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Breaking Up the Feudal System

By Isaac MacMillen

If one would understand the dire threat of socialism today, one must first fathom the horror of slavery. And to do that requires at least a passing knowledge of its progenitor, serfdom. So let us begin...

The society that existed in the Middle Ages was notably unfriendly to progress. Europe's population consisted mainly of peasants, and most of them could be classified as “serfs.” Serfs were consigned to live their lives tilling the land on which their landlord 'graciously' allowed them to live. And, barring glorious action in battle or an economic windfall, the serf would live out his life without much chance of bettering his situation. Thus was the feudal system, as we have come to call it today.

Such a system also existed in portions of the American South prior to the 1860s. Slaves, “imported” from Africa, worked on their landowner's plantation. As with the serfs of old, there was little or no chance for social progress. Thankfully, the practice was ended; but though it was officially forbidden forever by the Thirteenth Amendment, it has re-emerged in an unofficial capacity.

The emancipated black community, like all communities facing a sudden situational adjustment, found itself faced with a number of competing ideologies. On the one hand was the conservative thinker Booker T. Washington, who urged personal responsibility, arguing that hard work would lead to the black community's acceptance by the rest of the nation. In an address to the National Negro Business League, Washington, author of the 1901 best-selling autobiography Up From Slavery, stated: “At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence.”

On the other hand was W. E. B. Du Bois, who, though initially sharing Washington's conservative views, eventually drifted away and embraced Marxist and socialist policies. Unfortunately, Du Bois won in the end, and socialist policies have shaped the history of Black America.

W. E. B. De Bois co-founded the NAACP, which has served as a bastion of left-wing policies ever since. Sadly, the black community has voted largely in step with the liberal wing of U.S. politics, the Democratic Party. Despite the loss of hundreds of thousands of Americans in a war that eradicated the “feudal” system in operation, those who were liberated returned and embrace it.

Unfortunately, the government programs the black population thought would give it equality have done the exact opposite. As noted economist Dr. Walter Williams points out, literacy rates and family structure have declined among the black population since the imposition of government programs to “help” them. He states:

“[I]f one argues that what we see today is a result of a legacy of slavery, discrimination and poverty, what's the explanation for stronger black families at a time much closer to slavery -- a time of much greater discrimination and of much greater poverty? I think that a good part of the answer is there were no welfare and Great Society programs.”

They looked to the government for help, and the government did what it does best—taking a bad situation and making it worse. Had the black community turned to any other other ideology than hard-left socialism, they would have made significant progress—instead of the socialism-induced regression that has essentially made them something of a permanent underclass, dependent upon the government for all their needs. In essence, government bought their votes out of the public treasury.

When government steps in, private enterprise is discouraged—and it's not difficult to see why. If the government offers a (taxpayer-subsidized) service for “free,” then it naturally forces out the competing private industry, which can only offer the service for a price. Even the now liberal Urban League once worked for black Americans privately—and saw success, before ultimately caving to the irresistible attraction of government “services,” with its accompanied lack of progress. Ultimately, with the dearth of outside services, the individual is forced to rely on an inefficient government for provision, guidance, funding, control.

Welcome back, feudalism.

So that is why, as Shelby Steele effectively argues, the GOP “can't win with minorities.” The very idea of race-focused “identity politics” is antithetical to conservative ideology, which sees all humans as equal and thus possessing an equal opportunity to work toward success. It is what the individual does with that opportunity that distinguishes him or her. Yet, against the backdrop of the blatant racism in America's past, and with so many liberal groups attempting to “mend” those mistakes by proactive government policies, conservatism appears uncaring. He states:

In an era when even failed moral activism is redemptive -- and thus a source of moral authority and power -- conservatism stands flat-footed with only discipline to offer. It has only an invisible hand to compete with the activism of the left. So conservatism has no way to show itself redeemed of America's bigoted past, no way like the Great Society to engineer a grand display of its innocence, and no way to show deference to minorities for the oppression they endured. Thus it seems to be in league with that oppression.

Thus, conservatives are seemingly caught between the uninviting choices of being viewed as “in league” with racism by refusing to embrace the “nanny state,” or turning to government-initiated programs in an effort to reach out to minorities—and by doing so, abandoning the very principles they have so strongly espoused.

But there is another way. By championing the principles of conservatism—personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, limited government—conservatives can reach out to minority communities most effectively, demonstrating that conservative principles will improve their communities. Republicans need to prove that lower taxes and less government regulation—combined with increased personal responsibility—will be invariably beneficial to black Americans. And that will involve eliminating the restrictive regulations that so often exist in the urban areas that the black community populates, and eliminating programs that disincentivize personal responsibility, the virtue so important for staying out of poverty.

Republicans don't have to support failing government policies to reach out to minorities. By clearly and persuasively articulating the conservative message, they can help the black community see the benefits to be gained by embracing a pro-free enterprise philosophy. And, in the process, they can help those in the black community reject the “feudal” mindset so prevalent in Washington, and enable them return to their conservative roots.

Of that, Booker T. Washington would be proud. And the man who chronicled the black ascent in Up From Slavery could provide the blueprint for many back from serfdom.

Isaac MacMillen is a Contributing Editor of ALG News Bureau.


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