Author: Mark Fabian

Time to Draw the Line in the Sand on Trigger Warnings

The arguments around trigger warnings tend to relate either to psychology or cultural politics. Starting with the science, advocates argue that trigger warnings are important for protecting trauma victims from episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety provoking material. The case that kicked the movement off was a rape victim triggered by a class discussion of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The first thing to note in this context is that PTSD is extremely rare, even among trauma victims. As Harvard psychology professor Richard McNally recently explained in the New York Times: Epidemiological studies show that many people are exposed to trauma in their lives, and most have transient stress symptoms. But only a minority fails to recover, thereby developing PTSD. Students with PTSD are those mostly likely to have adverse emotional reactions to curricular material, not those with trauma histories whose acute stress responses have dissipated. Given this knowledge, it seems relevant to consider how many people exposed to material with trigger warnings are likely to have PTSD, how frequently reading said material would trigger PTSD, and how …

Confusion About -Isms is Compounding Schisms

America has a deeply confused understanding of liberalism, neo-liberalism, conservatism and progressivism. Thanks to the outsize influence of US politics on global discourse, this confusion is slowly infecting other countries. It’s a dangerous disease because it prevents the articulation of a consistent framework for analysing policy, which leaves the voter in thrall to sloganeering, issue-baiting and crude policies formulated along only vague ideological grounds. As many of these confusions pertain to some variety of liberalism — classical, neo, libertarian — let’s start clarifying things there. Classical liberalism begins roughly with Hobbes. He experienced the horror of a civil war and argued that a ‘leviathan’ was needed that could enforce ‘the rule of law’ to control the human tendency towards violence. He argued that all individuals should cede some of their innate sovereignty to this sovereign. Note this fundamental appreciation of the individual’s sovereignty over herself. This is something you don’t find in fascism, which prioritises the state, or progressivism, which prioritises the class or marginalised group. Locke comes next and suggests the separation of powers …

Socialism is worse than capitalism—you want a welfare state

The rise to prominence of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders has seen a return of ‘socialism’ to the vernacular. The political movements behind these two men have frequently sought to associate popular welfare policies, notably universal health care, with socialism. Both of them seem to be suffering from a degree of conceptual confusion between socialism and the modern welfare state. This is ironic because it is precisely the socialist as opposed to welfarist elements of their respective platforms, like rent control in Corbyn’s case and trade restrictions in Sander’s case, that are unpopular. A second irony, one that is not lost on left-leaning economists, is that free markets, the antithesis of socialism, are necessary for providing the funding for a modern welfare state. What is the distinction between socialism and the modern welfare state? One way to think about it is in terms of market intervention vs. post- and pre-market intervention. Market interventions are those that distort prices and inhibit their ability to communicate the opportunity cost of a good. A pertinent example is rent …