The opportunists have begun emerging from the woodwork, grasping at the thinnest of pretenses to leverage the recent deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York into agitprop for the expansion of the government.
Entirely predictable, but disappointing nonetheless especially considering that bloated government and an expansive police state directly contributed to both men’s deaths.
Naturally, The Nation is at the vanguard of this *more statism* movement, this time swaddled in the banner of #BlackLivesMatter. Jesse A. Myerson and Mychal Denzel Smith roll out their master plan for the implementation of Communism Now in their most recent article. Their central premise is this: there is a perpetually racist system in place in the U.S., this perpetually racist system leads to the deaths of black Americans, law enforcement reform is necessary, but law enforcement reform is insufficient and economic reform is necessary as well. To this end, Myerson and Smith propose a three pronged approach: (1) generating “true full employment” through a combination of a guaranteed minimum income and employment guaranteed by the federal government; (2) a tax overhaul; and (3) the issuance of so-called “baby bonds” denominations that will somehow be pegged to parents’ economic position relative to the net median income threshold.
In a nutshell, it appears that the Nation’s solution to black inequality is to have blacks fully and permanently latch onto the government teat. This leaves one core question though: how can the very system identified as the source of the problem logically be defeated by cementing dependence upon it?
How can the state, the very one that sponsored and enforced the racism-the effects of which are felt in perpetuity according to the authors-effectively neutralize racism by reducing victims to little more than serfs permanently in thrall to a government powerful and amoral enough to drift in whatever direction the ideological winds of the time blow?
Naturally, this is not a consideration that the denizens of The Nation are ever willing to make.
The authors throw themselves headlong into the fray, discussing the history of enslavement and the state enforced disenfranchisement of black people noting that “[t]he inception of our country’s economic system condemned black people to an underclass for a practical rather than bigoted reason: the exploitation of African labor.” All of these observations indubitably true, but the authors look past the 800 pound pink gorilla in the room in their effort to justify tightening blacks’ tethers to the state.
How would slavery have been possible had the mechanism of the state supported its propagation?
How would the ownership of human beings have been possible had the state not opted to recognize and enforce white property rights in black and African persons?
What reason is there to trust the benevolence of a state that codified discrimination against the bodies of black people?
The problem with Myerson and Smith’s economic solution is the same problem that plagued the economic system of slavery: when the government selects economic winners and pits the winners against economic losers, the result is always disastrous. The result is necessarily a substantial reduction of liberty for the losers and an unstable system incapable of providing citizens with the certitude that they will be able to conduct their lives in the manner of their choosing. The authors refuse to see the truth: that every government action is essentially a signal to individuals regarding how they are expected to act, individuals, who in a free world and a limited government may have been inclined to act differently. If the government recognizes the legitimacy of the ownership of black people, that is a clear signal that black people are property. If the government rolls out an economic system that makes black people permanent wards of the state, that is a clear signal that black people are incapable of self reliance and are unable to thrive in a free market. How does government patronage vindicate the sanctity of black life?
The authors further note that impoverished European immigrants to the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th century were able to secure government aid while impoverished black Americans were denied aid. However, the lesson here remains the same: the state was central in sowing disaffection between groups that had more in common than they had at odds, further entrenching the power of the state over the lives of the individual and pitting economic winners against economic losers in a bid to distract both groups from the creeping advance of state omnipotence.
The state does not need to be in the business of engineering economic freedom. It needs to be in the business of creating space for economic opportunities to present themselves and for individuals to be masters of their own economic destinies.
When Myerson et al advocate for federally guaranteed “true full employment” and a guaranteed universal basic income “unattached to employment” as a means to boost job growtht as the first prong of their economic proposal, many questions immediately present themselves. How can we afford this? How can the government attempt create a monopsony on employment in the black community if there is no true demand for the labor? How can the authors bemoan “a 95% unemployment rate” in certain black neighborhoods and yet propose the institution of a universal basic income unconnected to employment as though perpetual cash infusions from the government will encourage the unemployed to seek employment?
The authors advocate for the creation of “community” employment including but presumably not limited to “cleaning and replacing those oft-decried broken windows, filling potholes, caring for the children of working parents and for the elderly, [and] clearing slum housing…” Rather than advocate for greater freedom in the economic and job markets so that black people will have greater economic, social, and entrepreneurial options, the authors advocate for federally guaranteed makework positions that the market has no need for and an allowance from Daddy Government unrelated to employment. This is absolutely unbelievable.
FDR’s words regarding the New Deal come to mind:
“I am not willing that the vitality of our people be further sapped by the giving of cash, of market baskets, of a few hours of weekly work cutting grass, raking leaves, or picking up papers in the public parks. We must preserve not only the bodies of the unemployed from destitution but also their self respect, their self reliance, and courage and determination.”
A few hours of weekly work cutting grass or picking up papers in the public park. The giving of cash. Even the architect of one of the most far reaching systems of government assistance recognized the terrible and demoralizing toll that continued public assistance takes on the human soul. Yet, this is precisely what the authors propose as the panacea the sickness of the permanent black underclass.
The authors’ second prong is even more frightening. Their second proposal is innocuously called “A Tax Overhaul” but make no mistake about it: they are not talking about tax reform, but of levying a confiscatory tax upon property, effectively nationalizing all lands and centralizing ownership in the hands of the state. They are talking about abolishing private property through the mechanism of taxation. State the authors: “to stop [landowner] interests, we must shift from taxing labor and toward taxing monopoly and land rents.” They continue: “the American political economist Henry George…famously proposed a 100 percent land value tax as the only tax capable of ensuring equality amid economic development.”
They defend this proposal primarily by noting that FHA redlining policies resulted in the concentration of impoverished blacks within the inner city and the decimation of black wealth during the recent real estate bubble. Again, Myerson and Smith overlook the role of the government in both instances and ignore the fact that the policies promoted by an overlarge, meddling, federal government directly contributed to both black ghettoization and to the recent housing meltdown. Again we see the government selecting winners and losers to disastrous effect. Nonetheless, the authors take no lessons from either event and continue to push for greater and greater government involvement in real estate for the cause of “equality.” If increasing the collective wealth of black Americans is the authors’ goal, then why would they propose tax laws that would destroy the real estate market, compromise black folks’ potential to own homes and businesses, and to develop equity? The only tax reform that will encourage growth within the black community is one that does away with the current tax system and replaces it with a low flat tax, enabling individuals to maintain more of what they earn.
Myerson and Smith’s final prong in their fantastical #BlackLivesMatter economic plan is frankly, a critical mass of half baked redistributive economics. The pair propose the issuance of “Baby Bonds” along a sliding scale to children that would be predicated upon where that child’s parents fell relative to the median net wealth position (the median net wealth in the United States is $44,911.00). According to the authors, this would equalize the position of children born into wealth poor families and act as a corrective to problems of wealth inequality. The bonds would mature upon the child’s 18th birthday and the child would ostensibly be able to dispose of the funds according to their pleasure. Aside from the fact that 18 year olds are unlikely to dispose of their funds in manners that will be likely to preserve and grow wealth, aside from the fact that the cost of the taxes that will necessarily be levied upon parents will have the effect of destroying and expropriating wealth that families would otherwise pass onto their children, this proposal presents a prime example of how government policy is likely to create negative unintended consequences. Taken together, each of these policies will only have the effect of destroying the will of black people to seek and maintain employment, to establish stable families, and to invest in properties and in neighborhoods, and to exercise personal responsibility, further isolating blacks within society. In a world where the children of relatively impoverished parents are given gift funds at birth on the taxpayer’s dime, why would these parents feel any need to reproduce responsibly? In a world where people receive a basic income simply for existing, what impetus would they feel to remain employed? In a world where land is taxed to the point of confiscation, why would anyone make investments in neighborhoods or property?
These policies are not sensible nor are they the path to progress. True progress is self reliance, freedom from the overtures of government, and opportunity. Nothing in this economic prescription will facilitate that; it will only reinforce dependency and further weaken black people. To The Nation, the supremacy of government is the only thing that matters.