Problems in the Black Community

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There are
a number of social issues which are of great concern to many black
people. Many of us see a number of issues which plague blacks to
a more noticeable extent than other minorities and whites. There
is substantial poverty among blacks. There are serious problems
with crime, and single parenthood is a problem which contributes
to the first two. I will attempt to address some of the ones which
I find both pressing and telling. We hear many people talking about
these issues, describing the problems and recommending solutions.
Many times, however, I feel that people miss the underlying causes
of these problems, and the rather obvious solutions which make themselves
apparent once these causes are discerned.

Government
welfare has helped cause more black suffering that just about any
other government policy in the past 50 years. I feel that the cultural
adaptations blacks made to accommodate slavery made welfare especially
devastating. Black men used to be sold up the river. This was a
process in which the patriarch of a family would be sold from one
plantation to another, breaking up families. Many slave owners had
as much respect for the integrity of a black family as a cattle
rancher would for the integrity of a bovine family. Single motherhood
had always, therefore, been more socially acceptable among blacks.
This was an absolute necessity, obviously, and not some indication
of some mass failure of black people’s character. After the end
of that wretched practice, many women didn’t remarry, as they had
no way to tell if their husband was dead or not. This is one reason
black women have always had such an obvious role in black economic
development. Many black women have always had to work.

People tend
to do for themselves, their families, and their communities. This
is because, generally, no one else will do it. Women, since they
bear the biological burden of child birth and subsequent rearing,
have always had a direct incentive to control their sexual urges
in a way that men have not. In most places throughout human history,
mating with an irresponsible man who would not or could not provide
for a woman and any children would result in hardship or death;
either by starvation of woman, child, or both; or infanticide. This
harsh reproductive reality is one of the reasons behind the common
misconception by some men that women are greedy and materialistic.
When starvation is a potential result of a poorly planned marriage,
being able to see physical evidence of the ability to provide, be
it through jewelry, gifts, or other somewhat ostentatious displays
of wealth, is not only understandable, it is proper. Even with the
economic independence of women, those values have become a cultural
norm.

Prior to the
development of easily accessible, inexpensive contraceptives, most
cultures heavily discouraged promiscuity. For one thing, there was
heavy social pressure upon a man to "do the honorable thing"
and marry a woman should he impregnate her. This pressure was often
not coercive (though the term "shotgun wedding" didn't
just appear out of thin air). Ostracism can have powerful effects
on people. In this way, freedom, not government, reinforced religious
morality. What of the effect of welfare? The automatic safety net
provided by welfare meant that women no longer had to be as concerned
with the material repercussions of promiscuity. It also meant that
men no longer had to experience the shame of having their own flesh
and blood begging in the streets or starving to death (and the corresponding
worldly costs of becoming a pariah in their own communities). Combine
that with the aforementioned acceptance of single motherhood, and
you have what is essentially the unmaking of the black family. The
black family, well on its way to healing itself following the enormity
of government-supported slavery, was sabotaged by government. Once
again, government is the promoter of immorality. Government is the
entity which takes private vices such as greed, racism, promiscuity,
and irresponsibility, and turns them into public scourges.
One of the things which Murray Rothbard discusses is the virtue
of the market. This is a fact which is often missed in arguments
against big government, but in my mind, it is perhaps the most important.
A true free market naturally encourages many of what are normally
thought of as virtuous behaviors and government actively discourages
them.

Another terrible
government program has been the war on drugs. The solution to the
drug problem in black communities could be implemented I feel, through
two mechanisms: repeal of the drug laws, and private property. Now,
a lot of what I’m about to point out has already been said, and
better, by Murray Rothbard in For
a New Liberty
, but not everyone has read it (or
listened to it
). "Pro-black" books have
been very popular among black people for years. These books vary
in quality, but I find it striking that Murray Rothbard wrote things
in that book which are, in effect, extremely "pro-black."
They are pro-white, pro-Asian, and pro-insert-ethnicity-here as
well. They are pro-human. One of the things he discusses is private
ownership of streets and roads. Ownership of streets and roads would
do more to solve the problem of street crime than just about anything
else. Drug dealing usually heavily involves the streets. Dealers
perform transactions on the streets, crack fiends hang out on the
streets. What if the streets were privatized? How many of you would
allow a drug dealer to make sales in your living room? How about
allow crack heads to hang out in the kitchen? Then why would you
allow them to do the same on your street? Well, the problem
is that the streets are not owned by those who live along them.
They are owned by government, and government is usually an absentee
landlord. The famous cases of the Nation of Islam chasing drug dealers
out of neighborhoods are simply examples of them treating the streets
as private property. While they are brave enough to aggressively
approach drug dealers without weapons, few others would be, and,
even if the citizens hired security, that security wouldn’t be able
to be armed as they would on private property, at least in a free
society (though many inner cities, through gun control laws, are
anything but that when it comes to self-defense). They also would
not have the right to remove people who are just hanging on the
streets, since they would have no authority to simply tell someone
to leave. The streets are accessible to anyone, whether or not that
person has been invited. This is not the case with private property.

By privatizing
the streets, the most appropriate solutions to benefit people are
far more likely to be found. Since the government owns them now,
I suggest simply turning them over the people who live along them.
After that, the owners can decide what to do with the street. Perhaps
the residents of a neighborhood would form a company to handle security
and upkeep. Perhaps corporations would purchase the street from
them and charge fees for upkeep and security. Perhaps charities
would purchase them. We can't know that in advance any more than
we can know in advance which television program will be the new
hit next year. But, we know that the market will find something
that people will want to buy. Easements would be a necessary part
of such street purchases, obviously; as no one could lawfully deny
a homeowner (or renter) access to property they have a lawful right
to access and have historically had such access. Acceptable uses
of even private property do not occur in a vacuum, and contracts
and courts have always recognized that fact. Concerns such as this
need not be a deterrent to privatizing the streets.

The effects
of the lack of private property and the obvious increase in street
crimes actually cause the drug problems to get worse. As a result
of both the profits made from the drug trade, profits which are
only possible due to its illegality, and the lowered property values
caused by the crime associated with it in various neighborhoods,
dealers often buy a house which they then use as a base of operations
for the distribution of drugs. Such a house is called a “trap."
After a short time of selling, before law enforcement can infiltrate
and arrest everyone, the house is usually abandoned. The junkies
still hang around it, and some of them take up residence. This is
no way to improve a neighborhood. Now, I have known several drug
dealers. I am of an age and am from a social circle which makes
it difficult to avoid knowing drug dealers. The drug dealers I know
are not sociopaths. They are actually rather smart, and surprisingly
responsible. They followed the money. Most of them don’t even make
most of their money from people hanging out on the streets. They
sell to regular, everyday people. And they make a good living selling
to the dancers at strip clubs. Drug laws routinely lock these people
up, sometimes for the rest of their lives for engaging in what are
voluntary transactions. As a result, the most violent drug dealers,
the ones willing to kill to keep people quiet and to intimidate
others, are becoming more common. The war on drugs often locks up
the most ambitious of people, engaged in nonviolent activity. I’ve
often found that, in many neighborhoods, drug dealers are the men
who are most likely to actually care for their own children. Taking
them out makes some of the effects of welfare that much worse.

Political
parties all try to offer solutions to these problems. They fail
not so much because they are bad people, or unintelligent, but because
they are using the wrong tool for the job. In as much as I have
been able to tell, government is only good at two things, taking
money and killing people. These two things are mutually supportive.
When it comes to actual productive human labor, which provides real
human benefit, trade, along with genuine human compassion, has been
far more effective than any government program. It is clear to me
that neither political party has much to offer the bulk of black
people. They support policies which bring power to themselves, usually
with few of the intended results, and many unintended ones. Most
of the black people I talk to about politics don’t really believe
either major party can solve problems in the black community. They
think Democrats are well meaning, but have no real clue, nor sufficient
power, to actually help out those who need help, and they believe
that too many Republicans are closet racists and can’t be trusted
with power over black people. The truth is that no one can be trusted
with the power of government. The right to violate persons and property
is always a problem, no matter who is in power. We all act in our
own self-interests, and there is no magic switch which causes government
officials to do any differently.

For
me, one of the most troubling aspects of government is how government
is always the exception. How many moral codes permit stealing? Yet
government taxes are somehow different. How many moral codes permit
the killing of children? Yet, government wars are somehow different.
How many moral codes permit someone to storm a person’s house in
the middle of the night for something they are doing in the privacy
of their own homes? Yet government is somehow different. It is always
the exception. I often wonder how many ostensibly religious people
aren't simply idol worshipers in the most literal sense, considering
how many exceptions they allow government. If there are exceptions
that you are willing to allow for in the case for freedom here and
there, what exceptions will be allowed in the future? In the history
of freedom in this country, blacks have often been "the exception"
and many are very suspicious that somehow, blacks will be the exceptions
again. This is a powerful argument in favor of libertarianism in
its purest form. Eliminate the exceptions to freedom.

August
8, 2006

Robert
A. Wicks [send him mail]
is Unix administrator in Atlanta.

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