How bad is life at subsistence?

In my previous post, I compiled citations from historical thinkers on how awful life was back in their day. But such citations aren’t conclusive–maybe they were exaggerating for effect. Or maybe people with severe depression are grossly overrepresented in the ranks of intellectuals. Or who knows. So in this post, I want to examine the question more directly. [Read More...]

Historical thinkers on human misery

The possibility that some–perhaps many–lives may not be worth living is depressing to think about. But it’s one that should worry effective altruists and people interested in utilitarian ethics. Among EAs interested in animal welfare, it’s widely thought that the lives of animals in factory farms are so bad as to not be worth living. [Read More...]

Self-interested activism and gay rights

On Tumblr, Kelsey (a.k.a. theunitofcaring) had a really good post on the politics of coming out (I’ve bolded a paragraph that I think is especially important): Hmm. Harvey Milk’s time is sufficiently different from ours that I’m not sure I can disagree with him, but I think I do disagree about today. My sister and [Read More...]

How selfish are voters?


Last month, I wrote a post where I talked a bit about Bryan Caplan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter. Specifically, I talked about the idea that because any one voter is unlikely to swing the outcome of an election, voting provides a way for people to feel altruistic on the cheap. Therefore, in some situations, [Read More...]

Notes on Robert Fogel’s Without Consent or Contract


In response to my previous post on animal rights and slavery, Wayne of Direct Action Everywhere suggested that the argument made in that post was at odds with the findings of economist Robert Fogel as to how slavery was abolished. So I picked up Fogel’s book Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. Having [Read More...]

Slavery abolition and animal rights: the biggest problem

When I talk to people involved in animal rights, I frequently hear people make analogies to the abolition of slavery, made with an optimistic spin: “if we managed to abolish slavery, we can abolish animal agriculture,” “if these tactics worked for abolishing slavery, they should work for abolishing animal agriculture,” and so on. I think [Read More...]

Harry Potter and the problem with genre deconstructions

So, Eliezer Yudkowsky’s long-running Harry Potter fanfic, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, is now complete. I’ve been holding off until now to post some thoughts on it I’ve had since the climax was posted ~2 weeks ago. Readers of TVTropes will be familiar with the concept of deconstruction–not in the pretentious post-modern sense, but [Read More...]

Avoiding divorce doesn’t make you a traditionalist

I recently stumbled across an old post by Bryan Caplan on Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. The lesson Caplan draws from it is that the stereotypically liberal upper-middle class is a bunch of closet traditionalists: I learned a lot from Murray’s book.  But it’s a classic case of glass-half-empty thinking.  His results on the white working class didn’t [Read More...]

Why I’ve decided to start deleting jerky comments more often

My main approach to comment moderation has long been what I hoped was benign neglect. Officially, I have a comment policy here, but mostly if you aren’t an obvious troll or spammer, I’ve been letting you say whatever you want in my blog comments. But I’ve decided to start tightening that policy up. Here’s why. My reasons for [Read More...]