Opportunity and welfare in the first new nation (1974) | ARCHIVES

Opportunity and welfare in the first new nation (1974) | ARCHIVES

Announcer: The American Enterprise Institute presents
the Distinguished Lecture Series on the bicentennial of the United States. Our host for this thought-provoking series
is Vermont Royster, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the “Wall Street Journal”
and Professor of journalism and public affairs at the University of North Carolina. Vermont Royster: I’m Vermont Royster with another
on the American Enterprise Institute series of distinguished lectures on the American
bicentennial. About to celebrate the 200th anniversary of
our nation, the AEI has gathered some of the country’s leading scholars and educators to
share with us their views on the American Revolution and how it still affects us all
today. The distinguished lecture series is a part
of the AEI’s continuing effort to open the major issues of our times through serious
discussion from several points of view. The AEI Is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution
located in Washington DC. Tonight’s lecture comes from Greenfield Village
in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, which preserves many American contributions
to science and to industry. Greenfield Village and the museum were founded
by Henry Ford in 1929 as a tribute to the genius of Thomas Edison. But over the years, they have expanded to
honor the works of many American inventors and craftsmen. On October 21, 1929, a train like this pulled
up to the station in Greenfield Village, bearing some important passengers. President Herbert Hoover, Thomas Edison, and
Henry Ford. Waiting to meet them was such people as Orville
Wright, Madame Curie and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. They were all gathered to join Mr. Ford in
dedicating his museum and historic village. The ceremonies were broadcast to the world. Edison recreated the lighting of his first
successful incandescent lamp which occurred 50 years before. Today, many of Edison’s original electric
lights are still on display at the museum. And so is Edison’s first phonograph a far
cry from today’s quadraphonic high fidelity, but it was this device that started it all. Thomas Edison: Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was
sure to go. Vermont Royster: The light bulb, the phonograph, and
hundreds of other devices were invented at Edison’s laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. As part of Greenfield Village, Henry Ford
had the entire laboratory building moved to Michigan where it was restored to its condition
during the period of its greatest productivity in the latter part of the 1800s. The actual homes and what places of other
great Americans have also become a part of Greenfield Village. This is the cycle shop on Dayton, Ohio owned
by the Wright brothers where they did much of their work in the development of the first
successful airplane. This is the house in which Henry Ford was
born in 1863. It was built by his father William in Dearborn,
Michigan, a typical midwestern farmhouse of the period. This is the Logan County Courthouse used by
Abraham Lincoln when he traveled the state of Illinois as a young attorney in the 1840s. But Thomas Alva Edison is still the central
figure of Greenfield Village, probably the greatest, and certainly, the most prolific
inventor in history. Edison was granted 1,093 patents during his
lifetime. In addition to the electric light and the
phonograph, Edison invented duplicating machines, the stock ticker, the motion picture camera
and projector and hundreds of other devices that enabled America to lead the way in the
industrial revolution. At Greenfield Village today, our American
Enterprise Institute speaker, Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset will discuss the American political
revolution, the anniversary of which is being celebrated in this bicentennial lecture series. Dr. Lipset will speak on “Equality and Welfare:
Revolutionary Values. He is being introduced by Michigan state senator,
Patrick McCullough. Patrick: Our speaker really, within his field
in the discipline of sociology and political science is a pioneer. He is one of those men who has turned an art,
the art of politics, and the study of it from a level of armchair conjecture to a true science
where measurement is capable of being accomplished. He is, therefore, a creator of knowledge and
a giant in his field. For those few of us in the real world of public
affairs where decisions are made daily and outwardly in a somewhat hurried atmosphere,
it’s particularly comforting to know that scientific techniques of measurement are being
applied to politics, to our government, and to its function. Our speaker tonight is an expert in that area. His background should give you an inkling
of the kind of depth and knowledge of the American people which he possesses. I’m sure those impressive credentials will
be reflected in his remarks tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dr. Seymour
Martin Lipset. Seymour Martin Lipset: Thank you, Senator McCullough. I’m pleased to be here in a city, community,
and a building which commemorates one revolution, the industrial revolution, to discuss the
implications of a broader political revolution that we’re celebrating in this bicentennial
series. Some years ago, in a book from which I’ve
drawn heavily for this lecture, I suggested that the United States should properly be
regarded as the first new nation. The Declaration of Independence was the first
successful proclamation by a major colony in modern times of its intent to secede from
the rule of a mother country. It set the lead for comparable actions within
a half a century by most of the Spanish colonies in Central and South America, and of course,
much more recently in the last few decades, a variety of colonies in Africa and Asia proclaimed
their independence often in words drawn directly from Thomas Jefferson’s declaration. Born in a prolonged struggle for independence,
the United States defined itself from its beginning in ideological terms. As many writers have noted, Americanism is
an ideology, a set of integrated beliefs defining the good society. Some writers such as Leon Samson and Sidney
Hook, have even seen a close resemblance between the ideology of Americanism and those advocated
by socialists. Thus, Samson, in a book written in the 1930s,
which sought to explain why no socialism in the United States, why the United States was
one of the very few countries which didn’t have a mass socialist movement, argue that
the basic factor weakening the socialist appeal is that the values of socialism and Americanism
proper the relations apart, which is, of course, obviously, very crucial, are quite similar. When Americans celebrate their national heritage
on Independence Day or Memorial Day or other holidays of this sort, they dedicate themselves
anew to a nation conceived as the living fulfillment of a political doctrine that enshrines a utopian
conception of man’s egalitarian and fraternal relations with one another. In linking national celebrations with political
events and a political creed, the United States resembles such other post-revolutionary societies
as France, the Soviet Union, or many of the new states of the modern era. Nations whose authority stems from traditional
legitimacy from their ancient history, on the other hand, tend to celebrate holidays
linked with religious tradition or a national military history, not with a political doctrine
as such, which is typical of post-revolutionary societies such as ours and others. In newly independent societies, there has
often been a transition from a system dominated by traditionalist, often aristocratic values,
to one characterized by egalitarian and populous concepts. These new value systems are variously referred
to as liberal, democratic or leftist in contrast to elitist, conservative or aristocratic. The elitist ideology takes for granted the
desirability of the hierarchical ordering of society in which those who belong to the
naturally superior straighter exercise due authority and are given generalized respect. Social recognition rests on the sum of all
the qualities of a person’s status rather than on a given role that he may be playing
at the moment. In colonial situations, the native elites
usually derived their status or were protected in it by virtue of their connection with the
status and power of the foreign ruler. And with independence, the values of hierarchy,
of aristocracy, of privilege, primogenitor, and more recently of capitalism, all being
associated with the foreign imperialist power were easily rejected. Consequently, most struggles for independence
have employed leftist ideologies, that of equality in revolutionary America, that of
socialism in the contemporary new states. Men’s status as to depend not upon an inherited,
but upon achieved qualities. Hence the system must be geared to abolish
all forms of ascriptive privilege and to reward achievement, franchises to be extended to
every one of the people being regarded as the source of power and authority and various
social reforms such as economic development, the elimination of illiteracy, and the spread
of education are to reduce inequalities and status. The needs to legitimate the democratic goals
of the American revolution made mandatory a commitment to improve sharply the economic
circumstances of the mass of the population. Even though the struggle for independence
was conceived by many of its leaders as primarily concerned with the issue of political independence. Every revolutionary group proclaims doctrines
such as “all men are created equal” or have inalienable rights, or they advocate or it
advocates a classless society, and the elimination of minority rule in politics. However, behind this consistency of radical
temper, there are profound differences in the ways in which the various parties or straighter
[SP] interpret their revolutionary commitments. In the United States, after the adoption of
the constitution, the conservative groups who had taken part in the anti-imperialist
revolution continued to play a major even a dominant role. The American Federalists, though convinced
advocates of views which were radical and republican are the standards of European states,
so also limit the application of egalitarian principles in such fields as property relations,
religion, and the suffrage, but as in most of the contemporary new states in which conservatives
have tried to defend traditionalist values after independence, the more conservative
party soon lost office. The Federalists failed in their efforts to
sustain a party which defended aspects of inequality and their successors sought to
learn from their errors. When conservativism revived in America in
the political form of our Whig opposition to Andrew Jackson, it had a distinctly new
look. In attacking Jackson, the Tribune of the Plebs,
the new conservatives tried to fix the title of royalist and Tory on them while it was
the term “Whig,” the title of the opposition to Toryism and royal absolutism in Britain
that was taken by the American conservatives fighting King Andrew. The complete supremacy of egalitarian values
and politics may be seen by the Whig behavior in the presidential elections of 1840, first
such contest they were able to win. Their candidates, Harrison and Tyler were
selected because they were not aristocratic. The party rejected Webster on the grounds
that he was to upper-class. Those considerations showed how completely
the old order had changed. The men of wealth well realized now that liberty
and equality had shown their power that an enthusiastic profession of fraternity lay
their only course of safety. Property rights were secure only when it was
realized that in America property was honestly accessible through talent however humble its
early circumstances. The Whigs found it useful to disavow as vehemently
as they could any and all pretensions to a cast superiority in political life. And presenting their candidate for governor
in 1840, the New York Whigs described him as a true and worthy representative of democratic
and republican principles, born in the forest of the noble western region of our own state,
trained among an industrious kindred, the hardy toil and manual labor on the farm and
in the manufactory, democratic in all his associations and sympathies. Actually, many of the candidates of the Whig
party were gentlemen, men from some of the country’s first families, but in keeping with
the democratic spirit of the times, they campaigned on a ticket or fraternity and equality even
appealing to class-hatred against the elite, which was basically themselves. It is important to place these events and
doctrines in their historical context. American conservatives during the first half
of the 19th century had come to recognize that like it or not, they must operate within
the context of the society in which the egalitarian values were dominant and in which both the
rights of the people to govern and to be able to succeed must be accepted as inviolable. But the important fact is that for both the
Democrats and the Whigs, the aristocratic, monarchical and oligarchic societies of Europe
were anathema. Both looked upon the United States as a new
social order, which would be an example to the downtrodden of the rest of the world. Just as today, competing parties in new states
such as India or other countries which still have competing parties are almost automatically
socialist, so the American political leaders in the first half century of our existence
were instinctively democrats believing that the United States had a special mission to
perform in introducing a new form of political order to the world. Some even felt they had an obligation to give
moral, financial, and other forms of support to European radicals fighting for republicanism
and freedom. The significance of leftism as characterizing
the core values in the American political tradition maybe best perceived from the vantage
point of comparative North American history that is from the contrast between Canada,
closely neighboring where we’re now sitting and the United States. For though American historians and political
philosophers may debate how radical liberal leftist or even conservative American politics
has been, there is no doubt in the minds of Canadian historians. Looking at the virgin political history, north
and south of the border, Canadian historians see their nation as a descendant of the counter-revolution
and the United States as a product of the successful revolution. Once the die was cast consisting of a triumphant
revolution in the 13 colonies and a failure of that revolution in the northern ones, an
institutional framework was set. Consequent events tended to enforce leftist
strength in the south and a rightist bias to the north. The success of the revolutionary ideology,
the defeat of the Tories and the emigration of many of the Tories north to Canada or across
the ocean to Britain all serve to enhance the strength of the force as favoring egalitarian
democratic principles in the new nation and to weaken conservative tendencies. Vermont Royster: We’re watching Dr. Seymour Martin
Lipset discussing “Equality and Welfare: Revolutionary values.” Dr. Lipson is speaking from the Henry Ford
Museum at Dearborn, Michigan. In just one moment he continues. Not surprisingly, the Ford Museum has perhaps
the most outstanding collection of vintage automobiles to be seen anywhere. Henry Ford’s Model T first introduced in 1909
became the first reliable low-priced car ever available to the average man. And Ford’s development of the moving assembly
line in 1913 revolutionized the automobile business and just about every other business
as well. If you’re looking for something a bit more
sporty than a Model T, how about this? The Stutz Bearcat. Or how about a spin in this 1931 Duesenberg. The Doozy sold for over $8,500 during the
depression, but if you had the money it was worth it. One of the finest passenger cars ever made,
the Duesenberg could move from 0 to a 100 miles an hour in 10 seconds and it could hit
95 in the second gear. And speaking of speed, Henry Ford designed
and built this racing car in 1902. Ford himself pushed 0999 to over 90 miles
an hour in 1904. World famous race driver Barney Oldfield broke
several speed records in this car. American lifestyle, which Henry Ford influenced
to a major degree, is part of the subject matter being discussed by today’s AEI lecturer,
Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset. Seymour Martin Lipset: Much of the social history of
the United States then may be read in terms of an attempt to elaborate on the egalitarian
promise of the Declaration of Independence. Before other countries, the United States
expanded its sufferage to cover all white males. Slavery, of course, was its great exception
and horror and continued racism its Achilles heel. The United States led other nations in providing
education to its inhabitants. The census of 1840 indicated over 90% of the
whites were literate, probably an exaggeration, but still much more than any other country
possibly could claim at that time. But then and later, this country expended
more public funds for education than did other societies. A much larger percentage of the appropriate
age population attended secondary schools and institutions of higher learning in America
from the 19th-century down to the present than in any other country. In other words, education has been more equally
distributed in the United States than in other countries for a century and a half. Further, a myriad of foreign observers such
as Tuckwell [SP], Harriet Martineau, James Bryce in the 19th century, and others more
recently have commented on the emphasis in social relations on symbolic equality. They noted in effect, that in America, no
man didn’t need to offer his [SP] cap to another, but the symbols of rank, present in Europe,
were absent in America. Populism and anti-elitism have characterized
its political style. Most noteworthy of all in the American conception
of equality as we have seen has been the stress and equality not have rank, status, income,
or wealth, but of opportunity. The American ideal has predominantly been
one of open social mobility, everyone starting at the same point in the race for success. The vigor of this doctrine of equal opportunity
in early America may be seen in its most extreme form in the program of the working men’s parties
formed in various east board American cities in the 1820s and 1830s. These parties, which secured in some elections
as much as 20% of the urban vote, were particularly concerned with education. In a profound document written in 1829, the
New York Working Men’s Party anticipated the conclusions of a much later report by the
sociologist James Coleman, by asserting that access to equal education in day schools was
far from sufficient to provide equal opportunity in the race for success. For, they said, “A few hours in school cannot
counter the highly unequal effect to varying culture and material environments supplied
by families of unequal wealth and culture.” They, therefore, proposed that all children,
regardless of class background or parental wishes, be educated from six years of age
on in boarding schools to assure that all had the same environment 24 hours a day. Clearly, this American political party made
the most radical proposal ever advanced to nationalize, not property, but children. Obviously, this paddle policy was not popular
and never came close to carrying. But the fact that a party which was a contender
for public office and which did, in fact, elect representatives to various legislative
bodies could even make such a proposal is indicative of the strength of egalitarianism
a half-century following American independence. It is noteworthy that this party which incidentally
gave Karl Marx the idea that the working class could and should organize politically on its
own behalf, never called for equality of wealth or income. This was never the meaning of equality in
America, in the content of Americanism, even to extreme radicals in those days. The working men of 1830 approved of inequality
as long as it was the result of success in a competitive race for the top. Close to a century later, a highly successful
American multimillionaire Andrew Carnegie advocated a confiscatory inheritance tax in
which all wealth returned to the state on death. Carnegie, like the working men, also believed
that a new way should be found to equalize the race for success. Although the working men’s parties did not
secure boarding schools, the idea that all should begin with an equal education helps
strengthen the more successful efforts of those who, like Horace Mann, urged the creation
of publicly supported common schools in the 1840s. By common schools was meant what we now call
integrated schools that are schools attended by children from diverse social backgrounds,
natives and immigrants, rich and poor. The proponents of the common schools assume
that such schools were necessary to develop a common culture to absorb those from varying
backgrounds to make possible more equality of opportunity as well as to create the kind
of citizenry who could participate in the one man, one vote democracy. The spread of the common school idea, it should
be noted, included a practice which would have far-reaching consequences. These schools designed in part to Americanize
the immigrant, the civilized, the underprivileged, deliberately set their educational sites at
the levels of the culturally deprived. In a sense, they consciously lowered standards
or other educational aspirations from the values upper-middle-class children could attain
so as to make it possible for those of deprived background to catch up. It was assumed that all would eventually reach
higher levels of attainment of knowledge in the upper grades and ultimately, in college
and university. This pattern has continued in the U.S. education
so that worldwide comparisons today show that American youth study less or learn less than
their equivalents in the upper level, European gimnasia or at least say he is [SP]. The German sociologist, Max Weber noted in
1918, “The American boy learns unspeakably less,” he said, “than the German boy.” By age 20, however, the Americans have more
than caught up to the Germans and other Europeans and a much greater percentage of Americans
than those of any European country have secured higher education. By going slowly through elementary school
and high school, the U.S. system has permitted many more to enter and graduate an institution
of higher learning than has the European systems which stress elite education, special intensive
education for those who are privileged enough to be able to benefit from it in the lower
levels of education. It would be misleading to credit the growth
of education and other educational practices fostering social mobility solely or primarily
on forces stemming from an egalitarian political ideology. The ideology itself, the educational growth
and equalitarian social relations were forced in as well by the fact that so much of America
was a rapidly expanding new society, a frontier culture in which all families were first settlers
or their immediate descendants. In spite of its emphasis and equality of opportunity,
the United States, of course, has never really approached the ideal even in the spread of
formal education itself. Two of the great 19th-century radical thinkers,
Karl Marx and the American single tax theorist Henry George independently pointed out that
publicly supported higher education in the United States involves taking money from the
poor to subsidize the education of the well-to-do, that it was a negative transfer of payments,
so to speak. Henry George put the thesis in colorful terms
when he said in the 1890s, that the University of California is a place to which the poor
send the children to the rich. Recent analysis by economists indicate that
George is still right. In spite of the enormous spread of state higher
education in California, well over 50% of the college-age population are in school in
that state. The families of those who attend the University
of California have a higher income than those who go to state colleges or junior colleges
who in turn are more affluent than the families whose children do not go onto higher education. Attendance at higher education, which has
now reached close to 50% of the cohort nationally still, of course, varies greatly with family
income. First, in 1967, 87% of those youth whose families
earn $15,000 or more attended college and only 20% from families with less than $3,000
a year income attended college. Yet, this 20% figure for the very poor, for
those with less than $3,000 income is higher than the total figure for the whole country
for most European nations. It should be obvious, however, that the diffusion
of college education and even the broadening of the social class background of those who
hold privileged positions does not demonstrate a leveling of income, wealth, or power in
America or elsewhere. Christopher Jencks in his recent book, “Inequality”
has properly emphasized that in spite of the growth of higher education, the distribution
of wealth has not narrowed in the United States in recent decades. The evidence, in fact, does suggest that the
distribution today is much more egalitarian than it was in pre-civil war days and that
there was a narrowing in the period of the Depression and to some extent in the New Deal. But the sharply stratified distribution which
sees the lowest quartile, the lowest 25% holding only 5% of the wealth and the highest tenth
having about a third still continues. Raymond Boudon, a French sociologist, drawing
on data from western Europe and North America has in fact shown that increases in education
have the effect of widening the salary gap from the top to the bottom. Sharp inequality continues to characterize
American society as it does all other complex social systems. Well-to-do parents in America are able to
provide their offspring with a more academically stimulating environment, real assistance in
the form of better schools and teachers. A motivation to attain success and various
forms of direct help in the ways of contacts and financial aid so that they can get started
well in the race for success. Those who control large financial resources
in this country as in others may convert these into various forms of power in affecting key
decisions in the society as in a different way may those at the summit of intellectually
important and opinion-molding institutions. Race, ethnic, and class backgrounds may be
less of a handicap in the race of success than at earlier times, but the inequality
between those who succeed and those who do not in terms of the return, which they get
has not been reduced. The renewed contemporary fight for more equality,
legitimated by the historic commitment in America to the ideal of equality, is still
waged in terms of the old American emphasis on equality of opportunity, the demand of
the Working Men’s Party that none be handicapped by reason of social origin in the race for
getting ahead. Almost none of the battles, however, have
ever been concerned with equality as such. Today blacks and women are demanding their
appropriate share of corporation presidencies, university professorships, government positions,
and the like. They are not, however, arguing the perquisites
associated with these statuses to be lowered or eliminated. Even the war on poverty proclaimed by Presidents
Kennedy and Johnson were basically presented as an extension of equal opportunity, not
of equality as a result. Vermont Royster: Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset has been
discussing the highlight of America’s political and social developments since the Revolution. In just one moment, he will continue. Much attention at the Ford Museum is given
to the development of aircraft. This is the first successful helicopter, which
set an in-flight endurance record in 1939 by staying aloft 1 hour and 33 minutes. The helicopter was designed by Igor Sikorsky,
who flew it to the Ford Museum himself where it is now on public display. This 1928 Ford tri-motor was flown over the
South Pole by Admiral Richard Byrd. The tri-motor was the first multi-engine all
metal commercial passenger plane ever built. The fact that several are still in use today
is a tribute to the design and construction of these planes first built nearly 50 years
ago. The development of air travel had a major
effect on social and political life in America, the subject of Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset,
today’s AEI speaker. Seymour Martin Lipset: To a considerable degree, the
breakdown of urban services in many communities is a consequence of this need to pay for larger
and larger welfare payments. It’s such payments that have had little positive
effect on the lives of the recipients. There is good reason to believe that in the
absence of jobs, migrants from rural and economic depressed regions to the more developed areas
would have been better off had they remained in the cultural surroundings to which they
were accustomed. A possible solution to these developments
is currently advocated by the spokesman of both of our major political parties, the federalization
of welfare, and the direct payments to the needy, the Nixon Administration’s family welfare
plan, and the bills presented by some leading Democrats, different mainly in the mechanics
and the amounts of money to be allocated immediately. Both, however, accept the principle of national
responsibility and seek to reduce the tax burden of the cities to cut down on the size
of the bureaucracy administrating welfare and hopefully, by a set of financial incentives
to encourage the poor to seek income in the labor market. The gradual acceptance of the community’s
responsibility for the underprivileged in America constitutes an important shift in
our values, away from the primary almost sole focus on opportunity implied in the original
achievement and protestant orientations of the early republic. Yet it may be argued that the initial emphasis
on equality derived from the Declaration of Independence, which has led many Americans
to speak of their country as a classless society, serves to strengthen the new trends towards
use of government power to eliminate poverty once that concern has reached the political
arena. I would like to devote some time at the end
of this lecture to the problems posed by this change in emphasis. This change has found most concrete expression
in proposals for the use of guaranteed quotas in jobs and social placement. It is made for a clear conflict of interest
between those underprivileged to demand them and those who have obtained opportunity and
success by the traditional competitive methods. The blacks and some other still depressed
groups have a history of cumulative disadvantages which have prevented them from attaining a
proportionate share of various previous privileged positions. There is no easy or obvious way to resolve
this conflict of interest as Blau and Duncan and Jencks and his colleagues have demonstrated
the argument that different ethnic groups have found ways and means to attain status,
power, and economic reward holds for almost all American white male groups, but not for
blacks or women. Many recognize that the use of a pure quota
system humiliates the group receiving such help and is a danger to the society and that
it may permit unqualified persons to hold jobs. During the 1960s, public policy increasingly
took note of the dilemma and tried to resolve it by various forms of affirmative action. The policy of affirmative action was, in fact,
first proclaimed by President Johnson in an executive order in 1965. And in defending and explaining this policy,
the image of a shackled runner has often been used, suggesting the image of a runner and
a race who was shackled applies to the black man in America. And one cannot but agree that the black man
has been shackled by his past, by traditional forms of discrimination. But one has to also note that even if current
forms of discrimination were eliminated, the ability to compete in the American society
is tied to a less visible chain of prior factors. For example, the work experience of family
and friends as well as educational achievement, which are themselves linked to the educational
and cultural experiences of the family. For this reason, the progress of emerging
groups or groups that are underprivileged in America has always taken place over a span
of generations, but we have to note, of course, that the oppression of the American black
man has been imposed by this society, not by another society as was the case of most
other emerging ethnic groups in America. First, there is a special national responsibility
for affirmative action for blacks. The need for affirmative action is strongly
supported by various educational studies which indicate that while the aspirations of black
students tend to be as high as those of whites, their expectations are quite low. Many are convinced that their chances for
success are small regardless of how well they do in school and otherwise. This clearly has had negative effects iin
the ability of black children to study hard and learn and then the black adults to work
well and persistently. Beyond these cultural handicaps, however,
has been the fact that the American society discriminated in the past against blacks even
when they were qualified. Many major institutions in the north as well
as the south either barred them from entry or limited their numbers to small token quotas. The segregated schools or the pre-Brown versus
Kansas School Integration decision by the Supreme Court, were not separate but equal. They were separate and unequal. Limitations on black suffrage in the south
where most blacks lived meant that they could not effectively resort to the classic democratic
political remedy for maltreatment. Not surprisingly, black leaders turned to
their only effective weapon, civil disobedience, which would have embarrassed authority into
acting on their behalf. The first such effort in modern times, The
March on Washington Movement to World War II, led by A. Philip Randolph forced Franklin
Roosevelt to establish a fair employment practices commission. Providing a mechanism through which minority
group members could appeal against apparent overt discrimination such as hiring a less
qualified white for a job, however, proved ineffective. There were not sufficient numbers of minority
group members who have both the skills and the political-legal knowhow to benefit from
these new legal rights. This failure naturally led to the further
demand that government agencies seek to increase the pool of trained minority manpower. Perhaps as important immediately has been
the effect to eliminate excessive requirements for positions which have served as operational
handicaps against those from non-middle-class cultural backgrounds such as requiring more
education for jobs and, in fact, they needed, or tests whose content was not relevant to
the position in question. These changes have had one thread in common. They are designed to give minority group members
a better chance in the competition for jobs. This has also been the purpose of various
compensatory education programs such as the efforts of different agencies to find qualified
minority members who left to themselves might not search out available positions. Such efforts have had, in fact, an important
historical precedent which has never been questioned. Veteran’s preference, that is a form of compensation
for a competitive disability that had been imposed on the society. From this principle, qualified veterans have
traditionally been given preferential treatment by government agencies and some private employers
when their qualifications were demonstrated to be roughly equal to that of other applicants. The stress on affirmative action, however,
changed gradually to a demand for specific group quotas for admission to assorted institutions
and jobs, and beyond that, in the New York and San Francisco school systems among many
the proposals requiring the dismissal of qualified teachers and administrators. This change in the consumption of equal opportunity
from a focus on the rights of individuals to those of groups as measured by the positions
achieved has meant an extraordinary change in the consumption of civil rights in America. Historically, as I’ve noted, minority groups
which have suffered discrimination, institutionalized prejudice or handicaps with respect to skills
and education had demanded the elimination of barriers denying individuals access to
opportunity. Jews, orientals, and Italians objected to
numerous clauses established that is quotas, established by institutions of higher learning
and other organizations against qualified members of their ethnic groups. They oppose policies designed to perpetuate
the advantages enjoyed by members of the majority groups. Except for Catholic proposals for state support
of parochial schools, which were almost invariably rejected by the majority as unAmerican, no
minority group had previously demanded significant special group advantages. Liberal opinion in this country had always
assumed that the egalitarian creed meant the advocacy of a universalistic rule of meritocracy,
enabling all to secure positions for which they qualified in open and fair competition. Felix Frankfurter, a graduate of Harvard Law
School which he entered before World War I as an immigrant Jewish graduate of the city
college of New York never lost his awe of the meritocratic system as he noted what mattered
was excellence in your profession to which your father or your race was equally irreverent. And so rich man, poor man were just irrelevant
titles to the equation of human relations. The thing that mattered was how you did professionally. This traditional liberal left position, implicit
in the American creed’s emphasis in the equality of opportunity broke down with the demand
of the blacks that they be given equality of results, which has meant special group
advantage in the form of quotas which would bring their number up to their proportion
in the population in university admissions, various occupations, and trade unions which
control access to jobs. And as the political community came to accept
this principle, other disadvantaged groups, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, American Indians,
women, have not unnaturally taken up and secured the same demands for a group rather than individual
rights and for group mobility as a way of bypassing the historic process of upward mobility
of the individual through the acquisition of skills. Compliance with these demands for special
quotas means denial to others and positions for which they are qualified or which they
now have. It means that other minority groups which
have been particularly successful in certain fields are now being asked to give up their
gains. This is true of such groups as the Jews, Japanese,
and Chinese that have concentrated on education as a means of mobility. More universalistic than other job markets,
civil service has always been a special arena for mobility, for disadvantaged groups doing
well in school and upon examinations. Other minority immigrant groups have used
different skills which they brought from Europe to gain a special advantage in different job
markets. Given the diverse cultural backgrounds of
the various American ethnic groups, it is not surprising that their occupational distribution
also varies. If the concept of positive group discrimination
is accepted as it has begun to be in this country, the United States will have accepted
a version of the principle of Ascription, of hereditary placement to advanced equal
opportunity. The implications of this change in American
values from achievement to ascription have been eloquently stated in an article by [inaudible
00:41:13] in which he points out that one of the marks of the free society is the ascendance
of performance over ancestry, where to put it more comprehensively, the ascendance of
the chief status over ascribed status. Aristocracies and racist societies confer
status on the basis of heredity. A democratic society begins with the cutting
of the ancestral knot. This by itself does not yet make a humanistic
society or even a properly democratic one. There’s, for example, a not inconsiderable
question of distributive justice and rewarding performance, but achieved versus ascribed
status is wanting an inextricable dividing line between the democratic and undemocratic
society. This is the aspect of democracy which represents
the primacy of the individual and individual freedom. It has to do with the belief that an individual
exists not just to serve a social function, but to stretch his unique spirit and capacities
for their own sake. The right of every man not to have, but to
be his best. Vermont Royster: We’re watching Dr. Seymour Martin
Lipset speaking from the Ford Museum at Greenfield Village in Detroit, Michigan. In just one moment, Dr. Lipset will return. If you’re in the market for a pair of lo-fi
speakers, the Ford Museum is just the place to come and browse. But lo-fi or not, the sounds that came from
these speakers helped inaugurate a whole new way of life for America and indeed the world,
mass home entertainment. And those old radios led the way to this amazing
new development, pictures of distant events seen in your own home in magnificent small
screen and living black and white. It’s all a part of America’s social development
which is now being discussed by today’s AEI speaker, Dr. Seymour Martin Lipset. Seymour Martin Lipset: It may appear that the arguments against special prescriptive quotas for minority groups are a form of special pleading by spokesmen of the privileged elements in society, but this as solely viewed from a purely interest
point of view cannot be denied. Yet, persuasive voices have been heard from
members of the black community arguing that the black American has a stake in his conception
of human dignity in which every individual is and ought to be responsible for himself
and his actions. Black economist, Thomas Sowell points to the
demoralizing consequences of the emphasis of quotas on students and faculties in the
universities. He suggested that the efforts of American
universities to fill quotas has meant that a large proportion of black students today
are enrolled in schools for which they are ill-prepared. First, when the most scholarly prestigious,
highly selective universities admit black students, who are less prepared than the whites,
they set up a situation in which the black so admitted can only feel inadequate. As he presents the problem caused by the policies
of elite white institutions, Sowell suggests when black students who would normally qualify
for a state college are drained away by Ivy league colleges and universities, then state
colleges have little choice but to recruit black students who would normally qualify
for still lower level institutions. And so the process continues down the line. The net result is that in a country with 3,000
wildly different colleges and universities capable of accommodating every conceivable
level of educational preparation and intellectual development, there was a widespread problem
of underprepared black students at many institutional levels, even though black students capability
span the whole range by any standard used. This problem is not one of absolute ability,
but rather have widespread mismatching of individuals with institutions. The problem was never seen for what it is
for it has not been approached in terms of the optimum distribution of black students
in light of their preparation and interest, but rather in terms if our Harvard, Berkeley
or Antioch can do its part to maintain its leadership or fill its quota. The schools which have most rapidly increased
their enrollment of black students are those where the great majority of white American
students could not qualify either. However, since such schools typically do not
admit underqualified white students, they have no white problem corresponding to the
problem posed for them by their admitting underqualified black students. And hence as Sowell points out, one seemingly
has a situation by setting quotas by which blacks had been systematically mismatched
in relation to their educational training, and hence are often led into a situation where
they were very able, they were led to feel not as bright as the white students at the
given level of which they’re placed. A comparable problem has been created by the
efforts at universities to fill faculty quotas, according to Sowell. As is obvious from the statistics, the past
record of inferior education for blacks means that black America has included very few persons
trained to be academic scholars. Moreover, as Sowell points out, many years
of academic education required for anyone regardless of race to qualify even minimally
as a faculty member, much less as a mature scholar. In short, he points out there are relatively
few highly competent black scholars in existence and there’s no way to increase the number
in the immediate future since it takes many years to produce such people. It is in this context, therefore, that the
idea of faculty quotas must be considered. Any goal, target or affirmative action designed
to make the percentage of blacks on faculties approximately that in the general population
can only mean reducing quality standards. And this creates a situation in which black
faculty are identified with substandard teachers. A phenomenon which can only serve to create
demoralization among both black and white students. The emphasis on the need of special help for
blacks and some other minorities poses, however, even more serious consequences than its impact
on the traditional American emphasis on achievement. As I have noted, it implies that there’s something
seriously wrong with the blacks and the equality of opportunity is not enough for them. And the very pressure on blacks, which Sowell
notices for them to achieve more rapidly in one decade or generation than any other group
ever has, which puts them into situations for which they are not prepared, helps to
convince whites and blacks that the latter represent a more difficult problem and other
ethnic groups have. In many ways, such efforts facilitate racist
attitudes among whites and create feelings of inferiority and self-hatred among blacks. But the facts about black progress in the
decade of the ’60s alone should serve to counter such pessimism as well as the insistence that
blacks require an inordinate level of preference based on assumptions that there is no way
they can make it on their own. In fact, there’s abundance census data and
other studies have shown there’s been an enormous increase in the size of the black middle class
in the last decade and that more important than that for the future a growth in the number
graduating from high schools and colleges to the point where the proportion of blacks
enterIng institutions of higher learning is now very close to that of whites. In evaluating black progress successful achievement
in the occupational structure in the ’60s, it is important to note, of course, that this
occurred in the period of full employment and economic growth and that that condition
seems to be one of the most important conditions for the improvement of various minorities. The position of the black in American society
has constituted the great challenge to the American revolutionary dream since the Declaration
of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, the document’s principal
author voiced his concerns in 1781 even before the revolutionary war was over, stating with
more impression than he probably even realized, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that
God is just. That his justice cannot sleep forever.” Jefferson’s country is still paying part of
the price he foresaw. It is impossible to envisage an America at
peace with itself in which a sizable number of its citizens remain outside the mainstream
of national life and abundance because their ancestors were dragooned here from Africa
to serve as an underclass for the white population. There is no price that we can be called upon
to pay to remedy that situation that can be considered as too costly except one that humiliates
the black population in the context of seemingly trying to help them. As Orlando Patterson noted, when they like
all Americans require is an achievement to the positive side of rebellion, the affirmation
of true dignity and the unaided drive to touch, to build. And as they accomplish this objective, they
reaffirm the American Revolution is still an ongoing living reality. As America moves into its third century as
an independent state, it must be noted that it has yet to find tentative working answers
to the age-old problem of how people of diverse cultural, religious, racial, and economic
backgrounds can live together. Troubled times have turned many Americans
inward, they seek a sense of belonging to an entity that is smaller than the nation. Ethnicity seemingly has become a source of
stability for the larger society. Yet it is important to recognize that a free
society must respect the primacy of the individual. Although politics and collective bargaining
can work only through the conflicts and alliances of diverse groups, the outcome of such conflicts,
particularly as they are resolved by government, must be to guarantee and enhance the equality
and rights of the individual. Whether a group, ethnic or other preserves
and extended itself must be the voluntary action of its members. Never the action of the larger society. Thank you. Vermont Royster: We’ve been listening to Dr. Seymour
Martin Lipset discussing “Equality and Welfare: Revolutionary Values. Dr. Lipset spoke of a traditional American
emphasis on achievement and the problems facing minority groups in the race for their success. This lecture has been one of a series presented
by the American Enterprise Institute dealing with many aspects of the American Revolution
and its effect on us all today. If you would like a copy of Dr. Lipset’s lecture
or of the entire series, write to the American Enterprise Institute at AEI, Post Office Box
19191, Washington DC, 236. Until next time, this is Vermont Royster. Thank you for joining us.

One thought on “Opportunity and welfare in the first new nation (1974) | ARCHIVES

  1. Wow, here we are, forty-five years later, still having the same conversation about affirmative action and equality of outcomes.

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