The Science of Empire

by N. Gabriel Martin Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most prominent and influential abolitionists in the US prior to and during the Civil War. He campaigned against the “Compromise of 1850” in which the new state of California, annexed in the Mexican-American war, was agreed to be made a state without slavery in…

Don’t blame democracy

by N. Gabriel Martin “It was wrong to underestimate the ignorance of the ruling class.” —Graham Greene, The Confidential Agent The old libel that the masses are too ignorant and irrational for democracy is having a moment. Elections of populist demagogues in the US, Brazil, India, and other countries, together with the failures of many democratically…

Neither selfish, nor stupid: natural selection doesn’t determine human nature; we do

by N. Gabriel Martin In 2017, the Nobel prize in economics attracted more attention than it usually does, when it was awarded to Richard Thaler. Articles in leading newspapers everywhere explained Thaler’s revolutionary insight: whereas economic orthodoxy was premised on the belief that humans are essentially selfish, Thaler’s work assumed that we are also stupid.…

Learning to see the future, or, why I am no longer a conservative

by N. Gabriel Martin When I was younger, I gravitated to conservatism’s deference to the actual. In my suspicion towards the progressive preference for ideas over what just is, it took me a long time to understand that conservatism misunderstands the future and therefore what it is attempting to achieve. Conservatism’s purported ambition to preserve…

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love “Post-Truth”

by N. Gabriel Martin Is it still possible today, in the age of widespread and outlandish conspiracy theories, algorithmically induced filter-bubbles, and bullshitting demagogues, a generation after the US Republican party adopted a strategy of unprincipled obstructionism to anything that their democratic counterparts proposed, to believe that reason has a place in politics? When we…

The Pandemic Has Made Us Scrutinise The Morality Of Our Day To Day Habits—Is That A Good Thing?

by N. Gabriel Martin The pandemic has increased our awareness of the moral significance of our day to day habits. While there have always been moral perfectionists who agonise over every choice and action, most of us tended to draw a line under our day to day habits, taking them for granted and reserving moral…