- Historic Sites
The End Of Racism?
February/March 1996 | Volume 47, Issue 1
So you didn’t have an essentially entrepreneurial black culture.
I take a cautiously optimistic view about culture. There are some people, like Thomas Sowell, author of Race and Culture , who argue that culture is the product of the distilled experience of generations, if not centuries. The Germans are mechanistic today because the ancient Teutons were that way. That’s not my view. I see around the world many cultures, especially the Asian cultures, that were hierarchical, feudal, and militaristic and have undergone within a single generation a tremendous transformation. Culture changes. We’re seeing it under our eyes. We’re seeing it all over the world.
If you take away the things that have spurred the growth of the black middle class over a generation, what do you really end up with? Don’t you end up increasing pain and suffering in black America, rather than planting the seeds of a new entrepreneurial renaissance?
If I knew of a way to achieve an economic renaissance without creating any discomfort or pain in the short term, I would support it. But I don’t know how you get middle-class people who are habituated to earning fiftytwo thousand dollars a year sitting in the Department of Education doing nothing to go out and open a store. There is no way to do it. We have government reliance that extends from the middle class to poor blacks. Poor blacks are dependent on the government for welfare, for government provisions. And middle-class blacks are dependent for government jobs. You have dependency throughout the black community. The government is just simply not going to be a long-term provider in a society with a free and limited government, particularly when the mood is one of pruning, cutting, and scaling back.
Other groups, like the Irish, have used government as their way of getting from poverty to truly established middle class. Some groups go the entrepreneurial route; others don’t. What’s the big difference?
I agree with the scholars on the left who argue that American blacks are not replicating the immigrant experience. The new immigrants are doing what immigrants have always done, leapfrogging over blacks. American blacks are being left behind. You can begin to change something if you recognize a problem. The real problem is that you have a black leadership and a black intellectual class, even some black conservatives, that refuse to admit that there is a cultural problem and who continue to blame all black problems on society. As long as you have this intellectual and moral evasion, the project of civilization restoration cannot even begin.
To put it more to the point, do you think that black America would be better off if everybody in it moved down a notch? You refer somewhere in the book to the natural hierarchy of groups. Do you think that that would be more in accord with the natural hierarchy of groups?
I don’t think that there is a natural hierarchy of groups. We have a hierarchy of groups because of differences in culture. Asians do better than Hispanics not because Asians are repressing Hispanics but because Asians work harder, save more, and have a set of cultural orientations more conducive to success today. Once that’s granted, then the argument becomes: Do you want to live in a society in which we have, as we now have, affirmativeaction subsidies built into the fabric of American life? That’s option number one, to continue to live in a racialized society. Option number two is to limit affirmative action to blacks. That would be an improvement, in my view, over option number one. It would recognize the unique situation of black America. It would acknowledge a historical debt that America doesn’t have to immigrants from Paraguay and Bombay. And it would preserve many of the gains that have been made over the last couple of decades. However, it’s not viable in the long term.
Let’s look at a separate problem, which is the situation in the ghettos, where there is catastrophic violence and family breakdowns. What would you do about that?
I think what we have to do is three things. The first is security. People say there are no businesses in the inner cities, and the poor pay more, and so on. Well, one reason the poor pay more is the high cost of crime and insurance against crime. The first duty of government is to provide security for its citizens. So, for me, the first order of business would be to devote enormous resources to shutting down the criminal elements in the ghetto. That would require an enormous investment of resources, but it can be done. That’s the first step.
You are, then, willing to call for government action that would cost lots of money, if it would solve these problems?
But you were just saying government can have no role.
I’m not a libertarian. I would like to see the government play a limited but constructive role in helping strengthen cultural and civilizational forces in our society. I’m not against the government’s doing limited but prudent things to make people’s lives easier.
What are the other two things after security?