Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Roman Empire

A Second Term for Trump is Better Than Beto

There have been a number of pieces outlining how very conventional Beto O’Rourke is. They point out that as a member of congress he was a New Democrat–part of a caucus committed to moving the Democratic Party to the right on economic policy. While many centrist Democrats performatively pretend to support single payer or tuition-free college, O’Rourke wouldn’t even sponsor legislation on these issues for the political capital. Instead, he actively worked to undermine Dodd-Frank and weaken our financial regulations. Just this week, O’Rourke was quoted attempting to distance himself from the “progressive” label, nevermind “democratic socialist”. When asked if he identifies as a progressive, O’Rourke said:

I don’t know. I’m just, as you may have seen and heard over the course of the campaign, I’m not big on labels.

The Jacobin and Current Affairs pieces I’ve linked you to will give you the whole rundown, in greater detail than I have the time or patience to produce myself. I am now going to make a much more provocative argument–I’m going to make the case that we would be better off sticking with Donald Trump in 2020 than electing Beto O’Rourke.

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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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A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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How Similar are Trump and Caesar?

Many of President Trump’s supporters are aggrieved about a New York production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which features a Caesar that looks rather Trump-like. This has produced some discussion of how far this comparison should really go, and whether having a Trump-like Caesar encourages political violence. Much of the arguments surrounding this are a bit muddled because many folks only have a surface-level understanding of Caesar’s historical role. So let’s unpack it.

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How to Think About the Michael Flynn Scandal

A few people have asked my opinion on the Michael Flynn scandal. As I understand it, anonymous sources from within the intelligence community have leaked to the press that Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser, was in contact with the Russian government prior to Trump’s inauguration and lied about his connections. Further leaks claim that Trump knew about this, and that other members of his team were also in contact with Russia. Flynn has resigned. If there was contact, this contact would be illegal under the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from conducting US foreign policy. Violators of the Logan Act can go to prison for three years. Many Democrats want to use the Logan Act to go after the Trump administration, while the Trump administration prefers to emphasize the illegality of the leaks:

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