Most Americans believe in capitalism, but know that a lot of its top beneficiaries are not fully exposed to marketplace discipline. Most Americans are painfully aware that life is good for people like Paul Krugman, and they know that he doesn’t much care what’s happening to them. Charles Murray created his “bubble quiz” to illustrate the degree to which much of the upper-middle class has grown detached from the experience of workaday Americans. When PBS invited its readers to take the quiz, the zip code where this detachment was most pronounced was my own: 10023, the Upper West Side. It’s a far cry from where I grew up, in Southern Indiana.
Aaron M. Renn mentions the unequal distribution of wealth in a capitalist system, not something that generally bothers right-wingers. Then he says that the beneficiaries are "not fully exposed to marketplace discipline" and elsewhere in his article he gripes about government bailouts. Libertarians believe that laissez-faire capitalism is the answer to all the world's problems and are generally against government influence on the market, so he must be a Libertarian. Plus I found him whinging about progressives stealing libertarian ideas.
And then he references Charles Murray, a prominent Libertarian who is most famous for co-authoring "The Bell Curve" in 1994, which argues that black people as a group are less intelligent than all other ethnic groups, so we shouldn't spend money on government programs designed to help the poor because they're too stupid to benefit from it. The book was widely criticized. Including by then civil rights lawyer and writer Barack Obama.
October 28, 1994
SHOW: All Things Considered (NPR 4:30 pm ET)
Charles Murray's Political Expediency Denounced
BARACK OBAMA, Commentator: Charles Murray is inviting American down a dangerous path.
NOAH ADAMS, Host: Civil rights lawyer, Barack Obama.
Mr. OBAMA: The idea that inferior genes account for the problems of the poor in general, and blacks in particular, isn't new, of course. Racial supremacists have been using IQ tests to support their theories since the turn of the century. The arguments against such dubious science aren't new either. Scientists have repeatedly told us that genes don't vary much from one race to another, and psychologists have pointed out the role that language and other cultural barriers can play in depressing minority test scores, and no one disputes that children whose mothers smoke crack when they're pregnant are going to have developmental problems.
Now, it shouldn't take a genius to figure out that with early intervention such problems can be prevented. But Mr. Murray isn't interested in prevention. He's interested in pushing a very particular policy agenda, specifically, the elimination of affirmative action and welfare programs aimed at the poor. With one finger out to the political wind, Mr. Murray has apparently decided that white America is ready for a return to good old-fashioned racism so long as it's artfully packaged and can admit for exceptions like Colin Powell. It's easy to see the basis for Mr. Murray's calculations. After watching their income stagnate or decline over the past decade, the majority of Americans are in an ugly mood and deeply resent any advantages, realor perceived, that minorities may enjoy.
I happen to think Mr. Murray's wrong, not just in his estimation of black people, but in his estimation of the broader American public. But I do think Mr. Murray's right about the growing distance between the races. The violence and despair of the inner city are real. So's the problem of street crime. The longer we allow these problems to fester, the easier it becomes for white America to see all blacks as menacing and for black America to see all whites as racist. To close that gap, we're going to have to do more than denounce Mr. Murray's book. We're going to have to take concrete and deliberate action. For blacks, that means taking greater responsibility for the state of our own communities. Too many of us use white racism as an excuse for self-defeating behavior. Too many of our young people think education is a white thing and that the values of hard work and discipline andself-respect are somehow outdated.
That being said, it's time for all of us, and now I'm talking about the larger American community, to acknowledge that we've never even come close to providing equal opportunity to the majority of black children. Real opportunity would mean quality prenatal care for all women and well-funded and innovative public schools for all children. Real opportunity would mean a job at a living wage for everyone who was willing to work, jobs that can return some structure and dignity to people's lives and give inner-city children something more than a basketball rim to shoot for. In the short run, such ladders of opportunity are going to cost more, not less, than either welfare or affirmative action. But, in the long run, our investment should payoff handsomely. That we fail to make this investment is just plain stupid. It's not the result of an intellectual deficit. It's theresult of a moral deficit.
ADAMS: Barack Obama is a civil rights lawyer and writer. He lives in Chicago.
So what's Aaron M. Renn's deal? Well it turns out that he works for the Manhattan Institute...
...a right-wing 501(c)(3) non-profit think tank founded in 1978 by William J. Casey, who later became President Ronald Reagan's CIA director. It is an associate member of the State Policy Network.
According to the Manhattan Institute, it is "focused on promoting free-market principles" and has a mission to "develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility."
The Manhattan Institute is funded in part by the Koch brothers.
The Manhattan Institute has received funding from the Koch brothers. The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, one of the Koch Family Foundations, reported giving $2,075,000 to the Manhattan Institute between 2001 and 2012, the last year for which data is available. The Charles G. Koch Foundation gave $100,000 to the Institute in 2012.
Take a look at their list of experts - out of 48, only 6 are women and one is a black man. And Renn has the hypocrisy to claim Paul Krugman lives in a bubble.
But going back to Krugman. Is Renn really so stupid that he can't tell the difference between government-bailout beneficiaries and Paul Krugman? Or is deliberate malice behind Renn's using Krugman as an example of someone that the average person should resent? Because Krugman didn't get a government bailout. Krugman should be the kind of person that Libertarians adore - he's risen to prominence through hard work and intelligence like an Ayn Randian ubermensch.
But then Krugman advocates for liberal policies, including higher taxes and government programs. That's why Renn (and Charles Murray and the Koch brothers) want to use Krugman and other urban liberals as the targets for class resentment. It's all about the politics.