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Jason L. Riley's book could hardly have arrived at a more opportune moment than in the midst of our national conversation about Ferguson, MO. While the politically correct take on the fatal shooting of a young black man is that it is just another case of a white cop over-reacting, the more difficult analyses have focused on the social pathologies that plague black inner cities and predominantly black neighborhoods generally, and the Michael Brown's of that world specifically.

Mr. Riley's brief against the modern-day liberal response to such problems basically consists of six parts : the utilization of identity politics to prevent intelligent discussion altogether; a refusal to condemn the most corrosive aspects of black culture (the breakdown of families, idolization of "gangstas," etc.); the focus on high black incarceration rates instead of on high black crime rates (the effect without the cause); insistence on raising wages, which prices unskilled labor out of the market; hostility to school vouchers and charter schools, trapping black children in failing public schools; and using affirmative action to advance blacks instead of seeking genuine competitiveness and achievement. The case he makes in regard to all of these is devastating. He marshals numerous statistics and studies to buttress his arguments, but keeps his style conversational. It's no surprise that Thomas Sowell endorses the book, having made the same arguments in more scholarly fashion himself. Indeed, this is kind of Sowell for Dummies.

My one quarrel with the book is that Mr. Riley wastes the opportunity to present a comprehensive constructive conservative agenda to replace the prevailing liberal one that he rightly asserts is causing so much damage. Such a program might include the following : a broad-based attempt to restore marriage as the central institution of American (not just black) culture; the use of housing vouchers to depopulate cities and help blacks follow whites into suburbia and rural regions, where culture is healthier, they'd have access to better schools, and home ownership would build wealth and foster responsibility; a series of government-mandated (and, if necessary, funded) personal accounts to help build wealth, recognizing that the declining employment participation rate is not going away; and perhaps a need-based, rather than race-based, affirmative action regime that allows schools, workplaces, etc, to achieve economic diversity without punishing anyone based on their ethnicity.

As to the question of whether it is even appropriate to devote special attention to programs to benefit one ethnic group/race, we would do well to recall Mr. Sowell's writings about blacks and the immigrant experience in America. He has attacked the idea that it is racism that retards black achievement by showing that African, Haitian, Jamaican and other black immigrant groups advance themselves at the same rate as white immigrant groups. And he has argued that what makes native blacks distinct is that they are the descendants of slaves, who had an immigrant experience completely different than the rest of us. They were not allowed to advance and achieve freely in the way that other first generation immigrants were. Then, of course, we kept their children as property as well and, even after emancipation, officially and unofficially kept them segregated and oppressed. Because of this reprehensible behavior, it is arguably the case that we owe them a unique debt as well. We can argue over how great that debt is and what should be done, but some acknowledgment of it on the part of conservatives would be welcome.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B-)

  

Websites:

Jason Riley Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: JasonRileyOnline
    -ARCHIVES: Jason L. Riley (WSJ)
    -BOOK SITE: PLease Stop Helping Us (Encounter Books)
    -ESSAY: Closing the Racial Gap in Education (Jason L. Riley, September 10, 2014, American)
    -ESSAY: Why liberals should stop trying to 'help' black Americans (Jason L. Riley, 6/28/14, NY Post)
    -VIDEO: Jason Riley, "Please Stop Helping Us" (Book TV After Words, 7/18/14, C-SPAN)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Jason Riley on His New Book ‘Please Stop Helping Us’ (Kathleen Hayes, 7/31/14, Bloomberg)
   
-INTERVIEW: Black Americans Failed by Good Intentions: Q/A with Jason Riley (Nick Gillespie & Anthony L. Fisher, September 3, 2014, Reason TV)
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-REVIEW: of Please Stop Helkping Us by Jason L. Riley (Thomas Sowell, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Please Stop Helping Us (George Leef, Forbes)
    -REVIEW: of Please Stop Helping Us (Andrew Klavan, Truth Revolt)
    -REVIEW: of Please Stop Helping Us (David M. Kinchen, Huntington News)
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    -REVIEW: of Please Stop Helping Us (
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    -REVIEW: of Let Them In : The Case for Open Borders by Jason L. Riley (Alan W. Bock, OC Register)
    -REVIEW: of Let Them In (James Kirchuk, Policy Review)
    -REVIEW: of Let Them In (Ezra Klein, B&N Review)
    -REVIEW: of Let Them In (Kevin Douglas, The Objective Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Let Them In (Mark Goudkamp, International Socialist Review)
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