Walter E. Williams

Take the issue of prayers in school as an example. I think that everyone, except a maniacal tyrant, would agree that a parent has the right to decide whether his child will recite a morning prayer in school. Similarly, a parent has a right to decide that his child will not recite a morning prayer. Conflict arises because schools are government owned. That means it is a political decision whether prayers will be permitted or not. A win for one parent means a loss for another parent. The losing parent, in order to get what he wants, would have to muster up private school tuition while continuing to pay taxes for a school for which he has no use. If education were only government financed, as opposed to being government financed and produced, say through education vouchers, the conflict would be reduced. Both parents could have their wishes fulfilled by enrolling their child in a private school of their choice and instead of being enemies, they could be friends.

Conflict in education is just one minor example of how government allocation can raise the potential for conflict. Others would include government-backed allocation of jobs and education slots by race and sex, plus the current large conflict over government allocation of health services. Interestingly enough, the very people in our society who protest the loudest against human conflict and violence are the very ones calling for increased government resource allocation. These people fail to recognize or even wonder why our nation, with people of every race, ethnic group and religious group, has managed to live together relatively harmoniously. In their countries of origin, the same ethnic, racial and religious groups have been trying to slaughter one another for centuries. A good part of the answer is that in the United States, there was little to be gained from being a Frenchman, a German, a Jew, a Protestant or a Catholic. The reason it did not pay was because for most of our history, government played a small part in our lives. When there's significant government allocation of resources, the most effective means of organizing for the gains are those proven most divisive, such as race, ethnicity, religion and region.

As our nation forsakes our founders' wisdom of constitutional limitations placed on Washington, we raise the potential for conflict.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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