Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Economics

Cotton is Not What Made the United States Rich

Lately, everyone is arguing that the United States got rich off of cotton. The New York Times recently put out a story arguing that American capitalism “begins on the plantation”. This completely misunderstands the relationship between slave and serf-based agriculture and industrial capitalism. A dominant agricultural industry is not the foundation for industrial success–it is an impediment. Let me show you why…

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The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War With China

I have a new piece out at New Republic on the president’s tariffs. You can read it here:

https://newrepublic.com/article/154852/real-stakes-trumps-trade-war-china

They have edited it to sync up with their preferred style, so it reads a bit differently from the rest of my work.

How the Left Should Think About Trade

As the Democratic primaries start to heat up, it’s become clear that Bernie Sanders wants to hit Joe Biden hard on trade:

When people take a look at my record versus Vice-President Biden’s record, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA–he voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against permanent normal trade relations with China–he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership–he supported it.

Since 2016, American politics has focused quite heavily on immigration. It’s a much more visible issue than trade. Immigrants and refugees are physical people you can see, or even interview. The border is a place you can go, a wall is a physical thing that either gets built or it doesn’t. Some of us are friends of immigrants, some of us are immigrants, and all of us are descended from immigrants. Trade is different. The effects of trade are hard to see and hard to measure. You can see stuff in your local big box store stamped with “Made in China”, but otherwise trade doesn’t make itself obvious to you unless you’re one of the people who loses a job to outsourcing. So the mainstream press doesn’t write about trade very much, unless it’s implying that President Trump is going to visit unspeakable horrors on us through a trade war with China. Even the left press is typically quiet about it. This is a shame, because trade has much larger impacts on ordinary American workers than immigration does.

You can see the rest of this one over at Current Affairs:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/05/how-the-left-should-think-about-trade

Trump’s Crummy Coal Bargain

The Trump administration has decided to reverse Obama-era coal regulations, increasing carbon emissions by a factor of 12 over the next decade. We all know that the Trump administration doesn’t believe in climate change, but what’s remarkable about the administration’s decision is that it’s incredibly bad value for money even on its own terms.

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The Left Wing Argument for Keeping Northern Ireland in the UK

As Britain marches ever closer to its date with Brexit destiny, I hear some people arguing that Brexit could lead to Irish reunification and that this would be a good thing. But if you evaluate the arrangement Northern Ireland has with the UK, it’s clear that it is in the material interest of the North Irish to remain. The UK gives Northern Ireland a very good deal, and it is highly unlikely that the Republic of Ireland would be able to offer a competitive package.

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