Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Why Immigration Controls Can’t Bring Your Job Back

All over the western world, anti-establishment movements are pushing for immigration controls. They argue that immigrants from developing countries are willing to work for too little and there are too many of them. Because there are so many and they are so cheap, these immigrants take jobs which might otherwise go to native-born westerners. The workers who support immigration controls are right to point out that they have not been receiving a fair shake in the last few decades, but this is not due to immigration–it’s due to capital mobility.

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Why Churches Aren’t Good at Pursuing the Good

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how some left-wing organisations act like churches–they are communities in which people come together to develop and refine their understandings of the good rather than strategic operations for achieving discrete political goals in the world. A few people wrote replies to my piece. The most interesting and recurrent counterargument I saw alleges that it’s fine for the left to be a church because people enjoy the sense of community churches provide and like the opportunity to come together with like-minded people to develop their understanding of what it means to be good to one another. These people deny that we ought to prioritise strategic efficacy, that it’s at least as important to become good people, and that left-wing organisations facilitate this personal growth. I disagree with this priority on the personal because I think it’s egoistic. But today I want to make an additional, larger argument–I want to argue that churches and other communities are not good devices for pursuing the good, and that the conclusions communities reach about the good are very likely to be deeply wrong.

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Electorally, the Left is Already Behind Schedule

One of the tasks for the left is to reshape the Democratic Party into the kind of political party which can be used to chip away at material disparities of wealth and power. This means making it into a party which can actually pass policies like single payer, tuition free college, $15 minimum wage, stronger union rights, and so on. The thing is, many Democrats in congress don’t support these policies. Some of them admit they don’t support them, while others are pretending to support them but have no intention of following through should they get into power. This is the same position the right found itself in after Obama’s election–they wanted a Republican Party which would repeal Obamacare and take a stand on immigration. But the Republicans they had were either openly uninterested in doing those things or clearly lying about it. So under the banner of the Tea Party these right wingers began working to reshape the Republican Party through the primary mechanism. They made significant gains–the Tea Party helped create senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jerry Moran, Bill Cassidy, Tim Scott, and Mike Lee. These people are much more right wing than their predecessors 20 or 30 years ago would have been. Over time, their efforts also helped make it possible for an anti-establishment anti-immigration nationalist to win the presidency. But despite all of this the Tea Party has come up short. It was unable to repeal Obamacare because of opposition from John McCain and Lisa Murkowski, two senators it had tried and failed to remove through primaries. It has, to this point, been unable to get its wall built. The Tea Party got a lot done, and it still wasn’t enough. When Trump leaves office, most of what he will have been able to pass will be legislation which George W. Bush could have passed 20 years ago with the Republicans of that period. I’m telling you all of this because, by the looks of it, the left is going to be markedly less successful in these primaries than the Tea Party was two years into the Obama administration, in 2010.

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Three Failing Movements and the One that Can Succeed

One of the key things I always like to remember about politics is that there are no political systems or political organizations which are wholly elitist or wholly populist. All regimes and all organizations are mixed. Autocracies and aristocracies still need their peoples to recognise them as legitimate and cooperate with their decisions. If they ignore legitimacy, their peoples will destroy them. Democracies still rely on elite professional civil servants, politicians, lawyers, and economists to design and implement policies that address the interests of the people and the subgroups which comprise it. If they ignore those elites, they won’t be able to govern effectively and they’ll disappoint the people they set out to help.  It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, despite this, there are always political movements which operate dogmatically from an elitist or populist standpoint, ignoring the need to find the right mix of both. I want to describe three such movements, and the alternative path we can take to avoid their mistakes.

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The Overground Hell Road: The Similarities Between Kanye and Gandhi Are Scary

Today Kanye West said:

When you hear about slavery for 400 years…For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned…right now we’re choosing to be enslaved. [T]o make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved. [T]he reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought. It was just an idea. [O]nce again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.

Lots of people have attacked Kanye, accusing him of various bad isms. I’m going to do something different. I’m going to compare him to Gandhi.

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