Unequal Beauty Silence

Back on Sept 5, Sebastian Perez published a satritical Post oped advocating reducing beauty-based inequalities:

Most champions of the less privileged have never made a practical effort to mitigate the social differences caused by the inequitable distribution of what, nowadays, is a factor with an enormous socioeconomic impact: beauty. … I suggest … political constitutions … should state that citizens may not be discriminated against on the basis of their physical attractiveness. …

Governments should … ensure the supply of low-priced makeup, anti-wrinkle creams, aesthetic plastic surgery, etc. … financed through a tax on the beautiful people in each country.  By law, companies should be obliged to guarantee minimum employment quotas for less attractive people, especially in the movie industry, television, modeling and beauty pageants.  Such affirmative action would help compensate for so many years of hateful discrimination based on looks. … The doormen at fashionable clubs cannot continue to mercilessly make decisions about who gets in based only on physical attractiveness. Such discrimination should lead to jail time and fines.

I was reminded of this oped by John Nye:

Perhaps the real issue … [is] why certain inequalities which are also unevenly distributed — such as looks, intelligence, ability, or personality — do not invite as much social envy or opprobrium as disparities in income or wealth resulting from hard work or shrewd dealing. These differences are probably as large or larger than the measured inequalities in dollar income, yet go unmeasured and often excite no commentary in discussions of inequality.

Searching for thoughtful critiques replying to Perez’s oped, I could fine none – only a few short snippy comments.  (Same for Nye.)  Why the deafening silence?

Let’s be clear: the issue is why those concerned about other inequalities, such as re genders or ethnicities, seem so uninterested in inequalities associated with beauty, etc.   Not only could we cause some people to look less pretty, we could use money to compensate ugly folk, reducing total inequality of utility (and increasing total utility if we are risk-averse in status).  Yes we can influence our beauty to some extent, but compensation could be tied to more fixed features such as height, skin smoothness, or body symmetry.

One theory is that what we have seen are somewhat random coalitions: the strongest support for reducing certain inequailties come from member groups who are either on the losing end of an inequality, or get signaling benefits by showing sympathy to such groups.  But no coalition wants to help groups that are too intrinsically weak, producing disgust and derision instead of sympathy from onlookers.  So the ugly, the stupid, or beta males, for example, tend to make unlikely coalition partners.

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