Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dr. Anne Wortham: Objectivism and the Black Community

I stumbled across this interview with Dr. Anne Wortham and I have to say I'm impressed. I remember vividly that when I was in college I would propose that people should be judged by their merits rather than by their race, creed, or religious beliefs. At such times, I would be labeled as racist or intolerant. I could never grasp the reason. How can the assertion that race simply just NOT be a factor in our decisions--how can that be racist?

The assertion seemed to be that minorities deserve guarantees of jobs, guarantees of opportunities whereas those who aren't privileged enough to be a member of that group deserve no guarantees. What I felt then, and what I've come to know now, is that these guarantees must come from somewhere. Somebody must be sacrificed for the sake of them. If the job goes to somebody based on race, that means that somebody else is not getting the job, also based on race. This is pure racism. If somebody gets the job because they are the most qualified, then the reason why somebody else doesn't get the job is because they aren't qualified. This is only fair. The goal, I think is to remove race as a consideration in our evaluation of people rather than to emphasize it and thereby create unnecessary divisions among our human kin.

It is for this reason that I found Dr. Wortham's comments in this interview particularly refreshing. Only by replacing the culture of entitlement with the culture of self-empowerment can any minority hope to better its people. I hope you find her comments as enlightening as I did.

11/8/2008: I apologize but it's been brought to my attention that the video was removed from YouTube for a terms of use violation. The original interview was entitled "Another View of the Civil Rights Movement: Anne Wortham" and was part of a series called "A World of Ideas" featuring Bill Moyers. I couldn't find it at amazon, but a google search will bring up places where it can be purchased online. I highly recommend it.

12/5/2009: The video is back on YouTube! I don't know for how long, so check it out while you can!


JL said...

where'd the video go?

American Anti-theist said...

I guess You Tube removed it for a terms of use violation. It's a shame. But if you're interested, it's called "Another View of the Civil Rights Movement: Anne Wortham". She's interviewed by Bill Moyers and it's well worth the purchase. I think it was also released as part of his series "A World of Ideas". I couldn't find it at amazon, but a google search brings up places it can be purchased.

chris suggs said...

in re your opening comments re Anne Wortham:

The point of affirmative action is that it adresses exactly your issue--the history of Africans in America shows that until the federal government forced their hand in the mid-1960s, whites would NEVER accept blacks on their merits but rather rejected them on the basis of race. Your assumption that if it were not for the feds we would all live in a utopian, prelapsarian garden of mutual respect for merit--is totally ahistorical. Affirnative action is the historically rooted response to the problem you descry. Accept that...or admit that it is not merit but power that is at the heart of your ideology.

American Anti-theist said...

Well, first of all, not all whites were bigots even in the 1960s. And the only thing which allowed bigots to persecute black people was that government supported the actions of the racists.

That was the horror of the period, black people couldn't even appeal to the law, because the law had institutionalized discrimination. What was needed was for government to take a strong stance that government agencies would do their duty by the constitution and defend all rights of all Americans regardless of race or creed or religion.

What was needed was to severely punish any government officials found to be perpetuating such disgraceful and dehumanizing practices as the governors, police, and judges of the south had done. This was what was within the constitutional powers afforded to the federal government and secured by the civil war.

Now, federal government did take strong action, which formed the bulk of the civil rights act. But with measures like affirmative action, the government ensured that racism would be perpetuated. They went too far.

What is racism? It is making decisions about someone based on their race. Why is it wrong? Because the idea that a person's skin can tell you anything about the quality of their soul is ludicrous. But just as it is wrong to disinclude people based on such ludicrous decision making, it is also wrong to actively choose them for the same reasons.

Someone who only wants to hire white people because they're white is a racist. Someone who only wants to hire black people because they're black is also racist. What they have done is institutionalize the behavior of basing these decisions on race. This is fundamentally what racism is all about (and it disgusts me either way).

Affirmative action also violates the personal rights of property owners. The owner of a business has the full right to hire whoever he likes, even if they are racist assholes. Why? Because it's his business. He has the right to refuse services to whoever he pleases. But he doesn't have the right to threaten, coerce, or attack people who don't agree with him. And it is the duty of police and the executive branch of government to ensure that racists can't do things like that.

Government does not have the right to have a say in who sets up which businesses where under what terms. It was precisely because the government assumed such powers and racist assholes took advantage of them that they were able to institutionalize racism in the first place. If the government was not allowed to interfere in people's business decisions then there would be nothing to prevent black communities from developing into rival economic centers. They would be free to develop their own wealth, just like any other American.

But race as an excuse for special privilege is simply extortion. If equality is what is desired, then equality is what should be had for all. But the equality promised by the constitution is not a guarantee of personal success nor an assurance that all people will be able to accomplish the same things in life. It is an equality of opportunity. That people will be free to live based on their own merits without threat of violence.

It is only when the use of force is applied that people are not free to manage their own destinies. It is only when the use of force is applied that people are free of their responsibility for the state of their own lives.

The assumption that, as you put it "if it were not for the feds we would all live in a utopian, prelapsarian garden of mutual respect for merit" is not mine.

The federal government is necessary. But is necessary with severely limited powers. The federal government has the responsibility to defend our borders, to defend the rights of its citizens (i.e. to punish those who use force on others and to act to protect citizens in peril), and to arbitrate contractual disputes. It should have no powers beyond these, but these are still substantive powers and essential to a fair, free society.

And even were the government to be constrained to this role, no, it would not create a garden of mutual respect by all for all. There would inevitably still be those who seek to claim what is not theirs, or kill, or steal, or hate for the sake of hating. But these people would have no power by which to force others to bend to their will. And they would have no ability to keep the people they hate from creating wealth. It is only in collaboration with government power that exclusion is possible.

It is neither merit nor power that is at the heart of my ideology. It is justice. The idea that a man or woman gets what they have earned, nothing more nor less. And the value ascribed to that transaction is set freely by the participants in the exchange. That they set the terms of their own existence and that they act together to set the terms of their own interaction. That an employer and employee do business together because that is their choice. That a customer buys from a producer because that is their choice and for the price they agree upon. Mutually.

The center of my ideology is a mutual respect for human life, that does not hold one human being in bondage to another, that does not hold one human being as accountable to another whom he has never wronged.

To say that justice is to demand that all humanity should be enslaved to any group, whether oppressed or not, is to turn the concept of justice on its head and worship death.

Accept that.

speedle said...

You're only problem is that you deny the provable fact that, yes, in the 1960's nearly all adult white persons living in the U.S. were clearly believers in a class-based society. Period. Accept THAT.

American Anti-theist said...

Well, you ignore the "provable fact" that there were large numbers of white activists old and young who supported and sympathized with the black people's cause (of which you can read about here:

But that's besides the point. Of course something needed to be done about the rampant segregation and discrimination being perpetrated throughout the country and enforced by entrenched political bias. I think the civil rights movement was the only way that change could have been accomplished. And I think for the most part they handled it the right way.

But asking for equality and demanding special privilege are two very different things. And you have yet to justify why, in a truly free society, that the black man would need the white man's consent to start their own businesses, build their own houses where they liked, or work for whomsoever was willing to hire them, because that's what you're implying. I think that is a far more racist assertion than anything I have said.

All I'm saying is that the black people were not granted an equal opportunity in this country at that time, so that's what they should have been granted: Equal access to the law and equal freedom of mobility and choice. But that isn't a justification for special privilege. And you still haven't justified why they need special privilege above and beyond equal opportunity.

Anonymous said...

You speak of granting equal access as if it is an easy endeavor. The reality is that affirmative action and the like is not intended as a privilege, but rather an attempt to counteract the 400 years of oppression and slavery, as well as the racism that remained in mainstream America subsequent to the civil rights movement. Communities and cultures are not rooted overnight. The white communities were devoid of the ill effects of slavery and Jim Crow, which had ravaging effects on the overall educational development of the black community, a set back which was not endured, but indeed established by the white community as a whole. So all of a sudden you want everyone on equal ground, but how do you make up for almost half a century of lack of formal education and opportunities? Do you deny that these have pervasive effects that can extend for lengthy periods of time? And what about the employers and educational institutions that despite the law, continue to practice racist hiring and acceptance practices? Was that really equal footing? The answer is of course, no. So programs were established to counteract these issues, which took the form of affirmative action and the rest.

What you are suggesting is that in the race of life, we all should have the same distance to run, and in theory I would agree. But what happens if you have one runner who has been afforded for all of his life access to trainers, the best facilities, nutritionists, and the rest. Is a competitor that has not only not had these advantages, but been denied them for many years even when earnestly seeking them, expected to run a similar race? Is this really equality? I would say, at the heart, this is the epitome of inequality. Rather instead you offer the runner that has been disadvantaged for many years not only access to the same facilities, but maybe a personal trainer and extra attention not to advantage them, but rather to get them up to a level where they can hope to BEGIN to compete.

I think it would be wonderful if we could snap our fingers, and we all be equal. But unfortunately, the reality is we aren't there yet. Are we closer thnt 50 years ago, for sure. Are we 100% of the way, absolutely not. But as these programs continue to work, and as we see the overt as well as hidden racism start to evaporate, there will indeed be less of a need for such 'privileges' as you call them.

American Anti-theist said...

You raise some very thoughtful points and I think that this discussion is finally getting near the crux of the issue.

Granting equal access isn't an easy endeavor. But just as the full force of federal government has been brought into play to enforce affirmative action, it's still not clear to me why the full force of federal government could not have been brought into play to ensure equal opportunity.

Of course, you address this point. The problem, you state, is that the black community was starting from an extremely disadvantaged state, a fact which can not be denied.

But how we choose to remedy this problem defines our nation in ways deeper than rhetoric.

The problem is that we're trying to make up for half a century of lack of formal education and opportunities. If we were to be fair about this, (because that's ultimately what we want is fairness right?) we would insist on blind evaluations of candidates for public universities or public employment. The most qualified candidates would get in. But then again fairness isn't a concern of affirmative action, it's getting even. So that means that we have to know the race of everybody applying, and any claim to racial solidarity can then be used to jockey yourself up the list.

Is this really fair? What about the candidates rejected simply because they weren't racially defined? Is it fair to arbitrarily determine the course of their lives based on such a inconsequential prerequisite? Is it acceptable to sacrifice any number of innocent people for the sake of racial equality? I think not.

But perhaps what you're saying is that the fact that some white people had power and privilege that all white people should be given the same negative mark on the heuristic? Or perhaps only those from wealthy families? But then we wouldn't want to discriminate against black people from wealthy families would we? We must only discriminate against rich white people. Why? Because they're rich and white? Does that automatically make them guilty of something?

Or perhaps what you're saying is this: that the problem isn't a lack of opportunity so much as a desire for equal achievement. That, until black people have accomplished the same percentage of achievement in all endeavors as white people, that black people are still being oppressed. But is that a feasible goal to pursue?

Probably not, if a racial minority was presenting equal total percentages of achievement at all levels of society then that would seem to speak of excessive favoritism towards that minority, an aristocracy of race. So, I'm certain that you couldn't want that either.

Perhaps we're asking the wrong questions here. Perhaps rather then asking whether or not we can make all people equal in wage, employment, education, etc., perhaps we should first ask: Should we?

Do we have the right to dispose of other human beings according to our collective will? Do we have the right to control and monitor and guide their lives in the direction we see fit? I'm sure you would say yes. You would say that, of course government has the right to control us all, as we only live and prosper by the grace of government's good will.

But I don't believe in that good will. After all, it was government, assuming that it had the right to dictate terms in schools, to even run schools, to control finances, to limit who could vote, to control who could own land, or buy property or acquire which licenses to do business, it was all these assumptions which allowed government to create and sustain racism in the first place.

Do you deny that the long-term and pervasive effects of racism can only exist in a system where the government actively supports it? or would you deny that the government supported racist practice?

But such a position would be indefensible, the very segregation of schools was a government mandated 'solution' which instead intensified the problem. Local laws and law-enforcement agencies also contributed to the active segregation of black people from business, from law, from government office from the rights to assembly, etc. Those are police men sicking dogs on black protesters in the famous black and white newsreels from Alabama. Policemen.

And if that is the case, if government authority provides avenues for government abuse, then is it not instead wiser to forbid the government power in such arenas of human conduct where it has been prone to be abused? Isn't it better to do that, than to grant government wider more authoritative powers and thus grant a greater temptation for wider abuses?

And of course, these concerns only apply to the public arena. Public jobs, public education. Why? because public endeavors are the only endeavors ceded to the government's jurisdiction. The government has no constitutional right to tell employers who they should hire, or private businesses who they should serve, or private organizations who they should admit.

Now, if these private businesses choose not to take the commerce of black people, then they are fools. The smartest businessman takes money from any customer who is willing to pay for his services.

If these private schools refuse to admit black students, then they are fools. Because the next Booker T. Washington, Fredrick Douglass, Morgan Freeman, Maya Angelou or even Barack Obama, may come from their competitor's institution.

If an investor chooses not to invest in an idea, simply because it is a 'black' idea, then he is a fool. Because the investor who does choose to invest in it will make bank.

If an investor chooses not to hire the better, smarter, faster workers simply because they are black, then their competitor who isn't so biased will outpace them by snapping up the better, smarter, faster workers.

The only way that these opportunities can be actively denied to black people is if the government either allows people to violently restrain black people from pursuing them or actively restrains them itself. And that is exactly what the governments in the south did. It was the government that created, maintained, and perpetuated racism. Even if private entities wished to continue being racist, they would be powerless to deny black people opportunity unless the government supported their racism.

The answer to racism was to strip the government of the miscellaneous powers which it had usurped over the years, and restrain all government to the task of defending human rights for all. That was the great task before our leaders in that era, and they flubbed it. They opted for an open-ended revenge policy.

Your analogy is well-chosen. The race of life and two runners, one black and one white. One who has all the advantage. One who has no advantage. It would be beautiful in its simplicity if it weren't a gross over-simplification.

The first failing is that it assumes that all white people and all black people have such similar circumstances, propensities, and abilities that they can be considered as two separate units, divided by race. But just that very assumption assumes that race is a sufficient reason to explain the division and assumes that all people are divided along those lines. It assumes that all people are in fact tangibly and intractably divided by their racial identity. Such an assumption presupposes that these differences are fundamental and inimical, that in short, these differences are so key to identity that reconciliation is by definition impossible. You are in fact stating that black people and white people are fundamentally different and so therefore need to play by different rules.

The second failing is this. You speak of this equality of achievement as being obtainable by some mandate from the supreme power of government, but impossible by individual achievement. Doesn't it strike you as odd, that that very stance downplays the immense struggle of and undervalues the achievements of black entrepreneurs, scholars, teachers, legislators, writers, poets, artists, stemming back to before emancipation, and extending to the present day? Is equality something which can only be handed to them from the white man, or is it something that they have the power and ability, yes, even the duty to demand and claim for themselves?

But when I say that they have the duty to demand their own equality, it does not give them license to steal from their neighbors, or to threaten them with violence (whether that violence be their own or the violence of a government over-reaching its authority). They have the duty to work for it, build it with their own bare hands, just like every other minority has had to do in America, and most minorities still have to do.

And I say this as an Arab-American, one of the perhaps most freely discriminated against ethnic groups in America today. But I would not dream of demanding a job based on my ethnicity, nor would I demand to be hired because of my race. I simply demand that it not be used against me. That I am free to prosper or suffer in accordance with the wisdom and prudence of my choices. I would never demand that my neighbors pay for my education, or that they should give me a job, simply because I need one. If none were to be had、I would make my own.

And this is the third fallacy of your analogy. You speak of giving black people personal trainers, and facilities, etc. But who pays for it? Who is expected to pay for it? Isn't this a tax based on race, where the burden is borne by all and the benefits are distributed to a choice few? How is this equal? And finally the crux, the heart of the question: From whence does prosperity spring?

You claim that wealth and opportunity must be distributed, you ignore the fact that wealth and opportunity are created. They do not spring from the well of human endeavor divorced from a human mind to give them form, or human hands to give them reality. They are not granted by some ephemeral and incoherent god from thin air.

They are created. By human minds, and forged by human hands. Any businesses, any fortunes made, in a free system are created in this way. The only way that someone could loot their way to wealth would be if they used violence, either their own, or the violence of government collusion. So, rather than fight for a government that would ensure and defend a free, open system--rather than that, the civil rights movement simply decided to switch who was colluding with who. Rather than demanding an end to the extortion and bigotry, they simply demanded that they be entitled to extort and discriminate as well.

This is the philosophy of communism. The credo which declares that wealth is a sin, and that the primary social goal should be equality of wealth. That all men are entitled to an equal share of the pie, regardless of what they have done to contribute to it. Except, even their contribution is not recognized, because this pie is simply always magically there.

Nobody stops to think about where it came from or how it got to be there, or what dreams, ideas, choices, and achievements went in to making it so big and so rich a pie as to be coveted.

Even when the corrosive cumulative effects of hundreds of years, of botched and bungled economic decisions leave the world economy in tattered remnants of what it could have been, even in such an environment, people continue to lobby for the good of the environment (at the expense of the developing nations in Africa) for the right to command employers to use race as a hiring factor (despite that the claimed goal is the non-significance of race), for the right to strangle freedom as though that would somehow guarantee them security.

Well, Benjamin Franklin's challenge still stands unrefuted, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." If you support that a minority has the right to mandate penalties on everyone to subsidize its success at the expense of the collective, then you have ceded the right of an individual to their own property, their own peace of mind, and their own freedom. If we were all to proscribe to this doctrine, then we would be at the mercy of any interest group who seeks to stake a claim on a piece of our lives. And so we are. But if you think that that is a good thing, then you will have nothing to complain about when you find yourself a victim of a rival interest group who happens to momentarily seize the reins.

If instead you choose to defend the rights of all people, to fight against privilege, to fight against the idea that we are subjects of the state and the state has the right to dispose of us as it will, if you choose essential freedom over temporary security, then you cure the lion's share of social ills, without trading "virtue to purchase wealth."

Does America always win at the Olympics in every sport? Are American businesses the only powerful businesses in the world? Are all politicians white? Will a black man always lose to a white man? The answer to all of these questions is no. And to the last, hell, no.

By suggesting yes, then you do more to denigrate the dignity of your fellow human beings than any advocate of laissez-faire capitalism ever could.

Anonymous said...

I would like to address some of your comments from your previous post. Please, however, try and keep your responses a tad bit more concise, as your message is lost among the series of tangents included in your post.
You indicate:
"But then again fairness isn't a concern of affirmative action, it's getting even"
I'm not sure I agree with this statement. I think that the intent of the action (which in this case can be analogous to its concern) has always been to establish an equal playing field. Your comment seems to indicate that affirmative action was some sort of legislation to get back at white people, when in fact at the time it was the only realistic way to address the issue.
You mention:
"Is it fair to arbitrarily determine the course of their lives based on such a inconsequential prerequisite? Is it acceptable to sacrifice any number of innocent people for the sake of racial equality?"
First, let's not be dramatic here. We aren't arbitrarily determining the course of people's lives or sacrificing innocent people, lol. Additionally, I would argue that the most qualified person will never be denied a job, which was never the intent of affirmative action. It was legislation that was intended, and has for the most part, to be a foot in the door for minorities where for years it has been slammed shut. And to give me the argument that 'all things being equal, the minority would get the job' does nothing to stir my emotions. I have no sympathy for mediocrity. You want the job, you should have clearly stood out as the more qualified candidate, period.
You mention:
"Do we have the right to control and monitor and guide their lives in the direction we see fit? I'm sure you would say yes. You would say that, of course government has the right to control us all, as we only live and prosper by the grace of government's good will."
Again, let's leave the dramatics out of this discussion. I never indicated anything close to the above, nor would I. But I do believe in the government's role in protecting the civil liberties of its citizens, and ensuring that these aren't trounced on by bigots. You indicate that this was the government's doing in the first place, but the government is nothing more (theoretically) that the collective will of those in power. And while the government indeed exacerbated the issue, they subsequently wised up and have since attempted to reverse the effects of previous administrations. Our individual actions remain our own, affirmative action was intended only to address high level considerations with regards to ensuring that the opportunities distributed by an entity (contracts, employment, educational admittance) coincide with the racial makeup of our communities. Anyone that has a significant disproportionate amount of whites working for them, for instance, when compared to society as a whole probably indicates that there is something amiss with their hiring practices. To indicate any less would be naïve.
You mention:
"If these private schools refuse to admit black students, then they are fools."
Of course they are, but there isn't a law against being a fool. If there was, maybe there wouldn't be a need for affirmative action. People often act in irrational ways due to bigotry, why would this be any different?
You mention:
"You are in fact stating that black people and white people are fundamentally different and so therefore need to play by different rules."
No, I really wasn't. It was merely an analogy, the purpose by splitting according to race was because this was the basis of discrimination, nothing more. Note that the only difference was one of the environment (discrimination), nothing with regards to fundamental capabilities.
You mention:
"The second failing is this. You speak of this equality of achievement as being obtainable by some mandate from the supreme power of government, but impossible by individual achievement."
I don’t think I spoke of it at all in such a way. Regardless of any benefits afforded the underprivileged runner, success will be impossible without their own hard work and determination, period. No one is suggesting that they be declared the winner automatically or be given a head start. Without individual effort, success would be unattainable; much like it is in the real world.
You mention:
"And this is the third fallacy of your analogy. You speak of giving black people personal trainers, and facilities, etc. But who pays for it? Who is expected to pay for it? Isn't this a tax based on race, where the burden is borne by all and the benefits are distributed to a choice few? How is this equal?"
Let's be honest about the 'costs.' Most of the costs aren't out of pocket, and those that are represent a small proportion of the overall budget. You want to talk about burdens, let's talk about this preposterous war our any of the other numerous examples of waste in the government. We tackle those, then let's start talking about burdens.
You mention:
"You claim that wealth and opportunity must be distributed, you ignore the fact that wealth and opportunity are created."
Not sure if you have me confused, but I don’t find this anywhere in my post, explicit or implied. And lets' be honest about wealth 'creation', because the reality is what we consider as creation is generally just transference. The simplest example of this is the rise of the middle class in places like China, Brazil, India and other emerging economies, which is less a result of wealth creation and more a result of transference of wealth from developed middle classes (such as in the US) to emerging ones. Domestically even we have seen this transference recently from the middle class to the upper tiers of American earners…but that is an entirely different discussion

I am not surprised that you take issue with affirmative action, because clearly for those not impacted by the effects (either personally or through observation) it can be difficult to grasp. But try to imagine a situation where only 50 years ago, you wouldn’t be able to walk into where you wanted to eat. You couldn't apply to certain schools you wanted to attend, and even if you could, chances are high you would be turned on the basis of your race. Any many of the same people that were around then still are around, making decisions regarding hiring and acceptance practices. And if they aren't, their children might be, children that grew up hearing their parents disparage affirmative action and it's 'ill effects' on the white man. Now while much of this may have dissipated, too much of it still exists. There is still a black tax I corporate America, much as there is for women. You would have this element ignored, and pretend that we are now on an even playing field. But the reality is we aren’t, and until we get there, there is still a need for oversight.

American Anti-theist said...

Point taken, I'll be more concise. I'll address your points in bullet order.

-Re: "getting even". I regret the confusion, but I was trying for a double entendre. The goal of affirmative action is to make things level between white people and black people based on a percentage of applicants. So, the goal is technically "getting even" and the reason is because there is the unsubstantiated assumption that if there is a disproportionate percentage represented in an organization that there must be some ulterior motive, something which is not necessarily always true. The point is that AA uses a percentage of race to make the playing field even. This means that a percentage of black people have to be employed in a given institution regardless of their qualifications. It doesn't mean that they are necessarily unqualified what it means is that their ethnic identification gives them bonus points in the selection process, especially if an institution is frantically struggling to avoid being labeled as racist. What does this mean if there is a finite number of jobs? It means, that somebody who was qualified may be ousted for the sake of fulfilling a quota. So, yes I would regard that as punitive retribution. Especially since the only thing they would have done to receive a demerit would be of a different race.

(and simply stating that AA was the only realistic solution doesn't make it so)

-Re: "to arbitrarily determine the course of their lives". Your assessment perfectly expresses my opposition to AA in the first place, so I will borrow the quote "I have no sympathy for mediocrity. You want the job, you should have clearly stood out as the more qualified candidate, period." Nuff said.

-Re: "government control". You claim that we still have individual freedom even in a system where the government dictates how many of what race a person must employ in their own private institution. Aside from the fact that this forces an ordinarily non-racist person to focus explicitly on race in their hiring decisions, don't you realize that you are excluding the individual freedom of action of the owners of those businesses. Don't they qualify as citizens too? And if they are ordered by the government to hire who the government wants them to hire, and pay them what the government wants them to be paid, then the owners of those businesses cannot be said to be free by any stretch of the imagination. But your presupposition that liberty only applies to the disadvantaged is given away by the way you subsume businessmen in the category of "entity".

And let's once again look at what liberties could be trounced on in a free system, one where the government truly did ensure that people could not be coerced against their will.

Could a white man still hire any amount of black men? Yes.

Could a black man still hire any amount of white men? Yes.

Would the absence of government coercion in hiring practices change the demand for skilled workers in business? No.

Would the absence of government subsidies and bailouts leave such companies the breathing room to forgo more qualified candidates? No.

Would bigoted companies and universities be torn apart by market forces if the government wasn't propping them up? Yes.

And the fundamental question: Does any person have a right to any product or service that supersedes the right of its producer to manage its distribution? No.

To answer that with a yes, is to forgo any concept of property rights. And that would be a severe violation of everybody's civil liberties.

--Re: Bigoted schools are fools.
A bigoted school would not be able to compete in publications, or private research money, if they were turning away qualified researchers, professors, students, etc. and especially if government wasn't funding them. The school system in America is largely manipulated by the federal government, so the first place to start cleaning house should be in cutting government ties to our education system. I advocate 100% private education. The public education system is a farce. And in a 100% autonomous system, no school could compete for long if it was turning away qualified people. Capitalism is color-blind. That is the significance of calling bigoted institutions fools.

--Re: splitting by race.
Your analogy was intended to justify AA. Your justification seems to run full circle. Race becomes sufficient proof of injury as well as the basis of the demand for redress. But it only has the effect of making race more and more of a salient concern, rather than making it less. We should be trying to filter race out of our decision making processes, not make it increasingly more intrusive. If the goal is true equality of opportunity then we have to aim for a color-blind decision making process and a color-blind culture, not a culture of racial apologetics.

--Re: equality of achievement.

But you ARE suggesting that they be given a head start. AA is the notion that unless a certain percentage of people of a certain race are present in any given institution, then that institution is racist. Irregardless of statistical probability which would seem to predict that race need not necessarily be equally reflected in all businesses or organizations, but that could cluster in some areas more than others, naturally. AA assumes that a racial survey is sufficient to substantiate a charge of racism, and demands that institutions seek people out by race, BY RACE of all things, to fill these quotas and defend against such charges. That is more than insuring that the best man gets the best job. If that isn't a head start, I don't know what is.

--Re: Cost.
Well, yes, this war is a horrible waste of our resources. So is the FED. So is the bailout of incompetence going on in Wall Street and Washington. It's all a colossal waste. That doesn't make AA any less of one.

--Re: "Ignoring the fact that wealth and opportunity are created"

Well, it was implied by your views. And it looks like I wasn't too off the mark.
I quote: "And lets' be honest about wealth 'creation', because the reality is what we consider as creation is generally just transference."

Well, begging the question is never a proof. I don't have any sympathy for Marxist ideology, so you're not going to win me over with any of that nonsense.

So, let's get "honest" about it. Yes, there are a lot of looting governments out there scrambling to stake their claim on whatever resources they can, legislating all sorts of odd restrictions geared at leveraging some sort of advantage in cutting the pie. But where did the pie come from? This pie wasn't there 200 years ago. It came from somewhere. It came from the individual achievements of individual minds. And the wealth generated from those minds has been so inestimable a boon that the nations of the world can probably go on for another couple hundred years looting and pillaging the fruits of those ideas. But when those who are the spring of those ideas have finally had enough; when they realize that they don't need to be crucified for the sake of supporting such corruption, when they stop--then I think we'll all have to sit up and take notice of where this wealth all came from.

You can tell yourself that wealth is only redistributed as any good Marxist would, but ask yourself if we would all be sitting in front computers today if people like Nikola Tesla hadn't been so generous a hundred years ago.

Believe me, my opposition to AA has nothing to do with failing to grasp the effects of discrimination. But you give yourself away: there will never be an end to AA. And that will insure that there will never be an end to discrimination. Because if you must not only worry about a bigot, but the son of a bigot and the son of the son of the bigot...well.
They feed each other, in a vicious cycle. The only end is to recognize the natural-born rights of all human beings, and leave race out of it all together.

Of course life isn't an even playing field. We all have our greatness and our failings. We all start out from different points on life's wheel. We will all get to different points. The guarantee of the pursuit of happiness, is the guarantee that we will be able to climb as high as we are able, without the interference of violence in any form, whether it be government retribution or private threat.

Only a Marxist would think that the ideal should be to hold everyone down so that they be made equal in all things. As Marx said, "From each according to his ability to each according to his need".

I don't think we have much more to talk about on this matter, except to go round in circles again. I think we've both laid out our arguments as concisely as possible.

If anyone is interested, Here's a link to Ayn Rand's views on racism:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, indeed it appears that we will agree to disagree. I would, however, request you to be a little less quick to throw around the Marxist accusations, as clearly it has taken on a negative connotation in society. As a certified public accountant I am well versed in, and at most times, a proponent of capitalism, although in its pure form it exists only in theory.

The law of conservation of wealth is a well documented and studied theory in economics, much like that of mass and energy in physics. In and of itself has less to do with socialism or Marxism, and more to do with the fundamentals of economic theory. This is, of course, the basis of our current double entry accounting system employed universally across the globe. A quick google search will provide a plethora of resources on the subject.

Aside from that, the discussion was enjoyable. Regards.

American Anti-theist said...

Parting shots, eh? You certainly enjoy passing off contentious concepts as though they should be common sense. The conservation of wealth, as you would state it, is only valid in the short term, and not valid for much else than accounting (balancing income and expense). All it would take would be to compare the net world economy of 200 years ago and today and you would realize that conservation of wealth is not an absolute concept nor is it a law as such. It is a short range compromise, meant to make short range measurements of cash flow and expenses possible. The zero-sum game is an illusion designed by accountants to make their job of accounting easier. To take it and try to apply it to the entire economy as a basis for political arguments about the redistribution of wealth is a gross abuse of the concepts involved.

Also, just because you're an accountant doesn't mean that you advocate capitalism. I have a finance degree, but it doesn't make me a republican. Our ideologies are defined by the ideologies we promote, not the labels we wish to make palatable for consumption. Even the Soviets had accountants.

If you're advocating concepts like the impossibility of wealth creation and the need for redistribution of this wealth by social agents then you're a Marxist. Not because I called you one, but because those are the ideas you present to the world and they were popularized by Marx and his followers. Now, if you are upset by the fact that Marxists may be viewed negatively, then perhaps you need to look at the philosophical roots of the theories you blithely promote as indisputable fact.

Sandra Miller Linhart said...

I enjoyed this lively discussion. Thank you.

American Anti-theist said...

You are most certainly welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Please come again :)

Anonymous said...

Dear American Anti theist Abroad:

regarding your posted stance on religion and morality :

" I support the development of a rational code of morality to be honed through discourse and offered as an alternative to the rampant superstition and fetishism that is religion."

I would like to ask the following, If your "rational code of morality" is developed through discourse, exactly with whom would that discourse be with and what is the standard of rationality? Yours, mine or Osama Bin Ladens?

American Anti-theist said...

This is a very good question. I'll try to answer it as best I can.

To quote Ayn Rand:

"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."

My beliefs in this matter are very similar. There is only one standard for rationality, that of reality. Either something is, or something isn't. Reality is the standard of truth or falsity. We assess claims for validity based on facts and evidence, and chains of logical abstraction. A claim cannot be true and false at the same time. If we reach an apparent contradiction, the culprit must always be the slipping between multiple definitions of certain words, a misstep in the chain of abstraction, or a mistake in apprehension of the basic facts and evidence.

A rational approach to defining one's existence must start with the acceptance that one's senses provide a reliable interpretation of what exists and their perceivable interactions. The process of scientific enquiry and abstract reasoning expands the depth and subtlety of our knowledge beyond the constraints of our basic sensory organs.

Every is implies an ought. Every facet of reality we unravel through systematic logical exploration reveals some consequence, some impact that such knowledge has on our lives. For example an awareness of the germ theory of disease dictates that a surgeon who fails to wash their hands before surgery is guilty of a moral fault and can be held accountable for such negligence. However, before we were aware of germs, we could not hold a surgeon accountable for something like that. The expansion of knowledge entails an expansion of our morality.

But of course science does not work in a priori absolute certainties. Especially theoretical issues, or issues in which the chain of abstraction has not been made sufficiently explicit to be confident in. In such areas of doubt, discourse plays the role of exposing flaws in reasoning, in producing new facts, or new evidence which forces us to reevaluate our model of reality and the moral ramifications that such changes imply. This discourse is the engine of scientific progress and consequently of the moral development of humanity.

It reveals areas where perhaps we have not reasoned sufficiently through all the steps of an argument and thus are contradicting ourselves. It also reveals instances where people are consciously trying to subvert human knowledge and thus subvert morality.

Of course there will always be radicals and irrationals who seek to challenge our established sense of reality, who seek to disarm our moral judgment and render us pliable to suggestion. After all, how can someone object to something on moral grounds, if one has ceded that morals, by definition, have no grounds?

This is the consequence of moral relativism, which claims that moral decisions are dependent on subjective internal decisions and that there is no basis for unilaterally condemning any action, because "it's all good."

But the strength of a rational system, honed through scientific, rational discourse, is that anyone can participate in that discourse, but that ideas are judged by the merit of their argumentation and that argument's lack of contradiction, either internal or external.

So, yes if Osama bin Laden were to present an argument for his view of reality, it could be called participation in moral discourse. But a rational methodology would quickly cut apart any claims for serious consideration he could possibly have.

The primary reason being, that all his arguments would inevitably have to rest on the a priori assumption that there is a god. Unless and until he could prove the existence of such a being, he could have no rational grounds for any of his views. This is why fanatics must always resort to violence, because they are incapable of participating in rational debate. They abrogate the possibility of reason by insisting that they have some special access to the wells of knowledge that does not require reason.

It is also why the social and academic decay of ardently religious societies is starkly apparent just by briefly surveying the globe. Religion and reason are enemies. This is why I take a hard-line stance against religion. Perhaps, in the past, there was room for doubt. But I think that in the massive amount of evidence that has been acquired through millenia of scientific exploration, that religion doesn't have too many intellectual shadows to hide in anymore.

The key word in my mission statement is "honed". Morality for the most part is directly derivable from our apprehension of reality. But for the areas where the facts are not certain or the reasoning is still vague, only through the competition of rational strains of discourse, will the answers be found, and moral derivations confirmed or rejected.

Religious fanatics don't even really get in the starting gate.

Anonymous said...

Good rational discussion.

Injustice is injustice. By indiscriminately perpetrating "some injustice" on an entire race (whites) to correct a wrong done in the past by a fairly small unidentifiable group of "racists" is blatently irrational and wrong. Legally, and logically, only the people perpetrating a wrong can be held responsible. Holding an entire group of persons responsible for the acts of a few merely because they have some similarity to the perpetrators (being white) flies in the face of reason and therefore law. Anything done to "correct" the problem done in the past based on racial grounds , like AA does, is wrong and immoral.

Here is a specific example of why it is wrong. My family and I recently immigrated to this country with not much more than a few bags. Why should my family and I suffer for a "wrong" we had nothing to do with. When we came here we were not treated as well as we would like to have been but though hard work we had built ourselves a house and had several cars, all paid for within 3 years. We did not cry "unfair" or "discrimination" when we were paid less than what we were worth. Our "differences", like lacking the ability to communicate, caused us to receive a smaller wage or being shunned. In time those "difference" discipated as did the "discrimination" and we gained an equal footing in society. It was through hard work and persistance, not whining and mediocrity, that we succeeded, as did many other immigrants. That is the history of this nation. Many groups were discriminated when they came but when they integrated and earned respect they were accepted. Had we refused to integrate into the society, became angry and defied their laws and rules, we would have remained ostracised and discriminated against. We chose not to and we were almost instantly accepted. That is my advice to the whiners who choose to be different, much too different. How does one expect to be excepted when they set themselves appart. It is everyones choice not to associate themselves with people that are too different and even at odds with them. I, for one, can't even comprehend what an Afro-american is. You are either an American or you are not. It defies logic. What in the blazes would an Euro-american be? What would a person from Australia or India be, and above all, why?

A little bit on the economics of the problem.

The law used to recognise anti-Marxist principles. Here is a 1874 case.

Citizen's Savings & Loan Assn v. Topeka, 20 Wall (87 US) 655, 664 (1874):

"To lay, with one hand, the power of the government on the property of
the citizen, and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals to
aid private enterprises and build up private fortunes, is none the less
robbery because it is done under the form of law and is called taxation.
This is not legislation. It is a decree under legislative forms."

A rational quote by the late Dr. Adrian Rogers

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

American Anti-theist said...

Let me just say thanks for your support. I think you have a pretty fair appraisal of the situation.

The only thing I would object to is the emphasis you place on conforming to the society. I would agree that conforming to society definitely makes things easier. And I also agree that resisting society purely for the sake of resistance has no meaning. However, I do think that people should not have to worry about subsuming their beliefs to the body politic.

The essence of a capitalist society is the freedom for ideas to compete, and the strength is that the best ideas win when placed in opposition. Place a creationist account of the dinosaurs next to an evolutionary account and the creationist is bound to look like a fool every time. Some beliefs are patently ridiculous.

Be that as it may, they should feel free to espouse them as much as they like. What they are not entitled to, is to force people to listen, to force them to obey their mandates arbitrarily. The underlying principle is that reason be the basis of our decisions, and that the fundamental guiding principle of law be that the rights of the individual are sacrosanct.

Where resistance is merited, people should resist the society. Where integration is merited, they should conform. The arbiter must be reason, and the recognition that the only province of law (which is the only agent of force allowed in a capitalist system) is the protection of those rights inimical to the nature of human beings.

Conforming for the sake of conforming can be as dangerous as resisting for the sake of resisting. Resistance or conformity must be decided in context according to the mandates of one's conscience and moderated by a valid chain of reason grounded firmly in objective reality.

Thanks for your support. Now, more than ever, those who advocate reason, liberty, and individual responsibility need to speak up.

We need to speak loudly, clearly and persistently. After all, in the current age, we ARE the resistance.

American Anti-theist said...

The videos are back up on YouTube...for now. You can check them out above. Hope they stay on.

Anonymous said...

I own the book in which a transcript of this interview appears, and I actually scanned it to a PDF so that I could share it with people. Here's a link (that might not stick around forever, so get and keep a copy if you want it):