Korean greengrocers make it in the ghetto

In The Dream and the Nightmare: the sixties' legacy to the underclass, Myron Magnet writes how liberals have crushed the value of self-reliance in America. He explains that it is the internal, not the external,"culture rather than economics is what fundamentally makes people underclass ....That is the lesson of Korean economic success in ghetto neighborhoods. No opportunity? Then why do Korean greengrocers flourish in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where no such business has flourished for years? Why do newly opened Korean-owned liquor stores prosper in the Los Angeles ghettos? It doesn't take arcane skills to run a vegetable stand, only hard work, long hours, determination, rudimentary entrepreneurialism, and family cooperation. These are skills that you learn from home and community; they are skills that are nothing but the reflection of cultural values."

"What limits economic opportunity for the underclass above all is the lack of such skills -- skills like being able to show up on time dependably, to be conscientious and have manners, to treat customers well enough so they'll come back, to stick to something unpleasant, arduous, to attend to details." All lovers of government are naive to believe that government can teach these values. No matter how hard government tries, it throws a wrench into the machinery of the marketplace and into the efforts of institutions like the family and church to instill these values. Government can only create impersonal bureaucracies that leave out God's values. Government focuses on money and economics, not true values. Myron Magnet explains that problems are cultural, not economic. When liberals use government force to regulate people they only depress people and make them dependent and lazy. He says,"You couldn't make the lesson more luminously clear if you inscribed it in big letters upon every Korean vegetable stand: in today's America, cultural values make economic opportunities."

Korean gae

"Film director Spike Lee ruminates upon that lesson in Do the Right Thing, in which a Korean greengrocery in the heart of an underclass neighborhood is a sphinxlike mystery, the subject of endless puzzlement and speculation. Maybe the greengrocers succeed because the Reverend Sun Myung Moon secretly bankrolls them, one nonworking ghetto dweller theorizes, voicing a view widely held in such neighborhoods. The grain of truth behind this zany hypothesis is that Korean greengrocers do have a mechanism -- a rotating credit association called the gae -- for raising capital without collateral from friends or relatives. The twenty or thirty members of such a club each contribute three hundred or five hundred dollars or more to a monthly pot, and every month the total pot is loaned to a different member, beginning with the neediest. So that makes enough to pay a landlord his rent and to buy and stock the shelves and refrigerated cases."

What would the UC be like if brothers had that many close friends and they all helped each other? There is strength in numbers. American movies of the old West show Indian tribes combining with the example of some warrior easily breaking a spear over his leg, but unable to do it with two spears. Power comes from unity. Weakness and vulnerability to Satan comes from being alone. Government can never teach people to help each other. Only the church can do this. Father taught this when Senator Orin Hatch held a sub-committee meeting for him just before Father went to prison. Father boldly proclaimed that government is object and religion is subject.

Magnet continues saying,""But capital isn't what makes the difference -- and in fact enterprising black or Hispanic ghetto dwellers aren't' barred from access to capital, since they are eligible for start-up loans from an array of state-run programs or from the Small Business Administration's direct loan and loan guarantee programs. Culture, not capital, is the key ingredient in Korean business success in the ghettos. Indeed the gae itself, a traditional way of organizing people for mutual self-help, is nothing but a manifestation of culture. The same can be said of the sense of cooperation, loyalty, and obligation that makes such an institution of mutual trust viable. It can be said yet again of the tradition of close-knit families whose members willingly defer gratification, toil at menial jobs, and save fervidly to raise the monthly payments required for membership in a gae. No external bar prevents members of the underclass from doing the same thing. The economic opportunity that Koreans have taken in the ghetto was there for anyone to take, as Spike Lee's movie ruefully concludes."

"But by no means all blacks who have commented publicly on this subject have agreed with Lee. Resentment of Asian economic success in underclass neighborhoods runs high, as evidenced by the widespread destruction of Korean-owned businesses in the 1992 Los Angeles riots and by ugly boycotts and threats of boycott across the nation. The public statement of a black local legislator representing Washington's Anacostia ghetto typifies the tone:"The day of the Asian community occupying or getting the majority of business in a black neighborhood is over .... We are not going to burn down our community...We are going to use our clout in city hall."

"The anger is understandable as well as deplorable: Asian business success in urban ghettos tears away the myth that the underclass is imprisoned in its penurious, pathological idleness by an utter absence of economic opportunity. Asian entrepreneurs have uncovered robust economic opportunity and decent lives right in the blighted and supposedly barren heart of the ghettos. Instead of allowing the underclass the solace of seeing themselves as victims, their fate not their own responsibility but forced upon them, Asian success contains an implicit reproach: What's the matter with the underclass that they couldn't do what immigrant Asians, starting at the bottom and scarcely able to speak English, have so swiftly accomplished? The answer is to be found in underclass culture -- not, as many others claim with increasing hollowness, in the economy."

Magnet says liberals continually"go on searching for the perfect job-training program, the labor camps for underclass men that will somehow bring them into the mainstream economy by taking them out to the country, the magical adjustment of the welfare system, the condom giveaway program in the schools -- the ideal program, so fine-tuned that it will at last succeed where all the others have failed."

A few fundamental ideas

Magnet says as I say so often in this book: we need to return to basic truths thrown out by this century:"For the breakdown of the poor to be healed and the moral confusion of the Haves to be dispelled, we need above all to repair the damage that has been done to the beliefs and values that have made America remarkable and that for two centuries have successfully transformed huddled masses of the poor into free and prosperous citizens. The soul of American society isn't an ancient dynasty, or racial homogeneity, or immemorial rootedness in an ancestral fatherland, or welfare paternalism, but an allegiance to a few fundamental ideas. The principles on which our society was built must once again inform our public life, from social policy to school curricula: that everyone is responsible for his or her actions; that we believe in freedom under the rule of law, and that we enforce the law scrupulously in all neighborhoods; that the public, communal life is a boon, not an oppression; that everyone has equal rights, and rights belong to individuals, not groups; that we are free to shape our future."

Federal aid weakens character

Grover Cleveland was one of America's presidents in the late 1800s. Years ago he was rightly judged to be one of our greatest presidents. Lately he is judged as being too reactionary because those in academia are now basically liberal. Cleveland made a statement that is often quoted. Usually it is only a sentence about the role of government. I want to give a few more sentences after his famous one. The passage is from a veto message of 1887 in which he denounces a congressional act that would have provided free seed to drought-stricken farmers in Texas. It is often cited as one historian explains"as an illustration of his callous and blind conservatism. It is better read as the plea of a troubled president anxious to sustain the traditions and values of an idealized past." I do not think Cleveland had an"idealized" view of the past. He correctly saw the value of limited government as Jefferson did that had served America well. Cleveland wrote,"...the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government, Government should not support the people .... Federal aid, in such cases, encourages the expectations of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthen the bond of a common brotherhood."

An historian wrote,"Nine years later, when vetoing a rivers-and-harbors appropriations bill, Cleveland wrote in almost identical terms as he warned against 'a vicious paternalism' that would encourage the belief that popular attachment to the government should 'rest upon the hope and expectation of direct and especial favors.' The mission of the national government was not the distribution of favors but 'the enforcement of exact justice and equality.'"

"Cleveland, together with a majority of his compatriots, pledged an automatic allegiance to the free marketplace. He would have dismissed the modern concept of national economic planning as socialistic nonsense. Wrong governmental monetary policies could cause financial panic, but economic depression could not be cured by legislative action or appropriations from the national treasury. In line with the tenets of nineteenth-century liberalism. Cleveland believed that the economic function of government was not to shape the direction of the nation's economy but to assure a fair field for all and to encourage free and unfettered competition." If only the 20th century presidents had the same guiding principles. Politicians today simply cannot leave people alone. They are arrogant and think they are knowledgeable about everything from highways to welfare. True leadership delegates authority. The love of government has replaced the love of God and neighbor.

One writer said,"Virtue was, with duty, a favorite word, and Cleveland was prepared to associate civic virtue with morality." And he believed big government was immoral. I hope the UC will not believe in government force. I hope that when the church becomes a world power, that the brothers in positions of leadership in their countries"just say no" to using government force to make people be"good," I pray they will not think they see FDR as an example of bold and courageous leadership when he started programs like social security. Bold and courageous actions are to be only in the area of using police force at home and abroad against violent people. Political leaders must have the discipline and guts and patience to leave people alone when all they are trying to do is build a business and build a family.

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