My Plan to Help African-Americans

Really, political plans should be to help everyone, and certainly many people beyond African-Americans would be helped by the steps below.  But since the nature of modern politics seems to demand race-specific plans, and since so many destructive policies have been put into place to supposedly help African Americans, I will offer my list of suggestions:

  • Legalize drugs.  This would reduce the rents that attract the poor into dealing, would keep people out of jail, and reduce a lot of violent crime associated with narcotics traffic that kills investment and business creation in black neighborhoods.  It would also reduce the main excuse for petty harassment by police that falls disproportionately on young black men.  No it's not a good thing to have people addicted to strong narcotics but it is worse to be putting them in jail and having them shooting at each other.
  • Bring real accountability to police forces.  When I see stories of folks absurdly abused by police forces, I can almost always guess the race of the victim in advance.  I used to be a law-and-order Conservative that blindly trusted police statements about every encounter.  The advent of cell-phone video has proven this to be supremely naive.  No matter how trusted, you can't give any group a pass on accountability.
  • Eliminate the minimum wage   (compromise: eliminate the minimum wage before 25).  Originally passed for racist reasons, it still (if unintentionally) keeps young blacks from entering the work force.  Dropping out of high school does not hurt employment because kids learn job skills in high school (they don't); it hurts because finishing high school is a marker of responsibility and other desirable job traits.  Kids who drop out can overcome this, but only if they get a job where they can demonstrate these traits.  No one is going to take that chance at $10 or $15 an hour**
  • Voucherize education.  It's not the middle class that is primarily the victim of awful public schools, it is poor blacks.  Middle and upper class parents have the political pull to get accountability.   It is no coincidence the best public schools are generally in middle and upper class neighborhoods.  Programs such as the one in DC that used to allow urban poor to escape failing schools need to be promoted.

** This might not be enough.  One of the main reasons we do not hire inexperienced youth, regardless of wage rates, is that the legal system has put the entire liability for any boneheaded thing an employee does on the employer.  Even if the employee is wildly breaking clear rules and is terminated immediately for his or her actions, the employer can be liable.  The cost of a bad hire is skyrocketing (at the same time various groups are trying to reign in employers' ability to do due diligence on prospective employees).  I am not positive that in today's legal environment I would take free labor from an untried high school dropout, but I certainly am not going to do it at $10 an hour when there are thousands of experienced people who will work for that.  Some sort of legal safe harbor for the actions of untried workers might be necessary.


  1. Rob McMillin:

    Youth labor participation rates (16-24) has been in more or less continuous decline since I was a teenager. We now approach 50%, and a couple years back, we hit an all-time low.

  2. HenryBowman419:

    Ending the Drug War is probably the most important item—the drug war contributes mightily to the us-versus-them attitudes between cops and black folks, especially urban blacks. John McWhorter has been advocating such for a long time.

  3. Matthew Slyfield:

    "Originally passed for racist reasons"

    Can you document this. My understanding is that the federal minimum wage was originally enacted as part of the child labor laws.

  4. bigmaq1980:

    "Voucherize education."

    All for it, even while realizing it may well be at personal cost, though.

    We located to an area with good schools, and paid the real estate premium for the "privilege". Vouchers will take a large chunk of property value with it. It is one of the unintended consequences of government's hand in the marketplace.

  5. McThag:

    Plus legalizing drugs removes nearly all of the justification for how invasive the government is in our finances! A win for everyone!

  6. Evan Þ:

    My problem with repealing the minimum wage only for young workers is that it'd create an incentive for every low-wage employer to staff solely with workers under age 25 or whatever other cutoff. True, that might be counterbalanced with the need to keep experienced or more-mature workers, but I'd want to see some evidence that it'd sufficiently counter that.

  7. Thomas Reid:

    I agree with all four of your points but question how much is going to change if you improve police accountability. We're seeing riots both when the police acted appropriately (e.g Ferguson) and inappropriately (e.g. South Carolina). And, the rioters are torching buildings and looting, hardly the acts of people who care about law, order and accountability.

    There will always be screw up by cops and there will always be some bad cops, just as there will always be cases where people accuse cops wrongly. I think the other three are the ones that will matter more. If they are put into effect, you will see less rioting when we encounter the inevitable cases of police brutality or mistaken police brutality.

  8. Ray Van Dolson:

    Agree. I think police abuse is being used more as an excuse than it is an actual major, contributing factor. It gives folks like Al Sharpton something to bang their fists about, but unless you can measure some improvement here that the affected groups actually buy into, the isolated cases will continue to be blown out of proportion and used as a scapegoat.

    In general, no issues with uniform cams and increased discipline for misbehavior on the police side, I just haven't really bought this one as a legit root cause.

  9. c_andrew:

    I don't know about the US, but I do know that the apartheid era labor unions in South Africa supported it and said explicitly that it was to keep blacks out of the legal labor market.

    It wouldn't surprise me to find that the same was going on in the US, just that it was kept under the rose. I know that, with few exceptions, the labor union movement in the US was supremely anti-black. Especially in the North. A good resource on that would be Walter Williams' book, "The State Against Blacks" where he does a good job of documenting the union bias against blacks as well as other laws that were made to keep former slaves with certain skills from competing against whites.

  10. c_andrew:

    Certainly police misconduct is used by the race hustlers for their own ends, but I don't think that the police are held sufficiently accountable as a rule. It is that very lack of accountability that gives the opening to the race hustlers and provides cover for them when they go after a police officer using force in a legitimate manner, such as in Ferguson.

    The white citizenry at large is also responsible for this. Like the author, I was once a Law and Order Conservative. My grandfather was a sheriff's deputy and I grew up around cops. I tended to take the police spokesmen at their word but have since come to treat nearly every statement by cops as suspect. But most whites would rather live in a safe cocoon of self denial and part of that is believing that the police are upright and decent folks and that they're just getting a bad rap. Even when the evidence is overwhelming, as in the case with the police beating and murder of Kelly Thomas, the juries vote to acquit. Well, sooner or later, they will get what they deserve at the hands of the police that they enabled.

    My rather rude awakening came over a period of a few months when our local police were completely out of control. I witnessed instances of police misconduct and was the object of several such exercises by the police. I got out of it because I was meek and mild and all that and could drop a few names, but it didn't blind me to the fact that if I hadn't had those contacts, I would have been in a world of hurt. These are contacts that most people, even lower class white folks, wouldn't have had.

    I would also offer something else for consideration. If I offer shelter to a suspected felon (even a family member) and don't turn them over to the police, I'm considered an accessory after the fact, yes? This is why the police apologists who argue that 'there are only a few bad apples' are completely mistaken in understanding the breadth of the problem. Since the cops who are not among those few bad apples cover for the misbehavior of their brother officers, they are essentially accessories after the fact. They're enablers. They're complicit. In other words, if they aren't turning the bad cops in, they're bad cops themselves.

    The solution? Strip immunity from all actors in the criminal justice system; cops, prosecutors, and judges alike. Make them accountable to at least civil penalties. And maybe it's time to bring back the practice of private prosecutions since the 'justice system' is so entirely crony-compromised.
    What I wouldn't give for a justice department willing to prosecute individual officers for violations of civil rights under color of law. Or one that supported 1983 claims instead of tacitly acting against them. Once cops, prosecutors, judges , etc., were made aware that they no longer had the 'get out of jail free card' that follows upon their immunity, I think that you would have a lot less misconduct.

  11. Bram:

    To make the police forces accountable, you have to break the police unions. Anything short is just window dressing.

  12. NL7:

    I think he's referring to the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law, which was passed in 1931 to block immigrant and Southern labor used in big cities. The FLSA addressed child labor in 1938, years after the states already had rules limiting child labor. The Davis-Bacon congressional statements reveal some of the prejudice that went into the prevailing wage law.

    Note that the FLSA exempted agriculture from the child labor rules, just as Social Security exempted agriculture and home workers (maids and servants). In other words, these laws supposedly crafted to protect the poor were written (by Southern New Dealers) to exclude the two professions where most Southern black people worked. That was not coincidental. Prominent Southern New Dealers argued that they knew how to handle the treatment of "their" black people, and that the laws should be drafted around existing arrangements.

  13. NL7:

    Not sure there's much to be done about employer liability for employee acts. Maybe the scope of "frolic and detour" could be restored, but at some level, the employer is committing the acts of its agents. This is mostly a good rule, like when employees engage in business transactions. The same rationale that says a human being can engage in a business deal for the corporate entity, and therefore have no legal right to the money they transfer, by implication means their mistakes are part of the employer's actions.

    If an employee messes up some paperwork or money transfer, you want their employer held responsible to fix it even if the individual employee is fired. If an employee under-counts a cash payment to you, you want your money back - even if the cause of the error was failure to follow corporate procedures. If an employee spills hot frying oil on you, you want to be compensated for medical expenses - even if the failure was again only because some idiot failed to follow corporate procedures.

    Better reforms might be loser-pays and caps (or exclusions) on punitive damages. Limitations on discovery might also be a fruitful area. I think the concept of respondeat superior is probably a sound one (even speaking as an anarchist), it's just that the tort lawyers have been able to move the system to an unpredictable mess of costs that center more on sympathy than causes and duties. It might also be a good idea to move to some sort of strict liability with no punitive damages, a little closer to the concept of worker compensation.

  14. morgan.c.frank:

    to make police accountable, we need a new system to prosecute them. a DA/criminal prosecutor is NEVER going to do it. the conflict of interest is too strong. you charge a cop and go after them and the same police whose cooperation you need on every other case hang you out to dry. you'll be unable to do your job and therefore lose it. the police unions will come out against you in the next election, etc etc.

    we need an office of the ombudsman whose sole job is to investigate and prosecute police. it's members should be appointed/elected at the state level to keep local police unions from capturing the process.

    police need to face criminal charges when they break the law. until they do, nothing is going to change their behavior.

    /sarc/ also, we ought to ban police from watching cop shows on TV. cops on tv shoot at everything, draw guns constantly, abuse and torture people, and run roughshod over the law. impressionable kids like our officers need better role models. :-P

  15. NL7:

    Also, as a matter of risk allocation, who is least responsible for the medical costs incurred by an employee's tort? Clearly the offending employee will often be most responsible, but between the employer and the injured individual, who should have to pay the costs of the injury? Often an employee will be judgment-proof, so if a company does not pay then the risk is being allocated to individuals. Maybe that makes sense, I'm not sure. But I think it's pretty reasonable to say that, since the corporation had a better chance of preventing the injury by having better employees and better procedures or equipment, and the individual in many cases could only have avoided the injury by staying locked in their home, therefore the risk is better placed on the employer.

    Again, not defending the current tort system or trial lawyers. I think in the abstract the tort system makes sense, and carving out special exemptions where the common law standard doesn't apply is probably unrealistic. The problems are with the execution of the system and how easy it is to threaten unpredictable damage awards or lengthy discovery, resulting in settlements that mostly enrich trial lawyers.

  16. Matthew Slyfield:

    If you have a cite that says otherwise, I would be interested, but my understanding is that the child labor exemption for agriculture only applies to the family of the farm's owner / operator, even for agriculture, they are still prohibited from using outside paid child laborers.

  17. Thomas Reid:

    Thanks for the response. Much to think about here.
    If you strip cops of immunity do you make them so risk averse that the general populace will suffer from the cops' increased concern for their liability. I'd want to see some crime rate studies in places that have stripped away immunity.

  18. skhpcola:

    If you were actually concerned about helping blacks, you would reject open borders and unlimited immigration. Otherwise, all of those other things serve as mere feel-good props.

  19. NL7:

    Davis-Bacon sets a minimum wage that must be paid under certain circumstances. The fact that it isn't universally applicable doesn't mean it isn't a price floor. It tends to apply to a meaningful portion of construction projects, often around a fifth to a quarter.

    The motivation was openly racist and protectionist, mostly to stop cheap Southern labor (mostly black) from being transported into mostly Northern cities to undercut wages paid to white unionists.

  20. Matthew Slyfield:

    It also only applies to construction, which is only a single digit percentage of the total job market at best.

  21. c_andrew:

    Sorry for the belated response.

    I would certainly like to see if there is information to be had where cops have liability and whether that affects their behavior. So far as I know, given SCOTUS rulings on the topic, that wouldn't be anywhere in the US.

    I think that criminal immunity should be removed. And that civil immunity is only voided when a jury finds against the officer. That would tend to limit the 'money interest' lawsuits while still giving a venue outside of police control to evaluate the actions their officers.

    If you run across any countries with comparable use of force laws that have stripped immunity from their police, please post it. I'll do the same, but so far I've come up empty.