by Walter E. Block (July 2023)
Willis Avenue Bridge, Ben Shahn, 1940
Did you ever notice that while blacks comprise some 13% of the US population, television advertisements for everything from cars to breakfast cereals feature members of this demographic to a far larger extent than that? Moreover, blacks are more and more being featured in tv shows wildly over disproportionately? There are no reliable statistics on this phenomenon but it sometimes seems that a majority of the people depicted in this manner are African Americans. And, in advertisements they are invariably portrayed as members of happy families, gently teasing each other, happily laughing with one another.
Reality is very different. The actual point of fact is that a large percentage of black children are living in non-intact, usually female headed, households, and that when the father is absent from the home this is causally associated with crime, poverty, unemployment, incarceration, less schooling, shorter lives, etc.
These wokester liberals in charge of tv advertising, and their political counterparts; did everything they could to break up the black family. One of the problematic programs was welfare. Before President Johnson’s Great Society which greatly boosted welfare payments, there was no gigantic difference between blacks and whites in terms of family formation, illegitimacy, divorce, female single-headed families, etc. Afterward, the statistics for the two groups diverged, markedly.
Slavery of course broke up the black family—while it was in force. But afterward, it proved insufficient to do so. After 1865, husbands and wives found each other again and were reunited. Nowadays, some three quarters of black kids live without the benefit of a mother and a father in the home. In terms of family formation, slavery resembled throwing a frog into boiling water. The metabolism of this species is such that it will jump right out. In contrast, the pernicious welfare system is like placing the frog in cool water, and then slowly heating it up to a boil. The frog’s nerve system is such that it remains there to be killed. Slavery, evil as it is, did not break up the black family; welfare did.
There are other programs, beloved of the wokesters (I refuse to call them “progressive” —they are regressive) that have played havoc with the black community. One of them is the minimum wage law. It is not, contrary to the view of Bernie Sanders and other economic illiterates, a floor under wages which pushes them ever upward. Rather, it is a barrier over which an applicant’s productivity has to exceed in order to get a job in the first place; the higher it is, the more difficult it is to jump into employment. Before its advent in the mid-1930s, the unemployment rates of whites and blacks was similar; that between teens and middle agers was not too different. Nowadays, black unemployment is double that of whites, and teenagers are jobless at twice the rate of adults. If you are following the math, here, black teens, the most economically vulnerable of all, are unemployed at something like quadruple, yes, quadruple, the rate of white middle agers.
What happens to this demographic as a result? They are bored out of their skulls since they cannot obtain legal work. They gravitate toward the illegal sector of the economy: addictive drugs. Thanks, now, mainly to conservatives but liberals too, black kids end up in jail or worse, due to this prohibition. It seems we have learned little or nothing from our previous legal experience with alcohol.
Now, it would appear the deep staters are trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. If they can just depict in television ads and programs the situation as they would like it to be, they think this will create the reality they desire (intact happy, black families, yes; but why do so many indicate a black father and a white mother? I suppose the liberals want that too).
This is the intellectual equivalent of doing a rain dance in order to bring about precipitation. This is similar to calling them “developing countries” when they are actually underdeveloped, and retrogressing. This is akin to changing “colored person” to “person of color” and hoping for improvement; it is based on the assumption that somehow, in some way, this will help matters. It is reminiscent of capitalizing black (“Black”) when it refers to people but leaving the description of white persons in the lower case.
No, putting black people in television advertising, and featuring them in programs (rarely as the bad guys) or doing any and all of these other things (these are merely the tip of the iceberg in this regard) will not help this community even by one little bit.
Want to actually help? End welfare and the minimum wage law and legalize drugs. All of them.
Welfare: Murray, Charles. 1984. Losing Ground: American Social Policy from 1950 to 1980, New York: Basic Books
Minimum wage: Becker, Gary. 1995. “It’s simple: Hike the minimum wage, and you put people out of work.” Business Week. March 6. p. 22; https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/1995-03-05/its-simple-hike-the-minimum-wage-and-you-put-people-out-of-work?in_source=embedded-checkout-banner
Drug prohibition: Block, Walter E. 1993. “Drug Prohibition: A Legal and Economic Analysis,” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 12, pp. 689-700; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00881383
Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute. He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, three dozen books, and thousands of op eds (including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others). He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows. He is the Schlarbaum Laureate, Mises Institute, 2011; and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008) and the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom, 2005; and the Dux Academicus award, Loyola University, 2007. Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shook his hand. Block has never washed that hand since. So, if you shake his hand (it’s pretty dirty, but what the heck) you channel Mises.
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