Bryan Caplan  

Greed Is Tolerant

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Kelly Miller was the first black admitted to Johns Hopkins.  He became a professor of mathematics at Howard in 1890.  In 1895, he introduced sociology to the curriculum and became a sociology professor.  One of his essays, "The Negro and Capitalism," (1924) appears in Race and Liberty in America.  It's very good.  Highlights:
If the capitalist shows race prejudice in his operation, it is merely the reflected attitude of the white workman.  The colored man who applies at the office for skilled employment meets with one unvarying response from the employer: "I have no objection, but all of my white workmen will quit if I assign you a place among them."
And:
[T]he capitalistic element at present possesses the culture and moral restraint in dealing with the Negro which the white workman misses.  There is nothing in the white working class to which the Negro can appeal.  They are the ones who lynch, and burn and torture him.  He looks to the upper elements for respect of law and order and the appeal to conscience.
However:
[T]he laborers outnumber the capitalists more than ten to one, and under spur of the democratic ideal must in the long run gain the essential ends for which they strive.  White labor in the South has already asserted its political power.  Will it not also shortly assert its dominance in the North and West, and indeed, in the nation?  If the colored race aligns itself with capital, and refuses to help win the common battle of labor, how will it fare with him in the hour of triumph?
The key factor Miller failed to anticipate: Elite tolerance trickled down to the masses quickly enough to outweigh the rise of populism.


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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Ed writes:

Kelly Miller is also wise on woman suffrage:

"As part of her equipment for motherhood, woman has been endowed with finer feelings and a more highly emotional nature than man. She shows tender devotion and self sacrifice for those close to her by ties of blood or bonds of endearment. But by the universal law of compensation, she loses in extension what is gained in intensity. She lacks the sharp sense of public justice and the common good, if they seem to run counter to her personal feeling and interest. She is far superior to man in purely personal and private virtue, but is his inferior in public qualities and character. Suffrage is not a natural right, like life and liberty. The common sense of mankind has always limited it by age, sex, possession, attainment and moral character. It is merely a convenient agency through which to secure the best result of government, and to make secure life, liberty and happiness to all. It cannot be maintained that woman is deprived of any of these objects under male suffrage. It is inconceivable that man would legislate against his wife and daughter, who are dearer to him than life itself, and who, he knows, must fall back upon his strong arm for protection, whether they be given the suffrage or not."

Himanshu Sanguri writes:

My mind is now resonating on the lines
"She lacks the sharp sense of public justice and the common good, if they seem to run counter to her personal feeling and interest. She is far superior to man in purely personal and private virtue, but is his inferior in public qualities and character."

Is it true? There has been so many lively examples of great women figures across the globe doing commendable jobs in social, personal and international front. Their choices, judgement skills, governing the masses and policy making has been exemplary. The only regions, where it is not evident, are the places where they have been deprived of, suppressed and dominated. I think it is purely a matter of cognitive skills, rational, logic and critical thinking to be honed up, and barriers like sex, demography and likes can not play any role.

jseliger writes:
The colored man who applies at the office for skilled employment meets with one unvarying response from the employer: "I have no objection, but all of my white workmen will quit if I assign you a place among them."

This is surprisingly close to Albert Hirschman's argument in The Passions and the Interests, in which he says that early theories of capitalism emphasized the extent to which capitalism and markets restrain the cruelty and excess of the aristocracy.

Jacob A. Geller writes:

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Tom West writes:

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Jacob A. Geller writes:

Professional sports leagues are tolerant ahead of their time for a similar reason: if the most important thing is winning, then race doesn't matter so much as talent.

The whole elite-tolerance-trickling-down thing is also there in pro sports. So is the capitalism angle!

One example: When a couple of white Brooklyn Dodgers players threatened to sit out rather than play with Jackie Robinson, Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher was quoted as saying to them, "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What's more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded."

In 'Black Rednecks and White Liberals', Thomas Sowell points out that prior to the Civil War, most victims of lynchings were white. It was behavior that was carried over from Scotland, Ulster, and Wales, which is where most of the inhabitants of the South had their roots. Even the KKK's burning cross was a device used by feuding clans in Scotland.

Violence was a way of life in the 'Celtic Fringe' of Britain, and it was repeated in the Southern colonies to which these people emigrated.

Floccina writes:

Brings to mind Marge Schott, she may not have liked Blacks but that did not keep her from hiring blacks.

Clay writes:

The views of the masses outweighed populism? I don't think you understand what populism is.

F. Lynx Pardinus writes:

In Taylor Branch's "At Canaan's Edge", he writes:

Racial solidarity remained a prime civic duty among local whites, resting on memories and practices that sometimes were particular or invisible to outsiders. No merchant in Lowndes County would sell Marlboro cigarettes or Falstaff beer, for instance, because of a report from the 1950s--unnoticed or long forgotten by everywhere else--that the companies once made donations to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Arthur_500 writes:

I would suggest it was not elite tolerance that saved the day.

World Wars created a need for human cannon fodder and blacks were acceptable for this purpose. As they fought and died many a non-black gained respect for their fellow, black, man. This laid the groundwork for integrating the Military.

Racism is a foolish discrimination yet people will do business with those necessary to benefit themselves. We purchased train brakes from a black inventor. We utilized black labor in our factories, farms and construction industries because it was cost effective. By the time it became illegal to discriminate based on race there was a good foundation for the end of politically acceptable racism.

If anything the elite who instituted the laws may have stalled the acceptance of blacks. I have observed a clear cycle with regards to Chinese, Irish, Blacks and Women and how they have been assimilated into society. It is difficult to determine if the laws have slowed the progress or are simply a necessary part of the assimilation process that brings predicable push-back.

At the end of the day I would say that capitalism and greed are blind and these forces overcome any objection based on racism.

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