Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Carl Schmitt

Why I Like Thomas Hobbes and You Should Too

People are sometimes surprised to discover how much I love Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes is the political theorist who wrote Leviathan. He presents a pretty grim account of human nature–for him, people have conflicting desires in a world of scarcity, they don’t know each other’s intentions, but they do know that they can hurt other people and that if they do so other people will be intimidated and might not hurt them. We can’t share thoughts and feelings because each of us is stuck in a different body and words are vague and unreliable, so we’re always alienated from each other and always prone to conflict. Hobbes wants to live, and he wants everyone else to live too, so he proposes that we solve this problem by submitting to the state. The state protects us from each other, and once we’re protected a space for trusting other people opens up.

Most left-wing people hate this. They hate that Hobbes even presents an account of human nature in the first place, much less one so grim as this. They especially hate how powerful Hobbes makes his state–he only allows people to defy the state when it threatens their own lives, and while he’s willing to tolerate a sovereign parliament Hobbes certainly prefers monarchy, because in his view it’s less likely to lead to conflicts about where the sovereignty is, which could end in civil war and death.

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Why Churches Aren’t Good at Pursuing the Good

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how some left-wing organisations act like churches–they are communities in which people come together to develop and refine their understandings of the good rather than strategic operations for achieving discrete political goals in the world. A few people wrote replies to my piece. The most interesting and recurrent counterargument I saw alleges that it’s fine for the left to be a church because people enjoy the sense of community churches provide and like the opportunity to come together with like-minded people to develop their understanding of what it means to be good to one another. These people deny that we ought to prioritise strategic efficacy, that it’s at least as important to become good people, and that left-wing organisations facilitate this personal growth. I disagree with this priority on the personal because I think it’s egoistic. But today I want to make an additional, larger argument–I want to argue that churches and other communities are not good devices for pursuing the good, and that the conclusions communities reach about the good are very likely to be deeply wrong.

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How the Alt-Right Works

There’s a video of an Alt-Right rally doing the rounds on the web. The Atlantic posted it on YouTube:

Most people who share this video are just looking to say “wow, how disgusting is that”. And that’s worth saying. But let’s also take this opportunity to pick apart how this horrifying view works and what we can do to prevent more people from adopting it.

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The Fascist Underpinnings of Anti-Immigration Politics

Throughout the developed world, we’ve seen a resurgence in recent years of anti-immigrant, nationalist politics. Donald “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” Trump is still leading in national republican polls in the United States. In Europe, parties like UKIP, Front Nationale, and Golden Dawn have increased support and in some cases pushed mainstream conservatives parties into adopting stricter immigration controls. In Japan, the government continues to oppose immigration despite a population that is rapidly aging. In Australia, refugees are effectively detained in concentration camps. This is happening despite an increasingly strong research consensus that shows that working age immigrants contribute to economic growth, strengthen national pension systems, reduce government deficits, and commit crimes at a lower rate than the rest of the population. Those of us who acknowledge that research often feel that there is something xenophobic, even deeply sinister about anti-immigration politics. But when we point this out, we are often unable to satisfactorily defend the point–there seems to be an immense gap between the relatively modest claim that we ought to improve border security and outright fascism. But despite this difficulty, the connection does exist–anti-immigration politics and fascism are deeply interrelated, and I intend to prove it to you as best I can.

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