Yeah, affirmative action again. Tricky.
Personally, I'm a ruthless believer in meritocracy but, then, my own circumstances make it easy for me to believe ruthlessly in the value of meritocracy.
Yet, as a ruthless believer in meritocracy I also believe society should help each person achieve their greatest potential, because I believe that helping each person achieve their greatest potential is good for me.
Social road blocks that keep people from reaching their greatest potential are, therefore, bad for me. Personally.
Example: if racial or sexual bias keeps people from becoming great doctors or engineers, then I won't reap the benefits of having great doctors or engineers.
Again, this is about me.
Glenn introduced a bill this week that attacks a pornographic caricature of affirmative action. It is designed to appeal to our worst, rather than to our best, instincts. Pornography is best defined as something that arouses desire to no worthwhile effect. The proof that this bill is pornographic is the raw-meat-mixed-with-meta-amphetamine effect it has in satisfying the sense of victimization that characterizes its market audience.
The bill raises the difficult but important questions about whether it's appropriate to hand out government contracts and ear marks solely on the basis of race and gender (instead of on the basis of big campaign contributions, say -- the province of generally rich, mediocre, white boys).
Sadly, it also whitewashes the even more awful truth that, for generations, race and gender were precisely the basis for elbowing all sorts of people away from the American buffet: specifically,the 13% of our population with African heritage and that tiny 50% or our population who are missing an X chromosome.
All right. It's tricky. How do you justify discriminating on the basis of race and gender in order to undo the social tendency to discriminate on the basis of race and gender?
The only justification would be to help society break a bad, self-destructive habit -- maybe it would be best to think of affirmative action as a kind of nicotine patch.
Is anyone under the delusion that our society has shaken off this bad habit? Uh, no. Plenty of us still reach for that pack of unfiltered Camels.
Predictably, Glenn once again reaches under his mattress for a fix in the faux-free-market oxycontin of privatization as the solution to all social ills. His faith is sweetly naive. He hopes that removing government from the regulatory business will allow the private sector will handle discrimination more effectively -- you know, in the same way it has handled tainted meat, seat belts, Pinto gas tank explosions, and lead-soaked toy tea cups from China.
I see that our friend and neighbor Owen Robinson is serving up Glenn's gruel with the usual dollop of religious commitment. Good to know that Owen's childhood left him without any social disadvantages. Other than being an Aggie, of course.
The question is, what do we do to get our society over our tendencies to racism and sexism? Glenn's bill asks us to deny our own bad habits.
Maybe all this denial is a good sign. Denial is the first stage of grief.
And so it goes.
24 February 2008