Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Europe

Why the French Take to the Streets

One of the things I’ve noticed about the coverage of the Gilets Jaunes or “Yellow Vests” protests in France is this tendency to think of the French taking to the streets as a cultural phenomenon. People in the Anglosphere think the French protest because that’s the way the French are. So whenever there’s a commotion in France of any variety, everyone wants to make all sorts of callbacks to the French Revolution, and invariably the takes on the new protests will resemble the takes on the old protests. You’ll have some people write pieces asking “why can’t we be like the French”, but the undertone will be that the French are the way they are because they’re French, and that while we might wish we could be like the French we never will. I hate cultural explanations, because they’re lazy. State institutions produce different kinds of incentives in different contexts, and these different incentives give rise to different behaviour. We attach that behaviour to peoples, but it is the product of particular institutional configurations. If the French had different institutions, they wouldn’t do what they do.

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Why We Have Borders

When I was in undergrad, I was for open borders. The people in the postcolonial states have been badly screwed over for ages. The western states did this to them–why not let postcolonial peoples get access to western job markets, western public services, and yes, even the western welfare state? They’re human beings, just like us. The purpose of borders is to determine who has access to the juicy western stuff and who doesn’t. Why should anyone be denied access to that stuff? It’s patently unfair. The global economy is a system. The rich countries have gotten rich off the backs of the poor countries–our achievements are their achievements too. Why can’t they share in the spoils?

More recently, I wrote a piece for Current Affairs about the value of political unions. In this piece, I argued that we couldn’t economically integrate territories–permitting capital and people to move freely within them–without politically integrating those territories. Political integration is hard–people in rich countries don’t want to have to redistribute resources to people in poor countries, and they don’t want people from poor countries to get a say in decisionmaking. It’s much easier to get people to support free trade and free movement than it is to get people to support creating and expanding federal states. I reluctantly concluded that we can’t open our borders economically until we’re ready to open them politically. Free movement and free trade with Mexico requires political union with Mexico, and until Americans are willing to do the latter the former will cause trouble.

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Angela Nagle, Hillary Clinton, and the Left’s Border War

In the last week, two prominent voices have called for both the left and the center to triangulate on immigration. First, there was left-wing author Angela Nagle, who argues that the left’s commitment to “open borders” is naive, impractical, and damaging to the material interests of domestic workers. Then, from an entirely different direction, Hillary Clinton urged the leaders of Europe to clamp down on immigration in a bid to preempt the further development of Trumpian far right political parties in Europe. Nagle’s piece has been particularly inflammatory–in calling those who support immigration “useful idiots of big business” from the pages of American Affairs, a right-wing publication, Nagle has insulted a lot of people who thought she was on their side. I have friends on the left who are on different sides of this–what follows is my best effort to adjudicate their dispute.

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Is the Labour Party Finally Ready to Fight Brexit?

I wanted to write, and had written, the post you are about to read. Then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that a People’s Vote on Brexit needn’t and shouldn’t include an option to remain, undermining Labour’s stance and throwing the party firmly back into chaos. Nevertheless, for a brief moment, it almost looked like Labour was figuring out how to take strategic advantage of Theresa May’s Salzburg debacle. If it had, here’s what we would have been able to say:

The Labour Party, which has long expressed a soft Brexit position, now appears ready to stealthily embrace a second referendum. Leader Jeremy Corbyn now says that Labour will take whichever position on a “People’s Vote” its members prefer. Labour Party members poll heavily in favour of People’s Vote–the latest YouGov poll has 86% in favour and 8% opposed–so it is strongly likely that this decision means Labour will back People’s Vote. At the same time, by hiding behind the members, Corbyn can avoid giving the appearance of having personally U-turned. Today I want to talk about this apparent change in Labour’s strategy and what it would mean for the Brexit endgame.

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Migrants Don’t Destroy Traditional Values–The Market Does

The other day I ran across a survey–apparently 40% of British people feel that “having a wide variety of backgrounds has undermined British culture”. When people say that western culture has been undermined, they are implicitly saying that at one point in time western culture was better. Many socialists, liberals, and progressives don’t agree with that–they think traditional values are wrong and moving past them is good. But today, instead of relitigating social issue debates about changing values, I want to make a case to our socially conservative friends on their own terms. To be clear, this doesn’t mean I agree with traditional values. I merely want to show that the values social conservatives treasure are not threatened by migrants–they are instead threatened by the very markets many on the right so deeply prize.

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