Protestants Trading Acausally 2024-04-01T14:46:26.374Z
Martin Sustrik's Shortform 2023-06-02T08:21:59.812Z
Moral Illusions 2022-05-06T04:00:22.712Z
The Cage of the Language 2022-04-13T05:20:54.319Z
On Stateless Societies 2021-12-27T07:28:42.315Z
Technocratic Plimsoll Line 2021-05-15T08:34:51.630Z
On Chesterton's Fence 2021-04-29T14:56:33.747Z
Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat 2021-03-20T10:37:27.466Z
Teaching to Compromise 2021-03-07T13:57:15.010Z
On the Nature of Reputation 2021-02-20T12:50:30.128Z
Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking 2021-02-07T08:54:12.717Z
The Story of the Reichstag 2021-02-05T05:51:59.243Z
Political Lottery in Switzerland 2020-10-08T05:03:38.824Z
Split-a-Dollar Game 2020-08-24T04:54:22.313Z
The Human Condition 2020-08-16T05:23:15.027Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (III.) 2020-08-11T05:09:00.368Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) 2020-07-22T13:50:04.033Z
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) 2020-07-19T01:11:54.756Z
Institutional Senescence 2020-06-26T04:40:02.644Z
In Search of Slack 2020-05-23T11:20:02.929Z
Partying over Internet: Technological Aspects 2020-04-05T06:20:01.067Z
The Missing Piece 2019-10-27T05:50:00.824Z
Happy Petrov Day! 2019-09-27T02:10:00.739Z
On Becoming Clueless 2019-09-24T04:20:00.672Z
Type-safeness in Shell 2019-05-12T11:30:00.680Z
Hull: An alternative to shell that I'll never have time to implement 2019-04-28T07:40:00.528Z
On the Nature of Programming Languages 2019-04-22T10:50:00.862Z
The Politics of Age (the Young vs. the Old) 2019-03-24T06:40:04.359Z
Muqaata'a by Fahad Himsi (I.) 2019-03-10T15:10:00.962Z
Programmatic Code Generation: Composability 2019-03-02T22:50:06.865Z
Lydian song 2019-02-25T20:50:01.088Z
Tiles: Report on Programmatic Code Generation 2019-02-22T00:10:04.593Z
Graceful Shutdown 2019-02-16T11:30:00.927Z
Structured Concurrency Cross-language Forum 2019-02-10T09:20:00.779Z
Confessions of an Abstraction Hater 2019-01-27T05:50:01.066Z
Announcement: A talk about structured concurrency at FOSDEM 2018-12-30T10:10:00.836Z
State Machines and the Strange Case of Mutating API 2018-12-24T05:50:00.599Z
Equivalence of State Machines and Coroutines 2018-12-18T04:40:00.750Z
On Rigorous Error Handling 2018-11-17T09:20:00.753Z
Two Approaches to Structured Concurrency 2018-10-31T16:20:01.467Z
Unikernels: No Longer an Academic Exercise 2018-10-23T11:40:00.926Z
Update on Structured Concurrency 2018-10-19T11:10:01.179Z
Coordination Problems in Evolution: The Rise of Eukaryotes 2018-10-15T06:18:47.576Z
Coordination Problems in Evolution: Eigen's Paradox 2018-10-12T12:40:10.675Z
One-person Universe 2018-10-09T20:10:00.997Z
Anti-social Punishment 2018-09-27T07:08:56.362Z
Inadequate Equilibria vs. Governance of the Commons 2018-05-25T13:17:21.981Z
Soviet-era Jokes, Common Knowledge, Irony 2018-05-12T10:52:31.293Z
Research: Rescuers during the Holocaust 2018-04-30T06:15:40.659Z


Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Talk: a brief explanation of sexual dimorphism · 2023-10-01T16:27:05.057Z · LW · GW

Admittedly, I haven't read about the problem of sex since '90s but back then the argument against the naive "sex is good because it allows all the good genes to get into a single organism" was that that made sense from the point of view of the species, but not necessarily from the point of view of the individual -- while the natural selection works on the individual level.

In particular, when a female has a choice to reproduce either sexually or via parthenogenesis, in the former case she loses 50% of the fitness (because half of her genes get recombined out). Thus, the advantages of the sexual reproduction must outweight this huge drop in fitness. Even worse, it must outweight it quickly. "Your progeny is going to be better off after 100 generations" is not going to work, because when your fitness drops by 50% you'll die out in few generations.

Anyway, if the newer research found a solution to this problem, it would be interesting to hear about it.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on What does it mean to “trust science”? · 2023-08-18T16:23:44.295Z · LW · GW

Yes, it does. Any better ideas?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on What does it mean to “trust science”? · 2023-08-17T10:31:59.707Z · LW · GW

This is aimed at those who can't make an informed opinion themselves. (And most of us can't. Even a scientist can't often make an informed opinion about a result from a different discipline.) What it means is: "Trust the official scientific institutions. However broken they may be you are still better off trusting them than trusting the alternative sources of information."

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Martin Sustrik's Shortform · 2023-06-02T08:22:00.128Z · LW · GW

This is related to an idea I keep stressing here, which is that people rarely have consistent meta-level principles. Instead, they’ll endorse the meta-level principle that supports their object-level beliefs at any given moment. The example I keep giving is how when the federal government was anti-gay, conservatives talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and liberals insisted on states’ rights; when the federal government became pro-gay, liberals talked about the pressing need for federal intervention and conservatives insisted on states’ rights.


One encounters that kind of thing all the time, e.g. people trying to change the constitution to cause particular object-level changes.

But on the other hand, it feels like a useful political tool: Whoever is willing to sacrifice their object-level goals can achieve their meta-level goals instead. And given that meta-level changes are likely to have more profound long-term impact, it may be worth it.

Elaborating the above example, if you are anti-gay, but pro-state all you have to do is to wait until pro-gay people support strengthening the states at the expense of the federal government. At that point you can join forces with them and give more power to the states. I'll hurt your object anti-gay agenda, but you achieve your meta-level agenda which will keep paying off in 20 or 50 years when the gay issue is probably no longer salient enough to care.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (III.) · 2022-09-24T06:55:03.910Z · LW · GW

Hard to say, but one problem I see is that strong regional identity that powers the political processes in federations cannot be created by fiat. If you turn a centralized country to federation by passing such law it would continue to work as a centralized country. Maybe in 100-200 years regional identity, regional elites, specific regional interests would emerge, but it won't be tomorrow. Same, although maybe in a lesser extent, I think, applies to already federated countries and "making them even more federated".

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2022-09-23T15:30:03.947Z · LW · GW

Interesting. I've never heard about that. Any tips about where to read some more about that?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2022-08-27T07:05:46.515Z · LW · GW

Let's go even further. Assuming the above model, the system can be improved by treating each successful referendum as a system failure. A postmortem should be written a submitted for public discussion:

  • If majority was in favour, why wasn't the law changed before in the first place?
  • Why haven't the counterproposal succeeded?
  • Why haven't the initiants retracted the initiative?
  • What should be done so that a similar failure doesn't happen again?
Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2022-08-27T06:59:39.341Z · LW · GW

There's yet one more dynamic: Initiative proposes X. Government is, like, this is just crazy. The initiators: Do change the law to include Y (a watered down version of X) and we'll retract the initiative.

Looking at it from that point of view, the referendum can be thought of not as a way for "the people" to decide, but rather a lever, a credible threat, to change the law without having to go via the standard representative system (joining a party, becoming an MP, etc.)

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (II.) · 2022-08-27T06:49:29.728Z · LW · GW

In Switzerland there's a lot of discussion about changing this or that part of the political system, but I've never seen someone advocating for getting rid of referenda. There's something about the concept that people tend to like, irrespective of whether it works well or not.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on How curing aging could help progress · 2022-05-24T04:50:40.825Z · LW · GW

I still think the “old guard” problem is real, and we’d have to come up with new mechanisms to address it. (Perhaps influential positions would institute a mandatory retirement age of 350.)

I was thinking about this the other day, but from a slightly different perspective. Consider trust in the society. If a country goes through a civil war, or maybe a period of a state collapse, the people are - based on their experience - less trusting of strangers and maybe even willing to take advantage of a defenseless stranger. The prospects for cooperation (and therefore societal progress) are not great. One is likely to see clique formation, tribal thinking, corruption.

Now, new generation doesn't have the civil war experience (or a street gang experience, or whatever). It is generally more trusting. They are able to cooperate on a higher level, but the old generation is distrustful, considers the youngsters to be dangerously naive and throws a wrench into the machine. And the longer the average length of life is, the slower the process of moving away from zero-sum games to positive-sum games becomes.

The interesting observations are:

  1. Solutions like "retire at 350" are not going to work - you can't retire a person from the society.
  2. The "old guard" problem could be, in theory, solved if the old generation would learn to change their mind, to adjust to the changed conditions on the ground. However, I am not sure how realistic is the unlearning the civil war experience, unlearning of not trusting the people around you.
Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Moral Illusions · 2022-05-06T08:32:52.903Z · LW · GW

Picture fixed. Thanks for spotting that.

It would take a large amount of research...

That's the nature of illusion: If you research it there's no illusion. If you just glance at it without much thinking, the illusion is there.

Is this true?

As far as I am aware, yes. At some point it was all about Africa. I recall complaints about that in the media back at the time.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Cage of the Language · 2022-04-15T05:51:31.774Z · LW · GW

Whether it's a calque or a descriptive expression, I think the main problem is still that it addresses only one term. You encounter a term that has no good translation, invent your own translation, start using it and maybe it'll eventually catch on. But then you have to do the entire dance again for the next term.

What I was thinking of was using the English terms. There are, obviously, problems with the declinations, transliteration to cyrilic or what not, but the main blocker, I think, is that using English terms is seen as ugly, un-literary and generally low status.

But that doesn't have to be so: Consider the use of Latin phrases in Europe in XIX. century. It was, back then, seen as beautiful, literary and high-status. If the same could be achieved today with English, it would allow small language communities to break out of the language cage.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Cage of the Language · 2022-04-14T05:18:07.937Z · LW · GW

I think you are on the wrong track. Of course, in the end you can find the equivalent term that someone used somewhere.

But look at it from a different perspective.

Take a term that is used and understood in the rationalist community. Say "Moloch".

Now try to write an opinion piece to The Washington Post. If you want to refer to the concept of "Moloch" you can either explain it, wasting your allotted 3000 characters quickly, or just say "Moloch" and hope someone would get it. In the latter case one or two people may get it and the rest would think you are a crackpot referring to the ancient Phoenician deity in a completely unrelated context.

The problem is that the rationalist community is too small for its terminology "to be in the Overton window". Not so with economic terminology. That community is large enough and the terms like "economies of scale" are admissible in public discourse.

Now scale that down to a small language community. Suddenly, the rationalist community is so small that it, for all practical purposes, does not exist. The economists are now in the position that the rationalists were in in the anglosphere. There are few of them and their terminology is not widely understood and accepted.

In other words: In the US you can't make an argument in public discussion involving rationalist concepts. But you can use economic terminology and get away with it. In Slovakia, you often can't.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Cage of the Language · 2022-04-13T17:29:44.782Z · LW · GW

"Economies of scale" seems to be "úspory z rozsahu" ("saving from the extent") - but that sounds really weird and I've never heard it being used. My guess is that the economics professors just use the English term.

As for "single point of failure" I am an engineer myself and I've never encountered any Slovak equivalent.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on The Cage of the Language · 2022-04-13T15:26:57.352Z · LW · GW

Fixed. Thanks!

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Ideal governance (for companies, countries and more) · 2022-04-12T03:29:08.347Z · LW · GW

I am reading Hirshmann's Exit, Voice and Loyalty right now and it's great. But it's not about governance per se. Which book did you have in mind?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Ideal governance (for companies, countries and more) · 2022-04-06T04:24:38.166Z · LW · GW

Some other stuff to look into:

  • Governance of Church. This may not seem like a big deal today, but in early medieval Europe, church probably had more capacity than states, so it mattered a lot. Also, catholic governance structures are quite different from protestant, from the structures in Judaism etc.
  • IETF has a pretty weird governance. The assumption is that anyone can join (or leave) at any moment, so the boundaries of the body politic are quite fuzzy. Thus, no voting, the stress on decision making by consensus, running code etc. Also, limited lifetime of the working groups seems to be designed to prevent concentration of power and bureacratizaton.
  • Open source governance models overall, from BDFL to Debian. Nadya Eghbal wrote a nice paper not 100% focused on the governance, but close.
  • Governance of common pool resources. Elinor Ostrom's work is interesting here. Book review.
  • Governance structures in the organized crime.
  • Vast anthropological literature on the governance in traditional societies. (Clans, age groups etc.)
  • Swiss political system breaks the typical state governance patterns. Known mostly for direct democracy - but the real meat is: Any randomly assembled group of actors can get immediate political power by threatening to launch a binding, all-overriding referendum. Such groups are trpically consulted with and appeased.
  • Governance of international bodies.
Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Moloch and the sandpile catastrophe · 2022-04-03T19:10:30.016Z · LW · GW

I've tried to double check. Global production of wheat and exports by Russia and Ukraine, according to FAO:

2019, in 1000 tonnes, amounts to 6.9%, very much the same numbers as you've got.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Ukraine Post #6: More Data and Peace Terms · 2022-03-27T11:00:47.438Z · LW · GW

Where does the 5%/90% statistic come from?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Ukraine Post #6: More Data and Peace Terms · 2022-03-27T07:05:55.863Z · LW · GW

Russian troops refuse to go to Ukraine on grounds they do not have passports, so Russia fires them.

These were riot police. From the interview:

  • What motivates the National Guard for their refusal to participate in the "special operation"?

  • It's very simple. People don't want to kill and get killed. When they got a job, the contract said different things. In addition, OMON has a different mission. They don’t know how to use ground-to-air systems, they don’t drive tanks. How should they fight against a regular army? And with what - with a baton and a shield? Their job is to disperse the Navalny supporters and they did an excellent job at that. But this is something else.

The part I do understand: The European Union works by unanimous consent.

Depends on the area of interest. For some things it's unanimous consent, for others it's qualified majority (55% of the countries, 65% of the population).

The part I do not understand: Why everyone else can’t agree to do it anyway.

EU has a single internal market. Allowing imports to one country means allowing imports to all of them.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Ukraine Post #2: Options · 2022-03-10T19:53:23.637Z · LW · GW

As for Galeev's threads: As a person from the former Ostblok, where countries share similar dynamics, there was nothing there that made me call bullshit on the spot. I am not a Russian though so I can't vouch for the particular details.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2022-02-24T05:38:51.540Z · LW · GW

I am an EU citizen and I've realized that I have little understanding of what EU is, how it works and how it came about. While researching the topic I've stumbled over Jean Monnet.

I guess the general approach is: Look for a surprising development (e.g. Europe suddenly overcoming old enmities) and research it. If change happened, there were people involved. Some of them had more impact, some of them less and some of them have even wrote down their thoughts and experiences.

Here are some interesting people and developments that may or may not prove fruitful to research: Unification movements (German unification, Bismarck, Zollverein etc., Italian unification, US federation); Peace of Westphalia (liberal outcome from an extreme polarization - each side literally thought that the other side sides with the devil); Second International and its failure to prevent WWI; enlightened monarchs (Peter the Great, Friedrich the Great, Joseph II., Deng Xiaoping, Park Chung-Hee etc.); decolonization, why it led to chaos and why Botswana is an exception (Seretse Khama, maybe); Vergangenheitsbewältigung - why it succeeded in Germany, but not, say, in Turkey; creation of modern international organizations, e.g. International Criminal Court.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Vavilov Day Starts Tomorrow · 2022-01-30T07:03:20.321Z · LW · GW

Thanks for sharing the story. I've done some research myself and stumbled over the fact that Vavilov's favourite phrase was: "The life is short. One needs to hurry."

It expresses the same sentiment as Nick Bostrom's "Why did we start so late? " but I personally like it much better.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Why do we need a NEW philosophy of progress? · 2022-01-27T05:41:57.726Z · LW · GW

If the above is true, an interesting consequence would be that social progress may slow down as the average length of life increases.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Why do we need a NEW philosophy of progress? · 2022-01-27T05:38:34.152Z · LW · GW

The thing you are missing, I think, is the nature of common knowedge which underpins the society. Thanks to how it works, people can't achieve moral/societal progress individually. If you live in a violent society you can't get less violent by yourself. If you do, you'd get killed. If you live in a corrupt society you can't get less corrupt all by yourself. If you do, you'd be in disadvantage to all the corrupt people. The society can progress only as a whole, thus the limit on the speed of progress is determined by the speed in which the majority is able to change their attitude (get less violent, corrupt etc.) And given how unlikely an average person is to change their attitude the social progress may move one funeral at a time.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Why do we need a NEW philosophy of progress? · 2022-01-27T05:15:29.939Z · LW · GW

I would say there were two distinct "progressive" worldwiews in the 19th century. The symbol of the bourgeois progressivism may be Exposition Universelle of 1889, the symbol of the proletarian progressivism the Paris Commune. Two events, same place, 18 years apart. The former with all the wonderful machines etc., the latter with the barricades and soldiers shooting the survivors. The two worldviews, being that distinct and held by different people, it's not clear to me whether the failures of the social progress school led to the souring towards the technical progress.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2022-01-13T06:44:11.994Z · LW · GW

I haven't seen the latest book, but the older ones I've seen were written in the traditional anthropological way, mostly as collections of anecdata. That's not an objection specifically against Graeber. Anthropology was always done that way. But rigor-wise it doesn't compare to more modern stuff, like, say, Joe Henrich.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2022-01-13T05:44:52.062Z · LW · GW

IIRC, the study was done on people living in a nearby big city, but originally coming from the respective region.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2022-01-05T10:25:21.342Z · LW · GW

No idea. I was just speculating.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2022-01-04T14:53:15.143Z · LW · GW

I don't know, frankly. But what I find fascinating is that one finds the tall poppy syndrome in any society. It almost feels like something inherent to human nature. Does it mean that there's something adaptive about it? And if so, are the societies like Tiv just those that that managed to take the full advantage of that potential?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2021-12-29T06:22:11.678Z · LW · GW

A different one. Tiv live in Nigeria, the study was conducted in DRC.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2021-12-28T05:21:43.822Z · LW · GW

I think that's not the way how people instinctively think. Consider following statement: "Wall Street bankers should be stripped of their wealth/heavily taxed/prosecuted." Ignore whether it would be a good policy or not. Still, it's a human way to think and many do adopt that kind of stance. Now consider the opposite: "Wall Street bankers should be forced to share their methods so that everyone can prosper." That's quite an alien approach and one would be hard pressed to find many people who actually think that.

For the psychology behind it consider this article which describes how !Kung people of Kalahari were insulting an ox they were given, calling it a bag of bones and similar. When asked why, they've explained:

Yes, when a young man kills much meat he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can’t accept this. We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2021-12-27T11:44:51.728Z · LW · GW

I believe the book is rather fresh, haven't read it yet. But reading Graeber was always fun and thought-provoking, I've even exchanged few emails with him back when it was still possible. On the rigor side though I am not that convinced :)

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On Stateless Societies · 2021-12-27T08:37:26.490Z · LW · GW

Fixed. Thanks!

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2021-12-16T01:47:36.546Z · LW · GW
  1. "Alright, but the Swiss could do that because they didn't need to worry about any outside threat. They didn't have to deal with the same difficulties other countries had to deal with."

That's not historically true. Switzerland, being a country positioned in the middle of big European powers (France, Austria, HRE/Germany, Italy) has gone through all the shit that the rest of Europe did.

That being said, the things often played out differently than elsewhere. It's not clear how much of that is pure luck and how much is attributable to other factors, such as peculiarities of the local political system.

Consider, for example the very beginnings. The core of the weird political entity that will one day become Switzerland was formed around the access route to the Gotthard pass. There are different mountain passes in Alps, but only one did escape the rule by aristocrats and got to be rules be local communities instead. The reason may have to do with that fact that Gotthard pass did not exist until 1220's when the first bridge was built in Schollenen Gorge. (Devil was involved in the feat, they say.) That meant that until then, canton Uri was an economic backwater - and literally so, being only reachable by ship - and tightly controlling it wasn't really worth the effort. The communities were to a large extent left to self-govern themselves. At the same time, aristocracy was particularly weak in XIII. century which allowed the new entity based on treaties between communities to form and gather strength instead of being immediately crushed by a superior power.

Or take the 30 year war. In some parts of HRE as much as 70% of the population died. The future Switzerland seemed very much on the same trajectory. There was a deep split between Protestants and Catholics and the forces were balanced out so that fighting could go on for a long time. But it did not. It may be partly attributable to the fact that great powers haven't invaded the region, treating it as a source of mercenaries instead. But even then, it's strange that the Swiss haven't started cutting each other throats all by themselves. One may point to the fact that catholic and protestant cantons were jointly ruling over subjugated territories which required some minimal amount of cooperation. Or simply that centuries of being bound by many mutual treaties and undergoing small-scale internal clashes has resulted in enough political skill to escape the temptation to wage a full-scale war. Or maybe that cantons, not being ruled by a single person, managed to escape the worst excesses of personal ambitions. Hard to say.

The current political system formed in 1948. It was so radical for its time that great powers would gladly crush it. But in 1848 all of them were busy keeping fighting the revolutions at home. Swiss went through their civil war and the establishment of the new system so quickly that once the great powers took notice, it was already done. The speed of the process was result of the victorious radical forces turning out to be rather moderate after they've won, they did almost no cleansing of the conservatives etc. The defeated conservatives, in their turn, being willing to continue the fight within the framework of the new institutions. In 1891 they've even permanently joined the government. Again, it's not easy to say why it happened that way.

In 1918, the political situation was tumultous. Bavarian Soviet Republic was established etc. In Switzerland, there was a general strike and it didn't look good. Army was mobilized. Paramilitary units started forming. But then the leaders of the strike backed down. The government made moderate concessions. The fight continued by political means until 40 years later, social democrats have become integral part of the government.

During WWII, Germany was definitely planning to invade Switzerland. But Switzerland was cooperative, allowing transport to pass between Germany and Italy. In case of attack, on the other hand, the Swiss army planned to retreat to the area around the Gotthard pass and hold on there as long as possible, which would stop that traffic and tie valuable resources in a difficult war in the mountains. All in all, there was little to gain from attacking Switzerland as long as Axis powers were fighting wars elsewhere.

It's hard to find a common pattern in all of that, but in any case, it's not like there have been less difficulties in Switzerland than elsewhere.

  1. "Alright, that's all well and good, but this system hasn't led Switzerland to help in the holocaust, lots of residents aren't given citizenship... maybe the system isn't so great after all?"

That's the price of rule by consensus. Your preferences may be to give citizenship to all the residents. But there's also a lot of people who would like not to let any foreigners in in the first place. What you get in the end is a compromise solution: A lot of immigrants are allowed in, but gaining citizenship is made deliberately difficult.

As for the holocaust note that Switzerland managed to keep their Jewish population safe. There are very few countries in Europe that can make a similar claim. And all that while being surrounded by Axis powers on all sides.

All in all, to me it sound like a question of sacrificing ideological purity in favor of achieving practical results.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.) · 2021-12-13T05:32:41.115Z · LW · GW

Self-review: Looking at the essay year and a half later I am still reasonably happy about it.

In the meantime I've seen Swiss people recommending it as an introductory text for people asking about Swiss political system, so I am, of course, honored, but it also gives me some confidence in not being totally off.

If I had to write the essay again, I would probably give less prominence to direct democracy and more to the concordance and decentralization, which are less eye-catchy but in a way more interesting/important.

Also, I would probably pay some attention to the question of how the system - given how unique it is - even managed to evolve. Maybe also do some investigation into whether the uniqueness of the political system has something to do with the surprising long-term ability of Swiss economy to reinvent itself and become a leader in areas as varied as mercenary troops, cheese, silk, machinery, banking and pharmaceuticals.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on An Idea for a More Communal Petrov Day in 2022 · 2021-10-22T05:27:33.802Z · LW · GW

In red button game the players should be enemies (or at least unaligned) which doesn't play well with the in-community ritual. Adding EA forum this year was, IMO, a step in the right direction. What about getting some further off community involved? Maybe anti-nuclear activists like ? One wouldn't, of course, expect anti-nuclear activists to press the button, but the community may be different enough (UN politics, anyone?) to make it interesting.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Apprenticeship Online · 2021-10-12T10:41:02.015Z · LW · GW

With age pyramid shifting is there really a dearth of available experts? If only a fraction of retired experts was involved in apprenticeship programmes, wouldn't that be enough to server the dwindling pool of young apprentices?

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on johnswentworth's Shortform · 2021-09-28T05:22:14.663Z · LW · GW

Those are some good points. I wonder whether similar happened (or could at all happen) in other nuclear countries, where we don't know about similar incidents - because the system haven't collapsed there, the archives were not made public etc.

Also, it makes actually celebrating Petrov's day as widely as possible important, because then the option for the lowest-ranked person would be: "Get demoted, but also get famous all around the world."

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Working With Monsters · 2021-07-28T06:10:31.407Z · LW · GW

I think it's not just that the old generation has died out. It's also that the conflict theorists shut up for a while after such a bloodshed and gave the people like Hugo Grotius a window of opportunity to create the international law.

Similar thing, by the way, happened in Europe after WWII. I've written about it here. I wonder whether this opening of the window of opportunity after a major catastrophe is a common occurrence. If so, working on possible courses of action in advance, so that they can be quickly applied once a catastrophe is over, may be a usful strategy.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Working With Monsters · 2021-07-27T08:49:39.373Z · LW · GW

Replace blue and green with protestant and catholic, 95% with 60% and what you get is the Thirty Years' War and the beginning of the modern world order.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-17T17:11:56.356Z · LW · GW

Here it is (my translation): "You'll get money to distribute at the banks of Loire and three tobacconist shops as well. I even hope to get two postman offices. The finance minister haven't answered yet in this matter, but I'll let you know by telegraph. And moreover, you'll be able to depose almost anyone. You are clever and you will use these rights discreetly." (chapter XLIX)

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-17T13:46:44.934Z · LW · GW

Correct. "Trafika" may have sold both tobacco and newspapers, but there was a state monopoly on tobacco, which then resulted in allocating those "offices" on political basis.

As for France, I remember there was a chapter in Stendhal's "Lucien Leuwen" where the protagonist was sent, as an election emissary, to the province with a list of offices that he could grant to the political supporters. Later on I'll have a look at what kind of offices those were.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-16T05:55:44.335Z · LW · GW

No, it's just a random thought.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Technocratic Plimsoll Line · 2021-05-15T13:55:22.806Z · LW · GW

I think the real difference is in the incentives the person faces. If they need to compete for votes or for the favour of their superiors, they are, basically, in political business. The person may be an expert, yes, but the incentives force them to care less about technical superiority of the solution and more about whether it's palatable to the voters/benefactors.

If instead, you are hired to execute tasks that are handed to you by someone else, you can think: "Well, I can try to be cute and try to satisfy my boss' political preferences, at the expense of the solution, but, on the other hand, he's going to be replaced sooner or later and I'll better have a track record of successful execution so that the next person doesn't fire me."

The boundary is still blurry, but it at least answers the question about the people who rise as technocrats and are then politically selected: Once you are politically selected, your incentives change and you fall into the category of political appointees.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-04-02T05:51:12.553Z · LW · GW

Looking back at the history of continental Europe, it looks to me we can either have bureaucracy or bureaucracy plus war. Pick one. That being said, it's not so clear to me what went wrong with the EU vaccination strategy. (Admittedly, I haven't been following it closely.) EU did pretty well in its own area, that is coordination. It managed to get the authority to act on behalf of the member states and prevent bidding wars that would otherwise end up with all the vaccines going to Germany and none to Bulgaria. It (as far as I understand) signed cheapskate contracts with the pharma companies and once it became clear that all the contracts cannot be fulfilled the companies have chosen to serve the more lucrative customers first. But on the other hand, I am not sure whether the countries that paid more did consider it a victory back then. It may as well be that they've got lucky just because they had lousy negotiators. Anyway, none of this is related to bureaucracy. The Astra-Zeneca blood clot hysteria, I believe, was a matter of local governments. The only related statements by EU I remember were those declaring the vaccine safe. The vaccination itself is managed by local governments and the problems can not be blamed on EU. The only obvious blunder that comes to mind was the one with threatening to block export of the vaccines to Norther Ireland, but they've backtracked pretty fast on that one.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-21T22:10:41.228Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the feedback!

Unfortunately, the article is mess partly because the events back then were a mess and the entire topic seems to be under-researched. For example, I don't think there's any kind of official narrative for the early history of the EU. Popular understanding, I think, is that WWII was followed by the postwar boom. The entire dark period of 1945-1950 kind of went down the memory hole. (But I'm from the Ostblok, so maybe kids in the West were taught more about it.)

Anyway, I've added couple of links at the end of the article, but again, the events back then were complex and confusing, the resources are in multiple languages etc.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat · 2021-03-21T06:59:33.074Z · LW · GW

If I knew. Different international organizations exhibit different kind of failures. For example, for UN it may be the failure to agree, but for EU, as the recent vaccination story shows, agreement can be achieved, but execution may lack. The problem is compounded by the fact that institutions evolve in lockstep with the common knowledge (trust in the institutions and such) and thus exactly the same institutional design may produce vastly different results when applied to different countries or organizations. In the end, the only way to approach this, in my opinion, is to take a concrete organization, choose a specific malfunction and dive deep into nitty-gritty details to find out what's wrong and how it can be solved. Not very enlightening, I know.

All that being said, there's one thing in the article that seems to generalize, namely, the "two layer approach", that is agreeing on the solution to the coordination problem first (on political level), solving concrete issues afterwards (on technical level). The approach is so simple that it can be even expressed in game theoretical language. At the same time it nicely takes into account human psychology (the tendency to use everything at hand as a bargaining chip) and aligns with existing institutional designs (politicians are involved in step 1, bureaucrats in step 2). What's interesting to think about is whether this approach of solving inadequate eqilibria can be somehow built into our existing institutions.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on On the Nature of Reputation · 2021-02-20T17:02:25.495Z · LW · GW

Good point about extended names. Yet one more operation that can be done with reputation tokens.

As for the spelling, I've tried to fix what I could. Feel free to point out any remaining typos.

Comment by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) on Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking · 2021-02-07T15:44:58.570Z · LW · GW

I am not an economist, so it's hard to me to judge the quality of the paper. In fact, I was just trying to show the kind of argument made for bank independence at the time. Feel free to check the paper for yourself: Section 2. is about measuring the central bank independence.