Benjamin Studebaker

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

Category: Sophiarchism

Voter Turnout Has Nothing to do With Rising Inequality

When I talk to people about the threat rising economic inequality poses to the consumer economy, I am often told that the problem is participation. The story goes that disadvantaged groups have lower turnout, and because of this their interests are underrepresented. Bernie Sanders plans to win support for his egalitarian agenda through a “political revolution”, but all he means by that phrase is exceptionally high voter turnout:

…if Bernie Sanders becomes President of the United States, it will mean that there will be a huge increase in voter turnout. If there is a huge increase in voter turnout, our Republican colleagues may not be running the Senate or the House. So my life will be made a little bit easier. As I mentioned earlier, Louise, Republicans do well when people don’t vote. For me to get elected, we’re going to have to have a huge increase in voter turnout, and that will carry in a lot of other people in the Congress and Senate

The turnout story is especially popular among left wingers in the United States, because the US has unusually low voter turnout for a rich democracy. But the refrain is heard abroad as well–left wingers in Britain think that Jeremy Corbyn can win by raising turnout. There are right wingers who make similar arguments–Ted Cruz claims that republicans lost in 2012 because of low voter turnout among evangelical Christians. It’s a seductive argument, because we all like to believe that our own beliefs are common sense and that there’s a silent majority out there who agree with us. Unfortunately for all those who make turnout arguments, the data indicates that they are bunk.

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Tax Credits and How to Fix the House of Lords

In Britain, the House of Lords recently impeded an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government to cut tax credits for working families as part of its austerity program. The average beneficiary family stood to lose £1,300 (about $2,000) a year, often on incomes of £20,000 or less. It effectively would have amounted to a 5% to 10% income cut for 3.3 million of Britain’s poorest families. This would have inflicted terrible and unnecessary suffering on these families and it would have damaged consumer spending and harmed Britain’s economy. It is a wonderful thing that the House of Lords blocked these cuts. It illustrates just how important it is to have another legislative house with the power to curb the excesses of the House of Commons. Yet because the members of the House of Lords are chosen on an anachronistic and often arbitrary basis, it cannot be trusted with the power it would need to mount a broader, more serious opposition to austerity. So how do we fix that?

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Corbyn’s Glorious Victory and the Difficult Way Ahead

Jeremy Corbyn has steamrolled the competition and become the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party with an astounding 59.5% of first preference votes, eliminating competitors Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall without even requiring a runoff:

Corbyn’s victory is crucial to the fight against austerity. Corbyn was the only contender to vote against the government’s welfare bill. No other figure in British politics has offered a comprehensive economic alternative. But it will be five long years until the next election, and Corbyn will face a wide array of difficult obstacles and challenges. Can Corbyn–or any person–manage to prevail? At this stage we cannot be sure, but with Corbyn as leader we know that Labour will at least give it a try. In the meantime, let’s discuss some of the hostile forces Corbyn’s Labour party will have to see off over the next five years.

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Election.gov: How to Eliminate Political Money and Campaigning

The US presidential campaign is well underway, and many of us are already deeply annoyed. Most of the likely winners are uninspiring if not downright incompetent, and we are already being inundated with endless pleas from various candidates for money and support. The candidates with more money can buy attention even though their ideas and qualifications are mediocre at best, and many good people simply cannot run because they cannot get financial backing. This got me thinking–how could we radically change the way we handle political campaigns to eliminate the role of money and campaigning altogether? I’ve come up with a radical plan, and I’m excited to share it with you.

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What Democracy and Free Market Capitalism Have in Common

Many on the left love democracy but distrust capitalism. We often hear people argue that democracy is the antidote to the ills of capitalism–that we ought to increase the role of democracy in our political system, making political processes more direct and more consensus-driven. But I find that when we really think about the fundamental premises underlying these systems, they have some important things in common that we ought not to gloss over.

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