Discrimination Under Capitalism: When is State Interference Warranted?
Friedman argues that unless discrimination (in employment) is coercive, meaning that it drives victims of this prejudice to accept “incomplete” employment contracts or to acquiesce to involuntary exchanges, this discrimination—however unfortunate and regrettable—does not by itself justify government interference to correct for or to prevent the harmful treatment of those who are discriminated against. After all, it is assumed that the labor market is competitive and discriminated employees or applicants can find work elsewhere: that they have the freedom to secure other employment. Moreover, Friedman maintains that employers who discriminate against others may well have no ill intentions and no desire to cause these victims any harm; that such employers are merely “transmitting” (or responding to) the tastes and preferences of the community in which they do business. These considerations lead Friedman to conclude that it would be wrong to impose the costs on employers entailed by laws that require fair employment practices (like the FEPC or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
Do you agree with Friedman’s analysis? Why or why not? To guide your writing, consider some of the following questions (you don’t have to respond to all or any of these, though feel free to incorporate some of them into your response: these questions are merely intended to provoke your thinking). What are the alleged costs of protecting against discrimination that Friedman notes? Who should bear these costs and why? Do you believe that a free, competitive market actually creates the incentives necessary to discourage discrimination? How? Even if the market can discourage discrimination, are there still reasons why government intervention would be justified to change the bigoted tastes and preferences of a community? If not, then why is it acceptable that victims of discrimination must endure this prejudicial treatment until attitudes do change?
PLEASE NOTE: with this sort of normative question, where there is not clear right or wrong answer, you must do more than merely state your opinion. This would fundamentally fail to satisfy the expectations of this assignment. Your task is to take a stand on the issue and to defend this position by writing an educated and informed response, incorporating specific ideas from the readings that support your thesis.