In my last post, I suggested that the market should solve the problem - insofar as it exists - of hotels discriminating against gays. This prompted the question: why shouldn't we leave the problem of discrimination against blacks to the market too?
Because there are differences.
Blacks face multiple problems. Black men do worse at school. Even controlling for this, they are substantially (pdf) more likely to be unemployed than whites. And when they get jobs, they get lower pay (pdf) than whites, even controlling for human capital.
By contrast, gay men face only the last problem. And this takes the form of not earning as much more than straight men as their superior human capital would warrant. Lesbians don't even suffer this.
This means gays have more market power than blacks: the pink pound has been a cliche for years, but the black pound has not. Gays' problems have been social, not narrowly economic.
To this we should add the fact that product markets tend to work more efficiently than labour markets: sustained unemployment is common, sustained excess capacity less so. This means markets can - and do - cater for gays better than blacks.
However, the very fact that blacks' economic circumstances are worse than gays sends us a lesson - that the law alone is insufficient to combat discrimination. Racial discrimination has been illegal for over 30 years. And yet blacks are a long way from economic equality.