New Visions Commentary

The National Leadership Network of Conservative African-Americans

 

Expectations are Everything

By B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.

A New Visions Commentary paper published September 2001 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

 

In the 1970s, an important economic concept called "rational expectations" surfaced. The idea was that economic agents - people - are rational actors: That people anticipate economic changes accurately and respond to them.

Although the concept does not hold sway today, the idea that people respond rationally to events in their environment is important - particularly for African-Americans.

For example, if African-Americans want to - expect to - become more important players in the nation's economy (many of us say that we do), then we must take measures to make this a reality.

We must become a thriftier people. We must learn to save and invest wisely. We must become more astute bargainers and discontinue succumbing to salespersons who entice us to pay more for new autos and home mortgages than any other group in the nation.

While it is all right to invest our faith in religion, even though it sometimes provides limited returns, why do we invest so much in ministers who amass wealth akin to that of chief executive officers? Why do we over-consume name brand athletic footwear - which has virtually no value once it leaves the store - yet under-consume books that can create human capital that lasts a lifetime?

This takes us to our next point.

If we want - and expect - our youth to excel academically (and we say that we do), then we must limit television viewing and wasteful internet surfing and motivate our children to spend more time reading and exploring academic topics using tried and true techniques. Certainly, there is a dearth of African-American engineers and scientists. These are key fields as our society moves deeper into the 21st Century.

We all know the value of reading early and often to our little ones, but how many of us actually engage in that activity? If our children are to learn, we must convince them that school is a place to focus their attention on gaining knowledge, not a place primarily designed to make a fashion statement or provide athletic entertainment.

Finally, if we want to - and expect to - have improved health (most of us say that we do), then we must act accordingly. We must adopt healthier diets, take up a regular regimen of exercise and discontinue high-risk behavior that leaves us susceptible to life-threatening diseases.

If you truly expect an outcome and are rational, then you will take the necessary action to respond to that expectation. If you are expecting a check in the mail, do you not visit your mailbox?

It is purely hypocritical to say that we expect an outcome, but take no action to achieve that outcome. We cannot say "let there be light," expect it, but fail to turn the switch. The reality is that we alone must quit simply paying lip service to those outcomes that we believe the rest of the world expects us to voice, and start responding as rational expectationers of those outcomes.

If we can think it, envision it, say it, believe it, and expect it and act for it, then we can make it happen.


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(B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and an economist. He can be reached at [email protected].)


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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