Discrimination

Friday, Jan 07, 2011

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Whereas, Europeans kept my forebears in bondage some three centuries toiling without pay,

Whereas, Europeans ignored the human rights pledges of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,

Whereas, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments meant little more than empty words,

Therefore, Americans of European ancestry are guilty of great crimes against my ancestors and their progeny.

But, in the recognition Europeans themselves have been victims of various and sundry human rights violations to wit: the Norman Conquest, the Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous insults and speculations about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish descent,

I, Walter E. Williams, do declare full and general amnesty and pardon to all persons of European ancestry, for both their own grievances, and those of their forebears, against my people.

Therefore, from this day forward Americans of European ancestry can stand straight and proud knowing they are without guilt and thus obliged not to act like damn fools in their relationships with Americans of African ancestry.

Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent, Walter E. Williams, Gracious and Generous Grantor, http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/gift.html.

Should people have the right to discriminate by race, sex, religion and other attributes? In a free society, I say yes. Let’s look at it. When I was selecting a marriage partner, I systematically discriminated against white women, Asian women and women of other ethnicities that I found less preferable. The Nation of Islam discriminates against white members. The Aryan Brotherhood discriminates against having black members. The Ku Klux Klan discriminates against having Catholic and Jewish members. The NFL discriminates against hiring female quarterbacks.

If places of public accommodation were free to racially discriminate, how much racial discrimination would there be? In answering that question, we should acknowledge that just because a person is free to do something, it doesn’t follow that he will find it in his interest to do so. An interesting example is found in an article by Dr. Jennifer Roback titled "The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars," in Journal of Economic History (1986). During the late 1800s, private streetcar companies in Augusta, Houston, Jacksonville, Mobile, Montgomery and Memphis were not segregated, but by the early 1900s, they were. Why? City ordinances forced them to segregate black and white passengers. Numerous Jim Crow laws ruled the day throughout the South mandating segregation in public accommodations.

Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights represented government countering government-backed Jim Crow laws.

One does not have to be a racist to recognize that the federal government has no constitutional authority to prohibit racial or any other kind of discrimination by private parties. Moreover, the true test of one’s commitment to freedom of association doesn’t come when he permits people to associate in ways he deems appropriate. It comes when he permits people to voluntarily associate in ways he deems offensive.

The Right To Discriminate, Walter E. Williams, June 2, 2010, http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/articles/10/TheRightToDiscriminate.htm.

As historical evidence amply demonstrates, racial preferences alone are not a sufficient condition for racial preferences to be effective. Preferences tell us what people would like to do; however, it is the constraints, income and prices that can tell us what they will find it in their interest to do. It took laws to facilitate racial preference indulgence and the common features of those laws is to restrict voluntary exchange and impede the operation of the market.

The Encyclopedia of Public Choice: Discrimination, Walter E. Williams, 2004, http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/wew/articles/recent/discrimination.pdf.

Whenever you choose, you reduce the opportunity set for somebody. Choosing requires discrimination... I like to define discrimination solely as the act of choice. That is when you choose, you discriminate. That is scarcity requires for us to choose. And scarcity is the cause of discrimination.