Saturday, December 03, 2011

The unintended consequences of racial preferences

George F. Will below points out some ways in which "affirmative" racism hurts blacks. He might have added as another instance the way it devalues all black credentials -- as Justice Clarence Thomas has pointed out. It's got to the point where many blacks prefer to see a white doctor rather than a black one. They know that the black doctor may be incompetent. It's a pity Michael Jackson was not as wise as that. His black doctor killed him

The Supreme Court faces a discomfiting decision. If it chooses, as it should, to hear a case concerning racial preferences in admissions at the University of Texas, the court will confront evidence of its complicity in harming the supposed beneficiaries of preferences the court has enabled and encouraged.

In the 1978 Bakke case concerning preferences in a medical school’s admissions, Justice Lewis Powell, the swing vote on a fractured court, wrote that institutions of higher education have a First Amendment right — academic freedom — to use race as one “plus” factor when shaping student bodies to achieve viewpoint diversity. Thus began the “educational benefits” exception to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

But benefits to whom? For 33 years, the court has been entangled in a thicket of preferences that are not remedial and hence not temporary. Preferences as recompense for past discrimination must eventually become implausible, but the diversity rationale for preferences never expires.

Liberals would never stoop to stereotyping, but they say minorities necessarily make distinctive — stereotypical? — contributions to viewpoint diversity, conferring benefits on campus culture forever. And minorities admitted to elite universities and professional schools supposedly serve the compelling goal of enlarging the minority component of the middle class and professions.

But what if many of the minorities used in this process are injured by it? Abundant research says they are, as two amicus curiae briefs demonstrate in urging the court to take the Texas case.

In 2003, when the court ruled on two cases arising from University of Michigan undergraduate and law school racial-preference policies, the court contributed more confusion than clarity. It struck down the undergraduate policies as too mechanistic in emphasizing race but upheld the law school’s pursuit of educational benefits from a “critical mass” of certain approved minorities.

The details of the Texas policies are less important than what social science says about the likely consequences of such policies. A brief submitted by UCLA law professor Richard Sander and legal analyst Stuart Taylor argues that voluminous research refutes the legal premise for such racial classifications: They benefit relatively powerless minorities.

“Academic mismatch” causes many students who are admitted under a substantial preference based on race, but who possess weaker academic skills, to fall behind. The consequences include especially high attrition rates from the sciences, and self-segregation in less-demanding classes, thereby reducing classroom diversity. Blacks are significantly more integrated across the University of California system than they were before the state eliminated racial preferences in 1996, thereby discouraging enrollment of underprepared minorities in the more elite institutions.

Sander and Taylor report: “Research suggests a similar pattern nationally; scholars have found that the use of large racial preferences by elite colleges has the effect of reducing diversity at second-tier schools.” Another study showed that even if eliminating racial preferences in law schools would mean 21 percent fewer black matriculants, there would still be no reduction in the number of blacks who graduate and pass the bar exam.

A second brief, submitted by three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow and Todd Gaziano), argues that racial preferences in law school admissions mean fewer black lawyers than there would be without preferences that bring law students into elite academic settings where their credentials put them in the bottom of their classes. A similar dynamic is reducing the number of minority scientists and engineers than there would be under race-neutral admissions policies.

There are fewer minorities entering high-prestige careers than there would be if preferences were not placing many talented minority students in inappropriate, and discouraging, academic situations: “Many would be honor students elsewhere. But they are subtly being made to feel as if they are less talented than they really are.” This is particularly so regarding science and engineering, which are, as Heriot, Kirsanow and Gaziano say, “ruthlessly cumulative”: Students who struggle in entry-level classes will find their difficulties cascading as the academic ascent becomes steeper. Hence the high attrition rates.

The court should use the Texas case to acknowledge the intersection of constitutional law and social science regarding racial preferences, and to revisit the crumbling legal rationale for them.

Until it does, diversity bureaucracies on campuses will continue to use minority students as mere means to other people’s ends, injuring minorities by treating them as ingredients that supposedly enrich the academic experience of others.

In six devastating words, the Heriot-Kirsanow-Gaziano brief distills the case against the “diversity” rationale for racial preferences: “Minority students are not public utilities.”


Nudging us to death

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge, arguing for something they called libertarian paternalism, the idea that government rather than forcing us to do the right thing might “nudge” us in the right direction via program design or tax incentives.

My biggest problem with nudging people via the power of the state is that the process would likely be corrupted via special interests. Why should we assume that the state will nudge us toward the good? Wouldn’t there be a tendency toward corruption? Nudging people toward what cronies want seems just as bad as forcing people to do what cronies want.

Another problem with nudging is that we don’t always agree on what is good. But surely nudging students toward fruit and away from ice cream is a good thing, isn’t it? From Good Lifestyle:
Researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, conducting a study on behalf of the New York Department of Health, discovered that the key to getting schoolchildren to eat healthier school lunches isn’t price. It’s positioning and presentation.

By moving fruit from dingy silver pans in poorly lit areas to baskets illuminated by better lighting, the team prompted students to go on a fruit-buying frenzy, raising the sales of the healthy items by more than 50 percent. Other phenomenon that these food psychologists have noticed is that students who pay for their lunches with debit cards (rather than cash) tend to prefer junk food. The Lab director Brian Wansink believes that by only allowing students to pay for certain items with cards (excluding cookies, ice cream, chips, etc.), schools may be able to push students toward eating better.

These so-called “nudges” are part of a field called behavioral economics, which involves getting people to act in their best interest by playing on certain known behaviors and tendencies they exhibit.

Having people in power act in my best interest is a little creepy even in a case like this. But the bigger problem is knowing my best interest. For years, the government has systematically pushed the idea that fat is bad and carbs are good. But what if they have it wrong, as Gary Taubes and others suggest they have. What if fat is good and carbs are bad? What if the government has been nudging people toward obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Oops! Maybe it would be better to allow more competition in ideas and less nudging. I’ll nudge myself, thank you very much.


Sweden’s Anti-Semites go right to the top

Police in Sweden's third-largest city, Malmö, are reporting a significant uptick in the number of reported anti-Semitic hate-crimes this year.

During just the first six months of 2011, Malmö police registered 21 anti-Semitic crimes, more than the total number (20) of such crimes reported in the city during all of 2010. According to police officials interviewed by the public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, the actual number of anti-Semitic incidents is far higher.

Recent statistics from Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) revealed that nationwide in 2010, there were 161 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The data comes as the Swedish government on September 20 set aside 4 million kroner ($600,000) to help boost security around the country's synagogues, after accusations that Sweden has not done enough to protect its Jewish population.

The allocation will go to "increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority," according to Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. He said the one-time appropriation in the 2012 budget funding is primarily meant to pay for an increased police presence, but that the money could also be used to purchase security cameras if Jewish groups express the need for such equipment.

Sweden has been accused of complacency about the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2010, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to avoid traveling to southern Sweden after a series of anti-Semitic incidents there.

"We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes," the center said in a statement.

The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Sweden is mainly being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the country, thanks to some of the most liberal immigration laws in Europe: as well as to leftwing politicians who never miss an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.

Muslims are now estimated to comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö's total population of around 300,000; much of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years is being attributed to shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.

During a two week period in July 2011, for example, the only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community was attacked three times. The synagogue, which has previously been set on fire and the target of bomb threats, now has guards stationed around it, and bullet-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

Jewish cemeteries in Sweden also have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as "Hitler, Hitler" and "Dirty Jew."

Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services altogether out of fear for their safety.

Hatred for Jews is also being stirred up by Sweden's leftwing political establishment and its pathological obsession with Israel. The demonization of the Jewish state by Swedish politicians is so frequent and often so fierce that it regularly crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.

Consider Ilmar Reepalu, the leftwing mayor of Malmö. Reepalu, who has turned a blind eye to the growing problem of anti-Semitism in Malmö during the more than 15 years he has been mayor, says that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israeli policies in the Middle East.

In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism. In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: "I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israeli] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals."

Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in Skåne in southern Sweden due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.

Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: "I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals."

The disdain for Israel is not limited to local politicians in Malmö; it goes right up to the top of Swedish politics.

In September 2011, for instance, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a well-known Pro-Palestinian activist, unilaterally recognized the Palestinian representative in Stockholm as ambassador. Bildt said the upgrade of the Palestinian representation follows "great advances made in the development of the Palestinian state."

In December 2009, while Sweden held the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, Bildt called for the creation of a "State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital." Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise "the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza."

In November 2011, Swedish Foreign Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson disclosed that Swedish taxpayer money had been used to fund a "one-sided" report on the conflict in the Middle East entitled "Colonialism and Apartheid: Israel's Occupation of Palestine."

The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS) received 700,000 kronor ($100,000) to produce a report on the Middle East conflict. The money was paid out by Forum Syd, a democracy and rights organization hired by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to provide the agency with information on the issue.

In August 2009, Sweden's top-selling newspaper, Aftonbladet, published an anti-Semitic blood libel by alleging that Israeli soldiers routinely murdered Palestinian children and harvested their bodily organs for sale on the international black market.

The Swedish government responded with indifference: When the country's ambassador to Israel put up a note on the embassy's website distancing Sweden from the article, her enraged superiors in Stockholm ordered her to take it down.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who leads the Jewish community in Malmö, blames the political leaders in Sweden for the rise in anti-Semitism in the country. He recently gave an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter(in English here) in which he describes Jewish life in contemporary Sweden.

Speaking to Svenska Dagbladet, Integration Minister Ullenhag said: "Jews are one of our national minorities, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that people can go to synagogue and engage in Jewish activities and feel they have the security they believe they need. That is a fundamental human right."

But in "progressive" Malmö, the future looks so bleak that around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel -- and more are preparing to go.


Pay for what is yours

In Britain and Australia, welfare rules now encourage and cajole single mums on benefits to find part-time work once their children start school. Absentee fathers are required to pay child support to help with the costs of raising their children.

But one section of the population is still allowed to evade the financial responsibilities of parenting –men on benefits who father children but have no means of paying for them.

The Daily Telegraph recently named Jamie Cumming, a 34-year-old unemployed man from Dundee, Scotland, as Britain’s ‘most feckless father.’ Cumming has fathered 15 children with 12 different women in 16 years. Two more of his babies are on the way. One of the mothers is Australian.

Nothing can be done to force him to take responsibility for the children he has sired. Nor can he be prevented from fathering even more in the future, if he can find women stupid enough to sleep with him. Most of his female partners have been young, and like him, few of them appear to work. Presumably he meets them in the dole queue when he goes to sign on.

How does Cumming support all these women and his children? He doesn’t, nor is he expected to. Being unemployed, the most he is required to give the mothers of his children under Britain’s benefits rules is £7 per week. That’s £7 in total, not £7 per child.

So who picks up the bill for all these ‘families’ he keeps creating? Not Cumming, nor the women he impregnates.

No, total strangers are paying to raise Cumming’s brood – people who (unlike Cumming and his partners) go to work, earn wages, pay their own way, support their own families, and are then required by law to support his multiple ‘families’ too. Such is the morality of the modern welfare state.

Obviously Cumming is an extreme case. But I estimate there are between one-quarter and one-third of a million absent fathers in Britain living on welfare and contributing almost nothing to the costs of raising their children.

Such men should be required to work full-time, no matter what kind of job it is, so they can start paying for their children’s upkeep. If that doesn’t cover the bills, their relatives – parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunties and step-parents – should contribute (why should strangers be expected to pay for a child’s upbringing before its relatives?). And if that fails, these deadbeat dads of the welfare system should be locked up for the criminal offence of child neglect – for if failing to organise financial provision for the upkeep of your children doesn’t constitute neglect, I don’t know what does.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: