Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Liberalism

Yes, there is a Difference Between a Democrat and a Socialist

In right-wing circles, this interview with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been doing the rounds:

Interviewer Chris Matthews asks Schultz to explain the difference between a democrat and a socialist and Schultz fires blanks. This has many on the right crowing that there really is no difference, that Barack Obama was the socialist they thought he was all along. This isn’t true–most democrats are not socialists, and there are clear distinctions that political scientists routinely draw among these groups. Unfortunately, these distinctions are not widely understood by the general public because they are often complex and nuanced. So I’ve come up with a way to explain the differences that I hope will be helpful to both those on the left and those on the right.

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Why Our Schools Don’t Work

One of the difficulties with writing about education is that by the time educational reformers manage to make their voices heard, they are too old. They have forgotten what it is like to be a young person in school, and the schools have changed so much during their own lifetimes that to the extent that they do remember, their memories are no longer relevant. One of the paradoxes of life is that at 22, I still remember a lot of experiences from school that remain relevant to the contemporary debate, but because I am 22, no one really pays attention to much of what I say. But I digress. Today it has occurred to me that the reason our schools do not work is that our society has three distinct purposes for its schools, and that these purposes contradict each other in fatal ways.

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Bill Maher and Ben Affleck are Both Wrong about Islam

In recent days, there’s been much discussion of an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher in which Maher (the host) and noted atheist Sam Harris got into a lively discussion with actor Ben Affleck over whether or not Islam is fundamentally less compatible with liberal values than Christianity, Judaism, or other religions. While I see many people taking sides, I found none of the arguments made particularly persuasive. I was instead struck by how thoroughly all three men seemed to miss the point.

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Thomas Piketty is Not a Marxist

I subscribe to a weekly news magazine called The Week. It’s an excellent magazine highlighting the various things commentators have been saying in the popular press over the past week. In the most recent issue, however, I saw something strange. In the banner, there was a picture of Karl Marx, and the question “Is Marxism Back in Fashion?” This struck me as quite bizarre–I hadn’t seen any mention of Marx or Marxism in the last week. I turned to the relevant article and discovered that the controversy being highlighted was over Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Many commentators, particularly those writing in right-leaning publications, were referring to Piketty and his work as Marxist (for an example, see Kyle Smith’s piece in the New York Post) This apparently is so uncontroversial that The Week felt comfortable guiding people to the story with a Marx reference. I found this extremely troubling, both because Piketty is most certainly not a Marxist and because the practice of calling all those with radical left-wing views “Marxist” is an attempt to straw man those leftists and prevent people from thinking seriously about their views. I’d like to elaborate on both themes today.

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Is Pluralism a Legitimate Defense of Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill?

Recently, Arizona governor Jan Brewer (R) vetoed a controversial piece of legislation that would have allowed businesses in Arizona to refuse service to homosexuals on the grounds that to do otherwise would infringe upon their religious freedom. The bill was widely condemned, and I had no wish to pile on, but I’ve read a piece that offers an interesting defense of the bill. While I don’t think the argument ultimately holds up, it’s an argument that needs to be taken seriously and picked apart.

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