Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Africa

Cecil the Lion and the 3 Pitfalls of Outrage Politics

The viral story of the week is the tragic shooting of Cecil the Lion. Cecil was a famous lion that was tracked by researchers from the University of Oxford. The shooting has many people outraged at the hunter–American dentist Walter Palmer. Palmer is receiving an immense amount of abuse on the internet, and some are even calling for Palmer to be hurt. It is and should be a crime to kill research animals and it is and should be a crime to lure protected species out of their protected areas for the purpose of killing them. Nonetheless, the reaction and the reactions to the reaction are leaving me a bit uneasy. Outrage politics is ugly politics. When we are motivated by rage and righteous indignation, we rarely show thoughtfulness or empathy. Let me show you what I mean.

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The Threat of Ebola is Massively Overstated

In recent months, Americans have taken a hysterically fearful attitude toward Ebola, an extremely unpleasant viral disease that kills most of the people it infects in a remarkably gruesome way (vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, sometimes with internal and/or external bleeding). Multiple US congressmen have expressed fears that Latin American immigrants will carry Ebola into the United States from Mexico. Nevertheless, Ebola poses virtually no threat to people living in the western hemisphere, and even the threat it poses to Africans is overstated.

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Misconceptions: If the West Doesn’t Intervene in Country X, it’s “Being Complicit”

Iraq. Boko Haram. Israel/Palestine. Syria. Ukraine. Libya. Kony 2012. In every one of these cases, interventionists make the argument that if we do not offer material support to their faction of choice, we are “being complicit” in whatever violent awfulness happens in these places. This is claimed as if it were self-evident. It’s not. Read the rest of this entry »

How Food Subsidies Make You Poorer and Kill African Babies

Recently in the United States, congress has been fighting with the president about food subsidies.  The bill for renewing food subsidies also renews the food stamp program, which helps very poor individuals purchase food. Congressional republicans are seeking to make cuts to the food stamp program, denying food stamps to those who are not in part-time employment or in job training. They seek to pass a version of the farm bill that permits state governments to deny food stamps to the unemployed. The president threatens to veto the farm bill if it includes language of this kind, preventing a renewal of the subsidies. There has been no resolution to the dispute as of yet.  Today I wish to argue that congressional republicans are attempting to kill the wrong part of the farm bill–they should be targeting the farm subsidies rather than food stamps for the unemployed.

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Critiquing Malthus and Overpopulation Theory

Recently I have seen a resurgence of Malthusian thinking. Thomas Malthus, the late 18th and early 19th century British economist, put forth An Essay on the Principle of Population, in which he argued that the world was becoming overpopulated at an unsustainable rate. Malthus’ ideas have come in and out of fashion since the early 19th century. Having heard a few people recently make Malthusian arguments, I would like to put forth a few compelling reasons to continue to disbelieve them.

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