Why public programs fail in America

How a history of segregation destroyed Americans’ ability to care for all

I’ve been thinking about the different measures of success the Left has had in Europe versus America. Why do most European countries have some form of universal healthcare, and America does not? I’ve argued before that Europe was forced to the left under the threat of communism in the 20th century, something America didn’t need to worry about because they didn’t have Europe’s history of nobility and class resentment.

But there’s another obvious historical condition that hindered the Left in America: slavery and segregation. Although Europe now certainly has oppressed immigrant populations, America was practically founded on a divided population; the free whites and the enslaved blacks. Especially in the south, this division, along with its justification, became part of the culture.

After slavery, white supremacy was maintained through segregation. But in 1954, a Supreme Court ruling known as Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. As a reaction to this, communities with a significant black population decided to simply close their public schools, rather than have their tax dollars benefit black people.

For public programs to work, there needs to be a certain solidarity or at least unity in a population. Since America’s population is fundamentally divided, political will for public programs have always lacked. FDR was only able to pass the New Deal by including provisions that effectively excluded black people from receiving benefits.

A serious Left movement in America must therefore strive to heal the divide, first and foremost by speaking to the specific justice claim of the black community. Interestingly, the person who did this most effectively in the democratic primary was Marianne Williamson, precisely because she focuses on America’s problems as spiritual, not merely legal / political.

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Serious idealist.