Articles by Travis D. Smith
November 22, 2021
In the second of two parts, Travis Smith argues that our responses to the pandemic reveal a Canada progressively squeezing out its commitment to liberty.
According to Hobbes in particular, people have no moral obligations to anybody in the state of nature; it’s indistinguishable from a state of war and individuals there may be treated accordingly Whereas modern political theory asserts the natural freedom of all human beings everywhere, classical political science suggests that most people aren’t particularly well prepared for the life of free citizenship Who needs the frustrations of political debate when public health modeling can calculate how to constrain and configure our lives for our own good? Who needs indirect government by bumbling elected officials when we can be ruled directly by those in possession of the science and the necessary vision to impose it rightly and precisely? The modern effort to formally separate church and state, or religion from politics—a move Hobbes implicitly recommended and Locke expressly defended—depended on persuading people to revise their religious views, alter modes of worship, and reform religious institutions COVID times have shown us that classical political science wasn’t wrong about how much people want to be ruled Is our leadership accountable to Canadians anymore, or can it act without constraint or meaningful opposition with impunity indefinitely? Leading up to our recent election, the federal Tories gave voters ample reason to conclude that little about the pandemic would be handled differently were they in charge The prime minister’s enormous pre-order of booster shots gives us reason to think that this state of emergency is expected, if not intended, to last a long, long time to come
November 19, 2021
In this first of a two-part essay, Travis Smith teases out the new ersatz religiosity of our political, clinical and social pandemic responses.
We are now seeing heterodox health care professionals threatened and sanctioned, placed on leave or their licences suspended—defrocked, as it were—for refusing to comply with mandates, for expressing concern about adverse events, for granting exemptions, or otherwise hesitating to swear by the vacci...
October 8, 2021
Travis Smith warns time is running out to free our home and native land from its pandemic-induced contagion of distrust, resentment, and contempt for our neighbours.
There are many reasons why some people choose to trust and many reasons why others have stopped trusting Given our leaders’ track records—not to mention how many booster shots our prime minister has pre-ordered for several years to come—I’m pretty sure it’s unlikely things will go that way People wi...
January 23, 2021
In these days of pandemic disorientation and fatigue, uncertainty over the right thing is all right but failure to be good neighbours will be more toxic than the disease itself, Travis Smith writes.
People who want to decline the vaccine don’t want those whom they think might be mistaken about it gaining advantages over them Social media in particular brings out the worst in people; it’s available to exacerbate whatever divisions arise In an environment such as that, where politics properly so-...
January 22, 2021
A severe social side effect of the pandemic is the disconnection between those in authority we must trust and our personal experiences that contradict what we’re told, Travis Smith writes.
In higher education, where I work, we’re all now getting used to teaching via Zoom, but I don’t expect anyone to provide non-experts with the untold hours of online remedial to advanced and specialized instruction in the relevant sciences that would be required for people to obtain an understanding ...
January 21, 2021
In the third of Convivium’s essays on the politics of the pandemic, Travis Smith argues reassurances about vaccine safety will convince only some of the people some of the time.
That said, my hunch is that as disappointed as people would be if the vaccines aren’t as effective as advertised, they’ll be more forgiving of that outcome than if they prove less safe Even assuming that it is completely true that the vaccines for COVID are entirely safe and effective, as far as any...
January 20, 2021
The Ontario government’s methods to combat COVID-19 risks re-educating citizens in the Machiavellian art of compliance, political theorist Travis Smith writes.
At the outset of modernity, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes told us exactly what kind of government we should expect—he would say “need”—if you’re willing to do anything to preserve yourselves: a totalizing, absolute government against which the public has no recourse Knowing the Machiavellian p...
May 4, 2020
Of all the things the COVID-19 crisis has meant, Travis Smith argues, its means to distinguish between what we necessarily need and what makes us essentially human.
The current situation lends itself to magnifying our concern for what’s necessary, what pertains to us as animals in need of securing the basics of survival, and we may show disregard for what’s more essential to living well as human beings specifically I’d like to stay confident that the rest of us...
February 4, 2019
In Daniel Mahoney’s The Idol of Our Age, reviewer Travis Smith finds a commendably tough-minded but charitable critique of the Christian Church’s slide into the worship of man rather than God.
At his harshest, Mahoney calls Francis “thoroughly blind to the multiple ways in which the humanitarian secular religion subverts authentic Christianity,” observing that “his unqualified appeals for us to ‘change the world’ have a tendency to ‘immanentize’ the Gospel, to emphasize this-worldly ameli...
December 28, 2018
In a conversation about his 2018 book Superhero Ethics, author Travis Smith guides Convivium’s Peter Stockland past the classical, Biblical and liberal-democratic sources of comic book characters, ending up at the existential chasm in the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen: “Hey, what else can we do now?”
Superhero comics confusingly combine a tragicomic premise—the good guys always win, and innocent bystanders get saved, but human beings and the world never get any better—with a modern romantic-rationalistic confidence in progress A cynical person might say that the creators of superhero stories exp...
July 20, 2018
In this excerpt from his new book Superhero Ethics, Travis Smith reveals how the comic book character Mister Fantastic, for all his physical and mental pliability, embodies the ascent to truth through love of family.
Reed’s love for this family rivals his love of truth, and his solicitousness for the rest of humanity is a tertiary concern So, Reed’s being like water suggests a living, direct, and personal correspondence with the source of all that exists—a correspondence that might, in keeping with science under...
December 1, 2015
Political theorist Travis D. Smith maintains that liberalism as a credo is worth approaching if we do so with full awareness of its perpetual distance from reality.
To sum up, whether from a Biblical perspective or one guided by classical political science, nobody is required to deny that there is such a thing as the good life and that such a life is not the explicit (or even likely) goal of liberalism in order to be a good liberal – one who recognizes that in ...
August 1, 2014
A single course taken years ago with McMaster University’s Janet Ajzenstat turned Travis Smith into a life-long lover of liberal democracy
For 2014's annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, University of Calgary political scientist Rainer Knopff organized a round table in honour of Janet Ajzenstat, professor emeritus of political science at McMaster University, celebrating her distinguished career and the publicat...
April 1, 2014
Travis D. Smith discovers April is the surest month for taxes and tarts
When I hear it alleged that those who contrived and cemented this tradition of confusion did so in order to marginalize Mary Magdalene's significance among the disciples — and by association, all women within the Church — all as a part of the propaganda of patriarchy, I cannot help but regard this a...
December 1, 2013
Travis D. Smith remembers political philosopher Sam Ajzenstat as a man of knowledge, wisdom and great counsel
Luckily, at a time in my life when I sorely needed good counsel but barely realized it and wouldn't have admitted it, I enrolled in classes taught by the Ajzenstats, Sam and Janet It was also from Sam (and Janet, together) that I learned the rhetorical strategy of motivating someone to become better...
October 1, 2013
Travis Smith talks Kid'n Slave with his son; Julia Nethersole on growing up like Charlie Brown.
Son: Dad? Dad: And is slavery good or bad? After all, if you work hard and don’t give up, you can do anything you want, right? Well, Charlie Brown may have a different view on things Dad: Well, do you think that slaves ever stop being slaves? Or do you think that they usually stay slaves their whole...
August 1, 2013
Hobbes gave us democracy as the walking dead. Tocqueville lit a candle. Travis Smith illuminates us on the implications for Canada
Tocqueville knows that happiness is a greater good than social justice, and that there is neither happiness nor justice except among human beings whose character and intellect have been well developed, hence the priority of intellectual, religious and political freedoms Whereas a liberal in the Lock...
April 1, 2013
Before there was Wonder Woman (1941), there was Batman (1939). After both of them, there was Spider-Man (1962). But before all of them, Travis Smith informed Convivium Readers in 2013, the world marvelled at Batmessiah and Spider-Mensch.
Whereas the order that the modern technological project seeks to impose would absolve individuals of the need to practise personal and interpersonal responsibility, responsibility is the central theme of Peter Parker's story When the widowed Aunt May's new fiancé, Nathan Lubensky, and Peter first sp...
July 1, 2012
Travis D. Smith ponders the introspective essays of Ray Robertson's Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, written following the novelist's period of suicidal depression.
Whereas Robertson is strong on the role of labour in a free and happy life, Why Not? is conspicuously silent regarding the significance of human communities that extend further than the close personal relationships one shares with parents, a spouse, loyal friends and one's dog Forgive me if my next ...
May 1, 2012
Travis D. Smith advises conservatives to limit Machiavellian liberality by growing in generosity.
It is, however, no less romantic to suppose that people who have hitherto not learned to take good care of themselves and others will spontaneously prove capable of doing so should drastic measures to cut taxes and spending be imposed rapidly in conformity withstrict principles.It is one thing for c...