Thomas Sowell

With the passing years, it becomes ever more painful for me to read the preambles of legislation. Time and time again, the wonderful and inspiring words in those preambles have turned out to have no relationship whatsoever to the actual consequences that followed. The real issue is not what pious words you can come up with, but what incentives are you creating and what are the likely consequences of those incentives.

It is especially painful to read a proposal to create a "National Slave Memorial" on the Washington Mall. Supposedly this memorial will promote "reconciliation" and "healing," according to both the Republican and Democratic supporters of this proposal.

It is hard to imagine that any sane adult actually believes those words. You know and I know that a slave memorial will not reconcile anybody to anybody nor heal any racial divisions. Just the opposite.

A slave memorial is guaranteed to become a magnet for every race hustler from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton down to any local demagogue who can scare up a crowd to go stand in front of the slave memorial and spew venom at American society on TV. Some reconciliation, some healing!

As for whites, when a proposal was made some years ago by Congressman Tony Hall for a Congressional apology for slavery, so much hostile mail came in that the idea was killed. If a slave memorial is going to inflame both blacks and whites, who is going to be "healed" or "reconciled"?

Anyone whose IQ is not in single digits must know that, once a slave memorial is put on the Washington Mall, it will be politically impossible to remove it. Expediency-minded politicians of both parties may think of a slavery memorial as a cheap way to "throw a bone" to the black community, as someone put it, but it is in fact just a down payment on racial polarization that can cost this country dearly for years to come.

This proposal has bipartisan support in Congress -- as so many other disastrous policies have had. If the Democrats were to propose that all Americans leap off a thousand-foot cliff, moderate Republicans would come up with a compromise proposal that three-quarters of us leap off a 500-foot cliff. The slave memorial is apparently that kind of compromise proposal -- "reparations light," as it were.

None of this is affected in the slightest by whether the sponsors of this legislation are honest and earnest, or by whether their intentions are good or they write an inspiring preamble to the legislation. We all know what road is paved with good intentions. We don't need to have it proven one more time.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate



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