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.