Benjamin Studebaker

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

March for Our Lives: The Limitations of the Children’s Crusade

In West Virginia, teachers whose wages had stagnated for years struck for–and received–a 5% pay rise. In Britain academics struck for–and it appears shall receive, at least for now–the continued maintenance of their defined benefit pension plans. But in much of America the students are walking out not to fight for public education but to fight for gun control.  At a time when American students are saddled with unsustainable student loan debt, when voucher programs divert public investment away from public schools, and when states respond to teacher shortages by lowering standards and hiring scabs, American students are focused on a social issue.

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Facebook isn’t that Different from News Corp or Standard Oil

My Facebook is flooded with folks talking about Cambridge Analytica, the firm that bought access to Facebook user data and used it to help design political propaganda for organisations seeking to help the Trump campaign. But you know what I find most surprising about this story? The fact that people find it surprising in the first place. This possibility was always implied by Facebook’s business model. It creates a platform that makes communicating with people easier. We don’t have to pay money to use it, but in exchange Facebook takes our data and sells it to whoever wants to buy. Did we really think that political organisations wouldn’t be interesting in buying Facebook data? Did we really think that Facebook wouldn’t sell it to them? This implication has stood in front of our faces for years. It’s clearly implied by Facebook’s very nature–it is literally a firm which induces people to give it private information and then sells that information to the highest bidder. Why can’t the bidders have political motivations? Facebook is a transnational corporation. Why would even expect the bidders to be American?

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9 Rules For Living in Sad Times

In reading Nathan Robinson’s piece on Jordan Peterson, I was struck by something Robinson said:

But here the left and academia actually bear a decent share of blame. Why is Jordan Peterson’s combination of drivel and cliché attracting millions of followers?…Who else has a serious alternative? Where are the other professors with accessible and compelling YouTube channels, with books of helpful advice and long Q&A sessions with the public? No wonder Peterson is so popular: he comes along and offers rules and guidance in a world of, well, chaos. Just leave it to Dad, everything will be alright.

I’m a left wing academic! This is in part my fault. I’ve been writing all these pieces about politics, but I haven’t tried to help people figure out how to live. Why haven’t I? Robinson himself threw together a bulleted list of “principles of living“, but it’s mostly for laughs. Robinson self-identifies as a libertarian socialist–he doesn’t want to tell people what to do. Most lefties feel queasy about paternalism. We’re reluctant to lead people because we want people to lead themselves. Well, no more. Today I’m going to take a stab at life-coaching. After all, I live one of those carefree academic lives at a fancy university–I must have done something right.

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3 Brexit Futures: Stories from Next Year

In Spring 2019, the UK is meant to leave the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May soldiers on, but many think she can’t get the job done. Former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair gave ruthless speeches again May, and EU’s lead Brexit negotiator accused May of being “vague” and “not credible”. Major–a member of May’s own party–was especially vicious:

It all has me thinking about what comes next. How might these Brexit negotiations conclude? Three possibilities stick out to me.

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The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part III, Union Strength

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone on strike. The strike is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

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