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John Fund writes on the expected summer of our discontent.
It’s hard to get 96 percent of people to agree on anything, but last month’s Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 96 percent of those surveyed believe we are in for a summer of racial unrest. In the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore, it’s time for some reflection on how we got here.
This year marks two significant anniversaries. In August 1965, the Watts riots broke out in Los Angeles, leading to 34 deaths and $300 million in property damage. Coming after the passage of well-intentioned Great Society welfare programs, the riots made clear that government spending wasn’t going to solve all the problems of urban America.
Indeed, another 50th anniversary we mark this year is that of a seminal work that helped explain why government would be no panacea: Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: A Call for National Action.” Published in 1965 and known as “the Moynihan Report,” it burst many bubbles of liberal thinking.
After analyzing reams of relevant social-science research, Moynihan concluded that the decline of the two-parent family was fueling the growth of poverty and unemployment, and leading to rising crime rates in black neighborhoods and schools without discipline.
“At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time,” Moynihan argued. Families that consisted solely of single female parents weakened the role of black men as authority figures in the lives of children. Moynihan also warned: “The steady expansion of welfare programs, as of public assistance programs in general, can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro family structure over the past generation in the United States.”
Sadly, as soon as Moynihan’s report was leaked to the media, it came under withering assault from his fellow liberals. …
… We cannot ignore culture. “The poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits every year since 1994,” the economist Thomas Sowell has noted. “Behavior matters and facts matter, more than the prevailing social visions or political empires built on those visions.” …
Heather Mac Donald has more on the people who try to explain away the new crime wave in our cities.
I recently observed in these pages that violent crime is rising sharply in many cities. Having spoken with police officers and commanders, I hypothesized that the growing reluctance of cops to engage in proactive policing may help explain the spike in violent crime. The past nine months have seen unprecedented antipolice agitation dedicated to the proposition that bias infects policing in predominantly black communities, a message echoed at the highest reaches of government and the media. Officers in urban areas are encountering high levels of resistance and hostility when they try to make an arrest.
Faced with the prospect of ending up in a widely distributed video if an arrest goes awry, and possibly being indicted, officers tell me that they are increasingly reluctant to investigate suspicious behavior. St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last fall called the relationship between decreased enforcement and increased crime the “Ferguson effect.” I noted that if it continues the primary victims will be the millions of law-abiding residents of inner-city neighborhoods who rely on police to keep order.
A sharply critical response from some quarters greeted the article. It belonged to a “long line of conservative efforts to undermine racial equality,” wrote ColumbiaUniversity law professor Bernard Harcourt in the Guardian, decrying the article as “crime fiction” intended to undermine “the country’s newest civil rights movement.” Charles Blow of the New York Times called me a “fear-mongering iron fist-er” who was using “racial pathology arguments” and “smearing the blood running in the street onto the hands holding the placards.” The article was part of a “growing backlash against police reform,” an attempt to “shame people who dare to speak up about police abuse,” wrote journalist Radley Balko in the Washington Post. …
Thomas Sowell shows how the left is promoting “micro-totalitarianism.”
… Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them. Demands that various conservative organizations be forced to reveal the names of their donors are another way of silencing ideas by intimidating people who facilitate the spread of those ideas. Whatever the rationale for wanting those names, the implicit threat is retaliation.
This same tactic was used, decades ago, by Southern segregationists who tried to force black civil rights organizations to reveal the names of their donors, in a situation where retaliation might have included violence as well as economic losses.
In a sense, the political left’s attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left’s ever-increasing restrictions on other people’s freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.
Current attempts by the Obama administration to force low-income housing to be built in middle class and upscale communities are on a par with forcing people to buy the kind of health insurance the government wants them to buy — ObamaCare — rather than leaving them free to buy whatever suits their own situation and preferences.
The left is not necessarily aiming at totalitarianism. But their know-it-all mindset leads repeatedly and pervasively in that direction, even if by small steps, each of which might be called “micro-totalitarianism.”
During celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, George Will points out the 1803 SCOTUS decision of Marbury v. Madison was part of the picket fence of defenses of the original document.
Americans should light 800 candles for the birthday of the document that began paving the meandering path to limited government. Magna Carta laid down the law about “fish weirs” on English rivers, “assizes of darrein presentment,” people being “distrained to make bridges,” and other “liberties. . . to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity.” But what King John accepted at Runnymede meadow on June 15, 1215, matters to Americans because of something that happened 588 years later in the living room of Stelle’s Hotel in Washington, where the Library of Congress now sits.
Although the “great charter” purported to establish certain rights in “perpetuity,” almost everything in it has been repealed or otherwise superseded. Magna Carta led to parliamentary supremacy (over the sovereign — the king or queen) but not to effective limits on government. The importance of the document was its assertion that the sovereign’s will could be constrained.