Thursday, August 28, 2014

Random Thoughts about the Free Market, JR Pub, Ebola, and Racism

1) Free Markets don't need no regulations

As a Free Market capitalist, the story that has unfolded around JR Pub's sign about not wanting to admit Africans into their establishment out of fear of transmitting the Ebola virus carries all the attributes of the Free Market that I love.

Despite the fact that Korea (thankfully) does not have an anti-discrimination law, when it was shown that a business owner behaved in a racist manner (whether or not this was actually racist will be discussed later), the public – whether they were actual or potential customers – decided to punish the business owners by doing the only thing that they could do, which is also the most powerful thing that they could do. They chose to spend their money elsewhere. Then the owners of JR Pub took immediate steps to resolve the issue to placate the angry public.

There was no need for an army of bureaucrats or business regulations or legal statutes. It is a great example of the way Free Markets work; or at least the way it ought to work.

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2) So an Ebola patient walks into a bar...

A lot of noise was made about the ignorance that surrounded JR Pub's decision to turn away Africans from their establishment out of fear of the Ebola virus. Some people also correctly claimed that Ebola is spread through the contact of bodily fluids, and is not, in fact, spread through the air or through food.

However, in a hypothetical example, assuming you were minding your own business while enjoying a drink in a bar, if someone whom you recognized as suffering from Ebola walked into the bar, would you still stay in the bar knowing how the virus spreads? Or would you at the very least step outside the building to call the Center for Disease Control and Prevention?

You don't have to tell me what you will do. But honestly ask yourself what you would do in the situation. Personally, even if I knew for a fact that there was no chance for me to contract the disease merely because of the presence of a patient near my vicinity, I would leave posthaste. But that's because I have seen first hand the ugliness and brutality that a crowd is capable of committing, especially after a few too many drinks have been imbibed.

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3) Sincere Apologies

According to The Korea Observer, the owner who instructed his staff to put up the sign took sole blame and apologized. He also said that he would give a 50 percent discount on all drinks and food to those coming to the bar on one particular evening and that all proceeds of the night would “go to a charity and those who are in need of help.”

(I have yet to hear anyone explain to me why giving to charity would make things under this present set of circumstances any better, but whatever floats their boat, I suppose.)

However, though this is certainly not a scientific survey by any stretch of the imagination, there was a simple poll that the website's readers could participate in. When asked “Should we boycott the bar over the ban on 'Africans,'” readers could choose between “Yes, screw that apology!” and “No, the apology is enough.”

As of this writing, 780 people were in favor of boycotting the bar and 660 people were in favor of not boycotting the establishment.

Though it is unclear if those who think that the apology is insufficient would have any lasting effect on the business' profit margins, I cannot help but wonder just how much more apologizing they could possibly want.

A part of me is reminded of the way so many Koreans demand a “sincere” apology from Japan over its war crimes. No, I am not comparing actual war crimes to perceived racism. What I am comparing is people's seemingly unquenchable thirst for “sincere” apologies, which all too frequently does nothing more than to allow people to hide behind the cover of perennial victimhood.

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4) On Political Correctness

Has fears over the Ebola virus been blown out of proportion? Even with a Liberian man who has come to Korea about a week ago having gone missing somewhere in Busan (assuming that the man is still even in Korea), a country where there has been a Ebola virus outbreak, it is likely that the fear of the virus is still very much greater than the actual threat of the virus.

But why should any government, university, or pub, or individual for that matter apologize for trying to ensure that they remain contagion-free? The fact remains that even if there is little danger of the virus spreading to Korea, I don't owe it to anybody to have myself exposed to diseases brought into this country, potential or otherwise, no matter what problems exist in other countries or whose feelings might get hurt! In today's overly politically correct culture, not nearly enough people seem to be willing to even entertain such a thought.

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5) Racism vs. Ignorance

But now that we have brought up the topic of racism, what is racism? It is the notion of ascribing moral, social, intellectual or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage. It is one of the most primitive forms of brutish collectivism.

Does anyone have any real evidence to make the claim that the owners of JR Pub are, indeed, racists? Does anyone have unimpeachable evidence that their intent was malicious? In other words, did they put up their sign in order to make some kind of statement about the inferiority/diseased nature/undesirability of Africans? Or was it a decision made out of innocent ignorance? Racism may be intolerable but isn't ignorance forgivable?

But either way, does it matter? If the owners are indeed racists, though they might not have changed their minds, they will most certainly think twice about giving voice to their racist thoughts in the future. If it was a result of ignorance, you can bet that these men, or at least the one who made his employees put up the sign, will have certainly learned a very valuable lesson about avoiding anything that can even be remotely considered to be racist.

And isn't that what is supposed to matter? On one hand, ignorance is rectified.  On the other hand, if they were, indeed, racists, even if we don't respect or like the way other people think, aren't we supposed to tolerate others so long as their actions do not lead to the harm of others?

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6) Predetermined Judgments

In the Asia Pundits article that was quoted earlier, a woman who is a white African was informed that whereas black Africans could not enter the establishment, she could. Others, including the woman in question, were quick to conclude that this was therefore a case of blatant racism. But does it really refute the claim of ignorance? Is it possible that those owners and employees of JR Pub were ignorant enough to have thought that black people were more prone to suffer from the virus than white people?

I was neither there nor have I spoken to anyone involved. So I cannot say one way or the other. But too many people, who were also neither there nor spoken to the involved parties, seem to have determined what had happened.

There are very few epithets that carry as much weight as “racist.” However, armed with nothing but moral assertions and unimpeachable political correctness, which would never be given any serious consideration in any respectable court of law, hundreds, if not thousands of people who have most likely never even met the owners have accused them of being racists.

During the Jim Crow laws in the United States, the idea that you can tell who is good and who is evil by the color of their skin was the law of the land. Since the laws were abolished, and not just in the United States but throughout the civilized world, that line of thinking has been rejected. However, in modern times, as soon as the perceived victims are black, that mentality comes roaring back. That is because the mentality has not really been rejected. It has only been put under new management.

The way much of the public has responded, or at least those who have bothered to respond, has not given me much reason to rethink my position about mobs and their non-thinking tendencies.

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  1. Why would we want to be tolerant to someone who attempts to dehumanize an entire other group of people? Racism is, indeed, harmful.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Bradley.

      You will notice that I said that though I think that racists ought to be tolerated, I have said that racism is indeed intolerable.

      Being tolerant of others does not mean that I am agreeing with them or giving them any kind of moral sanction whatsoever. I do think that racism is harmful and that it ought to be combated whenever possible. But what is the means of combating them? Should we use force to submit to our will or use shame to hound them out of their homes? Such a tactic would silence them, but what would that make us?

      The only moral way to combat racism is by continuing to refuse to give our moral sanction and to continue to educate people about the harmful nature of racism. And we must keep educating. Our war against racism will never end.

      There has always been racists and there will always be racists. Though we should continue to educate people, they themselves must remain unmolested unless they decide to put their thoughts into action and cause deliberate harm (which can be quantified, verified, and proven in a court of law) to others based on their racist motives. Then the full force of the law ought to apply. Until then, so long as they keep their thoughts to themselves, they must be given the same rights as we claim for ourselves.

      Doing so otherwise would make us no better than the Thought Police.

  2. Not addressed to your entire post, but to the last paragraph of #5.

  3. Hi John. You've posted a few lately. I like your nice pat little example of free market capitalism. Your idea of what's racist needs a bit of an overhaul.Yeah, it is indeed racist to eject the black African and admit the white African. First of all JR Pub knows absolutely nothing about either one of those individuals except the color of their skin and gender. If neither one of them had been in Africa or come in contact with anyone else recently from Africa the possibility of infection would have gone to zero. You see the guy at the door who turned them away knows something that everyone in the world knows, Africans are for the most part, the most economically challenged people on the planet. Dark people everywhere know this because they wear it, everyday. Asian Americans try to sometimes pretend that all racism is just as insidious as what they experience. Not really. That's like some religious fanatic trying to tell you that all sin is equal. No, I don't think so. Believe me. I couldn't see a lot of this stuff right away either because I'm white and can never relate. So what if the black African had been in Korea for the last four years and the white woman just got off the plane? Who would be at the most risk then? Racism really is about thinking you know something a person when you don't. Based on the color of their skin or the shape of their eye, whatever. Racism doesn't require malicious intent. So your conclusion concerning this incident is correct. JR Pub got a lesson in what's really racist. Oh yeah, and all hail the free market. xoxo

    1. Hello, TT. It has been a while. Welcome back. I have missed you.

      You will notice that I never said that the owners/employees of the bar did not behave in a racist manner. What I said was that there is no clear evidence to suggest one thing or the other.

      You posed an excellent question. What if the black man had been in Korea for years and the white woman had just arrived from her country in Africa? But that is a hypothetical scenario. We just don't know for sure, do we? Do we know for a fact that they simply hated black people or is it plausible that they thought that black people were more prone to the disease?

      You can't prove if someone is racist unless he comes out to commit an overt act of racism. And there was no clear unimpeachable evidence to say one or the other.

      Your point about black people tend to be more economically challenged than others is also true. But what does that have to do with this particular case? In this case, black Africans (not black people in general) were turned away out of fear of the Ebola virus.

      Now you say that racism does not require malicious intent. I disagree with you. Genuine racism contains malice even if it is not put into practice. People who think that certain other people are lazy, stupid, evil, etc. based on nothing other than irrational hate for people who belong to different race, even when they don't put their thoughts into practice, perpetuate a negative stereotype with the intention of hurting others - be it physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, economically, politically, socially, etc.

      Did the employees at this bar assume this about black Africans? Did they have a malicious intent to perpetuate this thought?

      Seeing how there is no clear evidence to say one or the other, I have to take their word for it - that they made their decision purely out of fear of the Ebola virus. If that were really the case, though based on ignorance, as it was a means to protect themselves and their clients from a deadly virus, rather than to create a black people-free environment, I just don't see the malice here.

      Another reason why I disagree with you on the "malice" part is that anything that can be perceived to be racist despite the absence of malicious intent, I think, cheapens the word "racist." The word used to mean something, and it used to mean something very serious. But if we remove the malicious intent, then anything and everyone is a racist to one degree or another. And that will make the word meaningless.

  4. Hi John. I've been around just didn't feel like talking economics. I too used to think that racism required intent but have since changed my mind. I'm convinced because "soft racism" (for lack of better term) or unintended racism is the backbone of the more overt kind. Just like you defending the decision to post this sign. You say the owners had no biased racial intent yet they didn't seem to spend one minute using rational thought to make the decision. Yes, my hypothetical is exactly the kind of thought required before you make such a decision. Would banning all black people reduce my customer's risk of exposure? Not necessarily. First of all, not all black people are African. Next, not all Africans are black. You see where I'm going here. So a business owner might look at every angle and use rational thought when making an investment decision but can't do so when it comes to banning people based on their appearance and nationality? It's racism dude and it's more insidious than the overt kind. It's the kind of racism that allows the more dangerous kind to survive. It's the kind of racism that causes the problems we are having now in the US. The kind where white people have the benefit of the doubt and dark skinned people don't.

    1. I didn't say that the owners had no biased racial intent. I said that there is no evidence to say one or the other.

      As for "soft racism" being the backbone of overt racism, I'm afraid we're simply going to have to agree to disagree.