Friday, 13 July 2012

Why Equality Must Die

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One of man’s faults is that he always swings from one extreme to another, without taking more than a pit stop in that lonely land called Enlightened Distinction. For example, it’s understandable that the French Revolutionaries would have adopted “égalité!” as part of their battle cry, coming as they did from a society in which class distinctions trumped all. But now we’ve come full circle, from preserving group-defined inequality regardless of merit — to enforcing group-defined equality regardless of merit.

A case in point is a recent ruling mandating that New York City must hire unqualified black and Hispanic firefighters. Writes Judicial Watch:

The Clinton-appointed federal judge who referred to a city fire department as a “stubborn bastion of white male privilege” has ordered it to give minority applicants who failed “discriminatory” tests priority hiring and retroactive seniority.

That’s in addition to a previous damages award of $128 million for the black and Latino candidates who couldn’t pass a mandatory test to join the New York City Fire Department. Last year the same federal judge, Nicholas Garaufis, asserted the city’s fire department was “a stubborn bastion of white male privilege.”

Since these “discriminatory” tests are simply written exams designed to establish a person’s competence, what’s the problem? They’ve been deemed to have “disparate impact.” This supposedly means, explains Judicial Watch, that they “disproportionately screen out people of a particular race, even though they ‘present the appearance of objective, merit-based selection.’” Translation: They separate the qualified from the unqualified.

In other words, under the disparate-impact theory, it doesn’t matter what a given test emphasizes. It doesn’t matter how important the skill or knowledge set is. It doesn’t matter how relevant it is to the job in question. If certain groups don’t perform as well as other groups on it, the test is by definition discriminatory and subject to elimination.

This is where disparate-impact’s defenders say that the written fire tests are no more relevant to being a firefighter — they wish to see only physical qualifications emphasized — than an exam on the history and statistics of baseball would be to being a baseball player. First, however, this isn’t necessarily true. Second, this is for the locality in question and its experts in the field to decide, not Department of Justice lawyers. Most significantly, this is a situational cop-out. How can we know? Because disparate-impact mandates are nothing new: They were used in the 1970s to eliminate police-exam physical requirements up to which women couldn’t measure. So, intellectual or physical, necessary or not, the priority here is equality of outcome. Merit be damned.   

Having said this, written fire exams do discriminate. This is in the same way that the Olympic trials, NBA tryouts, PGA Tour School, shoppers, and those selecting spouses discriminate: They choose one or some from among many based on qualitative measures or judgments. For this reason, there is no such thing as a test that doesn’t discriminate; in fact, that’s a test’s very purpose.

Speaking of the NBA, is it a “stubborn bastion of black male privilege”? Are all lucrative professional sports at the highest level stubborn bastions of male privilege, since not one woman is found in the NBA, NFL, MLB, or on the ATP or PGA tours? Following disparate-impact logic we should say yes; moreover, we should seek to have these sports organizations modify their qualification standards until their group composition matches that of the wider society.

This brings me to why I say that equality — or, to be precise, Equality Dogma — must die. If we believe all groups to be identically endowed in terms of worldly abilities, what will we conclude when we see performance differences among them? Well, since those differences cannot be attributed to groups being differently gifted, we’ll likely conclude that they can have only one cause: unjust discrimination. And this is when the social engineers try to fix what isn’t broken and break society with policies aimed at eliminating that imagined discrimination.

Then there is the inherent philosophical contradiction of virtually all Equality Dogmatists: They are also staunch evolutionists. After all, you may believe that God created all men equal even in worldly ways. You may believe that souls will enjoy different amounts of glory even in Heaven because, as Therese of Lisieux explained, if you take a thimble and a tumbler and fill them both to the top with water, they are equally full. But if we evolved in cosmic-accident fashion, there is no debate: We most certainly evolved unequal. For if groups developed separately in different parts of the world for hundreds of millennia — subject to different stresses, environments, requirements, and quirk mutations — they cannot have turned out equal. It is mathematically impossible. 

Of course, it would be naïve to think that most Equality Dogmatists are constrained by any dogma; they’re instead governed by their own prejudices and treat groups based on how they feel about them. For example, Title IX and “proportionality” have been used to force colleges to make their percentages of male and female athletes match the percentages of men and women in the student body (usually 55 to 60 percent female today), and the Clinton administration wanted to apply the principle to even math and science departments for the purposes of reducing the percentage of men in them. Yet, if equality is so important, why do we tolerate colleges that are 60 percent female to begin with? Shouldn’t we apply proportionality there, too, so that schools’ student bodies reflect the wider society?    

We ought to note that neither the Bible nor any other great book has much to say about “equality.” It is, however, the central principle of communism. And, if meritocracy, true fairness, and freedom are to survive, equality as a social imperative must die.

A wise person reserves equality for mathematics. A fool applies it to mathematicians as well.


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