It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist.

Apparently, migrant children are being underfed and denied mattresses, heat, and basic sanitation, and not just at a facility in Clint, Texas:[1] Read more

  1. [1]Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019,

Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration

Note: This is a pre-publication version of my dissertation[1] from November 20, 2015. Following its publication, I compiled errata and updates which are available here. In addition, my thinking on the seven tendencies of conservatism I identify here has progressed; see here. You may also download the final PDF.


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.
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  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

See update for March 23, 2021, at end of post.

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:
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  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.) Read more

  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.
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The public square of the Internet

See updates through May 5, 2021, at end of post.

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

From a capitalist libertarian and legalistic perspective, it makes perfect sense. Read more

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.
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