It’s easy enough to call the rioters in Baltimore “thugs;” and it’s entirely true.
But when they take the actions they do, they are acting on ideas. Personally, they are acting on their own impulses and emotions. But even their own, thuggish, range-of-the-moment impulses and emotions rest on ideas. Somebody else’s ideas, but ideas nonetheless.
In order to understand why these rioters do what they do, we must examine the prevailing ideas of the politicians, academics, intellectuals, socially respected commentators and others who dominate the intellectual life of our society.
In other words: What are the ideas that give rise to the violence?
Most people asking this question will answer it in the following way: “The rioters are acting against the fact that it’s a racist society. Whites have it in for blacks; that’s why these young people continue to live in poverty and despair. While their actions might not be rational or justified, it’s racism that’s to blame. It’s also a lack of proper financial support from the government.”
That’s one interpretation. And it’s the only one you’ll hear in the weeks and months to come as intellectuals discuss the Baltimore riots.
Unfortunately, this analysis does not make sense, not even on its own terms. There are plenty of laws against discrimination. Granted, these laws violate the freedom of association. Nevertheless, these laws exist. The mayor of Baltimore is black; the previous and current Attorney(s) General of the United States are both black; the President of the United States is (half) black; and many police officers as well as police chiefs in major American cities are black. If racism were that serious a problem, none of these facts could possibly be true.
As for government not financially assisting people in impoverished city neighborhoods, 83 percent of the federal budget of the United States goes to non-defense matters. Most of these non-defense programs are social welfare or social insurance in some form.
More than half the federal budget goes to social insurance programs, including but not limited to health care and food stamps. Government will not permit anyone to starve. Whether it’s morally and Constitutionally valid to force some citizens to pay for the benefits of others is an important, although separate question. The point is: The federal government is trillions of dollars in debt to pay for programs that all of the poor, including all of the black poor, are legally entitled to receive.
The current presidential administration is arguably the most socialist (i.e. redistributing of wealth) of any in American history, certainly since the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt (who passed Social Security) or Lyndon B. Johnson (who passed Medicare).
So why are looters and rioters looting and rioting? The stale claims that it’s “racism” or lack of government funding simply do not ring true. It must be something else.
The primary ideas that have to be animating the actions of these thugs? One, the idea that they are victims. Victims of what? Racism is the rote answer. It no longer applies, but it’s the only one their intellectual and political leaders have. So they’ll take it.
Two, the idea that they’re entitled to more than what they have. Yes, this means more loot, more money, more goods, more possessions, more everything.
Actually, a lot of people feel this way. There are rich people who feel this way. There are people of all races, childhood and ethnic backgrounds who feel entitled to “more” or “better” than what they have. “More” does not always apply to more money, particularly if it’s a very rich person who feels entitled. The common element here is: a feeling of entitlement, not in a legitimate case (e.g., when you’re a paying customer, have a signed contract, or when you feel entitled to be left alone to live your life); but entitled to anything or everything that one wants, and feels one deserves.
The operative word here is feel. A “feeling” does not refer to something that is automatically right or automatically wrong. It refers to something subconsciously, and deeply, held in one’s mind as important, but something not yet held up to rational or objective examination of any kind. Irrational entitlement is the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) attitude of, “I don’t have to justify or explain what I want. I want it, and that should be enough. I want it, and therefore I deserve it.” And, as a side consequence particularly relevant with rioting and looting: “If I can’t have it, you can’t have it either.”
Every day of these rioters’ lives, as well as the lives of their parents and grandparents, they have been told, “You have a right to health care. You have a right to food. You have a right to a job. You have a right to the good life. That evil one percent, and all those racist middle-class whites — you have every bit as much of a right to what they have as they do. Don’t you forget it.”
They’re listening. In fact, it’s remarkable we don’t have far more riots than we do.
These professional politicians — claiming selfless ends, yet happy to progress (including financially) in their own careers — proceed to utilize government force to make sure the loot is delivered. In essence, they tell their constituents: “Don’t rob or loot. We’ll do it for you. Through the political process.” And rob and loot they do. That’s most of what our federal government does, every single day, under the pretense of “morality” and “social justice,” no less. And we wonder why all politicians are so corrupt?
What about the supposed beneficiaries of the looting? Do all these legalized transfers of wealth really lead to much progress in their lives? Take a look at the Baltimore slums. The Baltimore slums are some of the worst in the nation. They’re government museums of despair, impoverishment, and negligence; they’re monuments to the federal subsidization of lack of self-respect.
These slums are what happen when you force some to take care of others. They’re what happen when you take the idea that, “We are all our brother’s keepers” and turn it into a federal, state-sanctioned mandate. You end up hurting the recipients most of all, and ultimately everyone.
Yet the damage to the recipients of the wealth transfers is (arguably) far worse than the damage done to most of those forced to pay the taxes. It’s undoubtedly true that the millionaires who pay the taxes to keep these hopeless, despairing neighborhoods in operation don’t feel the cost at all. Many millionaires and billionaires, in fact, are strident Obama supporters. Does this fact justify government using force, including for all the middle-class citizens paying taxes for this entitlement state? No. But it doesn’t change the fact that there are victims of these policies all around.
The question nobody ever asks is: What does the entitlement state, and the entitlement mentality that promotes it, do to its intended beneficiaries? It turns most of them into depressed wards of the government who have almost no chance of getting ahead. A smaller and younger number of them are bitter and angry. After all, they have been told repeatedly they’re entitled to more. Why don’t they have more? Why are they no further along — in most cases — than their parents or grandparents before them? Somebody has to take the hit for that. At least, that’s what their emotions tell them. And their political, intellectual leaders are telling them the same thing, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not.
That’s what fuels the rioting. Rioters vent their anger, as the mayor of Baltimore initially thought would be helpful, and then…there’s death, destruction and more claimed need for more government intervention.
How convenient for the profiteers of the entitlement state. How dreary and depressing for those caught in its web.