What is the Radical Left Really Complaining About?

America has some serious problems right now.  We are in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic which has caused a severe recession and high unemployment rate.  The brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has led to a nationwide outbreak of racial protests.  Although I believe that America is a great nation, and constantly getting better, I understand that many people have a different point of view.


I have just come across an excellent essay, “Denying Progress is Key to the Left’s Rhetoric,” by Robert Doar from the American Enterprise Institute.  He points out that:

  • America has made much progress since 1960 and the work of the antiracist progressives is full of false comparisons of America’s present with its past especially in two important aspects of American life: civil rights and the fight to reduce poverty.
  • Black and minority legislators make up a significant portion of our federal and state legislatures, city governments, and public school boards. 57 current members of Congress are African American; in 1960 there were just 4.  African American college graduation rates have quadrupled over the past six decades.
  • Millions of black men have reached the upper-income bracket. Median black household income (adjusted for inflation) has risen 45% in the past 50 years.
  • What other country in the world can claim this kind of peaceful rise of a racial or ethnic minority? The U.S. remains the top destination of emigrating “people of color” as they escape the inadequacy of their own homelands.
  • Our nation’s war on poverty has been hugely successful. In both relative and absolute terms, there are fewer American children living in poverty than there were 40 years ago, despite a significant increase in population.
  • We spend $800 billion per year on anti-poverty programs that provide food, housing, and medical care for the needy. This spending is supplemented by billions more from charities and thousands of smaller efforts from churches, synagogues, and communities across the country.

Why are the radicals so effective at making it sound like all this progress is not true?  The answer to this question is one word: equality.  The equality promised by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is about equal treatment under the law, not equal outcomes in all aspects of life.  Individual outcomes in educational attainment, income, housing, and wealth still depend on individual effort and work.  The radical left is asking for far more than our limited system of government can, or should even try, to deliver.

Conclusion: The contest for the future of our country will be waged on this ground.  Our system of limited government is suited to achieve the goals of civil rights under law and the elimination of severe material hardship.  We have made huge progress in accomplishing these goals and will continue to do even more in the future.
Our system of government is not capable of producing guaranteed middle-class income for all, because this depends on individual effort.

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