First things first. After a few years of slogging I am ten days away from sending my book STARE IN THE DARKNESS: RAP, HIP-HOP, AND BLACK POLITICS to publishers. This is why I have blogged infrequently…. 

I’m on a black email list with a couple of conservatives. Now black folk are already a conservative bunch, but here I mean McCain supporting conservatives. In the wake of last week’s events I wrote this email to them, because we’ve had a couple of good conversations about ideas about the free market and wealth redistribution:We’ve had a few discussions over the last year or two about politics and about government.

The events of the past week should signal a couple of things:
  • There is ALREADY wealth redistribution….going from the bottom to the top. 
The idea of a “free market” is just that, an IDEA. Not only does it require “perfect information” (which no one has), and no coercion (which is a myth), but it also requires GOVERNMENT to establish the rules under which it operates.
The democrats and the republicans are actually much more alike here than I’d like them to be. But BOTH of them use government in order to distribute resources. The republicans give money to the defense industry through regulations and laws dealing with military build up. Corporations like Haliburton get massive government loot through no-bid contracts. They give investors money through allowing them to make money off of stocks without declaring them. They give the wealthy money by allowing them to get hand outs in the form of inheritances without taxing them. And they give money to the rural communities that constitute their voter base. 
Check out which communities received more money per capita from 9/11 security enhancements. Cities like Detroit and New York City received far less money per capita than rural communities with little to no security risk. 
The question isn’t which party or ideology believes in wealth redistribution….it’s which direction do you believe wealth redistribution should go.
If you think that people on welfare shouldn’t get handouts because they do no productive work (ignoring for a second that the most important job in an industrialized society is PARENT) then why should people who do nothing more than shift money from one account to another be absolved of paying taxes on the interest they make? why should i, just because my parent happens to be wealthy, be able to get a windfall of money that i never did anything to earn…except to be born?
  •  When capital is threatened, the “free market” goes out the window.
I understand as an investor and as an academic that what happened this week had to happen. But the rapidity with which it occurred should show that the very same people who previously called for the reduction of regulation and the supposed reduction of government intervention are going to call for all SORTS of intervention when their interests are threatened. the same way that us oil companies call for intervention in foreign negotiations. and they’ll GET that intervention. just like they did this week.
  • Government does what the institutions that run it WANT government to do.
One of the problems I’ve had with Obama is that he isn’t going far enough to the left. 
I’ve got five children. Although I’ve got a 401K because my wife has spent most of her time raising our children, my retirement account is all we have. I’m approaching middle age. While I’m confident that things will work out….there is a strong possibility that I could be 65, looking at another 20 years of life without the prospect of retirement. 
Our current solution to my dilemma? Suck it up. I watched CNN on Wednesday as a pundit told a single mother living from paycheck to paycheck that she should learn to “monetize herself”, by selling food if she cooks, by selling clothes if she sews, that she should babysit…or perhaps move back in with her parents. Working on the assumption of course that she: a) has living parents and b) that those parents actually have room for her. Both common sense assumptions…and in their common sense lies the rub.
We’ve spent billions on Iraq. In less than a week we will spend an equal amount on bad mortgages. 
Why couldn’t we spend money to ensure that I don’t have to worry about my kids going to college? Why couldn’t we spend money on the types of infrastructure that would allow me to generate more wealth, or to share more of my intellectual capital with the people around me? The only reason why, and this is a big reason, is because we don’t believe government SHOULD do this. And we don’t even think of the possibility that government CAN do this. So of COURSE the solution the pundit offers is that she should be more disciplined and take advantage of the entrepreneurial possibilities opened up by BEING BROKE, rather than push more political solutions.
So Obama gets castigated by conservatives as being “too liberal.” Hell no. More like “not liberal enough.” 
What’s tragic here is that most of the “true conservatives” I know have no reason to be. They aren’t wealthy enough to go without significant government intervention. They aren’t wealthy enough to send their children to the best private schools, not wealthy enough to live in private communities that take care of all services, not wealthy enough to hand much of anything down to their children, not wealthy enough to manage their own health care. 
Our real choice going forward is a life of individual, privatized hardship, with the promise of individual wealth if you do everything right AND get lucky….vs. a life of shared responsibility, community, and life. and this is bigger than the two parties we have to vote for.