Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fake Asperger's guys?



The other day I wrote a Bloomberg View post about women in econ. Frances Woolley had some good criticisms of my piece. But others thought I was focusing on attacking Robin Hanson, a quote of whose I used to illustrate the fact that stuff considered "sexist" in other disciplines is considered "normal" in economics. Actually, I just used Hanson's quote for illustrative purposes - the meat of the article, if you will, was about the research by some economists who claim that women suffer more promotion and salary discrimination in econ than in the sciences. Hanson wasn't really the point, though I personally did think his quote was offensive.

But anyway, some right-wing types on Twitter thought it was all about me trying to sic a mob of SJWs ("social justice warriors", i.e. left-wing types) on Hanson. Steve Sailer jumped in to defend Hanson and all "Aspergery nerds":
Professor Hanson is a very nice, very innocent, very eccentric man who tries to come up with counterintuitive thought experiments (most of which aren’t very useful thoughts, but he means well)...It’s striking how it’s turning into Open Season on Aspergery nerds. Various Dilberts are being targeted as the Gender Enemy Oppressing Four Billion Women. Why? Because they are socially maladroit.
And righty pundit Randall Parker pursued the Aspergery Nerd Defense Crusade on Twitter.

This is something I'm hearing more and more often these days: right-wingers, at least the smart ones, are just people with Asperger;s, whose condition prevents them from being socially sensitive enough to feel the vibes of political correctness. In fact, I don't see any lefty types humble-bragging about their position autism spectrum. This makes me suspicious (and not just because Asperger's was removed from the DSM).

It occurs to me that it's not that hard to fake Asperger's. After all, most "neurotypicals" don't really know exactly what true Aspergerians are like. So just talk about nerdy stuff, get a blank stare on your face every once in a while, intentionally ignore social cues, etc. It'll take a little effort at first, but eventually it'll be second nature. And it'll be fun - if you meet a girl who you know is too pretty to sleep with you, instead of bowing and scraping ineffectually before her majesty and beauty, you can say un-PC stuff that sends her into spasms of ineffectual rage! Wheeeee!! 

Fake Asperger's seems like it could also be a signal of high intelligence, but I'm not sure whether it's a real or a false one. On one hand, social ineptness is a costly signal. If you choose to pay the social cost to become a Fake Asperger's Guy, you prove that you are confident in your ability to make it in this world on intellect alone. (An economist once told me this was called "countersignaling," but actually I think this is just normal signaling.)

But on the other hand, it could also be a false signal. We associate the autism spectrum with high quantitative and technical intelligence, so Fake Asperger's might be a way to spoof society's expectations and pretend to be smarter than you are by exploiting the Representativeness Heuristic. If so, expect the Fake Asperger's Party to run out of steam once folks catch on to the trick.

In any case, if we restrain ourselves from giving social censure to people who are perceived as "Aspergery nerds," doesn't that just incentivize the adoption of Fake Asperger's?

Generally, the possibility of a trend of Fake Asperger's Guys is sort of darkly, gently hilarious, but one thing about it annoys me. Real Asperger's guys are going to get a bad name from this. Real Asperger's guys are usually not right-wing types who brashly declare their disdain for social cues by talking about rape around girls. Most of them are kind, good-hearted people who occasionally say offensive or hurtful things simply by accident, and are very very slow to realize it - but when they eventually do realize (or are informed by friends), they are generally remorseful and distressed. They are people with a real, if minor, disorder, who almost all wish they didn't have the limitations they have. They're basically like Lawrence Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon (though Neal Stephenson took a bit of artistic license).

I wouldn't like to see those real Asperger's people given a bad name by swaggering right-wing jerks who decided Fake Asperger's was a fun and profitable way to shuck the pressures of PC.


Update: As usual, SMBC got there first. Hat tip to Adam in the comments.

Update 2: Legendary troll douchebag Chuck Johnson apparently refers to himself as a "neuroatypical".

Update 3: A thought occurs to me: Maybe fake Asperger's guys are just non-fake sociopaths. Real Asperger's basically means not being able to perceive other people's emotions, while real sociopathy basically means not feeling any emotions of your own when you do bad things to other people...

75 comments:

  1. Also known as "Assburger's Syndrome": http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2832

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  2. Anonymous8:57 AM

    So Robin Hanson is a swaggering right wing jerk who pretends to have Asperger's? That's nice.

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    1. Actually, when I met Hanson, he didn't seem like an Asperger's guy, real or fake. I think that was just something Steve Sailer assumed. But the white-knighting of "Aspergery nerds" seems like it would incentivize someone to try the "Fake Asperger's guy" thing, don't you think?

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    2. Anonymous11:33 AM

      I'll just say that we're lucky have you as an arbiter of offensiveness and defender of the good and the true, otherwise I wouldn't know what to make of your aspersions.

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    3. What aspersions?

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    4. Anonymous5:38 PM

      @ Anon "I'll just say..."

      Don't you think people should be trying to defend "the good and the true" ? And shouldn't people be called out for being offensive ?

      It's weird... You are saying that unless people believe what YOU think is Good and true then they are being offensive and should shut up.

      That's Ironic.. right ?

      Why attack someone for trying to defend truth and right when what your real problem is that you think he is wrong? Why not just explain why you think he is wrong ?

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    5. Anonymous4:06 AM

      Suggesting that Hanson is faking Aspergers as cover for being a swagger right wing jerk. Those aspersions.

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  3. Anonymous9:36 AM

    Hanson's a chauvinistic swaggering right wing jerk. But his nerdishly polite, fiercely independent facade is so convincing that only Noah Smith has seen through it.

    By the way, Hanson has never claimed Aspergers. And in general, the label is used by blogosphere conservatives to describe LessWrong types. I'm sure you know this, but since you're obviously going all in on your click-bait strategy, you prefer convenience to truth.

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    1. Actually, when I met Hanson, he didn't seem like an Asperger's guy, real or fake. I think that was just something Steve Sailer assumed. But the white-knighting of "Aspergery nerds" seems like it would incentivize someone to try the "Fake Asperger's guy" thing, don't you think?

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  4. I had a (female) colleague who probably had Aspergers. She was never offensive, though frequently annoying. She'd never ever say something blatantly rude or crude or mean. Mostly she was clueless in the 'my friends don't mind if I call at 1am so I can call colleagues at 1am too' sort of way. At work social events she'd hide around a corner out of sight. She could handle superiors and (some) subordinates just fine, but was highly awkward around work-peers.

    I suspect that it would be very easy to distinguish fake from real Aspergers if the viewer had even the tiniest bit of knowledge.

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  5. I don't know about Aspergers but it seems to me that there is probably a correlation between being a self described libertarian and being alienated. I won't venture a guess which way the causation runs.

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  6. Anonymous4:15 PM

    I don't know. The original story made it sound like Summers got up at a faculty meeting and said "women are dumb." He actually made his remarks at an NBER conference that a couple non-economists happened to attend. Most psychologists agree that men appear to have a higher variance in IQ in many data sets. (This is a fact about the data but somehow the fact itself has become an issue for debate.)

    As for the assburger's defense: it is legit. Economists in general are asses and it isn't a left/right divide. Gruber is a liberal asshole for instance as we all were recently reminded. We stand out for the fact that we don't let presenters get past slide 1 before we shout at them with dumb comments. This unique feature of the profession might explain why women, who probably are less likely to enjoy being shouted at and shouting at others for no reason, are perceived as dumber than their citations would suggest. Women who are capable of being an ass like Duflo and Finkelstein do fine.

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  7. Anonymous5:24 PM

    A lot of it is the right wing mimicking the left's tactics. By pretending to have Aspergers you can claim to be a victim when people criticize you. If there's one thing the left has taught the right in the last twenty years, it's that claiming to be a victim is a great way to skirt responsibility.

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    1. It's a much older right wing technique than that. Lincoln was always bitching about the South playing the victim card.

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    2. Lulz4l1f33:40 PM

      Lol, I don't think disordered, manipulative people are inherently Southern.

      At least not all of them.

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  8. Bill Ellis6:18 PM

    It occurs to me that the same degree of insensitivity that is socially forgivable when displayed by a person "on the spectrum" would not be socially forgivable if it came from a sociopath.

    If , for arguments sake, we are going to assume that Hanson's insensitivity is caused by a "disorder" why would we automatically assume it's Aspergers over Sociopathy ?

    The answer is bias.

    The people defending these comments as a product of Aspergers (Surprising and super lame and I wonder how the guy they are "defending" feels about it. ) have no better argument than someone who says that they are the rantings of a sociopath.

    Which is more likely ? The incidence of Aspergers in the general population has been put at about 1%. The incidence of Sociopathy is put between 1 and 4 %. So if the general population were a gage It would be MORE likely that a gross insensitivity would would be attributed to Sociopathy than to Aspergers.

    What's more, Although some people with Aspergers are brilliant they face real difficulties that make it harder for them to succeed than the general pop... And just the opposite seems to be true of Sociopaths. They are able to turn their "disorder" into an advantage. Sociopathy is three times MORE prevalent among highly successful people. (3 to 15%...I have seen a 30% figure )

    So if you must jump to some "mental disorder" conclusion to explain Hanson's insensitivity then clearly, he is far more likely to be a Sociopath than to have Aspergers.


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    1. "The incidence of Aspergers in the general population has been put at about 1%."

      0.2-0.3%, according almost all sources.

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    2. This is a very good point. Both sociopaths and Aspies have issues with empathy, but from opposite angles. Aspies feel empathy, but have a hard to making the connection. Sociopaths make the connection, but then feel nothing. I am a female Aspie who has known many Aspies. In general, they are gentle souls who mean no harm. Social ineptness would be typical of Aspies, but social malice would make me assume sociopath.

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  9. Anonymous8:17 PM

    I’ve known Robin for many years, and can testify that he displays peculiar-brilliance syndrome overlayed by an abstraction mania that is sometimes disruptive, but untainted by malice.

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    1. I never said he had any malice.

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  10. Holy crap, Noah. My opinion of you continues to fall over this whole thing. Let me give a full summary since you seem to be missing a lot.

    Robin's post was about the harms of cuckoldry. Specifically, it was about the fact that a lot of men consider it really horrible but that it doesn't command a lot of censure from our society on the whole. So, as is common in thought experiments, he tried to find something that seemed similar to cuckoldry in a lot of ways but wildly different from it in the "curious" one.

    So, is rape very different in that it draws a lot of society-wide condemnation? Yes!

    Is it similar in that it's often done with little or no serious *physical* harm? Yes!

    Does it involve sex? Yes!

    Related to the last point, might the evolutionary roots of our revulsion be intimately tied up with reproductive success? Yes!

    So, holy crap, it looks like this is a very relevant analogy for the discussion at hand.

    You're still complaining that you just can't see the connection here, that the two just have *nothing* to do with one another, but if you'd thought about it for just a bit, I'm certain you'd have figured out the above on your own quite quickly.

    Now, it doesn't matter if you spend the next day coming up with what you think to be an even better analogy. Maybe you will, and maybe you won't. Regardless, it is *clear* that the two aren't just wildly unrelated.

    Now, what pissed people off is that you clearly made a point of naming the author of a post that you hadn't read or thought about very carefully and calling that author a sexist scumbag in what is a fairly visible publication. That was a dick move.

    And then, when called out on it, instead of then taking the few moments you should have taken the first time to figure out why you might be completely off base, you doubled down with this article and called all the people who reasonably criticized you right-wingers/Asperger pretenders/jerks/etc.

    I should also mention that in your response, you scoffed at the notion that the harm caused by a case of cuckoldry could be at least of the same order of magnitude as the harm caused by a case of rape. I have close family members that have experienced each (not the same family member, fortunately). Judging from my experience with them and from my own introspection, let me tell you that your scoffing was very stupid. Do you happen to have a ten year old kid? If not, why don't you wait until you do before you comment again. Then maybe you won't sound so stupid.

    Is it a little clearer to you now why things turned out the way they did?

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    1. So, even though my tone was still a little harsh because I'm annoyed I tried to abandon the 140-character jabs and explain the case as clearly as I could here in hopes of actually being productive. And this is your response. Sweet.

      Clearly you're not interested in "chilling" given that you decided to keep the topic alive with this post.

      But sure, I'll chill.

      And I'm not your son, kid.

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    2. Piyo: my thoughts were similar to yours. And yes, "Chill, son." is not a good response. (How would "Chill, daughter" go over if you were female, as you might be for all I know?)

      On a hunch I Googled "Gentle Genocide" and got 3,800 hits. The third hit was particularly relevant to this episode. It's by a (feminist?) anthropologist talking about workplace mobbing. It's a good though depressing read (pdf)

      www.academicwomenforjustice.org/downloads/gentle-genocide.pdf

      Was it offensive for her to say "Gentle Genocide" in the title of her article, and compare workplace bullying and ostracism to genocide? I don't think so.

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    3. You are all my sons. And I love all of you equally. When I die, my lands will be divided among you.

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    4. Unanimous2:23 AM

      So is intensionaly creating controversy by taking quotes out of context actually getting you the page hits you want?

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    5. This comments explains the situation pretty well. Alot of people seem to have lost respect for Smith over this.

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    6. Anonymous5:52 AM

      Noah, the fact that you have such glib replies here suggest that you are trying to avoid the argument because you know deep down that Piyo is correct. You should just acknowledge that the Bloomsberg article was misleading about Robin Hanson and publicly apologise to Hanson for your behaviour.

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  11. Noting that Asberger's was removed from the DSM doesn't necessarily mean that Asberger's isn't real. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM too.

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    1. Yes, thank you, Dave.

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    2. And Aspergers was removed, not because any consideration that it is not a "real disorder" and that the people diagnosed with it are "healthy", but because was considered that Asperger was simply a different name for Autism, making it a redundant diagnosis.

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    3. Careless12:12 PM

      Yes, like ADD getting folded into ADHD.

      I'm guessing both of those things will be reversed in my lifetime.

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  12. Anonymous10:32 PM

    It does seem like a certain brand of 'right-winger' (some of whom even used to use 'aspie' to denote some generic sense of mental 'inferiority' that their interlocutors supposedly possessed) have started to defend people on the spectrum as a way to attack 'the left/the feminists/the SJWs'. It's been happening in relation to a certain recent event that's homonymous with a certain ant caste too.

    I will blame "the left" for its frequent weaponization of identities too, which certainly contributed to this, but these people just take it to the next level with their disingenuousness and complete disregard for the original intention.

    Most of them are kind, good-hearted people who occasionally say offensive or hurtful things simply by accident, and are very very slow to realize it - but when they eventually do realize (or are informed by friends), they are generally remorseful and distressed.

    Thanks, bra.

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  13. Geez, what a lot of totally missing the point gibberish in these comments.

    While Sailer's claim that Hanson was "Aspergery" was pretty stupid, the really blatantly dumbass part of his retort was the part about Hanson not being able to oppress Bambi. I don't care if he's the mousiest little man in the world, saying that being cuckolded is as bad as or worse than being raped is asinine. And if all the mousy men of the world all say so, regardlessly of whether they personally are capable or not of oppressing Bambi, it makes it more likely that society will fail to recognize the difference between being physically brutalized by an assailant and being emotionally traumatized by a disloyal wife. And I haven't even got into how ridiculously asinine and idiotic it is to suggest that cuckolders should be prosecuted. Maybe you can't imagine Hanson supporting actual execution of adulterers, but believe it or not, some of the men in societies that do it probably seem even gentler and mousier than him.

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    1. Steve J11:51 AM

      Wow took a while to find the first reasonable comment.

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  14. "saying that being cuckolded is as bad as or worse than being raped is asinine"

    This attitude shows such a lack of understanding of human emotions it's mindboggling. I'm not saying that rape is no big deal, or that most cuckoldry is more harmful than most rape. However, are you really telling me you think it's impossible than some not-so-relatively uncommon cases of cuckoldry are worse than some no-to-relatively uncommon cases of rape?

    Can you imagine spending years and years closely fathering a child, loving him more than anything else on the planet by an astronomical margin? Having him look to you for affection, guidance, and safety every day? Believing also that this person sprung from the combined genes of you and the only other person in the universe for whom your love could even be sensibly compared?

    And can you then imagine finding out that, no, actually it's the gardener's? Reinterpreting all those comments about him looking like you and acting like you? Remembering all the times your unfaithful wife said things like "Well, he is your kid! *tee hee*"? Figuring out which of all your other supposed friends were in on this massive betrayal? Dealing with the guilt of even feeling angry about it because, hey, this is still your little boy, and of course you still love him? Having to deal with the anguish of having the person you love so much remind you instantly of the worst betrayal of your life? And worst of all, potentially having your son one day express some interest in who his "real" dad is?

    And when the inevitable divorce happens having at least half your time with him taken away from you while you still have to support him *and* the lying fucking asshole of an ex-wife who caused all of this?

    You mean to tell me there's no way you can imagine that being worse than, say, a drug-assisted rape that left no physical trace except a hazy memory?

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    1. Anonymous5:33 AM

      Speaking as an anonymous guy on the internet, no, I can't imagine raising a kid who loves you, even if your genetic material is different, as worse than rape. If you think that, and cannot tell the difference, you sound profoundly, deeply, and incredibly fucked up to me.

      What you have described is not an act that is worse than rape, but an individual who cannot deal with his life. That's something wrong with that individual and capacity to deal, not the original act.

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    2. If there is something fucked up it is your ability to understand written text. Pyio did not comment on "raising a kid who loves you" but the moment of realization that your loved one betrayed you.

      Also he was not comparing it to any rape, but a drug induced "gentle" rape. And it is not as straightforward as some here would like it to have. On of the defining moments of rape is ability of victim to express consent. So in theory any sex with partner who has his cognitive functions impaired can be considered a rape - including man.

      But anyways I am probably wasting my time. Because I used the "r" word. Some people immediately see red. Which is exactly why Noah wrote his article. Which is kind of point of some critique.

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    3. Anonymous7:29 AM

      Please look at his text - it's clear the case _he has proposed_ involves a kid who loves him. And this is somehow destroyed by finding out it's not your genetic material? Mostly it seems to be about humiliation and betrayal. Rough stuff, to be sure, but...

      ...still not comparable to rape. Even ... 'gentle' rape. (Seriously? "Gentle" rape?)

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    4. Yes, it involves a kid who loves him which makes it even more sad to me as it would probably be easier to deal with the betrayal if it was not the case. The main takeway for me is not that he would stop loving the kid for tha, it is the emotional harm and turmoil it can have. For instance it is not unreasonable for me that a man in that situation would want a divorce. That should be a tell enough.

      On the other side for "gentle rape" it can be even a situation where a day after heavy drinking woman finds out that maybe sleeping with that guy was not such a good idea - although there was no violence or any physical harm involved. Maybe it was a even a good friend and it was not as much the physical act that feels wrong as much as the fact that he betrayed her trust.

      I understand that "Gentle Rape" sounds ridiculous. Which is exactly why Noah used it in his blog. But it is completely out of context. Hanson mentioned it as part of hypothetical philosophical thought experiment, not as a defense for some rapist who faces trial.

      Not so long ago Smith wrote an article that Habsburgs were worse then Hitler. Seriously? Worse then genocide and killing millions of jews? Is he not jew as well? He has to be fucked up.

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    5. The fact that anyone is seriously debating the seriousness of "gentle rape", whatever the fuck that distinction is supposed to bring, astounds me. So, imagine this: you go to a party, have a couple drinks, and then you wake up the next morning in a weird place, with your underwear missing and no memory of the night before. Most people are not just gonna shake that off. It goes beyond a violation of trust, it's a violation of your body. It's a violation of you as a thinking feeling person who deserves to be consulted on such matters as when and where you have sex.

      Calling out Hanson on this comparison is not overreacting to the word rape, it's pointing out that Hanson's impression of the damage done by rape is naive at best.

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    6. You haven't really made a relevant argument here. This part of the discussion revolved around the *relative* harm of *some* rapes to that of *some* cases of cuckoldry. The claim that rape is bad is not controversial and is not being debated at all by anyone.

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  15. I apologize in advance for my joyful use of profanity.

    My response to the Aspergery Nerd Defense is a big "FUUUUUUUCK YOU, BUDDY!" to those dudes. Like, I'm not even going to pretend that that argument doesn't send me into a fit of rage. Because seriously! For YEARS people who are slightly nerdy and awkward have had to put up with these asinine conversations at social gatherings with jerky friends-of-friends who everyone secretly despises but who keep getting invited to things because we have kinda similar interests. It's the nerd persecution complex. It's cat piss man. Nerddom is finally starting to be secure enough in itself to entertain discussions of shadiness in its own ranks, so let's not fall back into the dark ages.

    This is not harmless social ineptness. It is real fuckery. I say censure those nerds! How else will they learn? If someone has trouble picking up on social cues, then they probably won't be too offended if you tell them that that weird thing they just said is 100% bullshit and here are the reasons why. By definition they will not take it personally!

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  16. Piyo,
    consider the case of long term employee losing his job. This is emotionally traumatic in exactly the same way that cuckoldry is. Does that make it comparable to rape?

    Feminism is basically about autonomy. Rape is a injury against autonomy, cuckoldry is a betrayal of trust. They are both injurious, but not in the same way. A comparison should relate to the same inherent quality. The one chosen doesn't.

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    1. It is like making a comparison between slavery and fraud. Yeah it stinks.

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    2. That is why the article said about "gentle" rape (did you even read the link from Noah's article)? If there was a crime against autonomy but you don't know about it so by definition there was no emotionally traumatic result - why should you be outraged?

      The same goes for slavery vs fraud. If you got your life worth of savings stolen in a fraud, it is in practice almost as if you slaved your labor in favor of the criminal. That person literally appropriated manyears of your hard labor in a similar manner that slaver would.

      But what is my main point here? You definitely can discuss many topics and use different thought experiments. There are people comparing abortion to murder, other people compare abortion to act of freedom (like a thought experiment by Judith Jarvis Thomson).

      And sometimes people do this to force us to to examine our arguments and moral intuition - not to be sexist asses. This is the point.

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    3. Dubois
      no fraud is different, because you still have a choice (but your due diligence flunked out). That is the key difference - no amount of pretending that something is VIRTUALLY the same (in a contrived case), changes that.

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    4. And for a presumed libertarian to make that mistake, is not really excusable.

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    5. Very good - and betrayal of trust in general is not punishable in our society unless there is money involved. It just damages the relationship between the parties.

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    6. Anonymous11:07 AM

      "sometimes people do this to force us to to examine our arguments and moral intuition - not to be sexist asses. This is the point."

      They don't do it TO be sexist asses, but in doing it they are indeed sexist asses.

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    7. Reason: Why do you assume you have a choice in fraud? I can give you a pretty common example - somebody falsifies your signature and steals your property. Where is choice in there? Or the other way around - what if you sell yourself to slavery voluntarily by your own choice? To pay your debts, to give money to your children whatever? So now that the "key difference" crumbled can we start talking about similarities between fraud and slavery or does it still insult your sensibilities?

      This is the main topic. When you hear "rape" you imagine some vicious scene from a movie (if you are lucky) or worse you recall some more personal story. If you hear "slavery" you imagine poor souls born into slavery in cotton plantation. Then you go emotional and ballistic. And some people know how to use this.

      I say that it is perfectly reasonable and civilized sometimes to talk about rape, slavery, genocide without you being sexist ass, southern racist or nazi sympathizer - even though your instinct can tell you the opposite.

      As mentioned earlier Noah Smith himself went there few months ago when he wrote a blog that said that Spanish Habsburgs were worse than Nazis. And it was a good blogpost that produced good discussion. However Imagine I wrote an article about how there is more nazi sympathizers among economists quoting Noahs blogpost and suggesting that he was actually defending Hitler softening his crimes. I bet Noah would be upset especially considering that he is a Jew. Despite the fact that he wrote that and that lawyers may even approve quoting him.

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    8. You are distorting the meaning of fraud (relative to the original analogy) here. A falsified signature maybe the crime of fraud technically, but morally it is straight theft, which is something different again. I call cheating. And well selling yourself into slavery, is a contentious issue (even amongst Libertarians). But the point is that a Libertarian should be very sensitive to the distinction between making a free choice, having it made for you and "let the buyer beware". It is the social democrats who believe in regulating to ensure certain standards of ethical behavior are met, so it is very odd for a Libertarian to not be sensitive here to the difference. Just because ex-post (with the advantage of hindsight) the result may be less harmful (by some evaluation) doesn't mean that the act (at the time) is less morally repugnant.

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  17. Right wingers think affluenza is a perfectly legitimate psychiatric condition, so why not fake Aspergers?

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  18. I think my comment may have been eaten the first time...

    Noah, having re-read the back and forth over at Worthwhile I honestly don't know what Frances was banging on about nor why Nick was being fairly childish. And what was with the vaguely underhanded "grim warning" about your research?? Your Bloomberg View piece was just fine. Ignore the haters man!

    P.S. I've got a pet theory that you don't actually care about tenure etc. (looking at the state of financial economics I'm with you there brother). I think you went to Stony Brook because of its tight links with places like RenTec... you can't wait to blow the joint and convince gullible investors about starting your own hedge fund - using that to fund working on research that actually interest you.. or maybe I'm projecting too much ;)

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  20. I'm gonna sail over all the ridiculous comparisons above and take a different approach.

    Ask women which of the following they'd prefer, and I guarantee you'd find a non-trivial percentage (if not a majority) would prefer the first:

    Scenario #1
    You are raped by a stranger for five minutes. You’re aware of it, but you’re in and out consciousness because you’ve been drinking a lot. You clearly say no, but you aren’t capable of resisting much. You aren’t beaten or struck at all. When it's over, he simply leaves. He wears a condom, and you later confirm that you don't have any STDs and that you aren't pregnant. You never tell anyone besides the therapist you see for several months after because you know (for whatever reason) you have no hopes of ever actually identifying him.

    Scenario #2
    You have a normal life with a husband and a 5yo son. Then, one day you find out your husband had an affair. Actually, he had an affair around the same time you got pregnant. Also, he got you and his mistress pregnant around the same time, and, wonder of all wonders, you both gave birth on the same day at the same hospital.

    And *then* you find out that, for whatever reason - maybe your husband thought he would end up with the mistress one day anyway - your husband secretly switched the babies. You've been raising your mistress's biological son all these years. Naturally, this discovery leads to your divorce. Afterwards, your husband reestablishes contact with his mistress still, and after your divorce, he marries her. Now you only get to see your child every other week, and each time you go to pick him up, you get greeted by his biological mother. She has the exact same unusual shade of eyes as your son, which you always loved in his pictures. One day, as he runs out to get in your car, you hear him say "Bye, other mommy!". Later you explain to him that you're his only real mommy, but he's confused and protests that he lives with her half the time and that he grew in her tummy?

    Oh, and of course, the mistress's ex-husband has no intention of letting you see your biological child because he just wants to put that part of his life behind him.


    Again, I *guarantee you* a large percentage of women would prefer the first. Maybe a majority, and maybe not, but a large percentage. Additionally, the vast majority of women will think hard before answering. None or almost none of them will flippantly say "Of course I'll do option #2! It's rough but not really *that* big of a deal."

    If you doubt this, you are the one with the personality/mental/empathy disorder.

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    1. Anonymous6:10 PM

      what a tool

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    2. Damien6:29 PM

      These kinds of dilemma are completely useless. Asking people to *imagine* what two things that they have never experienced feel like, and then to choose between these two completely unfamiliar situations, makes no sense. It's like asking people who've never tasted an apple or a pear to decide which one they'd like best based on second-hand information and what they imagine an apple and a pear taste like.

      It's even worse when you deal with situations that *never* happen in real life. And I say this for both of your scenarios, since the first one sounds like what a clueless man imagines "gentle rape" to be like. You won't understand rape by listing what you *imagine* to be its most important features or by looking at rape through a purely sociobiological lens.

      If you were to ask women who have actually been raped whether they'd rather be raped again or would rather have to raise someone else's child whom they originally thought were their own, I'm not so sure that they would pick the first option. But I really have no way of knowing this since the second scenario is also very far-fetched.

      More fundamentally, the problem with Hanson's thought experiment is that it needlessly treats rape and people's traumatic experiences as just another topic that you cheerfully discuss in a poorly researched blog post that will make no substantial contribution to human knowledge. We don't find his post disturbing because we are "disturbed by the topics of rape, abduction, or being drugged", as he eventually added. These are important topics that can and should be discussed. We are disturbed that he trivializes some rapes (as he imagines them) by calling them "gentle" (how do you "gently rape" someone?). Especially when he could explore the same topic in much more useful and sensitive ways.

      It's not that hard. For instance, it's clear that the phenomenon he describes is not specific to rape and cuckoldry. We typically consider that violating people's bodily integrity is much worse than harming their feelings. If Hanson had been deeply hurt by Noah's article, he'd have less legal recourse than if Noah had "gently assaulted him" by slapping him with little force. Even though we might imagine that, in some situations, a very critical, mean-spirited article may hurt more than a little slap in the face. I'd rather be privately slapped in the face with no physical consequences than be exposed as a sexist to thousands of people and professional acquaintances. That'd actually be a much more interesting discussion since we could talk about limits to free speech and whether libertarians and Anglo-Saxons in general have too restrictive a concept of aggression (for instance, in France, publicly insulting someone is theoretically more severely punished than slapping them).

      You could also look at history and see what led to the shift in attitude toward cuckoldry. Adultery, especially by women, used to be severely punished as a violation of the rights of the husband. Even rape was first and foremost punished because it violated the rights of the woman's husband or father, not those of the victim (hence the option for the rapist to marry the victim to escape punishment in many cultures). Adultery also used to be defined as a man having intercourse with a woman who was married to another man. The shift in attitude probably stems from our increasing reluctance to tolerate gender-unequal laws, especially those that discriminate against women.

      See, it's possible to discuss these topics without having to mention "gentle rape".

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    3. Damien7:00 PM

      Also: we're reluctant to criminalize cuckoldry because it would enshrine in the law the fact that men have special claims over women's bodies, which we find inconsistent with our ethos of gender-equality and bodily autonomy. This is another reason why people find Hanson's use of rape infuriating: it doubly objectifies women by putting their sexual abuse on the same footing as their denying men the right decide who they can have intercourse with.

      Note however that we do typically provide men with some recourse if they believe that they are not the biological father: they are free to contest the paternity in many jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions give men more time to contest the paternity, others less time depending on how they weigh the interests of the child vs the interests of the despicable men who would abandon a child that they "loved" just because they don't share their genetic makeup.

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    4. Let's take it one point at a time so we don't get lost. Here's my claim:

      It's plausible that some not-so-relatively uncommon cases of cuckoldry are more painful/harmful/utility-reducing than some not-so-relatively uncommon cases of rape?

      Are you denying this claim?

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    5. Anonymous7:57 PM

      Not-so-relatively uncommon = relatively common?

      So what you are saying is that some relatively common cases of cuckoldry are more painful than some relatively common cases of rape.

      I would deny this claim myself. But I think your whole line of argument is disingenuous.

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    6. Bill Ellis8:33 PM

      Cuckolding is a violation of trust. Rape is a violation of person/body. And it does not matter if it is "gentle" rape or not.

      If you don't get the difference that's sad.

      Sure, a violation of trust can hurt like hell and it can be devastating but it is a condition of our existence that we have to trust and along with that comes the the ever present possibility that trusts will be broken. It something we all do to each other in ways large and small. Entering into relationship is making a deal that the trust will not be broken. Like any deal due diligence is called for. When a truth is broken the deal is off. Traditionally these kinds of things are handled by civil law because we don't criminalize normal human weakness...nor should we....Right ?

      Now, Rape is nothing like that is it ? Rape is not an agreement gone bad. Rape is not a breach of trust, Rape is a physical assault. Rape is an attack.

      Rape should be a Criminal offence.

      See the diff ?

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    7. "So what you are saying is that some relatively common cases of cuckoldry are more painful than some relatively common cases of rape."

      That's not what I said. Please read what I write.

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    8. "Cuckolding is a violation of trust. Rape is a violation of person/body."

      So, this is not an argument against my claim at all. You would have an argument against my claim *if* you added this premise:

      For any given case of person/body violation, A, and any given case of trust violation, B, it is completely implausible that B is more painful/harmful than A.

      However, what would be question-begging. It would also be obviously false. It's clearly worse to, say, do what I said in scenario #2 than it would be to forcibly tickle a person for two seconds.

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    9. Piyo,
      so what. There are plenty of things that EX-POST are more harmful, that are not reguarded as criminal (like sacking a dedicated, long-term employee for instance). Just comparing the relative utility of things ex-post just misses the point completely. Your line of argument is useless.

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    10. "so what. There are plenty of things that EX-POST are more harmful,"

      Ah, so you are agreeing with me that comparing the harms of some rapes to some cases of cuckoldry is plausible. Excellent! As I said, it's best to take one point at a time, and so I haven't made any remarks about whether this implies that cuckoldry should be considered a criminal or civil infraction.

      However, since it is the first part - the part I have so far been arguing about - that was the source of moral outrage for the whiny, four-eyed dork who owns this blog, you should be warned that he may now call you a sexist on Bloomberg.

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    11. Bill Ellis5:06 PM

      You have retreated to the absurd. Conceivably a rude remark could be more painful to some poor soul than a rape to another person. All that proves is that some people are very fragile. It in no way suggests that ofences are equal or. should be treated the same.

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    12. Nothing absurd about what I'm saying at all. I'm not talking about wild, improbable occurrences. I've stated multiple times that I'm talking about a non-trivial percentage of the time.

      And now that people are actually starting to *think* about it instead of giving into knee-jerk reactions, they realize that I'm correct, which is why nobody above (including you) have actually made an argument against my claim. Instead, you all make arguments against different, weaker claims that you wish that I had made.

      You all know that if you did a fair, random poll of men *or* women, that a good portion of them would say that being deceived about such an important matter would be worse some realistic rape scenarios. Noah knows this, too, but (conveniently) it would apparently be "immoral" to do the thing that would make it obvious that he was wrong.

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  21. This seems to fit in nicely with the idea of post-autistic economics. Since a big chunk of economics is about political power you get the extremists on the left and the right ignoring the human impacts of their policies. This gives us things like the Soviet Union and our modern hyper-capitalist system. Neither works very well in practice, but, if you are completely non-empathetic, you can do well under either scheme.

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    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm

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    2. Anonymous8:34 PM

      'This seems to fit in nicely with the idea of post-autistic economics'

      As someone with an Asperger's diagnosis who has no sympathy with libertarians, market worshippers, or anyone who uses the phrase 'gentle rape', I have to say I find this phrase pretty uncomfortable. (For what it's worth, I remember when at least one site for Aspies did a members survey it found most of its members had left, not right-wing views, and I'm pretty sure that means American liberal, not raving Stalinist. Less Wrong, if it really is as Aspie heavy as people make out, also usually finds most of its members are centrist liberals, not libertarians or socialists, in it's internal surveys.)

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  22. Noah writes!

    It occurs to me that it's not that hard to fake Asperger's. After all, most "neurotypicals" don't really know exactly what true Aspergerians are like. So just talk about nerdy stuff, get a blank stare on your face every once in a while, intentionally ignore social cues, etc. It'll take a little effort at first, but eventually it'll be second nature. And it'll be fun - if you meet a girl who you know is too pretty to sleep with you, instead of bowing and scraping ineffectually before her majesty and beauty, you can say un-PC stuff that sends her into spasms of ineffectual rage! Wheeeee!!

    May be Noah, you are faking as an Asperger!

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  23. Anonymous8:18 PM

    That article is a lot creepier than Noah makes it out to be. Robin Hanson says that he "presented evidence that most men would rather be raped than cuckolded". If you look at the two articles he is referencing, the only "evidence" that is presented is when he adds that "Roissy did a poll of his male readers; over 3/4 prefer rape to cuckoldry". So his evidence is an online poll of the readership of a random block. And their preference is option A (rape), which ends with "Over the following months you go to the gym more frequently than you used to, working out your shame and anger in the weight room. People compliment your improved physique. You tell no one of your ordeal." Option B (cockoldry) ends with "Did your wife whom you loved so much ever really love you? Did anyone else know? Did they think you a fool? Was your dignity worth so little to the people who mattered to you most? You ask these questions already knowing the answers."

    That's the "evidence" that Robin Hanson is referencing.

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    1. Wow that is really an important point. Shame it is at the bottom of the comment thread and posted anonymously!

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