Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Law

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Ready to Give Up On Gun Control–But Let’s Close the TSA

I know, right? Depressing headline. But it’s true. After some years of writing about gun control, I can’t do it anymore. As a society, we’ve made our choice–we’ve decided that it’s worth it to have a much more dangerous society in the name of freedom. But if that’s the principle, I want to abolish the TSA and go back to 90s airport security. Remember the 90s? You could just walk into the airport and go straight to the gate. No lines. No fuss. Sure, 2,996 people died on 9/11. But guns were used in 13,286 homicides in 2015 alone. There were zero terrorist attacks involving passenger planes in the 17 years before 9/11. But guns kill another 13 or 14 thousand people every year. Gun rights advocates might think the right to travel unmolested by the TSA is worth only a fraction of what the right to own a gun is worth. But we sacrificed our travel rights over only a tiny fraction of the number of lives guns take from us. I’m giving up on taking people’s guns, but I want them to give me back my airports.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Cryptocurrencies Don’t Work as Currencies

I’ve been surprised lately by the number of people who have brought up or asked me about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s moved me to take a minute to point out why many economists and political economists don’t get excited about them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bernie Sanders is Right to Oppose Gorsuch

Today US Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) announced his intent to support efforts to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination:

Sanders has made the right call. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Strategy Behind the Nomination of Merrick Garland

President Obama decided to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Democrats and republicans are trying to turn his nomination into an argument about procedural principles that neither side is really committed to in the abstract–there have of course been previous occasions when some of the same democrats who today scold republicans for not “doing their jobs” tried to argue that nominations shouldn’t be made in election years, and there have of course been previous occasions when some of the same republicans who today scold democrats for trying to deny the people a say in the nominating process tried to argue that congress has a duty to consider the president’s nominee. We’re not fooling each other, so let’s stop fooling ourselves–we appeal to whichever procedural principles happen to advance our ideological objectives. Crying hypocrisy about procedure misses the point–both sides are consistent about which objectives they consider good, and they use whatever political means available to them to achieve those objectives. So instead of hiding behind procedure, let’s instead talk about the Garland nomination through an explicitly ideological lens.

Read the rest of this entry »