Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Violence

Why Rebellions and Revolutions Don’t Work Very Well

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been people who have been tasked with providing the necessities of life–growing the food, collecting resources, making the tools, and so on. There have also been people who don’t do this kind of work, who instead have lots of free time. These people have free time because other people provide their necessities for them. In this sense, the first group of people serves the second. The precise social mechanic governing this service has shifted over the years. In the early days, the first group of people were slaves of the second group. Slavery was an astounding social invention–it made it possible for some of us to have large amounts of free time, and we used that free time to do art and science and high politics. But slavery only worked by denying the vast majority of people access to that free time. It precipitated largescale inequality. This made it difficult to sustain. The slaves were unhappy, and unhappy slaves are unproductive. The slaveowners eventually discovered a secret–happy slaves are more productive than unhappy slaves. And to make the slaves happy, you had to tell them a story about how they were free. Into this space steps capitalism, and the employer-employee relationship. You are free to work for any master–but you must work for one, or you won’t earn enough to make a living. The masters have pooled the slaves and shared them, and told the slaves this makes them free. And for the most part, the slaves buy it. Except when they don’t. This piece is about that.

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How to Usefully Distinguish Terrorism From Other Forms of Violence

I’ve noticed there’s been a bit of an uptick in think-pieces about what counts as “terrorism”. These tend to be built around a common observation that white mass murderers tend not to get the “terrorist” label and that the Trump administration reacts very differently to mass violence when the perpetrator is Muslim, an immigrant, a refugee, or a close relative thereof. Perhaps the most strident example is Matthew Walther’s piece in The Week in which he claims that there is “no such thing” as terrorism. It’s the return of a conversation we saw in 2015 and which has tended to repeat whenever some high profile mass violence occurs. This debate results from a lack of clarity in the way we think about violence. Let’s fix this.

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Chicago Protesters Had Good Reasons to Be Upset Long Before Laquan McDonald

In Chicago, people are taking to the streets in response to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke, apparently for brandishing a knife and refusing to put it down when asked to do so:

Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder. So far, the demonstrations have been peaceful and riots have not broken out. In the wake of a horrible incident like this, it’s important for us to remember that racism goes well beyond individual killings–there has long been statistical data documenting systemic racial inequalities in Chicago. These statistics don’t get as much attention from the media and from protesters because they’re not as emotionally gripping as a killing, but the suffering they demonstrate is every bit as real and much greater in scope.

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4 Charts that Prove the Mental Illness Argument Against Gun Control is Bunk

Another week, another mass shooting in the United States. Barack Obama is furious at congress for its continual unwillingness to pass comprehensive gun control. Jeb Bush says “stuff happens”:

Once again the right is coming out with the same tired arguments, claiming that guns have nothing to do with gun violence, that mental illness is the culprit. This argument is facile and demonstrably wrong. I can show you why in four charts.

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Police Don’t Kill People. Guns Do.

I’ve been doing some more thinking about the recent cases in which American police officers shoot and kill people (e.g. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, etc.). It has occurred to me that there are two important angles to the national debate we’re having, but I’ve only really talked about one of those angles on this blog. They are:

  1. The Race Angle–why do American police officers disproportionately shoot more black people than white people, even when you adjust for poverty and crime rates?
  2. The Civil Liberty Angle–why do American police officers shoot more people per capita than police officers in other developed countries?

In late November, I offered a view on the race angle, but what about the civil liberty angle? What is it about America that causes American police officers to behave differently from police officers from other similarly developed societies? Let’s investigate.

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