Almost all of us are appalled by the recent outbreak of violence, nationally and internationally. Underline “almost”.
More recently, violent hate-related shootings have taken place in El Paso, Texas, Buffalo, New York and New Zealand. Then there is the recent violence against people of Asian descent and the many other forms of violence against others, which continue to proliferate and escalate not only nationally, but also internationally. My thoughts are with all the victims and their families.
As an economist, I believe that at the heart of it all is the economic problem of scarcity. Regardless of our gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or in any other way we are different, if it weren’t for our competition for scarce resources, there would be no there would be almost no conflict. Simply put, if we all had what we wanted and everything was abundant, then we, as rational human beings, would not commit violence against each other.
Access to power gives access to control of scarce resources (land, labor, capital and management/entrepreneurship), and this in a nutshell is the root cause of all our problems. – the economy.
Let’s start with discrimination. Gary S. Becker, professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, published his book “The Economics of Discrimination” in 1957. Becker is quoted as saying, “most economists didn’t think racial discrimination was economics, and sociologists and psychologists generally didn’t think I contributed to their fields.” Becker’s concept used a rational individual seeking his own interest while interacting with others in a “market”. His analysis focused on how employers would interact in a market through wage differentials for black and white employees.
What Becker was describing emanates from Adam Smith’s concept of the “wealth of nations”. Smith states that people are motivated above all by self-interest. If people are motivated by self-interest in a resource-scarce society as they attempt to maximize their utility (satisfaction) in a competitive environment, there are bound to be conflicts when they compete with others for these scarce resources. .
Since the last race attack in Buffalo, a “theory” that I didn’t know about is now in the foreground, the “race replacement theory”. What if people themselves thought they might become rare? Then you have this struggle for survival, which in their minds may be the perpetration of violence against those who threaten their existence.
According to a recent article by Dustin Jones on npr.com, on the so-called “Great Replacement”, white supremacists argue that the influx of immigrants, people of color specifically, will lead to the extinction of the white race. Adolphus Belk Jr., professor of political science and African American studies at Winthrop University, said white nationalist movements arise when people of color are seen as a political and economic threat. Note that the political realm is to gain access to the power to control scarce resources – the economy.
White nationalists who embrace this concept fear that whites are no longer a majority and see this as a threat to themselves and the nation. This concept is not new and was popularized in contemporary times in 2011 by French writer and critic Renaud Camus. Camus believes that ethnic white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and that the end result will be the extinction of the white race.
Belk said what makes individual extremists and white nationalist groups so dangerous is the lengths they are willing to go to protect their position in society. “They are ready to use any means available to preserve and defend their position in society…it’s almost like a kind of holy war, a conflict, where they see themselves as acting directly against the offending culture and people. eliminate them.”
Here we are in a world gone mad, with people committing violence against those who are different from them because they act in their own interests and only care about the scarce resources they control. It’s personal, it’s political, and yes, it’s all economic.
Kojo A. Quartey, Ph.D., is president of Monroe County Community College and an economist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.