The Ku Klux Klan reached its heyday in the mid-1920s, claiming millions of members. In this paper, we analyze the 1920s Klan, those who joined it, and the social and political impact that it had. We utilize a wide range of newly discovered data sources including information from Klan membership roles, applications, robe-order forms, an internal audit of the Klan by Ernst and Ernst, and a census that the Klan conducted after an internal scandal. Combining these sources with data from the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, we find that individuals who joined the Klan were better educated and more likely to hold professional jobs than the typical American. Surprisingly, we find few tangible social or political impacts of the Klan. There is little evidence that the Klan had an effect on black or foreign born residential mobility, or on lynching patterns. Statistical analysis, however, suggests that any direct impact of the Klan was likely to be small. Furthermore, those who were elected had little discernible effect on legislation passed. Rather than a terrorist organization, the 1920s Klan is best described as a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fuelled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand.
My view? I can think of another example of this kind.
Another 70-80 years and Fryer and Levitt, if they were to stay alive, would be writing similar ‘case studies’ in how al-Qaeda is an exemplar of an organisation driven not by rigid structures and hierarchy but overpowering leadership and vision; how that vision creates its own incentives and enterprise in ’employees’ who seek to deliver the organisation’s mission in any way possible; how it is an exemplar multinational organisation which truly lives up to ‘think global, act local’; how it is “a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fuelled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand“.
In today’s political correctness ridden world, it is difficult sometimes to remember that this freedom of expression is what attracts many to academia in the first place. The freedom to explore everything and not to let the dominant morality of the times limit that freedom! Long may it live.