Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Cosby's Libertarian Side

Bill Cosby's second round of criticisms about the attitudes and behaviors of some young blacks - six weeks after he upset the apple cart at the NAACP dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landmark 'Brown v. Board of Education' decision - continues to generate controversy. However, many people have his back. There are people of various races and ideologies now clamoring for the liberal Cosby (who has a doctorate in education) to expand his comments to talk about individual and parental responsibility in America, across race and class. Booker Rising reports that his comments are now part of an education debate about 'Caribonics' in Britain.

Because he supports medium (perhaps high) government intervention in society, Cosby isn't a libertarian. However, he does have libertarian elements. One, he discusses personal responsibility. Libertarians believe the individual is the smallest unit of society, and should reap the repercussions - good or bad - of their life choices. Dr. Cosby does downplay the good stats showing reduction in teen pregnancy and crime and overplays poverty (76% of blacks aren't poor and the vast vast majority are law-abiding citizens), but his overall point remains that some folks can do even better. Cosby believes that there are certain things that government can't or shouldn't do for people, but we must do for ourselves.

Two, he focuses on how young blacks must prepare for globalization. No longer are Americans competing against each other, but now the world. Hence, Dr. Cosby is putting his doctorate to use in talking about language skills and educational achievement as a critical tool to further black advancement. Libertarians valorize the free market in generating prosperity, and that people with better skills are better able to capitalize on free markets. The world is wide open, and there are opportunities for blacks to build upon our strengths like never before.

Most importantly, Cosby puts his money where his mouth is. Not other people's money, but his own. Nor is he sitting on the sidelines talking theory, but doing nothing. Cosby has donated more than $20 million in scholarships for promising but low-income black students to attend college. He regularly forgoes his usual $150,000+-per-speech fee to raise funds so low-income high schools can acquire better equipment and teachers. He has a TV show in Philly targeting youth. This links very well with libertarians' promotion of private charity as the most effective means for social change in America, as it increases responsibility of both the giver and givee and wastes less money on bureaucracy.

What is great is that strange bedfellows are occurring. Not only are the usual black conservatives praising Dr. Cosby, but many black liberals are coming to his defense. Libertarians of all races should praise Dr. Cosby.


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