Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: History

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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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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Cotton is Not What Made the United States Rich

Lately, everyone is arguing that the United States got rich off of cotton. The New York Times recently put out a story arguing that American capitalism “begins on the plantation”. This completely misunderstands the relationship between slave and serf-based agriculture and industrial capitalism. A dominant agricultural industry is not the foundation for industrial success–it is an impediment. Let me show you why…

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The Main Difference Between Warren and Sanders

In the second round of Democratic primary debates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were in the same room, but the two of them were surrounded by centrist Democrats who poll at almost nothing. Stephen Bullock, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Ryan all clock in at 1% or less. Together, they spoke for more than 50 minutes, and they used most of their time to insinuate that policies like Medicare are a socialist pipe-dream. Sanders and Warren each received about 18 minutes, combining for about 36. By including all these centrists that poll at negligible numbers in the debates, the Democratic Party drowned the progressive candidates in a cacophony of establishment hand-wringing. There was never an opportunity for Sanders and Warren to argue with each other, and now many in the media are portraying Sanders and Warren as if they were on a progressive “team”. This obfuscates the very real differences between these candidates, so let me do the job that the Democratic Party and the moderators failed to do, and illustrate those differences for you.

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Five Forms of Retreat

In the Roman Empire, during the Crisis of the 3rd Century, everything began falling apart. The army was swapping emperors out left and right, and the political system could no longer generate the legitimacy or stability that had prevailed in the two centuries prior. Chunks of the empire lost faith in the ability of the central authority to restore order, and began looking to their own defences. It was bleak:

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