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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jim Crow Flies Again






In 1947, baseball integrated. The Brooklyn Dodgers fielded the first black player, Jackie Robinson, since the 19th century.

By 1953, there were fewer black professional baseball players than there had ever been.

This is the often overlooked aspect of the process of desegregation. The Negro Leagues, one of the most successful black-owned businesses in America, collapsed within a few years. Today, after over seventy years of integration, there are fewer blacks playing major league baseball then their proportion of the population.

So, did integration really help or harm black Americans?

People generally overlook the fact that segregation or discrimination cannot really harm a minority so long as you have a free market.

When the major leagues refused to hire blacks, as they did, beginning in the post-Reconstruction era, this merely created a healthy niche market for black baseball. Once the major leagues let in blacks, this market collapsed; black spectators quickly switched to the same league as everybody else, where they could see the best white as well as the best black players.

Integration was a net gain for the consumer, not for blacks specifically.

So it must be in any business. If one employer arbitrarily bases his hiring decisions on race or sex instead of on ability and application, he is voluntarily waiving a business advantage to any potential competitor. That gap, over time, is sure to be filled.

The only way this cannot be so is if there is a monopoly in that area of the market, or if government gets involved. Only government can pass laws and regulations binding on everyone.

This was the problem with "Jim Crow" laws in the US South – they legally required discrimination. All that as needed to end that injustice was to rescind all such laws.

Instead, we doubled down. Governments everywhere passed laws making it illegal for private businesses and private individuals to discriminate. Such laws could add nothing to the fight for equality. The free market would have taken care of that. At the same time, they violated the fundamental human right to freedom of association, which is no small matter. They violated property rights, which is almost as destructive.

Worse, not content with this, governments moved swiftly to reintroduce racial discrimination, with "affirmative action." Such laws can do nothing to prevent discrimination against the one group; Negro Leagues would just have arisen. At the same time, they require real discrimination against the other.

Jim Crow lives. He works for the government.

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