one of the clearest signs of the nonsensicality of the current cancel-culture wokester- warrior lies in the startling internal inconsistency of their world view. foremost, they would have us believe that:
there is systematic, institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia enshrined in capitalism, free-markets, and free society. this entrenched bigotry is not self-correcting, it is self-reinforcing and a free market cannot solve this problem. therefore, government must step in and solve it for us to achieve “equity” and to give voices, opportunities, and status to marginalized peoples.
whatever one believes about this particular claim and its basis in facts (and we’ll get to that in a moment) it stands in bizarre opposition to and contradiction of one of the other key tenets of this movement which seems to be:
OMG, these new social media outlets keep cropping up to support and give voices to the people we keep excluding and canceling and discriminating against. how can we stamp them out? we need the government to ban them!
holding these two views at once would seem to imply a keen lack of comprehension of market forces and how they work. it’s like watching a befuddled child try to get both sides of a seesaw to go down simultaneously because they do not understand that pushing one side down causes the other to rise in response and always will unless you actually break the seesaw itself. let’s look.
the free market is anti-racist
it always has been. it is also anti-sexist, anti-homophobe, and anti-discrimination of all sorts. so why do so many would be social planners howl that this is not so? i suspect the answer lies in the difference between concepts of CAN and WILL. what the would-be market interventionists seem to take issue with is that, left to their own devices, people in a free market are free to discriminate and give in to all these nasty, bigoted impulses that they are purported to possess. this is, of course, true. uncoerced individuals are, indeed, free to do such things and perhaps some will. BUT, and this is a massive but, doing these things carries enormous costs and those costs are built into and ruthlessly enforced by a free market.
if you would, for example, discriminate against women and fail to hire them despite their being equally qualified and effective as workers to the point where they systematically earn less than men do for performing the same job at the same level, then you have created an opportunity for those who do not share your misogyny. i can hire these women at lower wages than you pay your workers and out-compete you because my inclusiveness gives me a lower cost structure. price in a market drops to the marginal cost of the marginal producer. all else equal, i’ll eliminate your profits and put you out of business. your discrimination will carry a high price and someone will take advantage of it, in fact, many will. over time, some may find that some “minorities” are so effective that they will bid the price of their labor up to ABOVE the rates of averages or even above allegedly privileged groups.
(thanks to @Mark_J_Perry for the graphic)
free markets do not create nor allow to persist price variance in equivalent goods or services. if your labor is of the same quality as mine and i get paid twice as much, why would any rational employer choose me over you? if the answer is “because racism” then such an employer dooms themselves to higher costs structures and being non-competitive.
this strange conceit that capitalism and capitalists are so obsessed with profits and exploitation that they will oppress workers or move production to china and yet would not avail themselves of a labor force right here at home that’s 20-30% cheaper and every bit as capable seems absurd. of course they would. this is why economic marginalization is self correcting. every time you successfully marginalize a group, you create a profit opportunity for someone else to come along and un-marginalize them. this is the literal core of a free market mechanism. it does not matter if you have the right to choose to be bigoted. if you do so, it gives me an advantage over you and i will put you out of business. it’s survival of the fittest, and bigotry is not an adaptive trait.
this, of course, applies to serving markets as well. the meteoric rise of fox news back in the 90’s was a prime example. the other “mainstream” news networks adopted sufficient editorial slant to alienate and marginalize a large portion of the market. then murdoch came along and got filthy rich un-marginalizing them. this same trend seems to be going on in media today as MSM (including fox) bleed viewers and readers because their products, for the most part, stink. the world moved online and this turned facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, etc into the new media aristocracies. then they began to act just as biased and high handed as their forbears. apparently media barons simply cannot learn this lesson or perhaps wielding so much power in the public debate is simply too seductive to resist putting thumbs, then elbows, and finally full body weigh on the scale. now they too are now discovering that you cannot simply squeeze commerce more tightly and keep it in your hand. it squirts out and flows elsewhere.
suddenly, we have substack and gab and parler and rumble and who knows how many other new mediums for expression propping up because… wait for it… this is what the free market does. there is only one way to thrive in a free market: discover an unmet need and serve it by making people better off. every unmet need is an opportunity. every case of discrimination and marginalization in hiring, allowing participation, or serving a group is a pile of easy money left on the table for the un-bigoted and they will notice and they will come and they will solve the problem. it’s what markets do.
once upon a time, there were more niche publications catering to groups of marginalized races or sexual orientations. many have faded and the opportunity for new ones now seems small. this has led some to mistakenly presume that racism is winning, but this is exactly wrong. it’s a sign that racism lost. these people and their voices did not go away, they just got less marginalized and are now part of the “mainstream.” discussing gay rights in the NYT in 1955 was a non-starter. today, it’s straight through the middle of the overton window on twitter and facebook. discrimination faded, so the opportunity to earn outsized profit by catering to those communities faded with it. then, the seesaw moved and the new discrimination against political and scientific views has created a new round of marginalized folks and un-served consumers and a new group of capitalists have, once more, stepped up to serve the unserved and un-marginalize the marginalized.
rumble picked up hundreds of thousands of new subs to hear the trump interview that facebook and instagram banned.
substack picked up the likes of glenn greewald and provided a feline friendly home for gatos that the bullying bluebirds at twitter de-catformed.
the free market is so good at meeting the needs of the un-served and because doing so is highly profitable. gordon gekko was correct: greed is good. not only is it good, it’s decidedly anti-racist/sexist/whateverist.
the correction of such bigotry is the consistent emergent outcome of a free market, and thus, ironically, it is opposition to such free markets that promotes bigotry. this is where the wokesters really go off the rails.
institutionalized bigotry comes from government
when you see durable bigotry that is not being rapidly addressed by the free market, you can usually find “government” at the root of it. lunch counters did not segregate due to free market demand. they segregated because of jim crow laws. it was the state, not the market that was barring free association and free association is the key driver of any free market. the market broke and failed to function because the profits from doing so were fenced off and placed off limits.
homosexuality did not fail to integrate into american society because the free market did not allow it. it was illegal. it was illegal because some allegedly “moral majority” made it so and broke the market mechanisms by which it would come to be included. when those laws were lifted and free association permitted, market actors rose to serve this community and it then merged into mainstream groups and is now one of the most courted groups of consumers in the US. all you have to do is get the state out of the way and let people be people. greed drives association and association drives familiarity and comfort and acceptance. this was the core process of the american melting pot and that which has been melted together is not at all easy to re-separate again.
if you doubt this, imagine what would happen today if twitter banned black or gay or female voices or relegated them to some sort of second class participation. can you seriously believe the market would not respond and that people would not leave in droves and that other platforms would not welcome with open arms this newly alienated community? i’d have left over it. i suspect many of you would as well. that’s the price of acting like a bigot and it will be ruthlessly be enforced by the vigilante justice of consumer sovereignty and profit seeking capitalism. free association rides to the rescue and we all vote with our feet and our wallets.
most wokesters would look at this story and say “good.” and they would be right. it is good. what discredits them so thoroughly is that they then look at this exact same example but with “conservative” in the subject line and watch new platforms arise to serve them and see “market failure” and want intervention and mandate. they want opposing viewpoints labeled as “hate speech.” they want jim crow. they are not about tolerance or pluralism, they are about dominance. they have “mistaken tyranny of the other side” for “inclusion.” the very “government” they want to create “equity” is the thing that breaks the free market’s incentive structure to ensure that inequity prevails. this is like using locusts to tend a field of wheat.
this is why the reflexive mistrust of freedom and a desire (and worse, a sense of entitlement) to force upon society that pattern which one sees fit, even (and especially) if it is for “the people’s own good” is so deeply pernicious. it’s why these top down totalitarian structures always wind up as tyrannies with durably marginalized peoples. it’s why making everything about race and gender and sexuality and whatever other divisions can be dreamed up and attempting to precipitate that which has been blended into a melting pot back out into separate constituents leads to minority harm not minority flourishing. it may be effective politics, but it’s awful for equality an acceptance. making association mandatory while weaponizing identity is how you get conflict, suspicion, and degrade people’s accomplishments through the soft bigotry of low expectations and lowered standards, these policies prey up the groups they seek to lift up by subtly telling them they are not good enough and discouraging their striving. this is not the road to a pluralist society of equals and equality, it’s the road to division and stifled hopes. it’s the road to durable, institutionalized bigotry.
the woke are inviting into our lives the very devil they seek to exorcize and either fail to realize it or worse have merely adopted wokery as a means to use the politics of division to cynically grab levers of power and viciously wield the whip hand. neither seems much of a qualification to be put in charge.
we can do better. we need to do better.
an inclusive society is not too important to be left to the free market. it is too important not to be.