Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Labor

The Difference Between Socialism and Liberalism in America Today

In the aftermath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory the New York Democratic House primary, Americans seem to be curious about socialism:

Of course, dictionary definitions of political terms have never been very helpful. Political ideologies develop, shift, and morph over time, both in their technical meaning and in how they are popularly understood. So today I want to talk about what really distinguishes a 2018 American socialist from their liberal counterpart.

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The Supreme Court is Gripped by an Unsustainable Conception of Individual Freedom

Today the Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to enable public sector workers to unilaterally withhold contributions from their unions. Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Kennedy were in the majority, with Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer in dissent. The principle guiding the majority’s decision is simple and intuitively appealing. When workers pay unions dues, those unions use that money to fund political speech. Individual workers may not agree with the union’s speech acts, and therefore compelling them to pay dues ties their employment to their willingness to espouse a particular kind of political speech with their wallets. The court argues that requiring workers to make certain kinds of political speech acts with their wallets to retain employment violates their free speech rights. The argument is internally valid–it makes sense, given a particular conception of individual freedom. The trouble is that this conception of individual freedom is destabilising the labour market in a politically dangerous way, and in consistently choosing to interpret this principle in this way the court is threatening the legitimacy of the state.

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Why Immigration Controls Can’t Bring Your Job Back

All over the western world, anti-establishment movements are pushing for immigration controls. They argue that immigrants from developing countries are willing to work for too little and there are too many of them. Because there are so many and they are so cheap, these immigrants take jobs which might otherwise go to native-born westerners. The workers who support immigration controls are right to point out that they have not been receiving a fair shake in the last few decades, but this is not due to immigration–it’s due to capital mobility.

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The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part II, Universities

The University and College Union (UCU)ā€“Britainā€™s trade union for academicsā€“has gone onĀ strike. TheĀ strikeĀ is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)ā€™s decision to switch academics from ā€œdefined benefitā€ pension plans to ā€œdefined contributionā€ plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who donā€™t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

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The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part I, Pensions

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone onĀ strike. TheĀ strikeĀ is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity. Read the rest of this entry »