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The Market Makes People Pay for Their Prejudices

As Art Carden notes, today is the 77th birthday of the great economic historian Robert Higgs. One of Bob’s many pioneering books is his 1977 Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy, 1865-1914.

I thought of Bob’s research and scholarship yesterday as I watched 42, the 2013 movie, starring Chadwick Boseman, about the baseball career of the great Jackie Robinson – who would yesterday have turned 102.

I don’t know if the scene depicted here is historically accurate or not. (This scene isn’t, at the link above at “42,” listed as being among the movie’s historical inaccuracies.) Either way, this scene does capture much of the manner in which market competition actually works to impose on bigots the costs of exercising their irrational prejudices. It depicts also the fact that many bigots, unwilling to pay those costs, change their behavior for the better.

It’s beautiful to behold!

Contrary to popular belief, such competition was at work in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as Bob Higgs documents in his book. Indeed, the reality of such competition is what drove state and local governments during the Jim Crow era to forcibly impose racial discrimination by enacting Jim Crow legislation.