Tuesday Talk: Family Feud Edition

Following up on last week’s remarkably successful Tuesday Talk, this will be come an occasional quasi-regular feature, but with a twist. As many suggested, a little directed focus would help to rein in the discussion of favored meats (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and redirect the efforts toward subjects of broader interest.

Over the past week, I’ve had some discussions with Jake and Keith Kaplan that raised interesting issues. Keith make the point that if 100 people were asked whether they supported affirmative action, 30 would enthusiastically back it. I think Keith’s estimate is low, according to how the question was posed. To broaden the question a bit, let’s frame it like this:

Do you support equality for all people?

I would certainly expect, and hope that the vast majority of respondents would immediately exclaim, “of course.” But that’s because the framing of the question makes it easy to answer. This is where we get into the nitty-gritty, where Jake and I ended up.

Would you, as a parent, be willing to give back your child’s acceptance to Harvard (or any school that you really want your kid to attend) so that a “marginalized” student can take the seat?

The bible tells the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice the life of Isaac because God asks him to. But hey, that’s God, not Catherine Lhamon. There are many variations on the theme of the question: if there was only enough food for one child to survive, would you let your white privileged son starve so that a black child could survive? If there was a job that your child really wanted, and it was him and a female applicant, would you tell him to withdraw so that she could get the job? What if your son had been unemployed for a year? What if this job was his dream job, and dream jobs rarely come along?

To discuss equality on a theoretical level, where the only question is whether you can twit in support of your tribe and are willing to go to a march in a pink hat where everybody will hold hands, sing songs and have a grand time, is nonsense. When push comes to shove, all your deep passion gets put to the test when you have to make the choice between your child’s, or your own, survival, happiness, future and someone else’s.

No cheating. You can’t magically turn water into wine, split the job in half so everybody can have a slice, or have rainbow unicorns arrive in the nick of time. So, are you willing to take that knife and thrust it into your child’s heart for the cause of equality? If not, then can you demand that others do so?

And floor is open.

121 comments on “Tuesday Talk: Family Feud Edition

  1. B. McLeod

    Of course the beauty of affirmative action for many of us is that others pay the ticket. As you note, it tends to operate among the marginally qualified. Hence, neither I (nor likely even any friend or family member) would ever need to worry about losing a spot to an affirmative action candidate. The Bakkes and Fishers of the world take care of that stuff.

    Reply
  2. Joseph

    When I was in high school, me and my friends (most of whom would have been negatively impacted by an affirmative action program) vaguely accepted the premise that affirmative action was okay, even with competitive university admissions bearing down on us. Our parents were less enthused at the time, maybe because parents are often more invested in their children than their children are in themselves.

    On the other hand, the difference AA would have made for most of us lay somewhere near the difference between a first tier school and a second tier school. None of us were starving, faced even the remotely the prospect of not getting into any decent college, and were generally financially secure. We were all able to “soak the hit”, as it were. I have no doubt that if we’d been less privileged we might have had to actually care.

    Reply
  3. el profesor presente

    If more people stopped saying “I have white privilege” and started saying “It is a privilege to be white,” maybe we could move this discussion along.

    Reply
      1. el professor presente

        Sure, always, but at least more people may realize that this particular axe isn’t quite as effective at deprogramming white supremacy as they assumed.

        (Apologies to SHG for completely failing to not go orthogonal. I mean, he even gave instructions on this one.)

        Reply
  4. Beth

    I’ve always hated the story of Abraham and Isaac. What kind of benevolent and loving God would be so cruel? I still don’t like it.
    As much as I’d like to say that of course I’m all for equality and would do whatever it takes to make the world a better place I have to be honest. I’d never sacrifice my child. No ifs ands or buts about it. if that makes me a hypocrite then so be it.

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    1. David

      Similarly to you (though not a parent, I’m thinking of a job I was interested in), I’m in favour of equality and affirmative action to some extent (not necessarily as far is it goes in practice), even though I know that that may mean that I miss out on an opportunity in future. So long as it is a generalized non-specific risk. If it means I won’t get a specific job I want, I’m not in favour of it. I’m in favour of affirmative action when used as a tie-breaker or weighting factor or X% of hires or something, not when it’s 100% of hires must be minority until imbalances addressed; I still want there to be discretion to hire a non-minority in any individual case.

      Similarly – to use an analogy rather than an allegory (if one considers it an allegory…and as an aside, I think I once read in passing a character in a novel arguing that it was really Abraham testing God, in the sense of is he worth worshipping?). I am against capital punishment due primarily to problems with the justice system. But if a friend or family member were murdered, and I were convinced of the guilt of the accused, I’d probably want them executed because of that specific circumstance, notwithstanding my current, generalized, opposition to the death penalty.

      Reply
  5. JAV

    I wouldn’t, but then again I think AA is baloney. I would rather find ways to scrub the identity from applicants so everyone has a fair chance. No names, no locations, no incomes, no sex/gender/etc, just their qualifications and potential. Then again even that’s imperfect, you can’t sterilize everything about a person and who they are, and for all the SocJus hand-wringing, there’s good evidence that certain kinds of people are drawn to certain kinds of work.

    But I would rather know if me or mine were passed over for something, it nothing to do with checking the “diversity” box.

    Reply
      1. JAV

        None of this matters now that I know Glen Campbell’s passed. A couple years ago I put him on shuffle in Spotify, and I played it for days and helped me build a solid classic country playlist.

        A genuine musical legend.

        Reply
  6. Robert

    “Do you support equality for all people?”

    Do I support a ridiculous claim about people, one that has never been true and never will be true?

    Nope. Instead, I recognize that people are not equal. Some are faster than others, some stronger, some smarter, some better looking, etc. People are definitely not equal and cannot be made equal. I see no point in ignoring this basic truth in favor of SJW type nonsense.

    Now, if what you actually mean is “equal rights”, then yes I support that, but only in the strict sense of negative rights, as in the freedom to live one’s own life as best one can without undue interference from others. Sure, all of us unequal individuals should have that right.

    I do not support any notion of positive rights, i.e. some claim that others must provide you with something. Nobody has any “right” to a college education or any particular job or anything else.

    That out of the way, in regards to the question you want answered, the answer is easy. If my son or daughter was drowning, along with some kid who is a stranger to me, and I had only enough time to save one, of course I am going to save my own child as a priority over the stranger. I suspect anybody who answers differently is not being honest with themselves. (well, unless for some reason they hate their own child 😉 )

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  7. Charles

    “If there was a job that your child really wanted, and it was him and a female applicant, would you tell him to withdraw so that she could get the job?”

    No, because it’s his job to apply. It is the employer’s job to decide.

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  8. Mike G.

    I believe in equality of opportunity. There is not and never has been equality of outcome.

    In an ideal world, the best, brightest and most ambitious will obviously rise to the top regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

    But we don’t live in an ideal world, ergo AA, Title VII and Title IX. It is what it is and we have to make the best of it.

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    1. PseudonymousKid

      Dear Mike,

      Is an ideal world one where race is taken into account among other factors in college admissions? You mentioned AA as an attempt to inject equality of opportunity in an imperfect system. Bonus points for being different aren’t measures of ability. When you say “opportunity,” I hear “outcome,” which you admit is impossible to achieve. The world is unfair, after all.

      Maybe we can make better of it. When did we become afraid to try to tackle big issues? Oh yea, we are incapable of working together.

      Best,
      PK

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      1. SHG Post author

        This TT isn’t going very well as yet. Most people are trying too hard to avoid the question. Then again, if they choose not to decide they still have made a choice.

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        1. B. McLeod

          Well, in a way, it was a trick question. Because in real life, we don’t have to personally sacrifice for “affirmative action.” We dump the sacrifice on the backs of marginalized poors. If it were any other way, “affirmative action” would probably never have made it off the blocks.

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        2. Mike G.

          Actually one of my favorite Rush songs. The Trees, also by Rush runs a close second.

          Your question is really a two part question in my mind. In the first part, yes I would want my kid(s) to have that admission to the first tier school over a “marginalized” other kid if they earned it. If the “marginalized” kid had better scores, then obviously they earned the spot and should have it. That’s the equal opportunity.

          The second part of the question…Hell yeah I’ll sacrifice the other kid for mine if it’s a life or death scenario.

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        3. PseudonymousKid

          It’s hard to answer cleanly. I am willing to sacrifice far more than just my child’s access to a great school. I would give up the freedom to choose a school for my child to ensure that we can reach equality. I would pay far more of my income to ensure this among other things happen. Charter schools aren’t the answer. Discrimination on the basis of race isn’t the answer. Half measures are more harmful than good. So, I have to answer your questions in the negative. Let’s take this train to the extreme.

          I want you to record yourself serenading me next time you try to reply with obscure references through song lyrics, please. I still don’t get the last one.

          Maybe tell people in the post to start with “Yes” or “No” and then justify?

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          1. SHG Post author

            I would give up the freedom to choose a school for my child to ensure that we can reach equality.

            Eek. Not your best. If it was Harvard for baby PK or equality for mankind, that would be one thing. But if it’s Harvard or just some random kid of color/gender, which will certainly change the one kid’s life, but nothing more, then would you? Somebody will have a leg up on a fabulous life. Maybe it would matter. Maybe not. Willing to take the chance with your li’l darling?

            Sorry that Hair got you. It’s an oldie, I know, but who believes in Claude anymore? Anyway, this should be easier.

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            1. PseudonymousKid

              The answer is no. I would want baby PK to have what its little heart desires over some random marginalized kid. If you want me to sacrifice, the end goal should be something big and lofty. It feelz better that way.

              Uh, workers of the world unite, I guess. I’ll play the role.

            2. PseudonymousKid

              “trolling for the lulz”

              More a tongue in cheek way of saying what alternatives do we have besides doing what we are already unsatisfied with?

              We’re Americans, we can do it better than those damn pinkos.

            3. locoyokel

              Thing is, I don’t think Harvard, Yale, or any other school will really do all that much for those unable or unprepared to take advantage of it. The supposed social connections will not advantage you later if cannot make the cut in school or do so poorly that you cannot perform later.

              AA is a farce doing nothing but putting unprepared kids into an environment where they are guaranteed to fail. This is not beneficial to them or society. If they have the chops to make it but cannot get the opportunity because they can’t afford it or come from the “wrong” social class then give them a hand up, but they have to make it on their own. No padding stats just to say “See how woke we are?”

  9. jay-w

    I think that the question — as phrased — is too vague for a meaningful answer.

    In other words: Does “equality” mean “equality of opportunity” or “equality of outcome”? And are we talking about equality for individuals or equality for groups? And, does “support” mean that I think it’s a nice, warm & fuzzy, comforting idea or does “support” mean that I think the government should use its police power (including the implied threat of deadly force) to impose affirmative action policies on private individuals, small businesses, private colleges, etc.?

    If (for example) you ask me whether government should coerce businesses into hiring an equal number of male and female software engineers in spite of the very strong circumstantial evidence that the number of women with extremely high mathematical abilities is much lower than the number of men with extremely high mathematical abilities, them my answer is a resounding “NO!!!”

    Affirmative action not only harms the people who are the victims of “reverse discrimination,” but it also harms the members of the “protected class” who then have to live under the cloud of always wondering “Did I get this job because I really deserved it, or because the employer had a some (possibly unofficial) quota to meet?”

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  10. PseudonymousKid

    We’re born equal. Nothing after is equal. Stamp your feet and throw a tantrum all you want, and it won’t change the fact. The equality of opportunity that most clamor for would take radical action to achieve. Why are some minority populations much much poorer? Why are their schools under performing? These are the hard questions we need to try to answer.

    Education, like health care are not compatible with a market system where we can all kneel and pray that the market comprised of irrational jerks like you and me will force a “correction.” Even if it’s overly ambitious and naive, doing nothing is just as stupid.

    How much does equality of opportunity really mean to us after all? Right now we let the children suffer for their parents’ perceived mistakes. That’s not cutting it. Putting a band-aid on it is just pathetic.

    The answer is no.

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  11. Keith

    I think there’s a reasoned argument that principles should be discussed and refined well before they need to be tested, lest our flawed rationalizations have their way over our intellect.

    Your post about physics yesterday reminded me of a conversation Richard Feynman once had where he spoke about hard sciences and the problems encountered. His point was that at the end of any field of inquiry, you cease being able to use the same kinds of solutions that have been thought of before (if those worked, the new problems would be solved) and the ideas needed for future discovery have to come from a place of creativity. As if even (and possibly, especially) in the hard sciences, a flair for artistic talent yields outcomes unattainable by others.

    You can measure talent for what has already been achieved much easier than you can measure an aptitude for the ability to find what is yet to be discovered. Having more opinions that come from diverse vantage points adds to the ability of seeing things from new places. It leads to discovery.

    So do I want my kid to lose a spot so that someone else’s with a different vantage point can join in the discussion — hell no. But that’s why it’s best to discuss what’s best for a whole when a school is trying to determine what the make-up of the class should be.

    I’m in favor of affirmative action because we generally suck at picking the best, while we’re really good at choosing things that are the same.

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  12. Ray Lee

    The vast majority would probably endorse the concept of equality for all people without a similar majority agreeing on what “equality for all people” means or where the concept fits in to our priority system.

    For example, if 100 applicants apply for 50 positions (employment, academic, whatever) for which there is an objective test, some might thing equality is a proportional representation of intersectional groups while others think equality is the top 50 test results. While both would think they are endorsing “equality for all people,” they are endorsing different approaches.

    For my part, I endorse the concept of “equality for all people” but only as one of many good concepts. For me, equality (any version) would take a distant second to what is best for any of my children or grandchildren. That is not to say I don’t endorse the concept; it is to say that the concept won’t necessarily drive the train.

    In my opinion, a societal problem is that we have government trying to impose a version of the concept of equality upon private actors and further setting the priority for the concept. The Constitution requires equal protection of the law but that was intended to apply to the government. While majorities support the government requiring “equality” by private actors, there may no be a majority as to what type of equality is required or where on the priority list the requirement falls. I think we would be better off if the government would focus on its responsibilities to provide equal protection of the law and let private actors do what they think is best, as always with the caveat that private actors can’t hit others or take their stuff in the name of your private version of equality or doing the right thing.

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    1. SHG Post author

      That is not to say I don’t endorse the concept; it is to say that the concept won’t necessarily drive the train.

      You obviously realize this cannot be rationally reconciled. Equal protection applies to governmental detriments imposed, not to failure to enjoy unearned benefits. But even so, when it comes to each of us, our children, if it goes out the window, then it goes out the window in every instance, as there is someone who suffers in each instance. If it’s true for you, and it’s true for me, it’s similarly true for Joe, Mohammed or Samantha, or any other person whose child we’re happy to sacrifice.

      Or to put it otherwise, I’ll sacrifice yours, but not mine, for the cause, says everyone.

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      1. Ray Lee

        I respectfully disagree both as to the Equal Protection Clause and private actors pursuing equality.

        I think the Equal Protection Clause would apply to 5 individuals from different intersectional groups applying for the last available seat at a state university, requiring the government school to ignore the group identity of each of the applicants. That may not be the state of the law at present but Justice Thomas and I are in complete agreement.

        On the private actor front, if I’m hiring for 3 positions, I may desire to hire my son for one position without regard to “equality for all people” while employing my version of equality for the other two hires, whether that version would be a desire for SJW “diversity” or my perception of merit. If, on the other hand, my son is applying for a job with your firm, he has no legitimate reason to insist that you apply his version of equality in the hiring decision.

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      2. Ray Lee

        Although days late, I don’t think I realized what you were saying until I read your post on Milo (“The sentence that nails down Chase’s point is that he “doesn’t believe in protesting principle for the sake of principle in all cases,” which means he doesn’t believe in principle at all.”). FWIW, I do endorse Equal Protection as a principle applied to government but I do not endorse Equal Protection, or any of our varied views of equality for all people, as a principle governing private actors, whether me or anyone else. I would endorse the Military Academy’s Honor Code as principles for private actors (well, at least the first three points) but not much beyond that.

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  13. Jake

    Would you, as a parent, be willing to give back your child’s acceptance to Harvard (or any school that you really want your kid to attend) so that a “marginalized” student can take the seat?

    No. I would want Harvard to stop the presses on a Jared Kushner acceptance* and give that chair to another qualified student. Harvard has enough money. They don’t have enough diversity.

    The problem with the rest of your hypotheticals is the answer is obvious. And reductio ad absurdum. Every parent would and should favor their offspring in any of the situations you mentioned. But that doesn’t mean arguing for equality is incorrect.

    We don’t live in a world where any of these hypotheticals are necessary choices for most of us. Particularly those of us with the time to shoot the bull about philosophy on a Tuesday morning. We do live in a world where .01% of the population is so ridiculously wealthy they need consultants to help them find more absurd ways to spend money while %99.99 percent are fighting over the distribution of the crumbs.

    Do you support equality for all people?

    Yes. What I have come to believe is every human on the planet deserves equal access to the yield of earth’s resources. We, as a species, have enough abundance today, that no person can morally be denied clean air, clean water, healthy food, and shelter. As long as one child is starving to death, anywhere in the world, conspicuous consumption on the order of, say, the Kardashian girls, should be a crime. And I do mean that literally.

    *Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-story-behind-jared-kushners-curious-acceptance-into-harvard

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Lawyers test doctrine by taking it to the logical extreme to see whether it still holds true. That happens quite often in law, that an idea that works under easy facts fails under hard facts, so before adopting a rule, we need to know whether it work or it’s a cop out. If the doctrine is intolerable at its extreme, then we must either find a rational ledge to distinguish where it works from where it doesn’t, or we must find a better doctrine. It’s not the same as reductio ad absurdum.

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    2. Ray Lee

      “As long as one child is starving to death, anywhere in the world, conspicuous consumption on the order of, say, the Kardashian girls, should be a crime. And I do mean that literally.”

      A governmentally created & enforced utopia to your liking. That concept has always worked so well in the past.

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      1. PseudonymousKid

        What does the government have to do with anything? Couldn’t we just shame conspicuous consumption out of existence? You want hand-stitched leather for your ass over a meal for someone else? Most of us don’t have the means to make a difference. Bentley drivers apparently do, but don’t care enough to try. How is that Ok? Throw politics out the window. Isn’t this immoral on a basic level?

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            1. B. McLeod

              Strong desire for money (“Radix malorum est cupiditas” – Chaucer, quoting from Latin translation of Greek Bible).

        1. Ray Lee

          Daddy PK, only the government can make it a crime. If you think something is immoral on a basic level (or on any level), don’t do it. Joining with sufficient others (I.e., a political majority) to impose your morals on everyone is where the trouble starts.

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          1. PseudonymousKid

            I don’t think Jake called for criminalizing wealth. Why do we have to make everything a crime to get rid of it.

            Let’s not say we don’t already legislate morality. Last I checked I can’t have multiple wives even if I really wanted to and believed that would get me to heaven. Killing people is wrong. Hurting people is wrong. Can I say those things, or do we live in a weird perspectivist, moral relativist wasteland?

            I have tons of water. Is it a crime if I refuse to share the water even if I am certain that people will die if I don’t share? Is it moral?

            If the wealthy aren’t evil, why do people starve?

            It’s ok. I don’t really have a say in any of this. So the parade of horribles you likely expect will never happen.

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            1. Ray Lee

              Respectfully, focus. Jake expressly said: “As long as one child is starving to death, anywhere in the world, conspicuous consumption on the order of, say, the Kardashian girls, should be a crime.” While I confess to being overly literal on (many) occasions, I copied that statement in my original comment in order to be as clear as possible that I was referring to that statement.

            2. PseudonymousKid

              Good point. Sorry about that. He did say crime. I read it too fast.

              [Ed. Note: Stercus accidit.]

            3. Ross

              PK, that is the single damnedest response I have ever see on the web. What the hell do you mean, good point? All collegial and shit? Can’t you at least yell NAZI or something? What is this place coming to?

      2. Jake

        “A governmentally created & enforced utopia to your liking. That concept has always worked so well in the past.”

        Could you expand on this comment? I sense you are referring to something but I don’t know what.

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        1. Davis C.

          Your critics are probably referring to the 20th century’s many failed attempts at communism. Making it a crime for people to be rich is a terrible idea. Always leads to lots of dead bodies.

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          1. Jake

            “Always leads to lots of dead bodies.”

            First, are you unaware of the body count on Capitalism’s ledger?

            Second, this is not a true statement. Socialism is alive and well in Denmark. Communism is working just fine in China.

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            1. Christopher Best

              Communism in China is like Democracy in Venezuela. Just because you call something by a name, doesn’t make it so.

            2. Davis C.

              1. Denmark isn’t a socialist country. Denmark is a free market country with lots of government programs.
              2. I grew up in China. The government is highly repressive, and the massive growth China has experienced is a direct result of liberalized economic policies under Deng Xiaoping. When Mao was in charge, the economy was centrally planned, and it was a disaster. Plus, countries with freer economies have all exploded economically, long before China did (see South Korea, Japan, and Singapore).
              3. Whenever people attribute deaths to capitalism, I question their grasp of the concept of capitalism, i.e., free markets in which everyone is a willing participant. People will always die. The question is whether they’re dying because the world is a tough place or because someone thought a mass murder would help to usher in the classless society.

            3. Jake

              @ Davis C.

              1. Denmark isn’t a socialist country. Denmark is a free market country with lots of government programs.

              I’ve spent a lot of time in Denmark and when I ask my friends there what system they are living under the answer is universally ‘Socialism’. This is because for most of the 20th century their Constitutional Monarchy was run by a Socialist Democratic group in Parliament. It is now run by a populist right group, but their populist right is like Bermie Sanders in the US.

              2. I grew up in China. The government is highly repressive, and the massive growth China has experienced is a direct result of liberalized economic policies under Deng Xiaoping. When Mao was in charge, the economy was centrally planned, and it was a disaster. Plus, countries with freer economies have all exploded economically, long before China did (see South Korea, Japan, and Singapore).

              I am not a scholar on China so I doubt my view as a political/philosophical dilatant matches the depth of your experience. It does lead me to wonder though, how your position on the value of leftist policy has been shaped.

              3. Whenever people attribute deaths to capitalism, I question their grasp of the concept of capitalism, i.e., free markets in which everyone is a willing participant. People will always die. The question is whether they’re dying because the world is a tough place or because someone thought a mass murder would help to usher in the classless society.

              Historically and in the present, I attribute plenty of death directly to capitalism and I don’t really think it matters to the dead whether they were killed for profit or ideology. Coal mines. Slaves. The theft of the Americas. Diamond mines. Oil fields.

              Besides, the definition of Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

              In my view, this means the Government has abdicated its responsibility to the people by giving up control of the means of production so a few can profit from them.

            4. Davis C.

              1. Denmark is a free market economy with a large welfare state. Case in point: the Heritage Foundation consistently ranks it as roughly as economically free as the United States. You can Google the economic freedom index for more information on how they determined this.

              3. “Besides, the definition of Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

              This is correct. However, in any functioning capitalist system, there are rules that govern how people are to treat one another, otherwise you don’t have free markets. Slavery is coercive. The whole idea of free markets is that people participate voluntarily. There’s no way to fit slavery into this. The same is true of any kind of theft.

        2. Ray Lee

          I was referring to your specific assertion that, so long one child anywhere is starving, you want to criminalize the spending of others. While it has obvious emotional appeal, the result of this approach is, of course, unless and until the world reaches a level equity satisfactory to you (at a minimum, no more starving children anywhere), you would use the coercive power of government (criminal laws) to restrict the liberty of others. Among the problems with this approach is the lack of a logical end. There will always and everywhere be haves and have nots and it will always be emotionally appealing to have the government coerce the haves to provide for the have nots until the differential is zero (utopia). This is the Marxist approach which is emotionally appealing but has never worked in real life and caused untold suffering in the many attempts.

          If you want to restrict your own spending in favor of the less fortunate, that is clearly a laudable position. If you want to convince others to voluntarily restrict their spending in favor of the less fortunate, I wish you good luck and God speed. But when you want to use the coercive power of government to implement your moral views on others, it is a recipe for disaster.

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          1. PseudonymousKid

            Nothing says the “haves” have to have so much. Curing disparity is impossible, sure. That does not mean allowing individuals to hoard wealth is the answer. Bill Gates is a smart guy and a shrewd businessman. Why does he get to control an out-sized portion of our collective economy and drive our politics to a degree anyone else can only dream of? It’s gotten a bit absurd.

            I’d settle for a world where the rich aren’t praised and rewarded for simply being wealthy. Something has got to give.

            Marx is a bit more nuanced than simply wanting inequality to cease to exist and to achieve some sort of utopia. Don’t throw any baby there out with the bathwater.

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          2. Jake

            Thanks for that detailed reply.

            So, to be clear, you, therefore, believe the opposite scenario is preferable? Specifically, (as is presently the case) that the coercive power of the government is used to restrict the ability of many to live the most basic lives so that the few may have extreme wealth.

            And, as a corollary, you are OK with the government using coercive power to implement your moral views. Just not my moral views.

            “This is the Marxist approach which is emotionally appealing but has never worked in real life and caused untold suffering in the many attempts.”

            Communism, which is a step further than Marxism, seems to be working just fine in China – though I am open to debate on the subject if we can agree to metrics by which you can measure the success or failure of a governing doctrine in advance. Neither works great with corrupt and/or psychotic individual leaders who pretend they are egalitarians but actually just sold the idea of Marxism to the proletariat to line their own pockets.

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            1. Davis C.

              “Specifically, (as is presently the case) that the coercive power of the government is used to restrict the ability of many to live the most basic lives so that the few may have extreme wealth.”

              No one actually wants this, and I don’t think we’re living in the society you’re describing. The government should favor neither the rich nor the poor; it should secure the rights of both.

            2. Jake

              @Davis C

              “I don’t think we’re living in the society you’re describing.”

              You don’t think anyone in this country has died because somebody, somewhere, deemed profit more important than life? You don’t believe the coercive power of the Government in this country is used to protect the wealth of the few from the needs of the many?

              My God man, what are we even talking about then? We’re already in Utopia.

            3. Davis C.

              To clarify, we aren’t living in a society where the government systematically restricts the rights of the many to maximize profits for the few. Obviously, there are abuses. There will be abuses in any system. The idea is to minimize them, and I think that a liberal government (i.e. one that protects the rights of all people to life, liberty, and property) is the best way to minimize such abuses.

            4. Chris

              “And, as a corollary, you are OK with the government using coercive power to implement your moral views. Just not my moral views.”

              If you believe the government has the right to police anything, then you believe the above. After all, I do not believe in your morals, or they would be my morals.

    3. SHG Post author

      As attractive as the option of Criminalizing the Kardashians™ may be, you’re avoiding the hard question by going for low hanging fruit.

      Try this one: Middle-aged white male, two kids with a third on the way, laid off from his factory job a year ago, sucking wind financially as his savings are gone and his credit cards maxed out, finally gets an interview for a decent job, with no other potential employers or jobs in sight. Employer is considering him and a black guy (no information about the black guy known, except that he’s black). Does the white guy withdraw because the black guy has suffered systemic discrimination (about which there’s no dispute)?

      Reply
      1. Jake

        Does the white guy withdraw because the black guy has suffered systemic discrimination (about which there’s no dispute)?

        Does he withdraw? I doubt it. People chasing the diminishing pool of manufacturing jobs in this country are not known for their long vision or being particularly ‘woke.’

        Should he withdraw? I guess, that is to say, would I withdraw in the same situation? That depends. Do I have the sensibilities of a man who has been ignoring the steady decline of manufacturing jobs and its impact on my community for decades? Or do I have my own?

        I sense you want an answer to this question to move the conversation forward so I will admit…If I was this guy and my kids were hungry, and I was out of options, I would not voluntarily withdraw for the aforementioned reason.

        Interested to see where you are going with this.

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          Can’t I just enjoy the squirming as you come up with stereotypes of stupid, racist, misogynistic factory workers to rationalize why they deserve whatever they get? But even if, as you finally surmise, it was a woke guy such as . . . you, you would put your kids first. But if you were denied that because of social justice, and you came home to your beloved children empty handed (even assuming you contributed to your own misery), how would you feel about it?

          Dad: Sorry, kids, but there won’t be any dinner tonight.
          Kids: But dadddddy, we’re hungry!!!
          Dad: Well, I should have seen the decline of factory jobs for decades and I didn’t.
          Kids: But dadddddy, we’re hungry!!!
          Dad: I almost had this job, but the employer gave it to another person who was marginalized because of historic discrimination.
          Kids: But dadddddy, we’re hungry!!!
          Dad: Well, he was qualified, and he suffered for his race, and his race has suffered, and I contributed to my miserable lot in life.
          Kids: But dadddddy, we’re hungry!!!
          Dad: Sorry, but you’ll just have to suck it up for the good of social justice.
          Kids: But dadddddy, we’re hungry!!!

          Reply
          1. Jake

            “As you come up with stereotypes of stupid, racist, misogynistic factory workers to rationalize why they deserve whatever they get?”

            Honestly, although your accusation is not out of character for me, I was doing it to counter your appeal to the feelz with all that jazz about his hungry kids.

            It appears to me that you’re attempting to make a point in a conversation about society as a whole with the circumstances of individuals, and it doesn’t work (for me). Will there be losers? Yes. The question isn’t whether or not there will be losers. The question is whether or not society, as a whole, is trending towards equality.

            Now, will there be losers if there was a real social safety net? Perhaps temporarily and nobody would go hungry. It’s necessary for a whole lot of other things to be understood before you can believe an egalitarian vision for the future.

            But then again, in a sense, this is the core of the discussion: Do the needs of the individual outweigh the greater good? For me, the answer is no. Never. Will it make me sad if and when I’m the loser? Sure.

            But I won’t be mad at the other individual guy who gets my job. I will be mad at the leaders who believe someone (typically the CEO) deserves millions in bonuses to make the next quarterly profits by figuring out a way to get one guy to do the work of three. (Hint: The strategy is simple. Just get us to believe we need to work extra, extra hard, or our jobs are going to be shipped to another country.)

            Reply
            1. Jake

              (Ed. Note: Sorry, the reply button stopped working. I know why, no need to explain.)

              “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few then?”

              Yes.

              But even more importantly, the needs of the many and the individual are inextricably linked. If the needs of the many are not met, history has shown us things will start getting broken and blood will spill. Lots of blood. And this has happened many more times than some tin-pot dictator pretended he was creating a Marxist utopia and failed.

              Now, I will throw a whole card. Do I really want to criminalize wealth? No. I make a lot of money and I enjoy spending it on nice vacations and my Harley.

              However, I am comfortable with European Socialism and I believe it is necessary for society to start thinking about some alternative to the current approach in the US. Strong AI and robotic automation are going to take a lot of jobs in the next 50 years. Will make the last 30 years of job loss look like a walk in the park. And don’t think the legal profession is somehow going to be immune.

            2. Jake

              “I wouldn’t have taken you for a white supremacist (with a conscience, of course).”

              Well played. Allow me to be more specific, so as not to be misunderstood:

              When it comes to economic equality, the needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few. That is to say, all humans should have their basic needs met before the Kardashian’s can have a yacht. Once everyone’s basic needs are met, I am all for wealth. Even extreme wealth.

              PS- By my definition, basic needs include clean air, clean water, healthy food, shelter, and medical care.

          2. B. McLeod

            Well, the kids shouldn’t just sit around whining when they could be out trying to bag some squirrels or a possum.

            Reply
  14. el professor presente

    For realz this time.

    First, one dead kid and one living kid isn’t equality. It isn’t even equity. At least not for the individual kids in question. Maybe it helps the demographic, but demographics are constructs not people.

    And if we leave the enforcement of societal ideals up to the individuals most affected, we shouldn’t expect success. Should we ask the parents of murdered children if they give permission for the killer to have the best possible defense? God bless the ones who would approve, but the exercise has limited value.

    If affirmative action means a person’s identity gets to trump someone else’s greater qualifications, then there’s a conflict with some bedrock principles of individual liberty. (I mean specifically as a government mandate here, because frankly this sort of thing happens all the time in other ways.) That’s not necessarily determinative – we negotiate these sorts of conflicts all the time. But for me this is a conflict where I would generally come down on the side of not allowing affirmative action that much trump power. Or at least Trump power.

    But I don’t think that needs to be the ideal. The absence of affirmative action means no consideration at all for these factors. There’s a middle ground between the two, which is that affirmative action can be a determining factor between equally qualified candidates.

    Maybe that’s a rainbow unicorn answer, and life is too messy for such an ideal to be 100% achievable, but we have lots of legal ideals where that is the case. And insisting that affirmative action should be seen as being about lesser qualified candidates cutting in line (or killing your kid) is a rainbow dragon. There really are some disparities in society that should not be, and this argument can be used as a way to avoid addressing them.

    Reply
  15. PAV

    In 1996, I voted to pass Proposition 209 in California, which changed the California constitution to make affirmative action by state actors illegal.

    In trying to find the text that appeared on the ballot, I learned in hard numbers what I suspected just from living in the state for years after 209 passed–California universities didn’t suddenly transform into a white paradise. The percentages of enrollment didn’t change a whole lot, except now the largest share of enrollees are Asian rather than white, and more black students graduated after affirmative action was made illegal than before.

    Would I end affirmative action again? Yes, I would. So I suppose, having already helped do away with affirmative action in my state and seeing the results be more and better minority representation in universities rather than less, I don’t see how affirmative action is a requirement to support equality. I certainly wouldn’t consider it any form of equality for Asian and Latino parents to sacrifice their children on the altar of increasing white representation in California universities. California is roughly 70% white but only has about 28% representation on campus, after all.

    Still, to answer your hypothetical, no, I wouldn’t sacrifice any hypothetical children.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      AA was an example. Sometimes I think I would do better not to use examples. People seem to get very hung up on the example. It makes me sad.

      Reply
      1. B. McLeod

        Right. That’s why it’s best not to say “cheesemakers” when you really mean any small producer of dairy products.

        Reply
      2. PAV

        In answering to your example, I hope I answered your question somewhat. I wouldn’t sacrifice my would-be children and I wouldn’t ask that you sacrifice yours. I won’t sacrifice myself and won’t ask you to sacrifice yourself for me. I don’t think a man eating a metaphorical bullet so that I can have the job they qualify for just as much promotes our equality. It might be an act of personal charity, though. Just the same, I’ll not take that hit myself based on nothing but race.

        Also, your captcha says 6 – 2 != four. Some equality there!

        Reply
        1. Jake

          I have also noticed this captcha sucks at math. I think it automatically resets the question in the background after a certain amount of time passes but does not render the new question unless the page is refreshed. Thus, we end up answering the question we see correctly but the system is expecting us to answer a different question.

          Reply
  16. Davis C.

    Short answer: No.

    Long answer: What matters is not equality, but justice, as classically conceived (i.e. give to each what he/she is owed, without regard to extraneous features like race, sex, etc.). Generally speaking, one’s skin color has no bearing on what one is owed. Unfortunately, egregious injustices have been perpetrated against certain populations in our country because of race, and as a society, we have not yet made things right. A large portion of the population is *owed* something because of past injustices (slavery, Trail of Tears, Jim Crow, racist housing policies, etc.). Insofar as affirmative action remedies past historical wrongs, I think it is justifiable. As much as it might suck for my hypothetical kid, it at least seems fair if 1) he’s a marginal applicant anyway and 2) the kid who gets his spot has had to overcome the intergenerational effects of systemic racism in order to get where he is.

    If either of the conditions above are not met, then I would be very unhappy were my hypothetical child to be passed over in such a way. Suppose he’s an outstanding applicant by any measure; in that case, he should be accepted. Suppose that the kid who displaces him is the child of wealthy Nigerian immigrants who came to the U.S. in the mid-90s; in that case, the kid shouldn’t get an advantage just for having dark skin.

    Reply
  17. Keith

    The purpose of using affirmative action is inextricably linked to whether or not it’s a good or bad thing to sacrifice for. And in that respect, the particulars about affirmative action are much better than employment because education is an open ended endeavor.

    Take a job for making widgets. The applicant that can make the best widget is clearly the best suited pick from the employers perspective. But if you have a job building a conceptual idea that doesn’t exist, it’s far harder to quantify who will be best suited. Varied ideas about how to proceed may yield more avenues for success to be bounced off each other.

    Employers may or may not have a desired outcome. Schools that are going for future potential and achievements as of yet unknown certainly do not. If that’s your goal, do you think diversity of thought and ability is net positive?

    I do.

    Reply
    1. Davis C.

      The important question, then, seems to be whether increasing a population’s racial diversity will also increase the population’s diversity of thought and ability. It’s possible, but not necessary, that increasing racial diversity will have this effect. The mere fact that two people have different skin pigmentation doesn’t necessarily imply that they think differently.

      Reply
      1. Keith

        Sure, and since my goal is diversity of thought and ability, when I say I’m generally in favor of Affirmative Action programs, I would stipulate that if I were creating the criteria, I would want to make sure that it’s not a dispositive factor (ok, we need 10 more x), but merely one of many that should be considered to get the best cross-representation.

        Reply
  18. phv3773

    Equality doesn’t work. Groups that have tried to govern on an “All Animals Are Equal” basis have learned that a leadership structure is necessary to achieve group goals. Any sort of complex economy absolutely requires some degree of inequality. An economy requires both CEOs and cafeteria workers.

    I think we mostly agree that governments should give equitable treatment to their citizens, but it’s hard because definitions of “equitable” vary. OTOH, I don’t think governments should deal in prestige. It’s more important that every school be good than that any school be exceptional. My question about the Abigail Fisher case at UT is why was the second choice school in the UT system not good enough.

    Reply
  19. Hunting Guy

    Make everyone equal and AA is no longer on the table.

    But you might not like the results. The story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut takes total equality to its logical conclusion.

    Reply
  20. Christopher Best

    I scanned through the initial comments and didn’t see (with one exception) much definitive, so I’ll bite: No. I wouldn’t give up anything of real consequence for my child to benefit some other child.

    What do I mean by ‘of real consequence’? There are plenty of trivial things (“Oh, let him have the donut…” Or: “It’s okay, we’ve had enough turns, you can have it now.”), etc. where I’d gladly let some other child come before my child, because while it might be trivial to us, it could be incredibly meaningful to them. My children don’t go hungry, or want for much of anything, really, so a momentary loss of comforts to benefit another is worthwhile.

    But if it’s something important, something my child earned in some way… Entry to a prestigious school? A lucrative internship or job? Screw that, my kid comes first. And is that somehow incompatible with believing in equality? Isn’t it against equality to decide that some other kid is inherently more deserving than the one who was accepted?

    As an aside, isn’t this the point of Affirmative Action being a governmental policy? To take the decision “out of our hands” as individuals? To make the choices in aggregate? Our kid didn’t get accepted, oh well. As long as we never know how the sausage gets made, we can sleep at night.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      And I was beginning to think no one would square up to the issue, which was, of course, part of the issue as well.

      Reply
          1. Nick Lidakis

            If self-interested asshole is synonymous with individuals rationally pursuing their self interest, which has been shown throughout the course of history to be the most effective means of improving the lot of the ordinary man, then I’m willing to admit it as well.

            I categorically reject the notion of “equality for all”. This isn’t merely parroting economists or philosophers. Nor pointing to the history books. Most people see a fat cat on a yacht and hysterically wail “Inequality!” Wanna know what I see? Diesel mechanics, engineers who make the valve seals for the diesel mechanics, craftsmen woodworkers working amboyna burl veneers, electricians, etc., etc. All of them self-interested assholes pursuing their own self interests to the best of their abilities. But you wont see that without a little knowledge and experience (to steal a phrase from you) and a bit of honest thinking.

            The world will always be a better place with more, not fewer, self-interested assholes who are left alone. Even the lawyer types with swimming pools and exotic vintage cars.

            Reply
            1. PseudonymousKid

              No. Self interested assholes rationally pursuing their self interest is not the most effective means of improving the lot of the ordinary man. History would show the opposite. The government drives research and technological progress more than assholes. Besides, man is a social animal. We’re dependent on one another. If your rational pursuit leads you to the same conclusion, great.

              Who cares about the boat? Those hypotheticals are tangible examples of something more sinister and corrupting. Billionaires are too powerful and unchecked and are growing more so. This isn’t yachts and yacht-nots. It’s individuals with GDPs bigger than some countries. Give them boats all you want, but immense power and control? It’s our future not mine or yours.

              A man’s got to know his limitations, but what if he doesn’t?

            2. Nick Lidakis

              PseudonymousKid wrote: “No. Self interested assholes rationally pursuing their self interest is not the most effective means of improving the lot of the ordinary man. History would show the opposite. The government drives research and technological progress more than assholes. Besides, man is a social animal. We’re dependent on one another. If your rational pursuit leads you to the same conclusion, great.

              Who cares about the boat? Those hypotheticals are tangible examples of something more sinister and corrupting. Billionaires are too powerful and unchecked and are growing more so. This isn’t yachts and yacht-nots. It’s individuals with GDPs bigger than some countries. Give them boats all you want, but immense power and control? It’s our future not mine or yours.

              A man’s got to know his limitations, but what if he doesn’t?”

              And here I thought I lived in a country where the guiding principle was that government gots to know its limitations. Silly ol’ me.

            3. SHG Post author

              There are two issues at play that might do better to be separated. One is the accumulation of obscene wealth. The other is whether government should step in to “do something” about it. Carry on.

            4. PseudonymousKid

              Long live our modern-day kings of corruption and greed. Without government or collective action in some form, there is no hope.

            5. PseudonymousKid

              Was it a concession? It felt more like resignation. It isn’t Tuesday anymore. Why did you have to prod after the fact?

              Luxury cars and pools come at the expense of others. I’m probably just as self-interested as all the other assholes. After everything, I’m just trying to get rid of the overwhelming feeling of guilt few others share.

              A steak might help. Some wings wouldn’t hurt. A new car and a pool and a hot wife, cool and cool and cool. At least I’m not one of them.

              What is isn’t what ought to be. Bridging the gap from here to there is impossible. We all lose.

  21. Chris Ryan

    Equality, at least in the non-philosophical sense of the word, is a complete joke. I have sat on many school boards and councils, and almost to a person, they all share one thing in common. Trying to find a way to give as many opportunities to those “other” kids, while all the while knowing that they can always find one more thing for their kid to do. I am as guilty of it as others.

    My wife and I are where we are partially from where we come from, and partially from how hard we both work. We will use our advantage is whatever way we believe will best benefit our children. I firmly believe that all children should be fed, educated, and get regular health check ups, but I also refuse to enter into a system where any single child only gets what every child gets.

    I have spent many hundreds of hours fighting for the rights of disadvantaged youths, and as part of groups of like minded people, have hopefully achieved some small measure of success. I will continue to do my best to provide additional benefits to those who cannot afford what I can afford, but I will be damned if I give up giving something to my kids, just because someone else cant have it.

    No one, not even the true SJWs, want equality in reality.

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      It’s easy to be an SJW when it costs nothing. A twit here or there. A march. And it’s easy to be beneficent when it harms no one. But when it does? And when that someone is your someone?

      Reply
      1. Chris Ryan

        It saddened me how often the people I worked with would manufacture costs to their kids so that they could feel better about their actions. An example would be when the committee parents would agree to “sacrifice ” their kids’ time with a math/reading specialist so that kids who needed it more could get more time.

        This is simply put, bs. If you can afford to pay for a tutor, it really isn’t a sacrifice for you or yours.

        My old man beat it into my head that the only sacrifice I can offer that is of any real value is my time, short of becoming an ascetic dedicating all to others. I try to practice what he preached, always knowing that no matter how much I do, it’s still minimal.

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          A million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money. Enough minimals matter. But that’s not a zero-sum game. As you can see here, most people will talk there way around the problem as a matter of gestalt, since it allows them to avoid the cognitive dissonance that they aren’t going to plunge that knife in their child’s chest for the sake of social justice. And that, of course, is how it should be, but for the cognitive dissonance it creates.

          Reply
          1. B. McLeod

            But, once it’s “society” (or if you prefer, “the government”) plunging the knife in the chests of some marginalized poors’ kids, it isn’t like that’s on me.

            Reply
        2. Davis C.

          The idea of privilege as a negative thing (which is what seems to undergird the ridiculous behavior you describe in your first paragraph) is baffling to me. Privileges are good. We should want our kids to have them. It’s sad that others don’t get privileges, sure, but taking them away from your own kids doesn’t help with that.

          I think that, in our age, people focus too much on their duty to humanity generally and not enough on their duties to specific individual people in their lives. Parents have moral duties to their own children that they don’t have to other children. And these specific, concrete moral duties have priority, mostly because they’re the things over which people actually have power. I can’t singlehandedly end global poverty, but I can raise my children to be capable and generous people.

          Reply
  22. Shadow of a Doubt

    This is probably weaseling, because your question assumes that “affirmative action” and “equality” have something to do with each other, they don’t. Affirmative action is forced inequality in the name of rectifying some sort of other perceived inequality or possibly reparations for a past inequality.

    Answering only the question in bold : I support equality for all as long as “equality” means “equality of opportunity”. “Equality of outcome” on the other hand, can go kick rocks in the fields along with the rest of the SJW types who think they’ll be the ones in charge after the revolution and not shipped off to the labor camps with the rest of their bourgeoisie friends.

    To elaborate in a non snarky way, I’m fine paying a little more in taxes, so that kids in crappy neighborhoods can have decent schools, kids with single parents can have something productive to do after school, that criminals can have a chance to become productive members of society even if they made a mistake in their youth. And if that means that myself or my family need to share the job/school market with people who I or others think might not deserve it, that’s fine, everyone gets the same shot.

    However, by the same token, advancing others at the expense of those who earned it is not equality in any sense of the world, unless you think equality involves filling a quota. Everyone who gets the shot needs to take it and work for it, and this means that certain jobs will never have an equal showing of men and women. There will be less women firefighters, policemen and combat arms than the general population unless the standards of those jobs are lowered. There will likely be less involved in most hard STEM fields as well, the same way that there will be less men in nursing and social work.

    It’s more touchy when it comes to race as it is nearly undeniable that poverty as opposed to biology is the cause difference in performance levels in school etc. When it comes to the employment level, I think it’s up to the company in question, if they feel it is more beneficial to hire a less qualified candidate to check off a diversity checklist, that is their business. I started my own so I can make those decisions myself, and I would never consider hiring anyone based on anything but merit, because my mission is to provide the best level of service to my clients, not check names or numbers off a list, and as a small, independent business, I cannot afford to have an underperformer.

    As to the core, what would I sacrifice in the name of equality, pretty much anything in the name of opportunity, and nothing in the way of outcome. I’d happily accept (and shoulder the tax burden of) any number of minority or poor students who wanted to come in to my local school (which, despite me not having any children, I’m told is quite excellent), as for giving up a job so someone “disadvantaged” could take it, I would never be willing to do such a thing but I don’t think that has anything to do with equality either.

    Reply
  23. wilbur

    Eric Hoffer puts it better than I can:

    Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

    Reply
  24. Erik H

    I’ll take my statistical chances with AA for me and my kids. I won’t enjoy it if they (or I) lose out on that gamble, any more than I enjoy ending up as one of the semi-randomly-selected folks who get pulled over for speeding on I-95. But I’ll accept that some folks will lose out on the AA gamble, just as I accept that the existence of speeding laws means that I might be one of the unlucky folks who gets ticketed. My frustration at losing doesn’t mean I would work to eliminate AA, or work to eliminate speeding tickets.

    I support all sorts of regulations, and my views don’t change merely because I happen to end up with the short end of the statistical stick.

    But you asked whether I would voluntarily give up a seat/job/meal after I knew it was assigned to me: No, I would not. But that isn’t a conflict with the above paragraph; it’s simply that the 100% probability of a loss is more value than I consider AA to be worth. I’ll take my chances, but I’m not a martyr.

    Reply
  25. Erik H

    Hit the button by accident….

    if there was only enough food for one child to survive, would you let your white privileged son starve so that a black child could survive?
    No. But I would support a system which would take some of my food to feed starving people, thus increasing the future probability that my kid would starve when I run out of food.

    If there was a job that your child really wanted, and it was him and a female applicant, would you tell him to withdraw so that she could get the job?
    No. But if this was AA that made sense (not all gender stuff makes sense) I would support a system that would make it less likely that my son gets hired.

    Reply

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