Free market forces stifle public racism

I’ve believed for a long time that all the civil rights legislation of the 1960s could be repealed with little effect because the sort of racial discrimination that existed before they were enacted would not return. I’m influenced in that belief not only by current conditions and the education I’ve received through a long life, but also by a childhood experience that I remember well.

When I was about ten years old, which would have been in 1955,  a popular cafe on a busy street in my town changed ownership.  The new owner promptly put a sign in the window that said, “No Colored Trade.”  He may as well have put up a sign that said “going out of business” because that is what happened almost immediately.  Whatever he paid the previous owner was probably a loss after liquidation of the hard assets.  The customer good will had been destroyed in one fell swoop.

My home town was in the Cowboy State of Wyoming. This same result would not have occurred in South Carolina at that time, but today it surely would even if no statutes against it existed.  The anti-discriminatioin attitudes that existed in the equality state are now extant throughout America and have shaped and become free market forces.  In other words, the “law” now protects minorities from discrimination, and mere “legislation” is superfluous.  [Here I am making the distinction between law and legislation that Friedrich A. Hayek made in his seminal book, Law, Legislation and Morality]

Whether the legislation of the 1960s was necessary or whether market forces would have repealed Southern* Jim Crow attitudes is open to question.  I’m willing to accept that the legislation was necessary, but that surely is no longer so. For a sterling example of how free market forces today are preventing private racism from entering the public square, see A Sterling Economics Lesson by Donald Boudreaux of George Mason University.

*These attitudes were not merely “Southern”, unless you count South Boston.

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