Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Politics

Migrants Don’t Destroy Traditional Values–The Market Does

The other day I ran across a survey–apparently 40% of British people feel that “having a wide variety of backgrounds has undermined British culture”. When people say that western culture has been undermined, they are implicitly saying that at one point in time western culture was better. Many socialists, liberals, and progressives don’t agree with that–they think traditional values are wrong and moving past them is good. But today, instead of relitigating social issue debates about changing values, I want to make a case to our socially conservative friends on their own terms. To be clear, this doesn’t mean I agree with traditional values. I merely want to show that the values social conservatives treasure are not threatened by migrants–they are instead threatened by the very markets many on the right so deeply prize.

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McCain, Cuomo, and Trump all Misunderstand American Greatness

At the late Senator John McCain’s funeral, daughter Meghan McCain went after President Trump, claiming that “America was always great”. She has largely drawn plaudits for this, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo draws derision for his line–that America “was never that great”. But both of these responses to the “Make America Great Again” slogan are badly flawed because both make indefensible reductions about American greatness. By claiming that American greatness is always present or always absent, both McCain and Cuomo draw no distinction between the America that helped defeat Hitler and created Social Security and Medicare from the America which tolerated slavery and continues to tolerate homelessness, poverty, and exploitation even amid unprecedented national affluence. Both responses are self-evidently ridiculous. The “MAGA” slogan misleads, but its political strength comes from how difficult this is to quickly and decisively demonstrate.

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How to Argue With an Old Conservative

Over at the The Wall Street Journal, Crispin Sartwell recently offered an argument against Sanders-style democratic socialism. Titled “How to Argue With a Young Socialist,” Sartwell clearly believes his argument to be a good one. The editors of the WSJ op-ed page certainly seem to have thought it’s worth printing. So I was shocked by just how poorly constructed it is.

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Australia’s Poor Wage Growth is Destroying its Prime Ministers

Australia has swapped Prime Ministers again–this time the Liberal Party replaced Malcolm Turnbull with Scott Morrison. Morrison will be Australia’s sixth Prime Minister in the last then years. This level of turnover at the top is remarkable. The UK has only had three Prime Ministers during the same period. Canada has only had two. Why are Australian politics so volatile? I couldn’t find any explanation online which satisfied me, so I’m writing my own. I think it has to do with a combination of wages and the way Australia’s political parties choose their leaders.
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The Problem With Fact Checkers is that They’re Journalists, Not Academics

The row between the fact checking websites and Medicare-for-all supporters has continued over the past couple weeks. I briefly weighed in to point out that, studies aside, it’s difficult to estimate the cost because it’s impossible for us to know what level of healthcare spending will, in the long-run, be politically acceptable. The attempts to get an estimate all involve assuming particular levels of spending ex ante. The Republicans can claim that we would need to continue spending 18% of GDP, but they don’t know. Bernie Sanders can claim that we would be able to impose Medicare’s level of compensation, but he doesn’t know. Just like in other countries with systems like this, the level of expenditure would constantly be up for political renegotiation. Britain spends 7% of its GDP on its National Health Service. Will we spend 7% or 18% or somewhere in between? Anyone who tells you that they know for sure is lying.

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