In his book In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government, one of Charles Murray’s arguments for the policies he advocates is that they watch the correct “dependent variables:”
When the way we add up results is combined with the difficulties of operationalizing hard-to-reify constructs, the nature of what I call “the dependent variable problem” becomes clear. If the dependent variables in social policy have been properly defined, measured, and aggregated, we will eventually make progress even if we make mistakes with our policies—because mistakes will be recognized. If in contrast we have misconstrued the dependent variables, no degree of skill in implementing policies or of precision in calibrating results will prevent us from making disastrous mistakes, because mistakes will not register as mistakes on our measuring devices.
The paragraph above is worded in a fashion that requires careful reading. Murray is talking about focusing on the relevant results of social policies and the programs they inspire. Oftentimes, such policies are defended from critical attention by interest groups that benefit directly from them whether or not they achieve their nominal results. Under pressure from such an interest group, governments have a natural tendency:
- To defend the intent of their actions and operations;
- To appease the interest group with an increase in inputs to the program, especially funding;
- To deflect attention from the program’s failure to deliver the social and economic consequences the program’s advocates promised would flow from the program.
That dynamic is as old as representative government – and as destructive as any force that operates in political economy. When and where it dominates, it results in mistakes going uncorrected, and their negative consequences usually increasing in magnitude. Not coincidentally, it also results in an increase of government power and predation.
When an erroneous policy and its programs persist for sufficiently long, the consequences can rise to stand over the governments that made them. This occurs when the “interest groups” that promote the mistaken policy become so large and so militant that politicians and bureaucrats fear to oppose them in any degree. From point forward, the policy and its programs become institutionalized despite the contrary desires of anyone, whether inside the government or outside it.
Keep that pattern in mind as I warm up my time machine.
The first Negro slaves arrived in North America long before the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Slavery was an established and accepted practice virtually everywhere on Earth at that time. The great men who crafted the founding documents of the United States of America largely recognized the moral horror of it – yet they refrained from abolishing it in the new nation. Some felt they could not endanger the Revolution, or the eventual acceptance of the Constitution, by acting too swiftly to expunge it. Even so, anti-slavery sentiment was sufficiently strong in 1787 that the states where slavery was practiced accepted the provisions made for the curbing and gradual abolition of slavery twenty years after the Constitution’s ratification:
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. [Article I, Section 9, first clause]
While the approach might not be to the taste of contemporary moralists, nevertheless it probably struck the Founders as the best they could do. They feared to take any more definite action against the “peculiar institution:”
All summer this question was to be agitated; in the end it would be settled by a bargain which, with a kind of brutal expediency, turned on the slavery issue. . The Northern states agreed that Congress should not pass any navigation law by a mere majority, but must have a two-thirds vote of each house; agreed also that the import tax on slaves would not exceed ten dollars a head; that slaves would be counted, for purposes of representation and taxes, in the proportion of five slaves to three free white inhabitants – the “federal ratio.” In return, the Southern states conceded that the importation of slaves would cease in the year 1808.
Hamilton said that without the federal ratio “no union could possibly have been formed.” It was true, and true also that the Constitution could not have gone through without the slavery compromise. The question before the Convention was not, Shall slavery be abolished? It was, rather, Who shall have power to control it – the states or the national government? As the Constitution now stood, Congress could control the traffic in slaves exactly as it controlled all other trade and commerce.
Yet always when the question came up, members spoke out bluntly and with feeling upon the basic moral issue. Roger Sherman said he looked upon the slave trade as “iniquitous,” but he did not think himself bound to make opposition. Gouverneur Morris declared slavery to be a “nefarious institution, the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed.” Travel through the whole continent! declaimed Morris angrily. Compare the free regions, their “rich and noble cultivation…with the misery and poverty which overspreads the barren wastes of Virginia, Maryland, and the other states having slaves….The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite offspring of aristocracy!”
[Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle At Philadelphia]
And so, rather than accept a Union without the slave states, the Founders arrived at a Constitution that permitted the continuation of slavery but sought to limit it by the importation clause and the hoped-for eventual triumph of what was already majority sentiment.
Like it or not – and many do not – the Civil War did bring an end to slavery, among other things. On December 6, 1865, when Georgia ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, the word slavery, previously to be found nowhere in the Constitution, at last acquired a place in it:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
And so thousands of previously enslaved persons, the great majority of them Negroes descended from previous generations of slaves, were freed by Constitutional amendment. But problems due to the presence of those Negroes would persist. For at that time, while sentiment was nearly unanimous that slavery was morally unacceptable and that its abolition was mandatory, sentiment was almost as strong that Negroes were not the equals of white Americans. Throughout the 36 states of the Union at that time, local and state lawmakers tolerated at best, actively proposed and supported at worst, practices that disadvantaged the freedmen socially, economically, and politically. While “Jim Crow” laws and ordinances were most openly supported and enforced in the previously-slave states, few parts of the country went untouched by the conviction that Negro and white could not live side by side, much less engage in the same occupations, attend the same schools or churches, conduct equitable commerce with one another, or – gasp! – intermarry. Segregation of the races, de facto where not de jure, was the virtually everywhere in America.
Even a century downstream, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the majority attitude among whites was that the Negro was not substantively the white man’s equal. Though it was expressed sotto voce when it was expressed at all, it was real and common nevertheless.
The original focus of civil-rights action was desegregation: the removal of restrictions on the American Negro’s access to public institutions and “public accommodations.” This was soon displaced by integration: a government-supervised attempt to intermingle the races whether they liked it or not. The original manifestation of this new action was in the schools: the forcible destruction of the Plessy v. Ferguson regime by the deliberate busing of Negro children to attend previously all-white public schools. It subsequently took aim at zoning and other practices deemed “exclusionary.” However, the integrationists had no intention of stopping there…and they didn’t.
Soon after Brown v. Board of Education, the integrationists tackled “employment discrimination:” i.e., the statistical under-representation of Negroes among the employees of white-owned and operated businesses. The “Great Society” years brought us the phrase “Equal Opportunity,” which became the marching slogan of racial-equality activists of the latter Twentieth Century. That the phrase is incapable of being interpreted objectively with regard to differences in educational attainments, aptitudes, learned skills, and prior work experience would not be permitted to slow the progress of the activists. From “integration” they proceeded apace to demanding affirmative action: i.e., a conscious, systematic effort to alter the statistical balances of the races within American workforces, both in macrocosm and microcosm. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was born and given broad power to impose its will on American employers.
The Johnson years saw the birth of militant black activism. Figures such as Martin Luther King were quickly succeeded by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Malcolm X. Black “leaders” abandoned peaceful tactics for threats and outright violence. Riots in Detroit, Watts, and less well known places added emphasis to the new racial thrust. The Black Panthers began to command national attention. According to his spokesmen, the American Negro is owed.
White Americans responded, on the whole, sympathetically. The marchers and activists largely got what they wanted. Yet with each concession and each new program, the demands escalated still further. No end could be envisioned to America’s efforts toward “racial equality.”
There were some curious consequences. Despite the “a hand up, not a hand-out” philosophy under which federal welfare policy was enacted, the fraction of the American Negro population that required governmental welfare continued to increase. Black marriage rates dropped precipitously and black illegitimacy rates shot skyward. Interracial tensions worsened, especially in those districts where a predominantly white population had altered its ordinances to accommodate access by blacks. Crime, especially drug-related crime, ran rampant in heavily black districts. And the annual income of the black racial spokesman, whatever his current demands, steadily increased.
We would soon hear about the transcendent values of “diversity and inclusion” and “cultural relativism.”
Fast forward to this Year of Our Lord 2021. Our major cities are in shambles, ruined by continuous looting, rioting, and other expressions of black disaffection from American norms. Every social, religious, cultural, and commercial institution is under pressure to defer to the black-racialist gospel. The black racialists have demanded that blacks not be prosecuted for the crimes they commit. Large militant black organizations have mounted outright offensives against American society – most especially white European-derived American society, with its notions about individuals’ rights and the proper sphere of government. White Americans have become ever more uneasy about any nearby manifestation of racial activism.
Need I mention the fantastic surge in the purchase of guns and ammunition?
There has never been as much tension or suspicion between white and black as exists in America today. The mistakes of our forebears, no doubt all of them made with the best of intentions, are on the verge of destroying the greatest nation in all of human history.
I’d like to say that we weren’t watching the right variables. I can’t. We saw what was happening quite plainly. We chose to ignore it. We couldn’t make it square with our pre-formed convictions about “racial equality.” Neither could we imagine how our manifestly sincere attempts to “help” the American Negro to an equal position with whites in American society and the American economy could evoke so much hostility from its intended beneficiaries.
“But which of the things you cited above were mistakes?” you may ask. Virtually all of them, Gentle Reader. When a course of action is adopted in the name of “equality,” even if it’s utterly noncoercive, it is guaranteed to eventuate in catastrophe. The reason is simple:
Equality is a myth:
The races are not equal.
The sexes are not equal.
No two creeds are equal.
No two cultures are equal.
No two individuals are equal.
And the best intentioned of men cannot change it.
Outlining the party’s manifesto in what was [British black activist Sasha Johnson] first interview with a national publication, she called for a national register of alleged racists that would ban them from living near people from ethnic minorities.
This would include people guilty of ‘micro-aggressions’, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as ‘indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalised group’.
‘It’s similar to the sex offenders register,’ she told MailOnline. ‘If you were to be racially abusive to someone, [the register] would question whether someone is fit enough to hold a particular job where their bias could influence another person’s life.
‘A lot of racism happens at work and places of education in a micro-aggressive way. If you exhibit an element of bias at work, you should probably receive a warning first [before later being added to the register] so people know in future that you hold these views.’
Ms Johnson said inclusion on the list would mean you could be excluded from ‘certain fields’ of employment – or even banned from living near people from ethnic minorities.
‘If you live in a majority-coloured neighbourhood you shouldn’t reside there because you’re a risk to those people – just like if a sex offender lived next to a school he would be a risk to those children,’ she said.
Segregation, exclusion, deliberate political and economic disadvantaging…but this time, of whites. Don’t imagine that such notions are rare among blacks, Gentle Reader. Remember, they’ve been told they’re owed — and they intend to collect from you and me.
Have a nice day.