Money, markets and minorities
Buying and selling in the market place may provide advantages to minority groups at the expense of the majority. A State that represents the majority may need to act in order to address the imbalance in a manner that may seem on the face of it to be discriminatory.
The impact of buying and selling in the market place
The problem with money and markets is that they strip exchanges between people of all social and cultural content. In market-based exchanges, you can buy/sell with complete strangers. This has its benefits and particularly for social/cultural/ethnic/ religious minorities within a society, the market provides an almost anonymous means of interacting with the majority.
The impact of social networks
In fact, the story can even become worse for the majority because the denser social links/networks between members of a minority may mean that they can exploit higher levels of trust between each other and thereby compete more effectively in the market-place.
Over time, of course, this economic disadvantage may lead to significant differences between the wealth of the majority and minority communities.
In the diagram below is your multiculti, fully assimilated, and integrated, fully equal nirvana. Everyone interacts with all others regardless of their colour or other distinguishing characteristics. There is one group (pink) who are the majority, and the others are minorities.
One group of people (coloured brown) realise that they come from the same village back home, they have a shared culture, heritage and so on, they start to spend more time together.
Trust within minority groups
These commonalities enable this specific minority to establish bonds of trust between themselves that are stronger than the ones that exist between people of different groups. So they decide to interact with each other more than they do with other groups.
Role of religion
The issue is even more acute when they share the same religion because then they are more likely to share the same values - which are even more important when it comes to building trust.
Accidentally, I drew the first picture in a way that helps illustrate another point. The minority group accrues another advantage, where it can become a 'boundary spanner' e.g. between two different societies (the red line). That advantage is less likely to be open to the majority groups in the two countries in which this minority lives.
The economic impact
There is an obvious economic angle to these social relations, since the bonds of trust help reduce the friction of doing business, in fact, trust is more valuable in some industries (the ones with more risk and potentially more rewards).
Minorities outperforming majorities
A social aspect to their interaction therefore has economic repercussions. Left unchecked a minority group will gain an advantage over others. Societies can persist with the multi-culti fantasy for years.
But at some point there will be a reckoning, there always is. Obvious trigger points are when the majority face economic dislocation and see how much better minority groups are doing. You can 'hope' that this time there won't be - but that has not been the case over the previous millennia.
Longer term implications
Historically there are lots of examples of this all around the world and the end is never a happy one - with the majority usually seeking to address the problem via physical force. The challenge for societies is for them to offer minorities certain rights but at the same time put in place restrictions on the extent of their participation in the economic life of society so that they cannot dominate the majority.
In an Islamic society where distinctions between groups are not based on race, but rather of belief, this means that there has to be what seems like discrimination against non-Muslims, but which, is in fact, a sensible means of avoiding longer-term conflct between the majority and minority.
An illustration of the problem in terms of resources
The picture below illustrates the above idea.
- The blue circles represent the majority in a society, each person gives an item of resource to the person immediately to their south and also one to their south-west. And they do so without regard to the 'colour' of the other person. Let's assume this is a very egalitarian society where the affiliations of individuals are completely ignored.
- The pink circles represent a minority and they behave in the same manner.
- However the yellow circles behave slightly differently, they give one item of resource without any discrimination to whoever is to their south, but instead of giving one item to the person to their southwest, they give instead to someone of their own tribe/religion/ethnicity/language group/cult or whatever other basis of commonality that they have established. Such an arrangement can be informal and communicated only to the group members - something which is helped by their being a minority in a society.
Members of the yellow circle are able to identify each other due to their going to the same places of worship or gentlemen's clubs or 'lodge'. Such interaction may legitimately lead to higher levels of trust between members of the yellow group and their discriminatory behaviour could be argued to be inherently rational i.e. it makes sense from a business perspective.
Economic performance of members of the yellow group may, as a result of this behaviour be better than that of other groups. It may seem to them that their accumulation is due to their greater intelligence, business acumen or another positive trait. There may well be elements of those present, but their discrimination in favour of their own group could certainly be an important factor.
Such discrimination on their part can mean greater rewards for members of their own group and it may not be visible to outsiders, other than the realisation that this group of people are relatively better off than others.
Is discrimination by the State a valid response?
Any response by the majority to address this imbalance, e.g. by imposing restrictions on the economic or other activities of the yellow minority group is likely to attract charges of discrimination.
Because such communications cannot be done discreetly, communicating with the whole of society requires broadcasting to everyone rather than taking the narrowcasting approach the minority group pursued when they decided to discriminate in favour of their own group. Such narrowcasting is possible because the minority group are able to communicate with each other discreetly and in a manner that excludes everyone else.
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