- Politics and Social Issues
Big Government Encourages Racism: A Historically Supported Rebuttal to a Statement By Tim Wise
This quote is shared with me during a discussion on government, its nature, and suggested size of it. I am in favor of small limited government. Here is that quote.
"The background rhetoric of this small government, low taxes is intrinsically linked with the subject of race." Tim Wise (2011)
It is clear to me that Mr.Wise is a good man. This is not in any way intended to smear him or make light of his efforts to counter race issues. Still, I completely disagree with the conclusion of the quote. As such the following analysis gives a general break down of how the statement is not only false because of its blanket generalization, but that it actual fails to take into account how large governments actually encourage the racial divide. This is based off of my knowledge of history in general and US History in particular. But don't take my word for it, the history is there for anyone who wants to learn it.
Please note that this article in no way is an attempt to play the nation vs nation blame game. Mistakes were made in the past. History has happened. The point is to show how we can learn from the past and make a better future. If any thing is to blame for past wrongs it is the baser parts of our human nature and the corruption that rises from large, unrestrained government.
Clearing Up a Myth
First lets be clear on something, the idea of race is false. It is a social construct. This is something Tim Wise and I can agree on. There is no evidence to support it. There is only one race when speaking of it in the context of humans and that is homo sapien or humans. It has been proven genetically and through behavioral research that there is no significant difference between different ethnic groups to justify the use of the term race. In the case of my claim that big government encourages the idea of increased association of race one simply must look at the history of the USA to prove it. I use this history since it is the one I know best, although I am seeking better understand of other nation's history as well.
A wonderful short video on the Acadians
Native American History in North America
The first example would be the Acadians. This particular group was found in Canada and grew from a combination of native and colonial influences into a free society where the concept of race did not exist. Peaceful, free and with very limited government and taxes, the sad story of this group of people is the first recorded case of state sponsored ethnic cleansing on the North American continent. The British, seeing that this economy & limited, small governmental system was a threat to their Mercantilism system, ordered the destruction of the civilization. It is estimated that 50 to 60% of the population died because of these actions. Parts of the civilization traveled down the Mississippi River to what is now Louisiana. There the Cajun and Creole peoples formed. There existed another free society with limited government and taxes where people didn't care about the color of ones skin. It wasn't until the annexation of the area now know as Louisiana into the USA that slavery and racism was enforced by big, meddlesome government. This interaction between the British and the Acadians actually set the stage for the horrors that is the sad and horrible history of the interactions between European settlers and Native Americans for years to come.
Still, the tone of Native American & federal government relations wasn't really set in stone until Andrew Jackson ordered the commission of the second major act of state sponsored ethnic cleansing recorded in North American history. The Trail of Tears was a horror. This resulted in forced relocation of several native tribes and the deaths of something in the order of 60 to 70% of the population's deaths due to exposure and starvation. These are just the major events that have resulted in the harm of Native American tribes. But we wont go into full detail because the intent of this article would be lost otherwise. Suffice it to say it was a large government that justified behaviors and actions such as these to begin with.
Moving forward to the future, a once proud peoples can blame their fallen and dismal state on a combination of forced relocation and violence in the past, and the extreme dependency on money and resources forced upon them in the present from the same government that harmed and continues to harm them. Those natives I know and whom I have read about have become successful and happy people by completely refuse to take support of any sort from a big government who's entire objective is to keep them reminded of their "racial" differences. These same individuals that I know and who's stories I have read are proud of their native heritage and claim (rightly so based off of what I have found) that it is actually the result of large government and high taxes that their people are in the state they are in. Not because of taxes that they do not pay, but because those high taxes go to their people for no reason other than the fact that a past wrong happened and so because of their supposed race they deserve to receive support. This then encourages the notion of race. Based off of such information one could claim that the Italian people owed reparations to the British because of what their ancestors did. Further more, one of the greatest horrors of the 20th century, the Second World War, was a result of forcing retribution and reparations on the German people as a result of the end of the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles. While this example is good, there is more in the history of the USA to prove the point that big government (and by connection high taxes) encourges racism in a nation.
African Peoples in North America
The African people were slaves due to social conventions that excused such behavior. Behavior which has been present in almost every recorded civilization. This is fact. Started by Muslim traders in North Africa and then encouraged by the large Spanish and Portuguese governments, the English and then the Americans soon took over the bulk of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.The lucrative slave trade thrived both under British and American slavers as well as under freelancing nations flying flags from all over the world including Holland, Spain and Portugal from that point until just around the time of the American Civil War. The horrible trade made a lot of money for both the governments and the traders involved. It was acceptable because it was justified by the idea of racial inferiority. This idea and related theories were encouraged by the top scientist of the age who worked at universities which received political and even financial support by the governments in the nations which they were located. While the American people inherited this justification from the British which was no excuse for its prolonged continuance.
The formation of the USA was marred by the fact that the African peoples were viewed as chattel on one hand, but that each one was counted as 2/3's of a person on the other. The latter was so that states that practiced slavery could get more representatives in the US House of Representatives. Still, the change towards viewing the African people as something other than labor and numbers began to gradually take hold. In many places they were beginning to receive more rights which would have lead directly to freedom had the path been allowed to continue. But that change when the Supreme Court of the land over ruled such notions in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case.
As a brief side note, the British were actually able to peacefully abolish slavery thanks to the efforts of several people including William Wilberforce and John Newton, the author of the song Amazing Grace & a former slaver turned priest.
Back to the USA, it wasn't until the American Civil War that slaves were freed. And then even that wasn't until near the end of the war. Furthermore, even then the Emancipation Proclamation was primarily a political move. In fact, the freed African peoples can attribute their freedom more to an army officer than President Lincoln because at the beginning of the war this officer allowed escaped slaved to cross into Northern territory rather than forcing them to go back. Such an action was illegal according the the before mentioned Supreme Court ruling. A ruling and law that imposed by a government which was growing large and intrusive. Still, the freeing of the slave happened and the war was won.
Not to make Lincoln out as a villain he was indeed a remarkable, all be it Romanticized, person. After the end of the American Civil War President Lincoln wanted to allow the South to return to the USA with minimal fuss and no reparations. He likely would have had his way except that he was assassinated. The result was that Congress was able to get their way and imposed "Reconstruction" on the Southern States. High taxes and intrusive large government lead by men called "carpet baggers" was the order of the decade. Sound familiar? Refer to the above reference to the cause of the Second World War. As a direct result a sullen, angry and tense state existed not only between Northerners and Southerners, but also between blacks and whites. Every chance white Southerners got they imposed segregation through laws called "Jim Crow Laws" (named after a hateful song that mocked people of African heritage). When Reconstruction ended the big and intrusive government that was enforced was taken over by those it was meant to harm and they in turn forced further harmful laws and practices on the African people in the South. High taxes and convoluted laws hurt them on every turn thanks to big government. Still, the African people moved forward. They thrived even. Booker T Washington and George Washington Carver were just two examples of men and women who strove to brake the fiction of race and rise above. Their efforts lead to the Harlem Renascence which started in the Roaring '20s. It would have continued as well except that big government reared its ugly head again and forced a stop through corrupt laws, high taxes and more.
It wasn't until the '60s that the African people got their day of true freedom. Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters forced a change that was finally recognized at a national level. The big government that had held them down for so long was beat. Or so they thought. At the same time that segregation was being destroyed the foundations of the welfare state was laid. And it is the welfare state and the reverse racist policies that a person of African heritage's need over that of any other "race" that meant that the same thing that happened to the Native American peoples also resulted to the African people.
Also, these behaviors encouraged by the government for both peoples directly harmed the family unit. Families which, until these policies were enacted, were amazingly strong in both cultures despite the hardships suffered. The idea of the "white man" pitted against the "black and red man" was encouraged. One large group of people paid so much attention to past mistakes and wrongs to the point that a rift was formed. A rift which was exacerbated by the extreme response of another group refused to acknowledge those wrongs. And so any healing and moving forward that could have been was limited if not killed. The result is the racial tensions that we see today in the USA.
Transition: Negative to Positive
Now we have seen two cogent examples of how big government has encouraged racism and racial divides, we will look at an example of how the lack of big government involvement has actually allowed another ethnic group to be fairly well integrated into the USA.
The People of Asia in North America
The term Asian is used loosely and it is understood that this is a generalization. Again, for the purposes of the article we should keep things simple. The story of Asians in the USA is almost a repeat of that of the African peoples except not nearly as extreme. Still, this does not excuse the suffering nor the justifications made as to racial inferiority. Again, this is a philosophy which was encouraged by people closely related to and involved with government and education. Still the Asian people, much like the other two cases, strove forward and even thrived despite laws and regulations imposed on them by big government.
It wasn't until the early 20th century that a person of Asian heritage (any country in Asia) gained any property rights. In fact, if a white woman were to marry an Asian man in the State of California she would loose any property rights she had. Where the story changes is that when Asians gained their rights there was not reparations or heavy government involvement in their lives. Even in the case of the Japanese Internment Camps during the Second World War, when reparations did come to the survivors nearly 50 years later, it was a one-&-done thing. There was no forcing of large amounts of money continuously on them or major reverse racism in governmental programs (although there was some). While later there were cases within select Asian ethnic groups where there was government meddling, it was limited for the most part.
The Asian peoples are actually referred to by Sociologist within the USA as a "model minority" because on average they have a higher education rate and income than even people of European heritage. Because of limited government in this ethnic group's sub-culture they are in fact among the most well integrated groups in the USA. One could argue this was solely due to minimal involvement in big government, but a large part of the credit does go to the solid family units present in the majority of Asian cultures and nations. However, the integrity of these family units that were not harmed by big government as in the case of other ethic groups is an important point to be made.
It doesn't stop in the past. Government enforced racism is still an issue today.
The purpose of this article is to show that large government is intrusive into society. While the intentions of big government can be good at times, the unintended consequences of government actions are often horrible. Further more, a quote about good intentions and it being a road to Hell comes to mind.
Simply put, the role of government is to protect its citizens from internal and external threats. External threats is self explanatory, but internal is a bit more complicated. Obviously crime and criminals is an example of internal threats, but the less clear internal threats are those of chaos. Government's role is to enforce contracts and agreements. Its role is to encourage trade through the maintaining of roads (although there are arguments against this since modern tech and tole roads have show that there could be other means of resolving such issues). On can even argue government should ensure that there is no discrimination between individuals over differences in look, opinion or life style. The premise behind the US government and what makes it unique in starting a positive trend however is the idea that ALL men (meaning humanity) are created equally. This does not mean we all start with the same amount of ability, money or other material things. This means in the eyes of the law you are equal to any other person. You have equal rights to a fair trial, to your life, to your freedom of choice, to your right to own property.
As W. Cleon Skousen wrote, "The freedom to try. The freedom to succeed. The freedom to fail." When government imposes taxes it is intended to provide for those things that society has agreed that the government will do for it. But when government imposes a tax in order to take from one to give to another that is theft. That is wrong. That is outside the bounds of what government is intended for. This article is to show that the direct result of such actions is the harm of cultures that were once very proud and noble. This isn't to say they have lost that nobility. Its shadow is still present and can be seen from time to time like a reflection on the water. It is my hope that that noble heritage will be regained when those peoples as a whole realize they are slaves to governments that intentionally or not have enslaved them with dependency and made them accessories in the crime of doing violence against their fellow man by accepting stolen goods. This article in no way diminishes the wrongs done in the past. It simply calls for an acknowledgement of them and a desire to move forward.