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This Week On Arc Digital

Dear readers,

Week in and week out, Arc publishes commentary mainly selected on the basis of a simple editorial metric: Is the take an intelligent one? If it is, then we want to provide a platform for it — even if it’s not a position we, as the site’s editors, personally embrace.

This means no single reader of ours should be able to say, “I agree with everything they post.” But that’s not the point, is it? The point is to read that which enriches our understanding, not that which flawlessly reflects our antecedently held beliefs.

Our goal is to be the internet’s best opinion space. And we want to share with you what we’ve been posting.

So at the end of each week, we’ll send out a recap of what we’ve posted in the days prior. If you’re a Medium member, then you have unrestricted access to the content we publish. If you’re not, Medium gives you three free reads per month.

Here’s what we’ve run the past two weeks (it’s a double edition!):

What If Kim Jong-Un Wants Peace?

by Nicholas Grossman (May 1, 2018)

Conventional wisdom says North Korea wants conflict. Their ultimate aim: Uniting the Korean peninsula under the Kims — by intimidation if possible, by force if necessary.

In the meantime, the North builds up military capabilities, and acts out to get a bribe. Their go-to move: Promise to suspend nuclear or missile development in exchange for economic aid, while always intending to carry on in secret. If/when they get caught, run the play again from the beginning.

Under this logic, Kim Jong-un’s willingness to negotiate is a ruse.

Bros Against Humanity

by Justin Lee (May 1, 2018)

Brotopia, an exposé of Silicon Valley’s corporate culture by Bloomberg Technology host Emily Chang, chronicles what happens when socially maladjusted, sex-starved nerd-bros are given the keys to the kingdom.

What Science Fiction Can Teach Us About Universal Basic Income

by Will Truman (May 3, 2018)

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the possibility of a post-work economy, and how we might handle our transition to a world in which there are more people than there are things for them to do.

The Lump of Labor Fallacy says that such speculation is unnecessary. Economists point out that every generation of technological advancement is met with this concern, and every time the economy rises to meet the people willing and able to work.

Creative destruction led to the replacement of the buggy with the car, and even though cars are made on factory lines with much of the work automated from the start, the automotive industry has been responsible for countless jobs throughout the 20th century.

Right now, however, the corporations driving technology’s incessant march seem to be closing in on nearly every facet of employment, from truck drivers to the very creation of the artificial intelligence that would replace jobs many considered safe. We usually think of creative destruction in terms of us being the buggy whip makers, but what if we’re the horses?

Trump Isn’t Big Brother

by Noah Berlatsky (May 4, 2018)

Part of 1984’s appeal for Americans is that its lack of racial analysis makes it easy to see authoritarianism as something to avoid in the future, rather than as a description of, for example, the current ideology of the United States prison system.

A post-racial Big Brother is going to be of limited use in understanding America — and of very limited use in understanding Trump. The media in the United States can talk about authoritarianism, and it can talk about racism. But, with its understanding of fascism shaped by texts like 1984, it often has trouble putting the two together.

Facebook Meets The New Global Order

by Leslie Loftis (May 4, 2018)

Most commentators thought Mark Zuckerberg did well in his testimony before the U.S. Congress last month. Following his appearance, the company’s stock recovered part of its losses from assorted scandals earlier in the year, most notorious of which was the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal that brought Zuckerberg to the Hill.

But the commentators make two general errors: first, they tend to assume that Facebook’s problem has to do with data privacy, and second, they seem to think the U.S. still dominates the regulatory world. Neither is true.

Data privacy is merely one of Facebook’s major concerns, which is driven not by U.S. law but by E.U. data protection regulations that will take effect May 25th.

Is Free Speech Consistent With British Values?

by Daniel Kirkpatrick (May 5, 2018)

Throughout the world, counter-terrorism focuses on preventing people from engaging in political violence, whether it is labeled violent extremism or terrorism. The counter-terrorism strategies of Europol, the U.N., and the U.S., for instance, all frame the challenges of counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism in terms of violence. But the U.K. goes further.

Threats to the U.K. are framed as the very ideas and beliefs which challenge the ubiquitously applied, but persistently vague, concept known as “British values.”

Who Owns Mars?

by Tomás Sidenfaden (May 7, 2018)

On March 11, at the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, Elon Musk announced his intention to send SpaceX’s first “interplanetary ship” to Mars in the first half of 2019.

Musk is known for his aggressive — a kind way to saywildly optimistic” — timelines, which are themselves a function of his giddiness as an innovator. As a result, observers combine a distrust of the initial timeliness with a full faith in Musk’s ability to carry out the project in due course. …

Significantly, what Musk has to say isn’t limited to such mundane details as quarterly vehicle production forecasts (though he admits they stress him out). Instead, he muses on large topics, such the danger that artificial intelligence poses for humanity, the possibility that we’re living in a simulation, and the inevitability of World War III.

Or, like at SXSW, he’ll discuss how human beings might get to Mars.

Conservatives Need To Stop Obsessing Over Balancing The Federal Budget

by Ed Dolan (May 8, 2018)

For years, fiscal conservatives have touted a simple solution to the problems of our federal deficit and national debt: pass a balanced budget amendment (BBA) that would prohibit deficits once and for all.

Time and again bills are submitted in Congress to enact a BBA. Usually they don’t even make it to a vote. When they do get a vote, they always fall short.

The latest attempt in the House of Representatives, on April 12 of this year, drew 233 yeas and 184 nays — a simple majority, but well short of the two-thirds that the Constitution requires.

But the two-thirds requirement is not the real reason that BBAs always fail. They fail because they are a bad idea. If we take a look at the simple economics of the federal deficit, we will be able to see why.

Iran Deal Opponents Keep Making These Four Bad Arguments

by Nicholas Grossman (May 8, 2018)

On May 8, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — and reimpose sanctions. He did not claim Iran violated the agreement first.

Trump’s logic rests on four erroneous arguments — the same bad arguments JCPOA opponents have been making for a while.

If The American Experiment Is To Survive, Conservatives Must Get Serious About Racism

by Jonathan Godoy (May 9, 2018)

In many cases, conservatives are too dismissive in their reactions to stories that touch on race. Take the recent controversy surrounding the arrest of two African Americans for the great crime of having a seat inside a Starbucks and waiting around for a friend without first ordering something.

Some conservatives have responded to this story by dismissing the racial element altogether, stating that the reactions of the employee and the police, while perhaps a bit harsh, were legally and procedurally justified.

In a piece that downplays the racial element both in this particular case and as a larger systemic problem for the coffee mega-chain, Ben Shapiro also criticizes the left’s reactions — boycotts, protests, etc. — as unnecessarily provocative.

Even if we agree that this case does not signal a wider racial problem with the way baristas treat members of minority communities, and that, therefore, the efforts to boycott Starbucks are a bit excessive, still, the dismissive posture on the part of conservative thinkers is counterproductive and wrong.

Trump’s Rise Has Coincided With A Shift In The Republican Coalition

by Paul D. Miller (May 10, 2018)

The Republican Party in the Age of Trump is a coalition between conservatives and nationalists.

Coming up on a year and a half in power, it seems apparent that the conservatives have control over the judicial nominations process, but not much else. Nationalist rhetoric, in the meantime, is fundamentally altering what the Republican Party stands for, how it is perceived by the rest of the country, and what sort of voter it will attract. Such rhetoric is likely to reinforce the Democratic Party’s ability to claim the moral high ground in American politics for the foreseeable future.

Political parties are not and never have been ideologically cohesive. They cannot afford to maintain ideological purity in a winner-take-all, first-past-the-post electoral system. They can try to do so, win 10 percent of the vote, and fade into obscurity; or they can massage their platform to appeal to 51 percent of the electorate and win. The Libertarian, Socialist, and Green parties have chosen the former, and they’ve chosen poorly. The Democratic and Republican Parties survive because they have chosen the latter. …

From Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, the Republican coalition usually comprised a conglomeration of economic liberalism, social conservatism, and national defense hawkishness. But there’s a crucial element missing. The Republican Party also wrapped these conservative ideals in a nationalist package.

The truth is, Republicans only won power on the strength of a large and powerful voting block: the nationalist “Jacksonians” of Middle America. The Jacksonians have always been part of American political culture, but they have rarely been in power. Today they are in the driver’s seat.

White Nationalism’s Therapeutics of Hate

by Justin Lee (May 11, 2018)

I confess that I have neither the imagination necessary to reverence the tiki-torch-wielding sallow-supremacists who twice last year descended on the University of Virginia, nor the intemperance or historical illiteracy required to see them as a monolithic evil. …

The man-children who gummed their way out of the basements of middle America to converge upon Charlottesville recapitulate the lackluster venality of their heroes. For all their impotence — intellectual, social, vocational, sexual — they are eminently dismissible, the mobile-age incarnation of the same be-sheeted skid-marks perpetually ghosting the margins of society. Were it not that their flaccid, gelatinous bodies are capable of actual violence, we’d be justified if we paid them no attention.

But the terroristic murder of Heather Heyer, the wounding of 19 others, and the likelihood of more violence to come, demands we pay attention. Demands we seek to understand. Why are these shitheels so angry?

Hate is not an answer, but another way of posing the question. What motivates their racial hatred? And what sociological function does it serve?

Traditional answers focus on poverty, inherited viewpoints, failures of education, or the lack of meaningful, collaborative exposure to people of different races.

Doubtless there is much truth in these explanations; these are factors that shape all of our predispositions towards our fellow man. But I’m not convinced that they account for the growing impulse to violence. The nascent alt-right terrorism is as much about ideas as it is material circumstances.

Thinkers on the left are correct in denying the idea that the alt-right is merely a product of poverty and disempowerment. Like earlier incarnations of racial animus — the Civil Rights Era Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity, various forms of neo-Nazism — this is a phenomenon that cuts across socio-economic categories.

I contend that the alt-right — along with all post-Industrial Revolution white supremacism — should be understood as a reaction against certain universally disruptive, even traumatizing, fruits of the modern period.

Hate, for the alt-rightist, operates as a coping mechanism, a therapy that attempts to reconcile the individual’s inner experience with the outer world.

Voting For Trump ≠ Justifying Trump’s Actions

by John Bowling (May 13, 2018)

Some of Trump’s evangelical supporters, some of his evangelical critics, and some on the left have made strange bedfellows with the following premise: supporting Trump means justifying or rationalizing all or most of what Trump does.

The Oracle of the Spanish Civil War

by Paul Richard Huard (May 14, 2018)

Fought from 1936 to 1939, the Spanish Civil War pitted the fascist Nationalists comprised of monarchists, landowners, most Spanish business owners, the majority of Roman Catholic clergy, and the Spanish army against the Republicans, who were backed by workers, the trade unions, socialists, and peasants.

It became the cause of the 1930s for many idealists who believed in liberal democracy and the defeat of fascism.

Today, for most of the world, the Spanish Civil War is lost in the sweep of events that marked the 20th century as the most violent time in human history.

Thanks for reading!



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