The ideas of critical race theory and critical white studies shield a ruling elite from vengeance by attempting to make the mass of white people the scapegoat for their own crimes.
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Ought the state to support the arts?
There is certainly much to be said on both sides of this question. It may be said, in favor of the system of voting supplies for this purpose, that the arts enlarge, elevate, and harmonize the soul of a nation; that they divert it from too great an absorption in material occupations; encourage in it a love for the beautiful; and thus act favorably on its manners, customs, morals, and even on its industry.
It may be asked, what would become of music in France without her Italian theater and her conservatoire; of the dramatic art, without her Théâtre-Français; of painting and sculpture, without our collections, galleries, and museums? It might even be asked, whether, without centralization, and consequently the support of the fine arts, that exquisite taste would be developed which is the noble appendage of French labor, and which introduces its productions to the whole world? In the face of such results, would it not be the height of imprudence to renounce this moderate contribution from all her citizens, which, in fact, in the eyes of Europe, realizes their superiority and their glory?
To these and many other reasons, whose force I do not dispute, arguments no less forcible may be opposed. It might first of all be said, that there is a question of distributive justice in it. Does the right of the legislator extend to abridging the wages of the artisan, for the sake of adding to the profits of the artist?
M. Lamartine said, "If you cease to support the theater, where will you stop? Will you not necessarily be led to withdraw your support from your colleges, your museums, your institutes, and your libraries?" It might be answered, if you desire to support everything which is good and useful, where will you stop? Will you not necessarily be led to form a civil list for agriculture, industry, commerce, benevolence, education? Then, is it certain that government aid favors the progress of art? This question is far from being settled, and we see very well that the theatres which prosper are those which depend upon their own resources.
Moreover, if we come to higher considerations, we may observe that wants and desires arise the one from the other, and originate in regions which are more and more refined in proportion as the public wealth allows of their being satisfied; that government ought not to take part in this correspondence, because in a certain condition of present fortune it could not by taxation stimulate the arts of necessity without checking those of luxury, and thus interrupting the natural course of civilization. I may observe, that these artificial transpositions of wants, tastes, labor, and population, place the people in a precarious and dangerous position, without any solid basis.
These are some of the reasons alleged by the adversaries of state intervention in what concerns the order in which citizens think their wants and desires should be satisfied, and to which, consequently, their activity should be directed. I am, I confess, one of those who think that choice and impulse ought to come from below and not from above, from the citizen and not from the legislator; and the opposite doctrine appears to me to tend to the destruction of liberty and of human dignity.
But, by a deduction as false as it is unjust, do you know what economists are accused of? It is, that when we disapprove of government support, we are supposed to disapprove of the thing itself whose support is discussed; and to be the enemies of every kind of activity, because we desire to see those activities, on the one hand free, and on the other seeking their own reward in themselves.
Thus, if we think that the state should not interfere by taxation in religious affairs, we are atheists. If we think the state ought not to interfere by taxation in education, we are hostile to knowledge. If we say that the state ought not by taxation to give a fictitious value to land, or to any particular branch of industry, we are enemies to property and labor. If we think that the state ought not to support artists, we are barbarians, who look upon the arts as useless.
Against such conclusions as these I protest with all my strength. Far from entertaining the absurd idea of doing away with religion, education, property, labor, and the arts, when we say that the state ought to protect the free development of all these kinds of human activity, without helping some of them at the expense of others—we think, on the contrary, that all these living powers of society would develop themselves more harmoniously under the influence of liberty; and that, under such an influence no one of them would, as is now the case, be a source of trouble, of abuses, of tyranny, and disorder.
Our adversaries consider that an activity which is neither aided by supplies, nor regulated by government, is an activity destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.
Thus M. Lamartine said, "Upon this principle we must abolish the public exhibitions, which are the honor and the wealth of this country." But I would say to M. Lamartine, according to your way of thinking, not to support is to abolish; because, setting out upon the maxim that nothing exists independently of the will of the state, you conclude that nothing lives but what the state causes to live.
But I oppose to this assertion the very example which you have chosen, and beg you to remark, that the grandest and noblest of exhibitions, one which has been conceived in the most liberal and universal spirit—and I might even make use of the term humanitary, for it is no exaggeration—is the exhibition now preparing in London; the only one in which no government is taking any part, and which is being paid for by no tax.
To return to the fine arts. There are, I repeat, many strong reasons to be brought, both for and against the system of government assistance. The reader must see that the especial, object of this work leads me neither to explain these reasons, nor to decide in their favor, nor against them.
But M. Lamartine has advanced one argument which I cannot pass by in silence, for it is closely connected with this economic study. "The economical question, as regards theatres, is comprised in one word—labor. It matters little what is the nature of this labor; it is as fertile, as productive a labor as any other kind of labor in the nation. The theatres in France, you know, feed and salary no less than 80,000 workmen of different kinds; painters, masons, decorators, costumers, architects, etc., which constitute the very life and movement of several parts of this capital, and on this account they ought to have your sympathies." Your sympathies! Say rather your money.
And further on he says, "The pleasures of Paris are the labor and the consumption of the provinces, and the luxuries of the rich are the wages and bread of 200,000 workmen of every description, who live by the manifold industry of the theatres on the surface of the republic, and who receive from these noble pleasures, which render France illustrious, the sustenance of their lives and the necessaries of their families and children. It is to them that you will give 60,000 francs." (Very well, very well. Great applause.) For my part I am constrained to say, "Very bad! Very bad!" confining this opinion, of course, within the bounds of the economical question which we are discussing.
Yes, it is to the workmen of the theatres that a part, at least, of these 60,000 francs will go; a few bribes, perhaps, may be abstracted on the way. Perhaps, if we were to look a little more closely into the matter, we might find that the cake had gone another way, and that those workmen were fortunate who had come in for a few crumbs. But I will allow, for the sake of argument, that the entire sum does go to the painters, decorators, etc.
This is that which is seen. But whence does it come? This is the other side of the question, and quite as important as the former. Where do these 60,000 francs spring from? And where would they go, if a vote of the legislature did not direct them first towards the Rue Rivoli and thence towards the Rue Grenelle? This is what is not seen.
Certainly, nobody will think of maintaining that the legislative vote has caused this sum to be hatched in a ballot urn; that it is a pure addition made to the national wealth; that but for this miraculous vote these 60,000 francs would have been for ever invisible and impalpable. It must be admitted that all that the majority can do is to decide that they shall be taken from one place to be sent to another; and if they take one direction, it is only because they have been diverted from another.
This being the case, it is clear that the taxpayer, who has contributed one franc, will no longer have this franc at his own disposal. It is clear that he will be deprived of some gratification to the amount of one franc; and that the workman, whoever he may be, who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount. Let us not, therefore, be led by a childish illusion into believing that the vote of the 60,000 francs may add anything whatever to the well-being of the country, and to national labor. It displaces enjoyments, it transposes wages—that is all.
Will it be said that for one kind of gratification, and one kind of labor, it substitutes more urgent, more moral, more reasonable gratifications and labor? I might dispute this; I might say, by taking 60,000 francs from the taxpayers, you diminish the wages of laborers, drainers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and increase in proportion those of the singers.
There is nothing to prove that this latter class calls for more sympathy than the former. M. Lamartine does not say that it is so. He himself says that the labor of the theatres is as fertile, as productive as any other (not more so); and this may be doubted; for the best proof that the latter is not so fertile as the former lies in this, that the other is to be called upon to assist it.
But this comparison between the value and the intrinsic merit of different kinds of labor forms no part of my present subject. All I have to do here is to show, that if M. Lamartine and those persons who commend his line of argument have seen on one side the salaries gained by the providers of the comedians, they ought on the other to have seen the salaries lost by the providers of the taxpayers: for want of this, they have exposed themselves to ridicule by mistaking a misplacement for a gain. If they were true to their doctrine, there would be no limits to their demands for government aid; for that which is true of one franc and of 60,000 is true, under parallel circumstances, of a hundred millions of francs.
When taxes are the subject of discussion, you ought to prove their utility by reasons from the root of the matter, but not by this unlucky assertion—"The public expenses support the working classes." This assertion disguises the important fact, that public expenses always supersede private expenses, and that therefore we bring a livelihood to one workman instead of another, but add nothing to the share of the working class as a whole. Your arguments are fashionable enough, but they are too absurd to be justified by anything like reason.
Instead of approaching the free market abstractly, in this short series, I’ll approach it from the standpoint of my own experience. In short, I’ll treat the free market in an autoethnographic account. Autoethnography is just what the word suggests: it is a genre of ethnographic writing and research that connects the personal to the cultural, placing the self within a social, historical context. For the Marxists who may by chance read this essay, one might think of it in terms of what the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci referred to as a means to knowing oneself as a product of history1—although I do not subscribe to the belief that we are merely historical products.
As we approach Mother’s Day, ironically, I want to trace some of my memories of my father. My mother is living, at ninety-six years old. She would not mind my writing about my father for Mother’s Day. In fact, if she were fully cognizant, which she is not, I am certain that she would very much approve and appreciate it.2 It’s my way of honoring my father and mother.
Both of my parents were Great Depression babies. What I know of the Great Depression I learned mostly from my parents’ stories from the period. I have not studied the Great Depression in any academic sense. I know from my parents that the Great Depression was a time of desperation. But I also know that it was a time of great industriousness, at least in their cases.
While my father probably never knew the causes for the Great Depression, he seemed to grasp intuitively that the free market was not its cause, despite the prevailing claims to the contrary. Far from it. He apparently grasped that the free market was the way out. I will not rehearse here, partly because I am not qualified to do so, but more so because it’s not the approach I want to take, the various failures of the Federal Reserve and state interventionism that brought about and lengthened the Great Depression. Instead, I will trace my father’s emergence from the Great Depression and how his faith in the free market was maintained and fortified.
My father told me several times about how during the Depression his father made homemade noodles and how my father sold them door to door. I also know that from an early age, around twelve or thirteen, my father began helping his father to remodel homes. The picture I get is of my father beginning to take on a fatherly role from a very early age, especially given that his father was an alcoholic. Imagine going through the Great Depression as an alcoholic, or the child of an alcoholic. My grandfather’s need to drink must have crowded out other pressing needs. My father told me of times when, installing a new roof on a house, my drunken grandfather went rolling off the roof onto the ground. My father took it upon himself to support his family—his mother, father, and siblings.
My father lost all of his hair from rheumatism. From an early age, he was completely bald. Thus, with no hair, a drunken father, and going through the Great Depression, he was left to his own resources to survive and support others.
Then, as I understand it, my father was drafted into the military and became a paratrooper. My father never faced any combat action in the war. He broke his legs during a paratrooping exercise. Somehow, he managed to attend college, at Auburn University. But this did not last long, as duty called. He married my mother and began raising a family. Making a family was not an arbitrary choice as such. It was apparently a pressing need that my parents both felt. Both of my mother’s parents were also alcoholics. My parents needed to create the family that they never had. What is clear is that the family was an essential structure for social and economic survival.
My father was a home remodeler and my mother would later drive a school bus. Soon, they had nine children. They managed to emerge from the Great Depression to yield a large, stable family, with relative upward mobility.
Until I was four years old, we lived in the country—in a spartan ranch house that my father had built. When I say he built the house, I mean that he actually built the house himself, not that he hired a contractor to build it. On this same spacious country property, my grandparents lived in a house, which my father also built, that sat deeper in the woods. The houses were situated at the end of a mile-long dirt road embedded with cobblestones called Panno Drive. With heavy rain or snow, Panno Drive was sometimes impassable. The setting was rustic and the living, I have been told, was rough. Yet there was a bounty of cats, dogs, goats, and bees, and a large, relatively level field where we later played baseball and football. I remember the living room, where we watched television, and that I used to imitate Louie Armstrong, singing “Hello Dolly,” replete with taking a handkerchief to the face, to the great amusement of my parents and siblings.
When I was four, we moved into a more spacious and impressive brick house in the city on Waldorf Street in Pittburgh’s Upper Northside. Waldorf Street had earlier been named “Banker’s Row.” A few of the houses on that street were quite grand. Ours was not grand, but further along the street there were veritable mansions.
My father did not sell the property in the country. Instead, he rented out our house to my oldest sister and her husband, and my grandparents remained in their house nestled in the woods. This made trips to the country both experiences of reminiscence and also of great refreshment. We lived in the city but retained our connection to the country. Trips to my grandmother’s house had that quintessential feeling. It really was “over the river and through the hills to grandmother’s house we go.” My grandmother on my father’s side was a gentle Scottish woman who bore my grandfather’s alcoholism with great patience and restraint. She let him believe he was always right. My grandfather was a cantankerous old cadger with terminally bloodshot eyes and rapidly vacillating moods. He would scorn you and smile at you, seemingly within seconds of one another.
On Waldorf Street, we had a fairly large front yard and a backyard separated into two by a garage, which my father used for storage of tools and materials. The backyard backed up into a wooded area where we used to play, building tree shacks and other fortresses. There was a hill where we used to dump refuse that my father had excavated from houses that he gutted. We threw old sinks, discarded ceramic tile, plaster, and anything else that came out of the houses he remodeled. No one complained, because it was our property. We covered over the trash with brush and mowed grass. You might say that we remained hicks who’d moved to the city, sort of like the Clampetts in The Beverly Hillbillies.
Speaking of television, my father was a great lover of it. In hindsight, I realize that he saw such developments as radio and television as great enhancements and sources of enjoyment. I remember when cable television was new and the cable TV salesman came to our house. My father greeted him enthusiastically. It was further proof to him that things kept improving. He would scoff at the criticisms that I began to throw at him in my early teens, criticisms drawn partly from my older brother’s abandoned books, like The Mind Managers, by Herbert I. Schiller, and partly drawn from the air, that television was a means to brainwash the public. But the media didn’t brainwash my father; it merely entertained him when he wasn’t working.
I will not place my family background within the overall context of capitalism, except to say that as we enjoyed the benefits of a decent economy and my parents’ industriousness, a corrosive ideology was always operative. For lack of a better term, this ideology was socialist. It emanated from cultural institutions and found expression in popular culture and the social realm.
For example, I was a tennis player and became a tennis coach during the summer after my first year in college. I remember the league manual that we coaches were given as guidance for how to run our teams. We were instructed not to worry about winning. Although we would keep score, we should not emphasize the score but rather encourage the experience of tennis for its own sake.
It came through the television, in such sitcoms as Gilligan’s Island, the 19060s collectivist Robinson Crusoe saga about the communal living of shipwrecks on a deserted island, in which the division of labor and the desire to accrue wealth were figured as antisocial and ridiculous.
It came through propagandistic films, like the one my father and I watched (on cable TV) one Saturday, the movie O Lucky Man!—a rather desultory montage featuring Malcolm McDowell. My father recognized instantly that the film was a critique of capitalism and said that it represented an exaggeration to that effect.
Of course, it came in the protests of the Vietnam War, which played in our living room and in which American aggression came to be conflated with capitalism itself.
And it came in denunciations of consumerism, brought home by my once wayward older brother. Consumption, we were now told, was as pernicious as poverty, if not more so, to the interests of “working-class” people, like ourselves. My father’s response to all this was consternation. How could his rising standard of living have been bad thing after all? He would have nothing of it.
Representative democracy cannot subsist if a great part of the voters are on the government payroll. If elected officials no longer consider themselves servants of the taxpayers but deputies of those receiving salaries, doles, and subsidies, democracy is done for.
This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.
Modern-day race theories—much like the standard racist theories of the past—assume that racial solidarity ought to be the overriding factor in all human behavior. Whites are supposed to always ally with whites. Meanwhile, blacks are supposed to always side with other blacks, even if this means abandoning self-interest. Experience suggests, however, that blacks are not simply automatons who always choose notions of racial unity over self-interest.
In other words, it seems race relations are more complex than modern race baiters and traditional racists would have us believe.
We can find some examples of these complex relationships in the so-called maroon communities of Jamaica and North America.
After the British conquered Jamaica in 1655, the ex-slaves of the Spanish refused to become their subjects by opting to create autonomous communities in the country’s interior. These individuals became known as the maroons. To the surprise of the British, the maroons proved to be formidable warriors, and as a result, the British had to sue for peace. So, to stem resistance, the British concluded a treaty with the Leeward Maroons in 1738, before gaining the cooperation of the Windward Maroons in 1739. Per their agreement with the British, the maroons were required to police fugitive slaves, and they executed this duty with great vigor.
In exchange for their commitment to not contesting white hegemony, these former slaves were rewarded with money, clothes, guns, and cattle. For instance, with the assistance of the maroons, planters were able to squash the 1760 revolt orchestrated by Chief Tacky, an Akan slave. Tacky was actually killed by the maroon Captain Davy of Scotts Hall. As trusted associates, the maroons would prove to be useful in quelling future insurrections, according to Michael Gomez: “The Leeward and Windwards … in compliance with the 1739 treaty, fought alongside the planters … to end the revolts of 1761, 1765, and 1766, all Akan-led conspiracies betrayed by informants. The Leewards, particularly the Accompong and Trelawny Town groups were rewarded with twice as much money as were the Windward groups of Scotts Hall, Moore Town, and Charles Town whose participation was considerably less enthusiastic.”
Planters also employed the services of the maroons to capture runaways. They were so efficient that some writers contend that the maroons acted as a police force. Helen Mckee writes:
Following Tacky’s Rebellion, maroons were employed to hunt runaways so extensively by white Jamaicans that the maroons came to be used almost as a police force. In 1763, Cudjoe’s men chased 11 runaways, killed three and took the rest who were tried at Savanna-la-Mar. Some of the runaways were hanged and others burnt alive “by a slow fire behind the Court House” because they allegedly confessed to the murders of a Mr. Wright and Mr. Grizzle at Round Hill in Hanover. Further examples of maroons hunting runaways in the eighteenth century can be found throughout the archives. However, white settlers were not just reliant on the maroons’ martial assistance; on occasion, maroons were even said to provide them with information on slave runaways or uprisings. [Thomas] Thistlewood claimed that, long before one small rebellion, Colonel Cudjoe “wrote to Col. Barclay & the Gentlemen of this parish … to warn them of this that has happened.” The relationship between some planters and maroons seems to have gone beyond employment to one of providing intelligence on the enslaved population. In the process of uniting under a maroon identity, it seems clear that maroons were aligning themselves closest to local whites. Indeed, when Three Fingered Jack threatened the colony between 1780 and 1781, it was a maroon who captured and killed him, eventually claiming £200 as a reward.
Again in 1819, the maroons demonstrated their commitment to the plantocracy by destroying a settlement built by fugitive slaves in the hills of Hellshire.
What is even more intriguing is that in 1795, due to longstanding grievances, the Trelawny Town Maroons waged war against the plantocracy but failed to generate the support of Accompong Town Maroons, who sided with the planters, while the eastern maroons remained neutral. After a smashing defeat, these maroons were deported to Nova Scotia. The maroons stayed in Nova Scotia for a short period, until they were sent to Sierra Leone, where they continued their role as reliable defenders of the British Empire. Ruma Chopra comments on the royalist tradition of the maroons in Sierre Leone:
The maroons—with their reputation for tenacity and bravery and their knowledge of guerilla tactics—met the empire’s immediate military needs in Sierra Leone. As they had protected the slaveholders from slave rebels in Jamaica, for decades, the maroons would protect the Sierra Leone’s government from black loyalists. At once, the maroon leaders inserted themselves as effective mediators: whites in Sierra Leone could trust them to reassert the king’s authority. As Colonel James Montague, the maroon leader, explained: “They like King George and white man well—if them settler don’t like King George nor this Government—only let Maroon see them”. Voluntary military service was a public affirmation of loyalism.
To the maroons, cooperating with the British was a better gamble than aiding blacks, because they were sure of the benefits that could be derived from alliances with whites. Likewise, in America blacks sought to cultivate partnerships with white oppressors at the expense of their fellow blacks. However, in the American South, there was a reverse relationship: instead, black slaves assisted white planters to undermine the North American maroons. Although planters certainly applied a number of coercive measures to intimidate slaves into cooperation, historians Tim Lockley and David Doddington dispute the narrative that slaves were rarely motivated by self-interest:
It is apparent that some slaves actively desired to ingratiate themselves with whites. It was most likely the prospects of financial reward that led two slaves, Tom and Jack, to “brave every hazard” in order to bring about the apprehension of one of “a gang of lawless and desperate runaways” near Georgetown.
As expected, the legislature of South Carolina compensated Tom and Jack; however, the fugitive was executed.
Moreover, when maroons raided plantations, they depleted supplies, thereby reducing the distribution of food available to slaves. Further, to minimize losses, planters would resort to limiting allowances of clothing for the enslaved population. In truth, the maroons were indiscriminate in targeting the residents of plantations, and black slaves were hurt in the process. Lockley and Doddington submit that slaves were justified in their contempt for maroons:
Due to their militaristic structure, maroon communities were more capable than individual runaways of making daring armed raids on plantations, and these inevitably led to the risk of injury to slaves…. The use of buckshot meant that a well-aimed blast from a firearm could accidentally maim or even kill an innocent slave, and sometimes lethal violence could be used deliberately—shared oppression was not sufficient to spare slaves from maroon violence.
The maroons were even notorious for robbing slaves. Hence by their unscrupulous actions they alienated slaves, thus further undermining racial solidarity.
In spite of what some ethnic nationalists may prefer, race is not always a unifying factor in combatting oppression from outside groups. In the battle to attain power and defend one’s interests, smaller, localized group interests will often trump more abstract notions of race. Many individuals may come to their own conclusions about what is best for themselves and their close associates, even if today’s race theorists in retrospect may deem these calculations to be “wrong.”
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