Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Duck Divided

I have to admit I feel a bit silly even commenting on this story at all.  I don't watch Duck Dynasty and I certainly spend very little time thinking about it.  I have passing familiarity with the premise of the show and with the family whose antics it portrays.  I know their story, and I know that they are very popular in some circles, for various reasons.

By now you almost certainly know that A&E has "caved," announcing that Phil Robertson would return to the show.  I have a hard time believing that this whole affair was something other than a publicity stunt, designed to get people talking about the show in advance of the upcoming fifth season premiere.  The main reason why I suspect a stunt is A&E's disproportionate initial response.  Let's face it:  Phil didn't say anything that he's never said before, at least in character if not verbatim, and he's never made any secret of his claim to adhere to the Bible in forming his opinions about matters like homosexuality.  There is simply no reason why A&E would act as it did now after all of these years.  So the most likely explanation is that it was a set-up.*

* - I suspect that there is some sort of internal war at A&E over this show.  Despite the fact that DD makes A&E a lot of money, there are very likely some powerful people at the network who really don't like holding these people up as paragons of wholesomeness, and someone seized on an opportunity to use the network to make a statement about their own values.

This incident, however, has nonetheless provided an opportunity to talk about some aspects of our society in which there is a seemingly intractable conflict and prompted some people to speak about things of which they have lately been silent.

Phil's supporters were quick to howl about A&E's supposed infringement of his free speech rights.  I can tell you as a lawyer that the First Amendment protects against government action, and A&E is a private company.  Phil can say what he wants to say and he's not going to jail for it, but A&E is just as free to fire him for saying those things. 

But that's mostly a diversion.  The larger outcry is from the people who (1) agree with the sentiments he expressed, (2) heard him called a bigot, and (3) don't like being called bigots, even by implication.  Those people took the further step of claiming to be the oppressed party in our society, a group of people with old-fashioned ideas about values and sexuality who (apparently) want to denigrate, in the crudest of terms, those whose proclivities and activities fall outside their own, yet cannot freely express themselves without being called names.

The old "PC" canard even made an appearance.  I have been hearing the term "politically correct" for something like 25 years.  In all of that time, I have never heard that term used by anyone as something aspirational (as in "I really wish you would make your comments more politically correct"). 

Instead, the term "politically correct" is used by people who want to be free to express bigotry without being called bigots for it.   It's true that one of the overarching goals of the modern progressive movement is to convince people to be less bigoted.  But the speech you use is merely a by-product of what you think.  I am really not interested in people hiding their bigotry; there is no need to modify your speech to reflect something you don't believe.

That is, I think it's better for the Phil Robertsons of the world to make it clear, for example, that they view homosexuality and bestiality as pretty much the same thing (and, oddly, the source of sin), or that blacks were better off and happier under Jim Crow.  If people hide their wrongheaded views, they tend to fester because we never know to respond to them. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.** wrote once that "The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract."

 ** - Holmes, Sr. was the father, quite naturally, of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., one of the great Supreme Court justices and a close friend of Louis Brandeis, about whom I have written previously.

By derisively calling respect for others "political correctness," bigots seek to undermine the power of the central progressive message:  that we're all in this together.

As I was discussing this issue with a longtime friend, one who is a big fan of Duck Dynasty and who shares those religious sensibilities, I found myself making a meta-argument in trying to explain to her that she was mischaracterizing my side's position.  I realized at that point that the fundamental problem here isn't that the two sides don't understand each other.  It's that there are sides in the first place.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not against "sides" per se.  But here's an illustration of the problem:  Sarah Palin, the half-term governor turned professional loudmouth, was quick to Phil Robertson's defense, talking about how A&E was oppressing him for his Christian beliefs and violating his free speech rights.  Later, she admitted that she hadn't even read the comments she was defending.  He could have been advocating for the summary execution of homosexuals, for all she knew.  But she knew one thing:  In her worldview, you're either with her or you're with the enemy, and Phil Robertson was definitely with her.

This is a problem, not because Sarah Palin's a halfwit, but because it's symptomatic of the sort of tribalism that is tearing this country apart.  When you have one party controlled by a core group of people who are fiercely dedicated to the propositions that our nation works best as a theocracy and that compromise is the worst swear word you can say, our whole system is in danger.  When James Madison and his crew were writing the Constitution, they were operating from a set of initial conditions in which the various factions disagreed about policy, often vigorously, but were willing to accept the validity of a democratic framework as a mechanism for resolving those differences and moving forward together.  They understood that the fabric of our nation was knit from the structure of our governance, not from commonality of religion or of heritage or of class or of interest.

That framework has been often tested, and it has been found wanting only once:  When our nation became so divided against itself that we took up arms against each other.  The darkening clouds of division and insurrection led Abraham Lincoln in 1858, when accepting the Republican nomination for Senator from Illinois, famously to paraphrase Mark 3:25:  "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  Fortunately, our Union survived that test, but it took everything we had and then some.

The problem with Phil Robertson's comments is not that he makes them but that he believes them and in all that they imply.  His whole belief structure appears to be built around the idea that there is an "other," a person who differs from him and who is therefore less deserving than he is of respect, of participation, of equality.  You can be sure that he doesn't truly believe he is equal to homosexuals--or, for that matter, to the kind of uppity black folks who demand things like equal rights instead of just happily singing in the fields.

That makes him a bigot.  And there is nothing wrong with calling him a bigot, or with calling his ideas bigoted, or with saying that he is free, but wrong, to believe as he does and speak as he does, not so much because of the content of those ideas but because they are designed to separate American from American, to separate human from human, without any reason other than to lift up Phil Robertson by pushing others down.  That makes him the oppressor, not the oppressed.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Et in terra pax

In the Gospel According to Luke the story of the birth of Jesus is told in chapter two.  There is a particular passage there that I have always found to be meaningful.  Near the birthplace of Jesus, on the night, there were shepherds tending their flocks, when an angel appeared to them. Picking up at verse 9:

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(The above is from the King James Version, which I prefer for this passage.)

If someone were to ask me to sum up Christianity in a single sentence, the last line would be a strong candidate.  Gloria in excelsis Deo, it reads in Latin. Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.  Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

You don't need to be a Christian, or even to have any religion at all, to see the value of that sentiment.

For me, the Christmas story is—unexpectedly—a wonderful metaphor, full of hope for humankind.  I see many, many people who are waiting on God to solve the problems of the world, but the solutions are in us, in our work, in our will, in our strength.  In the story even God could not, or did not, will the world's problems away, but had to (or chose to) act through a man.

That means that the capacity is within us all to effect the result promised by the angel of the Christmas story.  It begins with small acts of peace, forgetting old hatreds, atoning for our transgressions, and committing ourselves anew to the cause of peace and good will.  But it continues with self-examination. What have you done for peace in your neighborhood, in your community?  What good will have you shown to others?  As a nation, have we been for peace, or for our own interests?  Has our will toward others been good or ill?  Have we been the author of our own problems?

We can choose peace.  We can choose good will to our fellow man, even to those who would wish us harm.  The responsibility to do so lies within us.

For all those who are celebrating today, Merry Christmas.  Et in terra pax, for all of us.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Maybe there is a free lunch after all, or could have been

A few months ago I wrote about the saying "there's no free lunch" in the context of so-called "free" services that require users to surrender their privacy as a condition of use.  Today I'm writing about a different kind of free lunch, but I wanted to make clear that I'm not talking about the same thing just because I use similar language.

Today's Good Counsel is about economics, and more particularly about the role of the government in the economy.  I should preface this by saying that I have next to zero formal education in economics, so I'm approaching this as a layperson. I have read a great deal about the subject.  I also don't think that you need to hold a Ph.D. in Economics to grasp policy issues even as you leave the maths and hard-core theory to others.  In fact, one of the more important things I've read is that economics education tends to be extremely orthodox and conservative in its orientation, and if you know anything about me you should know that I am an enemy of orthodoxy in almost everything (I remain opposed to the use of the designated hitter, but that is a topic for another day).

I should also say that this is an enormously complicated subject, and one that can't be distilled into a single blog post of reasonable length.  But we can try.

Finally, I should further say that while this entry is long, I think the payoff is worth it, in that this is something that not many people really understand, and we are pretty much being victimized by a huge screw job.

That diversion aside, let's get down to business.

We have a rather weird set of current conditions. 

By some measures, the American economy is roaring.  The stock market is at record levels.  Gross national income is up.  The unemployment rate is down.   

By other measures, the American economy is stagnant.  Job-creation is limping along at moderate levels, at about 200,000 new jobs a month.  (A basic fact of the American economy is that we need about 150,000 new jobs each month to keep up with population growth, because that many workers enter the workforce, net of those who leave it due to retirement, death, or other reasons.)

By still other measures, the American economy is in recession.  There are millions of long-term unemployed people--otherwise healthy and available for work--whose unemployment insurance benefits have run out or soon will.  These are people who have been out of work and actively seeking work for at least 99 weeks--that's almost two years.  Years of stimulus of various types have failed to move the needle on inflation, which is historically low.  And interest rates are at the rock-bottom.

And I think if you asked the average person on the street what they thought of the economy, that person would say, "Hey, times are tough."  That may be the most important indicator of all.

One of the weirder consequences of all of this is that despite that fact basic fact--that a lot of people think we're mired in a long-term down period--the political will in Washington is to do things that are really counter to what needs to be done here.  Now, I'm the first to acknowledge that what Washington thinks and what the people think are often out-of-sync.  But official Washington, and especially people who ought to know better, seem to think that it's government spending that is the cause of our ills.

Thus we get genuinely stupid economic policy, like the sequester, and artificial fiscal constructs, like the debt limit, that serve literally no prudent purpose.

We are attempting to fight with both hands tied behind our back, so to speak.  Here's why:

Principle 1:  The government fisc is not like your family's budget.

If you want to spend money, whether it's to buy a box of noodles for your supper or to buy a house, you first have to get the money.  You can get that money by working, or by receiving it as a gift, or by receiving a return on an investment, or by borrowing it.  Your spending is limited by your capacity in each of those areas.  You can get more money by increasing your work or by increasing your borrowing, but if you spend freely you will eventually reach a point at which you will be maxed out.

For that reason, you MUST constrain yourself, foregoing things that you might like to have to ensure that you have enough resources for things you need.

But, as I have said previously, the federal government doesn't have any such restriction, because the federal government can create money at will.  You can't do that; you have to convince other people to give you money (usually in exchange for services) in order to have money.

Principle 2:  What most people think of as "money" is just symbolic of value.

I mentioned before that there are some artificial restrictions on the government with regard to monetary policy.  One of them is the control that Congress exerts over fiscal policy, through the budgeting and appropriations processes.  That's actually a good artificial restriction, because we are a representative democracy, and we like to make sure that our decision-making process is democratic in nature.  We also have the federal debt limit.  We have the Federal Reserve, which controls monetary policy in a less democratic way, using authority delegated to it by Congress.

It's important to recognize that just because the government can create money at will, in the sense of having the ability, does not mean that it does or should, in the sense of having the desire, or may, in the sense of having the authority.  But I am not really talking about those things as real restrictions on the ability to act.

Suppose I cut a piece of paper into the size of a dollar bill, drew a portrait of myself on it, and wrote that it had a value equal to "One Hundred Harringtons" on it.  If I went to Kroger, filled up my grocery basket, and went to the register, what are the chances that the cashier would accept my paper as payment for my groceries?  The answer obviously is zero.  That paper has no value.
Of course, if I handed them a $100 Federal Reserve Note with a picture of Benjamin Franklin on it, the cashier would (after ascertaining that it was real) likely give me my groceries, and, if I'm lucky, hand me a few Federal Reserve Notes and maybe some coins back as change.

Obviously there is a difference between my 100-Harringtons bill and American currency, but it's not exactly the difference you think.  To show you why, consider what would happen if I cut a small slip of paper out of the Sunday newspaper that offers me a free candy bar, and presented that to the cashier in exchange for a Twix.  That transaction would probably go through without difficulty.

The reason why Kroger accepts my $100 dollar bill and free-Twix coupon is that Kroger has a great deal of confidence that it will be able to give that bill (or that coupon) to someone else and get $100 (or the cost of a Twix) in value for it.

But there really isn't any substantive difference between my 100-Harringtons bill and my writing Kroger a personal check for the amount due, either.  A check is an instruction to my bank to pay Kroger the amount of the check, but Kroger has no way of knowing whether my bank will actually honor the check--they are willing to take it because, if the check is dishonored, they can activate a robust structural response that is likely to result in them being paid--everything from private collections efforts, to reporting to check bureaus, to bringing criminal charges, if necessary.

If you took away or significantly modified that structural response--which is a creation and function of government (although, in this case, for convenience's sake it's mostly state government)--then check acceptance would become a thing of the past.  But that doesn't mean that checks and dollar bills are substantively different from each other.

In a way, the government's establishment of the concept of "recourse" in check-writing--the ability of a financially wronged party to force the other party to make good on a transaction--is effectively the same as creating a private currency system.  Just as dollar bills symbolize holdings, so do checks, just with more flexibility.

On the other hand, the value associated with dollar bills is transferred with the bills themselves.  You could think of dollar bills as checks payable to the person who holds them--the "bearer"--for specified amounts.

Principle 3:  There are only two meaningful restrictions on a government's ability to create money.

The government creates money.  It does so in complicated ways that are beyond the scope of this entry, and we impose a lot of restrictions on the way money gets created, ostensibly in order to prevent abuse of the process.  Suffice it to say that the government creates dollars as symbols of value and injects them into the economy for use as a medium of exchange--a go-between that allows all goods and services to be priced using a consistent unit so that market participants can engage in greater specialization without harming their ability to trade.

The dollar has value by reference to what it will buy at a given point in time.  A dollar might buy six minutes of unskilled labor or a quarter-pound of ground beef or one day of wireless telephone service.  The precise numbers don't matter and are in fact in constant flux, but the point is that tradesmen accept dollars for their labor or ground beef or telephone service because they know that they can use those dollars to buy other things they need.

For that reason, the effectiveness of money depends on (a) whether it is accepted and (b) at what rate for a given trade.  The government's interest is in ensuring that trades can happen as easily as possible (as a general rule; the government uses other tools, such as taxation, to regulate trading), which means that it must put enough money into circulation to account for the transactions that are likely to occur, but not so much that tradesmen won't accept it or demand too much of it for given trades.  Finding that balance can be difficult.

The two meaningful restrictions on the government's ability to create money, therefore, are acceptance, sometimes known as confidence, and inflation.

On the broader scale, the dollar enjoys broad acceptance, not just in the United States, but worldwide. For large purchases, like a tanker of oil, the dollar is used as the medium of exchange even when the U.S. isn't involved in the transaction.  Moreover, when foreign governments need to park money for a while--a process known as currency reserve--they generally park it in dollar-denominated bank accounts. 

The reason for all this confidence is because the dollar is viewed as the most stable currency; it is viewed as such because the American economy is the strongest in the world and because, despite all of our gridlock in Washington, we still have the most stable and responsible process for managing our monetary policy.

If we do things that undermine confidence in the dollar--especially among foreign nations--then acceptance of the dollar will go down and it will cost more dollars to obtain the same goods and services.  That is therefore a real restriction on the government's ability to create money.

The other real restriction on money creation is inflation.  Most people have a grasp of inflation in the sense that they understand that the cost of things gets higher over time.  Many people also understand, in the abstract, that to the extent that the government prints money that is not backed by anything--in other words, handing out money for nothing in return--then inflation will result.

They don't really understand why that is.  But they understand that inflation is bad because it makes things cost more dollars.  Too much inflation can also be bad because it undermines acceptance; if people believe their dollars will be worth a lot less in the future, they are less likely to accept dollars (which is another way of saying that they will demand more dollars for their goods or services).

Principle 4:  The government has been enormously unfair in the way it has been increasing the money supply.

So, what does this mean for monetary policy?

With the way our monetary system, the Federal Reserve System, is set up, the government has the ability to create money simply by increasing the value of private banks' accounts at the Federal Reserve.  As a practical matter, the Federal Reserve accounts for these transactions as loans to banks that carry interest and will eventually require repayment.  But there is no inherent, structural reason why repayment has to be required.

There is a political reason why repayment has to be required--namely, that providing free money to banks that are already enormously wealthy is, one would hope, a terrible political loser.  Yet there is very little difference between the "bailout" of 2008-09 (which continues to this day) and the giving of free money to banks, because the money was lent at virtually no interest and with no collateral. Banks, not individuals, benefited from the increase in the money supply--but it's all Americans who bear the burden of inflation and reduced acceptance of dollars.  After all, we rely on the value of the dollars we have and earn to pay for things we need to live.

In fact, it's even worse than that.  One of the other things the Fed has been doing over the last few years is a project known as "quantitative easing."  Essentially, the Fed uses its money-creation ability to buy financial assets on the open market--things like government bonds, mortgage-backed securities, etc.--as a method of propping up asset prices.  The "easing" refers to the cushioning of the "blow" of falling asset prices.

The Fed has spent an astonishing $3.3 trillion through three rounds of quantitative easing. That's just over $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

Now, I think the Federal Reserve System is, by and large, a good system that has a lot of benefits.  You will not find me aligning myself with the dilettantes who oppose the Fed and seek a financial system based on the gold standard.  I have news for those people:  Gold no more has intrinsic value than anything else.

However, I find quantitative easing, as the Fed has practiced it, to be enormously unfair for a couple of reasons.  One, it bails banks out of bad assets by paying them at par--full nominal value!--for assets that are likely bad, which eliminates the incentives that banks have to avoid making those kinds of loans in the first place.  (Witness what happened when the Fed announced earlier this year that it would scale back QE in 2014--the stock market fell over 4% in a few days.  That tells me that the upper end of the financial system knows it is getting a great deal.)  Two, that program favors the kinds of people who hold those kinds of assets in the first place--people who have lots of money to begin with--to the exclusion of people of modest means.

It didn't have to be that way.  In fact, it could have been done in a way that would give the same net result to the banks while allowing all Americans to benefit.  Rather than handing $3.3 trillion, mostly to banks, the Fed could have handed $10,000 to each of us.  Most of us would have spent it by buying goods or paying off debts, which would have stimulated the economy, helped banks out of bad assets (loans), and had a multiplying effect throughout the economy, creating millions of jobs and ending the federal budget deficit.

Instead, we got nothing for it.  Except precisely what we have, as noted at the outset:  Some parts of the economy--the high end of the financial system--are roaring, while the broad swath of people are suffering.

Time will tell whether this activity will have a real cost to the economy in terms of monetary policy.  The bankers' lunch may or may not have been free.  (Signs point to continued low inflation.)  But this long explanation will have been worth it if you, the reader, recognize that relative to where we are now, we could have had a "free lunch."  We had an opportunity to use monetary policy to improve the financial lives of all Americans on a more-or-less equal basis, while still getting all of the benefits we got anyway (in terms of economic stability), and that opportunity has been wasted.

It should make you angry.  If more people understood the basic facts, they'd be angry, too.  I know I am.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Farewell, Madiba

There is not a lot I can say about Nelson Mandela that hasn't already been said since his death a few days ago, so this is more of a memoir entry than anything.

I was in elementary school when I first heard about the system of racial segregation practiced in South Africa and known by the name apartheid.  When you are seven or eight years old, and adults are presenting uncomfortable and incomprehensible subject matter to you, they tend to stick to bare facts, divorced from context or consequence.  That meant that while we were told that apartheid means "apartness" and that whites were about 20% of the population but controlled the whole government and that blacks were unhappy with (and protesting) the system, there was very little of the why discussed.  Moreover, the only conclusion presented to us about the consequences of this system was that whites and blacks could not interact socially, which was of course false.

I was a weird child, far more interested in "adult" matters than my peers, and there were lots of aspects of these explanations that simply made no sense.  How, I wondered, could a minority of a population exercise oppress the majority?  Why, I wondered, would anyone care whether blacks and whites could interact socially?  I grew up in racially mixed schools, without any evident racial strife, so it was strange to me that anyone would think it important to keep blacks and whites separated.

My understanding of the issue was further confounded by a very real disconnect between the values that were being inculcated in my civics classes at the time--freedom, equality, voting, public participation in political affairs--and an American government, the Reagan administration, that seemed to be supporting the very opposite of these things in South Africa.  Weren't we supposed to be in favor of democracy and equality? 

As I grew older and learned more facts, it became less confusing.  The white minority that ran South Africa was able to do so through force--a white military, white bureaucracy, white courts and police, and a government elected exclusively by whites all acting in concert to preserve white privilege.  It was not until I studied the subject in college that I made the connection with our own American apartheid, a system enforced through all of the same mechanisms.  All of a sudden, the Reagan administration's support of apartheid made sense.  Reagan was elected while subtly, or maybe not so subtly, nodding toward racism in the South; he kicked off his 1980 campaign in Mississippi and railed against Cadillac-driving welfare queens and steak-eating "young bucks" who preyed upon vulnerable white women.  Like Richard Nixon before him, he used the "Southern Strategy" to win election by appealing to the kinds of people who had thought that having "whites only" and "colored" water fountains wasn't a bad idea.

At some point, I became aware of Nelson Mandela as a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement.  I'm not sure when that occurred; it was probably in the context of statements from black American cultural leaders who gained new prominence in the 1980s--people like Bill Cosby and Quincy Jones, to name a couple, but there were many of them:  black people who became powerful in our culture through the entertainment field, and who used that power to shine a light on Africa and African issues.  Not just apartheid, either, but famine in Ethiopia and new American colonial-style interference in African affairs.  "Free Mandela" was a liberal watchword of the 1980s; just who this "Mandela" was, was somewhat undiscovered.  And those who supported apartheid sought to fill in the blanks with the usual suspects.

Mandela, they said, was a communist*, a Marxist.  He was a black crusader.  He was a murderer, having resorted to planning and carrying out violence in an attempt to overthrow the rightful government of South Africa.  He wanted to bring about rule by the black majority so that blacks could oppress the white minority.  He wanted to steal white industry and white land.  He wanted to drive whites out of Africa entirely.  He was insane and wanted to be a dictator in the mold of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (although Mobutu was "our man," a distinction lost on the racists who were driving the meme).

* - Mandela was not a communist, and he laughed at the suggestion: "Perhaps the most striking is the cooperation between Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler. Nobody but Hitler would have dared to suggest that such cooperation turned Churchill or Roosevelt into communists. Theoretical differences amongst those fighting against oppression is a luxury we cannot afford at this stage."  I've always found it funny, not humorously, but fishy, that everyone we perceive as being against us is, miraculously, an insane communist dictator, even if they show no signs of any of those things and may in fact have been popularly elected or enjoy majority support.

I will leave to others to identify which of those hoarsely whispered criticisms were accurate and which were not.  But the last few days have shown that Mandela was able to transcend, if not overcome, the calculated campaign against him, to become a man of nearly universal acclaim in his own country.  Sadly, I have seen too much commentary from Americans that we might charitably call uninformed, but is in reality more likely unmitigated racism, that seeks to be iconoclastic toward Mandela based upon those same whispered criticisms.  But it was heart-warming to see racially mixed crowds in South Africa celebrating the life of Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela is known there.  In some ways they have come much further in the twenty years since Mandela became president than we have in the nearly fifty years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.  One need only look at the histrionics exhibited by some people to the election of Barack Obama to see that.

Nelson Mandela was not a perfect man.  Like everyone, he was human.  He was certainly guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted.  He seems superhuman largely because of the restraint he showed when the change he sought was finally brought about. But if you had been in the courtroom on the day Mandela spoke from the dock, and paying attention, you would have seen that what he achieved was simply what he set out to do:
Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
There is much we could learn from those words even today.  The whole thing is worth a read, by the way, and I encourage you to give it a look.