Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: European Union

The French Election: A Grim Situation

In ten days, France is having its presidential election. There’s been some drama since the last time we talked about it–the center-right candidate, Francois Fillon, has been wracked by scandal after it emerged that he paid members of his family for work they never performed. This weakened him, and created an opening for Emmanuel Macron to move into second behind Marine Le Pen. In the meantime, Jean-Luc Melenchon has been making a run in the polls from the left, pulling about even with Fillon for third. Fillon openly advocated for more austerity in France, raising the retirement age, and eliminating the 35-hour workweek, all policies which would not have been great for workers, to put it mildly. But Macron is hardly an inspiring alternative, and I’m less excited about Melenchon than I’d like to be. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry »

4 Reasons Why the European Left Has to Stick Up For Immigrants and the EU

Last week we talked about British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s cunning plan to allow Brexit to go forward in the hope that he and his party might take power in 2020 or 2025 and use restored national powers to move Britain sharply to the left. It’s politically tempting for some on the left to return to the nation state–many working class people in many countries want to see tighter controls on immigration and a renewed emphasis on national sovereignty, and if the left triangulates on these issues it might make itself more competitive with these voters in the short term. Some on the left now believe that international institutions are irredeemably neoliberal, that there’s no prospect of regional or global cooperation to restore the tougher tax, wage, and regulatory policies of the post-war era. Right nationalists are doing well, and the fight between nationalists and internationalists seems to be one the internationalists are likely to lose. So why chain ourselves to creaking neoliberal institutions like the European Union? Surely this is an albatross the left can do without, right? This all may sound plausible, but it’s a big mistake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Trump and May are like Teenagers Playing Chicken in the Parking Lot

A few days ago, President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May got together for a pow wow. It went so well, they even held hands. Some people saw this as an occasion to contrast the gruff, emotional style of Trump with the more polished style of May. But I see something else–these two leaders have a lot more in common with each other substantively than their personal styles let on.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Right Nationalist World Tour’s Next Stops: Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin

Right nationalism seems to be having its moment in the sun. The right nationalists believe that the inequality and economic stagnation we see today across many rich democracies is caused by immigrants, minorities, and foreign states which take jobs, drain welfare states and public services, and push through expropriative trade deals. They want to put a stop to free trade and free movement in a bid to recreate the strong, ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation states that prevailed in the 1950s. They won a stunning victory in Britain’s EU referendum, and have now followed this up with a come-from-behind surprise win in the US presidential election. But there are many right nationalist movements scattered throughout the rich countries, and many of them will have a chance to gain power and influence in upcoming elections. Here are four biggest opportunities for right nationalists to upset the liberal world order in the next year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit is the Right Nationalist Response to Austerity

Like many people, I initially responded to Brexit with outrage at the terrible consequences of the result for the British people. Among other things, they may lose crucial worker, consumer, and environmental protections, they may lose access to the European market, they may lose the opportunity to work with other European countries on climate change and tax avoidance, and they may even lose Scotland. It is critical that the British Parliament assert its sovereignty and decline to implement the results of the non-binding advisory referendum, which was a mistake to hold in the first place. After all, by asserting UK sovereignty, Brexiteers are asserting the sovereignty of Parliament, so if Parliament declines to invoke Article 50 and chooses to stay in the EU it is merely exercising the very powers the Brexiteers wished to assert for it. But today I want to take a step back and look at the big picture–why the vote went the way it did and what that says about where we’re at. Many people have been happy to chalk the Leave win up to bigotry and leave it at that, but this response is too reductive and doesn’t give us enough to work with. If bigotry is the problem, why is bigotry the problem now? There have been bigoted people in Britain and in the EU and all over the world forever, but Brexit didn’t happen in 1996 or 2006, it happened in 2016. What’s different about now? Brexit is not the result of some culture war between the nice people and the nasty people, it is a consequence of economic stagnation and inequality and of a voting public that is unable to correctly identify the causes of that stagnation and inequality or confront them with meaningful and effective policy.

Read the rest of this entry »