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Your analysis of the movement of steel towns sounds to me like a Marxist analysis.  

Marxist analysis is indeed useful and predicts exactly the sort of thing you say.  There

was a story about that steel town in PA on Public Television news last night.



Books by Thomas Sowell


Basic Economics A Common sense Guide to the Economy / A Man of Letters / Ever wonder Why? /


Applied Economics A Conflict of Visions / The Einstein Syndrome  /  Knowledge and Decisions Black Rednecks and White Liberals


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Sowell, Marx, & the Sermon on the Mount 

Or Politicians Spitting on the Words of the Christ

Conversation with Sowell, Mackie, and Wilson


Thomas Sowell: Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem [jim crow]. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races. [“Rosa Parks and History”]

Mackie: I can only marvel at the way some people use language to blindside us against the real systemic problems.

Rudy: They shoot horses don't they (or used to) when they lose their usefulness. If our government is not the solution to socio-economic problems, then what?— honest white corporations that only seek profit? What idiocies and opportunism parade as intellectual rigor and scholarship. I'm done with politics. I shall crawl off into the sunset with few regrets like August Wilson, enough is enough.

Wilson: Sowell's position is a restatement of the economic interpretation of the Civil Rights Movement, stated thirty years ago by Andy Young, and summarized in my discussion of Andy Young in my second book Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms (1982).  Ironically, Sowell's interpretation is the Marxist interpretation, although neither Sowell nor Young would desire any identification with Marxism.  

Nonetheless, their economic determinism is perfectly consistent with the Marxist interpretation that was doctrinal in Detroit.  We also interpreted Mein Kampf in Marxist terms.  Everything in Detroit was Marxist during my formative years, but Detroit paid the price for being a Marxist town.   The sudden destruction of New Orleans is more dramatic, but no more tragic than the slow strangulation of Detroit. 

Rudy: There is/was a steel town in West Virginia, immediately west of southern Pennsylvania, that was created as a result of the founding of a steel mill. The town would not have been created if it had not been for the business itself and the mill owner. Maybe it had at one point 5 to 10,000 workers, and like other steel towns (Pittsburgh, Baltimore), it has suffered demise. And the people (the town) suffer and die. That's life.

Foreign steel is cheaper, and foreign-owned corporations like Mittal Steel, care little about communities or people—the bottom line is profit, and profit only—people say. As far as Detroit, many of these factory jobs have moved to southern towns, like one in Alabama, I saw on TV recently—Down South unions are weaker, taxes are cheaper. One city's lost is another city's gain—a knowledge of Marx was/is useless.

A greater awareness and appreciation and curbing of our governments would have been more useful.  These shifts had as much to do with political decisions—lack of planning, lack of concern for people, callous governments, regional customs—as with economics.

Sowell's "marxism" (economic analysis) of the civil rights movement has little to do with economics or about the owners of the Montgomery bus company or about civil rights.

It has to do with the role of government in socio-economic issues: the country would be better off if it were run by corporations which he assumes are entirely rational—profit its only motive. But we know that this ideology falls short of truth. That's not the ethic at work, then or now. It has just as much to do with caprice, racial greed, and power as anything.

Sowell is a Republican crony and will say anything, like Andy Young, to get a paycheck and a pat on the head by his adoring admirers

Wilson: Your analysis of the movement of steel towns sounds to me like a Marxist analysis.   Marxist analysis is indeed useful and predicts exactly the sort of thing you say.  There was a story about that steel town in PA on Public Television news last night.   Did you catch it?  We must get these Marxists off public television! 

Rudy:  Marx must have "discovered" the obvious (and thus a dull fellow indeed) if so many ordinary fellows, unknowingly, are expressing his thought. Maybe globalism did exist then, in the mid-19th century. One historian dated its beginning in 1571 when the Chinese decided on silver as their currency and when there was a "world market" for Chinese goods. That Marx could forecast happenings in backwoods West Virginia in the latter part of the 20th century or the impoverishing of Detroit to the benefit of Southern towns and a Hindu businessman sounds a bit incredible, especially with so many governmental reforms since the 19th-century.

I have little faith in economic determinism and inevitability, when economics is so dependent on human decisions and human behavior. Surely, there is something novel in the particulars.

Wilson: Most so-called "great minds" are known for their discovery of the obvious. It is true, however, that what is true to the American Negro, often alludes the perception of other Americans.  What you (and I) call obvious does not seem to have touched the minds of most of the in the major economics departments at the elite universities.  But Marx had an excellent perception of how workers are treated by management, and how economists export jobs to foreign markets.  

Hence he understood that the jobs of English workers were lost to slave labor in the American South.  As for determinism and inevitability,  I think it inevitable that persons with Bush/Cheney interests will think as they do and perform as they do.  But I suppose I am something of a Calvinist.

Rudy: Once, I understand, politics and economics were one thing—political economy. The separation of the two is a travesty. For there is this pretense of "economic laws" like the laws of physics and so there is nothing that man or government can do but adjust to the inevitable. Maybe Marx understood that the two could not be separated. I am not so sure that when we hear these "marxist" analyses today that there is that understanding.

I do not see how Marx is helpful in explaining why white American males vote consistently against their economic interests. Marxism also does not explain why we have an American president who turns a government surplus to a deficit, provides tax breaks for the rich and balances the budget on the backs of the poor.

Nor does Marx explain why we have neo-colonial regimes tied to international capital, so that we have a country like Sudan that exports a half-million barrels of oil and yet famine exists in that country. Nor does it explain why another oil country like Kuwait does not have poverty among its citizens. Nor why racism (personal and systemic) still exists fifty years after its abolition.

Wilson: Slavery was abolished, but not racism.  Adam Smith and Karl Marx both understood that the masses do not understand their own interests.   You share the idea of Marx that they can be brought to an awareness of their self-interest. You and Marx differ from Smith and me. You and Marx share the belief that the masses can unite and divest themselves of their chains.  Smith and I are more pessimistic about the ability of the workers to understand their interests and organize accordingly.

Rudy:  So you agree that marxism has about as much social value as the Christian message in the improvement of society. I am afraid I am more inclined toward your view and Smith's, that is, understanding the facts of life is not the true cause of social change. Natural and cosmic circumstance might indeed be more effective in bringing about social change, in that the stupidity of the American electorate is what it is and that obstinate, malicious political operators are more than able to undermine any type of political organizing that seeks to alter the inevitability of corporate power and sway.

Wilson: What is the Christian message?   Various Christians seem to have widely divergent perceptions.

Rudy:  Well, I had the Sermon on the Mount  in mind.

Wilson: In John 3:5, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  

Some people consider this the essential message of Christianity

Rudy: That is not a social message and has little to do with the improvement of society, except obliquely. It deals more particularly with Christian spirituality. John's gospel is probably about as distant from the social world to which Jesus made reference as that of Paul. There is no objection by any Christian I know to the Sermon on the Mount . Of course, one may find exceptions.

In any event, whatever passage you find as the "Christian message" it probably has more impact on American society than marxism with respect to the personal or the social. Personally, I find more solace in whatever Christian message you settle upon than any that Marx may offer, and more confidence.

Wilson: You are being exceedingly selective.   Christians spit on the Sermon on the Mount, always, invariably, unrelentingly.  With respect to Marx, I shall never be so ungrateful as to deny the many benefits that came to factory workers in Detroit thanks to the Marxist elements in the labor movement. 

Rudy: I too have/had my "marxist friends."  What they accomplished probably had very little to do with Marx and more to do with the social reform and trade unionism of the times. My point is that marxism has little social relevance as a theory today in America, except among middle-class youth in the academy. Most of these marxists I knew/I know are presently devout members of the Democratic Party, which indicates the depth of their revolutionary spirit.

I know of no Christian who will spit on the Sermon on the Mount. There might be those who will ignore it for the Gospel of John, or Paul's Letters. Most American Christians are indeed into church building (economics of religion) or into the suppression of women, or, at least, controlling women's bodies, which amounts to the same thing. But these feminized men (desperately dependent emotionally on women) mask now as Christian conservatives. At best, this kind of American Christianity is another face of corporate economics.

The Sermon on the Mount is the foundation of Christianity. If it did not exist there would be no Church and no rationale to be a Christian at all.

Wilson: Our experiences are different. All the Christians I know spit on the Sermon on the Munt.  All Christians spit on the Sermon on the Mount.  It has nothing to do with any expression of Christianity.  The essence of Christianity is "Kill a Commie for Christ!"  More recently "Kill a Camel Jockey for Jesus!" 

Rudy: You keep changing up on me. You won't stand still. You keep moving all over the place. The other day when we were talking about religion I got a much different impression what the Church (the institution) stood for.

Now you identify Christianity with a few exceptional individuals whose absolute madness has little to do with the Church or Christianity or religion. If you want to say that many American Christians are racist patriotic nuts, okay that's fine. That they are hypocrites and blood thirsty, well, that's fine: we have Pat Robertson. But what about the Sojourners, and other such Christians? Do they count for anything in how we characterize Christians?

Wilson: In formal terms, my definition of religion is "institutionalized worship," and Christianity is merely one form among many forms of institutionalized worship.

In operational terms, however, a Christian is anyone who chooses to call himself a Christian, and Christianity is whatever a Christian says it is. 

But whether defined institutionally or individualistically, I have never encountered any Christian who lives by the principles of the Sermon on the Mount.

Rudy: Even in "operational terms." there is much more of a consensus than you allow. And that consensus does not "spit" on the Sermon on the Mount, even if it does not live up to, regrettably, the Sermon on the Mount.

Wilson: I do not see any consensus among Christians as to what Christianity means. Millions of Christians would reject your definition of Christianity. Millions of Christians would accept it.

Rudy: Let me point out Frederick Herzog words in his, "The Liberation of White Theology": "A lot is being sold under the label Christianity that is actually the desertion of the Christian faith, nothing less than apostasy. Insofar as it still appears under the label Christian, it has to be understood as counterfeit Christianity. . . . Theology can no longer be done apart from the oppressed. Apart from the oppressed it is belletristic. 

You speak of a "counterfeit Christianity."  True Christianity can be found in the words of Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount. Whether it is practiced, truly, is another matter. Ultimately, in practice, the Sermon on the Mount will have a greater resolution of the problems that face us than what can be expected from such ideologies as Marxism and Leninism.

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Rosa Parks and history

By Thomas Sowell

Syndicated columnist

Oct 27, 2005

The death of Rosa Parks has reminded us of her place in history, as the black woman whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, in accordance with the Jim Crow laws of Alabama, became the spark  that ignited the civil rights movement of the 1950s  and 1960s.

Most people do not know the rest of the story, however. Why was there racially segregated seating on public transportation in the first place? "Racism" some will say -- and there was certainly plenty of racism in the South, going back for centuries. But

racially segregated seating on streetcars and buses in the South did not go back for centuries.   Far from existing from time immemorial, as many have assumed, racially segregated seating in public transportation began in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races.

These owners may have been racists themselves but they were in business to make a profit -- and you don't make a profit by alienating a lot of your customers. There was not enough market demand for Jim Crow seating on municipal transit to bring it about.

It was politics that segregated the races because the incentives of the political process are different from the incentives of the economic process. Both blacks and whites spent money to ride the buses but, after the disenfranchisement of black voters in the late 19th and early 20th century, only whites counted in the political process.

It was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of the white voters to demand racial segregation. If some did and the others didn't care, that was sufficient politically, because what blacks wanted did not count politically after they lost the vote.

The incentives of the economic system and the incentives of the political system were not only different, they clashed. Private owners of streetcar, bus, and railroad companies in the South lobbied against the Jim Crow laws while these laws were being written, challenged them in the courts after the laws were passed, and then dragged their feet in enforcing those laws after they were upheld by the courts.

These tactics delayed the enforcement of Jim Crow seating laws for years in some places. Then company employees began to be arrested for not enforcing such laws and at least one president of a streetcar company was threatened with jail if he didn't comply.

None of this resistance was based on a desire for civil rights for blacks. It was based on a fear of  losing money if racial segregation caused black customers to use public transportation less often than they would have in the absence of this affront.

Just as it was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of whites to demand racial segregation through the political system to bring it about, so it was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of blacks to stop riding the streetcars, buses and trains in order to provide incentives for the owners of these transportation systems to feel the loss of money if some blacks used public transportation less than they would have otherwise.

People who decry the fact that businesses are in business "just to make money" seldom understand the implications of what they are saying. You make money by doing what other people want, not what you want.

Black people's money was just as good as white  people's money, even though that was not the case when  it came to votes.

Initially, segregation meant that whites could not sit in the black section of a bus any more than blacks could sit in the white section. But whites who were forced to stand when there were still empty seats in the black section objected. That's when the rule was imposed that blacks had to give up their seats to whites.

Legal sophistries by judges "interpreted" the 14th Amendment's requirement of equal treatment out of existence. Judicial activism can go in any direction.

That's when Rosa Parks came in, after more than half a century of political chicanery and judicial fraud.

posted 29 October 2005

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