Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: UK

A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at¬†Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written¬†the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

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The Kavanaugh Hearings Encapsulate the Rampant Emotionalism of American Politics

The British have a visceral hatred for Donald Trump. It’s not because of his positions on immigration or tax policy–there are plenty of European politicians who are at least as far right as Trump is, substantively. No, it’s because of the way Trump presents himself. He’s combative, he gets angry, he makes flippant, emotional remarks. When British politicians show emotion it exposes them as weak, out of control, and unstable. If a British politician shouts or cries in public–especially in a formal setting–it’s embarrassing. It’s not proper behaviour. Everyone in Britain knows, from an early age, that this is just not how politicians are supposed to behave. They like their leaders calm, stoic, controlled. This is less true than it used to be–for a time, Tony Blair got away with wearing his heart on his sleeve. But there were always those who made fun of it, who thought it “un-British”. Whenever a British politician makes an emotional display and gets away with it, there is a chunk of British people who write nervous columns about creeping Americanisation. Having spent some years in the UK, I can spot the kind of American politics they hate a mile off. And it has never been so blatant, so in-your-face, as this senate hearing for Brett Kavanaugh.

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Is the Labour Party Finally Ready to Fight Brexit?

I wanted to write, and had written, the post you are about to read. Then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that a People’s Vote on Brexit needn’t and shouldn’t include an option to remain, undermining Labour’s stance and throwing the party firmly back into chaos. Nevertheless, for a brief moment, it almost looked like Labour was figuring out how to take strategic advantage of Theresa May’s Salzburg debacle. If it had, here’s what we would have been able to say:

The Labour Party, which has long expressed a soft Brexit position, now appears ready to stealthily embrace a second referendum. Leader Jeremy Corbyn now says that Labour will take whichever position on a “People’s Vote” its members prefer. Labour Party members poll heavily in favour of People’s Vote–the latest YouGov poll has 86% in favour and 8% opposed–so it is strongly likely that this decision means Labour will back People’s Vote. At the same time, by hiding behind the members, Corbyn can avoid giving the appearance of having personally U-turned. Today I want to talk about this apparent change in Labour’s strategy and what it would mean for the Brexit endgame.

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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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The Left Wing Argument for Keeping Northern Ireland in the UK

As Britain marches ever closer to its date with Brexit destiny, I hear some people arguing that Brexit could lead to Irish reunification and that this would be a good thing. But if you evaluate the arrangement Northern Ireland has with the UK, it’s clear that it is in the material interest of the North Irish to remain. The UK gives Northern Ireland a very good deal, and it is highly unlikely that the Republic of Ireland would be able to offer a competitive package.

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