Ferguson’s Segregated Ruling Class

Ferguson’s Segregated Ruling Class
Profile photo of David Howden

There might not be any easy answers to what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri, but there are points that might make it just an extreme case of a more general problem.

Some commentators have chimed in to claim that the shooting was the result of a high degree of racial segregation. While St. Louis County is one of the more racially segregated areas of the US, Ferguson in particular is an outlier area.

If racial segregation is not to blame, what could another culprit be? According to Jonathan Rodden of the WaPo,

The immediate problem in Ferguson is neither residential segregation nor its demise. Rather, as many have pointed out, it is that the racial integration of the community has not been reflected in the municipal government and police force, whose racial composition still reflects the status quo of the 1980s…. This problem of asymmetric representation can be fixed, but it will require mobilization around a specific reform agenda. As explored in an earlier post, this asymmetry in political power can be explained in part by low African American turnout associated with low-profile April elections in odd-numbered years.

Low minority voter turnout may be to blame for the asymmetry, but this is really just part of the broader case that governments are subject to inertia and resistant to change.

We all know that public sector workers get a high degree of job security, or in layman’s terms, a job for life. While this type of security might be nice for some, when populations go through demographic flux it might be more trouble than it’s worth. For a similar example, think of the youths of today disenchanted with a political class dominated from a, ahem, more “mature” demographic and representative of different interests.

With a higher degree of labour mobility, private sector workers not only move to where jobs are more plentiful or higher paying, but also to where these workers want to live. Perhaps one unfortunate consequence of this labour force asymmetry is the dichotomy between the ruling class (and its enforcers) of Ferguson and its population.



Profile photo of David Howden

David Howden is Chair of the Department of Business and Economics, and professor of economics at St. Louis University, at its Madrid Campus, Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and winner of the Mises Institute's Douglas E. French Prize. Send him mail.

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