Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Racism of John R. Commons--And What It Says about Columbus Day

Two guys on Facebook , Jeremy Horpedahl of the University of Central Arkansas and Phillip W. Magness of Berry College, sent me material that documents the racism of John R. Commons. Commons was the chief founder of institutional economics in the United States.

Commons can be fairly called the creator or conceptualizer of the current American industrial relations system and the innovator of much of the New Deal.

Hence, if we are to tear down statutes of Columbus, Jefferson, and Lee because they were racists, so should be consider tearing down the New Deal, which also was the product of racists, conceptualized by racists, and put into place by racists.  Commons, for instance, designed the first workmen's compensation law, in Wisconsin, and discussed social insurance reforms and unionization.

Just how racist was John R. Commons? 

In his "Racial Composition of the American People: The Negro" Commons writes of the western coast of Africa:

The torrid heat and the excessive humidity...produce a race indolent, improvident, and contented...Sexual purity is unknown...Formerly cannibalism prevailed, but it has now been largely stamped out by European governments...The people are unstable, indifferent to suffering, and  easily aroused to ferocity by the sight of blood or under great fear...They exhibit in Africa certain qualities  which are associated with their descendants in this country, namely, aversion to silence and solitude, love of rhythm, excitability, and lack of reserve.  All travelers speak of their impulsiveness, strong sexual passion, and lack of will power.

Donald Trump is fairly criticized for calling African countries "crappy," but what are we to make of an American New Deal, social insurance and welfare system designed by people who made similar remarks?

Commons adds:

slavery tended to transform the savage by eliminating those those who were self-willed, ambitious, and possessed of individual initiative...Other races of immigrants, by contact with our institutions, have been civilized--the Negro has been only domesticated...The very qualities of intelligence and manliness which are essential for citizenship in a democracy were systematically expunged from the Negro race through two hundred years of slavery.

Commons goes on to call "the war of emancipation" one of "dogmatism" and "partizanship" [sic] because equality and inalienable rights took the place of education and slow evolution of moral character. 

He adds: "Self-government means intelligence, self-control, and capacity for cooperation.  If these are lacking, the ballot only makes way for the 'boss,' the corruptionist, and the oligarchy under the cloak of democracy."

In discussing how African Americans can be educated in order to be "prepared" for "citizenship" Commons claims that African Americans lack the ability to be trained to use steam cleaners or to paint ceilings.

He says that the majority of African American mechanics are "careless, slovenly, and ill trained." As well, he adds:

the improvidence of the Negro is notorious. His neglect of his horse, his mule, his machinery, his eagerness to spend his earnings on finery, his reckless purchase of watermelons...these and other incidents of improvidence expalin the constant dependence of the Negro upon his employer and his creditot.

When African Americans did become wealthy due to property ownership, Commons attributes this to "unearned increment" rather than intelligent investing.  He adds, "Negro bosses and foremen are more despotic than white bosses." As well, "the Negro trade unionist has not as yet shown the organizing capacity of other races,"  and "when the Negro demands the same wages as white men, his industrial inferiority leads the employer to take white men in his place."

In response to the list of ways that African Americans were supposedly inferior to whites, Commons proposes "an honest educational test" for voting "enforced on both whites and blacks."

In a closing fit of racism, Commons attributes higher death rates among African Americans to moral rather than environmental and social causes.

In New York City, Mayor de Blasio and his left-wing supporters  have proposed to tear down statues of Columbus and Theodore Roosevelt. Why shouldn't the New Deal, a legal system designed by a racist, should be treated the same way?

Friday, January 12, 2018

All Science Is Politically Influenced; Social Science Is More So

Are the natural sciences as ideologically driven as the social sciences? No, but the extent that the natural sciences are politicized is understated by almost everyone, including many scientists.
Sociologists of science depict the natural sciences as heavily political. See, for instance, Bruno Latour, Science in Action, and Leviathan and the Air-Pump by Shapin and Schaffer.
However, the premise of Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Karl Popper in the Logic of Scientific Discovery is fundamentally right: Natural science does engage in falsification, and their tests are relatively value free, although I do not doubt that the direction in which they go and the subjects that they study are ideologically and governmentally influenced.
The social sciences are primarily ideological. They are not science. Economists are especially narcissistic in this regard. Microeconomic theory is value free, but the rest of economics is to a large degree ideological, especially in the fields of macroeconomics, labor economics, and monetary economics.
The other social sciences are often if not mostly ideological. 
The tax exemption that universities enjoy for social science and humanities instruction should be eliminated unless the same tax exemptions are given to Republican advocacy organizations. That universities are primarily political organizations is seen in the adoption by the humanities, which should be involved in the transmission of our great Western culture, of politicized, social science approaches.
The hard sciences have better justification for public funding, but if government money is to be used for science, Republicans are advised to ensure that Democrats, who dominate universities, are not using the funds for politicized science.  One way to do this is to focus on chemistry, mathematics, molecular biology, medicine, and physics, and to limit (or at least carefully balance) funding for geology, environmental studies, and environmental biology. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Higher Education Is Drowning in BS

There's a good piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by someone who says he's independent and unaffiliated but who seems to me to lean somewhat left.  He blames what he calls the BS in higher education for the deterioration of American politics. 
A good example of the deterioration is Trump's recent claim that Africa and Haiti are "shit holes" and that America needs immigrants from Norway. Trump misses that Norway is richer than the US (Norway GDP per capita, $71,000; US GDP per capita, $56,000) and that most Americans would be better off immigrating to Norway rather than the other way around. 
After 47 years of Fed-led wealth redistribution to the wealthy and stagnant real wages, Americans are falling behind economically, and Trump is not the cure. Although he's better than redistributionists like Obama and Clinton, he is part of the problem; he is not part of the solution.

The author, Notre Dame professor Christian Smith's, assault on academic commercialization, the culture of offense, and publish or perish is a well-taken step in the right direction for the usually educationist Chronicle. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Rural Sectionalism and the Election of Donald Trump


A December 29  Wall Street Journal piece shows 20 charts that indicate how badly rural Americans have fared. The election of Donald Trump, mostly by rural voters, can be interpreted to be a reaction, and the campaign to eliminate the Electoral College a counterreaction.

Inflation-adjusted household income has declined since 2000, and it has declined the most in rural areas. Much of the decline occurred during the Obama years. That contrasts with the stock market, which has received massive public subsidization. 

Those who foot the bill for "too-big-to-fail" banks are the same people who are dying at increasing rates.

Where I live, Olive, NY, New York City has long played an imperialistic role similar to that of any Roman-style power. It has done so to procure virtually free water; it chose to go the imperial route rather than purchase water ethically back in the 19th century.

In his book Empire of Water, David Soll outlines the 100-year history of theft, exploitation, and regulatory caprice that deprived the ancestors of many people I see each day of their homes and businesses, forcing many who had owned family businesses into becoming day laborers.

Environmentalists, dominant in the Democratic Party, have learned from New York City and since the 1990s have systematically attacked rural areas. This occurred most aggressively during the Obama years.

Not satisfied with increasing death rates in rural areas, Robert Reich, the American media, and their fellow Democrats campaign for more political power to be concentrated in urban centers by abolishing the Electoral College.  The end of the Electoral College would mean even more extreme depredation of rural America than has already occurred.