Maybe Paul Krugman Isn't So Bad After All Reply

Kevin Carson explains why.

Krugman is entirely correct in arguing that, as the economy is currently structured, there is no way to achieve full employment other than government spending to make up the demand shortfall.  But there’s no plausible scenario in which the economy, once kick-started by Keynesian pump-priming (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor), gets going on a self-sustaining basis without continued government spending.  There’s no plausible scenario  where the economy ever attains the levels of demand, or nominal output, that existed three years ago.

Keynesian “aggregate demand management” will work this year, if the government runs a $1 trillion deficit.  But the economy will slip back into depression if the budget is balanced next year.  So the old Keynesian model, in which the government ran a deficit in bad times and paid it back by running a surplus in good times, is as dead as the passenger pigeon.  There are no good times, as state capitalism is currently structured, without a perpetual deficit.

So count me among the “deflationists” that Krugman routinely mocks.  The material reality we face is that it takes less investment in physical capital, and fewer hours of labor, to produce what most people regard as a comfortable standard of living.

Carson also comes down on the side of free trade.

For decades, American foreign policy has protected Third World landed oligarchies against left-wing land reform movements, in effect enforcing the artificial land titles of haciendados and other feudal ruling classes at the expense of the rightful  owners actually working the land.  It has empowered such landed oligarchies to reenact the Enclosures of early modern Britain, driving peasants off the land and leaving them no choice but to enter the wage labor market on whatever terms are offered by foreign capital.

The World Bank, in collusion with Third World elites, has mainly undertaken projects to create subsidized road and utility infrastructure without which offshored industry would not be profitable — and then used the resulting debt in much the same manner as a company store, to coerce local governments into “structural adjustment” deals by which state property is “privatized” in collusion with crony capitalists.

So corporate globalization, despite all the rhetorical trappings of “free trade,” is statist to the core.

Reply to a Cultural Marxist Critic 8

A Leftist who uses the name of “Equus” has posted a limited critique of ATS on Royce Christian’s blog. Read it here.

My response:

Equus begins his rebuttal by offering a concise and helpful summary of the points of his refutation. I repeat it in full:

My objection to Third Positionism is that it first and foremost has an ahistorical approach inasmuch as it is leftist and only retroactively places itself there, using ideas and attitudes not formulated at the time of the conception of the left/right political spectrum. It claims to be neither left nor right and claims to be a synthesis of right and left ideas while rejecting the sole premise of left-wing ideology. Furthermore, it understands being anti-state as an ideological characteristic instead of a tactical characteristic; it would claim Anarchists and anti-government fascists are ideologically similar instead of correctly placing Anarchism as an ideology that opposes the state in the context of leftist politics. While it co-opts much of Anarchist rhetoric, it dismisses two key concepts: solidarity and community. Finally, it may not be an exclusively right-wing idea, but it provides an arena for people who oppose what Anarchists stand for to enter the conversation as legitimate actors and gives nothing back. I know little of Preston’s personal political background, and it is both irrelevant and hard to make the case that he is knowingly undermining Anarchism with his support of the Third Position. Regardless, his ideas have only provided a dangerous utility to the right that must be understood.


The Limits of Libertarianism 1

An interesting and sympathetic critique of libertarianism from someone who appears to be paleocon-leaning. Read it here. It’s actually the second part of a critique that began here.

This writer identifies what I consider to one of the core weaknesses of anti-state radicals, i.e. their inability to develop viable strategic formulas for the implementation of their plans or the communication of their ideas to a wider audience.

Of course, there are other weaknesses as well. “Conservative” libertarians all-too-frequently act as corporate apologists, and fail to recognize the symbiotic relationship between corporate interests and the state. Happily, we have Kevin Carson as the antidote to that problem. Leftist libertarians and left-anarchists exhibit the same ideological fanaticism and virulent intolerance associated with totalitarian movements like Communism.  The three core weaknesses of libertarianism/anarchism at the present juncture-lack of strategic viability, corporate apologetics, and leftist intolerance-are the main reasons why this blogs exists in the first place.

An Right-Wing Extremist Under Every Bed? 1

The $PLC and other professional hate-watchers think so. Jesse Walker fills us in.

We also know, for example, that Loughner was deeply interested in lucid dreaming, in reality-bending movies such as Waking Life and Donnie Darko, and in the science-fiction novels of Philip K. Dick, a writer whose paranoid plots often hinged on the idea that reality itself is a fraud. Another friend of Loughner’s, Bryce Tierney, told Mother Jones that the shooter was “fascinated” with the idea that “the world is really nothing—illusion.”

Interviewed by Keith Olbermann on the day of the murders, Potok gamely tried to link lucid dreaming to the radical right, noting that the conspiracy theorist David Icke is interested in the subject. Well, that’s Potok’s schtick; if Loughner had turned out to be a soccer fan, Potok may well have mentioned that Icke used to play for Coventry. My own guess is that Loughner’s interest in alternate realities was at the core of his worldview, and that he was attracted to those elements of fringe politics that seemed to reinforce his suspicion that the waking world is a lie. But I’ll refrain from declaring it “pretty clear” that my guess is a fact. That’s the sort of thing that might make you look like a fool.

Pre-Meditated Murder, Not "Insanity": Thomas Szasz on the Tucson Massacre Reply

From The Freeman.

E. Fuller Torrey, a recognized expert on schizophrenic murderers, agrees. He refers to Loughner as “the alleged shooter” and states that he “is reported to have had symptoms associated with schizophrenia … and almost certainly was seriously mentally ill and untreated…. These tragedies are the inevitable outcome of five decades of failed mental-health policies.”

Torrey’s remedy for the problem of people being at liberty to commit crimes and suffer the consequences is intensifying the traditional legal-psychiatric practice of incarcerating innocent individuals and calling it “hospitalization” and “treatment” and even “suicide and crime prevention”: “The solution to this situation is obvious — make sure individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment. The mistake was not in emptying the nation’s hospitals but rather in ignoring the treatment needs of the patients being released…. Others are unaware they are sick and should be required by law to receive assisted outpatient treatment, including medication and counseling…  If they do not comply with the court-ordered treatment plan, they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital.”

In contrast, Ashley Figueroa, a former girlfriend of Loughner, told ABC News that she remembers Loughner as “a drug user with a grudge against the government…. I think he’s faking everything…. I think that he has been planning this for some time.” A writer for adds: “Figueroa is not a doctor, and these claims conflict with the opinion of top doctors in the field of psychiatry. (Dr. E. Fuller Torrey actually told Salon that Loughner looks like a ‘textbook’ case of paranoid schizophrenia.)”

True, Figueroa is not a “doctor.” Do we need to have a medical degree to diagnose a person we have never laid eyes on as schizophrenic? Does the fact that Figueroa knew Loughner, that they had a real-life human relationship, count for nothing?

GI Jane and the End of Conservatism Reply

So argues James Kirkpatrick.

I disagree with this author’s argument that women make inherently incompetent soldiers. See here, here, here, here, here, and here. But the important part of this writer’s argument is that even the supposedly most conservative institution in the U.S. is itself thoroughly penetrated by political correctness.

The defining insight of the Alternative Right is that every traditional institution in the West has been fatally compromised by egalitarianism and radical leftism, and that ultimately modern conservatism serves as nothing more than the defense of the liberal establishment. The one possible exception to this rule has been the United States military.  In the popular imagination, the military represents an American warrior tradition that predates the Republic itself and is a bastion of conservatism and patriotism in a society gone mad.  It remains the only public institution that enjoys the widespread trust and support of the American people, far exceeding the approval ratings of the media, branches of government, corporate America, and even religion.

Nonetheless, a steadily increasing collection of papers and books from Thomas Ricks’s Making The Corps in 1997 to Lt. Col. J.K. Dempsey’s Our Army in 2010 contain much furrowing of brows and lamentations about the alleged monolithic conservatism of the officer corps and supposed alienation of officers from a decadent American society. Conservatives can smugly assert in response that it is the very innate conservatism of the military’s leadership that makes the institution so worthy of trust.  Furthermore, they could argue that this conservatism is inherent to the military profession, as Samuel Huntington elaborated in his seminal 1957 work, The Soldier and the State. Any progressive attempt to crack open the military and force it to operate like any other government bureaucracy is therefore doomed to failure.

Unfortunately, the progressives have succeeded.  Whatever the private opinions of the officer corps, the last few years have shown that the Army essentially operates with the same principles as any Ethnic Studies Program at a typical university.  In 2009, a major in the United States Army who had openly expressed outright contempt for the country he ostensibly served murdered American soldiers on an Army base.  Soldiers could not fire back and had to be saved by the police—because they are not allowed to be armed on base. Our mighty centurion General George Casey—in a pronouncement as immortal in its own way as Casear’s “Vini, Vidi, Vici”—commented that while the shootings were a tragedy, the greater tragedy would be if the Army’s diversity were a casualty.

Ike Was Right About the Military-Industrial Complex Reply

From The Independent

In his speech, Eisenhower warned about the growth of a ‘military-industrial complex,’ and the risks it could pose. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power,” Ike said, “exists and will persist.” His anxieties back then were prompted by the ten-fold expansion of the US military after two world wars, and by the development of a “permanent arms industry of vast proportions”. Today, the proportions of both the military and the industry that serves it are vaster than ever.

Adjusted for inflation, US national security spending has more than doubled since Eisenhower left office. Year after year, the defence budget seems to rise – irrespective of whether the country is actually fighting major wars, regardless of the fact that the Soviet Union, the country’s former global adversary, has ceased to be, and no matter which party controls the White House and Congress.

One common thread however exists: the military-industrial complex, or perhaps (as Eisenhower himself described it in a draft of his speech that was later amended) the military-industrial-congressional complex. Others have referred to the beast as the “Iron Triangle”.

In one corner of the triangle stands the arms industry. The second is constituted by the government, or more precisely the Pentagon, the end-consumer of the industry’s output. In a totalitarian state, such as the Soviet Union, that combination would be sufficient. The US however is a democracy, and a third corner is required – an elected legislature to vote funds to pay for the arms. This is Congress, made up of members who rely on the defence industry for many jobs in their states and districts, and for money to help finance their every more expensive re-election campaigns.

But maybe even triangle is an inadequate description. Today, more than ever, a fourth element underpins the military-industrial complex. It is the extraordinary prestige, verging on veneration, Americans accord their armed forces. Whatever the country’s soldiers need, the general public broadly believes, they should have.

Why I'm Not an Elitist 5

by Jeremy Weiland

Egalitarianism in Context

Many on the right assert that elitism is an approach to social problems that recognizes inherent differences in individuals. Elites belong in leadership positions where their natural talents can be used to best benefit society. Most people are not cut out for responsible positions within the social apparatus, according to their argument.

Understood in this narrow sense, I do not find elitism dangerous as an abstract analysis. Indeed, there are a vast variety of competencies inherent in people, whether through their choosing to develop them or whether they come “naturally” (whatever you think that means). That some should gravitate to a place where their talents are best used is not a problem; it is a core purpose around which we associate.

The problems enter in when a mere measurement of talent distribution is expanded into an individual or group identity. Without elitist pretensions, there is no need for a purposeful elevation of the more competent over the less. There is no need for institutional structures that maintain elite predominance. Why go to great lengths to stress differentiation between non-elite and elite if those differences are obvious?

In other words, it appears that elites are elite due to their ability to render some sort of service to others. But over time, elites come to be served by others. This happens because, instead of the elite status being a matter of demonstration and service, it turns into a status existing in and of itself. If the elite status cannot be commonly seen, then it must be imposed. Hence, institutional structures like royal families, aristocratic classes, and executive professional networks maintaining exclusive access to power. The elite become an identity, not a competency.

The importance of coercive structure to elevate these elites cannot be underemphasized. Societies are narrower than the humans they comprise. They select for qualities, talents, and characteristics they value based on their imperfect understandings at a given time. For societies to develop, they cannot simply perpetuate the same patterns for which they select; they must broaden their appreciation for underutilized talents, unappreciated qualities. The elite, in order to maintain their position as a matter of identity, must arrest this progress as a matter of preserving their status. Service to society is once again hampered.

I can imagine elite apologists saying that certain individuals are more valuable to society than others. For whatever reason, their talents are rarer. The loss to society of an improperly elevated talent is worth the danger of codified supremacy. The values informing this distinction between individuals are arbitrary but inherent in the social body. But this views the danger of elitism only in terms of its social consequences. It does not speak to the consequences to the so-called elite individual.

Talent within the self is not alone sufficient. It must be developed and actionable in order to useful. After all, if elites are distinguished by their usefulness to society, then their talents must be realized or the elite status is illegitimate. In a very real sense, the only legitimate use for a concept of elite is the service by the elite to the net benefit of society.

If one’s sense of identity comes from the opinion that one is elite as a matter of what one can do, and not what one does do, it can hamper this striving to develop the talent. It can invert the pattern of service and squander the talent through demanding that others serve the elite. This then becomes a mere power relationship and, as earlier mentioned, will require recognition by society through coercive means in the end.

I’d argue that egalitarianism is not the argument that everybody is equal in talents. Instead, egalitarianism is the argument that what constitutes virtue is service, not identity, and that human potential is the basis for moral equality. It is through the kinetic that the potential is demonstrated and work is performed, if accomplishing work is the point in the first place.

What counts as “talent” is after all a normative construct. It isn’t important at all, in the end, whether everybody has the same capabilities; what is important is that we understand genuine service, and that we cultivate a society that sees value in service to others so that potential is realized wherever it lay and not be squandered by mere institutional momentum.

The egalitarian approach has perhaps one construct on top of this: that perhaps potentials of import are not so easily perceived by us mortals, and therefore the safe bet is to value all instead of directly ordering the social body to select for the obviously desirable talents. Rousseau may have been correct that institutions corrupt man, but it seems more important to me that they may promote the development of individual talents based solely on their value to institutions. Obviously, human potential is broader than the society can integrate at a given moment. We can have faith in people, or we can have faith in leaders – this is the insight of the anarchist.

The Trouble with Liberty Reply

A critique of libertarianism from New York magazine by Christopher Beam.

This critique is limited solely to the modern postwar American version of libertarianism. It doesn’t reference classical anarchism or even modern left-anarchism at all. So it’s focus is pretty narrow. A much more comprehensive treatment of anti-state radicalism is certainly possible. Many of the criticisms offered strike me as shallow and not very well informed of actual libertarian beliefs and the reasons for holding them (and I say this as someone who is very critical of some of the strands of libertarianism described in the article). Still, it’s a rather fair and nuanced article from a mainstream, relatively centrist, somewhat liberal perspective. I take it this writer is not any kind of “conservative” as he fails to get a hair up his ass over libertarian anti-militarism and proposals for decriminalizing things like drugs and commercialized vices.

Strauss, Beyond Left and Right Reply

by Jack Ross

Paul Gottfried has paid me the high compliment of writing an extended response to a message board comment I made of his essay on the critics of Leo Strauss.  Though I’m amused that Gottfried seems to be taken in by the argument of some Straussians, of which I was vaguely aware, that Strauss was really a Cold War liberal, I think in the end it misses the point to debate whether Strauss was a man of the right.

Gottfried is correct that Strauss’ Zionism was not a right-wing predilection in the European context.  The analogy to black nationalism is instructive with its very great likeness to Zionism.  Before World War II, to be a Zionist was a right-wing choice in the Jewish context, not only with socialism still a force to be reckoned with but with German Zionism still very much influenced by classical liberals like Hannah Arendt.  Indeed, Jabotinsky was probably responding to the likes of Arendt and Magnes far more than to Labor Zionism.

As for whether Straussianism belongs on the right today, I go back to the template that I actually picked up from a very bad leftist professor, that the right, as opposed to conservatism, is simply the enemy of the left which hates the left more than it believes in any positive program – which goes far, of course, in explaining how so much of the right through history, from fascism to neoconservatism, came out of the left.  (This professor, by the way, who was in great measure responsible for the failure of my graduate school career and I was told on good authority was only even there as a condition for hiring his wife, was furious when I invoked his template in embracing Edmund Burke).

There may well be a strong argument that in the 20th century context Strauss and his immediate disciples were closer to Cold War liberalism than even the new right, but in placing Straussianism on the right today one need only examine the fundamental Straussian influence behind Glenn Beck and the Tea Party doctrines generally.  I remember well back during the 2008 Republican primary, when I asked my friend Joe Stromberg, a Mormon apostate, what he thought of Mitt Romney’s speech on religion in America.  Blessedly cut off from the media circus, Joe wasn’t even aware of it, so we ended up having a very general conversation about Mormonism.  In explaining his quite compelling thesis that Mormonism is the ultimate religion of American predestination, at one point I was led to ask in shock “are there Mormon Straussians?”, to which Joe bemusedly replied “one or two, yes.”

Mormon Straussianism, in short, is the secret of the Glenn Beck phenomenon.  Its core doctrines about the divinely inspired Constitution (something the two groups separately believe anyway) were expounded Beck’s acknowledged forebear Cleon Skousen.  The above link by Michael Lind explains how it was the Claremontistas who first began pushing the notion that Woodrow Wilson was our worst President – not because his crusade to make the world safe for democracy directly led to all the totalitarian horrors of the 20th century by allowing the Allies a decisive victory, not because he set up the worst police state in American history (yes, Southern partisans, worse than Lincoln, we can have that out another day), but because he introduced theories of government that contradicted the Straussian belief in natural law.

It was in watching Glenn Beck’s coming out party as the white Farrakhan last August that I was finally determined to figure out how the American right came to believe such bizarre things about Martin Luther King.  I soon enough realized that it was but a classic Straussian exercise, to banish any historical and cultural context and divine the secret meaning of a great man’s words in the abstract.  In his bizarre “Rally to Restore Honor” religious revival speech that was one part Elmer Gantry and two parts Edward Bellamy, Beck made brief allusions to Mormon theology about the predestination of early America at creation.

He deftly went over this in an instant, but that he got away with it at all before his evangelical audience is shocking.  What it proves is that the American right is far more steadfast to the neocon “fourth great western religion” of Americanism than to Christianity.  What this owes to Leo Strauss hardly need be repeated here.

So if – and I realize many, not least Gottfried, will want to debate this point – the Tea Party represents the right in America today as opposed to principled conservatism, than the progeny of Strauss most assuredly belongs there.  But I should think that categories of left and right are superfluous in diagnosing the militant world-redemptive idolatry of Americanism.  And to be clear, I am the last person who would deny its debt to liberalism.

That 1918 Feeling Reply

by Jack Ross

Though it may well be too soon to assume any real significance to the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the Lebanese government, it is nevertheless suggestive of what I have argued for a while – that we are on the brink of an uprising across the Arab world to cast off the yoke of the American empire akin to the wave of uprisings that finally freed Eastern Europe from the Soviets.  Helena Cobban writes:

My sense from afar is that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his friends and backers in Tehran are sending a fairly blunt message to the west (whose leaders often like to describe themselves as the “international community”) that regime change is indeed a game that more than one side can play.

Where is Saudi King Abdullah? He has had several serious medical procedures recently. Who has PM Saad Hariri been listening to as he has made his decisions of recent weeks?

If Nasrallah and his friends in Tehran (especially Supreme Leader Khamenei) indeed think the time has come to give the western house of cards in the Middle East a little nudge in Beirut to see what happens, the fallout from this could well end up extending far beyond Lebanon’s tiny confines.

Cobban believes that Saudi Arabia is indeed as ripe for revolution as Egypt, with King Abdullah as near death as Mubarak.  There is apparently even some shit going down in Tunisia, of all places.  The neocons, in their moral outrage at the comparison to 1989 (or is it 1919?) will now doubt insist that this would only be the conquest of the Middle East by Iran.  But it is certainly no more so than the fall of Communism meant that Eastern Europe was absorbed by the American empire.  Indeed, who can imagine the Iranians constructing an apparatus to compare to NATO?

Speaking of Iran, in a possibly related matter we have seen the dramatic shift in the party line about the Iranian nuclear program, in what can only be interpreted as the desperation of the war party to buy time, for reasons as yet unclear.  The official consensus mouthpiece itself, the Washington Post, is typical:

The challenge for the Obama administration, Israel and other allies will be to make use of that window to force a definitive end to the Iranian bomb program. The administration still hopes negotiations, set to resume Jan. 20, will achieve that end, but most likely it will require a fundamental change in Iran’s hard-line regime. From that point of view, five years is certainly not much time.

Perhaps Barack Milhous Obama really is about to actually reach out to Iran and end the madness.  But it may also be that the neocons and Israel lobby have decided all they can do now is go for broke and do all the moral chest-beating they can muster, and perhaps try to put across the big lie that America is legally bound to use its military to prevent “crimes against the Jewish people”.  The apparent strategic retreat may also be a sign that America has already lost the war – like Russia before the revolution, like France before the Americans came in, and like Germany thereafter.

But the liberation of Lebanon, and perhaps also Tunisia, if they spread to Egypt and Saudi Arabia could create a revolutionary wave that not even the most U.S. garrisoned Gulf sheikhdoms could withstand.  Let the Arab Spring commence!!!!

Drug War Kabuki Theater Reply

Kevin Carson on the modern version of the Baptist/Bootlegger alliance.

The ostensible opposing sides in the so-called Drug War have a similar relationship.  In the real world, the private drug cartels derive their power from the existence of a lucrative black market which the state plays a central role in maintaining.  And the state itself is just another drug cartel which profits from controlling — rather than eliminating — the drug trade.

You can be sure that, if anyone presented a plausible threat of actually ending the production of all illegal narcotics, the black ops people in the national security state would “neutralize” them, and that right quickly.  Without the drug trade, how would the CIA fund its global network of death squads and other criminal thugs around the world?

In a dipolomatic cable published by Wikileaks (quoted in an article by Ginger Thompson and Scott Shane at the New York Times — “Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency,” Dec. 25),  we see a long list of examples of the Drug Enforcement Agency acting — not so much to eradicate illegal drugs — but to determine the balance of power between government and private drug cartels.

The Critic Responds, and My Reply 7

A few days ago, I posted this response to a left-anarchist critic.  The critic has offered an analysis of my earlier reply. Read it in full here. First, a clarification:

I got into a prolonged scuffle on the LeftLibertarian forums with Jeremy Weiland who identifies as a “Left Libertarian” and hosts, for free, mind you.  Naturally, fate intervened when Keith Preston, who was the subject of much debate in that thread, picks up my post, publishes on ATS (without accrediting me at all mind you) and then tries to haul me over the coals in front of his Third Positionist buddies.  All I have to say is that if Preston felt threatened enough by a forum post to rebut it to a post published on ATS, and in such a condescending manner, then I must be doing something right.

The critic’s name is Royce Christian, whom I believe resides in Australia and is a left-anarchist/left-libertarian. I did not use his name in my earlier reply out of respect for his privacy as I was uncertain about to what degree he is “public” about his anarchist beliefs. Royce’s reply is rather wordy, and often redundant, so I’m not going to attempt a line-by-line rebuttal of his analysis of my work. Instead, I will focus on what seem to be the major or at least the more substantive points of his arguments.


Some Drugs Are More Equal Than Others Reply

So says “Thoreau.

As a helpful guide to our readers, I have prepared a detailed classification scheme for illegal drugs:

Class Ia:  The drugs that you used when you were young and wild.  Not as potent as today’s drugs, and nothing to get judgmental about.  Sometimes worth getting a bit nostalgic about, though.

Class Ib:  The drugs that you used before  joining a 12 step program and/or a new religion.  Dangerous, evil things that even a fine person like you could not handle, and definitely too strong for anybody else.  Well worth getting self-righteous about, but not worth losing your rights over.

Class II:  The drugs that your young children might use some day unless the government Does Something About It.  Dangerous, evil things that must be stopped at any cost, as long as that cost is mostly paid by somebody else.

Class III:  The drugs that your teenage children just used.  These drugs are a private family matter that nobody else needs to get involved in.

Class IV:  The drugs that you heard are being used by people with less money than you and/or more melanin than you.  These drugs are not only incredibly potent and dangerous substances, they are also a sign of a deep moral defect that warrants a stiff prison sentence, substantially reduced employment prospects, and permanent suspension of voting rights.

The New White Nationalism in America 5

Scott McConnell of The American Conservative reviewed this book by Vanderbilt law professor Carol Swain.

I consider this book to be the very best scholarly work on the question of American white nationalism. In fact, it is probably the only such work of any genuine quality. Dr. Swain is an African-American, and not personally sympathetic to white nationalism, while giving it an objective scholarly analysis. It is this work that has most influenced my own thinking regarding the question of white nationalism, and it is largely Carol Swain’s policy recommendations (with some adjustments to make them more compatible with the anarcho-libertarian paradigm) that I have incorporated into the ARV/ATS program.

Swain reminds us that the affirmative action policies that mandate quotas, timetables, and diversity monitors were initially developed as a means to give immediate succor to the black poor in the aftermath of the civil rights revolution. They have now developed into anything but that. Instead, they are seen either as a means to impose diversity, now construed as an end it itself, or as a method to provide black and Hispanic students with role models.

Swain has no patience with any of these rationales. It strikes her as pathetically small minded to imagine that blacks need black role models to succeed: her own, she adds with some poignancy, were white male academics who prodded her to push herself intellectually. As it is, the current system undermines both the self-esteem and the education of its purported beneficiaries. Swain asks how the personal chemistry of college sports teams would fare if teams were required to have proportionate quotas of white and Asian athletes. And she relates a bitter truth from her own experience with black students on campus—many of whom pass through college believing that affirmative action guarantees their admission to top-quality professional schools regardless of their academic performance. Such a belief
may be only partially true, but it has had devastating consequences for black academic performance.

When liberal immigration policies are thrown into the mix, the American racial system is threatened with overload. Swain estimates that by the middle of the present century well over half of Americans will be entitled to racial preferences. It seems most unlikely that such a development could take place without fierce resistance by white Americans.

Swain’s own recommendations are the epitome of common sense. Racial preferences for hiring and promotions should be eliminated. Affirmative action should be remodeled with an emphasis on class rather than racial background in order to benefit the poorest Americans. Racial preferences for new immigrants should be scrapped entirely. Immigration rates should be reduced, and the laws against hiring illegal aliens (who compete with and drive down the wages of the American working poor) should be enforced. The black leadership should be challenged: its current focus on divisive issues like reparations or its obsession with eliminating statues, street names, and other symbols of the Confederacy do nothing for the black poor and only drain the reservoir of racial good will. Social policy should be refocused on aiding the working poor through such measures as income subsidies and vocational training for high school dropouts.