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Malcolm X

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walter block Posted: Wed, Dec 17 2008 1:48 PM

Malcolm X

 

By Walter Block, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA

 

Because of Spike Lee's new movie "Malcolm X," this black leader is once again in the news. In the eyes of some young black males who live in the deteriorating districts of many U.S. inner cities Malcolm's message is one of violence against the "blue‑eyed white devils." And for them this is a heady brew indeed, able to drown out the voice even of the revered Martin Luther King, who urged peace and reconciliation.

 

In the view of others well‑intentioned white liberals, for the most part the meaning of this man's life was, on the contrary, not too different from that of Dr. King's.

Who is right? Each has a bit of the truth, for at different points in his life Malcolm espoused very different philosophies, stretching from war‑fare to co‑existence. It is sometimes said that this man was like a mirror: we could see in him what we wanted to see, so great were his interests, so variable his viewpoints over his life.

 

There are some things, however, for which Malcolm must ever be known. He was one of the most riveting, charismatic speakers imaginable. Whether or not you agreed with him, when you heard him speak, you knew you were in the presence of a very remarkable person.

 

He stood for one thing his entire (mature adult) life: black is beautiful. He was notable for instilling pride into the lives of African‑Americans. He urged that they throw away their hair straighteners and dyes, which they had used in an attempt to "look white." He encouraged black people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps: dress neatly, live cleanly, eschew drugs, alcohol and promiscuity. The Black Muslim organization he headed had a greater success rate in dealing with drug addiction in the local community than any other. He was vociferously in favour of economic development for blacks, and many of the Shabazz stores he built and inspired are still in business, decades after his initial attempts in this direction.

 

Above all, Malcolm remonstrated against the welfare system. It was demeaning. It was infuriating. It bred dependency on the white man. It stifled creativity. It was a trap. Far better in the case of immediate dire need was charitable giving, limited to the local community. And for the long run, stores, factories and businesses were the answer, not the dole.

 

In a sense, the life of this Black Muslim leader was an example of his own philosophy. Born in 1925 in the mid-west, Malcolm travelled east and ended up in New York City. For a while he was "Detroit Red," a hoodlum named for his special hairdos. He was a pimp, a rapist, a thief and a jailbird. And yet, somehow, he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. Thanks in large part to his religion, he studied hard. He became a spell binding orator. He went through an anti‑white racist phase, but in his later years, he began to renounce this philosophy as the dead end it is.

 

In the coming months, there are many who will try to seize on the vision of Malcolm X. They will claim some part of him for their own. Paradoxically, and rather unexpectedly, conservative‑libertarians can also make a just claim. What else can you call a person who eschews welfare, drugs, spirits, and promiscuity, and champions clean living, hard work and business enterprise?

 

Even his call for the Republic of New Africa, a new country for American blacks, to be fashioned out of large swatches of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas and other parts of the Confederacy, can be reconciled with this vision. Not for him a Marxist oriented defence of land reform based on taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Instead, Malcolm saw this as part and parcel of reparations based on private property rights.

 

The plantation owners had stolen the life‑long labour of his grandparents. In 1865, the slaves should have been compensated for this outrage by at least being given the land they had been forced to homestead. Instead, this was passed through inheritance into the hands of the grandchildren of the enslavers. Malcolm's idea was to turn this property over to its rightful owners the African‑Americans who would have received it as a bequest had justice been attained at the end of the civil war.

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For anyone who is wondering, this user is NOT Prof. Walter Block of the Mises Institute.

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Please provide a reference. It is not polite to publish the works by other people without proper citations.

Haha. I stand corrected! Welcome to the forums Dr. Block.

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David V replied on Wed, Dec 17 2008 2:51 PM

liberty student:
For anyone who is wondering, this user is NOT Prof. Walter Block of the Mises Institute.

Actually, yes, he is.

 

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Posting from Canada?

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jtucker replied on Wed, Dec 17 2008 2:55 PM

This is an old article by Walter, posted by Walter. I've wanting him to get more involved it the forum, but it is a bit of learning curve. He needs to provide descriptions of why he is posting things etc., what the purpose is, and to whom it is directed.

It's great, Walter, that you are on the forum. but please introduce your posts with some clarification, since there are many thousands of people reading.

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I stand corrected then.  My apologies Dr. Block.  I'm a huge fan.

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Hey, Walter, I've listened to all your mp3s at Mises.  You pose a lot of interesting questions, and more interesting answers.  Salutations.

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walter block:

Even his call for the Republic of New Africa, a new country for American blacks, to be fashioned out of large swatches of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas and other parts of the Confederacy, can be reconciled with this vision. Not for him a Marxist oriented defence of land reform based on taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Instead, Malcolm saw this as part and parcel of reparations based on private property rights.

I think libertarians could make inroads with American Indians (or native Americans if you prefer) by using this same reasoning to defend their right to claim huge swaths of federally owned Western land and secede from the Union. A large percentage of the Western United States is "federal property". Why shouldn't the decedents of those who lived in North American before 1492 have a right to claim it and secede? And I must agree with the poster above that your podcasts are brilliant. Your arguments on roads have saved me in debates on more than one occasion.

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Byzantine:

That last paragraph is a howler. 

Do you not agree that  "The plantation owners had stolen the life‑long labour of his [Malcolm X's] grandparents."?

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Byzantine:

ryanpatgray:
Do you not agree that  "The plantation owners had stolen the life‑long labour of his [Malcolm X's] grandparents

They didn't steal it.  They paid for it.  The dispute is over the fact that they paid the slavebroker rather than the slaves.

 

If I pay someone to kidnap you that does not entitle me to force you to work without compensation.

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Byzantine:

ryanpatgray:
If I pay someone to kidnap you that does not entitle me to force you to work without compensation.

At the time, it was not considered kidnapping.

This does not change the fact that it was.

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That's a bit of a strawman Byzantine.

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Byzantine:
So unless Walter is ready to start figuring out whether Thai-Negro-American Indian Tiger Woods owes/is owed property from people of Anglo-Celt-Italian-etc. descent who may themselves have a former slave in the genetic woodpile, his statement in favor of Malcolm X's proposal to carve out swathes of land and give it to a particular race is nonsense.

Mr. Block’s larger point was, as far as I can tell, not to defend this specific position but rather to point out that Malcolm X’s claim was based upon a property-rights ethos.

liberty student:

That's a bit of a strawman Byzantine.

Yes, it is.

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hardway replied on Fri, Dec 19 2008 8:49 AM

Byzantine:

ryanpatgray:
This does not change the fact that it was.

And so it may be, but at the time it was not under the laws of the land under which the slaveowners acquired property.  So unless Walter is ready to start figuring out whether Thai-Negro-American Indian Tiger Woods owes/is owed property from people of Anglo-Celt-Italian-etc. descent who may themselves have a former slave in the genetic woodpile, his statement in favor of Malcolm X's proposal to carve out swathes of land and give it to a particular race is nonsense.

Then again, maybe that's not such a bad idea.  Hell, I might chip in for the moving expenses.

If we could achieve a truly libertarian society, such as the one Rothbard envisions, what would be the proper way of compensating the present day descendant of a slave who worked a cotton plantation 200 years ago, that is now a subdivision in Georgia? Assuming of course that the link could be proven, wouldn't compensation be due, regardless of the level of success of the slave descendant (such as Tiger)?

Mr. Rothbard clearly didn't agree with the utilitarian principle of letting bygones be bygones and starting from the current status quo.

This is a straw man in the context of the Malcolm X article, but it got me thinking.

You also come off as a racist with that last comment Byzantine, not sure it that's your intention.

 

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hardway:

If we could achieve a truly libertarian society, such as the one Rothbard envisions, what would be the proper way of compensating the present day descendant of a slave who worked a cotton plantation 200 years ago, that is now a subdivision in Georgia? Assuming of course that the link could be proven, wouldn't compensation be due, regardless of the level of success of the slave descendant (such as Tiger)?
Mr. Rothbard clearly didn't agree with the utilitarian principle of letting bygones be bygones and starting from the current status quo.

I am not sure it would be possible to do so without violating the rights of innocent people today. If Rothbard does not agree with letting bygones be bygones I must respectfully disagree with him on this point. Even brilliant people sometimes make mistakes and this may be one of Rothbard’s
hardway:

You also come off as a racist with that last comment Byzantine, not sure it that's your intention.

Byzantine often comes off as a racist and he does not seem to care if he does. He is the type of person who gives supporters of the free market a bad name. I have no problem with occasionally raising very sensitive subjects but Byzantine seems to revel in making posts that make him look like a racist. It is almost as if he WANTS to alienate black people and Hispanics.

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Byzantine often comes off as a racist and he does not seem to care if he does. He is the type of person who gives supporters of the free market a bad name. I have no problem with occasionally raising very sensitive subjects but Byzantine seems to revel in making posts that make him look like a racist. It is almost as if he WANTS to alienate black people and Hispanics.
I don't know, there are plenty of things that libertarians are associated with that are far worse than racism, in my eyes anyway.

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Byzantine:

hardway:
You also come off as a racist with that last comment Byzantine, not sure it that's your intention.

I'm not the one proposing that land be redistributed according to race. 

But given the long history of contention between blacks and whites, again, it may not be a bad idea.

Two points:

1. The proposal was not that of Mr. Block - it is not clear he even supports it and was not the point of his article.

2. The proposal was not "based on race". Barack Obama would not qualify for this program if it were implemented. His father came from Africa.

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GilesStratton:
Byzantine often comes off as a racist and he does not seem to care if he does. He is the type of person who gives supporters of the free market a bad name. I have no problem with occasionally raising very sensitive subjects but Byzantine seems to revel in making posts that make him look like a racist. It is almost as if he WANTS to alienate black people and Hispanics.
I don't know, there are plenty of things that libertarians are associated with that are far worse than racism, in my eyes anyway.

Such as?

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Cultural leftism.

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Bending over backwards for anti-discrimination fanatics.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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GilesStratton:
Cultural leftism.

Cultural leftism means different things to different people. Can you describe what it means to you and why you think of it as worse than racism?

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Jon Irenicus:

Bending over backwards for anti-discrimination fanatics.

You have a right to discriminate if you want to. That does not mean I must have a shred of respect for you after you do. We can differ on this issue and both be libertarians.

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Right, but you asked what is worse than the actions of people like Byzantine.

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General opposition to all authority, as is demonstrated with the fondness of phrases such as "equality of liberty". In addition to some sort of strange Orwellian "forced tolerance" in regards to those who live alternative lifestyles. Opposition to natural, pre-state, institutions of the church and the family. All this in addition to rudeness, arrogance and lack of culture.

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ryanpatgray:
Byzantine often comes off as a racist and he does not seem to care if he does. He is the type of person who gives supporters of the free market a bad name. I have no problem with occasionally raising very sensitive subjects but Byzantine seems to revel in making posts that make him look like a racist. It is almost as if he WANTS to alienate black people and Hispanics.

There are more races besides white, black and hispanic.

I don't mind Byzantine's race baiting, it forces us to think.  There is nothing worse than culturally left and dogma positions.

We've all been socialized not to distinguish based on race.  It is a political correctness faux pas.  I think intelligent people need to explore every idea, and come to their own conclusions.  If Byzantine is a racist it's irrelevant to me, unless he is being coercive.  I certainly do not want the masses judging my discrimination and social attitudes based on political correctness.

 

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Jon Irenicus:

Right, but you asked what is worse than the actions of people like Byzantine.

Perhaps I should have asked what you meant by "Bending over backwards" do you mean supporting laws or simply trying to be sensitive to the feeling of others? I do not support things such as "affirmative action" if that is what you imply.

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Byzantine:

I'm not the one proposing that land be redistributed according to race.

Neither was Walter Block.  That is a strawman, and you are smart enough to know it.

Byzantine:

But given the long history of contention between blacks and whites, again, it may not be a bad idea.

I dunno.  Blacks and whites seem to be pretty good at oppressing themselves.  If we're shooting for justice, it won't be based on racial lines.

 

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GilesStratton:
General opposition to all authority, as is demonstrated with the fondness of phrases such as "equality of liberty". In addition to some sort of strange Orwellian "forced tolerance" in regards to those who live alternative lifestyles. Opposition to natural, pre-state, institutions of the church and the family. All this in addition to rudeness, arrogance and lack of culture.

Anyone who supports "forced tolerance" is not libertarian. I am skeptical of any claim that the church is a pre-state institution. In much of history the church and the state are fused as one - but that is a topic for another thread. In your view have I been rude or arrogant? I try not to be. But I am not sure one could call me a "leftist" although I am an ignostic.

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Perhaps I should have asked what you meant by "Bending over backwards" do you mean supporting laws or simply trying to be sensitive to the feeling of others? I do not support things such as "affirmative action" if that is what you imply.

Not you personally. I am referring to the kind of mentality that puts anti-discriminatory agendas above private property. I don't see how alliances with people with such a mentality are conducive to it, and I think they're far more harmful than some libertarians coming off as racist.

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Jon Irenicus:

Perhaps I should have asked what you meant by "Bending over backwards" do you mean supporting laws or simply trying to be sensitive to the feeling of others? I do not support things such as "affirmative action" if that is what you imply.

Not you personally. I am referring to the kind of mentality that puts anti-discriminatory agendas above private property. I don't see how alliances with people with such a mentality are conducive to it, and I think they're far more harmful than some libertarians coming off as racist.

That mentality is not and cannot be libertarian - not even by the sloppy modern LP definition.

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Indeed. Hence my point that it is harmful associating it with libertarianism in the first place. It has nothing to do with it, given that libertarianism is, strictly speaking, neutral on the topic of race.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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hardway replied on Fri, Dec 19 2008 1:10 PM

He has the freedom to be racist if he wants (thankfully), I was just trying to get clarification on his motivation.

I'm not particularly racist (I think we all are to a certain extent), but I think the neutral position of libertarianism on race is the only logical one.  Giving deference to any group to avoid "discrimination" is a contradiction and wholly unproductive.

On another note, I never knew about Malcom's views on welfare, but I have to say I agree.

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hardway:

He has the freedom to be racist if he wants (thankfully), I was just trying to get clarification on his motivation.
Yes, he does. And I have the freedom to point out the illogical nature of judging people based upon the melanin content of their skin. I also have the freedom to point out that if the freedom movement is to advance we need to convince more people of all races and what he is doing may alienate many of the very people we need to recruit as supporters of the free market.
hardway:

On another note, I never knew about Malcom's views on welfare, but I have to say I agree.
Me too. I wish that more people who call him a hero would read his words on this subject.

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