Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Roman Empire

The Left Must Stop Helping the Right Racialize the Concept of Citizenship

There are many lovely political concepts that have been distorted by the right. “Citizenship” is one such concept. Increasingly, the right hides behind it. Accuse the right of caring only about people of one ethnicity, race, religion, or culture, and the right will answer that it’s interested in protecting citizens, regardless of background. Of course, if you ask the right what makes someone deserving of citizenship, the right will often argue for jus sanguinis, the idea that citizenship is a matter of blood heritage. When citizenship is about blood, it becomes a thin cover for ethnic nationalism.

Unfortunately, the left has largely responded to this by simply dismissing all appeals to citizenship as ethno-nationalist, racist, or white supremacist. Instead of fighting to stop the right from appropriating the concept, the left has simply conceded it to them. This means that whenever right wing politicians argue about the importance of defending American citizens, all the left can do is shout “racism!” at them. Increasingly, the left calls for “open borders”, arguing that citizenship doesn’t matter at all. This concedes far too much to the right. The right is advancing a very poor conception of citizenship, and we are able to offer something much more compelling, if we merely try. Here, let me show 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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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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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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