Archive for January, 2010

Chicago's Real Crime Story by Heather MacDonald

Why decades of community organizing haven’t stemmed the city’s youth violence
The beating death of Derrion Albert captured national attention last September.

Barack Obama has exploited his youthful stint as a Chicago community organizer at every stage of his political career. As someone who had worked for grassroots “change,” he said, he was a different kind of politician, one who could translate people’s hopes into reality. The media lapped up this conceit, presenting Obama’s organizing experience as a meaningful qualification for the Oval Office.

This past September, a cell-phone video of Chicago students beating a fellow teen to death coursed over the airwaves and across the Internet. None of the news outlets that had admiringly reported on Obama’s community-organizing efforts mentioned that the beating involved students from the very South Side neighborhoods where the president had once worked. Obama’s connection to the area was suddenly lost in the mists of time.

Yet a critical blindness links Obama’s activities on the South Side during the 1980s and the murder of Derrion Albert in 2009. Throughout his four years working for “change” in Chicago’s Roseland and Altgeld Gardens neighborhoods, Obama ignored the primary cause of their escalating dysfunction: the disappearance of the black two-parent family. Obama wasn’t the only activist to turn away from the problem of absent fathers, of course; decades of failed social policy, both before and after his time in Chicago, were just as blind. And that myopia continues today, guaranteeing that the current response to Chicago’s youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were 25 years ago.

One year out of college, Barack Obama took a job as a community organizer, hoping for an authentic black experience that would link him to the bygone era of civil rights protest. Few people know what a community organizer is—Obama didn’t when he decided to become one—yet the term seduces the liberal intelligentsia with its aura of class struggle and agitation against an unjust establishment. Saul Alinsky, the self-described radical who pioneered the idea in Chicago’s slaughterhouse district during the Depression, defined community organizing as creating “mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.” Alinsky viewed poverty as a political condition: it stemmed from a lack of power, which society’s “haves” withhold from the “have-nots.” A community organizer would open the eyes of the disenfranchised to their aggrieved status, teaching them to demand redress from the illegitimate “power structure.”

Alinskyite empowerment suffered its worst scandal in 1960s Chicago. The architects of the federal War on Poverty created a taxpayer-funded version of a community-organizing entity, the so-called Community Action Agency, whose function was to agitate against big-city mayors for more welfare benefits and services for blacks. Washington poverty warriors, eager to demonstrate their radical bona fides, funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into Chicago’s most notorious gangs, who were supposed to run job-training and tutoring programs under the auspices of a signature Alinskyite agency, the Woodlawn Organization. Instead, the gangbangers maintained their criminal ways—raping and murdering while on the government payroll, and embezzling federal funds to boot.

The disaster failed to dim the romance of community organizing. But by the time Obama arrived in Chicago in 1984, an Alinskyite diagnosis of South Side poverty was doubly irrelevant. Blacks had more political power in Chicago than ever before, yet that power had no impact on the tidal wave of dysfunction that was sweeping through the largest black community in the United States. Chicago had just elected Harold Washington, the city’s first black mayor; the heads of Chicago’s school system and public housing were black, as were most of their employees; black power broker Emil Jones, Jr. represented the South Side in the Illinois State Senate; Jesse Jackson would launch his 1984 presidential campaign from Chicago. The notion that blacks were disenfranchised struck even some of Obama’s potential organizees as ludicrous. “Why we need to be protesting and carrying on at our own people?” a prominent South Side minister asked Obama soon after he arrived in Chicago. “Anybody sitting around this table got a direct line to City Hall.”

Pace Alinsky, such political clout could not stop black Chicago’s social breakdown. Crime was exploding. Gangs ran the housing projects—their reign of thuggery aided by ACLU lawsuits, which had stripped the housing authority of its right to screen tenants. But the violence spread beyond the projects. In 1984, Obama’s first year in Chicago, gang members gunned down a teenage basketball star, Benjy Wilson.

The citywide outcry that followed was heartfelt but beside the point. None of the prominent voices calling for an end to youth violence—from Mayor Washington to Jesse Jackson to school administrators—noted that all of Wilson’s killers came from fatherless families (or that he had fathered an illegitimate child himself). Nor did the would-be reformers mention the all-important fact that a staggering 75 percent of Chicago’s black children were being born out of wedlock. The sky-high illegitimacy rate meant that black boys were growing up in a world in which it was normal to impregnate a girl and then take off. When a boy is raised without any social expectation that he will support his children and marry his children’s mother, he fails to learn the most fundamental lesson of personal responsibility. The high black crime rate was one result of a culture that fails to civilize men through marriage.

Obama offers fleeting glimpses of Chicago’s social breakdown in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, but it’s as if he didn’t really see what he recorded. An Alinskyite group from the suburbs, the Calumet Community Religious Conference, had assigned him to the Roseland community on the far South Side, in the misguided hope of strong-arming industrial jobs back to the area. Roseland’s bungalows and two-story homes recalled an era of stable, two-parent families that had long since passed. Obama vividly describes children who “swaggered down the streets—loud congregations of teenage boys, teenage girls feeding potato chips to crying toddlers, the discarded wrappers tumbling down the block.” He observes two young boys casually firing a handgun at a third. He notes that the elementary school in the Altgeld Gardens housing project had a center for the teen mothers of its students, who had themselves been raised by teen mothers.

Most tellingly, Obama’s narrative is almost devoid of men. With the exception of the local ministers and the occasional semi-crazed black nationalist, Obama inhabits a female world. His organizing targets are almost all single mothers. He never wonders where and who the fathers of their children are. When Obama sees a group of boys vandalizing a building, he asks rhetorically: “Who will take care of them: the alderman, the social workers? The gangs?” The most appropriate candidate—“their fathers”—never occurs to him.

Surrounded with daily evidence of Roseland’s real problem, Obama was nevertheless at a loss for a cause to embrace. Alinskyism, after all, presupposes that the problems afflicting a poor community come from the outside. Obama had come to arouse Roseland’s residents to take on the power structure, not to persuade them to act more responsibly. So it was with great relief that he noticed that the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training (MET), which offered job training, lacked a branch in Roseland: “ ‘This is it,’ I said. . . . ‘We just found ourselves an issue.’ ” So much for the fiction that the community organizer merely channels the preexisting will of the “community.”

Obama easily procured a local MET office. It had as much effect on the mounting disorder of the far South Side as his better-known accomplishment: getting the Chicago Housing Authority to test the Altgeld Gardens project for asbestos. In an area that buses wouldn’t serve at night because of fears that drivers would get robbed or hit by bricks, perhaps asbestos removal should have been a lower priority, compared with ending the anarchy choking off civilized life. In fact, “there is zero legacy from when Obama was here,” says Phillip Jackson, director of the Black Star Project, a community group dedicated to eliminating the academic-achievement gap. Jackson, like other local leaders, is reluctant to criticize Obama, however. “I won’t minimize what Obama was doing then,” he says.

In 1987, during Obama’s third year in Chicago, 57 children were killed in the city, reports Alex Kotlowitz in his book on Chicago’s deadly housing projects, There Are No Children Here. In 1988, Obama left Chicago, after four years spent helping “people in Altgeld . . . reclaim a power they had had all along,” as the future president put it in Dreams from My Father. And the carnage continued.

In 1994, two particularly savage youth murders drew the usual feckless hand-wringing. An 11-year-old Black Disciples member from Roseland, Robert “Yummy” Sandifer (so called for his sweet tooth, the only thing childlike about him), had unintentionally killed a girl while shooting at (and paralyzing) a rival gang member. Sandifer’s fellow Black Disciples then executed him to prevent him from implicating them in the killing. A month later, after five-year-old Eric Morse refused to steal candy for an 11-year-old and a ten-year-old, the two dropped him from a 14th-story window in a housing complex, killing him. Eric’s eight-year-old brother had grabbed him to keep him from falling, but lost his hold when one of the boys bit him on the arm. None of the perpetrators or victims in either case came from two-parent families.

A year after these widely publicized killings, and on the eve of Obama’s first political campaign, the aspiring state senator gave an interview to the Chicago Reader that epitomized the uselessness of Alinskyism in addressing black urban pathology—and that inaugurated the trope of community organizer as visionary politician. Obama attacks the Christian Right and the Republican Congress for “hijack[ing] the higher moral ground with this language of family values and moral responsibility.” Yeah, sure, family values are fine, he says, but what about “collective action . . . collective institutions and organizations”? Let’s take “these same values that are encouraged within our families,” he urges, “and apply them to a larger society.”

Even if this jump from “family values” to “collective action” were a promising strategy, Obama overlooks a crucial fact: there are almost no traditional families in inner-city neighborhoods. Fathers aren’t “encouraging” values “within our families”; fathers are nowhere in sight. Moving to “collective action” is futile without a core of personal responsibility on which to build. Nevertheless, Obama leapfrogs over concrete individual failure to alleged collective failure: “Right now we have a society that talks about the irresponsibility of teens getting pregnant,” he told the Reader, “not the irresponsibility of a society that fails to educate them to aspire for more.”

The same rhetorical leapfrogging governs the Obama administration’s and the Chicago political establishment’s response to current Chicago teen violence. Compared with the 1990s, that violence is way down—114 children under 17 were killed both in 1993 and in 1994, while 50 were in 2008. But the proportion of gang-related murders has gone up since the late 1980s and 1990s, when the Chicago police, working with federal law enforcement, locked up the leaders of Chicago’s most notorious gangs. Those strong leaders, it turns out, exercised some restraint on their members in order to protect drug profits. “Back then, you knew what the killings were about,” says Charles Winston, a former heroin dealer who made $50,000 a day in the early 1990s in the infamous Robert Taylor Homes. “Now, it’s just sporadic incidents of violence.” The Black Star Project’s Phillip Jackson compares the anarchy in Chicago’s gang territories to Somalia: “There are many factions,” he says, all fighting one another in unstable, shifting configurations.

In the early 2000s, the number of assaults reported in and around schools increased significantly, according to Northwestern University political scientist Wesley Skogan. School dismissal time in Chicago triggers a massive mobilization of security forces across the South and West Sides, to try to keep students from shooting one another or being shot by older gang members. Police officers in bulletproof vests ring the most violence-prone schools, and the Chicago Transit Authority rejiggers its bus schedules to try to make sure that students don’t have to walk even half a block before boarding a bus.

Each street in a neighborhood possesses a mystical significance to its juvenile residents. What defines their identities isn’t family, or academic accomplishments or interests, but ruthless fealty to small, otherwise indistinguishable, pieces of territory. Roseland’s 123rd Street is the 12-Treys’ turf, 119th Street belongs to the 11-9s, and 111th Street is in an area of Roseland called “the Ville.” Gang members from the Ville aren’t supposed to cross 119th Street; doing so will provoke a potentially lethal challenge. School-reform initiatives may have contributed to increasing tensions on the streets by shutting down failing schools and sending students into enemy territory; the demolition of Chicago’s high-rise housing projects in the 2000s likewise disrupted existing gang groupings.

In September 2009, that now-notorious cell-phone video gave the world a glimpse of Barack Obama’s former turf. Teenagers—some in an informal school uniform of khaki pants and polo shirts, others bare-chested—swarm across a desolate thoroughfare in Roseland; others congregate in the middle of it, indifferent to the SUVs that try to inch by, horns blaring. Against a background din of constant yelling, some boys lunge at one another and throw punches, while a few, in leisurely fashion, select victims to clobber on the torso and head with thick, eight-foot-long railroad ties. Derrion Albert is standing passively in the middle of a knot on the sidewalk when one boy whacks him on the head with a railroad tie and another punches him in the face. Albert falls to the ground unconscious, then comes to and tries to get up. A boy walking by gives him a desultory kick. Five more cluster around him as he lies curled up on the sidewalk; one hits him again with a railroad tie, and another stomps him on the head. Finally, workers from a nearby youth community center drag Albert inside. Throughout the video, a male companion of the videographer reacts with nervously admiring “damns.”

In the Alinskyite worldview, the school system was to blame, not the students who committed the violence. Several years before, Altgeld Gardens’s high school, Carver High, had been converted to a charter military academy. Students who didn’t want to attend were sent to Fenger High School in the Ville, several miles away. Students from Altgeld Gardens and from the Ville fought each other with knives and razors inside Fenger High and out, their territorial animosity intensified by minute class distinctions. Ville children whose mothers use federal Section Eight housing vouchers to rent homes look down upon housing-project residents like those from the Gardens. The morning of the Albert killing, someone fired a gun outside Fenger; during the school day, students sent one another text messages saying that something was likely to “jump” after school. When students from the Gardens, instead of immediately boarding a bus home, walked down 111th Street—the heart of Ville territory—the fighting started. Derrion Albert had a loose affiliation with Ville students; the students who killed him were from the Gardens.

South Side aldermen and the usual race claque accused the school bureaucracy of insensitivity and worse in expecting Altgeld Gardens and Ville children to coexist without violence. In a pathetic echo of 1950s civil rights protests, Jesse Jackson, cameras in tow, rode a school bus with Altgeld Gardens students from their homes to Fenger High, demanding that Carver be converted back to a neighborhood school. No one pointed out that the threat from which Jackson the Civil Rights Avenger was protecting black students came from other black students, not from hate-filled white politicians. Obama’s former organizing group, the Developing Communities Project, led noisy parent protests, demanding that Carver accept all comers from Altgeld Gardens and reduce its military component to a quarter of the school. James Meeks, a race-baiting South Side pastor and an Illinois state senator, staged his own well-photographed bus tour, taking suburban officials through Roseland and past Fenger to demonstrate the “adversity” that Fenger students faced compared with suburban kids—though the greatest adversity comes from the violence that students inflict on themselves.

Other protests sent an even more muddled message. After a day when a dozen fights in Fenger High School provoked a security clampdown and five arrests, a group of parents and students staged a two-day boycott of classes, complaining of excessive discipline and harsh treatment from the guards. “They put us on lockdown for two hours because of a little fight,” senior DeShunna Williams told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It was just an ordinary fight.” Schools can only restore safety by strict discipline and zero tolerance for violence, however. If parents and students protest whenever such discipline is enforced, they undercut their own call for greater safety.

Mayor Richard Daley initially rejected the protesters’ demands. “The day when the city of Chicago decides to divide schools by gang territory, that’s a day when we have given up the city,” he said. But the Chicago Public Schools soon promulgated a policy letting Fenger students transfer out of the school. Few mothers took advantage of the option for their children, despite the weeks of agitation for it. Meanwhile, the school system allocated millions of additional dollars to protect Fenger students from one another. Ten extra school buses now escort the 350 Altgeld teens to and from Fenger every day, and school administrators pressed the Chicago Transit Authority to add more public bus routes around Fenger so that students wouldn’t have to wait on the sidewalk for more than a few minutes.

Who wins the award for the most Alinskyite evasion of personal and parental responsibility after Albert’s death? Perhaps not the local protesters but the federal officials dispatched to Chicago for damage control. The videotaped murder, seen around the world, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Obama administration—just over a week before the Olympic Committee was to decide on Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 games. On October 1, the day before Obama was to make his last-minute pitch to the Olympic Committee in Copenhagen, the White House announced that Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would fly to Chicago to deliver a federal response to youth violence. The next day, Chicago lost its bid in the first round of votes, but Holder and Duncan continued to Chicago the following week.

Their message picked up exactly where Obama’s 1995 Chicago Reader interview left off. “I came here at the direction of the president, not to place blame on anyone, but to join with Chicago, with communities across America in taking responsibility for this death and the deaths of so many other young people over the years,” announced Duncan. Of course, the government has been “taking responsibility” for children for several decades now, at a cost of billions of dollars, without noticeable effect on inner-city dysfunction. The feds have funded countless programs in child and youth development, in antiviolence training, in poverty reduction. If “collective action,” as Obama put it in 1995, could compensate for the absence of fathers, the black violence problem would have ended years ago.

Holder’s remarks were just as irrelevant (though, to his credit, he did pledge $500,000 for beefed-up school security). “We have to ask hard questions, and we have to be prepared to face tough truths,” he said, and then proceeded to ignore the hard questions and duck the tough truths. “Youth violence is not a Chicago problem, any more than it is a black problem, a white problem, or a Hispanic problem,” he claimed. “It is something that affects communities big and small, and people of all races and all colors. It is an American problem.” Tough-truth quotient: maybe 20 percent. No, youth violence isn’t just a Chicago problem. Urban school districts across the country flood school areas with police officers at dismissal time. But youth violence is definitely correlated with race. Though rates of youth killings and shootings vary—Chicago children under the age of 17 are killed at four times the rate of New York children, for example—youth violence is disproportionately a “black problem” and, to a lesser extent, a Hispanic one. According to James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt of Northeastern University, the national rate of homicide commission for black males between the ages of 14 and 17 is ten times higher than that of “whites,” into which category the federal government puts the vast majority of Hispanics. Black juveniles accounted for 78 percent of all juvenile arrests between 2003 and 2008 in Chicago; Hispanics were 18 percent, and whites, 3.5 percent, of those arrests. Recognizing that tough truth is the only hope for coming up with a way to change it.

In Chicago, blacks, at least 35 percent of the population, commit 76 percent of all homicides; whites, about 28 percent of the population, commit 4 percent, and Hispanics, 30 percent of the population, commit 19 percent. The most significant difference between these demographic groups is family structure. In Cook County—which includes both Chicago and some of its suburbs and probably therefore contains a higher proportion of middle-class black families than the city proper—79 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock in 2003, compared with 15 percent of white children. Until that gap closes, the crime gap won’t close, either.

Official Chicago’s answer to youth violence also opts for collective, rather than paternal, responsibility. The Chicago school superintendent, Ron Huberman, has developed a whopping $60 million, two-year plan to combat youth violence. The wonky Huberman, who created highly regarded information-retrieval and accountability systems for the police department and the city’s emergency response center in previous city jobs, has now applied his passion for data analysis to Chicago’s violent kids. Using a profile of past shooting victims that includes such factors as school truancy rates and disciplinary records, he has identified several hundred teens as having a greater than 20 percent chance of getting shot over the next two years. The goal is to provide them with wraparound social services. (The profile of victim and perpetrator is indistinguishable, but targeting potential victims, rather than perpetrators, for such benefits as government-subsidized jobs is politically savvy.) The program will assign the 300 or so potential victims their own “advocates,” who will intercede on their behalf with government agencies and provide them with case management and counseling.

In some cities, it’s a police officer who visits a violence-prone teenager to warn him about staying out of trouble. Chicago sends a social worker. The Chicago police department has kept a low profile during the public debate over teen shootings, ceding primary accountability for the problem to the school system. This hierarchy of response may reflect Chicago’s less assertive police culture compared with, say, New York’s. “We’d marvel at how the NYPD was getting mayoral support” during New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s tenure, says a former Chicago deputy superintendent. “Mayor Daley is not a cop supporter; it’s no secret that he rules the police department with an iron fist.” The South Side’s black ministers, whom Daley does not want to alienate, also act as a check on more proactive policing. There have been few calls in Chicago for a more aggressive stop-and-frisk policy to get illegal guns off the street, and the police department hasn’t pushed to implement one.

Now, perhaps if Huberman’s proposed youth “advocates” provided their charges with opportunities to learn self-discipline and perseverance, fired their imaginations with manly virtues, and spoke to them about honesty, courtesy, and right and wrong—if they functioned, in other words, like Scoutmasters—they might make some progress in reversing the South Side’s social breakdown. But the outfit that Huberman has picked to provide “advocacy” to the teens, at a reported cost of $5 million a year, couldn’t be more mired in the assiduously nonjudgmental ethic of contemporary social work. “Some modalities used in this endeavor,” explains the newly hired Youth Advocates Program (YAP), “include: Assess the youth and his/her family to develop an Individualized Service Plan (ISP) to address the individual needs of each youth.” The Youth Advocates Program’s CEO tried further to clarify the advocates’ function: “If a family needs a new refrigerator or a father needs car insurance, it’s the advocate’s job to take care of it,” Jeff Fleischer told the Chicago Tribune. The reference to a “father” is presumably Fleischer’s little joke, since almost none of the Chicago victims-in-waiting will have their fathers at home. It’s not a lack of material goods that ails Chicago’s gun-toting kids, however, or their mothers’ lack of time to procure those goods. Providing their families with a government-funded gofer to carry out basic adult tasks like getting car insurance will not compensate for a lifetime of paternal absence.

The Youth Advocates Program represents the final stage of Alinskyism: its co-optation by the government-funded social-services industry.

Obama came to Roseland and Altgeld Gardens with the fanciful intention of organizing the “community” to demand benefits from a hostile power structure. But here’s that same power structure not just encouraging demands from below but providing the community with its own government-funded advocates to “broker and advocate for each youth and family,” as YAP puts it, thus ensuring constant pressure to increase government services.

Huberman’s plan for ending youth violence includes other counselors and social workers who will go to work in the most dangerous public high schools. He also wants to create a “culture of calm” in the schools by retraining security guards and by de-emphasizing suspensions and expulsion in favor of “peer mediation.” Nothing new there: in 1998, Chicago schools announced plans to train students to be peer mediators and to engage in conflict resolution. In fact, there is nothing in Huberman’s plan that hasn’t been tried before, to no apparent effect. You’d think that someone would ask: What’s lacking in these neighborhoods that we didn’t notice before? The correct answer would be: family structure.

Needless to say, everyone involved in the Albert beating came from a fatherless home. Defendant Eugene Riley hit Albert with a railroad tie as he lay unconscious on the ground in his final moments. According to 18-year-old Riley’s 35-year-old mother, Sherry Smith, “his father was not ready to be a strong black role model in his son’s life.” Nor was the different father of Riley’s younger brother, Vashion Bullock, ready to be involved in his son’s life. A bare-chested Bullock shows up in the video wielding a railroad tie in the middle of the street. As for Albert himself, his father “saw him the day he was born, and the next time when he was in a casket,” reports Bob Jackson, the worldly director of Roseland Ceasefire, an antiviolence project.

The absence of a traditional two-parent family leaves children uncertain about the scope of their blood ties. One teen who attends the Roseland Safety Net Works’s after-school program thinks that she has more than ten siblings by five different fathers, but since her mother lives in North Carolina, it’s hard to pin down the exact number. Eight of the ten boys enrolled in Kids Off the Block, another after-school program, don’t know their fathers. “The other two boys, if the father came around, they’d probably kill him,” says Diane Latiker, who runs the program. If children do report a remote acquaintance with their father, they don’t seem to know what he does for a living.

Though teen births have dropped among blacks since the 1990s, unwed pregnancy is still a pervasive reality in Chicago’s inner-city high schools. “Last year at Fenger, it was all you heard about—pregnancies or abortions,” reports the youth president at Roseland Safety Net Works. In autumn 2009, one in seven girls at Chicago’s Paul Robeson High School was either expecting or had already given birth to a child. It’s not hard to predict where Chicago’s future killers will come from.

A 15-year-old resident of Altgeld Gardens, for example, was sitting at home with her three-month-old boy during the week of Veterans Day this year, having been suspended for fighting. You’d never know it from her baby-doll voice, but this ninth-grade mother runs with a clique of girls at Fenger High “who have no problem taking you out,” says Bob Jackson. She lives with her 34-year-old mother, two brothers, and a sister; she sometimes sees her father when he’s in town but doesn’t know if he has a job. Her son’s father, still playing with toys, isn’t providing support. She was on her way to pick up free food from the federal WIC program when I spoke with her.

The next stage in black family disintegration may be on the horizon. According to several Chicago observers, black mothers are starting to disappear, too. “Children are bouncing around,” says a police officer in Altgeld Gardens. “The mother says: ‘I’m done. You go stay with your father.’ The ladies are selling drugs with their new boyfriend, and the kids are left on their own.” Albert’s mother lived four hours away; he was moving among different extended family members in Chicago. Even if a mother is still in the home, she may be incapable of providing any emotional or moral support to her children. “Kids will tell you: ‘I’m sleeping on the floor, there’s nothing in the fridge, my mother doesn’t care about me going to school,’ ” says Rogers Jones, the courtly founder of Roseland Safety Net Works. “Kids are traumatized before they even get to school.” Some mothers are indifferent when the physical and emotional abuses that they suffered as children recur with their own children. “We’ve had mothers say: ‘I was raped as a child, so it’s no big deal if my daughter is raped,’ ” reports Jackson.

The official silence about illegitimacy and its relation to youth violence remains as carefully preserved in today’s Chicago as it was during Obama’s organizing time there. A fleeting reference to “parental” responsibility for children is allowed, before the speaker quickly moves on to society’s more important role. But anything more specific about fathers is taboo. “I have not been in too many churches lately that say: ‘Mom, you need to find yourself a husband, this is not the norm,’ ” observes Jackson—an understandable, if lamentable, lacuna, he adds, since single heads of households constitute the vast majority of the congregation. Press coverage of teen shootings may mention a participant’s mother, but the shooter and victim may as well be the product of a virgin birth, for all the media’s curiosity about where their fathers are. I asked John Paul Jones of Obama’s old Alinskyite outfit, the Developing Communities Project, if anyone ever tries to track down the father of a teen accused of a shooting. The question threw him. “Does anyone ever ask: ‘Where are the fathers?’ ” he paraphrased me. A brief silence. “That’s a good point.”

Some members of Chicago’s Left will argue against holding fathers or mothers responsible for their children. “To blame it on the family is totally unfair,” says Gwen Rice, a board member of the Developing Communities Project. “I’m tired of blaming the parents. The services for the poor are paltry; it boggles the mind. Historically, you can’t expect a parent who can’t get a job to do something that someone with resources can do. These problems have histories; there are policies that have mitigated against black progress. What needs to happen is a change in corporate greed and insensitivity.” Rice corrects my use of the term “illegitimacy”: “There are no illegitimate births,” she says.

One activist, however, makes ending illegitimacy an explicit part of his work. “I tell people: ‘Unless you get married, you will perish,’ ” says the Black Star Project’s Phillip Jackson. An intense, wiry man who looks like a cross between Gandhi and Spike Lee, Jackson organizes events to make fathers visible and valued again, like “Take Your Child to School Day.” Yet Jackson is not immune from the Alinskyite tic of looking to government for solutions to problems of personal responsibility (nor does Jackson avoid launching groundless charges of racism). He has gathered a crate of petitions to President Obama regarding Chicago’s youth violence, some of whose signers are as young as four. “President Obama, please send help for the sake of these young people in Chicago,” reads the petition. Asked what he wants Obama to do, Jackson’s answers range from a trickle-up stimulus plan to jobs to leadership.

Jobs, whether government-created or not, aren’t likely to make much difference in the culture of illegitimacy. As journalist Nicholas Lemann observed over two decades ago in The Atlantic Monthly, the black illegitimacy rate has only a weak correlation to employment: “High illegitimacy has always been much more closely identified with blacks than with all poor people or all unemployed people.” An Alinskyite approach to the related problems of illegitimacy and crime is only a distraction. Seeking redress and salvation from the “power structure” just puts off the essential work of culture change.

Barack Obama started that work in a startling Father’s Day speech in Chicago while running for president. “If we are honest with ourselves,” he said in 2008, “we’ll admit that . . . too many fathers [are] missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. . . . We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

But after implicitly drawing the connection between family breakdown and youth violence—“How many times in the last year has this city lost a child at the hands of another child?”—Obama reverted to Alinskyite bromides about school spending, preschool programs, visiting nurses, global warming, sexism, racial division, and income inequality. And he has continued to swerve from the hard truth of black family breakdown since his 2008 speech. The best thing that the president can do for Chicago’s embattled children is to confront head-on the disappearance of their fathers and the consequence in lost lives.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Obama Hit By Brown Truck

By Dr. Ada Fisher

How quick political fortunes can turn particularly when politicians don’t heed the voices of citizens outraged by the actions taken by those who are to represent them. Perceived as an uncontrolled vehicle bearing down the road full speed ahead, the Patriots of the recent Tea Parties, regardless of their stripes, took it home to Boston where our national rebellion first began against taxation without representation-the state of Massachusetts. In put downs against average Joe’s, this time one Joe named Scott driving a Brown powered pick up clearly uncloaked the arrogance of the Obama Administration and cronies revealing how out of touch they are with middle class Americans.

The silent majority is silent no more. Middle America though told otherwise is smart enough to know the stimulus, bail outs and other expansions which smell of government takeovers will be at the expense of their disposable as well as main income. Clearly democrats in Congress assumed that the 2008 election gave them a mandate for change when what was asked is for something fairer and different. You may fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time for most folks aren’t fools.

There are many layers to the changes from the Brown senatorial win in Massachusetts that aren’t being touched in analysis. Many aren’t looking at the Independents In Your Face response to politics as usual. NIMBY (not in my back yard) is replaced by NOMBP (Not outta my back pocket)–appreciating whatever is done politically has consequences and someone has to pay the piper. Independent minded folks who have are fine with folks having some things but not at their expense when they themselves are disadvantaged by these actions or when the redistribution of their personal wealth leaves them out of the mix. Such is the folie of Obamanomics.

The rumblings about a weak democratic candidate, internal fighting in the democratic ranks with some withholding their support for their nominee or other justifications for an overwhelming moral and voting loss by democrats in Massachusetts when Republicans are less than 12% of the registered voters sends a message to both parties.

For democrats note folks don’t want more taxes, they aren’t comfortable by our level of national security and military involvements and health care cannot double or triple or debt. Your message is wrong and your closed door deliberations belie your transparency pledge.

For Republicans now that you got the vote you needed, you’d better do more than say no for the voter’s patience is only one election away in any given voting cycle.

Independents rule and don’t you forget it!

Lastly, who was the dude named John Kennedy (No relationship to Ted, “Bobby”, or John F.) who ran? Name recognition may help some but voters are awakening from their trance to look at the issues, the message and from whence cometh the messenger candidate. Though the service of the Kennedy’s of Massachusetts has been long and much saluted, their next generation need not come to expect unearned loyalty, downstream benefits from their name alone in allowing people to move to other locations to run for office (as have many in the Kennedy clan, Hilary Clinton and now such as Harold Ford may try in New York). Let the people speak and require that those who represent them must be from the ranks of those they chose to serve.

Politics is often a blood sport. One day we will develop more statesman as we work for the best interest of the nation not the special interest of those who want to protect their accumulations and power or get their high from controlling candidates.

Dr. ADA M. Fisher is NC Republican national Committee Woman. a licensed school teacher and more school board member as well as a physician. Contact her at Fisher@Getadoctorinthehouse.com.

Visit Republicans For Black Empowerment at: http://blackgop.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by Claude E. Pope Jr.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his remarkable address in front of the Lincoln Monument by praising the man in whose “symbolic shadow” he stood: Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President of the United States.

Speaking of the Emancipation Proclamation, he said, “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.”

Martin Luther King was a Republican in spirit and in registration.

Then, he praised the founders of America, for their vision of inalienable rights for all people.

Martin Luther King was a patriot.

In the body of his speech, he decried the sad state of equality for black people, and recited a litany of their contemporary sufferings. As you read that list, it is perfectly clear that each and every example he cited, from the deep south to “the slums and ghettos of our northern cities,” came from an area where the Democrat Party ruled with little more than token opposition.

Big city bosses and white supremacist southern politicians, Democrats all, kept the lives of black Americans “sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”

“Negroes,” he said, lived “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” But then he warned his followers against “drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” He warned them they “must not lead us to a distrust of all white people…[because] their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

King then began the rhetorically brilliant series of “I have a dream…” statements. His dream, he said, was “deeply rooted in the American dream.” How sad it is that so many of today’s so-called civil rights leaders reject the American dream altogether, in favor of a socialist fantasy urged on them by the modern Democratic Party, and degraded with quotas, entitlements and the mentality of victimization.

The most famous component of Dr. King’s dream was when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Republicans applauded that sentiment then, and now. We have forged a record we can be proud of in implementing it, from Lincoln’s time, to Dr. King’s time, to our time. The Democrats went to war over it in 1860, filibustered it in 1964, and reject it to this day.

The core principles of the Republican Party mirror those of Dr. King. As we always have, we embrace all people regardless of color, and endorse laws and institutions that do not discriminate against any human. We invite African Americans to “come home” to the Republican Party.

Here in North Carolina, that invitation has special meaning. In the 1890’s, decades after reconstruction was dead in most of the old Confederacy, a bi-racial Republican Party was active and successful, electing several blacks to Congress, the state Legislature and other offices. But a vicious campaign by Democrat white supremacists, led by long-serving Democratic Senator Furnifold M. Simmons and the Raleigh News and Observer eventually defeated the coalition of Republicans and populists that had been so successful.

As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and his message of inclusion, let us honor his memory by continuing to strive for his ideals.

Claude E. Pope, Jr.
Chairman – Wake County Republican Party

Please pass this on

Is Teaching American History Unconstitutional?

According to Baptist Professor Derek Davis and his cronies,
apparently the answer is “Yes!”


Occasionally, the Secular and Religious Left go beyond their normal anti-religious bigotry to make claims that are just too outrageous to be ignored. This week provided such an example. (While this email is longer than normal, I think you’ll find it filled with useful and interesting information.)

Several months ago, I was one of six expert reviewers appointed by the 15-member elected Texas State Board of Education to give input into the drafting of the 2010 history and social studies standards for textbooks. (This is a task I have previously performed in other states.) Although these standards we formulate will initially apply to Texas students, they will soon become the standards used in textbooks across the nation.

Last year, writing teams of Texas teachers drafted the 2010 proposed standards. We, the expert reviewers, were asked to point out where we thought changes should be made; the State Board of Education would then make their decision about which (if any) of our hundreds of proposed suggestions to adopt.

When I reviewed the proposed standards, I found many reasons for concern. The writing teams had recommended the removal of Nathan Hale, Daniel Boone, and General George Patton; they eradicated Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Christmas (but they did add Diwali as a holiday). They also declared that to say there was “an American love of individualism, inventiveness, and freedom” was to express inappropriate “value language,” and they also rejected the concept of identifying specific beliefs that contributed to our “national identity.” In fact, they declared that students needed to be shaped “for responsible citizenship in a global society,” but not citizenship in American society. And instead of an emphasis on the positive things about America (i.e., American Exceptionalism), America was often shown as fault-ridden – as a global villain.

I made known my opposition to these and other positions in my official reviews and offered suggestions for positive change. My first review (from July, 2009) is posted on the state website, as is my second review (from September 2009).

Those two official reviews were 43,538 words in length, and contained three mentions of Christianity. In the first review, I pointed out how early colonial Christian leaders such as William Penn and Roger Williams insisted on having written constitutions to limit the government; I also showed how American Christians and Jews cooperated together in the American Revolution. In the second review, I noted the current polling on religious affiliation in America to demonstrate that the mention of Christmas should be reinstated in the standards. Those three simple mentions of Christianity caused the Left to explode.

Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network (the state arm of the radical People for the American Way) joined with other radicals in the Religious Left to denounce my mentions of Christianity. They nationally distributed a press release of outrageously false claims that were soon parroted by ABC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.

On Wednesday, January 13, the Texas State Board of Education met to begin the process of voting on the final recommendations for social studies textbooks; many of the board members know me very well and are very familiar with the lies of the Left (having themselves been subjected to them on many occasions). Hopefully, they will reinstate traditional American heroes and patriotic values, focus on the teaching of history rather than modern pop culture, and include coverage of good characteristics about America. Not surprisingly, however, the anti-religious secularist bigots made known their presence (and their ridiculous claims) at the meeting.

One of those in the Religious Left is Christian secularist, Dr. Derek Davis, Dean of Humanities at Mary Hardin Baylor (a Baptist University) and director of the school’s Center for Religious Liberty. Although he heads a department at a major Christian university, he is a national evangelist for a completely secular public square; and based on his previous statements, he apparently wants to see all mentions of Christianity confined, like pornography, to the privacy of one’s own personal life.

Dr. Davis amazingly asserts in the Houston Chronicle that a mention of Christianity in American history standards will “violate the Constitution” because it will portray “the United States as a Christian nation in some legal sense.”

While there is no such recommendation in the standards, consider the stupidity of what he purports. According to Dr. Davis, it would “violate the Constitution” if the history texts were to include information from the more than 300 court rulings over the past two centuries that have declared America to be a Christian nation. Imagine! He believes it would be unconstitutional to let students know what courts have affirmed for 200 years!

He similarly believes that it would be unconstitutional for students to see the public declarations of American presidents on the same subject – declarations such as:

Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on that God Who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty [i.e., the Civil War]. 1 PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN

No candid observer will deny that whatever of good there may be in our American civilization is the product of Christianity. 2 The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed. 3   PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT

America was born a Christian nation – America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture. 4  PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON

American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon . . . the fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago. 5  PRESIDENT HERBERT HOOVER

If the spirit of God is not in us and if we will not prepare to give all that we have and all that we are to preserve Christian civilization in our land, we shall go to destruction. 6  We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. 7  PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT

This is a Christian Nation. More than a half century ago that declaration was written into the decrees of the highest court in this land. 8  In this great country of ours has been demonstrated the fundamental unity of Christianity and democracy. 9  PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN

We are Christian nations, deeply conscious that the foundation of all liberty is religious faith. 10  PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

In these last 200 years, we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas. 11  PRESIDENT LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON

Let us remember that as a Christian nation . . . that we have a charge and a destiny. 12  PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON

Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible. 13 



According to Dr. Davis, it would “violate the Constitution” to present these, or the hundreds of similar statements by our elected presidents, or to tell students what our federal and state courts have repeatedly declared! Amazing!

Apparently, Dr. Davis (and the others among the growing group of militant so-called “Christian” secularists) has not read the Constitution – or even the decisions by modern liberal Supreme Courts that have held that history cannot be censored simply because it is Christian. Nevertheless, Dr. Davis and his cohorts have found it a useful tactic to claim that something with which they disagree is “unconstitutional.”

We need to stop the use of this ridiculous tactic. How?

FIRST, begin with the wise recommendation of Founding Father John Jay:

Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country. . . . By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them. 14

SECOND, the next time the Left claims something is “unconstitutional,” insist that they prove it by citing the relevant part of the Constitution.

FINALLY, when the intolerant anti-religious bigots try to intimidate Americans from presenting an accurate view of American history, let’s make our voices heard on talk shows and in letters to the editors, denouncing their attempt to rewrite American history and censor expressions of religious faith.

It’s time for some new voices to be heard in the debate – the voices of common sense, well-informed citizens who have no agenda but to see the best for our great country. It’s time for your voice to be heard!

God Bless!

 David Barton


[1] Abraham Lincoln, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler, editor (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), Vol. IV, p. 271, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

[2] “Our Nation, A Product of Christianity,” Springfield Republican, 1884.

[3] Theodore Roosevelt: The Man as I Knew Him, Ferdinand Cowle Iglehart, D. D. (New York: The Christian Herald, 1919), pp. 307-311.

[4] Woodrow Wilson, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Arthur S. Link, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1977), Vol. 23, p. 20; “An Address in Denver on the Bible, May 7, 1911.”

[5] American Presidency Project, “Herbert Hoover: Radio Address to the Nation on Unemployment Relief, October 18, 1931” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=22855).

[6] American Presidency Project, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Address at Dedication of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, September 2nd, 1940” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16002).

[7] American Presidency Project, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Statement on the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Printing of the English Bible, October 6th, 1935” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14960).

[8] American Presidency Project, “Harry S. Truman: Exchange of Messages With Pope Pius XII, August 28, 1947” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=12746).

[9] American Presidency Project, “Harry S. Truman: Address at the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House Grounds,” December 24, 1946″ (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=12569).

[10] American Presidency Project, “Dwight D. Eisenhower: Address Before the Council of the Organization of American States, April 12th, 1953” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9816).

[11] Presidency Project, “Lyndon B. Johnson: Remarks at the Lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree. December 22, 1963.” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26587).

[12] American Presidency Project, “Richard Nixon: Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, February 1st, 1972” (at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=3597).

[13] American Presidency Project, “Ronald Reagan: Proclamation 5018 – Year of the Bible, 1983, February 3rd, 1983” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=40728).

[14] John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890), Vol. I, pp. 163-164, from his Charge to the Grand Jury of Ulster County, September 9, 1777.

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Hoppe in One Lesson, Illustrated in Welfare Economics

by Jeffrey M. Herbener on January 8, 2010

[Excerpted from Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe.]

Every schoolboy learns that, to reach a true conclusion, one must start with true premises and use valid logic. The lesson, unfortunately, is largely forgotten later in life. Most lack the intelligence, interest, or courage to apply the lesson rigorously. Many break or bend the rules to further their own agendas or careers. Others can only muster the will to follow the rules in some part or in some cases. Rare is the person who masters the lesson.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has demonstrated the intellectual heights that can be reached by employing the lesson with a brilliant mind, fervent devotion to the truth, and unflagging moral courage. What follows is a brief account of how he set right the entire field of welfare economics.[1]

Old-welfare economics attempted to overturn the laissez-faire conclusions of the Classical school on the basis of the theory of marginal utility ushered in by the marginalist revolution. If utility can be compared interpersonally, by various assumptions such as cardinal utility or identical utility schedules or utility of money among people, the old-welfare economists argued that diminishing marginal utility implied a social-welfare gain from, among other interventions of the state, redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. This line of argument was brought up short by the demonstration that the subjectivity of value precludes interpersonal-utility comparisons. Therefore, social welfare can only be said to unambiguously improve from a change if it makes at least one person better off and no one else worse off. This Pareto rule forbade economists from claiming social-welfare improvements from state interventions since they do make some better off and others worse off.

New-welfare economics tried to weave a case for state intervention within the constraints of the Pareto rule. The conclusions of new-welfare economics can be drawn from its main theorems. The first welfare theorem states that a perfectly competitive general equilibrium is Pareto optimal. From this theorem, the new-welfare economists conclude that a divergence of the real economy from this hypothetical condition justifies state intervention to improve social welfare. Economics journals are replete with cases demonstrating how the market economy fails to achieve a perfectly competitive general equilibrium and what interventions the state should make to remove the market’s inefficiency.

The second-welfare theorem states that any Pareto-optimal solution can be brought about by a perfectly competitive general equilibrium. For each pattern of initial endowments of income among persons, the perfectly functioning market economy would reach a different Pareto-optimal outcome of production and exchange. From this theorem, new-welfare economists conclude that the state can distribute income, in whatever pattern it wants, e.g., to achieve a particular conception of equity, without impairing the social-welfare-maximizing property of the perfectly functioning market economy.

In his article on utility and welfare economics in 1956, Murray Rothbard demonstrated that new-welfare economists were wrong to think that a case against laissez-faire could be constructed on the ground of the subjectivity of value.[2] He argued that new-welfare economists were correct to infer the impossibility of interpersonal-utility comparisons from the subjectivity of value. Value is a state of mind without an extensive property that could be objectively analyzed. As such, no common unit of value exists among persons in which their mental states could be measured and, thus, compared.

Having accepted the subjectivity of value as the reason for the impossibility of interpersonal-utility comparisons, which they made a pillar of their welfare economics, new-welfare economists commit themselves to other corollaries of subjective value. In particular, Rothbard contended, they must embrace the concept of demonstrated preference. Because preferences exist solely in a person’s mind, another person can acquire objective knowledge about them only by inferring them from his actions. Since no other objective knowledge of a person’s preferences exists, only demonstrated preference can be used in the analysis of welfare economics.

Both the impossibility of interpersonal-utility comparisons and demonstrated preference are deduced directly from the subjectivity of value, and therefore, new-welfare economists cannot, validly, accept one and reject the other. The impossibility of interpersonal-utility comparisons constrains welfare economics by the Pareto rule, making it harder to justify state intervention than otherwise, but demonstrated preference raises the bar for justifying state intervention that much higher. According to new-welfare economists, the level set by the Pareto rule is determined by the market’s deviation from the optimal result of a perfectly competitive, general-equilibrium model, but demonstrated preference eliminates any use of hypothetical values, including the utility functions of economic agents that underlie such models. To be scientific, welfare economics must confine itself to statements about preferences that actual persons demonstrate in their actions. Rothbard wrote,

Demonstrated preference, as we remember, eliminates hypothetical imaginings about individual value scales. Welfare economics has until now always considered values as hypothetical valuations of hypothetical “social states.” But demonstrated preference only treats values as revealed through chosen action.[3]

The first welfare theorem, reconstituted along Rothbardian lines, does not refer to the general equilibrium state of models invented by economists. It refers to the actual economy, for which it is more difficult to demonstrate social-welfare improvements from state intervention. If market outcomes are compared to other realizable conditions reached in actual economic systems, instead of unrealizable outcomes of perfectly functioning, fictitious models, then market failure seems unlikely. And, as Rothbard showed, the market does surpass the levels of social welfare reached in other, actual economic systems.

The second welfare theorem, however, seemed unscathed by Rothbard’s critique. New-welfare economists could still advocate one intervention of the state. Without impairing the efficiency of the market in bringing about a Pareto-optimal point, the state could still distribute income to achieve its conception of equity. Rothbard responded that private property was the proper initial distribution of wealth from which market activity renders a Pareto-optimal outcome. And, because the initial distribution of private property is not arbitrary, but follows the lines of self-ownership of labor, homesteader ownership of land, and producer ownership of goods, state intervention in property ownership could not produce an outcome commensurate in social welfare with the Pareto-optimal outcome of laissez-faire.

New welfare economists, however, not being adherents to Rothbard’s natural-rights theory of property, denied that state distribution of property ownership would lead to a market outcome inferior in social welfare to that of the unhampered market. Even some economists who favored laissez-faire agreed that the pattern of property ownership in society is arbitrary with respect to the market achieving a Pareto-optimal outcome, and hence, the state can rearrange it without detrimental consequences on social welfare.

It was left to Hoppe to work out the logic of Rothbard’s argument and reach a definitive conclusion about the effect on social welfare of state distribution of property ownership.[4] In so doing, he reoriented welfare economics to its true course. Although latent in Rothbard’s analysis, Hoppe was the one who demonstrated that the Pareto-rule approach to social-welfare economics leads, not to an optimization end point, but to a step-by-step Pareto-superior process with an objective starting point.

As Rothbard had done before him, Hoppe confronted new-welfare economists with a logical inconsistency in their argument. They had accepted a basic principle, this time self-ownership, from which they inferred social-welfare consequences of voluntary exchange, i.e., they pronounced on the social-welfare consequences of voluntary exchange from the viewpoint of the traders themselves. But, in embracing self-ownership, they must also accept its logical corollary, namely Lockean property acquisition. Hoppe pointed out that self-ownership is a necessary precondition to all acquisition and use of property and not just voluntary exchange. Therefore, it is the starting point for each succeeding step of social interaction.

In critiquing Kirzner’s view of welfare economics, Hoppe writes,

If, however, the Pareto criterion is firmly wedded to the notion of demonstrated preference, it in fact can be employed to yield such a starting point and serve, then, as a perfectly unobjectionable welfare criterion: a person’s original appropriation of unowned resources, as demonstrated by this very action, increases his utility (at least ex ante). At the same time, it makes no one worse off, because in appropriating them he takes nothing away from others. For obviously, others could have homesteaded these resources, too, if only they had perceived them as scarce. But they did not actually do so, which demonstrates that they attached no value to them whatsoever, and hence they cannot be said to have lost any utility on account of this act. Proceeding from this Pareto-optimal basis, then, any further act of production, utilizing homesteaded resources, is equally Pareto-optimal on demonstrated preference grounds, provided only that it does not uninvitedly impair the physical integrity of the resources homesteaded, or produced with homesteaded means by others. And finally, every voluntary exchange starting from this basis must also be regarded as a Pareto-optimal change, because it can only take place if both parties expect to benefit from it. Thus, contrary to Kirzner, Pareto-optimality is not only compatible with methodological individualism; together with the notion of demonstrated preference, it also provides the key to (Austrian) welfare economics and its proof that the free market, operating according to the rules just described, always, and invariably so, increases social utility, while each deviation from it decreases it.[5]

Hoppe showed that the Pareto rule needed to be applied to the social-welfare consequences of the acquisition of property and not just its use. Self-ownership is the immutable starting point for the process of acquiring and then using property. State distribution of income to achieve an ostensibly more equitable “initial” endowment of income among persons fails to satisfy the Pareto rule. In other words, the second welfare theorem, reconstituted along Hoppean lines, is false. Only one initial endowment, the Lockean one, is capable of producing a Pareto-optimal outcome.

Moreover, Hoppe’s argument dispatches entirely the notion of Pareto optimality as a social-welfare-maximizing end state. Welfare economics starts with the objective fact of self-ownership and then demonstrates that each step of voluntary acquisition and use of property satisfies the Pareto rule and thereby, improves social welfare. Moreover, each instance of state intervention into the voluntary acquisition or use of property benefits some and harms others and, thereby, fails to improve social welfare. The actual market, then, is not compared to some end point it may eventually reach but has not yet achieved. If that were the case, it might be claimed that some interventions of the state could facilitate the actual market in achieving the higher level of social welfare at its end point. Instead, welfare economics is constrained to comparing the actual market to actual state intervention. No room is left for the claim that the market fails to attain some ideal which might be used to justify state intervention. Hoppe definitively established that the unhampered market is superior in improving social welfare.

Welfare economics is arguably the least of Hoppe’s accomplishments in employing the lesson. In every field that has drawn his attention, he has, like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard before him, exemplified sound reasoning in social analysis. He improved the edifice they constructed by clarifying first principles and relentlessly and fearlessly tracing out the logical implications of these premises to their conclusions. He is an exemplar for all those who love the truth.

Jeffrey Herbener teaches economics at Grove City College. Send him mail. See Jeffrey M. Herbener’s article archives.

Black Tea Partiers Rip Chris Matthews for "Monochromatic" Remark

For Release: January 6, 2010
David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or project21@nationalcenter.org or Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or jkent@nationalcenter.org

On the January 5 edition of his MSNBC program “Hardball,” Chris Matthews claimed that everyone participating in tea party rallies such as the one held in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2009 were white.

In a discussion with Mark McKinnon of the Daily Beast and Susan Page of USA Today, Matthews said: “And they’re monochromatic, right?…  Meaning they’re all white.  All of them — every single one of them — is white.”

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network disagree.  They were there.

Bob Parks, a Project 21 member from Virginia, said: “Here’s a news flash for Chris Matthews.  I was there.  So was my son.  Last time I checked, both of us are black — and we weren’t the only black people there.  I know other black people who attended the September 12 rally in Washington, including some of the ones who spoke at the podium!  I guess the MSNBC camera people missed them.”

Parks continued: “To me, this means Chris Matthews thinks that blacks who don’t toe the liberal line are either invisible – and apparently irrelevant – or such sellouts that they’ve become white.  Obviously, he doesn’t have the guts to have us on ‘Hardball’ so he can call us all-white ‘teabaggers’ to our faces.”

Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli of New York was one of the speakers at the September 12 rally.  She said: “Chris Matthews’ statement exposes how his narrow-minded liberal bias blinds him to the truth.  I was a speaker at the FreedomWorks 9.12 March on D.C. and several similar rallies in Pennsylvania.  I’m also an active member in a local tea party organization.  The tea party movement is not about color.  It is about Americans expressing their concerns about the growth of government which will diminish individual liberty.”

Borelli continued: “Chris Matthews may be the first liberal of the new year to play the race card to try to stifle First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, but I’m sure he won’t be the last.”

Besides the September 12 rally in Washington, D.C., Deneen also spoke at tea party rallies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 9, 2009 and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on November 14, 2009.  She has been asked to speak at the “Tax Day Tea Party” being organized by FreedomWorks in Washington, D.C. for April 15, 2010 and is a member of the White Plains Tea Party in New York.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).