September 27, 2011

Prager University Calls to You, Too

Hatched by Dafydd

"Prager University" -- which comprises radio talk-show host Dennis Prager delivering a series of four to five minute lectures on sundry interesting topics on YouTube -- has a video out on the question of whether Israel can rightly be considered an "Apartheid state."

The charge is repeatedly lobbed at the Jewish state, almost certainly in the hope that people will begin associating "Jewish" with "Apartheid," South Africa's regime of racist laws designed to prevent the black majority of South Africa from ever achieving political power or overthrowing the white majority colonial authority (and I use all those words literally, with great deliberation).

Prager's lecture is well done, though somewhat shallow; how much profundity can you pack into five minutes, forty-six seconds, including intro and outro? Here is it:

 

 

It's obvious to the point of tautology that Israel is not an Apartheid state, since it hasn't enacted any of the laws that formed the basis of South Africa's Apartheid system. The accusers are on the level of those who routinely refer to "Tea-Party Nazis." (Yep, tea partiers demand a cheaper, smaller, weaker, and less intrusive government, just like the Nazis did!)

But the more interesting question (not covered by Prager) is, Who was responsible for implementing actual Apartheid in the first place -- socialists or Capitalists?

That question is brilliantly and definitively answered in Walter Williams' seminal book, South Africa's War Against Capitalism. Not surprisingly -- else why would I bring it up? -- Williams concludes:

  1. That it was the labor unions in South Africa and their socialist allies among Boer politicians that assembled the system of racial laws, and
  2. That the central purpose of Apartheid was to thwart the march of Capitalism -- which was, inter alia, rapidly eroding the racial gap in South Africa between white, black, and coloured (as they called anyone not strictly European or African), in employment, wages, promotions, and even socially, among younger citizens (hence the anti-miscegenation laws within Apartheid).

The unionistas then (as now!) were enraged that the prospects of black and coloured workers were rising, since they were willing to work for less; while white laborers -- who had pitched their labor price much too high -- were plummeting, forcing them to reduce their wage demands lower and closer to black and coloured workers. Capitalism, in other words, was leveling the playing field among the races. So the South African unions and socialist politicians deliberately designed a system to set racial differences into concrete.

One of the first laws enacted in the Apartheid system was to make it a crime to pay non-white workers less than white workers. This had the effect, then as now, of eliminating the economic incentive to hire blacks and coloureds.

Earlier, they had been able to get jobs by undercutting the wages of white workers; thus racial discrimination against non-whites carried a huge price tag of increased labor costs. But with the new law requiring equal pay for equal work, racist businesses that hired only white workers suffered no increased cost whatsoever. That completely eliminated the greatest possible incentive for judging people by the content of their characters, not the "colour" of their skins: money.

And don't imagine for a moment that it was mere serendipity, the law of unintended consequences; Afrikaner politicians knew exactly what would happen when they enacted that statute. (Other South African laws, such as the Group Areas Act and the Racial Classifications Act, were more blatantly racist.)

Read the whole book, expensive though it is: Cover price was probably less than fifteen bucks when I bought my copy in 1989; today, Amazon.com is selling used copies for $67; and if you want a new one, be prepared to shell out $375! (Funnily enough, the book was published by Praeger Press -- no relation.)

I wish Dennis Prager would try to get Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Dinesh D'Souza, and other fascinating, scholarly authors to record some five-minute lectures to compliment Prager's own talks. For those who prefer audiovideo to reading a thick tome, it could form a fine introduction to a number of deep thinkers; and it could make "Prager University" something greater than just a showcase for Prager himself.

Nota Bene: The proprietors of Prager University have been pushing bloggers to link to the YouTube videos or embed them on their sites; I'm happy to comply. My only quibble is that they seem to have disabled the ability to add color borders and background, leaving the video unnecessarily Spartan. If they could revisit that decision -- or has all of YouTube gotten rid of such minor fits of individuality? -- I would be much happier.

Hah, I suppose I must now exonerate Prager University from this annoying Spartan-ness mentioned in the blue letters; I now can actually restore the cool purple borders... but I have to roll up my hands, spit on my sleeves, and edit the HTML code directly.

Some YouTubes include an easy interface that allows an embedder to change the embed code to include the borders and set their colors. Others, however, including the Prager University videos, have no such interface. But at least I now know what to do in the latter case.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2011, at the time of 3:03 PM

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