Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Equality

The Oregon Rebels are Guilty of Sedition, Not Terrorism

In Oregon, members of Cliven Bundy’s paramilitary organization have seized and occupied the headquarters building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which belongs to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency. Many people are calling Bundy’s rebels “terrorists” and accusing the media of treating them differently because they are white. Their point is well-intentioned–it is true that violent criminals from Middle Eastern backgrounds are more readily presumed to be terrorists by the press. But the argument is ill-applied to this particular case. The law is very clear–the Oregon rebels are guilty of sedition, not terrorism.

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Why American Families are Worse off Now Than They Were in 1997

When we evaluate whether or not the economy is performing well, we sometimes pay too much attention to GDP. Gross domestic product tells us about the total amount of exchange going on in an economy, but many of those exchanges only serve to enrich those at the top of the economic ladder. To get a better sense of how ordinary people are doing, we need to look at real (inflation-adjusted) median household income. Today I checked in on the American figures, and they are bleak:

The median American family is not only poorer than they were before the 2008 crisis–they’re poorer than they were during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. What on earth is going on?

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Emma Watson’s HeForShe Campaign is Really Cool

Writing about politics is often a depressing business. In the big picture, so much continues to go wrong–economic inequalities continue to grow, climate change continues to get ignored, and governments continue to take apart their regulatory and welfare states. Wars rage, and people die in the millions of preventable diseases. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other poisonous ideologies march on. There is so much unnecessary suffering in the world. But despite all the pessimism I often feel for the future of our societies, there was a story I ran across this past week that made me smile. Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai claims to have been inspired by Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign to call herself a feminist. This may sound like a small thing, but it has some big implications, and they’re really good.

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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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Candidate Evaluations: Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush is finally officially running for president. He delayed a while so that he could set up his super-PAC, Right to Rise. Bush plans to outsource the operation of his campaign to Right to Rise so that he can circumvent existing campaign finance laws. There is no limit to the size of donations to super-PACs, and donors can remain anonymous. Legally, all Bush has to do is ensure that no member of his campaign directly operates the super-PAC. In any case, let’s look at the guy, shall we? I’ll be evaluating Bush’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not he would make a good president. I won’t be paying attention to electability or likeability, as is often common elsewhere on the web.

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