To Stand on Your Own Feet

From The Failures of Federal Race-Based Paternalism by Lipton Matthews

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In an address to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1865, Frederick Douglass noted that he had often been asked “What should we do with the Negro?” Douglass remarked:

I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall….And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!

Having been born into slavery, Douglass was a man who understood the failures of government policy quite well. Moreover, the paternalism of the plantation was perhaps something he had no desire to recreate in the halls of government in postbellum America.

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The paternalism of Our Betters isn’t for your sake.

It’s for theirs.

Especially when this paternalism is specifically geared to keep you dependent on your Masters — the way Progressives, Socialists and Marxists like it — instead of rising to stand on your own two feet… and possibly thinking, saying, or doing something they disagree with.

“Look to us for your daily bread!” cries our Compassionate Leaders.

(While I still believe that the source of the Law is the God of a society — in the US, that would be five Supreme Court judges — I am also leaning to Marinov’s idea that “the one you look to for bread is the one who owns you.”)

If you think that Frederick Douglass would be openly despised by today’s Community Leaders, you wouldn’t be too far wrong.

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Furthermore, history informs us that even communities that are targets of racism can thrive provided that they have the freedom to act. Professor Loren Schweninger has furnished a surplus of data chronicling the rise of African American entrepreneurs in the South during the late eighteenth century. He sharply illustrates the success of African American entrepreneurs in an environment of hostile racism:

Despite the anti-free black sentiment among some whites, free Negroes in the region entered a variety of business pursuits. In towns and cities, they became builders, mechanics, tradesmen, grocers, restaurateurs, tailors, merchants, and barbers. Even during the American Revolution, a small group of skilled artisans and craftsmen had emerged in Charleston, South Carolina. By the 1790s, several among them had built up thriving businesses, especially in the furniture and building trades. Housebuilder and carpenter James Mitchell, who for many years lived above his shop, had become so prosperous by 1797 that he sought to rent a six-room house with stables and outbuildings.

Even in the presence of deep-seated racism, African Americans have historically been quite capable of functioning on their own, as noted by economist Thomas Sowell in his book Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? Sowell argues that economic advancement for blacks was impressive during the 1940s, and the number of blacks in high-level professions more than doubled during 1954–64, well before the peak years of the civil rights movement.

Today, however, a major impediment to economic empowerment in the black community remains occupational licensing. Matthew D. Mitchell of the Mercatus Center reports that “the licensing of barbers reduces the probability of a black individual working as a barber by 17.3 percent.” States like Florida and Pennsylvania have successfully embarked on major reforms to reduce the impact of occupational licensing requirements on employment prospects. Similarly, supporting educational freedom by promoting school choice in the form of charter schools, for example, is a proven strategy to boost the performance of African American students. Studies show that African American charter school students outperform their peers in the public school system, but these schools are consistently berated by leftists as agencies of racism.

While the Left consistently believes itself to be the friend of the downtrodden, the fact is that the Left more often than not supports policies that hinder countless Americans of all backgrounds in attaining economic success for themselves and their families. 

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The destruction of the guilds and occupational licensing is a good idea.

Smash the guilds. Including the religious ones.

Defunding all those restrictive agencies like the FDA would help the cause of liberty rather nicely.

Of course, crippling and destroying a man’s freedom to act is the sworn goal of all leftists, be it softy-slowly center-left Keynesian-Fabian incremental style, or the Progressive’s ever-more-restrictive Vision of the Anointed, or the full-throated blood-and-bullets viciousness of the Revolutionary Marxists.

And the rightists? The conservatives? The cautious voice of tradition?

“Oh, they are just the leftists of a decade ago. No worries.”

It will be a good day when both the left and right wings of the Enlightenment — and it’s Above-the-Law Lord and Master, the State — are torn off.


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