Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Egalitarianism

Clinton Supporters are Scaremongering about Donald Trump to Silence the Concerns of the Young and the Poor

I started seeing it a few weeks ago, when Daily Kos told its contributors that after March 15th, they were no longer allowed to robustly criticize Hillary Clinton from the left. As Donald Trump continues to win, win, and win some more, it has only intensified. First they asked Bernie Sanders supporters to unite behind Clinton. Now they’re accusing Sanders supporters of being privileged if they resist. And from there, it’s just a small step to calling Sanders’ people enablers of racism, sexism, or even fascism. If you haven’t seen these arguments yet, you will soon. The arguments being peddled are very poorly constructed. They rely on a mix of fear and bias toward the near.

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Why Bernie Sanders is More Electable Than People Think

A few days ago, I wrote a popular post about the ideological differences between Bernie Sanders, the egalitarian committed to shrinking the financial sector and boosting consumption by raising wages, and Hillary Clinton, the neoliberal committed to protecting the interests of finance capital. I explained the history of the Democratic Party and how it came to be captured by neoliberalism–the same economic ideology espoused by Ronald Reagan and many of his successors in the Republican Party. Many people found that this clarified the differences between Bernie and Hillary for them. However some people expressed concern that even though they think Bernie’s ideology is more desirable, he may still nonetheless be unable to beat a republican in a general election. A republican victory would be awful for the left–even a neoliberal democrat is still noticeably to the left of a neoliberal republican, especially on issues like climate change or LGBT rights. However, I think there are good reasons to think that Bernie is at least as electable as Hillary, and possibly significantly more so.

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The Left: Should We Be More Concerned with Distributive Inequality or Status Inequality?

Last week, Professor Jonathan Wolff gave an interesting presentation at Cambridge concerning the difference between two kinds of equality–distributive and status. Distributive equality focuses on discrete goods or benefits and how they are distributed among people. These benefits can take many forms (e.g. resources, opportunities, welfare, etc.). Status equality focuses instead on asymmetric relationships and cases in which groups of people are socially excluded or alienated. Wolff argues that we ought to pay more attention to status inequalities and less attention to distributive inequalities. Over the last few days, I’ve been pondering Wolff’s case and its connection with a broader conflict between two different forms of leftism. One is an older left wing tradition that views the economic system as the fundamental source of most forms of inequality, and the other is focused more on identity politics and pays less attention to class issues. In recent years, these two parts of leftism have found themselves more and more at odds with one another. This is dangerous–infighting within the left diminishes its ability to build broad solidaristic coalitions, making it weaker and less politically influential. So how can these two sides be appropriately reconciled, and if they cannot be reconciled, which side should we choose?

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3 More Ways Inequality Poisons Societies

Before I started writing this blog, I read an interesting book called The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. It occurred to me the other day, when I found myself making use of some of the book’s statistics in an argument, that I have not yet shared its findings with blog readers. This struck me as something of a massive oversight–the book establishes statistical relationships linking numerous social pathologies to income inequality, and it even shows that inequality has a much stronger influence on these pathologies than raw wealth in absolute terms.

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Russell Brand is Not a Hypocrite

Over the last year, British comedian Russell Brand has fashioned himself into something of a champion for the little guy–for poor and marginalized people in society. Politically, he’s a classic, old school Marxist. He sees politics as a fundamental struggle between owners and workers and wants a revolution of some kind to empower the masses (though he admits he doesn’t know what form that revolution should take). I’ve written about Brand before, and I don’t fully agree with his views, but I sympathize with his core observation–that our society is not yet fully just and that many groups of people suffer unnecessarily as a result. I also appreciate that he is providing us with opportunities to discuss fundamental questions of political theory with a wider audience. In recent weeks, we have seen conservatives in Britain attempting to discredit Brand as a political actor by labeling him a hypocrite. The story goes that because Brand has a lot of money (an estimated net worth of $15 million), this disqualifies him from taking issue with the distribution of wealth in Britain. This is a deeply misleading argument that would, if universalized, leave the poor and marginalized utterly voiceless.

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