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Hullabaloo


Monday, May 16, 2005

 
From The Beginning

Talking about inequality and social mobility, Ezra says:

I've little hope that we'll address this, though. The overarching evils of vast inequality and the transcendent good of do-it-yourself mobility are such foundational philosophical tenets of America's two parties that I can't see either coming to recognize that the fix, such as one exists, might be the same for both. Indeed, while the Democratic party may be convincible simply because the solutions line up with our proposed programs, Republicans will, for good reason, never relinquish the strict dichotomy they've created between individual mobility and general equality. The belief that large social programs must be avoided because they tamp down on individual virtues stretches back to Hoover and Associationalism, it's not going to be given up now.


As I have argued before,at some tedious length, it goes back further than that. It goes all the way back to the beginning of the Republic and relates very closely to our little "problem" with slavery. It might even be said that the whole concept of American individualism rests on the back of racism.

It was long held that government guarantees of equality meant that the wrong people would get things they did not deserve or could not handle. There have been many of "those people" over the years, but the concept originated with slaves and free African Americans. And the reason is that they, unlike virtually every other poor sub-group, had no economic support systems like churches and ethnic organizations and instead had to depend upon government programs. The face of government largesse was, for many people, black. The "welfare queen" was only the most modern description of a phenomenon that riled up certain citizens for a long, long time.

Individualism became part of the American ethos as much as an expression of racial superiority as personal virtue.


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