James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Racism and Nationalism

The other day I saw an ESPN SportsCentury documentary on Hank Aaron, and learned quite a bit.

For instance, I didn't know where he came from: Mobile, AL. So he grew up with segregation. And racial hatred still loomed large in 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record; Aaron received racist hate mail and death threats.

Most of my growing up years were in Canada, and I was somewhat sheltered from the reality of racism in the United States. That's not to say it was all white people -- far from it. But the black kids I knew came from contexts far different from the African-American experience, and my recollection is that all the kids of whatever color or ancestry tended to exhibit Canadian traits rather than "ethnic" traits.

In any case, the show provoked me into thinking, what motivated the segregationists? If whites were racist in a free society, they could shun or exclude blacks all they want. Why pass laws to force them to?

I believe it's because many citizens view the State as the expression of their values.They don't want to live in the "kind of society" where x and y are tolerated, and the way to achieve that is to prohibit them.

And so the segregated restaurant was mandated because citizens in the South didn't want to live in "the kind of society" where integration would be tolerated. Without the laws, some "greedy" entrepreneur might actually conclude that integration was good for business, and where would that lead?  

While racism has diminished and such laws are now off the books, the principle persists in many of our laws, such as prohibition of prostitution or drugs. The economics or the justice of it matter little. Personal freedom matter little. If citizens don't like something, they have a "right" to support politicians who would prohibit it. At least, that's what they think.

One value many citizens have - and actually it's more persistent in the Left-Statists than Right-Statists - is nationalism. They won't call it that, of course. But that's what it is. Nationalism seeks to bind the people of the country together through government programs. On the small scale are things like the National Endowment for the Arts or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Another is corporate income taxes -- something so counter-productive in theory and execution that it boggles the mind. But they persist out of a principle that corporations "ought" to be taxed.

On a larger scale are Social Security and Medicare.

Now, if you take away my own libertarian values and just examined them pragmatically, the recommendation I would make is to transform them into income assistance for the impoverished elderly. This would mean means-testing. The wealthy elderly wouldn't receive benefits.

But nationalism rejects this course, under the theory that everyone pays in, and everyone gets something back. It "unites" us as a "nation."

Even if it bankrupts us as a nation.

Those who are opposed to Social Security and Medicare reform call reformers right-wing extremists or capitalist ideologues. And yet they never examine their own nationalist ideology, which, like racist ideology, has no philosophical or ethical foundation whatsoever. 

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