Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: United States

Why We Have Borders

When I was in undergrad, I was for open borders. The people in the postcolonial states have been badly screwed over for ages. The western states did this to them–why not let postcolonial peoples get access to western job markets, western public services, and yes, even the western welfare state? They’re human beings, just like us. The purpose of borders is to determine who has access to the juicy western stuff and who doesn’t. Why should anyone be denied access to that stuff? It’s patently unfair. The global economy is a system. The rich countries have gotten rich off the backs of the poor countries–our achievements are their achievements too. Why can’t they share in the spoils?

More recently, I wrote a piece for Current Affairs about the value of political unions. In this piece, I argued that we couldn’t economically integrate territories–permitting capital and people to move freely within them–without politically integrating those territories. Political integration is hard–people in rich countries don’t want to have to redistribute resources to people in poor countries, and they don’t want people from poor countries to get a say in decisionmaking. It’s much easier to get people to support free trade and free movement than it is to get people to support creating and expanding federal states. I reluctantly concluded that we can’t open our borders economically until we’re ready to open them politically. Free movement and free trade with Mexico requires political union with Mexico, and until Americans are willing to do the latter the former will cause trouble.

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Angela Nagle, Hillary Clinton, and the Left’s Border War

In the last week, two prominent voices have called for both the left and the center to triangulate on immigration. First, there was left-wing author Angela Nagle, who argues that the left’s commitment to “open borders” is naive, impractical, and damaging to the material interests of domestic workers. Then, from an entirely different direction, Hillary Clinton urged the leaders of Europe to clamp down on immigration in a bid to preempt the further development of Trumpian far right political parties in Europe. Nagle’s piece has been particularly inflammatory–in calling those who support immigration “useful idiots of big business” from the pages of American Affairs, a right-wing publication, Nagle has insulted a lot of people who thought she was on their side. I have friends on the left who are on different sides of this–what follows is my best effort to adjudicate their dispute.

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What the Midterms Tell Us About How to Oppose Trump

The Midwest is increasingly the critical region in American politics. It is the only region in which large numbers of states flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016, and in the 2018 Midterms the Midwest was once again the site of many of the most interesting results. For me, this region includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. I don’t include agricultural red states like the Dakotas or Missouri, which have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1996.

Despite their shift toward Trump in 2016, many of these Midwestern states demonstrated a willingness to support Democrats in 2018. In the Senate, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Democrats held the line against Republican challengers, losing only in Indiana. In governor races, Democrats retained Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and took Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan from the Republicans. The Republicans were able to defend their hold on Iowa and Ohio.

In much of the writing about the midterms, the focus has been on Democratic successes in the Southwest. Observers praise Beto O’Rourke for nearly beating Ted Cruz in Texas and are excited about the Democrats’ performance in the Arizona and Nevada Senate races. But I think this emphasis is a mistake. We are repeating the errors of the Clinton campaign–trying to compete nationally by demographically changing the South instead of creating messages that can win in the Midwest.

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The Southernization of the Midwest

Amidst the talk of House and Senate races in the midterms, there are a number of Midwestern states in which there is a significant chance that Democrats will take governorships. In 2008, Barack Obama won Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won only Illinois and Minnesota, and Minnesota was a close call, decided by just a single point. This is the region that has changed the most politically in the last decade. Most of these states have, at some point in the last 10 years, fallen under control of a Republican governor who has attempted to radically reform their labour laws and pension systems in bids to remodel these Midwestern states after the states of the deep south. Their strategy is simple–lower taxes, stifle wage growth, strangle unions, kill regulations, and pirate jobs and investment from the states that fail to do the same. It’s a great Midwestern race to the bottom. But at the midterms on Tuesday, there’s an opportunity to throw some sand in the Republican gears. Here follows the story of each of these states, to inspire you and your friends to do what you can to save each of them from southernization.

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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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