Kojo A. Quartey Almost all of us are appalled by the recent rash of violence, nationally and internationally. Underscore “almost." Most recently, there have been violent hate-related shootings in El Paso, Texas, Buffalo, New York, and New Zealand. Then there is the recent violence against people of Asian descent and the numerous other forms of violence against others, which continue to proliferate and mount not only nationally, but also internationally. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. As an economist, I believe that at the core of all of this is the economic problem of scarcity. Regardless of our gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or any other way that we are different, if it were not for our competition over scare resources, there would be almost no conflict. Simply put, if we all had what we wanted and it was all abundant, then we, as rational human beings, would not be perpetrating violence against each other. Access to power gives access to control of scarce resources (land, labor, capital and management/entrepreneurship), and that in a nutshell is the major cause of all our problems — economics. Let’s start with discrimination. Gary S. Becker, professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, in 1957 published his book, "The Economics of Discrimination." Becker is quoted as saying, “most economists did not think racial discrimination was economics, and sociologists and psychologists generally did not believe I was contributing to their fields.” Becker‘s concept used a rational individual seeking his/her own self-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 from the "Wealth of Nations." Smith states that people are driven first and foremost by self-interest. If people are driven by self-interest in a society with scarce resources as they attempt to maximize their utility (satisfaction) in a competitive environment, there is bound to be conflict as they compete with others for these scarce resources. Since the most recent racially motivated attack in Buffalo, a “theory” with which I was unfamiliar has now come to the forefront, “Race Replacement Theory.” What if the people themselves think that they may become scarce? Then you have that 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 what is termed the “Great Replacement,” white supremacists argue that the influx of immigrants, people of color more 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 threat in the political and economic realms. Note that the political realm is to have access to the power to control the scarce resources — economics. The white nationalists who embrace this concept are concerned about whites no longer being a majority and see that as a threat to themselves and the nation. This concept is nothing new, and was popularized in contemporary times in 2011 by French writer and critic Renaud Camus. Camus believes that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race. Belk said what makes individual extremists and white nationalist groups so dangerous are the lengths they are willing to go in order to protect their position in society. "They are willing to use any means that are available to preserve and defend their position in society ... it's almost like a sort of holy war, a conflict, where they see themselves as taking the action directly to the offending culture and people by eliminating them." Here we are in a world gone crazy, with people perpetrating violence against those who are different from them because they are acting in their own self-interest and are only concerned about what scarce resources they control. It’s personal, it’s political, and yes, it is all economics. Kojo A. Quartey, Ph.D., is president of Monroe County Community College and and an economist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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