Thomas Sowell

 For example, the usually insightful quarterly magazine City Journal says in its current issue: "Beginning in the mid-sixties, the condition of most black Americans improved markedly."

 That is completely false and misleading.

 The economic rise of blacks began decades earlier, before any of the legislation and policies that are credited with producing that rise. The continuation of the rise of blacks out of poverty did not -- repeat, did not -- accelerate during the 1960s.

 The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs. It dropped another 17 percentage points during the decade of the 1960s and one percentage point during the 1970s, but this continuation of the previous trend was neither unprecedented nor something to be arbitrarily attributed to the programs like the War on Poverty.

 In various skilled trades, the incomes of blacks relative to whites more than doubled between 1936 and 1959 -- that is, before the magic 1960s decade when supposedly all progress began. The rise of blacks in professional and other high-level occupations was greater in the five years preceding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years afterwards.

 While some good things did come out of the 1960s, as out of many other decades, so did major social disasters that continue to plague us today. Many of those disasters began quite clearly during the 1960s.

 But what are mere facts compared to a heady vision? Liberal assumptions -- "two Americas," for example -- are being recycled this election year, even by candidates who evade the "liberal" label.


Thomas Sowell

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

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