A Brief Note on Gamestop

There have been opinions galore on the most fascinating financial news of the week (and possibly far longer): the Gamestop/Reddit investing drama. Pundits and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum have been weighing in on the saga all week, but I have not yet seen any of these accounts which perfectly captures my feelings on the issue. First off, I’ll do my best to quickly explain what actually happened before diving into my thoughts.

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The Perils of Political ‘Unity’

The idea of ‘unity’ in politics is a utopian pipedream, and not something which we should strive for.

It’s been less than a week of the new Biden administration and already we have a new political buzzword that is being used by both right and left: unity. In his inaugural address (and much of his messaging post-election), President Biden stressed his intention to unite the country behind his administration, saying phrases including: “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.”; “To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”; “With unity we can do great things. Important things.”; “History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.”; “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.” I could go on, as the speech was chock-full of messaging around the theme of unity. Republicans have seized on this theme and have made a stink about how the Biden administration’s early actions have been the opposite of uniting, instead delivering wins for Democrats and progressives on many contentious issues. Both parties are wrong in their focus on political unity and what that means.

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Some Thoughts on the Capitol Riot

It’s been almost two weeks since the destructive events of January 6 in our nation’s capital. As things have settled down some and the fog of war has partially lifted, I figured that it is time to share some of my thoughts on the events of that day and the fortnight following it. This post will touch on several different aspects of the riot, the coverage, and the aftermath, including overreactions and exaggerations. I don’t plan on trying to weave these thoughts together in a coherent and smooth narrative, as my opinions on these events don’t easily fit that paradigm; instead, I’ll go through a series of discrete views that hopefully will give you the full breadth of my feelings on this complicated subject.

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No, This Isn’t Kristallnacht

And your political opponents aren’t Nazis.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen several viral posts and news articles going around the Internet that really struck a nerve with my historian brain. These have involved people on the right and the left, often well-meaning, comparing current political events and turmoil to the infamous November 1938 “Night of Broken Glass”, also known as Kristallnacht. That two-night pogrom in Nazi Germany involved the widespread destruction of Jewish businesses and property, the torching of almost 1,500 synagogues, and the killing of over 90 Jews. In the aftermath of these destructive and targeted riots, Jews were done the ignominy of having to pay for the damages caused to their own property by vile anti-Semitic thugs. Besides that forced payment, 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, due to nothing else but their religious and ethnic origins. Kristallnacht is widely seen by historians as being one of the first actions of the genocide of the European Jews known as the Holocaust. As such, it is rightly viewed as an evil atrocity which should never happen again.

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Social Media Bans & Soft Power

Before I get into the meat of this blog post, I have to start with a few quick thoughts/disclaimers. First, what happened at the Capitol on January 6th was one of the most unpatriotic, abhorrent, depressing domestic political events that I’ve witnessed in my 31 years on this planet. It was an absolute disgrace and all of those rioters who assaulted the seat of our federal government should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I will be writing more in depth about this failed insurrection later this week, as I want to wait for as much information as possible before committing my (many) thoughts to paper (or whatever the Internet equivalent is).

The main purpose of this post is to discuss one of the reactions to the events of the 6th, namely the concurrent banning of President Donald Trump from all social media platforms, as well as the deplatforming of Parler, a Twitter competitor favored by some Trump supporters and right-wing activists. Many have written about this already, but here’s my two cents as someone who is genuinely struggling with how to address this in a way that is consistent with my personal political and ideological framework. I support the right of private companies like Amazon, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Facebook to freely associate with whomever they please. As a free marketeer and a laissez-faire capitalist, I do not wish to see government regulation in most aspects of private commerce; I believe that the free association rights of individuals and businesses are sacrosanct, whether it involves a small-time religious baker in Colorado or a massive Silicon Valley conglomerate. Still, that doesn’t mean that I’m not disturbed by the seemingly coordinated deplatforming based on political speech that we’re seeing now. I’m most concerned by the appearance of coordination among supposedly neutral platforms who compete with one another, whether that coordination was actual cartel-like behavior or if it reflects a high level of ideological groupthink. Both of those options are very disturbing to me when it comes to my support for an absolutist position regarding free speech. Given the dissonance between my two preferred classical liberal positions on free association and speech in this instance, I am not sure what the right approach is. All I can say for certain is that it is a nuanced issue that merits deep consideration and a society-wide debate over our cultural values. Most of these positions and issues have been raised elsewhere, so I do not intend to dive too deeply into that heavily populated pool. However, there is one specific aspect of this issue that I have not seen addressed yet, so I wanted to write a bit more about it: the unforeseen impact of these corporate actions on the soft power of the American government.

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