth it? Doesn’t showing up to counter protest just get more media coverage for the alt-right?”

Or take the New York Times opinion piece – using the tired condescenion of “you’re doing it wrong”. Instead of violence, we should be making fun of Nazis so that they’re ashamed and go home.

Both of these arguments are countered at the bottom because I don’t want to interrupt my flow. But suffice to say, we’re having a debate over whether it’s okay to punch a Nazi again.

The Thoughtful Left

I want to take a moment to point out that at its heart, the debate over violence is a good thing, and is one of the strengths of the left. The left tends not to rush headlong into anything. While my arguments are mostly aimed at the correct use of certain kinds of violence depending on the context, they’re not aimed at the careful deliberation of such.

That should be celebrated. That the idea of causing harm makes us uncomfortable is a good thing – but it should not make us so uncomfortable that we put prevention of harm above all other social goods.

That’s cowardice.

Non-Violence Is Better Than Violence?

Let’s talk about why it is we think nonviolent protests are better than violent protests.

What Makes Non-Violence Powerful?

The most obvious reasons are that MLK and Gandhi are heroes, and we want to duplicate their tactics. We feel as if practicing any form of violence would betray their message.

Similarly, when we see those practicing nonviolence on TV being brutalized, our heart goes out to them. We’re convinced that the non-violent protester is on the right side. Similar to Christian Martrys convincing others to jump into the colosseum with the lions, the act of refusing to ‘stoop to their level’ hits us at an emotional core.

Let’s respond to these thoughts.

First, let’s put MLK and Gandhi in context. MLK was a gun owner. Both had more violent synergistic movements to their flanks. Neither Gandhi nor King employed non-violence as simply a means to ‘be above it all’. Rather, they cunningly employed the tactic because of the context of their situation.

In both cases, you had a large state actor who’s oppression of a minority was relatively obscure. Similar to how there appears to be a ‘spate’ of cops shooting black men even though it’s actually been going on forever (smart phone cameras brought it out of obscurity), in King’s case particularly, he knew that television cameras would elevate his message of white, state sponsored oppression to everyone in the country.

Gun toting blacks reinforced the image of a violent underclass with mysterious aims, even though all those who carried arms were entirely within their rights to do so. Instead, to portray the black struggle as the struggle of innocence against an oppressor – broadcast around the world – was the way to bring attention to their plight and get the white American voter so disgusted with her government that she would in turn demand change.

This is key – nonviolent protest works best against state sponsored oppression when the oppression is not well known. And it works because it makes the oppression well known.

How is that different from our situation?

Well, first, the police in Charlottesville were out gunned. They stayed on the sidelines and performed surgical operations the best they could. They were not the oppressor. Second, more than two-thirds of the country is squarely against the protests in Charlottesville. They are already sending their time, prayers and money towards that cause. There’s no silent majority left to convince.

Even if it’s the case that non-violence is a contextual tactic without a perfect fit for the context in Charlottesville, we still have not established why violence may also be a contextual tactic as well, and what its effective context is.

First, let’s get into who we’re up against, as it will make the context for violence more clear.

A Short History of Fascism

Fascism Means Power

There’s a bit of an argument over what exactly “fascism” means. I think the easiest way to boil down fascism is to look at the symbols.

To fascists, power is everything. Power is all there is in life. This explains the interrelationship between social Darwinists and fascism, and the fascination with eugenics. The strongest shall survive. Anyone who believes otherwise is dreaming.

You can see this in their language and symbols today – the alt-right’s favorite insults are “cuck” and “snowflake”. Cuck they use on someone who’s been duped to betray the truth (as they see it), and they use it to make an analogy to a man who’s been tricked into raising another man’s child. Snowflake is used for much of the left – a tragically delicate and elegant natural phenomenon whose existence is ultimately temporary and whose structure is horrifically fragile.

Snowflakes shatter or melt. Fascists stay strong.

The symbol of the “red pill”, unfortunately, borrowed from The Matrix is another great example – some people are “red pillers” or alphas – those who swallow the bitter truth that all that there is is power and dominance. Everyone else is a “blue piller”, or beta – those who will be dominated and subjugated.

Power means Racism, Sexism, and Classism

The fascination with power explains the complementarity of racism, sexism and classism with their political philosophy.

Whites currently have the highest political stature in the United States. A fascist looks at that and says “it must be because Whites are the most powerful”.

They’d be disgusted to see any efforts to change that – letting the weak have stature is the opposite of what fascists believe. The powerful are powerful for a reason.

Likewise, a man’s ability to dominate a woman is all a fascist needs to understand that society itself should be organized with men routinely excercising power over women.

You can especially see the ties to sexism in the ‘red pill’ subculture. There, all other men are divided into alphas and betas. Alphas will routinely bed dozens of women because they know how to show dominance over them. Betas may or may not have significant others, but if they do, its only because they’ve allowed the woman to have control over them.

Gamergate was another great example of this in action. Many men wishing to show themselves as ‘true alphas’ felt offended that … well, honestly nothing really actually happened. Suffice it to say, these men all believed that their games were being taken over by feminists. Since they already felt like their lack of sex lives was proof that what was theirs was taken from them, their games being infiltrated by feminists was too far.

A fascist believes that when things go against the ‘natural order’, force and violence are entirely justified in re-establishing this natural order. After all, their belief is that the only natural order is the one which force and violence establish in the first place.

This Goes Back for Ages – Plato’s Republic

Early in Plato’s Republic there’s an argument over “might makes right” versus other forms of government.

Fascism may be the most recent embodiment of this philosophy – might makes right – but it has been with us since the beginning.

It’s in fact in these terms that I will make my main counter argument against a solely non-violent means of protest.

This is because while the actual contradiction to ‘might makes right’ is that ‘might does not make right’, there’s a strong counter argument that must be dealt with.

If ‘might does not make right’, why do we see so many instances of the mighty committing wrongs and getting away with it?

In other words, to truly defeat the argument that ‘might makes right’, we have to establish that right makes might. That is a society organized as justly as possible will be more mighty than a society less justly organized.

What Fascism Is Not: The Use of Force

Nowhere to be found in fascism is the idea that only they may use force. Instead, an important distinction should be made – a fascist believes “there is only force”.

A non-fascist believes “there are other things than force”. Pacifism is not the opposite of fascism!

To sum up, facism is at its root, the social darwinist belief that the powerful are powerful for a reason, that power is all there is, and that violence and force are the only legitimate means to distribute power.

They believe “might makes right”.

To counter act them, counter protestors must establishright makes might“.

To spell this out – counter protestors must show that by having a society in which racism, sexism and classism are increasingly stampped out, society will be more powerful. They can demonstrate this by showing that their own groups, who disavow racism, sexism and classism, can organize more effectively and if required, do more harm to the fascists than the fascists can do to them (i.e., the counter protestors must demonstrate they are more powerful).

This is the only way to convince a fascist. You must show them that their methods will lead to weakness.

Theory and Practice

A great example of this in practice is shaming, which probably needs to be used very carfully since you’re going to get a whole lot of innocents caught up in it. But cameras on the ‘front lines’ of these protests and a lack of fear in capturing folks faces and getting them on the internet so that they can lose their jobs and friends has been devastating to the alt-right.

This isn’t necessarily ‘punch a nazi’ sort of violence, but it is pretty close to an electronic vigilantism, and it works.

It, along with other intimidation tools, keep white supremacists’ turnout low. If they fear the counter protestors, they won’t show up. If they don’t show up, they can’t get news coverage. If they can’t get news coverage, they can’t up recruitment.

While taking pictures and shaming people online isn’t exactly the ‘punching’ kind of violence, it does require that folks show up to rallys, it requires people get close enough to get good pictures, and both of these things are going to risk getting hit with a beer bottle.

If you have to punch a nazi to get a good picture of him, then it’s probably justified.

Speaking of which, that leads to the second role defensive violence can play – punching a nazi gets great ratings.

Turnout on the counter protest side must be large and we must not get fatigued. Keeping people moralized gets harder and harder as this struggle goes on. While many things inspire people, to a certain degree we must acknowledge our lesser tendencies and admit that – you know what, seeing that nazi punched felt good, and it makes me have more energy to keep doing this shit day in and day out.

We all know in our hearts this is a struggle over what power means and how its used. And when someone who advocates for the use of force to subjugate people of color, women and anyone who isn’t a particular kind of Christian has force used to subjugate him, well, that’s the best kind of satire.

To spell it out – nothing proves the powerlessness of a Nazi quite like punching him.

Finally and very practically, violent and non-violent protest intermingle and compliment each other. MLK would have a harder time without Malcolm X. Likewise, there are already plenty of examples in Charlottesville where antifa were able to run security where the police couldn’t.

Protecting clergy, running a perimeter, and meeting violence with violence when nazis push through nonviolent clergy are all ways that boost the non-violent protestors means of getting things done. Security boosts turnout as people feel more safe, and the knowledge that a group of antifascists is only a few yards away might help you keep up the courage to keep your non-violent human chain up a little longer against fascists who are very willing to punch, mace and kick you.

What about the future?

Naturally we might think Charllotesville is a one off. I’d like to think that in future events, the national gaurd may show up and provide the security the counter protestors need.

But I also know that the fascists are working just as hard to identify cities with small police forces that may lean more friendly to their cause. They’ve proven they can show up en masse in Charllotesville without too much notice. There’s a very real possibility that the police will be outgunned again and the only ones willing to confront white supremacists will be clergy, clowns and antifa.

Police and the national guard are great if you can get them. But Charlottesville, if anything, shows that we’re up against a movement who’s intentionally trying to target places where the police turnout may not be high enough to stop them.

Counterarguments

“If someone gets hurt, is it worth it?”

Don’t be a wiener. Heather Heyer does not want you to stay home.

“Doesn’t showing up to counter-protest just get more media coverage for the alt-right?”

First, the media is your friend in this. While I think they could do a better job of not covering the alt-right so much, remember that 99.9% of journalists are on the counter protestors side.

Second, remember that counter protestors get plenty of coverage too, and this increases turnout and donations to places like the ACLU and ADL.

“Instead of violence shouldn’t we just…”

This isn’t an either or. Except in the rare case of someone having too little room in their car to bring a baseball bat or a clown wig, both tactics such as satire as well as defensive violence can be used and we should be willing to use them.

Antifa can and has run security for nonviolent groups, whether they be clergy using traditional non-violent means or satirists.

If you show up with the funniest and most biting satircal sign, you’re probably just going to get maced. If there’s a bunch of folks in gas masks who are willing to go get maced in your stead, then you can hold your sign up for the whole protest and photographers can get some hilarious shots.

You’ll have both done your parts.

“Doesn’t harming them just play into their narrative?”

Their narrative is on storm front and info wars. Their narrative is fake news and propaganda. Whether you show up or not, they’ll photoshop pics of Antifa being there and causing a ruckus. Might as well actually cause a ruckus if that’s what they’re going to believe either way.

They aren’t listening to CNN or the NYT. They’re listening to people who are saying you’re all controlled by jewish masterminds and helping black men steal their women. These guys are nuts. Thinking that you can hurt their propaganda machine by your actions is giving them too much intellectual credit, as what you do or don’t do is in the real world, whereas their propaganda has no ties to the real world.

Eventually, you have to serve some pizza, even if a bunch of nuts think you keep a pedophile cage down in your pizza parlor’s basement.

“In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race”

To get it out up front, I’m not going to link to anyone’s rant. But the rant, and its arguments are somewhat well known. I think it’s important to take some of the arguments head on.

Let’s look at the classic referenced in the title,

In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race

What about outside of engineering?

The argument seems to make the implication that the statement ‘merit matters more than gender or race’ only applies, or most applies, in engineering. Which in turn, seems like a subtle attack on non-engineering fields.

I believe everyone thinks merit matters more than gender or race – although many feminists will take that to mean the exact opposite of what misogynists mean.

It’s pretty offensive to just assume that unless you are in engineering, you’re in a field rife with gender and racial privilege – and not the good ole’ boy white male kind we’re used to. In other words, that engineering is still white and male dominated, and that it is alone in believing ‘merit matters more than gender or race’ seems to imply that other fields are less white and male dominated is due to gender or race mattering more than merit.

In other words, engineering is sacrosanct, and we must keep it that way, lest we turn into the humanities where black women excel only due to their gender and race, rather than their merit.

If Merit matters more, why are gender and race predictive?

Right now, the field is very empirically white and male. That’s the context in which the statement “In Engineering, Merit matters more than Gender or Race” is said. If that’s true, why can you walk into Google and find mostly white men?

There are two conclusions you can draw – the first is that you’ve arrived at a contradiction and that if it’s true that in engineering, merit matters more than gender or race, then we have a problem that we can make certain assumptions about the distribution of race and gender that appear to imply it does matter.

The second, and this is the conclusion drawn from our precious little alt-right snowflakes, is that white men are just better at engineering in general and that they are there based on their merit

A different, more productive world

Let’s say that it’s true – in engineering, merit matter more than gender or race. And let’s also say that since we find mostly white men in engineering, we need to fix that, what does that mean?

It means that until we see 50/50 parity of men and women in engineering, we’re almost certainly keeping some brilliant engineers out and escalating some bad engineers in. If there are 100 engineering jobs, and we let our implicit bias mean we only hire men, then we miss out on the 50 best women for the job and instead take the 50 next best men.

This same argument works across racial boundaries too.

There’s no reason to assume that gender or race is predictive of ability, which means engineering talent – a priori – is probably diffusely distributed amongst the population. To find yourself in a shop that doesn’t reflect that more general distribution means that somewhere along the way, someone was chosen due to their race (white) and gender (male) rather than their merit.

And whats worse, someone with a lot of engineering talent was shut out.

This is Bad for America

We’re in a productivity slump. We have a resurgent and hostile Russia, a growing and ambivalent China, and a widening wealth gap in our own country which leads to lower growth, lower hapiness, and lower productivity.

We absolutely cannot afford to keep our best engineering talent out of the bull pen because we don’t want to offend the old guard and give them any inclination that perhaps they got where they were today because of their race or gender.

It’s not about quotas or political correctness, it’s about standing the fuck aside and making room for the better engineers that have been on the outside this whole time. Because we can’t afford to employ lesser engineers anymore.

Secret Russian Deals Right After Inauguration

See this Business Insider Article

What does this mean?

Let’s recap a few things:

  1. The Trump administration had multiple opportunities to coordinate with the Russians through Flynn, Sessions, Kushner and others. We don’t know that they did anything inappropriate though…
  2. The Trump administration attempted to set up ‘secret backchannels’ to the Russians. We don’t know that they intended to misuse them though…
  3. The Trump administration outwardly coordinated with Russian intelligence on mass media, asking them to further hack Hillary’s emails. We don’t know that the Russians cooperated and communicated back though…
  4. We know that in broad stances, the Trump administration has played into Russian strategy – attacking democracy at home, supporting Christian Nationalism, disrupting Nato and pissing off our allies. We don’t know that they did these things because the Russians asked though…
  5. We know that Russia interfered in the election specifically to help Trump win and Clinton lose. We don’t know that they sent communication to the Trump administration about this though…
  6. We know that Stone and Manafort have a history of working with dictatorships and the scum of the earth. We don’t know that they’d work with Russia though…

And now we know the following:

7. The Trump administration was going to shut down sanctions, return Russian assets, and otherwise wipe out the punishments levied on them after the election. We don’t know that Russia asked them to, though…

So, good bayesians, with all of the above as our priors what are our confidences on the following beliefs:

  1. Trump colluded with the Russians
  2. Trump did not collude with the Russians

For the second to be true, we’d basically have to believe that items 1 through 7 were massive fucking coincidences.

  • That Trump had multiple opportunities to talk, secret back channels even, but never actually talked about what Russia was doing to the emails. Never coordinated.
  • That Trump received something from Russia, and he plotted to give something back both concretely and strategically, but there was no actual quid pro quo agreement on these deals. They were all apparently random events.
  • That we know the people in Trump’s campaign have done all this before, have played dirty games, but this time they played by the rules.

What are the odds?