Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Morality

4 Arguments Against Accepting Syrian Refugees and Why They All Fail

Over the past few days, the public debate has turned toward the question of Syrian refugees. I’ve been wandering around the internet, reading the different arguments people have for refusing to accept refugees, and I have found all of them wanting.  So today I’d like to run through the most common and pervasive anti-refugee arguments and the reasons they fail.

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The Fascist Underpinnings of Anti-Immigration Politics

Throughout the developed world, we’ve seen a resurgence in recent years of anti-immigrant, nationalist politics. Donald “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it” Trump is still leading in national republican polls in the United States. In Europe, parties like UKIP, Front Nationale, and Golden Dawn have increased support and in some cases pushed mainstream conservatives parties into adopting stricter immigration controls. In Japan, the government continues to oppose immigration despite a population that is rapidly aging. In Australia, refugees are effectively detained in concentration camps. This is happening despite an increasingly strong research consensus that shows that working age immigrants contribute to economic growth, strengthen national pension systems, reduce government deficits, and commit crimes at a lower rate than the rest of the population. Those of us who acknowledge that research often feel that there is something xenophobic, even deeply sinister about anti-immigration politics. But when we point this out, we are often unable to satisfactorily defend the point–there seems to be an immense gap between the relatively modest claim that we ought to improve border security and outright fascism. But despite this difficulty, the connection does exist–anti-immigration politics and fascism are deeply interrelated, and I intend to prove it to you as best I can.

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The Left: Should We Be More Concerned with Distributive Inequality or Status Inequality?

Last week, Professor Jonathan Wolff gave an interesting presentation at Cambridge concerning the difference between two kinds of equality–distributive and status. Distributive equality focuses on discrete goods or benefits and how they are distributed among people. These benefits can take many forms (e.g. resources, opportunities, welfare, etc.). Status equality focuses instead on asymmetric relationships and cases in which groups of people are socially excluded or alienated. Wolff argues that we ought to pay more attention to status inequalities and less attention to distributive inequalities. Over the last few days, I’ve been pondering Wolff’s case and its connection with a broader conflict between two different forms of leftism. One is an older left wing tradition that views the economic system as the fundamental source of most forms of inequality, and the other is focused more on identity politics and pays less attention to class issues. In recent years, these two parts of leftism have found themselves more and more at odds with one another. This is dangerous–infighting within the left diminishes its ability to build broad solidaristic coalitions, making it weaker and less politically influential. So how can these two sides be appropriately reconciled, and if they cannot be reconciled, which side should we choose?

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How to be a Good Person Without God

In many western societies, religion seems to be losing influence, particularly among young people. Many religious people argue that this threatens society’s moral frameworks. Without God, on what basis do we distinguish the good from the bad? Secularists often scoff at this question, resenting the implication that only the religious can be moral. And yet, many secularists are also moral subjectivists, who claim not to believe in any absolute sense of right and wrong, arguing that morality is culturally relative or a matter of individual taste. This does seem to imply that as religion weakens, the intellectual foundation of many of our substantive moral beliefs is being eroded, and that to the extent that secularists remain good people, it is often due to socialization and intellectual inertia rather than some truly substantive alternative. But it doesn’t have to be this way–there are excellent secular moral theories that do offer compelling objective alternatives to religious morality.

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Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter, and Why Identity Politics is the Left’s Cancer

A few days ago, Black Lives Matter activists took a microphone from Bernie Sanders at one of his campaign events, called his audience “a bunch of white racists”, and demanded a 4 minute moment of silence for Michael Brown, the black victim of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri:

Sanders marched in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and has made economic inequality the signature issue of his campaign. By attacking an allied politician in this uncivil way, Black Lives Matter is damaging the cause of racial inequality in America. This is a counterproductive and misguided strategy. I said this on Facebook a few days ago. Most of my Facebook friends agreed with me, but a couple disagreed, and they were quite uncivil about it. I also found their arguments morally and politically disturbing. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this, and I find myself increasingly coming to the conclusion that identity politics as currently practiced does not serve the interests of anyone, even the people it is intended to help.

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