Varn Vlog

Unraveling the Persistent Crisis of American Democracy with Benjamin Studebaker

February 26, 2024 C. Derick Varn Season 1 Episode 244
Unraveling the Persistent Crisis of American Democracy with Benjamin Studebaker
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Varn Vlog
Unraveling the Persistent Crisis of American Democracy with Benjamin Studebaker
Feb 26, 2024 Season 1 Episode 244
C. Derick Varn

Discover the inner workings of American democracy as we traverse its complex relationship with capital regulation in today's global economy with Benjamin Studebaker, author of "The Chronic Crisis of American Democracy." Venture into our spirited conversation that unmasks the incongruity of a bustling political scene plagued by inefficacy, and the convoluted fiscal realities at both federal and state levels. This episode peels back the layers of economic indicators versus the stark daily realities of Americans, addressing wage stagnation and the generational wealth gaps that underpin our society's structure.

Uncover the nuanced challenges faced by the modern labor movement and the tactics of left-wing politics in an era of diminished union influence and evolving class consciousness. As Benjamin and I examine the irony of a burgeoning worker militancy amid a decline in traditional manufacturing, we also shed light on the transformation of left-wing media and how it intertwines with the political and business landscape. The episode takes a critical look at the efficacy of protest movements, the intricacies of education and cultural debates, as well as the contradictions inherent in right-wing economic nationalism.

We wrap up with a candid discussion on the shifting political dynamics within the Democratic Party, the growing chasm between the professional and working classes, and the sobering limitations of revolution in a technologically advanced age. Benjamin Studebaker offers profound insights into his writing and thoughts on the continual dialogue about American democracy's state. Join us for this compelling exploration of the formidable challenges facing our political spectrum today.

Support the Show.


Crew:
Host: C. Derick Varn
Intro and Outro Music by Bitter Lake.
Intro Video Design: Jason Myles
Art Design: Corn and C. Derick Varn

Links and Social Media:
twitter: @varnvlog
blue sky: @varnvlog.bsky.social
You can find the additional streams on Youtube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Discover the inner workings of American democracy as we traverse its complex relationship with capital regulation in today's global economy with Benjamin Studebaker, author of "The Chronic Crisis of American Democracy." Venture into our spirited conversation that unmasks the incongruity of a bustling political scene plagued by inefficacy, and the convoluted fiscal realities at both federal and state levels. This episode peels back the layers of economic indicators versus the stark daily realities of Americans, addressing wage stagnation and the generational wealth gaps that underpin our society's structure.

Uncover the nuanced challenges faced by the modern labor movement and the tactics of left-wing politics in an era of diminished union influence and evolving class consciousness. As Benjamin and I examine the irony of a burgeoning worker militancy amid a decline in traditional manufacturing, we also shed light on the transformation of left-wing media and how it intertwines with the political and business landscape. The episode takes a critical look at the efficacy of protest movements, the intricacies of education and cultural debates, as well as the contradictions inherent in right-wing economic nationalism.

We wrap up with a candid discussion on the shifting political dynamics within the Democratic Party, the growing chasm between the professional and working classes, and the sobering limitations of revolution in a technologically advanced age. Benjamin Studebaker offers profound insights into his writing and thoughts on the continual dialogue about American democracy's state. Join us for this compelling exploration of the formidable challenges facing our political spectrum today.

Support the Show.


Crew:
Host: C. Derick Varn
Intro and Outro Music by Bitter Lake.
Intro Video Design: Jason Myles
Art Design: Corn and C. Derick Varn

Links and Social Media:
twitter: @varnvlog
blue sky: @varnvlog.bsky.social
You can find the additional streams on Youtube

C. Derick Varn:

Hello and welcome to Varm blog, and today I'm here with Benjamin Studebaker, who's come back, although the original audio referred to here is lost. Our well, my end of it is unlistensable. So my patrons got a garbled recording and the public will get this one, which means that we're going to retread a lot of familiar territory to us, but not to you, and maybe also I will have some new follow up questions that have occurred to me in the month and a half since I recorded this. So we're here 2024.

C. Derick Varn:

It doesn't seem like American democracy has gotten any better in the month and a half since the last time we talked. We are talking about your book, the chronic crisis of American democracy, a nice little quasi monograph from pale grade Macmillan. I say quasi monograph because it's clearly kind of for a popular audience, kind of for academic audience. It's in a weird space in that way. I think your book is very clear and very well argued and points out a lot of ironies of American life. So just to get into it, the very first question that you probably an ask now, since this book came out 100 times what is the crisis of American democracy?

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah. So I think the crisis of American democracy has a lot to do with the fundamental economic situation in which the United States finds itself. We live in a world now where capital, money is very, very mobile, but states are territorial, states are fixed in place, so money can go all over the world to whichever territorial state gives it the best terms. And that means that states are constantly trying to persuade money to come visit them through tax cuts, through weak labor regulations, crushing the unions, punching down at workers in all kinds of ways to create a financially happy environment for rich people in their money.

Benjamin Studebaker :

And this is a structural thing. It's not something that can be reduced to any particular set of individuals or particular set of groups. It comes out of the mobility of money itself. So the American state can't really regulate these flows. If it tries to govern these flows, it risks inflation, it risks capital flight, risks losing out on the export market to other competing states, and so, for all of these reasons, the American state is not able really to solve the core economic problems that are at the root of a lot of people's anger and frustration with the way that the system is working, and therefore it kicks up a number of distractions, a number of ways of keeping everybody busy, while all of this sums along.

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, I think that's. That seems to be a fair enough assertion, when when last time we spoke about this, I I have seen more evidence of this than when we spoke about it then, and the way a friend of mine describes it is that you have a very decadent center that can somehow stay in power, whether it seems to be movement on the left and the right, but the left in the right, where there's movement, actually nothing is achieved at all. So you have this appearance of political action, but it has no effect on actual governance or policy. And you know I can already tell where a lot of people are going to push back, because the first question you're going to get is probably from the modern monetary theory side of things, and that is well.

C. Derick Varn:

But capital flights not really a problem first. First, for a state with economics sovereignty like the US, and inflation may be a problem, but it's a problem of either planning our backdoor price setting, depending on which MMT you're talking to. They're a little bit bigger on that and you know I'd like to hear your response, but my response is well, if that were true, then why does the description of actual politics today sound more like what Ben is saying than what you would predict, given that. But that's you know, that's my response. What's your response to that?

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah.

Benjamin Studebaker :

So the you know, usually when an MMT brings up the argument that we can printa bunch of money and use that to fund public services, the initial reaction from someone on, say, the right will be well, wouldn't that kick up a bunch of inflation?

Benjamin Studebaker :

And the MMT will go well, it can kick up inflation, but not if you raise tax rates in response to the inflation. So then the question becomes well, why don't we raise tax rates? And the reason we don't raise tax rates is that the people that we would have to tax are heavily politically organized, have been heavily politically organized for a long time, are much stronger structurally within the system than the working class is or than other political forces are. So there's this question if you're going to govern the inflation rate with the tax rate instead of with the central bank, then you need a tax rate that can be moved up and down in response to inflation, and that can be moved very easily up and down in response to inflation without a lot of political drag, without a lot of political infighting. The American political system is not designed to allow a Congress to move the tax rate up and down in response to inflation like it's the central bank interest rate.

C. Derick Varn:

And I also I think you're right that it would have to be on people who would be politically more organized, it would be quote the elites, but also probably a lot of what we would call the upper, middle and middle classes, to, frankly, because they do have some currency spending power and also, if we're realistic, most poor working class people don't actually pay federal taxes. They pay mostly sales taxes, state taxes, etc. They get well, yes, they do get, they do get, you know, income tax. To take another check, they get almost all of it back already. So that's not an area either.

C. Derick Varn:

Furthermore, I always think about, like the amount of funding. That, from the modern monetary perspective, is an area, is where one capital flight is real. Capital flight is very real between provinces and states, if not between nations, and to where, in the US at least, the actual social services are funded, either because of block grant programs are, because of the way the tax structures are, because, constitutionally, the US federal government is basically an insurance that kills people. That's sort of. What it's allowed to do is to focus on international trade, defense and some entitlement programs that would have been powered over the last 100, 150 years. So, however, the administration of, like most of the apparatus of daily life is at the is that lower levels down our government, which you do not have currency sovereignty anyway, so actually run pretty tight ships.

C. Derick Varn:

I guess you know this leads to me like a political crisis, that that doesn't seem obvious at first and that often left wingers think is unique to the left. And one of the things I like about your book is yeah, I mean, you know, in your false hopes section the left definitely gets a good bit of slapping around, but you're very quick to point out that it's actually that there are structural things that don't work exactly the same way but have similar containment patterns on the right and even in the center. So before we get into this larger problem of leads, let's talk about this. What do you think the less ideological role and irony is right now?

Benjamin Studebaker :

yeah. So to get control of capital mobility and make it into something that territorial states can govern, you really have two main strategies. One is a multilateral strategy, where you have different countries working together as part of blocks to set rules, and another is a unilateral strategy, where you cut the trade, you cut the mobility, you cut the flows, you install capital controls and you try to go it alone. So a multilateral strategy is much more compatible with economic growth than a unilateral strategy. So it's much easier politically to maintain a multilateral strategy as your approach. But because elections occur at different times in different countries, it's very difficult to get a bunch of countries together to do a multilateral approach. So you can win an election saying that you're going to try to reform the global economic system, but then you're very unlikely to have a lot of trade partners who are interested in doing what you want to do in the way that you want to do it. So the left views unilateral strategies typically as not acceptable, not okay. But the left doesn't get very serious about what a multilateral strategy actually involves and the level of internationalism and cooperation that's necessary to really pull that off, and so what you get is stuff like the Bernie Sanders campaign, where there's a bunch of kind of hamming and hawing about what's your attitude to the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank. There's not a whole lot of specificity about that. You get some critique of trade in general or of the global trade system in general, or of specific free trade agreements like NAFTA, but nothing that really touches the overall system. So you're left to ask well, is Bernie Sanders a critic of all of that? Well, he must be, he's a socialist. But what is he actually proposing to do instead of all of that, and how would he go about doing it? And how would he get people elected in down ballot races to assemble a coalition to do all of that? And what we very quickly discovered, I think, in the last eight years, is that there really isn't a viable strategy to elect a coalition in the down ballot races that can deliver on even things like Medicare for all, much less provide Sanders with a credible pedestal from which to negotiate with other states.

Benjamin Studebaker :

A big problem that we have in this country is that our presidents, when they go abroad and they try to negotiate treaties, other countries, say well, what happens if you lose the next election and someone from the other party gets in. How do we know that they're going to stand by your your treaty? So the way that we've tried to deal with that in the United States is to get the Senate to ratify treaties to make them legally binding in the United States. But because it's very difficult to get the numbers in the Senate that are necessary to do that, presidents instead try to go for agreements that are not legally binding. All of this is run down our credibility enormously whenever we try to kick off a new round of negotiating, and this foreign policy problem is a major, major issue for the multilateral strategy.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Of course, the unilateral strategies that the right prefers are devastating to the economy if you actually do them, and so what tends to happen is that the right will come in and say, okay, we're going to do a trade war and a bunch of protectionism and then do very, very little of that. Do just enough of it to look like it appears that they're they're doing it. Do enough to get enough attention and backlash from the libertarians and the free trade advocates that those people will get very angry and upset about it. But in point of fact, you don't see a huge statistical move in the trade volume during the Trump administration. For instance, during that trade war against China, there's only a 6% drop in goods imports from China, an 88% increase during the same time frame in goods imports from Vietnam.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Very rarely are you actually reshoring in any way these industries. You're often kicking them around from place to place, talking big talk about the specific states that you don't like, while you know just pushing business from from one coastal city in Asia to a different coastal city in Asia. It doesn't ultimately do anything to improve living standards for people who live in the United States. And then you've got the center, and the center's attitude is that there isn't really an economic problem, that all of this is just purely cultural and it's just fake news that's been jimmed up on the internet by adverse actors, by the Russians, or by bots, or by the inadequacies of the Facebook or Twitter algorithms, and for them it just becomes a question of discourse management and the economy doesn't even come into it yeah, I definitely see that.

C. Derick Varn:

I would. Actually. I think the blatancy of that has gotten worse and worse. Where you see, yes, g nominal GDP is about the same as it is in China, because that actually that is more a sign of things not going well in China. But the inflation indicators overall aren't bad. But if you actually look at the inflation that affects the majority of people is still really high. You're not seeing any deflation whatsoever, while most people probably wouldn't like the economic results of that. It's hard for them to explain that.

C. Derick Varn:

And then you get this narrative that I increasingly see, and I've seen now for about 10 years, that well, you know this economic stuff. This is all jimmed up by the opposition anyway. The opposition always feels like things are bad. Even economic indicators aren't a real indication of anything, and to me this just bespeaks stagnation, like there's a real economic stagnation going on as well. So they don't seem to have, you know, anything but gatekeeping.

C. Derick Varn:

And ironically and your book goes into this a little bit you definitely mention it with the you focus on foreign actors like China and Russia. But there is a way in which, while complaining about right wing paranoia, the center actually has just taken to engaging in the same kinds of things with a with a little bit more grounds of you, like, if you're an educated person. There are elements to the Russia gate scandal that, until very recently, seemed pretty viable to you, and some of them are even, you know, grounded in truth, while others, like the still dossier, are completely made up. Yet people don't seem to pick up that, like this is the same kind of thing that you saw the right doing in the 1990s, and they're complaining about this as eroding democracy from the right, while doing it themselves consistently In a way that's absolutely maddening and kind of transparent to people. So you know, your book is interesting. I mean, it came out in 2023, I believe. Am I right about that? Yes, yeah, earlier this year, yeah, well, last year now.

C. Derick Varn:

Last year this time. But yeah, yeah, but you know, since you wrote the book, the inadequacies and there's a whole section called this but the inadequacies of Joe Biden to his constituency have become more and more clear. Since the last time we spoke, I finally saw the Washington Post go well. Maybe we should just admit Joe Biden was never popular in the first place, and he should Johnson himself, which he doesn't seem to want to do. So you know. Yet Joe Biden interest, you know, indicated something to me in 2019 that when there was a consolidation around him, that it was an admission that the center of the Democratic Party had, at least at the time and probably still seems to, a relatively weak national backbench, that a kind of frankly, a candidate that had lost several times before was the only person they could find to unite the center around, and so it does seem like we're dealing with a center that can survive but is very hollow and very fragile. Yeah, I think they've tried on this.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, they've tried very hard to sell the post 2008 situation as normal, and so if you're having the kind of expansion numbers that you would have seen in the late tens they're trying to pass off, those kinds of numbers is indicative of a good economy. Of course, rising inequality means that headline numbers increasingly don't reflect many people's real experiences of the economy. There's a need to get more specific and to dig into sectoral indicators, to dig into how the economy is affecting very specific, different sets of people, and the big headline numbers, like unemployment or inflation, are not really getting at these trends and the things that are really making people upset. In my book we talk about a lot of these different things that have gone on since the 70s in terms of wage stagnation, and I think you're very right to point out there's been a ton of stagnation in recent decades and that's not going to make people who are old enough to remember times when there was a more shared kind of prosperity. Those people are not just going to forget about all of that and their kids, who know them and have heard stories about what the world used to be like, are not just going to forget about all of that, and the Democrats have often tried to avoid talking about this by blaming foreign actors, in much the same way that the right loves to blame foreign actors for this structural condition in which there's just way too much capital mobility for anybody to manage it or govern it effectively.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think that you're right to point out that the Democrats have a weak bench. I think that there's a kind of Democrat who comes from that 20th century era and can speak in a way that sounds like a kind of post war kind of almost Keynesian sort of 70s Democrat. Joe Biden was initially elected to Congress in the early 70s and so to a large degree he came up in an environment where the kind of political language was very different, and so I think what is kind of remarkable about Joe Biden is that he's an instance of a kind of post war Democratic Party politics still having a certain amount of cash in, no matter how watered down it's been relative to the stuff that has come after, the stuff. You know, the people who came up in the Clinton administration or in that kind of Clinton era, like Kamala Harris they just don't have a political style that is as tractable.

C. Derick Varn:

Well, this is that's an interesting point about Biden, because Biden is a transition figure between the post war Democrats and the Atari slash Clinton era Democrats, and I like to talk about the Atari Democrats because we forget about them, that the movement did not start with Clinton, but it's in some ways that makes him seem more progressive at times. But then when you come to like foreign policy, it becomes very clear that it's a reminder that like, oh no, he doesn't really share your value system 80% of Democrats and I think that's an interesting scenario. I think you also get into some some stats that I've been looking at over the years. I've been following the loneliness stats, the, the wealth stats, comparatively. I mean, I'm old enough to remember when we used to talk about Gen X being the first generation and it make as much as your parents, and then the journalists forgetting that they said that, although it was true for them to, and saying that you know the millennials were, because we always like to forget about Gen X is a small generation anyway, but I think it's interesting that we have, you know, the comparison that you point out, and it is also that we, like the baby boomers, are generational politics, that when people deny it and good old Bush, carson, carl, be like I'll talk about the baby boomers denies the reality of class and I was like well, to some degree you're, you're right, but I want you to look at the stats here.

C. Derick Varn:

The baby boomers were the richest generation of in a society that literally ever existed in human history, in the United States, at a time when 49% of the world's wealth was in the United States, because the rest of it have been destroyed and war two wasn't even because we took it. It was just that that happens since we prior. It was because it all been destroyed. Then it was able to leverage that with the you know, the Marshall program and produce all of our excess production could be shipped to Europe for actual productive use. And then, but interestingly and as your book points out, as soon as that became a reality and developed, you saw the massive slowing of our economy. But that did leave the baby boomers with 21% you know I think this is a stat you site that they had 21% of the GDP was in their hands In early middle age and for millennials it's about 3% and while that is changing now to some degree because, frankly, middle and poor baby boomers and even Gen Xers are dying a little younger. It's not the rich ones that are dying a little younger. So it's interesting to see how that's going to change. But I highly doubt we're going to ever see the you know, millennial wealth get up to the 20% market, and maybe not until you know, they're well into their 60s and 70s and things are in a postal apocalyptic wasteland anyway. So I find that interesting.

C. Derick Varn:

I also find it interesting that liberals, both centrist and the sundry, left us, because I want to talk about, you know, one of the things you accuse left us of that I think you're accurate about, is that it's kind of a false hope factory, like it's, you know, like the let's give it the one last college, try to bring X back, usually fort ism, sometimes some fort ism and Kansan ism kind of together.

C. Derick Varn:

Sometimes social democracy, vaguely defined when you methodologies, but it seems to be. It seems, you know, it seems to promise something it can't deliver, and even when it's not on the kind of Bernie Sanders, like grand scale cycle, we can reform education or reform culture and it'll have massive Cultural pay down. You know what we've seen. And yet, like the number of black families and pop poverty, for example, is largely stagnant. So it does seem to me that that, no matter how you approach this from the left, that hasn't, it hasn't delivered at all, and that also creates a kind of democratic crisis for left, because, on one hand, yes, a lot of the of the quasi social democratic policies that left to say, are popular, do poll as popular as as policies, even in very red states, and so the left, left politicians are progressive politicians to actually do them and we good reason, right like because there's not really a history outside of, basically, world War, two of them at being able to deliver.

Benjamin Studebaker :

There's a whole historical context to the welfare state and to fort ism and to the post Keynesian order, which is the disruption of capital mobility by the World Wars, by the huge trade barriers that were thrown up during the depression. You know that conscripting of huge mass mobilization infantry armies, huge munitions factories, heavily dependent on mass mobilization factory labor. So in a very real sense, states became very territorial in the middle of the 20th century and they became very dependent on fighting men, on men and women to work in factories and in that context workers had a lot of leverage and rich people didn't have nearly as much. And almost immediately. From the end of World War two, the trend has been gradually to increase the leverage of the rich through expanding capital mobility. Going all the way back to the GATT trade rounds in the 50s, the goal has been to get money moving around the world as quickly as possible. And when you have money moving around the world quickly, you get change, you get rapid change. And that makes generational analysis necessary, because you have people who are living in the same society, who have experienced very different types of capitalism, forms of capitalist development, and so have very different relationships with all these processes, have different class positions, have different educational positions as a consequence of when they were born, these things become necessary to talk about. It would be great if we could just have a you know, here's the working class on one hand and here's the capitalist class on the other and let's have a straight class confrontation between these two forces and where everyone who works would identify with the class and feel a sense of solidarity.

Benjamin Studebaker :

The reality is that for many, many decades now, that solidarity has not been present, and just by insisting that we only talk in terms of the working class versus the capitalist class, just talking about that linguistically, will not change the reality that these are not the conditions in which people are, are growing up, are being socialized. It's not the ways they're coming to identify. We have to deal with the consequences of these economic shifts, the consequence that some people go to university and some people don't, and so that the ways people talk about and relate to politics are very different, and this is stuff that the left has been reluctant to do. The left prefers a kind of politics that is no longer working and the substitutes that the left have come up with in the last 50 years that are designed to respond to, say, more automation or designed to respond to larger percentage of people going to university. These haven't worked. Instead, over this period, we've seen capital mobility going through the roof, economic inequality going through the roof and worker leverage decreasing.

C. Derick Varn:

Well, this does leave us to a kind of irony of right now. That is a little different than when you publish the book, even though it's within the year and I think I'm just going to lay out my cards that I still think your analysis holds, and if I didn't, I'd push back more. But we do see a kind of workers militancy emerging right now and we do see a kind of, you know, agile industrial unionism. But as I've been pointing out to people very, very kind of softly because they don't want to put their spirit too much, the UAW is in the industry. I mean, the UAW being the radicalized union is a kind of historical irony and it is logistically important. But, like unionized large industrial factories are not going to be common in the future.

C. Derick Varn:

In the attempts to do UAW-like strategies, the UAW itself has tried with TAs and teachers and unionizing other industries has not been successful. Nor has there been any real attempt or ability to unionize even other parts of the auto industry, some of which have become hostile to the UAW because they're downstream and semi-pew head of the Wafi, and so the strikes actually disrupt supply chains that hurt other workers, since there's been no attempt to really unionize these other kinds of workers for a variety of reasons, including franchisation etc. That when you focus on one union, even if it's a fairly large one, in a declining field that's at the absolute most, and if you include all logistics in it as well only 11-12 percent of the US population and probably closer to like five then you piggyback that as a victory on top of other unionization attempts that we've seen, such as a Starbucks union, etc. Which have not by and large gotten good contract concessions for structural reasons. There's small shops you're talking 15 to 40 people. It makes it look like there's a lot of unions being formed but they're very small amounts of workers in each union because basically each city branch has to have its own union branch tied to it and we've seen very little success on actually decent contract terms coming out of this.

C. Derick Varn:

Frankly, some of the things being asked for don't seem particularly work related. Sometimes it's moral clauses and stuff that are just never going to be respected and probably are somewhat divisive amongst employees. Even then we're talking about one corporate non-franchised brand in a largely franchised service industry that is still only 1 percent of one or 2 percent organized into unions, because it's just not like the traditional union model is very effective for it. The other sector of unions where you've seen real union militancy recently I mean Eric Blanc or a whole book about it teachers unions.

C. Derick Varn:

You've actually seen despair set in post-COVID and massive people leaving the profession, which, even though they got some of the concessions they demanded in 2017-2018, have not been enough to reverse the decline of the profession. That isn't, by and large, being talked about by the left, which always makes me very frustrated because you I feel like it's presenting yes, some of the victories that they're talking about are real, but they're small. When you point that out, you get a litany of defense. That's just basically like. I feel like it's grasping at thralls, which, to me, makes it unable for us to even begin to contemplate what it would take to solve this problem.

C. Derick Varn:

I mean how do you respond to that?

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, in the crisis of the 70s, when we had a much, much higher level of unionization, we had many, many more heavily unionized factories. In that context, in many Western countries the unions went on rolling strikes. They were heavily organized, many of them are quite militant and in the 70s they did not have enough structural power to prevail politically and they were overcome. They were overcome in large part because many of the rich capitalist states had access to workers in Asia and were willing to send those industries abroad for the purposes of defeating and overcoming those domestic workers. Even as recently as 2008, when Barack Obama did the automobile bailout, that was a contentious question and not something that obviously had to happen. There was real serious consideration in the United States that perhaps the American car company should just be allowed to die, because really do they need to exist anymore. Ultimately, barack Obama decided to bail them out, but it was not at all a foregone conclusion that that would happen. Going forward, it is not at all a foregone conclusion that automobiles will continue to be manufactured in the United States. If they are manufactured in the United States will be an increasingly automated conditions with fewer and fewer human workers. That's been the trend across all of the industries where there has been reshoring, when the factory comes back and employs a fraction of the people that it formerly employed. Those are just some of the hard physical constraints people have to deal with.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think that when it comes to teachers, we're dealing with the problem of state governments that are lacking a race to the bottom on taxes, that are extremely concerned that if they up their tax rates there will be movement to other states. You have governors who base their entire campaigns and strategies around the idea that they can get businesses from, say, california, to relocate to Texas or Florida. This argument comes up even when sports athletes are signing contracts. It comes up constantly in this country no state taxes in Florida, 85 degrees and no state taxes. All of the time this kind of argument is made. So this has put teachers in a very bad situation and, of course, for the right, which would love to privatize the education system, a scenario where you have a chronic teacher shortages or you have a shortage of very good, highly skilled teachers because there's no incentive to go into the industry for people who are passionate about teaching. All of this just facilitates that privatization drive. So I think all of that is really not going well.

Benjamin Studebaker :

The issue with the left is that because there is and I hate to have to say it, but there is an industry around the left. There's a lot of people who make money from promoting left-wing politics and for whom their career is based in large part on that. Nobody wants to acknowledge or admit that the strategies are not working, because that poses an existential threat to the business model that these people are operating under. And it's the same thing with the right, when the right has these culture war industries that have no chance of actually winning the causes that they're in pursuit of. We all recognize that these are right-wing grifters who are in a business who are trying to stay afloat.

Benjamin Studebaker :

We have the same thing in the left. Nobody wants that to be the case, but it is the case. And it's the case because people want to believe that the things that worked in the 20th century might work again. Of course they want to believe it because if the things that people used to do in the 20th century no longer get results, we're in a really, really depressing situation. So there will always be a significant number of people here who will be willing to pay for content that tells them that some of that old stuff might work, if we just give it another go.

C. Derick Varn:

Right. Well, yeah, I mean the interesting thing about alt-media and this is something that I think people have to deal with on both the right and the left. Although really right, even though left-wing alt-media because of a myth that it comes out of Zing culture or whatever in the 1990s and as a participant in that culture I wish I could say it was true, but they're really not that related there's a myth that, oh, left-wing media comes out of this non-corporate space and it's just the same myth as the right-wing talk radio world or the Alex Jones world, which very much comes out of a very particular kind of corporate space. There's a very particular kind of business interest involved in that supplements and gold but nonetheless there is a real industry there that you gave it terrestrial radio. There's a very real sense in which the kind of Patreon sphere and the remnants of Air America radio and, frankly, jeffrey Katzenberg money merged and people will complain about oh, there's all this Mercer family money and Teal money on the right and yet all the sorrow stuff is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory and a lot of it is. I mean, I'm not denying that. But there is a way in which there's a lot of the alternative to the Democrat model of the left went from being party partisan to big corporate media multiple times in the 20th century. You can look up like New Left books to Verso to being distributed. Known by Penguin Haymarket as a Trotsky out publishing house tied to the ISO, becomes its own business, makes deals with Barrow. It's probably part of why the ISO finally had to take care of its sexual harassment scandals and collapsed, because it was a multimillion dollar industry and it's a media circuit and there are people. Now it's small, but some of the richest podcasters in podcasting come out of left wing media sphere and not just of the Democratic Party variety.

C. Derick Varn:

I mean, there was this time period in the lead up to Trump where it looks like doing left wing media was a way to print gold and while it's different than the prior incarnation of that, I used to talk about this in 2017. Like in 2011, you would have thought if you were listening to podcasts that libertarians were the wave of the future and a lot of them did make a fair amount of money. Nothing like chapeau money because the monetization and the ability to hide investors and I'm not accusing this of chapeau, I don't know that that happened, but I know this does happen, as you can use Patreon to launder investors. So there's a real sense in which the alternative left wing media and the left media of the former organs of the Democratic Party just became the same thing in the ought teams. I mean, I think that Bashkar Sankara, being president of the Nation Foundation, actually pretty much says a whole lot as far as where that actually ended up.

C. Derick Varn:

And my point to people who have a long history is this isn't even the first time it happened. The nation itself was a product of such a development in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. If you want another example of that Mother Jones becoming a mainstream progressive magazine from its anarchist origins in the middle of the 20th century to what it was now, I guess I guess is still around. So there's a long history of this. This isn't new. But you're absolutely right. There's an entire publishing industry that is either based on that model or, frankly, also pushing anger around that model with alternatives that won't really do much Like.

C. Derick Varn:

If I hear another damn thing about forcing the vote being a magic bullet to get us out of Medicare for all problems, I'm going to vomit. That's literally happened before in our lifetime. I mean, people just don't seem to remember that 1994 happened, so whatever. But it's an interesting scenario where you're right. One of the things that curates the illusion of politics on the left we can get into the reform and the revolution problems. This isn't even that is that so much of this is basically a media lifestyle brand of selling.

C. Derick Varn:

You hope that, if you thought about it for 30 seconds, like it didn't take me long in 2017 when I was listening to people talk to me about the Bernie strategy to go, ok, you need a workers movement to get Bernie elected, but the Bernie campaign taps into a grassroots movement which will create a political movement to build a workers movement that you need to get Bernie elected. How is that not circular? That very much seemed to me to be the strategy too. It was like OK, so we're not running this time to win, we're running this time to build political hope. But I'm like OK, but you need to change actual laws and get downpollet stuff. You need to do something at least about Taff Hartley to really be able to do any of this. And yet you're not In fact the thing that you're promising.

C. Derick Varn:

The other example I mean the other one that's on the left, it's like a more far flung one but I find humorous is when Jacobin magazine runs that we need to abolish the Senate, which of course would take the Senate to do. Well, it's just like. So you have to win the Senate to abolish the Senate to make a more democratic thing. None of this works. This is all circular pipe dreams, and it's transparently circular if you just state out the steps, obviously, and take all the rhetoric out.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, there's a legitimacy crisis here. People don't feel like this system is working, but they're not prepared to abandon it for something else, so they look for ways that they can tweak it around the edges or purify it. It's something that might make it work a little bit better, and the trouble is they don't realize how deeply dysfunctional it is. It isn't something that can be made workable with just a little bit of trimming around the edges. If you installed European-style social democratic institutions in the United States, that would not give you the social programs that the Europeans created with those political systems back in the 50s and 60s. It would give you the kind of politics at best that you have in Europe now, which is mainly Austrian, mainly about slowly and gradually cutting down the public services so that you can keep the tax rates reasonable, so that you can keep enough investment in the block. It becomes zero-sum games where you have rich, more industrial states like Germany bullying poorer, weaker states like Greece or Spain. It's not a utopian situation in European social democracies.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think that part of what made the Sanders thing compelling is that Sanders pulled better than I think a lot of people thought he would. I think when he started running, a lot of people looked at that and went I'd be surprised if he gets 10 points in a Democratic primary. But he did better than that. And because he did better than that, people thought well, how much else am I wrong about? Maybe I'm wrong about everything. Maybe we're much closer to being able to do all sorts of things that I thought, and I can understand that. I did some of that myself.

C. Derick Varn:

I was actually thinking about. I thought he was going to be a Dane and Cousin or Mike Ravel figure and I'd been there before and then when he's pulling what he does, I'm like, well, maybe I am, maybe I have to rethink the American electric in some fundamental way. Maybe something has changed, and for me, I was literally abroad at the time, so it would seem viable to me that something had changed, that I had missed, but my instincts were still like there's a weird limit to it. And also even in the rhetoric on the right about Sanders, because, if you like, I hate to use Alex Jones as a legitimate litmus test for anything, because he's kind of a clown.

C. Derick Varn:

But there is a way in which you can listen to the way, say, jones spoke about Sanders in 2015, 16, and 17, versus the way he spoke about him in 2018 and 19, to see that there have been a shift in the way that they the way even someone who's probably being opportunistic feels like they have to appeal about this.

C. Derick Varn:

So I found that interesting because it indicated that something was changing, that there was no longer a broad base, and your book actually also pointed out another irony of the situation that I hadn't known that, for example, dsa candidates for all their talk about initially which they haven't spoken about now since 2018, but they did speak about it back then about winning municipal governments in red states and stuff like that that their popularity base, which is New York and Southern California, which is what it's actually been all the way back to the 80s. I mean people forget the DSA was a 5,000 person but very viable political machine in New York, but that is the home base of Clinton's support. At the same time, the DSA was coming up and that irony sits with me because it indicates that there's a fundamental misrecognition in the project. So just let you pick back up as you're talking about Sanders. Like there does seem to be a fundamental misrecognition on what was going on there.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, when the justice, democrat and DSA endorsed candidates are winning in seats where Hillary Clinton got 60% 70% plus of the vote vis-a-vis Trump. You're not winning in. What was exciting about the Bernie campaign is that Bernie was winning primaries in these red states, in places where you would think that the more centrist Democrat would win and the more left leaning Democrat would be uncompetitive. Instead, you had the opposite going on. You had him winning in the states where you would think you would not stand a chance and you had him losing in the states that you traditionally think of as more left-leaning, progressive states.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think that the fundamental problem is that left-wing movements in the United States have a tendency to McGovernize. They have a tendency to become increasingly dominated by college-educated people. Students and recent graduates are the bulk of the people who do the legwork for progressive campaigns and there's a tendency, when they join organizations that include traditional workers for their ways of talking, to crowd out and overcome the ways of talking that appeal to that much broader section of the electorate. So, oddly, as the Sanders thing gained steam and drew more attention and got more college-educated professionals to pay attention to it, it became less politically viable because it then started to bring these people into its ranks and to frame itself in a way that was more compelling to them, at the cost of that broader base that had been so exciting in 2016. In many ways, by getting excited about it, the professional left killed the thing that it was trying to help, and I think that that really shows that the left, as it currently exists, is just so far removed from any kind of mass politics that would be tracked.

C. Derick Varn:

Although I think you know I guess we can get to the forum parts of the book. But I do think one of the things that your book points out one I have a working theory Mass politics is usually actually a sign of either economic or political or political or some kind of external crisis. I don't have a unified like it's always an economic crisis I'm not that much of a vulgar Marxist but like there's a crisis that prompts mass politics. If you look at the world wars and the various economic crisis of the early 20th century and late 19th century, it does seem like that world's about to come apart and that's what prompts the mass politics and the baddest things are right now. It is very much a very slow, less stochastically eruptive kind of decline, and so that's one thing against mass politics. But two, it doesn't seem like now people say, well, there's mass politics right now. I'm like, well, you'll see, like mass unrest, you will see that, but it doesn't congeal into positive political forces because it doesn't have anything for it to congeal into. Like you know, we look at black lives, matter and the structural things they demanded. Those things aren't even popular anymore. On the more superficial things, they got it, but it doesn't really change much of anybody's lives. I mean, if you're I shouldn't say anybody if you're a fairly elite actor in an academic institution, it might have made some mild difference. Or if you're in DI field, you might have got a corporate job for a little while, but even that's dying down in certain sectors. So it seems like a very flash pan sort of thing. And I think that indicates that you know, and I also will point out with BLM, that's not the first. Like the Floyd thing isn't the first time that happened Like we in fact, it just happened faster, like it was bigger, a bigger eruption, but it collapsed faster.

C. Derick Varn:

And for people who think, oh, it's a, it's a ought teens phenomenon, you can go back and look at the 90s for similar things happening, like it's not new. And in fact if you have a long deray view, you can see these kinds of cycles of riots being unable to congeal into anything, starting with the end of the civil rights movement forward. So once the civil rights movement hits a political stalling in 1968, 69, you start seeing this trend, chicago being you know the Roth's why it's a center being some of the most famous ones. So I think that's an interesting problem and it leads to the left itself. You know something that has historically ha ha seen itself as a, as a source of historical thinking Right, like that's what's supposed to separate particularly the socialist left from the quote liberal left is a historical point of view. It seems to be stuck in a constant presentism because to look at the longer race stuff makes most of these claims fall apart instantaneously, like it's just, it's to use the quantum parlance very blackpilling to realize that you're in cycles of things that played out three or four times since the 1950s and with less results every time they play out. So I guess that does bring me to to the reform and revolution problems, and we'll talk about the ride again.

C. Derick Varn:

You point out that, like, the reform needed for this problem is so massive. You talk about Piketty, and I had this response to Piketty too, and Piketty's capital book came out. You know I I read most of that book. I did skim large sections of it because it's too long, but nonetheless I read a lot of it and I was like, okay, so a universal worldwide wealth tax seems to me more politically unfeasible than revolution, and I don't think revolution is politically feasible either. So, like, what are you smoking If you consider that the practical reformist suggestion like but I have seen this Tennessee, even amongst the kind of what say Clinton era, post Clinton era types, you know the Harris is the Lori Lightfields, et cetera. You know post Obama types even to like give milk toast answers that also require so much of a massive social change.

C. Derick Varn:

If you think about it that, like, even as a reform, it doesn't make sense, like, why would you do that? That would require, you know, that much intervention. Now the thing is with Piketty. Piketty, at least theoretically, would fix the problem, like, like a universal wealth tax would theoretically start evening the playing field from a liberal perspective and would be theoretically possible in the loosest sense of the term.

C. Derick Varn:

It seems to completely misunderstand power, and for me that's also a metaphor for our friends, the MMT years, who have been picking on a little bit today, who realize, you know, their whole appeal is hey, we don't have to tax you, elite, so maybe we can do some progressive policy.

C. Derick Varn:

But cough, cough, if we actually did this, it would weaken your power base, though, you know, and I'm always like, so your appeal to this is that it wouldn't. We can, people don't have to pay any price for this, but you're also gonna weaken their power and increase workers' power Like again, like when we were talking about Sanders, but in a different way. That sounds practical until you state it in broad based common language ways and then it immediately becomes obviously like non-viable. Oh, so the way to empower workers is the universal jobs guarantee at a livable wage. That would empower workers against the state, but we don't have to tax them. So of course the bosses would let us do this, even though you've just stated that you're gonna kill their leverage over their employees, which they probably care about almost more than they hear about the tax rate.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Frankly, like- and you'll end up taxing them anyway. When the inflation goes up, the MMP tiers always say well, when the inflation goes up, then you raise taxes to combat the inflation. So it just changes why you raise taxes. Instead of raising taxes to pay for the budget, you raise taxes to combat the inflation that comes from continuously printing money. And it works in principle, if you can get the tax rate right in the same way that the Federal Reserve tries to get the federal funds rate right.

Benjamin Studebaker :

No, it works in a very heavy-handed way that requires constant adjustments and tweaks of the kind that the House of Representatives lacks the expertise and capacity to make. So there's, of course the rich are not going to like it because they view it as potentially inflationary, even before and above we get to the power distribution changes that potentially affect, and then, if you are to pull it off, you then have to start messing with the tax policy for different reasons, where it's even harder, I think, to mess with the tax policy to fight inflation, because inflation is something that you have to pay attention to on a quarter-to-quarter basis and you can't move tax rates in a quarter-to-quarter way. That's not a functioning tax system. This is the thing that the MNT argument rarely gets to the point at which you actually start to go okay, well, what happens when the inflation rate does come up and then when they just say raise taxes, your backer is started.

C. Derick Varn:

Right, and they also will say that, like, well, it doesn't hurt, like until you hit like a inflation rate of like 12 or 13%, it doesn't hurt poor people anyway, because it devalues debt. And I'm like, well, you don't know the same poor people as me, because the very poorest don't have a lot of debt. Frankly, Politically.

Benjamin Studebaker :

we've seen, even with a modest spike in inflation, if there are shortages of particular goods for any length of time, this has enormously negative political effects on the sitting government, and that's the other thing to bear in mind. Even if the inflation rate is something like five or six, you're gonna have certain sectors that are getting it much worse than the rest, certain sectors where you're gonna have real shortages and major major problems, like we're having now with housing, that people are not going to be very happy about and they're gonna take that out on the incumbent government.

C. Derick Varn:

So yeah, and that's not to deal with the shenanigans of our different inflation rates, because housing and food are in some well, I don't think housing's an any. Food is in some but not other of the inflation rate indexes and it's moderated against in other ways. And then there's other things that people don't see when I talk about inflation, that, like you know, we don't talk about anymore, like the necessary adulteration of product components, using cheaper materials to build the same thing and maintaining the same prices for it. Like some of that's sold off as efficiency, but I'm like that's really inflation too. I mean, some of that's all you know. Some of that's limited resources, but there's a bunch of things going on there. But there are ways to hide the inflation from the number of inflation that people still experience and declining quality of goods.

Benjamin Studebaker :

And deflating the cost of televisions and electronics, like we did in the 80s and 90s so that other things can increase, but the deflationary effects of lowering the cost of those now very, very cheaply produced. You know foreign electronic goods. You know that allows you to hide increases and say the cost of college tuition from the overall inflation.

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, Then there's other small things that people don't often pay attention to. So, for example and this is not in your book, it just happened to know it Medicare payouts to providers has declined about 31 to 38%, depending on the state, in the last three years post COVID, and cost inputs have gone up. And, weirdly, for the first time in American history in a long time, medical inflation is not particularly high right now. And then that's kind of unique, but and some of that's because it's being offset by decline in government payments but it's also leading to massive provider shortages, which are going to be a real problem pretty soon. It's already getting even before the problems of the pandemic. It was not always easy to get into a doctor's office, particularly in rural areas. In rural areas, we're literally seeing this have an effect on life expectancy at this point.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think it's already the case that many upper middle class and wealthy people think that if you don't have supplementary Medicare, you really have no business trying to go see a lot of good doctors and going to hospitals with good reputations. And this will be the continuing trend. If you're gonna be on state benefits, you're gonna get a low quality, inferior version of the thing, so that anybody who cares about or who has the resources to do anything about it will go private. And that's how they've been watering down all of these sectors for years and years. And it'll just continue because of this incentive, this continuing incentive to run all this stuff down a little bit to attract more investment.

C. Derick Varn:

And that's not unique to the United States. We see it in Canada through the way they fund this stuff at the provinces and potentially like it's not everywhere.

C. Derick Varn:

Right. I mean and that does seem to me like something that I remember when we started talking about Medicare for all and the last dropped it after COVID, which was funny because it was one of the few times where I think it would have been the most salient, but nonetheless I had a Democrat in office, so they needed to shut up. Regardless of that, it also seems to me that, like there's a reality that a lot of places are having trouble with their medical expenses, even though and this is absolutely true, even in a capitalist system socialized medicine is cheaper for both parties, both the government and for private citizens.

Benjamin Studebaker :

We're spending 17% of GDP on healthcare in the United States and they spend about 10% in most other OECD states. We have an enormous amount of waste, especially we consider how vast American GDP is. Seven points of GDP waste it's incredible. But of course, if you try to cut that, there's an enormous number of people who are employed in that sector and who are relying on that sector to give them that money and that gives that sector an enormous amount of weight. People talk about how on the Soviet Union, heavy industry had too much leverage, or they talk about how in China, the property market has too much leverage. We have the same problem with healthcare in this country overgrown sector that is extremely difficult to reform because of the structural power it's acquired.

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, you may disagree with Gabe or not politically, but I know that when documents how this happened and that we built up these large Fortis centers of healthcare, subsidized not so much directly but indirectly through tax cuts and incentives and cheap property et cetera, that when the industry left we still had that and had to maintain that because it was the only thing holding anyone in the city. So there was a reason to maintain that. I hate to point out to people. It's also a pretty reliable democratic voting base and I think this is even. This is one of the harder things to deal with when you confront leftist with it. It's one of the few ways out of the working class that hasn't been derasinated. The other way is in, well, I'm gonna say the working class. That's a little bit too broad. So a few ways out of the working poor blue collar part of the working class. To get into healthcare administration, because you need an associate's degree to do it. You can do it, it's not hard and it's a way to get a stable income from your family that you probably can't get otherwise, particularly now that a lot of the industrial jobs are gone. In the other ways to get out, ironically, are going the way People like leftists have been talking about the end of the poverty draft or like it never existed. It was real, virginia, it just was 20 years ago. But the thing is, with the poverty draft being gone, what that's meant is one of the ways out of. Like the derasination of, say, ex-urban economies in the Sunbelt has now gone away, except for career, family, military people who are invested in the system and have special skills. So and this is not me defending the military industrial project, but there was a way in which military Keynesianism was also one of the ways that the blue collar, increasingly lumpenized parts of the lower King class could get out, and that has gone away since the end of the Iraq war through, basically, drone development, and then people didn't really notice what it meant for it to happen because, you know, of course we wanted the war machine to die down a little bit, but I think that's all. I think that's all missed when we talk about this today.

C. Derick Varn:

So, like one of the reasons why we can't fix this, I remember listening to one Bernie Sanders advisor talk about like a universal concierge services, because they were talking about all the providers and I'm like, yeah, and all the insurance and the insurance investment industry, and you know you're talking about for a lot of the former Rust Belt, like the major employer period in the school systems and also, by the way, the school systems have a similar administrative problem. So what do you do? And you know I don't see a political way out of this. I've also noticed that just parts of this that, like, leftists won't touch. When I talk about, for example, you can get leftists to get concerned about administrative drift in post-secondary education in colleges, because that's seen.

C. Derick Varn:

But when I talk about, like administrative drift in secondary and primary education and school boards and whatnot, and that like it's literally doubled and tripled in cost in the last 20 years, while teacher pay has gone down, I can't get leftists to care about that. And I don't know why. Because it's like, well, you know it's leading to a really pernicious feedback loop where people rightly feel like we're throwing money at education and yet they don't understand what it's going to. It doesn't seem to be going to the teachers and they don't know what it's going to, and education and results continue to stagnate or decline, and so it's harder and harder to argue for the expenditure. And that's not even dealing with the fact we use schools for like 50 different backdoor social programs. So it seems to me that that also has become like a do not touch, but also that means you can't reform it. If you don't look at the actual problems of the actual existing institutions as they really do exist, then you can't reform it.

C. Derick Varn:

I guess it leads me, though, to the other trap, and this we can pick on the right a little bit, so people don't think that I'm secretly a right-winger or something.

C. Derick Varn:

Is this constant culture, war stuff?

C. Derick Varn:

And you know there's a perverse set of incentive for the left and center left here, like, for example, now that Roe v Wade has been made back into a state issue. I don't see Democrats ever fixing it as a national issue, because the structural problem, which they might even call a structural problem, isn't worth them fixing, because it would actually mean that the small advantage that they're gaining in red states will go away, like you know, and that's kind of like transparently obvious, like they can fight in red states now because of this. It's a real viable movement for them. It's a way to increase the generic Democrat ballot, which it actually is working to do, but that perversely has an incentive that like, yeah, they might want to fight this out on a state to state level, but they have no incentive to fight this out on a national level again, ever again. But the rights basically been doing that forever. Like the rights culture stuff has been a constant bait and switch for like a hundred years. So you want to talk a little bit about that.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, you know the right is not willing to say that this is down to the economy. The right wants to frame this stuff as a cultural degradation process. And if it's a cultural degradation process, then their cultural contributions are themselves the antidote to it. So, straightforwardly, consuming right wing media and right wing content because it's cultural is the cure for the cultural decline. And all you've got to do is spread around and share the right wing content. And if enough people decide to get good and try hard, you know, then they'll become virtuous. And if they become virtuous, then all of the sudden all of our problems will go away, because they all ultimately stem from vice. This is the right's way of avoiding dealing with the market and the problems that the market poses for right wing cultural projects. The market eats and erodes and corrodes all of those traditional value systems that the right claims to care about. But the right constantly argues for markets, defends markets against socialists, while at the same time crying about the cultural effects of markets. And it's very lucrative for the right because it means that they can always complain about this thing and always present themselves as kind of fighting a lost cause that if only more people would pay attention to. Maybe something would come of it. Insofar as they do pay any attention to the economy, it's always for a protectionist, kind of nationalist angle, but when they actually very rarely do they actually try to do anything about it.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I remember in the 2016 GOP debate talk about this a little bit in the book Trump says that he's for a trade war with China. He wants to impose tariffs, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tell him oh no, you can't do that. That will just lead to an increase in consumer goods in the United States, and we can't have that. Even Marco Rubio, who has tried to pass himself off as a dissident right winger who cares about nationalism, and Ted Cruz, who has done many of the same kinds of things these guys are deep down free trade people who are total defenders of capital mobility. So when Trump gets into office, even insofar as he's interested in a trade war or protectionism, he immediately finds that if he pushes it very far to all, congress is threatening to take away his ability to unilaterally impose tariffs, and they are lording this over him from the start. If you go too far with this, if you do anything that goes beyond the performative, there's a real risk that we will take away the president's ability to tariff. We'll pass legislation removing the power that we've given to the president to do that, and this totally intimidated him right from the beginning.

Benjamin Studebaker :

And then, as the COVID pandemic kicked off and you had some level of economic trouble and shortages of stuff, he completely ran away from the trade war. He was totally terrified of the economy being too slow for him to win the election in 2020. And he actually backed off on a lot of the tariffs during that last year of the administration and all of this had almost no real effect. The economy on imports, the trade deficit and the total imports in 2020 were, if anything, a little higher than in 2016. He didn't accomplish anything through this and this is the thing.

Benjamin Studebaker :

That is the real excuse, the language, but turd in the punch bowl with the right, which is that, insofar as they have any economic proposals, they go very, very soft on them as soon as there's an economic cost to them, and that means that they never actually take them very far. They never actually get to a point where there's major disruption to capital mobility or global trade, and maybe that will change in the future if there's some kind of actual hot war in the Pacific between the United States and China, but as it stands, the right is completely scared of any kind of disruption to trade in the Pacific, despite everything that it says, and it would much rather just continue to sell books and media to do with culture.

C. Derick Varn:

Well, I think this is. I mean, I think that's interesting in so much that you've seen a decoupling of this economic nationalism and this is you see this deeply and then in the national conservative milieu, which is a kind of Europeanization of the American right, and I know people will falter that, but it really does resemble European right a lot more than it does the kind of right wing liberalism of most of the US right wing tradition for most of the time. I mean, you know neo-Confederates and Daniel Bell accepted. We don't have a tradition of red tourism here or anything like that until very recently, and even that you know to call like the. You know the advent of red tourism is basically like two people, one of which is so Rabah-mari, so it's not. I mean, it leads to an interesting politics.

C. Derick Varn:

But if you look at someone on the more populous end of the rights, they're talking points still kind of overlap with libertarianism et cetera, and I think you saw that reflected in the and like the weird coalition that Trump tried to build and may try to build again I don't know if he was reelected that. You know you had neoconservative policy hawks with paleoconservative like deficit-fearers and all kinds of weird people in the Trump coalition and sometimes diametrically opposed people getting. I mean, that's for me. When people try to talk to me about Trumpism, I'm like, well, trumpism and Obamas are. Both are weird in that I can't tell you what they actually are other than people.

Benjamin Studebaker :

You know, and it's one thing for that to happen politically, where you can imagine there's a need for compromise or coalition building or having some people in from lots of different backgrounds, it happens even in the publishing outlets. I mean, marco Rubio wrote for Compact, which just astounds me. I mean, this is the guy who said in 2016 that he was totally for free trade and thought that tariffs against China didn't make any sense, and he writes for Compact and they let him do that. There's no real and they talk about this problem with rhinos or publicans in name only who aren't really for what this is all about.

Benjamin Studebaker :

You have to find a way to get rid of them, but in practice, they're constantly, always being infiltrated by all forms of libertarian free trade stuff. So how are they even supposed to get going in this kind of direction? And if they ever did start to really succeed in it, it's incredibly costly to actually cut or sever trade links in any kind of quick span of time. When Brexit happened in the UK, the Conservative Party was absolutely desperate to get a deal with the European Union that would preserve low tariff trade or tariff free trade, and for the most part, that is what they succeeded in doing. There's more paperwork now if you do business with the EU, but the tariffs are still extremely low.

C. Derick Varn:

This is Brexit to me is an interesting example, because you're right, I think you're right about that. But also, somehow they still managed to turn their economy in the UK and Argentina.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, didn't take that much, Just that paperwork and the way it made everybody feel.

C. Derick Varn:

It's just like, and also what it pointed out was like oh yeah, you don't actually have a productive economy and we just haven't been paying attention for 30 years.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I mean parking a lot of finance in London because it's an English speaking country with access to the European market. And now why not put that money in Dublin? Or perhaps, if you can stomach the German Frankfurt, why not Right?

C. Derick Varn:

I mean it just seems. It just seemed interesting how incredibly I mean, the British economy has been fragile for a long time and Americans haven't really understood it. It was true even before Brexit that, like most of the UK outside of the South, was poorer than Mississippi, but somehow that still was missed. I guess maybe cool Britannia the 1990s like put a haze on us for 20 years or something, I don't know.

Benjamin Studebaker :

But we always only interact with the rich parts of the UK. We never even when you ask an American what's a British accent, that always give you a posh southern accent. Nobody even pays attention to the other parts. Not since the Beatles has there been any real attention paid to any part of the UK outside of London, oxford and Cambridge by Americans.

C. Derick Varn:

That's well. I mean to be fair. I would also say that's a relationship to Europeans, but even more so.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, we were always looking at their metropoles and their capital cities and we're never interested in what goes on in the hinterland or in the rural regions. We have a lack of curiosity about that and it makes our comparisons with European countries very superficial and fast.

C. Derick Varn:

Right when they're always like oh, the Europe is so much more left-wing and I'm like, well, in some ways, yeah, but in other ways absolutely not. Like you know, I spent time in rural Germany and also I'm still wrong. You are wrong, sir. So it's quite funny. I think Brexit in some ways made Americans look at that. But I think your book is interesting because, on one hand, it's a book about the United States, but on the other hand, a lot of these trends are transnational. They're worse in the US, they're more obvious in the US, but they're true everywhere. I started thinking about this even before your book, when people would tell me well, you know, china will execute a millionaire and that means they're more worker-friendly government or something. I'm just like dude. 60 years ago, any capitalist nation would occasionally take out a millionaire. That went too far. I don't know what your issue is. It's not uncommon historically until relatively recently.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, china has become enormously dependent on the export market, and even so far as we talk about things like BRICS, this is looking for alternative places to export Chinese goods in the event that there are barriers that are created between China and the West. It's principally a backup plan in case there's major disruption with trade with Europe, trade with the United States, trade with Australia. It's not any kind of sign of the strength of China as having an alternative economic model for the world that China is looking for other states that can absorb its surplus manufacturing capacity. Any more than you know, when Germany adds states to the European Union so that it can export manufactured goods to those states, it's not doing those states a favor either.

C. Derick Varn:

Well, yeah, I was talking about like. Well, the Belt and Road Initiative is like the Marshall Plan on a grand scale. But if you think the Marshall Plan was up, the kindness of our hearts, you're an idiot. I think this has to be dealt with and you know, if anything, now it seems like one of the things that's changed since you wrote the book to today is that the left has gone back to this traditional way of avoiding domestic politics, which is only focusing on international affairs, which it tends to do when it becomes clear that it's false hope gap that's domestically or impossible. So getting really invested in things you absolutely cannot affect becomes even more of a trend line. And you know, I was thinking about this because I'm like, oh, when's the last time this happened? In the 70s and early 80s, Like we have seen this before, Like in Iraq too, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, I mean I lived through that.

C. Derick Varn:

I guess maybe I blank that out because I lived through it and actually it's interesting to me because it was that left. That left shocked me to the right for about five years, like not to the neoconservative right, to the dissident paleoconservative right, but still it was. It seemed so dysfunctional to me and so like unable to speak to anything that would concern most people, even though I, with them, oppose the war Like it was. It was very alienating and I feel like we're going back into that. I've been looking at recent stats. If anything, the broader political opinion is very much with you in this book in that like, yes, the democratic generic Democrats still pretty popular, but progressives are unpopular, even amongst Democrats.

C. Derick Varn:

Since you've written this book, we've started seeing a lot of the squad make their pivot stage right, talking points about how they didn't even need the justice Democrats, much less the DSA. You're seeing a lot of the kinds of semi delusional strategies just being not jettison because they're being replaced with other delusions, but like the more obvious ones are like well, it's just not like talk about the last eight to nine years, thanks bye. Like you know, there's very much a lot of that on the right and this I've had a little bit harder time understanding. I know there's other freak out about Project 2025, but I point out like that's not just Trump, that's like the Heritage Foundation, and that indicates that they know that their agenda is broadly unpopular and probably unimplementable, because what they're asking is like, basically, total war in the administrative state, in which case I hate to tell you that the administrative state also includes the military. So like that doesn't tend to go well.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, nobody ever wants to factor this in.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Donald Trump has been denounced by former heads of intelligence agencies in the United States.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Publicly, he himself has denounced the FBI and said that the FBI is targeting him and he's supposed to somehow gut the administrative state while explicitly making enemies with all of the spies, the people who are experts at hiding in plain sight, people who are very good at not being spotted, at convincing you that they're on your side when they are not and this is a guy who he couldn't even get your money to build infrastructure when he was president and people think that somehow he's going to overcome all of the spies and install some kind of authoritarian system.

Benjamin Studebaker :

When you pull people and you find that the percentage of people, even who identify as on the right, who support some kind of authoritarianism, is under 30%, and it's well under 20% if you're talking about people who identify as on the left, and this is not a major change, even if you look at the percentage of people who think it would be dangerous to give the president more power 66% of Republicans during the Trump administration held that it would be dangerous to give him more power and 66% of Democrats during the Obama administration thought the same thing.

Benjamin Studebaker :

It was precisely the same percentage. You had a time when Obama was trying to expand executive power with the executive orders, trying out all kinds of stuff, you still had a situation where two thirds of Democrats didn't think that the president should get more power. There's no reason for thinking that there's some power base for authoritarianism within the United States today, but the center constantly invokes concern about this precisely because it's something nobody wants. Nobody wants it and, of course, if you can convince people that it might happen, you can scare them into showing up for Biden.

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, I mean what I find interesting about your book and something that I think leftists who want to truly stand apart from this as to what we'd actually support, I mean, increasingly I am in the political wilderness for saying like we're basically starting at ground zero and also assume that everything you think that you were going to try over the past I don't know 50 years it's not going to work. It's just not. You throw it out. We are like we have to start from almost not new values but entirely different orientations, and that is incredibly unpopular and I think that is a real limitation on the left. But whenever I feel despair about that, I start becoming one of these people just complains about a left on time, you know the leftist who won't shut the hell up about the left I remind myself that I see that across the board in the American political spectrum and when I talk to young people I'm a teacher, I have a lot of access to young people.

C. Derick Varn:

I teach primarily 17, 18 year olds. On one hand, yes, they are incredibly woke in quotation marks, except for like the 10% who really aren't but on the other hand, they're mostly political nihilists who don't believe that anybody has a future. And what I found interesting about that is like, for all that I can slug off on young people, I don't know that, given current assumptions that they're wrong, the only thing I'd say to them is it's not as apocalyptic as you think. Things can decline for very, very long time.

Benjamin Studebaker :

People want apocalypse because apocalypse is deliverance from the present condition. Apocalypse is the last gasp of hope.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, apocalypse is an end to this and people want an end and they can't imagine a positive end, so they go to a negative end. But you have to get beyond thinking that you're going to be delivered from it and I think that the fact that a lot of people at this point and I mean there's young people in the university setting who feel this way, there's also a lot of just regular people who are not very politically engaged, who have come to view politics, I think, as an oppressive thing that just tries to ruin their life all the time, that infects everything that they try to get involved in every on play they try to hide in and pervert and distort it until it no longer can perform the functions in their life that they look to those things to perform. And I think a lot of these people could be interested in something else if somebody could come up with something else. But that does require, I think, really meaningfully breaking with the politics of the last couple centuries.

Benjamin Studebaker :

We've got to come up with something new and distinctive and that doesn't mean some kind of return to something further back, and we actually have to. You know the left's role is to come up with something new. It's for history to culminate in something different. And when you're trying to rerun different historical moments that you feel should have gone a different way but didn't for contingent reasons, and you're trying to get back to those moments so that you can do them over again, you're not really thinking historically. We can't return to any moment in history, not the moments we like, nor the moments we don't like.

C. Derick Varn:

Yes, and I think this is crucial. I mean what you have when these reformists or even revolutionary schemas hit the wall. You have what I like to call you know, find the moment in the past that makes you feel good, or find the other state that you don't understand that makes you feel good, and the better. The less time you've actually spent outside of the United States and understand the internal dynamics and how similar some of these places actually are, the better it is for your delusion. And that the thing is, though, ben, as I'm sure you're finding out, there's a there's a there's tolerance for a certain amount of this leg pessimism, but a lot of people find it really oppressive, and I think there's two figures. For me and this isn't from your book, but something I want you to kind of, maybe use a way to kind of think about this it represent this for me, and that is and one of these people I knew not super well, but you know kind of well and the other one I just argued with on Twitter once, but it's David Graber and Mark Fisher, and both seem to like there's this constant extircation against pessimism or realism, etc. And yet for them also, there was actually a narrowing, and I know people don't see that in Graber because they read his last book but there was this narrowing of horizons constantly from, like you know, in Graber's case, radical, you know anarchism with like non-primitivist tribalism etc. Etc, etc to like. Well, you know, mmp is okay and with, if you read Fisher, you have this movement from capitalist realism to I don't say that I published the vampire castle. I say to you know the politics of joy where you have this increasing like. Well, you know, social democracy has really got a problem to like. Well, you know, if we just had Corbinism, maybe we'll fall joy again. And I mean, you know, and right before he dies, this is what he's saying. And to me this led to like it's kind of totally fractured, since some politics where, like you, are breaking up even yourself in a way that I think is psychologically damaging to maintain optimism while also basically completely giving up on anything you could actually do to change politics and you talk about this does relate to your book it's just kind of like weird thing that we see any and the Western democracies at least, where you hit a wall and then we all go local and then we realize that we're going to get crushed if we only focus on local stuff so we all go national again and we hit the same wall and then we forget that we've done this two or three times before. Right, and your book does talk about that.

C. Derick Varn:

And in the figure of someone like Graeber or someone like Fisher, I actually kind of felt like if you read their trajectory in chronological order, you can kind of see how it gets logically justified by someone who speaks very cogently and from different angles. I mean, graeber is not from a blue color, bright ground, fisher was, but they were both very highly educated. They can like neither one of them could pretend to be working class by the time they died, although Fisher would sometimes try that. It you could see this way, this ideological justification works, and yet I don't see people reading them, for that it's very, it's very interesting, like there's not an attempt to go like let's try to understand these people and where they went wrong it's like what you know? Let's try to understand these people and find for them the hope of which I guess they were trying to find themselves, and at least in one of those cases it seems to have ended very tragically.

Benjamin Studebaker :

Yeah, none of this stuff worked at any point, which is why we are still where we are. So whenever we read anybody's proposed strategy from the past, we have to ask well, if this was such a great strategy, why are we where we are? Why didn't it get taken up? Or why didn't it work when it was taken up? I think, when it it comes to some of these guys, one of the things that, again, nobody really likes to talk about is that there's this separation especially as the humanities become more and more impenetrable to people from working class backgrounds between a kind of rump professional class the set of people who go to college and then are able to get the prestige jobs in media and academia that they wanted when they set off and the people who go to college but then they don't get those things and they want to find some way to feel connected to that world that they weren't ultimately able to settle in. And so they go looking for people who can make them feel like they're still part of it, who can teach them new lingo, who can make them feel like they're still on campus, in a way kind of nostalgic connection with the cultural capital that they have and they want to update and they want to keep current, because that's the thing that differentiates them. For workers who don't go to college, who often make money, that is fairly comparable to what the fallen professionals make. It's not comparable to what the rump professionals make and therefore not to the overall average for people who go to college, but it is comparable to the people who get a degree and then end up in a job that used to not be a job. That acquired a college degree, which is roughly 50% of new grad jobs used to be jobs that you didn't even have to go to college to get.

Benjamin Studebaker :

So I think that one of the effects of this is that we have a lot of rump professionals who are making content for fallen professionals, while saying they're making it for the working class, but of course, it's not being read by people who don't go to college. It's not really for them. There isn't really an effort to reach them or organize them or bring them in. It's really selling to people who have gone to college but who feel like they need to in some way maintain their connection to that scene in that environment, and I'm very sympathetic to people in that situation because it's extremely painful to go to college, get trained in something, aspire to something and then, because of the economic system, be locked out of fulfilling your aspirations, be locked out of following your craft, your passion, the thing you care about, and be chunted into some kind of seemingly regular job that doesn't use your skills, that used to not even require a degree, that doesn't pay enough money for you to make the kind of household or family structure or communal structure that you envisioned for yourself. That's an extremely difficult situation to be in.

Benjamin Studebaker :

So I think people in that situation are very much looking for rump professionals who will tell them how they can meaningfully participate in something larger than themselves, in some kind of political movement that's going somewhere.

Benjamin Studebaker :

But this becomes a psychological game where the rump professional is writing for an audience that is not really the audience you would need to write for if you were interested in building a political movement.

Benjamin Studebaker :

And it's a game where each one is pretending that the common project that they're discussing through these books and through this material is a plausible project is a way of having to avoid the consequences of dealing with the fact that it's not, and I think that's the kind of negative despair, the despair that just results in hiding and in going into something that will protect you from the psychological consequences.

Benjamin Studebaker :

I think we need a more positive kind of despair, a despair that results in creativity or in thinking new. But to think new, you have to be in a situation that is psychologically healthier than the situation that many fallen professionals are in. You need to be in a situation where you have the resources and the comfort that are necessary to come up with new ways of doing things and then to find ways of connecting with people who are working class and bringing them into those projects, and that's something that can't happen in a landscape that is dominated mainly by the psychological distress that these people are feeling, and that psychological distress is not a goal, their fault and has been inflicted upon them by the trajectory of capitalism over the last 50 years.

C. Derick Varn:

Well, yeah, to me this is the irony of PMC and PMC violence. This is my phrase for like the amount of complaining I see from professional managerial types. I don't think they're a class, but I do think they're a real strata aimed at the problems of professional managerial types. And then increasingly you'll hear these people, who were obviously the professional managerial types they're complaining about, speak for the working class, and yet they have no access to them either. It's not like working class people are fucking reading. Virtue hordes grow up Like they're not. It is not because they can't read either. That's not my point. It's just interesting because people in these worlds can forget and there are some of us who are.

C. Derick Varn:

I am oddly both things.

C. Derick Varn:

I am both successful from the working class perspective, and that I work my way up into the professional strata, and unsuccessful and that I was promised something from the professional strata that actually ends up just vaguely replicating, with slightly more time freedom, the lifestyle that my parents had not even really, and so I see both perspectives here.

C. Derick Varn:

But to the kind of people you're talking about, I do think now on the left and ironically from the very people who fit that perspective is a lot of resentment, and they aim it at people who have the same profile as them and that in some ways makes sense. I always talk about how, as a former working class, people are rarely ever progressives, because usually we have survivors by us and so we think that everybody who we come from obviously could have done what we did and they're stupid for not doing it. And it actually does take a whole lot of, in my case, external prompts to be aware enough not to go that psychological route. But I see what you see. I don't see people who, for example, when they took me, how poor they are and I'm like, yeah, but can you go home and live with your parents for a few months or several years? Because working class people can't. There's not room, or, if they do, they're like in a car.

Benjamin Studebaker :

It's not an easy thing for them to do and or your parents are breathing down their necks all the time because they can barely afford it.

C. Derick Varn:

Right and that wealth that was going to be inherited is being used up and maintaining it, current lifestyle. I mean, I do think in some ways we do need some compassion for these fallen professionals and in a different situation, you're right that they would be a useful, you know, even from the working class perspective, it would give people access to skills they would not otherwise have. But we're not organized in a way that lets us utilize that and I think that is very true. I also think there is, you know, barbara Aaron Reich's work for me is both a touch point and something I like to argue with. It's not, you know, it's one of those things in the back of my head, like with Christopher Lash, and I'm the person I'm constantly arguing with in my head, but it's really very informative. But Barbara Aaron Reich's critique of American optimism is interestingly never been applied to left wing optimism. It's always applied to general optimism and sometimes I'm like if we ever want to start winning, we have to give up 99% of what we currently are trying to do and we'd have to rethink what all this means, and I don't see that. I mean, I read your chapter, your chapter six, and we talked about this last time and this will be, you know, wrap up to the show is, you know what if you're wrong, and you know what if you're wrong could be like maybe there is hope somewhere.

C. Derick Varn:

And I keep thinking. Like you know, karl Popper for me is an enemy. He's one of my deepest, most hated philosophical enemies. And yet in that first chapter or not first chapter, your chapter six, when you cite him in the first page, I had to like kind of agree with him that like there's something really irresponsible and vacuous by the adorners and horchheimers of the world who like maintain all the analysis of Marx but like drop any promise of social anything or any belief in the working class or anything like that, that that really does lead you into a cul-de-sac of nothing. So if, like that despair that like hotel grand abyss isn't useful, but I don't think like just be like, oh, we need revolutionary optimism and just believe in the working class can do whatever are are what you know the gray, bright ring grow stuff is.

C. Derick Varn:

If we believed another society was possible, we could make it so. And I just like, well, I mean, maybe if we also did this stuff to do that and not, you know, it's a lot more than just belief, and it's a lot more than just looking at other societies and go, oh, that happened, so we can do it again, without like looking at okay, that happened, why isn't it still around? What was its key faults? What were the contexts that made it possible in the first place? What causes to be outcompeted by other things? And that's the stuff is in the past.

Benjamin Studebaker :

The past was never good. It's never been good. We as human beings have been struggling to build this, you know, tower of blood and bone built on, you know, the labors of the working class, to get somewhere eventually somewhere we hope, you know, maybe. And whatever we come up with, it has to be new, it has to be made to fit this situation. It has to fit the actual conditions that exist today. And that starts with not how is this situation like other situations, but how is it different? What is new and what has potential here and now? And we are, we are not.

Benjamin Studebaker :

We're not doing that when we start looking, you know, like Graber does it ancient populations living in pre-urban contexts. We're not doing that. We're not doing that when we do what the trots do and go and look at the situation in the Soviet Union in 1918. And we're not doing that when we do what the fortists do and look at the situation in the 50s and the European social democracies. These are just different ways of trying to return and they're no different from the reactionary forms of return that everybody makes fun of, you know, of trying to go back to integralism and Catholicism in the Middle Ages. It makes just as little sense to do that with 1950 or 1917 or 1848 or 1789 or pick whichever year you like. Everybody's got a different one these days. So I think it really comes down to a despair that motivates us to come up with something new, rather than a despair that we run away from into some other escapist project. And my question is is it possible for us to have despair in this positive way rather than just in this negative way?

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, I think that that's interestingly, this is something that's been been on my mind for now about a decade, because it's just, I feel like the return to certain kinds of optimism lead to the same sorts of problems, or it leads to, like, idolizing the right. I mean, there's this weird left tendency to both demonize the right but also, like, see it as secretly, like what you actually want to be, because it's way more successful than you, which is a motivating thing, but it's actually not true. I mean, I was thinking about you talk about Malochon a lot in the last chapter of your book, but I was also thinking about Maloney and Orban, who have, you know, pretty reactive politics and, yes, they do push back on certain things in the cultural set guys of the EU, but there's a there's a strong limit to it and that even someone like Orban, who has a much more established base of power than Maloney, does, cannot overcome. And I find it interesting that, basically, the left is like, well, what if they could, though? And then like, oh, what if we could, though? And that's basically the argument, like you know. You know the lexit response to Brexit on the Melanchon anti Europeanism versus the Lapin anti Europeanism, and I'm like. That's some. I mean, it's actually even harder to imagine how Melanchon would do that than the pen, because it's not even in like it would immediately divide as constituency.

C. Derick Varn:

And we saw this with with the kind of mealy mouth answered that Corbin gave to these problems and Brexit, where he wouldn't, you know, really support the remainder, but he wouldn't really not either. So you know, which I do think was a factor in his not just defeat but, let's be honest, decimation. So you know, and I remember, one of the interesting things about that decimation was that that very moment most of my leftist friends were telling me on how on close to the verge of victory we really were. And that's been like a my call sign this entire time, in a way, the kind of what I now call false gleam of the Sanders time period has gone off. Because for me too, just like you know, just like you know you talked about, was like, well, maybe I'm wrong about the American electorate, maybe there's, maybe I'm wrong about American capital, maybe there is a way through this, this kind of piece of reform, to at least start this process. And no, it seems very clear to now, near to me now, that actually, like with Occupy before. It's a sign of something ending, not something beginning, and in that case it was a very brief time in which it was ever viable.

C. Derick Varn:

I think the last thing I get from your book in this call for for like a more positive despair, is the need to really look at what people are doing.

C. Derick Varn:

That creates catch 22s for themselves, because I think you know both of us have talked a lot about this tonight.

C. Derick Varn:

But in general I mean this is something that concerns me as well that there's a lot of just like not being willing to look at something or when someone tells me it worked and they tell me it worked in like 1912. And I'm like in a country that doesn't operate this way anymore. You know it's, it's always a thing that I'm just like in a time period would waste smaller populations and also no drones and no nuclear weapons. I mean I don't know what you're talking about here and you know I do think like your book causes to even think beyond the binary of reform and revolution and not in the obnoxious way that say, like bread and roses caucus in the DSA does I mean like there's a way in which also a lot of these revolutions just assume they assume conditions, that it were unique to a world war and also that did not have to have weapons of mass destruction, but not in the capacity or our small scale control which they exist today, and mass mobilization, infantry armies, dependence on the ordinary person to run across the field.

C. Derick Varn:

And be willing to I mean, in the case of, like the Chinese, be willing to march across a country and like lead babies and mountains to die, which also just does not exist today and like right wingers may pray, act at sometimes, but, as I point out, like even your, your militiamen which are well, I mean, I will admit, are a lot more tough than a lot of the college educated leftists which last about 34 minutes against a cluster bomb drone, if that you know it's, it's not even it's like.

C. Derick Varn:

It is, in some ways, to me, one of the I don't remember if this comes up in your book or not, but one of the one of the movements of like utter delusion and hopelessness and apocalypticism all at once. Was this bizarro talk in 2020 of a civil war and then always realizing that they were defining civil war as like, oh, you mean stochastic terrorism. Yeah, that might happen, but that's not what a civil war is Like. The idea that you're going to have, you know, 1860 style mobilizations without a clear economic base, an elite states to clearly support it go up against nuclear armed drone military. That, to me, is just absurd, like it's absurd. And yet it was continence, not just in the far left, it was continence by the center. In a way that I have like there's no way you guys actually believe this and to me that's like both weirdly, both the false hope and the despair at once and one really clearly.

Benjamin Studebaker :

That's the fear that the enemy's hope is well founded, which is, before you give up on hope, you go to fear that somebody else has real hope. Somebody else that is your enemy has hope and therefore you stay in fear for a while and you vote and you engage in a politics based on what you're afraid of. I think a lot of people are there, a lot of people are past hope, that they're in fear. They have to get through both of those and come to despair. The purpose and function of my book is to hopefully move the reader whether you're in hope or you're in fear to despair, to bring you there, as painful and as unpleasant as that might be, and I try to do it in a way that I hope is a little bit entertaining and a little bit fun, but ultimately the goal is to produce that emotion by the end of the book.

C. Derick Varn:

Yeah, I read it as a long dark night of the political soul, which is a I'm not given the question metaphors much personally, but it is one of these things that I think, like it does preclude growth is when you like, I don't really know anything and everything in the past is probably probably not going to help me and the presence definitely screwed. So let's move forward a different way.

Benjamin Studebaker :

You have to think about capitalism is that it makes new situations all the time. It's constantly disrupting and breaking things and making new situations. So why would any left worthy of the name want to return to contexts that are at prior levels of capitalist development and theorize about what to do in those situations, rather than the one we're in? There's nothing left wing about it.

C. Derick Varn:

That's a good point in on. Thank you, Ben. Where can people find your work?

Benjamin Studebaker :

Well, you can always find me at Benjamin's to do Bakercom. That's where I post about any kind of new writing. I do any magazine pieces, journal articles, any new books. They always come out there at Benjamin's to do Bakercom. New book is the chronic crisis of American democracy. The way is shut.

C. Derick Varn:

And I found the book very productive. So thank you and have a great day.

American Democracy and Challenges of Capital
Inequality and Economic Trends
Challenges Facing Unionization and Left-Wing Strategies
Left-Wing Media Shift and Misrecognition
Cycles of Unrest and Reform
Education, Culture, and Economic Nationalism Issues
Politics
Professional vs. Working Class Challenges
Left-Wing Despair and Revolution Limitations
Benjamin's Writing and Book Updates