If you share America's fascination with the emergence of a handful of black conservatives, you know by now what these rare birds are against.
They are against government interference in the free market. They are opposed, quite specifically, to such notions as affirmative action, minimum wage and rent control. They are outraged by licensing requirements for many trades and occupations, opposed to quotas and set-asides for minority entrepreneurs, dismayed by such pro-union legislation as the Davis-Bacon Act.
It is hardly overstating the case to say that they are against virtually all the programs and policies espoused by liberals and civil rights advocates.
Their notions are so unorthodox, at least for blacks, that it's interesting to hear them. It can be fun to talk with a Thomas Sowell about the long-term implications of ending rent control, or to a Walter Williams about the link between black unemployment and the minimum wage laws.
But after a while you are likely to grow weary of hearing what they are against . What you'd like to hear them explain, at least in broad outline, is what they are for .
I thought we'd get some of those answers when Sowell revealed that he was toying with the idea of forming an alternative civil rights organization, one that would take a conservative approach to black problem-solving. But he recently had a two-part monograph in The Washington Post in which he spent nearly all of his considerable space attacking the established black leadership.
He is against their adoption of policies and priorities that are out of step with those of the black masses. He is against the very existence of a black leadership that has no grounding in poverty. He is even against black leadership that is too light of complexion.
But what is he for? What programs and policies would his new organization propose to address the problems confronting black Americans? He didn't tell us.
I have just seen a copy of the Moral Majority Report, a 16-page tabloid, that contains among other things two articles by Walter Williams.
One offers a devastating critique of the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal law that requires the workers on federally funded construction jobs be paid the "prevailing wage," which generally means the union wage. Naturally, he calls for repeal of Davis-Bacon.
He also calls for an end to affirmative action programs, set-aside contracts and other such efforts at solving the problems facing black Americans.
I don't intend here to debate the efficacy of those particular approaches. But surely Williams doesn't believe that most black problems result from government efforts to help. Surely he and Sowell will acknowledge that joblessness and poverty existed before the minimum wage, that discrimination didn't begin with affirmative action programs, that low-income blacks had housing problems even before rent control.
And if they acknowledge that much, they must also acknowledge that repeal of those particular efforts won't solve the problems either.
Some of us are wide open to at least listen to conservative approaches for solving the problems that the liberal approaches have left unresolved.
But so far we have listened in vain. What we get is the 1980s counterpart of the 1960s rioters whose notion was to tear the system down without any thought of what to put in its place.
Finally you want to shout at them to stop telling you what you've done wrong for all these years and tell you what to do now to solve your problems.
And if they don't know, maybe they should just admit it and go away.