“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963

“An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’” ~ May 2011 e-mail, Ferguson Missouri police department

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri matters a great deal to me. It matters for many reasons. One good reason it matters to me is that it is personal. You see, part of my family comes from St. Louis.

My grandparents on my mother’s side met and married in St. Louis in 1949. They were both black activists in the Committee for Racial Equality (CORE), a mostly-Chicago based group. Their work in St. Louis brought them in touch with a group of white students at Washington University in St. Louis that were working to get black students accepted there, and with white members of the Committee who were interested in working together for integration.

For much of that Summer of 1949 they were involved in the sit-ins at the downtown lunch counters, where one black customer would sit first when the lunch counter (typically in a department store or pharmacy) would open, about 11:30 a.m., to encourage downtown workers to shop.

Blacks could be in the store and were welcome to spend money, but they were not allowed to be served at the lunch counters. Jim Crow did some of his work in St. Louis. So, the Committee would have enough white people to fill all the other spots at the counter.

Then when the waitress asked the first white customer that sat down what they would order, that person would insist that the black customer be served first. And so would all the other white customers. None of them would agree to be served, none of them would yield their seats, and the waitress wouldn’t serve the black customer who had been there first. It usually took a day or two and the management would change their policy.

But, you see, integrated lunch counters was such a tiny change. Schools, swimming pools, hotels, colleges, bus and train travel, nearly every bathroom one could find, all were segregated. The local newspapers, claiming that they wanted to prevent rioting by regional Ku Klux Klan, refused to run stories about the successful sit-ins. It would not be until 1961 that the St. Louis board of aldermen would pass a public accommodations ordinance requiring local facilities to operate without discriminatory policies.

In 1950, my grandparents gave up and emigrated. After kicking around much of the English speaking world, they settled in British Honduras. They were both very intelligent. Each of them earned a doctorate from a prestigious university. They were geniuses in their own ways. They just weren’t prepared for how slow the changes were coming, how much injustice they could see, and how little progress. So, they left the country.

They were told that they were disloyal, that they were traitors, that they were communists. I’m still not quite sure why they were called communists. Perhaps today they would have been called Muslims with equal irrelevance. But it didn’t matter. They could not get the justice they wanted where they were living. And that’s why they left.

St Louis protest 1963

1963 Protest in St. Louis

Can you blame them? Should you be concerned? Did the new city ordinance of 1961 or the voting rights act of 1965 change the racial discrimination faced by blacks in St. Louis?

Change, yes, sure. There were some changes. There was some recognition that racism is wrong, that institutional policies of racism were evil, and many of those policies were ended. But the racism wasn’t ended. You cannot, after all, legislate morality, as the experiment with Prohibition of alcohol proved earlier in the 20th Century. You can pass laws to make it harder to impose racism on a subjugated people, but you cannot stop racists from being racists.

Nor, in fact, has voting fixed anything. Voting rights should certainly be extended to black men and women, just as voting should be available to everyone, equally, without regard to age, race, gender, sexual orientation, nor religion. But you shouldn’t expect it to change things. Voting, as Emma Goldman said, would be outlawed if it were going to change anything.

I object to the way in which the people of Ferguson, Missouri have been subjugated. I’m particularly unhappy that a group of white racists in the police department were able to extract something over $3 million dollars a year in fines and fees.

Obviously, I also object to the same sort of fines and fees that other municipalities extract from their local populations of all races and ethnic backgrounds. I object to the property taxes, sales taxes, business taxes, business licences, inspection fees, zoning laws, income taxes, and other compulsory obligations imposed by governments, at all levels. The notion that these fees, taxes, and impositions are consensual, that the people involved have any say in how they are treated, is farcical.

It happens to be the case that mainstream media outlets are currently objecting, some of them most vehemently, to the way that Ferguson racists treated Ferguson’s majority-black population. But, racial injustice is only one kind of injustice. There are many other ways in which people treat each other abominably. Clearly, Americans have not yet fixed any of these problems.

Sometimes, I wonder whether there is something else at the heart of much of the injustice in the world. There exists a set of privileged people who derive wealth from government licences, especially licences to lend money at interest. Obviously, anyone who has earned more money than they need to survive this week should be free to lend their excess money at interest, right?

Bankers don’t think so. Which is why, I believe, a very small number of bankers earn enormous salaries, incentives, and bonuses. Much of American society, much of European society, and much of society all over the world, is organised around the principle that a few should be allowed to saddle the rest and ride them about like horses. Licences, especially banking licences, exist to promote that antiquated and atavistic elitism.

Governments are not established to secure liberties, not the right to life, not the right to liberty, not the right to property. Governments are established to secure privileges for the few at the expense of the many. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out that the Declaration of Independence said that all men are created equal, and that American society wasn’t living up to that ideal. In 1968, Reverend King was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. Perhaps in 2028, fifty years after the House Select Committee on Assassinations finished looking into the matter in 1978, we’ll finally know everything there is to know about his death. But, I doubt it.

What we do know, now, is that fifty-two years after King spoke before a crowd of hundreds of thousands of activists in Washington, DC, America is still not the kind of country where a person is judged by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin. You know. I know it. And everyone in America knows it.

Laws authorising official racism, promoted by people like Woodrow Wilson, were obviously evil and wrong. Having those laws ended is a good thing. Laws against racism, such as the ordinance passed in 1961, are like laws against the production and consumption of alcohol – well meaning, ineffective, and likely to drive the activity underground where it is harder to address.

Freedom is the answer. Freedom to move about the world. Freedom to move about the universe. Freedom to choose where to live, and with whom, and how. Freedom to be independent from government, and not to pay compulsory taxes and fees to a government that distributes your money to other people without your consent. Freedom to keep the money you earn for yourself and your family. Freedom to lend money at interest, to invest in stocks or bonds, to trade securities, without governmental busy-bodies tell you what you are allowed to do in that regard. Or in any other regard.

The world would be more just, people would be happier, and more would get done, if there were more freedom, less government, fewer agencies, and fewer agents.

One step toward that goal is one that I have been working on for over a year. That step is to create a censorship-free economic zone. My associates and I have brought that work to fruition. We are now developing apps for that environment, and we are looking for others who wish to do the same.

The realisation of Dr. King’s dream is still a long way off. But it is coming. It is coming from a direction and with technologies, with means, that nobody alive in 1963 had any reason to suspect would exist today.