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Affirmative Action for Immigrants?

Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute has released an "open letter" pointing out that "under existing laws and policies, the majority of immigrants coming to America will automatically be eligible for race preferences and privileges not provided to the great majority of Americans" and arguing that "any legislation addressing immigration should make explicit that while immigrants and their descendants should be afforded the right to compete fairly and freely in every aspect of American life, they should receive no special benefit on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin."

Cutting through all the institutional-speak, what they're saying is that even if the many millions of illegal Latin-American immigrants now in the U.S. get legalized, they and their descendants have no right to the "affirmative action" preferences that native-born American Hispanics now enjoy.

Well. On the one hand, it's hard to see how newly arrived immigrants can claim to have suffered from the history of endemic American "racism and discrimination" that used to be invoked to justify affirmative action.

But, on the other hand, haven't the signers of this interesting letter noticed that compensation for past wrongs is no longer the standard justification for same?

No! It's all about "diversity" now. And what "diversity" means, in practice, is that if we've got X % of some recognized racial/ethnic/religious (or whatever) minority present in the country, then we need to aim for X % representation of said minority in all prestigious occupations. By any means necessary.

In which case, why shouldn't newly minted Mexican-Americans move immediately to the front of the line? They are already very seriously under-represented in all prestigious occupations. And the more relatively unskilled, relatively uneducated Mexicans that come here, the more under-represented they get.

* * * * *

I think that there are three main positions on this issue:

(1) The rightest of the right:

Nobody should ever get racially/ethnically/religiously/whateverly based preferences for anything. Ever. Whether he or she is an immigrant is neither here nor there.

(2) The leftest of the left:

Any member of an under-represented minority should get racially/ethnically/religiously/whateverly based preferences for anything. Always. Whether he or she is an immigrant is neither here nor there.

(3) The moderatest of the moderate:

Native-born Americans who are members of groups that have suffered from "the history of endemic American racism and discrimination" are entitled to preferences. New arrivals are not.

* * * * *

I, of course, am among the rightest of the right.

Comments (32)

Mr. Burton, permit me to out-flank you on the right. I have no problem with the idea of preferences. A Christian worldview presupposes a hierarchy of values and this will require preferences in some cases. The problem with today's preferences is not that they are preferences, but that they are ridiculous and sometimes even backwards.

My favorite example of preferences that should be widely implemented: Affirmative action for married men with children. That should be a slam-dunk.

With respect to immigration, there need to be religious and cultural preferences.

There should be preferences with respect to sex when it comes to certain kinds of employment.

As for government services, there should be preferences for the poor and needy.


I would say that some preferences are rational and others aren't, and the preferences given in affirmative action manifestly aren't. Although the signatories to the open letter word things "moderately," it sounds to me like at heart most of them probably agree with me here.

It's funny that no one ever thought of the Affirmative Action angle on immigration. It seems to me like they don't have a snowball's chance of somehow getting some hispanics or blacks legally disqualified for AA while others continue to get it. For one thing, the bureaucratic system we have right now for AA purposes simply isn't set up to make such distinctions. "Mark your race and gender. Now fill in the blank that indicates whether you were born in the United States or whether you came in under the recent amnesty deal." It just ain't gonna happen. So if you think AA is ridiculous, as I do, this is just another reason for opposing the amnesty bill and our present level of unchecked immigration.

I heartily concur with Jeff (and I suspect Steve will join us here) that many gender-based preferences clearly are rational. In Lydiastan (to use a Zippy-esque expression) there are _no_ women firemen, _no_ female cops on the beat (women can work for the police department only in desk jobs or in jobs where their gender is specifically needed, such as questioning children or searching female suspects), _no_ female soldiers (even in *so-called* support positions), and...well, you get the drift.

But what about non-physical jobs, jobs where female gender is not a dead-level obvious disqualifier? Well, giving special preference to women for academic jobs, to take just one example of many where they receive it now, is ridiculous and irrational and more often than not results in inferior employees being hired, which is unfair to everybody involved, including most especially the students.

The question then arises whether preferring men qua men (aside from "disparate impact" arising from pure meritocratic considerations) for, say, academic jobs is similarly irrational. I'm not sure that here I'd join Jeff in advocating AA for married men. But I do think it's legitimate for an employer to take into account things like the probability that a female will get pregnant and leave, the probability that she won't give her mind as much to the job if she's torn by the desire to be at home with her kids, and even such totally sexist worries as the probability that she will be a trouble-maker or whiner, which unfortunately female academics seem to be more often than males. These actually are merit-relevant considerations, and if employers were allowed to take them into consideration, they would amount in practice to somewhat of a preference for male employees. But I can well imagine that they could be easily outweighed by genuine ability of a female applicant over a male. In other words, I'm meritocratic enough, especially in areas where it's important to get someone very good at the job, not to advocate putting a lot of weight on such considerations unless you have _extremely strong_ inductive evidence that a female employee in your field, however good she looks in prospect, is just going to be more trouble than she's worth in practice.

Lydia, I don't think we disagree except perhaps with respect to the application of the merit principle. In my opinion the merit principle is exaggerated in conservative circles and serves mainly as an alternative to AA that doesn't offend against egalitarianism. In practice merit ends up trumping more important ontological criteria.

But let's keep talking about women so Professor Luse will keep reading. :-)

In many cases employers should be encouraged to prefer married men with children. Why? Certainly not because women might be whiny or less committed. Let's assume that our hypothetical female candidates don't have these particular shortcomings. No, employers should prefer married men with children because society is strengthened when married men with children are gainfully employed. In such an economy females will not need income so badly, their families will be capable of providing for them until marriage, and their husbands will be earning a family wage.

That isn't to say that women should be excluded from the workforce. Not at all. Even some married women will still have good reasons to work outside the home and there should be no penalty for this.

But when an employer must choose between two qualified candidates - let's say one is a super-qualified single female and the other is a slightly-less-qualified married male - he should be free, and even encouraged, to choose the latter for ontological reasons, leaving merit aside.

Hey, Jeff,

By all means, let's make sure Bill participates. :-) (I couldn't even get him interested in a book with almost no female characters!)

Yes, I think I do put more weight on the meritocratic stuff than you do. The thing is, when I get outraged about affirmative action, I tend to feel this sense of unfairness. This is probably at least in part because I encounter it so much in areas where merit is very evident--academics, for example. If we were talking about flipping hamburgers, maybe it wouldn't bother me so much, because it's hard to make fine-grained meritocratic distinctions in those areas, so two applicants who are very similar in qualifications is a highly plausible situation, whereas in my opinion in hardly ever arises in more intellectual areas. And I have a pretty passionate commitment to trying to give young people a top-notch education, so it seems to me quite important that the best qualified be chosen. I think I therefore wouldn't support your recommended practice for, e.g., a mathematics professor. I'd want the students and university to have the top-notch woman in that case, and I would think that in some sense it was only fair to her to hire her. I'm not going to state this in terms of "rights" talk but rather in terms of fairness. She comes, goes through the interview process, shines like crazy, is going to be excellent for everybody involved--the department, the students, the profession. She doesn't have any "female" faults--or even things that aren't faults but that get in the way of the job. To me, it seems unfair to give it to the guy.

We'll probably have to agree to disagree on that one.

But I should add that I've become over the years convinced of the libertarian position that anti-discrimination laws end up in practice, ironically, _requiring_ discrimination. Now, if everybody were allowed to make their own decisions on this matter--employers and what-not--my suspicion is that a lot of employers would prefer to have men, sometimes for perfectly understandable reasons like those I've cited that simply involve noticing that men tend to do better and be more committed even to non-physical jobs, sometimes for reasons like yours. So the upshot would be more jobs for married males.

I think. In the academic world, maybe not. Political correctness has gone so far that probably affirmative action would just be all the more brazen, if that's possible to imagine.

Well, professor Luse thinks that if he were a police officer, he ought to be allowed to search female suspects. As Lydia points out, "men tend to do better and be more committed even to non-physical jobs," and especially to physical ones.

I've also heard that female soldiers have served admirably, competently, and enthusiastically in "support" positions. If I recall, about 1200 of them were shipped home from the 1st Gulf War to get abortions.

Also, Lydia meant to say "snowball's chance in hell," but she chickened out.

...however good she looks in prospect, is just going to be more trouble than she's worth in practice.

They don't need to be employed to be trouble. They're just born that way. But never more than they're worth.

The subject of affirmative action for immigrants is one that, though it has been repeatedly broached over the years, never seems to gain any traction. I don't know why. I think, politically speaking, Mr. Burton's option #2, the left of the left, is nearly inevitable in our budding multiracial pseudo-democracy. I just don't see any way around it. We will have proportional representation, more or less, because voters can never be persuaded that inequality is either just or simply none of their business.

Well, one thing that seems to be missed is that, while affirmative action seeks to "correct" past discrimination against certain groups, it seeks to correct it by promoting current members of that group, not its (long dead) past members. Thus, if blacks were discriminated against in the past, it is the current members of that group who are the subject of the corrective. Whether they have been here since birth, or just got off the boat, they still are members of the discriminated group, and would still be discrimianted against (or would the potential discriminators say "No, I only discriminate against native born blacks/hispanics/asians, not immigrant ones" - hghly unlikely). The point of AA is there was a past practice of locking out certain minorities from certain opportunities. To correct that in the present, current members of that minority will be given AA. Whether immigrant or native born, they are still a member of that minority against which discrimination was practiced. I don't see whare immigrant status makes a difference to the discriminator.

On the other hand, I can see where immigrant status makes a huge difference to the one historically discriminated against (and hence potential beneficiary of AA). If immigrant status is not considered then the the native born must compete against the immigrant minority for the AA benefit.

C Matt, I don't know if you're just presenting this "as from" the perspective of the pro-AA crowd, or where your own position lies. But in response to what you say, I must point out that AA is not some sort of alternative to discrimination against the group in question. In other words, it is not as though having the would-be anti-black discriminator (for example) engage in affirmative action *in favor* of blacks is the only, or the best, alternative to his engaging in discrimination against blacks. It may be true that a would-be anti-black discriminator is as likely to discrimiante against immigrant blacks as against native-born ones, though actually this isn't obvious. Culturally, immigrant Africans are very different from American blacks. The two groups often do not like one another, and I can well imagine that the one or two real racists I've known in my time (self-identified) would actually _like_ immigrant Africans much better than they tend to like native-born blacks. But even if it's true that the would-be discriminator is going to treat the native-born and the immigrant the same, how does AA help? It doesn't force him not to discriminate, it just forces him to discriminate in the opposite direction, or to fill out forms pretending that he is doing so. Moreover, it will be used by people who never were inclined to discriminate against blacks of any sort in the first place to justify their PC-driven and silly discrimination against whites.

Now, the idea of the open letter is that most Americans are very annoyed by this sort of reverse discrimination anyway, and they are likely to be even more annoyed if it's used for people who are recent immigrants. (Myself, I'd be about equally annoyed.) This is because recent immigrants don't have even the fig leaf of an argument in favor of AA that they are in some sort of present-day poor economic position *because of* past discrimination against their ancestors. Remember that an old argument for AA (before diversity) was this sort of reparations-to-the-descendants idea: "Man #2 is poor today because his ancestor, Man #1, suffered from slavery and-or discrimination in the U.S. Therefore AA is justified to make up to man #2 for the position he finds himself in as a causal result of past injustice here in our country." A dumb argument, but one that doesn't even apply to recent immigrants.

Mr. Culbreath - it's always a pleasure for me to be outflanked on the right!

And I did go a little too far, there: "Nobody should ever get racially/ethnically/religiously/whateverly based preferences for anything," taken literally, might suggest, for example, that I think devout Mormons ought to be in the running for *Episcopus Romanus*. Obviously, the formula needs some tweaking!

That said, I'm not convinced that married fathers with children ought to be favored in the circumstances you describe. At first glance, I think that the first obligation of educational institutions ought to be to, well, *education* - rather than the upholding of educationally irrelevant virtues, important as they may be.

My only dispute with Lydia is that she leaves me so little to add!

Bill Luse's post, on the other hand, was *frightfully* naughty and I am *terribly* shocked. I have submitted a copy to several righteous organizations. I fully expect this to end very badly indeed.

Cyrus: you express my own mood precisely. People overwhelmingly oppose racial/ethnic etc. preferences in general, and, I suspect, would overwhelmingly overwhelmingly (that's overwhelmingly squared) oppose such preferences for those with no personal or family history of discrimination/oppression etc. in the USA. Yet that is what we are getting. Our democracy is not yet quite as "pseudo" as the European version - but it's getting there fast.

c matt - I'll be interested to see your reply to Lydia.

Steve Burton wrote:

"That said, I'm not convinced that married fathers with children ought to be favored in the circumstances you describe. At first glance, I think that the first obligation of educational institutions ought to be to, well, *education* - rather than the upholding of educationally irrelevant virtues, important as they may be."

You may be right in that context and perhaps others. My point really was that non-meritocratic considerations are sometimes obligatory. Even in the case of hiring a mathematics professor, it could be that hiring the better-qualified female would only improve education very marginally, but that hiring the male would financially provide for a family of ten who might otherwise undergo considerable hardship. Such considerations should be encouraged: today they are illegal.

An example in reverse: today we had lunch at a new restaurant in town opened by an old local family. Their literature boasts of "three generations of women working together in the kitchen". In order to keep up appearances, I would think this business would prefer to hire women for certain positions. Nothing wrong with that!

So preferences aren't the problem. To treat unequal things as equals is to commit an injustice. I would suggest that the "rightest of the right" position simply amounts to this: Good preferences are good, and bad preferences are bad.

I think that there's a difference between the restaurant example and the math professor example. In the case of the restaurant, it's only right to admit that part of what the restaurant is selling (and, in a sense, buying in its employees) is a look or atmosphere. Only part. If some woman couldn't cook, she shouldn't be hired because she looks homey and comfortable in an apron. And I'm sure they wouldn't hire her. But what you are saying is that the restaurant wants to have a homey, traditional look and that women chefs might help this. I'm not sure how true this is, since one almost never does see the chef at a restaurant. (At least I don't.) And everyone knows that waiters and waitresses don't cook the food. So it's not terribly obvious that the oeuvre (sp?) of the place would depend too much on hiring women. But even so, a restaurant _has_ an atmosphere which is part of its charm and part of what brings people to it. In that sense, hiring people who "look the part" in some way might be relevant to the "product," since the atmosphere is part of the product.

But I think in the math professor example we have pretty much an example of a pure application of Jeff's affirmative action for married men idea. And there part of what strikes me wrong is that the social principle in question has nothing to do with what the institution is _about_.

Now, to me the interesting question is whether this same point can also be applied to a boot factory or to Kellogg's cereal. It's not like there's anything so lofty about making boots or selling cereal, or nothing nearly so lofty as educating the young. Yet, still, there, I can't help feeling that there is an obvious purpose of the business, and that if it's a business worth doing, that's where the focus should be--on making good boots, good cereal, and so forth. I'm meditating a free-standing post on this, though, if I get to it. Suffice it to say here that I don't think I adopted a meritocratic principle because I couldn't think of any other alternative to affirmative action that didn't offend against egalitarianism. Far from it. In fact, my opposition to AA has been from the start self-consciously elitist, based on the notion that, doggone it, some people are just _better_ at some things and deserve to be recognized as such when they apply for jobs.

I should add, though, that I'm also rampagingly anti-feminist and share many or most of your (Jeff's) social goals. I'm just not inclined to advocate AA for married men as a means. But, again, I doubt it's needed. If people were _allowed_ to discriminate against women, they would often do so for what are really meritocratic reasons.

Lydia, you wrote:

"And there part of what strikes me wrong is that the social principle in question has nothing to do with what the institution is _about_ ... I can't help feeling that there is an obvious purpose of the business, and that if it's a business worth doing, that's where the focus should be--on making good boots, good cereal, and so forth."

I believe you have identified the crux of our disagreement. Of course I do agree that a business should strive to do what it does with excellence. But here's what I think might be underappreciated in Lydiastan (if I may): the common good.

No business, enterprise, or activity exists in a social vacuum. Every action must be considered in the context of a hierarchy of responsibilities and obligations. A business is not just a business: it is part of a family, a community, a civilization. As a businessman my obligation to my neighborhood and community exceeds my obligation to make a good product or to hire the best qualified person. If making a better product means dumping more toxic waste into the river, then I may have a duty NOT to make that better product. If having the bestest and most qualified staff means hiring outsiders, and furthermore, means that my neighbor has to pack up his wife and kids and leave town to find employment, then I may have a duty NOT to hire the bestest and most qualified staff.

The dairy across the road is a family business. They produce milk, and they do it well. It is possible that by hiring outsiders they could produce more and better milk, but instead they employ only family members. Merit is undoubtedly important to them, but is probably not their highest principle when it comes to those who work the farm. The farm exists not only for milk, but for the family.

Your family dairy example (a real-life one) is a good and interesting one. I tend to think that once we start hiring people outside a family anyway, things are different. In other words, in the case of the family business, I would guess they think of the business as "what _we_ do," where "we" simply is their family. They're trying, in the first instance, to keep something going to sustain the family. Once you're running a business big enough to hire outside employees, the analogy between employing (say) your son-in-law in the family business and employing a completely unrelated man over a better-qualified woman because the man had a family becomes a rather weak analogy. You have a greater tie to the son-in-law. The married man preference sounds more like using your business for social engineering, though in a cause which I acknowledge to be a good one.

Even in the family business, though, there could be problems. I don't know how far beyond the immediate nuclear family the dairy in question goes. But I could imagine a situation where you have grown kids, nephews, or in-laws who just are doing a fairly poor job, perhaps presuming on the family tie. These aren't your minor children, part of the nuclear family, who aren't "employees" in any event but rather dependents for whom you're directly responsible. They're grown people who are supposed to be responsible for themselves. Then, if they mess up badly enough, I would think you'd hit the limits of nepotism fairly soon, because it would start threatening the viability of the business for you (the owner) and your own _immediate_ family for whom you are more directly responsible.

"Once you're running a business big enough to hire outside employees, the analogy between employing (say) your son-in-law in the family business and employing a completely unrelated man over a better-qualified woman because the man had a family becomes a rather weak analogy. You have a greater tie to the son-in-law."

The point of this example was merely to illustrate another non-meritocratic principle: the family would hire the son-in-law before hiring a stranger (male or female), regardless of merit, provided he was not too incompetent.

"The married man preference sounds more like using your business for social engineering ..."

Perhaps so: I don't have a problem with social engineering. But I'm not really advocating for a new policy here (although if we're going to have policies, this is better than what we have now). A policy shouldn't be necessary. Those who do the hiring should simply be free to do the right thing, and in some instances this is the right thing.

"Even in the family business, though, there could be problems ... I would think you'd hit the limits of nepotism fairly soon ..."

Absolutely. I've seen this several times over the years. Sometimes businesses retain non-productive family members as employees who end up causing more problems than the business can handle. It doesn't always work out. But it works out often enough to be a legitimate non-meritocratic criteria for employment.

"Suffice it to say here that I don't think I adopted a meritocratic principle because I couldn't think of any other alternative to affirmative action that didn't offend against egalitarianism."

Fair enough, Lydia. In most cases it isn't conscious. We Americans have egalitarianism in the blood. AA is the "equal results" version of egalitarianism: the merit principle is the "equal opportunity" version of the same. Two sides of the same coin.

I don't believe in equal opportunity. When you think about it, it is just another egalitarian fantasy that is contrary to human nature, can't ever be realized, the pursuit of which always ends in injustice.

It's quite an interesting question whether equal results and some form of equal opportunity are two sides of the same coin. I tend to think not. I certainly am willing to admit that something related to equal opportunity has something to do with Americanism. But I'm not sure this is a bad thing. I can see that "I believe in equal opportunity for everyone" is probably too blunt and sloganistic to be true. Nor am I going to propose a long-winded and more nuanced alternative for complete assent. But I think there's something to be said for the following set of ideas as part of what makes America special:

Aristocratic principles and class distinctions were a big deal in the Old Country. It could be hard to make friends, be accepted in various parts of society, and even to make a living in certain professions, no matter how good you were, if you were in the wrong class. This worked both directions. Someone in the upper middle classes might have a problem because he _wanted_ to make a living as a book seller but his family felt working "behind a counter" would be beneath him and that his social class required him to be a soldier, a lawyer, or a vicar. These sorts of considerations place too much weight on something other than more straightforward questions like what you are well-suited to do, what you do well, and how well you do it. We Americans have, to put it prejudicially, brushed away those cobwebs and try to take people as we find them and to give them a chance to try their hand at things and make good at them if they can. We try to treat people "straight up" and not to ask who their parents were, what color their skin is, and so forth. There are certainly questions as to what should be included in "and so forth," and gender in particular is a more complicated issue here than liberals realize. A job, for example, that requires the people in it to work alone all night together is best done by a single-sex group. Gender is not inessential. But there are some jobs where it is certainly possible to apply that "take people straight up and see how good they are at the job" bracing American attitude even when the applicants are of different genders. And in general, there is something refreshing, open, honest, and likeable about this whole approach to getting things done, focusing on excellence, and giving people opportunities based on the job at hand rather than on unrelated features of the individual. I'm proud that it's part of the way America has been and part of the way she views herself. That approach is to be encouraged, not simply chucked out the window. And this is true even if it needs some finessing around the edges.

Lydia, I understand your sympathies here and to some degree I share them. But I think it is important for conservatives to purge ourselves of all forms of ideology - even those ideologies that have proven useful in combating liberalism.

The problem with equal opportunity - unlike other kinds of equality (justice, liberty, etc.) - is not that it is merely unattainable, but that it is not even laudable as a goal. Equal opportunity is one of those things that exists purely in the head and scorches the earth whenever it touches the ground. No one really believes it anyway. There is absolutely no merit, for example, in giving all Americans "equal opportunity" to become president of the United States, or aeronautics engineers, or underwater welders. Very few are called to these vocations: they are the ones that need the opportunity, not the rest of us.

Marion Montgomery (a man in your ecclesial communion, the ACC) said that one the biggest lies told to schoolchildren nowadays is the lie that "you can be whatever you want to be". NO! You can be what you were made to be, and a just society makes sure that each member is able to do what he was made to do in life. That is a far, far cry from equal opportunity.

Another problem with the equal opportunity notion is perhaps better identified in Dr. Burton's opening statement that all should be able "to compete fairly and freely in every aspect of American life". This is social Darwinist notion of America as "the level playing field" in which life is nothing but a scramble to reach the top. Every man for himself. But is "every aspect of American life" really a competition? Many think so, and that is one reason our culture is imploding.

With respect to aristocratic notions and class distinctions in the Old World, as an American I agree that these were often too confining. I'm glad we have more social mobility here. However, we haven't softened or modified the constraints of traditional society, we have completely discarded them and replaced them with something entirely new. It is we who have "chucked out the window" a worldview that needed improvement, not replacement.

If the ancien regime placed too much emphasis on who you are as opposed to what you do, today we have turned this on its head. It matters not who you are: all that matters is how much you make, how well you do something, or (more usually) what you can do for me. This has pretty serious cultural implications because there are many people who do not excel at doing anything considered important in the world. Hence the traditional American contempt for the consecrated life of monasticism and the "ivory tower" of academia. The way we treat the unborn and the elderly and the Terri Schiavos, who lack "merit" in the American meritocracy, is undoubtedly related to the same inversion of "old world" values.

"I'm proud that it's part of the way America has been and part of the way she views herself. That approach is to be encouraged, not simply chucked out the window. And this is true even if it needs some finessing around the edges."

I think it makes a difference what the starting point is. I'd rather start from a traditional worldview - the culture of old Christendom - and finesse those edges. You want to finesse the edges of the new system which has replaced the old. In my opinion that's a more treacherous path with fewer guideposts and an unsure foundation. (This reminds me of the TLM vs. Reform of the Reform debate in Catholic circles.)

Nevertheless, it is possible that we'll arrive at the same place.

I totally agree on the "you can be anything you want to be." Again, I emphasize: I'm quite the elitist, in the sense that I think some people are just better at things than other people. That's _why_ I have meritocratic leanings. And it's cruel, really cruel, to tell kids that they can be anything they want to be. I communicate limitations to my kids all the time, to such an extent that some people would think me too Victorian and dampening. ("Mom, why can't I learn to be an electrician?" "Because, dear, you're clumsy, like me, and you'd probably electrocute yourself." Actual conversation with Eldest Daughter.)

But that's not how I think about the type of equal opportunity I have in mind. I'm thinking rather from the perspective of a person who runs a business or a school or whatever. I'm thinking of the idea of valuing the thing you do, the product you produce, and therefore, when people _do_ present themselves to you for a job in producing that product or helping to do that thing, you give great weight in giving or not giving them the job to their relation to that product or thing. That's why they applied.

I say nothing at all about how they got to the point of applying. In fact, I deplore the idea that we have to give everybody an education to the point that everybody can apply for every job. Balderdash!

My focus rather is on the valuable product to be produced and on treating people in what is, to me, a refreshingly professional way in evaluating them when they ask to have a job producing that product.

Certainly, I don't at all mean that people's human worth depends on what they produce. Far from it.

Finally, I want to add that I don't think "we" in our country now are anymore meritocratic enough when it comes to many jobs. Political correctness has rotted out too many professions. It sickens me to think of everybody from corporations to universities hiring for "diversity." I'd much rather they stuck to doing what they do well. Because it's worth doing. (If it is.)

C Matt:

The theory behind AA for immigrants is pretty clear, I suppose. The managerial class must look somewhat like the population it manages for it to maintain legitimacy. All the rest is mere flummery. My question is this: How is it just to let in immigrants with the understanding that they will be discriminated against, and therefore entitled to some sort of redistributive justice from "society," which really means the relatively dwindling white part of society? (Presumably the 35% of the US population that already is eligible for AA - or 67 - 70 % if you count everyone who isn't a heterosexual, white, nominally Christian, male - does not owe this debt to itself) Is it simply the case that white America, or to put it more bluntly, each white person individually, owes something, not only to every "person of color" in the United States, but to every one in the world, due when ever said person of color sees fit to come here and collect?

cyrus: do you blog somewhere regularly?

Mr. Burton,

No, I do not. Why do you ask?

cyrus: I ask because I'd like to be reading your every word.

Which is not necessarily to say that I *agree* with your every word.

For example, I'm not sure that "the managerial class" has to look all that much like the population it manages. I mean, compare the last few Presidents of Mexico to their constituency!

But I think we agree on a lot of stuff.

Mr. Burton, I'm flattered. Thus far, I'm just a perpetrator of combox drive-bys.

I'm also prone to outbursts of flippancy that I later feel inclined to retract, or at least to modify. I suppose that makes me perfect for the internet.

Thinking out loud, you make a good point with respect to the managerial class. I think it might be better to say that for liberal managerial government, which Mexico arguably doesn't have, to maintain legitimacy, some effort must be made to incorporate or co-opt the élites, or perhaps more accurately, the smart fraction, of a society's groups, without too punctilious a regard to what we think of as merit. Political considerations can trump "merit," sometimes quite explicitly (see Lani Guinier). AA is simply a group balancing act in a nominally egalitarian society, a way of dividing society's spoils to maintain legitimacy in the face of the apparent rebuke to egalitarianism presented by the glaring differences in group achievement. Obviously, I need to think more about this, but I must retire for the evening. Thank you for your kind words.

I neglected to add, very quickly, that it doesn't matter how a member of a group came to be here, just as c matt said. Once he is here, he is simply a member of a group. To speak of the justice or merit of his case as an individual is beside the point.

Man #2 is poor today because his ancestor, Man #1, suffered from slavery and-or discrimination in the U.S. Therefore AA is justified to make up to man #2 for the position he finds himself in as a causal result of past injustice here in our country.

Undoubtedly, this is part of the basis for AA (putting aside the merit of that basis).

But likewise, a man may find himself at the same disadvantage not because his particular ancestors were discriminated against, but because he belongs to the same racial/ethnic/whatever group that was discriminated against, even though he is fresh off the boat (or through the river) so to speak.

My point is much more narrow than the merits of AA. My point is simply that if AA is to be accepted at all, then why not for the immigrant? He is just as likely to be subject to a racial/ethnic discrimination as the native born, if the discrimination is racial/ethnic. The fact that our putative racist may like "African Blacks" to native born may or may not be true. That hardly seems to be the case in the situation we are really talking about - Hispanics, and in particular, low socio-economic Mexican immigrants. The discrmination a Mexican immigrant is subject to is at least equal to, if not probably greater than, that experienced by native born Americans of Mexican ancestry. The problem is the past injustice not only has the causal effect you describe, but the argument is that past discrimination effects current opportunities for all members of the group whether native born or immigrant.

My personal thoughts on AA:

(1) it should not be based upon race or ethnicity per se, but on socio-economic status.

How does past discrimination affect present opportunities for all members of a racial group, even those whose ancestors did not suffer the past discrimination? I would think only present discrimination would affect present opportunities for such people. Or is the claim that past discrimination causes present discrimination?

I wouldn't go for your principle of AA, because once you are where you are, as far as abilities, that's pretty much it. People seem to be under the impression that you can take a man of anywhere from 20-65 who lacks particular abilities, decide that he lacks these because of environmental factors in his past (e.g. poverty), give him a job or school admission over someone who is _right now_ obviously better qualified than he, and not regret it because the previously impoverished man will go into high-speed mode and make up for lost time to the point that he will eventually be an asset rather than a liability. I consider this to be a highly dubious assumption. And meanwhile, why are we obligated to fund his remediation while hoping he gets up to speed? And why is the better qualified candidate obligated to lose the job so that the previously impoverished man can get his remedial education or on-the-job training?

Reasons one might oppose AA for immigrants:

1. Immigrants can't claim past or ancestral discrimination at the hands of the people from whom compensation is exacted. Since such claims are an important basis, if an ultimately unsatisfactory one, for the exoteric justification of AA, this can't merely be brushed aside.

2. Making it available to immigrants implies an ahistorical open-ended guilt and responsibility to the entire world.

3. It will tend to draw handout-seekers from abroad, as opposed to immigrants who might more directly benefit the receiving society by their abilities.

4. It seems facially unjust to accord preferences to newcomers who chose to come here with, presumably, some knowledge of what they were getting themselves into.

5. Immigration will soon make this country into one in which, if we insist on offering AA to immigrants and their descendants, an outright majority of the people are entitled to preferences. This would seem unmanageable, if not outright appalling.

With respect to class-based preferences, I will only comment that American society really isn't divided by class so much as race and ethnicity.

The bottom line is that unless forced not to, discrimination happens. It happens every day, and it goes both ways. Its simply human nature. In the absence of incentive not to, a white boss will hire a white guy all other things being equal (and even if slightly not). Same would go for a black boss, hispanic boss, asian or whatever. This has been past practice. I see no reason to believe this would not be present or future practice if allowed.

The current situation is that, by and large, in many areas of endeavor, white men are the bosses (looking at stats for law firms, non-white male partners at the larger ones shows this pretty starkly). Likely they are there based upon past discriminatory practices. These past practices still affect current hiring decisions because these guys are still around. Without the incentive of AA, these current white male bosses will continue to promote only white males to the partner ranks. The only reason they even consider non-white males is because, essentially, they are forced to. We can speak theoretically all we want, but the proof is in the vanilla pudding, so to speak.

With respect to class-based preferences, I will only comment that American society really isn't divided by class so much as race and ethnicity.

According to whom? I don't see Martha's Vineyard crawling with white trash. I also don't see the Kennedeys frequenting trailor parks that often (except maybe during an election).

c matt:

I must ask how you know that white men will only hire or promote white men unless required not to. Secondly, why is stamping out this tendency, which you stipulate is natural and universal, a state interest, let alone one so compelling as to mandate redress for assumed (they are hardly ever proved, rather asserted) sins from years past?

Status, and the pursuit thereof, is as important in America as it is anywhere else, but the word class, in that it connotes the systems of other countries derived from hierarchical pre-modern agricultural societies, obscures more than it illuminates. To apply class to American life is to insist on the explanatory power of social categories of which the members are largely unaware, which are easily left and entered, whose boundaries aren't enforced, and which as a consequence have little effect on behavior (in America, even the rich ape the poor, i.e., want to be "cool"). Race is entirely different: it is fairly fixed ("passing" aside), it is (largely) hereditary, it is acknowledged and policed both by ingroups and outgroups, it has a long history, and predicts some behavior. To cite only one example, 90% of blacks famously vote for Democrats (even if they went to Yale and live in Manhattan), while around 70% of southern whites vote Republican (even if they live in trailers).

C Matt

"Likely they are there based upon past discriminatory practices."

Golly. There's a statement I don't agree with. Do you also think the LSAT is a racist test? Or do you just think testing for highly G-loaded logical ability is irrelevant to one's ability to be a good lawyer?

All of that is just completely misguided. There are plenty of highly paid jobs in the U.S. that actually require specific mental abilities at a specific (high) level. If whites manifest these abilities at those levels more than blacks, and for that matter if males manifest them at that level more frequently than females (!) it doesn't matter a hoot whether this is "just because of environment" or what. They deserve the jobs more.

One objection to Affirmative Action, not mentioned is the fact that it turns people into numbers. Essentially what Affirmative Action does is empower some commissar to judge hiring standards based on statistical models. Let's say your company employs 100 pipe-welders and you've already hired the best 19 African-American welders, if the population of your area is 20% black, you'll just have to fire one of your Asian pipe-welders and hire someone borderline competent to fill the slot.

Very often AA is about control if not by the government, by external interest with access to friendly judges, or even an internal bureaucracy often created at the instigation of such groups.

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