Ask Mr. Jones
Mr. Jones – the title of a movie released last year now playing on Amazon Prime – discovers that the New York Times’ Moscow Bureau and its Pulitzer writer Walter Duranty is covering up Stalin’s starvation of 4 million Ukrainians (16 million relative to today’s global population) to protect the gloss of socialism, later explaining “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs”. All the other journalists except Jones apparently go along for the same reason. The death toll of socialist ideology would reach 100 million (300 today) during the next several decades in the pursuit of Utopia. There were no omelets.
Only a few thousand (almost all black) deaths have as yet resulted from prior Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement protests, but this is only the beginning. The question is, what is their leaders’ version of Utopia and how many lives are they willing to sacrifice to achieve it?
Socialism, Fascism and Crony Capitalism are Sisters
Over the past several centuries two systems of political economy, socialism and capitalism, have competed. The distinguishing characteristic of all socialist variants is the authoritarian hand of politicians, whether or not “elected.” The distinguishing characteristic of capitalism is the invisible hand guiding the competitive market. Neither system promises “equal” outcomes: capitalism “fair” outcomes based on individual merit without eyesight to discriminate by color or sex, socialism in theory based on need as determined by politicians and bureaucrats.
Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism (2008) argues that fascism is a sister to Soviet socialism. What the U.S. has called “crony capitalism” has different features than the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, but includes authoritarian control over business and markets. Similarly, the welfare state democratic socialism has different features than Soviet socialism, but shares state control over income. The Progressive Movement in the U.S. has historically used the authoritarian political hand to benefit not just the rent-seeking cronies at the top (politicians, the intellectual elite, etc.) but also the working and under-class. The competitive market system that remained somewhat out of the state’s reach produced most of the income and wealth that funded this progressive largesse.
What is Racial and Social Justice?
Political power – in the hands of the Democratic Party – was indisputably the source of racist oppression from its founding through the Great Society. The black/white wage gap has remained unchanged since for those employed. What has changed is black participation in the labor force. The old generation of eminent Black economists Tom Sowell (90), Walter Williams (84) and Shelby Steele (74) have, in hundreds of books and thousands of articles, many addressing the issue of race in America, argued that the Great Society has been the source of income and wealth disparities by creating dependence on the welfare state, massive penalties for marriage (raising the percent of live births outside of wedlock from 10% to over 70%) and work (a marginal tax rate over 100% on earned income), restrictive policies such as minimum wage, and opposition to charter schools.
But the primary demand of the militant black protestors who seized university buildings a half century ago was the creation of progressive Black Studies programs that reinforce the Charlottesville premise that America was born to slavery, that American racist oppression never ended, and that the statues are symbols of this inborn oppression, the only source of the current income and wealth gap with whites. The BLM movement rejects the nuclear family, and demands that the state eliminate the remaining gap not closed by existing transfer payments of about $45,000 annually for families of four in the lowest income quintile.
Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bath Water
In his article published in 1853, anti-slavery Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle used that phrase when considering what comes after emancipation. The Civil War ended as it began, with no plan for the future (other than Lincoln’s plan for a return to African Liberia). After the painful period of Reconstruction, the first half of the last century was devoted to making good on America’s promise of freedom of opportunity for all, derailed by the Great Society. The Clinton Administration tried to jump start the reduction of wealth disparities by inducing millions of black households without the steady income stream necessary to sustain homeownership, with disastrous results for the global economy, and particularly for black families.
“Effete Intellectual Snobs”
That’s a truncated version of the label given by VP Spiro Agnew to “national masochists” i.e., intellectuals who would bring national ruin, written a half century ago by the New York Times writer William Safire. American historians have generally been biased against market capitalism. The term “Robber Baron”, first used by the New York Times in 1859 to describe Cornelius Vanderbilt, was popularized during the Depression by a disciple of socialist/progressive writer Charles Beard. America’s dark history has been made hopeless to many millenials through the lens of socialist sympathizer Howard Zinn and racist through the lens of the New York Times 2019 revisionist 1619 Project. Economists have been the most easily seduced by the attraction of state power, finding “market failures” at both the macro and micro level to justify their intervention. The Austrian economists Schumpeter and Hayek recognized socialism’s masochistic appeal to “intellectuals” who felt that they could run the world better than those chosen to do so.
What Goes Around Comes Around
The heavily Democratic state of California is in the process of amending its Constitution to legalize racial discrimination. Rather than admit the failure of the Great Society, the chattering classes accept white guilt and reparations on behalf of the white working class who still celebrate the 4th of July. They will remain above the bloody fray – at the contemporary equivalent of Walter Duranty’s salon – when the angry mob that rejects such obvious appeasement comes in contact with those who refuse to accept this latest socialist lie as the premise for the BLM anarchy and revolutionary socialism. The academics, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats and “the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history” won’t be on the streets when the hearses and paddy wagons arrive, says Mr. Jones.
It might take a Maoist-inspired Cultural Revolution that sends the chattering classes to the fields and factories to learn how real income and wealth is produced to avoid this war.
Kevin Villani was chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on how politicians and bureaucrats with no skin in the game caused the sub-prime lending bubble and systemic financial system failure.