Cutting The Racial Gordian Knot: What Are The Ethical Implications Of The Terrible Economic Disparity Between Black And White In America?

Gordian Knot

The question raises the ethical implications to all American citizens and our shared obligation to our nation and its society of a disastrous, crippling problem that poisons our culture. and society: the persistent plight of Black America.

Back when I was a senior in college majoring in American Government and the U.S. Presidency, I took a course  from Professor Thomas Pettigrew, then as now one of the foremost scholars on race, prejudice and public policy. It was about the challenges facing blacks as they tried then to benefit from new legislation and opportunities created by the Civil Rights Act and other policies, such as school busing. I was very impressed by Pettigrew’s even-handed, objective and non-political approach, even though, at my college, political teaching was the rule, not the exception.

I have never left a course so discouraged. Pettigrew, himself a pretty optimistic man, led us into one dead-end after another: black families, education, neighborhoods, political behavior, crime and more, all dysfunctional or suffering. All areas of black society interfered with or blocked improvements, progress, remedies and policy initiatives that showed promise to address racial inequality in other areas.

Late in the course I asked him if he saw any hope that in 50 years, black America would be approaching parity with white America. “I have hope,” he said. “But I honestly don’t see how we get there from here. There is a path, but we haven’t found it.”

It appears that my discouragement then was an accurate reading of the problems ahead.

Last week, these charts from the Brookings Institution’s Social Mobility Memos blog were posted to the web by other sources. They show how deeply the problems I was warned about have failed to improve in 50 years. Here is what they show:

1. Upward mobility is much more unlikely  for black than white Americans. 51% of the black Americans born into the lowest fifth of the earnings distribution remain there at age 40:

2. The black middle class is deteriorating.

Seven out of ten black Americans born into the middle class fall into into the lower classes as adults.

3. Black  family wealth is now minimal.

The 2008 recession and housing market scandal devastated black family wealth. The median wealth of white households is now 13 times greater than the media wealth of black households.

4. Black children are usually raised by only one parent, handicapping their prospects of success from the beginning.

Black leaders, teachers, schools and cultural leaders have failed spectacularly to reverse the destructive black cultural trend of single parent households. 

5. Education achievement disparities

The average black student also attends a school at the 37th percentile for test score results whereas the average white student attends a school in the 60th percentile. You can start an argument over whether this is cause or effect: Brookings, being in the liberal mainstream, assumes that this means that blacks go to worse schools, but it also could mean that black kids perform worse in school than Asians, whites and Hispanics. Political correctness today precludes even discussing that possibility.

There are some equally revealing charts here.

Observations:

1. The United States cannot ethically continue to follow a series of policies that have not sufficiently improved the lot of black Americans.

2. It should be self-evident that this persistent languishing state of inequality for a large group of Americans is a national anchor, impeding the nation in many ways, causing division, wasting resources, wasting lives and human capital.

3. Why did the first black President fail to make this national crisis a major priority? He was perfectly situated to do so. Instead, he concentrated on health care insurance, undermining immigration policy, and speculative climate change policies.

4. Why has the black community refused to demand accountability from the President and Democrats? Obama’s popularity is still near 90%.

5. Why has the issue of lack of black economic and social progress been ignored in the campaign so far? The Democratic theme is income inequality, which is purely class warfare. The racial inequality is right there to see, and nobody’s talking about it. It isn’t all racism, as Pettigrew made clear decades ago. The orientation of the civil rights activists is exactly backwards,  for example focusing on “mass incarceration” as if the stalled social and economic progress of black society does not contribute to  the fact that a disproportionate number of black men end up in prison.

6. Similarly, the tactic of blaming whites for all the intransigent problems of the black population interferes with productive discussions and practical policy options. Relative white (and Asian, and soon, Hispanic) success is not the sole or even the greatest reason for black failure, though it is comforting and popular to claim so. Moreover, the “white privilege” approach is just blame-shifting, causing anger and resentment and straining what needs to be a biracial alliance for the long term best interests of the nation.

7. This is a Gordian Knot, and that means that it needs to be cut, not untied. Here is what I believe is the germ of a radical policy approach that might lead to more progress in the next 50 years…

I believe that the disadvantages that black citizens have had to overcome were too serious and too extensive, from the end of slavery to this moment, for any group to overcome. All the billions spent at all levels of government in welfare and assistance programs, government grants and training, affirmative action and racial preferences, have been at best band-aids, and at worse have incentivized destructive cultural norms and individual conduct.

I am not an admirer of Ta-Nehisi Coates, an intellectual anti-white racist who is currently a rock star to progressives, but he has pointed the way to a solution while framing it so badly that he guarantees its rejection. Coates sees no way to fix the disparities between white and black in the U.S. except reparations. Well, to be blunt, the hell with that. He hates and distrusts whites, and wants to punish all of them for the sins of slavery committed by their ancestors by arranging a massive transfer of wealth based on principles of tort law and damages. This has always been a pipe dream of civil rights extremists, couched in the language of revenge, as if the nation and the nation’s white citizens have made no efforts, sacrificed nothing, expended no resources or wealth, to try to undo the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Reparations are not going to happen, as the concept itself is unjust.

However, I believe he is right that the deep hole black America is mired in cannot be overcome unless there is significant narrowing of the racial wealth disparity. Addressing that isn’t reparations, it is social policy to fix a problem that undermines all of us, not just African-Americans. It would require a careful and difficult compromise: ending most of the programs that constitute those leaky bureaucratic, bloated, inefficient band-aids on the cultural maladies in the black community, and redirecting that money for a one time, five-figure grant to every black man, woman and child, regardless of prominence or class. The amount of the grants would depend upon how much could be accumulated from cuts elsewhere.

The objective of the program would be to close gaps that now appear too great to overcome, with the understanding that black citizens, in the true spirit of the nation, now had resources to control their fate. Now they would need to take advantage of a unique opportunity, making good choices and using the grants productively. I know, I know—how black is black? How can people who have no idea how to manage wealth get guidance and be protected from predators? There are lots and lots of problems to be solved to make this approach work, and good luck on solving them. That’s not my job.

This program still might cut the Gordian Knot, and it is worth trying; indeed, there is an ethical obligation to try it, unless someone finds something better.  Nothing else has worked, and the current situation is unconscionable.

 

237 thoughts on “Cutting The Racial Gordian Knot: What Are The Ethical Implications Of The Terrible Economic Disparity Between Black And White In America?

  1. This smells of LBJ’s War on Poverty. Giving grants to people who cannot handle money? Sure, I can support scholarships for those who have shown potential for achievement reflected in high school grades and SAT scores. I worked as a counselor in the Job Corp and a considerable number of trainees wouldn’t even get out of bed to go to their vocational classes. Forget grants based on race: it’s a bad idea.

    • You’re not paying attention.

      I’m advocating making up the wealth disparity to a significant extent, and ending the programs that make blacks perpetual supplicants to the state. People learn how to manage money by having money to manage. All these social programs are total wasted funds at this point. Would it work? Maybe not, but if it didn’t, the claim that white America never tried would be shut off, and so would the endless trail of useless programs.

      It’s nothing at all like the War on Poverty. LBJ did nothing about wealth at all—just handouts based on poverty and job programs.

      Note: wealthy blacks would get the grant too, as would their kids. And I would expect the black community to expect THEM to use the windfall to build things and help people.

      I’d call your immediate reaction the epitome of a knee-jerk rejection.

      • “People learn how to manage money by having money to manage.”

        Sorry, I can’t go with that. People learn how to manage money by learning how to manage with money they don’t have – or else, they don’t learn how to manage whatever money they do manage to have.

        There is just no simple way to fix the culture.

          • No it doesn’t. This isn’t some mystical chicken and egg conundrum dressed up in modern trappings. “What comes first, being good with money, or having money?” Has an answer: Being good with money. Hand to mouth sustenance only gets worse as the capital flowing in increases.

            Ask anyone who ever won a lottery, to throw your own example back at you.

            But If you need a more macro example of that, look the Canada’s First Nations problem. They need help, but for decades, our government has adopted a policy of “throw more money at it until it goes away” And what do we have to show for it? Communities literally crumbling around them, a deficit of potable drinking water or even interior plumbing, while they build multi-million dollar community centers, equipped with million dollar equipment, and have brand new F450’s are hanging out in their front yards, pulling trailers with a Skidoos on them.

            Shitty household spending habits are taught, hereditary, and reinforced with influxes of cash. There HAS to be a basic learned foundation before the money appears. Expecting good money habits to appear out of an influx of cash is the worst voodoo economics I’ve ever heard of.

            • I believe I’ve heard that speech before–Yes! Mr. Potter!

              You’ve described a classic “You can’t get there from here” scenario. No question: so called “present time perspective” bias will guarantee long term poverty with or without money. But the culture can’t evolve without opportunity, and a margin for error. With just 11,000 in median wealth, blacks have no margin for error.

              • I think you’re missing my most basic premise, and I can’t tell whether you’re doing it on purpose.

                You can learn about money without having money. And that education allows you to earn money and succeed.

                You want to talk about classic parables? “Give a man a fish, teach a man to fish”

                You don’t learn how to fish by having fish either.

                • I don’t mean to be piling on Jack here, but one of my earliest reactions to what he said, when he said, “People learn how to manage money by having money to manage,” was to employ “plug and play” with certain people other than poor Americans of African descent: “Persians learn how to manage nukes by having nukes to manage.” In the Persians’ case, I actually do think there’s something insidiously true about that – but, does everybody else, and I do mean everybody, really want the world to proceed with history by so regarding the Persians and nukes? To complete the thought using a Supreme Court decision: If money is speech, and nuclear capability speaks more loudly than economic competitiveness, and the best solution to bad speech is more speech, then maybe poor Americans of African descent should be granted nukes instead of cash.

                  • Exactly? Giving someone cash isn’t giving them the tools to be self sufficient, you’re just giving them cash.

                    It’s almost cruel, because once they fail, as I believe the majority will, they’re not only stuck in poverty, all of a sudden it IS their fault, because they think they HAD a chance, even if they didn’t really.

                    • That’s crazy, HT. Money is education, housing, a safety net, security, opportunity.

                      And if they fail—and I would want to see counseling guidance and expertise made available to all recipients as part of the program—it is their failure and they are accountable.

                    • No Jack, education is education, housing is housing, security is security and opportunity is opportunity. Money is money. And you can’t buy yourself a dad.

                      What’s most pertinent is that people generally don’t know what they don’t know.

                      It seems obvious to you and me that if we get a lump sum of money we’d use it to improve our lot in life, or maybe plan for a better or early retirement, I don’t understand the logical leap of “If we give this guy that doesn’t have the same background as me some money, he’d use it the same way I would.” How? How would someone who just had money dumped in their lap know whether is was better to own or rent? How would they know where to invest? What would they know what to buy?

                      I think the answer is in education. Real education. Life skills. Maybe instead of leaning Pythagoras’s theorem or womyn’s studies, how about we teach how to prepare a resume, how to interview, how to set a budget, How about we teach some real sex ed and attempt to curb teen pregnancy which ridiculously is actually on the rise, how about we teach how to invest, or how to problem solve. There’s an argument that skills like that are for parents to teach, but we’ve accepted that the parents we’re talking about are absent or themselves don’t know.

                    • “education is education, housing is housing, security is security and opportunity is opportunity. Money is money.”

                      All of that costs money. Books around the home costs money. The internet costs money. Security is having enough money in the bank that a car breakdown doesn’t wipe you out.

                  • That’s not really an answer though, is it? Books cost money. Sure. Obviously. If you gave money to a poor family, how many books do you think they’d buy? I don’t even want to Google search the functional illiteracy rates because this conversation is already depressing.

                    This is how Cynical me thinks the conversation plays out in the long run:

                    “Education is Education. Education costs money. Here’s some money. ”

                    “Thanks for the money, I want a big truck!”

                    “But education is more important.”

                    “Vroom Vroom.”

                    How do you guarantee… No, that isn’t fair… You can’t guarantee. What makes you so sure that if given a lump sum of money, it would actually address the long term problem?

                    • Again, the program would take a period of preparation, PSA, websites, training. Some people are poor because of bad habits learned from bad role models. Some are poor because of bad luck. Some are poor because of stupid, and you can’t fix stupid. You are generalizing in an area where there is a lot of variation.

      • Good luck with wealthy and successful blacks pouring money into the hellholes they have left. Perhaps some would do it, but in general most of they are happy living in good neighborhoods. This proposal of yours reminds me of the lottery winners who are broke and back where they started in a year or two.

        • That lottery winners experience is not irrelevant. But remember that lottery winners are from a pool of fools to begin with, and they see the jackpot as a windfall. This would have to be framed right, and the good that came from the citizens who used the money to build stable families, wealth and businesses would outweigh the fools that wasted the opportunity.

      • “Would it work? Maybe not, but if it didn’t, the claim that white America never tried would be shut off, and so would the endless trail of useless programs.”

        Except we wouldn’t have the fortitude or honesty to stand strong and tell people who wasted their chances “too bad, you failed, go try again”. No, we’d just enact more social programs, and though they can’t say “whites never tried to make amends”, some guilt ridden white liberal professor somewhere will determine the next layer of subconscious racism that we haven’t addressed…

        • That’s a big supposition, and I don’t believe it. Of course, nothing like all the African Americans would misuse or blow the money; most wouldn’t. And the deal would require dismantling much of the social support network that keeps so many blacks addicted to government largess. The policy would make money over time, both in savings in killed programs, and in more taxes and investments from a population with some wealth. An empowered population would have hucksters trying to turn law enforcement into an excuse for permanent victimhood. It would put Al Sharpton out of business. I see lots of attendant policies that would have to accompany this for it to have a chance. But if 50 years of welfare, food stamps, affirmative action and the rest hasn’t taken the black community out of this state, something radically different has to be tried unless we want the next 50 to be more of the same, with all the racial division that comes with it. This has the advantage of being legitimately empowering and very popular with African Americans.

          And it’s not reparations.

          • Saying it isn’t reparations I don’t think makes it not reparations. If the justification is merely abstracted from the original cause, yet the original cause is ultimately in the argument, that is that blacks were so severely handicapped by slavery and subsequent discrimination that they need a payoff, whether or not you call that payoff, a helping hand for the present, as opposed to restitution for the past, it is still tied inextricably to slavery and discrimination. Either way, it becomes a distinction without a difference once the argument is taken back.

            “You murdered that guy!”

            “No I didn’t! I only pushed a knife into his heart and pulled it out leaving a large enough hole for blood to come out. So his life happened to expire at the same time, that’s chance. That’s not murder!”

            “Phshdnfbtbehsjsj! That’s murder!”

            “Nope”

            • I think you got hung up on reparations. I can see avenues with which we approach this where it is different enough from reparations to make a difference…. To use your own example:

              “You murdered that guy!”

              “No I didn’t, he was running at me with a knife and I shot him, it was self defense.”

              “Oh.”

              I just think that Jack is being amazingly naive regarding what poor people will do with windfalls of cash. And it’s an odd position to take after all the discussions we’ve had about lotteries.

              • 1. You did see the qualifier “every man woman and child,” right?

                2. Even if every single poor A-A blew the wad, which obviously is a ridiculous assumption—many poor people are poor for other reasons than being incompetent or irresponsible, the success ratio would be better as we go up the socio-economic ladder.

                3. Re: lotteries: the record of poor people receiving lump sum settlements was once presumed to match the lottery group, but that is not the case. Why? Because those large sums were clearly given for a specific, practical purpose. (I worked in the field, and did the research myself.)

                • 1. So what? Not only are we giving it to the people who need it, but also to the people that don’t. How is that better?

                  2. Obviously. But I think the numbers matter. If we help 10% of AA’s out of poverty, but spend trillions of dollars doing it, are they really any better off once the tax bill comes in? And aren’t the rest of us much worse off? And what about all the people that blew their wad and went back almost immediately to collecting stamps? Are we suddenly willing to let them starve?

                  3. I’d love to read the research that specifically found that the reason certain poor people handled cash influxes better than others was a direct result of the specific purpose of the cash, as opposed to the difference between lottery players and the population at large. Regardless, while it might not have matched the lottery group exactly, what WAS the ratio of people who blew their wad and ended up back where they started?

                    • So that would require a cutoff date.

                      So children born after that cutoff date in the same family would not get it, but their older sibling would?

                      What about women who are pregnant at the cutoff date? You always say life begins at conception…..so…….would you pay the fetus’ too?

                      Do you think women would try to induce early labor to have their children before the cutoff? It would be a real bummer to be born 5 minutes late.

                      What about children who die before reaching the age to collect their sum? How long after birth would the child have to live? Would their parents or grandparents or siblings be able to inherit it?

  2. Jack, I commend you for shining a pretty unflinching light on the situation. You didn’t pull any punches in your diagnosis.

    I’m not sure your solution is the best one, or even practicable, but it has the great virtue of actually being serious and implementable. That alone sets it apart from the usual blah blah and finger-pointing. Good on you for an unflinching diagnosis and an honest suggestion.

    • No it doesn’t. Because just as soon as the vast majority* squander the money and are impoverished and “hungry” again, your type of people will begin moaning about the unfairness of life and start drumming up social programs for them.

      Then Jack, jaws agape, will say “wait a minute, we all agreed to let them sink or swim, that after this, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves!” and the expression on his face will be like that on the Republican’s faces when they agreed to amnesty followed by enforcement of immigration laws back in the 80s.

      *and that isn’t a jab saying that black people will squander money, but rather people who haven’t had any real experienced handling money, by and large WILL squander it, race immaterial.

    • One assumes, if one gives cash to another person (Jack said 5 figures and lets assume he means $50,000) that the one who receives it will value it, and understand it, in the same way as the one giving it. That they will put it to use as a good capitalist would: put it aside, hold onto it, and look for an investment. But this is where the mistake occurs, in my view. Not everyone desires to think in those terms. And getting money may push them toward uncomfortable decisions. Because money is in a sense a burden.

      It is as if one says: ‘Here, here’s $50,000, now go and make something of yourself!’ (And stop burdening me with your very self as *problem*).

      Many people – except those with a specific training and a specific will and intentionality – will see the cash as a windfall to better pursue pleasures. Some, likely smallish, percentage will start a business, or invest in a business, but it seems a datum of common sense that many will simply spend it. I am not at all sure what the benefit of that would be.

      What one really seems to be saying is: Be like me, or Be like us.

      • You mean, be responsible, take charge of your own fate, stop blaming everyone else, pull your weight? Liek I do? Damn right. How do you have a problem with that?

        And your assumption is close to racist. Why do you assume that a majority of blacks won’t use a large block grant wisely and productively? I assume the opposite.

        • It ceases to be racist when you apply it to poor people, regardless of race. People that haven’t learned how to handle money generally don’t handle cash influxes of money well, regardless of their melanin.

          • Which is also, by the way, why looking at this as a class problem might actually be more helpful than looking at it like a racial problem. Raising up the poor in general is a good goal, and it would have the added benefit of bringing up the black community exactly proportionate to their need.

              • The difference between a poor black person and a poor white person isn’t the amount of money they have.

                The difference between a poor black person and a poor white person is the environment they grow up in, the expectations placed on them, and the social safety nets they have to fall back on. None of that is changed by throwing money at them.

                Let’s be frank, while white people as a demographic are better at climbing out of poverty than black people as a demographic, neither are very good at it, and recently there’s been a disturbing trend that the middle class is rapidly diminishing, and while the majority of middle class exodus is actually going into the upper-middle class, there’s a significant percentage sinking into poverty, over time, it’s only going to get harder for lower class people, regardless of race to rise. And that is a direct result of poor financial literacy, and civic education. We don’t disagree on that there is a problem, we might disagree on what causes the problem, and we definitely disagree on the solution to the problem.

          • Not all blacks are poor, either. The program I outlined was not aimed at the poor, but of the entire, struggling community. Just giving money to the poor is what we have been doing, essentially.

            • Some of the most demonstrable examples of communities banding together to make something from nothing are Asian. Filipinos will live a dozen to a small house, pooling resources until they can start buying homes, often raising out of poverty within a single generation. That is cultural, not fiscal, this group did not ask for, or need a handout. But if they were given a handout, I have no doubt that they would put it to the kind of use you’re thinking of.

              I don’t understand how you can take an example of something that works in reliance of strong family values and assume it will work in a community where something like 70% of children are born to a single mother.

              Maybe that’s where you lose me…. Can you explain that? Why do you think a cash influx would foster change?

        • Jack wrote: “And your assumption is close to racist. Why do you assume that a majority of blacks won’t use a large block grant wisely and productively? I assume the opposite.”
          ____________________________

          It is quite possible that, in your eyes and in other’s eyes, I would be best described as a racist. I recognise and acknowledge differences between races and cultures and I do not see them as being equal and interchangeable. I believe that what makes a person a person, and the person he is, is his biological and cultural heritage, and also his physical region. In any case, these are predominant determinants. I think this idea is now unpopular since a person is seen as an interchangeable unit. You take out one and replace it with another and, technically, it should perform as the others around it.

          In the present dispensation, and given its terms and assumptions (which I see as ideological ‘impositions’), a person who sees and thinks as I do will likely be labeled as a racist. It is not the label I would choose for myself though.

          I would also make the suggestion – this is how I see your statements in part – that when you employ the terms ‘responsible’ and ‘take charge’ and ‘pull your own weight’ that you are in a sense imposing a value-set on others. Imposition is always problematic. Maybe they do not want to do all that? What I notice is that different people, in different circumstances and regions, make their own choices. According to their own values, needs, and desires.

          What I am attempting to point out – and to explore in my own studies – is that blacks in our country are not voluntary participants. They did not come here by choice, as most immigrants have, and with a strong desire to advance. They are involuntary participants who were forced to abandon their own language and traditions and regions and made slaves in ‘the empire of the white man’s will’. When that bondage became untenable (Enlightenment philosophical currents overall) they were ‘freed’. And then asked more or less to ‘become like us’.

          The problem is that they do not, or they will not, participate as ‘we’ think that they should, and so they are a problem for us. Not for themselves necessarily. But for us.

          I do not think anything I have said is outrageous, extremist, nasty or condemnable, and I mean no one any harm.
          ___________________________

          Jack wrote: “You mean, be responsible, take charge of your own fate, stop blaming everyone else, pull your weight? Like I do? Damn right. How do you have a problem with that?”
          _____________________________

          I don’t have any problem with that. That is what most interest me. But what I am saying is that some people do not want to do this. And there are sets of reasons why this is so.

          • “I would also make the suggestion – this is how I see your statements in part – that when you employ the terms ‘responsible’ and ‘take charge’ and ‘pull your own weight’ that you are in a sense imposing a value-set on others. Imposition is always problematic. Maybe they do not want to do all that? What I notice is that different people, in different circumstances and regions, make their own choices. According to their own values, needs, and desires.”

            This is an ethics blog. The entire objective is to make it clear that in an ethical culture, people assimilate the ethical values of that culture, because if they don’t, the entire culture suffers. Your sentence should read,

            UNETHICAL people make their own choices…according to their own values, needs, and desires.
            ETHICAL people make those choices using agreed upon societal values, taking into due consideration the needs and desires of others.

            Your assumptions embody what is commonly called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

            • Jack wrote: “This is an ethics blog. The entire objective is to make it clear that in an ethical culture, people assimilate the ethical values of that culture, because if they don’t, the entire culture suffers.”
              __________________________

              But people also are called to resist unethicalness in that culture if it exists, that goes without saying, too, of course. When ‘white will’ comes to bear on ‘black will’ there is a whole range of issues and problems that arise. This seems intuitively obvious, to me anyway.

              The ideas that I am exploring – and they are not in my view unethical – go in a different direction. I think the assumption that one can define a singular ethic and impose it nationally is part of a problem which is also, now, being played at an international level.

              I see this as American Assumptionism (sorry, another neologism but you get my idea) in action.

              I would rather see a different America, I guess. One that allows for regional differences and does not seek to normalize or standardize people. At the very least I think that one who comes out of such a strong, determining mind-set can and needs to stop and examine that mind-set. That is the mind-set that I come from generally and I am not speaking of you. (Though you do seem ideologically driven according to your values, ideas and ethics).

              I think I agree with you though. Soft expectations will only get you soft results. Demanding expectations will often get you much better results. But the one receiving the demand, as it were, has to be willing to cooperate. There is a power-dynamic there that is problematic.

  3. “The Democratic theme is income inequality, which is purely class warfare. The racial inequality is right there to see, and nobody’s talking about it.”

    Why aren’t we focusing on income inequality, though? Why is racial equality a thing? If a person isn’t racist, they’d want to help all poor people, because people in the same circumstances the same amount and types of help. If we can determine that some people need a certain type of help more than others, fine, but why should we believe that we can tell that by looking at them?

    Poverty isn’t racist, in the sense that when a person comes into existence, they aren’t first assigned a race and then an economic class based on that race (oh, you’re going to be black, so let’s raise your chances of being born into abject poverty); race and class are determined simultaneously (insert Dungeons and Dragons joke here). (There will be a slight tangent for the rest of the paragraph.) This is the same reason I claim the same right to indignation as people whose ancestors were oppressed: They claim that if they had been born some decades earlier, they would have been oppressed. As long as we’re speaking in hypotheticals, I could just as easily have been born as an oppressed minority decades ago, too. My current situation has no bearing on who I could have been, nor does it prevent me from being indignant both viscerally and on principle (which are often the same to me). Unlike the people who are indignant on behalf of their ancestors, I do not commit the Original Position Fallacy. I am indignant on behalf of all injustice, at all points in history. See also the Veil of Ignorance, wherein people are asked to define the morality of a societal institution based on the idea that they do not know where in society they will be placed.

    Why shouldn’t we do this same thing for all poor people? Other than, of course, the fact that while it is a decent idea and may even be necessary, it will not be sufficient. luckyesteeyoreman is right; we need to start fixing cultures. You already know my plan for doing so.

    • Because all poor people didn’t start from below ground zero. Because whites are doing fine, Asians are doing better than whites are, and Hispanics are improving quickly. There is nothing wrong with income disparity—that’s socialist/communist talk. I don’t care how much anyone less earns, if I can take care of myself and my family, and I have no right to covet what someone’s else’s industry and talent brings them.

      Black stasis at a disadvantaged level is something different. Slavery destroyed black culture and Jim Crow impeded black progress. A couple centuries head start in wealth and family support puts blacks at a huge disadvantage that they have been unable to overcome. It’s been immune to programs. Something has to change the flat line.

      The lagging of one racial group is destabilizing all of US society at all levels. It’s dangerous.

      I’m not a fan of the “veil of ignorance”—it’s The Golden Rule without the nuance— but it was a nice addition to the tool box.

  4. Here is an idea.

    Go full Libertarian on economic policies. Business regulations do nothing but make it harder for people to make money. Indeed, as we saw in Quincy, Illinois, business regulations are deadly.

    By the way, did not Jews face a huge disadvantage? I am sure having your whole family gassed to death was a huge disadvantage. Why are not Jews trapped in poverty?

  5. I have no idea what the solution will be or if there’ll be one in my lifetimes but I can’t help wishing we had gone through with reparations in the 1860s. Despite a large portion of my ancestry having shown up in the US at the very tail end of the 19’th and very beginning of the 20’th century (The most recent left Kiev just before world war one met on the boat and got married) it’s still terribly uncomfortable knowing my country was built on the backs of slaves and that I benefit today because of crimes long ago.

    We have a whole civil court system based on the idea of using money to make people whole so maybe Jack’s right, you calculate a number and pay it.

    • “my country was built on the backs of slaves”

      Let’s not be hyperbolic. The southern cotton industry and a bit of the agricultural south was built on the backs slaves.

      “We have a whole civil court system based on the idea of using money to make people whole”

      No we don’t.

      • Let’s not be hyperbolic. The southern cotton industry and a bit of the agricultural south was built on the backs slaves.

            • The play is about the second continental congress approving the delectation of independence. There was a film version released in 1976, it’s called 1776 a Mucisal Comedy of American Independence and you should watch it.

              The song in the video is a delegate from South Carolina reminding the northernerners how they profit from the slave trade even if they don’t keep slaves themselves. He does this as part of his desire to have Jefferson remove the anti-slavery portion of the deceleration which as you know from history classes, he eventually does.

              • Secondary and tertiary (and even more distant) effects of someone else’s conduct due to being part of an economic community hardly one to claim that an extremely vicarious individual on the far end of the ripple effect has “built America on the backs of slaves”.

                Tripe.

                • Who bought the good produced by slaves? What about the slavery in the north does it not count for anything because they started to phase it out? For that matter who buys goods produced by slaves now? We do. As Heinlein said, the person who eats meat isn’t morally superior to the butcher.

                  • The United States sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives and tore itself apart to get rid of slavery, and its loss didn’t have a lot of economic impact on the North. Saying the country was built on slavery is more than a little bit of hyperbole, and Rutledge’s song is purest rationalization. It doesn’t justify slavery, it just says, “You benefited from it too.” Okay. But we’re the ones admitting its wrong and that its has to go, jerk. You’re the one singing that you know how ugly and cruel it is (“Stuff-them-in-the-ships!”), but that’s OK because the North is hypocritical? What damn sense does that make?

                    John Cullom was great, but learning history from musicals is not a good idea.

                    • You benefited from it too is the point though. The northerners who used slavery for awhile, the southrons who used it on a larger scale, the buyers of goods produced by slaves, the New England sailors, the white employees of plantation owners, the people who sold goods to them. Any part of the economy that touched slavery. It built was was there and we’ve inherited those rewards.

                      And and when it ended we didn’t absorb the former slaves into the culture, we othered them. In Rome a freed slave could become a citizen, in Denmark the men who went a viking and the thralls they took managed to merge.

                      We made Jim Crow laws and profited again all the way down to reduced competition caused by the barriers black people faced.

                      Rutledge didn’t justify slavery, he showed them and the audience that they were complicit. Sometimes fiction drives a point home better than a history book can and so it is a useful supplementary tool, I never claimed it was a substitute for book learnin’.

                    • 1. He certainly did justify slavery, unless you think he opposed banning it because it was the right thing to do!

                      2. I didn’t make Jim Crow laws, I didn’t benefit from them,and stop talking race -guilt nonsense. My father was as destitute as any black man, and my mother’s family came here broke from Greece in 1900 and worked their ass off while being discriminated against.

                      3. Slaves were made citizens by the 13th Amendment. In Rome, citizens could also be made slaves. Neither Rome nor Denmark are relevant to the issue.

                      4. Obviously you don’t learn anything from this particular fiction if you “learned” that Rutledge opposed slavery. Or defended slavery by explaining in graphic terms how bad it was to make the northern delegates feel guilty. The real Rutledge would never have characterized slavery that way at all, and as a debate tactic, it’s idiotic.

                      3.

                    • A major finding of the research into the economic dynamics of the slave system was to demonstrate that the rise in the value of slaves was not based upon unfounded speculation. Slave labor was the foundation of a prosperous economic system in the South. To illustrate just how important slaves were to that prosperity, Gerald Gunderson (1974) estimated what fraction of the income of a white person living in the South of 1860 was derived from the earnings of slaves. Table 1 presents Gunderson’s estimates. In the seven states where most of the cotton was grown, almost one-half the population were slaves, and they accounted for 31 percent of white people’s income; for all 11 Confederate States, slaves represented 38 percent of the population and contributed 23 percent of whites’ income. Small wonder that Southerners — even those who did not own slaves — viewed any attempt by the federal government to limit the rights of slaveowners over their property as a potentially catastrophic threat to their entire economic system. By itself, the South’s economic investment in slavery could easily explain the willingness of Southerners to risk war when faced with what they viewed as a serious threat to their “peculiar institution” after the electoral victories of the Republican Party and President Abraham Lincoln the fall of 1860.
                      *********************************************************
                      The Northern states also had a huge economic stake in slavery and the cotton trade. The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed an enormous increase in the production of short-staple cotton in the South, and most of that cotton was exported to Great Britain and Europe. Figure 2 charts the growth of cotton exports from 1815 to 1860. By the mid 1830s, cotton shipments accounted for more than half the value of all exports from the United States. Note that there is a marked similarity between the trends in the export of cotton and the rising value of the slave population depicted in Figure 1. There could be little doubt that the prosperity of the slave economy rested on its ability to produce cotton more efficiently than any other region of the world.

                      The income generated by this “export sector” was a major impetus for growth not only in the South, but in the rest of the economy as well. Douglass North, in his pioneering study of the antebellum U.S. economy, examined the flows of trade within the United States to demonstrate how all regions benefited from the South’s concentration on cotton production (North 1961). Northern merchants gained from Southern demands for shipping cotton to markets abroad, and from the demand by Southerners for Northern and imported consumption goods. The low price of raw cotton produced by slave labor in the American South enabled textile manufacturers — both in the United States and in Britain — to expand production and provide benefits to consumers through a declining cost of textile products. As manufacturing of all kinds expanded at home and abroad, the need for food in cities created markets for foodstuffs that could be produced in the areas north of the Ohio River. And the primary force at work was the economic stimulus from the export of Southern Cotton. When James Hammond exclaimed in 1859 that “Cotton is King!” no one rose to dispute the point.

                      http://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economics-of-the-civil-war/

                    • But somehow cotton continued to be produced after the Civil War, and the economy, despite the devastation of the war itself, did not fall apart.

                      I’ve actually seen Gunderson’s study, though I had forgotten his name. Like all studies that set out to prove something, it’s conclusions are suspect. I’ve also read multiple historians who hold that by the time the Civil War occurred, slavery was already on the way out in the South, no longer profitable, and more trouble than it was worth.

                      13% of the population were slaves by 1860. I find it hard to believe that just 13% of the work force, many domestics and children and the rest largely unskilled laborers, were that vital to the economy as a whole. Textiles, sure.

                    • “You benefited from it too is the point though. The northerners who used slavery for awhile, the southrons who used it on a larger scale, the buyers of goods produced by slaves, the New England sailors, the white employees of plantation owners, the people who sold goods to them. Any part of the economy that touched slavery.”

                      You know who that would also touch? The black slavers in Africa who sold the slaves. Go ahead, tell us that Africa benefited from slavery. Please. I dare you.

                    • Obtuse much Jack? The song doesn’t justify slavery, it shows that the guilt extends beyond slavers.

                      Nor did the character Rutledge justify slavery, he tried to justify it, he did not succeed, Adams and Franklin didn’t buy it and he only got what he wanted in the end by acting like Ted Cruz.

                    • Calling slavery a benefit and saying people have benefited are not the same thing. Would you prefer if I call it utility? Slaves make something, you use it, you’ve gained something.

                    • Does that mean if I steal something from someone else, I haven’t benefited from my unethical act, because I’ve corrupted myself? I’m putting a rationalist taboo on the word “benefit” before this goes farther.

                      It doesn’t matter what course of historical events led us here. People who are born to families without the resources and cultural skills they need to contribute to society should be helped, regardless of the journey their bloodline took to get them to that point. The problem isn’t about groups of people; it is about the new people we are bringing into the world, who don’t have any of this baggage until it is given to them. All solutions should be phrased in terms of what we are doing for them. I don’t see how anything else is rational, but I’m open to argument.

      • As I recall, the 13th Amendment of the Constitution made Slavery illegal back in 1865. It’s been 150 years since that happened. Isn’t it time that we moved on to examining the other reasons for black poverty and crime.

        • Have you heard of the Klu Klux Klan, Jim Crow, or Plessy v. Ferguson? That’s how 1865-1965 were spent and the last people to reach adulthood under that system are just now old enough for the actuarial tables to start catching up with them. Did they carry the attitudes they grew up surronded by for their whole lives? I hope not, in fact I’m sure large numbers of them didn’t. Some did though, and their parents who started dying off 20-25 years ago, that would be 1991-1996 how many of them changes their minds, again oh so many but it would be safe to say fewer, they lived with it for longer, and how many more were around in the 80s? What if they’re not even overt but subconsciously stuck with ideas that were socialized into them? How many people escape their socialization? How many more years till the taint is removed form living memory?

          Slavery was a long time ago to me but let me share something that’s stuck with me since I was 19 in the late. 151 years right? My American lit professor told us a story, he was an older man but not elderly, not yet. He told us that as a small child there was a woman in his neighborhood, a very old woman born in the 1860s, a small child at the time to be sure but born into slavery. He had met and been around a former slave. A man I met, who taught me and who I bumped into at rosh hashana services one year. I met a man who met an American slave. Suddenly it doesn’t feel so far removed even most of my ancestors in 1865 were in Bavaria and Poland and Belarus at the time.

          • My father’s mother’s family had a slave, and she continued to live with them after she was freed. When the ex-slave became old and infirm, my grandmother nursed and took care of her until she died. Slavery’s not as distant as we think.

          • How many people escape their socialization?
            The people of Japan, Germany and Italy not long ago. Most of the former Soviet Bloc pretty recently. Bernie Sanders’ supporters about the time they start to actually pay taxes. It’s a pretty long list.

          • “Have you heard of the Klu Klux Klan, Jim Crow, or Plessy v. Ferguson?”

            I’ve heard of the Democratic Party, which is now over 200 years of race baiting, switching sides when it became electorally expedient. There is no political solution to this problem until the Democrats are disbanded.

            • Come on. Both parties switched sides, in many cases literally. Why do you think Strom Thurmond became a Republican? LBJ and RFK, plus Nixon and Agnew on the other side, made most KKK members Republicans by the Seventies. And why is this even relevant?

              • Pretty much at the time that direct racist rhetoric ceased in both parties (because racism had nothing to do with the switch…but rather natural realignments of party coalitions regarding a plethora of values and topics).

                Pretty much also the same time the Democrats then began indirect racist rhetoric via race baiting and race grievance mongering.

                So, I think LoSonambulo’s overall generalization is accurate.

                • Tex, seriously, have you heard the ridiculous attempts by Fox and others to rationalize Trump’s KKK hedge? I don’t think the GOP is a racist party, but pretty much all the unapologetic anti-black racists are Republicans today, when they were Democrats in 1955. You’re spinning.

                    • Elected Republicans? I’m talking primarily about citizen Republicans. For example, principled and legitimate opposition to Obama is in part bolstered by the support of GOP racists who would support any obstruction of a black President.

                    • It matters completely to discuss elected politicians, because before the switch, the racists (primarily in the Democrat party) openly discussed and PUSHED legislation to keep black people down. After the great “racist switcharoo”, that rhetoric ENDED very quickly. So what if the yokel racists vote Republican…it isn’t because Republicans or the Platform pushed any legislation designed to keep black people down. So of course the platform matters also. So, why then would the *white* racists easily fall under the Republican umbrella? Well, I already summarized the cause. No need to reiterate. This isn’t spin. You are the one equating post “switcharoo” Republicans with pre-switcharoo Democrats on the topic of effectual racism.

                      And it the equation is a slanderous myth generated by the Left with the sole purpose of advancing their political agenda, all while engaging in their own new set of race based rhetoric.

                    • But tex: how many openly or obviously racist citizens are Republicans as opposed to Democrats? That’s all that matters. If the partry is attracting and is dependent on the support of racists, that’s a problem, however it came about.

                      On a related note: all the switchovers for Trump didn’t surprise me at all. Mass. is a very racist state in a lot of pockets—those ethnic groups have always been strongly bigoted. Not long ago, and maybe still, a black man walking through Southie was taking quite a risk.

                    • You say the party is attracting racists. That’s awfully active to me. Your argument essentially boils down to “Republicans are actively pulling in white racists” mine boils down to “Democrats push away white racists”. This is why examining platforms is essential: The Democrat platform openly and intentional pushes policy that creates advantages for non-whites over whites. That has a tendency to push white racists away (and therefore vicariously towards the Republicans). The Republican platform openly and intentionally avoids creating advantages for any race over any other. That does not actively pull white-racists.

                      But given the pressures: one party wants to disadvantage white people, the other party wants everyone to compete on a fair playing field. Which direction do you think white racists will gravitate if they have to?

                    • It’s not active…I didn’t say that. But they aren’t sending them away. I don’t exactly hold that against them, but its a thin line to walk. Trump’s KKK dodge was pretty transparent, and all the conservatives and Republican commentators Ive read were minimizing it. Why are they doing that? Why hasn’t Reince Priebus, speaking for the GOP, repudiated Trump for that? This isn’t political correctness gotchas, it’s the Klan, and white supremacy.

                  • I have a sneaky suspicion the reason you find *white* racists in the republican party has scant to do with some imagined racist platform of the Republican party and more to do with the distinctly race-based Democrat platform that arbitrarily favors non-whites over whites in various programs.

                    To your run of the mill *white* racist yokel, you’d tend to avoid the party that advantages the people you’d rather disadvantage, leaving you the recourse of a party that will simply not advantage ANY group over another.

                    This isn’t guilt by association.

                    • When did I say anything about a platform? Read the tenor of some of the comments about Obama on the Daily Caller or The Blaze or any conservative web site. Those aren’t Democrats, and they have given cover to all the race-baiting by Democrats. I spend a lot of time responding to accusations that Republicans only oppose Obama because he’s black, which is crap, but it doesn’t help that so many Republicans make overtly racist comments. The culture of the party has been cynically welcoming to racists the same way Democrats have encouraged anti-white racists. I don’t know how anyone can deny that.

              • Jack: over 100 segregationist congressmen, nearly all Democrats, signed the Southern Manifesto of the mid-1950s. Strom Thurmond is the only one of those who switched parties and kept his seat, but dozens of others stayed in the Democratic Party and in their seats for decades after. If you look at the 2008 primaries, there were still a significant number of white Democrats voting for Clinton and admitting that race was the primary reason for their vote.

                It’s relevant because the poster I quoted said that the Klan, Jim Crow, and Plessy v. Ferguson are still relevant, and I think that you can’t separate those things from the Democratic Party.

              • Tex — whom I do respect although I often disagree with him — has reiterated this false narrative so many times that he truly believes it.

                Of course most white racists have found a home in the Republican Party. You only need to open your eyes to see it. I am not proud to say that I know — and am related — to a lot of bigoted people and they have found a happy home in the Republican Party. And, even if the majority of the elected Republican leaders are not overtly racist, they pander to white bigots with a nod and a wink. They have to if they want to be elected.

                To sum up, politicians suck. They should be leading by example instead of appealing to every special interest (good or bad) out there. Really, the only honest one of the bunch that is left out there is Bernie Sanders. I truly believe that HE believes just about every word he says. Unfortunately, he believes in la-la land, so that’s a problem.

                • “Tex — whom I do respect although I often disagree with him — has reiterated this false narrative so many times that he truly believes it.”

                  I’ve linked to plenty of in depth pieces that actually analyze the nuances and complexities of party realignments, the best the “race-based party flip” crowd can do it point at national level electoral results. Sorry, too simplistic and convenient.

                  “Of course most white racists have found a home in the Republican Party. You only need to open your eyes to see it. I am not proud to say that I know — and am related — to a lot of bigoted people and they have found a happy home in the Republican Party.”

                  Great, now let me copy paste the line in my bit that shows this comment by you doesn’t undermine me at all:

                  “I have a sneaky suspicion the reason you find *white* racists in the republican party…

                  “And, even if the majority of the elected Republican leaders are not overtly racist, they pander to white bigots with a nod and a wink. They have to if they want to be elected.”

                  Libelous comment. Prove it. It’s all confirmation bias on your part.

                  “To sum up, politicians suck. They should be leading by example instead of appealing to every special interest (good or bad) out there. Really, the only honest one of the bunch that is left out there is Bernie Sanders. I truly believe that HE believes just about every word he says. Unfortunately, he believes in la-la land, so that’s a problem.”

                  I’m not sure what this has to do with my commentary…

                  • “Libelous comment. Prove it. It’s all confirmation bias on your part.”

                    Nope. I’m not going to re-teach basic history to you. You have blinders on — and it would be easier for me to forcibly remove them rather than present you with well-documented historical facts.

          • So explain the Jews.

            How did they manage to succeed less than half a century after six million of them were murdered in the camps?

            How did they succeed despite all the pogroms and expulsions against them?

            • There are poor Jewish people too. Importantly though, they generally are white. Skin color is a huge advantage and religion — not since the Nazis — isn’t something that you wear on your sleeve.

            • “So explain the Jews. How did they succeed despite all the pogroms and expulsions against them?”

              Allow an (ex-) Jew to explain.

              Strongly defined idea. Cleaving to a language and the ability to use language (the most powerful tool). A concept of historical self. The capacity to employ fictions as elements of self-definition. A personal and social will that is extraordinary and indomitable. A historical record with many imitable examples of crafty overcoming of opposition, and turning opposition to advantage (Thanks, Joseph!) Skillfully turning the role of victim against the victimizer. The ability to handle narratives and to employ them. Networking. Making oneself useful (very useful) to the dominant power such that you become indispensable. Skill in packing quickly when things get sketchy and knowing the routes of ingress and egress.

              A Jew (in my view) is really the holder of an IDEA. The idea moves culturally, and also socially and biologically, through time and space. It takes on the biological characteristics of the region where it moves. Thus Ashkenazim are ‘white’ and Sephardim are sort of tanned.

              I read Waldo Franks’ The Jew in Our Day’ and it so freaked me out I decided to renounce. No one seems to want to accept my resignation letter though.

              For me, the historical burden is simply too much.

        • I would only modify your statement by one word Wayne – omit the word black.

          Poverty, Crime and their best friend, Lack of Education, are a scourge that crosses all racial barriers. It is just as tragic in Appalachia as it is in Atlanta. I don’t think there are any easy fixes. I don’t think throwing a wad of money at it in order to assuage some guilt and discomfort over how minorities were and are treated will help.

          These problems are like a cancer. A cancer that has run deep and unchecked for a very long time. We try to put Band-aids on it with programs, maybe even hit it with a little chemo, but we will never eradicate it until we can ameliorate the problems that allowed it to happen to begin with. Just like with cancer, we have to solve the problem at it’s most basic level, we have to learn how to write it out of our cultural DNA as a nation.

          I know education would help. Better schools, easy access to higher education and vocational training….but we have to make the young people WANT to avail themselves to education. If a person does not value an education, you cannot force them to learn, and if the culture of poverty does not value education they will never rise out of it.

          We have to find a way to make school engaging, interesting and relevant as it applies to the age of the student. We have to devise a way to make parents interested, involved and growing as their children grow and learn. The change has to come from all perspectives. We can’t expect one group to change to fix the problem. Both groups must change and actively work together or we will just dissolve into more mutual blaming.

          The foundation must be built on mutual trust and empathy. The first floor must be education…from that base we might build a great nation, a great world….but how to get there? There’s the rub. Left for far greater minds than ours. Perhaps we still have some evolving to do.

          • “I don’t think throwing a wad of money at it in order to assuage some guilt and discomfort over how minorities were and are treated will help.”

            You know, this annoys me, Lisa. Could I have been more clear that this has nothing whatsoever to do with my suggestion, that I specifically stated that this was not either the purpose or the motivation?

            Apparently, or you didn’t read the post, or think I was lying, or something. Or you think that grant to blacks to allow them to function successfully and have a chance to make significant progress that has eluded them is by nature “reparations.” Why isn’t every civil rights program, diversity program, minority business program, and social welfare program also “reparations”? Are all women’s welfare programs reparations too?

            This is how the idiotic reparations argument has poisoned civil rights policy and narrowed minds. I sure as Hell am not guilty of slavery, and I will not consent to some kind of danages for decisions made centuries ago. I resent the whole idea, as well as the blacks as victims assumption.

            As for throwing money, what is it you think we have been doing for the last 50 years? What good has that done? Yet we are on track to spend far more over the next 50, guaranteed to fail, and the lagging success and toxic culture of the black community drags the whole nation down, and racial tensions are getting worse.

            I did not suggest or endorse reparations, and do not believe in reparations, and if you are going to discuss the idea, don’t mischaracterize what I wrote. I could not have been clearer.

            • Perhaps you didn’t read my post in its’ entirety. I am saying that reparations, grants, programs, etc. Have NOT worked thus far and your idea of a large cash payment to end those largely failed programs seems to be throwing good money after bad. Those in poverty normally do not have a lot of experience handling money. I refuse to make this a racial issue. It needs to be an issue of poverty. And it must be addressed at its’ core. Money – whether it be reparations, grants or government programs – are simply Band-Aids placed on gaping, festering wounds. Wounds don’t heal from the outside in. The only solution to the problem of multi-generational poverty is a healing from the inside out.

              Forgive me, but your original post seems to have an undercurrent of dismissiveness and superiority. You are tired of spending money on programs that don’t work. So you feel a sizeable cash grant is the answer? A five figure grant for each and every impoverished adult is a lot of money to spend – but conversely, not a lot to pull yourself out of poverty with. It might buy a single mother of four a decent SUV so she can get to work and get the kids to school, day care, etc. but it won’t change her life. She could invest it into college or vocational training instead – a smart investment – but it will be pretty hard for her to care for and support her children while going to school. For most, either school or family will suffer. Without reliable transportation she may not even be able to attend classes.

              She could start a business…..a very small business, but with a high school education or less, and no experience building and running a business, the vast majority would fail very quickly. She could invest in someone else’s business, but with no knowledge or education in investment she would have little idea what was a good investment and what was not. And a nationwide windfall like you propose would be a bigger windfall to those unethical sorts who would look to ways to separate the naive, inexperienced and uneducated recipients from their money. Your idea is a Band-Aid. The fix has to address the core issues of poverty. The reasons for multi-generational poverty are many and complex. We need to look to countries and societies that have made meaningful progress in eliminating it and drying up the well of hopelessness from which it drinks. We need to look closer at the attitudes and actions that have brought them progress and consider how we can incorporate those here.

              I don’t have the answer, you don’t have the answer, and as I said in my previous comment, I think the world has some evolving to do.

              • It’s real simple. 50 years of the current approach has changed nothing, and frustration has reached the breaking point. My approach always is to fix the problem, and forget about idiological ideals.

                “You are tired of spending money on programs that don’t work. So you feel a sizeable cash grant is the answer? A five figure grant for each and every impoverished adult is a lot of money to spend.”

                No, I don’t forgive you. I want to see the problem solved. I didn’t say I was tired of spending money; I’m embarrassed that this problem persists, and alarmed that the reaction to it nationally is cray socialism or autocratic fascism, with blacks mad at everyone. I explained that the cash outlay would be offset by cutting as many of the so-called social welfare programs over time as possible, since they only treated the symptoms without improving the problem. How is that “dismissiveness and superiority”?

                Now this, on the other hand,

                “The fix has to address the core issues of poverty. The reasons for multi-generational poverty are many and complex. We need to look to countries and societies that have made meaningful progress in eliminating it and drying up the well of hopelessness from which it drinks. We need to look closer at the attitudes and actions that have brought them progress and consider how we can incorporate those here.”

                ..Is fantasy, ignorant, and classic non-substantive blather with out substance. It isn’t just poverty, it is a large racial group, crippled by slavery and institutional racism, that has been so disadvantaged that it can’t dig out. There isn’t any country with that problem and our history, and other nations’ solutions haven’t been desirable or applicable to a large nation like ours. On this, Marco Rubio is dead right and Obama/Sanders is dead wrong. The USA has succeeded because it isn’t like other nations, and doesn’t want to be. I am very tired of the lazy mantra of looking to other nations when they should be looking to us.

              • Lisa Weber wrote: “I refuse to make this a racial issue. It needs to be an issue of poverty. And it must be addressed at its’ core.”
                ________________________

                It certainly becomes a difficult topic when it is predicated on ‘race’, that much is certain. I see it less as ‘race’ in that specific, biological sense, and an issue of culture and ethnicity. Similar but not the same.

                But to speak in terms of ‘poverty’ is also problematic. There are regions of the world that we would consider ‘impoverished’ and yet which are not impoverished, but rich. Rich with themselves, their own values, their traditions, their religion and rituals. But they do not have ‘economy’ as we do. They are not useful to us though.

                A post-slavery culture, allowed to be a culture, would certainly have developed as it did on the islands off of Carolina (if memory serves). But it would not have been the culture and the traditions of the dominant white (European) culture. Nor could it be asked to be so (nor told to be so).

                A genetic, biological and cultural stock that had been ripped out of its context, and made to serve a very different and utterly foreign project, is now and always be a problem. Until? Until a social and cultural will arises that either 1) coincides with that of the Master Class or 2) overcomes it. But if it is coerced it will not stick.

                People have to define themselves by becoming themselves.

                In my view, if one is not taking these elements into consideration, one is skirting the issue and not really talking to it.

      • It is not exactly ‘hyperbole’ but rather a specific perspective of historical analysis. Essentially, the Marxian school. As with early Eugene Genovese. valkygrrl’s statement is made possible by accessing and privileging a set of assumptions and then constructing a historical narrative from that base.

        I think of it as the novelization is history. I think it was William James who said something to the effect that ‘If we write novels of this sort, how then will we write histories?’ I am probably misquoting but the idea is interesting: from our present angle-of-view we revisualize history according to views and impositions of idea that we now feel define our world. On that base we time-travel back into novelized history and revisualize it.

        Now, the fun really begins when this is carried out in groups and where social coercion is able to function. I’m thinking of Chinese social indoctrination programs and ‘thought reform’.

        Did you ever read ‘In the Penal Colony’? (A direct and ironic commentary to Nietzsche’s ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’.)

        • Your response to me reads like this:

          “It is not exactly ‘hyperbole’ but rather appealing to someone else’s hyperbolic argument against America.”

          Luckily you got that out in the first sentence.

          • That would be the interpretation of the one who did not read well, or could not read well, what was actually written. How we view history is determined by how we organize our view and understanding of the present.

            vallygrrl’s theatrical performance (the YouTube vid) is a product of a form of historical revisionism which arises out of an interpretive project. I don’t see this as so hard to understand. Overall, Marxian.

            One could say that you likely function with a ‘hyperbolic defence’ of ‘America.

            Why?

            • No, I read, my summary is still accurate. It’s hyperbolic. And someone appealing to the hyperbole also engages in hyperbole.

              “One could say that you likely function with a ‘hyperbolic defence’ of ‘America.”

              Could? Well, once one actually does and makes a sound argument, maybe I’ll take up an rebuttal to “why”.

      • If I presented fraud or vandalism or taking candy from babies as something other than fraud, vandalism or taking candy from babies, would you support it?

        • I really think that’s unfair, and a lousy analogy. Motive and purposes matter, especially in this situation. It makes a difference, for example, if black society, receiving this opportunity, sees it as creating an obligation on their part, rather than fulfilling an obligation on the part of whites. That will profoundly affect the final results. If I take candy from babies to save their teeth and help them develop better eating habits, that’s a lot different from taking it because I want to make them cry, but the conduct and the results are identical. If I give a woman I mistreated a check to pay for the dress I ripped and to keep her from reporting me, that’s one thing. If I give her a check to help her out of a financial problem to show that I love her, that’s something else, and she will regard it differently, assuming I can make the distinction clear. Your argument would eliminate all social welfare and assistance based on race as reparations.

            • I wouldn’t. Too hard. The only way to do it would be to make the group blacks, regardless of origin. Obama would get a grant. So would David Ortiz. Very rich individuals could opt out, of course.

              • That doesn’t answer the question. Why define it by anything other than “how poor are you” if it isn’t intended to offset the effects of the injustice of slavery, as a reparation?

                What is this “racial X factor” of which you speak? Could you please define functionally why giving black people money regardless of economic class and denying the same to white people doesn’t invoke the exact same principle as the academic affirmative action you have thoroughly shredded, right down to the idea of people not being able to handle a situation they haven’t earned their way into?

                • Because the whole culture was kneecapped at the beginning of the race in a capitalist culture based on competition. The grants (and the program they would be part of) isn’t compensation for wrongs. It is an effort to address the inequity that caused by the kneecapping, for the good of the whole economy and culture, benefiting white and black alike. Whites with the same opportunity to compete successfully and fail are just the natural order of a system that produces winners and losers. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about them, but they have a relatively fair shot. The last 50 years show that blacks, as a group, do not.

                  • “The grants (and the program they would be part of) isn’t compensation for wrongs. It is an effort to address the inequity that caused by the kneecapping, for the good of the whole economy and culture, benefiting white and black alike.”

                    This is why this is incredibly frustrating; that is nearly the exact language used by one of my friends in defense of reparations…

                    • Then they are disguising reparations—which requires an acceptance of the responsibility to pay damages for wrongdoing when the payers have engaged in none. I reject that entirely. I don’t owe black America a cent. But the constant lagging still has to be addressed, and as a member of the society, I endorse trying something new and diverting resources to address it.

                    • Huh???

                      Reparations ARE paying for damages to Victims of wrongdoing committed by those who engaged int he wrongdoing.

                      The reason reparations never flew is because reparations in the modern day required making the argument that possible *descendants* of the victims were owed the payment by possible *descendants* of the perpetrators. Which violates at least 3 key values in our culture…which is why Reparations never could be justified.

                    • What? Reparations for slavery in the 21st century means non-wrongdoers paying for damages, and by so doing acknowledging accountability, blame and wrongdoing. It’s a black racist trap. And that’s why what I’m talking about is materially different. Half of the appeal of reparations is to place today’s whites permanently in the shoes of the slaveholders.

                  • Just to be clear, we’re treating black people as a distinct group for the purposes of recognizing and addressing inequality not because their ancestors were enslaved and other people’s ancestors weren’t, but because they have a distinct culture, right? Because that would make a decent amount of sense.

                    • Because they have a different culture, because we had, and to some extent still do, have a national culture that disproportionately impedes them, and because of real and measurable disadvantages that are a legacy of slavery.

                • I realize that there are at least two major differences between this monetary boost and affirmative action.

                  1) The monetary boost doesn’t take away spots from other people, though it may lead to rising prices in areas with more black people. Colleges are exclusive and therefore an advantage to one group excludes another.

                  2) The monetary boost doesn’t discredit money.

                  That said, if affirmative action didn’t work, what makes you think the monetary boost will?

  6. This is the Ta-Nehisi Coates article, “The Case for Reparations.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/

    It details the specific methods and ways in which black citizens were robbed of their freedom, land, and property, and ways that they were prevented from accumulating wealth, all with legal approval or legal neutrality. The majority of the article is about post-slavery, and focuses quite a lot on the 1920s-70’s, during the lifetime of a large portion of people. It is a lengthy read, but worth it. I think that a lot of the questions on this thread might be answered if people bothered to read the article. Otherwise everyone is just talking in circles and no one gets anywhere.

    • No, linking my argument to reparations talks in circles, since I specifically rejected it.

      The responsible policy is to help blacks catch up because its good for the country, not just blacks.If you tell me as a white taxpayer that I’m paying some kind of fine for a things done centuries ago, I’m out. Coates’ argument is, like all of his arguments, ultimately one of blame and debt. Wrong. Any debt was paid by the Civil War and the Civil Right Acts providing the same opportunity to blacks as every other ethnic group that has entered this country. But for a variety of reasons, they still can’t catch up. I know it’s comforting for people like Coates to refuse to take any responsibility for that at all, but statistic like the 70% single parent rate belie that definitively. Blame-casting is divisive, and so is the reparations argument.

      The problem is stalled black progress and a toxic culture. Not only is blame-casting divisive and wrong, it’s unnecessary.

        • This is a big problem: in many instances, the jobs of the people who work in the program are as much a part of anti-poverty as the money distributed by the program. By eliminating those programs, you’ll go far to gut the black middle class that currently exists, while giving them a one-time payoff of maybe a year’s salary.

            • But it’s faux-employment anyway if it isn’t fulfilling a need that the market generates naturally. Which means then that it’s a form of make-work welfare…the ethics of which I think accrue to the negative.

  7. Why are some successful? Examine that and one may find the option out of a cycle. Bottom line: Daniel Patrick Moynihan was right.

    “People learn how to manage money by having money to manage.”

    That certainly provided my chuckle of the day.

    • What’s so funny? That’s how I learned to manage money. That’s how kids learn. You think the inverse is true? “People learn how to manage money by having no money to manage” ? “People don’t earn how to manage money by having money to manage”?

      Having money in the bank and knowing it’s there makes all the difference in too many ways to count.

      • No matter how one attempts to educate and instill financial acumen there just happens to be a certain segment of our population – I would say a rather large one – whose vision of the future is what will happen in 15 minutes and not 15 years. I can certainly point out some shining examples in my own family.

        I will also say that financial literacy is a topic that is rarely addressed in school. I developed a curriculum on it and taught it for a few years at an alternative high school. Did the lesson take root? Yes and no. The factor that was in play was one of my favorite topics: Wants versus needs.

      • People learn how to manage money by being taught how to manage money, usually by demonstrations from their parents. To be frank, and making some educated guesses about your life, you didn’t learn from having money to manage, you picked up the gist of it while watching your parents struggle, and refined that learning with experience.

        • Well, if I had a block grant waiting for me in the bank, and my folks had two, I would have that experience. Watching parents (or parenT) struggle with no money, complaining the whole time about racism and how the system is rigged against them because of uncaring whites reveling in white privilege: what does that teach,exactly, and how do you stop that cycle?

          • We could find wealthier families with benevolent dispositions take on black families, maybe even several black families “under their wing” so to speak. Since space would be an issue, I’d only expect landed wealthy families with a decent spread to incorporate the black families into their households. The black families, as part of the new acculturation could be given simple, perhaps menial tasks around the residence until they develop good habits, then the wealthier families could begin incorporating pay into the structure to teach good money habits.

          • You nailed the problem on the head. Children with those parents learn bad lessons. That’s why the disintegration of the nuclear family and single motherhood is such a blight on society. But how DO you address that? I find Tex’s idea idealistic, and probably unworkable when you consider the scope, but I don’t have a better alternative. I’m just not willing to sit through the insanity of “Shotgun money at it and hope it gets better.” Because that demonstrably hasn’t worked.

                • Well, to your credit, I don’t see many options hoping for success that don’t include some sort of getting the next generation of black children OUT of broken and destructive homes and into relationships that don’t just teach the right values, but reinforce those values through genuine caring and loving relationships…which means that whoever takes up the task of being the father figure or the mother figure who teaches the right values, they can’t do it through some begrudging civic virtue, but because they genuinely love the person.

                  • That comment there should blow this discussion wide open.

                    Because with the government at the helm of such a program there would be too many problematic precedents set.

                    • That said… I don’t disagree. And I think that’s why this is a genuine Gordian knot, and I agree with Jack’s professor. Any solution to get to there from here involves an intolerable amount of authoritarian government intervention, and even if we were willing to accept that, I don’t trust the government to be good at it.

                    • “Any solution to get to there from here involves an intolerable amount of authoritarian government intervention, and even if we were willing to accept that, I don’t trust the government to be good at it.”

                      Bingo, HT.

                    • What was wrong with the Residential School System?

                      If we were to take these children away from their parents and adopt them to wealthy families, would they not be better off?

                    • “What was wrong with the Residential School System?

                      If we were to take these children away from their parents and adopt them to wealthy families, would they not be better off?”

                      That was tongue in cheek, right? I can never tell with you.

                    • I want to know the downside of taking children away from the poor to have them raised by the rich.

                      We know that children from wealthy families are, on average, better off than children in.poor families.

                      If we offered a one million dollar annual refundable tax credit to the rich per adopted child, rich people would adopt by the truckload.

                      To increase the number of children available for adoption, we could make it easier to declare patents unfit. We could, for example, make poverty grounds for unfitness,,and in a fitness hearing, the burden of proof could be placed on the parent to show fitness.

                      This will result in more children raised by wealthy families and enjoying the advantages.

                      But before I can support this idea, I need to know possible downsides- both likely and unlikely.

                    • That it’s Orwellian, cruel and brutal…and unfair? Plenty or poor families are wonderful parents, and rich parents raised Donald Trump and another brother who was a mess.

                • That it’s Orwellian, cruel and brutal…and unfair? Plenty or poor families are wonderful parents, and rich parents raised Donald Trump and another brother who was a mess.

                  Good answer.

                  I wonder if this could be a plot for a SyFy original movie.

      • The trick is that you have to have enough money to manage, but not so much money that you afford to not manage it. I suspect that those two endpoints are too close for comfort and vary greatly by location.

  8. Coates talks about specific harm, done by the government, to people who are still alive. Why is the thought of compensating those people, for those harms so outlandish? The Civil Rights Act was not reparations, it was a pledge by the robber to not rob the victim any more. It still doesn’t make up for the money the robber stole though.

  9. I read the Ta-Nehisi article posted by deery, and various books such as ‘North of Slavery’ (1961) by Leon Litwack which describes the continuation of exploitation and abuse in the North. Litwack focuses on the metaphor of the Mason-Dixon line and the North’s notion of ‘the North’ as the separation line between ‘southern racial inhumanity [and] northern benevolence and liberality’ to explore the historical facts: and it is as Ta-Nehisi describes it.

    The interpretation of history depends so much on the perspective and the desire of the one doing the interpretation, so much so that the desire and mood of the one doing the interpretation seem to pre-determine the very basis that one operates from. If you are one of those who determined history, conquest, construction, expansion, and all the rest, you have the advantage of being the controlling agent. And to be a controlling agent gives you a tremendous psychological advantage even if you wind up *hurt* by, say, the brutality of your choices. (This is a rather Nietzschean perspective).

    But, if you are a ‘victim of history’, and just one of the tools employed by the active, deciding and controlling class, how will you even be brought into complicity with the reining class? It is likely that – at a somatic level – you will always and forever be in a certain opposition to the Will of that class. In this sense I do not think it at all realistic to insist and demand that blacks – and this is what is in fact established and desired – become whites. Or marry themselves to the Historical Project that is the US. It only stands to reason that – again somatically – the abused and expoited class will never, not voluntarily, join you in your project. They will – I think this is true – desire to destroy both the Project and the ones whose will acted on them, enslaved them, and made them into something they are not. The history in this sense is a vicious and cruel force.

    In our present, right now, there is a new *mood* which is coming into focus which will, in my view, lead to the destruction of the Republic. Right now one notices wide and very very strange cracks which begin to appear. To follow through on the idea of reparations represents a *mood* which arises out of sentiment and only secondarily out of ratiocination. First, the sentiment, second the justification of the sentiment. It is one example among many examples of the beginning of the establishment of a socialist republic. If it ever did happen that reparations were paid (and they are *sort of* paid now through all the various social programs), this would amount to the first step toward a program of rectification of the evils perpetrated by the race that conquered N America and established this bizarre Republic. Then, you’d have to rectify the robbery of lands since the very foundation is a robbery; you’d have to deal with having robbed 1/3 of the landmass of the country from Mexico; and on down the line successively. Once you had begun down that rabbit hole you’d end up having to examine and to rectify the basic criminality that is structured into capitalism. It would start at one point and unravel like a ball of yarn.

    At a certain point then it seems that (to follow the idea of *mood*) the social body turns on the social body and begins a process of self-devouring. And in a Twitter environment such as the immediate present – an irrational, electric, instantaneous, and sentimental atmosphere – almost any *mood* can be sent out into the social tissues. Populism thus takes on a whole other potential. I am alluding to things which are hard to speak about because – and I think this is so – they are not exactly rational facts. They are psychological and social phenomena.

    I have gotten the sense that everything depends on how one interprets. I should have continued and said ‘how one interprets thus-and-such’ but the full stop indicates that it all depends on interpretation. Even a victim of history’s cruelty – say a black who is aware that he has been not partially screwed right from the start but that his very flesh has been ground up to stoke the fires of the very Will and Power which robbed his very person from his ancestral location – has to interpret the nature of the reality itself (reality in this sense as a sort of ‘will’ certainly beyond his own) which has brought him to his present. What does ‘moving forward’ even mean? What God or ‘god’ does one respond to in order to make sense of this present? These are questions that touch on huge and determining metaphysical definitions. One makes them consciously, or one flows with decisions that have been made by others.

    I wish to take the widest and even the most outrageous risks in what I think and what I write. You people (‘you people’) scare me because, truth be told, I sense so much intellectual conformity functioning here. Hello my Beloved America. But ‘you’ are exactly what I need to free-associate my way along the path to … clarity.

    • As you say, the narrative of history calls for complete deconstruction. However, I see no reason that a person born in this world must oppose anyone merely because of things that happened to their genetic predecessors. Epigenetics aside, I think we can neglect the “somatic level” of heritage for this purpose. We cannot neglect culture, though, and so I will equip people with the paradigms necessary to revise it.

      I revise my own story so many times that it’s bizarre to see other people trapped in stories decades old, because they never learned to own themselves. Everyone can be a confident “controlling agent”, not of other people, but of themselves and their own actions. No one need be a victim of history, but they are told so and raised with skills and narratives befitting a victim. We need a concerted effort to negate that mentality in everyone and replace it with the mentality of the Ubermensch, who always makes a path forward and takes responsibility for their own choices.

      • Extradimensional Cephaloped writes: “Epigenetics aside, I think we can neglect the “somatic level” of heritage for this purpose. We cannot neglect culture, though, and so I will equip people with the paradigms necessary to revise it.

        “I revise my own story so many times that it’s bizarre to see other people trapped in stories decades old, because they never learned to own themselves. Everyone can be a confident “controlling agent”, not of other people, but of themselves and their own actions. No one need be a victim of history, but they are told so and raised with skills and narratives befitting a victim. We need a concerted effort to negate that mentality in everyone and replace it with the mentality of the Ubermensch, who always makes a path forward and takes responsibility for their own choices.”
        ______________________________

        I will admit to a great deal of uncertainty in respect to the question. I would suggest that ‘culture’ arises within the specificity of the somatic (the body). We are far more our bodies, our tissues, and the long lines of evolution and development (our vehicle) than we are ‘programmable units’. It has become unpopular and not politically correct in today’s dispensation to veer away from thinking and seeing in somatic terms and I sense this fits into a view of reality which is handled by government and business interests which seek to standardize ‘humanity’ into one, manipulatable blob.

        One can ‘revise one’s story’ many times and through many different overlays, but one cannot (as a factual datum) revise the evolutionary path of one’s instrument. If there is one thing certain it is that this is not revisable. We are the outcomes then of everything that determines us at the level of our ’tissues’ (I use this term after having read Alexis Carrel’s ‘Man, the Unknown’, 1935. I also note that another philosopher I admire, Waldo Frank (writing in the same time period), uses the term in a similar way.

        I want to acknowledge that it is possible to think mythically, or to alter the ‘story’ of oneself. For example, one can shift a story of victimhood, loss and disempowerment into a story of opportunity, fate’s opening a door to new chances heroic empowerment. This is a question of the mind’s (and the spirit’s if one wanted to introduce a metaphysic) capacity to control and define its relationship to circumstance. Yet it has no bearing at all on oneself at the somatic level. One is what one has been. What one becomes tomorrow does indeed depend on how one responds to the present and thus ‘mental’ work and ‘spiritual’ work are totally vital.

        Our spiritual modalities – that is, our religious lives (if ‘religion’ is defined in a broad existential sense of our idea-interface with reality) – seem overall relics of death; shadows cast by a light no longer understood, unreal. It seems to me that the way that God (or metaphysic) is defined has intimate bearing on just how far a person can and will go in allowing themselves (their relationship to their somatic self) to transform. Mind you I am not speaking of ‘God’ in any standard way but as the most exalted possibility of imagining possibility as is possible to hold in the mind.

        I suppose I am sorry to say that I am not a ‘democrat’ in this area. My favorite Blake quote:

        “This life’s dim windows of the soul
        Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
        And leads you to believe a lie
        When you see with, not through, the eye.”

        Is still a puzzle for me. What is it that sees ‘through the eye’ but is not the eye itself? This seems to contradict the somatic emphasis but I rather see that it illustrates the important aspects.

        • I think the idea of the poem is that you should treat your physical self (including the brain) as a resource, the raw material you have to work with, but not a complete circumscription of your choices. True, it limits what you can do physically and immediately, but you’d be surprised at how little difference a person’s body makes and how much difference their conscious skills make in how far the consequences of their actions can carry.

          The eye represents a paradigm. If you know its limitations and have plenty of useful alternatives, you can get a more complete picture (and still be aware of its limitations) than if you were only aware of one paradigm and thought it was all there was and a direct window to objective reality.

  10. There are several ways to interpret the ultra-apt illustration for today’s post — the little people working earnestly to unravel different pieces of a skein several times larger than themselves. What are they thinking: (1) “many hands make light work” (2) What? only three people to unravel that huge thing?; (3) “The Blind Men & the Elephant”: mine is the only TRUE path; (4) it’s a worthless task: just the same thing over and over; (5) Mister Sitting-Pretty at the top has an easy time of it while I have to hang on fighting from the side/bottom; (6) it’s frustrating: every time I think I’ve got a handle on it, it breaks off; (7) I’m tired of having to to start all over again; (8) it’s overwhelming — I’m not going to think about it; (9) It’s impossible: I have better and more important things to do.

    According to the many commenters here (a fair microcosm of American thought, I think), the one interpretation I DON’T see is that it’s a Gordian Knot — one strand no matter how tangled, one stroke to solve the problem. Thus, argument and conclusion is the order of the day, In other words, it’s not only Political correctness today [that] precludes even discussing the possibility, it’s a determination to avoid any real commitment to discussion.

    What was proposed, and I think got lost, is that the beginning and end of “It” ie., that “The Terrible Disparity Between Black and White in America” has “Ethical Implications” Unless that is agreed and discussed FIRST, all other arguments and conclusions are (if I may use a legal term, I hope correctly), moot. Futher — unfortunately having to go backward — ethical implications are only valid for people who agree on the “terrible” part, which means pruning that kudzu vine of Rationalizations and Misconceptions. ; There are poor white folks too

    I can take it for granted that yes, it is terrible, and say yes, I care and furthermore, as a member of this society and a customer who has bought into this culture I have a responsibility to make it less terrible. However, I cannot and will not get caught up in that tangled mess in the illustration up there. I see no purpose in arguing the validity of responsibility, the origins of the gap, the blame for it, or the possibility, even the probability, of failing at making a viable change. If any change is to be made, such debates need to be shelved or discarded. They are not pertinent to the dilemma. (And they are easy cop-outs. I know, I’ve made them myself) What is pertinent and wholly horribly painful to contemplate … is the idea that whatever could help (Jack’s idea is proof that there is at least one idea), it “would require dismantling much of the social support network,” which is not to say it hasn’t done its job — some parts do, for some of the time for some of the people — but rather that, in hindsight, the network was never going to provide the strength for people to move up and out of it, leading instead, as Jack pointed out, to a debilitating dependence on it.

    And that — the cutting of the cord* — (with untried plans in place however well modeled on paper) could be seen as either providing new life or killing it. That’s the step the Left balks at, and the Right jumps nimbly over. I want to see what a real discussion going forward would look like. Ethical decisions to agree to go forward would be a good start.

    *keeping in mind that the dismantling any part of the network also means dismantling part of a bureaucracy behind it. What an idea!!

    • Correction: End of third paragraph “; There are poor white folks too” is a dangler – please ignore it. I had started pruning the kudzu for examples, realized I had about 25 numbered examples and decided, for everyone’s sake, to drop it. That one was the child left behind.

  11. pennagain wrote: “I can take it for granted that yes, it is terrible, and say yes, I care and furthermore, as a member of this society and a customer who has bought into this culture I have a responsibility to make it less terrible.”
    ________________________

    There is another alternative though, too. How to express it? It is a turning away from being sensitive to the aches and pains of history, life and reality, and deliberately choosing to see oneself not as a ‘victim of history’ but as an actor within history. To become harder, stronger and more determined.

    That is one dimension. Another is to choose, rationally, to participate in the cruelty and the meanness of life itself, and to stop complaining about it. You may think I am being absurd. I am not.

    In this sense to accept the actual structure of our own culture (economically, etc) is to become complicit in it.

    Complicidad es la mejor cita, as a childhood friend once said.

      • Every statement calls for an alternative, a response, an agreement, a restatement. Every statement is an enunciation of a course of action, a way to see, and is an invitation. I suggest that there is indeed an ‘alternative’: another route, another perspective, or a tweaking of a perspective. That is what conversation is about, isn’t it?

        (As often happens my statements are generally misunderstood. I have reconciled myself to my fate).

        • Having had to learn communication skills from the ground up, I am familiar with the feeling. However, I have noticed your responses to this post are much easier for me to follow. I’m not sure whether or not that’s because I mostly agree, but it seems like progress.

          • A couple of things: As a person I ‘suffer’ from a debilitating shyness. When I say ‘debilitating’ I mean debilitating. But, I resolved to overcome. When I made that choice, the whole field shifted.

            The thoughts I think tend toward the ‘illegal’. I do not think like the people around me, and I do not desire to think, see, act, or turn out as just one more ‘unit’ in a controlled and determined environment. There is a point where one’s perception shifts and one turns and looks at the beings surrounding one – riding along on the same bus so to speak – and one is forced to think of ‘ghosts’.

            How does a person become real and effectual in an environment that does not, in fact, desire that one does that? That is spiritual and philosophical work.

            To say what one really means, to speak of what one really sees, I have found, calls forth ‘antibodies’ which attack and smother one who desires that as a modality of being.

            Incrementally, I am beginning to have the courage to think and see and say what I think, see and mean.

  12. Two brief points:

    1. It’s Seldom addressed anywhere, but if persons A and B decide to give $50,000. to B, but not to C, then nothing in American political theory says that C has to idiotically accept being out-voted.

    2. I think, Jack, you’ve identified a real problem. The solution, though, has to be voluntary in nature. To inspire enough of these voluntary acts to be effective, an ethic has to be developed and spread. The ethic will have to inspire people of means to move into inner cities (and not to classic gentrifying areas). People of means will literally have to “adopt” families, including everything from teaching how to study effectively to going to see a lawyer if a kid gets into trouble. And people of means will have to commit to share their financial resources, including a portion of the wealth they were planning to pass on to their own children. The birth and spread of this ethic is the goal to be sought.

    • That sounds like it would actually work, if those conditions were met. I think we can make it a bit easier, but your principle is sound.

      (Switching addressees now.) As a cunningness user, I am disappointed in all the people on this thread who have effectively said, “I have no idea how to fix this. Let’s wait for the future; maybe something good will happen.” The destiny of your world will not improve if you don’t participate in it. Luckily for you, there are those of us who do find solutions. Unluckily for us all, there are very few who are looking to lend their support and energy. Want to change that?

  13. Jack, I find this discussion fascinating. I don’t disagree with much of your analysis, but I think you would find more support for my idea because it doesn’t have a disparate effect on races yet would still reduce poverty.

    We need to pay people from age 16 to 30 NOT to have children. A nice, big, tax-free sum each year. Do you want to have children before 30? That’s great — but no more money. After 30, you get the same child tax deduction per child if you have children. After ten years of this program being in effect, ALL social services (with the exception of temporary emergency funds — similar to unemployment benefits — are eliminated. This plan is easy, does not discriminate, and would work.

    This will reduce one parent households, reduce social services, reduce prison populations, increase education levels, and generally result in a better society. Younger people will make better decisions about when, and if, to become sexually active.

      • People who don’t have children already reap financial rewards. Having children is an economically stupid thing to do. But, we need to pay young people do not have children until they are wise and mature enough to make this decision when they are in a better position to provide for them.

        Plus, we do want population growth — we just want smart population growth.

        • “Plus, we do want population growth — we just want smart population growth.”

          Smart people tend to reproduce less, and so from an evolutionary perspective, smart reproduction controls against itself. Which is sad.

          I’m not sure if the program you’re putting out there would be very effective, the kind of people having children early aren’t necessarily famous for good decision making habits to begin with…. But it’s better than a lot of what I’ve seen.

          • The one thing young kids DO understand though is money and instant gratification. A young couple might use a condom, or not have sex at all, if it means that they won’t get that new game system this year.

            • I follow you, Beth, from your comment of today at 10:25 am. But, we’re baaaack – to authoritarianism, to achieve birth control, lower birth rates, reduced conceptions – whatever you want to call the intended outcomes. At some point (and I believe, with the population we are talking about targeting, the point comes “authoritarianly” soon), the incentivizing ceases to be effective, and the cramming-down, or mandating, must pick up from there – or else, the whole effort is futile. I hope that ex-con Kermit Gosnell would not be selected to run the program, but then, someone more callous than he might be needed, to make the program effective. Ugh.

              • But I think there is an important difference between Jack’s plan and mine. It is true that most of the money would just be wasted in a one-time payment under his approach. Jack doesn’t want to acknowledge that, but most poor people (regardless of race) don’t know how to handle a large influx of cash. Lottery winners are an easy example, but so are people who are awarded settlements. They usually end up broke. My scheme ends up with a smarter populace, one better able to handle money and will have better odds at long term success. There possibly could even be a time when the program can be terminated because the general populace has a high net worth and better education and there is no need to convince them that having babies when you have no job, no house, and no education is a bad idea.

                Further, ask yourself how this is any less or more authoritarian than the current tax scheme of awarding a child deduction?

                    • See, you are reading what you want to read. How many times must I point out that this is not a poverty program? It’s a bring black wealth closer to majority levels program.

                      Wealthy blacks will be encouraged to invest the money in the community, business enterprises, jobs, better schools, communities, or just to make sure the family continues on an upwards path.

                    • Why is addressing black wealth more important than addressing the poverty problem in general? How stabilizing do you think this plan would be for race relations? I can just visualize my husband’s poor white trash relatives all joining the KKK (a few may already be members) after that was implemented! What a way to build resentment!

                      Helping improve the lot of the poor is a worthwhile endeavor, when there is less poverty, there is less crime, less social safety nets are needed, less divorce, less substance abuse, more personal responsibility and better physical health.

                      But trying to level the financial playing field of black America by handing them a cash grant won’t do it, and you still won’t be able to wash your hands of the problem afterward when it fails to give the results you are looking for.

                      Don’t make it a racial problem. Just address the poverty problem. If you look at it strictly from the poverty point of view then you CAN consider actions other countries have taken. Some may have merit here, some may not because, well, because this is ‘Murrika! We ARE all humans and our basic needs and desires are similar worldwide.

                      We need to do more individualizing the educational needs of children. We need to make education relevant to life. Young adults need to understand basic business and accounting, investing and financial planning. They also need to understand what our government and the various branches and individuals can and cannot do – in an engaging and relevant way. Higher education and vocational training need to be available to all who will avail themselves to it. Intelligence and aptitude tests can help counselors guide young people toward appropriate learning paths and eventually to satisfying careers that showcase their natural talents and strengths.

                      Classroom sizes need to be very small, less than ten students per teacher, and the standards and pay for teachers needs to rise to attract the best, most brilliant minds, back into the classroom. We need to teach children to be skilled in vocations. A good plumber, machinist or welder can make excellent money without a college degree. To meet the needs of real affordable health care we need more mid-level medical professionals, midwives, physician’s assistants, etc.

                      We need to address the horrible problems of addiction, homelessness and mental health. These three fill our prisons and drain our resources. It was a huge disservice Reagan did to the Nation when he discarded The Mental Health Systems Act and implemented the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. Certainly the State mental institutions had enormous problems, but they needed fixed, not gutted.

                      Work on these problems and quality of life will rise for all people, of all races. And it is quality of life that really matters, right? Not personal wealth.

                    • Poverty is 1) impossible to cure; 2) not the same problem. At all. Expanding it is a dodgethat guarantees no progress at all, and if those redneck poor are resentful, who cares? Their poverty doesn’t have the racial X factor, and they should understand that it benefits them as well to give American Blacks a jump start.

                      Below a certain level of wealth, quality of life becomes difficult to impossible. If you don’t want to look at the data and admit that the state of the black community is in crisis, and that crisis is rotting out the fabric of the nation generally, fine, ignore it. A permanent underclass based on race is deadly—your white, poor friends still have a better chance of working their way out of poverty than their equivalents in the black community. At very least, we should try to give blacks the same chance. Then we can look at the larger problem.

                    • So…. You’re going to take tax money, collected in part from struggling white families, and give it in part to wealthy black families, as part of an effort specifically to bring the median amount of black wealth up. And this isn’t reparations? It’s… What? Race based group socialism?

                    • I’m not talking to you on this thread any more until you deal with what I wrote and stop concocting straw men, because this is the third time you have intentionally mistated the post. What was it about paying for the grants by cutting millions in redundant, useless, corrupt and expensive social programs do you find erases your brain cells? Here’s what I wrote:

                      It would require a careful and difficult compromise: ending most of the programs that constitute those leaky bureaucratic, bloated, inefficient band-aids on the cultural maladies in the black community, and redirecting that money for a one time, five-figure grant to every black man, woman and child, regardless of prominence or class. The amount of the grants would depend upon how much could be accumulated from cuts elsewhere.

                      There, I bolded it. I never suggested taxes beyond what is already going into this problem. I never suggested wealth transfer. It’s a problem with social, political, cultural, legal, and financial implications, and the idea is to fix it. It’s not reparations, and it redirects funds that were going uselessly, to the same group.

                    • “There, I bolded it. I never suggested taxes beyond what is already going into this problem. I never suggested wealth transfer. It’s a problem with social, political, cultural, legal, and financial implications, and the idea is to fix it. It’s not reparations, and it redirects funds that were going uselessly, to the same group.”

                      This is only true in that you didn’t write the specific words. Even if you cut programs to pay for this (And I’d love to hear your suggestions on which programs, specifically, would amount to 1.47 trillion), what you can’t get around is that government programs are paid for with tax dollars. Right now, you have taxpayers subsidizing the poor, based on their relative situation, if you cut the programs (and most programs being aimed at poverty as opposed to race, there’s a chance you’re cutting the safety net of non-black people.), instead giving a blanket cheque to people based on nothing but their skin color, and specifically not taking into account wealth, you would per se be giving tax dollars taken in part from poor white people, and giving it in part to rich black people, because the race they belong to has less wealth on average than everyone else. You cannot get around that. And I’d like to know what else you’d call it.

                      I think the problem I have with this idea is that aside from being stupid, it’s completely unrealistic and unimplementable. I live in a world of facts and figures and numbers, where words mean things, and when someone suggests something this outrageously pie in the sky, it raises my hackles. There is absolutely no chance that America is doing this, period. I know it, you know it, and your old professor knew it. Earth to Jack, we’d like you back.

                    • Your number is completely arbitrary. I said that increasing black wealth appears to be the only way out of the problem. We would have that trillion, at least relative to the current debt, if Obama just held the line on the debt he inherited. The offset would, of course, be over time…that trillion or so would be paid for pretty quick, at least in theory.I also said that I wasn’t going to work out the details. A thousand problems would have to be solved.

                      The hypothetical accomplished its objective: in essence, the thread shows me that nobody wants to solve the problem, or even try—just to keep “throwing money at it,” blaming black culture, and hoping things improve, when the evidence says it isn’t and won’t. I believe if the problem isn’t solved, it will get worse, it will destabilize U.S. society, it will lead to a breakdown in law, and it will tear the country apart. It is already a substantial factor in the rise of Donald Trump and BLM.

                      If your alternative is do nothing and give up, and that sure sounds like what you are saying, I submit that this is neither ethical nor rational.

                    • First off…. My number is based on the rates you gave me. 12% of the population at 35,000. If my number is arbitrary, what’s yours? Arbitrary. Of course it is. Everything about this situation is arbitrary because it’s completely made up and unrealistic.

                      Second off…
                      “The hypothetical accomplished its objective: in essence, the thread shows me that nobody wants to solve the problem, or even try—just to keep “throwing money at it,””

                      Yes! Let’s solve the issue of figuratively throwing money at a problem by literally throwing money at it, in a vague, and yet obviously flawed manner. And then once the idea is rightfully shot down, let’s blame the audience for not coming up with a better solution to a problem that has confounded the minds of people who have literally spent their lives thinking about it. And then, let’s sit back and smugly call it social experiment and somehow a success.

                      “If your alternative is do nothing and give up, and that sure sounds like what you are saying, I submit that this is neither ethical nor rational.”

                      I thought my alternative was education reform. Perhaps it wasn’t radical enough for you to recognize? Not well enough thought out? Not comprehensive enough or costed? Why do you want America to fail Jack?!?

                    • I said “5 figures” and nothing else. Less than that is useless, too much is undoable. Maybe there is no number, but since nobody’s worked out the equations, including how to pay for it, your automatic rejection is premature.

                      Education reform is as dishonest an answer as “waste, fraud and abuse,” and even more unlikely than getting a program of mass grants. Public school is falling apart in chunks for black and white, and the real failure of education is in the home. You’re ducking the issue completely. Coming back with a vague,fake prescription is not a rebuttal. All I’m asking is a straight answer: is your position that we shouldn’t try to do anything for the lagging black society? I think that is the reflex conservative answer, and it is irresponsible and unethical…and societally suicidal.

                    • “I said “5 figures” and nothing else. Less than that is useless, too much is undoable. Maybe there is no number, but since nobody’s worked out the equations, including how to pay for it, your automatic rejection is premature.”

                      Jack Marshall
                      March 2, 2016 at 3:46 pm
                      1. It directly address black wealth.
                      2. Can’t fix the costs until you establish how many programs will be cut to help pay for them.
                      3. Try 35,000 and 13%. It’s a lot less.

                      “Education reform is as dishonest an answer as “waste, fraud and abuse,” and even more unlikely than getting a program of mass grants. Public school is falling apart in chunks for black and white, and the real failure of education is in the home. You’re ducking the issue completely. Coming back with a vague,fake prescription is not a rebuttal. All I’m asking is a straight answer: is your position that we shouldn’t try to do anything for the lagging black society? I think that is the reflex conservative answer, and it is irresponsible and unethical…and societally suicidal.

                      And coming forth with a vague, fake prescription is not a solution. At least I wasn’t trying to sell the slow heat death of America as the alternative to it. What’s my answer? I don’t have one. But “I don’t know the answer, I just know yours is stupid” is fundamentally different than “We do nothing.” Even if the actions from them look similar. And that isn’t a cop out because I think that your suggestion is actually worse than the status quo.

                      Maybe I was wrong when I related your argument to “We’re better than this.”, it’s a different fallacy, but perhaps not one you’ve codified. This is “We’ve GOT to do SOMETHING (stupid)” We’ve identified a problem, a solution has been offered. It’s a bad idea. But damn it, if you don’t have a better solution, we’ve GOT to do SOMETHING.

                    • That’s a better fit, absolutely. But you’re getting confused about what a rationalization is. It is a lie that is used instead of a genuine justification. Sometimes “we’ve got to do something” is true, and that’s not a rationalization, it’s a fact. No, it doesn’t make a bad suggestion or policy good. I don’t think we need to anything major about gun violence , because it is a dark side effect of freedom. I do think it is an existential necessity to address the black underclass issue, and I disagree with you that acting directly to make up the wealth gap is either too expensive We HAVE to do something, for example, about crumbling infrastructure, and that will cost a couple trillion at least. Are you saying we shouldn’t do it? In the end, it’ just a matter of priorities.

                    • . I do think it is an existential necessity to address the black underclass issue,

                      Solving the black underclass issue would involve Orwellian, brutal methods like those I described.

        • Beth there is already a system out there that pays people to not have children; it’s called abortion on demand. I assume that is one medical service in the US that is fully funded? It is here.

          Your plan would result in a significant increase in abortions, no doubt about it.

  14. I wanted to add some things about wealth differentials. Another Pew study looked at trends in wealth over time:

    http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/11/07/chapter-1-wealth-gaps-by-age/

    This came up with just disastrous results for young people. Households headed by a 65 year old (or older) had $120,000 net worth in 1984, which rose to $170,000 by 2009. Households headed by a 35 year old or younger had a net worth of $11,500 in 1984, and that number collapsed to around $3,700 by 2009. It’s important to note that young people of all races are facing challenges that people born post-WWII just can’t identify with.

  15. Just to re-focus:

    1. This is not an anti-poverty recommendation. It is a “help cut through the immobile black status quo” recommendation.
    2. Many, many details would have to be worked out for there to be any chance of success. I don’t want to get into that.
    3. Yes, this is the kind of thing that only government can do.
    4. Yes, that means it won’t be done efficiently, wisely or well. The question is, can it be done well enough?
    5. It is not a program to “pay back” or “compensate” for slavery. I’m fascinated that the DOA idea of reparations so poisoned the air that every grants program is seen in that jaundiced light.
    6. What else will change those charts in 50 years? Lisa gave us the classic misty, anti-American, liberal response with that Onion-worthy (and I don’t mean to pick on her: there Pulitzer Prize winners who say the same) :

    “The fix has to address the core issues of poverty. The reasons for multi-generational poverty are many and complex. We need to look to countries and societies that have made meaningful progress in eliminating it and drying up the well of hopelessness from which it drinks. We need to look closer at the attitudes and actions that have brought them progress and consider how we can incorporate those here.”

    So I’m interested in real, rather than cliche, theories. Letting the black community fester, rot and sink is unethical. Doing what we know won’t work after 50 futile years is stupid and unethical. Suggestions that are politically impossible just waste time.

    What, then?

    The clock is ticking.

    • Jack: the white-black gap is 13 times; but the white-hispanic gap is ten times:

      http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/12/racial-wealth-gaps-great-recession/

      Does the payout go to Hispanics, too, or is some distinction made?

      The biggest median wealth gaps are in (1) home equity, and; (2) retirement accounts. Both of these pools of wealth are, largely creations of government policy, especially tax policy, and could be adjusted if the political will existed.

    • I’d like to address this in light of the Idealist’s Delusion or “We’re better than this”. I don’t think anyone here thinks or even inadvertently suggested that there aren’t any problems facing Black America… I just don’t see how your proposition actually addresses a lot of those problems. While it might have some measure of success… Assuming an American population of 350 million and a black population of 15% of that population, and a lump sum amount of $50,000… We’re looking at $2,625,000,000,000. That’s 2.6 trillion dollars. I’m sorry Jack, but that’s insane. It would cause inflation like we’ve never seen before, tank the lending markets, place a ridiculous burden on future generations, and best of all: Probably wouldn’t work for the majority of recipients. But “we’re better than this! We can’t let these people rot! That’s the alternative you know!”

      • 1. It directly address black wealth.
        2. Can’t fix the costs until you establish how many programs will be cut to help pay for them.
        3. Try 35,000 and 13%. It’s a lot less.
        4. I never used that rationalization. I used a fact: the current situation is untenable, and ultimately dangerous. That creates an ethical obligation not to ignore it. Remember, you are citing a rationalization used in place of an actual valid reason, to make up for that lack. The plight of 13% of the population grotesquely distorts national attention and priorities, and will as long as it persists. The reason to try to improve those charts is that the problem they represent is slowly poisoning the nation, not that “we are better than this.”

        • 1. Writing a $35,000 cheque will not make up for a lifetime of teachable moments a kid should have with their parents. It addresses black wealth only, ignoring the social issues that is one of the root causes that black wealth is where it is, and addresses black wealth only in the most temporary of terms. Just off the top of my head; I wonder what an addict would do with $35,000.

          2 and 3. 1.47 trillion. It’s still devastating. And no amount of cut programs make up for it if you have to bring those programs back six months later.

          4. You codified the “We Are Better Than This” rationalization partly in response to Obama’s calls for gun control using the ‘argument’ it’s names after. Obama’s premise isn’t entirely without merit. America does have a gun problem, and a certain amount of well intentioned, common sense control probably isn’t a bad idea. The current situation is untenable, and ultimately dangerous, you couldn’t pay me to take a walk in Chicago. My understanding of the reason it was fallacious was because he couldn’t draw a whole lot of cause and effect between the problem and what he wanted to do, and he was using “We Are Better Than This`as filler.

          • 2 and 3. 1.47 trillion. It’s still devastating. And no amount of cut programs make up for it if you have to bring those programs back six months later

            Nope. That’s the deal, as I described it. This is it: this is your booster, no more race based programs. Ever. Use the nest egg well. Write it in blood.

            No, we have a gun problem if one views the downside of people using guns irresponsibly as outbalancing the important right to own them. The only thing that solves Obama’s version of the problem is no gun rights, and we are, in fact, better than THAT. It’s not a similar situation. There is nobody who disputes that the lagging black advancement and persistent lack of success is a huge national problem, and there is no counterbalancing benefit of letting it continue, or refusing to address it.

            • Are we willing to lower the standards for declaring parents unfit to make it easier to take away children from poor parents, so that rich people can adopt them to be eligible for a one million dollar annual refundable tax credit?

              The only way to solve this is to make sure the children are raised in the right environments. That means taking therm away from parents qwho would teach them the wrong values and provide a substandard education.

              As you yourself conceded, this would be brutal and unfair. Do you believe the brutality and unfairness of the solution is worth it?

    • That is a real theory. You just rejected it, apparently because it has more nuance and finesse than “move a large amount of money around” and because it thinks other countries might have some ideas worth copying. It’s not anti-American to think it might be a good idea to “consider how we can incorporate those [attitudes and actions] here.” That sentiment smells of well-poisoning and nationalism. If their approaches are incompatible with important values that we want to protect here, we don’t have to use them.

      “We need to look to countries and societies that have made meaningful progress in eliminating it and drying up the well of hopelessness from which it drinks.”

      If you’ve read Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, you’ll know that’s called “looking for bright spots”. It’s very useful for identifying solutions. We’re bound to get more inspiration for good ideas from looking at what people have tried all over the world than we’ll get talking on the Internet.

      • No, it’s baloney, bad science, and bad social science. You don’t look to unrelated problems and solutions in dissimilar cultures to find remedies to unique problems. There’s nothing nuanced about it at all. It’s based on a false belief that different conditions are the same. No society like the US has conquered a problem like integrating a minority race that was previously treated as slaves and less than human into society in 150 years. I don’t want to hear about Denmark.

        • No, it is not bad science or bad social science. If you quit trying to make it a race problem and allow that sometimes the best way to solve one problem (black wealth) is to solve the larger problem (poverty). Poverty is a worldwide problem. And while the details of why poverty exists may differ from country to country it certainly does not hurt to look outside our borders at how other countries have dealt with it.

          • It is the fondest wish of many liberals, and even more conservatives, to believe that racial issues are just a subset of economic issues.

            It is simply not true. Yes, there is overlap. But there are issues uniquely related to race, and Jack pointed to some of them at the outset; the American experience of black people is unique, and you don’t solve it only with traditional class-based economic programs.

            • Can you define a racial problem functionally? I can start you off.

              A racial problem can happen when a person’s race is associated with a certain set of characteristics, especially negative ones, by people of difference races, by people of the same race, or by themselves, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s the negative characteristics that are the problem, but the self-fulfilling prophecy is tied to race.

              A racial problem can happen when there is a cultural problem (an unhealthy culture, or an unhealthy interaction between healthy cultures), but the culture defines itself based on race, and everyone gets sidetracked by race because race is easy to spot, whereas it is difficult to deconstruct a culture and discern who is part of it, what aspects they subscribe to, and how it affects their thoughts and behavior.

              A racial problem could happen in another world, populated by two different sapient species, where the species really do have different mental and/or personality characteristics on average, leading to conflict unless they can learn to empathize with and accommodate each other as a courtesy. Note that empathy still means allowing yourself to be proved wrong about what you assume about people, but making the small initial assumptions can make interactions smoother. I don’t think this is the case on Earth; this example is just to show that regardless of any empirical racial differences, there is no excuse for bigotry, racial animosity, or racial supremacy movements.

              Does any of that seem helpful, or do you have a functional definition that is different?

        • Some aspects of those different situations will be the same, and the point is to sort those out. We can’t just toss them all out wholesale without at least looking at them. America is exceptional, but it’s not a special snowflake when it comes to people and their feelings under certain conditions and in certain paradigms.

          You want to refuse to look for solutions, refuse to look for inspiration for solutions, then claim you’re at a loss? I get that complaining is easier, but if you’re going to break the rule “don’t criticize during the brainstorming phase” then I would expect higher-quality criticism.

          • But this isn’t brainstorming. This is “it works for them, that homogeneous, small, Nordic country, so why wouldn’t it work for a multi-racial, diverse, regionally varied nation many times its size? If you want to look everywhere indiscriminately, for inspiration, you must have endless time. I’d suggest looking for more promising models.

            • I strongly suspect you’re putting words in Lisa’s mouth at this point. In any case that’s not what I advocate. You’re not thinking so sharply if you think that looking for ways in which people have learned to abandon turmoil and coexist dynamically is being indiscriminate, and you must have a very high opinion of humanity to think that such examples are everywhere, whether or not they have any relevance to the United States.

              That said, I’d appreciate it if you’d answer some of the other questions I’ve asked.

              If affirmative action hasn’t been sufficient to help American black humans as a group, why will giving them money help?

              Can you comment on the idea of isolating the actual, functional factors (e.g. cultural paradigms) involved in black poverty from race itself and going after those instead? It would be difficult, yes, but I think it is the only thing that could actually work. I find many humans are “functionally” illiterate, so I have to introduce the idea of defining things by their mechanisms, rather than by example or association. Everything becomes closer to obvious that way.

              • 1. I was responding to you. I don’t even remember what Lisa said at this point.

                2. “You’re not thinking so sharply if you think that looking for ways in which people have learned to abandon turmoil and coexist dynamically is being indiscriminate”
                This is naive. The black problems are unique to the US. There is no parallel, and you are generalizing it out of existence.

                3. If affirmative action hasn’t been sufficient to help American black humans as a group, why will giving them money help?
                I never said it will work. It is one approach that hasn’t been tried, as I am not talking about “giving them money” which has been trued and is ongoing, but giving them enough money to also provide new choices and foundations of success. Affirmative action has worked to a measurable extent, but as an endless program it becomes pure discrimination.

                4. Can you comment on the idea of isolating the actual, functional factors (e.g. cultural paradigms) involved in black poverty from race itself and going after those instead?

                Sure. It makes no sense at all. It’s like saying you can deal with the properties of water by studying hydrogen and oxygen separately. Take one example: dialect. The black dialect is a problem that the non-black poor don’t have. A Nigerian cab driver said he faces almost none of the discrimination of American born blacks because of his accent.

                • 2. You haven’t substantiated this.

                  3. Point taken.

                  4. Your water analogy backfired. There are quite a few things we can learn about water by learning about hydrogen and oxygen separately, even taking into account that it is a gestalt, because we know more about how the principles of the gestalt work once we know what it’s made of. Yes, we have to study the water itself, but it’s easier to put it all together and make sense of it once we know how the atoms work.

                  You also seem to have proved my point by introducing dialect as correlated with but conceptually independent from race. “Race” isn’t just a mysterious intrinsic thing; it has associated attributes that can be studied both independently and collectively.

                  It’s your area of expertise to figure out what people should do. Mine is to figure out why people don’t do it, and how we make it more likely for them to change. Based on how you talk about (and to) people, it doesn’t sound like you have much practice looking at things from this angle. I’m not going to take your word for what’s possible and impossible as far as understanding people goes. I can already see for myself.

  16. Nothing can be done. There is nothing to do. It is not possible to engineer success or prosperity for a people, and a segment in a republic. The whole premise is skewed.

    You have I think spelled out the problem, and you also strongly imply that it is (as it stands) unsolvable. It is not going to happen through a government program, and it is not going to happen because your group, or my group, or any group, desire it to happen.

    Therefor, the Gordian Knot is cut by cutting off that people from all aid and assistance and letting them fall into ‘fester and rot’. That is the ‘ethical choice’ although to do so is to put one’s own prosperity and safety at risk.

    Those people or groups who do not choose such a destiny, and those who are taking steps to avoid rot and fester and achieve its opposite, must protect themselves against those who desire to fester and rot. To do so is rational, defensible and ethical.

    If one does not accept these lines of choice, one has to back up into the sort of choices outlined here:

    “The fix has to address the core issues of poverty. The reasons for multi-generational poverty are many and complex. We need to look to countries and societies that have made meaningful progress in eliminating it and drying up the well of hopelessness from which it drinks. We need to look closer at the attitudes and actions that have brought them progress and consider how we can incorporate those here.”

    I do not advocate the radical strategies I have outlined. I only say that they seem to flow from your analysis.

    I am sorry to say that that is what I see and please don’t be mad for saying it.

    • “It is not possible to engineer success or prosperity for a people, and a segment in a republic.”

      I beg to differ. If Jack wants to define black people culturally, to justify paying them and no one else (identifying the culture through its correlation with racial heritage), then I could understand that. However, once we’ve identified the mobility problem as in part a cultural one, where people lack the ideals, narrative, and meta-skills to rise out of poverty, we have plenty of tools with which to address that. It’s just that cultural engineering is so unknown in this world that people don’t even know how it is possible.

      That’s where I come in. Once I wanted to solve all the world’s problems with science and technology, but the cutting edge is moving ahead fast, and taking the world with it. Technology based on science is not our limiting factor. Our limiting factor is technology based on philosophy, psychology, culture. That cutting edge may have moved in the past few centuries, but it hasn’t taken society with it. It’s my job to make that happen. Everyone who wants to edit the destiny of this planet, you are welcome to participate in the plan; just let me know.

      • I believe that I understand what you are saying – proposing. I have a feeling though that I am likely turning in a different direction. Overall, it seems that you are speaking of ‘meta-perspectives’, and meta-perspectives are more often than not mono-perspectives. For example, here, in this conversation, and as we talk about ‘America’ we are thinking of an imagining a mono-entity. The republic (as a ‘propositional nation’) came to be established through this model. I reject that model. I reject the philosophy underpinning that model. I am subversive to that model therefor.

        I reject therefor the ‘American Project’ in the world. But in order to be able to do that, or in order to come to ceoceive that as a ‘good’, one has to understand how the American Project came to be defined; what it is; and into whose hands it has, as it were, fallen. That is analytical work and it means essentially turning around to see how ‘we’ have been informed ideologically. The tenets of civil religiosity, etc., etc.

        I don’t want to ‘engineer culture’ nor to be ‘engineered’. I want to break up (or back) into self-determining units. I mean this at all levels. I want idea and philosophy to become regional, particular, non-monolithic. I want people to get out from under – or outside the range of – monolithic power-structures. Moreover of course I want this for myself, and for the people close to me.

      • Lisa Weber – I don’t know that the article was “placing the credit for the positive advances black men have made on religion” so much as identifying that aspect as one contributing factor.

        Tex’s comment below poses a valid question.

        • While it is possible to identify religious or church participation as a factor in helping a person or family or group to integrate and function in society, it is possible, and necessary, to examine political-religious postures and to see that, as it sometimes happens, a religion and a spirituality are functioning in specific ways, not necessarily the ‘best’ ways.

          I would suggest taking a step back from the message proposed by the article, and looking at the entity that brings it forward: American Enterprise Institute. Essentially, a propaganda organ. If they speak of a religious turning, it is one that seems to have a strong institutional flavor. If they were to propose a religious modality it would be governmental/corporate and Public Relations modality. Jesus standing behind the boardroom execs and nodding approvingly at the new death-weapon or the new attack being drawn up. I am being ironic of course but there is an important point here.

          I am interested in conservative ideas and conservative values and though I notice on the list of contributors the names Bork and Genovese (both of whom I have read), the ‘religion’ that AEI would propose seems almost a form of state or civil religion. I would suggest that as it pertains to some of the modern Christian forms, many people who define an ‘atheism’ in relation to that are not necessarily metaphysically atheist (though they might be that), but opposed to the cooption of the religious impulse by state entities and (excuse the term) their lackeys. It is important though to be able to use such a term (though it has ironic overtones) to indicate the religious impulse, or the spiritual impulse, that has sold out and prostituted itself to state interests.

          Shall we define a God that is opposed to man-as-Satanist? or that allies Himself with man’s machinations as he constructs his City of God?

          😉

          To see that, to be able to consider coercion as it operates at this religious and spiritual level is a philosophical and spiritual work in itself.

          I cannot speak for Lisa Weber and don’t propose to. I have no idea what in that she opposes or what turns her off. If I am not mistaken (a didgeridoo reference) she is Australian. There is a similar ‘Bible belt’ in Australia that corresponds to our own Bible belt. I know numerous Australians who have problems with religion expressed in that way and with those limits and controls. What a ‘Bible belt’ is, and what it does, and what it proposes, can be looked into analytically. It may not be really ‘progressive’ and may in fact be ‘regressive’. It seems to produce a regimentation of thought though.

          • Aliza, the didgeridoo comment was a tongue in cheek reference to the Aboriginal Australian children forcibly removed from their families “for their own good”. I am an American living in California. And I am often irked at how god gets the credit when good things happen, but not the blame when bad occurs. Personally I am neither religious nor spiritual.

            • The strange thing – it is really a very difficult and painful thing to look at and think about – is that our own slavery tradition and the importation of an ‘other’ workforce to serve our empire, as an expression of 17th and 18th Century late Medieval notions of the world, was ‘the removal for their own good’ of African people from savage and demonic Africa to then Christianize them in our system. You don’t have to go as far as Australia for an ironical example.

              If one wishes to speak about ‘cultural engineering’ and such, one only has to turn one’s focus to the assumptions of that era, which were and which remain the underpinning of our assumptions in the present.

              We still desire to civilize the Black man, to help get his performance up to speed, to integrate him into our system, to help him to stop being him and to be, essentially, us.

              Yet ‘somatically’ (arising out of the body, non-mental, something that arises at a very foundational level, below thought, below in a sense even emotion) there is resistance, non-cooperation, subversion.

              I think someone like Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) expresses it here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfaLDvvM7S4) at 3:45.

              __________________________

              Lisa Weber wrote: “And I am often irked at how god gets the credit when good things happen, but not the blame when bad occurs.”
              __________________________

              Christianity is very very weak when it comes to sensible metaphysics. The ‘story’ of Christianity is overall a child’s tale. It is literally a story told to a child.

              But there are wider and far more encompassing metaphysical stories (if you will) that offer an explanation of existence and the presence of what we understand as ‘evil’. Say for example the 16th chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita.

              An outrageous (just one more) allusion on a forum dedicated to ethics (but not at all irrelevant). In fact, to have an ‘ethics’ requires a solid (metaphysical) definition of ‘where we are’ and what all this is, and of course why it is and why we are here.

              • “An outrageous (just one more) allusion on a forum dedicated to ethics (but not at all irrelevant). In fact, to have an ‘ethics’ requires a solid (metaphysical) definition of ‘where we are’ and what all this is, and of course why it is and why we are here.”

                Why? Why does there have to be some metaphysical or spiritual higher purpose or meaning? Does it lessen the value of life (and ethics) if our existence is purely a result of happenstance and evolution? I would posit that the very brevity and fragility of life and the final and completeness of death are reason enough to value life and work to make it better for all.

                • To (attempt) an answer to the question is to retrace a looooong process as ‘we’ have turned away from metaphysics and resolved to inhabit a strict material plane of existence. There are both ‘many good reasons’ for this manoeuvre, with good and positive results, and the opposite. Myself, I am essentially a neoplatonist, if that helps in defining my assertions.

                  The ‘realm of the mind’ itself, the act of standing over things and looking at them, the contemplative act, metaphysical speculation, intuition, has come about as a possibility BECAUSE of the capacity to think of reality in metaphysical terms. To think strictly in mechanical terms tends to mechanize consciousness.

                  “Such harmony is in immortal souls;
                  But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
                  Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”

                  Some speculation, ungrounded perhaps, leads to religious delirium of the lowest order (bonjour, l’Amerique). But handled by another sort of person, with a different preparation, produces the very best of the best.

                  The issue is dealt with nicely by Basil Willey in ‘Seventeenth Century Background’. In order to understand Shakespeare, and to understand why Shakespeare means something, requires that metaphysical background. The ‘great chain of being’ and all that. That’s how I came at these questions (Shakespeare studies).

                  For a description of what goes wrong when we abandon a ‘sound metaphysics’ Rene Guenon deals on it convincingly in ‘The Crisis of the Modern World’. Anyway, these are things that have influenced me.

                  This talk might interest: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5in5EdjhD0) I think he sees clearly, and explains quite lucidly, that in fact we see and name a great deal, and know nothing.

                  No one can make any definitive statement about metaphysics since it is speculative mind and metaphysical intuition that participates in defining a sense of *meaning*. Meaning is essentially what is contested and how meaning is defined, understood.

                  It is a shame, I think sometimes, that this blog doesn’t allow developing and continuing conversations to occur.

                  Finally, it is a little-known fact that Shakespeare’s plays can be used as a divination tool to comprehend our present. A ‘sortes shakespeareiae’. Here, I just asked the Muse ‘How do you explain Trump?’ and I opened to ‘The Winter’s Tale’:

                  “There’s some ill planet reigns;
                  I must be patient till the heavens look
                  With an aspect more favourable.”

                  😉

                • Well, I did derive my own ethics system from my understanding of consciousness. Ethics for me is based on sustaining and flourishing consciousness. The importance of anything is defined solely in relation to consciousness, because consciousness is the only thing that bothers ascribing importance to anything.

                  As for what to do in any given situation, that is derived from my understanding of how consciousness works, what it can do, and what will help it grow. As it turns out, it’s much better at reliably being “good” and “honorable” than a standard moral code, though the lack of deference to authority might intimidate some people. It turns out that while being an Ubermensch, i.e. doing things because you want to and not because you “have” to, does not make you automatically good, it is hard to be reliably good unless you are an Ubermensch. Otherwise you can be “forced” to be evil in certain circumstances.

              • We did not take them away. We bought them from existing slave markets. Nor was this unique to Africa. Western Europeans used to sell slaves to the Romans and Persians back in the middle ages.

      • I truly wish I knew Jack. The fact that I don’t have an answer doesn’t change my opinion that a cash handout isn’t it! If you can get Bernie elected and convince him to try it in a restricted area I believe you’d have your answer one way or another but I have my doubts it would work. Bear in mind as I say this that I am someone who has been called an idiot, possibly correctly, for giving money to people who are unlikely to use it wisely!

        To continue throwing money at the problem the way we have been doing all around the world is obviously not the answer either.

        I have previously referred to Dambisa Moyo’s book ‘Dead Aid’, which provides suggestions for helping third world nations. How you apply this on an intra-national level I do not know.

        Certainly we must try something different.

        One thing for sure, some responsibility and accountability MUST be put back on those in need of the help. This is not victim blaming but refusing to allow blame shifting to innocents!

  17. We absolutely can cure poverty. Poverty is a cycle — if you are born into it, you are most likely to be poor as an adult and have children who are poor. But, if you have fewer children born into poverty, then the poverty eventually ends. We will never cure those people who are poor because of extreme mental illness, physical limitations, or just plain sloth — but we can elevate the working classes. The way we do that is to eliminate the current social programs and replace it with a yearly cash incentive to NOT have children.

    I was raised poor, but being white and smart had its advantages. I also lived in absolute terror of having to tell my father that I was pregnant, so I wasn’t stupid like many of my friends who got pregnant in high school. While abject fear works, a cash subsidy would have worked even better — and I could have used it toward college or living expenses. And, it would have worked for my high school friends too. The reason they got pregnant is because they couldn’t see a path to a better future, so they decided to why not create a life who at least will love them back. But, if they knew that they were going to receive a check at the end of the year, they would have used birth control — or not had sex at all.

    While there are many now who would use a cash supplement to pay for drugs or alcohol, I predict that under my plan you would have fewer people turning to drugs in the first place — especially if there was no access to food or housing subsidies.

    • So you are going to pay illegal immigrants NOT to have children, when they came here to have children? Does your theory sound a little Chinese to you? Aren’t you now incentivizing abortion, which you have called “evil”?

      • The plan only applies to American citizens. And no, I don’t think this will encourage more abortions than we have now — I think people would rather use their money on things other than abortions. But, to that point, I’ll add free birth control (pill and long term shots) to my plan. You can bet that parents will make their children be more responsible if there is this much money to be lost. As to your Chinese comment, the Chinese are punished with fines if they have more than one child. There are no fines here — only incentives. Poor people can still have children, and can have as many children as they want, but they won’t get a check every year until they are 30 — and they certainly won’t have any welfare payments to rely on.

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