Archive for November, 2011
This week, in Oakland, Calif., America saw yet another stellar example of the glories of diversity. At a taping of a rap music video in that fair city, eight people, including a one-year-old child, were shot. When a classical music video goes wrong, somebody busts a string. When a rap music video goes wrong, somebody busts a cap.
Such observations, however, are now taboo. We’re not supposed to suggest that the rap culture is any different from the classical music culture or that one is better than another. As white guy John Kerry put it, “I think there’s a lot of poetry in it. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you’d better listen to it pretty carefully, ’cause it’s important … it’s a reflection of the street and it’s a reflection of life.”
You see, we recognize the value of diversity. And what’s more, we think everyone else does, too. Hence the left’s certainty that the election of President Barack Obama would win over the Muslim world — his very ascendance would show the rest of the world that we find their cultures charming, praiseworthy and delightfully fascinating. “It’s November 2008,” wrote formerly-sane Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic. “A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.”
There’s only one problem: The Muslim world isn’t hung up on skin color the way we are. Which isn’t to say they’re not racist — they’re busily snatching up black children for use as slaves or murdering them in Sudan, even as the BBC blithely claims, in the name of diversity, that “While Islamic law does allow slavery under certain conditions, it’s almost inconceivable that those conditions could ever occur in today’s world, and so slavery is effectively illegal in modern Islam.” In point of fact, Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East lead the world in human trafficking.
The Muslim world just doesn’t believe that skin color is all that important. Obama may be half-black, but he’s still all-Western, according to them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white or green — if you’re not a devotee of Muhammad, you don’t matter. While the West tries to turn its civilization into cultural variety hour, Islam tries to turn Muslim lands into a cultural monolith. The same West that justifies the rap culture thinks that every Muslim terrorist bombing is an expression of economic angst or social alienation. Muslims recognize that terrorist bombings are expressions of a completely different worldview.
In other words, Muslims aren’t stupid. They won’t be wooed by a West headed by a man rich in melanin any more than a West headed by a Caucasian dude who enjoys the artistic stylings of Bjork would. When President Obama offers Iran an open hand, they slap it away, even though his hand is a different color than President Bush’s was.
And the left is stumped. Obama’s entire foreign policy was predicated on the notion that by existing, he would bridge all gaps and bury all hatchets. Instead, the Muslim world burns his picture even as he tells them he respects their radicalism. It turns out that diversity is a one-way street for the devotees of global Islam.
What of the West? We have been enervated by our confident feeling that if we could all just respect each other’s cultures — no matter how perverse — we could beat missiles into plowshares. And if we could show the rest of the world just how much we respect other cultures by electing an emissary of foreign cultures, they would have to love us. We’ve turned into the world’s Sally Field: “You like us! You really like us!” To which the Muslim world says, “No. We really don’t.”
But, like an obsessive, abused ex-girlfriend, we keep coming back for more. We beg for the beating. We plead for it. We are Keira Knightley’s character in “A Dangerous Method” — the beating excites us. For with every beating, we feel the open hand we seek. “At least they’re reaching out to us … with bombs! If we could only understand this unique form of communication, we’d finally be able to come to some sort of agreement!”
The Muslim world understands that it has us by the ideological throat. They will continue to preach the value of diversity from their outposts in the West, while wiping away any semblance of it across their own lands. And we will buy into it. This is how the West dies: not by being defeated in all-out civilizational battle, but by walking into the hail of bullets, arms outstretched.
Ben Shapiro is a regular guest on dozens of radio shows around the United States and Canada and author of Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House. TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Ben Shapiro’s column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.
Have you noticed how often government takes sides against the little guy?
Street vending has been a path out of poverty for Americans. And like other such paths (say, driving a taxi), this one is increasingly difficult to navigate. Why? Because entrenched interests don’t like competition. So they lobby their powerful friends to erect high hurdles to upstarts. It’s an old story.
Now, growing local governments are crushing street vendors.
The city of Atlanta, for example, has turned all street vending over to a monopoly contractor. In feudalist fashion, all existing vendors were told they must work for the monopoly or not vend at all.
“Vendors who used to paying $250 a year for their vending site must now hand over $500 to $1,600 every month for the privilege of working for the monopoly,” wrote Bob Ewing in The Freeman. Ewing works for the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public-interest law firm that defends victims of anticompetitive regulation.
IJ has sued the city on behalf of two popular vendors.
In Hialeah, Fla., if you operate a flower stand too close to a flower store or if you’re not constantly moving, you can be arrested.
Institute lawyer Elizabeth Foley says the regulations make “it virtually impossible to be an effective street vendor. You can’t be within 300 feet of any place that sells the same or similar merchandise. That’s absolutely ridiculous for the government to use its power to enact a law like that. … These people are just trying to make an honest living, and the city is making it impossible to do so.”
The law does seem designed to cripple street vending.
“You have to be in constant motion, which is completely unsafe.”
Raul Martinez, the mayor when the law passed, defended the rule.
“You don’t want to have everybody in the middle of the streets competing for space on the sidewalk without some sort of regulations. In the city of Hialeah, we’re not overregulating anybody.”
He says one purpose of the law is simple fairness: Street vendors don’t pay property taxes. Brick-and-mortar stores must.
“They also create jobs,” Martinez said. “What we did back then is we got all the groups together and we came with an ordinance that was satisfactory to all of the parties at the time.”
But they couldn’t have gotten “all the groups” together because people who hadn’t yet entered the business weren’t included. How could they have been? No one knew who they would be. What the mayor did was get the established guys together. Such “fairness” regulation kills job growth and reduces consumer welfare because the entrenched interests write rules that cripple new competition.
Mayor Martinez argued that “you create an unfair advantage when you allow that vendor selling in the front of a flower shop to sell the same flowers that the flower shop sells, and to sell them at a much reduced price. That’s unfair competition.”
It’s a fair point: Why open a brick-and-mortar store and pay property tax if you could save maybe $3,000 a year by selling from a cart?
“These are different types of business models,” Foley replied. “A florist can offer professional arrangement. A florist can offer delivery. A florist has a bathroom. Air conditioning. A street vendor is out there on the street, and the way they compete is on price and convenience; you can drive up and get your flowers and go home quickly. There’s nothing wrong with having two different types of business models competing near each other. It happens in America all the time.
“It’s not legitimate for government to use its incredible power to make one business model have an unfair advantage over another.”
As a libertarian, I’d say that the store owners’ beef is with the local government that imposes the property tax, not the street vendor struggling to make a better life.
If government destroys all the paths out of poverty, the welfare state will look like the only way to help the poor.
Maybe, in addition to helping entrenched interests, that’s the bureaucrats’ goal.
John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network. He’s the author of “Give Me a Break” and of “Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.” To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at johnstossel.com.