Benjamin Studebaker

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

The Wrong Kind of Unity

On the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the American media reflected on the war on terror. It was just a month after our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and you might think that the American press would be introspective about its own role in promoting our expensive blunders in the Middle East. But instead, the press expressed nostalgia for the “unity” the country experienced in the years immediately following the attacks.

Post-9/11 “unity” enabled our government to start a series of expensive, destructive wars. More than 200,000 people died in Afghanistan. More than 200,000 people died in Iraq. All told, the war on terror cost $8 trillion and killed an estimated 900,000 people. Both parties were culpable. Democrats voted to authorize these wars, and President Obama’s disastrous intervention in Libya cut that country’s per capita GDP in half:

Libya GDP per capita PPP

Unity has value, but this is not the right kind of unity. What is the right kind?

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At Most, Larry Elder is the Next Bruce Rauner

As California Governor Gavin Newsom desperately tries to save himself from being recalled, he’s resorted to the same set of tactics Joe Biden used to silence left-wing dissent in 2020. Californians are now told, over and over, that the leading Republican challenger, Larry Elder, is the next Trump, that he poses some kind of existential threat not just to California but to the whole country. Anyone who votes to recall is helping the authoritarian right. Anyone who runs as a Democrat in the recall election is encouraging more Californians to vote to recall Newsom, and that makes it more likely that a Republican will win. They’re using a “threat inflation” strategy. If Californians believe Larry Elder poses an existential threat to them, they will line up behind Newsom no matter how incompetent he is, no matter how poorly he administers the state. The trouble is, it’s just not true. Larry Elder is not the next Trump. He’s the next Bruce Rauner.

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What it’s Like to See Bernie Sanders in 2021

On August 27th, Bernie Sanders decided to come to West Lafayette, Indiana, to do a town hall. Indiana is my home state. Bernie is 79. This could be the last time he visits, for all I know. My girlfriend is a few years younger than me. She’d never seen Bernie in person. We decided to drive down. Let me tell you the story.

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Two Kinds of Pride in American Politics

I’ve been thinking about pride’s role in politics. When I say pride, I am not talking about mere self-respect. I am thinking about vanity, about the insidious mistake of thinking we are superior to others when in fact we are their equals. This is pride in the grim, nasty, old-fashioned sense. I think there are two kinds of pride running amok today. One is associated with entrepreneurs, with those who consider themselves “self-made”. The other is associated with professionals, with those who consider themselves “educated”. Let me share them with you.

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The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement is Embarrassing

Remember the Biden administration’s proposal to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure? Traditional infrastructure spending accounted for roughly half of that proposal. It was less than half of what the American Society of Civil Engineers believes we need. According to them, the US faces a $2.59 trillion infrastructure shortfall over the next 10 years. Now a bipartisan deal has been announced which limits new spending to just $579 billion. That’s less than a quarter of what our civil engineers believe we need. To make matters worse, the administration has agreed to fund much of the spending with public/private partnerships. Many essential infrastructure projects can’t generate a profit–they require huge up-front investments and continuous maintenance. The more an infrastructure package depends on private funding, the more limited that package is in the kinds of projects it can fund. How did it come to this? Let’s run through some of the reasons why the infrastructure plan was so completely butchered.

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