Monday, September 20, 2004

Preferred Preferences Policies

That worthy pseudonymous commentator, Trumpit, again asks a question worth answering, this time in response to my recent post about achieving diversity without discrimination. Although I began to answer his comment with one of my own, I found myself writing enough for a blog post proper—namely, this one.

Trumpit read my prior posts on the topic to indicate that I am “de facto opposed to affirmative action.” I wouldn’t put it that way. I take “affirmative action” to include both outreach, which I ardently support, and preferential treatment, which I generally oppose. Why “generally”? Because I am against preferential treatment only: 1) by state actors (taking that term broadly, as anti-discrimination law does); and 2) by private actors if the state allows preferences to be afforded only to certain categories.

I am against preferential treatment by state actors for a variety of reasons, both on grounds of rights (e.g., those protected by the 14th Amendment) and prudent public policy (e.g., the dangers of encouraging race-based politics). On the other hand, I think private parties should have the right to associate with whomsoever they choose, for reasons good, bad, or indifferent. It follows that they should have the right to discriminate on the basis of race or sex, whether for or against currently favored classes.

Taking me to oppose all preferential treatment, Trumpit asks, “How then do we get black/brown kids out of the Ghetto then?” I share his concern about the opportunities afforded to certain minorities in the U.S. But I do not think it appropriate to mask the harms inflicted by other causes--most notably by monopolistic government education--by violating the rights of third parties who did not cause those harms. Nor, as my use of "mask" indicates, do I think it constitutes good policy in the long run.

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