Islands of Socialism: The State’s Economic War Against Blacks

Donald Trump makes an essential point when he visits black churches and predominantly black inner-city neighborhoods and tells the people there that they “have nothing to lose” by supporting the abandonment of almost a century of statism run amok in their communities.  While Republicans share some of the blame for this, it has primarily been the Democratic Party’s urban political machines that have sabotaged millions of black lives (and many others) with socialistic central planning scheme after central planning scheme for generations.  America’s inner cities are islands of socialism that have proven time and again that Americans are no better at socialism than the Russians were.  Let’s briefly review some of their evil and destructive work over the past half century.

First, the federal government literally bulldozed hundreds of decent, working-class neighborhoods in the inner cities during the 1960s that were filled with modest private homes and apartments, small businesses, playgrounds, parks, and peaceful citizens and replaced them with “public housing” in the name of “urban renewal” (See Martin Anderson’s book, The Federal Bulldozer).  Socialized housing predictably turned into dilapidated slums because of the complete absence of property rights in housing.  Unlike private rental housing where tenants can be held responsible for any damages they cause to the property, government housing tenants were (and are) let off the hook by the state.  Unlike private housing, where improvements that increase a property’s value benefit the property owner, there is no incentive to spend one’s own time and money on improving government housing projects.   America’s government housing projects are almost identical in appearance to what one would have seen in the former Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Europe during the twentieth century.

As F.A. Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty, socialists are always, first and foremost, at war with the idea of individual responsibility.  For if you are not responsible for your actions, someone else – preferably the state – should be, say the socialists.  This wicked, communistic ideology transformed law enforcement in America during the 1950s and ‘60s when the legal profession, academics, left-wing journalists, and the government judiciary invented endless excuses for criminals.  Crime was no longer caused by criminal behavior and criminals, they said, but by “society” at large with its racism, lack of concern for the poor, etc.  It is unfair to punish criminals, they said, for “society” made them do it.  Society should therefore pay for the crime with bigger welfare checks, subsidized education for the criminals, etc.  This was translated into lighter and lighter penalties for almost all crimes, including rape and murder, with the inevitable result of skyrocketing crime rates.  (Thomas Sowell tells the story of a rape epidemic at a California university in his book, The Vision of the Anointed. The local police chief discovered that the rapists were convicted rapists who were let out of prison and given free room, board, and tuition at that university, and housed in co-ed dorms there, under the theory that, since “society” was responsible for their criminal behavior, society should pay for their crimes by giving them a free college education instead of prison sentences.  Criminals are “society’s victims,” they said.).

Around the same time the nanny state in the early 1970s escalated its “war on drugs” which immediately became an additional cause of increased violent crime, as it does to this day.  Nothing at all was learned from the state’s earlier experiment with drug prohibition – alcohol prohibition during the 1920s and early ‘30s.   The war on drugs has had an extremely racially-biased effect in that tens of thousands of young black people, mostly young men, have been incarcerated, most of them for the victimless crime of consuming illicit drugs.  Thousands of others have died in Al Capone-style drug gang wars that only differ from the real Al Capone gangs by being many orders of magnitude larger and more violent since there is so much more money at stake.

The “great society” welfare state has destroyed millions of families and, like the state’s war on drugs, has been disproportionately damaging to the black family.  Some 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock today according to internet surveys, and the white family is catching up fast.  Out-of-wedlock births have increased by more than 400% since 1960.  The main reason for this is that welfare checks eliminated the stigma that once stopped many men from abandoning their children.  (See Charles Murray, Losing Ground).

Everyone knows heroic single mothers and grandmothers who have done a great job of raising good children but the fact remains that, in general, children who are raised without a father are several times more likely to get involved in crime, have behavioral problems, or bring children into the world themselves without a father around to help care for them.  The cycle then repeats itself.

Welfare checks have so destroyed the work ethic of such a large portion of the low-income population that scholarly books have been written about how in cities like Chicago, there are vast areas where generations of young men have never had a male role model around who got up and went to work every day.   This has affected all races but again, the state has treated the black population like so many Indians on one of its Indian “reservations” and has focused its attention on it.

Black politicians and bureaucrats in the inner cities profit very handsomely from operating the socialistic, unionized, government school monopolies, where top school administrators are paid several hundred thousand dollars a year (as they are in Baltimore, for instance) to oversee fraudulent schools that teach next to nothing, are riddled with crime and criminals, and have ruined the lifelong economic prospects of millions of black children.  There are exceptions, but whenever they are given a choice between helping poor black children get a better education with charter schools, school choice, or any other alternative and keeping their cushy, high-paying jobs courtesy of the teachers’ unions and school administrators’ unions, they choose to stiff the children.  White government school administrators are no better, with some exceptions.

The minimum-wage law was originally supported by racist politicians who were in the pockets of union bosses in the 1930s who wanted to price low-skilled and poorly-educated black workers out of jobs when they began competing with unionized workers.  A black sharecropper out of work who was willing to work for a little less than a white union factory worker was priced out of a job by the minimum wage law, which has always had a racial effect.  The black teenage unemployment rate, for instance, has been about double the white teenage unemployment rate for decades.

On top of that, hundreds of the state’s occupational licensing laws, on everything from cab driving to hair cutting, are designed to erect barriers to entry into myriad professions by requiring thousands of dollars in licensing fees and/or years of mostly phony “education.”  For some thirty years the pro-bono Institute for Justice has sued state and local governments for depriving mostly lower-income Americans of their economic liberties with protectionist occupational licensing laws.  These, too, have been a major roadblock to black employment opportunities.  One of the early Institute for Justice cases, for example, was in defense of a black married couple in Washington, D.C. who ran an African hair-braiding business.  The city government ordered them to shut down, pay thousands of dollars in tuition to a cosmetology school, and spend over two years getting a cosmetology license even though they did not cut hair or treat it with any chemicals.  (The Institute for Justice won the case).

Thanks to a half century of urban socialism there are millions of black children in America’s inner cities who have never had a fully-employed male role model around; receive a fraudulent education; live in dangerous, drug-gang-controlled government housing projects; are priced out of entry-level jobs as teenagers because of the minimum-wage law; and as they get older are shut out of many mundane occupations like taxi driving by occupational licensing laws. Don’t worry, say the Hillary Clintons and Bernie Sanders of the world, “we will give you a welfare check and force racial employment quotas on businesses.”

All of this statism requires a very heavy tax burden, so that it is not uncommon for property tax rates in many cities to be two or three times higher (or more) than in the distant suburbs.  The inevitable result is that the more productive people and businesses flee to escape confiscatory tax rates for which they get next to nothing in return in the form of government “services.”  Those who can, vote with their feet.  Those who cannot – the poor – are stuck on the “reservation.”  This in turn leads the statist city politicians to raise tax rates even more, making their city even more economically unviable and uncompetitive.

Hundreds of black ministers and other community leaders support Donald Trump because they understand all of this – indeed, they have lived it.  They and Trump are on the same wavelength in that they know that what their people need is freedom – freedom from government, from socialist urban political machines, from greedy teachers’ unions, high taxes, suffocating regulations, labor market protectionism, rotten socialist school bureaucracies, and the politicization of life in general.  This is why the black urban political class, a lynchpin of the Democratic Party machine that enriches itself by keeping its “constituents” forever dependent on the state reservation, is so hysterical, hateful, and vitriolic in its opposition to Trump.