Jim Webb

Jim Webb wrote a very interesting op-ed in the WSJ. For my money, this is the best section:

The Civil War devastated the South, in human and economic terms. And from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the beginning of World War II, the region was a ravaged place, affecting black and white alike.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt created a national commission to study what he termed "the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section." At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

A lot has been written about the article, much of it critical.

Ilya Somin notes the good points and offers a criticism:

Unfortunately, Webb seems to treat poorer whites as passive victims “dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power.” In reality, poorer southern whites tended to be strong supporters of slavery and segregation.

I think this criticism is absurd.

Professor Somin, seems to be suggesting that affirmative action’s purpose is to punish the ancestors of poor, Southern whites. This is hardly a mainstream view, though it appears to match exactly the actual outcomes achieved by affirmative action.

My point is that I think Senator Webb would correctly claim victory if everyone thought like Professor Somin.

4 Responses to Jim Webb

  1. icr says:

    AA as an act of vengeance in the same vein as the aborted Morgenthau Plan? No, I’m not blaming the Jews, but it’s a pretty obvious comparison given your analysis.

  2. Ilya Somin says:

    Nowhere in my post did I say that AA is intended to punish poor whites for the misdeeds of other poor whites decades ago. I do not believe any such thing. Rather, I was just criticizing Webb’s historical claims.

    • Foseti says:

      Professor Somin –

      I don’t understand your statement that you were criticizing Webb’s historical claims. If your only point was that poor, Southern whites historically supported slavery and segregation, your point is correct. (Though incidentally, it’s also true that poor, Northern whites supported segregation – in fact, poor people generally support segregation, as they’re too poor to move away from “diverse” areas). Unfortunately, however, your point is no longer a criticism of Webb’s article, as Webb does not cast the poor, Southern white as blameless. I don’t think his historical claim went much further than your own: “The racism of low-income whites was in part the result of indoctrination by elites and state governments.”

  3. TAS says:

    Liberals hate poor, Southern whites, so it makes sense that they would punish them with affirmative action.

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