Effective vs. Harmful Anti-war Activism


  • A lot of activism comes too late to be productive
  • Stopping adaptation at the bottom of an adaptive valley is bad
  • Activism which is not deeply intellectual and versed in real politics is a blunt instrument which may take away globally optimal policies as options inside democracies
  • Policy is complex, the history of anti-war activism is not only good, there are times it has caused harm and supported the strategic advantage of less democratic world actors.
  • Attempts to limits arms of one sort will lead to disproportionate investment in arms of another sort.
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The Young Vote

Whatever the result of the election — and the BBC are currently forecasting a Tory minority government with 322 seats — is it looks like young people have turned out in greater numbers in this election that they have done in previous ones.

This is likely to have a big long-term effect on politics. In the past parties have cared about older voters, because they actually turn out to vote, and not cared about younger ones, because they don’t.

If that’s changing, politicians will have to change too. They will have to give a shit about issues that affect younger voters, such as affordable housing and tuition fees.

This will be a positive development.

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BBC exit poll: Con 314

The BBC exit poll puts the Conservatives on 314 seats. This means they would lose their majority, and they would get 31 seats less than I predict (345, giving them a majority of 40).

I hope the BBC are right, because I don’t want another 5 years of Tory government, but I expect my prediction will be a damn sight closer to the result than the BBC’s.

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UK General Election Prediction: Con maj 40 seats

This UK general election is harder to predict than most. Polls vary between a Labour lead or 1 point and a Tory lead of 13 points. (1) polling organisations don’t know how bit the “shy Tory” effect will be and therefore don’t know how much to compensate for it, and (2) nor it is known what the turnout of younger voters will be — there have been reports of a million people registering to vote in recent weeks.

Taking an average Tory lead of 6 points, and then adjusting for:

  1. the Lib Dems keep all their seats and gain one from the Tories
  2. In Scotland, the Tories gain 4 seats from the SNP and Labour gain 1
  3. UK lose their seat
  4. The Greens keep theirs

We have:

Con         345
Lab         225
SNP          50
Lib Dem       9
Plaid Cymru   2
Green         1
NI Parties   18

Note that we count the speaker, John Bercow, as a Conservative. This gives the Tories an overall majority of 40 seats.




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Your Country Has Been Encrypted


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Senator Sanders Demonstrates The Right Way To Criticize Trump

Opponents of President Trump: if you want to oppose him effectively (and not just signal virtue or make yourself feel good) don’t castigate him for doing things he said he would do that his supporters want (such as the travel ban). All this achieves is makes his supporters support him more, making a Trump 2nd term more likely.

Instead, challenge him when he fails to keep his promises, betraying those who voted for him. Here’s Bernie Sanders talking about the Trump climbdown on drug policy:

Americans pay by far the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world. During the campaign Mr. Trump said that he would take on big Pharma and lower the cost of drugs. Today, he met with executives from the pharmaceutical industry — an industry where the top 5 companies made $50 billion in profits in 2015. Funny thing though. He talked about tax breaks for this tremendously profitable industry, but what he did not talk about was his campaign promise to allow Medicare the ability to negotiate prices with the drug companies. It appears Trump has already sold out the American people regarding his promise not to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Is he going to sell them out again and cave to the drug companies as well?

Meanwhile, I and colleagues will be introducing legislation to significantly lower prescription drug prices in this country, allowing our people to purchase low-cost prescription drugs from abroad and having Medicare negotiate prices with drug companies. Will Trump support this legislation and lower drug prices? Stay tuned.

Aside: it’s a shame the so-called “Democratic” Party decided to rig their primary; if they hadn’t, they might had chosen a principled, charismatic candidate who by being anti-establishment fitted with the mood of the times, and won the election. But that’s water under the bridge.

Matthew Yglesias adds:

On most of the big public policy issues of the day, Trump is a very conventional Republican. And on those issues where he hasn’t been conventional, Republican Congress members and business executives feel confident they can turn him around. On some issues, they probably won’t. But on this issue, it seems like they did.

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Should the US West Coast Join Canada?

I. On Morality

Nietzsche said “every people speaks its own language of good and evil, which its neighbour does not understand”.

A people constructs its ambient morality which not only does its neighbour not understand, its neighbour may be violently hostile to. For example, in Scotland people celebrate gay marriage, whereas in Saudi Arabia gays are persecuted, sometimes even tortured and killed.

But Scotland and Saudi Arabia are alike in one way: in both countries, the majority of the population agrees that their morality is the right, just, natural morality and the normal way for humans to live. They also reject moral relativism: most would disagree that their morality is merely a semi-arbitrary point in morality-space which got their through a set of historical accidents. And in both countries, most people would regard the other country’s morality as abhorent, disgusting, decadent, and deranged: a society that thinks like that will both collapse from its internal contradictions, and moreover deserves to.

But what’s important for social cohesion is not so much what the ambient morality is, but that everyone agrees with it. If everyone celebrates gay marriage, that’s cohesive; if everyone hates gays, that’s also cohesive. One could argue (and if I took my moral relativist hat off I would agree) that one society leads to happier people than the other, but both societies would work.

Ambient moralities are only likely to harm social cohesion if they do things like praise laziness and condemn work; or praise treachery against the group while condemning loyalty; but such ambient moralities are rare as they tend to destroy the societies that are their hosts.


It sometimes seems that the USA isn’t one society, but two: the red states/people who praise Trump and the blue states/people who loathe him. But that’s misleading, because the people who shout loudest are the ones with the strongest emotions, so naturally everyone who is shouting is an extreme supporter of Trump or an extreme opponent. I suspect is it more likely that 1/4 of the people love him, 1/4 hate him and the other half are meh.

But the level of self-segregation of the USA into two separate communities, who increasingly don’t like or even understand each other, does seem to be increasing.

III. The West

If this trend continues, the USA will become increasingly incohesive and possibly ungovernable. This is important because the USA is the richest Western country, with the biggest armed forces,  and therefore the de facto leader of the West.

IV. Divorce

It has been proposed that the 3 west coast states, all of which voted for Hillary Clinton, join Canada:


Of course, this isn’t going to happen in the short term, but in the long term if the polarisation increases, something like it could happen, possibly also with some states in the north-east also joining Canada. There could also be a one-year transition period, where leftists could move to one of the leaving states and rightists could more to one of the remaining states.

This would probably make people in both the remaining USA and the leaving states happier, because they would be in a society where a higher proportion of the people shared their values.

If it made the USA more cohesive, and Canada bigger (and thus more able to throw its weight around) it might help the West stave off challenges from e.g. China.

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