Equality or Privilege

Gored on the Horns of the American Dilemma

"Everything in American politics always comes down to the race question," says one of our collaborators. School choice plans, for example, are either condemned for enabling the white middle classes to liberate their children from the hell of public schools or praised for giving black families the prospect of sending their children to the suburbs. The war on drugs is undertaken to save "inner-city youth" from the consequences of their misbehavior and criticized for targeting minorities. When the police beef up patrols in black neighborhoods they are accused of harassment and, when they slack off, of neglect. (Throw in the homosexual rights question, and the cops are in an impossible bind, as in the Jeffrey Dahmer case, where one sensitivity blunted another.)

The race question is most pernicious in anything relating to federalism. Trying to make a case for states' rights or local control, I am always asked how I would prevent one group (by which they always mean whites) from oppressing another (that is, blacks). At the Ludwig von Mises Institute's superb May conference on the "Costs of War," the panelists more or less agreed that the War Between the States was a just war asserting the South's independence. Inevitably, someone in the audience played the race card: If you believe in national liberation, does that mean you would support a slave revolt?

Different people gave different...

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