David R. Henderson  

Milton Friedman on Racial Discrimination

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Kentucky candidate for U.S. Senate Rand Paul has made waves lately by saying that he would not have supported the part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that violates private persons' freedom of association. He stated that the parts of the Act that forbade discrimination on racial grounds by government were parts he agreed with but that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate on any grounds they chose. He has since waffled, and even some libertarians have stated that they would have supported coercive government measures to forbid racial discrimination in hiring. George Mason University law professor David Bernstein, was quoted as saying:

Therefore, to break the Jim Crow cartel, there were only two options: (1) a federal law invalidating Jim Crow laws, along with a massive federal takeover of local government by the federal government to prevent violence and extralegal harassment of those who chose to integrate; or (2) a federal law banning discrimination by private parties, so that violence and harassment would generally be pointless. If, like me, you believe that it was morally essential to break the Jim Crow cartel, option 2 was the lesser of two evils. I therefore would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
I would be interested in David's evidence that there was such a cartel. The fact of the matter is that this country moved from segregation required by law to segregation forbidden by law without trying freedom of association for a millisecond. So I don't presume to know how much or how quickly segregation would have broken down without the law. There are strong incentives for employers, unhindered by law, to hire the best person for the job, regardless of race, and it would have been nice to see how well and quickly freedom of association would have worked.

Interestingly, Jennifer Roback has given evidence that among the strongest opponents of laws requiring segregated seating on street cars in the South were . . . street car companies.

It's interesting to revisit what Milton Friedman wrote about these issues in his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom. Here's an excerpt:

Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with the one taste and may not agree with the other? I do not mean to say that all tastes are equally good. On the contrary, I believe strongly that the color of a man's skin or the religion of his parents is, by itself, no reason to treat him differently; that a man should be judged by what he is and what he does and not by these external characteristics. I deplore what seem to me the prejudice and narrowness of outlook of those whose tastes differ from mine in this respect and I think less of them for it. But in a society based on free discussion, the appropriate recourse is for me to seek to persuade them that their tastes are bad and that they should change their views and their behavior, not to use coercive power to enforce my tastes and my attitudes on others.


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CATEGORIES: Labor Market



COMMENTS (49 to date)
Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

And, it wasn't like we lacked examples of commercial pressure changing people's behavior at the time. When Branch Rickey put Jackie Robinson in a Dodgers' uniform, Larry Doby, Roy Campanella, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron etc. soon followed...not because of the benevolence of baseball team owners, but because of their regard for their own self-interest.

Television was dealing a death blow to Jim Crow at the time. Ed Sullivan regularly featured Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Nat Cole had his own show. Bill Cosby co-starred in 'I Spy'. Jerry Lewis made a vulgar joke at the expense of Mississippi on his nationally televised Saturday night show..

In the opening episode of the program of 'Julia', Diahann Caroll, playing a nurse looking for a job with a physician, sets up an appointment for an interview over the phone. She then adds, 'One more thing you should know, I'm black.' To which the doctor drolly replies, 'Have you always been black, or are you just trying to be fashionable.'

Rand Paul is on sound ground, but he needs to polish his act.

David Hoffan writes:

Actually, baseball tried keeping more blacks out of MLB even AFTER Jackie Robinson had been signed.

This article from Biz of Baseball outlines the memo that circulated while Robinson was playing in Montreal. They didn't want the NAACP to use baseball as a way lightning rod for integration elsewhere and cited protecting black baseball interests and a fear of "violence" by the increasing number of black fans as reasons to avoid it.

So yeah, let's believe naively that "freedom of association" would've worked out. In hindsight, no it would've made things even worse than they are now.

Steve Sailer writes:

Southern business leaders were sick of Jim Crow. It was inefficient for business and made them look bad in front of their Northern peers. How, for example, could they get major league sports franchises to relocate to Southern cities if the teams' black stars would be relentlessly insulted by the arrangements of daily life? How could their college football teams win without black athletes?

On the other hand, federal compulsion in the 1960s was very helpful to Southern businesses in getting around their first mover problem. Say you owned a lunch counter in the South and that you wished you could serve black customers because that would boost your revenue by 25%. But if you became the first lunch counter in town to desegregate, you might lose your white customers, or get persecuted by health inspectors and other government officials, or get your windows broken at night. But if the federal government comes and makes all the restaurants desegregate at once, well, you can curse the dam yankees all the way to the bank as you take in your extra 25% in revenue.

So, things like segregated lunch counters folded up very quickly by historical standards, and the South became more prosperous.

By way of comparison to see a place where there was real resistance, look at Northern Ireland, where civil rights marches began in 1968 in emulation of Martin Luther King, but by 1969 had turned into a guerrilla civil war that lasted for 28 years.

mike shupp writes:

The TV series I SPY started in 1965; JULIA in 1968. The civil rights movement had been around a few years by then; the notion that these shows "dealt a death blow to Jim Crow" is ludicrous.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Steve Sailer,
Your point could be correct. I've heard people assert it over the years but I don't know what evidence there is for it or what evidence I would look for.
Interestingly, though, if you're right, then there's a strong case for repealing this part of the Civil Rights Act: the "first mover" problem has been solved.

mulp writes:

The Civil Rights Act wasn't merely about race discrimination. Just saw news of a big lawsuit settlement of a claim under the Civil Rights Act - some thousands of women denied promotion and equal pay. And economic studies have shown corporations with women in upper management and on the board perform better than those without.

So, to paraphrase "There are strong incentives for employers, unhindered by law, to hire the best person for the job, regardless of sex, and it would have been nice to see how well and quickly freedom of association would have worked." And 45 years later we see that those strong profit incentives have not been sufficient, even when backed by law, to end sexual discrimination.

JPIrving writes:

This is why libertarian politicians are so hard to elect. They are too principled for the game. In the war of sound bytes no one hears the reason for Rand's position. He sets himself up to be labeled a racist, despite the fact that libertarianism is the ultimate antiracist position. If anyone can diffuse confusion though it is him, he has a very calm and reasonable speaking persona.

paul writes:

It just shows how entrenched the statist view is. The simple proposition that people should be free to associate with whomever they choose and that laws should not discriminate equates to vile racism. It’s an uphill battle.

William Barghest writes:

Why is the freedom to discriminate so important to protect? If it were speech I would say that whoever was judging acceptable vs unacceptable speech would not be able to do a very good job, and would require too much labor to review all public speech. Are the authorities making equally poor decisions regarding hiring practices or do they mostly accomplish justice at a reasonable cost?

David R. Henderson writes:

@William Barghest,
I'm glad you raised the issue of speech. In a part of Milton Friedman's chapter that I didn't excerpt, he raised it also in this context. Let me ask you this: if government officials could judge acceptable vs. unacceptable speech and if they could do so at a very low cost in labor, would you favor eliminating freedom of speech?

ziel writes:

Mulp inadvertently brings up a good point (inadvertently, of course, because he's incapable of bringing up a good point intentionally) - and that's "disparate impact."

Discrimination cases these days are pretty much "disparate impact" claims, where the plaintiffs merely demonstrate that there is a statistical imbalance and perhaps find a few impolitic comments in someone's email during discovery.

So "denied promotion and equal pay" basically means "disproportionate" numbers of men at different positions and "disproportionately" higher raises for men.

At around 40 million people, the African-American population is larger than most countries in Europe - economic-powerhouse Switzerland, for example, has just under 8 million people. The income of African-Americans, though suppressed by American standards, is still competitive with many European countries. Blacks could easily form their own economy within the U.S. to combat any discrimination that might exist.

There could be African-American banks that wouldn't redline, insurance companies that wouldn't charge higher rates to blacks, lines of car dealerships who wouldn't rip-off black customers - really, they could create untold numbers of businesses that would have a tremendous competitive advantage over "white" businesses - they wouldn't discriminate against 40 million customers and potential employees.

But we don't see such banks or insurance companies - why would that be? We have seen this happen in other industries - Motown records, for example. And Motown did what we'd expect to happen where there was discrimination - the discriminated-against group forms its own business, hires its own people and promotes its own product, and completely smashes the discriminatory practices of other companies (ie., signing white acts to play R&B). So why would this happen in the popular music business, but not in banking? Why has it still not occurred in banking to this day? Why must blacks still depend on white-owned banks for financing and then sue and protest these banks when they don't get their "fair share"?

ziel writes:

Regarding Milton Friedman's comment: "Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with the one taste and may not agree with the other?"

Partly - but more that there was no history of enslavement of homely people, homely people do not make up a voting bloc and "Negro" is a lot more definitive than "unattractive."

Still, it makes you think why didn't Congress simply outlaw discrimination against blacks? That was the real problem. The whole Civil Rights act depended on the outrage fomented by the attack dogs and water hoses - so why not limit the law's effect to outlawing discrimination against Negroes (as was the term then used), on the logic that the law was narrowly tailored to address the specific problem under the umbrella of the 14th amendment? Why was it necessary to include religion, national origin and sex? I'm fuzzy on the real history of this law*, but I'm guessing there would have been resentment at such a targeted purpose. But given the bureaucratic waste left in its wake, it surely would have been better for the country if companies only had to worry about defending themselves against disparate impact suits for blacks. With the ever growing Latino population, the implications of the later disparate impact corollaries to the Civil Rights act are rather grim.

* The Wikipedia article suggests that sex was added as a poison-pill attempt to kill the bill by a southern politician.

Ted writes:

Here's a curious question for you:

Do you really believe that for a Southern business owner hiring an African-American, especially in any position above the most tedious and low-paying of work, that would be good business practice? You don't think the many Southern racists would have responded to that by taking their dollars elsewhere? So, no, hiring even a qualified African-American would have been a terrible business practices.

The same applies for segregation. Yes, you pay a cost for segregation (maybe an African-American is less likely to come to your restaurant), but you pay a bigger cost if you don't. Your racist customers will not like the desegregation of your restaurant, and will take there business elsewhere.

You would pay a larger cost by desegregating and hiring blacks in the South since your racists customers would dislike it and take their business elsewhere.

Also, if freedom of association is such a great thing for ending discrimination - why did virtually nothing happen prior? You can argue government was propping up legal barriers to that, but it was doing so because people wanted it and supporting them overwhelmingly. That tells me that even in the absence of government intervention, it would have been privately enforced anyway through social norms and sometimes outright vigilante repression. Jim Crow laws existed merely to get law enforcement involved, they were strongly supported and would have been enforced with social norms anyway.

Also, the free association and costly discrimination model by Becker was always more or less ridiculous. Long-run discrimination shouldn't be possible in that model - and yet it was. This was a byproduct of the utter simplicity of the model. Introduce social responses by customers, or even something so basic as imperfect competition and the model lauded by Friedman rapidly breaks down. As Kenneth Arrow astutely observed back in the 1970s, the theory attempts to explain what the theory says shouldn't even exist.

William Barghest writes:

@David Henderson,

Whenever the authorities do act effectively to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, etc. I am in support of them. I judge which actions I think will accomplish this on a case by case basis. I think there are some circumstances under which public speech should be abridged, the main example being political speech which could reasonably be believed to contribute to a widespread outbreak of violence. However, in practice (although it is counterintuitive) it seems that completely unfettered speech is quite harmless to the civic order, and probably of considerable economic value, and so I almost always support it. I do not support it out of a belief that freedom is sacred or inherently good.

MikeP writes:

As others have noted the lunch counter sit ins were phenomenally successful. Within a matter of months, for instance, every store in downtown Nashville was integrated, and that was all done four years before the Civil Rights Act.


There's currently a movie in development about the pro wrestler Sputnik Monroe. Monroe was a huge draw in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the South, but especially Memphis. He was a white guy, but he was a huge draw among black wrestling fans. He integrated several arenas by simply telling promoters "I'm going to draw more black people than you can fit into the colored section, so you'll let them sit anywhere they like or I won't appear." Well, by telling them that and drawing bigger crowds than they'd ever seen.

When Monroe died a few years ago, the Memphis paper did a big obituary on him. One local judge, who had been a young civil rights lawyer at the time, said Monroe's impact went far beyond wrestling arenas. He said when black groups would press to integrate museums, restaurants, etc., the answer they always got was "We'd love to do it but the crackers will cause problems." He said they'd respond "Well, the crackers have been siting next to black people at the Monday wrestling matches for the past couple of years and haven't caused any problems."

ziel writes:

William Barghest - thanks for clarifying your position with such honesty.

Ted - "Long-run discrimination shouldn't be possible in that model - and yet it was."

Not in any modern, free-market economic system is it possible (that by the way excludes the Deep South of the pre-70's era, where discrimination was institutionalized). Long term discrimination is impossible in an open, free-market system simply because those who are the objects of discriminations can simply form their own economy. Despite widespread and deep-seated anti-Jewish animus, long-term discrimination against Jews was not viable since Jews simply formed their own highly successful businesses. The discriminatory environment in pop music of the 50's could not withstand the onslaught of Motown. Cartels will always be broken unless supported by force of arms.

Boonton writes:

This is why libertarian politicians are so hard to elect. They are too principled for the game. In the war of sound bytes no one hears the reason for Rand's position. He sets himself up to be labeled a racist,

I disagree.

1. Rand isn't so principled. He has three possible responses to the question:

a. Libertarian orthodoxy calls for the bill to have been opposed in the 60's and repealed today. Which is what I am for.

b. I opt for the 'cafeteria Catholic' stance. I'm generally in favor of libertarian orthodoxy but this is an area where I think the ideology should be rejected for various reasons. Therefore my stance violates orthodoxy in some way. Either I would have supported it then but would expire it now or I think it should be left in place etc.

c. I'm not a libertarian, while many of my positions overlap not all of them do and this is one that doesn't.

Instead he hemmed and hawed, highlighting the aspects of the bill that no one has ever objected to (banning discrimination by the Federal Gov't) or trying to tell us that it doesn't matter because the bill isn't coming up for a vote. I don't think his dad's idea of abolishing the Federal Reserve is coming up for a vote any time soon yet there's no shyness there. This is a perfectly legit. question and he should provide a straight answer.

2. It's not about sound bytes, most people know the 'small government' mindset and can see how abolishing the Civil Rights Act can be supported by someone not because they are racist but because they don't like gv't regulation. Most people reject this ideology, though. They think that social concerns trump individual freedom in certain cases and discrimination in areas of public accommodation is one of them. Carping about it being hard to elect libertarians because they are 'too principled' isn't the issue. Most people don't buy their principles. They may think they have some good ideas that are worth considering but they don't accept the logic.


3. I find libertarians to be a bit like socialists, they are more in love with the theoretical beauty of their models rather than how things work in the real world. Yes in theory a business could get a slight edge by hiring the smart black guy who couldn't find work at other companies. They could pay him less and get more output. They will earn more profit and begin to buy out the discriminatory companies, putting them out of business! Why it would just take a few years and the whole south would be fully integrated by free enterprise! Yet it didn't happen. Southern society had found an equilibrium in segregation and business practices, social customs and the law all reinforced that equilibrium. Yes you may find isolated incidents where a business didn't want segregation but was forced too by law but that kind of misses the point. I'm sure a capital intensive, scheduling tricky street car company would have found it cheaper to operate inside a different 'social equilibrium' that didn't require segregated cars. But they were an exception to the rule. The segregation laws were probably supported by most businesses and they wanted the street car company forced to go along least they start planting the seed of the idea of integration.

3.1 So the social equilibrium was moved by attacking all three legs of the stool. Actually more than that, by turning the stool on its head. Instead of the law promoting segregation, the law promoted integration. Businesses that were easier targets for integration were targeted. Social customers were directly challenged by throwing the opposite custom 'in the face' of society...(for those who remember think of a typical All in the Family episode.....Archie says blacks can't, say, be professionals....Archie has to go to the hospital and the doctor is black! Isn't Archie the fool! )

ziel
At around 40 million people, the African-American population is larger than most countries in Europe - economic-powerhouse Switzerland, for example, has just under 8 million people. The income of African-Americans, though suppressed by American standards, is still competitive with many European countries. Blacks could easily form their own economy within the U.S. to combat any discrimination that might exist.

Ahhh the Malcolm X solution! You forget, though, transaction costs. While a 'Black America' might have not discriminated against blacks the transaction costs would have probably been huge. If discrimination was costing you, say, 25% of your potential income it wouldn't have helped matters to try to start a new country and lose 60% of your income....hoping in the very long run you'd come out ahead.

The idea was floated numerous times in US history by all sorts. Lincoln once was interested in it, abolitionists even tried to found a freed black colony in Africa, in the early 20th century the self-sufficiency movement was strong. The fact is, though, that blacks were and are well integrated into US economic life. They could not simply be removed from the economy without horrendous costs to both blacks and whites. At the end the separation idea had to be rejected and King's integration idea accepted.

Tom West writes:

What about the cases where it does make economic sense to discriminate? For example, there were large scale biases against hiring young women for positions of greater responsibility because they'd just get married, have kids and quit.

Thus it might make economic sense to discriminate against hiring women. Does this justify the injustice of being unable to obtain a job based on your gender?

I think not.

(Which is why I think the removal of these provisions today would be a bad idea.)

I suspect from David Henderson's perspective, we did not value freedom enough to try free association.

I suggest that we valued the correction of a horrific and wide-spread injustice so highly that we considered it worth the loss of some freedom to obtain the result as quickly as possible.

ziel writes:

Boonton - no, not the Malcolm X model - I was thinking of the Jewish model (just create your own businesses and show the majority just how much discrimination is costing them by kicking their butts) or the Motown model. Blacks didn't need to set up their own country to take over a huge chunk of the music business - they just needed to form their own company. Or perhaps even the Irish model - take over the administration of entire cities and keep all the civil service jobs for your group - without destroying the city itself, of course. All these options were available to African-Americans (and actually implemented by them in segments of the entertainment industry) to combat discrimination.

But by and large these options were not carried out successfully - which tells me there has been no widespread "discrimination" - i.e., in the vast majority of cases it has made more sense for African-Americans to join white-run enterprises than to form their own. I'm using scare quotes for "discrimination" because the whole argument depends on how you define that word. If you define it as disparities in outcomes then that's one thing - but if you define it as "I will not hire you because of your race" then I really don't think there's evidence of widespread discrimination.

ziel writes:

Tom West - ...there were large scale biases against hiring young women for positions of greater responsibility because they'd just get married, have kids and quit...Thus it might make economic sense to discriminate against hiring women. Does this justify the injustice of being unable to obtain a job based on your gender?

Well is it fair to require a business to foot the whole bill for training someone they're pretty sure is going to just up and quit in a few years without any hope of payback on their investment?

Our society has come down on your side in the fairness debate, and decided employers' should have to eat that cost. From a libertarian-philosophical perspective, though, how do you make such a decision on fairness? I guess I'd be interested in your thought process or reasoning that leads you to conclude that the scales of justice so clearly weigh on the side of the prospective female workers?

RB writes:

You folks need to read more than books by Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams. Trouble In Mind by Leon Litwack talks at length about the structural inequalities in the public and private sector that prevent blacks from participating fully in the economy.

Deidre Royster's Race and the Invisible Hand is a newer book that profiles employment in Baltimore and shows that whites with a criminal record who graduate from the same high school as blacks in a particular part of that town were able to find employment at a better rate than blacks without a criminal history.

Finally, James D. Anderson's Education of Blacks in the South profiles black education in the post bellum South and how the vestiges of much of that has seeped into today's educational inequities.

ziel writes:

While a 'Black America' might have not discriminated against blacks the transaction costs would have probably been huge.

Again, I was not thinking of forming separate countries - just separate businesses, and the windfall such companies could have reaped should have been enourmous. And there's no reason such businesses would have to have been founded by blacks - after all, non-minorities establishing fraudulent minority-run businesses to gain preference contracts is well known. Why wouldn't this have occurred to get around discrimination?

Let's pretend that in the finance industry there is widespread discrimination against blacks and as a result an African-American earns only 70% of what comparably skilled whites earn. Let's further assume there is a practice called 'red-lining' whereby loans are withheld from residences and businesses simply because of the racial make-up of the neighborhood.

Well the opportunities this presents are obvious. You could hire away the black employees and pay them 85% of the white rate - that's a 20% raise, so attracting the needed employees should be easy. Meanwhile you're of course getting away with paying 15% less than your competitors are for their white-dominated staffs. That's quite a cost differential.

And then of course you've got this wide-open, untapped market to plumb competition free among the "red-lined" customers. You're profits would make other banks drool with envy. The opportunity would be too irresistible - someone would have been able to pull it off. Has anyone ever done so? I've never heard of such a success.

Yancey Ward writes:

For those criticizing Paul and Henderson:

Let's suppose you have a basement apartment to rent out. Should you be forced to rent it to whoever applies first? If an African-American applied and you turned him down, and eventually rented it to a white guy, would you feel violated if you were sued for discrimination?

Peter writes:

Reading this entire threat and listening to the talking heads it continues to blow my mind how many folk, even libertarians, seem to believe that it's OK for the government to tell me who I have to associate with on threat of force and equally seem to not believe in the freedom to disassociate. Anytime I see this argument it just reminds me of standard "Minorities can't be racist" belief that seems to permeate the intelligentsia. The real question here isn't whether it's OK for Group A to discriminate against Group B because what you are really say is Group A should be forced to associate with Group B regardless of their personal choice on threat of force from the government; this is what folk are missing and what Rand Paul poorly tried to say using the gun argument in restaurants on the Rachael Maddow show.

To use my favorite extreme example: If you support anti-discrimination laws based on unchangeable attributes that a person has no control over (race, gender, sexual preference, etc) then don't complain when you are forced to rent out the guest house to a convicted serial child rapist as to not discriminate against him (as more and more medical evidence is showing this is similar to homosexuality in that they were born that way and can't be cured). Somebody blacks good, homosexuals getting bad, child rapists bad (and I think we can mostly agree on that morally) but on the pure logical grounds of the anti-discrimination camp this fails.

It's the main problem I have with most intellectual arguments, they break down once you start talking about race/gender/etc as folk can't seem to discuss this logically (see this argument, recent brouhaha with the L3 law student wondering if black could have a lower IQ on average, etc).

Pandaemoni writes:

Under the "free association" theory--that competition would lead smart capitalists to hire qualified candidates regardless of race--wouldn't smart, capable women have been in positions of power many centuries ago? Why was competition not producing female business leaders in greater numbers prior to the second half of the 20th century?

It seems to me that there are natural impediments to such changes that competitive pressures alone often cannot overcome. In effect, there are "local maxima" that exist in discriminatory regimes (or societies) at which point disfavored classes are not being included as full members of the economy. A local maximum is not a global maximum, however, and I would agree that a global maximum would require using all resources without regard to economic irrelevancies like sex or race.

[Interestingly, I almost said "religion, sex or race" there, but it occurs to me that this free association theory would be bad in many businesses for observant Jews who keep the Sabbath, since they'd have less availability on late Friday until sunset on Saturday. As someone often called to work Saturdays (and Sundays), I can see my bosses not hiring such Jews (or observant Christians) due to that lack of availability). I am not sure how I would feel about discrimination on that basis, save to note that it makes me uncomfortable to imagine it being acceptable.]

That digression aside, under the free association theory, one wonders how such societal prejudices evolve in the first place, since local business owners should have always welcomed the most talented...yet somehow a system of exclusion evolved despite competitive pressures against it.

Indeed, notwithstanding free association, an aristocratic society arose and held sway in Europe for many centuries...more than two millennia if you look back as far as the Roman patrician/plebeian divide. Even with competitive pressures to hire the best and brightest much of Europe (and China, and Japan and India, and elsewhere) is known to have had a very rigid and inflexible class structure. Particularly in Europe with its multitude of nations, cities, businesses and other actors, if competitive pressures were a strongly significant factor in integration, I'd have expected some group to stumble upon the benefits of abolishing such a class system and reaping the competitive rewards. That in turn should have lit a fire under their competitors to make similar changes. Yet it did not happen.

These sorts of curiosities make me doubt whether free association would ever have led to true equality of economic opportunity because, I suspect, competition is just one factor shaping the society, and not always the deciding factor.

ziel writes:

Pandaemouni - I don't think anyone (at least in this thread) is arguing that there have not been societal/legal institutions that would have overwhelmed the "free association" (what I would more simply call "free-market") effects. I'm not sure when I'd argue that the free market became universal enough to have this effect, but probably not until the 20th century. And even by then not everywhere - certainly not in the Deep South until maybe the 70's.

But the ability of Jews to thrive (to put it mildly) in this country and other enlightened nations where there were few legal obstacles and less harsh societal obstacles is a good measure of the free-market breaking down cartels (which is what wide-spread discrimination is).

Of course there were women of power in the past - Queen Elizabeth and Catherine the Great are two obvious examples - while they gained their thrones ostensibly through heredity, they easily could have been outmaneuvered for their crowns.

Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes in hard science early in the century, but decades of feminism has not produced another Marie Curie.

one wonders how such societal prejudices evolve in the first place, since local business owners should have always welcomed the most talented...yet somehow a system of exclusion evolved despite competitive pressures against it.

Even with competitive pressures to hire the best and brightest much of Europe (and China, and Japan and India, and elsewhere) is known to have had a very rigid and inflexible class structure...I'd have expected some group to stumble upon the benefits of abolishing such a class system and reaping the competitive rewards. That in turn should have lit a fire under their competitors to make similar changes. Yet it did not happen.

You need to read Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms. These "competitive pressures" were very rarely understood prior to the Industrial Revolution and only when the understanding of these concepts grew to a critical mass was the I.R. even possible. At least that's his thesis, and I found his argument very persuasive.

Boonton writes:

ziel

Boonton - no, not the Malcolm X model - I was thinking of the Jewish model (just create your own businesses and show the majority just how much discrimination is costing them by kicking their butts) or the Motown model.

1. I think you are forgetting that numerous black businesses did exist. Blacks didn't just sit in the back of the bus in response to Jim Crow but created their own networks of businesses that serviced their community.

2. I think you are working with a model that treats all historical discriminations as equal. Jews and Irish were subjected to hostility in the US and sometimes discrimination. Blacks were quite different. Friedman's characterization of discrimination just being about taste misses the point. It wasn't that whites would rather have a white maid than a black maid, it's that whites felt the black should be the maid and no black should ever have a white maid. Segregation is only an imperfect word to describe it since the races in the South were not really kept apart. They were kept in a very particular class arrangement that tried to keep alive as much as possible the old plantation system. Apart isn't really the right word as there were many whites in the south who were all but raised by black women! In some senses there was more 'race mixing' in the Jim Crow days than there was after Jim Crow, but the mixing was done on a very specific set of 'terms of trade'. Incentives were set across the board to reward things that reinforced this arrangement ("He's a good Negro!") and punish things that might disrupt it ("Don't order so many books for the colored school! They should be learning trades!").

I don't think the discrimination against Jews and Irish in the US are quite the same. They followed more of Friedman's 'taste model'. Think of Godfather II. The Nevada Senator would rather not work with Italians but when Michael demonstrates not only that his family is superior at business but the cost of his 'taste' will be very high he quickly recalculates his incentives.

If you define it as disparities in outcomes then that's one thing - but if you define it as "I will not hire you because of your race" then I really don't think there's evidence of widespread discrimination.

Well we do have contemporary studies where objectively equal people are sent for various errands like applying for jobs, applying to rent an apartment, etc. and statistically different results are seen where the only difference is race. But if you're talking about Jim Crow I think you have to get more of a clue. It's not so much that the white law firm would look for applicants and reject the qualified blacks, it's that the white law firm had no qualified black applicants because the 'system' was designed to ensure there wouldn't be (or if there were they would be the 'exceptional Negros' which the system could tolerate to a degree).

Well is it fair to require a business to foot the whole bill for training someone they're pretty sure is going to just up and quit in a few years without any hope of payback on their investment?

Wouldn't a business have an equal shot at the reverse? Hiring someone who was trained at someone else's dime and is now returning to the workforce? In all fairness, I don't think most businesses make extensive training investments. Companies that pay to send their workers to college are, more often than not, offering that as a type of compensation....not making a long term investment in them.


Yancey

Let's suppose you have a basement apartment to rent out. Should you be forced to rent it to whoever applies first? If an African-American applied and you turned him down, and eventually rented it to a white guy, would you feel violated if you were sued for discrimination?

OK back up here. So much for libertarians being the principled ones! You're blurring the issue. The prime motivation of the Civil Rights Act was to address discrimination in public accommodation, not forcing people renting out single rooms in their homes to people they may not be comfortable!

Are Paul and Henderson simply seeking an exemption for individual homeowners? Or are they seeking an exemption for everything including IBM or Microsoft, if they wanted to announce a 'white only' policy in employment (yes yes I know they would never do that since it would be a business and pr disaster) being legal? In fact they are talking about IBM and Microsoft, not just the poor guy trying to rent his basement. So please don't distract from the real issue.

BTW, see http://www.fairhousingmontco.org/Housing_Laws/FH_Act.htm. The Fair Housing Act exempts not only "owner-occupied dwellings" but also single-family houses.....this is sometimes called "Mrs. Murphy's Exemption"

ziel writes:

Boonton - Well you seem to be talking mostly about the Jim Crow south. I think I've gone out of my way to point out that the Jim Crow south is not an example of a regime where a free-market could have overcome discrimination. But given time it probably would have eventually - but we'll never know.

So yes the discrimination in the South was 'different'. But elsewhere it's pretty much irrelevant if the discrimination is "different" - a discriminatory regime is a cartel, and cartels are easily broken in a free economy. There's no way we could have a system where blacks are paid 2/3rds of what comparably skilled whites are paid or writing off whole swaths of business due to discrimination. There's be black-dominated businesses everywhere making bundles mopping up the easy pickings.

Since there's no evidence that there are such enterprizes out there now (outside of niche industries like magazines and hair-styling and cable TV) I argue there is no widespread discrimination.

One thing I don't think anybody asked at the time the 1964 Act was passed was "What if the post-discriminatory environment looks pretty much like things did when discrimination was legal?"

Then you have to start to those nasty discussions about human capital and what does it mean when one group of people persistently and consistently across time and grade levels scores 1 standard deviation below another group on math tests - and is that fact sufficient to explain other differences we see in economic performance? Now if Rand Paul brought up those kinds of questions I'd really admire his nerve. But as it is I think he badly miscalculated in discussing a controversial topic without thinking it thru.

Yancey Ward writes:

But, Boonton, I am tyring to clarify the issue. Now, extend this to an apartment building. If you owned a three-flat, would you feel violated if you got sued for discrimination?

The very fact that you feel like I am obscuring the issue suggests to me that part of you is uncomfortable with forced association in at least some cases that actually can be brought to court under the CRA. You tell me, what do you mean by "public accomodation"?

ziel writes:

In all fairness, I don't think most businesses make extensive training investments.

I guess you're not actually in business. Everyday a company pays an employee while that employee is not fully trained represents a significant training expense. True, employees can just up and leave and go to another company, but again that's beside the point. The point was that an argument was made that it's unfair to not hire a woman just because she's likely to leave to form a family, and I asked how is it not also unfair to prevent an employer from hiring based on his preference to higher a longer term employee? And how do you decide which "fairness" argument is the one that should win? I'm still waiting for a response.

Yancey Ward writes:

As for the Fair Housing Act, I know there are exceptions, why do you suppose those particular exceptions exist?

Boonton writes:

ziel

Boonton - Well you seem to be talking mostly about the Jim Crow south. I think I've gone out of my way to point out that the Jim Crow south is not an example of a regime where a free-market could have overcome discrimination. But given time it probably would have eventually - but we'll never know.

I'm not sure such a thing is possible. A construct like 'the free market' can be taken out of society and examined by economists in theory but in reality the government is a part of society, not some alien entity imposed on society (as libertarians often seem to imply). How would a 'free market' regime have prevented itself from being voted out of office? Or is the hyopthetical 'free market alternative' something that would have had to have been applied by a libertarian 'philosopher king' who would not allow libertarian dogmas to be challenged by the democratic process?

So yes the discrimination in the South was 'different'. But elsewhere it's pretty much irrelevant if the discrimination is "different" - a discriminatory regime is a cartel, and cartels are easily broken in a free economy. There's no way we could have a system where blacks are paid 2/3rds of what comparably skilled whites are paid or writing off whole swaths of business due to discrimination.

I think the problem here is that you're neglecting how interrelated society was. It wasn't just a decision to pay equal blacks 2/3 of the same pay. It was a system to make blacks unequal. If blacks were not given access to the same skills then they could be paid less without direct discrimination (There's a scene in Richard Wright's Black Boy where an optimitrist from the north employs the narrator. He learns he learned trigonometry and asks him if he would like to learn how to grind lenses. He tells his two workers to teach him but when he is gone the assistants make it clear they will not teach him or accept him as a grinder). If black income was lower than whites then the market for black based business was likewise smaller , Motown Records excluded. And in many industries you can't really compare skills without focusing on sales as an output. For example, what does it mean if a black man is the greatest car salesman in the world but whites won't allow themselves to be addressed by him and blacks lack the income for him to make sales?

Your vision of 'equal skills' leaves way too much out. It implies some assembly line type world where output can be objectively measured (rivets driven per minute) and has little impact on the other elements of the line. In the real world employees work more as a team rather than atoms that contain packets of 'skills'. An employer must not only measure skills but other factors such as will the other employees revolt if this person is made manager?

I think the problem here is that discrimination was not a cartel. A cartel is a much simplier economic concept that doesn't yields mostly to economic analysis without having to look at sociology.

Then you have to start to those nasty discussions about human capital and what does it mean when one group of people persistently and consistently across time and grade levels scores 1 standard deviation below another group on math tests - and is that fact sufficient to explain other differences we see in economic performance?

Then all options should be on the table. The idea here seems to be that libertarian theory must always be right therefore since the theory says discrimination is not economically viable disparate results can only be explainable by inherent inferiority. But I've seen no such demonstration. I've seen a 'just so' story that shows how a free market system might blow away a regime of discrimination but that is by no means a proof that racism could have been changed in the US without gov't action.

I guess you're not actually in business. Everyday a company pays an employee while that employee is not fully trained represents a significant training expense. True, employees can just up and leave and go to another company, but again that's beside the point.

Most employees do productive work on day one, training is an ongoing process and a lot of it entails the employee getting used to the culture and unwritten rules of the company. Skills that aren't 100% portable to another company.

Boonton writes:

Yancey
The very fact that you feel like I am obscuring the issue suggests to me that part of you is uncomfortable with forced association in at least some cases that actually can be brought to court under the CRA. You tell me, what do you mean by "public accomodation"?

I feel like you're obscuring the issue because you began with a factual untruth. Also because you know most people would be uncomfortable with the gov't dictating behavior at such a small scale but do not object to it at the larger scale so you tailor your hypothetical to imply that Rand is simply making some exemption in a law for the 'basement room' guy. We should be clear that Rand's ideology (we can't quite speak for Rand himself since he seems to be unclear about where he stands) isn't about 'Mrs. Murphey' but about it all.

But, Boonton, I am tyring to clarify the issue. Now, extend this to an apartment building. If you owned a three-flat, would you feel violated if you got sued for discrimination?

No I wouldn't. Of course whether the standards of evidence are fair is another matter but I wouldn't feel violated if I owned large multi-family residence that I was prohibited by law from discriminating.

You tell me, what do you mean by "public accomodation"?

I think http://public.findlaw.com/civil-rights/more-civil-rights-topics/public-accommodation-civil-rights-more/public-accommodation-discrimination-overview.html provides a good concept. Basically a public accommodation is a business that is open to the 'general public'.

As for the Fair Housing Act, I know there are exceptions, why do you suppose those particular exceptions exist?

Did you not see the link I cited that shows you the exceptions to the Fair Housing Act?

Yancey Ward writes:

Boonton,

I wasn't trying to mislead. I was trying to get some people to admit that they are uncomfortable with some aspects of forced associations. There is a certain glib assertion from some here that they simply don't understand the reluctance to have extenive anti-discrimination laws applied to private parties (see, for example, your comment that I address in the next paragraph) I had planned to draw out the argument if anyone replied, which turned out to be you.

I did not ask if you would feel violated if you were prohibited from discriminating (though, I will point out, a lot of individuals do feel violated even for that)- I asked if you would feel violated if you were sued.

Yancey Ward writes:

However, lets now get down to the real principle involved here. What if the US hadn't changed in the last century? What if Jim Crow laws had been extended throughout the country and you were legally barred from not discriminating? Do you have an argument that this is wrong because it infringes on your rights?

Peter writes:

FYI the folk over at the The Volokh Conspiracy (http://volokh.com) are discussing this pretty in-depth from the liberation, not economic, angle. If you're interested see:

http://volokh.com/2010/05/20/bruce-bartletts-attack-on-libertarians/

http://volokh.com/2010/05/21/advice-to-rand-paul-re-civil-rights-act-of-1964/

http://volokh.com/2010/05/21/libertarianism-federalism-and-racism/

http://volokh.com/2010/05/22/the-racist-charge/

http://volokh.com/2010/05/22/so-a-libertarian-and-a-liberal-walk-into-a-bar/

The last two are particular entertaining though all four read in sequence is particular enlightening.

@Yancey: Amen

Pandaemoni writes:

@Ziel:

The existence of a few powerful women is beside the point, and I concede there were a few--out of many millions a few truly exceptional women rose.

Yet many perfectly unexceptional men rose during that same period, and did pretty well, and certainly better than they would have done had they been women. The point is not, certainly you'd agree, that Elizabethan England had, ipso facto, economic or political gender equality because it had a strong queen. The point is: can free markets starting from a state of widespread invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex or religion produce economic equality for all. Notwithstanding a few outliers, women in general did not have that in full until after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Perhaps the Civil Rights Act was not the catalyst for that change, of course, as perhaps it was other social factors that led to the increase in equality...but the point is that the sort of competitive pressures that drive the free market were not sufficient to provide that freedom for blacks and women (and Jews and others) for quite a long time.

Even with Jews, their success was not indicative of their being accepted as equals in any particular sphere. Their success was in many (though, to be clear, not all) cases initially built on their having tight knit Jewish enclaves within the larger culture that enabled them to establish an economic base.

Again, the test is one of equality of opportunity being driven by competitive practice. If in 1910, you had a great business idea that you wanted to present to the American society at large, I think it is indisputable that, all else being equal, it would in most cases be better to be an Anglo-Saxon Christian entrepreneur, rather than a Jewish one.

The reverse is likely true if your idea was targeted at the insular Jewish communities that existed (say you open a new store selling kosher foods), so I am not singling any particular group out as wicked and the other as pure.

What I am saying is that communities have certain attitudes that deeply interfere with the function of the free market, and which competitive forces are unlikely to overcome even, in some cases, in the very long term. Were that not true, I see no reason why equality for women did not arise in antiquity. I will find and review the book you cited, but the notion that ancients did not seize on relative advantages that perceived they had over their competitors is a tough one to swallow. It is also hard to imagine that the ancients simply systematically and completely failed to perceive their own relative advantages.

Even if the exploitation of these advantages started out with only the very exceptional individuals in the disfavored groups, like Marie Curie or a George Washington Carver--so that only the best and the very brightest benefited from opportunities, alongside the marginally talented from the population of the privileges classes--it speaks to the importance of the other active forced interfering with the markets that such a wedge did not wind up expanding economic opportunities for second best (who would, one expects, still be better than the average member of the privileged group).

I see no reason to believe that competitive pressures alone would have produced black equality in the late-20th century any more than it produced equality for women in the early 20th century. If there is a strong case for it, I have not yet seen it in a form that answers my questions.

Boonton writes:

Yancey

I wasn't trying to mislead. I was trying to get some people to admit that they are uncomfortable with some aspects of forced associations.

Fair enough but you're hardly the first person to raise this objection which is why the law exempts intimate situations. You can't be sued over renting your basement apartment anymore than you can be sued for not picking someone offered to you by an online dating service!

I did not ask if you would feel violated if you were prohibited from discriminating (though, I will point out, a lot of individuals do feel violated even for that)- I asked if you would feel violated if you were sued.

Emotionally there is a bit of a violation...being sued is kind of a personal 'slap in the face'. It's not as bad IMO as getting pulled over by a cop. That's an emotional reaction, though, the few times I've ever been sued I can't honestly say it was unjust, the people suing me had a valid case they had a right to have heard in court. You also implied, though, that lawsuits have standards of evidence that are too low. That may or may not be the case but that's a different issue than the Civil Rights Law in itself.

What if Jim Crow laws had been extended throughout the country and you were legally barred from not discriminating? Do you have an argument that this is wrong because it infringes on your rights?

I would say such a law would be unjust and I would resist it as such. I would say, though, that resistance is justified not because of an unlimited 'freedom of association' but because the gov't has no right to command me to harm people who have done me no harm (don't ask me to figure out what pieces of the Constitution would be used to argue that in court, I suspect 'Equal Protection' would be a big part of any lawyer's brief).

Let's turn this around a bit. You probably accept that Freedom of Speech does not prohibit the gov't from outlawing fraud. Does it follow then that if gov't can outlaw fraud that it can mandate fraud? Requiring you to, say, help reduce the national debt by cold calling people trying to sell 'natural male enhancement' pills?

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

Does not all this reduce to one single issue:

What are the functions of governments?

Do constitutions exist to answer that question?

What occurs in the lives of individuals when those functions are deployed to exceed the Consitutional provisions?

Tom West writes:

To use my favorite extreme example:

Peter, your example fails because you're talking about individual behaviour as opposed to discrimination based on group membership.

It kind of misses the entire point of what discrimination is.

And just to make it clear, none of the groups legally protected by discrimination are so statistically prone to egregious behaviour that it comes close to justifying group discrimination.

Tom West writes:

Well is it fair to require a business to foot the whole bill for training someone they're pretty sure is going to just up and quit in a few years without any hope of payback on their investment?

Ziel, there will always be unfairnesses. In most cases, I judge the costs of the trade-off.

In this particular case, I consider the "pro-make the business pay" to be a simple one. I consider America's greatest strength (despite lots of counter-examples) to be the willingness to allow individuals to succeed on their merits. Equality of opportunity is the bedrock upon which this strength stands.

Is there a cost to this? Absolutely. Is it borne by business? Yes. However, based on observation, discrimination-free (okay, societies with less legally/socially acceptable discrimination) seem to end up much wealthier than societies that eliminates or curtails the opportunities of classes of its people.

In other words, by banning discrimination, I think that even the businesses that are bearing the direct cost are almost certainly better off than if they were free to discriminate.

So, I consider such laws a matter of market co-ordination. The social justice it brings is an additional bonus.

(Okay, being honest, I consider the social justice to be enough of a plus to justify the unfairness to business. Luckily in this case, I do think it's a win for everybody in the long run.)

Boonton writes:

R Richard Schweitzer

What are the functions of governments?

Do constitutions exist to answer that question?

The US Constitution says it exists to, among other things, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, and secure the Blessings of Liberty. It would appear to me that the Civil Rights Laws are quite libertarian in those lines and the rights of the Bill of Rights exist to bolster the Constitution's preamble.

Now let's go back to the 'unfair' charges of racism on Rand Paul. Perusing his positions, I notice the following are probably not part of libertarian orthodoxy:

1. Supports gov't banning all abortion.

2. Does not support open borders and opposes any amnesty for illegal aliens. He offers no practical way for Mexicans to take jobs in the US or employers in the US to hire them nor does he offer the many illegals here a sensible way to become legal without impoverishing themselves and their families.

3. While he seems to support decriminalizing pot for medical purposes, he does not support drug legalization nor legalized prostitution. While he would allow individual states to persue these policies he doesn't seem to think there's any inherent right for these things to be legal either through the commerce clause or general notions of individual rights to property or trade.

To date I'm not aware of any serious criticism of Paul as racist. That's a red herring, IMO, deployed by his supporters. Most liberals understand Paul's odd back and forth on Civil Rights stems from his ideological blinders conflicting with his desire to get elected and not an attempt to send a signal to white racists that he is one of theirs.

But I think that both liberals and blacks (not that they are interchangeable) have a right to ask if noble libertarian principles are able to be selectively compromised for political practicality then why the refusal to play "Cafeteria Catholic" on civil rights? Drug legalization, an issue that would do much to enhance the cause of liberty by allowing Americans to be drastically less likely to have their lives abused by the criminal justice system, is ditched because that might cost some votes from orthodox Republicans....but ditching Civil Rights, a stance that will cost votes from all sides and no one serious wants to entertain must be kept in the name of principle?


A full blown orthodox libertarian might be worthwhile to elect to the Senate just for the sake of having an offbeat POV. But if libertarians want to go beyond 'token clown' status they should move beyond raw theory and start looking at the practical side of their positions.

Boonton writes:

Re: Women 'unfairly' trained


I'm not sure this issue makes much sense. OK say a business hires a woman, train her and then she resigns when she gets pregnant. Why wouldn't said business simply hire a woman who gave birth a while ago and now wants to re-enter the workforce....with her resume supplemented by the 'training' she supposedly jibbed her previous employer out of? Since this business is hiring a woman it would be kind of hard to make a case that it is using gender discrimination. On top of that it's pretty hard to see how you're going to predict when women will choose to have a kid by the formal job interview process so it really seems, at worst, a random flip of the coin (unless you got someone like Dr. House doing the interviews)....

I think what the gender discrimination laws addressed more was the social mores that reinforced it. For example the 'pink collar' ghetto depicted in films like 9 to 5 or the assumption that men with families should be paid more.

Regarding wasted training investments: I really don't think you can say the lack of women in the workforce decades ago was due to some rational fear of a business wasting a 'training investment' on women who then have children. For one thing, the classical job that was acceptable for women decades ago was secretary which is one job where years of training and practice really defined a high skill, high value secretary.

In the 80's business moved dramatically away from the "twenty and out" model or the "post office model" where layoffs and downsizing were based on seniority. The idea of the long term loyal employee who was rewarded by a loyal employer was turned on its head as companies eagerly snatched up 'disloyal' employees seeking to jump ships and replace some old timer for less money.

This makes long term training a very risky bet for a business. Need a lawyer? Hire one. But if you send that smart kid who works in the mail room to law school chances are he will take that law degree, work for you for a year and then jump to something else. This is why I said most of the time when business is paying for college I suspect it's more about a type of compensation rather than a true investment.

Long story short, a hypothetical job that requires a very long period of customized 'training' before the employee can be productive makes for a very risky proposition for a business and they generally won't do it. An example I can think of is airline pilot, most of whom were trained at the military's expense or by private schools that the pilot paid for. Ditto for law and medicine....if the training is that long the most efficient model is to let the employee bear its cost in the form of student loans rather than the employer.

Kathleen Burch writes:

Laws which identify any one or several groups for preferential treatment by forbidding "discrimination" are unjust, and will ultimately have the unforseen--to some--consequence of these groups' continuing to have lower social standing. Consider how "affirmative action" laws result in the ongoing suspicion that those who benefit from them are less competent because they did not succeed on their own merits.
Minds and hearts can be changed by good example and persusion; some will not be moved, but a free society should be able to tolerate the bigot.

Ron writes:

The Civil Rights Act is inconsistent.
If gov't is going to use force on businesses to not disriminate, shouldn't they be consistent and force consumers not to discriminate either? Shouldn't the consumers be forced to patronize businesses of varying racial ownership?

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

DRH: "The fact of the matter is that this country moved from segregation required by law to segregation forbidden by law without trying freedom of association for a millisecond."


This is an important observation. Patience is a key difference between left and right.

Liberals will not tolerate a hungry child or a marginalized racial minority, even for a moment, and demand government (coercive) action. Conservatives and libertarians are likely to believe that hungry children will be fed by free associations such as charitable groups, and that economic forces will eventually and freely break segregation.

Once coercion is in place, it tends to become permanent, and redistributive, and a poverty trap for its constituents and lucrative for its spokesmen. This has certainly happened with the race industry.

More freedoms, less interventions, and lower taxes are also likely to produce more growth. A long-term rate of, say, 3.5% instead of 2.5% is not a very sexy headline (compared to more news-worthy minority poverty rates) but is an article of faith for those on the right. For the sufficiently patient, growth makes absolutely everybody better off - but some ideologies are more patient (some would say callous) than others.

eccdogg writes:

Right, it would have been very interesting to see what would have happened in the south if the government sphere had been desegregated first.

My guess is that the private sphere would have followed quite quickly with the addition of protest and boycotts. If there had still been a substantial problem 10 years later after the Buses, Schools, etc had been desegregated then maybe futher measures would have been necessary.

Tom West writes:

I think Jeremy idea about patience (or the lack thereof) nails it. I'm certainly not in favor of waiting 10-20 years of social injustice to see if things get put right eventually.

Also, the government can often set social norms (although it takes years to filter through). I certainly remember when the gov't started taking drunk driving seriously by punishing it way more heavily than social convention dictated. People were outraged for years (Decent family man sent to jail for fourth offense? Horror!) at the disproportionate penalties (he didn't hurt anyone!)

Of course, eventually, the propaganda worked, people felt that if it was penalized that heavily, it really must be an awful crime, and now drunk driving is pretty much socially unacceptable.

I approve. That particular bit of government coercion has saved a lot of lives.

This is a long way around of saying that I think that the discrimination laws on the books have a far wider effect than simply employment. They act as a strong indication of what social norms 'should be'. It's why social conservatives fight so hard to keep sodomy/abortion laws on the books, even if they're only occasionally enforced.

And yes, forcing 'fairness' does have some economic cost (at least in the short run. I suspect the opposite in the long run), but then economic growth has never been the sole factor in deciding the success or happiness of a society.

Boonton writes:

Laws which identify any one or several groups for preferential treatment by forbidding "discrimination" are unjust,

Actually the Civil Rights Act does no such thing, discrimination based on race and gender is prohibited, not against specified 'groups'. There can and have been whites and males who have won discrimination claims.

Ron
If gov't is going to use force on businesses to not disriminate, shouldn't they be consistent and force consumers not to discriminate either? Shouldn't the consumers be forced to patronize businesses of varying racial ownership?

Why?

While we are on the subject, what is the 'racial ownership' of, say, Target versus Wal-Mart?

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