Jose owns a little market on a big-city street corner. Business is pretty good, but he has a problem with neighborhood thugs coming in – shoplifting, harassing customers and basically making a nuisance of themselves. Jose deals with them as best he can, shooing off troublemakers with a little intimidation of his own manufactured by Louisville Slugger. Every once in a while he calls the cops.
Business continues to grow.
Then one day, Bruno walks into the store. Bruno serves as muscle for the largest gang in the city. He suggests that his syndicate can provide “protection” for a nominal fee. Bruno strongly suggests Jose accept the generous offer.
Of course, Jose ponies up the cash. Sure enough, the neighborhood thugs disappear. No more petty theft. No more loitering. No more customer harassment. But every so often, Bruno makes a visit. Jose knows that a visit from Bruno means the cost of protection is about to rise. On top of that, Bruno’s associates eventually begin dropping in frequently at the store. They help themselves to merchandise, intimidate customers and basically create a nuisance.
But unlike the neighborhood thugs who used to cause problems, Jose can’t merely shoo Bruno’s people away with a baseball bat. He tried it once. They quickly reminded him that they work for Bruno. Bruno runs the neighborhood for the syndicate. Jose can’t even call the cops. They won’t come. Bruno’s boss has them under his thumb. Jose knows he stands powerless to halt the mischief.
While it caused some difficulties and cost him a little money, Jose was able to deal with the unorganized neighborhood thugs that used to hassle him. But he finds he had no control whatsoever over Bruno and his clan.
During a recent discussion about devolving power back to the states and constraining the federal government in its constitutionally prescribed role, a big-government proponent argued that we must maintain a strong hand in Washington D.C. to protect minorities.
“The states have proved they can’t be trusted to protect the rights of the people, especially minorities,” he quipped.
This narrative has dominated American politics since the 1950s. Southern governors and legislators appealed to the idea of “states’ rights” to perpetuate segregation. Mention state sovereignty and proponents of a strong federal government will quickly call up images of Birmingham police officers firing water cannons at black people, and remind us that Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered National Guard troops to block the entrance of Little Rock Central High School in order to keep nine African-American students out. Most Americans consider the victories in the Civil Rights battles of the 50s and 60s shining examples the successful application of federal power.
In fact, brave heroes such as Rosa Parks, and countless nameless folks who simply refused to submit any longer, ultimately won the victory. But the federal government did play a role and helped break down an evil system of segregation in the South.
But as we say in Kentucky, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again.
In fact, the indignities of segregation pale in comparison with some of the evils perpetrated by the feds.
The reasoning goes something like this: certain state governments proved they will oppress minorities in the middle of the 20th Century; therefore we need a bigger, more powerful central government to force the states not to oppress minorities today.
But it wasn’t the state governments that rounded up more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans and locked them up behind barbed wire during WWII.
It wasn’t the state governments that studied the unchecked progression of syphilis in poor black sharecroppers in Tuskegee, Ala. Federal officials told the subjects of these studies that they were receiving free government health care. They never told them that they had syphilis, nor did doctors ever treat them for the disease. The victims were told their treatments were for “bad blood.”
And it wasn’t the state governments that sprayed low-income residents in St. Louis with toxic, radioactive particles.
Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor recently uncovered documents revealing that the feds blew a fine powder made of zinc cadmium sulfide into the air over poor neighborhoods. Cadmium was even then a known toxin, although federal officials claimed in the 1990s that the residents were not subjected to dangerous levels.
But Martino-Taylor says she also found indirect evidence that the powder was laced with a fluorescent additive – a suspected radiological compound.
“There are strong lines of evidence that there was a radiological component to the St. Louis study,” she said.
In fact, in 1993 a congressional study confirmed conducting radiological testing occurred in Tennessee and some western states.
The professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College said documents reveal the spraying occurred during two separate periods between 1953 and 1954 and again from 1963 to 1965. The aerosol was sprayed from blowers installed on rooftops and mounted on vehicles as part of a biological weapons testing program.
”The powder was milled to a very, very fine particulate level. This stuff traveled for up to 40 miles. So really all of the city of St. Louis was ultimately inundated by the stuff,” Martino-Taylor told CBS St. Louis.
The government planted news stories to cover up the nature of the spray.
“There was a reason this was kept secret. They knew that the people of St. Louis would not tolerate it,” Martino-Taylor said. “And they told local officials and media that they were going to test clouds under which to hide the city in the event of aerial attack.”
The areas sprayed were predominately black. Army documents called it “a densely populated slum district.” This during the same time-period that the feds were “fighting for minorities” in the South.
Evidence points to higher than normal incidences of cancer in residents who lived in the area at that time, although after all these years, researchers admit it’s difficult to gather conclusive evidence.
Here’s a question for you. Why do we never hear the Tuskegee experiments, or Japanese internment, or feds spraying poor people in St. Louis invoked as a reason to distrust and limit federal power in the same way big government apologists use the Civil Rights era as a rational for growing the federal government and limiting the power of the states?
Fact: governments do bad things. All of them. Local governments. State governments. National governments. The question becomes, how can “we the people” best control them? The answer: limit their power and break them into as many competing jurisdictions as possible.
Americans instinctively distrust economic monopoly. They assume that if one company corners the market on a given product or service, the monopolist will screw the consumer. It will raise prices, limit service and pretty much run roughshod over the customer. After all; no competition exists to hold it in check.
Probably a pretty rational fear.
Then why do Americans so readily embrace a political monopoly centered in Washington D.C.?
Seems to me they’re trading the neighborhood thugs for Bruno.