Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration

Note: This is the pre-publication version of my dissertation[1] from November 20, 2015.


A dissertation presented to the faculty of Saybrook University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Science


David Benfell

Oakland, California

November 2015

Approval of the Dissertation


This dissertation by David Benfell has been approved by the committee members below, who recommend it be accepted by the faculty of Saybrook University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy in Human Science

Dissertation Committee:

_________________________________ ___________________

Robert McAndrews, Ph.D. Chair Date

_________________________________ ___________________

JoAnn McAllister, Ph.D. Date

_________________________________ ___________________

Marc Pilisuk, Ph.D. Date



David Benfell

Saybrook University

While many may view conservatism as monolithic, this dissertation describes a taxonomy of seven tendencies in conservative thought in the United States: 1) traditionalist conservatism, 2) social conservatism, 3) capitalist libertarianism, 4) authoritarian populism, 5) functionalist conservatism, 6) neoconservatism, and 7) paleoconservatism. This dissertation then employs discourse-historical analysis to uncover the diversity of conservative thought among these tendencies in the example of undocumented migration. It supports distinctions between most of these tendencies. However, George Nash described social conservatives and traditionalist conservatives as allies on most issues; this dissertation finds members of each of these tendencies divided on the issue of undocumented migration between those who emphasize compassion over law and those who emphasize law over compassion. This dissertation also fails to support a distinction between authoritarian populism and paleoconservatism as members of both tendencies subscribe to an “us” versus “them” view toward undocumented migrants. Finally, it observes a profound difference in epistemology between most conservatives and many others: Conservatives appear resistant to forms of evidence that others consider essential.
Continue reading “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration”

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features

In “Federalist no. 10,” a continuation of Alexander Hamilton’s “Federalist no. 9,”[1] James Madison laid out several reasons for opposing a true democracy in favor of a republic:
Continue reading “The species we must become: On direct democracy, or why its alleged bugs are features”

  1. [1]Kelly Kyuzawa with Robert Brammer, eds., “The Federalist Papers,” Congress, May 3, 2016,

The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is

Somehow, it’d been longer than I thought since Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic. I think when I first heard about the article, I was furious about the Left lumping me, along with all white males, in with wealthy white males as “privileged,” following Donald Trump’s election in 2016, despite my having been systematically excluded from the job market for, now, over eighteen years.[1] (The article was actually published in June 2014, while I was still working toward my Ph.D.) Continue reading “The trouble with reparations isn’t what you think it is”

  1. [1]Even with my Ph.D., it appears driving for Lyft is my sole career option.

Slavery, rape, and abortion bans

What does slavery do? It forcibly takes a person and puts them to work for rich people’s purposes with no compensation. They are deprived of their autonomy.

What does rape do? It forcibly takes a person’s body for their assailants’ purposes with no compensation. During the attack, the victim is deprived of her or his autonomy.
Continue reading “Slavery, rape, and abortion bans”

The public square of the Internet

I remember seeing this argument during the dot-com boom:

From a capitalist libertarian and legalistic perspective, it makes perfect sense. Continue reading “The public square of the Internet”

Reality intervenes, but we never challenge the thinking

Were I in the habit of stating general laws, one I might declare is that to deny humanity, to dehumanize, will somehow, some way, create an existential problem somewhere down the road.

In neoliberalism, we reduce humans to economic units of production. Our value is measured in how much profit we generate for privileged classes. It doesn’t matter how “good” I am. What matters is my “efficiency,” that is, how much profit I produce relative to how much expense I incur for the rich. Note that how we attribute that efficiency is arbitrary: A chief executive officer (CEO) rationalizes her or his compensation by claiming credit for a lion’s share of productivity even as workers do the actual work.
Continue reading “Reality intervenes, but we never challenge the thinking”

Calls for impeachment are the latest displays of the naturalistic fallacy and system justification

When one confuses what should be with what is, they commit the naturalistic fallacy. And so it is with calls for impeachment reverberating through my Twitter feed.

In essence, the argument is still Will Bunch’s, that horrible things may well happen, but impeachment is the “right thing.”[1] This is supplemented by assertions that impeachment is the constitutional remedy for executive branch stonewalling of congressional investigations[2] and speculation that as investigations proceed, support for impeachment will increase or, at least, that opposition might decrease.[3] Continue reading “Calls for impeachment are the latest displays of the naturalistic fallacy and system justification”

  1. [1]Will Bunch, “Trump’s diabolical plan to blow up democracy, get reelected and avoid jail just might work,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2019,
  2. [2]Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman, “How would you explain the Democratic investigations to a Washington outsider?” Politico, May 15, 2019,
  3. [3]Becky Palmer, [microblog post], May 18, 2019,

Family values and children as commodities

I’m finding this weird:

First, Jennifer Gunter’s distinction between 1) bearing, and 2) raising a child is valid and I will leave that there.

My problem arises when Katie Williamson says, “I’d love to love your baby! Just gimme it!” This suggests that a baby, even while still a zygote, is a commodity. One substitutes for another. “Just gimme it!”
Continue reading “Family values and children as commodities”

Why Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment

It should be a no-brainer: Impeachment is dead on arrival at the Senate. There is no reason to believe that Republicans in the Senate are willing to entertain any evidence or arguments Democrats have to offer.

Which means that impeachment of Donald Trump, no matter how desirable, is grandstanding and nothing more.

Becky Palmer invokes the specter of the Watergate hearings, which were indeed sensational, did indeed lead to Richard Nixon’s downfall. Continue reading “Why Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment”