If we study history, but learn the wrong lessons – is there any value to learning history?
I have been pondering this question for quite some time now. It has many applications, but I want to look closely at one example. Decades ago here in the USA, it was legal and socially acceptable for members of the KKK, or local community, to forcibly remove a minority family or community from their property. If it was done to build a factory, housing district or other “community good,” much of the community either ignored this violation of property rights or felt it was justified by the greater good of the community.
Along came the “Civil Rights Movement” and finally someone effectively pointed out the truly unjust nature of this behavior. The majority was not “justified” in forcing the minority out of their homes. We in today’s America clearly see that a wrong was committed in those situations. Unfortunately, we as a society seem to think the only reason this behavior was “immoral” is because “white people were attacking black people.”
That is the wrong lesson to learn from our history. The truly immoral act was “violating the property rights” of individuals – regardless of color, sex, religion or other category into which people can be stuffed.
Today, the government (local, state, or federal) is forcibly taking the real estate of people. The reasons range from building a new Wal-Mart, Costco, or Walgreens to building a new sports arena for some professional, college or local school district team. For just a moment, take a walk with me into the world of “What IF…” What if the only land being taken was owned by minorities? What if the builder of the new factory or owner of the sports team was a member of the KKK, and the people being displaced were minorities? Would “the people” be angry? Would there be protests about the treatment of the home owners?
Why does it matter, you ask? The government is not targeting minorities to build a Wal-Mart or football stadium, so what difference does it make that the home owners are or are not minorities? Or maybe you are just mad at me for even asking the question….
Here is why it matters:
Property ownership is not dependent on color, sex, sexual preference, religion, height, weight, eye color, or any other category into which people can be stuffed. The right of people to own property – real estate, horses, factories, stores, etc. – has made the history of the United States of America unique. The further we as a society move away from this principle of private ownership of resources, the harder it is to find common ground upon which to build our communities.