Oliver Traldi explains how the Google/Ludacris “Buying All Black” effort inadvertently reveals its backers’ belief that most Americans are indeed colorblind, at least when it comes to doing commerce.Two slices:
Google and the rapper Ludacris released a music video, “Buying All Black,” to promote the company’s post-Thanksgiving “Black-Owned Friday.” This event began in 2020 and celebrates a Google feature, also added in 2020, that allows black-owned businesses to be identified in searches by a special badge. The idea is that identifying businesses as black-owned will help bring them customers.
The Ludacris/Google collaboration should put to rest the idea that we live in a white-supremacist society. If we did, telling everyone which businesses were black-owned would be like putting them on a list of targets—for boycotts or even for destructive violence.
Google’s project makes clear that we live in a society with the opposite expectation. Google and Ludacris think it will help stores if everyone knows they are black-owned, because more people, not fewer, will choose to patronize them. The assumption is that people—not only people of any one demographic category or political leaning, but Americans on average—will either remain colorblind or actively favor black-owned businesses.
Beyond the inherent inability of models to account for the unaccountable, models also reflect the biases of their creators. We may be inclined to regard models as objective expressions of truth, yet they are deliberately constructed interpretations, imbued with the values and viewpoints of the modelers—primarily, as Ms. Thompson notes, well-educated, middle-class individuals. During the pandemic, models “took more account of harms to some groups of people than others,” resulting in a “moral case” for lockdowns that was “partial and biased.” Modelers who worked from home—while others maintained the supply chain—often overlooked “all of the possible harms” of the actions their models were suggesting. And even when models try to describe the effects of different courses of action, it’s human beings who must ultimately weigh the benefits and harms. “Science cannot tell us how to value things,” Ms. Thompson says. “The idea of ‘following the science’ is meaningless.”
So there you have it: We are dangerously dismantling our electric grid while burdening it with more demand in hope of attaining the goal of “net zero by 2050,” which the utility industry has admitted is a fantasy.
If Progressives understood that the politics of democracy meant that market processes were no worse, and might be better, than elections, why did they favor expanding government? The answer is that Progressives did not, do not, favor democracy, at least not majoritarian democracy. They favor the suppression of individual discretion in favor of centralized planning, government control and direction of resources, and the suppression of individual discretion.
It’s the Progressive “social contract”: government experts know what voters should want, and would want if they were correctly informed and had altruistic motives. Real voters fall short of this ideal, of course, but that’s why voters should want to give up their own power to make free (wrong) choices, in favor of a priesthood of technocrats who will run things.
Pigou was not alone; everyone in the Progressive movement fully recognized the problem with populist movements, of the left or the right. Paternalism is their preferred alternative to actual agonistic politics, and the reason was government failure, not market failure!
But there has been better news from the Supreme Court. It took up a challenge to the constitutionality of the loan forgiveness plan, likely vindicating the separation of powers by restricting the executive branch’s power to spend without well-grounded statutory authority. From the oral arguments on Harvard’s admission program that discriminates on the basis of race, the Court also appears ready to end such racial and ethnic preferences, ideally through reading Title VI to mean what it says—that universities receiving federal funds cannot discriminate against any race or ethnic group. These developments underscore the power of our classical liberal traditions encoded both in past statutes and the Constitution to arrest the decline of classical liberalism long enough to permit a contemporary democratic counter-reaction.
Now the latest release of internal Twitter files reports that the federal government was leaning on the social media company to suppress even well-informed messages from highly accomplished doctors who didn’t toe the government line. Specifically suppressed were those who accurately pointed out that children were not at great risk from Covid.