[Paleopsych] reinventing capitalism
Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Fri Oct 28 01:38:04 UTC 2005
Interesting column today from Thomas Sowell, could be a supporting story
for your book / workshop in December.
Rosa Parks and history
By Thomas Sowell
Oct 27, 2005
The death of Rosa Parks has reminded us of her place in history, as the
black woman whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man,
in accordance with the Jim Crow laws of Alabama, became the spark that
ignited the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Most people do not know the rest of the story, however. Why was there
racially segregated seating on public transportation in the first place?
"Racism" some will say -- and there was certainly plenty of racism in
the South, going back for centuries. But racially segregated seating on
streetcars and buses in the South did not go back for centuries.
Far from existing from time immemorial, as many have assumed, racially
segregated seating in public transportation began in the South in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be
surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem.
Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the
19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to
segregate the races.
These owners may have been racists themselves but they were in business
to make a profit -- and you don't make a profit by alienating a lot of
your customers. There was not enough market demand for Jim Crow seating
on municipal transit to bring it about.
It was politics that segregated the races because the incentives of the
political process are different from the incentives of the economic
process. Both blacks and whites spent money to ride the buses but, after
the disenfranchisement of black voters in the late 19th and early 20th
century, only whites counted in the political process.
It was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of the white voters
to demand racial segregation. If some did and the others didn't care,
that was sufficient politically, because what blacks wanted did not
count politically after they lost the vote.
The incentives of the economic system and the incentives of the
political system were not only different, they clashed. Private owners
of streetcar, bus, and railroad companies in the South lobbied against
the Jim Crow laws while these laws were being written, challenged them
in the courts after the laws were passed, and then dragged their feet in
enforcing those laws after they were upheld by the courts.
These tactics delayed the enforcement of Jim Crow seating laws for
years in some places. Then company employees began to be arrested for
not enforcing such laws and at least one president of a streetcar
company was threatened with jail if he didn't comply.
None of this resistance was based on a desire for civil rights for
blacks. It was based on a fear of losing money if racial segregation
caused black customers to use public transportation less often than they
would have in the absence of this affront.
Just as it was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of whites to
demand racial segregation through the political system to bring it
about, so it was not necessary for an overwhelming majority of blacks to
stop riding the streetcars, buses and trains in order to provide
incentives for the owners of these transportation systems to feel the
loss of money if some blacks used public transportation less than they
would have otherwise.
People who decry the fact that businesses are in business "just to make
money" seldom understand the implications of what they are saying. You
make money by doing what other people want, not what you want.
Black people's money was just as good as white people's money, even
though that was not the case when it came to votes.
Initially, segregation meant that whites could not sit in the black
section of a bus any more than blacks could sit in the white section.
But whites who were forced to stand when there were still empty seats in
the black section objected. That's when the rule was imposed that blacks
had to give up their seats to whites.
Legal sophistries by judges "interpreted" the 14th Amendment's
requirement of equal treatment out of existence. Judicial activism can
go in any direction.
That's when Rosa Parks came in, after more than half a century of
political chicanery and judicial fraud.
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