The Big Bad Raaacist & The So-What Factor

Dr. Williams is here to weigh in on the villain du jour – that crude, rude, evil and rich racist – Donald Sterling. This modern day slave driver owns a basketball team. He also has a big mouth, or rather, he has a trouble-making mistress who recorded his rantings about black people which made him a de facto La Boca Grande. But if you can’t trust your mistress, who can you trust?

As frequent readers of Gates of Vienna are aware, I’m an enthusiastic fan of economist, Walter Williams. I like him for the same reason I like The Grateful Dead or the former poet laureate, Billy Collins: the lightness of being that shines through all of their work shines also on us. The gifts they share with us are buoyant and blesséd, and so are we when we participate in their work…

Economic philosophy has been called “the dismal science”; if you get your ideas about economics from Paul Krugman, he of Yale and The New York Times, you’ll no doubt agree. PK has the existential flaw which runs through all of liberal ‘thinking’, i.e.,they feel rather than think and are immune to reality, thus the scare quotes. This immunity to Reason is a (sort of) tribute to liberals’ deeply held dogmas. Even as the arrow falls to earth they will continue to hold their hands over their eyes, denying themselves a world-shaking glimpse of the laws of gravity and clinging to their failed ideologies.

Overriding those dimwitted feelings is the regressive notion of scarcity. This “not-enough-to-go-around” idea has been used to harness the negativity and fears of groups who have been taught to believe that unless they scratch and claw and wail “no fair!” they’ll be left powerless, out in the cold. The sad part of all that nonsense is its self-fulfilling nature. Even sadder is the reality that these economic illiterates vote in the very people who will make their fears real even as they lie about making them safe from the Robber Barons and other villains spawned by that ol’ debbil, Capitalism.

Dr. Williams is the cure for such dogmatic drivel. He goes on his merry way, undeterred by the True Believers and still teaching economic reality after all these years. His classes at George Mason University continue to be over-subscribed.

Here is his “Books” page. Included are his own books and the works of others he thinks are basic to economic literacy. He also has online somewhere a brief course for beginners who are enthusiastic about Reason and Reality and are willing to drop those heavy doom and gloom chains they carry everywhere.

If you’ve read any of the drivel written about Donald Sterling and what fate he deserves, Dr. Williams’ antidote to silly talk extruding from pundits’ mouths at an alarming rate is below. Any emphases there are mine:


Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers owner, was recorded by his mistress making some crude racist remarks. Since then, Sterling’s racist comments have dominated the news, from talk radio to late-night shows. A few politicians have weighed in, with President Barack Obama congratulating the NBA for its sanctions against Sterling. There’s little defense for Sterling, save his constitutional right to make racist remarks. But in a sea of self-righteous indignation, I think we’re missing the most valuable lesson that we can learn from this affair — a lesson that’s particularly important for black Americans.

Though Sterling might be a racist, there’s an important “so what?” Does he act in ways commonly attributed to racists? Let’s look at his employment policy.This season, Sterling paid his top three players salaries totaling over $46 million.. His 20-person roster payroll totaled over $73 million.
Here are a couple of questions for you:

Alert: Reality Quiz coming up!

  • What race are the players whom racist Sterling paid the highest salaries?
  • What race dominated the 20-man roster?
    The fact of business is that Sterling’s highest-paid players are black, and 85 percent of Clippers players are black. Down through the years, hundreds of U.S.. corporations have faced charges of racism, and many have been subjects of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigations, but none of them had such a favorable employment and wage policy as Sterling.

  • How does one explain this?
    People with limited thinking ability might conclude that Sterling is a racist in his private life but a nice card-carrying liberal in his public life, manifested by his hiring so many blacks, not to mention paying Doc Rivers, the Clippers’ black head coach, a healthy $7 million a year.

The likelier explanation is given no attention at all.

Let’s use a bit of simple economics to analyze the contrast in Sterling’s private and public behavior. First, professional basketball is featured by considerable market competition. There’s an open opportunity in the acquisition of basketball playing skills. Youngsters just buy a basketball and shoot hoops. There’s open competition in joining both high-school and college teams. You just sign up for tryouts in high school and get noticed by college scouts. Then there’s considerable competition among the NBA teams in the acquisition of the best college players. Minorities and less preferred people always do better when there are open markets instead of regulated markets.

Recently deceased Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker pointed this phenomenon out some years ago in his path-breaking study —

The Economics of Discrimination (Economic Research Studies)

[Note: Dr. Williams is citing Dr. Becker’s doctoral thesis from the early 1970s. It remains germane.]

Many people think that it takes government to eliminate racial discrimination, but economic theory predicts the opposite. Market competition imposes inescapable profit penalties on for-profit enterprises when they make employment decisions on any basis other than worker productivity. Professor Becker’s study of racial discrimination upended the view that discriminatory bias benefits those who discriminate. He demonstrated that racial discrimination is less likely in the most competitive industries, which need to hire the best workers.

According to Forbes magazine, the Los Angeles Clippers would sell for $575 million. Ask yourself what the Clippers would sell for if Sterling were a racist in his public life and hired only white players. All the evidence suggests that would be a grossly losing proposition on at least two counts. Percentagewise, blacks more so than whites excel in basketball. That’s not to say that it is impossible to recruit a team of first-rate, excellent white players. However, because there is a smaller number of top-tier white players relative to black players, the recruitment costs would be prohibitive. In other words, a team of excellent white players would be far costlier to field than a team of excellent black players. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand.

The takeaway from the Sterling affair is that we should mount not a moral crusade but an economic liberty crusade. In other words, eliminate union restrictions, wage controls, occupational and business licensure, and other anti-free market restrictions. Make opportunity depend on one’s productivity.


That, in a nutshell, is why statism is a loser’s game. It’s a corrupt con, always has been and always will be. Oh wait – there might be a case for the heavy hand of government: when Reality rescinds the Laws of Gravity, then maybe…

Uh oh. That column of Dr Williams arrived in our email today (I subscribe to his work). I forgot to go look for his URL until now:

17 thoughts on “The Big Bad Raaacist & The So-What Factor

  1. A few good points raised in that post and worthy of following through on, especially for the business person who can see a quick buck being made from just being able to properly observe the ‘market forces’ that dictate where the money can be made.

    One other thing not mentioned or even hinted at by the ‘media’ in Sterling’s rant to this floozy. It may be one thing to employ ‘colored’ Americans because of their innate abilities in basketball, but must one also expect that the employer should mix socially with this employees?

  2. I listened to the recording. To me it really sounded more like a man frustrated with his girlfriend’s behaviour. He was tolerating her sleeping around but didn’t want her to rub his nose in it in public. Would he really have been happy if she had cuddled and kissed a handsome young white boyfriend in public? I think the skin colour was quite coincidental.

    Maybe I missed something though.

    • If I remember the transcripts early on, he went into great detail about his hatred for blacks. Media fodder for weeks. And as my favorite economics professor says, it’s a so-what-factor. He’s black himself and finds the predictable chatter annoying. I was glad to see he’d written something about it.

        • I mostly read headlines. The story was hard to miss since the headlines often quoted his words…those jornolists were salivating. I hadn’t realized Obama had to have his say…

  3. Reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts in which innuendo trumped facts and proper judicial protocol. Sterling was tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty. He was made an example to the rest of us of the penalties for failing the standards of politically correct behavior. We are watched 24/7.

  4. I’m afraid the race card has been played to death. It is meaningless now. If anyone wants to call me a racist, my only response is “So bloody what?” – or maybe a little stronger but you get the point.

  5. Dymphna,

    Paul Krugman, he of Yale and The New York Times, and Enron

    FIFY. Don’t forget Enron when mentioning Krugman.

  6. The Sterling case really is a “sterling” case. We have: PC vs Freedom of Speech/Expression; Left Religion vs Freedom of Religion; and, Statism Economics vs Free Markets. The nominally secular Left has its own “religion” – “feel good/do good/enjoy it.” Fits really well with the three year old mentality exhibited by most on the Left.

  7. Hmm… if my partner tried to tell me which friends to invite, I’d tell them where they get off.

    On the broader economic point, the free market can only work if the scales are more or less even. When I moved to London in 1969, I worked for an Oxford St department store, who gave me a promotion (unmerited) to supervisor; in 1971 a rival concern offered me more money and better conditions to join as a salesman again. This was possible because in those far-off, halcyon days, and that particular market, staff were in short supply.

    Today, jobs are largely in short supply in the mature capitalist economies, giving the whip hand to employers, and the (much less powerful) trade unions scarcely figure (they never had much influence in UK retail anyway). The last store group I worked for (1995-2009) prefers to employ (not enough) teenagers who work for peanuts but have little idea of customer service, or even how to talk to people, yet the market has failed to eliminate them from the picture to date.

    This really isn’t about me (I’m retired, and well over any resentment), but the inefficiency, and inequity, of markets.

    • Mark, Sterling was NOT her partner. Sterling was her employer. She was his kept woman, and he was keeping her so well that his wife sued her to get back the goods. So, this was the payback of the kept woman upon the wife.

      • Point taken, Egghead. Sometimes, despite my (relatively) advanced years and experience of human iniquity, I get these bursts of idealism. At this stage, it’s likely incurable…

  8. Ah yes, the “So What?” question. People are declared “racists” in the British press all the time, especially whenever they think the person in question (like Nigel Farage) might upset the status quo, but I always think, so what? Are they actually doing anything harmful to others, or are they being declared guilty of a thoughtcrime? If it’s the latter, then that’s not good because all it takes is the state to find whatever you believe in a thoughtcrime and you too could be a “criminal”. It astounds me that people cannot see this. As James Kelman said years ago, the state is the biggest terrorist out there.

  9. If racism is the heinous crime we are told it is, why do those innocents accused of such a crime not sue the accusers?

  10. How silly of Sterling. He (himself a Jew or at least a JINO) should have made instead nasty comments about Jews. Nobody would even have noticed.

    He should have known that Jews are fair game. But don’t even dare to mention “black” or “muslim” in an otherwise symmetrical statement. The ire of the self-righteous, hollier-than-thou and multicultural-enriched crowds will descend from its heavenly shrine like a flash to smite you.

    • Only white gentiles are fair game. Muslims, even blacks may target Jews, because they are minorities of greater distinction. The cultural marxist machine always prefers the least white, Christian, straight opponent to win.

  11. “Make opportunity depend on one’s productivity.”

    The problem is that there are many important fields in which whites excel more than blacks; and applying the law of productivity pragmatism yields a de facto appearance of “discrimination” and “racism”.

Comments are closed.