But suppose these kinds of legislated disadvantages were done away with, so that we had truly free labor markets and quality schooling even for the poor. Would that mean equal employment opportunity for all?
Full freedom of exchange in labor markets would allow employers to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or any prejudice or whim that strikes them. Wouldn’t such freedom result in unequal pay and fewer job opportunities for women and minorities? Don’t we need government to restrict the liberty of racists and sexists in order to curb discrimination in hiring?
The question seems to put people who love both liberty and equal employment opportunity in a bind. If we insist on liberty of association for bigots — for their freedom, say, to hire only white males if they choose — we seem to condone racism and sexism and to tolerate an economic system in which blacks and women persistently earn lower wages.
But is that so? Is government restriction of employers’ (even ill-used) freedom of association the only way to protect the wage levels and opportunities of historically disadvantaged groups?
No, it’s not. Market forces, if a market is free, strongly regulate wages and salaries, effectively forcing employers to pay equally skilled and experienced blacks and women what they pay white males, or very nearly so.”]
To keep reading, head over to the Freeman and be sure to read the rest of professor Baetjer’s piece.