Link Roundup: December 2019


Freethoughtblogs has re-opened applications for new bloggers!  Join us!  Applications have technically been open all along, but we had a huge backlog, which we are now clearing out.  The following blogs were just added last week: Andreas Avester, From The Ashes of Faith, Impossible Me.

“An Asexual World”: Asexuality in Death Stranding – I wrote an article about some bad asexual representation in a video game.  Cowritten with Queenie, an expert in Japanese culture.

Blogs & Articles

How Using Tumblr is Undermining Your Community – Oh good, Coyote finally made a list of structural problems with Tumblr.  Tumblr has a reputation (in my view an accurate one) for being a home for many queer and SJ-oriented communities, but that does not mean that Tumblr itself is a force for good.  Tumblr has held our communities back, and people don’t even realize how bad it is because they’re swimming in it.

The good guy/bad guy myth – The article discusses a popular pattern in fiction, where one side represents moral good, and the other evil, and argues that this is a historically recent trend.  Based on the examples, it sounds like there are three parts to this trend: morality as a primary subject matter, characters and sides that embody moral values, and black and white morality.  The article takes a negative view on these trends, but I’m not so sure.  IMO, morality is an excellent subject matter for fiction, and using characters to embody values is a fine technique so long as we realize real people aren’t like that.

Why Men Should Have the Right to Not Be Parents – Rebecca Watson considers the contentious case of a man who pays child support but refuses to be in contact with the child.  I agree with Watson here.  And I hate fictional tropes about how important it is for children to know their biological parents.  Or the older version of the trope, where being adopted is an insult.  Heteronormative bullshit.


11 Levels of Origami: Easy to Complex (video) – Robert Lang shows 11 different cicada designs.  You might be surprised how quickly the complexity goes from 0 to 100.  He showcases several modern origami techniques–which I am aware of but don’t usually use, since I specialize in modular origami and tessellations.

The Bell Curve (video) – Shaun spends over two hours deconstructing The Bell Curve, a book that used IQ scores to prop up racist conclusions.  While The Bell Curve is terrible, it takes a lot of research to do a detailed takedown, so I applaud Shaun for doing the work, and making it engaging.

The Trouble with the Video Game Industry | Philosophy Tube (video) – Olly makes many of the same points that I like to make about video games and capitalism!  Here’s my commentary on the main points:

  1. I agree that the tendency towards monopoly is bad, and video games are particularly vulnerable. However, Olly’s example is a bit odd, because he talks about how the Epic Games Store is competing with Steam, which is the opposite of a monopoly.  But what his example does show, is the evils we have to accept in order to avoid monopoly in a market that strongly tends towards monopoly.  The main way for game consoles/platforms to avoid monopoly is by acquiring platform-exclusive games.  Platform-exclusivity is otherwise a pareto-loss (i.e. nobody wins).
  2. I am not convinced that microtransactions are actually bad, nor am I convinced that they’re particularly capitalist.  It’s pretty easy to imagine “whale” business models flourishing in not-so-capitalist contexts.  Take the Patreon model–most followers don’t pay anything, and a few pay far more than their fair share, and that seems fine?  The best argument against microtransactions is that they take advantage of psychology to trick people.  But I think the only way to address this problem is with targeted policies.  Overthrowing capitalism will not by itself do the trick.
  3. I totally agree with Olly that free markets are not efficient under conditions of inequality.  I add that the video game market is a monopolistic competition market, which is not efficient even in theory.


SmackJeeves outrage causes mass exodus from site – SmackJeeves is one of the oldest webcomics hosting services on the internet, hosting 47k comics according to tvtropes.  The new owner just destroyed all the old webcomics with absolutely the worst site “redesign” I have ever heard of.  This affected two webcomics I read: Pictures of You, and Rainbow Mansion, and you can follow those links to see what impact this has had.

The National Center for Transgender Equality Falls Apart – Apparently there are complaints about racism in the leadership of NCTE, and a bunch of staff have left.  It’s not entirely clear what happened, but it’s sad to hear.  Of particular interest to me, the NCTE runs the US Trans Survey, which is a phenomenal project, and a great source for best survey practices.  I don’t know what will become of the survey now.


  1. says

    I totally agree with Olly that free markets are not efficient under conditions of inequality. I add that the video game market is a monopolistic competition market, which is not efficient even in theory.

    I just got done teaching Principles of Micro for the first time, and one thing that set me off was economists’ conflation of output divided by input efficiency and Pareto optimality. They will literally use the word “efficiency” in both senses in the same sentence.

    Technically, video games are (like movies) an example of an artificially scarce good (nonrival and excludable). The marginal cost is zero (except for transaction costs), so there’s no way to recover fixed costs at the “efficient” (Pareto-optimal) price, where the marginal cost equals the marginal consumer’s willingness to pay, i.e. zero. But so what?

    Monopolistic competition is also “inefficient” (not Pareto optimal) and inefficient (in long-run equilibrium they do not operate at the lowest average total cost). But so what?

    The only way to get anywhere close to Pareto optimal pricing and output-over-input efficiency is an industry in perfect competition, which requires identical products. There are a lot of things that are differentiated that don’t need to be, that could be standardized, but I don’t think video games are one of them. Who wants only one standardized video game?

    You are absolutely correct, however, that “capitalism” is not the problem. As long as opportunity cost matters, there a Pareto-optimal solution is logically impossible for goods where we have large fixed costs and zero marginal cost, no matter how you slice the political economy. I’m not sure that Pareto optimality and efficiency are possible under monopolistic competition, with positive and increasing marginal cost, but where differentiation is inherently desirable, but I suspect it would be challenging to implement.

    But so what? Jehovah did not include “Thou shalt be Pareto optimal” in the Ten Commandments. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

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