410 stories

Could a Cockroach Survive a Fall From Space?

1 Comment
If you’re resorting to more, uh, unconventional pest control methods, you’ll want to read this first.
Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
23 days ago
Reminds me of this: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/567594359266263736/

Official: Nats have promoted Eddie Longosz to VP of Player Development

1 Comment

The Washington Nationals made their promotion official with Eddie Longosz taking on the position of Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Player Development and Administration in an announcement by Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, Mike Rizzo.

With a wide ranging search that we reported on weeks ago was down to three candidates that included Longosz who was the lone internal candidate, Rizzo made the decision to promote him from his role as Washington’s director of scouting operations for the past eight years. Prior to that, the 37-year-old was the team’s assistant director of scouting. In his most recent role, the team said that Longosz assisted Rizzo on all aspects of Washington’s amateur, professional and international scouting operations.

“Eddie Longosz has been integral to our organization’s success over the past 14 years. He is a tireless worker with extensive knowledge of our Minor League players, coaches and system as a whole.”

“He developed strong relationships with many of our current players during the draft process and has earned not only their trust, but the trust of those around them. Beyond his support of our draft operations, his expertise in emerging technology and analytics will enhance our process and make us more efficient.”

“Eddie is very well respected around the league, and I could not be happier to have him leading our player development system.”

— Rizzo said today

Longosz is in his 14th year with the Nationals after joining the organization in 2010 after graduating from the University of Richmond. He became a full-time scouting assistant in 2011, a role he held for four seasons before being promoted to assistant director of scouting operations in 2015.

Another interesting fact is that Longosz is a Washington, D.C. local growing up in Great Falls, Virginia with his parents who are both lawyers. He graduated from the prestigious St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. and later graduated college at Richmond in 2009 with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. Per his LinkedIn, he is currently pursuing his MBA at NYU’s Stern School.

Longosz grew up playing baseball on travel teams in the area and continued playing baseball through high school and college. Baseball has always been a part of his life, and the Nats since 2005 as a fan of the team. It was a dream job getting a spot with the Nationals, and then marrying into a baseball family when he fell in love with a Nats’ intern, Natalie “Nat” Garagiola, and married in the turbulent offseason after the 2017 NLDS loss. While Natalie moved on from the Nats after dating Longosz, their joint love of baseball was themed into their wedding. The cocktail napkins read, “All you need is love and baseball #EddiesGotNatitude”.

Now while Garagiola might have become an intern with the Nats as a favor to her father, Joe Garagiola Jr., who happened to have been Rizzo’s boss 20 years ago in Arizona — Longosz got his job on his own. Some connecting of the dots might lead some to believe that nepotism is now in play here with Longosz getting this promotion. As we reached out to sources who know Longosz, one former Nats’ front office employee said Eddie earned this by his hard work and accomplishments.

Personally, I will remain in wait-and-see mode for results — just like I did with De Jon Watson and before him, Mark Scialabba. But not many want to wait and see. They will believe that this was about Rizzo’s love of his own internal hires. Maybe Longosz really was the best candidate. We will see. He has a lot of work ahead of him.

This is a results oriented business as we all are aware of. While Longosz was mostly on the scouting side, he worked on trade acquisitions and extensively on the amateur draft his year.

“It’s all true you can ask anyone in baseball. Nats never went by the traditional roles assigned. Eddie is a big part of that front office.”

— a former Nats’ front office employee told us

For Longosz, he has the ability to call his father-in-law for advice, and certainly Rizzo has been a mentor to him. Going forward, he has to build out his staff after several minor league coordinators were let go, as well as a minor league coaches. There really is no time to sit back and slowly assess the situation. There are some real issues in the system that included both Robert Hassell III and Elijah Green sliding downwards out of the Top-100 prospects rankings, as well as injuries to several top players in the system like LHP Jake Bennett and RHP Cade Cavalli.

Injury prevention and moving players forward are clearly the two main goals in player development. The team still boasts three top of the farm prospects in James Wood, Dylan Crews, and Brady House, and it will be Longosz’s job to make sure they are MLB stars when they get the call which will most likely be in 2024 if all goes well.

MLB Pipeline ranked the Nats’ farm system at №10 in March to go with Baseball America’s №7 ranking. The reason that Watson might be gone is because the team acquired Crews, Yohandy Morales, and Travis Sykora in the amateur draft and did not graduate one Top-15 prospect, yet the farm system slipped in Baseball America‘s rankings to №9.

Looking a few years into the future is like dreaming. Again, two years ago the Nats’ farm was ranked as one of the worst farm systems in MLB. Today, it is in the upper-third of all farm systems thanks to the haul received back in the Juan Soto trade and the top-heavy 2023 draft. While the draft has helped, the international signings have not produced much at all, and the team needs to hope they get something out of their expensive acquisitions of Armando Cruz and Cristhian Vaquero. There are enough team-controllable players and top prospects to fill every spot for the position players plus some backup bench spots in the year 2025.

“…Our objective we have is to win championships — not to be №1 in Baseball America.”

— Rizzo said to applause and laughs by the fans gathered at the Ballpark Bash event last year

Maybe Rizzo should order his rankings from the ala carte menu and take the best from each. Will he complain if next year the Nats are the №1 farm system? Doubtful. But chances are that Rizzo will be pulling top prospects up to the MLB roster in 2024, making it more difficult for Longosz to have a higher ranking. There is a chance that all three of the Nats’ Top-100 prospects will be playing in Washington in 2024 as well as Cavalli.

Last year was one of the few years you could compare apples to apples in the development system since no top prospects graduated. The Nats won’t have a Top-5 draft pick this year, and who knows when Bennett will be recovered from his TJ surgery. Longosz will need other prospects to step up big for this team with Hassell and Green under the magnifying glass.

“I’m optimistic. I’m excited about this time in our developmental curve with the organization. When you guys do get out there on the [Minor League side of camp], those prospects — it’s an exciting time. It’s the best group of upside players we’ve ever had here. I’ve been here since ‘day one’, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”

“You filter in — there’s 22, 23 and 24 year-olds [on the MLB roster], I think you see what we’re trying to accomplish here. That’s the first rung on the ladder to get back to a championship.”

— Rizzo said to start 2023’s spring training camp

With the team winning 71-games this year, next season could be a year to get into playoff contention. Longosz will get some credit for any prospects who get promoted and light it up. Baseball is all about results and what have you done for me lately. The player development system has their new guy, and he is officially on the clock.

The post Official: Nats have promoted Eddie Longosz to VP of Player Development appeared first on TalkNats.com.

Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
30 days ago
I like the Star Trek Next Generation Uniform.

Rooftops, people

1 Share

We find that consumer surplus is the primary component of social impact (dwarfing profits, worker surplus, and externalities), suggesting that consumer impacts deserve more attention from impact investors. Existing ESG and social impact ratings are essentially unrelated to our economically grounded measures.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Hunt Allcott, Giovanni Montanari, Bora Ozaltun, and Brandon Tan.

The post Rooftops, people appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Read the whole story
Share this story

What can be learned from White Sox history?

1 Comment
Chuck Tanner and Dick Allen
Figure out a way to bring these two guys back to life, and all shall be well.

The history of the inglorious season of 1970, that is

The White Sox of 1970 have been ingloriously brought to the fore by the White Sox of 2023, as 101 losses is the most for the team since that dreaded 1970 record-setter. But while there is very little hope that the current powers-that-be in Bridgeport can keep the team from being even more woeful in the next year (or two, or three, or four), the rise from the ashes of 1970 was quick.

What can we learn from way back then?

Circumstances were different, in many ways. The Sox had only recently collapsed, after a string of 17 straight winning seasons through 1967 — not wallowed in the muck for a decade aside from two seasons bolstered by incredibly soft schedules. The amateur draft was still fairly new, and free agency yet to be.

Yet there may be some lessons in what happened. Not that Jerry Reinsdorf, et. al, ever learn anything. Or in Reinsdorf’s case, care.

How bad was 1970?

Really, really, really bad. And not just 106 losses bad.

Financially, the situation was a disaster, It was the period between Bill Veeck stints, the owner being John Allyn, who had bought out the share of his older brother, Arthur Allyn Jr. Arthur was famous as a lepidopterist, which made sense because he gave fans butterflies.

Eddie Stanky and and Arthur Allyn - Chicago White Sox
Eddie Stanky and Arthur Allyn Jr. [right], in happier days.

There wasn’t big TV or web money like today, no revenue sharing, and attendance was abysmal. The Sox had drawn more than a million or right at it through the 17 winning years, but then it dropped off to 804,000 in 1968, 590,000 in 1969, and finally 495,000 in 1970 ... and those figures were all bolstered by excellent attendance when the team played a few home games in Milwaukee.

Much of the drop was due to team performance, of course, but there was a nasty sociological factor in the late ’60s as well, with fears stirred up that Bridgeport was dangerous — which it wasn’t. Plus, the Cubs actually were the more interesting team for a short while.

As for team performance ...

The 1970 White Sox had five starters with an OPS+ better than 100 (led by Ed Herrmann), Bill Melton hit 33 homers, and future Hall-of-Famer Luis Aparicio hit .313 and walked more than he struck out. But the Sox were still 19th (of 24) in runs and 21st in OPS, partly caused by being (you’ll note a certain similarity here) 22nd with just 477 walks.

On the pitching side, only one team gave up more runs, and the team ERA was dead last, despite excellent years from pre-surgery Tommy John and reliever Wilbur Wood. The staff gave up more homers than all but two teams, and ran 16th in walks allowed.

Part of the reason the runs allowed total was so bad was that (bet you see this pattern) the fielding was horrible ... 22nd in fielding percentage (of only 24, remember), third-most errors committed, 19th in defensive efficiency. That may actually be a little better than the current team, but not by much.

So, what did they do?

Ed Short had been the general manager since 1961 and had seven good years before the fall, but the fall was fast, with losses of 95, 98 and 106 games made 1968-70 the worst three-season stretch in team history — and there was no pretense of “rebuilding” to use as an excuse. On September 2, Short was out, though he did have one last positive in drafting Terry Forster and Rich Gossage that year (also Jerry Hairston, for you JH fans).

Stuart Holcomb was named GM, which was even stranger than naming a proven incompetent from within the organization, because Holcombe had spent his career as a football and basketball coach and AD of Northwestern, and had been GM of the Chicago Mustangs soccer team, also owned by the Allyns. Unlike any recent and current honchos, though, Holcombe knew that he didn’t know what he was doing, and two days after getting the job hired Roland Hemond away from the Angels to be director of player personnel.

SPORTS-BBA-WHITESOX-HEMOND-TB Charles Cherney/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Roland Hemond visiting spring training in 2003.

Hemond, famed for his research work (such as it could be back when computers would have taken up an entire infield), would eventually be officially named GM, part of a career that led to a lifetime achievement award from the Hall of Fame. among many other kudos. And Hemond brought with him the manager of the Angels Triple-A team in Hawaii, 42-year-old Chuck Tanner, who had led the Islanders to a season still listed among the best in minor league history.

Note that Tanner was not brought from a terrible team, but a terrific one, and had managerial experience, albeit in the minors. What a concept!

Tanner technically replaced interim manager Bill Adair, who had taken over after Don Gutteridge was fired when Hemond took over in September. Adair had the helm for a rather inauspicious 3-13 finish to the season, but that was not any form of omen. The resurgence was under way.

After the purge came the resurge

The initial trade moves by the new front office were not auspicious. Chicago did get Pat Kelly from the Royals for not much, and picked up Tom Bradley and Jay Johnstone from the Angels for Ken Berry and a couple of washouts, but the biggest trade of the year was a flop.

The White Sox sent the shortstop who was the face of the franchise (sound familiar?) and who just happened to be heading toward the Hall of Fame (not toward being a trivia question, as may be the current case) to Boston for Luis Alvarado and Mike Andrews. Aparicio was 36, but turned out to still have a couple of good years left, while Alvarado was a complete bust and Andrews had a good season in 1971 but then headed down to Mendoza Line-territory, to wind up most famous for being horribly mistreated by A’s owner Charley Finley during the 1973 World Series.

But Tanner came to the rescue.

The laid-back new manager pulled Wood out of the bullpen and put him in the starting rotation, and the portly knuckleballer responded with a 22-13 record and a 1.91 ERA over 334 innings. That’s right, 334. Of course, Wood mostly just played catch with Herrmann, Bradley, though threw 286 innings and went 15-15, and John picked up 13 wins.

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Why doesn’t this man have a statue at the GuRF?

Those were the days of four-man rotations, and of starting pitchers not getting gassed so easily, or injured so often, but still ...

(Tanner would pull the opposite trick with Gossage, turning him from starter to reliever. That took a couple of years to work out, but then it was a straight shot to the Hall of Fame for Gossage.)

Overall, in 1971 the Sox jumped from 24th in ERA to fifth, and finished third in FIP. They were fifth-best in issuing walks, a huge change from 22nd.

The offense came to life somewhat as well. Melton hit 33 dingers again, and the team moved up to 14th in runs and 10th in OPS. It even walked almost 100 more times, moving up to a tie for fifth. (imagine what such a shift in walks issued and taken could mean today ... though it’s highly unlikely either will occur.)

The fielding even improved a little, moving up from dead last in defensive efficiency to 19th.

The result? A 79-83 record, good for third in the AL West. Quite a leap from 56-106. If the current team added 23 wins, 2024 would sport a 84-78 record and almost surely be vying for the AL Central title.

Ha-ha. Just put that in as a joke.

And even more resurge

Hemond had been pursing Dick Allen in trade since he took the job in Chicago, and in December 1971 the White Sox sent John and .209-hitting utility infielder to the Dodgers for him, which may well be the last time the Dodgers lost a trade to the Sox. Allen, who was sometimes beset by demons either totally from outside his control (vicious racism when he was with the Phillies — from their own fans and at least one of his own teammates) or from within, had had a mere 151 OPS+ with LA, low for him.

With the White Sox and under Tanner, Allen’s troubles were in the past. Allen hit for an astounding 199 OPS+ with 37 homers, 113 RBIs (in a strike-shortened 154 games), a .308 average and MLB-leading .420 on-base percentage. He cruised to the AL MVP and led the White Sox to an 87-67 record. That would have been good enough to win the AL East, but not to top Oakland’s 93-62 in the West.

(I occasionally got to watch Allen hit from the vantage point of the press box, and I still believe that when he connected you could see the side of the ball go flat. He’s the best hitter I’ve ever seen, and it’s a shame modern measurement techniques didn’t exist, so we could know just how hard he did hit the ball.)

Chicago White Sox Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Dick Allen at bat. (You can’t see the ball because he knocked it flat.)

The rest of the offense joined in, with six starters with an OPS+ better than 100, with Carlos May at 148, and Melton against hitting 33 round-trippers, though Chicago was still only 11th in MLB in runs and 10th in homers.

On the pitching side, Wood turned it up a notch to 376 2⁄3 innings and a 24-17 record and 2.51 ERA. Stan Bahnsen, who had been picked up from the Yankees for Rich McKinney, went 21-16 and Bradley was 15-14, both of them pitching more than 250 innings. Forster and Gossage led the bullpen (especially Forster), but the team was still only 10th in ERA, though first in FIP.

How could that difference be? The defense, of course — 18th in efficiency and dead last in range factor. Some things just don’t change.

Still, in two years the White Sox went from 56 to 79 to 87 wins, with the 87 coming in a shorter season. For those of us who had just become fans (I got out of the Navy and moved to Chicago during the 1971 season), it was quite a ride.

And it was all terrific after that, right?

Well, er, uh, no.

The record dropped to 77-85 in an injury-riddled 1973, then 80-80-3, 75-86, and 64-97 before 90 wins in 1977. Only 1975 was a miserable attendance year, though.

Part of the problem was a tendency to make first round draft choices who wouldn’t sign (Danny Goodwin) or never amounted to much of anything (whole bunches).

Allen was hurt much of 1973, but rebounded to another huge year in 1974 before he walked out on the team/retired at the end of the season, thus essentially given away to the Braves, who then sent him on back to the Phillies where his hitting went downhill. Also going downhill was the whole offense in 1973, with homers in particular hard to come by — 10th out of 12 AL teams.

On the pitching side, Wood continued to be outstanding for several more years, Bahnsen for one or two more. Some guy named Steve Stone joined the rotation for a year and wasn’t much good, but did well in a second Sox stint beginning in 1977.

So what happened to the guys at the top?

Amid rumors of a move to Seattle, John Allyn sold the Sox back to Veeck in December 1975, just in time for free agency to kick in. Veeck had been a big supporter of the players but didn’t have the money to compete in the new financial world, so he tried to sell the team to Edward DeBartolo in 1980 — and when the league refused that, made a sale to another group in 1981.

We all unfortunately know how that has worked out.

Hemond, who just died two years ago, stayed as GM through the 1985 season, then moving on to the Orioles. He actually came back for a short stint as a Sox executive from 2001-07, which of course includes the 2005 championship.

Tanner was ousted after the 1975 season, moved on to Oakland for a year, then to Pittsburgh, where he led the team to a World Series victory in 1979. He continued managing through 1988, and died in 2011.

So what are the lessons to be learned?

How about: Get a general manager who is up on all the latest ways to gather information and evaluate players (one of Hemond’s many awards from the SABR folks) and not some hack who has already proven incompetent in another role in the organization.

And then: Get a manager who has had success at the helm but is still young enough to have solid energy and relate to the team, not some coach from a terrible team whose only visible skills are spouting platitudes, throwing rookies under the bus and sucking up to his veterans and bosses.

Don’t be set in your ways when it comes to handling the pitching staff, but be ready to make major changes in who does what if that looks right.

And, oh, yes — it doesn’t hurt to pick up a superstar.

Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
56 days ago
Don't wait 70 years to embrace the home run.

The Real UFO Story

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Erik Hoel writes that the “the UFO craze was created by government nepotism and incompetent journalism” which makes a lot more sense to me than the other explanation. Here’s a key bit:

To sum up the story as far as I understand its convoluted depths: diehard paranormal believers scored 22 million in Defense spending via what looks like nepotism from Harry Reid by submitting a grant to do bland general “aerospace research” and being the “sole bidder” for the contract. They then reportedly used that grant, according to Lacatski himself, the head of the program, to study a myriad of paranormal phenomenon at Skinwalker Ranch including—you may have guessed it by now—dino-beavers. Viola! That’s how there was a “government-funded program to study UFOs.”

Our current journalistic class, unwilling or unable to do the research I can do in my boxers in about five hours, instead did a big media oopsie in The New York Times, running the story and lending credibility to the idea the Pentagon did create a real serious task force to investigate UFO claims. The fervor in response to these “revelations” memed into existence a real agency at the DoD that now does actually study UFOs, simply because everyone “demanded answers”—which is totally understandable, given the journalistic coverage. However, the current UFO task force is staffed by, well, the people willing to be on a UFO task force. According to the Post:

And who was in charge, during the Trump administration, when the Pentagon created a UFO Task Force to investigate incursions of unknown objects over America?

Stratton—who believes the ghosts and creatures of Skinwalker Ranch are real—officially headed up these Pentagon investigations for years.

The “chief scientist” of this Pentagon task force was Travis Taylor, who is and was a co-star of “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel. He currently stars on “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” on the same network.

This official embedding makes it difficult to break the veneer of legitimacy unless you know the whole story, simply because there’s likely a lot of coordination by professional UFO enthusiasts behind the scenes, which is why you’ll occasionally read stuff about how anonymous sources from other insiders confirm the accounts.

See also my previous post on Uri Geller and the government’s Stargate Project.

The post The Real UFO Story appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
100 days ago
Knew this was BS.

Bad Definitions Of "Democracy" And "Accountability" Shade Into Totalitarianism

1 Comment

Suppose there’s freedom of religion: everyone can choose what religion to practice. Is there some sense in which this is “undemocratic”? Would it be more “democratic” if the democratically-elected government declared a state religion, and everyone had to follow it?

You could, in theory, define “democratic” this way, so that the more areas of life are subjected to the control of a (democratically elected) government, the more democratic your society is. But in that case, the most democratic possible society is totalitarianism1 - a society where the government controls every facet of life, including what religion you practice, who you marry, and what job you work at. In this society there would be no room for human freedom.

So either you should avoid defining “democratic” this way, or you should stop assuming that more democratic = better. Otherwise it’s easy to prove that any step towards totalitarianism is good.

I first noticed this during a discussion with Rob Reich (the professor who studies charity, not the former labor secretary with the same name). Reich flirted with an argument that charitable donation is inherently undemocratic: people are allowed to donate money to whatever causes they personally want, instead of giving it to the government to be distributed via the elected government’s budgeting process. I agree that you can define “undemocratic” such that it includes anyone spending money or trying to improve society outside of government. But if you define it this way, and also try to correct undemocratic things, you get totalitarianism - a society where everything must be done through the government.

I thought about it more recently during a discussion of AI. Some people argued that AI should be banned by default, because it’s “undemocratic” for scientists and tech entrepreneurs to be able to change our society (by creating AI) without anyone voting on it. Again, taken to an extreme, this suggests nobody should be able to express an idea, release a new product, or invent a new technology without government permission. Again, this is totalitarianism. Everything - including converting to a new religion - changes society. But some changes to society - like changing religion, or writing a book, or developing a new technology - can’t be default-banned without becoming a totalitarian state.

I feel the same way about the word “accountable”.

If ordinary people are allowed to change their religion without having to get someone else’s permission, we can describe that situation as “there’s no accountability in religious conversion”. If the government isn’t allowed to jail authors who write books they don’t like, and authors agree the government should not be able to jail them, you could describe that situation as “authors are trying to avoid being held accountable for their work”. This means that demands for accountability shade very quickly into demands for totalitarianism - any time someone becomes “more accountable”, they also become less free. It’s proper to demand accountability as a condition for vesting someone with unusual power - for example, Presidents should be accountable to the people they govern. But once people are supposed to be “accountable” for their personal lives and ordinary decisions, you’re being totalitarian again.

When people were trying to get Substack cancelled back in 2021, one common complaint was that, absent a boss who could fire them if they said politically incorrect things, Substack writers had no “accountability”. Here it’s painfully obvious that “accountability” is opposed to people retaining ownership of their own output, to them working for themselves instead of a megacorporation, and to them keeping control of their own lives. A society where every writer has “accountability” is totalitarian - or, if you don’t like that word for something that might lock in merely corporate rather than government control, at least it would lack a flourishing private sphere.

It might sound like I’m arguing that it’s okay for small things like your private life to stay undemocratic and unaccountable, it’s only big things that change society which should be subjected to democratic scrutiny. I’m not sure I believe this. Martin Luther King changed society a lot, but not through being democratic and accountable - he didn’t ask permission from the majority of Alabama voters before marching, and he didn’t lodge his complaint with the appropriate state officials and wait for the government to solve it. He just marched. Sure, part of his march was to change voter minds and get new democratically-passed laws2. But part of it was to provoke direct extragovernmental change of people being less racist in their everyday lives. If MLK had been “accountable” to someone, he never would have been able to do what he did. But what he did was what we tell everyone to do: try your best to make a difference and leave the world a better place, according to your own values, without needing permission from the government or the majority of people. The same is true of the original Martin Luther, of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, of George Orwell and Bill Gates, and virtually every important, heroic, or interesting person in history. The only society that doesn’t leave space for the person trying to make the world better as they understand out outside of the existing governmental process is - again - totalitarianism.

I think the word “democratic” is most useful when applied to the structure of a government; a government where the military can overrule elected officials is less democratic than one where they can’t. I would avoid using it for discussions of the size of government (eg whether the government determining a state religion is more democratic than permitting religious freedom). This will lead inevitably to the conclusion that any attempt to strip individuals of their rights is automatically more democratic than not doing that3.

I think the word “accountable” should be reserved for people who are being vested with specific powers being held accountable to the people who are vesting them (elected officials accountable to voters, managers accountable to owners, charities accountable to donors, etc) and not used in a general sense where everyone needs to be accountable to everyone else all the time. I realize this rules out some venerable usages like “hold criminals accountable for their actions”, but I’m willing to change this to “punish criminals”.


Here I’m using the word “totalitarian” to mean “the government controls every aspect of life”; I use the alternative word “authoritarian” to mean “the government is a dictatorship without checks and balances”. The opposite of “totalitarian” is “libertarian” or just “free”, the opposite of “authoritarian” is “democratic”. I think totalitarianism and authoritarianism are correlated, but represent two different concepts, and that it’s coherent to rate democracies on how totalitarian they are. My ideal form of government would be mostly democratic and mostly not totalitarian, in the sense that the government would control some limited part of life (“the public sphere”), and decide what it did with that part through the democratic process.


This is ignoring the difficult question of how “democratic” government should be, and what that means. For example, is the existence of an unelected judiciary that can sometimes overrule the elected legislature “undemocratic”? Is Secret Congress “undemocratic”? Is the Federal Reserve “undemocratic”? Are the changes proposed in Garett Jones’ book Ten Percent Less Democracy “undemocratic”? Completely separately from the totalitarian thing, I find myself nervous at the recent trend towards using “democratic” to mean “good” and “undemocratic” to mean “bad”, because it either makes us twist language in an Orwellian way to say that courts overruling elected officials is “more democratic” than them not doing that, or serves as a bludgeon that would-be dictators can use against an independent judiciary.

Likewise, the definition of an independent judiciary is one where judges are unaccountable or only very tenuously accountable; we turn “unaccountable” into a generic insult at our peril.


Related: there’s a sense in which our democracy has established, through normal government processes of establishing things, that people may donate to charity or choose their own religion. In that sense, those processes *are* democratic, in the sense that a fair election has been held and the winner was to do things the way they’re currently done, and not “democratize” them further. I get stuck in infinite regresses if I try to think too hard about this, so I don’t.

Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
129 days ago
This is excellent.
Next Page of Stories