Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article solely belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Fresh Toast.
Only the business community can bring about real criminal justice reform and that can only be accomplished by ending the Drug War, and marijuana prohibition
Fifty years ago this month, the late, great economist Milton Friedman, published an essay, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits”.
The title really says it all, but it is important to understand that Friedman always emphasized that his political views (he was a Libertarian) were separate from his economics (Monetarism). He also insisted that he was not exempting business from ethical norms.
Although Friedman and John Maynard Keynes had very different views on economics, he would have agreed with Keynes famous quote:
“When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?”
I like to think that Friedman would have a very different view today because America and the world have changed enormously in the last half-century. It is important to recognize that the immediate impetus to social change really had nothing to do with “business”, but was triggered by questionable police violence against African Americans. Not exactly a new problem.
The business community’s immediate response was to recognize the need for greater racial diversity in business, announcing new policies for hiring executives. And “Show Business” responded by changing the rules for winning an Oscar, not exactly things related to the improper use of violence against poor people of color.
In fact, greater diversity in the executive suites and in the Oscars would be good for business and would fit Friedman’s focus on profits. They are necessary, but not sufficient. Obviously, rioting and looting are bad for business, but so are peaceful demonstrations, and social justice at the top means nothing to those on “the streets.”
Unfortunately, while “Black Lives Matter” is a great slogan and a “righteous cause”, it has predictably become “street theatre”. The founders of BLM are self-proclaimed “Marxists”.
To many Americans that means they are “Godless” — true enough — but it also means that they simply cannot communicate with the American people. These unjustified acts of violence are totally unacceptable, but if they totally ended, we would still have huge problems with policing.
Frankly, I think that Marxism is ridiculous, but the closest Marx got to reality was his recognition of the importance of class in Victorian England, not exactly a profound insight. On the other hand, America hasn’t really been honest about “class” in society and within the races.
Prosperous whites simply cannot imagine that prosperous African Americans actually get stopped by the police, for being prosperous African Americans, and who feel that they have to have “the talk” with their children about how to act when (not if) they are stopped by the police… for no reason.
I doubt that very many prosperous white parents have ever felt that necessary.
Even an African American Republican United States Senator, (S.C.), Tim Scott, said that in the course of one year as an elected official, he was stopped seven times by law enforcement. And while in some of those instances he was speeding, Scott said the “vast majority” of those encounters were the result of “nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.”
This is the classic example of the cliche about the tip of the iceberg. Visible police violence is a very small part of the problems with OUR criminal justice system.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party, supposedly the pro-business party, is really the Prohibitionist party, and the Trump Administration has been co-opted by the Drug Warriors, Bill Barr, Mark Meadows, Mitch McConnell, et al.
This means that the business community is seen as an ally of racists. These injustices are being committed in our name.
In the real world, that means that only the business community can bring about real criminal justice reform and that can only be accomplished by ending the Drug War, and marijuana prohibition. Or shall we leave it all to the Marxists?
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and writes about the benefits of CBD for senior citizens.