Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Economics

The Supreme Court is Gripped by an Unsustainable Conception of Individual Freedom

Today the Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to enable public sector workers to unilaterally withhold contributions from their unions. Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Kennedy were in the majority, with Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer in dissent. The principle guiding the majority’s decision is simple and intuitively appealing. When workers pay unions dues, those unions use that money to fund political speech. Individual workers may not agree with the union’s speech acts, and therefore compelling them to pay dues ties their employment to their willingness to espouse a particular kind of political speech with their wallets. The court argues that requiring workers to make certain kinds of political speech acts with their wallets to retain employment violates their free speech rights. The argument is internally valid–it makes sense, given a particular conception of individual freedom. The trouble is that this conception of individual freedom is destabilising the labour market in a politically dangerous way, and in consistently choosing to interpret this principle in this way the court is threatening the legitimacy of the state.

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3 Brexit Futures: Stories from Next Year

In Spring 2019, the UK is meant to leave the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May soldiers on, but many think she can’t get the job done. Former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair gave ruthless speeches again May, and EU’s lead Brexit negotiator accused May of being “vague” and “not credible”. Major–a member of May’s own party–was especially vicious:

It all has me thinking about what comes next. How might these Brexit negotiations conclude? Three possibilities stick out to me.

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National Self-Determination is Overrated

I have a new piece out for Current Affairs about the importance of political unions in the 21st century. Here’s the link:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/11/national-self-determination-is-overrated

The original title was “In Praise of Unionism: What the European Left Can Learn From America,” but we souped it up a bit. It’s a bit longer and more comprehensive than the stuff I usually do here. The folks at CA are delightful to work with. They’re putting out some really terrific long-form pieces that dig into things more deeply than a lot of what we see on the web these days.

Canadian Donald Trump is Coming

For a couple of years now I’ve had a theory, one I haven’t told you all about. It goes something like this–Canada is just like us, but 5-10 years ago. Here’s how it works.

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How Trump’s Executive Actions are Like Obama’s–And How They’re Not

President Trump is fed up with everyone and everything. For months now, congress has refused to implement his agenda. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Does that sound like someone you know? It should–late in his presidency, Barack Obama became exasperated with years of Republican obstruction. He turned to his lawyers. What could the administration do unilaterally that might be legal? They threw the kitchen sink at it, trying all sorts of things and leaving it to the courts to decide what would stick. Like Trump, Obama began taking more executive action late in the first year, though most of his biggest and boldest moves came in the second term:

The fact that Trump is frustrated and is looking for ways to weasel around institutional impediments shouldn’t surprise us. When the Supreme Court got in Franklin Roosevelt’s way, he tried to pack the court with sycophants:

What’s interesting is how transparently bad this executive action is.

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