For my summer cottage reading, the first non-fiction book I’m reading is The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. It’s about Harvey Milk. (Incidentally, I saw Milk speak in a downtown church in San Francisco in May or June 1978 at an event held by BACABI, the Bay Area Coalition Against the Briggs Initiative.)

Here are 4 interesting highlights from the first third of the book.

Harvey Milk’s early political views

A staunch conservative, Milk was then looking forward to Barry Goldwater’s getting the 1964 Republican presidential nomination. That could get the true conservative message out to the nation, he thought. His fiercest argument with Rodwell was not about gay equality, but [about] President Kennedy’s move against the steel companies. The raw use of federal power in the economy made Harvey’s blood boil.

DRH note: I remember reading in the late 1960s about JFK’s 1962 attack on steel companies for raising prices. Ayn Rand wrote about it at the time also, and Wabash College economics professor Ben Rogge talked about it in a talk in early 1969 at the University of Winnipeg that my Libertarian club sponsored. It was a big deal to us.

Destruction of a Vital Part of San Francisco

The Latino Mission district’s businesses had never recovered from the digging up of the central shopping strip for the Bay Area Rapid Transit.

DRH note: After I graduated from the University of Winnipeg in May 1970, I set out in June to hitchhike from Winnipeg to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Los Angeles, stopping at various places on the way. I stayed at a cheap, divy hotel in San Francisco (I think it was about $5 a night) and explored San Francisco. I remember the chaos created by the building of the BART at the time. I had to walk over boards in various parts of the city and it was difficult for people to get to certain businesses because the streets were so ripped up. Later I learned in George Hilton’s transportation economics class at UCLA just how badly BART failed a cost/benefit analysis test even judged by the optimistic estimates of its proponents.

The Leftist Attack on Milk’s Business

Some [left-wing gays] took to scolding Scott Smith [Milk’s business partner at Castro Camera], saying if Castro Camera really cared about people, the would give away free film and offer developing services gratis.

DRH note: No comment necessary.

John Barbagelata’s Confusion about the Economics of Discrimination

[Barbagelata, who was running for mayor of San Francisco against George Moscone] would continue to oppose the law banning anti-gay bias among city contractors because the city might be forced to accept higher bids from nondiscriminating companies over the low bids of biased employers.

DRH note: At the time, employers were discriminating against gay employees even in San Francisco. This presumably made gay employees a bargain for employers willing not to discriminate. So Barbagelata had it exactly backwards. He didn’t understand his Gary Becker. For the concise version of the economics of discrimination, see Linda Gorman, “Discrimination” in David R. Henderson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

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