The Equality Trap

When people use the word, ‘equality’, they either mean equality of treatment under the law, or equality of outcomes.  Sometimes ‘equality’ is used to refer to equality of opportunity, but equality of opportunity is impossible without equality of outcomes, as the outcomes of each successive generation create the opportunities for the next, and unless one generation has equal outcomes, the next cannot have equal opportunities.  As such, equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are the same thing.

Many people make the assumption that if everyone were treated equally under the law, we would all have equal outcomes.  Many of the beliefs on the far left of our political spectrum are in fact based on this assumption.  Those who assume this, for example, with incarceration rates, tell us that our criminal justice system is ethnically biased.  Liberals make this claim without taking into account the differences in crime rates between different ethnicities.  When pressed, some on the left will acknowledge that incarceration rates and crime rates match, but they will then say that in a fair and equal society, crime rates would be equal.

The truth is that crime rates do not follow ethnic lines, but rather they follow socio-economic lines.  Socio-economic lines in turn follow the decision-making of each subsequent generation.  Those born to college educated, hard working parents, are apt to be well educated, and to have a strong work ethic.  Those raised by single parents on welfare are far less apt to receive the same education, or to be raised with the same work ethic, as those raised by two college educated, hard working parents.  The ethnicity of a child is a very poor predictor of success, whereas the parenting of a child is a very strong indicator of success.

Sometimes a liberal will even acknowledge that parenting is the driving force behind the success, or failure, of a child, but they will still say that in a truly equal society, there would be no differences between economic outcomes or crime rates between different ethnicities.  It is in fact true that had our country always had equal treatment under the law, for all ethnicities, there would be no reason to expect different outcomes for different ethnicities.  We might expect recent immigrants to have lower economic outcomes and/or higher crime rates, but we would expect gaps to close within a generation or two, as the children and grand children of immigrants tend to adopt the cultural norms of the country they are born into.

Doctor Thomas Sowell measured the economic outcomes for different ethnicities immigrating the United States, over time.  Dr. Sowell’s research shows that those who immigrate to the United States from countries with cultural norms that are weaker surrounding education and work, take, on average, three generations to reach the mean, whereas those who come from countries with stronger cultural norms surrounding education and work, take as long as six generations to reach the mean.  In other words, families from all ethnicities (and cultures) who immigrate to the United States regress to the mean, over time, but it takes longer to lose cultural norms that work, then to lose cultural norms that do not work.  Several of Dr. Sowell’s books are dedicated to this subject, including as “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” and “Intellectuals and Race.”

Perhaps the most surprising fact Dr. Sowell’s research shows is that black families immigrating directly from Africa (whose ancestry does not go through the antebellum South), or from the Caribbean, reach the mean, on average, in three generations.  Liberalism tell us racism holds African Americans back, but if racism truly held African Americans back, one would expect that those immigrating directly from Africa to be held back, and yet they are not held back.  If the legacy of slavery were holding African Americans back, then black families immigrating from the Caribbean should suffer too, and yet they do not.

Usually, when scientific research shows an assumption to be false, that assumption is discarded, but liberals ignore the fact that ethnicity is a very poor determinant of success.  Frankly, liberals have good reason : if we accept that ethnicity is a poor determinant of success, then we have to do a cause-and-effect analysis to determine why African Americans whose ancestry does go through the antebellum South have higher crime rates and lower economic outcomes, on a per capita basis, than do all other groups.  Democrats do not want such an analysis to be performed.

This analysis has been done by a number of prominent economists, such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams, and what they (and others) have shown, is that it is the very policies liberals continue to endorse drive the differences in outcomes between different groups.

The dirty little secret about the Democrat Party is that it has always been, and will always be, racist.  Jefferson’s Democrat Republicans split over the issue of slavery, with the Republicans breaking off to oppose it, and the Democrats breaking off to defend it.  After slavery, civil rights became the question – Republicans wanting to ensure that African Americans were ensured equal treatment under the law,  whereas Democrats wanted to ensure that African Americans were treated very differently under the law.

After the Civil War, African Americans began moving North, where there was less discrimination and better economic opportunities, than in the South.  At first the migration was slow, but by the 1920s it was rapid, and by the early 1930s, the African American unemployment rate was lower than that of white Americans, and African Americans had a higher workforce participation rate than did white Americans.  Just as many white Americans are afraid today of being displaced by Hispanic immigrants, from the workforce, so too in the 1930s many white Americans in the North were afraid of being displaced by African Americans who were moving North.  From a purely economic perspective those fears were (and are) unfounded, but fear is not always rational, and most people are not very well versed in economics.  At any rate, white Americans in the North began to push for government to prevent African Americans from displacing white workers in the 1930s, and FDR responded with the first national Minimum Wage in 1938.  FDR was actually somewhat late to the game – many states had minimum wages before that, and the purpose of minimum wages in the 1930s was to subsidize discrimination.  Minimum wages were sold on the promise of protecting white jobs, and minimum wages were universally passed by Democrats.

By the 1950s, the market clearing price for labor was higher than the minimum wage (thanks to inflation), and once again businesses were starting to hire African Americans first.  Not only that, but the African Americans of the 1950s were better educated than the African Americans of the 1930s had been, and were moving up the economic ladder into jobs that required an education.  There was a wage gap between African Americans and white Americans, but it was closing.  LBJ’s response was to radically increase the minimum wage, once again subsidizing discrimination.

The economic history of systemic racism against African Americans can be read in more detail on the post American Apartheid.  This is a history most Americans are completely unaware of.

The point is that there are specific policies on the books in America today that were created specifically to oppress African Americans, and the socio-economic condition of African Americans whose ancestry comes through the antebellum South has been caused by those specific policies.

The Democrat Party did ‘switch sides’ on race in a manner of speaking, but they did not ‘switch sides’ so much as that more and more democrats began to endorse socialism and communism, and since the supposed oppression between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat did not appeal to Americans – all of whom were richer than were those living under the iron heel of communism – those Democrats who wanted socialism and/or communism began to preach about the oppression of African Americans by white people.  Ironically, the same political party that was oppressing African Americans was also preaching about oppression, asking for laws that treated different ethnicities very differently, to help counteract the oppression some of their other laws created.

Republicans never changed.  Republicans were against laws that oppressed African Americans, and were also against laws that supposedly overcame that oppression.  Republicans were against any laws that treated different ethnicities differently, and Republicans were against those laws because Republicans believed that all Americans should always be treated equally under the law.

Democrats, in the meantime, have never believed that all ethnicities should be treated equally under the law.  Democrats have always believed, and continue to believe, that different ethnicities need to be treated differently.  The only thing that has changed are the reasons Democrats want laws to treat different people differently.  Up until the 1960s, Democrats truly believed that African Americans were inferior to white people, and wanted to separate the races to keep white people pure.  Nobody questioned whether or not that was racism – of course it was.

Today, Democrats believe that freedom, and particularly economic freedom, benefits white people at the expense of other ethnic groups.  The fact that white people are remarkably average in American society, and that all of the evidence says that ethnicity does not matter anymore (in spite of the racism that still lingers in our society) does not seem to matter to Democrats.  Not only don’t facts matter to Democrats when it comes to race, but their position is nonsensical.  Wouldn’t someone who is not racist assume that in a free and open society, racism will matter less over time rather than more?

Democrats don’t worry about facts at all.  If they did, they would be honest about the meaning of the word, ‘equality.’