Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Politics

The Political Isolation of the Professional Class

In the old days, when the New Deal Coalition was just beginning to fray, the right made a distinction between the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor”. Deserving poor people worked hard, while the undeserving poor were drug addicts, welfare queens, and all the rest of it. This language was used to reform welfare to make it crueller and stingier, and it induced many people to think of the poor as takers, as scroungers, as people they didn’t want in their political movements. Today, a new distinction of the same kind is made between those with college degrees and those without them. You’re just supposed to go to college now, and if you don’t there must be something wrong with you, and in the eyes of many you don’t deserve a good life or a good job or healthcare. No, they demand that you go back to school. The result is that the bar for being one of the virtuous, deserving workers has moved up. Now, if you are a hard worker who didn’t go to college, you get lumped in with the drug addicts and chronically unemployed. The professional class is the only remaining part of the working class entitled to social respect. It relishes in this prestigious perch, looking down its nose at the unwashed and uneducated. But those without college degrees can sense this contempt, and they reciprocate it. The result is a working class which has been split asunder, politically. This is unfortunate, because neither faction can prevail without the other. The professionals have money and organising power. The ordinary workers have manpower. But they each keep to their own candidates, and this division permits those who care little for either to prevail over both.

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Brexit is so Intractable Because Most British People Overestimate the Strength of the British Position

It’s been more than a month since British Prime Minister Theresa May told the British people that her deal was the best they were likely to get, and they still don’t believe her. In theory, Brexit can end one of four different ways:

  1. No Deal Brexit, in which Britain is unceremoniously dumped out of the EU.
  2. May’s Deal (or something very similar to it), in which Britain retains a lot of economic access to the EU but at the cost of the bulk of its policy independence. The UK leaves the EU, but becomes a vassal, subject to EU decisions with little say in them.
  3. Second Referendum (or “People’s Vote”), in which Britain runs another referendum hoping to secure a majority to reverse the result of the previous referendum and remain in the EU.
  4. The Fantasy Brexit Deal, in which either:

4A: May extracts further concessions from the EU, increasing British policy independence while retaining economic access to Europe.

or

4B: A general election produces a Labour government, and then Jeremy Corbyn extracts further concessions from the EU, accomplishing the same result as in 4A.

The problem is that #4 is not possible in either its A or B form, but nearly everyone in British politics operates under the delusion that it is.

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What Would Happen if We Returned to the 70% Top Tax Rate?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been shopping the idea of a 70% top rate of tax on earnings above $10 million. It’s popular proposal, with initial polling showing a solid majority of Americans in favour. While this policy can’t pass this congress, it’s indicative of the kinds of reforms we might see if we organise to elect more politicians like AOC in 2020 and beyond. So what would happen if we elected more AOCs and they enacted this policy?

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Elizabeth Warren is Not Left-Wing

I recently had the pleasure of returning to the Dead Pundits Society podcast, anchored by Adam Proctor and Aimee Terese, to discuss Elizabeth Warren’s presidential candidacy. That podcast is now available to all:

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Self-Care Puts Us on an Amusement Treadmill

For some years now there’s been some people who have written pieces encouraging folks to engage in “self-care” and other people who have picked at this concept from the left. The pro self-care pieces tend to give people practical life advice for dealing with the stress and anxiety of modern life. The anti self-care pieces point out that self-care puts the burden of coping with the failures of modern capitalism on the individual. We experience higher incidences of stress and mental illness because our economic system leaves us in precarious positions. We fear being outcompeted for an ever scarcer number of good, professional class jobs. This pushes us into an arms race to polish our resumes. The more we try to look good, the more everyone else feels they must try to look good. So anti self-care pieces frame the practice as a luxury open only to those who are already reasonably secure–it doesn’t address the fundamental structural causes of precarity and it doesn’t rescue people from those forces.

These are the usual arguments surrounding self-care. But today I want to make a different argument–I want to claim that self-care is itself a celebration of a behaviour ancient political theorists rightly associated with slavery.

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