Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: History

Notre Dame is Not a Monument to “Whiteness” or “Western Civilization”

The fire at Notre Dame in Paris might have been an opportunity for us to come together to express our appreciation for history and for the beautiful things that emerge from it. But there are some people who think Notre Dame is about contemporary political debates to do with racism, colonialism, or terrorism. Already I am seeing wokescold anarchists rejoicing in the fire, calling Notre Dame a symbol of “whiteness” or “colonialism”:

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Why Trump Can’t Red-Bait His Way Out of 2020

Heading into the 2020 election cycle, the Trump administration is trying to portray the president as America’s shield against socialism. First President Trump proclaimed at the State of the Union that America “will never be a socialist country”:

More recently, he has levied sanctions on Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The administration alleges that Cuba and Nicaragua are propping up the Maduro regime in Venezuela. It hopes to use the sanctions to get them to stop, while sending a warning to external powers like Russia and China.

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How and Why Slavery Got Abolished

One of the things I find odd about the American discourse about slavery is how rarely Americans think about slavery as an institution which existed outside America. Not only did slavery exist in the ancient world in a pre-racialised way–in which many slaves were white, and many masters were people of colour–but it also existed in many other places during the period in which it existed in America. In many of these places, slavery was abolished not by violence but by ordinary politics. Yet this is rarely acknowledged or discussed, and it is increasingly common for Americans to frame our history largely in terms of the slavery question. We don’t often ask why slavery was more contentious in the United States than in other places. That’s what I want to think about with you today.

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Why Bernie Sanders Matters More Than People Think

Every time I find a way to say that there is no one like Bernie Sanders, there are people who don’t believe me. Aren’t there other candidates who support the same policies he supports now? Some of them are younger. Some of them aren’t old white guys. Why can’t it be one of them, why can’t it be someone new? Over and over, I have tried to find ways to explain that there is a real difference between Bernie Sanders and everyone else. Today, as Sanders announces his candidacy for the presidency, I’m going to try one more time.

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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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