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August 02, 2007



"why shouldn't we leave the problem of discrimination against blacks to the market too?" I recommend that that's what we should do, subject to regulating monopolies and such, as mentioned below. It'll also "tackle" the dreaded labour market discrimination against Jews, Chinese, Indians, and even Scotchmen, that so afflicts us, as we are reminded every time we visit hospital.

Bob B

"Black men do worse at school."

Whether it's reassuring or not, a claim about black youths doing worst at school nowadays is certainly arguable on the findings of recent research:

"An ethnic breakdown of this year's GCSE results [2004] in England shows that 'black African' girls are scoring higher grades than 'white British' boys. . . The analysis of exam results shows that all ethnic groups are improving their average results - but it also shows wide differences between boys, girls, rich, poor, blacks, whites and Asians."

"The research says: 'One striking fact is that poor white students are the lowest performing of all groups at age 16, showing a substantial deterioration in their relative scores through secondary school.'"

"White British boys from poor families perform worse at GCSE than almost any other racial group. Official figures show that only 24% of those entitled to free school meals gained five or more good GCSEs last year, compared with 65% of the poorest Chinese boys and 48% of poor Indian and Bangladeshi boys."

The Economist report of 26 October 2006 on: The forgotten underclass:

"Last year white teenagers entitled to free school meals—the poorest tenth—did worse in crucial GCSE examinations than equally poor members of any other ethnic or racial group (see chart). In the borough of Barking and Dagenham, the contrast is sharper still. Just 32% of all white children there got five “good” GCSEs last year, compared with 39% of blacks and 52% of Asians. In Leicester, just 24% of whites got five decent GCSEs"


Yes, Longrider was expostulating on this. So the question remains, Chris - which is better to discriminate against - a black or a homosexual?


Yes, Longrider was expostulating on this. So the question remains, Chris - which is better to discriminate against - a black or a homosexual?

As a black homosexual, I'm particularly interested in the answer to that one.

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.

True. The law alone is not enough to prevent discrimination. However, without it, people would have much less of a chance at getting justice when they are discriminated against.

The law cannot change how you feel about me, but it can spell out how you may not treat me, and give me a course path to legal recourse if the law is violated. Rather than just sucking it up.



Your argument is flawed.

You're making the assumption that blacks' poor economic performance is purely the result of discrimination. What if other factors are at work, such as the current cultural trend of many young black males to shun schoolwork as being 'too white'.

If poor economic performance is the result purely of racist discrimination, then why do Indian children outperform their Anglo peers? Do racists only discriminate against blacks? It doesn't make sense.

Better stick to your original argument. Let the market punish the bigots.

If a company prefers to hire inferior white workers, or a hotel to turn away paying black guests, then they will soon go out of business. And that is the beauty of the free market.


I'm with Terrance on this one. "Let the market punish the bigots" doesn't hold up to history as the markets haven't punished bigots by Chris' own argument. "Racial discrimination has been illegal for over 30 years. And yet blacks are a long way from economic equality."

Does making it now legal to discriminate against black then improve their situation? No. So how can you use that same argument against anti-discrimination laws against sexual orientation (this isn't just about gays)? I don't believe it does.

If markets can regulate the moral beliefs of society, then why haven't they? More laws won't make things better once the first law against discrimination is on the books, but it gives those discriminated against an actual path for recourse besides the magic hand of the market that doesn't care one bit because morality is not a state of a market, it's a state of society.

Markets govern economics, not morals. Slavery is very economic, but very immoral. Society stopped slavery, not an empty pocket.


"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."

I suspect that gays appear to have 'superior human capital' because it was generally only those who had superior human capital who could get into the few occupational environments that were relatively accepting of gays and out of the majority which certainly were not. So the gay couples in the late 90s analysed in that research you cite is certainly not an unbiased sample of gays throughout society.

Of course, this just supports the argument that the market didn't, and doesn't, eliminate discrimination. But even if it was true that gays really were more economically privileged, I don't think that means we should ignore discrimination against them. Discrimination against Jews in Germany was excused partly on the grounds that they were portrayed as particularly economically succesful, after all.


If it is wrong to discriminate against Blacks because of weaker market power and economic circumstances, does that mean that should that situation be resolved hoteliers should again be free to put up signs saying "no coloureds"?

Neil Harding

The market is always going to be distorted. Forget economics for a moment. It is right that the Law sends a message to society that these bigots behaviour should not be tolerated. That is all that needs to be said. As Terrance says - it would be much harder to change societies' bigots if left to the market.


"the Law sends a message"

There's a debate to be had about whether Laws a for 'sending a message' or making a measurable difference to the issue at hand. Many people are critical of this approach.

However, I can envisage a case where a law might provide suitable 'cover' for those of a progressive temperament, who do wish to accept gay/black people but face resistance from within their industry or from other clientel.


I agree that the initial assumption that all differences are due to discrimination is an assumption too far.(Aside:I'd actually say it is purely doctrinaire politics, often exacerbated by a lack of basic logic, or at least blindness it.)

Markets don't regulate morals they only reflect them, (given that markets are us collectively - when allowed to be free). Nor do laws change peoples hearts.

Why not allow markets to solve discrimination - they can do little worse that the repulsive racial profiling we currently have. (Worse than apartheid SA - and so you trust what any future govt might want to do with that info..I digress) Away would go any suspicion that people got the job for the colour of their skin (racism and inequality before the law if ever their was)

Wade Xavier

Blacks make up 13% of the population in the U.S. Gays/Lesbians make up 10% (at most), 5% (at least) of the population. Even at that rate, the vote-with-your-feet approach would have more impact for Blacks than for gays.

Add to this the fact that the rest of the population is FAR more likely to stand behind a boycott based on anti-Black discrimiation than one based on sexual orientation, and you'll see where I'm going with this.

Ask a few people on the street if they'd support one or the other cause (don't present them to the same people, however, or they might perceive the similarities). I bet you'll get a lot more support for Blacks. Does that mean people aren't prejudiced against Blacks? Of course not. It means that the social norm is to avoid being PERCEIVED as racist. The social norm against homophobia, however, is almost nonexistent...especially if they pull out the trump card of RELIGION.

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