Switzerland is prepared for civilizational collapse

December 16th, 2017

Switzerland is prepared for civilizational collapse, Alex Tabarrok notes:

All around Switzerland, for example, one can find thousands of water fountains fed by natural springs. Zurich is famous for its 1200 fountains, some of them quite beautiful and ornate, but it’s the multiple small, simple fountains in every Swiss village that really tell the story. Elegant, yes, but if and when central water systems are destroyed these fountains are a decentralized and robust system for providing everyone with drinkable water.

The Swiss political system is also decentralized. If the central government fails, the Swiss might not even notice. The mountains and valleys also mean that Swiss towns and villages are geographically independent yet linked in a spider-web of robust connections.

Despite being at peace since 1815, Switzerland is prepared for war. Swiss males (and perhaps females in the future) are required to serve in the military (those who cannot, pay a special tax) creating a robust reservoir of trained citizens ready to serve in an emergency.

The Swiss have been tunneling the Alps for hundreds of years creating innumerable secret hideaways for people and stores.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

In addition, to thousands of military bunkers permeating the Swiss mountains there are several hundred thousand private and public fallout shelters the largest of which can hold some 20,000 people. Some of the largest installations have been decommissioned and even turned into museums but there is little doubt that they could be rapidly re-purposed.. As the Swiss continue to improve their already fantastic railway system it’s standard practice to convert old railway tunnels to security shelters.

Buried deep alongside the hydroelectric dams, shelters and food stores, the Swiss also have libraries ready to reboot civilization.

I thought secret Swiss forts were impressive. I wasn’t expecting secret Swiss hydroelectric dams. The Swiss military system is fascinating.

I really should read John McPhee’s La Place de la Concorde Suisse.

An inelegant weapon for a more barbaric age

December 15th, 2017

A lightsaber would not be an elegant weapon, as any plasma torch able to cut through a blast door like butter would vaporize flesh explosively:

He thanks Matter Beam of Tough SF for running the numbers. His estimate of a light saber’s output was 35 MW, about the same as a nuclear submarine’s reactor.

I found some footage of a modern plasma torch cutting through meat:

Star Trek’s phasers have the same problem as Star Wars’ light sabers, by the way. Vaporizing a human wouldn’t be much more elegant.

Sebastian Junger talks to Joe Rogan

December 15th, 2017

Sebastian Junger recently spoke with Joe Rogan about his book Tribe and the alienation of modern society:

As I’ve said before, he sounds like he should be a distant cousin of Ernst Jünger (Storm of Steel).

Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art comes to life

December 14th, 2017

Visual Effects students at the DAVE school in Florida have brought Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art to life in a trailer for The Star Wars:

One percent of the population commits 63 percent of all violent crimes

December 14th, 2017

One percent of the population commits 63 percent of all violent crimes — at least in Sweden, based on convictions:

A total of 93,642 individuals (3.9 %) had at least one violent conviction. The distribution of convictions was highly skewed; 24,342 persistent violent offenders (1.0 % of the total population) accounted for 63.2 % of all convictions. Persistence in violence was associated with male sex (OR 2.5), personality disorder (OR 2.3), violent crime conviction before age 19 (OR 2.0), drug-related offenses (OR 1.9), nonviolent criminality (OR 1.9), substance use disorder (OR 1.9), and major mental disorder (OR 1.3).

The majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by a small number of persistent violent offenders, typically males, characterized by early onset of violent criminality, substance abuse, personality disorders, and nonviolent criminality.

Number of Convictions by Percentile

If all violent crime careers could come to a stop after a third conviction (which would require interventions directed at 1 % of the total population), more than 50 % of all convictions for violent crime in the total population would be prevented.

[...]

First offenses are particularly difficult to predict, especially due to the low base rates of violent crime overall. By contrast, the majority of violent crimes are committed by a group of offenders who may be identified by rather easily observable features, such as having already been convicted of violent crimes several times already in adolescence, and having problems with substance abuse.

These statistics seemingly support the catchphrase and model employed in California and several other states in the USA, “three strikes and you’re out.”

Kids love dinosaurs

December 13th, 2017

As a near-universal rule, kids love dinosaurs. Or, as psychologists might say, many children develop an intense interest in dinosaurs:

Researchers don’t know exactly what sparks them — the majority of parents can’t pinpoint the moment or event that kicked off their kids’ interest — but almost a third of all children have one at some point, typically between the ages of 2 and 6 (though for some the interest lasts further into childhood). And while studies have shown that the most common intense interest is vehicles — planes, trains, and cars — the next most popular, by a wide margin, is dinosaurs.

[...]

“I hear it over and over” from parents, he says: ‘They know all the names! I don’t know how they remember that stuff.’” But Lacovara does, or at least he has some theories. “I think for many of these children, that’s their first taste of mastery, of being an expert in something and having command of something their parent or coach or doctor doesn’t know,” he says. “It makes them feel powerful. Their parent may be able to name three or four dinosaurs and the kid can name 20, and the kid seems like a real authority.”

Intense interests are a big confidence booster for kids, agrees Kelli Chen, a pediatric psychiatric occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins.

They’re also particularly beneficial for cognitive development. A 2008 study found that sustained intense interests, particularly in a conceptual domain like dinosaurs, can help children develop increased knowledge and persistence, a better attention span, and deeper information-processing skills. In short, they make better learners and smarter kids. There’s decades of research to back that up: Three separate studies have found that older children with intense interests tend to be of above-average intelligence.

[...]

And it’s probably not a coincidence that the age range for developing intense interests overlaps with the peak ages of imagination-based play (which is from age 3 through age 5).

[...]

In a study published in 2007, researchers who followed up with the parents of 177 kids found that the interests only lasted between six months and three years.

There are a number of reasons kids stop wanting to learn anything and everything about a particular topic, and one of the biggest is, ironically, school. As they enter a traditional educational environment, they’re expected to hit a range of targets in various subjects, which doesn’t leave much room for a specialization.

[...]

“Maybe at home the interest was being reinforced, and the positive feedback loop was, ‘Johnny knows that’s a pterodactyl, Johnny’s a genius!’ When you’re getting praise over and over again for having information about a subject, you’re on a runaway train to Dinosaurland,” Chatel says. “But then school begins and the positive feedback loops shift to, ‘Johnny played so well with others, Johnny shared his toys and made a friend.’”

An ordinary politician would have been powerless

December 12th, 2017

Ryan Holiday describes the most durable form of influence and power:

In 1931, Winston Churchill found himself more or less exiled from political life. In the previous years he had found himself vehemently fighting members of his own party over a number of issues and when a new government was formed, Churchill was not invited. He was viewed as out of date and out of touch by his fellow politicians and so began a period now known as his “wilderness years.”

An ordinary politician would have been powerless when voted out of office or driven to the fringes by political enemies. Not Churchill. Because he held onto something even more valuable than office — he had a platform.

Most people are unaware that Churchill made his living as a writer, publishing some ten million words in his lifetime in hundreds of publications and published works. In fact, it was his enormous worldwide readership that Churchill cultivated through books, newspaper columns, and radio appearances that allowed him to survive the periods in which he did not have the ability to directly shape policy. Instead, he was able to reach directly to the people about the rising threat of world war, not just in Britain but worldwide, including in America.

During his infamous time in the so-called political wilderness between 1931 and 1939, Churchill published 11 volumes and more than 400 articles, and delivered more than 350 speeches. His enormous platform — based on his editorial contacts, his extraordinary gift with words, and his relentless energy — allowed him not only to be relevant but also to guide policy and opinion across the globe until he was eventually brought back in to save Britain and eventually and in many ways, the world. For any kind of leader, creator or entrepreneur, this kind of platform is essential. Because it is the ultimate insurance policy and the most durable form of influence and power.

He presents another, quite different example:

Think about a band like Iron Maiden — radio hasn’t played their kind of music since the mid 80′s. MTV hasn’t played their kind of videos in almost as long. But in that time they’ve put out a dozen albums which have sold millions of copies. How? Because their relationship was directly with their audience. They had a platform. They have an enormous email list.

They had 1,000 true fans.

The one knocking on the door

December 11th, 2017

The New Yorker traces the origins of “You will not replace us!” back to a cosmopolitan gay Gascon named Renaud Camus — no relation to Albert:

In recent years, though, Camus’s name has been associated less with erotica than with a single poignant phrase, le grand remplacement. In 2012, he made this the title of an alarmist book. Native “white” Europeans, he argues, are being reverse-colonized by black and brown immigrants, who are flooding the Continent in what amounts to an extinction-level event. “The great replacement is very simple,” he has said. “You have one people, and in the space of a generation you have a different people.” The specific identity of the replacement population, he suggests, is of less importance than the act of replacement itself. “Individuals, yes, can join a people, integrate with it, assimilate to it,” he writes in the book. “But peoples, civilizations, religions — and especially when these religions are themselves civilizations, types of society, almost States — cannot and cannot even want to…blend into other peoples, other civilizations.”

Camus believes that all Western countries are faced with varying degrees of “ethnic and civilizational substitution.” He points to the increasing prevalence of Spanish, and other foreign languages, in the United States as evidence of the same phenomenon. Although his arguments are scarcely available in translation, they have been picked up by right-wing and white-nationalist circles throughout the English-speaking world. In July, Lauren Southern, the Canadian alt-right Internet personality, posted, on YouTube, a video titled “The Great Replacement”; it has received more than a quarter of a million views. On great-replacement.com, a Web site maintained anonymously, the introductory text declares, “The same term can be applied to many other European peoples both in Europe and abroad…where the same policy of mass immigration of non-European people poses a demographic threat. Of all the different races of people on this planet, only the European races are facing the possibility of extinction in a relatively near future.” The site announces its mission as “spreading awareness” of Camus’s term, which, the site’s author concludes, is more palatable than a similar concept, “white genocide.” (A search for that phrase on YouTube yields more than fifty thousand videos.)

“I don’t have any genetic conception of races,” Camus told me. “I don’t use the word ‘superior.’ ” He insisted that he would feel equally sad if Japanese culture or “African culture” were to disappear because of immigration. On Twitter, he has quipped, “The only race I hate is the one knocking on the door.”

Leave the colonists to fend for themselves

December 10th, 2017

I would not call the foundation of American gun culture the “American Indian foundation of American gun culture,” but the Indians did have a clear influence:

In England, there was no written, express guarantee of a right to arms until 1689, when Parliament enacted the English Bill of Rights. In America, arms rights were recognized in the Virginia Charter of 1606 and by the New England Charter of 1620. Geographically, the two charters covered all the future English colonies in what would become the United States of America. According to the charters, the colonists had the perpetual right to import arms, ammunition and other goods for their “Defence or otherwise.”

The Virginians and New Englanders also had an express guarantee of the right to use their arms at ‘‘all times forever hereafter, for their several Defences,’’ to “encounter, expulse, repel and resist’’ anyone who attempted ‘‘the Hurt, Detriment, or Annoyance of the said several Colonies or Plantations.’’ In practice, the colonists’ right of self-defense against invaders and criminals would need to be exercised through the collective action of the colonists, there being no British army anywhere near.

As history turned out, the willingness of Americans to be subjects of the British crown ended when the crown began violating its guarantees of American arms rights. The American Revolution began when Americans used their firearms to resist house-to-house gun and powder confiscation at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The attempted confiscation was part of a royal plan to disarm America, set in motion by King George III’s October 1774 embargo on the shipment of firearms and gunpowder to America. (By that point, Americans considered their arms rights to have been guaranteed by the 1689 Bill of Rights, because the 1606 and 1620 charters had long since been replaced.)

[...]

The despotic Stuart kings ruled England from 1603 to 1688. They were terrified of popular revolution and worked hard to disarm most of the population. Even under Queen Elizabeth I (who reigned from 1558 to 1603), militia training and practice were often desultory.

In the early 17th century, many English militia arms were centrally stored rather than kept at home. There were muster days, when a community would have to demonstrate that it had arms for its militia. But practice days were fewer.

[...]

In Great Britain, there was little opportunity for commoners lawfully to develop hunting skills. In the British Isles in the 17th century, hunting was very strictly regulated by the bewilderingly complex Game Laws.

[...]

But conditions in North America demanded a change. First of all, the early settlers had a greater need to hunt for survival. This is one reason that Anglo-Americans — far sooner than the English still in England — shifted from matchlocks to flintlocks. The flintlock’s ignition is much simpler than a matchlock’s: When the flintlock user pulls the trigger, a piece of flint is struck against a piece of steel, producing a shower of sparks that ignite the gunpowder. So a flintlock could be kept permanently loaded and always ready to fire in an instant. In ready mode, it does not reveal the user’s location. The flintlock was more reliable in damp or windy conditions. It was also simpler and faster to reload than a matchlock. It had obvious superiority for hunting in the forests of North America. Captain Myles Standish, an early leader of the Plymouth Colony, was America’s first famous flintlock user. A flintlock was three times more expensive than a matchlock, and in America, the extra price was well worth it.

Unlike England, America had no class-based hunting restrictions. The presumption was that everyone could hunt. Whatever restrictions might be imposed would apply to everyone equally.

An example of a neutral law was the Plymouth Colony’s statute against firing a gun after sunset. This was because when there was an emergency (e.g., an Indian attack), guns would be fired to raise the alarm. (That was how Paul Revere’s news that “The British are coming” was broadcast beyond the sound of his voice, on the night of April 18, 1775.) So Plymouth said that target practice, hunting and so on should be conducted in daylight and not when they might create a false alarm. An exception to the sundown law allowed shooting a wolf.

[...]

The Anglo-Americans faced a dilemma in their Indian trade. On the one hand, firearms sales were often a sine qua non for trade relations with any tribe of unconquered friendly Indians. On the other hand, the colonists were desperate to keep firearms out of the hands of hostile Indians. The colonists enacted many laws to attempt to control the Indian arms trade, but they were exercises in futility. To the limited extent that the laws deterred Anglo-Americans from selling arms to the Indians, Indians could acquire arms from trade networks linked to New Netherland (Delaware to Albany) or New France (Canada down to New Orleans, via the Mississippi River). Indian wars continued until the late 19th century, and nobody’s policies, including those of the U.S. government, managed to prevent Indians from acquiring arms. (See David J. Silverman’s Thundersticks: Firearms and Violent Transformation of Native America.)

Especially in frontier regions, many colonists lived in a state of constant peril from Indian raids. Even when there were formal treaty relations with the most proximate Indians, the Indians might change their minds and launch a surprise attack. For example, Virginia was nearly wiped out by the Powhatan in the Second Anglo-Powhatan War, which began in 1622.

To defend families and communities, the colonists were on their own. The general 17th century model of Spanish and French colonialism centered on trade outposts run by the central government in Europe and protected by that government’s standing army and navy. The English approach, though, was usually to grant a charter to a joint stock company or to a proprietor, to create some basic rules for colonial governance and relations with the mother country, and mostly to leave the colonists to fend for themselves. The English policy reduced the central government’s burden of expense for the colonies and forced the colonists to provide for their own defense.

Accordingly, most colonies enacted strict laws to instill and foster a firearms culture. This required changing the habits of some of the immigrants from Europe, most of whom came from places with much weaker arms cultures.

Of course the colonial laws included mandatory participation in the militia by able-bodied males and mandatory personal arms ownership for such participation. That part of the story is well-known. But the colonial laws went further.

Many laws required firearms ownership by any head of a household, even if the head were not militia-eligible (e.g., the head of the household was a woman or an old man.) Heads of households had to ensure that there was at least one firearm for every male in the household age 16 or over. This included free servants and indentured servants. Some colonies required that when a male indentured servant completed his term of service, his “freedom dues” (goods given by the master, so that the former servant could live independently) had to include a firearm.

To encourage settlement, the Carolina colony (today, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) induced immigration by offering immigrants freehold land ownership, along with strong guarantees of religious liberty. To receive the land grant, an immigrant had to bring six months worth of provisions to take care of his family while his farm was being cleared and cultivated. Also required: ‘‘provided always, that every man be armed with a good musket full bore, 10 pounds powder and 20 pounds of bullet.’’ (See “A Brief Description of the Province of Carolina” (London 1666), a pamphlet by proprietors encouraging immigration, reprinted in “9 English Historical Documents: American Colonial Documents to 1776,” David C. Douglas gen. ed., Merrill Jensen ed., 1955).

The Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered parents to arrange for arms training for all their children aged 10 or above, both boys and girls. Conscientious objectors were exempt.

Arms carrying was often mandatory for travel outside of towns and for attendance at large public events, particularly church services. Then, as now, unarmed church services were favorite targets for attack, because there would be lots of people gathered in a small space.

So one effect of the Anglo-Indian encounter was to foster a culture of widespread household gun ownership and widespread arms carrying. This was very different from conditions back in England, where the government was certainly not ordering people to always carry guns to the weekly (and mandatory) Church of England services.

It starts much, much too early for me

December 9th, 2017

Studies have shown the benefits of later school starts, but what about really late school starts?

Here we report on the implementation and impact of a 10 a.m. school start time for 13-16-year-old students. A four-year observational study using a before-after-before (A-B-A) design was carried out in an English state-funded high school. School start times were changed from 8:50 a.m. in study year 0, to 10 a.m. in years 1-2, and then back to 8:50 a.m. in year 3. Measures of student health (absence due to illness) and academic performance (national examination results) were used for all students. Implementing a 10 a.m. start saw a decrease in student illness after two years of over 50% (p< .0005 and effect size: Cohen’s d = 1.07), and reverting to an 8:50 a.m. start reversed this improvement, leading to an increase of 30% in student illness (p<.0005 and Cohen’s d = 0.47). The 10:00 a.m. start was associated with a 12% increase in the value-added number of students making good academic progress (in standard national examinations) that was significant (<.0005) and equivalent to 20% of the national benchmark.

My teenage self would be nodding in agreement — as would Brian Setzer:

Hey, man, I don’t feel like goin’ to school no more / Me neither. They can’t make you go. No you daddyo yeah! / I ain’t goin’ to school it starts too early for me / Well listen man I ain’t goin’ to school no more it starts much, much too early for me / I don’t care about readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic or history

The class clown is onto something

December 8th, 2017

Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education comes out soon, and he managed to get The Atlantic to publish a summary — which is sure to ruffle some feathers:

How, you may ask, can anyone call higher education wasteful in an age when its financial payoff is greater than ever? The earnings premium for college graduates has rocketed to 73 percent — that is, those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 73 percent more than those who have only a high-school diploma, up from about 50 percent in the late 1970s. The key issue, however, isn’t whether college pays, but why. The simple, popular answer is that schools teach students useful job skills. But this dodges puzzling questions.

First and foremost: From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

[...]

Suppose your law firm wants a summer associate. A law student with a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford applies. What do you infer? The applicant is probably brilliant, diligent, and willing to tolerate serious boredom. If you’re looking for that kind of worker — and what employer isn’t? — you’ll make an offer, knowing full well that nothing the philosopher learned at Stanford will be relevant to this job.

The labor market doesn’t pay you for the useless subjects you master; it pays you for the preexisting traits you signal by mastering them. This is not a fringe idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz — all Nobel laureates in economics — made seminal contributions to the theory of educational signaling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory. But signaling plays almost no role in public discourse or policy making. As a society, we continue to push ever larger numbers of students into ever higher levels of education. The main effect is not better jobs or greater skill levels, but a credentialist arms race.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy. Nonetheless, I believe that signaling accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward, and probably more.

Definitely read the whole thing. You might learn — and even retain — something.

Evolving towards ever-more-optimal and ever-more-efficient institutions for the good of all

December 8th, 2017

Scott Alexander sees the idea of cultural evolution idea as a bit too optimistic:

Like, there’s a perspective where lots of countries have a King, because societies that have a single central nexus to their coordination structure are able to coordinate better than ones that don’t, and having them rule for life promotes long-term thinking, and them be hereditary provides a clear Schelling Point for secession disputes that prevents civil war and cleverly ensures that the previous ruler is incentivized to promote the peaceful transfer of power to the next one, and this is why constitutional monarchies have slightly higher yearly GDP growth than other forms of government.

And there’s another perspective where lots of countries have a King, because some guy seized so much power that he can live in a giant palace and order people around all day instead of doing work. And if anyone tries to prevent him from doing that, he can arrange to have that person beheaded.

Legal Systems Very Different From Ours is very much part of the first perspective. It’s a story of nations and legal systems evolving towards ever-more-optimal and ever-more-efficient institutions for the good of all, and it presents strong evidence supporting that story. I can’t disagree with its evidence from within its narrative, but I still wonder how much to worry about this alternate way of looking at things.

Pearl Harbor Day snuck up on me

December 7th, 2017

Pearl Harbor Day snuck up on me. Here are some posts on the topic:

They really, really didn’t seem prepared for crime

December 7th, 2017

Something kept seeming off about all the legal systems mentioned in Legal Systems Very Different From Ours, which only clicked into place for Scott Alexander about halfway through — they really, really didn’t seem prepared for crime:

A lot of them worked on a principle like: “If there’s a crime, we’ll call together a court made of all the town elders, plus at least three different religious leaders, plus the heads of the families of everybody involved, plus a representative of the Great King, plus nine different jurists from nine different universities, and all of them will meet on the Field Of Meeting, and a great tent will be erected, and…” The whole thing sounded like it might work as long as there was like one crime a year. Any more than that and none of the society’s officials would ever have time for anything else.

As weird as it is to punish murder with a fine, the fines these societies levied for murder sounded really high: the Islamic price was a hundred camels, the Irish price was seven female slaves. The average person wouldn’t have that many slaves or camels, so people in Arabia or Ireland would band together into clan/family-based blood-money-paying-groups that acted kind of like insurance companies. If a member got convicted of a crime, everyone else would come together to help them pony up the money. I assume this helped incentivize people’s families to discourage them from committing crimes. But it has the same feeling of nobody expecting very many crimes to be committed. How much of medieval Arabia’s GDP consisted of transfers of 100 camels from murderers to victims’ families?

One little-admitted but much-worried-about justification for mass incarceration in our society is the concern that some people are just so naturally violent that, left in the outside world, they would offend again and again until they died. The societies in this book didn’t seem to worry about this. If someone killed, their family would give up the relevant number of camels, and then everyone would be on their way. As far as I can tell, the Amish have no idea what to do about any crime more dire than using a telephone. Nobody used anything at all like incarceration. 18th century England occasionally sent prisoners somewhere horrible like America, but once the colonies revolted they experimented with jails, found them too expensive, and just sort of flailed around punishment-less until they finally discovered Australia.

There’s a lot of concern about police brutality, police racism, police failure-to-actually-control crime, et cetera. A few far-leftists have flirted with the idea of abolishing police, and the only way I can make sense of this is by analogy to something like Somali or Icelandic law. These were genuine community-based non-hierarchical legal systems. And, for the place and the time, they seem to have worked really well (Somaliland, which uses traditional Somali law, is doing way better than Somalia proper, whose law system is somewhat westernized). But I also know that it’s weirdly hard to get a good picture of how modern crime rates compare to ancient ones. On the one hand are statistics like the ones saying crime has increased by an order of magnitude since 1900 or so; on the other are findings like Steven Pinker’s that violence is constantly declining. Apply the “court made of town elders plus at least three different religious leaders plus…” to Baltimore, and the Field Of Meeting is going to get pretty crowded. On the other hand, in my past work with criminals I’ve been constantly surprised by how much role their families and their communities still play in their lives, and maybe a system that left legal enforcement up to them would do better than the overstretched and underperforming police.

All legal systems need a punishment of last resort

December 6th, 2017

One of the most interesting things Scott Alexander got from Legal Systems Very Different From Ours is that all legal systems need a punishment of last resort — one that can be enforced whether or not the offender agrees with it — but these punishments practically never happen in real life:

The Gypsies and Amish will ostracize members who defy the court — but since everyone lives in fear of ostracization, in real life they’ll just pay the fine or make their public confession or whatever. The English will hang criminals at the drop of a hat — but since the threat of hanging incentivizes them to bribe prosecutors, in reality few people will need to be hanged. The Icelandic courts could declare offenders outlaws who can be killed without repercussion — but the threat encourages Icelanders to pay the wergeld, and nobody has to get outlawed. The Somalis are ready to have murderous family feuds — but the possibility of such a feud keeps people willing to go to arbitration. Even our own legal system works like this. The police can physically drag you to jail, kicking and screaming. But more likely you’re going to plea bargain, or agree to community service, or at least be cooperative and polite while the police take you away. Plea bargains — which are easier for prosecutors, easier for defendants, and easier for taxpayers — seem like a good example of cultural evolution in action; once someone thought them up, there was no way they weren’t going to take over everything despite their very serious costs.