Lekachman, Robert
June 1980
Journal of Economic Issues (Association for Evolutionary Economi;Jun80, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p433
Academic Journal
Economic history suggests that, at the best of times, two grand principles of legitimacy have conflicted or uneasily coexisted. One, of course, is the competitive market. In a conservative community, the argument that merit is rewarded at least most of the time is generally acceptable so long as there are prizes, if not, as in Alice in Wonderland, for all, for most people, even if they are usually modest. When the going was good, inconvenient matters of racial discrimination, externalities, market failure, monopoly and inheritance could be ignored. Conflicts during recessions and spells of slow growth which threaten to become permanent embitter relations between female workers and their white male colleagues. The women regard affirmative action hiring, promotion, and retention as fully justified by the lengthy experience of male discrimination against women in the workplace. The men cherish the seniority clauses written into their union contracts as rights won only after protracted struggle. Both groups appeal to justice as the sanction for either laying employees off by some rule other than seniority or abiding strictly to first hired, last fired as an inflexible guide.


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