Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Technology

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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The Slow Corruption of Public Discourse Since Watergate

In the 44 years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States, political discourse has deteriorated. There are many reasons for the decline in the discourse, but today I want to focus on two forces which have come together in America–one sociological, the other technological–to impose a spontaneous order which greatly reduces the scope for authentic expression, both in public and in private. This new social order is not planned by anyone–it has no author, it requires no institutionalised hard coercion. It arises spontaneously from the interaction of the two forces.

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Comparing Keynesian Neocorporatism and Market Socialism

There is a lot of fuzziness and misunderstanding about what the left is trying to do, economically. A while back, I discussed some of the things which distinguish postwar liberals–who remain committed to reforming capitalism–from democratic socialists, who seek to one day abolish capitalism outright. Today I want to get into a bit more detail and discuss more precisely how these economic models work. The case I want to make to you is that despite what you may hear, the postwar liberals and democratic socialists have more overlap in their proposals than either side realises.

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The Decline of the 20th Century Political Campaign

Political campaigns started getting expensive in the 1960s, when television advertising became the next big thing in campaigning. Even before TV, reaching people was hard work. You needed to knock on doors, phone bank, and send out mailings. All of this required a lot of dedicated activists and dedicated dollars. And so politicians depended very heavily on the activists and donors who could provide these things. All of this is in the process of changing. Activists and dollars are becoming less important than they used to be. They still matter, but not as much. And as time goes on, they grow weaker.

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Facebook isn’t that Different from News Corp or Standard Oil

My Facebook is flooded with folks talking about Cambridge Analytica, the firm that bought access to Facebook user data and used it to help design political propaganda for organisations seeking to help the Trump campaign. But you know what I find most surprising about this story? The fact that people find it surprising in the first place. This possibility was always implied by Facebook’s business model. It creates a platform that makes communicating with people easier. We don’t have to pay money to use it, but in exchange Facebook takes our data and sells it to whoever wants to buy. Did we really think that political organisations wouldn’t be interesting in buying Facebook data? Did we really think that Facebook wouldn’t sell it to them? This implication has stood in front of our faces for years. It’s clearly implied by Facebook’s very nature–it is literally a firm which induces people to give it private information and then sells that information to the highest bidder. Why can’t the bidders have political motivations? Facebook is a transnational corporation. Why would even expect the bidders to be American?

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