Down the Road to Serfdom
Anne Wortham is Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois
State University and continuing Visiting Scholar at Stanford University's Hoover
Institution. She is a member of the
American Sociological Association and the American Philosophical Association. She has been a John M. Olin Foundation
Faculty Higher Education.
In fall 1988 she was one of a select group of intellectuals who
were featured in Bill Moyer's television series, "A World of
Ideas." The transcript of her conversation with Moyers has been
published in his book, "A World of Ideas".
Dr. Wortham is author of "The Other Side of Racism:
A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness" which analyzes
how race consciousness is transformed into political strategies and policy
issues. She has published numerous articles on the implications of
individual rights for civil rights policy, and is currently writing a book on
theories of social and cultural marginality. Recently, she has published
articles on the significance of multiculturalism and Afrocentricism in
education, the politics of victimization and the social and political impact
of political correctness.
Please know: I am Black; I grew up in the segregated South. I did not
vote for Barack Obama; I wrote in Ron Paul's name as my choice for president.
Most importantly, I am not race conscious. I do not require a
Black president to know that I am a person of worth, and that life is worth
living. I do not require a Black president to love the ideal of
I cannot join you in your celebration. I feel no elation. There
is no smile on my face. I am not jumping with joy. There are no tears
of triumph in my eyes. For such emotions and behavior to come from me,
I would have to deny all that I know about the requirements of human
flourishing and survival - all that I know about the history of the United
States of America, all that I know about American race relations, and
all that I know about Barack Obama as a politician. I would have to deny the
nature of the "change" that Obama asserts has come to America.
Most importantly, I would have to abnegate my certain understanding that you
have chosen to sprint down the road to serfdom that we have been on for over
a century. I would have to pretend that individual liberty has no value
for the success of a human life. I would have to evade your
rejection of the slender reed of capitalism on which your success and mine
depend. I would have to think it somehow rational that 94 percent of
the 12 million Blacks in this country voted for a man because he looks like them
(that Blacks are permitted to play the race card), and that they were
joined by self-declared "progressive" whites who voted for him
because he doesn't look like them.
I would have to wipe my mind clean of all that I know about the kind of
people who have advised and taught Barack Obama and will fill posts in his
administration - political intellectuals like my former colleagues at the
Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
I would have to believe that "fairness" is equivalent of justice.
I would have to believe that man who asks me to "go forward in a new
spirit of service, in a new service of sacrifice" is speaking in my
interest. I would have to accept the premise of a man that
economic prosperity comes from the "bottom up," and who
arrogantly believes that he can will it into existence by the use of
government force. I would have to admire a man who thinks the standard
of living of the masses can be improved by destroying the most productive and
the generators of wealth.
Finally, Americans, I would have to erase from my consciousness the scene
of 125,000 screaming, crying, cheering people in Grant Park, Chicago,
irrationally chanting "Yes We Can!" Finally, I would have to
wipe all memory of all the times I have heard politicians, pundits,
journalists, editorialists, bloggers and intellectuals declare that
capitalism is dead - and no one, including especially Alan Greenspan,
objected to their assumption that the particular version of the
anti-capitalistic mentality that they want to replace with their own version
of anti-capitalism is anything remotely equivalent to capitalism.
So you have made history, Americans. You and your children have elected
a Black man to the office of the president of the United Statess, the wounded
giant of the world. The battle between John Wayne and Jane Fonda is
over - and Fonda won. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern must be
very happy men. Jimmie Carter, too. And the Kennedys have at last
gotten their Kennedy look-a-like. The self-righteous welfare
statists in the suburbs can feel warm moments of satisfaction for having
elected a Black person.
So, toast yourselves: 60s countercultural radicals, 80s yuppies and 90s
bourgeois bohemians. Toast yourselves, Black America. Shout your glee
Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke, Stanford, and Berkeley. You have
elected not an individual who is qualified to be president, but a Black man
who, like the pragmatist Franklin Roosevelt, promises to - Do Something!
You now have someone who has picked up the baton of Lyndon Johnson's
But you have also foolishly traded your freedom and mine - what little there
is left - for the chance to feel good.
There is nothing in me that can share your happy obliviousness.