Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: History

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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The Supreme Court Post-Kavanaugh: A Grand Strategy for the Left

Now that it’s become clear that we’ve failed to stop Brett Kavanaugh, a fascinating debate is brewing about what the American left’s position ought to be with respect to the Supreme Court going forward. There are two big, radical proposals vying for people’s attention and support:

  1. Gather the senate supermajority necessary to impeach and convict Kavanaugh over the next several election cycles, then replace him with a Democratic Party nominee in 2021, 2023, or 2025.
  2. Gather a simple majority in the senate and a Democratic president and revive Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing plan, increasing the number of Supreme Court justices until the court is forcibly shifted to the left.

I want to discuss the merits and demerits of both approaches and propose a long-term strategy that I think will be more effective than immediately picking up and running with either.

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Remember When Americans Cared about Perjury?

My friend Nathan Robinson has written an excellent piece documenting with care and detail all the times Brett Kavanaugh appears to have committed perjury during the recent hearing. Robinson’s work is around 10,000 words long, because the number of instances of perjury or possible perjury is stunning. It’s almost as if Kavanaugh–a man attempting to be a Supreme Court justice–doesn’t think perjury matters. And it appears that to millions of Americans it doesn’t. Many still want Kavanaugh confirmed, and 11 senators voted to move Kavanaugh out of committee even after he repeatedly lied to their faces. This reminds me of another case in American history–the case of Alger Hiss.

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The Slow Corruption of Public Discourse Since Watergate

In the 44 years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States, political discourse has deteriorated. There are many reasons for the decline in the discourse, but today I want to focus on two forces which have come together in America–one sociological, the other technological–to impose a spontaneous order which greatly reduces the scope for authentic expression, both in public and in private. This new social order is not planned by anyone–it has no author, it requires no institutionalised hard coercion. It arises spontaneously from the interaction of the two forces.

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The American Two Party System is Actually Pretty Great

There are lots of folks who think that the answer to America’s woes are more political parties, and the way to get more political parties is to adopt electoral reforms which move America in the direction of continental European-style proportional representation. I used to like electoral reform once upon a time, but I have increasingly become convinced that this is not only never going to happen but it is actually a bad idea. Here’s why.

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