Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Race’

Although I play basketball (poorly), I’m not a fan of the NBA. As such, I don’t pretend to have much interest in the Donald Sterling controversy.

Some people have wondered whether his rights to free speech are being infringed, but I disagree. He obviously has the right to say whatever he wants, even if he makes himself look like an idiot.

But the National Basketball Association is an organization that has certain rules, and it presumably has the right – by virtue of the contract among team owners – to impose disciplinary measures.

In other words, Sterling has free speech, but that doesn’t mean he is free from consequences if he says something dumb. Just as I have free speech at the Cato Institute, but also would suffer consequences if I said something offensive about a particular group (or, for that matter, if I started supporting tax hikes, bigger government, and statism).

And that’s a good thing. As a libertarian, I don’t want the government policing speech, but there’s nothing wrong with private sector penalties on racists.

And that’s the topic of today’s column. The free market is a powerful and under-appreciated tool for punishing racism and rewarding color-blind behavior.

Here’s some of what Walter Williams wrote on the topic for the Washington Examiner. wew2010He starts by pointing out that Sterling certainly wasn’t racist when making decisions about what basketball players to employ.

Though Sterling might be a racist, there’s an important “so what?” Does he act in ways commonly attributed to racists? Let’s look at his employment policy. This season, Sterling paid his top three players salaries totaling over $46 million. His 20-person roster payroll totaled over $73 million. Here are a couple of questions for you: What race are the players whom racist Sterling paid the highest salaries? What race dominated the 20-man roster? The fact of business is that Sterling’s highest-paid players are black, and 85 percent of Clippers players are black.

Walter draws the obvious conclusions, and he cites the path-breaking research of the late Gary Becker on the economics of discrimination.

How does one explain this? …Let’s use a bit of simple economics… First, professional basketball is featured by considerable market competition. …There’s open competition in joining both high-school and college teams. You just sign up for tryouts in high school and get noticed by college scouts. Then there’s considerable competition among the NBA teams in the acquisition of the best college players. Minorities and less preferred people always do better when there are open markets instead of regulated markets. Recently deceased Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker pointed this phenomenon out some years ago in his path-breaking study “The Economics of Discrimination.” Many people think that it takes government to eliminate racial discrimination, but economic theory predicts the opposite. Market competition imposes inescapable profit penalties on for-profit enterprises when they make employment decisions on any basis other than worker productivity.

In other words, the free market pushes people to make decisions on the basis of ability rather than race.

The takeaway from the Sterling affair is that we should mount not a moral crusade but an economic liberty crusade. In other words, eliminate union restrictions, wage controls, occupational and business licensure, and other anti-free market restrictions. Make opportunity depend on one’s productivity.

And as you can imagine, Walter speaks with authority on these issues. And he’s right that the free market is a weapon against racism.

By contrast, when government gets involved with race issues, you often get nonsensical results, such as EEOC penalties against companies trying to weed out criminals, or legal harassment of financial institutions for trying to make sensible loans.

Read Full Post »

America desperately needs genuine entitlement reform to avoid a Greek-style fiscal future.

The biggest problems are the health entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, but Social Security also has a huge long-run fiscal shortfall.

That’s why I’m a big fan of the very successful reforms in places such as Chile and Australia, where personal accounts are producing big benefits for workers. These systems also boost national economies since they generate higher savings rather than added unfunded liabilities.

And I’m very happy that we now have more than 30 nations with personal accounts, even tiny little jurisdictions such as the Faroe Islands.

But many statists object to reform, presumably because they don’t want workers to become capitalists. They apparently prefer to make people dependent on government.

Not all leftists take that narrow and cramped approach, however. Some academics at Boston College, for instance, produced some research showing some big benefits from Australia’s private Social Security system.

And new we have some remarkable admissions about how minorities are net losers from Social Security in a study from the left-leaning Urban Institute.

We use historical and projected data from 1970 to 2040 to measure the ratio of old age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) benefits received to taxes paid by members of each race or ethnicity each year. This measure captures the transfers that occur in a given year from current workers to current beneficiaries of each group. We then examine benefit-tax ratios for each race or ethnicity into the future to determine how these redistributions will play out in the coming years. Our conclusion: When considered across many decades—historically, currently, and in the near future—Social Security redistributes from Hispanics, blacks, and other people of color to whites.

Why does the program have this perverse form of redistribution?

On average, blacks are more likely to be low income and short lived and are less likely to marry than whites. …Given this, one would expect forced annuitization and auxiliary benefits related to marriage and divorce to redistribute from blacks to whites.

And that’s exactly what the research found.

…whites have clearly received a disproportionate share of benefits relative to the taxes that they pay in at a point in time. Their benefit-to-tax ratio has been higher than that of blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups for as long as the system has existed, while projections continue that trend at least for decades to come.

Here’s a chart from the study showing how different races have fared in terms of taxes paid and benefits received.

Social Security by Race - Urban Institute

In other words, if folks on the left really cared about minorities, they would be among the biggest advocates of genuine reform.

By the way, it’s also worth noting that Social Security is a bad deal for everyone. The Urban Institute study simply investigates who loses the most.

And the system is getting worse for every new generation.

Recent studies have also documented how different generations are treated within Social Security, with succeeding generations achieving successively lower “returns” on their contributions.

This helps explain why the evidence shows personal retirement accounts are superior – even for folks who would have retired at the peak of the recent financial crisis.

Here’s my video on why we should replace the bankrupt tax-and-transfer Social Security system with personal retirement accounts.

P.S. You can enjoy some Social Security cartoons herehere, and here. And we also have a Social Security joke, though it’s not overly funny when you realize it’s a depiction of reality.

P.P.S. Thanks to Social Security, I made a $16 trillion mistake in a TV debate. Fortunately, it didn’t really change the outcome since I was understating the fiscal shortfall of the current system.

Read Full Post »

As part of my question-of-the-week series, a reader sent me a story and asked if I could identify why putting the Puerto Rican flag on a beer can – as part of a celebration of New York City’s Puerto Rican Day – was politically incorrect.

I may not be the best judge of such matters, largely because I’m often oblivious to popular culture. It was only about five years ago, for instance, that I learned “oriental” was now inappropriate. And even though I’m not sure why that term is supposed to be bad, I switched to “Asian.”

But even with my self-confessed naiveté on such matters, I have no idea how to react to the following story.

As you can see from this Foxnews.com excerpt, a beer company is being attacked, but I don’t understand what it’s done wrong.

Coors PC

I have no clue why the Puerto Rican flag is offensive

Public officials and Puerto Rican groups had expressed outrage after the company used an image of the island’s flag on a specially-made Coors Light beer can made on occasion of New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. MillerCoors is the main sponsor of the parade, which is on Sunday. …MillerCoors sent a letter to “Boricuas for a Positive Image,” a group that planned protests against the company over the beer can, and said it was pulling the product from distribution. “We apologize if the graphics on our promotional packaging inadvertently offended you or any other members of the Puerto Rican community,” wrote Nehl Horton, chief public affairs and communications director for MillerCoors, to one of the group’s organizers. “MillerCoors has a strong history of supporting the U.S. Latino community…” …The National Institute for Latino Policy said the beer company wasn’t the only one at fault. The group also said blame must be placed on the parade’s board of directors. New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito told the New York Daily News that the company’s decision to pull the product was a “victory.” But the Puerto Rican politician said she wasn’t entirely satisfied.  “I feel strongly at this time that the Board of Directors should resign and make room for new leadership for future parades,” Viverito said in a statement.

So why is this a victory for the Latino community? Is the Puerto Rican flag somehow offensive? And, if so, shouldn’t Puerto Rican politicians change it?

Or is it only offensive if an “Anglo” company uses it on merchandise? But the beer company was sponsoring (i.e., financing) the event, so their intentions obviously were completely benign. Surely that’s not a cause for protests?!?

Or is it that the Puerto Rican community doesn’t want to be identified with beer? That seems implausible. I can see why Mormons, Muslims, or Southern Baptists wouldn’t want their imagery on a beer can, but  Latinos? Or Catholics? I’ve already admitted my lack of knowledge about popular culture, but I assume even I would know if Puerto Ricans were anti-beer.

I realize that a Google search could probably help me determine why some people are upset about the flag, but the fact that such a step would be necessary suggests that political correctness may have gone too far. As a general rule, I think it’s good manners and common courtesy to respect the preferences of other groups, but if you can’t figure out why they’re upset without doing a bunch of research, it seems that we’ve reached the point where people should chill out.

P.S. For examples of the wrong kind of political correctness, click here.

Read Full Post »

Earlier this month, as part of my ongoing series comparing bone-headed bureaucracy in both the United States and United Kingdom, I wrote a post about a moronic green-energy subsidy program in the U.K. that was so convoluted that nobody in the entire country signed up for it.

Only government could be so bloody incompetent that it can’t even do a good job of giving away subsidies and handouts.

Since I’m a big believer if fairness (properly defined), I normally take turns in this series, first featuring an example of government stupidity in the U.K., followed by an example of foolish bureaucracy in the U.S., and so on and so on.

But I have to break the pattern. Check out these excerpts from a story about English bureaucrats deciding that a foster family no longer could take of kids because they support the United Kingdom Independence Party, which doesn’t believe in unlimited immigration.

The husband and wife, who have been fostering for nearly seven years, said they were made to feel like criminals when a social worker told them that their views on immigration made them unsuitable carers. …Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, described the actions of Rotherham borough council as “a bloody outrage” and “political prejudice of the very worst kind”. …The couple, who do not want to be named to avoid identifying the children they have fostered, are in their late 50s and live in a neat detached house in a village in South Yorkshire. The husband was a Royal Navy reservist for more than 30 years and works with disabled people, while his wife is a qualified nursery nurse. Former Labour voters, they have been approved foster parents for nearly seven years and have looked after about a dozen different children, one of them in a placement lasting four years. They took on the three children — a baby girl, a boy and an older girl, who were all from an ethnic minority and a troubled family background — in September in an emergency placement. They believe that the youngsters thrived in their care. The couple were described as “exemplary” foster parents: the baby put on weight and the older girl even began calling them “mum and dad”. However, just under eight weeks into the placement, they received a visit out of the blue from the children’s social worker at the Labour-run council and an official from their fostering agency. They were told that the local safeguarding children team had received an anonymous tip-off that they were members of Ukip. The wife recalled: “I was dumbfounded. Then my question to both of them was, ‘What has Ukip got to do with having the children removed?’ “Then one of them said, ‘Well, Ukip have got racist policies’. The implication was that we were racist. [The social worker] said Ukip does not like European people and wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries. “I’m sat there and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is going off here?’ because I wouldn’t have joined Ukip if they thought that. I’ve got mixed race in my family. I said, ‘I am absolutely offended that you could come in my house and accuse me of being a member of a racist party’.”

What a disgusting mix of ideological bias and political correctness.

I agree that government officials shouldn’t place children in homes where there’s racism. So if the bureaucrats discovered that a household had people from the English equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan or the New Black Panther Party, then it’s understandable and appropriate that they don’t get to take care of foster children.

But I’ve met many people from UKIP and I keep close track of what’s happening in the English political world. From everything that I can tell, UKIP is a mainstream political party that seems most concerned about the loss of sovereignty to the European Union.

Are there some racists in UKIP? I’m sure that some exist, just as there racists in the Labour Party, Conservative Party, and Liberal Democratic Party. And, for what it’s worth, there are some racist Republicans and some racist Democrats. Like other collectivist impulses, racism is probably an inherent flaw in the human species.

But I’m digressing. The purpose of this post is to express disgust at bureaucrats in England who decided that belonging to UKIP automatically meant a foster family was racist. Even worse, these bureaucrats then took three children from this family, which means they put political correctness and ideological bias ahead of the best interests of the kids.

Let’s hope that those children aren’t now stuck in an orphanage or some other sub-standard form of institutionalized care.

P.S. If you want to be entertained and to learn more about UKIP, I’ve posted some remarkable videos of their MEPs as they speak at the European Parliament.

Farage is the head of UKIP, and he completely skewers the head bureaucrats of the European Commission in this speech.

His most famous speeches specifically eviscerated the “damp dishrag” of the European Commission.

Here’s Nigel Farage mocking European bailouts.

And since you know my favorite issue is tax competition, you’ll understand why I like these two short speeches by UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom.

Read Full Post »

Even though it’s important – particularly in a world with slippery politicians – to define words and terms accurately, I haven’t focused on this issue.

Indeed, a quick search through my archives shows that the only glossary I’ve ever published was this humorous list of financial terms.

And the only dictionary I’ve ever published was this clever example of Republican-to-English humor by a leftist.

Fortunately, Thomas Sowell is taking this issue seriously and he has two columns addressing how certain words are distorted to advance a statist agenda.

Here’s some of what he writes in Part I. He starts with the elastic definition of “racism.”

“Racism” is another term we can expect to hear a lot this election year, especially if the public opinion polls are going against President Barack Obama. Former big-time TV journalist Sam Donaldson and current fledgling CNN host Don Lemon have already proclaimed racism to be the reason for criticisms of Obama, and we can expect more and more other talking heads to say the same thing as the election campaign goes on. The word “racism” is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything — and demanding evidence makes you a “racist.”

I also like his assessment of “compassion” and “greed.”

In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be “greedy,” while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show “compassion.”

But my favorite from Part I is “hungry.”

A political term that had me baffled for a long time was “the hungry.” Since we all get hungry, it was not obvious to me how you single out some particular segment of the population to refer to as “the hungry.” Eventually, over the years, it finally dawned on me what the distinction was. People who make no provision to feed themselves, but expect others to provide food for them, are those whom politicians and the media refer to as “the hungry.” Those who meet this definition may have money for alcohol, drugs or even various electronic devices. And many of them are overweight. But, if they look to voluntary donations, or money taken from the taxpayers, to provide them with something to eat, then they are “the hungry.” I can remember a time, long ago, when I was hungry in the old-fashioned sense. I was a young fellow out of work, couldn’t find work, fell behind in my room rent — and, when I finally found a job, I had to walk miles to get there, because I couldn’t afford both subway fare and food. But this was back in those “earlier and simpler times” we hear about. I was so naive that I thought it was up to me to go find a job, and to save some money when I did. Even though I knew that Joe DiMaggio was making $100,000 a year — a staggering sum in the money of that time — it never occurred to me that it was up to him to see that I got fed.

Now let’s shift to Part II of Sowell’s glossary, which focuses on the meaning of “access.”

Politicians seem to be forever coming to the rescue of people who have been denied “access” to credit, college or whatever. But what does that mean, concretely? …To take a personal example, Michael Jordan became a basketball star — and a very rich man. I did neither. Was that because I was denied “access” to professional basketball? Anyone who saw me as a teenager trying to play basketball could tell you that I was lucky to hit the back board, much less the basket.

Sowell explains why this debate matters.

When statistics showed that blacks were turned down for conventional mortgage loans at twice the rate of whites, that was the clincher for those saying that “access” was the problem and that racial discrimination was the reason. Since this fit the existing preconceptions in many quarters, what more could you want? Other statistics, however, showed that whites were turned down for conventional mortgage loans at nearly double the rate for Asian Americans. By the very same reasoning, that would suggest that whites were being racially discriminated against by banks that were mostly run by whites. …Statistics on the average credit ratings of people in different racial groups likewise seldom saw the light of day. The average credit ratings of whites were higher than the average credit ratings of blacks, and the average credit ratings of Asian Americans were higher than the average credit ratings of whites. But to lay all these facts before the public and say, “We report, you decide” might well result in the public’s deciding that banks and other financial institutions prefer lending to individuals who were more likely to pay them back.

Fans of Professor Sowell can read more of his work here, here, here, here, hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere, and here. And you can see him in action here. A truly gifted public intellectual and (thankfully) a prolific writer.

Read Full Post »

Elizabeth Warren is a left-wing hack running for the United States Senate in Massachusetts. For a while, her only claim to fame was that she got statists all excited when she asserted that rich people only became wealthy because of government.

Professor Russ Roberts of George Mason University demolished that silly claim, pointing out that the vast majority of federal government spending is not for genuine public goods that help a market economy function.

And who can forget the hilarious parody showing what Warren’s redistributionist philosophy would mean if applied to attractive women.

But now Ms. Warren has become infamous for a different reason. It seems that she lied about having American Indian heritage in order to gain preferential status for teaching positions at law schools. This has generated new displays of humor, including this wicked video (featuring a cameo appearance by Anthony Weiner!).

This video was made by some Republicans, so they obviously have a partisan agenda, but there’s a very good point about Warren exploiting indigenous people for personal gain.

Indeed, there was something vaguely familiar about this entire kerfuffle. And then it hit me. Elizabeth Warren is the 21st Century version of “Soul Man”!

As you can see from this movie trailer, “Soul Man” was a 1986 film about a white kid who pretends to be black to gain a scholarship to Harvard Law School.

I don’t want to spoil the film, but I will say that the kid learns a very important lesson and gives up his scholarship to a real black person. Sadly, Elizabeth Warren does not have the same moral character. So in this 2012 version of the film, “Soul Woman” has dug in her heels (moccasins?) and is refusing to behave honorably and resign her position and apologize.

I suppose there’s a lesson in this story about racial preferences, particularly the way they have corrupted higher education.

But that’s secondary. This is an issue of individual integrity. If we assume that Harvard Law School wanted to hire a minority to satisfy the diversity crowd, then Elizabeth Warren did take a job that otherwise would have gone to someone else. The same is true about her previous teaching positions.

Hollywood, at least in the 1980s, knew that was wrong and made a movie mocking that kind of scam.

Read Full Post »

Welcome, Instapundit readers. This school choice video shows the best way of dealing with the problems described in this post (though, as Walter Williams explains, that’s only part of the answer).

=======================================================

If you care about helping the less fortunate succeed, I’m commenting today on a Thomas Sowell column that will make you sad and angry. It is a story about how powerless and disadvantaged people are being hurt to advance the political interests of some elitists.

Here is the clever way he starts the column. I particularly like the reference to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, which reminds me of this cartoon.

There have been many frauds of historic proportions — for example, the financial pyramid scheme for which Charles Ponzi was sent to prison in the 1920s, and for which Franklin D. Roosevelt was praised in the 1930s, when he called it Social Security. In our own times, Bernie Madoff’s hoax has made headlines. But the biggest hoax of the past two generations is still going strong — namely, the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups.

Then he gets to the meat of his topic.

The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the “promise” of “equity.” Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics. If black males get punished more often than Asian American females, does that mean that it is somebody else’s fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about “equity.”

Professor Sowell contemplates the motive for this Obama Administration initiative.

What is the purpose or effect of this whole exercise by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice? To help black students or to secure the black vote in an election year by seeming to be coming to the rescue of blacks from white oppression? Among the many serious problems of ghetto schools is the legal difficulty of getting rid of disruptive hoodlums, a mere handful of whom can be enough to destroy the education of a far larger number of other black students — and with it destroy their chances for a better life.

Sowell elaborates further, pulling no punches.

Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder want to play the race card in an election year, at the expense of the education of black students. Make no mistake about it, the black students who go to school to get an education are the main victims of the classroom disrupters whom Duncan and Holder are trying to protect. What they are more fundamentally trying to protect are the black votes which are essential for Democrats. For that, blacks must be constantly depicted as under siege from whites, so that Democrats can be seen as their rescuers. Promoting paranoia translates into votes. It is a very cynical political game, despite all the lofty rhetoric used to disguise it. Whether the current generation of black students get a decent education is infinitely more important than whether the current generation of Democratic politicians hang on to their jobs.

Very powerful stuff. And it should be disturbing as well.

I’ve already commented on the implicit racism in the minimum wage law and the reprehensible decision by leftists to put the interests of teacher unions ahead of the interests of black students.

Now we can add something else to the list.

If you like Professor Sowell’s insights, I’ve highlighted more of his work here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And you can see him in action here. A truly gifted public intellectual and a (thankfully) prolific writer.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,464 other followers

%d bloggers like this: