At a former segregationist magazine, six white conservatives try to figure out just why black people can't keep up . Two days ago, National Review Online published an article by economist and American Enterprise Institute fellow Kevin Hassett, wondering why recessions are worse for African-Americans than for white people. Hassett, who is best known as the author of the infamous "Dow 36,000," argues that economic measurements are unable to account for most of the extra harm that downturns visit on black people. "While it is possible that there is some other omitted variable," writes Hassett, "Occam's Razor suggests that discrimination is alive and well. This might surprise many readers who live and work in well-integrated communities."
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First of all, America doesn't really have a ton of well-integrated communities, and those it does have -- well, they're probably not jam-packed with National Review readers. So it seems fair to guess that Hassett is indulging in a touch of faux-naivete to protect the delicate sensibilities of his readers. Given the state of residential and industrial segregation in America and the rampant, racialized character of inequality, I'm going to guess further that most readers who were indeed surprised by Hassett's basic contention are either ignorant or, like Hassett, feigning innocence.
But that didn't stop NRO from feeling obligated to pull a reverse-Sullivan, and give space to a number of writers to criticize Hassett's argument as, essentially, too easy on black folks. NRO yesterday ran what is being billed as a "symposium" on the issue, under the title: "Really a racial recession?" Subtitle: "Discrimination is an insufficient explanation for black unemployment."
First of all, as a few people have now noted, NRO apparently couldn't turn up a black person to join its symposium. All six members were white. This fact is aggravating because the dominant theme of the six contributions really does seem to be, "What's the matter with black people?" You know who might have some insight on whether something's the matter with them? Black people. Ideally, more than one -- they might even have different opinions from each other!
While all the contributors gave a bow in the direction of the persistence of "prejudice," none bought that it is a good explanation for the "racial recession." Instead, suggested Samuel Staley, a fellow at the Reason Foundation,
The key to lifting the economic fortunes of African Americans (and perhaps a clue to the persistent gap in employment) is imbuing an entrepreneurial ethic, and providing a policy climate, that allows them to offset the negative impacts of racial discrimination using their own skills and aptitudes.
Catch that? The reason African-Americans are doing worse in the first place, and the key to helping them do better, is to teach them "an entrepreneurial ethic." Staley isn't racist. He thinks black people have "skill and aptitudes" -- they're just too lazy to use them.