“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln
In describing the history of the Civil Rights Movement, left-leaning college professors tend to portray it as a battle between liberals and conservatives. The principle of equal justice for all is depicted as something that only liberals believed in. Anyone who supported segregation is described as “conservative.” Professors, in other words, give all the credit for ending institutionalized racism to people like themselves.
Facts that undermine this viewpoint, plentiful as they are, rarely show up in mainstream history books.
“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Vladimir Lenin
America as a whole has a two party political system, with each party typically getting the support of about half the nation’s voters, but things are different on college campuses. University professors are an extremely partisan bunch; they vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party, and do all they can to influence their students to vote the same way. The word “diversity” may be a popular catchword on campus, but there is very little diversity in evidence when it comes to political opinion.
History professors, and the textbooks they write, sometimes go to extremes to make their own party look good, and the hated Republican Party look bad. One of the more egregious examples of this partisan bias is the way mainstream history textbooks misrepresent the roles of the respective parties in the debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Prejudice is free but discrimination has costs” Thomas Sowell
Two earlier HistoryHalf posts addressed the relationship between slavery and economic progress, or lack thereof, in the United States. One post makes the case that standard textbook portrayals of black slavery as an important underpinning of American economic growth are false. The other post describes the slave system as an economic liability that destined the South to lose the Civil War.
This week’s post is about the continued economic backwardness of the states of the old Confederacy during the Jim Crow era, and the explosion of productivity and profit that the Southern states have enjoyed since the Federal Government brought a forcible end to racial segregation.
“America; where people do not inquire concerning a stranger ‘who is he,’ but ‘what can he do?’” Benjamin Franklin
Last week’s post included quotes from several college history textbooks, all of which claim that America’s fantastic economic growth was achieved, during the nation’s first few decades, by the ruthless exploitation of slave labor. While it is certainly true that slaves were ruthlessly exploited in our nation’s early history; it is not at all true that the slaves, their white exploiters, or the lands they farmed were the real drivers of America’s economic growth.
From the time the nation was founded the real wealth creation happened almost exclusively in the Northern states, where slavery was never very common, and where it was made illegal early. The rapid growth in productivity and prosperity that made America the envy of the rest of the world was made possible by legal and cultural conditions unique to the Northern “free” states. The Southern states lagged behind (as did the rest of the world) because Southern culture was hostile to all the things that made the North thrive. It also happens to be true that many of the North’s leading entrepreneurs were passionate abolitionists.
“Slavery was not a sideshow in American History, it was the main event.” Dr. James Horton, George Mason University.
From the day the America was founded, her economic growth was the envy of the rest of the world. Academics and other liberals are pretty consistent in the explanation they offer for this rapid early growth. The nation’s prosperity, they tell us, was built on the backs of black slaves. American capitalism, they say, is so closely linked to slavery that its achievements should always be viewed with shame. This negative portrayal of American enterprise shows up in textbooks, in classrooms, and even in publicly-funded “educational” broadcasting.
There is another side to the story.