A privilege is a benefit not generally available to the public. There are two source of privilege, voluntary positions, and governmental subsidies.
Suppose a person is the chief officer of a company, and the building has a washroom for the staff and one washroom only for the chief. The chief has the privilege of using the special washroom. It is a voluntary privilege, because the benefit is paid from the company’s revenues, obtained in the market from willing buyers, rather than forcing the public to pay for it.
In contrast, if an enterprise obtains a subsidy from government, and the cost is imposed on the taxpayers, it is an unjust privilege.
What kind is “white privilege”? I will examine this in the context of the United States of America.
Consider easy voting, in contrast to difficult voting. Some state governments make voting difficult for some minority groups, such as limiting the ballot boxes, or imposing difficult requirements that are applied more strictly on the minorities. But easy voting is not really a privilege, since voting is a right held by the public. Blocking the voting is a deprivation of the right to vote. Thus voting by white folks is a right, not a privilege. The minorities suffer, not a lack of privilege, but the denial of a legal right.
Now consider the case of members of a minority being mistreated by the abuse of power by the police. If a white person can go about his business with little chance of being shot by the police, where as a harmless black person has a much greater chance of being shot at, this is not a white privilege. This is rights-deprivation, a deprivation of the right to not be assaulted.
All of what is commonly called “white privilege” is not a direct subsidy to being white, thus not a privilege, but the absence of rights-deprivation. When whites have on average ten times the wealth of blacks, this is not a white privilege. This is the result of the deprivation of economic rights suffered by blacks for 400 years. There is no governmental subsidy that whites are obtaining directly from being white. What is going on is rights-deprivation for minorities.
There is, however, an indirect privilege obtained by whites relative to blacks. Land owners obtain an implicit privilege from government in the form of rent. The public goods provided by government, such as streets, security, and education, make locations more attractive and more productive. The goods thus increase the demand to be located there, which generates greater land rent and land value. As land gets inherited, those who obtained this rent privilege in the past then pass it on to future generations.
European-Americans conquered the land from the native Indians, and then the labor value stolen from the slaves generated greater production and thus higher land rent generally. African-Americans shared little in this land value, because substantial amounts of land were stolen from black owners, and discrimination prevented many African Americans from obtaining real estate.
Thus the greatest white privilege is the governmental subsidy that generates land value to whites who inherited wealth or obtained land value to a much greater degree than blacks.
The way to eliminate this white privilege is to share the ground rent equally, with a levy on most of the land value. Of course society should also stop the rights-deprivation that keeps minorities poor and deficient in political power. But equal rights will not stop the greatest privilege, the generation of rent from public goods, and the way to stop that is to shift all taxation to land value.
The greatest rights-deprivation that is taking place today is the taxation of wages, because engaging in labor and enterprise is a right, not a privilege. A tax shift will therefore simultaneously abolish privilege and stop rights-deprivation.
2 thoughts on “What is “White Privilege”?”
A moral right arises only when needed to perform a moral duty, therefor no moral right can be accorded a privilege by definition, not so? A purely legal right may be conferred with an unjust law; that hardly converts it into a privilege; no true privilege can arise from injustice. Privilege must be a misnomer in such cases … does that fit?
[…] at NOL. He supported this project from the beginning. Here’s his first ever post for NOL, and here is his last […]