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The Welfare State’s War of All Against All

I prefer to call the “welfare state” the transfer state, because that characterization leaves open the question of whether a government which engages in large-scale transfers of money from one group to another actually increases human welfare. I am skeptical, mostly because the transfer state is always in danger of creating a polity dominated by faction. It can in fact sustain the war of all against all—the very phenomenon that the state is supposed to prevent.

Our nation is in peril today, in no small part due the transformation of the United States from a nation dedicated to self-reliance to one where many are dependent on government. That change creates divisions because finite resources can support only so many dependents. The popularity among the young of Bernie Sander’s plan of free tuition, now largely adopted by Hillary Clinton, stems in no small part from youth’s recognition that they will be transferring a large portion of their earnings to elderly with little prospect of getting the same deal when they become old. It makes perfect sense to get something from the government now when the getting is good. Transfers to others beget the demand for transfers to oneself.

The infamous sign at one Tea Party Rally, “Hands off my Medicare,” is yet another sign of the inevitable conflict in the transfer state. Those on Medicare are worried with justification that the move to Obamacare will have an adverse affect on Medicare.  Obamacare cut Medicare, at least in some part to permit the program to be scored as revenue neutral. More fundamentally, the more the government is involved in health care decisions, the greater the pressure for more severe price controls and other forms of rationing.  Transfers to oneself beget the desire to prevent transfers to others.

Some people might object to lumping public sector unions into the transfer state. Of course, in paying employees a market wage for their duties, the government does not act as transfer agent but as employer.  Most unionized public employees, however, get more than market compensation, particularly through high pension payments. And here again the transfer state is creating conflict—this time between workers on the gravy train and the hapless citizens who are taxed to pay them. This conflict is becoming more acute by the day in places like my home state of Illinois and my home city of Chicago.

The transfer state thus generates much of our disgruntlement and anger. It has replaced the market culture of mutual gain with the zero sum mentality of mutual antagonism.  It is the culture in which both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can thrive by preying on resentments and creating more divisions.

Reader Discussion

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on July 27, 2016 at 10:14:34 am

First, I am all for a strong military but for the purposes of defense as our founding fathers intended.
Second, I do support the Social Safety Net but I the social safety net is lunacy disguised as entitlement.
Third, the US went to a 20+ year war in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc under false pretenses and lies spending trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.
Fourth, in 2007 our financial system collapsed and instead of bailing out the people the govt bailed out the banks and financial industry.
TREAD CAREFULLY HERE! THERE ARE MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO WILL EXPRESS FURY AND RIGHTFULLY SO THAT THEIR SOCIAL BENEFITS LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, ETC ARE BEING SACRIFIED WHILE THE SAME POLITICIANS CARELESSLY AND RECKLESSLY ENGAGED IN WAR AND BAILOUTS.
-IF YOU WANT TO FIX SOCIAL BENEFIT PROGRAMS THEN DENY BENEFITS FOR ALL NATURALIZED IMMIGRANTS AND ANCHOR BABIES FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIFETIME.
-IF YOU WANT TO FIX MEDICARE/MEDICAID THEN CREATE A TIERED BENEFIT SYSTEM WHERE THE GOVT IS INVOLVED BUT ONLY IN CATASTROPHIC MEDICAL CARE.
-MAKE WELFARE LESS PROFITABLE THAN A MINIMUM WAGE JOB (IN OVER 26 STATES WELFARE AND FOOD STAMPS AND OTHER SOCIAL PROGRAMS PROVIDE BETTER PAYOUT THAN A MINIMUM WAGE EMPLOYER.

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LouisM
on July 27, 2016 at 10:18:41 am

"from a nation dedicated to self-reliance to one where many are dependent on government"

As I read Adam Smith and Federalist 10 (James Madison) it seems to me this country was designed not for self-reliance but to favor the elite, honest patriots--land owning men. Those with demonstrated integrity would rise from the states to national service. However, the elites have never fulfilled the vision, and national reform is needed.

What seems to have happened is that the elites progressively manipulate laws to protect themselves so as to be able to "carry" the poor. Now, the elite are plying their advantage to reduce the middle class as well. See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/ .

This is happening because the elite perceive egocentric advantage of encouraging the poor and middle class to spend, isolating them on the consumer side of American capitalism. The elite teach the poor and middle class: upward mobility is attained through faith, family, community and work. The elite does not encourage other people to save and invest--to become both consumer and owner in capitalism. Reform to effectively influence converting labor into assets so as to build wealth has been needed from the beginning.

This is not a specific race problem, because 71% of poor children in the USA are non-black, to pick a commonly debated group. Poor whites represent 29%. See pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/14/black-child-poverty-rate-holds-steady-even-as-other-groups-see-declines/ .

What the USA elite does to American children is shameful. A Civic People (ACP) has a reasonable plan to remedy the problem for willing children at all income levels. See "Child incentive program," on our website.

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Phil Beaver
on July 27, 2016 at 11:24:22 am

1. I suspect I may share many of McGinnis’s conclusions about the wisdom of much of the Democratic Platform announced by Bernie Sanders. (Who won the nomination, anyway?)

But McGinnis and I differ in worldview.

2. McGinnis offers the classical libertarian argument: Government is bad for redistributing resources. Thus it goes without saying that (A) government had no role in how resources are currently distributed, and (B) the current allocation of resources is perfect and unimprovable, if not God-given.

Of course, merely to state the unstated assumptions underlying McGinnis’s claim is to refute them. They are self-evidently ludicrous. I’m reminded of Screwtape’s advice to his nephew Wormwood regarding persuasion:

When I speak of preserving this assumption in his mind, therefore, the last thing I mean you to do is to furnish him with arguments in its defence. There aren't any. Your task is purely negative. Don't let his thoughts come anywhere near it. Wrap a darkness about it, and in the centre of that darkness let his sense of ownership … lie silent, uninspected, and operative.

A. Quite obviously, the state has a huge influence on the allocation of resources. States seize land and assets by force and distribute them to favored parties. Thus did Henry VIII seize the assets of the Catholic Church. Thus did Europeans seize the New World. Thus did the state create limited liability companies, whereby the interests of third parties are transferred to shareholders. Thus did the state commandeer assets during war, including commandeering the rights of slave-owners during the Civil War. Thus did the state subordinate property rights in favor of conservation/aesthetics/economic development. Arguably, thus did the state create tradable assets in all manner of regulatory assets: tax bases, water rights, rights to access land above and below the surface, pollution allowances, transmission rights, broadcast spectrum rights, etc.

And, most obviously, thus does the state act via taxing and spending. Some libertarians will forthrightly declare all taxation as theft. But those who do not confront the obvious problem: Which tax system to acknowledge? Because the choice of tax systems—a governmental choice—radically influences the allocation of wealth. Likewise the government’s choice of spending. Curious that McGinnis notes with alarm people who say “Hands off my Medicare,” but makes no similar reference to Grover Norquist’s demand that taxes not be raised. As far as I am aware, a citizen’s claim to maintaining the current Medicare law is perfectly analogous to Norquist’s claim to the current tax code.

B. Less obviously, the state creates the circumstances within which private parties act and compete—and that act creates winners and losers. The provision of law and order hugely influences which skills are most desired, and how much specialization people can engage in. And quite obviously, the unequal provision of law and order will result in unequal provision of benefits. Cue Black Lives Matter.

The qualities that render a person valuable in the Wild West may well differ from the qualities that render a person valuable managing a hedge fund. And I’m not just talking about qualities desired in the labor market; government action may influence mating decisions.

To cite again my favorite example, Justin Beeber is a gazillionaire while J.S. Bach died in debt. What accounts for the difference? I humbly offer that the difference reflects little about the individuals in question, and much about the social circumstances in which those individuals lived—including circumstances mediated by government.

C. So let’s return to the issues at stake in the current election.

Specifically, what accounts for Trump’s rise? Many theories, but a common one is that white working-class Americans have grown disgruntled with the current allocation of resources in America. Why? And what do they want to do about it?

Here’s why: Thanks to a government policy called WWII, all of the US’s economic rivals found their capital assets lying in ruins and their human assets lying in graveyards. This resulted in an unusual demand for labor, including unskilled labor. All kinds of people, including libertarians, began to imagine that the resulting economic boom and allocation of resources among America’s social classes were purely the function of free markets untrammeled by government action. But as the circumstances that led to this working-class boom eroded, the boom eroded, too.

Here's what do Trump voters want to do about it: They want to restore the circumstances that contributed to the boom, to the best of their understanding. And what they understand is that foreigners have taken their jobs, and that US firms have exported their jobs. So they want protectionism. And they are not entirely wrong in believing that these policies would have some effect in redistributing wealth in society, quite possibly sending a larger share to the working class. And this re-distribution would not be labeled “re-distribution,” so it’s all good, right?

I would expect libertarians to hate this. I would expect libertarians to generally favor adoption of the TPP, and to recognize that killing this pact, and similar pacts, would be a costly way to re-distribute wealth. But then, that would require libertarians to recognize that public policies such as trade pacts influence the distribution of wealth. And apparently I expect too much.

In any event, I would expect libertarians to recognize that—their preferences notwithstanding—they don’t have the votes to stop Trump. And as Lord Acton reminds us,

At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects differed from their own….

So, who are these auxiliaries? The Democrats. The Democrats hope to stem this populist tide by giving the populists half a loaf. Do some forthright wealth-redistribution. “Kill” the TPP, send the negotiators back to tweak a footnote or something, then bring it back and declare victory. That sort of thing.

You can take my political analysis or leave it. But the main point is this: Any allocation of wealth reflects government choices and policies. The concept of “re-distribution” is an illusion, because government influences the distribution in the first place. It is absurd to talk about a “level playing field” without acknowledging that government creates the field and polices the rules, and in doing so, influences who wins the game.

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nobody.really
on July 28, 2016 at 09:41:23 am

"Any allocation of wealth reflects government choices and policies."

Nobody:

Interesting IF a tad bit TOO strong of an assertion.
One COULD get the impression that you believe that ALL, each and every, instance(s) of wealth allocation is a direct result of governmental action.

In "B" above you claim that the State creates the circumstances for allocation. This is not completely clear to many of us. It can also be said that the State (whatever that actually is) simply *codifies* pre-existing arrangements arrived at from practice / custom. As an example, market economies did not spring up ex nihilo from a State bureaucracy. Rather, State Laws sought, and to a large extent did, accommodate the new world of market transactions. A. Smith did not conjure up the Wealth of Nations; rather, he was a keen observer of what had (and was) transpired.

The danger in your "State Creation" approach is that it leads to the belief that the State ALSO creates rights, in particular those rights previously regarded as Natural Rights.

It would be far better to limit State role in this matter to influence - a rather strong and growing influence to be sure - but still just influence. And this influence is further influenced by the particular *motivations* of the actors involved in the dialogue.

Contrary to Al Gore, neither the State nor our rotund former VP, created the Internet. Once rough outlines of the media were worked out, the State has decided to *accommodate* it via regulation - and all with a view to make it conform to the particular motivations of those countless Administrative agency minions.

You are correct re: Tea Party has similar demands for THEIR benefits as do other factions.

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gabe
on July 28, 2016 at 10:41:46 am

I do wish these discussions would use the terminology of "using the mechanisms of the state" or something similar to keep a focus on the crucial point that we are actually observing the actions of motivated human beings.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on July 28, 2016 at 10:47:30 am

Example "Government choices." Government doesn't choose; people choose, and use the mechanisms os governments to implement their choices.

"Government" does not generate nor implement "policies" motivated humans are the source and instruments of generation and implementation.

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R Richard Schweitzer
on July 28, 2016 at 12:51:27 pm

The difference between "Hands off my Medicare" and Grover Norquist's opposition to taxes is simple: In a free society, individuals own themselves and the product of their labor, and hence are entitled to keep their income subject only to the majority's perceived "need" to assess taxes for the benefit of the community participating in the social contract. The recipient of a government benefit financed via taxes has no similar moral claim. Ironically, we refer to awards of government largesse as "entitlements" when they are merely coerced transfer payments. The true "entitlement" in a free society is to keep the fruits of one's labor.

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Mark Pulliam
on July 28, 2016 at 13:52:09 pm

This is an opinion by a sovereign citizen and therefore needs no response.

Neither "government" nor "humans" nor "society" is sufficient to express what the people would appreciate.

A civic people (ACP) iteratively collaborate for broadly defined civic safety and security (BDCSS). That achievable collaboration has never happened on Earth. In the USA, collaboration is proposed in the preamble to the constitution for the USA, and was begun with the articles that followed.

However, a Protestant first Congress, accustomed to British common law, could not brook the civic contract stated in the preamble. Eventually, most people falsely regarded the preamble a secular sentence when in fact it is religiously neutral. There was no constitutional intention for the 1788 USA to mimic France's "enlightenment," or in any other way to impose either religious or areligious opinion.

Now, for the first time in history, a group (about forty-three people in Baton Rouge, LA) promotes real-no-harm private liberty with civic morality (RNH-PLwCM). ACP collaborates for BDCSS based on the indisputable facts of reality, making conflict for dominate political opinion an artifact of the past. Instead of personal liberty conforming to society, civic morality accommodates private liberty. People are free to discover and perfect their own persons rather than conform to an imposed society. Every RNH religion, culture, or ethnicity flourishes among ACP.

The totalitarian subject, "We the People of the United States," asymptotically approaches the civic morality targeted in the preamble. The path to civic morality can progress in years rather than centuries under the collaborated theory.

For scholars who don't understand these words and phrases, consult our website, and read first, "Theory of ACP 7/28/16," the continually updated "featured post."

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Phil Beaver
on July 28, 2016 at 15:06:18 pm

"McGinnis offers the classical libertarian argument: Government is bad for redistributing resources. Thus it goes without saying that (A) government had no role in how resources are currently distributed, and (B) the current allocation of resources is perfect and unimprovable, if not God-given."

You are just making stuff up off the top of your head. That's as weird as anything Phil Beaver says.

Government is bad at distributing some resources and preferred for distributing others. Democracies tend to drift towards socialist redistribution of wealth. Our government was originally designed with the idea in mind of supporting the good and preventing the bad.

There is no implication that government has no role in the redistribution of resources. Government is (in part) about reasonable distribution of resources.

No one says or believes (especially not libertarians) that the allocation of resources is perfect. (Where do you come up this infantile crap?)

I stopped reading after that because you made it obvious that are in full nut-so mode.

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Scott Amorian
on July 28, 2016 at 15:28:55 pm

Ironically, we refer to awards of government largesse as “entitlements” when they are merely coerced transfer payments. The true “entitlement” in a free society is to keep the fruits of one’s labor.

I quite agree—in a free society, a/k/a a Hobbsian war of all against all. You are free of any governmental burden—and any governmental benefit. You are entitled to keep the fruits of your labor to the extent you are able, and to take the fruits of other's labor to the same extent.

But to expect that you can call upon society to defend the interests you care about, yet to retain the discretion to disavow society’s claim to call upon you the defend the interests that others care about—that’s not a free society; that’s a libertarian fantasy. As Adam Smith observed, “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

So the real irony is that some people feel entitled to have government defend their interests, yet disparage the practice of government attending to the interest of others as mere “entitlements.”

The difference between “Hands off my Medicare” and Grover Norquist’s opposition to taxes is simple: In a free society, individuals own themselves and the product of their labor, and hence are entitled to keep their income subject only to the majority’s perceived “need” to assess taxes for the benefit of the community participating in the social contract.

Yup, simple … until you got to that “subject only to” part. Once you concede that part, I suggest that there is no longer anything simple about it.

In short, if you acknowledge that the state has the rightful power to tax and spend, and can rightfully exercise discretion on how it taxes and spends, then the state can produce virtually any allocation of resources you can imagine.

For decades now the federal government has been running a deficit. How can anybody feel entitled to the current tax level given that society continues to “enjoy” a level of governmental services for which we are not paying?

I don’t mean to be obtuse: I cherish the notion of autonomy rights in property, too. I feel anxious in acknowledging that property rights are in reality a paper defense against the claims of the state. Yet those scales have already fallen from these eyes. Our safety ultimately does not lie in absolute property rights (held by an individual), but in the revulsion (expressed by the masses) when the state intrudes too far into those rights. How far is “too far”? It’s ultimately up to the masses to say. Marginal income tax rates were quite high in the 1960s, yet the public seemed to stomach it just fine. Conversely, the masses express revulsion at the “death tax,” even though only the fabulously wealthy ever pay it.

The recipient of a government benefit financed via taxes has no similar moral claim.

You are, perhaps, unacquainted with John Rawls?

By far the most important variables explaining the circumstances of my life are things for which I had no responsibility whatsoever. I was born male, while, able-bodied, intelligent, in the contemporary United States, into a household of stable, nurturing people. If you were to run a regression correlating wealth/living standards with predictive variables for all humans over time, I expect all of those variables would prove enormously predictive. (Ok, in fairness, if we throw into the equation people from the future, the fact that I live in the current time may not correlate as positively as I imagine.) And I did NOTHING to earn any of it.

Libertarians arbitrarily choose to begin their moral equation at this point after the lottery has been played, with winners and losers. And—surprise, surprise—libertarianism is very popular among the winners.

Rawls chose to begin his moral equation before the lottery is played. Because the most salient variables for living outcomes are social, not individual, Rawls looks to societies. He imagines that everyone in society is part of a great social contract—a social insurance contract: None of us knows where she’ll be born in society. None of us can claim to have earned the arbitrary circumstances of our birth. So no one can claim detrimental reliance if we conclude that we have a duty to compensate each other to even out the inequities of fate.

Understood from this perspective, the person who hoards his good fortune for his own benefit is not bold and individualistic; rather, he’s reneging on a social contract. And why should anyone regard this person as making a “moral claim”?

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nobody.really
on July 28, 2016 at 16:32:17 pm

Nut so!

...uh, make that, "Not so!"....
:-)

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nobody.really
on July 28, 2016 at 16:49:07 pm

I'll take Nozick over Rawls, and I don't buy the notion that by entering into civil society a free man automatically forfeits his self-ownership and becomes a chattel of the state. The social contract does not necessarily result in socialism or communal ownership of property. Certainly our Founders did not think so. Karl Marx, maybe.

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Mark Pulliam
on July 28, 2016 at 17:27:04 pm

Fair enough. I find fault with both communism and libertarianism. Throughout history, people have wrestled with the question of how much the individual owes to society, and how much the individual can claim autonomy. I'd conclude that "100%" and "0%" are the wrong answers for either category. But the formula for generating the right number? That still eludes me.

Mostly I want to emphasize the idea that there's more than one understanding of morality here, and what seems virtuous from one perspective will seem villainous from another.

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nobody.really
on July 28, 2016 at 17:48:51 pm

I’ll take Nozick over Rawls....

Perhaps it is best to view some patterned principles of distributive justice as rough rules of thumb meant to approximate the general results of applying the principle of rectification of injustice. For example, lacking much historical information, and assuming (1) that victims of injustice generally do worse than they otherwise would and (2) that those from the least well-off group in the society have the highest probabilities of being the (descendants of) victims of the most serious injustice who are owed compensation by those who benefited from the injustices (assumed to be those better off, though sometimes the perpetrators will be others in the worst-off group), then a rough rule of thumb for rectifying injustices might seem to be the following: organize society so as to maximize the position of whatever group ends up least well-off in the society…. In the absence of … a treatment [of the principle of rectification] applied to a particular society, one cannot use the analysis and theory presented here to condemn any particular scheme of transfer payments, unless it is clear that no consideration of rectification of injustice would apply to justify it. Although to introduce socialism as the punishment for our sins would be to go too far, past injustices might be so great as to make necessary in the short run a more extensive state in order to rectify them.”

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, at 231.

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nobody.really
on July 28, 2016 at 18:16:30 pm

I like your line of thought very much.

Adam Smith wrote for people who had the propriety to talk with him--the elites. James Madison repeated the story in Federalist 10, claiming that patriots with integrity would rise up from the states to govern the nation. After George Washington there were few exemplary elected officials. Through it all, legislation has always favored the elites and advertising has persuaded the poor to spend but not to work and save.

John Rawls favored socialism and the progressives have taken advantage to promote a "moral commonwealth," as the social order.

All of these concepts sought a society, but not a just society. We propose a break from these sociol-economic political moralities to a culture of a civic people with the common goal broadly defined safety and security. That requires that part of basic civic education is the concept of converting labor into assets: work and save. People who want to be consumers but not owners would not build wealth, and everyone would know that is part of the reason they are poor.

But most people want independence and financial security, so most people would work and save. There would be fewer applications for welfare, and American free-enterprise would rise to previously unimagined levels.

According to our theory, "Child incentive program 7/12/16," the program might even make social security obsolete.

This is part of the theory of a civic people, collaborating for real-no-harm private liberty with civic morality instead of the traditional "common good," as social conformity.

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Phil Beaver
on July 28, 2016 at 18:37:38 pm

"subject only to the majority’s perceived “need” to assess taxes for the benefit of the community participating in the social contract"

"Perceived 'need' is the problem. Government must be held to the indisputable facts of reality rather than perception. It's up to a civic people to cause this fundamental change in USA governance, because "we, the people" is clueless and the elites are corrupt. See the federal debt to understand my point.

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Phil Beaver
on July 28, 2016 at 21:42:07 pm

Perhaps we should depart from politics and economics for a moment and consider philosophy. Is there such a thing as a "moral claim" that is anything other than subjective? Should such claims, if they exist be any business of the government? If I may, I should like to pose some hypotheticals:

1.) Marcus's great great grandfather was a southern plantation owner who owned DeMarcus's great great grandfather. Marcus's family passed along great wealth, while DeMarcus;s passed along great poverty, none of the following generations able to gain a foothold. Marcus lives in luxury; DeMarcus lives in poverty.

2.) Same as 1.) above, except that DeMarcus's grandfather was a successful entrepreneur and DeMarcus lives quite comfortably through no effort of his own.

3.) Same as 1.) except that Marcus's grandfather was a profligate who bankrupted the family and Marcus was himself born into poverty,

4.) Same as 1.) except that Marcus is severely schizophrenic, unable to get and hold a job or even tend to his own affairs.

5.) Same as 1.) except that Demarcus's mother married Marcus's uncle.

Does DeMarcus have a "moral claim" against Marcus in any of the scenarios above? All of them? Does the conduct of intermediaries have any effect on any such claims? If so, what does this say about the nature of moral claims? If DeMarcus has a moral claim, should he be able to appeal to government to enforce that claim?

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z9z99
on July 29, 2016 at 09:51:00 am

Nobody:

What are you an adherent of BF skinner - a determinist?

You left out something in your "white, able bodies...." scenario.
1) Many so *privileged also end up on the *junk pile*
2) Being so privileged does NOT guarantee happiness or even "the pursuit of happiness."
3) Much, if not most, of the reason for one's ultimate success comes from effort / ambition / AND a willingness or ability to acknowledge one's own shortcomings AND work with and / or around them.
4) In short it comes from a realistic assessment of what is both possible and permissible.

In your world view, it would appear that all those traits (which in previous posts you claim ought not to have import) act akin to "operant stimuli" compelling one to success.

Nut-so!!!!

I would also add that your statement about Pulliam *conceding* that authority of the State to tax reveals the truth of the old addage about giving an inch and they take a yard - that is precisely what the Statists among us do.
You do at times seem to admit of such Statist inclinations.

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gabe
on July 29, 2016 at 11:28:50 am

The title of this post reminds me of the passage from Frederic Bastiat's "The Law":

"The Choice Before Us

This question of legal plunder must be settled once and for all, and there are only three ways to settle it:

1. The few plunder the many.
2. Everybody plunders everybody.
3. Nobody plunders anybody.

We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three. "

America was democratically chosen #2. Given the state of American society, I am not confident that we shall choose #3 anytime soon.

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Buckeye Barrister
on July 29, 2016 at 16:06:01 pm

nobody:

That must be some HEAT WAVE in your neck of the woods.

"By far the most important variables explaining the circumstances of my life are things for which I had no responsibility whatsoever. I was born male, while, able-bodied, intelligent, in the contemporary United States, into a household of stable, nurturing people. If you were to run a regression correlating wealth/living standards with predictive variables for all humans over time, I expect all of those variables would prove enormously predictive."

Always with the white privilege malarkey. Why not just stop being white? After all, if one can change gender at a whim, what is a little color.

Now something a friend forwarded to me today that provides a perspective on this whole privilege / oppression nexus. I would think this is something YOUR candidate is guilty of:

The following was a quotation of the day on 7/26 from Thomas Sowell, which I just picked up today.

"People who expected the election of President Barack Obama to lead to racial healing and a post-racial society failed to take account of the political reality that racial healing and a post-racial society would, at a minimum, reduce black voter turnout.

Black votes matter to many politicians — more so than black lives. That is why such politicians must try to keep black voters fearful, angry and resentful. Racial harmony would be a political disaster for such politicians. Racial polarization makes both the black population and the white population worse off, but it makes politicians who depend on black votes better off.
………….
One of the key questions this election year is whether black lives matter more than black votes that can be won by racial charades that undermine and endanger those lives. The answer to that question will affect all Americans, because racial turmoil is to no one’s interest, except some politicians and race hustlers."

Admit, I'll better even you at times get tired of *acknowledging* your sins as a white male against, well, against ALL of humanity and most of the Animal Kingdom.

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gabe
on July 29, 2016 at 16:08:32 pm

No but to hear The Fat Lady in a Pantsuit (and The Bern) tell it, they will usher in this utopian society.

BTW: Bastiat was not above sarcasm.

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gabe
on July 29, 2016 at 16:40:53 pm

What are you an adherent of BF skinner – a determinist?

You keep accusing me of this. It’s just a load of B.F. (….yuk, yuk….)

3) Much, if not most, of the reason for one’s ultimate success comes from effort / ambition / AND a willingness or ability to acknowledge one’s own shortcomings AND work with and / or around them.

4) In short it comes from a realistic assessment of what is both possible and permissible.

Could be—depending on your definitions of success. If you define success as “1) exhibiting effort/ambition, 2) a willingness/ability to acknowledge shortcomings and work with/around them, and 3) having a realistic assessment of what is possible and permissible,” then I’d agree that those were important reasons for success.

But could we identify any measurable indicia of success, and test this hypothesis?

Here’s a simple one: Let’s define success as having a net worth of $1 billion. (I pick this just ‘cuz it’s easy to find the data.) What are your chances of achieving this level of success today?

The first thing you’d observe is that prior to the past 100 yrs, no one had ever been successful. Given that the earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, that’s an astonishing fact. This would suggest that date of birth has an enormous predictive value in your odds of achieving success.

The second thing you’d observe is that success correlates powerfully with nationality. As of 2015, Wikipedia reported 1826 billionaires, with more than half of them coming from five nations: China, Germany, India, Russian, and the US. And things skew even within this group: For every 10,000,000 countrymen, there are—
0.7 billionaires if you’re Indian.
1.6 billionaires if you’re Chinese.
6.2 billionaires if you’re a Russian.
12.9 billionaires if you’re German.
16.7 billionaires if you’re American.

The third thing you’d observe is that 90% of successful people are male.

I couldn’t find any data, but I’ll hazard a guess that the percentage of billionaires that were born with disabling medical conditions and psychological problems are roughly 0%.

So if we take being a billionaire as a measure of success, we find that the vast majority of the world’s population has been utterly eliminated from the running solely based on time of birth. And among those who have been so privileged as to have lived within the past century, you find that the odds of success are enormously stacked against you if you weren’t born in the right country or of the right sex. And I speculate that the odds are also enormously stacked against you if you were born with any number of disabling conditions.

And NONE of these variables have shit-all to do with hard work, ambition, perseverance, self-understanding, or whathaveyou.

Indeed, I strongly suspect that plenty of people exhibited hard work and perseverance in the centuries that preceded 1916. Yet none of them became billionaires. This strongly suggests to me that a person’s capacity to achieve this level of success is OVERWHELMINGLY driven by variables OTHER than hard work and perseverance.

And if this is true when we measure a person’s odds of becoming a billionaire, why wouldn’t it also be true of millionaires? Or $10,000-aires? Or pretty much most measures of success?

You know who is a success? My hero, Michael Jordon. Whatever measure of success you care to name, it’s likely that Michael Jordan fulfilled it. He had hard work and perseverance. He was driven. He was dedicated. He was energetic. He had self-discipline. And he achieved the pinnacle of success in basketball. And what lessons should we draw from that?

Not so fast! Cuz then my hero did his most heroic thing: He decided to turn his awesome talents to another pursuit. No, he didn’t shift from being a basketball player to trying to cure cancer or stopping war or becoming an astronaut. Hell, he didn’t even move very far up the alphabet. He shifted his focus from BASketball to BASeball.

And whatever lesson we are supposed to learn from Michael Jordon’s personal qualities, what we really learned is this: IT WAS ALL BULLSHIT. Because Michael Jordon, with all his wonderful personal qualities, was a complete wash-out at baseball. All his highly prized personal qualities didn’t count for shit.

Moral: Success is a function of all kinds of things OTHER than hard work and determination. Yes, you may also need hard work and determination, but they are far, FAR from all that is necessary.

So why do we keep structuring our society as if hard work and determination were the only qualities that matter? Why do we continue to pretend we live in a meritocracy of personal effort?

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nobody.really
on July 29, 2016 at 16:47:33 pm

I would also add that your statement about Pulliam *conceding* that authority of the State to tax reveals the truth of the old adage about giving an inch and they take a yard – that is precisely what the Statists among us do.

Yup, it proves the old adage. And…?

Are you saying that we DON’T need taxes? Great. And there are plenty of places on the earth with no functioning government; feel free to move to, say, the no-man’s-land in Syria and tell us how much you enjoy it.

Alternatively, aacknowledge that if we want to enjoy a different kind of lifestyle, we DO need to pay taxes. And the state gets to set the tax rate. And we get to suck it up—or, at best, participate in governance sufficiently to get to influence the outcomes.

I’m not asking you to like it. I just asking you to acknowledge it.

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nobody.really
on July 29, 2016 at 17:36:25 pm

Always with the white privilege malarkey.

If you think it’s malarkey, you can do better than saying it’s malarkey. You could rebut the merits of my argument. When people read that you disagree with my statements--yet don't rebut my statements--what conclusions do you imagine they draw?

Why not just stop being white?

I could. That is, when I send out my resume, I could adopt a black-ish name and claim to have graduated from a historically black college—and depress my chances of getting an interview. But this has been studied umpteen times already, so I’m not sure what I would gain from the exercise.

Moreover, if I stopped being white, would white privilege disappear? Would anyone benefit? Would the world magically become a meritocracy?

-----

Gabe, I sense you have a strong aversion to cognitive dissonance—the idea that facts might eventually lead you conclusions that make you uncomfortable. And you seem like such a pleasant and well-meaning guy, despite that whole Seahawks thing. So do yourself a favor, friend, and lay down the burden of feeling responsible for the world.

Once you lay down that load, you’ll be free to admit that the world is imperfect—and it’s not your fault! You may in fact have benefited from being white (and male, and American, and intelligent, and English-speaking, and able-bodied, and….)—but you bear no guilt for that! This is a function of circumstances that transcend you and me. It’s not personal!

My kids ask me, why doesn’t the whole world enjoy the same benefits? And I am free to answer them in this wise: Who knows?

Cuz it’s not my job to justify the state of the world! I resist the temptation to play God. And if I were to play the role of God’s spokesman, I’d say that God is dissatisfied with the state of the world too, so there’s really nothing to be gained by glossing over the world’s brokenness.

Step back from the world and gaze upon it. It has wonderful qualities. It has terrible qualities. And you and I can claim neither credit nor blame for almost any of it. So free yourself. And when you unburden yourself of pride, unburden yourself of guilt, you may be better able to see the world for what it is. And to decide what, if anything, you want to do about it.

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nobody.really
on July 30, 2016 at 10:58:48 am

nobody:

It would seem to me that it is YOU who seems to have accepted "responsibility" for the world.

Me, I simply try to observe the world. In so doing, I get a kick out of pointing out that all the grand schemes of all those grand men (yes, primarily men, to your point) will fail as they always have.

In all things "moderation" - especially in taxes.

Have I ever claimed that taxation was either illegal or immoral? Yet, you continue to assume that I do. Could this be because in fulfilling YOUR responsibility to the world, you feel impelled to identify all those that you incorrectly presume to be irresponsible ideologues. Surely, your continued harping upon problems that were pronounced in the 1950's and 60's would indicate that you have stopped "observing" the world WITHOUT the filter of *responsibility* that you ascribe to me.

My point in the "effort / ambition" comments was. as always, to *soften* / moderate some of the assertions you made that could not unreasonably be said to express a rather deterministic view of human intercourse. Yep, factors beyond our control, sometimes pure unadulterated lucky bullshit, have effects, positive and negative. Do not however confuse this for the totality of human experience nor allow it to negate that simply human striving may at times overcome negative circumstances.

You mention Michael Jordan ( a BAD winner, BTW); Many have had his genetic talents - not as many had his drive or ambition. What would he have become had he not had such drive? What would he have become were he Thomas Sowells son?

Let us not lose sight of the trees for the forest. Some trees thrive - some don't - but they are all in the forest. Don't ask me why - there are simply too many factors to account for success / failure.

I suspect that we both recognize the complexity involved here. You wish to emphasize the factors beyond one's control as determinative; I wish to highlight the individual efforts / choices that those determinative factors have ALLOWED for the individual space.

make sense, compadre?

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gabe
on July 30, 2016 at 15:01:17 pm

Late to discussion. Got this on 7/30 from Real Clear Policy. Did not read all comments. I don't think this was mentioned specifically, but implied. That is the economic state, federally/nationally speaking, is the result of failed political leadership. There may be philosophical principals that guide pols today, but IMO they are not smart enough to grasp or even learn about them. And if they are then they blindly disregard them to ensure their power, popularity and maybe income. They (both parties now) rely on accounting gimmicks to deny the actual financial truth. There is and can be plenty for all. I have been following an economist from Cato, Dan Mitchell. See his golden rule and how pols budget and convey this budget to America in an untrue way where estimates, baselines, starting dates, cuts and increases have different meanings when THEY use them instead of the meaning you or I correctly understand. He has outlined many REASONABLE proposals to restore sanity AND enhance growth while still making sure there is a safety net not a hammock. The key is SANITY. The author correctly calls out the welfare state b/c it has become too generous. Above comments allude to this fact. I cannot agree in total by some with the ideas in comments that the rich, elites, landowners etc shaped the economy ONLY for their benefit, especially the founders. Don't forget no federal income tax in US for a very long time and whole basis of Constitution is to LIMIT federal power. Which we have TOTALLY abandoned, especially after WWII. Some of the poorest people have become rich in USA and if not rich moved to middle class. People used to understand that saving (NOT SPENDING) was an important part of becoming, if not wealthy, a way to better their situation. I could type for hours, but I would like to stay in the present. There are no laws which make it easier for people to spend. Cheaper goods (possibly from free trade), higher standards of living and more disposable income (maybe even b/c they receive welfare) have encouraged spending. Despite gloom and doom we live very well. Here is a simple idea to make America more competitive and probably increase employment: lower corporate tax rate. We must be told and accept the fact that rich people may in fact get richer, but when the economy is growing we all benefit. Rich people have the ability through their wealth to also prosper in a poor economic environment. THAT is reality. THAT is FACT. It does NOT mean this is at the EXPENSE OF the middle class and poor. As Mitchell puts it they are our golden goose. Stop this undeniable fact and we will all suffer. You all know the progressive nature of the tax system in US. Grover Norquist is not calling for less taxes b/c he wants to see more go to people who already have. His organization rightly IMO promotes giving the gov't less so they hopefully MAY learn to SPEND less. A very key component, according to Mitchell, to promote growth. Unfortunately the pols CANNOT understand any fiscal sanity, so his notion to LIMIT what they can spend is twisted to be a mean spirited ploy to fully deny entitlements. Totally untrue. The Repubs at one time DID espouse notions of limited gov't, less spending because we will eventually run out of money etc. All the simple ideas that would help an economy grow (also according to Mitchell) but they have, always been abandoned or tried to "help" by promoting seemingly good ideas (could also be considered crony capitalism), but unintended consequences showed why they should KEEP OUT (ie housing promotion). Mitchell also shows how tax policy is used to show fairness (ie punishing the rich) instead of generating revenue as the goal. There are and were instances b/c economy grew rapidly gov't took in even MORE money with less taxation. Mitchell shows the key tho is spending and tax rates are somewhat less important. Repubs easily cave to pressure. NO LEADERSHIP. The full adoption of Keynesian economics by THOSE elites/thinkers in both national AND international communities has further eroded sanity. Can't people visibly see and understand Europe has no growth AND certain lower standards of living like living spaces and amenities we take for granted b/c of the economic policies they follow. Also covered by Mitchell. How Europe societies that successfully mix in free market principles in their policies to provide the things the left thinks we should have. However they don't see other market friendly policies which were adopted and followed that we do not. Sadly the electorate will have to learn the hard way. If HRC is elected and there is not enough $ to fund entitlements and taxes on ordinary citizens AND companies have to be raised again, which will inhibit rapid economic growth she will be punished in 2 or 4 years. Similarly if DJT is elected and stifles growth by instituting tariffs and slowing trade,in short not delivering on economic expansion and middle income growth he has promised, he will be defeated. Hopefully by then someone can emerge to be the real CHANGE candidate back to policies mentioned above. These policies are not hard to achieve, nor are they punishing to the poor. It does take LEADERSHIP and the elimination of juvenile rhetoric of gov't promises to all to satisfy all. We are on the path to Greece if we are not realistic about our TRUE economic health and prospects. I won't speak for author, but seems to me to be the aim or purpose of article. He is 100% correct in his implication the the welfare state is BLOATED. Citizens of America are not demanding basics, they are demanding EXTRAS. Mitchell shows how the last president to keep the proper conditions for growth started by Reagan was Clinton. He famous for the era of big gov't is over, welfare reform, and reasonable tax rates. THOSE policies NOT MORE welfare and redistribution are the proper ideals for setting the conditions for growth. Then when there is extra DON'T SPEND IT. Use it for fixing SS, which is a HUGE drag in the long term. If conditions for growth are instituted, and people see it occur, there will be less class warfare, less anti immigrant sentiment and a feeling of mutual benefit. Here is a link to his blog. IMO he does a very good job of proving his case. https://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/mitchells-golden-rule/

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John Eremita
on July 30, 2016 at 21:05:02 pm

Oops, nobody - I forgot to mention:

I am not the one with guilt - that comes with *white privilege* and as you know I neither subscribe to nor recognize such a silly concept.

The problem with your deterministic view of human behavior is that it a) often leads to an unwillingness to recognize that humans can become something greater than what their circumstances would othwerwise indicate, b) leads to faulty and slopy thinking / excusemaking and c) for those whose *determinative factors* (as defined by such as you) would lead to failure / lessened social - economic status, it becomes both a self-fulfilling and self -justifying predicate.

How many times must a young lad be told that the "odds" (i.e, "those white devil bastards) are against you, the system is stacked against you, you are just a dumb no-account person in THEIR eyes, before the young lad not only internalizes it but USES it as a shield against any self-improvement advice / encouragement. Oh and do not try to deny that this is a rather prominent dynamic in race, and even economic, relations.

But it is not something solely affecting racial / ethnic minorities. Try growing up poor, being the smartest kid in the school and being told that the "deck is stacked against you" - why not just be a sanitation worker, the pay is good.

Many of my own friends endured AND succumbed to this "acculturation", this deployment of *determinative* factors beyond their control. Is this the world you envision; is it the one that you will purvey to the young?

Our Democrat Party friends certainly have made great use of this as Mr. Sowell, one of the most sensible individuals I have ever encountered, has argued. To accept your thesis, one must be willing to DENY the possibility for human / individual improvement.

Let go of the ugly world you have concocted. It IS full of wondrous and hideous things AND a FAIR AMOUNT OF THEM ARE UNDER OUR CONTROL!!!

Yikes, a determinist hiding in plain sight!!!!!!

How is that for a simple / quick refutation?

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Image of gabe
gabe
on August 01, 2016 at 07:44:13 am

Monday morning links

Why Verizon wants an ailing Yahoo Obamas’ holiday idyll shattered by local anger over outsize mansions Dallas Weatherman Resigns After Criticizing DNC For Having Mothers Of “Slain Thugs” Truth can sometimes get you fired these days Millenn

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Maggie's Farm
on August 01, 2016 at 13:05:53 pm

I am not the one with guilt – that comes with *white privilege* and as you know I neither subscribe to nor recognize such a silly concept.

Indeed, I ask you to lay down your guilt. But that is merely as part of the process of confronting cognitive dissonance—the crippling aversion to acknowledging conclusions that make you uncomfortable.

Because I don’t see how privilege leads to guilt. I do see that it leads you to cognitive dissonance.

- Someone who got skin cancer in 1800 had a higher chance of dying of it than someone who gets skin cancer today—even if people today are no more virtuous than people in the 1800s. Should we feel guilty about this?

- People who are taller are more likely to become professional basketball players than people who are shorter—even if tall people are no more virtuous than short people. Should tall people feel guilty about this?

- People who are shorter are more likely to become professional jockeys than are people who are taller—even if short people are no more virtuous than tall people. Should short people feel guilty about this?

- People who grow in the US are more likely to own their own business than people who grow up in North Korea—even if those people are no more virtuous than North Koreans. Should we feel guilty about this?

If you can acknowledge having any of these unearned advantages without guilt, why should white privilege trouble you?

The problem is not guilt; the problem is cognitive dissonance. This is analogous to “survivor guilt” experienced by Jews who survived the Holocaust. These Jews did not necessarily do anything for which to feel guilty. But they must confront the essentially arbitrary nature of fate, and their unworthiness in evading a fate that engulfed so many others. In short, they confront a dissonance between their belief in a basically just world/just God, and their observation of injustice on a massive scale—and that leads to their discomfort.

I surmise that’s what you’re experiencing, too.

Many of my own friends endured AND succumbed to this “acculturation”, this deployment of *determinative* factors beyond their control. Is this the world you envision; is it the one that you will purvey to the young?

Excellent! Yes, I agree, if you grow up in an environment which tells you that you’ll never amount to anything, it will likely depress some of your prospects. In other words, gabe, you and I are in perfect agreement: People’s life circumstances are influenced by their environments.

So is it so big a stretch to imagine that black children, through no fault or merit of their own, often grow up in different environments than white children? We’ll return to this.

But it is not something solely affecting racial / ethnic minorities. Try growing up poor, being the smartest kid in the school and being told that the “deck is stacked against you” – why not just be a sanitation worker, the pay is good.

And here we arrive at the nub of the matter: I’ve been describing what I understand about state of the world. You have described a strategy for responding to the state of the world.

Specifically, you argue that refraining from telling people discouraging news about the state of the world might cause people to adopt a more adaptive perspective/behaviors. And I acknowledge that strategy.
But I’d say two things. First, even if we agreed on the strategy, it’s fundamentally distinct from agreeing about the state of the world. Second, we don’t necessarily agree.

Yup, perhaps it’s a shame to tell someone that there are reasons to pursue a less ambitious, yet more stable, career. And indeed, plenty of driven, ambitious kids sacrifice everything to pursue their ambition to become a professional athlete or movie star. And yup, you’ll be able to find a few who succeed and will tell everyone else to follow their dreams. But what about the vast majority who fail? What should we make of their stories, of their perspectives? Would it have made sense to tell these kids the odds they face, and the consequences of failure?

Do black kids grow up in different circumstances than white kids? Well, talk to a black person and ask if he or she got “the Talk” from her parents, and compare it with the talk that your parents had with you. “The Talk” is a rite of passage in black households in which parents caution their children that they must not be naïve about the injustice they will encounter, and that if they can't discipline themselves to respond to injustice with submission, they'll get killed.

Now, maybe you know better than all these generations of black families about the right way to raise black kids in America. I won’t rule out the possibility.

But in any event, I'd ask you to see if your upbrining included this Talk. If not, then I think you'd have to conclude that black kids—through no fault of their own—grow up in a different environment than white kids. Again, you can like this; you can hate this; I merely ask that you acknowledge this.

And if you acknowledge this, I really can’t see how you can deny the existence of white privilege.

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nobody.really
on August 01, 2016 at 14:02:17 pm

nobody:

I thought for a second that Prof. Dalrymple had responded what with all this talk of cognitive dissonance.
1) I do not experience; nor am I engaged in an attempt to spare my tender old self from experiencing it. You see, I DO NOT see the world as a fair and "just world / just God as you suppose. The world is neither fair nor foul - it simply is as it is. Rather than bemoan it's alleged deficiencies, I simply accept it as it is. How such a posture can induce a dissonance would, one must admit, be rather difficult.
2) And, as you say, circumstances beyond our control, may lead to higher or lesser probabilities of success in life, this in and of itself does not implicate *privilege* - It is simply the *way of the world* and it connotes / denotes nothing. In all circumstances we must contend with what we are dealt with; we, each of us, contend differently with this endowment.
3) The prescription, guilt, and yes it is guilt which you have on offer, provides neither comfort to the guilt afflicted, nor mitigation of the *un-privileged* suffering(s). Rather, it dismisses the possibility of human progress and individual improvement. Yes, everyone has their cross to bear; not everyone is willing or able to carry that weight. How likely is it that one will bear the weight if they are informed constantly that they are victims of their own endowments - that you will not make it because all those *privileged* folks have an inside run at the prize and / or that they prevent you from attaining the prize. Moreover, the argument you advance instills confusion and distrust in the mind / soul of the "afflicted" by further asserting that even those *nice / good* privileged endowed persons STILL possess and benefit from their privilege AT YOUR EXPENSE.
If anything would instill a sense of cognitive dissonance, I would assert it is this random and universal assignment of guilt to an entire race. and again, it is guilt that you offer - privilege being only the pejorative euphemism employed.
4) The Talk: Yes, I did have The Talk. This is simple common sense. Parents provide guidance on civic behavior all the time. One of those behaviors is proper conduct when dealing with the authorities - for that matter when dealing any authority figure - school teachers, clergy, coaches, etc. As the apparent spokesman for American Blacks, can you say that The Talk also included coaching on how to deal with adults in general? with teachers, etc?
Remember my simple rules for understanding AND improving reace relations:
a) Blacks do not have a monopoly on suffering (nor on police harassment)
b) Whites do not have a monopoly on racism.

"B" is germane here. After years of being informed that whites are racist (or Jews are money-grubbers: see Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc) and endowed with unfair privilege, is it at all surprising that much hostility is evidenced by many blacks or that the first response is to claim that racial animus is the reason for A, B, or C.
sorry, buddy - there is just as much misguided racial characterizations among blacks as whites.

Your approach does not help but rather serves to convince the "afflicted" that they are never going to be successful because of privilege or racism.

Yet they see that many blacks are successful. How can this be? - if white privilege is preventing me from being successful? If that ain;t cognitive dissonance, what is. The world is a horrible place BUT - how the heck did he make it and I didn't?

You have a theory that not only does not fly - it appears to be burrowing itself and its adherents and supposed beneficiaries in the dirt.

5) The mere fact that The Talk occurs and that I recognize that it occurs does NOT compel one to accept white privilege nor for any of the *manifest* evils you seek to attribute to this privilege.

6) Yes, it does make sense to inform kids of the odds they face. Does this counseling need to take the form of disparaging and patently false statements about a whole race (whites, in this case)? or ought it to be on similar terms as The Talk that Italian-Americans gave their children when confronted with an overwhelmingly hostile environment? There was no talk of privilege; rather there was talk of proper behavior AND overcoming the stupidity of others.

The old spiritual was We Shall Overcome; apparently in 21st century America the tune should be changed to soemthing on the order of:

"Why Bother, Privilege is Gunna Take You down, Sucka."

An encouraging portent for the century, is it not?

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gabe
on August 01, 2016 at 16:29:34 pm

And here in conclusion is another refutation of your jaundiced view of human intercourse and the *prescriptive* remedies proffered by the Left. Nobody really believes this nonsense!

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2016/08/academic-absurdity-of-the-week-sexist-ski-slopes.php

Read especially the second abstract wherein Canadian newspapers are taken to task for constructing a narrative that "people are responsible for managing their *risk-profiles*.

Clearly, this cannot be because "white privilege" or some other such tripe makes it pointless to strive.

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gabe
on August 02, 2016 at 09:30:30 am

[…] an interesting take on how the ever-expanding welfare state is affecting our society.  […]

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