Ferguson: the Problem is Collectivism

We Austrians emphasize the fact that only individuals act.  This may sound like a dry academic pronouncement, but sometimes events bring its meaning dramatically to the fore.  The Ferguson story is one such event.

While lunching in Palo Alto recently, I looked outside to see the street briefly blocked by demonstrators chanting and carrying signs with slogans like “black lives matter.”  I wished I could confront one of them with a few facts, but then again, facts matter little to such folk, even in trendy Palo Alto.

The racially mixed grand jury took seventy hours of testimony.  That’s a lot.  They know what happened better than you or I or anyone besides the officer involved.  The shooting was justifiable.  Another fact that seems to have gotten buried: Michael Brown was a criminal, just having completed a robbery when he was shot.  It’s too bad that he died, but hey, criminal activity is risky.

In light of these simple facts, how can people propound such irrationality as the demonstrators exhibited?  The answer lies in the fallacy of collective guilt, a sub-species of collective action.  Because white police officers sometimes shoot innocent black citizens, the fallacy implies that any white police officer who shoots a black civilian is necessarily guilty.

Now I want to extend this piece to the idea of reparations for slavery, a grotesque bit of nonsense that pops up from time to time, most recently, sad to say, in a piece by our own Brandon Christensen, albeit in passing.

Let me get this out of the way: slavery was a vicious, horrible institution.  The idea of reparations or restitution has some rationality on the face of it.  In general, people should be compensated, where possible, for violations of their rights, and what could be a more vicious form of rights violation than slavery?

From an individualist point of view, the idea of reparations is preposterous.  I for one know pretty well who my ancestors were, and I’m quite sure none of them held slaves.  But suppose I did have such an ancestor.  The next question is how much benefit I might have received from his slaveholding.  To answer that, we have to examine the counterfactual situation in which my ancestor did not hold slaves.  How much bigger was the bequest that he passed on (if any) versus what it would have been without slaves?  How much of that bequest filtered down to me, among possibly dozens of his descendents.  Clearly this is a preposterous undertaking, especially at this late date.

Well then, why not force all white people to pay something to all black people?  This of course is the idea of collective guilt, an idea nearly as repulsive as slavery itself.  But let’s carry on with it anyway.  Now we have to decide who is a white person and who is black.  Does Barack Obama count, being half white and half black?  Is one quarter black enough?  One eighth?

Carrying on, where will the loot come from?  White people will have to reduce their consumption and/or savings.This will exacerbate unemployment, at least temporarily, and reduce future productivity.  What would black people do with the money?  Some would judiciously save and invest it but most would not.  I say this because studies have shown that the majority of the winners of large lottery prizes blow the money, unaccustomed as most of them are to saving and investing.  Most blacks, I contend, would blow their reparations windfall on short-term consumption and possibly, like many lottery winners, end up in debt to boot.

Let’s keep things in perspective.  Racism is a minor problem in our society compared to the crushing burden of the welfare-warfare state that we all bear.

17 thoughts on “Ferguson: the Problem is Collectivism

  1. “Racism is a minor problem in our society compared to the crushing burden of the welfare-warfare state that we all bear.”

    Spoken like a true white libertarian.

    • I’m not a victim, I’m a beneficiary. I’m an old white guy; I just don’t have my head up my arse.

  2. You are right. Racism is primarily a problem exploited by the socialist progressive movement of the Democrat party with a lot of help from the Republicans. It has as its basis the ridiculous Darwinian notion that blacks cannot, on their own, compete with other racial groups. And it has plagued this country for over one hundred years now. The welfare-warfare state needs to be tackled but will require politicians with guts and integrity – when you look at the leadership teams of the two major parties, this looks like a tall, tall order.

  3. “Racism is primarily a problem exploited by the socialist progressive movement of the Democrat party with a lot of help from the Republicans.”

    Yup, another privileged white guy telling us that racism isn’t a real problem.

    • [Redacted for juvenile vulgarity] It sounds like you are the one who is obsessed with race and discriminating.

    • “[Redacted for juvenile vulgarity]”

      Lol. The 4chan trolls are out in full force. I think Dr. Gibson is full of it but he posts his thoughts and opinions under his name. More than one NOL denizen undoubtedly thinks I’m full of it but I post under my name. When you grow the balls to do the same I’ll treat you with something other than contempt.

  4. There are no alternatives to a “welfare” state. I am sorry but the era of society offering abundant opportunity for people making a living is over. Redistribution, taxation and giving away is now an inseperable part of the human dimension. I know it sucks. But we have to come to terms with how reality actually is rather than how much we can change it throwing a constant tantrum.

    If you don’t give “useless people” money you are better off gassing them in concentration camps – because they will organize socialist politically, as criminals, or as terrorists – they will do whatever it takes to experience a somewhat acceptable standard of living – even if they have to steal. And let’s be honest … you’d do the same in their position.

    I am so sorry the world isn’t easier. It must be very confusing,

    • Socialism is crumbling all around the world. Your idealistic work doesn’t exist. Economic Darwinism is the only possible solution. Kill or be killed. Earn or fail. If you can’t make it on your own, you can’t make it. Socialism will work for a decade or so, but after that the burden on the people is just too great. Corruption kicks in and the system always fails. Study history, don’t ignore it.

    • Let’s talk again when you inhabit your Dystopian hell and you stand screaming in the streets in hysterical fear demanding solutions. If I were you I would not overly focus on a quaint subsection of history you summarize as socialism, respectively communism. There was redistribution in Rome, and when Rome started redistributing it flourished like nowhere before, for centuries. Same with all great empires.

      As complexity builds in society, specialization forces redistribution. Yes, a percentage of humans fail, and have to be carried by te state. If the state not, the state can not ascend it’s own desperation ceiling – desperate people tear down progress.

      That is why the US is failing. It simply can not secure a living standard for its own people. From a Europea perspective we now witness the other half of an Imperial struggle end. The USSR collapse 25 years ago. It was a state run by unaccountable elites and bureaucratic oligarchs.

      Next in line to collapse under its own psychopathy is the US. It will be a painful downfall for the USians, but the rest of the world will thrive and benefit from the scourge of pax americana going away. Europe will benefit. Russia will benefit, China will benefit. Most of the developing world, liberated from cutthroat corporatism, will benefit immensely. The US will be forced back in to an equitable (one fifth) energy resource consumption as the dollar becomes worthless. This will be very good for everyone else.

      I studied history quite well, and I look forward to progress. I am what you might refer to as an Upwinger. A third route in political ideology, based on radical implementation of technology. Not right wing. Not left wing. No vile dehumanizing, as you say Darwinian psychopath capitalism, and not an equally contemptible socialism or communism. An ideology based on unmitigated progress.

      You feel free to haunt the mausoleums of history while serious people do whats needed.

    • Lol. I fell for it, usually I can tell pretty quickly when I’m being trolled. I should’ve seen it with the anonymous internet name. Go back to 4chan.

    • I wasn’t replying to you Khannea, I was replying to “Admin”. Sorry for the confusion.

  5. What people like you are ignoring is that the grand jury is not supposed to determine whether the shooting was justified or not. Their job is to determine whether there is evidence that could be used to make a case against Officer Wilson. The testimony of Mike Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson could’ve been used against Mr. Wilson. There were other eyewitnesses whose testimony could’ve served the same purpose, and to top it all off Mr Brown was quite far from the vehicle and the officer when shot down, and on top of that he was unarmed.

    Would Wilson have been found guilty if indicted? Who knows? But it doesn’t matter. You could indict a ham sandwich. If you drive your car totally legally and someone jumps out from behind a bush under your car to commit suicide, you will probably get indicted. The prosecutor will bring up some moving violation you had 3 years ago and the fact that your inspection sticker was 2 weeks past expiration and you will probably go to trial for manslaughter. You may be acquitted, but the trial allows for all of the information to be properly cross-examined by both sides. This is NOT true in the case of the grand jury, where the prosecutor gets to run the show. The prosecutor in this case acted more like a defense attorney.

    But lets take race out of the picture, just for a minute. Because you’re right, it is individuals who act. The individual serving as the prosecutor has pulled this exact same stunt several times in the past, turning the grand jury proceeding into a kangaroo court in order to get an officer off the hook for use of excessive force before a proper trial can even begin.

    That is what I protested. Not the fact that an unarmed man who stole some cigarillos to buy smoke some weed got killed, not that the cop used excessive force, not that the incident was incited by racism, but the systemic sweeping under the rug of tons of cases like this and the attitude of “police officers don’t need to be held accountable”.

    Way to support the police state there bud.

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