He actually said goodbye at the end of last year, but because I haven’t been reading regularly I just didn’t notice. He’s not done with blogging though, as he & Katherine Chen are moving to Markets, Power & Culture. Much like how Bleeding Heart Libertarians gave way to 200 Proof Liberals. Yet another reason to feel old if you remember the blogging era.

Nested comments on Substack become unreadable after a certain number of levels, so I’m using this post to continue a conversation. (more…)

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One of the few things I blogged about last year was the demise of a blog… specifically, Scott Alexander’s. He had noted in (what was) his last post that he planned on returning via Substack once he sorted out his real-life job so it couldn’t be threatened by doxing, and now his actual last post at Slate Star Codex announces his new location: Astral Codex Ten (although I actually heard about it via Marginal Revolution). He’s got an introduction to the blog, as well as an overview on what happened with the old one. Reading that made me jealous of him, just as the full life of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” made mine seem pointless by comparison when I watched that film as a kid.

I do have some reservations about him using Substack rather than his own domain: a number of people have left their publications for that, and it does seem to represent the idea of unrestricted expression to many people, but it’s still a third party that has the ability to censor any pages they host. And yeah, if I was hardcore I would be using open-source wordpress.org software rather than having wordpress.com host me, but Scott already had his own domain. Sacrificing autonomy for money & support is exactly the move many of these Substackers made when they transitioned from bloggers to professional journalists. One of those old-school bloggers who never really changed (even if it was very briefly announced that he’d be contributing to the NYT before they reconsidered) is Razib Khan, who made a point of insisting on such control before Substack even existed and who continues to maintain gnxp.com even while he also has a substack. I’ve also found commenting more cumbersome on substacks than at Scott’s old site, so I hope that isn’t too affected.

UPDATE 02/13/2021: And now via Sailer I see that the NYT has finally published the article Scott shut SSC down over. Scott has updated his post at SSC announcing its end (really just striking out the portions irrelevant now and noting as much), but hasn’t posted at AC10 about it. UPDATE: Scott has now responded.

My second post ever on this blog was titled with the internet-age utopian phrase Information Wants To Be Free. Even at that time one of my blog-inspirations (which I cited there) had been shuttered, I think after the professor behind it was found and “cancelled” (before that was a common term, and before the same thing happened to the next anonymous blog he started). Another variant of that phrase was fond of was “information wants to be indestructible“, which might be true in the sense that once loose it’s hard to hunt down every copy, but isn’t quite so true in terms of easy availability.

The most citeable blog to end last year was Scott Alexander’s, and I’ve been rethinking his post Freedom on the Centralized Web. I’m less optimistic now than I used to be now that not only social media companies, but also smartphone companies and AWS hosting have banded together against a politically disfavored app (even though by magnitude the total amount of “harm” done by Facebook by those standards is far greater), well after Cloudflare dropped an even more politically disfavored site in a way even their own CEO was uncomfortable with (which, given how easily DDOS attacks can be mobilized, is equivalent to being kicked off the internet). Karl Kasarda (who had a similarly pessimistic take on the state of computer security in light of SolarWinds) gives the run down on this incident and all the ways in which a similar upstart could be restricted in his mockingly titled The Free Market Solution. He advocates there an internet version of the Bill of Rights for platforms, something I’m still not entirely comfortable with (perhaps we could have a low-rent public option, analogous to the Post Office, required not to engage in content-based discrimination).

You might note there that I linked to Kasarda’s videos on BitChute, rather than Youtube where I first watched them. That was deliberate. I was long a pro-Google anti-Apple partisan because the former didn’t try to lock down their phones as much and I found their numerous free products useful rather than overpriced conspicuous consumption. But I’ve been unable to root my most recent phone from them (meaning I couldn’t download an app they banned from their app store if I actually wanted to), and I’ve lost enough confidence in their original product that I’m now using DuckDuckGo for search instead (unless I’m disappointed in the paltry results, so I do still sometimes use it as a backup). I know some of you might think I’m still under the thumb of software megacorps because the email on my about page here is hosted by Microsoft, but they haven’t been acting like the Evil Empire nearly as much recently. It’s nice to imagine being as idealist as Richard Stallman and refusing to use anything closed-source, but I got my most recent phone because my job required a specific app (I normally try to install as few as possible, using it more like a feature phone except with email alerts), and even Stallman was cancelled recently (while Linus Torvalds had an apology extracted but continued in his same position).

I’ve resisted linking to twitter (where I unfortunately have been having more conversations than on blogs recently) up until now, but Alexey Navalny’s thread (all threads should be posts!) complaining about twitter’s ban though a dissident political lens is worth linking to. I am still refusing to automatically publish my posts here as tweets because I dislike social media and would prefer for people to use RSS. I suppose I nevertheless ought to make an exception by cross-posting this one.

On the topic of tolerating even disfavored speech, I’ve long linked to Scott Alexander’s The Spirit of the First Amendment (along with Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness). To that I should now add Vitalik Buterin’s Credible Neutrality As A Guiding Principle, which generalizes beyond the obviously “political” to the idea of good mechanism design, as does his post linked from there on “central planning” in design.

I haven’t heard any Christmas music this season.

I often point people to William Stuntz’ “The Collapse of American Criminal Justice” via my review. There are a lot of details in that book I regret not being able to include, but I just found this review (which pre-dates mine by years) from Handle (who I mostly remember as a commenter years ago rather than a blogger) which makes up for my deficiencies. He also has his own perspective as a lawyer who once freed a flagrantly guilty person as part of his work via an “Innocence Project” type organization. I had some criticism of Stuntz in my review, while Handle’s review is oriented more as a critique of Stuntz’ project, and I thought I’d note how our views differ. (more…)

Bryan Caplan has been blogging the recent book “Escaping Paternalism” and noted that he wished they had discussed opioids in detail. Jubal Harshaw of the blog GrokInFullness sent him a response, noting a number of posts in which he critiqued “the usual view” that Caplan brought up to contrast with the book. I myself have noted (while reviewing Dreamland) that the scale of deaths due to opioids in recent years has been something of a challenge to a libertarian perspective, which I previously leaned more toward vs consequentialism (I recalled reading Radley Balko railing against the restrictions faced by chronic pain patients), even if I still shy from paternalism. Among the four posts Jubal linked Caplan to, one is this take on Dreamland.

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T. Greer of Scholars Stage, whose writing about the unfortunate decline of the blogosphere in the face of social media I have linked before, notes a reaction to the Harper’s letter which grants no credence to the idea of “good faith debate”. Greer calls this The World That Twitter Made, giving the reasons why it caused that shift vs blogs.

In the same post where I previously linked to him, I also linked to Andrew Gelman on the relative merits of the two mediums, and he’s got his own reaction, but this time to an actual column rather than a tweetstorm. Gerlman often returns to certain “zombies” on his blog who retain their positions despite publishing falsehoods, but he’s not entirely satisfied when someone like Marc Hauser loses their job either as long as other prominent people stick up for them in their other endeavors. For my own part I agree with commenter “gap”, who notes that whatever Brooks’ demerits in not responding to criticism, he hasn’t tried to quash it either, so there’s nothing wrong with him adding his signature. I also think Gelman’s irritation at Pinker overlooks the “social media” part of Pinker’s objection to “social media pileons”, since, as even Gelman himself noted, blogs like Gelman’s are very different from social media.

I’m sure you’ve already heard about this, since he’s a pretty big deal in any online circles I travel in. Regardless of what Education Realist thinks, Scott really is one of the best thinkers and writers online and basically everybody stood to benefit from him. I personally met him briefly once, and while that doesn’t actually affect my opinion of what happened, I feel obligated to note that he’s perfectly nice in person. I’m late in blogging this because so many other people have already covered this (many of them linked in the Reddit thread Scott links from his post), but since I recently blogged the end of The Reality Based Community and considered but neglected to note the end of Bleeding Heart Libertarians (admittedly less important as its main contributor immediately launched a new group blog)*, but the main thing I wanted to note here was the earlier (and undiscussed, as far as I know) deletion of Gabriel Rossman’s twitter account.

I had previously linked to other things by him, and his author page at Code and Culture is still up, but he was far more active on Twitter (which has largely displaced blogging, and I suppose I’m in denial about that applying to me even as I hold out as the last blogger who hasn’t connected their blog to their Twitter account) for better or worse. I won’t link to his handle, because someone else seems to have snatched it up after he deleted it. I know some people periodically delete their accounts to force themselves off of that hellsite, but given how unusually crazy things have gotten and the context in which he works, I worry that he deleted his account out of fear. Gabriel, if you’re doing alright and care what rando bloggers think, you can comment without a Twitter account here, or more privately send a message to the email listed on the about page.

 

* Update 07/02/2020: Since I discussed the end of BHL above, I should note that other contributors (including at least one also at 200 Proof Liberals) have started the group blog Radical Classical Liberals. Via Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy.

UPDATE 07/25/2020: I suppose I ought to have updated this post three days ago when I read (via MR) that Scott has unhid his old posts (although the blog still has the old look and doesn’t display the number of comments for each post).

Shortly before he removed his blog I’d made a comment on another post which got caught in the spam filter. I used to frequently use this blog to host comments of mine which got removed or were too link-filled for other sites. Since I kept the contents of that comment on my computer, I might as well post it here now:

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Regular readers, if there are any, will recall that I discussed Robin Hanson’s proposal of using variolation in response to the coronavirus in anticipation of a debate with Greg Cochran (who was more hawkish on containment) that wound up being less of a debate than expected early in April. As time has gone on Hanson has come to regard containment as having less time remaining during which the public will be willing to accept its costs (Henry Farrell responded to that here and here, and Hanson responded to that in turn). Tomas Pueyo will likely be a less familiar name, but I expect anyone who followed online discussion of the pandemic will have heard of his “Hammer and the Dance“. Hanson has an opening statement here, and the actual livestreamed “debate” can be viewed here, but again it was in many ways more of a discussion (Pueyo thinks the focus should now be on HOW we re-open).

Years ago I blogged some commentary on war from Randall Collins’ “Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory”. Since Agnostic recently wrote a post on music being inextricably linked to dance (Kevin Simler postulated an evolutionary origin of that, which I blogged here), it seemed like a good time to quote from a section near the end of chapter 7 (“Violence as Fun and Entertainment”) which followed a discussion of slam-dancing. (more…)

Not precisely, since Jones blames Jews working under FDR for “ethnically cleansing” Jews from cities by moving southern blacks up north, while Bernstein is focused on things advocated by FDR himself and views blacks as victims of FDR’s high-wage policies for destroying their jobs. I had linked to similar info on FDR’s stance toward Jews from Tablet when discussing The Plot Against America, whose premise I found implausible because it had Lindbergh winning the Solid South despite FDR winning his most overwhelming victories there. I haven’t read the book or watched David Simon’s recent adaptation both because of my skepticism of its premise (shared by historians Slate asked to comment on it) as well as because I thought I ought to start with the works that Roth built his reputation on (which Jones would still consider “acts of cultural terrorism“) rather than something known mostly because it was written by the already famous Roth.

As for Jones, he has a much longer review of Roth’s “Plot”, going about as far as possible to blame Jews for anti-semitism without actually endorsing the persecution of Jews. He’s a self-appointed champion of the Catholic “ethnics” in northern cities, so he doesn’t say as much about the south (though I did learn from him that the Klan burned a cross on the lawn of Father Coughlin’s church). It also reminds me that one of these days I should read Albert Lindemann’s “Esau’s Tears”. I briefly subscribed to The American Conservative specifically to read his review of Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century”, although I can’t remember the details of said review now. I don’t know if I’m interested enough in Soviet history specifically to read Slezkine’s follow-up, “The House of Government”, which Spotted Toad reviews here.

Speaking of books and Jews, Andrew Gelman has a short post reacting to Leah Garret’s “Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel”. Roth is not referenced, though his frequent point of comparison, Saul Bellow, is. The one short story I’ve read by Roth, “Defender of the Faith“, was inspired by his brief post-war military service.

Reading Tyler Cowen’s interview with Tooze (Marginal Revolution post here) I was surprised to see him cite both Broadberry and the better known Angus Maddison on the relative underdevelopment of 1930s Germany. The discussion between Tooze and Cowen does make it somewhat ambiguous whether Germany is supposed to have been undeveloped merely relative to the U.S and even Great Britain but also to continental European countries like France. Because if that was not the case, then it’s less surprising both that Germany quickly defeated France and that they decided to launch such a war in the first place. After all, Germany had fought France in the previous World War under a different government and presumably different ideology (the goal of “lebensraum” in the east, discussed in said interview, seems to have had less importance then).

Regular readers (if I have any) might recall that I have previously blogged about about Broadberry’s critique of Acemoglu & Johnson’s “Why Nations Fail”, from some basic slides that I copied to a more formal paper. I personally found it quite compelling even in the former case, but haven’t previously come across many people citing him, while Acemoglu remains a huge deal (whose work I recommended to Mencius Moldbug over a decade ago).

On a completely unrelated note, Dischord Records just put all their catalog free on Bandcamp. Tooze’s “Wages of Destruction” would be a good album/song title, if not necessarily a band name.

I blogged here the death of its founder, Mark Kleiman. Now the blog itself is a a couple days from ending. Keith Humphreys gives an obituary for blogging generally here. I agree with Andrew Gelman that blogs > Twitter. If you want more nostalgia for blogs, T. Greer of Scholars Stage has some specific to “strategy” here.