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.