The Charleston shooting has been front and center in the news the last three days. The young shooter makes for easy fodder for pontification, from the stock redneck bashing and gun control lectures on the left and the critique of gun-free zones being an opposition-free zone for any would-be mass murderer.
What I see is a troubled youth, likely with emotional issues, underachieving, "self-medicating", and taking out his frustrations on the local scapegoat of choice. In this case, blacks were the scapegoats, as his problems were pushed onto a black population that he saw as "taking over."
Politically, that might have some resonance for a South Carolina youth with what seems to be a redneck streak. The slain pastor was a state senator, we have a Euro-African hybrid in the White House, a gal with roots in India (Nikki Haley) as his governor and a black guy (Tim Scott) as one of his US senators. Granted, the last two are conservatives who your Central Casting redneck is suppose to like, but the days of Strom Thurmond are well past, where blacks and immigrants are sharing the political stage with longer-rooted Euro-Americans.
Economics, however, need not be a zero-sum game. A well-off, well-educated black guy adds more to the economy than a poor, under-educated black guy, as do the slew of immigrant tech folks who created whole new industries in the US.
One of the computer companies is running an ad where a Chinese-American guy is working on a cloud computing gizmo that cuts the time for dissecting a genome 1000-fold. Would we be better off if his folks were stopped at the border and told to go back to Shanghai? Would we better off if Elon Musk were running SpaceX and Tesla out of South Africa, if he could put together then team to do all that there?
If the economic pie is fixed, any money going to the other guy means less money for me to get at. Any money going to the other group isn't going to my group. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs got their billions at our expense, if we take that line of thought down the track.
However, both have added things to our economy. Those two were key players in making the modern computer possible, with Apple first doing home computers then a slew of computer-driven consumer electronica and Microsoft coming up with a number of standardized software packages (buggy as they sometimes can be) that helped make sitting in my easy chair typing a blog entry on a laptop possible.
We've got a bigger pie to share thanks to them and other inventors and entrepreneurs. Am I worse off because Bill Gates has his billions? I think not, especially if the alternative would be to be stuck in front of the TV because writing an essay online wasn't an option when I was the SC shooter's age.
Am I the worse off because we have a black president? No. I may be worse off because I have a president whose liberal-intelligentsia view of the world is badly flawed, but his skin tone isn't the problem.
Am I worse off because blacks have more opportunities than they did 50 years ago? Not that I can tell.
In a status-quo, static economy, things tend to be more zero-sum, and fighting over the angles of the pie slices is the self-centered order of the day. Sadly, that is the lot for many people in the last decade or so, as a stagnant economy has left many folks losing ground and many younger folks not quite finding their footing as post-school-aged adults.
The shooter might well have been one of those, making him envious of people not in his ethnic group; their gains in the last half-century come across as his loss. The answer to that is to show that things need not be zero-sum, that allowing for creativity and using talents fully regardless of the parentage of the person holding them.
A zero-sum economy encourages class warfare, racial warfare and any variety of other turf battles. Politics becomes how you better your group.
If we can figure out how to do things more creatively, coming up with new ideas, new products and better ways to do and make things, the economy can grow and give us outlets to move forward rather than fight over a static pie.