Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Processes, Outcomes, And The American Negro

     Thomas Sowell’s masterwork The Vision of the Anointed: Self-congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy contains many gems, but among the brightest of them is this tabular summary of the attitudes of the “anointed” – broadly speaking, the American Left – and the holders of the “tragic vision” – i.e., the rest of us.

     Note in particular two rows of this table: the ones concerning Justice and Social possibilities. Here is where the contrast between Left and Right is most sharply depicted. The Left is adamant that a “problem” – which, to the Left, is anything its vanguard strategists decide to call a problem – must have a “solution,” with the implied but clearly understood codicils that:

  1. The solution must have no (or negligible) negative consequences;
  2. A scheme of “justice” that fails to deliver such a solution is therefore unjust.

     Yet we know from the laws of physics that:

  1. No action is without unintended consequences;
  2. At least one consequence of any action will be undesirable.

     This is as true in social policy as it is in thermodynamics – and it’s nowhere clearer than in matters of policing and criminal justice.

     The odious “Black Lives Matter” movement, born from the deaths of junior varsity black criminals Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, has recently released a statement of demands:

     In a policy agenda titled "A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice," organizers call for policing and criminal justice reforms.

     Some of the changes include an end to militarized police presence at protests and the retroactive decriminalization and immediate release of people convicted of drug offenses, sex work-related offenses and youth offenses.

     It also includes a request for the passage of a bill that would create a commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves.

     Such an agenda inherently implies that the demanded outcomes are “just” and could be attained without important negative consequences. It’s nonsense, of course. Blacks are disproportionately the perpetrators of the enumerated crimes, but members of other races perpetrate and are incarcerated for them as well. The laws against them are applied as evenhandedly as any laws on the books. Moreover, a mass release of those convicted for those crimes would destroy the concept of justice – and I say that as one who has long advocated the decriminalization of both “recreational” drugs and sex for hire. As for the notion that contemporary blacks are entitled to “reparations” for slavery, if anyone owes anyone, American blacks owe American society for the opportunities afforded them, even if a deplorable number of blacks decline to exploit them.

     So BLM’s demands are trash. They have nothing to do with justice, and if we were to pursue them as mandatory outcomes, the destruction would be widespread and savage. But it is in the nature of a Left-aligned “movement” – and few “movements” of the recent past are more clearly a fabrication by racialist agitators – to clamor ever more loudly for what it wants regardless of any consideration.

     The post-World War II period briefly showed steady improvement in American race relations: roughly from the end of the war to about 1965. Some of the credit belongs to the war itself, which had given black soldiers an opportunity to demonstrate impressive amounts of courage and dedication under the worst of circumstances. However, roughly in 1965 those relations began to worsen. They’ve grown worse – more distrustful, acrimonious, and disruptive – every year since then. Those who cherish social harmony are largely baffled by the reversal. Isn’t social peace to the advantage of all races? Then why has seemingly perpetual racial discord afflicted us despite our best efforts?

     The correlation between the rejection of processes and the demand for particular outcomes is seldom addressed. Yet therein lies the supposedly elusive mechanism that’s produced so much racial strife.

     Convince Smith that his condition, rather than the processes that produced it, is unjust, and he will clamor to have it redressed – redressed now, not by some process that will incrementally improve it over a period of months or years. He will be uninterested in any difficulties involved, for the “injustice” of his plight is an absolute, a matter of right. Black racial hucksters strove to persuade American blacks that their condition, compared to the condition of American whites, is unjust. Moreover, they blamed the processes – freedom of expression and movement, the rule of law, the free market – for the “injustices,” and demanded government intervention to impede them.

     In point of fact, under a regime of freedom, free Americans had been doing what they wanted and believed was in their best interests. They were behaving in accordance with their natures: seeking the good and attempting to avert the bad as they defined such things. Inasmuch as no power on earth can nullify or modify natural law, every time the hucksters succeeded in getting a demanded intervention, whether it was a redistributive program, an equal-opportunity law, or the criminalization of some common practice, American society reaped the whirlwind.

     Some did profit, of course: the racialist hucksters and the politicians who succeeded in enriching and establishing themselves by pandering to them. As that suited them very well, and the negative consequences could be deflected onto others’ shoulders, they saw no reason to change their ways. And so it is even unto this day.

     The legal and social processes of a free society that operates under objective laws, evenhandedly enforced, will over time raise each individual to the altitude he deserves. But time is the ultimately scarce commodity; we cannot mine or manufacture it, and we cannot save it for later. Thus, to tell a man who has been convincingly told that he deserves as a matter of justice more than he’s achieved, that he must await the operation of impersonal processes – abetted by his efforts on his own behalf – for the reward he regards as his by right today will only infuriate him. He’ll be moved to “act out.”

     They who see potential profit in a “movement” will contrive to weld such persons into a mass that can be directed at their goals – the organizers’ goals, which need not have any connection to the desires of the individuals in the mass. Politicians who hope to gain in stature by collaborating with the movement will align with it and help it to obtain the interventions it seeks. In the absence of a counterforce of equal or greater power explicitly directed at quelling the movement and maintaining the social order, disorder will result.

     That’s what We the Formerly Free have suffered for half a century, with no end in sight. That race relations have worsened was, if not a conscious aim of the participants, no more than a minor consideration.


Tim Turner said...

"The legal and social processes of a free society that operates under objective laws, evenhandedly enforced, will over time raise each individual to the altitude he deserves."

I've thought that and read it, but never so succinctly. Terrifically well-said, Fran!

Bill St. Clair said...

"... the retroactive decriminalization and immediate release of people convicted of drug offenses, sex work-related offenses..."

Did those offenses harm a non-consenting person? If not, then they were not crimes, and BLM is entirely correct, they should be released, and the arresting officers should be tried for kidnapping.

But reparations? Not!

JWMJR said...

If the police really wanted to implement a "racist" policy of systematically killing blacks, particularly black criminals all they would have to do is withdraw from the worst neighborhoods. They could then sit back and watch as they killed each other off in tribal warfare, die off from addiction, overdose or from any number of blood born diseases that regularly go untreated and abort the next generation out of ecistence.

Margaret Sanger would be heard from the pits of hell cheering them on.