Even if you think my earlier posts on HBO’s Big Love were gratuitous, you can’t deny the economic relevance of one of the latest story lines:

Bill hears about a new investment opportunity. A slot machine manufacturer wants investors, and doesn’t care how many wives its investors have. Despite his moral scruples against gambling, Bill’s intrigued.

What’s going on? If Bill gets “outed,” he thinks that his home improvement customers will take their business elsewhere. But Bill’s not worried that slot machine patrons will respond in the same way. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense: If you’ve gotten over your moral objections to gambling, you’re not likely to be fussy about the marital status of the owners of your slot machine.

This suggests a more general principle:

Any stigmatized group faces a lower marginal cost of doing stigmatized things. Thus, if people are anti-Semites and hate money-lenders, a Jew might as well be a money-lender. Given the treatment he gets just for being a Jew, the extra stigma he endures for being a Jewish money-lender is probably minimal.

What do you think?