Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Category: Politics

The Four Centrisms

Back in 2016, I argued that the centrist consensus of the 90s was breaking down, and that instead there was a wider menu, with three meaningfully distinct choices:

  • Left Egalitarianism, which critiqued the consensus on the grounds that it enabled capitalists to exploit workers
  • Neoliberalism, which defended the consensus through the traditional center-right and center-left parties
  • Right Nationalism, which critiqued the consensus on the grounds that it enabled foreigners to exploit citizens

I no longer believe that this menu exists, and it may never have existed. Instead, I think there are four different types of centrist position. These types of centrism are aesthetically different but substantively nearly identical. By differentiating aesthetically, the 90s consensus is able to accommodate a higher level of cultural polarisation while protecting the core commitments of the 90s consensus.

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Against the Stoics, Skeptics, Epicureans, and Buddhists

This is going to be an odd post about Greek philosophy and the contemporary analogues of Greek traditions. Its purpose is threefold. First, I’ll argue that the Stoics, Skeptics, and Epicureans had similar conceptions of the good life, that this conception closely resembles the conception preferred by Buddhists, and that this conception of the good life is mistaken. Second, I’ll argue that the Stoics and Skeptics both make similar–if opposite–errors with respect to meta-ethics, with the Stoics asserting an unrealistically ambitious epistemology and the Skeptics denying that epistemology without acknowledging less ambitious alternatives. Third, I’ll argue that many contemporary political and moral antagonisms are essentially new versions of the Stoic/Skeptic antagonism, and that there is a popular Epicurean response to this antagonism.

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The Immense Political Insight of The Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving

Were you fortunate enough to see The Land Before Time III? The direct-to-video sequel to the original Land Before Time came out on VHS in late 1995. I re-watched it recently, and I think it has better political commentary than most of what I’ve read over the past couple months. Here’s why.

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A Left Critique of the Current Protests

There are a number of problems with the strategy of the current protest movement. No one seems to be writing about these problems. This is not to say that no one can see them. Many folks have reservations, but stay silent in the hope that the protests will succeed. Others see the problems but fear that pointing them out will attract hostility from fanatics on the internet. The problem is that the strategy is not just sub-optimal–it is counterproductive. It is going to blow up in our faces, and the sooner we face up to that, the better. Here’s why.

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Coronavirus, Rioting, and the Privatization of Morality

A short while ago, we were making political demands on our states, of various kinds. Some of us wanted our governments to do more to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Some of us wanted our governments to provide more aid, more economic stimulus. But over the last few weeks, we stopped making political demands. We started looking at each other. As governments began re-opening their economies, they tried to make it our responsibility to stop the virus. You are supposed to social distance. You are supposed to wear a mask. In most places, none of this is required by law. In those jurisdictions where the advice has been incorporated into the law, it’s only nominally enforced. But you’re supposed to feel a moral obligation to do these things, and if you don’t do them people will shame you. They’ll yell at you, and maybe they’ll try to use social media to get you fired from your job. The guidelines aren’t enforced by the state–they’re enforced by the people around you. The state doesn’t take responsibility for this informal interpersonal coercion, but it tacitly encourages it. When we’re fighting with each other about whether we should wear masks, we aren’t making demands on the state. If we’re all too busy playing police officer with each other, we won’t have the bandwidth to hold the government to account.

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