Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Flanagan On Human Rights

I didn't intend to write on Tom Flanagan's G&M piece this morning, but Impolitical called me on it. This bit is both the silliest and most cold-hearted part:

In a competitive market, discrimination is costly to the discriminator. An employer who refuses to hire workers because of race, religion or ethnicity restricts his own choices and imposes a disadvantage on his firm. Meanwhile, his competitors gain by being able to hire from a larger pool. The same logic applies to restaurateurs turning away potential customers, or landlords refusing to lease to people of particular categories. (I'll never forget the experience of owning rental property in the recession of the 1980s; I would have rented to Martians if they had showed up with a damage deposit.)

The argument applies no matter how rampant prejudice and discrimination may be. Those who discriminate impose burdens on themselves and confer advantages on their competitors. Competitive markets don't immediately abolish discriminatory practices, but they tend to erode them, not by trying to enlighten bigoted people, but by making discrimination unprofitable.

I should say to start I have lived in a very non-competitive housing market--Toronto in the late 80s, where a land-lord cord charge you $400 a month for a cot next to the furnace--and at the time ran into a mixed race couple, one very pregnant, who could not find a place that would rent to them. I gave them a few phone numbers to try, and wished them luck.

(If I remember correctly, a "balanced" rental market is about 5% vacant. Toronto's current rate is 2.1%, hasn't been competitive in at least 25 years.)

Now, that's just an anecdote, but Flanagan himself is offering nothing but deductions from sterile economic theory. To assume that 1) people make these kinds of decision rationally, or 2) will not routinely make rational or at least calculated decisions on the basis of values other than economic values (religious values, for example,which might entail a disapproval of Martian sexual practices), or 3) can never become wealthy enough to indulge their prejudices... is naive in the extreme.

More generally, this "if we didn't have human rights laws the market would make human rights problems go away" is the same line of nonsense Ezra peddles. I'm surprised Flanagan didn't try to blame it all on the Canadian Jewish Congress.

17 comments:

Reality Bites said...

While what he says may be true as far as the big picture is concerned, at least at times where the demand for customers, employees and tenants exceeds the supply, it is of no help whatsoever to the individual being discriminated against.

Ted said...

"discrimination is costly to the discriminator"Reminds me of a phrase I heard often in my childhood: "This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you."

Ti-Guy said...

Both the links to The Globe and Impolitical lead to a Wikipedia entry on Chuck Cadman.

Not that I need to read what Perfesser Flanagan wrote. His John Nash game theories of everything lead me to believe that all he does is play Sims all day long.

bigcitylib said...

Try now. link thorugh quote to get his full text. Others go to Imp. and Flans wiki page.

Ti-Guy said...

Thanks.

It's really the same column that's been written thousands of times. And the same arguments and the same commenters even (our friend Jermo Sapiens is over there, calling people Marxists and idiots).

What is it with these imbeciles who recommend scrapping our institutions instead of fixing them? It might be related to the general failure of management I've been reading about lately.

Although, among lawyers, I'm seeing this push to get rid of the commissions as an opportunity to free up a market for their services. You just have to look South to see how the whole issue of civil rights is handled. Canadian lawyers must see dollars signs in their eyes...

Instead of getting rid of the Commissions, how about we get rid of the lawyers. Not all of them. Just most of them.

Dr.Dawg said...

Shoot. You scooped me.

bigcitylib said...

You hit em high, I'll hit em low. Together, we'll "adumbrate" them.

crf said...

Mogadishu, the shining city upon the hill. Where the free market entirely determines the value of your life.

rabbit said...

Except that the arguments are correct. It does cost money to discriminate.

This does not mean that every business is free of discrimination. It does mean that there is constant pressure to hire on merit.

The greatest human rights atrocities during the 20'th century were perpetrated by governments. That we should all now trust governments to wield an iron fist of control over those evil business people is pretty rich.

Ti-Guy said...

That we should all now trust governments to wield an iron fist of control over those evil business people is pretty rich.

Once more, the government isn't wielding an iron fist; it is providing a mechanism for dispute resolution.

You can argue that, but please stop LYING so grandiosely.

rabbit said...

Ti-Guy:

No iron fist? In many parts of the world, we're seeing many calls for far more extensive government control of business. People are calling for a new world order when it comes to free enterprize.

Governments control through laws, and laws are enforced through, well, force. No matter how good or bad you think government is, it ultimately functions at the point of a gun.

Ti-Guy said...

No iron fist? In many parts of the world, we're seeing many calls for far more extensive government control of business. People are calling for a new world order when it comes to free enterprize (sic).

Stop it. I'm getting turned on.

Governments control through laws, and laws are enforced through, well, force. No matter how good or bad you think government is, it ultimately functions at the point of a gun.

Man, you're right up there with the paranoid losers that infest Delisle.

Stop typing and storm Parliament Hill already. The fresh air and exercise would do you some good.

rabbit said...

Anyone that knows any history has good reason to be distrustful of governments.

I don't disaprove of governments and I don't disprove of dynamite, but I refuse to trust either.

Ted said...

Ah, but without dynamite, where would society be? Historically, for one example of the impact, transportation and the growth in the economy would be generations and generations behind. No canals, transcontinental railroads, national highways. Forget as well mining, quarrying, and construction industries.

What would Butch and Sundance (and countless weak imitators) have thrown into the bank?

Worst of all, without dynamite, we would never have had Looney Toons.

Ti-Guy said...

Anyone that knows any history has good reason to be distrustful of governments.Not you fools in Alberta, though. You didn't have to participate in any rebellions. Your whole god-damn sorry ass of a province was created by legislative fiat...by the federal, Ca-na-di-an, government to boot.

My people tried to blow up the Montreal Central Station. When you approach that level of opposition to government, then we'll talk.

...just kidding. But blow up something, for God's sakes. Calgarians parading in the street in Nazi costumes is getting really dull.

Ti-Guy said...

...not to mention, a little gay.

Paul S said...

Someday, Liberals might even extend human rights to nannies. I know it's a stretch, but stranger things have happened.