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"The flywheel of abundance"

Do you do this because you just hate engineers?

Like, you fully understand that you are misusing "flywheel," but you enjoy seeing engineers wince in pain?

Okay, I'll go over this once again: a flywheel does not accelerate the system around it. Instead, it acts against changes in velocity. It's just a big disc of concentrated inertia; it doesn't want to slow down, and it doesn't want to speed up. It does not want to speed up! It resists acceleration!!

If you want a system to enjoy positive feedback, so that inputs build on each other constructively and produce acceleration, then do not -- do not! -- put a flywheel into that system. It'll only slow you down.

I don’t object to metaphorical uses of language. If you want to say that, I don’t know, the Fed’s counter-cyclic policies act as a flywheel on the economy, then that will be accurate and illuminating: the Fed’s policies will smooth out the quick lurches and lags in the economy; they will tend to slow the economy down if it speeds up, and speed it up if it slows down. That’s what a flywheel does; its inertia smooths out the curve of velocity.

But flywheels are simply not a metaphor for positive feedback systems. You might as well step inside from a snowstorm and say, "it's as cold as a raging inferno out there!" You would only say that if you were completely ignorant of what raging infernos really are. And you would only think that flywheels are positive feedback mechanisms if you were completely ignorant of what a flywheel really is. Please, find a phrase that makes even minimal sense to the minimally well-informed. Please, don't torture engineers.

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Wheels make things go faster,but what about a flying wheel? Super fast!

Seriously, I love this kind of pedantry. All chaps are assless!

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This *is* the most pedant-friendly commentariat. I for one am here for it.

Though I should step up my game and edit my posts better

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On the topic of pedantry, it can’t possibly be true that for most of human history most people were farmers, right? We’ve had agriculture for what, 10,000 years? Humans have been around for millions of years!

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"...it can’t possibly be true that for most of human history most people were farmers, right? ...Humans have been around for millions of years!"

Pedantically speaking, most of those millions of years constitute the prehistory of humanity, i.e. before the era of recorded history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistory

So, during the historical era, sc. since the rise of writing systems, most people were farmers.

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Homo sapiens have been a distinct species for a couple hundred thousand years, most of which were spent as hunter-gatherers.

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Yes, but we call them “prehistoric” for a reason.

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"Yes, but we call them “prehistoric” for a reason."

Exactly: because it *really* irritates them.

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Came here to pedant this.

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Given that agriculture can support many more people, its probable that there have been more people who lived in the agricultural period than all the time before. Therefore, in terms of total human hours, most of them have been farmers...

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I do wonder, given this plus population growth and advancing tech, when we hit the point (since the start of recorded history or otherwise) were it is no longer true that most humans-who-ever-lived or human-life-years-experienced were spent farming.

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Speaking as an engineer I also use the “flywheel” analogy to mean “virtuous cycle” despite knowing it is physically wrong, because people know what is meant by the idiomatic use.

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Right. And that's what people don't get. Language is about communication. It isn't a logical system and doesn't have to be.

If people understand the meaning conveyed, language has served its purpose even if the analogy is faulty.

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It is one of those words like "decimate" that is incorrectly used by almost everyone. It now has a new meaning and the engineers just need to accept that about "flywheel" and get back to work. Back to work designing and building flywheels that accelerate exponentially!

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It’s the exception that (doesn’t) prove the rule

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I think you're just throwing a flywheel into the ointment

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"...throwing a flywheel into the ointment."

No, no -- that's just a mixed semaphore.

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Keep butchering the English language like this and you're going to make some real anemones.

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"...you're going to make some real anemones."

It's not my fault -- I never went to school, because I was an urchin!

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

I get your point, but a flywheel analogy seems rather apt to me in a more nuanced way.

The inertia contained in the spinning flywheel of abundance is culture and norms. The key for policymakers is to make sure flows of immigrants don't overwhelm the inertia of our culture and norms.

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Would you prefer a treadmill of abundance?

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I was with you right up until the last sentence. As someone with an engineer sibling, "don't torture the engineers, is just too big an ask.

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""don't torture the engineers, is just too big an ask."

Don't torture them linguistically? Go straight to the practicum?

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

In defense of the flywheel

Flywheels are quadratic growth - the amount of effort you put in compounds because your old efforts are not lost. This is in contrast to linear growth, which is like dragging a bag of bricks. 1 unit of effort gives you 1 unit of progress.

You are complaining because people think flywheels mean exponential growth. The two look the same over short time scales so people mix them up a lot. Human brains have bad intuitions about what exponential growth really means, and usually picture exponential growth as closer to quadratic anyway (e.g. only 50 people in NYC have covid, it’s gonna take a long time before it gets to everyone). Second, people often apply the reverse fallacy to be overly optimistic. A company grows 70% year over year. The CEO assumes this will happen forever. But growth is 60% the next year and 40% the year after that. Something must be wrong with the company! But no, the underlying behavior was never exponential to begin with. So I think flywheels actually match real world behavior pretty often, except for population growth and economic growth.

I would be perfectly content with quadratic growth in housing construction, I don’t need it to be exponential. As long as it’s not like dragging a bag of bricks.

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"Flywheels are quadratic growth - the amount of effort you put in compounds because your old efforts are not lost."

Huh? Flywheels don't magically remove whatever frictional forces are sapping energy from your system. They just slow the rate at which loss of energy translates to loss of velocity. If your inputs generate linear growth without a flywheel, then they'll generate linear growth with one too.

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I think I overcomplicated it. I’m just saying bikes are better than walking.

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Thank you.

This is, in fact, what the idiom refers to.

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Good point. I most often hear “flywheel” used in the context of “once you get the thing going it’ll get easier,” which I think is pretty reasonable as a metaphor for many political things (strong bias against change). But you’re right, people are also using it in context that suggests “acceleration,” which is silly now that I think about it. Thanks for posting, I enjoyed noodling on this :)

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Very similar. I hear in a context of small wins building momentum - so it’ll be hard to get started but east to maintain. Think about a business built on subscription revenue. To me a “virtuous circle” would be different. There the sequential inputs amplify.

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The advantage of the flywheel here is that it smooths things out, many positive feedback systems actually get a bit scary, as an engineer you usually want negative feedback to keep things stable. So maybe resisting acceleration on the way up is a feature here. Would you rather “the epidemic of abundance”? “The atomic bomb of abundance”? “The Venusian greenhouse effect of abundance”?

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"Would you rather “the epidemic of abundance”? “The atomic bomb of abundance”? "

The criticality accident of abundance. It's raining neutrons!

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"We're gonna abundance the shit out of you!"

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you say "rubble bounce," I say "abundance," it's all the same.

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But growth is the first derivative of output. If it is sufficiently positive, the flywheel method is ideal.

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I like the nerdy calculus references with the assumption everyone will understand them, too. (You’re not wrong)

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Dec 21, 2023·edited Dec 21, 2023

"Spiral" would be the right word here, I believe. "The spiral of abundance"

"Spiral" definitions from Google:

"a progressive rise or fall of prices, wages, etc., each responding to an upward or downward stimulus provided by a previous one." -- "an inflationary spiral"

"show a continuous and dramatic increase."

"decrease or deteriorate continuously."

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He did correctly use "raise the question", instead of the common, and incorrect, "begs the question". I really, really apreciate that.

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I too enjoy pendantry, and in that spirit I will note that the last para should read "But flywheeLS..." (plural, not possessive).

Please don't torture the editors either. Carry on! 😉

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Thank you! Edited to remove the vagrant apostrophe.

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SBers united in pedantry!

Also thank you for the post, I'm not an engineer and TIL a lot about flywheels!

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Isn't he saying that Malthusian fears are the flywheel though? Such that the system would be accelerating much more rapidly except for the Malthusian fears that slow that growth and prevent additional abundance? That's what I read his point about changing the rules to facilitate population growth to mean- he's saying that Malthusian fears about population growth are the flywheel preventing economic growth that would improve lives, and if you remove that flywheel then you would accelerate growth and improve improve lives even faster.

Or am I misreading what you're saying about what a flywheel is? As a lawyer, I am admittedly dimwitted on engineering, math, and all sorts of other actually useful bits of information ;)

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"Isn't he saying that Malthusian fears are the flywheel though? Such that the system would be accelerating much more rapidly except for the Malthusian fears that slow that growth and prevent additional abundance?"

That would get the physics of flywheels right, but I'm afraid it is not what Matt is saying here. As David R. notes, there is an "idiomatic usage" of "flywheel" to mean "virtuous cycle," and Matt has used it in several previous columns.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

Maybe in previous columns, but I still read that section the way you're defining the usage of the term above. He starts off the section with this passage:

"The irony is that Malthusian-inspired fear of new housing generates the Malthusian circumstance whereby an influx of new residents results in higher housing costs."

The influx of new residents (which should cause accelerating economic abundance) results in higher housing costs (decreasing the amount of abundance experienced) because of the drag that Malthusian fears cause on the potential for growth.

"Doing that would unlock a financial windfall for incumbent homeowners (they could sell their houses to developers and make a lot of money) and also ameliorate rent growth. People simply didn’t want to do it, so fear of an influx of people actually made the influx more problematic than it otherwise would have been."

Again, there is a financial windfall available to people, but it's being curtailed by the fear of the very thing that would result in the windfall. So the growth is being stymied by the fear, or, to put it using the terms you included above, the growth is decelerated by the Malthusian fears. So it still strikes me as an accurate use of the term if we read the section properly. I think it's useful to highlight that the whole point of the article is discussing the negative impacts of Malthusian outlooks rather than economic abundance. With that framing, the section headings are referring back to the central theme, which is Malthusian fears- again, under that view, that section is discussing how focusing on Malthusian fears is actively harming outcomes and decreasing the amount of economic prosperity and abundance societies are experiencing.

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"Maybe in previous columns, but I still read that section the way you're defining the usage of the term above."

I like this reading! If that's what Matt intended, then I apologize to him, profusely.

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I agree with the piece and the policy prescriptions regarding growth. However I think it's helpful to look outside the US where we can (hopefully) be a bit more dispassionate.

Think about the situation in Sweden, where anti immigration sentiment has broadly been on the rise and changed their politics in important ways. It isn't hard to figure out the reason if you do a little digging. Since they have resettled huge numbers of people from Africa and the Middle East they have been experiencing hundreds of grenade and other explosive device attacks, linked to these communities. While not America, there has also been an increase in high profile homicides involving firearms (I know, in Europe where guns don't even exist!). They are still not remotely on American levels of criminal violence or homicide, but they've never experienced anything like it in modern times. Do we really have to wonder why this registers with people, perhaps more than technocratic arguments about growing prosperity, built on population growth? Even where those arguments are basically right? I don't think so.

What it says to me, is that in order for those technocratic arguments to prevail, the perception of immigration needs to be that it is orderly, and involves both assimilation and immigrants who are themselves very ready and willing to assimilate.

Our issues in the US are of course far less acute than Sweden, in the sense that we are not bringing in people from war zones with religious beliefs and customs that may be fundamentally incompatible with secular modernity. However, our immigrants do bring central American gangs and associated problems with them. And they do overwhelm immigration infrastructure in highly visible ways, to say nothing of the violation of peoples' fundamental sense of fairness when immigrants are allowed to enter and work illegally. Even a perfect immigration system will have opposition and there will be some xenophobia. But, as Matt is fond of reminding us, there are cross pressured voters and people can switch their preferences based on how issues of public policy are managed and presented.

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Dec 20, 2023Liked by Ben Krauss

>However, our immigrants do bring central American gangs and associated problems with them.<

It's possible Americans' views on immigration would grow more negative if the majority of its newcomers were (to use your phrase) "people from war zones with religious beliefs and customs that may be fundamentally incompatible with secular modernity." I might well be less gung ho about immigration myself were this the case.

But, just to correct what is perhaps a misperception: the overwhelming evidence, I think, suggests that, in the United States at least (though maybe not elsewhere), immigrants tend to be *more* law-abiding than native-born American citizens. This is likely a big part of the reason New York City enjoys relatively low rates of violent crime, for instance. It's also, I think, why the same can often be said of many places near the country's border with Mexico.

Donald Trump would love to have us all think otherwise, but immigrants don't make Americans unsafe.

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I don't necessarily disagree as far as it goes but I think it also misses the argument. If the choice is a lot of peaceful immigrants but also MS-13 now operates in your city or no immigrants a significant number of people will pick no immigrants. If you want broad based support for a lot of immigrants you need to convince those people that the MS-13 base isn't inevitable.

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Except MS-13 grew out of the particulars of how our immigration system interacted with Salvadoran politics at the end of the Cold War. It was founded in LA.

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Do you think that hurts or helps the argument I am making?

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The peculiarities of how immigration enforcement helped MS -13 make it a bad example. The Italian Mafia would be a much better example. It was a clear case of an immigrant group bringing a pre-existing foreign criminal network into the US. The Wall Street bombing was carried out by an Italian anarchist. When the Italian Mafia started in the US, the seeds of Italian fascism were already coalescing. However, if a modern person today said that Italians shouldn't have been allowed to immigrate to the US, nobody would take such a person seriously today.

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"However, if a modern person today said that Italians shouldn't have been allowed to immigrate to the US, nobody would take such a person seriously today."

I have little interest in 2nd-guessing the immigration choices from 100 years ago to say "should" or "shouldn't". But I am interested in learning from history and recognizing that Italian immigrants brought a form of organized crime with them that was uniquely dangerous to the state and costly to our shared prosperity. In some alternate history universe where the mafia grew from the 1970s instead of shrunk, it could have pushed us in a very bad direction.

I think it's worth recognizing that and not too easily shrugging our shoulders and saying "it all worked out for the best".

There's not an immigrant-based organized crime equivalent to the mafia that I'm aware of, unless MS-13 and the like is growing into aa more serious problem than I think, but if there were one I would take it seriously.

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Sounds like disallowing Salvadorans the right to immigrate would have avoided this problem entirely.

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If we'd disallowed Italians the right to immigrate, we wouldn't have the Mafia! Problem solved, no? Kick all the Italians out? Individual people are collectively responsible for crimes committed by other members of their ethnic group?

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Or if we hadn’t deported young men who grew up in LA to Central America in the 90s we also would have avoided it and those immigrants would likely be law abiding workers in the US.

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Especially since the fast and chaotic way the deportations were carried out played a role in the growth of the gang.

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No, gangs form because law enforcement policies in the area make the economics right. If the Salvadoreans hadn't been in LA to form MS-13, somebody else in LA would have done so, and they would have been deported to some other country. Chances are, that other country would also have had as weak a rule of law as El Salvador, and then we're back to same situation. (Now, it is true that if we had no immigration to LA/the US, then we couldn't have deported the members of this MS-13 analogue, b/c they'd all be US citizens. But do we really want to eliminate all immigration towards that end? It seems much easier just to reform LA policing to eliminate the tendency to form gangs.)

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"No, gangs form because law enforcement policies in the area make the economics right."

Then why did the Italian Mafia form and grow into the form it took while Irish and Jewish mafias withered within a generation? The economics were almost entirely the same.

Also, economics in low-income LA is little different from other big cities, but the gang structures there are entirely different and much more organized and terriorial.

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deletedDec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023
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I think a lot of that goes away when you control for age and sex. Illegal immigrants are disproportionately young and male.

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Can you link your sources? Genuinely curious.

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Thanks!

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

All of this stands for the proposition, which I think is correct, that aesthetic notions of pastoralism and purity and nostalgia are doing a lot of the work that Matt is instead assigning to Malthusian fears of scarcity.

The two are not the same thing, and I see more of the former on these issues. When you zoom narrowly in on NIMBY political activism there's a stronger note of that scarcity fear, especially around parking, but even there I think sheer resistance to change and things not being "the way they've always been" drives a lot of it.

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Is crime a Malthusian concern? I don't think it is, because crime is more about safety than resources. Your point, while important for immigration policy, seems tangential to Matt's argument.

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It’s so depressing how western elites basically refuse to acknowledge this until it’s too late and they’re replaced by the far right.

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Egalitarianism acknowledges gaps and seeks to close them. This is more accurately to be termed cultural nihilism.

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“Are” and “should be” aren’t the same thing, and most of the time they are in fact contradictory propositions.

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Absolutely. Immigration policy requires discernment and where applied well I think it really does create the kind of win-win scenario we all should want.

What we shouldn't be is blind to what happens in democratic societies when the policy seems to have become divorced from normal mechanics of popular government. If there's anything that Trump, Brexit, and the reinvigorated European far right should tell us it's that this particular issue when not dealt with well can be the source of cascading political crisis that are losses for everyone, and where the technocratic math won't work out the way it does on paper.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

Did he? Poilievre is blaming rising cost of living on housing!

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"Had Sweden taken in Vietnamese and Indians and Brazilians instead of its current mix, it would have fewer problems."

I think it's worth remembering that most Vietnamese/Indians/Brazilians emigrate voluntarily, whereas the Syrians did so relatively involuntarily. Voluntary immigrants typically have a plan for how to do better in their destination country, and a fewer ties to their homeland which makes it easier for them to immigrate. Involuntary immigrants may long for their homeland and find themselves adrift in their new home, both of which make it harder to assimilate and find a law-abiding profession.

(Incidentally, this suggests that a country which restricts immigration until most migrants are asylum-seekers might well be shooting itself in the foot.)

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I mean, did we think that about the Vietnamese when they came here, or did we think they’d be parasites? I genuinely don’t know.

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The biggest argument against taking in Vietnamese refugees, to the best of my knowledge, was that communist spies were going to sneak into the country as part of it. (I remember arguing with John Birch-types back in the 1990s on conspiracy forums about it. If any of them are still alive, I presume they will think "The Sympathizer" is a hard-hitting documentary when it comes out next year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5VwtC7Yvqo )

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One of my favorite books, though the author is nuts. 😍

But would this really be different than refusing to accept Muslims because they might be terrorists?

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tEHy ARe lULliNG uS IntO cOMpLaCeNcy!!1!!

No, seriously, that's what these guys would argue if you pointed out that waiting 15+ years (this whole discussion took place after the fall of the Soviet Union!) to activate sleeper cells seemed like a dubious plan.

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Much like Cuban-Americans, and I presume for similar reasons!

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author

There's obviously good policy proposals about shifting to an immigration system that incentivizes the arrival of more doctors, etc, along with granting asylum to the people that need it. But total exclusion of certain groups is wrong and doesn't seem very American to me.

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You may think it's "not American" to fear immigrants who view women as inferior, will make gay men fear walking the streets, and mean the Jews can no longer go to public schools. Many of your fellow Americans whose life will be ruined as a result will beg to differ.

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The issue that I don't think these views are hereditary man. Just because some members of various ethnic groups feel that way doesn't mean their children will. Anyways, I don't see a problem with immigrants importing these kind of views *to the US* (I agree Europe is a different kettle of fish). Frankly, we have enough of these views from the natives.....

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Of course, we can't exclude certain groups without specifying what they are. So which ethnicities or nationalities should be excluded from American society?

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I don't think we need a blanket exclusion from some countries, but a much stricter standard for admission would be reasonable. I know a professor originally from Syria, for example, and it would have been a shame if he had *absolutely* no way to come.

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I too think we should have a big guest worker program, but with some paths to normalization, like moving up in the immigration line if you live here and work temporarily and commit no crime, perhaps getting credits per tour of duty, so to speak. I want us to be able to build like Japan and China. Let’s build a lot, driving down construction wages and getting the infrastructure we need, then pay citizen tradesmen to maintain it (preferably salaried, not contractors). It’s important to be smart about it!

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I don't think that analogy works because African-Americans are already Americans by definition. It's a little like if you described a person with whatever sort of problem. If they were your sister or brother or kid it it would have to be a pretty horribly bad problem for most people to consider severing ties with them. But if the person was being considered for marriage INTO your family then that's another situation entirely.

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At the very least it was bad for diplomacy. I’m sure there were some groans in the State Department when that remark came out.

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>> there will always be a minority who dissent from their own cultures and who would be good fits for a Western life

Yes, but you need to propose a policy that actively seeks those out. I am reminded of the boat of refugees/migrants from ME where the muslim asylum seekrs on the boat pushed the christians out (to their death at sea!) before arriving to Europe's shores. The typical far leftiss can't conceive what most healthy adults know: you can be both a victims and a perpetrator at the very same time, both have bad and unjust things happen to you and be unjust, both be a victim of bigotry and racism and a bigot and racist etc. etc.

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Just to nitpick, I wouldn't say necessarily smarter but definitely more resourceful and resilient.

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To bad elite unviersities now increasingly refuse to look at SATs!

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I know multiple people here in Boise that complain about the fast growth that's happening here, and just wish that it would either stop, or they could move to some place smaller. Eventually with one of these people, it got to the point where I said "Well, if you're whining about wanting to move so much, why don't you do it?" He said that aren't enough jobs in where he wants to move. So I asked him why that is. He eventually said there's not enough customers where he wants to move. So I observed what can create more customers. At this point he senses I've used economist brain on him, he knows the answer is "growth", and he says he can't wait to be able to retire to he doesn't have to worry about that and can go off to his super small town paradise.

I let the conversation end at that point, but even then, that's not enough. I think it demonstrates that being able to thrive in a low population community means that you have some sort of established privilege of wealth that gives you the resources to thrive in such a community. But even then, who is going to produce the goods and services you want to consume with your wealth? People!

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

I'm one of these people, in that I strongly dislike being in high density areas. Like...I don't want to deal with the traffic, and definitely not public transport, and definitely definitely not direct personal proximity to other people.

That being said, I like having a good paying job and some minimal access to the goods and services that an urban center provides.

So I like living in the distant periphery of urban areas. Access (though not close/easy) and yet away from most people.

Increased growth/density pushes what was formerly a peripheral area into the core, and I hate that, and it inconveniences me because I have to either deal with the hated proximity to others, or uproot and move further out (only for the process to repeat in 10-15 years).

It's not the end of the world, but I don't like it. And while I rationally know that the world is not static and I have to deal with it to some extent, that doesn't mean that I'm not going to resist to a certain degree.

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Yeah, I don't have a problem with people disliking things--we all do!--as long as we acknowledge tradeoffs, which you do here.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

I think it's a rate of growth thing.

If the country embraced Matt's One Billion Americans concept and immigration skyrocketed...the peripheral area-to-core transition process is going to accelerate.

Which means that I cannot reasonably adapt by moving further out. It would be too frequent and the recurring cost would be too high.

I suspect that a lot of people like me have at least some dim intuition of the process, and even though they cannot verbalize it, they know it is real and it drives resistance.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

I think even most of the commentariat here isn’t actually literally in favor of 1 billion people here.

I have been there and done that and am deeply aware of the trade-offs of those sorts of population densities.

I support a combination of pro-natalist policy (and cultural norms) and immigration that lets us hit the 2000’s projection of 450-500 million Americans at century’s end, with a balance tilted towards skilled immigrants that enhances strategic competitiveness, increases growth, and supercharges demand for working class labor to force wage compression.

No more is necessary and too much more is undesirable.

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"I think even most of the commentariat here isn’t actually literally in favor of 1 billion people here."

Raises hand - I'm down for it. Amusingly, I'm probably closer to Belisarius point of view than you are based on your discussions about living in Philly. But the key thing is that if you actually followed Matt's prescriptions on zoning and allowing density, then you would have places get much more dense, but still have lots of exurbs that weren't that densely populated.

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Ehh, you’re dramatically underestimating what it takes to house a billion people at developed word standards and the immense trade-offs.

This would make me rich as shit with my real estate holdings, but it’d be a terrible idea overall and likely push our birth rate down to East Asian levels.

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I love public transit but man I hate traffic

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Everyone hates traffic. And honestly, when I am alone I don't mind public transit *that* much.

But I'm a physically fit adult male.

The thought of being forced to take my wife and 4 kids on some of the public transit I've used is...distressing.

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My adage is that I run into five people a day on public transit who would improve my life if they didn't exist.

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I believe you. I don’t know your city, but Seattle’s has gotten less safe since I’ve lived here. NYC’s is pretty good. LA it depends where you are. DC’s is awesome and feels very safe. And in PDX you just have to get used to folks beating their meat in public...

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Sorry, I'm just boggling at the idea of public transit, of all things, being a sketchy place.

I live in a country that has a separate police force specifically for public transit (BTP) and which doesn't tolerate disruption on buses or trains.

The worst I've ever experienced is a bunch of drunks being boisterous and intimidating other people into joining in (like, they start a singalong and scare other people into joining in). If they do make enough trouble, someone has a quiet word with the guard and BTP are waiting to pick them up when they get off. It can still be quite scary, especially when it's a big enough group that the rest of you are outnumbered, but I don't personally know of a case that went beyond that.

Talking to friends, the only other stories I hear are all the women who got some unpleasant guy who hit on them and couldn't take a hint, including many who would follow them off the train or bus - resulting in some women having to break a tail so they could safely get home without this scary potential stalker knowing where they lived. Awful, but I don't think that's a public transit problem - you hear the same stories about bars and gyms and stores and, well, anywhere a woman is out in public.

I can't imagine someone masturbating on a bus or train: they'd be arrested pronto. And our police are far from the most efficient. But the guard or driver would contact police and they'd meet the vehicle.

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NYC is the most extensive subway system, but DC is what modern transit in the US should strive for - beautiful, clean and safe. It’s always a pleasure taking it and it’s the best way to take a family to the Smithsonian’s. I think part of why it’s so great (not just because it’s beautiful) is there always seems to be police/metro employees patrolling.

Meanwhile taking BART in SF is hell

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There’s disorder on the subway in NYC because there’s so much subway, but there is a heavy police presence and NYPD don’t play.

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Exactly - I suspect people's attitudes about public transit are influenced by whether they're dealing with eastern or western systems (i.e. the population density and non-sprawl city grids supporting the system) plus whether they actually live in an urban area which would probably be a condo or apartment. I use Portland's system all the time but not at night. It's fine as far as I'm concerned. I've seen those disgusting things but since I ride often one event doesn't turn me against the system forever.

(Actually, one of the first times I rode a bus in L.A. county in the 70s someone urinated in the back of the bus. Nothing new here.)

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I've only used Sound Transit but when I'm there I've been lucky so far to have had no problems. Probably a function of traveling at pretty high volume times of days where there's less room for shenanigans. I used to use the MAX all the time when I lived in Portland 20 years ago but I take people's word that that's changed considerably. Now when I'm there it seems like I always have my car by happenstance anyway.

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I think we’re in backlash mode and improved safety is slowly on the way. At least I hope so

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It's interesting how much better my commute has become with autopilot. Hit the highway and set it and forget it. It's perfect for stop and go rush hour traffic. Urban congestion is still brutal and I avoid at all costs.

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Those systems are safe and pleasant because of a comprehensive social contract and the institutions supporting it, which are in turn contingent on features of demographics and history.

We clearly can't get there with transportation policy alone, and it's not obvious that something as narrowly constructed as "enforcement" could do it either.

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NYCT as of 2019 was overwhelmingly safe and pleasant, this isn't some foreign magic that's only available to JR East

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It's all predicated on getting the right immigrants.

I see no realistic pathway to stopping illegal immigration, much less transitioning to a points-based system.

The GOP is non-functional/AWOL, and enough of the Dem coalition likes the current situation well enough to nix any improvements.

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I've always hated traffic too--that's why I always plotted to live in areas close to downtown that were within bikeable distance, which also avoids the inconvenience of mass transit.

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I’m a bad driver, so I really love comprehensive transit. I wish it were driverless so they could build lots of low ridership routes, to everywhere. Even if it pisses off the Amalgamated Transit Union.

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I have little tolerance for dumb driving that slows traffic down. It puts me in a bad state of mind, so best to just avoid driving as much as I can--and that's good for several other reasons, as well.

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Yeah. IIRC you live in Seattle too, and there’s a lot of passive-aggressive driving…

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This is why increasingly density is *good*. It prevents urban sprawl, which continue to push communities further and further out. Building up and in would decrease that. Ideally we would build enough that everyone one can find their little nook and be happy.

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You should be a YIMBY then, and specifically (1) support policies that allow incremental development further in, (2) support congestion pricing on roads, and (3) oppose further expansion of roadways into the periphery.

The way things work now, economically thriving cities spread out much more than they would otherwise because development where infrastructure already exists is highly restricted and new infrastructure to support outward expansion is heavily subsidized by federal and state programs.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

Creating density is naturally more costly than sprawling.

I would be happy with the end result of hyper-dense core and then hinterland, with a relatively sharp boundary...but it isn't realistic.

And I don't want to spend my political energy (or my compatriots political energy) in trying to hold back the tide. It is a losing battle and we would be too depleted to fight effectively in other areas.

I'd rather restrict immigration (especially illegal) to starve the beast.

But I'll reconsider if you can lay out a convincing battle plan that would work.

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Density is *less* expensive than sprawl, because infrastructure costs are mostly incurred per land area served, not number of units. If you spread the same fixed costs over more households, then there's far more tax revenue to work with. In fact, most very low density areas are losing money net in the cost of public services, while high density areas subsidize them.

But more to the point, I don't think "most people live in towers and then there's a sharp edge" is realistic or desirable. Rather we underestimate how many people could live within existing developed areas *not in towers* but just in... townhomes. You could triple the population of a place like Dallas or Atlanta with infill and it would still only be less dense than Los Angeles -- and the LA metro is almost entirely 1-2 story buildings. To get to DC or San Francisco townhome dominated development you'd need to go 4-6 times as many people living in the existing major sunbelt cities, and minor cities / small towns it's more like like 8-10 times as much population.

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founding

I don’t think the claim being made is that growth will take the form of high density up to a sudden edge - it’s rather that as the metro area grows, every area will be adding people. Former farmland becomes low density, low density gets built out with single family homes, single family home neighborhoods start getting apartments, and apartment neighborhoods get mid rises and eventually high rises.

Under the current regime, almost all the growth take place in the rural-to-single-family transition, but if the single-family neighborhoods that were already surrounded by miles of solid development did some growing, then the rural fringe wouldn’t have to convert to single family quite so fast.

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It's tough to say whether density is naturally more costly than sprawl when artificial thumbs on the scale are being placed in the form of regulations suppressing density.

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The Netherlands is like that! Mid-rise apartment buildings abutting farmland. Wild.

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Well known anti-immigrant Toronto is also like that, it goes from cornfields to denser development than any American single family suburb (and would be even more dense if not for regulation)

http://tinyurl.com/rpdwm9ex

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My understanding is that the Toronto area was built on an alluvial (if I'm using that word correctly?) floodplain that is insanely nutrient-rich and thus great farmland. Whereas the rest of Canada is probably abysmally bad for growing crops, etc. Countries do prefer to grow as much food in-house as they can/not be reliant on other countries, so Canada may (not saying this is 100% right) prevent too much development in the Canadian breadbasket to support that

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How is the duck density relative to say Denmark?

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It's been realistic in Oregon for fifty years - you'd have to see it to believe it. But it's definitely a tradeoff that involves higher housing costs. At least we're not trying to invent urban growth boundaries from scratch in the 21st c.

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Fully agreed, and in fact this is the primary reason I am a YIMBY.

We are not going to realistically slow down population growth anytime soon, and in fact greater population brings economic rewards – this is true on the national, state, and metro level.

However, I am genuinely in favor of preserving (and expanding) protected natural areas in a way that is inconsistent with greater population growth in this country…

…that is, unless you clear away insane regulations within already urbanized areas to make them denser. That way, you can accommodate a significant chunk of population growth without infringing upon the countryside / natural area frontier.

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1 and 2 make sense, but I'm not sure about 3. Certainly maintaining the roads that are already there might be a priority. But the anti-road crowd has gotten in the way of replacing a 100-year-old bridge across a major river: who knows who or what will be crossing the new bridge in another 150 years? Why not build as much capacity as we can afford and close lanes later...

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Because we already have built more than we can afford to maintain, and in general it makes more sense to maintain infrastructure that people's lives already depend on than to build new stuff while neglecting existing stuff.

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People just don’t like *change*. Which makes sense, ever since the 90s change has been for the worse!*

People want stability. And when you get your little bungalow on your little plot of land in a place where the amenities you want are close, you become fiercely protective of it. It’s hard enough to get by.

And the older you get, change gets fking harder!

It sucks that for things to stay the same, as the population fluctuates and as generational preferences change, things have to change!

But I just turned 41 and want to reverse most of the changes.

*minus Obamacare and Ozempic

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"Ever since [INSERT YEAR I TURNED 18] all change has been bad."

:p

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Having kids is what flipped me over into conservative-land.

The world can and will and must (to some extent) change. But while I am raising kids, I want a known landscape (physical, social, cultural) and stability.

Otherwise it increases the risk that my kids are ruined by being exposed to bad influences at a critical stage of development.

And if they are known existing bad influences, I feel more confident in my ability to safely guide them through the gauntlet.

But newer influences (hello cell phones and tiktok) that I didn't experience...I cannot do that with the same degree of confidence.

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Isn’t that the whole point of parenting? Navigating you and your family through change, and teaching your kids how to do so effectively?

The reality is everything changes, all the time. No matter how much we want to, things will never be the same

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That's part of parenting, yes.

And there will always be change. But the rate of change, and types of change, are clearly very important.

Both in and of themselves, and in how they impact ones ability to parent effectively.

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I would home school kids if I had them and could, especially through middle school. Preferably while traveling the world, since neither of those things would happen. I would almost want to live off the grid if I had kids bc I wouldn’t want them to see ads half the hours of the day (nor would I want the expectation of getting them an iPhone in pre-K!)

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It's not as bad as all that. Apply the same discount to media alarmism over modern childhood that you would to media alarmism over e.g. climate change. The problems are real but addressable, and are a result of generally much improved quality of life compared to the past.

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I just see all the ads, man. I also see how kindergarteners have iPhones when I had to pay for my own pager from working at McDs in high school. And I also fell in with a bad crowd in middle school, which is when I think it usually happens.

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My kids are in 3rd grade and AFAIK none of their classmates have phones or have had phones. We're at a charter but my nephews also don't seem to be in schools with phones.

Where are you seeing this? (We're in Austin)

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I think the absolute level of economic possibility in small towns has probably never been higher, but I suspect that the gap between the economic possibilities in small towns and large cities has still been growing. I think of internet access and package delivery as the things that make it seem like it doesn’t matter where you live - but I discovered on moving from Brazos County, TX to Orange County, CA that I got more choices of ISP with faster speeds, and instead of two day delivery with occasional one day options, I now get one day delivery with some same-day options. (Drone delivery is being tested out in College Station, but it still sounds extremely restricted, and my bet is that it will expand in Orange County to overtake Brazos County, as soon as it is proved viable.) A greater and greater fraction of businesses now depends on access to people, rather than to physically extracted resources, and so the advantages of big urban areas are still growing.

You can live in a small town now and feel like you’re not missing out on things because you are terminally online, and you can get a fully remote tech or service job. But you still won’t run into the people that will enable you to create a new genre of music or an innovative new company.

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I find it very confusing how many people are motivated by the prospect of quicker delivery (in my mind, under a week seems great) but I accept that I am idiosyncratic in that way.

Internet speeds and competition, true. That point is becoming less salient, however, as many smaller cities or small towns are getting broadband internet access.

I think fundamentally the issue is with the quality of the population, which is a coordination issue. If every other bright, creative young person decides that three-day shipping and slightly slower internet is fine, and they stay in the small town, then I am happy to be there with them. If they all leave, on the other hand, then we have a real issue.

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That might be part of it, but the idea that small towns are economically as viable as ever is just false. An econ professor of mine loves showing a chart that showed net business creation in the wake of the three most recent recessions. He called it the Nightmare Chart and reliably refers back to it at least once a week. The whole argument is laid out in the intro to a substack he wrote here https://lppapers.substack.com/p/lp47-ro-khanna-and-the-nightmare but the main takeaway is that there was no net growth in the number of incorporated businesses in rural counties after the 2008 crash. Rural America got the recession, but never got a recovery. My speculation is that that's probably improved marginally since the introduction of work from home, but the agglomeration effects of the modern economy have not been kind to rural places and I think there's no easy answers. Rural areas are just structurally disadvantaged in a country where most value is coming from services.

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So you go to Middlebury? I went to Middlebury!...20 years ago. How are things there?

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Dec 21, 2023·edited Dec 21, 2023

To be honest dude... bad. I grew up hearing stories of the college (had family that graduated '90.5, I'm '24.5) but it's nothing like I've heard about pre pandemic, let alone in the late 80s. Campus politics is a game of hostage taking and bad faith accusations, and the only real defense is not getting involved. The administration is so focused on good press that they can't focus on the mission of the college; I'm a biochem major, and the chemistry department is so understaffed that the first time I could take organic chem II was in senior year. I have a friend that's a history major because the comp sci department literally couldn't accept more students, even though they applied to Midd for comp sci. Meanwhile multimillion dollar donations are going into programs that I'm hoping will get the college featured on Fox & Friends, if only because I think that kind of exposure might make the college finally stop throwing money at guest speakers that three students attend or our (fifth) VP position related to DEI.

I'm also the president of one of the campus social houses and they're trying to kick us off campus for good, as they have three times since I joined, not realizing that if that social house isn't there the only parties campus has left are the sports teams' parties in Atwater (where all the Title IX complaints come from.)

Overall great professors, some really cool classmates, but not a great environment to learn in and a social scene that might as well be a blood sport. I don't think I would have been happier elsewhere, but I wouldn't recommend anyone join me in attending. Always fun to encounter another MiddKid in the wild though!

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Wow. That sounds...bad. I graduated in ‘07, and while there was the usual college bullshit, it was amazing. I had a rocky first year adjusting to the social scene (I had never been around so many kids from truly wealthy backgrounds before) and figuring out what the hell I wanted to major in, but starting sophomore year just dived the hell in. I was in the first ever academic year (as opposed to summer school) Arabic class; I fell in love with geography and art history (I’m now a geography professor, and my fantasy is, or rather was, to return to Middlebury one day); I went to concerts and lectures and films; I joined a band and played shows, including the social house circuit; I did a jazz show at WRMC and vastly expanded my musical knowledge; I started road biking into the Champlain Valley; I went skiing at Breadloaf and the downhill area whose name I don’t remember. I learned and loved learning. In short, I had an amazing - admittedly privileged - college experience, and it makes me so sad to see my (UK) students today, who actively do not give a shit about university and/or are too damaged by all the things we are told they are damaged by to have any investment at all in it.

It also makes me sad to hear that Middlebury has been ravaged by - how I hate this term - wokeness. That really sucks, but it does seem like a feature of American academia that’s not going away any time soon (“cures” like the University of Austin seem worse than the disease), and helps convince me that it’s better to pursue my career in Europe, where we simply don’t have that problem in the same way. Actually, now that I think of it, if you end up wanting to pursue an advanced degree, Europe is not a bad option at all - happy to make recommendations if you’re interested!

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Thank you, and I'll definitely keep that in mind! Intending to go into the military as a pilot post-graduation, but there's always a second life after that and I'd like to end up back in the sciences at some point.

Reading what I wrote yesterday I was perhaps a little too negative; there's definitely huge positives to the college, and I think I focused on the bad. There are some incredible opportunities up here, particularly for anyone who loves the outdoors, and I think my perspective is also colored by the fact that my first semester was during the Covid years. Some of my best memories are the walks some friends and I have taken each May we've been at the college from Midd to the Lake Champlain Bridge. I do stand by what I wrote though.

I hadn't really thought of it before you picked it out but it feels like there's a similar attitude towards college here that you describe from your students. A relatively small part of the student body holds everyone else hostage, and so those of us who're trying to get a degree end up feeling trapped, hating the school, and that feeling snowballs until you just feel poisoned against the whole idea of college.

Definitely in agreement that any "cure" to this problem so far proposed is worse than the original; hopefully the college will fulfill its promise at some point in the near future, and you can return to it as a proud alumnus.

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“The real issue with most small towns is that they are boring and culturally regressive places to live often with significant social dysfunctions that you can’t escape the way you could in a bigger city, and this doesn’t fit with people’s rosy-eyed view of them.”

This was *exactly* my experience with small town life during the pandemic. I didn’t have an especially rosy view of it before, it was a (fortunately temporary) move driven by very unusual circumstances. But yeah, no way do I ever want to do that again (though “small city” might be ok at some point).

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Bigger cities have more than enough social dysfunction of their own. It's a rare day that I can't identify five people who make my life worse by their presence and existence riding public transit. Turns out that zero reputational cost, near-zero enforcement and ubiquitous anomie has its own problems.

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Yeah, the US really needs to sort out its law enforcement problem for urban living there to work. You need police to enforce the laws in a fair and even-handed way; the US seems (from the outside) to swing between not enforcing at all, and enforcing aggressively, unfairly, and with massive bias.

Every time I see a US real-life cop show (not a police procedural), the combination of fear and aggression that every cop has in every encounter with a suspected criminal is terrifying. They're clearly convinced that everyone is out to get them, which results in levels of aggression that are inevitably going to anger big fractions of the public.

I don't know how the US breaks this spiral, but you need to have the situation where normies feel like they can contact the police when someone is acting up on public transit and have confidence that the police will come and will act proportionately. At the moment, the combination of fearing the police won't come and fearing that the police will seriously injure or kill the person who was acting up puts a lot of people off contacting the police.

The 50-year-old church-going African-American woman who is the base of the Democratic party is not going to call police if there are a couple of black guys in their twenties smoking crack in the subway car. A challenge: how to you get to a police that she would call?

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Yeah - and the UK (where you and I live) is not exactly exemplary in this regard (see e.g. recent damning report on the Met Police) - but it definitely seems _better_ than the US situation.

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I think the equivalent 50-year-old Black British woman (probably of Jamaican descent) would call BTP and would probably call the Met, where the US version would not call the NYPD.

There is a great deal to be improved about British policing, but it does seem that the police do accept that the criticisms show there is something wrong that they could improve - where the US police don't even think they're doing anything wrong.

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There’s been a bit of a negative feedback loop w.r.t labor quality in policing, because as the cops lose more reputation, the higher-quality candidates increasingly select out of the applicant pool. Matt has written about this before.

Of course, the other issue is that cops in the US do have significantly more reason to believe that everyone is out to get them. Homicide rates are way higher here than in Europe! Plus, everyone you stop and arrest could have a gun. In general, the odds of a random encounter turning violent is very salient for officers in a way that I think is difficult to address.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023Liked by Ben Krauss

I think it's important to realize that most of America is built on a suburban development pattern that does not scale well at all. Car dependency results in a step function, even in the absence of development restrictions, you can't economically develop housing incrementally - you have big jumps between how many units you can fit with tuck-under parking / two-car wide row-houses -> the number of units you need to pay for a parking garage. So you spend a long time where the local demand exceeds what can be parked, and prices have to rise as a result, and then finally you get this big discontinuity in development where after a LONG time of just "houses" you suddenly get big apartment buildings. People don't like that discontinuity.

But it's worse than that, because conventional traffic engineering creates long drives from every A to B on purpose in order to discourage "through traffic," and funnels all cars to a limited number of poorly connected roads. This creates a nightmare where the only locations that are viable for businesses to locate are the exact locations that need to have local access banned (no driveways) just so traffic can flow. In the US we don't restrict curb cuts very much, so commercial development happens and now the travel time skyrockets and the experience becomes miserable.

So, in suburbia, adding more people truly does lower the quality of life for the people who live there. And since that pattern of development is required by law, we can't just build new neighborhoods better and fix the problem. This is a major challenge that won't be easy to overcome.

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Could this comment be expanded into a guest post that includes some examples/illustrations of real places in America where this dynamic exists, and suggestions for some of us suburbanites on what (if anything) there is to do about it?

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I've been thinking about a "medium length" explainer on this stuff that would be easy to understand for interested readers. It's kind of simple math... but at the same time, it's stuff that most people have never thought about before, so it feels like you have to explain a lot setup and supporting context before you get to the lightbulb moment at the end.

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I would love to read this kind of guest post!

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Thank you! You’re 100% right.

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I wonder if working from home will help with the issue you identified as well as the some of the issues identified by others in the thread.

While working from a small town is definitely not helpful to new professionals, those who have established networks, and are in a compatible profession, can work anywhere. When talking about congestion, it would not take a large percentage of people moving out of urban centers to dramatically reduce congestion.

Hopefully this will help...

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I see pros and cons. For any given small town, WFH is a blessing as it allows relatively high income people to live there who otherwise would have to live in a major city. But because we haven't been building enough housing, small towns that become "popular" can quickly go from affordable to very expensive, and then the locals whose wages made sense at the previous low cost of living experience a lot of pain and displacement.

The solution, as MY so often points out, is that we have to build enough housing to soak up demand. But it does take time to get home building going in places that haven't been growing for a long time...

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

What you describe as quasi Malthusian thinking sounds like what many have labeled zero-sum thinking. We currently live in a positive sum world unless we deliberately sabotage the creation of housing and amenities. There are neo-Malthusians out there (degrowthers are the most notable example.)

Zero-sum problems become more pronounced when we think about labor heavy services, like education, where we don’t have economies of scale or innovations that let us scale supply. There are only so many seats at Harvard, so many magnet schools, so many daycare workers, etc. As people become wealthier they demand more of these services, but our ability to scale them and keep costs down are limited for a variety of reasons (some easily addressable, others not.)

Where am I going with this? Eh, we should figure out ways to lower costs to provide housing and service, and MattY is right even if I feel the Malthus framing trapezoids more than squares.

(Also a big factor driving the end of Malthusian dynamics has been the fertility transition. Right now much of the world is riding the tail end of the demographic dividend.)

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I agree - Malthusian thinking is a special case of zero-sum thinking. Malthusian thinking mostly applies to real resources like food and housing, but zero-sum thinking is broader, and in some cases still accurate.

Look at the Ivy League admissions debate - when there's a limited number of slots, admitting more Black students necessarily means admitting fewer Asian (and white, but mostly Asian) students, because there are currently a fixed number of slots. But Harvard et al. could just increase their class sizes, moving away from a zero-sum game.

On the other hand, in things like sports and electoral politics, things are inherently zero-sum. One team wins, the other has to lose. One person gets elected, another can't be. And in an increasingly attention-driven winner-take-all economy, zero-sum competition is getting more common.

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Sports are not really zero sum if the goal is to provide entertainment and you look at an aggregate level. This is why there is cooperation in some sports where they have drafting and try to keep things competitive.

But that is just me being a bit silly with a rabbit hole, your main point still stands.

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Labor heavy services are generally not zero sum, status is partially zero sum. If you have more people you can have more teachers and in theory we could have more Harvards but what makes Harvard Harvard is it's rarity.

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The failure to price scarce resources creates some zero -sum thinking.

If a new more dense housing development come to a neighborhood where people are used to parking free on the street they are going to experience a decline in parking convenience. If parking was time of day priced and homeowners got a cut of the revenue from in from of their houses, the inconvenience would be compensated; they might even come out ahead. and everyone would face the real cost of using urban space for storing a automobile.

Ditto traffic congestion

Ditto surface and underground water

Ditto CO2 emissions.

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My favorite part about the complaints of "newcomers" is that there's never a dividing line between "us" and "the newcomers".

I've been living in my town for 6 years now, and yet NIMBYs around here *still* think I should "go back" and leave them alone.

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Of course there's a dividing line, everyone who was there when the person moved there is "us", and everyone that arrives after the person moved there is "newcomers".

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“Everyone driving faster than me is an asshole and everyone driving slower than me is an idiot.”

This logic explains college commies as well.

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Dec 20, 2023·edited Dec 20, 2023

I almost used that George Carlin quote, although he called the fast drivers maniacs instead, which I think fits perfectly.

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Or:

"Everyone wants to be the last person to move to <place>... except for maybe two or three of their closest friends."

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May I never become *that* kind of newcomer. What fuckheadery!

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Man, you should talk to people who have lived in Seattle for like 20 years and how they pine for old Seattle. Im like “this is nostalgia for your early 20s boo” bc they inevitably look at it through the most rosy of glasses.

Seattle does everything well but housing and crime (of course related). It even is starting to handle housing quite well by YIMBY standards, but the wheels of development turn slow, especially when interest rates and construction costs are high af.

This is the biggest reason to have high immigration - to flood the construction labor market bc and reduce labor cost so we can afford to build things again!

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As a a Seattleite who's lived here since the mid-to-late 2000's, I make jokes about finally being around long enough to complain about things changing, and there is the occasional store/etc. closing down I'm bummed about, but build, build, build.

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While I agree in the abstract, that hasn’t worked out too well for us in NYC.

There’s no substitute for defeating the NIMBYs. And IMO heightening contradictions is a strategy that backfires more often than it works.

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Agree with you about NYC having different problems - so much inertia, so many veto points! In Seattle in many ways the NIMBYs have been defeated, so what’s next is for the slow process of supply/demand to do it’s thing (which is why cheaper construction costs are a thing I harp on, that and I can’t afford to renovate my house).

Like we’ve been able to have 2 ADUs per main single family detached house for a while now, and the state just passed a law that zoning regs in Seattle can’t restrict you from building up to a 6-plex on a single family lot (if you have 2 “affordable” units) and in the rest of the state you have to allow 4-plexes or duplexes depending on town size. But will people take them up on it? Will Amazon leave, will interest rates stay high? Who knows?

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On some level I want to trust that the councilmember knows what he's saying, but on the other hand "the WA state government is basically imposing growth mandates on all the counties in the state that will become effective in 2025" has at least 3 false statements in it so I'm really not sure.

They are:

"is imposing" the law in question has applied to many counties and cities since 1990

"All counties" no county will be fully exempt anymore, but many rural counties are only partially have to do GMA planning

"In 2025" for Clark County, but due dates vary from 2024-2027. Seattle's comp plan (separate from King County's) was supposed to be finalized this year ahead of the state deadline in June 2024.

Also, the GMA regs aren't really growth mandates: they just require counties to have land use and planning documents.

I say all this not to shit on the councilor, but to say that the NIMBYs are very far from destroyed

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Did you ask whether they consider their city council's likely unanimous support for job creation to likewise be a socialist plot?

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Housing costs generally aren't driven by basic construction costs

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Yeah they are. Maybe they can still build a thing without breaking the bank where you live but not here

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I think he's referring to land costs. Even given the runup in construction costs, land is still the overwhelmingly dominant factor.

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Looking at the middle-ring suburbs of Seattle, it seems like it’s about 1/3 land cost 2/3 construction cost on a $1m, 2400sf house (numbers retrieved from asshole, but I follow real estate trends pretty heavily)

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This is what I love about Chicago: No one here has ever told me to pack up and go back to West (By G-d!) Virginia. Meanwhile, we have Sarah Palin roaming the comments section ranting that fer-uh-ners are a-comin’ to spoil the land with windmills and affordable housing, why won’t they just stay away?

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"I've been living in my town for 6 years now, and yet NIMBYs around here *still* think I should "go back" and leave them alone."

Coincidentally - that's the way I felt when I first read you on these message threads.

SB comment threads are way too dang crowed! Go back to Noahpinion or FDB or AstralCode10 or wherever!

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You'll just have to outlive them. Every year you're longer-tenured than a whole nother cohort lol

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We're into year 8 here and no one has decided we don't belong. It's quite nice.

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It always amazes me how saying that to someone outside the nation would widely be recognized as xenophobic, but is not so at someone within the nation.

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I bet a LOT of the Slow Boring commentariat has been a newcomer to a big city before and this experience has shaped our opinions on the importance of building new housing.

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Before I was a newcomer, I thought the 5-over-1s were ugly and had the same unsettling demeanor as all those fake buildings at Six Flags and Disney World.

But I still couldn't stand NIMBYism. I think for me, being a newcomer didn't really shape my opinion about building *new* housing. It just shaped my opinion about what worked in older forms of urbanism, because I happen to live in that kind of neighborhood.

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The biggest part of my thoughts about it are the fact that there was a vast difference in the cost of living and I couldn’t fathom being in my twenties paying Seattle apt prices. in 2011 I paid $325 a month for a nice prewar studio with gated entrance and gated unlimited parking in a walkable, “cool,” and pretty safe neighborhood. The first house I bought in 2012 was in a really nice neighborhood, it was $125,000. Here my mortgage is upwards of $3200. My mom and sister both live in 10 year old solid brick 3000sf McMansions they paid half what we paid for during the same years. My house has vermiculite and knob and tube and used to periodically flood. It’s just easier to make it in Memphis even though there surely is a wage premium it doesn’t make up for it. I was a homeowner as a student! I was never badly rent burdened, not since undergrad in south FL and even then not truly.

Also, being a newcomer to a city, I don’t have the sentimental attachment to the old and I appreciate all the businesses that are located here (and wish Memphis could just get a small fraction of this growth)! I moved here and rapidly appreciated what I considered to be a thoughtful mix of old and new as it was rapidly building.

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Wait - hold on. Are you talking about renting and buying in 2011 and 2012 in Seattle? Or somewhere else? Because if you’re talking about Seattle, I am feeling like a sucker for paying $1000 / month for a one bedroom at 12th and E. John (admittedly one of the best locations in the city).

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Funny thing for me is that I returned to the city that I was born and raised in. Back then, I just thought that more abundant buildings looked cool, and didn't get why NIMBYs hated them so much. Once I learned why, that got me beyond just the simple cool factor.

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I like more abundant buildings. I like pedestrian friendly. But I like well-built and I like low crime.

I’ll probably move back to my hometown at some point. I would love to. Not that Memphis is low crime by any measure. But I wouldn’t live close to it.

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Our distaste for crowding is primal. In vitro fertilization has not eradicated our taste for sex and crowding will suck even when calories are cheap. My principle objection to One Billion Americans is it under-weighs strictly aesthetic objections to crowding. I would rather live an uncrowded life in a second tier country than engage in great power competition with China.

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Same.

I grew up in a small town in Michigan and currently live in upper Fairfield County, Connecticut.

The small town I grew up in is technically less educated, poorer, and generally "worse" on most of the markers your can measure objectively and chart.

But people in that small town are a lot happier, more content, have more social trust and time for recreation, are less concerned 24/7 with chattering class nonsense, and the bar for the good life is just set a lot lower and is therefore far more achievable to ordinary people. If can afford a little ranch house, a boat, a truck, a cooler of beer for your friends to drink down around a bonfire by the lake (LOL I know it is cliche but it is true), and the occasional trip into the natural beauty Up North, what more do you need? Happy life, right there.

Meanwhile here in Connecticut everyone is working 80 hours a week, stressed out about "getting into" overpriced real estate in the "Best Towns," posturing with the "right" politics in public while dissing them in private, backstabbing other moms to get their own kids into the "Best Schools," freaking out because little Olivia didn't make high honor roll and Braydon got cut from travel soccer, and all this for ... what prize, exactly? So our kids can repeat the cycle of stress just to live in a place as boring and mediocre as suburban Connecticut?

There is a real value to living in a place where no one gives a sh*t about the Ivy League, Louis Vuitton, or the editorial page of the NYTimes, and where the most exciting thing is Big Ten football and watching the stars come out over the lake.

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