Lab a3: Discrimination


It’s one of the most salient topics of our time: non-discrimination and inclusion. People want to see diversity everywhere. It’s the word of the hour.

Meanwhile on OboxPlanet…

You guessed it. No state enforced non-discrimination plans. No DEI-initiatives, no quotas, no requirements for diversity. Instead, OboxPlanet lets the free market reign and do its job. And it works.

But how? With all the racist and sexist people around, wouldn’t this result in segregation and oppression?

It’s a very easy conclusion, but luckily, it’s the wrong one. Yes, there are racist and sexist people on OboxPlanet. Just like on earth. But just like with free speech, you’re not going to change the mind of a man that hates women just because you force him to employ a woman. Humans don’t work that way. And OboxPlanet realized this.

Instead, the society on OboxPlanet gives people the freedom to do whatever they see fit. If you want to exclusively surround yourself with people that share your love for pizza, you can do that. You can found “pizza town”, where everyone that speaks against your obsession is cast out.

However, if you want to be successful, you will necessarily want diversity in the long run. In fact, you will need it. Let’s go back to our example. Let’s assume half of humanity loves pizza, while the other half hates it. You found pizza-town and only allow people to live there that love pizza. They are the only ones founding businesses, developing infrastructure and products, and the only consumers of what you produce. Your restaurants naturally only serve pizza to pizza-lovers.

You eventually travel to diversity town. You see that people there are richer, have bigger homes, and a more stable economy. You look around and realize that there are lots of non-pizza-lovers.

You observe that the secret of diversity town lies in them relying on merit instead of the arbitrary characteristic of people’s love for pizza. They don’t care about what you like to eat. For their businesses to run at maximum capacity, they want the best talent they can get. They don’t care about their customers’ food preferences; they just want to sell their products to maximize profit. By only considering economics, they created a more diverse town.

Of course, you can go home to pizza town and decide that you still won’t allow a non-pizza-lover in. After all, it’s about what matters most to you. Maybe you’re willing to sacrifice more money to avoid non-pizza-lovers. But on average, towns are diverse due to only looking out for merit. It’s a simple yet powerful solution.

Most simply and most fundamentally, property means discrimination. “My property” means that I have the right to decide who can do what with this property. Now, I could theoretically just let anybody do anything with my property, which means I would in fact give it up. Otherwise, I must discriminate with my property, there is no way to avoid it.

Let’s take my body: what would non-discrimination mean? That I let everybody command, kiss and abuse me? And what about my home: how could i not discriminate whom I invite? Who uses my refrigerator, my car, my bed? People must and do discriminate where they go to shop, eat, on vacation, whom they marry and whom they are friends with.

On the OboxPlanet, I may discriminate with my property however I want. I can refuse to invite blondes or to serve families with children or whatever. Some people live in communities which do have exclusion rules that seem offensive for outsiders. Anything goes as long as there is no compulsion or aggression in play.

But the more people engage in trade, travel and get to know the world the less they tend to discriminate based on superficial class considerations. The great driver for an optimal type of discrimination is called business, the profit motive, the market place.

Let’s look a bit closer at the peacemaking logic of the free market. On the one hand, there is merciless discrimination for customer satisfaction while hiring help. A software firm wants smart, dedicated, disciplined workers. Their religion, ethnicity and even niceness and personal manners don’t matter much. Restaurant owners have different criteria. They generally prefer nice, patient, positive waiters and then there may be some more discrimination, like younger or elder personnel, to please customers preferences

The winning strategy is to offer the consumers what they want and what customers think is fair. There may be some differing and changing views on fairness and discrimination but on the wold market, most differences get lost or are not even known. Worldwide, quality, service, and price are almost always the supreme measure.

What is the difference to earth? For centuries, it was the state and religious rulers that actively supported or tolerated that some people forcefully suppress, enslave, or even kill others. Then, to make up for past injustices, states forced private people to deal with others even if they didn’t want to. Nowadays, discrimination is back with a vengeance via quotas for race, gender and even handicapped. While resentment between the suppressed and the privileged groups starts building again on earth, on the OboxPlanet, people have much less reasons to even care that there are minorities and majorities. Discrimination on the OboxPlanet is, all in all, but a small topic for academics

What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?

  1. Discrimination and political centralization

There are countries that handle minorities more or less peacefully. It can help us understand the meaning of political non-discrimination and how to achieve it.

Switzerland has many languages and religions, but there aren’t many fights because they have a decentralized, “federal” political system with 26 independent cantons. This means that different areas have their own rules, and if each canton can decide on it’s language, no other has reason to interfere or discriminate in this regard, nobody be treated unfairly. The same goes for taxations, schools, jurisdiction etc. Hand in hand with centralizing certain functions, there arose new fields for friction because on a centralized level, there needs to be unity, which requires compromizes and some regions inevitably feel discriminated against.

In Lebanon, different cultures and religions used to live together peacefully. It was more side by side than all mixed everywhere. Then the central state started expanding its control and handouts, once again giving to some politically favoured groups more than to others. In Lebanon, this led to a veritable, prolonged and bloody civil war and a much more divided country in a shaky peace arrangement.

On the OboxPlanet, there are no states and no political discrimination.

2. State and private discrimination throughout history. 

When we look at some of the most severe discrimination practices in the United States, such as the treatment of Native Indians, the enslavement of African Americans, and the later segregation enforced by Jim Crow laws, it becomes clear that these practices could only persist with the state’s acceptance.

In fact, most, if not all, discriminatory practices were not just accepted but actively enforced by government authorities. For example, the fugitive slave laws compelled state authorities to return escaped slaves to their owners. In the 1950s, particularly in the southern states, businesses were required to segregate customers, even if they didn’t want to. In South Africa, gold mines had to employ white foremen by law, leading to various tactics to meet this requirement. 

However, in all of these cases and many others, there was always resistance to state-sanctioned discrimination, driven by humanitarian and often business-related motives. The Underground Railroad, for instance, is a notable historical example of this resistance.

Now it’s your turn:

Have you experienced discrimination that you consider unfair? In private, at work, on vacation? What can and should the state do

Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet:

Privatize everything and enforce property rights. This will eliminate all coercive discrimination and make irrational discrimination costly.

Until then: Decentralize political power, away from the central government down to states, cities, city blocks and streets.

Equality before the law, live up to Luther Kings “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Begin by legal blindness regarding race, age, sexual orientation, stop even asking and taking statistics. Statistics tend to fuel political activism.