Managing risks to the political economy by integrating non-white communities …

The goal of public administration is to manage risks in the political economy.  Public administration embodies the day-to-day operations that that manage those risks.  Those risks include a devalued currency, flat or decreasing asset prices, reduced labor productivity, an inability for capital to flow to activities of high return, an unhealthy and uneducated labor force, and an inability to extract and process raw materials and resources and package and distribute the goods and services that are yielded by the extraction and processing activity.

I see another risk to the political economy either overlooked or intentionally not given much attention: the inability to integrate non-whites into majority society.  When considering this risk, I tend to refer back to Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. 543 (1823).   In that case the United States Supreme Court addressed the question whether a grant of land made by chiefs representing a number of Indian nations to private individuals should be recognized by the courts.

What stands out in terms of philosophy is how Europeans viewed America’s native inhabitants and how that view formed the rationale for removing native inhabitants from the land either physically or by incorporation.  For example, from presiding justice Chief Justice Marshall:

“On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all, and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency.

The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity in exchange for unlimited independence. But as they were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects or by whose authority it was made against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession.”

In what today may be couched as progressive liberalism, Chief Justice Marshall goes on to make an apology of his own:

“The title by conquest is acquired and maintained by force. The conqueror prescribes its limits. Humanity, however, acting on public opinion, has established, as a general rule, that the conquered shall not be wantonly oppressed, and that their condition shall remain as eligible as is compatible with the objects of the conquest. Most usually, they are incorporated with the victorious nation, and become subjects or citizens of the government with which they are connected. The new and old members of the society mingle with each other; the distinction between them is gradually lost, and they make one people. Where this incorporation is practicable, humanity demands and a wise policy requires that the rights of the conquered to property should remain unimpaired; that the new subjects should be governed as equitably as the old, and that confidence in their security should gradually banish the painful sense of being separated from their ancient connections, and united by force to strangers.

When the conquest is complete and the conquered inhabitants can be blended with the conquerors … ”

In the 20th century, the inability to integrate non-whites into majority society took the form of the modern civil rights movement.  The landmark case that captures how the law addressed racial integration into majority society is Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).  The U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether the doctrine of separate but equal as determined in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited the segregation of public schools based on race whereas the Court’s prior holding in Plessy provided for segregation based on race where the facilities were equal.

One hundred and thirty years after Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh we see the Court noting the inferior status of non-whites, in this case the status of black Americans, as a major basis for integration of racial group into majority society.

By the Court’s admission, there were signs of a closing gap between the quality of schools attended by whites and those attended by blacks.  The court appears more focused on addressing the underlying philosophy’s impact on public schools.  In the Court’s words:

“Here, unlike Sweatt v. Painter, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors. [Footnote 9] Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education.”

And the specific question addressed by the Court was:

“Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?”

The Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits states from segregating public school students on the basis of race. This marked a reversal of the “separate but equal” doctrine from Plessy v. Ferguson that had permitted separate schools for white and colored children provided that the facilities were equal.  But its analysis, in my opinion, was one-sided in its determination that black school children were at detriment due to their inability to study with white children, exchange ideas with white children, and otherwise engage with white children.

The Court never noted that white children were placed in a detrimental position due to an inability to interact and study with black children.  The Court appears, within the four corners of its opinion, to assume that all taint of inferiority was on black children, just like in its analysis in  Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh.

From a management of risk perspective, students of public administration may want to consider that the courts, unwittingly or not, laid a legal groundwork for managing human beings that are not of European ancestry.  The Court in Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh addressed the possibility of unwanted independent Native American nations living next white European settlements in colonial America.  The Court in Brown v. Board acknowledged the existence of or movement toward educational facilities attended by black Americans on par with that of white Americans.  By shifting the focus away from creating better educational facilities in black communities to integrating white schools, the Court, moving away from the separate but equal doctrine, created non-white inferior doctrine that almost seven decades letter is still the controlling narrative.

For the administrative state, it means the creation and implementation of policies designed to absorb non-whites into American culture and dampen any semblance of independence that may threaten the union.




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