Benjamin Studebaker

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

The Left Case Against Supporting Joe Biden in the General Election

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.

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These Executive Orders Make No Sense

After weeks of failed negotiations between the House and the Senate, the President is attempting to provide additional stimulus through executive action. The orders are probably unconstitutional–all money bills must begin in the House of Representatives, per the “origination clause”. They will be challenged in the courts, and I doubt they come into force. That said, if the President had ordered a strong aid package, I would be willing to consider supporting a challenge to congress’ spending authority. Congress has neglected its duty to protect Americans from the economic consequences of our anti-coronavirus policies. The scale of the disaster is so immense that I would support trying anything that might help tens of millions of unemployed people stay in their homes and put food on the table. When wealthy senators sit on their hands and deny ordinary people the means of subsistence because they feel offering aid might diminish their “incentive” to take jobs that pay less than $600 a week, they get no sympathy from me.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to make a provocative argument that the President is justified in running over congress, because this President has taken action that doesn’t make any sense.

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On Coronavirus, We Don’t Want to End Up Like Europe

As the rich countries begin to release economic data for the second quarter, we can begin to form a clearer picture of where things stand. To date, it is undeniably the case that the crisis has been much worse for the European states than for the United States. This may change going forward, because the United States is still seeing its case load expand. But at present, the mainstream media narrative that the United States has uniquely mismanaged the crisis does not withstand scrutiny. The Europeans now face new long-term, existential threats to their social programs. They are much worse off.

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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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