Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Immigration

Can We Continue to Care About Winning?

I want to return to the internecine left debate about borders (originally kicked off by Angela Nagle’s piece) one more time this week to map out a couple para-debates that are occurring in the background of the border debate. You see, we think we are fighting with each other about borders, but we are really having a another fight, and the border issue is just in the foreground.

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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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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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Why It’s Wrong to Vilify Trump and the Folks Who Work for Him

The right believes that people are personally responsible for where they end up in life. If you end up in a bad job or with no job at all, it’s because you did something wrong. If you have immoral beliefs, it’s because you choose to have them. It’s never because of the system or the structure–to the right, that’s just making excuses. The thing that’s cool about the left is that the left understands that we don’t have the freedom to choose to be successful people. There are only so many good jobs. Some people are bound to end up without one. We pick up our beliefs from our education system, from the people around us and from the conditions we find ourselves in. People don’t just choose to have crummy beliefs or to end up poor or homeless. We collectively create people in an imperfect way, and those imperfections produce beliefs and behaviours that are symptoms of our failures. This is why we show compassion to people whose lives have turned out poorly–because we as a society are collectively responsible for their condition and owe them our help. The right doesn’t think it owes marginalised people compassion because the right thinks the marginalised are to blame for their condition. This is a core difference between the left and the right. For the left, it takes a village to raise a child, and every person reflects on the character of the society from which they come. But over the last few decades, the left has increasingly gotten away from this. Today, many on the left only afford this compassion and understanding selectively, to people in designated marginalised groups. They forget that the systems and structures which produce marginalisation also afflict those who do the marginalising. And so increasingly they tell us that the specific individuals who work for the Trump administration–whether in ICE or in any other role–deserve retribution. In recent days, this has ranged from asking Trump employees to leave restaurants to doxxing ICE agents. But we also see it within the left, in its ever-increasing penchant for hurling accusations of individual moral failing at those within the church who sin–and to many left-wing eyes, we are all sinners.

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