Archive for July, 2011

Racism – Culprit or Contributor?

Dave Killion — July 31, 2011

Having read my post on the recent Pew report (Pee-ew!), commentator Kyle offers the following –

I’m not sure why including more economically successful “model minorities” like asians and arab-americans “monkey wrenches” the narrative that blames poor outcomes on race (or racism)… It’s quite possible that racial discrimination negatively impacts different minority groups unequally. Given the significant differences in the historical uses of state and social power for and against the economic development of different groups, it would be surprising if that were not the case. That aside, I’d be curious to hear alternate theories for the income distributions above.”

I’m always glad to have input, because it lets me know where people might misunderstand me. In this case, it appears that when I write that racism is not to blame for unequal economic development amongst different races, I might need to point out that that’s not the same as saying it has no impact whatsoever.

To further clarify matters, the inclusion of Asians and Arab-Americans into comparisons of income distribution monkey wrenches the afore-mentioned narrative because it suggests that racism itself is not a sufficient explanation for the lower incomes of blacks and hispanics. To those who think otherwise, I ask; why do some minority groups earn more than whites? Are whites discriminating in favour of those groups? Or is it actually those minorities keeping whites down some, and blacks and hispanics even more? And if that’s the case, why do those groups switch rankings with whites from time to time?

I’d love to see some responses to these.

Color Blind

Dave Killion — July 30, 2011

Can you find the three white people hidden in this picture?

Further to my post asking “Where are the Asians?”, I see Eugene Volkh of The Volokh Conspiracy pointing out that Asian-Americans are not simply overlooked when discussing racial disparities, they are sometimes lumped in with the majority as ‘white’

I first noticed this effect 10 years ago, at a party where a friend of mine commented that the guests were all white. I responded by mentioning about a dozen Asians; oh, she said, that’s right, but you know what I mean. At a recent UCLA conference I attended, two speakers complained that everyone on the panel was white, without even realizing that one of the speakers was ethnically Chinese, and another was an Asian Indian with skin darker than that of many American blacks.”

As Volokh goes on to point out, this mistaken way of thinking has some disturbing implications –

Minority” has started to mean “those racial groups that have not yet made it.” (A recent San Francisco Chronicle story even excludes non-Mexican-American Latinos from the “minority” category.) This new division is as likely as the old to create nasty, corrosive, sometimes fatal battles over which racial groups get the spoils. So long as we think in terms of “white” and “minority,” we risk disaster, no matter which races are put in which box.

It is the disadvantaged who should be the first to say the government should get out of the redistribution business. I can’t think of any minority subject to more paternalistic treatment than Native Americans, and the state has ‘helped’ them to within an inch of their lives. Leave minorities alone, and the market will price race-based discrimination right out of existence.

Remembering Friedman

Dave Killion — July 28, 2011

This weekend is the 99th anniversary of the birth of Milton Friedman, whose work has brought so many people to see the wisdom and virtue of respecting individual freedom. Like Thomas Sowell and Don Boudreaux, Friedman possessed a remarkable ability to detect flaws in the arguments of others, and his responses were not only clear and concise but also courteous and respectful. This interview from The American Prospect is a good example. From the article –

“RK: What about the practical problem of a middle class family being able to supplement the value of the voucher with their own means and the poor family not being able to.

MF: Tell me, would the poor people have benefited when television sets were first being developed if government, to assure that television was affordable, had set a maximum price that could be charged?

RK: I’m not sure I agree with the analogy&.

MF: My analogy is very straightforward. Parents should be able to spend extra money on their children, if they can and want to. That’s is the way we get the funds for experiments. Rich people do play a role. Income inequality in some sense plays a very positive role in the dynamic of a society. They provide the funds for innovation.”

For more of Friedman’s insight, let me recommend to you his 10 hour series, “Free To Choose”, the first hour of which I offer here, and the rest of which you can find on Youtube.


When Does Richer = Poorer ?

Dave Killion — July 27, 2011

Over at Paying Attention, Paul Willcocks writes about inequality in Canada

“We’ve become a lot more unequal society in Canada, widening the gap between the rich and the rest. The top earners have increased their share of after-tax income in the last three decades, with the gap widening since 2000.”

Yikes! The poor are getting poorer? Well, only relatively speaking –

“…the Conference Board reports the average income level of the poorest group of people rose, “marginally,” from $12,400 in 1976 to $14,500 in 2009 – about 17 per cent over 33 years.”

Oh, so the poor are getting richer. But the rich are getting EVEN more richer than the poor, and this is a problem because… because…

“There are also moral issues. The idea of some people enjoying huge incomes while children live a few streets away in desperate poverty should be troubling.”

It IS troubling. Or rather it would be if  such a situation was either wide-spread or increasing, rather than being a small and disappearing problem.  But if Willcocks is truly concerned about moral issues, perhaps he should consider the righteousness of using the threat of violence to take money away from someone just because you don’t like them having so much more than others.


Dave Killion — July 26, 2011

This chart has popped up in my reader a number of times today, accompanied by headlines that were mostly variations of “Racial Wealth Gap Widens, Whites on Top“. I immediately began doing what I always do whenever I come across a discussion on racial disparities; I looked for the Asians.

I look for the Asians because they tend to monkey-wrench the narrative that attempts to blame poor outcomes on race.  And what do I find when I look at the chart? No Asians. And I didn’t find them when I looked for them in Google news. In fact, I had to go right to the source to locate them –

“In 2005 median Asian household wealth had been greater than the median for white households, but by 2009 Asians lost their place at the top of the wealth hierarchy. Their net worth fell from $168,103 in 2005 to $78,066 in 2009, a drop of 54%.”

So whites and Asians switched places, but the disparity is roughly the same in both 2005 and 2009. And where are the Arab-Americans? No mention of them whatsoever. It appears that if you want to sell newspapers or get some attention for your think tank, there are some things you just don’t talk about.

One Small Step For Libertarians

Dave Killion — July 24, 2011

I feel bad for the individuals who have lost their jobs, but on the whole this is good news

“An estimated 2,000 NASA workers were laid off Friday, one day after space shuttle Atlantis landed ending the program.”

I know this amounts to just a few grains of sand in the Sahara that is the US government, but perhaps this is the beginning of the end for direct public sector involvement in space flight. Naturally, not everyone is as pleased with this development as I am –

“The space shuttle is just now maturing to where it’s a great flight vehicle. And what are we doing with it? We’re scrapping it. We’re turning it into a museum,” said Steve Bishop, a former NASA worker.”

Not to worry, Mr. Bishop. For several years now the private sector has been making great strides into opening up space to everyone. I’m sure they’ll find use for an experienced man such as yourself. And we’ll all be better off for it.


Image source

Not As Worried As They Should Be

Dave Killion — July 23, 2011

Over at Paying Attention, Paul Willcocks directs our attention towards an editorial in the Times-Colonist –

“When provincial and territorial premiers meet in Vancouver this week, the events will be subsidized by business donors, commentator David Schreck notes.

Well, at least that means the taxpayer won’t have to cough up so much. But to every silver lining there must be a cloud –

“Corporations who choose not to pay up will wonder if that will be held against them, by the politicians or the conference organizers.

And ordinary citizens, or businesses that can’t pay, must worry that their concerns will come second to the interests of the corporations that donated.”

Buddy, you don’t know the half of it. Literally. Because ordinary libertarian citizens don’t just worry that our concerns come second to politically generous corporate interests, we worry that they will come second to politically generous teachers’ unions… and police unions… and public employee unions. But I guess some folks don’t find those groiups as scary as those big, bad corporations.


Photo source

Talking in Code

Dave Killion — July 22, 2011

After writing yesterday’s post, I recalled Ayn Rand’s warning on what the power elite mean when they start talking about sacrifice –

“It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.”

And guess what he has in mind for you.


Dave Killion — July 21, 2011

It’s good to remind ourselves that in order to cultivate support, politicians must say that that which is, is not. And vice versa. US President Barack Obama helps us remember this in this recent press conference

“…this is not just a Democratic understanding; this is an understanding that I think the American people hold that we should not be asking sacrifices from middle-class folks who are working hard every day, from the most vulnerable in our society — we should not be asking them to make sacrifices if we’re not asking the most fortunate in our society to make some sacrifices as well.”

Ugh. There is no ‘we’, and there is no ‘asking’. There is only a one group led by the President that is looking to gather enough support to use the threat of violence against other groups in order to seize some of their property. Euphemistic Politispeak™  is employed to maintain the fantasy that the victims are consensual.

We’re not falling for it.


Dave Killion — July 20, 2011

Having revisited my resolution to not accept pennies when I get change, I find myself with a growing stock of not only higher-value pennies, but the regular cheap pennies as well. The problem of dealing with the useless pennies may be resolved thanks to our friends over at Kyoot, etc., who have sent us this link. The project involves the destruction of some pennies, so if you want to try this, trade your useless Canadian pennies for some useless American pennies. Then you can chop the faux-coppers without fear of state retribution. Next up: wallpapering with inflation-destroyed fiat paper money!