Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Trade

Cotton is Not What Made the United States Rich

Lately, everyone is arguing that the United States got rich off of cotton. The New York Times recently put out a story arguing that American capitalism “begins on the plantation”. This completely misunderstands the relationship between slave and serf-based agriculture and industrial capitalism. A dominant agricultural industry is not the foundation for industrial success–it is an impediment. Let me show you why…

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The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War With China

I have a new piece out at New Republic on the president’s tariffs. You can read it here:

https://newrepublic.com/article/154852/real-stakes-trumps-trade-war-china

They have edited it to sync up with their preferred style, so it reads a bit differently from the rest of my work.

How the Left Should Think About Trade

As the Democratic primaries start to heat up, it’s become clear that Bernie Sanders wants to hit Joe Biden hard on trade:

When people take a look at my record versus Vice-President Biden’s record, I helped lead the fight against NAFTA–he voted for NAFTA. I helped lead the fight against permanent normal trade relations with China–he voted for it. I strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership–he supported it.

Since 2016, American politics has focused quite heavily on immigration. It’s a much more visible issue than trade. Immigrants and refugees are physical people you can see, or even interview. The border is a place you can go, a wall is a physical thing that either gets built or it doesn’t. Some of us are friends of immigrants, some of us are immigrants, and all of us are descended from immigrants. Trade is different. The effects of trade are hard to see and hard to measure. You can see stuff in your local big box store stamped with “Made in China”, but otherwise trade doesn’t make itself obvious to you unless you’re one of the people who loses a job to outsourcing. So the mainstream press doesn’t write about trade very much, unless it’s implying that President Trump is going to visit unspeakable horrors on us through a trade war with China. Even the left press is typically quiet about it. This is a shame, because trade has much larger impacts on ordinary American workers than immigration does.

You can see the rest of this one over at Current Affairs:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/05/how-the-left-should-think-about-trade

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 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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