A Question Posed to Me By an Open-Minded Young Man About `Affirmative Action,` Via My Face Book

A young man [A childhood friend of one of my sons] who does not agree with my viewpoints on some issues (many issues in fact) still is open minded enough to ask a serious question expecting some serious input to continue his thinking on the matter. Learning should not become stagnant, but should be a lifelong adventure. This person is doing just that, in the least trying to understand the opposing viewpoint. For this I laud him.

Here is the question:

“Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on affirmative action?”

Here is my response:

Not a big fan at all. It is interesting, I just finished a book entitled, “Wrong on Race: The Democrat Party’s Buried Past,” and at the end of the book he gave some ideas that the Republicans could spearhead some ideas to end racial preferences altogether. One is (and I don’t know how much I like his ideas… but at least he is being innovative) that blacks would not have to pay Federal Income Tax for a generation or two, and then all race based programs could be ended… and we could truly be a color blind society. At least as the government is concerned. (You will never be able to change human nature and its depravity.)

A book I highly recommend (and is relatively short) that help zero in on this topic is a book by Thomas Sowell, “Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?” It is a bit dated but there are timeless ideas in it. A more academic study is his book, “Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study,” by Sowell. (Although I haven’t read the book, I trust Walter Williams input from his newest book [on my 2013 reading list]: “Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?“).

Again, two books easily digested that should be read by the serious student that are short and full of timeless wisdom:

★ “Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?” by Thomas Sowell;
★ and, “White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era,” by Shelby Steele.

I look at it like this. Let’s say you have a law firm and many of your cases are with Hollywood moguls and you have even had a couple of your lawyers argue before the Supreme Court. You need lawyers that know their law and have a record of academic achievement. You go to Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, etc. to pull from the pool new Lawyers. Walking around are future graduates with signs around their necks that say:

★ I got into ______________ because I competed and scored higher than most on my SATS and was near the top of my undergraduate classes;

★ I got into ______________ because my parents or grandparents gave millions of dollars to their alma mater;

★ I got into ______________ because I am black.

(By-the-by, I used the example of a rich privileged “white” student because I know this person views much of the world through the lenses of the liberal trinity, that is: race, class, gender. I used an example he would agree with, so if “a” is true [rich privileged kid], why isn’t “b” true [poor privileged kid].) I would be just as skeptical of the uber-rich kid who has parents building wings in the university as I would about a person getting in due to affirmative action. And if you ran a business that by nature [all] are competitive, you are looking for people who can be the best.

Not only does this hurt the workforce, but it hurts the educational system as well. To wit, I just uploaded a 5-minute blurb from Thomas Sowell. It is worth listening to:

Here is likewise a short audio with Larry Elder making some key points in a 6-minute audio. What this shows is that like with many “feelings based” policy, the people harmed are the intended target of help.

I finished off my thinking with David Mamet, an ex-progressive, explaining the idea of feelings based laws:

There is a Liberal sentiment that it should also punish those who take more than their “fair share.” But what is their fair share? (Shakespeare suggests that each should be treated not according to his deserts, but according to God’s mercy, or none of us would escape whipping.)

The concept of Fairness, for all its attractiveness to sentiment, is a dangerous one (cf. quota hiring and enrollment, and talk of “reparations”). Deviations from the Law, which is to say the Constitution, to accommodate specifically alleged identity-group injustices will all inevitably be expanded, universalized, and exploited until there remains no law, but only constant petition of Government.

We cannot live in peace without Law. And though law cannot be perfect, it may be just if it is written in ignorance of the identity of the claimants and applied equally to all. Then it is a possession not only of the claimants but of the society, which may now base its actions upon a reasonable assumption of the law’s treatment.

But “fairness” is not only a nonlegal but an antilegal process, for it deals not with universally applicable principles and strictures, but with specific cases, responding to the perceived or proclaimed needs of individual claimants, and their desire for extralegal preference. And it could be said to substitute fairness (a determination which must always be subjective) for justice (the application of the legislated will of the electorate), is to enshrine greed—the greed, in this case, not for wealth, but for preference. The socialistic spirit of the Left indicts ambition and the pursuit of wealth as Greed, and appeals, supposedly on behalf of “the people,” to the State for “fairness.”….

….But such fairness can only be the non-Constitutional intervention of the State in the legal, Constitutional process—awarding, as it sees fit, money (reparations), preferment (affirmative action), or entertainment (confiscation)….

….”Don’t you care?” is the admonition implicit in the very visage of the Liberals of my acquaintance on their understanding that I have embraced Conservatism. But the Talmud understood of old that good intentions can lead to evil—vide Busing, Urban Renewal, Affirmative Action, Welfare, et cetera, to name the more immedi­ately apparent, and not to mention the, literally, tens of thousands of Federal and State statutes limiting freedom of trade, which is to say, of the right of the individual to make a living, and, so earn that wealth which would, in its necessary expenditure, allow him to provide a living to others….

…. I recognized that though, as a lifelong Liberal, I endorsed and paid lip service to “social justice,” which is to say, to equality of result, I actually based the important decisions of my life—those in which I was personally going to be affected by the outcome—upon the principle of equality of opportunity; and, further, that so did everyone I knew. Many, I saw, were prepared to pay more taxes, as a form of Charity, which is to say, to hand off to the Government the choice of programs and recipients of their hard-earned money, but no one was prepared to be on the short end of the failed Government pro­grams, however well-intentioned. (For example—one might endorse a program giving to minorities preference in award of government contracts; but, as a business owner, one would fight to get the best possible job under the best possible terms regardless of such a pro­gram, and would, in fact, work by all legal and, perhaps by semi- or illegal means to subvert any program that enforced upon the pro­prietor a bad business decision.)*

Further, one, in paying the government to relieve him of a feeling of social responsibility, might not be bothered to question what in fact constituted a minority, and whether, in fact, such minority con­tracts were actually benefiting the minority so enshrined, or were being subverted to shell corporations and straw men.


*No one would say of a firefighter, hired under rules reducing the height requirement, and thus unable to carry one’s child to safety, “Nonetheless, I am glad I voted for that ‘more fair’ law.”

As, indeed, they are, or, in the best case, to those among the applicants claiming eligibility most capable of framing, supporting, or bribing their claims to the front of the line. All claims cannot be met. The politicians and bureaucrats discriminating between claims will neces­sarily favor those redounding to their individual or party benefit—so the eternal problem of “Fairness,” supposedly solved by Government distribution of funds, becomes, yet again and inevitably, a question of graft.

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), 116-117, 122, 151, 154.