The Welfare State versus Baltimore Blacks
by Jacob G. Hornberger
It’s the welfare state and its attacks on African-Americans that are the root cause of what is happening in Baltimore.
Consider the federal government’s mandatory minimum-wage law, the much-vaunted welfare-state measure that purports to help people at the bottom of the economic ladder by supposedly preventing them from being exploited by employers.
In actuality, the minimum wage is a ruthless and vicious attack on the poor, especially inner-city black teenagers, including those in Baltimore.
Suppose the minimum wage were set at $100 per hour. Wouldn’t that make everyone rich? Wouldn’t that be a better way to help workers than a mandatory minimum wage of only $15 an hour?
Even graduates of public (i.e., government) schools could figure out the fallacy of such a measure. Most businesses couldn’t afford to pay their employees $100 an hour. Given such a law, there would be an enormous layoff of workers. There would be mass unemployment.
That’s because it’s just not worth it to employers to pay workers $100 an hour. Every worker whose labor is valued by employers at less than $100 per hour is going to be without a job.
It’s no different when the government sets the mandatory minimum at $15 an hour. Everyone whose labor is valued by employers at less than $15 an hour in the marketplace goes without a job. He is permanently unemployed.
Who would that group of people be? They would be black teenagers in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and other large cities in the country. For years, black teenagers have suffered a permanent unemployment rate of around 40 percent.
Black teenagers have suffered such a chronic unemployment rate because of the government’s mandatory minimum wage. While employers might be willing to hire black teenagers at, say, $5 an hour, the minimum wage law prohibits them from doing so.
What happens to those black teenagers who would like to get a job? Unlike their rich, white counterparts, who are learning a work ethic, job skills, and how a business operates, the minimum-wage law forces black teenagers to sit at home doing nothing. The state tells them: “Don’t worry, when you grow up, you can go on welfare. We’ll take care of you. We’ll provide you public housing, food stamps, and other essentials.” Of course, in the process the government makes them dependent on its dole, sometimes for life, which enables the government to control them. The welfare-state system is not as effective as slavery was, but it comes close.
What inevitably happens though is that unemployed black teenagers don’t just sit at home watching television but instead look for alternative ways to make money.
The minimum wage meets the drug war, another one of the federal government’s racist government programs. What black teenagers quickly learn is that by selling drugs, they can score big. They can make a lot of money, very quickly.
Of course, it’s just one great big honey trap. The government uses the drug war to do what segregation could never do — it removes blacks entirely from communities and relocates them to federal penitentiaries. Or the drug war removes blacks from life through death that comes from the massive violence that accompanies the illegal drug trade.
Meanwhile, thanks to compulsory school-attendance laws black teenagers are forced to attend the government’s indoctrination centers, called “public schools,” which are army-like regimentation facilities where children are taught deference to authority and obedience to orders. Thus, when the cops arbitrarily stop blacks on the streets and order them to bend the knee in honor and respect, they are expected to quickly do so, saying, “Yas-sah, Massah. Just tell me what I can do to serve you.”
Now, imagine if all three of these institutions were abolished, which they should be.
With the minimum wage gone, blacks teenagers would be free to compete for jobs on the basis of price. A black teenager could approach a well-established business and say, “I’ll do what that rich white kid is doing for $15 and I’ll do it for $2 an hour.” All of sudden, the employer finds it in his interest to hire the black kid. He’s able to add $13 an hour to his profit margin.
Why would the black kid work for $2 an hour? To get his foot in the door. To learn what it’s like to work in a business. To learn that he can’t skip work like he can skip school. Or the importance of getting to work on time, which is not the same as making it to class on time. To see how a business operates. To learn work skills.
Meanwhile, he lives with his family, which is providing him with room and board. After a year, he’s more marketable. He finds another business and asks for a job, only this time he asks for $5 an hour because he’s got work experience. Each year, the same thing happens. At some point he might begin thinking about opening his own business.
Suppose today a poor black in the inner city wants to start up a new business to compete against the well-established businesses. He summons the black teenagers in the area for a meeting and offers them $2 an hour plus some stock options. The teenagers say, “Great! We’ll do it!” But there’s one big obstacle: The government’s minimum wage makes it illegal to do it. In the name of helping the poor, the minimum wage law requires that black entrepreneur to pay $15 an hour, which he cannot afford. The start-up business never comes into existence.
Thus, the minimum wage law is really just one great big protection racket for the already established big firms — the ones that can afford to pay the minimum wage.
Now, suppose the minimum wage is abolished, along with drug laws. In fact, let’s go even further and abolish the entire welfare state apparatus that has been grafted onto our original governmental structure along with the federal income tax and all laws that infringe on economic liberty (and, well, while we’re at it, the entire warfare-state apparatus too). Let’s have a totally free market system — that is, a separation of economy and the state and a separation of charity and the state, just like we have a separation of church and state.
Now, all of sudden you have an outburst of economic activity in the poorest parts of Baltimore and other American cities. Suddenly black entrepreneurs have wide latitude to start businesses and hire people in the area. And there’s no more drug war to lure young blacks down a road that leads to death or incarceration.
And abolish government schooling as well, which would enable blacks to secure a real education, one that revolves around whatever their passion is in life — one that nurtures a love of learning and independent thinking rather than one that is designed to produce a deferential and obedient mindset.
Life in the poorest parts of Baltimore and other big cities is much like life was like in the Soviet Union — a life filled with hopelessness, despair, and despondency. That’s why there is so much alcoholism and drug addiction among inner-city blacks, just like there was in the Soviet Union.
There is but one solution to what ails Baltimore and the rest of America: economic liberty, which means the dismantling of the paternalistic state.