Open Thread 164

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This is the weekly visible open thread. Odd-numbered open threads will be no-politics, even-numbered threads will be politics-allowed. This one is even-numbered, so go wild. Otherwise, post about whatever you want. Also:

1: Thank you for your patience as I try to read 105 entries to the Book Review Contest in order to narrow them down to a pool of finalists.

2: In response to my post on the consequences of the French Revolution, several people sent me Kopsidis and Bromley, which claims to debunk the Acemoglu paper - they say that Acemoglu et al miscoded some regions, and when you correct that, it becomes apparent that the real reason some parts of Germany did better than others wasn’t because Napoleon reformed them, but because they had more coal. But see also Donges, Jean-Marie, and Silva, which concludes that the original Acemoglu coding was better. And here’s a paper which claims to replicate and extend Acemoglu et al’s results to Italy. This debate seems to have reached a level of complexity where I no longer feel comfortable having an opinion on it.

3: Some people have been asking for a way to collapse long comment threads. There already is one, but it’s subtle - just click the gray line to the left of the thread.

4: I’d originally intended Mantic Mondays to be roundups of news from various prediction markets, but ended up getting so bogged down in bigger questions that I haven’t gotten around to rounding up short links. SimonM does the job I should have, so here’s his Best Of Last Week In Prediction Markets Roundup.

5: In response to recent posts on depression, several people asked if there was a parameter of the brain corresponding to learning rate. Steve2152 on LessWrong reminds me that acetylcholine levels sort of correspond to this - see also my previous post on this subject. Although everything is implicated in depression in one way or another, acetylcholine is implicated less than most other things and doesn’t show a lot of promise as a target for depression treatments - so either we’re missing something, or all of you who thought this was crucial are wrong.

6: Some good comments on the Erdogan post. Turkish ACXer Emrah D gives some commentary and corrections - Erdogan’s predecessor as Istanbul mayor was merely left-wing, not communist, and Imam Hatip schools seem less “stigmatized” if you just think of them as trade schools not intended to provide general education (plus 16 other excellent points). Fellow Turksih ACXer Fevzi P has some other thoughts, including that Ataturk didn’t really want democracy for Turkey (he modernized it, but it was his successors who extended this to democratization). Also:

There was a clear pattern to the repression of the Islamist movement in Turkey. The army and the judiciary felt that they did not have the backing to totally eradicate them (like they did to the communists), but kept picking the most egregious examples and pruning them with political bans and jail time. This has created an environment of artificial selection in the Islamist movement where the most cunning, skillful and politically savvy individuals easily rose up to the top, as the less savvy people around them were taken out by the military. Such people had no qualms with breaking the rules, since the rules were obviously rigged against them and wielded non-charitably. This is the environment that formed Erdogan's political personality and made him thrive.

And demost compares Erdogan to seven other dictators and concludes there are common threads that do provide generalized lessons. Also, how do you pronounce “Erdogan”, anyway?