Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Colonialism

A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

Read the rest of this entry »

3 Ways to Think About the American Revolution

This Fourth of July, I noticed that some Americans are taking an interest in challenging the popular narratives surrounding the American Revolution. Over at Jacobin, William Hogeland has a go at the revolution, while Jeff Stein defends it at Vox. I find both views too strong for my taste–as I see it, the revolution has three core faces to it. We tend to only focus on one of these aspects at any given moment, but to truly understand the revolution as a historical event we need all three.

Read the rest of this entry »

Native American Sovereignty is an Obstacle to Equality

Many left wing commentators writing about the tragedy unfolding in Standing Rock believe that the government erred by failing to respect Native American sovereignty. This argument claims that Native Americans are nations that have sovereign rights over the territory reserved to them and consequently the US government is wrong to take action that impacts them and their territory without their consent. This is well-intentioned, but there are few beliefs that have done more damage to the welfare of Native American citizens than the idea that Native American tribes constitute sovereign nations. Native Americans are treated very poorly in the United States and tribal sovereignty facilitates this instead of ameliorating it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Corbyn, Stein, and the Left’s Anti-Imperialism Problem

If you ask the British people what they think about Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, it’s clear that any skepticism they may have about his economic agenda is far surpassed by misgivings about his foreign policy:

Since becoming Labour leader, Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being “terrorist sympathizers” and anti-Semitic. This perception is tied to a suite of policy positions and attitudes which are best described as “anti-imperialist”. Left wing politicians and movements which embrace anti-imperialism face a set of political obstacles that they avoid if they jettison it. Today I’d like to think a little bit about how anti-imperialism works, both as a theory of international politics and in terms of its influence on the success and failure of the left in domestic politics.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Big Government Discovered America

In the 15th century, when Christopher Columbus needed money to make his voyage to the Americas, he approached several heads of state. He came to the John II of Portugal, to the doges of Genoa and Venice, to Henry VIII in England, all of whom declined to fund his grandiose and zany project. Finally, he went to Ferdinand II and Isabella I of Spain. Their ministers, like the ministers in the previous nations, deemed the voyage impractical, too costly, too foolish. A bad investment. All the same, the Spanish monarchs decided to appoint Columbus Admiral of the Seas and dumped a pile of state investment upon him. And so, from the bosom of state largesse, the discovery of America began.

Read the rest of this entry »