Do Markets Reward Racism? It isn’t a Black and White Issue

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James K

James is a government policy analyst, and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His interests including wargaming, computer gaming (especially RPGs and strategy games), Dungeons & Dragons and scepticism. No part of any of his posts or comments should be construed as the position of any part of the New Zealand government, or indeed any agency he may be associated with.

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178 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    One of my issues with a market-based approach to resolving prejudice and discrimination is that, were it to prove effective, there would likely be a long time horizon before elimination would be realized. What do we say in the interim? Tough nuts to those who suffer under it?

    I think we also have to look at how privilege is baked into the system. I think it is really easy for straight white males (and it is most often white males) to argue in favor of a market-based approach because the odds of them being discriminated against in such a system are low. How… convenient. The majority of businesses are white owned, male owned, and straight owned. This is neither a consequence nor indicative of some sort of superior talent, ability, or industriousness inherent to those groups. It is an artifact of explicitly prejudice and discriminatory practices of the past, which is perpetuated by certain practices that are de facto prejudiced and discriminatory.

    Were we to blow society up and start from scratch with everyone on a level playing field and then advocate a market-based approach, perhaps that would work.

    But what you have is a society that has given certain people a head start… and a faster car… and the elimination of anti-discrimination laws is the equivalent of letting everyone blast each other with turtle shells… only the people with the head start and the faster car have infinitely more turtle shells. The odds of any of that changing in a market-based approach are slim, with problems likely to exacerbate before they get better.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      That’s entirely fair, hastening the inevitable is still a worthwhile thing to do.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      But what you have is a society that has given certain people a head start

      I can tootle down my nearest commercial strip and see masses of small businesses, including the man who fixes my car. He is, horrors, a white male. What sort of ‘head start’ did he have?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Are you even capable of seeing the issues behind this Deco? The mere fact that a person is white in the United States gives him or her a head start. A white person is less likely to be troubled by the police just because, usually has access to better public schools, etc.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Yes, I am sure being frisked by the police on a particular day in 1987 would have been a terrible impediment to him learning auto mechanics and bookkeeping.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        It might have held him up a bit if he had been carrying some pot in his pocket or committing some other very common crime that most people skate by on because they’re never troubled.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      “Were we to blow society up and start from scratch with everyone on a level playing field and then advocate a market-based approach, perhaps that would work.”

      I have my doubts even then.
      The actual historical examples of “new” societies- everything from the New World, to Salt Lake City, to any number of utopian settlements shows the opposite.

      I alluded to this in the other post, where there is a weakness among political theorists to imagine that oppression and injustice are external- that the people themselves are innocent and if left to their own devices would naturally evolve into utopia.

      Yet the devil is always inside us. I wonder sometimes if that isn’t the ancient origination of the concept of Eden and original sin, that each of us freely and willingly chooses actions that are foolish, destructive and wicked, even when presented with the most idealized of tabula rasa.

      James’ point about the efficacy of laws is spot on as well- markets and laws are at best clumsy tools- amoral and open ended tools that can serve any number of purposes.

      If we aim at a societal outcome- for instance a society free of injustice and oppression, one where everyone is both liberated and supported- it only makes sense that we include the tool of cultural norms alongside law and market.Report

    • Avatar roger says:

      Kazzy,

      “One of my issues with a market-based approach to resolving prejudice and discrimination is that, were it to prove effective, there would likely be a long time horizon before elimination would be realized. What do we say in the interim? Tough nuts to those who suffer under it?”

      May I suggest that what you just did here is compare a real world imperfect system to an idealized, hypothetical perfect system and found the real world lacking.  The proper comparison is to compare non coercive solutions, which includes markets as a sub segment, to state coerced ones. The state passed laws fifty plus years ago. Was the solution immediate? If so we have no problem. Second, what are the externalities and unintended consequences of creating protected classes of people? What does this do to creating dependency? Zero sum battles over privilege? How does it undermine universal values (from discrimination is wrong to discriminating against minorities is wrong)?

      These are all questions we need to ask. Personally I agree that markets alone were not sufficient. I also believe misguided coercive interference often made things worse.

      “I think we also have to look at how privilege is baked into the system. I think it is really easy for straight white males (and it is most often white males) to argue in favor of a market-based approach because the odds of them being discriminated against in such a system are low. How… convenient.”

      I disagree on many, but not all levels. First, my beef is with systems which bake in privilege. Again though you assume free markets are notoriously bad at this. I beg to differ. Free markets actively undermine privilege and reward people to find best person for job or product and get it from them absent privilege. Second, assuming there are inherent tendencies of people to take care of their own (which oddly never seems to hold Asians back), you still have to explain how free markets have a worse track record than socialism, feudalism, mercantilism or fascism. Alternatively you could try to show that market’s have a worse record at pandering to privilege than politics and governments. I do not think this line of reasoning gets far. Politics thrives upon division, privilege pandering, win lose redistribution and zero sum arms races.

      “The majority of businesses are white owned, male owned, and straight owned. This is neither a consequence nor indicative of some sort of superior talent, ability, or industriousness inherent to those groups. It is an artifact of explicitly prejudice and discriminatory practices of the past, which is perpetuated by certain practices that are de facto prejudiced and discriminatory.”

      I disagree. It is partly an artifact of history. It is partly an artifact of industriousness. I have kids and grand kids of every race (except Asian). I honestly see no inherent disadvantage going to those that are black as opposed to those that are white, Hispanic or Indian. Indeed, I am aware that for college admissions, the non white ones probably have a leg up. I also suffer no animosity toward Asians. If they tend to do better statistically than my family members, I think it is best explained via their culture and industriousness. If my grand kids ever complained I would tell them to stop sniveling and try harder.

      Gays, Jews and Asians are not part of the majority, yet they tend to be more successful in terms of market outcomes than whites. How do YOU explain this?

      I have used this analogy before. I fail to see why we have protected classes of race, but not looks or smarts. Question…. If you could choose would you rather your grandchild be black, ugly or dumb? The answer is obvious. I am sure my black and hispanic kids, nieces, nephews, and grand kids can do fine in life if they are hard working. The dumb ones of whatever race… not so well. One of my nephews is mentally retarded, severely overweight and Hispanic. Markets offer him virtually nothing. Trust me, it is not the Hispanic part holding him back.

      “Were we to blow society up and start from scratch with everyone on a level playing field and then advocate a market-based approach, perhaps that would work.”

      This is of course impractical and would result in a few hundred million deaths. But again, you are assuming there is a system other than markets with a better track record than markets at undermining privilege. I believe you are very, very wrong. Politics has a record that is not just worse, but abysmal. It thrives and flourishes upon rent and privilege seeking and selling. This is its essence.  

      “But what you have is a society that has given certain people a head start… and a faster car… and the elimination of anti-discrimination laws is the equivalent of letting everyone blast each other with turtle shells… only the people with the head start and the faster car have infinitely more turtle shells. The odds of any of that changing in a market-based approach are slim, with problems likely to exacerbate before they get better.”

      First, life is not a race, and those that think it is have already fallen into the zero sum trap. Second, women, minorities and gays do as well or better in the US than anywhere else on earth. Those other places that they do comparably well also have freer markets. The places where they do bad don’t. 

      Second, the rate of improvement in economic outcomes for minorities actually started to slow as governments got more involved in fixing it. Indeed, this is when we started to see systemic problems emerge in marriage rates, welfare dependency, school quality, unemployment rates and most recently disability rates. Markets did not create a dependent class, poorly designed interference did. Markets can and did and will continue to allow anyone who is industrious to thrive.  Misguided interference will continue to create problems which are then spun by the interfers back on markets. Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Nice comment. If this discussion doesn’t peter out over the weekend, we may need to look at doing a comments rescue here.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Here’s my question: in this country, we have (or in some cases, had) legislation designed to make discrimination in the market and elsewhere more difficult, and at the same time we have legislation that is supposed to create more equality of opportunity. Such legislation removed the ability to enforce discrimination coercively, which people have claimed was necessary in order for Jim Crow-like discrimination to be possible in a market system. So the markets should have done their thing, right? So if you’re going to talk about the length of time that it took the legislation to work (and in some cases, it did work pretty fast, in others much more slowly, in no small part because market forces were in the way), we’re actually talking about the time it took for legislation + markets to work, right? So the proper question is, how fast did markets + coercive state forces work, vs how fast would markets have worked by themselves?Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        I like the new Gravitar, Chris.

        I would reframe the question. What we had was imperfect markets and imperfect regulation. I would argue that we would have made more improvement faster with better versions of both.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Roger, thanks, it’s one of Percy Wyndham Lewis’ self portraits.

        What imperfections in the current market (the market since, say, 1964) have slowed it in eliminating racial discrimination in the market? How are they related to the imperfect legislation? Would it be possible to have anti-discrimination legislation that worked with a perfect market?Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        I am not sure if markets are racially discriminating other than how Tod explained. People are, and our biases can be reflected in markets. There are some clear market imperfections caused by interference which contribute to sustainable patterns of unequal outcomes by race.

        1) Any market interference which panders to incumbents. In my view this includes minimum wages, most licensing regulations, most prohibitions on self employment and starting a small business, state supported unions, free trade interference, mandatory benefits, and so on. No sense us arguing again whether I am right on these. But this is what I believe.

        2) Any market interference which reduces incentives to invest, work or invent. This thus extends into areas like taxes and safety nets. Not that I am against either, but if poorly designed they make markets substantially less effective. Markets thrive on inequality of outcome. When we reduce inequality of outcome via non market means, it is pretty much impossible not to reduce the feedback mechanisms of markets. This is true even where I believe we should override market outcomes.

        To illustrate, the unemployment rate of younger black males is outrageous. Yet we prohibit them from starting their own small business (driving a car for hire, cutting hair, selling food via food cart, etc) we prohibit employers from giving them a job at a salary/benefit level below a set amount, we give them a safety net which reduces their need to work, and we establish inner city red tape which discourages job and business creation . Thus interference ensures a steady, systemic population of unemployed black males who do not develop skills necessary to become middle or upper class. They are then abandoned by females as unmarriagable, and we get another generation of young boys with no role models and the “market” stacked against them.

        I think anti discrimination laws are pretty harmless all things considered. I would be less heavy handed in my wording, enforcement and regulation to reduce negative side effects. It is the other interferences which cause most problems. in other words, I believe the Civil Rights law and less misguided interference would have led to substantially better outcomes for blacks and Hispanics.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Gays, Jews and Asians are not part of the majority, yet they tend to be more successful in terms of market outcomes than whites. How do YOU explain this?

        Really? Name gay quarterback. Name an Asian-American Movie Star.

        Yeah, our biased culture ‘lets’ Asians be IT guys while it demands that Latinos be Gardeners. Let’s not pretend that’s progress. The fact that IT positions pay better doesn’t erase the poisonous influence of discrimination that Many Asian Americans face in their day-to-day lives. If Asians are more “Industrious” than white people, then why is it that in a country that’s 4.8% asian and 63.7% white, that CEOs are 1.6% and 95.6% white? (source)

        Gay are generally less-well off than their straight counterparts. For a while, White Male Gays were doing well–Mostly because of the Dual-Income, No Kids thing. But now that society has deigned to allow us to have families, those gains have disappeared. I’m sure Russell and Jason can attest to the financial barriers facing couples that can have children only through surrogacy and adoption.

        A positive stereotype is still a stereotype. A prison with silver bars is still a prison. The fact that bigoted cultural expectations have certain minority groups trapped a few rungs higher on the ladder than others is never an excuse to prevent anyone from climbing it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Name an Asian-American Movie Star

        Lucy Liu, John Cho, Kal Penn, Ken Jeong, Pat Morita, Sandra Oh (sorry, Asian-Canadian), B.D. Wong, Ken Leung, Aziz Ansari.

        Also, comedian Margaret Cho.

        Also, Asian British film stars Parminder Nagra, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Watanabe.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I am not sure if markets are racially discriminating other than how Tod explained. People are, and our biases can be reflected in markets.

        This is a sort of reification that I find troubling. What are markets, if not the people and goods involved in them? Does it make sense to say that, if the people involved in a market discriminate, that the market does not discriminate? What sort of Platonism is this?

        Also, if I’m not mistaken, you yourself have talked about the need for a safety net, though one done better than the one we have here now. How would you build a safety net in such a way that it fulfills its roll of not letting people fall through the cracks of the “market,” but doesn’t cause the negative problems you describe here (e.g., with barriers to entry)?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        What are markets, if not the people and goods involved in them?

        Nothing.

        And what, then, is government?Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Allen,

        I don’t know exactly know why there are very few German ancestry Jewish sumo wrestlers. I am not really sure why a disproportionate share of Nobel prize winners, chess champs and CEOs are Jewish, yet not so many gardeners. I am quite aware that historic trends (path dependency) plays a role here. I am sure cultural differences are showing up. I am sure comparative advantage is playing out. And I am sure there are biases and prejudices, real and imagined and real because they are imagined playing out.

        Note though that I am listing a lot of factors which contribute to skewed distributions of gardeners vs CEOs vs NFL Wide Receivers. Skewed distributions are not de facto proof of racism or of a defect in markets. 

        Nor did I say gays face no barriers in life. Nor does your example have anything to do with markets. Free markets are not preventing them from having or adopting kids. Are they?

        Note you bounce back and forth between railing about markets and railing about our bigoted cultural expectations. What exactly are you recommending, or are you just venting?

        Finally, can you name a country where gays are better off financially than in countries with relatively free markets such as the US?  Can you name places without liberal market economies where those of African or Hispanic origin do better? So, are markets holding them back? If not, what is?Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Chris,

        Markets are institutions. In this case they are defined with things like property rights, rules of contract and such. The accepted rules of properly functioning markets does not include rules which differ based upon race, gender, creed or sexual orientation. Thus the rules of the game do not discriminate. This does not require reification of markets. 

        I could use a sports analogy to clarify, but Mike S gets mad when I do this.

        My concern with poorly designed safety nets is they can reduce the incentives of markets. As an extreme, why work if safety nets pay better? On the other hand, I think safety nets also create exactly what the term implies.  They make taking risks and chances worthwhile, and they reduce the very real and debilitating psychological and physical harm of severe financial hardship. Thus good nets can HELP markets work.

        Good safety nets carefully monitor and protect against free riding. They demand something of the person receiving the benefit.  This is true of risk adjusted premiums in insurance, mutual aid societies and patterns of reciprocity within HG bands. IMO, government bureaucracies are terrible, in fact often counterproductive, at controlling free riding. It interferes with their organizational dynamics.  Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Dude, Sumo wrestling referees are totally racist. You just *TRY* to become Yokozuna if you’re not Japanese. They’ll get all Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay on your butt.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        Roger, I’m not sure why you think I hate markets. I think markets are just fine.

        I just disagree that markets are effective at eliminating bigotry. And frankly, I find your suggestion that the market has eliminated bigotry in the case of “industrious” minorities to be wrong-headed and itself bigoted.

        The fact that modern free-market liberal democracies are better for minorities that the mercantilist empires of previous centuries is not an excuse to ignore our own failings.

        I believe that government action can and does reduce bigotry. While I have plenty of nasty things to say about the drug war and immigration policy, I don’t believe that the Civil Rights Act has hurt minorities or been damaging to the market, and I don’t understand why others on this thread argue that it has.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        I just disagree that markets are effective at eliminating bigotry. And frankly, I find your suggestion that the market has eliminated bigotry in the case of “industrious” minorities to be wrong-headed and itself bigoted.

        It does not seem to have occurred to any of you to define ‘bigotry’, or to provide a sorting criteria which would differentiate between the various uncharitable attitudes people harbor, much less to take an inventory of what you say about others and hold it up to critical examination. All kinds of subcultures in this country, and some of them are regarded with open contempt by people who fancy themselves enlightened.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        It does not seem to have occurred to any of you to define ‘bigotry’,

        Knock yourself out, Art. Give us a working definition of ‘bigotry’, then.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Your concern. You figure it out.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Your concern. You figure it out.

        Funny, you’re the only one who seems concerned.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Nice try, Aitch, but I am not the one here who fancies the state should maintain a legal architecture to stamp out ‘bigotry’. You all might clarify in your own minds what your objects are.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Art, I have a non-rigorous impression of the frequency of your commenting visits to this blog (interesting, I’ll have to dig into the back end and see if my impression is correct or if I’m suffering from observer bias).

        My impression is that you show up a lot to talk about how unimportant race issues really are.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, government is power. Markets are power too, of course, and the extent to which I am either the government or the market is contingent on my power (and my power contingent on the extent to which I am the government or market — it’s a vicious, self-sustaining circle).

        Roger, it is true that markets are institutions, but institutions are not just a set of rules, they are also the agents who participate in them, and to that extent, markets are as racist as their agents, even if their rules are putatively unbiased or “fair.”Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Roger, I clicked “post comment” too quickly. To take your sports analogy, football has a set of rules which are designed not to favor any specific teams or players. However, the officials, the higher ups, and even some of the players, are for whatever reason biased towards a certain team, or certain players (say the NBA and its treatment of superstars), or certain positions (the NFL and its treatment of quarterbacks), then the game itself is biased, even if the rules that partially define it or not. This is because the game is not just the rules, it is the participants as well.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @roger

        I had a long comment in response to this which I thought I had posted but somehow didn’t. Ugh. Frankly, I’m too lazy to redo it all, right now at least. I’ll see if I can muster up the energy later.

        In a nutshell, I wanted to call attention to the amount of question begging I perceive here (in your 8/31, 11:36 comment) with regards to coercion.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Chris,

        Ov the weekend I said markets are the rules and the rules are not inherently racist, but the participants may be. It seems to me you are saying the exact same thing. Let’s just call this an agreement.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Kazzy,

        I have some great retorts to the responses you didn’t send, but I haven’t thought of them yet.

        It’s all good bro’.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Heh… I got into some of them in my response to Aitch below.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      Kazzy and Chris,

      Are either of you taking into consideration that both markets and politics are responsive to attitudes? By continuing to focus on the problems of markets as they respond to people’s prejudices, while eliding the problems of politics as it responds to people’s prejudices, it appears as though you’re reluctant to apply the same scrutiny to both sets of institutions.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Sorry James, I just saw this. I thought we were talking about markets. . I think the affects of prejudice are generally (but not always) much clearer in politics, which is probably why no one’s really keen to have a discussion about whether politics reward racism. We know that, even with rules in place designed to prevent the rewarding of racism in politics, racism gets rewarded in politics, and as a result of many of the same causal mechanisms.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        I must not have been particularly clear, as I see a similar criticism of me in @roger ‘s initial response. So, please allow me to clarify…

        I don’t consider the state to be inherently superior to the market. As you say, both are largely manifestations of the people contained therein. However, even the freest of all free markets isn’t entirely free; I’ve never seen anyone advocate a market that didn’t protect against theft. Now, perhaps you will respond that that goes without saying and shouldn’t really be seen as a restriction or regulation on the market. But, I think it important to say such things and to make principled arguments in favor of them.

        Because if you think it goes without saying that a market requires theft protection to function but does not require anti-discrimination laws, I’m going to ask you why. And you would probably have an answer. But I would probably keep pushing back against that, keep asking why, and attempt to unearth the norms, ideas, and values behind all that.

        In the disappeared comment I wrote to @roger , I wondered if our tendency to view physical violence differently than emotional, mental, or verbal violence is because the damage caused by the former is generally visible in ways that damaged caused by the latter is not. On the timeline of humanity, our study and understanding of emotional and mental health is but an eye blink compared to that of physical health; cavemen could see blood, but did they understand depression? So what if the line we tend to draw there is not actually because of a principled difference between physical violence (which all but the most extreme anarchist would likely sanction state restrictions upon) and emotional violence (which remains quite legal most the world over) but because of some historical ignorance regarding the latter?

        Okay, I’ve gone a bit far afield here, and for that, I apologize. To your original question, given the choice between a free market that did not have anti-discrimination laws (ADLs) and state-enforced Jim Crow, I’d take the former. The attitudes it represents are better.

        I think it possible we one day get to a place where ADLs are not necessary. I don’t think we are there. I think current attitudes and the historical legacy of past attitudes, manifested both via the market and the state have created a scenario that requires ADLs to maximize freedom. Perhaps not the ADLs we currently have, but ADLs of some kind.Report

  2. Avatar Art Deco says:

    You’ve not really addressed several problems with civil rights legislation:

    1. It is necessarily coercive. It incorporates some person’s notion of permissible and impermissible criteria of association and that trumps the judgment of people going about their daily business. Generally, we conceive of coercive practices as a charge which have to be balanced by a credit. What’s the credit?

    2. With that in mind, there is a manifest tendency for protected categories to multiply. You actually see in the culture at large the loss of any sense that collective action and personal association should take place on terms not approved of by a particular type of bourgeois. You can see that in the disagreeable controversies which erupt when dim-witted academic administrators bar Christian groups from campus because the ‘discriminate’ in their membership criteria.

    3. Another consideration is the capacity of institutions to administer the law impartially. (The experience of the last 40 years suggests that certain attitudes are now class markers, so the law will be employed in a sectarian manner in favor of certain mascot groups).

    4. More elaborate law, more litigation, more opportunities for attorneys to extract rents.

    5. Hiring inhibitions due to all the lawyers’ activities. One irony in the descriptive statistics was remarked upon by Charles Murray. Labor force participation rates for black youth (ages 16-24) and white youth were in 1960 quite proximate (within a percentage point or two). In 1980, after all that labor and commercial and landlort-tenant legislation, the ratio of participants to non-participants among white youth was similar to what it had been (2.5 or 3 to 1), but among black youth that ratio had fallen by 40% (to around 1.5 to 1). How much of that was due to hiring inhibition?Report

    • Avatar Jeff Lipton says:

      1. If you can’t see the credit in civil rights legislation, there’s no point in continuing.

      2. Poor persecuted Christians. Too bad there’s a crowd protesting any time they want to build a new church. Oh, wait.

      3. The unprivileged are now “mascot groups” . How nice!

      4. Trial lawyers suck! The cost of the unprivileged to affect law is not to be considered.

      5. And how much due to the proven to be racist “War on Drugs”?Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        If you can’t see the credit in civil rights legislation, there’s no point in continuing.

        And yet you continue with four more points, three of them sneers and the fourth non sequitur.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Jeff, I agree that you did not really address Art’s concerns. My take on his comment was that he laid out how Civil Rights Law can arguably be shown to have backfired. If you disagree, I suggest revealing how he is wrong rather than saying you refuse to discuss it with someone not already agreeing with you.Report

      • Avatar Jim heffman says:

        Well, you see, Art Deco is really Tom Van Dyke, so it’s perfectly all right to be absolutely horrible to him.Report

    • Avatar Jeff Lipton says:

      roger:
      Very well. Let me take a more serious approach.

      1. I personally think that the “credit” of civil rights legislation is self-evident. However, let us assume that it’s not.

      The Voting Rights Act established franchisement of those who had been systematically disenfranchised for decades. The overturning of the Act has left states free to explore methods of reinstating the disenfranchisement. (Several sources have already been given for this.)

      The rights of gays to teach, to adopt, to marry — these are all outcomes from civil rights legislation. I consider each of these a GREAT credit.

      2. You can see that in the disagreeable controversies which erupt when dim-witted academic administrators bar Christian groups from campus because the ‘discriminate’ in their membership criteria.
      These Christian groups are attempting to ban members who have every right (usually spelled very specifically in the rules for groups) to be a member. The Chess Club can’t ban a gay chess-player; the Christian group can’t ban a gay Christian.

      3. I personally find the term “mascot groups” offensive. Blacks, gays, women, etc. are not real people deserving of every right and privilege of straight white men; they are just symbols for those darn liberals to wave at conservatives.

      4. Is not much more than a sneer in and of itself.

      5. Hiring inhibitions (or lack thereof) is a very minor point in the period from 1960 to 1980, when the “War on Drugs” hit black youths disproportionately from whites (the whole “crack vs cocaine” disparity was the major point). A higher percent of black youths going to prison is going to seriously impact their participation in labor.

      I hope this helps…Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Well done. I will let Art respond.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Not much to which to respond.

        1. Again, people form fraternities for certain common purposes. One of these is worship, catechism, and evangelism. It is quite unremarkable that the people who form such societies have membership criteria, among others, that you be on board with the society’s institutional mission. You have these controversies because 1.) the student affairs apparat attracts and retains a critical mass of the clueless whose capacity for thinking outside the boxes they live in is somewhere around nil and 2.) they actually conceive of the world in which they live as being under their tutelage. People like them are the principal and the deans, and the rest of us are high school students. Ergo, they get to set the terms of association and place private association under their trusteeship as a matter of routine.

        2. Your offended? That is not reasonable and, in any case, your manners are too lousy for any normal person to give a rip about your sensibilities.

        3. A historical point: you can check the yeas and nays on the salient civil rights legislation enacted between 1956 and 1969. It will not buttress your implicit thesis.

        4. Legal prohibition on various sorts of street drugs have been common since 1914. You do not even offer a spare hypothesis about what that has to do with the dynamics of labor markets fifty-odd years later, much less any indication of why anyone would credit the thesis that they were in 1970 being enforced in an unfair manner.Report

  3. Avatar Art Deco says:

    You might note also one effect of civil rights laws as applied: the demise of occupational examinations and episodes of endless judicial review of the content of civil service examinations (14th amendment humbug may be involved her too). More officious lawyers, to be sure. Another effect is that more of the task of sorting and signaling in the labor markets is conveyed to institutions of tertiary schooling (which are shot-through with dogmatic diversicrats. Hmmmm).Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      The demise of occupational examinations

      Last I checked you still have to be certified for a number of professions in the United States. Oh, and lookie here, California still has a civil servants exam.

      Episodes of endless judicial review of the content of civil service examinations

      It’s not clear that it’s always a bad sign when the judiciary is reviewing the constitutionality of bureaucracies.

      More officious lawyers, to be sure.

      This statement is not falsifiable.

      Another effect is that more of the task of sorting and signaling in the labor markets is conveyed to institutions of tertiary schooling

      I agree, the labor market depends far too much on educational background as a marker for employment. It’s not clear to me at all that this is an effect of civil rights legislation (you’re going to have to flesh that out a bit, there).Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Occupational licensure incorporates examinations. Hiring and recruitment does not. There has been a decline in the use and utility of examinations in recruitment and promotion in the civil service.

        Sorry, lawyers make crummy psychometricians.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        There has been a decline in the use and utility of examinations in recruitment and promotion in the civil service.

        I’m skeptical. Civil service replaced the old spoils system, bit by bit over the last century, but not completely, not everywhere. So AD’s claim needs to specify a clear beginning point for decline and some actual evidence.Report

  4. Avatar Major Zed says:

    Thanks, James. In particular, your parallel assessment of market and government response to the “three states of society” is valuable. There is an ancient and venerable tradition among policy analysts (and I still see it, even in such sophisticated and unbiased circles as NBER) to spend a lot of time analyzing a market failure and then putting forth a policy recommendation detached from implementation considerations. This allows the reader (path of least resistance) to imagine it being implemented by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent entity, a.k.a. idealized government. When the real, messy market is compared to the ideal, god-like government – well, no surprise as to which one comes off better.Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    FWIW, I largely agree with this. In my own post, I tried to note that bigoted business policies are rewarded to the degree with which a community is itself bigoted. A market, I would argue, does not create social mores so much as reflect them.

    If I had one minor quibble, it would be the same I always have in these discussions: In a democratic society, I am less likely to see government as a detached and potentially nefarious “other” while seeing markets as an integrated and potentially beneficial “member;” each, it seems to me, is a different and equal agent of the same community.Report

    • Avatar roger says:

      And thanks Tod for starting the conversation. I badically agree with both of you and learned a lot from both posts.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      A market, I would argue, does not create social mores so much as reflect them.

      Yeah, I have that quibble as well. If a market is merely the place where buyers meet sellers, then the only institutional structures contributing to individual decisionmaking are currently held social norms. Practice and pragmatics can shape individual attitudes about particular practices engaged in, and I suppose that those practices – if generally agreed upon and adhered to by a significant enough group of market participants – could rise to the level of a social norm, but certainly not to the level of an institutional structure regarding markets themselves.

      Maybe I’m just confused about all this, but my belief is that lots of people use the term “markets” in a sentence like “markets are institutional structures governed by rules” as confusing markets with a normative concept of what constitutes effective markets. But the market doesn’t care if it’s effective or not. Only people do.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Not sure if I disagree with either of you.

        Markets give people an opportunity to reveal or realize their preferences and mores. Yes. I will add that they act as complex adaptive problem solving systems. They change with participants and participants change while working within them. Feedback loops within feedback loops. People spending their lives within markets will be different than those living outside of markets. Brandon touched upon research on this this recently.

        I also agree the rules do not care if they are effective or not. They do not care at all.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      If I had one minor quibble, it would be the same I always have in these discussions: In a democratic society, I am less likely to see government as a detached and potentially nefarious “other” while seeing markets as an integrated and potentially beneficial “member;” each, it seems to me, is a different and equal agent of the same community.

      What you say is true, democracy and markets are both us, for some value of “us”. For me there are two things that are likely to make markets less friendly to discrimination than democratic government:
      1) Incentives – it does cost money to turn away customers. By contrast, because no one person’s vote has a realistic prospect of changing the outcome of an election they have no reason not to vote their values. This means that the first mover against discrimination is likely to me the market, not the government.
      2) Diversity – democratic government will hew closely to the opinions of the median voter, who by definition won’t be a member of a minority. While markets cater for majorities more than minorities, niche marketing does exist.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        This means that the first mover against discrimination is likely to me the market, not the government.

        1947: Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinsin, breaking baseball’s color barrier.

        1954: Brown v. Board of Education

        1964: First effective civil rights act.

        There’s more to the story, of course. And it’s worth noting that a law can have a broader, more sweeping, effect than any market transaction. But then it’s hard to tease out which has a bigger effect on diminishing people’s prejudices.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        There are first movers and then there is general adoption.

        The long tail is actually an interesting analogy.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Note also that there were corporations giving benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners years before the first US state legalized gay marriage. And also that, not coincidentally, judges first ordered states to recognize same-sex marriage years before any state’s voters approved it. Isn’t Democracy great?Report

  6. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Excellent post James, tho I’m confused on one point. You wrote

    if prejudice is near-universal then employers have an incentive to supply discriminatory business practices, regardless of their personal beliefs.

    However, once the level of bigotry among consumers falls below a threshold you get a shift to the other equilibrium.

    Could you elaborate a bit on the sentence beginning with “however”? It seems to me you’re describing a situation wherein the level of expressed bigotry already has fallen below a certain threshold within a population, and if that occurs market-based decisionmaking will require owners and employers to refrain from expressing their bigotry. But it seems to me that that answer begs the question – or one question anyway – being discussed in Tod’s post, namely, that the market contributes to lowering the ratio of expressed bigotry when it is above the tipping point threshold.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The key is that A) markets cater to minorities better than democracy does – democracy only cares about the median voter, but niche marketing is a real phenomenon and B) it costs a business owner or employer to discriminate, while discrimination is free for a voter.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Man, I read that and didn’t understand how it RELATES… Let’s try again with the caveat that I might be confused and you are encouraged to point out my confusion.

        In the above comment, I noted a distinction between the theoretical consequences of acting like a bigot in a prevailing non-bigoted market against the suggestion that markets will, over time, act to minimize the expression of bigotry in a prevailingly bigoted market. Have you answered that question?

        If so, could you elaborate a bit so I can understand how you’ve answered that question? (Sometimes I’m pretty slow on the uptake.)Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        Sorry, I’m not sure I follow.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Hrrrm.

        Well, there’s the issue I was wondering about, to which you answered by contrasting market solutions with government solutions. But that doesn’t answer the question I was asking, which was how in your view, do markets lower the level of expressed bigotry in a prevailingly bigoted society?Report

  7. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    The story is complicated a bit by the fact that markets allow for niches, so you rarely get either extreme. Even in a very tolerant society, there will be a handful of owners who are inclined to discriminate, and enough bigoted customers to make this viable, even profitable. The flip side is that even in a very bigoted society, unpopular minorities will tend not to be shut out completely. In the Jim Crow South, blacks couldn’t sit next to whites in restaurants, but they could still eat at restaurants. Some landlords wouldn’t rent to them, but they didn’t go homeless for lack of anyone who would. Some employers wouldn’t hire them, but the black unemployment rate was lower in 1960 than it is today.

    In short, some businesses may survive and even prosper through discrimination, if even a small percentage of consumers demand that. But simply leaving a segment of the market unserved is leaving money on the table, and someone’s going to come along and pick it up.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      At the same time, even though there businesses that did cater to African-Americans under Jim Crow, they were nearly always much inferior in quality to the businesses that catered to whites. Just like the government services for whites were superior to those for African-Americans.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        The population in question had lower purchasing power. Fewer goods available and goods of lower quality would be the order of the day whether or not businesses restricted their custom.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        And why did African-Americans have lower purchasing power? Oh, I know the answer. Racism ensured that African-Americans would get the worst jobs with the lowest salaries and generally that was all that was available to them. Unlike other aspects of Jim Crow, this wasn’t enshrined in law.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        For a variety of reasons. Some of it has to do with arbitrary preferences of employers and supervisors and some with actual skill sets. Skill sets are influenced by the operation of political and social institutions but also by the preferences of the subject population. In any case, you can prohibit limited custom, but the human capital adhering to the black population is going to change only slowly, in time periods measured in decades at best.

        One might recall also Thomas Sowell’s cross-national observations: intergroup differences in income levels are unremarkable. They do not require an administered set of disabilities in order to come into being. When intergroup differences are not manifest, you often have administered disabilities present, administered to levelling purposes.Report

  8. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I’m largely on Kazzy’s side of this over Roger’s side. This is obviously not-surprising.

    What I wonder about is whether this is one issue that is always going to be cyclical and your preferred preference or interpretation is going to depend on your ideology. Your being general, not specifically.

    A few months ago there was a very strong here about what caused the end of child labor. The argument was endless and I don’t think anyone changed their minds. The Libertarians mainly argued until they were blue in the face that technological innovation and other factors ended child labor by simply rendering it inefficient. The liberals (including myself) until they were blue in the face that it was human intervention and legislative action that brought about the end of child labor.

    I don’t think any minds were changed. I have a friend with a PhD in Economics and decided to ask him.

    His response was:

    “In a way, you both are. If it helps, you’re more right. 😛

    If perfect competition existed, frictionless markets, perfect and free information, no bargaining power and so on and so forth, then yeah, self regulation would work. Bad practices would be driven out very quickly.

    As it is, unions exist to counterbalance the bargaining power of owners, but most labor isn’t unionized. Markets fail and that’s when there’s a place for the government. So if we value a minimum standard of anything, for example safety, then it’s likely up to the government to set it and let companies operate in the constrained world.

    You’re both probably a bit delusional about how perfect markets are, but that’s what the division is rooted in.”

    So the answer as in most things is that the real change happens with mixtures of the market and legislative/human action. Both are necessary.

    My friend ended his answer by saying neither group is going to change their mind or adjust their beliefs though, so debate is probably only going to lead to an increase in blood pressure and hypertension on both sides.

    The real problem as Tod Kelly pointed out in his series is that we are all too heavily invested in our own ideologies being justified and right to see that most things change through a very complicated set of reactions that involve and do not involve our preferred policy changes.Report

    • Avatar roger says:

      Correction, your friend heard your side of the argument and said you are more right. Assuming he is a real economist and not some kind of oxymoron Marxist economist, I will bet you fifty dollars that if he came to this site and heard our actual arguments that he would agree more with the other side than you.

      In no case do I believe markets or any other institution are perfect, nor does anyone else. If you told him otherwise, you misunderstand our position. I also do not believe that markets would eliminate all child labor. Why would they?

      The institution called “Markets” did significantly create the prosperity that allowed us to no longer depend upon child labor. Virtually every economist agrees with this. This then allowed people to pass a law prohibiting it in the remaining cases.

      The same thing for safety. Markets allow us to be wealthy enough to exchange efficiency for safety. However, some will still make tradeoffs that others of us disagree with. We then pass laws to eliminate these exceptions.

      The actual historic trend is 1) markets raise prosperity 2) prosperity provides the advantages of no longer depending upon child labor or dangerous work conditions 3) these create a democratic majority wealthy enough to support regulations against less safe conditions and child labor. Unions certainly move the process forward, as they are incentivized to eliminate lower cost competitors.

      I come here to learn. Sometimes this involves changing my mind. Tod’s post changed my mind. The debates on voter registration changed my mind. Sometimes it means improving my arguments. Usually it means sticking with the dialectic process until the end. How many are willing to go the distance?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Do you have any concept of doubt or potentially not being completely right at all?

        Are you this wedded to your worldview and ideology that you cannot conceive that an opposing narrative could be correct?

        You are sort of proving his point about no one changing their mind. Your posts are becoming increasingly entrenched in partisanship and lacking in nuance.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Of course. You can even prove the point by inviting your economist friend. I am well aware that I can lose the bet. It would be worth $50.

        I read opposing world views constantly. I come to sites like this specifically to grapple with them, and I do change my mind. People just have to persuade me. And I love being persuaded.

        I ran new product development and innovation at a company which was infamously resistant to change. Sometimes I found we need to stake out an unpopular position and challenge others to prove it wrong. Odd i have to defend this to a lawyer.

        Sometimes I found we need to quit arguing and just try things and see what works. The positions which I currently hold are the ones which have yet to be defeated. Next year I hope to have a better set of champions. Don’t you?

        And btw, do you really disagree with anything I actually wrote? If so, why? You could for example point out that unions or government could pass regulations prior to the advancement of prosperity and productivity. They can. I am sure they have. But what would the ramifications be? What happens when you pass a law that people cannot have kids work when doing so risks pushing the family into starving to death? Where does the money come from to create safety nets for these families prior to rising widespread prosperity?Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        Roger, when you say that “markets raise prosperity” wouldn’t you agree that there are a lot of assumptions underlying that such as free entry and exit, transparency, etc? As well as predictable and reliable enforcement mechanisms that clearly define “property” and “contract”?

        Since we know that these market preconditions aren’t universally present- in fact they rarely are- wouldn’t you agree that they are usually constructed by societal agreement, such as government?

        In the case here at hand, wouldn’t it be fair to say that “market [as constructed by societal agreement and conforming to cultural norms and following the set of definitions which are agreed upon by Enforcing Agency] raises prosperity”.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Roger,

        I largely agree that Markets create Prosperity. You are not talking to a died-in-the-wool Communist.

        The purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that minorities had equal and protected access to the Market. This is very explicit in the two great Supreme Court cases on the issue: Heart of Atlanta and Ollie’s BBQ.

        The cases provide very clear pictures of how Black-Americans and other minorities were excluded from the Market or forced to take a secondary-outer ring position in the Market.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        So maybe its more reasonable to conclude that if we want prosperity and all the good things it brings, then rather than relying on the market forces to bring this about, we would be better off to focus on those societal forces that create the market in the first place?

        In other words, if the preconditions for a working market to create prosperity- like a stable and predictable contract enforcement mechanism, a clear understanding of property rights, a stable society that has sufficient trust and cooperation where everyone believes they can enter and leave the market freely- then maybe those factors are the ones we should be focusing on.

        Or in terms of this thread, we should ask “How can we create a society in which people of all races can sincerely believe their interests and well being are being served fairly?”Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        I have no beef with civil rights regulations. I am sure I would recommend they be worded differently if I was familiar with the actual wording. But I am not.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Sign me up, LWA.

        I agree with every word. I would just add that the “we” does not imply “we” primarily through government action.

        You are scaring me, man.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I have no beef with civil rights regulations. I am sure I would recommend they be worded differently if I was familiar with the actual wording. But I am not.

        Roger, I’m curious about this comment. Without having any first-hand knowledge of the specific language utilized in various civil rights provisions, you’d recommend changing it? On what grounds?Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        It was an educated guess. I am not suggesting we change it. I am suggesting that if you ran every word by me, that knowing me, I would take exceptions with the way it is worded. Maybe not. You know I am not very heavy handed in regulation.

        Just to add, in two years here, I am not aware of ever criticizing Civil Rights regulation.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964#Title_I

        Roger,

        The explanation is above. Only Title II and Title VII (and maybe a bit of Title VI) have to do with private enterprises. The power rests on the Commerce Clause. The rest of the Civil Rights Act is dedicated to government.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @lwa,
        Then rather than relying on the market forces to bring this about, we would be better off to focus on…a stable and predictable contract enforcement mechanism, a clear understanding of property rights, a stable society that has sufficient trust and cooperation where everyone believes they can enter and leave the market…

        Eh, those are just different expressions of exactly the same thing. Do you not understand that when we talk about markets we are talking about those things? Just what in the world do you think we’re talking about when we advocate markets except those things that make markets work well?

        It seems as though every time you write you demonstrate just how very poorly you understand our positions. Once again you seem to think you’re presenting some great discovery to us that we’ve never considered before, when it’s what we market advocates have been talking about all along.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I am not suggesting we change it. I am suggesting that if you ran every word by me, that knowing me, I would take exceptions with the way it is worded

        Ahh, I see. I agree. No doubt if they ran it by me I’d add even more commas…Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        James-
        I wasn’t arguing- I was aiming for a paraphrasing of the market components as described by you, and Roger, and others.

        Because now it seems clear that in order for a market to function the way Roger proposes, society itself needs to function.

        Yet bigotry clearly prevents that, and itself destroys the elements needed for a market to work as Roger suggests.

        So our focus should be on ways to make society function better. The market won’t fix societal problems.

        Thats all I was getting at.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’ll back you up on this LWA. It seems to me that “market forces” is a different concept than “a stable and predictable contract enforcement mechanism, a clear understanding of property rights, a stable society that has sufficient trust and cooperation where everyone believes they can enter and leave the market…

        I mean, the last sentence of the quoted phrase ought to make the distinction plain enough: interpersonal trust and cooperation aren’t definitive of “market forces”, tho they might be necessary components of an effective or efficient market, or at least are instrumental in achieving other goals or values.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        The reason I needed clarification to Roger’s assertion was that “markets” can and do exist everywhere, yet prosperity does not arise everywhere. There are plenty of market-based societies that are impoverished and not getting better.

        Defining the word “market” to presuppose a well functioning society that houses it, gives a new perspective on the notion that “markets undermine priviledge”.

        A well functioning society is one that is free of entrenched priviledge- so this means that in order to have such a “market” we need to first eliminate priviledge.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        @lwa

        “A well functioning society is one that is free of entrenched priviledge- so this means that in order to have such a “market” we need to first eliminate priviledge.”

        You went too far for me here. Let me try to explain where we part paths.

        I believe incumbents tend to use their position and power to change the rules of the game in ways which resist change, lock in incumbency privilege, and make the rules biased or unfair. This interferes with market functioning. Lots!

        However, no human institution is perfect or ever will be. Imperfect markets work too, and we do not need to perfect humanity first. Nor do we need to re-equalize everyone as per Kazzy’s hypothetical. To do so would be massively destructive — Pol Pot type massive.

        The tell-tale signs of harmful privilege can usually be revealed by coercion, often enforced in modern society via regulation. Licensing requirements or taxi medallions or guild restrictions or import quotas.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @LWA, to putvtwo of your comments together:

        Because now it seems clear that in order for a market to function the way Roger proposes, society itself needs to function…

        Defining the word “market” to presuppose a well functioning society that houses it, gives a new perspective on the notion that “markets undermine priviledge

        A well functioning society is one that is free of entrenched priviledge- so this means that in order to have such a “market” we need to first eliminate priviledge.

        You’ve rigged the game through your definition. You’ve limited what a functional society is so that definitionally a market cannot exist until that definition is met.

        But on what basis do you limit your definition of a functioning society that way except that it’s what you would prefer society to be? But this definition doesn’t work, for two reasons.

        First, a great number of societies have been quite functional throughout history and across the globe while being shot through entrenched privilege. I mean, what’s you definition of a functional society? Mine is one that promotes relative domestic peace, is relatively politically stable, and that reproduces itself intergenerationally. A problem with your definition is that it excludes every society that exists or has ever existed in the world since the dawn of civilization, if not even before.

        Second, while we know markets don’t function as well when privilege is entrenched, they do function and do help break down privilege. Here are two examples. First, markets helped destroy the feudal system in Britain. The merchant class was beginning to develop, the plague created severe labor shortages leading more and more serfs to illegally leave their home territories to find economic opportunity in the city, and the merchant class became rich…ultimately the House of Commons (the non-nobles) displaced the House of Lords.

        Second, Hernando de Soto’s The Other Path shows how, despite the intense efforts of the Peruvuan government, black and gray market activities are improving the lives of poor Peruvians and breaking down the privileges the government tries to preserve and protect. (I think you underestimate the extent to which privilege is maintained, rather than undermined, by government.). I strongly recommend the book.

        There are plenty of market-based societies that are impoverished and not getting better.

        An assertion without evidence. I challenge you to back this up by naming “plenty” of such societies, or just several, that don’t have governments creating barriers to entry and in that way ensconcing privilege.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        I agree, a lot of the confusion here is about definitions.
        Between say, a “market” and a “well functioning market”; or between a “functioning society” and a “well functioning society”.

        The definiton of an automobile is a vehicle that travels under its own power, as opposed to a horse drawn vehicle. So when a car breaks down, does it stop being an automobile? No, we just say it is an automobile that isn’t functioning well.

        Likewise, I needed clarification of what roger meant by a “market”, as in, “markets raise prosperity”.
        What he clarified, was that he meant a “well functioning market”, one that was (relatively) free of distortions and embodied all the things we itemized.

        There are of course,plenty of markets existing around the world that don’t function the way Roger asserts- most 3rd World nations for example. They have markets, if we define them narrowly to mean “people buy and sell stuff.”

        Here’s where we can make definition errors. Do we look at an impoverished nation, rife with corruption and rentseeking and entrenched privilege, and say it is “not a market”? Or do we say it is merely a market that isn’t working well?
        I’m ok either way, but lets be clear what we mean.

        Likewise, almost all societies function, to some degree.
        But I would define “well functioning society” to mean one that is (relatively) free of entrenched priviledge and corruption.

        What makes this so important is when we assert that “markets” do this, or that what we are really saying is “markets + [all manner of underlying societal conditions] do this or that”.

        Or is someone arguing otherwise? Is someone arguing that a market, even absent the preconditons we listed above, is capable of undermining priviledge and raising prosperity?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Roger,

        Even on countries we define as non-market countries have some markets operating within them, sometimes legal, sometimes illegal but more or less tolerated, or illegal with efforts to suppress them. Are these latter ones “functional”? Well, they must be to some degree, for the people operating within them, right? From a larger perspective perhaps not, because they lack the legal structure that protects individuals from non-fulfillment of contracts and constrains ability to grow and expand because doing so could draw unwanted attention from authorities.

        But even within this limited functionality, those markets improve the standard of living of those operating within them. Illegal taxi services in Detroit improve the lives of both drivers and passengers. Illegal bus services and sewing shops in Lima, Peru improve the lives of owners, drivers and passengers (see the De Soto book I mentioned). And etc. etc. And, by the way, they undermine entrenched privilege, like the taxi medallion system, or the (insufficient) public transportation system in Lima,* or feudalism in Britain.

        Or look at Taiwan and South Korea, where the material gains from improving markets not only preceded but helped lead to the demands for non-authoritarian government.

        You seem to be insisting that markets be “well functioning” before they can improve people’s standard, but that’s not true. The evidence is overwhelming, globally.

        And at other times you seem to be insisting that society must be well-functioning–lacking entrenched privilege–before markets can function well enough to undermine privilege. But the evidence against that is also overwhelming.

        Which doesn’t mean, is not intended to mean, and should not be read as meaning, that markets are the end-all/be-all. Only that even poorly functioning markets improve people’s well-being and work to undermine privilege. Not perfectly, not instantly or wholly, and not in exclusion to what government also has the potential to do. But by themselves, even in the absence of government regulations supporting a well-functioning market.

        ___________________________________
        *I’m not bashing public transportation, just Lima’s public transit system.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        James,

        I believe a single, solitary market transaction without major negative externalities in an otherwise non market economy will tend to increase the standard of living of the participants. Almost by definition — as both parties expected to gain.

        “You seem to be insisting that markets be “well functioning” before they can improve people’s standard, but that’s not true. The evidence is overwhelming, globally.”

        Nope.  The better functioning the better.  If not functioning *well enough* though, gains via markets will not be sufficient to outpace negative forces which continuously arise.  This includes exploitation between individuals (harming others for own benefit), Malthusian forces, and good old fashioned entropy (stuff wears out and energy dissipates).

        And yes, the evidence is indeed global and consistent across all history. There have always been markets and market transactions since prehistoric times, but at no time until the last few centuries have any societies substantially increased per capita living standards.  See Angus Madisson’s data. Prior to the modern era, long term per capita growth could be rounded to zero. 

        Starting in the Netherlands, and then crossing the channel after the Glorious Revolution, and then clarified by the philosophy of Mr Smith and the early economists, people started to see the value of what Dierdre McCloskey calls the Bourgeois Dignity. The value of secure property rights and freedom of production and exchange. By 1800, England had clearly gotten markets “well functioning ” enough to take at least one more step forward for than they were slipping back in most years.  Markets were secure enough for capital investment, guilds were weak enough to not prevent competition, and larger and larger complex networks of specialization and exchange began to emerge.  These self amplified with science and technology and culture and other institutions.  

        Societies began to grow, not just in population as they had in all prior eras, but in per capita prosperity. Liberal societies with science, technology and markets blazed the trail, but once technology, institutions or products or production techniques were created, they were able to spread to less “well functioning” societies. Knowledge is easier to spread than create.

        I am not even sure if we disagree, but this clarifies my position. 

        “And at other times you seem to be insisting that society must be well-functioning–lacking entrenched privilege–before markets can function well enough to undermine privilege. But the evidence against that is also overwhelming.”

        Again, history clearly reveals that the steps forward of market transactions must outpace the various steps backward. The problem with entrenched privilege, as I clarified to LWA, is usually manifested as coercion. It involves not allowing someone to buy something, sell something, own something, produce something, and so on. (granted me thinks LWA uses a different definition of privilege than me, and this may be sowing confusion). 

        I never suggested or meant to suggest that there can be no coercive privilege for markets to work. In fact I thought I argued the exact opposite. However, every coercive interference in market interactions again almost by definition prevents the creation of value (another win win prevented). In the steps-forward analogy, it is preventing a step forward.  If extensive enough, it will lead not just to lower growth but economic stagnation and decline. 

        “even poorly functioning markets improve people’s well-being and work to undermine privilege. Not perfectly, not instantly or wholly…”

        Agreed completely.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        If you mean that these markets which operate underground- like illegal taxis- are undermining priviledge, I think its more fair to say they are inflicting pinpricks on the system of privilege. But you are correct in that they do have the ability to improve people’s lives.

        But only to some degree, right? Its not like the priviledge holders are unable to retaliate. Generally speaking, the underground markets like that are tolerated exactly because they are not a threat to the system of privilege.

        In order to acheive the sort of free marketplace you and Roger are advocating, wouldn’t it require the construction of a society that could acheive consensus, a society that was able to operate according to some agreed upon framework of rules?

        Lets look at emprical examples. Grab a ranking of the world’s most prosperous and free nations, however defined. You will probably be looking at the EU, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and a few others.
        Look at the bottom end- you will see a lot of African nations, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, and so on.

        Whats the operative variable? What common thread binds the top together, and what binds the bottom?

        Certainly not anything to do with a “market” ! Sweden and Haiti both have private property, both have people buying and selling stuff. Both have coercive legal monopolies that restrict free trade. Apparently the market is functioning well enough in one, but not in the other.

        Isn’t it reasonable to say that all the top nations have peaceful stable cultures where there is widespread agreement and cooperation? Where the basic rules of the marketplace are honored, allowing people to participate?
        And conversely, the bottom nations are all marked by corruption, war, ethnic division and hostility to each other’s identity?

        So like I said upthread, maybe the real operative variable behind prosperity isn’t whether or not we allow unlicensed taxis, but whether we create a culture in which all people are enfranchised and treated fairly?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Roger, I believe I confused you (and perhaps everyone else) by putting your name at the head of a reply that was actually replying to LWA.

        My bad.

        Re-read my comment in light of his last, and it will probably make more sense to you.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        LWA,

        I would start with this or other economic freedom indexes:

        http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

        They imperfectly try to rank countries based upon observance of the rule of law, relative degrees of market freedom, and relative lack of interference with work, trade and investment. Note which countries have higher market freedom scores and which have lower scores. They match your list nicely.

        That said, I agree with you on the importance of culture at fostering things like democracy, the rule of law, honest officials, universal rather than tribal values, sanctity of property and so on. I do not agree this culture is IMPOSED. Indeed it must be organically grown. Markets themselves tend to reinforce these behaviors. Think feedback loops not linear causality.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Roger, I believe I confused you (and perhaps everyone else) by putting your name at the head of a reply that was actually replying to LWA.

        Heh. That was confusing. I’d add that part of the confusion I’m experiencing in this sub-thread began way up here, when you criticized LWA for adopting a question-begging definition of markets which was actually his paraphrase of Roger’s definition of markets. (Which you in turn rejected, which in turn made your next comment incorrectly attributed to Roger even more confusing.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        The only part of that with which I agree is that you are confused.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        I am just all around confused. Let’s try again some other, less confusing day.

        It is all good.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The only part of that with which I agree is that you are confused.

        Heh. You’re too funny.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Roger, I agree that things have gotten confusing on this thread. But even then it hasn’t been a waste of time. I think I’m very close to identifying some specific points of disagreement about these issues – or actually, where I disagree with you – which is useful if I’m ever gonna end up agreeing with you and we don’t continue to talk passed each other. So yeah, let’s pick it up another time. Or even via email.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        SW,

        Yeah, definitely. I try to make sure I do not skip any of your key arguments by using the slow cut and paste quote and respond method. However, I think sometimes we miss how others are using words and thus talk past each other.

        Send me an email if you prefer.

        I THINK I agree with you two that effective markets depend greatly upon underlying culture. I would add that culture is itself greatly influenced by the existence of markets. If this means that prosperity is significantly an aspect of culture, then we three all agree.

        Where we may not agree is what this implies.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      You do not give mention to a third factor: changes in parental preference, driven by general affluence. As the wages of the father improve (and the mother improve), they may be more willing to forego child labor as a contribution to the family’s well being. This is certainly true cross-sectionally in any society. The question is whether it manifests itself longitudinally (and that would be influenced, though not determined, by the relationship between the productivity of 10-year-olds to 40-year-olds over time).

      Looked at another way, the distinction between child labor and adult labor is not factitious, but the general understanding of the scheduling of assumption of adult responsibility is mutable. By way of example, I will offer one (of my eight) great-great grandfathers. He had five years of instruction in a rural schoolhouse, about six months with a tutor (studying classical subjects) and then began his apprenticeship as a turner. He was twelve years old at that time. By the time he was married (at twenty), he had been earning a living for eight years. Adolescent leisure and study can be understood as a luxury good (in that society) that acquired features of standard practice as society grew more affluent. A similar process occurred with secondary schooling (between roughly 1895 and 1945), with tertiary schooling (between 1945 and 1980) and with orthodontic care (between 1960 and 1990).Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      The institution called “Markets” innovation did significantly create the prosperity that allowed us to no longer depend upon child labor.

      Roger, I have a hard time believing a) that you believe what you say you believe and b) that you deny you’re an ideologue. THe comment from the econ PhD was that government intervention had more of an effect on ending child labor than market activity. But for your thesis so make any sense at all – ie., that market activity did more than legislation in ending the practice – then the market would have already created disincentives for sustaining the practice of child labor. But the market – by definition! – would only punish products and practices utilizing child labor if the practice were already proscribed by the majority of market participants. But … it wasn’t.

      This is an example of exactly what Rod criticized you for doing the other day: attributing every technological and cultural advance to the Power of Markets. But that’s just a bunch of hooey as even you admitted (sort of…) on that thread. Unless of course you want to subsume technological as well as cultural progress under your definition of markets. I hope you don’t want to do that tho: it would entirely trivialize the concept you keep advocating for.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        The regulation is only practical after we get to a level of productivity and prosperity where we can afford it. Otherwise it will do more harm than good, and I will bet most economists will agree.

        I have never argued that markets will totally eliminate risky jobs or child labor. Has anyone? What was their argument? I am really asking.

        I got into quite a debate on the question of what share of per capita improvement in living standards comes from markets. My controversial and unprovable conclusion was that markets are one of several key institutional ingredients for prosperity (the others include science and technology and broader culture). However absent markets, I doubt we would have been able to beat the Malthusian Curse. Thus markets are necessary but not sufficient.

        Brandon added that you can take science and technology anywhere without market institutions and you still have poverty. Necessary. Not sufficient.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      There is something to be said for both perspectives. It was legislation that finally killed child labour, but without the increases in productivity the libertarians were talking about, all banning child labour would have accomplished is making it too expensive for poor people to afford to have children.

      For this reason, I tend to think of the social movements that get legislation like that passed are endogenous to levels of economic output. What we consider intolerable depends on what we can afford to consider intolerable.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Man I hate to say this again – cuz it sounds like I’m beating a live and kicking horsey – but this

        but without the increases in productivity the libertarians were talking about, all banning child labour would have accomplished is making it too expensive for poor people to afford to have children.

        just seems to me to beg all the questions in play. First, that technological advances rather than markets were the cause of increased productivity. Second, the idea that people in 1910 (rather than 1916) would be made “too poor to have children” when the libertarian argument in favor of markets seems to keep repeating that people in 1910 were economically better off than the folks in any previous generation, and that “better-offness” can be attributed to markets.

        Am I the only one that sees a circularity here? If so, I’d really like to be corrected on my confusion.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        What we consider intolerable depends on what we can afford to consider intolerable.

        Quote of the Month right there.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        @will-Truman There’s truth in that quote but I’ll go with, “That’s because you live in Kentucky, while I live in Portland. ” which has already become a meme in our house.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @stillwater,
        First, that technological advances rather than markets were the cause of increased productivity.

        What are the rates of technological advance with and without markets?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        What are the rates of technological advance with and without markets?

        Notice that this question excludes the crucial part of my reply: the causal link. If you mean by that question to imply that technology advances more quickly in a capitalistic economy, I won’t disagree. But that doesn’t mean that advances quality of life or reductions in poverty are caused by markets. There are issues of over- and under-determination here.

        Surely markets (in one sense of that word or another) have a role to play. no one denies that. At least, no one on this board.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        SW,
        You agree that markets have a role to play in advancing the quality of life and the reduction of poverty. What causal link are you looking for? Could you clarify please or give an example?

        And what do you mean by “There are issues of over- and under-determination here.”?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        If you mean by that question to imply that technology advances more quickly in a capitalistic economy, I won’t disagree. But that doesn’t mean that advances quality of life or reductions in poverty are caused by markets. There are issues of over- and under-determination here.

        Actually, it does mean advances in quality of life and reductions in poverty are caused by markets, because X and Y can’t be so neatly separated as you did in the part I quoted before.

        If X causes Y and Y causes Z, then X is the ultimate cause of Z, and Y is just an intervening variable.

        So if markets (X) cause technological advances (Y) and technological advances cause standard of living gains (Z), then markets (X) cause standard of living gains (Z).

        But of course what it doesn’t mean is that standard of living improvements are solely caused by markets. Government is also a variable that that enters in. For example in creating public sanitation systems. (And government also plays some causal role in markets, and some in creating technology–although less than markets–while markets also play a causal role in government; a complete diagram of the variables is a bit messy, with feedback loops between them.). So I’m not really overdetermining anything.

        But my original point was simply that the question of whether it’s technology or markets that improves living standards was not meaningful because the two are not independent of each other.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        What causal link are you looking for?

        Take a specific case. The introduction of the threshing machine led directly to a reduction in the number of labor hours required to tend certain types of crops. The technological advances realized in that specific piece of mechanization demonstrably caused a reduction in the amount of agricultural labor required to tend certain types of crops. That’s a causal link which can be discussed independently of specific conceptions of markets, capitalism, private property rights, governmental structures, social norms, etc.

        On the other side of the debate, you and others have been arguing that markets are causally efficacious. On my understanding of things, that’s a conceptual confusion. A market is the place where buyers meet sellers, and is therefore a concept for an abstract property, and abstract properties cannot be causally efficacious. By way of responding to this view, you proposed (and James made a similar comment above in response to LWA), that markets are to be understood as not merely the conceptual place where buyers meet sellers, but as including certain types of social norms, legal constraints, practices and beliefs that in fact are causally efficacious, but which shouldn’t be (at least in my view) part of the definition of markets. At best, they are preconditions (perhaps necessary pre-conditions, but that claim requires argument, one which Roger makes frequently) for market activities to incentivize and reward desirable outcomes.

        So the point I’m making is two-fold. First, that that those preconditions logically can’t be part of the definition of markets without collapsing the distinction between markets and social norms, or markets and governmental regulations. And further, that doing so begs the question of the role markets play in society by including precisely what people like me and LWA want to keep distinct.

        Second, that it’s only by including those idealized preconditions in the definition of markets that markets can be viewed as causally efficacious. But without that inclusion, no such conclusion follows. Markets are merely the (conceptual) place where buyers meet sellers and therefore they have no causal properties. But as I argued above, including those preconditions in the concept of markets begs the question of the role markets play in society. It also begs the causal question, for pretty obvious reasons.

        Given all that, here’s my understanding of what LWA is saying in a series of comments on this and other threads: He’s criticizing (or objecting to) a more expansive conception of markets frequently employed here at the League for requiring – as part of the definition – certain types of idealized social norms, certain types of idealized legal structures, certain types of idealized individual belief structures, etc. which as a matter of fact aren’t the case. Or to quote him:

        “Defining the word “market” to presuppose a well functioning society that houses it, gives a new perspective on the notion that “markets undermine priviledge”.

        A well functioning society is one that is free of entrenched priviledge- so this means that in order to have such a “market” we need to first eliminate priviledge.

        For my part, my criticism – which effectively amounts to the same criticism, I think – is that an expansive view of markets which includes a certain type of social structure begs the question on a number of levels: causally, conceptually, normatively, empirically. None of that ought to be knew to you Roger, since I’ve made the same types of arguments repeatedly in the past. Maybe we’re getting closer to what the disagreement actually is between us.

        And I want to add that I think we might be losing the forest for the trees here. The focus of this discussion is the extent to which markets are the cause of certain types of social and economic progress. If a person adopts an expansive view of markets which includes certain types of causally efficacious social norms and individual beliefs and legal constraints and etc, then they may conclude that markets are responsible for all of it. But if so, then we need to come up with some new terms to tease out the distinctions which people are actually interested in discussing. Personally, I’d rather just use the terms we’ve always used to describe these things and just get clearer on what we mean by them and how the processes those terms refer to interconnect.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Stillwater,

        A threshing machine can be causally linked to improved human well being. So can division of labor and exchange. And that is what markets are all about. One person specializes and thus can be more efficient and can then exchange for everything else created by other specialists. I think this is clearly just as causal.

        A market as i am using it, is not a place. It is a particular institution which enables collective problem solving in a particular domain of scarce resources. Normal features include property rights; rules on contracts; prices; and freedom to compete, cooperate, sell, buy, work for and employ whomever mutually agrees to do so with you.

        I will not argue that markets exist outside of social norms. Neither does science.  However I will argue that some institutions are better than others at solving problems within their domain. For an example, the French Academy of Science originally operated on different institutional rules, and later changed because it was viewed as less effective than the British system.  

        Similarly, to the extent that every voluntary market action or transaction without significant externalities creates value for all participants involved, then it is possible to crudely compare market institutions. Relatively speaking, how secure are property rights? How free are people to compete? To buy, sell, hire, fire, invest, produce and transport?

        I am fine with acknowledging that there is no clear line separating modern markets from government rules. Logically I do not think the rules have to be enforced by governments, and plenty of empirical examples of exceptions exist. However, why quibble? .

        “So the point I’m making is two-fold. First, that that those preconditions logically can’t be part of the definition of markets without collapsing the distinction between markets and social norms, or markets and governmental regulations. And further, that doing so begs the question of the role markets play in society by including precisely what people like me and LWA want to keep distinct.”

        I do see the two as intimately intertwined.  I am sorry that bothers you and LWA.

        “A well functioning society is one that is free of entrenched priviledge- so this means that in order to have such a “market” we need to first eliminate priviledge.”

        As I clarified to LWA and James, I agree that entrenched privilege interferes with markets. It does so, sorry to go bold… BY COERCIVELY INTERFERING WITH POSITIVE SUM MARKET ACTIONS AND INTERACTIONS.  I have no idea how you guys define harmful privilege, but I define it as interfering in market activities, often via changing the rules themselves. In my definition we begin fixing privilege by eliminating interference. How about yours?

        “The focus of this discussion is the extent to which markets are the cause of certain types of social and economic progress. If a person adopts an expansive view of markets which includes certain types of causally efficacious social norms and individual beliefs and legal constraints and etc, then they may conclude that markets are responsible for all of it. But if so, then we need to come up with some new terms to tease out the distinctions which people are actually interested in discussing. Personally, I’d rather just use the terms we’ve always used to describe these things and just get clearer on what we mean by them and how the processes those terms refer to interconnect.”

        Personally I reject what Robert Pirsig calls the Subject Object Metaphysics. I think things are really patterns of interaction, and the distinctions and divisions we make are (extremely) useful mental tricks. It is useful to separate the cake from the baker, but the divisions are somewhat pragmatic. Pragmatically, it behooves us to separate market transactions from the norms and culture of society, but the two are just as connected as the baker and the cake. IMHO. Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Roger, I’m not sure how to respond to this comment. You only barely touched on the argument I made earlier, but those points of contact were basically expressions of agreement with what I was writing. Which is odd, since the claims you are agreeing with are part of an argument critical of your view. All I can figure is that you don’t understand what I’m arguing. And that’s on me for not expressing the argument more clearly. But at the end of the day, it’s not that important either.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        @lwa @jm3z-aitch @stillwater

        This interview Of Barry Weingast by Russ Roberts clarifies how I use the term privilege. Powerful interest groups seek “rents” or privilege from the government. Privileged status gives more power which is converted into additional market interference.

        Begin cut and paste:

        Russ: What creates rents? 

        Guest: Oh, the state creates rents. Those in power. As you said, those in power want to remain in power. How do they do it? And in the face of multiple sources of violence? 

        Russ: And by ‘rents’ you mean goodies. You don’t mean landlords. You mean they create profits and profit opportunities that are excessive relative to what they otherwise would be. 

        Guest: Exactly. They create monopolies, for example. They allow certain groups to have complete control and in fact run certain regions for example, as they see fit. And they run it in an extortionary way. There’s a prevalence of monopolies. There’s limits on the degrees of competition. There are tariffs. All kinds of different instruments that countries use to manipulate the market for political ends. And in this case to push rents to people who are powerful in a way that those who are powerful are better off cooperating with the regime. And consuming the rents instead of fighting. 

        Russ: So it’s a payoff. Essentially a payoff.

         Guest: Yes. 

        Russ: It’s a bribe to keep certain groups incentivized to keep the status quo. 

        Guest: Yeah… We call the ‘proportionality principle’, or principle of proportionality. That is, it’s the idea that rents have to be in proportion to the power of the different groups.

        End cut and paste.

        http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2013/08/weingast_on_the.htmReport

  9. Avatar roger says:

    @lwa

    “If we aim at a societal outcome – for instance a society free of injustice and oppression, one where everyone is both liberated and supported – it only makes sense that we include the tool of cultural norms alongside law and market.”

    I agree strongly. Oddly, when I bring up the issue of shame and using social mores to police each other I often have gotten push back from the left. Shaming racists can be effective. But so can shaming girls who have multiple kids that are unable to support them. So can shaming people free riding on others. So can shaming people not giving back to others.

    Do you agree?Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Rog-Should we be shaming people for being obese? Should we be shaming gay people for being gay? Atheists for being atheist?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Should we shame people for being libertarians? For being liberals? Conservatives? For living in different circumstances and holding different beliefs than … well … me?

        Yes!Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        We should only shame bad people. Now, who gets to determine who’s bad?Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Maybe we should just leave shaming up to parents. They know best how to screw up their own kids with shame, fears and general emotional pain. The law and gov services should aim to be respectful of all.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I got this.

        Apply as needed.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Ohhh that could be a great ringtone….well maybe thats just me…but it would be great.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        People are looking into a calm pool and seeing their own reflection…

        First question, is who is “we”? Certainly when I ised the term above it is not the law or the government. It is parents, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Cultural norms such as this are decentralized. That is how LWA specifically used the term too.

        Is anyone suggesting “we” as defined above shouldn’t use shame, mockery or the tools of cultural norms? Please clarify. Why? Why not?

        What is the difference between using cultural norms against racists and wealthy people who don’t give back to society and using it against conservatives?

        This same line of defense came up last time I brought it up. Cultural norms are like a tool and can be abused. We could shame people for being gay, for example. But, is the problem here with the tool or misuse of the tool? Are you recommending the use of this tool be shamed out of use? (sorry, couldn’t resist)

        PS — I have read Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals and have watched the Daily Show. The tool of cultural norms and mockery are alive and well on both sides of the political spectrum and are specifically called out by Alinsky as a powerful cultural tool of the left. Correct?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Greg,

        In your view does shaming have any role? Is it positively a good thing to shame racists, merely OK, or is shaming them a bad thing? (Note I’m assuming that if you say it’s a bad thing you’d not in any way be implying that racism itself is good, just that the tool–shaming–is bad.)

        I ask sincerely, because I can’t quite read you here.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The answer to the efficacy of shaming almost has to be “it depends.”

        There is value in using social pressure to enforce norms. But it’s only valuable as long as it works. So often it’s cheap, easy, self-satisfying, and totally ineffective (possibly backfiring).

        A single mother of five people by five different fathers has little reason to care what I think. Likewise, a guy with five kids to five different women who doesn’t pay child support. My disapproval is pointless. The Confederate Flag is actually another example, where those most likely to say “We should shame them into dropping it!” are those whom southerners are least likely to worry about pleasing.

        Such social shaming and stigma pretty much has to come from people who have credibility and standing within their various community structures. Family members, members of “the tribe” (whatever tribe), and so on.

        The other issue is that it has to be the thing that people have a degree of control over. That’s one of the big problem with fat-shaming. Even though that does often come from people with standing, it’s harmful because it’s something that is terribly difficult to change and made more difficult by shame.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        @will-truman Not only does it backfire, all this schoolmarming and scraping of fingers only fuels the fire at the Pity Party Cookout. I swear, every other Country Music Song these days is some idiot redneck fiercely standing up to some perceived slight, real or imagined, the slings and arrows of Outrageous City-Type Persons intent upon destroyin’ his Country Boy existence.

        Ignorance has become a virtue and the Cone Pone Confederate has a new lease on life. The more offended anyone gets with them, the louder they sneer. It’s as I’ve often said about the efficacy of embargoes: they only serve as barrel hoops holding the rotten staves of these old barrels together. Nobody’s going to shame these people into believing anything. They’re slaves to their dreams, more precisely, their nightmares.Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      I do agree that cultural mores and shame can be a positive and useful tool; but of course they can spiral out of control very easily.
      It reminds me of the debate about majority rule- it is useful, but there also need to be limits placed on what it can decide, and how.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Thanks Will and LWA. I agree with both of you to a great extent. I wish more people had chimed in.

        I perceive wodespread cognitive dissonance on the topic. In some cases it almost goes to the point of “people should be ashamed of using shame.” Huh?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Shame only works where society can enforce shunning. Without the shunning, the clamping down on an offender, shame is worse than useless. It’s just so much ineffectual and ultimately contemptible whining.

      There’s no shaming racists in America because there’s no polite company from which to exclude them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Interesting thought. I’d add that shunning itself only works if the shunned care about the shunner.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        The shunned find common cause against the shunner. This is precisely why Protestant theology is so schismatic: churches attempt to shun the dissenter only to discover, to their horror, the dissenter is not alone. Off he goes, with half the congregation in tow, to start another church and commence the cycle again, to become a shunner in his turn.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Yeah. Being shunned together is a great emulsifier and cohesive power.

        I like to talk about Deseret as the only place in the country where Evangelicals and Atheists have common cause, by virtue of both not being Mormon.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        You see a similar phenomenon in Park City, where the Shunnees and the Skiites make common cause.Report

  10. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    So a more-racist state can prevent a less-racist town from desegregating

    Or prevent locales from protecting equality for homosexuals, a fairly common event over the past couple decades.Report

  11. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    I have a bone to pick with commenters who bemoan the coerciveness of the CRA and the assumption that the markets will weed out prejudice if we all wait patiently. When I moved to Tokyo in 2001, many real estate agencies displayed signs reading “We do not rent to foreigners.” Despite steering clear of these agencies, I still had much more difficulty finding a place to live than I expected. Everything that would have seemed to work in my favor—fluent Japanese, Japanese wife, worked for a Japanese company (and NOT as an English teacher), had a spousal visa and the necessary 6 months’ rent up front—somehow failed to make us attractive as potential renters. The agents that gave us the bad news time after time never said, it’s because you’re a foreigner, but we always got turned down. Rival agents played us off the landlords, apparently: “Sure, you could give them a lease, or you could give it to a nice, normal, trouble-free Japanese couple like the Watanabes here . . .” It was enormously stressful, especially to beg for time off work just to get stood up by asshole realtors who’d answer the phone with, “Sorry, I meant to call and say it was no use, you know, because of your situation, but I guess I forgot.”

    I would hardly compare my experiences to being an oppressed minority, but I tended to feel harshly toward well-meaning friends who’d tell me, well, some people just don’t want to rent to foreigners, you know, crime and all that . . . . If anyone had told me that the market would sort it all out soon enough, or who am I to decide who a landlord should rent to, or suggest that perhaps if I’d chosen to be born into a cultural group with a better image with regard to industriousness and educational attainment, etc., let’s say it wouldn’t have been helpful. As they say, it was the worst kind of prejudice—the kind against me.

    If a law had been passed telling landlords they couldn’t turn me down just because of my race, I would have been pretty happy about it. If someone told me twelve years later that Japanese society had gone downhill because of that law, I’d be pretty skeptical, especially someone who’d never seen a sign saying that their kind was not allowed.

    If it’ll save anyone some typing, yes, I’m aware that Japanese and American society differ in many salient ways.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      No doubt there’s much entrenched bigotry in Japanese culture and a public and government not overly eager to eliminate it. So I don’t critique anything you say there. But what about the characteristics of the rental housing and construction markets? That is, is it easy to build new rental housing there, so there is plenty of housing supply, or are there restrictions that keep the housing market tight? Because particularly with what you say about agents playing landlords, it sounds like that particular discrimination survives in part–emphasis, in part, not solely or wholly–because landlords can successfully fill apartments without resorting to gai jin tenants.

      I’m no expert on Japan, but from what little I know I would suspect both that there are restrictions that severely constrain the amount of housing that can be built, and that land availability itself constrains that (which by itself would limit how effective the market could be in the particular case).Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        These are good questions, but the entire thing is a gray area for me. Once we found a place, I stopped thinking about it (I believe the kids term this “FYIGM”). I’ve been told the extortionate requirements – six months’ rent up front, for instance – took hold after WWII, which makes sense, and continue even though the housing market doesn’t seem any tighter than American cities I’ve lived in.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Japanese law entirely lacks any sort of civil rights legislation which might impose penalties for bigotry. Things are getting much worse under Shinzo Abe.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        What have you heard about Abe that makes you say that? I’m curious about the view from out there. The atmosphere here is the same as ever, though of course I’m just an apolitical salaryman.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Japan is about the size of California and with half the population of the United States.
        Most of the country is also mountainous.

        The restrictions on building are more of a matter of nature than anything else.
        Anecdotally, they do seem to build housing in area and ways that America will not. There are a lot of boarding house type of living situations. Mainly for young bachelors.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I’m still skeptical that free-building requirements would get rid of the no-Gaijin requirements.

        Japanese culture can be great, wonderful, warm, human, and extremely compassionate. They can also be extremely xenophobic and closed off. I had students who were still considered “Korean” and held Korean passports even though they were the third generation to be born in Japan. This strikes me as a problem that a super-free market is not going to solve.

        Then again, I am also skeptical of the mythical capitalist who will sell you the rope that you use to hang him. People are not a combination of Vulcans and Ferengi.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Thanks KF.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’m still skeptical that free-building requirements would get rid of the no-Gaijin requirements.

        James said as much, in his final parenthetical. (That land constraints can limit market effectiveness in this case.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        ND,

        When you’ve got a product that you can’t sell at the price you want to sell it at or to the people you want to sell it to, it’s amazing how unpicky you eventually become. Oversupply is a great thing for consumers, and a bitch for suppliers. My statement about housing markets assumed that absent government constraints on building (which is not to say unregulated, just no making it unduly difficult to build new housing), in most places there would be enough housing built to absorb all the demand. But as Will notes, in land-constrained places (Tokyo, SanFran), that may not happen even in the absence of regulatory constraint. Nature itself may force an undersupply,* which sucks for consumers but is great for suppliers, who are then free (absent legal rules preventing them) to indulge in all kinds of discriminations.
        _________________________________________
        *There’s perversity in the fact that some of the most desirable places to live are desirable precisely because of the factors that constrain building an adequate supply of housing–oceans and mountains. The reason housing is so much cheaper in Houston is part regulatory, but also part a fact of nature.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Shinzo Abe has been playing footsie with the zaitokukai, Japan’s version of the Brown Shirts. So have half the right-wing politicians in Japan.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott says:

        So, to the extent that the lack of housing is a government-created problem, surely the fact that it disproportionately effects non-citizens is a barrier to correcting that problem.

        If Japan had fairness in housing laws the way we do in the US, then the housing problem becomes the problem of those with the power to demand changes in the law.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        The consequences of discrimination against a particular minority in a free market also depends heavily on how much of the cash that minority has. If there are very few of them or if they don’t have much money, screwing that market segment comes at a very low cost. A quick glance at Wikipedia says that Japan is 98.5% Japanese, 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Chinese and 0.6% “other.”

        Given the general prosperity of Japan, it seems unlikely that “other” reflects a much higher average buying power, so the cost of never doing business with them shouldn’t be that high.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I also experienced some of that when looking for an apartment in Japan (I decided to move out of company housing because I figured out I was being overcharged on rent. They charged both of us the full rent for the apartment!)

      I eventually moved into a “Gaijin House”

      Though there were a lot of experiences that I never had that were allegedly common like Japanese people refusing to sit next to you on the train.

      I was in Japan for 2002-2003. What was the name of the American in Hokiado? He managed to earn Japanese citizenship and a passport but was still told he could not get into certain hotsprings because he was a Gaijin?Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot says:

      ND, I’ve found “Japanese bigotry” to be pretty overblown as well. We Americans congratulate ourselves on our love of freedom, while the Japanese tout their commitment to fairness. Both cultures—all cultures—have serious blind spots. Few foreigners who talk about the problems of Japanese society have any idea what they’re talking about.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I found that they were very interested in learning about Judaism.

        Though there were still somethings that caught me off guard. Like this exchange from my second day of teaching:

        Me: Why didn’t you like the restaurant?

        Student: It was too noisy?

        Me: Why was it too noisy?

        Student: There were too many Chinese people

        Rest of the class nods in agreement.

        As stereotypes go, this is a bit bad but not really bad but it certainly caught me off guard.Report

  12. Avatar NewDealer says:

    J @jm3z-aitch ,

    Agreed about oversupply but this raises some questions.

    How do libertarians feel about suppliers taking proactive steps to limit their own supply?

    You can see this happen with clothing companies and secondary resellers. They almost always have left-overs at the end of reach season even after doing a super “everything must go sale”. Sometimes this leftover stuff will be sold to secondary outlets and department stores like Century 21 (an North East chain that sells remainder clothing a season or two late). Many time excess stuff is supposed to be sent back to the manufacturer/designer for destruction or destroyed themselves.

    There is also the fact that I’ve noticed that store’s have individual psychologies about sales. Some are willing to do 70-80 percent off if they need to. Others do not want to do below 40-50 percent because they think super-sales “hurt their brand” So they might be willing to take a loss on some unsold merchandise rather than looking desperate with a super-sale.

    Suppose a landlord owned a 50-unit building and figured out that he could decide not rent to 20 of the units and still make a profit because it allows him to raise the rent on the other 30 and have fewer maintenance costs. There are also a lot of landlords switching to using their units for Air BNB instead of long-term rentals (the later thing is probably against the law).Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      @newdealer

      How do libertarians feel about suppliers taking proactive steps to limit their own supply?

      Interesting question, and it’s going to result in a TL/DR response, because I think this has to be explained very carefully, in considerable detail.

      Depends what kind of steps they are, I suppose, but I see your emphasis is on limiting their own supply, rather than limiting the opportunity/ability for others to supply, which to me makes a crucial difference. Attempting to limit others’ supply smacks of classic rent-seeking (i.e., landlords lobbying for restrictions on others building more–competing–apartment buildings), while limiting one’s own supply sounds like a classic market response. E.g., Ferrari could sell more cars, but has made a market-based decision to not do so.

      So let’s look at your clothing example. It’s not just about limiting supply. We’re talking about things they couldn’t sell even at fairly steep discounts. Demand is limited for these items. Likely buying them, or at least that quantity of them, was a mistake. The money the retailer spent on them is a sunk cost, and sometimes maybe even a net loss (depending on how many sold, at what prices), so the business just wants to get something back for it. At that point, any cash they can get for it is better than not getting anything for it.

      Additionally, those hard-to-sell items are taking up valuable floor/shelf space that could be used for items that will (the retailer hopes, at least) sell for a better return-on-investment. So keeping the hard-to-sell clothing has two separate costs–the sunk cost that’s not generating a return, and the opportunity cost of crowding out more sellable clothing. So they may move it to another locale where it might sell better, or sell it in bulk to the international rag trade, which also sends much of our used clothing that we donate to Goodwill, etc., to the developing world.* I’m sure some gets destroyed, but I would guess it’s mostly high-end stuff where, as you note, they’re worried about brand reputation.

      As to limiting housing by renting fewer than the total number of apartments in a building, I don’t see a problem. The purpose of the market is not to provide everything just anybody at all wants at whatever price they want it, or even to make all good things available and affordable to people of ordinary means, but to move goods to their highest valued use. And since value is subjective, we can’t sit back and objectively determine what is the “real” highest valued use.** So if, say, 5 tenants value a half-filled apartment building more than 10 tenants value a filled apartment (i.e., collectively the 5 are willing to pay more if half the apartments are empty than collectively the 10 are if each apartment is occupied), then that’s its highest valued use.

      This sounds bad, because it means 5 apartments are off the market that could otherwise be rented. But what if the building didn’t exist yet, and the developer was choosing between a 5 apartment building (with built-in buffer space between tenants) and a 10 apartment building? Would we damn him for not building the 10 apartment one? If so, why not damn him for building a 15 apartment building, or 20, or…..? What’s our stopping point, or at least what factors would we use to make an estimate of how many apartments the developer “should” build?

      As I noted a while back on this blog, San Francisco’s housing crunch could easily be resolved by building blocks of tall apartment buildings in the Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods, and in an earthquake-prone city, that’s some of the most stable land. There are a few apartment buildings out there, but not many, and not very large, so should we condemn developers (and/or the city, if regulations are prohibitive) for not building 100 story apartment buildings out there?

      Or assume the 10 apartment building has to be torn down and rebuilt (say it was damaged beyond repair in an earthquake). All the tenants have to leave. Landlord is not at all happy about his lost building, but doesn’t have a choice. He’s not just being an asshole who wants to kick ordinary people out so he can build luxury condos. But at that point he’s faced with exactly the same decision as the asshole who wants to build luxury condos–what’s going to be a smarter investment?

      If he rebuilds with 5 (instead of 10), how is that really functionally different than the landlord who takes 5 (of 10) apartments off the rental market?

      So, no, I don’t have a problem with it, and I don’t think most libertarians would. If it turns out to be a bad business decision, too effin’ bad for the landlord.***

      ______________________________
      * Not directly on point, but amusing: It’s possible, in developing countries, to see people wearing t-shirts proclaiming the San Antonio Spurs the 2013 NBA champs; but impossible to spot those in San Antonio. The shirts get made up beforehand, so they’re ready the instant victory (hopefully) is achieved, and dumped into the international used clothing market when victory is (sadly) not achieved.

      ** This is one of the fundamental flaws of centralized planning. Some theoretical ways to mimic market valuation have been proposed, but none of them really work particularly well. But we’re going to have some central planning nonetheless, because how else do you organize a military, or create public parks? That they’re centrally planned doesn’t make them inherently bad, but it does mean the amount produced and the price we pay are not likely to reflect our aggregated subjective valuations. But we have no way to do that aggregation accurately, not just because the information is locked into each individual’s own unique head, but because (as behavioral economics research has shown) we, ourselves, don’t always know how much we value something until the choice is real. In lab experiments, valuations concerning real objects, like a coffee cup, and real money, show a divergence between what individuals say when the decision is hypothetical and when they are actually asked by the experiment to sell a coffee cup they’ve been given. Economists call this the endowment effect.

      *** There’s a great myth that libertarians care about businessmen. Well, not a total myth, because stupid and thoughtless libertarians just might. Libertarianism as a set of ideas, however, does not give a rat’s behind about businessmen; it only want to free them from what they consider inefficient constraints so that the market can function as efficiently as possible (efficiency meaning moving goods and services to their highest valued uses; nothing more, nothing less). Businessmen hate markets, in some ways, because they hate having to face the competition that comes with it, and which is what creates efficient outcomes. Libertarians who understand this say “screw them; put the competitive screws to the buggers.” In this they–and anyone who thinks similarly–are direct intellectual descendants of Adam Smith (although he would never have been so vulgar as to write “screw them”).Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        James, wouldn’t San Francisco hurt its brand name if they built a bunch of NYC-style apartment buildings on the Sunset and Parkside parts of the city? When people imagine San Francisco, it conjures a certain images in their mind. Since tourism is very important to San Francisco’s economy, many people in San Francisco have a vested interest in preserving this image.

        My solution to the Bay Area’s housing problem is to turn the land around BART stations into high-density, mixed-use neighborhoods rather than the current situation where most of them are surrounded by parking. Parking near BART stations could be in the form of a garage rather than a lot. It’ll consume less room.

        NYC just needs more apartment buildings and since NYC is mainly seen as skycraper city in people’s imagination; they can be built without hurting the image of NYC. I’d de-suburbanize Staten Island to.Report

      • Avatar Jeff Lipton says:

        LeeEsq:
        James, wouldn’t San Francisco hurt its brand name if they built a bunch of NYC-style apartment buildings on the Sunset and Parkside parts of the city? When people imagine San Francisco, it conjures a certain images in their mind. Since tourism is very important to San Francisco’s economy, many people in San Francisco have a vested interest in preserving this image.

        For the longest time, you couldn’t have a building which obscured the Coit Tower. When the TransAmerica Building was proposed, people were aghast and horrified because it broke that rule. Once it was approved, people got used to it, and now there a bunch of skyscrapers down toward the Ferry Building.

        I’m not sure how SFers would feel about skyscrapers elsewhere. I think the general attitude is that they’ve got their own neighborhood; they don’t need to invade anyone else’s.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        @leeesq,
        James, wouldn’t San Francisco hurt its brand name if they built a bunch of NYC-style apartment buildings on the Sunset and Parkside parts of the city?

        Maybe, but that’s not the question I was asked.

        Still, I don’t think the Sunset, or at least the Parkside, reflects “The City’s” brand anyway; not enough victorians out there? Now skyscraper apartment buildings in the Haight or the Castro….there’s a brand killer. (Although big phallic symbols in the Castro wouldn’t be wholly inappropriate.)Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Lee’s inquiry does bring up an interesting aesthetic and philosophical question.

        What makes a city a city?

        I think the reason Matt Y annoys so many people on so many issues is that he ignores this and goes straight for simplistic and often wrong economics. James you lived here for a time. You know that San Franciscans (and many other people) like to define themselves buy being “not New York” in all things.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        James,

        One of the best brunch spots is now in the outer Sunset:

        http://outerlandssf.com/Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Cities have “brunch spots.” Suburbs have a selection of all the best chain restaurants with an occasional non-chain restaurant for the hoi palloi who dream of more. Rural areas have diners, which can be stretched to include Ihop or Dennys.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        NYC is the diner capital of the world.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        ND, to what extent should we say it’s okay for a place to put it’s own self-image over the affordability that creates the most problems for the non-wealthy? I am sympathetic to a community’s legal ability to do this, to an extent, but this comes across to me as a case where the vulgar marketeers have the better argument, as far as popular benefit goes. To the extent that they do this, it makes it harder for me to take the San Fransiscan lamentations over inequality as seriously as I otherwise might.

        Greg, lots and lots and lots of suburbs (including pretty much every one I have ever lived in) have more than the occasional non-chain. They may not register as much because they aren’t as familiar, but they’re there.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Will,

        I am not sure. I think it is a very difficult issue but one that matters in a democracy. I think it is certainly more complicated than Matt Y snidely denouncing people who disagree with him as being proponents of NIMBYism. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Does San Francisco need to build more high rises? Yes. Will San Francisco be San Francisco if all the old low-rise housing was demolished and turned into high rises? No. I imagine that would be detrimental to the city. Portland and Seattle and many other cities are in the same category here.

        Greg,

        One of the (many) things I miss about the NYC-Metro area is the 24-hour diner. Also a lot of suburbs in NYC and SF have local independent restaurants including restaurants people will travel for. Case in point:

        The French Laundry in Napa or the Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the NYC-Metro area.
        Really good restaurants are the one thing that can be found in almost any location if one knows how to look. A year or so ago, the New Yorker ran an article about a really really good Chinese chef who made a career going from one strip mall to another in the DC metro area.

        http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/03/01/100301fa_fact_trillinReport

      • Avatar greginak says:

        No Kazzy, New F’n Jersey is the diner capital of world.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I was inserting my tongue parts in my cheek pouch btw. At most cities do tend to have much great variety of foods. Suburbs often have good non-chain restaurants to go along with a million chains. We just ate our favorite restaurant last night(no its not a chain). Non chain restaurants just have much less neon in general which leads them to be less well known.

        I do miss diners from back east. When ever we go back i insist we have a meal in one. Preferably one with good baked goods. ( canoli…..drools)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        ND, well within limits I think that cities ought to have the right to democratically restrict housing. I don’t think their decision to assert this democratic right puts them above reproach because of democracy. I mean, it would be worse if it was done undemocratically, so there’s that, but that only gets you so far.

        My big thing, I guess, is that inequality is exacerbated by land scarcity. And that cost of living is as important a factor of quality-of-life as income is.

        You may be right about San Fransisco. I don’t think you’re right about Portland and particularly Seattle, though, from what I know about them. Most generously, San Francisco is just a special case in that regard.

        It’s enough to make me root for San Jose. Or better yet, Austin.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        ND and Will, my ultimate belief is that the needs of actual living people should usually overcome a sense of aesthetic or the needs of the past but should be tempered. San Francisco needs more housing in the form of medium to high rise apartments. Its probably best to put them in the outer parts of the city towards the Pacific ocean or south or in SOMA near the Financial Center, where they would either be unobtrusive or blend in better with existing high rises.

        I’m pretty sure that Seattle and Portland do not have the housing issues that NYC and San Francisco does since both of them have population densities of under 10,000 in the city proper. I think this is especially important to note for Portland because it has one of the best public transportation systems in the United States and is evidence that high density isn’t needed for public transportation. I understand that Seattle has okay public transport as these things go in the United States.Report

      • Avatar Jeff Lipton says:

        San Francisco is a special case in that its boundaries are pretty firm. Surrounded by water on three sides, it can only grow to the south, and there only by absorbing currently existing cities. So the only way it can go is up, and only in certain places (you will almost certainly NOT see skyscrapers on Nob Hill, for example). This makes how to handle an increasing population very difficult.Report

  13. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Discriminatory business practices make perfect sense if most of society prefers the outcome they engender, as in State 1 in James K’s formulation. If Population A prefers areas, businesses, schools, and restaurants where they can be assured of not encountering members of Population B (except as employees, maybe), it makes sense to cater to Population A’s preferences, especially if Population B has less purchasing power. The poorer Population B is likely to stay that way, especially if opportunities to interact with Population A are limited to customer/employee interactions.

    In this state, upscale businesses that compete to supply the affluent with exclusive goods and services wouldn’t necessarily need to advertise that their wares are off-limits to Population B (though in a really bigoted society, they may have to, if catering to even the most affluent members of Population B had the effect of killing their reputation with Population A). Affluent members of Population A, in fact, could go about their lives with little or no reason to interact with Population B on an equal footing, and wouldn’t need to harbor negative feelings toward Population B to get this outcome.

    However, in State 1, discriminatory business practices would be most important to Population A’s least affluent members, because they help guarantee a gap between them and Population B. The poorest members of Population A could at least patronize stores, etc. that refused Population B’s business, perpetuating the status gap between themselves and Population B.

    What puzzles me about asking if the Civil Rights Act is “useless” is that we don’t have to stroke our chins and wonder what kind of society we’d have (in the U.S.) if there had been no CRA. When I went to school in Jackson MS, you could talk to people who’d lived in that society, and you could go through reams of media from that time and get a good sense of what dynamics were in play. The “Whites Only” signs were most important in places where economic segregation wouldn’t work, like public facilities. Cheaper hotels and restaurants needed those signs because poorer whites needed to be assured that they wouldn’t have to interact with non-whites as peers.

    I saw above where @roger explained to @kazzy (or maybe it was on another thread – this comment has gotten so long I am now too lazy even to scroll up and check) that he was comparing the messy real market to an idealized pretend market. However, in advocating letting the market eliminate injustice, aren’t we doing the same thing? I recognize that no one is arguing that we go back to pre-1964 Mississippi, but if we are saying that a free and fair market will naturally eliminate discrimination, must we discount out of hand actual case studies where the F&FM failed to develop because discrimination was more highly valued?Report

    • Avatar roger says:

      @krogerfoot

      Great comment. When I lived in Mississippi twenty five years later with a mixed racial family I found it interesting how voluntarily segregated people still were. It was like there were two of everything.

      My take is tha other than extreme views by one or two commenters, the arguments from the market side is not that they will eliminate all discrimination. We basically agree with Tod. I do at least. Market participants can even use them to pursue racism (publish and sell a pro-racist magazine.) The counter argument is simply that imperfect markets do have a lot of dynamics which undermine tribalism and racism and discrimination.

      Despite the title, I don’t think this topic is so black and white.Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Actually I should say, “as per the title”Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot says:

        Roger, thanks very much for your reply.

        By “twenty five years later,” do you mean c. 1989, i.e. 25 years after the CRA? That’s about when I was in Jackson, living in what now seems like a freaking mansion for $200/month (in a “bad part of town”).Report

      • Avatar roger says:

        Yeah, we bought our first house in Jackson in 1987. Coming from the west coast was eye opening, to say the least. We only lived there one year.Report

  14. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Two things to add:

    1) The Oregon baker who refused the gay couple is shuttering its doors because of public outcry, not government action. This is as it should be. It’s a shame New Mexico could not be as progressive in action.

    2) When discussing racism & markets, many have pointed out that laws & government actions provided a lot of legal & social support for market discrimination. This still happens today. Balko has an update on one such case.

    Even though the judge did the right thing & threw out all the charges, the fact remains that none of the guilty actors in this case will ever see any significant consequences from it, and thus are free to find another family to target. This sends a message to the community, that such blatant racism is A-OK by the locals.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian says:

      Wow, I’m not really surprised they wen’t out of business. I would have thought it already would have happened. None the less, that makes my day.Report