CA Government's 'Ethnic Studies' Curriculum For Kids Calls Capitalism a 'Form of Power and Oppression'

P. Gardner Goldsmith | September 20, 2019
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California’s delay of its planned “Ethnic Studies” public school curriculum is allowing certain ethnic minorities to rise up in anger over how their subset of the population is depicted in the tax-funded “learning” plan. And while their criticisms are worth lengthy discussion, once more, as so often occurs when people bark at each other over government-run systems, many folks are missing the forest for the trees – and one portion of the curriculum spells out why this is the case.

According to Michael Arria, of Mandoweiss.Net, California Assemblyman Jose Medina recently announced a “delay” in the implementation of the "Ethnic Studies" plan -- the latest fad on which many politicians want to shower other people’s money, even while many collectivists call the action “civic-minded.” So let's find out why...

The state’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Advisory Committee had produced a draft of an Arab American Studies course that detailed the community’s underrepresentation in mainstream culture. The proposed curriculum also included a glossary that defines the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

What is the BDS movement’s main concern? Arria explains that, as well:

BDS is “a global social movement that currently aims to establish freedom for Palestinians living under apartheid conditions,” it explains. “Inspired by tactics employed during the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian-led movement calls for the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of the Israeli government until it complies with International law.”

Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with various Jewish groups (even the national government of Israel appears to have been offended), and so they spoke up, and the debate between Palestinians and Jewish folks raged – in California, of course – the result being this beautiful, bountiful, delay in the “Ethnic Studies” curriculum.

But the larger lesson of this – that a government-run program creates the economic problem of “The Tragedy of The Commons”, wherein every person seeing his tax cash taken to fund something run by government has a justified right to speak out, but not everyone can have his way, so people argue with each other about it – is being missed.

And it’s unlikely to be discussed. Simply put, the low likelihood of this arises because, as mentioned, the real issue isn't Israel or Palestine. It's “the Tragedy of the Commons”, an axiom observed by free-market economists, and it's the fact that the CA “Ethnic Studies” program depicts capitalism itself as evil.

As Williamson M. Evers reports for The Independent Institute, in the “Ethnic Studies” curriculum:

Capitalism is described as a “form of power and oppression,” alongside “patriarchy,” “racism,” “white supremacy” and “ableism.” Capitalism and capitalists appear as villains several times in the document.

Which strikes one as odd, since it’s the capacity of the capitalist, free market system to create surplus and allow for trade at lower and lower costs that facilitated the tax cash for the politicians’ collectivist, command-and-control, one-size-fits-all California government school system, that paid the so-called “salaries” of every parasite politician and bureaucratic bumbler who ever set foot in any tax-funded, tax-heated, tax-cooled, government building in the state.

The population of California itself is there because of capitalism, the profit motive, and free markets, which incentivized people to “go west, young man” as, ironically, well known 19th Century collectivist and propagandistic “newsman” Horace Greeley is purported to have recommended.

But let’s not put the “cart before the horse” as another famous adage warns. Let’s note that some highly respected free market advocates, such as writer and scholar Sheldon Richman, prefer that people avoid using the term “capitalism”. The term, of course, has been conflated with mercantilism/cronyism/corporatism, in which specially favored businesses play cozy with politicians to get select benefits from the state – benefits such as tariffs against cheaper foreign competition, license laws to block out small upstarts, expensive regulations to (again) block small upstarts, bailouts, and antitrust suits against competition. But at the heart of even that misunderstanding and misuse of the word “capitalism” is a common factor: the presence of government power to hand out favors, and it’s a power that never goes away.

Richman quotes Nobel Prize winner, Columbia University professor, Edmund Phelps and his co-writer Saifedeen Ammous, of the Lebanese American University, as observing:

The managerial state has assumed responsibility for looking after everything from the incomes of the middle class to the profitability of large corporations to industrial advancement. This system . . . is . . . an economic order that harks back to Bismarck in the late nineteenth century and Mussolini in the twentieth: corporatism.

In fact, the term “capitalism” was coined by Karl Marx and his pal, Friedrich Engels, to describe the “owners of capital” whom the two collectivists thought had too much power and needed to be stripped of their private businesses, profits, and “power over the workers.”

So perhaps there’s something salient about those free market proponents who warn of using the term “capitalism” nowadays.

But, as one can see when looking at Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” not only was Marx so offensively off-base that he praised the “patriarchal relations” of the feudal era, one of his fears – that of “capitalist” power being used to influence the state and “run things” – exists because of the state. In fact, it would not only not be addressed by vesting even more power in the hands of the state, it would be made worse.

Indeed, it is not vesting more power into the hands of agents of the state, but, instead, “capitalism” (if understood as pure capitalism, aka free markets) that has allowed for the feudal system to be crushed.

Ownership of private property and the retention of the fruits of one’s labor were not widespread under feudalism, because the landed gentry – titled thanks to royal decree – controlled the land and commanded the serfs.

What changed that situation and allowed for better living standards was the free-market, private property paradigm.

As economist Walter Williams has noted, power disparities such as racism are institutionalized and worsened by government. But markets opened borders to trade among nations, breaking down ethnic barriers and creating friendships and partnerships across oceans and all over the world. Markets allow people who don’t even speak the same language, who don’t practice the same religion, who are male, female, young, old, straight, gay, bi – all people – to work with one another in order to achieve profit, which, in turn, can be used to fund new inventions to employ people in even more creative ways that will help the world – as long as politicians don’t syphon away the money and begin playing favorites with certain groups.

As John Stossel and Reason Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward point out, thanks to free markets, the world keeps getting better, not worse. The “death of the middle class in America”? It turns out that the “middle class” has declined because more in that category have become wealthy. Food is more plentiful in market-based nations. Medical procedures that are left untouched by government controls and by subsidies become cheaper.

The mythology promulgated by the California “Ethnic Studies” curriculum reflects precisely the stark difference between the market’s freedom of choice and ethics, and the state’s mandates and coercion. It gets capitalism wrong and promotes a mythology that was given its big push in the 1800s by Karl Marx, a man whom no person promoting so-called “equality” would ever praise if he or she knew Marx’s ideology.

But don’t look for the politicians to discuss praising capitalism in their government-run “Ethnic Studies” program. One should never expect a collectivist, anti-choice, tax-mandated system to promote facts and principles that run counter to its very existence.

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