Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Rosa Parks, born February 4, 1913, became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement for her actions on December 1, 1955. Ordered to move from the first row of the “colored” section after seats reserved for white passengers had filled up, Parks refused.

“When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

Economist Thomas Sowell believes that the conflict might never have even come up as an issue, had the bus been privately run.

“Why was there racially segregated seating on public transportation in the first place?” he asked on the occasion of her death in 2005. “[T]here was certainly plenty of racism in the South, going back for centuries. But racially segregated seating” did not have the same unbroken history. Sowell pointed out that no matter what their own views, owners of the private transit lines of the 19th and early 20th century lacked motive to enforce segregation and thereby alienate many of their passengers.

When markets aren’t overrun by politics, both buyers and sellers must focus on the value they want from trade — a good product or competent service. Participants are penalized if they routinely set aside those benefits in order to indulge an animus.

In the 20th century, the trend towards taxpayer-funded mass transit displaced economic incentives with political ones.

Only governments can force entire industries to routinely act on an irrational prejudice.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. JFB says:

    There is and will always be a significant difference between the power of a bayonet and the power of the purse. Foolish actions in commerce penalize the merchant, governments, in this situations, punish others with total impunity and no direct cost.

  2. Excellent! Important to have at the ready all the instances of the enforcement of Jim Crow that were actually “legal” laws. Too few people realize this. Another fact that amazes me is how strong the KKK was outside of the South.

  3. Dick Miller says:

    You’re spot on. Government intrusion into entities best operated by the private sector always use politics to trump economic sense, and this is patently evident with many of our transit systems. This is painfully evident with our local ‘first class’ transit system where a bus is rarely seen with more than a few passengers, and is often devoid of any passengers. But everything is first class from the vehicles, the shop facilities, and the headquarter offices. The governing political body applauds themselves if they can get 15% of the operating costs out of the fare box. You can guess who pays the balance. The whole enterprise is a looser from the get go, but it continues on like virtually every other government enterprise.
    Needless to say, a private enterprise would do things much differently, or simply avoid the entire money loosing enterprise. Moving the same number of citizens would cost a fraction of what it does now if they simply gave the current passengers vouchers for taxi cabs and shut down the entire operation.

  4. antiplanner says:

    Sowell has his facts wrong. The bus Rosa Lee Parks rode was a private bus owned by National City Lines. But the bus company was required to obey a Jim Crow law that required blacks to yield their seats to whites. When the courts overturned that law in Montgomery, National City Lines announced that it would no longer follow that law in any of the cities in which it operated buses. So Sowell’s conclusion is correct even if he got there the wrong way.

  5. antiplanner says:

    Actually, reading Sowell’s article, he never says the buses were public. Instead, he says, as I did, that the private companies only followed Jim Crow rules because they were required to do so by law. I’m afraid Paul misinterpreted the article.

    The same was true with railroads, which were required to separate blacks and whites in different compartments on trains in the South. The railroads mostly hated those laws and were glad to get rid of them.

  6. Drik says:

    Ran the numbers a while back. Probably a little bit off now but general principal applies.
    Public transportation is a wealth redistribution.
    Costs 15 cents a passenger mile to use. Much cheaper than a private car operating at 30 cents per passenger mile. Ignores that the actual operating cost of that public transportation is almost 60 cents per passenger mile, even when full. The cost is astronomical when they run almost empty. It would not be usable at all if all the people that paid for it all wanted and tried to use it.

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