My daughter is being forced by the University of Kansas to read the book Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I have begun to read this book and I read an excellent review by the London Review of Books, which you can read here:

My purpose is not to critique the book. That’s not my area of expertise. My expertise is to look around me and to compare what people say with I see. I like to think that I use inductive reasoning. Like a scientist, if I see a pattern, then there is a larger truth out there that it reveals. I see this with the claim of racism in America. I don’t make the claim that there isn’t racism in America. I make the claim that there’s racism in America because blacks do poorly in many areas of human life and not that racism is the cause of why blacks do poorly.

I will take a lot of grief for this view. It will not be popular by any measure. Most people, even whites, acknowledge the existence of racism. Of course it works both ways, but the greater scrutiny is reserved for white on black racism. Of course there was and still is white on black racism caused by pure feelings of inherent superiority regardless of the black achievement. But this has diminished over the years.

Today, the more prevalent reason for racism is the failure of large portions of the black population to succeed or to stop blaming whites for their plight. Whites have given a lot to help blacks achieve economic equality. They even voted in a ½ black as President. That still didn’t work and we are worse off now than before the 2008 elections. So, how to explain this?

Looking around the world, I can find no country that is wealthy or advanced and that is majority black. All majority-black countries are among the poorest in the world.

In all countries in which blacks are a minority and form a self-contained population, they are invariably at the bottom of the wealth and education scale in those countries. Sure, like just about anything in the world, one can find a few places where this is not true, but in over 100 countries in the world that have majority or significant black populations, in none of them is  the black population wealthier or more educated than the other racial or ethnic groups. None. This is true even in Africa. And it doesn’t matter whether the black population is in the majority or the minority, there, either.

I am not a fan of racial IQ or of race itself as the determinate of success. When I look at the extreme poverty that once prevailed in China and then look at the IQ ratings given for China as being among the highest in the world at 105 or 110, then their IQ didn’t help them. A much better case can be made for culture and institutions. China chose socialism to stem the centuries long decline in wealth. Even that Western institution did not help. It was only when China basically abandoned the socialist economic system for a capitalist market system, that their economy skyrocketed. Same people, different institutions, different results.

I am not  saying that capitalism and market economics are the magic cure. Not all cultures are ready. Russia is not ready. Their culture and government institutions are inadequate to accommodate full market capitalism. Their problem is cultural. That’s a topic for another post.

Blacks lack the cultural institutions necessary for success in a hugely successful country like the US. The comparisons are stark. This is not to say that many blacks have not succeeded. Millions have. But their success has been achieved by becoming culturally “whiter”. A black can talk ghetto and still be culturally white, especially in decisions that affect personal economics, such as getting an education or studying or turning off the TV. Speaking Spanish and loving Mexican food doesn’t make me culturally Mexican. It’s the decisions that I make and the cultural influences in my life that lead me to make a different decision than if I were another distinct culture. I make the claim that Asians are not better at math than are non-Asians. But culturally they are more willing to spend time in studying rather than watching TV or cruising the mall. And math, also, because it is more universal than languages, such as English and is much easier to study.

Unfortuna90s gangsta crewtely, America, especially through government, has unwittingly reinforced these unsuccessful black cultural choices. When a person can have all of their basic life’s necessities paid for by government, then they are not forced to confront their poor economic choices. This is called moral hazard. Even white Americans are falling into this trap, too. Go to college and get a useless degree. Why? Because there are government programs that will pay for it.

Culture is a much maligned and lowly regarded institution. We don’t see it. It isn’t written down. It’s not supposed to be written down. Culture is the sum of generations of decisions and their outcomes. Successful peoples have successful cultures. People don’t set about creating culture. It happens. Successful people tend to pass on their culture. Unsuccessful people and cultures die away. Look at the history books.

Successful people can acquire the culture of others. The West is what it is today because people learned from the ancient Greeks. The Greeks learned from Middle Eastern civilizations. Even the Germans and Celts passed on elements of their cultures to the modern West.

Cultural growth depends on the limits of that culture’s world view and resources. I generally dislike Jared Diamond, but he unwittingly makes the point about why New Guineans are stuck in New Guinea with a modified hunter gather life. It’s a big island with generally enough food, and nowhere to go. Knowing how to find edible  mushrooms in the forest is a pinnacle of achievement, as Diamond relates.

From Europe people could get to somewhere else. There was something else worth while over the horizon. If you didn’t go there then others came to you and that generally was not a good thing. This gave the quality of the institutions controlling the interactions of people precedence over quality of finding mushrooms. Politics and economics became culturally more important that finding food.

In much of black America today there is a reluctance to embrace successful “white” values. When Coates denigrates white culture as “White Supremacy”, he is moving the argument from a personal “racist” level to a systemic, cultural level. He is correct in this, but for reasons opposite to his. He is attempting to blame white culture for being systemically racist, when it is systemically more successful instead.

This obvious differential between the level of black culture and other cultures in rich America provides a large, glaring contrast. This contrast is more obvious than in other countries. All other rich countries have far fewer blacks and countries with significant black populations, such as Brazil, are much poorer and there the contrast is less sharp, though still there.

If the evidence is that blacks in most countries were rich or middle class, by world standards, then there’s a case to be made for white racism in America. But that is not the factual case. Then it must be the case that either all of the world is racist against blacks or black culture is itself to blame. I’ve made may case for the latter.

It doesn’t fit the story the left weaves about blacks. It can’t be about blacks. If it were about blacks, then white American couldn’t be racist. Racism is one of the defining characteristics when socialists speak about capitalism. It is one of the defining reasons invented to smear capitalism. Socialists and their fellow travelers see capitalism as a white invention and see it as used against colonial populations.

Why has Coates succeeded, in spite of his claim of an all powerful, systemic white supremacy that should have kept him down on the streets and on welfare? Because by learning to read and write well, going to college, making a living and staying off welfare, Coates has acquired successful traits. The same traits that successful people in all successful modern cultures use.

I am indebted to Tragedy and Hope, by Carroll Quigley for many of the ideas in this piece. of KansasMy daughter is being forced by the University of Kansas to read the book Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I have begun to read this book and I read an excellent review by the London Review of Books, which you can read here: My purpose is not to...Countering the Myths of Economics and Politics