Archive for ‘Thomas Sowell’

May 13, 2009

Is Rush racist?

Every conservative discovers, sooner or later, that to criticize liberal ideas is to be adjudged guilty of some “-ism” or diagnosed with a “phobia.” Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of race.

Steve Benen has one of those “a-ha!” moments with a segment of a recent Rush Limbaugh monologue:

“The [economic] deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps. But in the Oval Office of the White House none of this is a problem. This is the objective. The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation’s wealth and return to it to the nation’s quote, ‘rightful owners.’ Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on.”

RAAAAACISM! (Remember, bloggers, there are five A’s in “RAAAAACISM!” Some of you have been slacking off and trying to get by with four.) Benen pronounces Limbaugh’s suggestion “nauseating,” but as always, we must ask the question, “Is Rush right?”

Would any honest “progressive” deny that the aims of their redistributionist economic program — to tax the evil “rich” for the benefit of the sainted “poor,” in Robin Hood fashion — are motivated by notions of “social justice”?

Is it not a fundamental tenet of this “social justice” ideology that the wealthy gain their riches by the exploitation and oppression of the poor? And is it not furthermore true that, vis-a-vis the racial aspect of “social justice,” progressives believe that black people have been especially victimized by capitalist greed?

From such a chain of premises, it follows that a policy that purposefully hinders the private free-market economy and expands government entitlement programs — the “Cloward-Piven Strategy,” as it has been called — is to some degree intended by the authors of the policy as “forced reparations,” just like Rush says.

In other words, is Limbaugh being denounced as a racist merely for describing this policy accurately?

In The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell describes how liberals employ “mascots” and “targets” to advance their policy aims. By positioning themselves as defenders of “mascots,” liberals set a rhetorical trap whereby any attack on their policies is denounced as an attack on the (allegedly) victimized and downtrodden people whom those policies are supposed to benefit. Ergo, anyone who criticizes the cost of Medicare is accused of wishing to deprive the elderly of health care, and anyone who criticizes affirmative action is accused of hating women and minorities.

The problem, of course, is that this prevents rational discussion of policy. Limbaugh would surely argue that black people would benefit more from a flourishing private-sector economy — which offers them jobs — than they would benefit from an expanding program of entitlements, which offers them only government handouts.

Furthermore, we have seen that the “Cloward-Pivens Strategy” brings disastrous results for the poor people its architects claim to care so much about. Go read Fred Siegel’s The Future Once Happened Here if you want to see how this kind of liberal policy has devastated America’s great cities and brought misery to the urban poor.

If liberal policy is demonstrably bad for black people — as Limbaugh, Sowell and Siegel would argue — then in what sense is it “racist” to oppose liberalism? In fact, given the clearly evident socio-economic disaster inflicted on the black community by decades of liberal policy, is it not liberals themselves who ought to be attempting to defend themselves against such accusations?

The real problem with modern liberalism is the concept of “social justice.” As Friedrich Hayek explained, “social justice” is a mirage, a will-o’-th’-wisp that, however enthusiastically pursued, can never be achieved. And “social justice” harms those it aims to help, in part because it destroys the only legal and economic system — free-market capitalism — wherein the downtrodden have ever been able to improve their fortunes to any great degree.

The great irony of all this is that, even if you favor government aid to the poor — or perhaps, especially if you favor such aid — the health of the free-market economy should be paramount in your considerations.

After all, government can’t conjure money out of thin air. Ultimately, government can only spend on aid to the poor what it takes from the private economy in taxes. So if liberals pursue policies that harm the private economy, they’re killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. (Anybody tried applying for food stamps, health care or student loans in Zimbabwe lately?)

So the accusation of “racism” against Rush Limbaugh is transparently false, its entire rhetorical basis being the liberal conceit that only mala fides (bad faith) can motivate opposition to liberalism.

Advertisements
April 10, 2009

Rush Limbaugh on Friedrich Hayek

Weird concidences keep happening. Via Greg Ransom, here’s Rush Limbaugh from Thursday:

RUSH: We have a junior from the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Vols. This is Jordan on the phone. Hi, Jordan. It’s great to have you here. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Rush. It’s an honor to speak with you.
RUSH: Thank you very much, sir.
CALLER: I just have a quick question. I am in a macroeconomics class. My minor is economics, and my professor drones on and on and on about the supply-side economics and how it does not work. And constantly in my test and even an essay, we had to talk about why supply-side economics does not work and why it’s not fair to the poor and why it increases income inequality. I just want to know the truth, I guess. I’m just tired of this. . . .

OK, “supply side” is one particular understanding of economic policy — the Laffer Curve and all that — a catch-phrase that became popular in the 1980s, and we can discuss that elsewhere. But after some back and forth on the history of the Reagan adminstration, look what Rush says:

RUSH: They never had to work a day in their lives. They just get up. But that’s wonderful because they talk about the things your professor talks about, but you don’t see Ted Kennedy or any other liberal walking neighborhoods giving money away — unless he’s taken it from somebody else first. I implore you, Jordan, my man, to investigate independently the economist Friedrich Von Hayek (H-a-y-e-k) from the University of Chicago. He’s long dead. I urge you to. Does your professor ever talk about Milton Friedman?
CALLER: Uhhh, no, sir.
RUSH: He does?
CALLER: No, he hasn’t.
RUSH: Oh, he doesn’t. I’m not surprised. Milton Friedman. There’s a videotape, DVD series that Milton Friedman did that explains everything you want to know here in a classical economics sense. He’s written many books. He was brilliant, Milton Friedman. So is Thomas Sowell, who is at the Hoover Institution on campus at Stanford. But read Friedrich Von Hayek, read The Constitution of Liberty, and read The Road to Serfdom. They’re tough reads. These are intellectual treatises, but you will not be disappointed.

As Greg Ransom notes, a link by Instapundit (coincidentally run by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds) had already sent The Road to Serfdom to #283 on Amazon, and the mention by Rush was enough to boost it to #179.

Coincidence or conspiracy? Vainglorious ego makes me wonder if Rush is reading this blog, because he mentioned Hayek on the same day that I — in discussing “kooks” — wrote several paragraphs about Hayek and how The Road to Serfdom had influenced Reagan. This certainly isn’t the first time Rush has mentioned Hayek or Friedman or Sowell on his program but . . . well, I question the timing!

“You can accomplish much if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Ronald Reagan

It was Hayek himself who described intellectuals as “secondhand dealers in ideas” and — even though I’ve been named a leading Hayekian public intellectual (bwahahaha) — I’m just driving a forklift in the regional distribution center. And there’s a big “Help Wanted” sign out front. The more the merrier.

Let Jane Hamsher whine that she’s not getting paid enough to push the Democratic Party agenda. The No. 1 radio show in America is pushing Hayek, Friedman and Sowell — and making Obscene Profits along the way — so I don’t care whether it’s a coincidence or a conspiracy. Megadittos, Rush.

BTW, Hayek’s book, The Constitution of Liberty, is now #665 at Amazon. I question the timing!

February 11, 2009

Sowellism

“You can’t raise a whole population of people who don’t know how to think, but are taught to resent anything they don’t understand, and expect that you’re going to survive in the long run.”
Thomas Sowell

February 3, 2009

Thomas Sowell on principles

A very timely message:

What principle separates the Republicans from the Democrats? If they are just Tweedledee and Tweedledum, then elections come down to personality and rhetoric. If that happens, you can bet the rent money on the Democrats winning. . . .
When have the Republicans won big? When they stood for something and told the people what that something was. . . .
Too many Republicans seem to think that being “inclusive” means selling out your principles to try to attract votes. It never seems to occur to them that you can attract a wider range of voters by explaining your principles in a way that more people understand.

(Via Conservative Grapevine.) Sowell is talking about his specialty, economics — especially the idiotic mortgage price-fixing scheme proposed by Senate Republicans — but he could be talking about any number of other issues where weak-kneed Republicans pander by endorsing liberal ideas. These organ-transplant candidates (lacking eyes, brains, spine, and testicles) do not understand that standing firmly on principle is ultimately good politics: Better politics than appearing weak, wobbly and wish-washy.

That’s why last week’s solid “no” vote against the stimulus bill was so beautiful. Rather than give Pelosi and Obama a fig leaf of “bipartisan” camouflage for their budget-busting nightmare of pork, the Republicans stood up on their hind legs and said to the Democrats, “Take it, it’s yours.”

It. Won’t. Work. And because it won’t work, the fewer Republican fingerprints on it, the better. When Obama’s economic plan fails — and it will — the GOP needs to be in a position to tell voters, “We told you so. We voted against it. And here are the TV ads showing our members, speaking in January 2009, predicting exactly the economic disaster that has now unfolded.”

January 28, 2009

Black tea and white liberals

The book I most often recommend as a guide to understanding liberalism is Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. If you haven’t read it, you should, because Sowell hits the nail on the head in identifying the basic psychological instinct of modern liberalism, namely its function as an expression of moral narcissism: “Oh, look at me! How enlightened and tolerant and generous I am!”

The obverse of this self-congratulatory instinct is the liberal’s habit of seeking out villains to denounce as benighted, intolerant and mean-spirited. James Taranto observed one such example in the case of a Denver Post columnist who waxes indignant over an allegedly racist incident at her health club:

One of the employees was checking the tea and noted out loud that they were out of black tea. To the other server, she made a joke about ordering some more “Obama tea.”
On this day, of all days, I could not turn away, pretend I didn’t hear.
My pulse raced a little. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. In the larger scheme of things, calling her on it was a small act.

(Via Instapundit.) Now, there are several questions here. Was the health-club employee’s reference to black tea as “Obama tea” self-evidently racist? Better yet (and this is a question seldom asked) what exactly do we mean by “racist” in such a context? And perhaps best of all, in what sense is this kind of “racism” actually harmful to anyone?

Think about it: This “Obama tea” remark was made by an employee of a health-club snack bar, someone who probably makes about $10 an hour. The snack-bar employee is being denounced by a style columnist for the Denver Post who makes at least twice as much, and whose social influence and prestige is infinitely greater. The influential columnist is afflicting the afflicted, so to speak, by picking on a low-wage laborer who almost certainly intended no harm with her stupid joke.

It is, of course, entirely possible that this snack-bar employee is a genuine bigot. But even if she were, if we borrow the Left’s formulation that racism equals prejudice plus power, what sort of power is exercised by someone earning $10 an hour serving protein smoothies in a health-club snack bar?

This is not about her. Even if the employee’s joke represents real prejudice, the purpose of the columnist’s denunciation is not to make a statement about the snack-bar worker. Rather it is the columnist making a statement about herself: “Look at me! I am a courageous crusader for social justice!”

If there is one lesson you should synthesize from this incident, it is this: When someone points the accusing finger at “racism,” a reasonable person must examine the motives of the accuser. And this is what Sowell does in The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell shows that when the anointed adopt as “mascots” various oppressed victim groups — the homeless, the mentally ill, AIDS sufferers — what they are doing is using those people as symbols. Advocacy on behalf of “mascots” serves to demonstrate the enlightenment of the anointed, and denunciation of allegedly oppressive “targets” serves the same purpose.

Thus, a crusade to distribute free condoms in San Francisco serves the same purpose as a crusade to provide legal protection for illegal immigrants: These crusades function as demonstrations of the moral superiority of the crusaders.

This is why liberals become so furious when you try to draw them into a discussion of the actual merits of their crusades. The simplest question — “Are gay men in the Castro district so impoverished that they can’t afford to buy their own condoms?” — is enough to spur the liberal into a vehement denunciation of your homophobia. Nothing you can say in your own defense will persuade the liberal to abandon his idee fixe. Opposition to his policy is synonymous with fear and hatred of gay people, and on sober reflection you realize that the liberal isn’t really interested in policy qua policy. He is a moral narcissist engaged in displaying his own “tolerance” and “sophistication.”

Crusading on behalf of “mascots” allows otherwise privileged people to co-opt the Complete Moral Authority of the victim, to bask in the warm glow of reflected glory of the oppressed. (A point that Ann Coulter makes in Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America.) And so the style columnist for the Denver Post — a privileged white woman — stages her own little psychodrama by taking a courageous stand against a $10-an-hour snack-bar worker who lamely jokes about “Obama tea.”

The half-Kenyan son of a Harvard-educated economist is thus converted into a proxy for 40 million African-Americans, and an unfunny joke — the tea is black, Obama is black, LOL — must be denounced as “blatantly racist” (to quote the columnist) so that we can be piously lectured:

If those of us who are offended by bigotry don’t speak up, if we don’t examine our own assumptions about race, how will the offenders ever get the message?

As interesting as it might be to learn more about how Kristen Browning-Blas has examined her “own assumptions about race” — out there in the blindingly Caucasian state of Colorado (90% white, 4% black) — it is reasonably safe to surmise that she’s never even scratched the surface, that her “assumptions” are those of millions of others of privileged white liberals who think their vaunted humanitarian benevolence (dare I call it “pity”?) toward black people is both necessary and courageous.

The Kristen Browning-Blases of the world wear their moral narcissism like a warm sweater, secure in the assumption that their goodwill is beyond interrogation. They are the bien-pensants, smugly condescending with “the courage of their convictions” by lending their moral superiority to assist those whom they patronizingly assume are incapable of acting on their own behalf. And if you call their bogus philanthropy what it really is — a manifestation of what Shelby Steele identifies as White Guilt — they will lash out to denounce you as an uncaring bigot.

It’s not about you any more than it’s about that poor snack-bar worker who made that stupid joke. It’s not about you, it’s not about Obama, it’s not about racism. It’s about them, the anointed.

It is never enough for the anointed to congratulate themselves on their moral superiority. Rather, they must strut about on the stage, inviting us all to applaud them for it. You can applaud Kristen Browning-Blas if you wish, but that’s not my cup of tea.

November 25, 2008

Holiday Books: Thomas Sowell

Only 30 shopping days until Christmas!

The 2008 Holiday Book Sale continues with Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congralation as a Basis for Social Policy. Folks, this is a book that I can’t recommend strongly enough. It is simply the best one-volume analysis of liberalism ever written. Sowell provides a cogent explanation of the moral narcissism that is the essential basis of the liberal worldview.

If you haven’t read The Vision of the Anointed yet, you should do so immediately, and buy copies for all your family and friends. And while you’re at it, go ahead and send ’em a copy of Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice, two other great books by the same great mind. And remember, with Amazon.com, you get discount pricing with delivery anywhere in the country. Why wait? ORDER NOW!

PREVIOUSLY:

August 17, 2008

Sowell on Obama

“The problem with clever people is that they don’t know when to stop being clever — and Senator Obama is a very clever man, perhaps ‘too clever by half’ as the British say.”
Thomas Sowell

Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed is the book I most often recommend to anyone wanting to understand the liberal worldview. What Sowell documents so perfectly in the book is the moral and intellectual arrogance — the “too clever by half” factor — of people who’ve convinced themselves that they are infinitely superior to ordinary mortals like us.