Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: United States

The Republicans are Sticking with Kavanaugh for Purely Political Reasons

Remember when Antonin Scalia died and Barack Obama tried to replace him? I remember because on that occasion I wrote one of the most mistaken pieces I’ve ever published on this site: “How Obama Can Replace Scalia“. In that piece, I argued that because previous Supreme Court justices had been replaced in time periods much shorter than the remainder of Obama’s term, Obama would surely also be able to replace Scalia before leaving office. After all, if Republicans attempted to block him for almost a full year, the public would be furious with them for playing politics with the court, and would play a price at the 2016 election. I even had a nice chart:

Scalia Replacement

I was completely wrong about this because I underestimated the degree to which the Supreme Court has become transparently political, even in the eyes of ordinary Americans. Our political parties hardly even have to excuse politicising the court (though they try to do so anyway). We all know that some of the justices are conservative and some are liberal, even if they couch their political ideology behind legal theories like “originalism” and “textualism”. We recognise that there is no such thing as an apolitical judge, that when judges claim to be politically neutral they are being disingenuous. So we now treat Supreme Court nominations like any other political issue and fight tooth and nail to ensure that the next judge is someone we can ideologically live with. And we may have to live with their ideology a long time–between presidents picking younger judges and judges living longer, the average bench time for a Supreme Court justice has quietly increased by around a decade. Having learnt from my mistakes, I now look at the fight to replace Anthony Kennedy quite differently.

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Why Corporate Responsibility is a Myth

People get mad at individual corporations a lot. The other week, a famous shoe company started running ads with a controversial football player in them, and that made some people very happy with the shoe company and other people very angry with it. These people wrote about the shoe company a lot, and by writing about the shoe company they gave it $43 million in free advertising. See, it didn’t matter to the shoe company which stance it took on the controversial football player–by taking any stance, it could induce the media to give it free attention, and that free attention translated into sales for the company. People thought the shoe company was taking a stand because of some kind of commitment to social responsibility–but this is a shoe company which has happily, for years, employed child labourers in sweat shops, stolen their wages, and verbally and physically abused them. But this isn’t because the shoe company is especially immoral–it’s because all companies are subject to a set of structural incentives which, by design, prevent them from taking moral considerations into account independently of their ability to contribute to revenue.

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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 Slow Corruption of Public Discourse Since Watergate

In the 44 years since Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States, political discourse has deteriorated. There are many reasons for the decline in the discourse, but today I want to focus on two forces which have come together in America–one sociological, the other technological–to impose a spontaneous order which greatly reduces the scope for authentic expression, both in public and in private. This new social order is not planned by anyone–it has no author, it requires no institutionalised hard coercion. It arises spontaneously from the interaction of the two forces.

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Ben Shapiro Laid a Trap For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

I was dismayed this week to see Ben Shapiro successfully trap Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is a good opportunity to talk about political rhetoric–the art of talking political smack. It’s important to know not just how to do it but when not to.

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