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The KKK pyramid scheme

Posted by Richard on December 31, 2015

Fascinating article at Priceonomics about the history of the Klu Klux Klan, focusing on its explosive membership growth and subsequent collapse in the 1920s. It seems that the KKK’s primary purpose was to milk as many racist rubes as possible in order to enrich those at the top:

Today, the Ku Klux Klan is one of the most extreme and reviled symbols of American racism. But there was once a time when the fringe hate group verged on “mainstream.” In the 1920s, its members numbered in the millions and made up a significant percentage of the US population. This is the KKK that claimed to control elections and counted U.S. presidents among its members. And it’s the predecessor to the group that, in fiction, threatened Atticus Finch in front of the steps of the Maycomb County courthouse for defending a black man.

But in 2011, Roland G. Fryer and Steven D. Levitt, the economist co-author of Freakonomics, looked into historical statistics about KKK membership and demographic, criminal and political trends at the time. And they found something surprising: a seldom-seen side of the KKK.

“Rather than a terrorist organization,” they wrote, “the 1920s Klan is best described as a social organization with a wildly successful multi-level marketing structure.” According to Fryer and Levitt, in its heyday, the KKK was a giant, perverse pyramid scheme. Instead of perpetrating a racist agenda, the KKK’s leaders exploited pre-existing, popular racism to make money.

They were very, very, very successful. …

RTWT. HT: David Aitken, who may someday post again instead of just emailing friends (but who am I to talk?).

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