Voice: Barry Fagin

Barry Fagin is a senior fellow with the Independence Institute.

“…the real significant factor that affects the lives of ethnic minorities has been dependence and increasing reliance on the state, and the welfare state, in particular…”

One thing people ought to consider (as to why the gaps are wider now) is the rise of the modern welfare state. It was really with Johnson’s Great Society programs in the late ’60s when things started. But the real significant factor that affects the lives of ethnic minorities has been dependence and increasing reliance on the state, and the welfare state, in particular … There isn’t anything as dramatic in American public policy since the mid-70s up to now as the expansion of entitlement programs and the specific targeting of racial and ethnic minorities for state help. We all want to believe that those things help. We all want to believe that those are good things; that’s why we support them. If you argue against them, or if you look at what they actually do, you’re seen as blaming the victim. You’re seen as not being compassionate. You’re seen as being a racist, any number of things. It’s very, very hard to challenge them.

Barry Fagin

Barry Fagin

There is no single thing that causes complex social phenomena. They’re always interrelated. They’re also things like individual cultural differences within different minority groups…but, in my opinion, the most significant factor by far is the emergence of the modern welfare state and excessive reliance on it. For example, we like to think the Civil Rights Act caused all the good things. But you need to do a little more careful thinking than that. It might just be that it was a continuation of an existing trend. For example, from 1940 to 1960, black poverty fell from 87 percent to 47 percent. (It was) trending before the Civil Rights Act happened. Similarly, the number of blacks in professional occupations doubled from 1954 to 1964, again before the Civil Rights Act was passed. So things were actually on the right trend. They were actually heading in the right direction before the Civil Rights Act passed.

Again, for example, in 1925 about 85 percent of black households were headed by two-parent families. That’s a wonderful statistic and that’s important and it’s completely different today. Today, the black illegitimacy rate is at an astonishing 70 percent. That’s horrible. If you wanted to announce a systemic assault on the African American community, that’s how you would do it. It’s astonishing. That happened after the Civil Rights Act. So does that mean the Civil Rights Act caused that? No, of course not. There are always unintended consequences to federal policy and we’ve got to look at those and think about that regardless of how it makes us feel. We have to look at what their actual effects are.

But an inescapable conclusion it seems to me is that blacks have been disproportionately targeted as specific beneficiaries of federal social policy. And to conclude that those policies can only have good effects and to conclude that the bad effects must be because of discrimination and what we need are still more aggressive welfare policies, it seems to me to be gross intellectual error and intellectual myopia.

We need to cut entitlement spending. That’s really, really important. And not just for the poor. I believe for the middle class and the rich, too. I’m at least consistent in that view. And there needs to be a real cut … not a reduced rate in the growth of these programs.

Along with that we need to cut taxes. We need to cut taxes in order to give people more of their own money and to get the economy moving again. And to get the jobs that these people need.

There also needs to be more of a conversation among everyone, but particularly those who claim to care about the underclass, about the role of individual responsibility, and the role of personal choices in people’s behavior.

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