Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Marxism

How to Read That Productivity/Wage Gap Chart We’re Always Seeing

You’ve probably seen this chart before. It’s everywhere now. I’ve used it more than a few times over the years. It’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that shows that while US productivity has continued to increased over the last few decades, real inflation-adjusted wages haven’t kept pace:

I’ve seen two bad misreadings of this chart lately, and I want to clear them up.

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Universal Basic Income Isn’t About Now–It’s About Later

In reading the recent piece by Daniel Zamora at Jacobin and some of the reactions to it, I’ve been struck by how limited the conversation about universal basic income (UBI) is. For the uninitiated, UBI is fairly straightforward–instead of having social programs like welfare or food stamps which people qualify for on the the grounds that they fall below some income threshold, UBI gives everyone a set minimum income. UBI has fans and detractors across the political spectrum because depending on how it’s constructed it could be made to do very different things. Some on the right want to use it to reform welfare and some of the left want to use it to make work optional. Some in both camps want to use it to help workers displaced by automation or outsourcing. The key problem with the conversation is that it tends to be based around whether we could or should implement UBI now, or very soon. This misunderstands what makes UBI interesting. Properly understood, UBI is not about today. It’s about capitalism’s endgame–what the world looks like when capitalism truly exhausts itself.

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3 Ways to Think About the American Revolution

This Fourth of July, I noticed that some Americans are taking an interest in challenging the popular narratives surrounding the American Revolution. Over at Jacobin, William Hogeland has a go at the revolution, while Jeff Stein defends it at Vox. I find both views too strong for my taste–as I see it, the revolution has three core faces to it. We tend to only focus on one of these aspects at any given moment, but to truly understand the revolution as a historical event we need all three.

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Corbyn, Stein, and the Left’s Anti-Imperialism Problem

If you ask the British people what they think about Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, it’s clear that any skepticism they may have about his economic agenda is far surpassed by misgivings about his foreign policy:

Since becoming Labour leader, Corbyn and his supporters have been accused of being “terrorist sympathizers” and anti-Semitic. This perception is tied to a suite of policy positions and attitudes which are best described as “anti-imperialist”. Left wing politicians and movements which embrace anti-imperialism face a set of political obstacles that they avoid if they jettison it. Today I’d like to think a little bit about how anti-imperialism works, both as a theory of international politics and in terms of its influence on the success and failure of the left in domestic politics.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Doesn’t Understand Racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates recently attacked Bernie Sanders for refusing to support reparations for black Americans. Coates has been trying to put race reparations on the American political agenda for a while. Coates knows a great deal about the many horrible, immoral ways that the United States government has exploited and expropriated its black population throughout its history. But Coates is a journalist, not a political theorist, and over the last few days I’ve identified some elementary problems in the way he conceptualizes racism as a political force that indicate that there is a lot of political theory he just has not read.

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