Featured Content

Recent Essays

  • How to Think…About the Gaza Protests
    In the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel, I wrote a “How to think…” piece about the conflict there. It was not hopeful, but it was prescient: For now, Israel will go into Gaza and attempt to destroy Hamas. They’ll do this because they must. Israeli’s will expect retribution, and no country with sufficient… Read more: How to Think…About the Gaza Protests
  • Utopia: Its the People You’re With
    People are the essence of what makes a community and it’s hard to imagine anything could be more important. If we don’t like the people, we won’t like the community. If we do, we will. It really is that simple. But deciding what kind of people you’d want in your utopia turns out to be trickier than you might think.
  • Democracy and the Good Life: The Politicization of the Self
    Modern political ideologies are nothing more (nor less) than lifestyle brands built to capture votes in the democratic marketplace. They are the shallow, intellectually incoherent two-buck chuck of the political world: sweet, deeply addictive, and very cheap to acquire. These ideologies have already exacted a terrible toll on our democracy and they may or may… Read more: Democracy and the Good Life: The Politicization of the Self
  • Democracy and the Good Life: Saving Democracy from Ideology
    In my past four posts, I argued that democracy (like capitalism) has significant benefits if you’re trying to build an ethical life, but that many of those benefits are squandered due to the exploitation of political marketplaces and the growth of what I’ve called Consumer Packaged Ideology. In the economic sphere, we are marketed to by… Read more: Democracy and the Good Life: Saving Democracy from Ideology
  • Democracy and the Good Life Part 4: Ideology and Polarization
    Democratic government is a marketplace with the same disincentives with respect to your beliefs as economic markets have to your desires. Worse, and as an inevitable outcome of that fact, the ideology industry has become something more than a simple mechanism for harvesting votes. The ideology industry has succeeded in creating massive belief change; we live in a world where political ideology has replaced religion, community, virtue and sometimes wealth as the focal point of meaning in life.
  • Democracy and Good Life Part 3: Consumer Packaged Ideology
    We think of an ideology as being a coherent set of principles encompassing a system of values and based on some fundamental set of assumptions and principles. But that’s not at all what modern political ideologies are. From a philosophical perspective, they are an incoherent mass of contradictory policy positions bundled in a giant, nicely wrapped package held together by a little word cloud of catchphrases.
  • Democracy and the Good Life: Part 2
    The Democratic Marketplace “To the somber warfare of creeds and sects there succeeded the squalid but far less irrational or uncontrollable strife of parties” Winston Churchill on the aftermath of the English Civil War If free markets are the arena and engine of capitalism, democracy also involves a free (though sometimes carefully designed) marketplace in which… Read more: Democracy and the Good Life: Part 2
  • Democracy and the Good Life: Part 1
    The temptation of stuff is not the only hard challenge of modern Western culture. The intellectual and political culture of our society reflects many of the same challenges as materialism: overabundance and temptation, aggressive niche filling, and strong forces taking advantage of our cognitive limitations and foundational desires. Democracy creates its own form of market with many of the same incentives to over-optimization that exist in markets for goods and services.
  • How to Think About…the Trump Indictments
    Our times seem to demand partisanship. While there is very little to be for (Biden/Trump anyone?), there is a great deal to actively hate. It is a situation that makes partisanship easy. Nor is it easy to resist the demands of partisans, loaded as they are with the undeniable proof of the sins of their… Read more: How to Think About…the Trump Indictments
  • Capital and Ideology and Ideology and Ideology
    Not many authors have ever made as big a cultural splash as Thomas Piketty did with Capital. His 2019 follow-up, Capital and Ideology, is a big book dedicated to the same general themes but expanding their scope both philosophically, historically and geographically. At the very beginning of Capital and Ideology, Piketty steps outside the narrative… Read more: Capital and Ideology and Ideology and Ideology

Read More