Affirmative action responses distorted argument

By Joseph Schultz

In the December 9th edition of The Mac Weekly, three people wrote opinion pieces devoted to bashing my opinion piece from the prior week. Apparently I’m a “white-supremacist,” capitalistic, “fearful of black women,” should attend Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies classes, and “listen” to what those with a non-white supremacist background have to say. I can say with absolute certainty that capitalistic is the only term from this list which describes me in any way.First and foremost, being against affirmative action policies does not make me a white supremacist. In fact, I believe whole heartedly that Macalester should keep its affirmative action policy if keeping it is what the institution decides is best. The underlying principle to which I ascribe is the right to free association. Plainly stated, people should be free to associate with other people on any and all voluntary terms. This means that discriminating is perfectly acceptable based on whatever reason someone might want to use-including skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or the number of words starting with the letter R someone can site in one minute (i.e. anything someone cares to use as a metric for discriminating).

This does not mean that I think discrimination based on any characteristic other than merit (broadly defined) is a good thing. Indeed, I believe that capitalism, that often demonized concept, is what weeds out and ultimately kills the sorts of discrimination not based on merit. I often hear that for equivalent work women make 76 cents for every dollar men earn (as of 2003). I ask, how in the world could a firm operating in a capitalist economy continue to do business if that firm did not take advantage of such obvious labor savings? If women really did do equivalent work, then wouldn’t a firm just hire all women and slaughter its competitors? I’ve read several studies looking at this issue (e-mail me for citation), and they consistently find that women actually make more like 98 to 99 cents on the dollar for truly equivalent work. Now that’s not 1:1, and regulated economies like that of the U.S. will always have some level of non-merit based discrimination (because they are regulated), but it’s a far cry from the often cited statistic.

Contrary to allegations in last week’s articles, I’d like to point out that I do not assume a perfect society, but rather the opposite. The real question is how do we get to the perfect society (i.e. naturally non-discriminating) quickly and with the least amount of pain and suffering. According to the articles, government intervention is the proffered solution. I argue that government intervention only prolongs and reinforces the non-merit discrimination that was already present in the economy. It does so because everything it does to accomplish non-discrimination is done through the use of force. And I don’t mean bayonets, but rather through the threat of imprisonment and penalties.

I hope the Macalester community will agree with me that the use of force rarely brings about the preferred solution, and often is counterproductive. The enforcement of affirmative action policies requires the use of force by government to keep them active, and hence violate a key non-violence principle. People are being denied the right to freely associate with other people, and that right is being infringed upon with the threat of force. This is wrong. People should be allowed to freely associate. And because it is in the best interest of any entity (i.e. government, business, social group or individual) to discriminate only on merit, discrimination for all other reasons will continue to lessen as time progresses. In a perfect world, one based on allowing all forms of free association, non-merit discrimination exists only at the expense of the group allowing the policy.
One last thing I think I should address from the Dec. 9 articles: the personal attacks. First and foremost, it is immature and counterproductive to attack the character of the person whose arguments you are trying to refute. But for the record, I have read a great deal of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Bentham, Mill, Hegel, Hume, Sun-Tzu, Epictetus, Aurelius, Nietzsche, Locke, Smith, Lenin, Marx, Cicero, Shih-Li, Mo Tzu, Friedman, Rand, and a host of others. I also have a solid grounding in history, particularly ancient Egyptian and Greek. I do watch Fox news, but I also watch CNN. My typical weekly reading includes the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. I did go to public schools, and my parents worked many long hours. There were plenty of nights I waited up for my dad, just to fall asleep before he came home and wake up after he had left for work again. I don’t drink and I study very hard (despite not always succeeding). Hell, I even grew up with a mentally handicapped brother-so don’t tell me I’ve lived an “unexamined life” or that I haven’t earned every scrap of recognition I’ve ever received. It’s not like a conservative like me gets much positive reinforcement at a school like Macalester. And I don’t write these articles out of some personal crusade; I write them because I’m a MACGOP Chair and part of my responsibility is to expose students to good, tenable conservative ideas.