Phi Beta Cons

Re: ‘Affirmative Distraction’

Candace mentions a New York Times piece in which Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter calls college affirmative action programs a distraction, “a way to pretend to be doing something.” Squabbling about somewhat higher percentages of black students in selective colleges and universities does very little for those students and nothing at all for the poor. Carter writes, “life for the children of the inner city is often nasty, brutish and short.”

What to do?
To Carter’s credit, he isn’t gung ho for the populist fixes such as raising the minimum wage, which he understands can hurt the poor. Rather, he tells both the Republicans and Democrats that they need to “rethink their positions” and make “racial justice ” the “centerpiece of American politics.”
Sorry, but the troubles of the poor in the United States are not due to any lack of commitment to “racial justice.” The trouble (or at least the biggest part of it) is that politicians have been short-sightedly attacking the foundations of our prosperity with all sorts of taxes and regulations that drive away investors. Steady employment is the best anti-poverty program of all time, but politicians (mostly Democrats) have been hostile to capitalism for several generations and we see the consequences in cities such as Detroit and Baltimore. The latter is the focus of this excellent piece from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, by Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins and Stephen Walters of Loyola College in Maryland.
If you want to help the poor, the best thing to do is unshackle the economy. Forget about blaming racism and injustice. Forget about new government programs. Instead work to free up the economy. For upward mobility, emulate the laissez-faire policies of Hong Kong, no part of which looks like the ruined sections of Detroit and Baltimore.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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