Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Responsibility

The Four Centrisms

Back in 2016, I argued that the centrist consensus of the 90s was breaking down, and that instead there was a wider menu, with three meaningfully distinct choices:

  • Left Egalitarianism, which critiqued the consensus on the grounds that it enabled capitalists to exploit workers
  • Neoliberalism, which defended the consensus through the traditional center-right and center-left parties
  • Right Nationalism, which critiqued the consensus on the grounds that it enabled foreigners to exploit citizens

I no longer believe that this menu exists, and it may never have existed. Instead, I think there are four different types of centrist position. These types of centrism are aesthetically different but substantively nearly identical. By differentiating aesthetically, the 90s consensus is able to accommodate a higher level of cultural polarisation while protecting the core commitments of the 90s consensus.

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Coronavirus, Rioting, and the Privatization of Morality

A short while ago, we were making political demands on our states, of various kinds. Some of us wanted our governments to do more to stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Some of us wanted our governments to provide more aid, more economic stimulus. But over the last few weeks, we stopped making political demands. We started looking at each other. As governments began re-opening their economies, they tried to make it our responsibility to stop the virus. You are supposed to social distance. You are supposed to wear a mask. In most places, none of this is required by law. In those jurisdictions where the advice has been incorporated into the law, it’s only nominally enforced. But you’re supposed to feel a moral obligation to do these things, and if you don’t do them people will shame you. They’ll yell at you, and maybe they’ll try to use social media to get you fired from your job. The guidelines aren’t enforced by the state–they’re enforced by the people around you. The state doesn’t take responsibility for this informal interpersonal coercion, but it tacitly encourages it. When we’re fighting with each other about whether we should wear masks, we aren’t making demands on the state. If we’re all too busy playing police officer with each other, we won’t have the bandwidth to hold the government to account.

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A Critique of Aaron James’ “Asshole” Theory

I’ve recently been reading Aaron James’ Assholes: A Theory, in which James attempts to sort out what it means to be an “asshole”, how people get to be “assholes” and what methods people and societies should use to contain and contend with them. It is an interesting book, but I have a quibble over James’ claim that assholes are to blame for their asshole status.

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Obama and Personal Responsibility

Last weekend Barack Obama gave a commencement speech at the historically all-black, all-male Morehouse College. Why we still have colleges that are segregated on race/gender lines is beyond me, but that’s not my topic today. My topic is what Obama said and the positive reaction it has gotten, despite the indisputable fact that if someone like Mitt Romney went to Morehouse College and gave the speech Obama gave, we would all be apoplectic.

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A Critique of Ronald Dworkin

Lately I have often praised the work of Ronald Dworkin, writer of Justice for Hedgehogs, a book I have recently been reading. Indeed, Dworkin’s views on scepticism, interpretation, and the independence of value from metaphysics are all very persuasive, and I have adopted partially or completely several of his positions on those topics, as regular readers may have observed in recent posts. However, at around the halfway point in Hedgehogs, I have come upon a position of Dworkin’s I cannot accept which I believe undermines much of the rest of his philosophy.

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