At the Democratic Convention, Bernie Sanders argued that the left should hold its nose and vote for Joe Biden:
The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.
My friend Nathan Robinson, at Current Affairs, made a similar argument, claiming that this is our “last chance” to stop Donald Trump, and that we will be “fighting for our lives against an aspiring dictator” if he wins.
This is a grave mistake. Trump, for all his faults, poses no existential threat to the republic. What’s more, Sanders and Robinson are deeply underestimating the damage a Biden presidency will cause. The Republican Party has become what it is because of Democrats like Joe Biden. These Democrats are pushing the Republican Party further and further right, and a Biden presidency will make the Republican Party even more dangerous going forward. Let me show you how it works.
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.
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.
Were you fortunate enough to see The Land Before Time III? The direct-to-video sequel to the originalLand 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.
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.