Friday, September 24, 2004

Postscript on economic discrimination:

Timothy Sandefur has a post that includes a reaction to my previous post on the matter.

And let me reproduce an email written to me by Bill Ware that he has posted on his blogsite regarding the nature of racial discrimination before the civil rights revolution:


I enjoy your blog and comments on others.

I have to comment on your "Does economic discrimination deprive liberty? And what about its rationality?" post due to the fantasy land nature of your argument.

When I was a teen in the late fifty's, I asked my father why he didn't hire a Black to clerk in the retail store associated with his wholesale paper business. He said that if he did, he would lose half his customers.

This was in Northern New Jersey in a suburb that included many second and third generation emigrants who's parents had been successful after arriving in New York City. This was about as multicultural a group as one could imagine, well off and well educated for the most part. There was no government sanctioned segregation of any kind. There were Blacks in grammar school and high school and so on. We all got along fine.

Yet I could see my father's point.

So your suggestions that discrimination in employment could lead to a delay in hiring, overtime pay in the mean time, or paying more or having to do with someone less qualified are all trivial economic concerns when the alternative is losing half your customers.

When all businessmen react the same way, the economic effect on Blacks can be horrific. Yet no businessman could be the first to go against this reality, no matter how abhorrent they found it, because of the economic consequences to their business.

When the government initiated it's anti-segregation laws in the mid 1960's and applied them to businesses engaged in interstate commerce, which included virtually all businesses, it eliminated the economic disadvantage one company would have if it were the only one to hire Blacks by making this requirement universal.

How long would it be in a laissez-faire, market driven system, free from government interference before the first Black waitress was hired to serve at a South Carolina drug store food counter? We'd still be waiting.

Best regards, Bill

[Update: Sandefur posts a brief response to Bill Ware's comments.]


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