This has been on my mind a lot. Everyone wants to be the contrarian who ends up being right and hailed as a genius. It’s the intellectual equivalent of nailing the game winning 3 pointer.
But it is very dangerous to pursue being a contrarian on purpose. Being contrary to popular opinion is an awful heuristic for correctness, and quite often it leads towards you just being a crank and not being correct.
It works even better today because algorithms will jolt you to the top because you're controversial. It's gotten to the point where contrarian YouTbers will even have dumb little turf wars. If you are simply seeking the truth, why should you care that someone else agrees with you... oh they're stealing eyeballs? Ah, I see!
I can imagine objecting to the most eyeballs going to the wrong conclusion.
It does feel good to be an elitist contrarian, but being reality-based is better.
Note there was never ever a war against racism.
Be careful you don't get too attached to the good feelings that come along with accepting "reality based" status quo ideas without challenge.
For example, I've long held the opinion that most important aspect of Global Climate Change is not climate science, but psychology.
> P.P.S. At this point you might ask why are we picking on Freakonomics? Nobody cares about them anymore! Shouldn’t we be writing about Al Sharpton or Ted Cruz or whoever else happens to be polluting the public discourse? Or recent Ted talk sensations? Sleep is your superpower! Or we could see what’s been published lately in Perspectives on Psychological Science . . . that’s always always good for a laugh, or a cry.
For fun, let's do a quick search on "climate" in the archives of the hilarious 'Perspectives on Psychological Science':
Right off the bat, I see at least five articles that seem plausibly interesting and important. I'm not sure what keywords one would have to search on, but I reckon the field of psychology might have a few nuggets of useful knowledge about the exciting events of January 6 that everyone seems to have their panties in a bunch about.
Continuing on in TFA...
> Or maybe the pizzagate guy or the disgraced primatologist are up to no good again? Well, we do pick on all those people too.
The tens if not hundreds of thousands of comically deranged (down to the individual person, without exception) members of the conspiracy theory community surely don't have any useful knowledge at all that might have any pragmatic use to remedying the ever taller pile of debacles our Serious Intellectuals are stacking up, one on top of the other. We know this for sure - because....well, why is it again that we all know this, for sure? I know it's a fact, because I read it all the time, but now that I think about it, I can't recall the reason. Oh wait....it's because all conspiracy theorists believe that 5G causes covid, and all of their theories are of that quality. And I know this to be true, because numerous Trustworthy Professional Journalists share this same opinion, and this has been Confirmed by Concensus on places like HN and the front page of Reddit, and I also know that the theories of people like Noam Chomsky and Marshall McLuhan on the questionable trustworthiness of the media (and in turn, mass public perception) have been proven Completely Wrong. Nothing to see here - case closed.
Speaking of "good for a laugh", we're only two weeks into 2021, but I'm getting a feeling that this year might even be more funny than 2020. Time will tell I suppose. What I know we can count on though, is a never ending stream of sarcastic, sneering at our mutual outgroups articles from iamverysmart Right Thinking journalists and bloggers, and the Overton Window constrained circle jerk forum conversations that follow them (nothing noteworthy has ever been accomplished by anyone who had an idea outside of mainstream beliefs, no siree bob). Rinse repeat, forever. Fiddle While Rome Burns - it's a blast!
EDIT: Speaking of other "edgy contrarian views", I think one could have quite the "meme field day" with the coordinated full court press of "independent" journalists whipping up a state of public loathing for the "disgraceful attack on Democracy, our "most sacred institution", if one was to combine it with some of the Greatest Hits from this page:
I was having dinner with a good friend from Iran last night, he was telling me how there is a fair chunk of the population there who wants the US to invade and overthrow the current government, even if it results in severe destruction to the country. Is this a crazy idea? I don't even know what that word means anymore.
But all of this is little concern to me. No, feeling like a snack after writing this edgy contrarian rant (and nothing else), I'll just wander down to the local corner store (a light hoodie should be more than enough, it's so warm out this winter) and pickup 3kg of bananas for $1.99 (they're high in Potassium, delicious, and so affordable - how do they do it!!!??) And after that, I'll settle into my cozy bed and sleep like a lamb, knowing when I wake up tomorrow everything will be Just Fine for me and my family. And isn't that all that matters? I imagine it is, because if it wasn't I'm sure I'd have heard something about it from the man on the Six O'clock News. I don't know about you, but that's where I get my facts from, because they tell us the facts that matter, not like those other guys - and I know this to be true, because they told me this is true, and people on social media overwhelmingly confirmed it to be true.
Here's a very tame source: "The Civil War in the United States began in 1861, after decades of simmering tensions between northern and southern states over slavery, states’ rights and westward expansion." [ https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/american-c... ]
Which of those 3 items you think the North could not care less about (much less go to war for), if it wasn't for its economic impact?
Continuing from the same source:
"In the mid-19th century, while the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, a fundamental economic difference existed between the country’s northern and southern regions. In the North, manufacturing and industry was well established, and agriculture was mostly limited to small-scale farms, while the South’s economy was based on a system of large-scale farming that depended on the labor of Black enslaved people to grow certain crops, especially cotton and tobacco."
The tie with slavery is all about the economy:
"Growing abolitionist sentiment in the North after the 1830s and northern opposition to slavery’s extension into the new western territories led many southerners to fear that the existence of slavery in America—and thus the backbone of their economy—was in danger."
And that's the general causes. The immediate causes for the declaration of war have even less to do with it, and it was all about the secession of several states - i.e. whether the federal state has control over them or not.
GA: The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.... We refuse to submit to that judgment, and in vindication of our refusal we offer the Constitution of our country and point to the total absence of any express power to exclude us.
MS: Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery
SC: This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
TX: We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
Those are neither here, nor there. It's not a question about whether the South wanted to continue slavery, or the North wanted to end it.
It's a question about whether the North's motive was slavery (as a moral/just cause), or other considerations (like state control, economic competition), to which slavery was a secondary effect they didn't want to leave to the South.
Southern states started the Civil War by seceding to form the Confederacy, and more specifically by attacking U.S. Fort Sumter, an act of war. They did that to preserve and expand slavery. So it’s still correct to say that the Civil War was about slavery.
But yeah the south leaving the Union was all about slavery.
It might be convenient to ignore arguments from dead people we don't agree with. But we seldom extend this to arguments from dead people we agree with.
Yes except you're getting cause and effect reversed. The fundamental building block of the Southern economy was slavery, as your own quoted excerpts explain. Take that away and their economy would collapse, along with the extremely comfortable plantation lifestyles of the Southern elite. Their economy depended on slavery, not the other way around. When slavery was threatened, they went to war to preserve it.
I'm from the South, we were taught in high-school that it was about economics, but later in life I realized that, for the South, slavery was the economy, and the root cause of the Civil War. Southerners have to be honest about that, or they'll never be able to fully move on.
This does not to provide a moral excuse for the institution of slavery, but simply a clairification of fact.
That’s exactly the question I’m getting at. At a high level, the question of what events led up to the war is different from why the north and south chose to go to war.
I think it is an interesting question that usually gets glossed over by focusing on the motivations of the south. For the north, I think it was some combination of manifest destiny, national pride, and economic incentives. Perhaps they did not want to compete with a rival for North American territory and have a reduced capacity for international defense/power projection. You can ask why any government go to war to stop separatist movements, or incorporate new territories, and the answers may be different in each case. For example, the reasons Spain does not want an independent Catalonia are different than why China opposes an independent Taiwan.
>Who would want to secede, and why?
The south and slavery, for the sake of simplicity.
Of course. That doesn't make it a war about slavery, it makes a war about a threatened economic advantage.
In fact, I agree further with you: the South did fight for slavery both as an economic advantage and as a racist ideology.
My issue is with the notion that the Civil War cause as it comes to the North was about the emancipation of the slaves - which I consider cant. It was about economy and control from the Northern side.
There's no serious dispute about that; preserving the Union was the overt aim, and there were slave states in the Union, who clearly weren't fighting against slavery.
“The civil war wasn’t about slavery”
“From the perspective of the north the primary motivation was not slavery”
And it’s not convincing to me or to others. The big picture here: was the civil war about slavery? I think the answer is yes, what about you?
But slavery doesn’t have to be on racial grounds directly. For example in California they use the prison population as slave labour, Kamala Harris built her entire success on it.
It just so happened that the majority of the prison population is black, and she was the state’s top cop. Nothing to see here, move along now.
Of course you can abstract it all away by saying it was "economics" but the economics in question are the economics of slavery. The states rights are the rights as they pertain to slavery. It was slavery.
What a polite comment.
>It was about slavery. Of course the north wasnt interested in war over slavery.
That's kind of my whole point. The North wasn't interested in war over slavery, and the war wasn't about emancipating slaves rhetoric. It was about the North conflicting with the South over economic operation, interests, and state control.
Slavery just happened to be the way that was expressed in the South, so it became the contentiuous issue, but as a second order effect.
Since you are one of the top HN posters, I encourage you to read the founding documents and speeches of the Confederate States, as well as reputable historical works such as McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom".
It was slavery.
It was slavery. (The states’ rights to maintain slavery.)
It was slavery. (The expansion of slavery into new territory.)
It was entirely about slavery.
1) You missed: It was slavery (The states' rights to not enforce the fugitive slave act)
2) The south's position was unarguably defined by their view on slavery. However, the north's position was far less clear cut. There was certainly an abolitionist movement in the North; but even during the civil war, they did not control northern politics.
Despite the failure of northern states to enforce the fugitive slave act, there was still a general willingness in them to tolerate the existence of slavery the southern states.
Unlike the confederacy, the stated aim of the US during the civil war was explicitly not the abolition of slavery, but rather the preservation of the union. I believe their actions leading up to the civil war were consistent with this. However, if you doubt the honesty of the stated goals of the North, you can look instead at to the slave states that stayed with the union: Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri. Since I am from Maryland, that is the state whose history I am familiar with. When it rejected secession, the Maryland legislature passed a resolution stating:
> The General Assembly of Maryland have seen with concern certain indications at the seat of the General Government, of an interference with the institution of slavery in the slave-holding States, and cannot hesitate to express their sentiments and those of the people they represent, in regard to a policy so unwise and mischievous. This war is prosecuted by the Nation with but one object; that, namely, of a restoration of the Union, just as it was when the rebellion broke out. The rebellious States are to be brought back to their places in the Union, without change or diminution of their constitutional rights. In the language of the resolution adopted by both Houses of Congress at its extra session in July last, with remarkable unanimity, this war is declared to be prosecuted not “in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality and rights of the several States unimpaired, and that as soon as those objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease.”
> The objects and purposes of the war thus impressively declared, are those alone which the Nation can rightfully contemplate in its prosecution; and the moment the object of the war changes from a simple restoration of the Union, as known to the Constitution, to something else in conflict with the guaranties of that instrument, from that moment the war itself changes its character. ...
The emancipation proclamation would not be issues until September 1862, well over a year into the civil war. Incidentally, the emancipation proclamation explicitly did not apply to Union states that still had slaves.
I am inclined to agree with the confederacy's assessment that the North was on the path to forcing abolition. But that is simply not an accurate description of the position of the North at the start of the civil war.
 I suppose unarguable is a bit strong, since empirically there are people who do argue this; but the confederacy at the time was pretty clear on their motivation.
That is, if by "it was slavery" anybody means:
- "the North cared for the welfare of blacks and wanted to save them from slavery and went to war for it"
as opposed to:
"the Northern interests wanted to take away that advantage/economic mode from the South and the westward expansion states". The rest are nice stories to tell to children to make them feel patriotic and proud.
The US continued being racist and seggragated just fine, including the "all caring" North for another century (or more).
I see no evidence of this consensus; could you present some?
> That is, if by "it was slavery" anybody means:
> - "the North cared for the welfare of blacks and wanted to save them from slavery and went to war for it"
> as opposed to:
> "the Northern interests wanted to take away that advantage/economic mode from the South and the westward expansion states".
Er, neither of those is the reason. It was about slavery in the sense of “The South issued articles of secession because of fears that the long-term arc of history in the Union was toward abolition.”
The North was concerned with preserving the Union. The war was about slavery for the South, who started it, not the North.
You’re talking points echo “the Lost Cause” a 160+ year concerted effort to rehabilitate the history Of the antebellum South through obfuscation, misdirection and half-truths.
I’d recommend https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Lost-Cause-South-Fought/dp/16215...
Ironically, being contrarian can itself be an unconscious social force to differentiate yourself; sometimes the herd is right.
Dangerous for society, and not for the individual pursuing that path.
I think both don't work, which is perhaps your point, but you have to include contrarian things you like in this theory.
The reverse warning would be equally useful, i.e. "dare to challenge the status quo if there's evidence for something better".
Seldom in politics and culture.
Drive-by contrarians say outlandish, vaguely smart-sounding things, then come back with, "Oh, we're just raising questions and pushing back against groupthink." Or they just ignore the pushback, of course, as in the Freakonomics case.
which cites a BBC article stating:
> For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.
> Professor Easterbrook says: “The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”
Needless to say, the 2009-2039 "cooling cycle" isn't off to a great start.
I like to say, on a summer day you defrost your freezer. The kitchen, of course, gets cooler for a while. But once the ice is gone, its a hot summer day everywhere.
Well that’s an extra depressing way to put it to me for some reason.
We’ll have to figure out CO2 removal at scale pretty much. Anyone knows how that’s going to give me some hope?
Now, it looks like it hasn’t? So basically what we though the average temperature each year was wrong and this new data is right?
You've just been listing to the wrong sources it seems, sorry to say.
I mean, the journal Nature devoted a whole issue to explaining the pause.
So despite all the effort to explain the pause you’re telling me there was no pause? So what were they trying to explain?
The incoming solar energy remained greater than the energy Earth was radiating. The question was simply where was the excess going if it was not showing up as surface heating.
The Earth contains many complex systems that are exchanging energy with each other in complex ways. Many of these have periodic or approximately periodic cycles than can change the magnitude of energy flow between them, or even the direction.
So sometimes you'll have periods where an increase in total energy ends up not changing surface temperatures, instead warming something else like part of the ocean, or maybe a particular layer of the atmosphere, or maybe going into melting glaciers (converting a mass of water from ice at 0 C to liquid at 0 C takes a lot of energy), or some combination of all of those and more.
Or did they?
Is there a prediction market for this?