How about some critical thinking and a better understanding of economics?

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. According to some influential folks in my local paper there is still much to achieve.

Here are some of the things they graded poorly:

  • Education — Schools aren’t desegregated enough and bad in areas where blacks live.
  • Voting — Even though black voter turnout exceed white turnout in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections (as reported by the article), the expert gives voting a “D” because the Supreme Court overturned a 1965 law requiring some states to seek Federal approval in changing voter laws.
  • Wages & jobs — The inflation-adjusted minimum wage is lower and black unemployment is higher than 1963, so that’s bad.
  • Poverty — The poverty rate among blacks dropped from 55 percent four years before 1963, but bounces around in the 20s. The expert gave this an “F”.

The solutions these folks proposed? More government action. I recommend these influential folks, and anybody who agrees with their solution, read the following:

1. Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination? by Walter Williams.

2. Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, now in its 4th edition.

Ben Carson had some good things to say on the subject. I thought this one about education is especially poignant:

King was a huge advocate of education and would be horrified by the high dropout rates in many inner-city high schools. He, like many others, was vilified, beaten and jailed for trying to open the doors of education to everyone, regardless of their race.

If he were alive today, he would have to witness people turning their backs on those open doors and choosing to pursue lives of crime or dependency.


I remember frequently hearing the media descriptions of tea party rallies include a statement about racial composition.

I have yet to hear similar statements included in descriptions of Occupy rallies.

I wonder why?

Good Reading

1.  Walter Williams – Parting Company

I believe we are nearing a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative.

I still hold out some hope.  I think a lot of Americans who want to control other Americans simply don’t realize that’s what they are doing.  They think that what they’re doing is for a greater good.  I hope we can help them realize that not controlling others is a fundamental principle of life, it’s what the country was founded upon and produces better results — as David Boaz points out below.

2. John Stossel – What Am I?

Stossel explains a bit about what it means to be libertarian.  He answers the common question of ‘what about the poor and the weak’ with responses from people who appear on this show.

David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, took the discussion to a deeper level.

Instead of asking, ‘What should we do about people who are poor in a rich country?’ The first question is, ‘Why is this a rich country?’ …

“Five hundred years ago, there weren’t rich countries in the world. There are rich countries now because part of the world is following basically libertarian rules: private property, free markets, individualism.”

Boaz makes an important distinction between equality and absolute living standards.

“The most important way that people get out of poverty is economic growth that free markets allow. The second-most important way — maybe it’s the first — is family. There are lots of income transfers within families. Third would be self-help and mutual-aid organizations. This was very big before the rise of the welfare state.”

This is an important but unappreciated point: Before the New Deal, people of modest means banded together to help themselves. These organizations were crowded out when government co-opted their insurance functions, which included inexpensive medical care.

Boaz indicts the welfare state for the untold harm it’s done in the name of the poor.

“What we find is a system that traps people into dependency. … You should be asking advocates of that system, ‘Why don’t you care about the poor?'”

I agree. It appears that when government sets out to solve a problem, not only does it violate our freedom, it also accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.

Excellent response when someone asks what about the poor?  How did the country get rich in the first place?  Have the solutions put in place to help the poor helped or made things worse?  In fact, it was the answer to these very questions that led me away from my more liberal roots.

3. Thomas Sowell – Race and Politics: Part II

A major factor in the housing boom and bust that created the present economic predicament was massive government intervention in the housing market, supposedly to correct discrimination in mortgage lending. How did they know that there was discrimination? Because blacks were turned down for mortgage loans at a higher rate than whites.

It so happens that whites were turned down for mortgage loans at a higher rate than Asian Americans, but that fact seldom made it into the newspaper headlines or the political rhetoric.

If only more people would ask obvious questions about data and not simply take a newspaper or study headline at face value.  Sowell is good reading for anyone with analyst in their job title.  I believe reading Sowell over the years has helped develop my ability to poke holes in interpretations of data.

I think knowing the real reasons behind the data is more worthwhile than interpreting data to fit my mental model.  I’m prone to my own biases, however, I am also more open to understanding alternative interpretations and why those may or may not be valid.

What do I have to lose?

Now that I think about it, that’s a great question for many people who are cemented into their mental models.  What do they have to lose?  If more people were more open to alternative explanations for why things are the way they are, perhaps we wouldn’t have such a divide.

It’s not about race

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote a column entitled, Tea party fears a matter of race and more.

I had trouble following Pitt’s logic.  He’s responding to a Kieth Olbermann commentary that “scores the tea party movement as the outcry of people who haven’t yet made peace with the fact that their president is black.”

Pitts then goes on to argue that Olbermann has it wrong, or maybe not.  In Leonard’s mind, race isn’t a major factor:

The tea party people distrust Obama’s policies, his eloquence, his fierce intelligence and the fact that he is black then becomes the final straw, the difference maker and deal breaker. To put that another way: I doubt most of the tea partiers hate Obama strictly because he is black, but it sure doesn’t help.

So, Olbermann is wrong?   Not quite.  Pitts continues:

My point is not that Olbermann’s argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete.

So which is it?

Yes, race is obviously a component, and a major component at that, of the reaction against the president.

And to support this point, Pitts writes:

The recurring use of racist imagery and language, the attendance at tea party events of a racist group like the so-called Council of Conservative Citizens, settles that definitively.

I don’t read Pitts often enough to know if he typically has this much trouble sticking to a point within the space of a few paragraphs.

It doesn’t matter much.  Either way he’s wrong.  So is Olbermann.

I’m currently reading Michael Steele’s excellent book Right Now.  I haven’t read as crisp of a communication of conservative principles since Reagan.

In the book, Steele contends that conservatives see society as a collection of individuals that they hold to their individual merits and liberals tend to see it as a collection of groups.  Pitts demonstrates the latter view in two ways.

First, he can’t accept the possibility that race is not an issue for tea partiers.  Maybe that’s because he views society as a collection of groups and can’t fathom that others don’t.

Second, rather than sit and talk with representative tea partiers and see if he can agree or disagree with their positions on merit, he’d rather brand the entire group unfit with a sophisticated form of name calling, without giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I find that strange, because he seems to be from the group that says we should sit down with our opponents to gain an understanding of their position.

As much of Olbermann and Pitts wishes race was the issue, it’s not. Race keeps them from seeing the real issues.

If you want to know what motivates tea partiers, I recommend reading Michael Steele’s book, or the books and columns written by economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams or the columns written by Star Parker.

The last three all write weekly columns that are available for free at  Star’s column appears on Mondays, Sowell’s on Tuesdays and Williams’ on Wednesday.  I look forward to reading each one every week.

If you read back through this blog, you will find that I hold these peoples’ opinions in high regards and I greatly appreciate their work as, I’m guessing, would a great many tea partiers.

All do a great job of explaining that conservatives believe in individual rights, voluntary interaction between individuals and that we should be skeptical of those who wish to use government power to force their visions onto these individuals and the degrading impact of government dependency.

I’d love to read Leonard Pitts address the issues these leading conservative thinkers write about.  That would make for much better reading than the glib name calling he seems to revel in.