In his Los Angeles Times column, Jonah Goldberg sensibly explains why some of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideas – quite appropriately – resonate so beautifully and widely in America, and why some other of King’s ideas – also quite appropriately – do not.
“Jobs and justice” seems to be among the most favored slogans these days of those people who today lament the continuing economic struggles of too many black Americans. But, of course, everyone is in favor of jobs and justice – yet there remain deep disagreements over the precise meaning and over the origins of “justice,” and disagreements as well over the best way to ensure jobs.
Sloganeering of this sort, therefore, achieves little.
So let me offer some policy advice that I sincerely believe would, if followed, eliminate many injustices as well as lead to the creation of more and better jobs for people especially in need of jobs. I have a dream that one day we will…
(1) … eliminate all minimum-wage legislation. Government-enforced artificial hikes in employers’ costs of hiring low-skilled workers is a policy exactly the opposite of what is needed to create more and better jobs.
(2) … get government out of education. Especially at the K-12 level where poor Americans have little school choice – and, hence, where competitive forces are inoperative – poor American children are victimized by Education bureaucrats and teachers’ unions.
(3) … eliminate occupational-licensing legislation. Let consumers in competitive markets choose which suppliers to patronize without requiring would-be suppliers first to get formal government approval to ply their trades. Occupational-licensing regulations are typically little more than barriers to entry masquerading as public-safety measures.
(4) … halt forever the “war on drugs.” Among its other evils, this “war” has become an excuse for law-enforcement officials to target blacks for harassment.
(5) … eliminate rent control. If rent control is eliminated, residents and would-be residents of cities such as New York and San Francisco will find the supply of low- and moderately priced housing rising – and, after a time, the real cost of renting such housing falling from its current level.
(6) … repeal legislation, such as Obamacare, that indirectly yet surely artificially raises the costs of hiring workers.
(7) … eliminate the welfare state. Civil-society private arrangements – more creative, more humane, more nuanced in the incentives and constraints they offer to their clients – will emerge to replace the sprawling and impersonal bureaucracies that now are mistakenly believed by too many people to be evidence of society’s compassion.
(8) … stop looking to the state for secular salvation, for doing so succeeds chiefly in empowering demagogues – demagogues whose “plans” and schemes choke off the countless, creative, decentralized experiments that a free people, all equal before the law, inevitably use to make themselves better off and, in the process, to make society more peaceful, civil, and prosperous.
(9) … eliminate affirmative action and other government-sponsored efforts to discriminate on the basis of skin color; let’s make ours a truly color-blind society.
(10) … with our private funds give even more support to the Institute for Justice – an organization that works with amazing effectiveness for ‘jobs and justice.’
I could name other policy moves because almost any policies that make markets freer makes society wealthier and expands opportunities – expands opportunities especially for the poorest amongst us.
For anyone seriously interested in policies that will in fact improve the lot of black Americans, I recommend my GMU Econ colleague Walter Williams’s superb book The State Against Blacks. Although now 31 years old, this book’s message and counsel remain as valid as ever.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Steve Horwitz beat me to the punch with this superb 2011 essay of his.