Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Government

Why the Speaker of the House is a No-Win Situation for Republicans

This past week has seen quite a bit of drama surrounding the planned retirement of current Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Boehner wants to quit, but his republican colleagues cannot seem to find an agreeable replacement for him. The first consensus choice, Kevin McCarthy, has pulled himself out of the race. Some have alleged it’s due to an affair, but it’s also quite possible that McCarthy could not get the support of the “Freedom Caucus“, a group of 42 hardline republicans who together have enough seats to prevent mainline republicans from passing anything without the support of democrats. Now many republicans are calling on former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to put himself up for the job, but to this point he has refused to do so. What’s the deal?

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Teacher Evaluation

There is much discussion of evaluating teachers these days. Recently, the Chicago teachers union went on strike over the issue, among several others. The premise behind teacher evaluations–that the quality of a teacher can be determined by standardised test results, is rather tenuous. Today I would like to discuss some of the issues with this method and propose a superior alternative.

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The Core Goods Model

There is a wide spectrum of disagreement on political and ethical questions. It is often wondered how it is possible for so many people to have so very widely divergent conceptions of what it means to do good politically. In an attempt to answer this and similar questions, I have developed a mathematical model to roughly estimate the ethical rightness or wrongness of a given government policy that illuminates where these differences come from. Today, I would like to share it. It’s called “The Core Goods Model”.

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Stimulus vs. Austerity: USA

I keep seeing a certain political sentiment expressed. It goes a little something like this, from James Pethokoukis of the New York Post:

So what’s the problem with the Obama recovery? Why is it the weakest since the Great Depression?

Maybe it’s the Obama policies, like a stunning disregard for the trillion-dollar deficits that are likely already a dead weight on growth. Or maybe it’s the Obama guarantee of more tax hikes and regulation that makes US business too worried to hire and invest.

But it’s not too late to start shrinking unproductive government, cut debt and reduce penalties on work and investment — just like in those recoveries that we used to know.

Then there are the political cartoons, things like this:

Here’s the structure of the idea:

  • The economic recovery has been insufficiently strong
  • Therefore, we should do the opposite of what Obama has done
  • Ergo, vote Romney/Ryan 2012

The first point is correct, the other two points are simplistic and anti-intellectual, and I intend to illustrate both how and why.

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The Myth of Primal Individualism

There’s something that liberal theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all have in common–their theories about how societies should be organised or came to be organised are based on the notion that primal man was fiercely independent and had no social obligations, that he had to consciously decide, initially to exit this individualist state and choose to be part of a society or community. Today we know that early man was from the outset tribal–community was with us from the start. What implications does this have for these theorists? That is what I would like to discuss today.

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