Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Robert Wicks - Coming Soon: More Black Libertarians

I read with interest the article by Wilt Alston on the dearth of black libertarians. I have long been the only libertarian among my circle of (mostly black) friends, and I think the somewhat unique cultural background of American blacks (the only type with whom I am intimately familiar) has made less than fertile ground for the growth of libertarian values.

 American blacks are generally the descendants of slaves. That peculiar institution set the groundwork for a lot of black cultural traditions and social habits. Individualists who fought for their own rights were in short supply because that trait did not make you better able to survive and prosper. Quite the opposite, in fact. Far too often, blacks who had the burning desire to improve themselves had to hide this desire, lest they be considered uppity and be subject to sanctions. Though I find Lincoln an opportunist and murderer, it is fact that actions he set into motion led to the freeing of the slaves at the time in which they were freed. That is something blacks can't say of Calhoun (though consistently following his ideas on government would lead to that conclusion, though he himself may have loathed that result), as much as I personally admire his insight into government and freedom. It is a historical accident that the federal government forced abolition on the South, which would have inevitably come without the assistance of Union soldiers. Readers of this site are keenly aware of this, but we all know that, all too often, we take the baby along with the bathwater, and, indeed, often have trouble realizing the two can be separated at all.

 What effects did the fact that blacks saw the federal government as their emancipators have on black culture? Well, for one thing, it meant that one of the first places blacks went for jobs was the government, which was basically all under federal control immediately after the Civil War. Growing up in Mississippi, I knew few successful black businessmen. Black professionals were usually teachers, preachers, and government workers of various sorts. That's just how it was. That's where the opportunities usually were. In particular during my father's and grandfather's times, the protection of the federal government was the best way black folk knew to be successful. Black-owned businesses generally catered to blacks only. It would, in fact, be dangerous in many parts of the country for them to attempt to do otherwise. This meant that most of the outside money which was coming into black neighborhoods was coming from the government, since the professionals, the high income earners, were frequently working for the government.

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1 comment:

  1. The black libertarian who influence my thinking the most? Walter Williams. I recall seeing him on Free To Choose, Milton Friedman's 10 part PBS special. After that, I read everything he wrote. Deeply indebted to this man.