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A Crisis of Legitimacy

Right-wing populists seem to be cropping up everywhere these days. What gives? It’s not just Donald Trump in the US, either, though he’s the most salient, evocative example. Conservative anti-government movements have been rising in Europe, as well. It’s becoming less and less common for political parties to engage faithfully with one another–to recognize that, while they may disagree on particular issues, they all ultimately want what’s best for the country and its people.

All Art is Political

Whether they mean to or not, all artistic works communicate political ideas. This makes what those ideas should consist of an urgent and pertinent question. But first, what does it mean for all art to be political? Start with the definitions: politics describes the power struggle between different members of the polity, which is a group of people bound together by some kind of identity, be it religious, cultural, partisan, or otherwise.

What Did They Die For?

Memorial Day is as good an opportunity as any to talk about America’s wars–specifically, the soldiers who died in them. All told, while many Americans have died in wars, we’ve gotten off lucky compared to many other countries, and particularly countries in Europe, given the massive bloodlettings that occurred in the twentieth century. Our deadliest war is still the Civil War, when it was American against American. So, in what wars did American soldiers die, and why were those wars fought?

Economists in Public: Hide Your Shame

Economists tend to present themselves as impartial arbiters of truth, as people who are reporting only how the market works, rather than making judgments as to why it works, or how it should work. This view is, at best, self-delusion. At worst, it’s a lie that kills people. What prompted this post was giving a thorough read to Brad DeLong’s _The Public Square and Economists. _It’s an excellent paper that offers a solid overview of what economists, at their best, have to tell us:

Bruenighazi, Harassment, and Twitter Hell

What does it mean when someone gets fired for what they say on the Internet? Is it justice, or mob rule? Are online arguments debates, or harassment? To what extent do gender, class, and race matter when it comes to these issues? This political season has seen its share of ugly behavior. For as long as Donald Trump has had his hat in the ring as a Republican primary contender–and now the presumptive nominee–that behavior has been front and center.

Prisons Must Go

Kathryn Watterson’s Women in Prison: Inside the Concrete Womb had been on my reading list for a while. Having just finished it, I am more convinced than ever that our prison system, as it exists now, is inhumane and criminal. It must be abolished. This book was first published in 1973, and updated in 1996. What is perhaps the most telling is how little changed in the prison system between those years, and how little has changed in the 20 years since.

Apologizing for Hiroshima

With President Obama’s historic visit to Japan, the topic of whether he should formally apologize for the United States dropping nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has come up. Obama has said he won’t apologize. But why? The President’s official explanation rings hollow: In an interview with Japanese national broadcaster NHK, Obama said the reality is that leaders often have to make hard choices during times of conflict and no apologies would be included in brief remarks he is expected to make in the western Japanese city.

Moderates are not the Enemy

With both major American political parties offering fringe candidates this election season, let’s look at the relationship between those fringes and the so-called moderates who are said to represent most of the country. First, we have to know what we’re talking about. The reality is that most Americans are not moderate–that is to say, not politically centrist–even limiting ourselves to the American political spectrum. For one, most people may consider themselves “moderate” while holding decidedly partisan positions, even extreme ones.

Stellaris: Slavery and Racism in Space

Ethics in video games (not to be confused withethics in video game journalism) is a favorite topic of mine. Given my recent interest (“obsession,” if you prefer) in the 4X strategy game Stellaris, it’s an area whose time has come to revisit. Starting with the basics: if you don’t know what a 4X game is, it is a type of strategy game, so called because of the four main activities that characterize such games–eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate.

Freedom and Capitalism

For Americans, it seems that freedom and capitalism have, at some point in our history, become interchangeable concepts. There is no freedom without the ability to own and control capital, and capital that cannot be used as its owner wishes cannot be considered freedom. But is this really right? You’ve probably guessed already that the answer is “no.” But it’s why that matters. How did we come to link these ideas together, and what purpose does it serve?