To smear me today, Malcolm is completely distorting the argument with Judge Richard A. Posner and myself on one side and Malcolm on the other over the morals of car salesmen.
Malcolm _defended_ the conscious moral innocence of car salesmen when they charge blacks and women more than they charge white men. Judge Posner and I laughed at that.
Gladwell is baffled and offended that both Judge Posner, the distinguished leader of the Law and Economics school of thought, and myself had scoffed at his theory that, as he puts it, the reason "car salesmen quote higher prices to otherwise identical black shoppers is because of unconscious discrimination. They don't realize what they are doing. But buried prejudices are changing their responses in the moment."
Posner and I had pointed out that auto dealers aren't tragic victims of their own hidden bigotry. Instead, they are relying on their years of experience at milking different kinds of customers for the highest possible price. Thus, they make higher offers to blacks and women because they've found they can often manipulate them into paying more.
In a scathing review of Blink in the The New Republic, the celebrated Judge Posner explains: "It would not occur to Gladwell, a good liberal, that an auto salesman's discriminating on the basis of race or sex might be a rational form of the "rapid cognition" that he admires… [I]t may be sensible to ascribe the group's average characteristics to each member of the group, even though one knows that many members deviate from the average. An individual's characteristics may be difficult to determine in a brief encounter, and a salesman cannot afford to waste his time in a protracted one, and so he may quote a high price to every black shopper even though he knows that some blacks are just as shrewd and experienced car shoppers as the average white, or more so. Economists use the term 'statistical discrimination' to describe this behavior."
I concluded: "Statistical discrimination is a troubling phenomenon, because it chips away at the libertarian assumption that competitive markets eliminate racial discrimination, as they do away with most things that are irrationally costly."
In response, Gladwell sniffed: "Sailer and Poser [sic] have a very low opinion of car salesmen."
Now, that's a killer comeback!
Today, when I pointed out that he was misleading his readers, he immediately deleted my comment. You can read the whole debate of Gladwell vs. Posner & Sailer over car dealers' motivations here. It's pretty funny. And you can comment on Gladwell's ban of me here.