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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13502/jim-crow-government-against-market-forces/

Jim Crow: Government Against Market Forces

August 6, 2010 by

From page 111 of the 1918-1919 Negro Year Book, published by the Tuskegee Institute and edited by Monroe N. Work:

Railroads Attack Validity
Separate Car Laws.
The Supreme Court of Tennessee in a decision rendered in March, 1918, relative to white and Negroes being served in dining cars upheld the validity of the separate car laws of the United States, providing separate cars for white and Negroes. In December, 1918, the validity of the Kentucky law for the separation of races on trains was attacked in appeals to the Supreme Court by the South Covington and Cincinnati Street Railroads and the Covington and Erlanger Railway Company. These companies had been convicted in the lower courts for failing to provide separate coaches or compartments for Negroes.

Racism and discrimination can be expensive, and one of the only ways they can be maintained successfully is if bigots have access to political institutions that allow them to impose enormous costs on others at relatively trivial costs to themselves. Jennifer Roback has a couple of excellent articles on Jim Crow that you can access via JSTOR. Also, David Bernstein’s Only One Place of Redress is an excellent history of racist legal institutions. My paper “Inputs and Institutions as Conservative Elements” discusses racist violence specifically (ungated draft here).


Michael A. Clem August 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm

These companies had been convicted in the lower courts for failing to provide separate coaches or compartments for Negroes.
interesting what unintended consequences can arise. They were convicted for not maintaining segregation.

Evan August 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm
Old Mexican August 6, 2010 at 4:31 pm

These companies had been convicted in the lower courts for failing to provide separate coaches or compartments for Negroes.

Thus rendering the idea that private companies would indulge in wholesale discrimination totally bogus.

jl August 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Something that fascinates me about that era, is how much of the discrimination was imposed by government? We always hear about the famous lunch counter sit-in. Was that an assault on private property, or a protest against government rules? Who was choosing to discriminate? Maybe in some cases it was business owners, but there were plenty of Jim Crow laws as well.

J. Murray August 9, 2010 at 6:18 am

The vast, vast majority of discrimination was required to exist by government decree. Sure, some of it was voluntary, but that voluntary racism in business would not have survived had all other businesses not been forced into being discriminatory. Jim Crow laws came into being precisely because private business was refusing to be racist on its own.

Capt Mike August 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I think one problem with the public’s perception on this issue is the conflation of “The Government” and “The FEDERAL Government”.

There was segregation in the South until “The GOVERNMENT (tada!!!) passed the Civil Rights act.

No conception of the fact that segregation was a creature of the STATE Governments.

I try to make this point and the booboisie hear “States = Bad, Feds = good”. It’s not easy.

Fephisto August 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I get booboisie who use this sort of historical argument to reason for world government.


J. Murray August 9, 2010 at 6:19 am

It was the Federal level that forced that segregation on southern states during Reconstruction.

Barry Loberfeld August 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

Jim Crow arose in the South during the Progressive Era:


Agora August 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I would like to clearify the facts. Did these railroads allow Blacks on to their trains with Whites, or was this an issue about the trains not allowing any Blacks because of a lack of separate cars? Please set me straight.

David August 6, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Even though his conclusions are laughably bad, Howard Zinn does a nice job of detailing the colonioal government’s efforts to implant racism into the minds of poor White and Black Americans in Chapter 2 of People’s History. Why he felt that was a product of private property, I will probably never know, but his detailed analysis of government cementing racial tensions is very well done – and probably could be expanded much further.

Art Carden August 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm

A couple of quick replies:

1. As I understand it, the suits were usually for failure to enforce clear segregation.

2. The lunch counter protests and the like provide an interesting set of examples, but I think the best way to proceed is to look and see if you can find someone holding a gun. One of the things that’s emerging from Chris Coyne’s and my Memphis riot research is that it’s probably a bad idea to give racists a monopoly on violence. I’ve read that in 20th century Memphis, businesses that didn’t bend to Boss Crump’s wishes had a tendency to find themselves suddenly being inspected by the health department or being fined for very minor “code violations.” I suspect that a lot of Southern businesses that tried to integrate during Jim Crow would have had their power shut off, new difficulties with the local water monopoly, a flood of inspections, or a sudden increase in the assessed value of their property for tax purposes. That’s mostly speculation at this point, but I think it’s an important avenue for future research. Chris and I should have a lot more to say about issues like this over the next year or so.

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