Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Constitution

How Brazil Got the Worst Austerity Program in the World

Brazil’s new president, Michel Temer, has introduced austerity via constitutional amendment, freezing Brazil’s state spending at 2016 levels for 20 years, allowing it to increase only at the rate of inflation. This is really dumb–if Brazil’s population grows, or Brazil has an economic crisis, or Brazil has to go to war, it will be trapped within 2016 fiscal parameters. So as its population grows, the same level of spending will be divided across ever larger numbers of people, and if Brazil gets into major trouble it will only be able to pay for emergency measures by lashing social spending. To make matters worse, the amendment disallows its own repeal for a 10 year minimum, so there is nothing anyone in Brazil can constitutionally do about this ridiculous rule until 2027. But you know what makes this even more incredible? Temer was never elected president of Brazil in the first place. What follows is the bizarre story of how Brazil’s broken constitution empowered a man committed to an absurd political agenda.

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How the Left Can Survive Under Trump

Over the last few days, many people have been panicking about what Donald Trump might do as president. There is a lot of fear. Because most commentators and academics are deeply hostile to Trump, many people writing about this are still deeply emotionally shaken by the result. This has tended to color the analysis and produce polemics. So today I want to take a step back and try to calmly, rationally assess what kind of threat Trump poses and what opportunities he creates. In this post we’ll focus on the threats, and in the next one we’ll talk about the opportunities

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The Case for a Coup in Turkey

In July Turkey experienced a failed military coup against the elected government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the conservative Justice and Development Party (in Turkish, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP).  The Turkish government blames the coup on Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher living in exile in the United States whom the government regards as a terrorist. It is demanding his extradition, but the United States has to this point refused to comply without hard evidence connecting Gülen to the coup. In the meantime, the Turkish government has declared a state of emergency and begun suspending, imprisoning, or firing tens of thousands of political opponents, including 9,000 police officers, 21,000 private school teachers, 10,000 soldiers, nearly 3,000 judges, 1,500 university deans, and more than 100 media outlets have been forcibly shuttered. This political purge is an escalation of a pattern of behavior that existed before the coup. For a long time Erdoğan and the AKP have concentrated power, acting against the press and against Turkey’s civil society and eroding Turkey’s secular norms. Those who support Erdoğan tell a story in which an embattled democratically elected president is beset by a would-be junta, but the situation in Turkey is considerably more complicated than that, and there is a strong case that Turkey’s constitution is not up to the task of protecting Turkey’s political system from increasingly unlimited abuse.

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Is Birthright Citizenship a Good Policy?

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of republican presidential candidates come out against birthright citizenship. Trump, Walker, Jindal, Graham, Christie, Santorum, Paul, Carson, and Cruz are against it. Rubio, Fiorina, Bush, Huckabee, Kasich, Pataki, Perry, and Gilmore support it. Who has it right? Let’s investigate.

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Bogus Claims and Broken Arguments: The First 2016 GOP Presidential Debate

The pundits are out in force today arguing about which republican candidate performed best in yesterday’s debate. But the pundit definition of “best” is, well, not the best. They evaluate politics descriptively, disputing who will get the most support, not who should. There’s precious little serious reflection on the quality of the arguments presented. Candidates know this, and consequently every election they behave more theatrically, trying to score cheap points with burns and put-downs instead of engaging in nuanced policy discussion. So instead of discussing whose personal anecdote was the most touching or whose one-liner had the most zing, I invite you to join me in a dissection of the substantive claims and arguments we did see.

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