Thursday, June 5, 2014

"No Race Can Prosper Till It Learns that There is as Much Dignity in Tilling a Field as in Writing a Poem"

By Victor J. Ward

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada cattle rancher who had a run-in with the Bureau of Land Management, is old news -- at least until the feds come back and begin to harass him again. But, I am reading a book, and something that the author wrote reminded me
of something that Bundy said.

First, Bundy's quote (I edited only to make the reading easier. The main point has been undisturbed.):
When I go to North Las Vegas, I would see these little government houses, and in front of that government house, the door was usually open and the older people and the kids . . . and there was always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch. They didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for the kids to do. They didn't have nothing for the young girls to do.
And because they were basically on government subsidy -- so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've wondered were they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things? Or are they better off under government subsidy?
The problem with Bundy's statement is that it's true. I am going to defend what he said -- but, who really cares what I have to say? Therefore, after I provide my defense, I am going to give an even better apology for the truth of his statements.

First, "little government houses, door open, older people, and kids." Bundy is relating what he saw in North Las Vegas. Why get angry at him for that? If it wasn't true, the media should have taken their cameras to North Las Vegas and shown how much of a booming metropolis it was.

I remember driving through parts of Oakland and thinking that it was exactly how I imagined Detroit would look: Homes were run down; older people were in their yard; and children were running around in their diapers.

I told my wife that I was going to take her on a tour of the rugged area of Oakland so that she could see how dilapidated the city was. She asked me, "Why would you want to do that?"

She had a point.

Next, Bundy talks about people not having anything to do and the fact that young men go to jail because they never learned to pick cotton. Black people don't have anything to do because of the minimum wage law. But, when we talk about repealing the minimum wage, we must also talk about ending welfare.

Let's say that the minimum wage laws have been repealed. Let's also say that you have a young Black man who has dropped out of high school. You tell him that he can work at some job for $2.00/hour, or he can stay on welfare for the equivalent of $3.00/hour. I guarantee you that that high school dropout will act like the best trained Austrian economist when he says that he will stick with welfare.

But, the dropout also intrinsically knows -- or will readily learn -- that it's not just about the money. If you told him that he could earn $3.00/hour working or get the equivalent of $3.00/hour from the government, he will take the money from the taxpayer. If you paid him $3.10/hour, is that extra 80 cents a day enough to get him out of the house? I doubt it.

People on welfare understand opportunity costs better than our elected politicians who are trying to set monetary policy and cure unemployment.

What about picking cotton? If we take away the physical torture of slavery, and if all cotton-picking machines were eliminated, could the Black person gain something by picking cotton?

Heck yes. He would have a tremendous understanding about Cotton as a commodity and could be a regular Jim Rogers in the capital markets. The cotton-picker would understand the environmental threats to the crop. He could become a consultant to other farmers. Or, he could develop a green pesticide that would kill the pest and leave the cotton unharmed.

Crum, Banneker, Drew, Carver, Julian, Just, and Morgan are the names of a few, old-school Black folks who took lemons and made Mike's Hard Lemonade.

One of the main tenets of entrepreneurship is finding solutions to a problem. If Blacks were to return to the field to pick cotton, this would be a problem, but it would also open the door for entrepreneurial solutions.

Finally,about the book I am reading, Up From Slavery by Bootker T. Washington. It is the perfect defense:
I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any spirit of bitterness against the Southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race.
----Washington experienced slavery. If he is not bitter, and if he is not looking for reparations, then any Black person who has not experienced slavery has neither complaint nor argument.
No one section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for years by the General Government.
----Washington understands that government was instrumental in maintaining the evil institution of slavery. The government did this through the United States Constitution and through laws like the Fugitive Slave Act.
Having once got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and social life of the Republic, it was no easy matter for the country to relieve itself of the institution. Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe.
----As someone once said, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping that someone else dies." Instead of being bitter for what he did not have, Washington decided to be grateful for what he had.
This, I say, not to justify slavery—on the other hand, I condemn it as an institution, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and financial reasons, and not from a missionary motive—but to call attention to a fact, and to show how Providence so often uses men and institutions to accomplish a purpose. When persons ask me in these days how, in the midst of what sometimes seem hopelessly discouraging conditions, I can have such faith in the future of my race in this country, I remind them of the wilderness through which and out of which, a good Providence has already led us.
----God put you on this earth for a purpose. The hard things in life are meant to train and teach you. If you participate in the training and teaching, you will graduate from the School of Hard Knocks with something far greater and more valuable than anything you could get from an Ivy League institution.
Ever since I have been old enough to think for myself, I have entertained the idea that, notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did. The hurtful influences of the institution were not by any means confined to the Negro. This was fully illustrated by the life upon our own plantation. The whole machinery of slavery was so constructed as to cause labour, as a rule, to be looked upon as a badge of degradation, of inferiority. Hence labour was something that both races on the slave plantation sought to escape. The slave system on our place, in a large measure, took the spirit of self-reliance and self-help out of the white people. My old master had many boys and girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a single trade or special line of productive industry. The girls were not taught to cook, sew, or to take care of the house. All of this was left to the slaves. . . When freedom came, the slaves were almost as well fitted to begin life anew as the master, except in the matter of book-learning and ownership of property. The slave owner and his sons had mastered no special industry. They unconsciously had imbibed the feeling that manual labour was not the proper thing for them. On the other hand, the slaves, in many cases, had mastered some handicraft, and none were ashamed, and few unwilling, to labour.
----Whatever job you have, work at it with all of your heart. Even if you don't like it, you will gain the invaluable experience of perseverance. And, at the proper time, if you look for your opportunity -- your freedom -- it will come, and you will be ready. This is the message that Black people, yea, ALL people, need to hear.

I close with the words from Washington's speech, the Atlanta Compromise:
To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I would say cast down your bucket where you are, cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded. Cast it down in agriculture, in mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service and in the professions. And in this connection it is well to bear in mind that whatever other sins the South may be called upon to bear, that when it comes to business pure and simple, it is in the South that the Negro is given a man's chance in the commercial world. . . Our greatest danger is, that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the production of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labor and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, the ornamental gewgaws of life and the useful. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin and not the top. Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.
Victor J. Ward  first came across libertarianism by reading Murray Rothbard's Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy and Walter Block's Defending the Undefendable. He holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and an MBA from Santa Clara University.


  1. Where can we find more of Victor Ward's writings? Is he an EPJ exclusive? If so, what a gem you got, Mr. Wenzel!

    1. I am proud to say that Victor is EPJ exclusive, for now. Given the talent he is displaying, that probably won't last.

  2. Thank you, Victor. That was masterful, and very moving. I'm saving it.