Abolish Unintended Government Racism

DELIVERED ON 10/31/20

This is the latest in a series of major policy speeches I have been giving in recent weeks on top of what has been a campaign laden with specific policy proposals for real change.  Under the joint leadership of the Red and Blue teams for as long as anyone can remember, the country is in serious trouble; let’s be honest, existential trouble.

Yet, neither of my opponents has set forth serious proposals for how to change the trajectory of the country towards disaster.  As the underdog candidate with little funding and far less coverage in the media, I will continue to run a policy-oriented campaign right down to the finish line.  I am making up for lost time caused by the Republican Party’s frivolous attempt to keep me off the ballot and the Democratic Governor’s lockdown of the state, making campaigning extremely difficult for the last several months.

Today, I want to talk about the issue of police abuse and the protests and riots that have resulted from several incidents where African-American men and women have died during confrontations with the police.  These issues necessitate a much broader discussion of the history of African-Americans since slavery ended.

It should be no surprise that, as a Libertarian whose world view differs sharply from both major parties, I will have sharply different views of these issues and will of course place much of the blame for these problems on policies proposed and supported by both parties for many years.  So, let’s begin at the beginning.  I quote from Jim Ostrowski’s 2014 book, Progressivism: A Primer:

“African-Americans have had a raw deal at the hands of government throughout American history from slavery through Jim Crow and continuing under failed progressive policies such as the war on drugs.  The remedy, never implemented, was to get the government off their backs and start respecting their natural right to liberty and property.  Progressives took a different route, their favored approach to every problem: activist government. They would help blacks through generous welfare programs, affirmative action, loans and subsidies.  This approach has failed and caused stagnation and decline in the black community.  Few, however, have identified the cause, progressivism.  The search for scapegoats ensued.  Black progress is thwarted not by failed government programs but by white racism.”

That is where we stand, unfortunately.  Here is the problem.  As is true in many other contexts, progressives by their very nature are incapable of accepting the blame for the failure of their ideas and always seek to blame a non-governmental scapegoat.  The problem with scapegoating is that we never grasp the real cause of a problem so that real solutions can be proffered.

Left-progressives have essentially monopolized the field of debate in this area.  They basically blame slavery and racism for the problems in the black community.  That analysis has two huge problems.  They lack a way to turn the clock back, abolish slavery in 1619 and start the world all over again.  As for racism, they have no plan to quickly eliminate such an intractable, long-standing and globally widespread problem.

It’s utopian to think that racism is going to be abolished within the lifetimes of any of us.  Thus, I have shown that the left-progressive approach is an intellectual dead end.  Perhaps that is why their only apparent solution is rioting and looting and beating people up.  What a way to end racism in America!

Let’s get real and let’s talk about facts and history.  Blaming racism and slavery ignores everything the government did to harm black people from the end of slavery, December 18, 1865, to the present.  Here is the harsh truth that has been largely ignored.  Slavery was ended but the slaves were never made free.  Their rights to life, liberty and property were never protected even after slavery ended and this is true even more so today.  This is the enormous elephant in the room that has been totally ignored by the left-progressives.  Thank goodness for third parties since we are not committed to clinging to bad policies lest we lose power.

The freed slaves were never given the rights to life, liberty and property promised by the Declaration of Independence and they were denied the due process promised by the Fifth Amendment and the right to equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment in 1868.  The government’s legal system repeatedly failed them and when they tried to secure arms to protect themselves, the government passed strict gun control laws designed to deprive the freed slaves and their descendants of their natural right to bear arms.  This left them prey to terrorism and murder by the KKK.

Post-Civil War Black Codes and Jim Crow laws plagued the freed slaves in the North and the South.  These laws focused on restricting the economic freedom of freed slaves, forcing them to work for lower wages, restricting their freedom of movement, and arresting them on trumped-up vagrancy charges and forcing them to do convict labor.

The Reconstruction Era was more myth than reality as economist Thomas DiLorenzo has argued.  It produced few tangible benefits for freed slaves and mainly consisted of raising taxes on a poor, war-torn region which revenue went mainly to well-connected white businesses in the form of subsidies and government contracts. Property taxes and tariffs increased.  How this helped blacks is a mystery.  The Department of Agriculture, notoriously hostile to black farmers, expanded its power during this era.

The vaunted Progressive Era was, however, not the friend of blacks.  Several of its key members were racists and several of their policies, most notably, the minimum wage, seemed to be targeted at harming blacks, according to economist William L. Anderson, by taking them out of the job market.  Anderson views the Progressive Era as “an extension of Jim Crow.”  He writes:

“So, where does Progressivism and Jim Crow fit into this picture?… Regulation by government by definition restricts economic output, thus creating economic rents that are distributed, at least in part, on a political basis. Thus, people who are best politically-connected will be at the head of the line and those not connected will be at the back. . . The history of Progressive labor laws, especially those from earlier in the twentieth century, is a history of blatant attempts by powerful white labor unions to legislate black workers out of the workplace altogether. . . . Given that black Americans already labored under infamous Jim Crow laws, it did not take long for the National Recovery Act of 1933 to manifest itself in racist ways. Blacks called the law the “Negro Removal Act,” “Negroes Rarely Allowed,” and “Negroes Robbed Again.” Likewise, the Progressives touted the minimum wage not as a tool to lift black workers out of poverty (as modern Progressives claim will happen), but rather as a device to keep black workers from competing with whites.

Another example involves the taxi industry, which is scrutinized in Walter Williams’s book, The State Against Blacks, in which Williams documents how government policies often force black workers to the back of the line. The taxi industry in New York City has legally-imposed high barriers to entry which effectively shut out blacks who might wish to drive cabs.

The Progressive-inspired Flexner Report of 1910, which recommended the closure of a large number of small medical schools that trained African-American doctors, ultimately resulted in blacks being shut out of many professional jobs in medical care.”

Next comes the Wilson Administration. Wilson did blacks no favors by re-segregating the federal government, starting the war on drugs, getting America involved in the first European World War which caused a permanent increase in the size of government and the taxes that support it.  Wilson helped create the Income Tax and the Federal Reserve that put the income and wealth of African Americans at the mercy of corrupt politicians.

How did blacks fare under progressive hero FDR’s New Deal?  Badly, according to FDR’s biographer Jim Powell:

The flagship of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act, passed in June 1933. It authorized the president to issue executive orders establishing some 700 industrial cartels, which restricted output and forced wages and prices above market levels. The minimum wage regulations made it illegal for employers to hire people who weren’t worth the minimum because they lacked skills. As a result, some 500,000 blacks, particularly in the South, were estimated to have lost their jobs.

Marginal workers, like unskilled blacks, desperately needed an expanding economy to create more jobs. Yet New Deal policies made it harder for employers to hire people. FDR tripled federal taxes between 1933 and 1940. Social Security excise taxes on payrolls discouraged employers from hiring. . . . The Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) aimed to help farmers by cutting farm production and forcing up food prices. Less production meant less work for thousands of poor black sharecroppers. In addition, blacks were among the 100 million consumers forced to pay higher food prices because of the AAA.

The Wagner Act (1935) harmed blacks by making labor union monopolies legal. Economists Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson explained: “By encouraging unionization, the Wagner Act raised the number of insiders (those with jobs) who had the incentive and ability to exclude outsiders (those without jobs). If FDR’s New Deal policies weren’t conceived with racist intent, they certainly had racist consequences.”

Now, let’s look at the post-war period, and amazingly, in spite of slavery and horrendous deprivation of liberty and justice for 80 years after slavery, blacks a few generations after slavery, had made remarkable gains and had kept their families together.  Blacks left the depressed economies of the South and started the great migration to the North for better jobs.  A black middle class had started to form, wages increased, and poverty was declining.

Here, we get to the crux of the matter.  Blacks had overcome slavery and an amazing list of obstacles the government put in their way after slavery ended. They had made steady progress and the black family was largely intact.  Then, the Great Society came along and politicians made a long list of promises that progressive big government programs would bring blacks to the promised land.  However, the promises were lies, the policies failed, riots ensued, the cites burned and then never recovered as you can see behind me on a block that was a thriving business district a few years before the LBJ took office.[1]

Economist Murray Rothbard summed up the results of spending trillions of dollars on anti-poverty programs:

“The plight of the inner cities is clearly worse than ever: more welfare, more crime, more dysfunction, more fatherless families, fewer kids being ‘educated’ in any sense, more despair and degradation….”

Now, it’s 55 years later and the black community is understandably frustrated at the failure of progressive policies to raise up their community as promised.  Yet, progressives can never admit that their ideology failed and they seek scapegoats and make excuses.  They have fastened on slavery and racism.  But we have already seen that blacks were never freed from the tyranny of big government after slavery and faced continuous obstacles in each era after slavery.

Racism is a pseudo-explanation and another scapegoat for the real problem.  Blacks were never freed after slavery but continued to suffer a quasi-slave status.  Even under such tyranny and the overt racism of yesteryear, blacks made significant progress through hard work, grit and determination.  How it is that they suddenly stagnated from the mid-sixties to the present even though overt racism by most accounts has declined?  Because racism is not the problem, progressive big government is the problem and liberty is the solution.

Blacks and whites and Asians and Hispanics and all other groups have the same big problem when they wake up each morning: an all-powerful big government that takes over half of their income and tells them what they can do with the other half.

Both major parties favor the big government that has plagued black and white Americans, particularly since the Progressive Era.  The solution is liberty and local control.  Blacks have not fared well under a system of government controlled by strangers in distant capitals.  True, government overall must be made much smaller, but the levers of power must also be moved closer to the people.  This is the libertarian approach I will pursue in Congress if elected.

Everyone talks about police abuse, but few have viable solutions.  My own solution is very practical.  Reduce hostile police encounters with minorities in three ways: end the war on drugs; end the war on guns and stop using traffic stops not for safety but for raising revenue.  Stop using cops as portable tax collectors.

Let me see if I can start to sum up and forgive me if I have left out some details.  When is the last time you heard a politician sum up 400 years of American history in fifteen minutes?

The problem of the black community is not white supremacy, it’s government supremacy.  After slavery, the government never got off the backs of the freed slaves and their descendants.  Indeed, with each passing generation, additional government policies kept putting more and more roadblocks in the path of black people—Jim Crow, black codes, the racist policies of the Progressive Era, the discriminatory policies and huge taxes of the New Deal, the union and wage policies explicitly designed to hurt blacks in the job market; the war on drugs, which disproportionately hurt blacks systematically shut out of the economy and often leaving the drug trade as their best option; the war on guns, explicitly designed to prevent blacks from protecting themselves from racist terrorist groups and from the government itself; the Great Society, which did what slavery failed to do, break up the black family—“Only 16 percent of black families are married couples with children”[2]; LBJ’s Vietnam War, which hit blacks hard as they could not finagle their way around the draft, killing thousands and leaving tens of thousands addicted to heroin and doomed to a hopeless life when they returned to America; government schools, often explicitly created or operated on racist grounds to disadvantage black kids but forcing blacks to pay for them anyway.  Is there anything American government hasn’t done to harm the black community?

Through it all, the black community persisted, persevered and made real, tangible progress against all odds, however, the Great Society was a gut punch that was devastating to the black community, on top of what progressive big government had previously wrought, and the black community has been reeling and in distress for 55 years now.  Is anyone surprised they are frustrated and angry?

However, left-progressives have obscured and hidden and lied about the actual causes of distress in the black community and thus, there is hardly any recognition of the true nature of the problem.  It is NOT slavery and it is NOT white supremacy.  It IS big government supremacy over black people, starting immediately after slavery ended and continuing, increasing and intensifying to this very day.

Let’s talk about solutions.  The left-progressives in the streets and universities have none because they are the problem.  Blaming slave owners who are long dead and racism which will be with us for a long time, are dead ends, not answers.  Yet, the solutions are right before our eyes.  Identifying the problem provides the solutions.

Black liberty matters.  We need to recognize and enforce the right of blacks to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We need to cut their taxes drastically, abolish employment restrictions and other barriers to entry into the marketplace; enact school choice, end the drug war and the gun war and allow blacks to arm themselves for self-defense and the defense of their communities.

We need to allow black communities to run their own affairs, and not be under the thumb of counties, states and the federal government.  Here is where the black nationalists such as Malcolm X and Thomas Jefferson come together as politics makes strange bedfellows.  Each believed in local control of government as no other system can possibly work.

Let’s start to dismantle the various government bureaucracies that have served blacks poorly and yes, let’s use privatization as a form of reparations for progressivism by, for example, by deeding public housing units to their current owners!  And let’s do privatization right, not like the Russians who allowed government assets to be stolen by oligarchs.  This privatization must put tangible assets into the hands of individual citizens, not connected businessmen.

The left is right about one thing, blacks do lack the capital resources and net worth of white people in large part because of the ill effects of progressive big government since slavery ended.  Many white families were able to build up great wealth that could be passed on before the era of the progressive income tax.

My proposal would start to allow black families to build up the capital required to start new businesses and to begin to chip away at the problem of inter-generational poverty that results in generation after generation being stuck on welfare.  I have previously urged that social security recipients be allowed to opt out for a lump sum payment.  That would achieve the same end, allowing black families to build up inherited wealth.

I previously announced a program that would allow young workers to opt out of the payroll tax, Social Security and Medicare and immediately get a raise of 14% on their take home pay.  What a boost that would be for young black workers so they can start to build up their own savings and prepare for their futures.

To sum up, all Americans have the same adversary, the big government that prevents all of us from achieving that age-old dream of humanity, to know when you wake up in the morning, the day belongs to you, not to your rulers; that you own your own life, liberty and property and no one can stand in the way of you achieving your dreams.

The freed slaves were never actually freed. They were never given the natural right to liberty that is the promise of America.  In fact, things got worse and worse as time went on and government tyranny increased.  The protests and riots are the result of that problem that was never addressed and frankly, not even well understood as left-progressives have monopolized the debate to cover up their own sins.

The problem is not white supremacy but government supremacy over black people in America.

If elected, I will do everything I can to finally allow black Americans to breathe free, prosper economically and run their own neighborhoods and communities.  I invite all Americans to work with the Libertarian Party to achieve this long overdue goal, and finally fulfill the promise made by the 13th Amendment in 1865 but never fulfilled.

Let me close by quoting James Weldon Johnson’s famous poem and song:

Lift every voice and sing

Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty!

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[1] Detailing the myriad failures of the Great Society would take hours, but see Amity Shlaes, Great Society: A New History (2019) and Jason Riley, Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make it Harder for Blacks to Succeed (2014) in which the author talks about the impact of the Great Society in Buffalo.

[2] Jason Riley, supra.