More Natural Hypocrisy

Back in April I posted on a video which suggested:

Most people believe that redistributing money within a nation is good, but that redistributing GPA within a school is bad, and if asked why these should be treated differently, have little to say. My point isn’t to say one can’t come up with reasons to treat these differently. … My point is that most people can’t think of such reasons, making it pretty unlikely that such reasons are the cause of their opinions.

Here’s a related video:

This new video suggests that most people think school and professional affirmative action is good, but that sports affirmative action is bad, and if asked why these should be treated differently, have little to say.  Hat tip to Mungowitz, who seems to agree:

I was amused to see the kids struggle with making ANY of the above [valid] arguments. The video does a good job of showing how our “support” for aff-action is a religion, not a considered conclusion.

Alas, what Mungowitz counts as valid rationales for treating these differently are pretty weak:

1. If anything, coaches already try to find white players.
2. … “Racism” is directed at the societal minority, which is NOT white people. …
3. Performance in sport (as in music, and the military) is objective. … But academics … are more subjective. A bad time in the 40 yard dash means you are slow. A bad SAT score could mean all sorts of things. …
4. Basketball is the key sport among urban populations, many of whom are black. Hockey, swimming, lacrosse much less so. This is sorting, not racism.

If the idea is to discourage discrimination in general, then we should entertain the possibility that whites could sometimes be victims of discrimination. And if it is valid to explain differing sport outcomes by noting that basketball is more popular than hockey in “urban populations,” it should also be valid to posit that math is less popular there, say relative to sport, to explain worse math outcomes. Finally, SAT tests seem to me as objective as typical basketball tryout routines.

The question is what evidence is sufficient to create a presumption of discrimination. In education, the main evidence usually offered is unequal education outcomes. But if that evidence is sufficient, then unequal sports outcomes should lead us to presume discrimination in sports as well.

Remember that we only have laws against discrimination by employers or schools, not by employees or students, and not at all regarding friends and romance. We aren’t trying to generally reduce discrimination – we are trying to achieve something far more specific.

I suspect this all is more about status than discrimination. That is, people feel we have made a decision to raise (certain types of) status for certain groups. And while one way to raise such status is to reduce related unequal outcomes that disfavor those groups, another way to raise their status is to allow and even encourage unequal outcomes that favor those groups. So while we are happy to presume that disfavoring unequal outcomes are “discrimination” to be prevented and compensated, we are also happy to overlook unequal outcomes that favor the group whose status we are trying to raise.

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  • Gary`

    “Most people believe that redistributing money within a nation is good, but that redistributing GPA within a school is bad”

    The redistribution of money is not the same, as there is no concept of “compounding interest” in GPA. Just having high capital increases your capital. GPA doesn’t work that way. The argument is that the fact that capital can build upon itself gives those with capital an unfair advantage. Someone that obtains captial suddenly (through inheritance, lottery, luck), no longer has to do anything in order to increase their capital. It increases on its own.

    If getting four A’s in a row in your schooling could produce automatic A’s on your following classes with out even attending those classes, then you’d have an equivalence. If you could inherit your grades from your parents, then you’d also have an equivalence.

    Going to the topic of the rest of your post, I think the video speaks for itself. Race based discrimination is wrong, and it cheapest the efforts of those that obtain high levels of accomplishment.

    • James

      “My point isn’t to say one can’t come up with reasons to treat these differently. … My point is that most people can’t think of such reasons, making it pretty unlikely that such reasons are the cause of their opinions.”

      Everybody missed that part in the original article’s comments too. Just putting it up here at the top so we don’t have to go through the same ordeal again.

      • david

        Perhaps people defer to the judgment of individuals who are regarded as experts in this area?

      • James

        If that were the case, you’d expect to see people say “Well, it’s an interesting question that I’ve thought about before, and I never arrived at an answer that really convinced myself, but the economists I listen to say that redistributing money is good while redistributing GPA is bad, so before I find personally convincing evidence, I’ll take their position.” Instead, they say something more like “Well, those are different, um………..”. The fact that most people respond that way doesn’t mean that the position they hold is wrong (I think it’s right); but, not being able to form any coherent reasons in conversation implies that they don’t hold that belief because they’ve thought carefully about the subject before.

    • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

      GPA doesn’t work that way.

      LOL

  • anonymous

    >We aren’t trying to generally reduce discrimination – we are trying to achieve something far more specific.

    >I suspect this all is more about status than discrimination. That is, people feel we have made a decision to raise (certain types of) status for certain groups

    Robin, you post this as if it were some piece of news you just discovered. But for the last few decades everyone in our culture has been expected to understand as a matter of course that “reduce discrimination” means “raise the status of racial minorities, particularly blacks”.

    A post like this is liable to get you accused (at the very least) of having Asperger’s syndrome, or more likely, trying to lower the status of racial minorities by critiquing attempts to raise their status.

    • http://loup-vaillant.fr Loup Vaillant

      This particular claim of Robin could be tested more thoroughly, by asking if such discrimination would be acceptable in Caucasian dominated sports. I think the reaction would be the same as basketball. It is probably not about raising the status of minorities in sports.

      Now, there’s something else that bothers me. If asked if I support affirmative action, I would say “yes” without hesitation. But I’m not willing to use any method.

      Specifically, I wouldn’t use a method that would discriminate at selection time, because you would select less skilled people. I apply this principle on sport as well as on SAT scores. The only way I would condone an explicit discrimination is to counter a prior racist bias. And we should be careful not to overshoot it too much (a little overshoot is acceptable because it is still better than the default setting). And we should be careful to let it be a temporary measure. The best is to eliminate the bias altogether (typically through anonymity or reduction of overall racist biases).

      When It comes to sports, I strongly suspect there is very little racist bias at selection time to begin with. Therefore I do not support positive action for this particular case.

      A positive action that I have a much easier time condoning is discriminating at opportunity time. Meaning, devote more resources to raise the skills of disfavoured people, even if it mean sacrificing a bit of resources previously allocated to favoured people. The beauty in this is that you probably don’t need to apply a counter-racist bias to begin with. Just go for the lower skilled people in the field you care about (like children in schools).

      But really, It took some time for me to sort that out and write it down. I don’t have the necessary cached thoughts because I just don’t think often about it. If I were prompted point blank in front of a video camera, I would probably hesitate for a substantial time before being able to produce a coherent answer. It would certainly appear as if I am religious about positive action.

      I’m not necessarily disagreeing with Robin’s conclusion, that there is a religious aura around positive action. But I take the video as weak evidence for it.

    • Ken S

      I think ‘diversity’ is the code word for arbitrarily raising the status of underprivileged minorities, there are people out there that truly detest racial discrimination but won’t get on board the diversity bandwagon.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        No, no, no, no, no. The purpose of “diversity” is to not arbitrarily lower the status of individuals simply because they are different. If an arbitrary lowering of status has already occurred, the only way to rectify that arbitrary lowering is with an arbitrary raising. Going forward, preventing arbitrary raising is a better approach, but those who have been, or would be the beneficiaries of an arbitrary raising of status due to traditional status measures (like wealth, skin color or political or religious affiliation) will object to losing their arbitrary advantage.

        Because status is zero-sum, not lowering someone’s status arbitrarily is indistinguishable from raising someone’s status arbitrarily. The final social status hierarchy is indistinguishable. The problem is the arbitrary changing of status due to factors which do not relate to status within the field.

        Of course everyone likes to fantasize that their high status is due to their own positive attributes and that their low status is due to a lack of recognition of those positive attributes; and that everyone else’s high status is due to their privilege and their low status due to their lack of positive attributes.

        But we know that is not the case.

      • Ken S

        ” If an arbitrary lowering of status has already occurred”

        The issue here is that ‘ending discrimination’ and ‘promoting diversity’ are not interchangeable with one another. If a group is low-status based on reasons that many people would see as non-arbitrary (such as poor scholastic or athletic ability) then discrimination based on arbitrary factors is not necessarily occurring and I fail to see where diversity comes into the picture at all. Even if the ‘potential abilities’ of an individual that happens to belong to a group were damaged due to past discrimination on that group, then we should still just ‘repair discrimination’ and even this is not swappable with ‘promoting diversity’.

        What are the justifications for diversity that are independent of wanting to end/repair discrimination? There is a standard cynical take on this, which is that when ‘ending discrimination’ failed to produce the results that activists expected to see due to ‘natural’ differences in abilities between groups, another justification was needed to achieve the desired results. What makes this arbitrary is that there is plenty of room for disagreement over the goal of ‘diversity for it’s own sake’ so it is not something that should be actively institutionalized. Even if a group more naturally disadvantaged on average than other groups the obvious solution is still to just equalize based on that particular disadvantage rather than by how we decided to group them, because clearly others outside of the group can also be disadvantaged in nearly the same way.

      • Konkvistador

        @deadalus2u

        “Because status is zero-sum,”

        Not exactly, at least not always.

        Different cultures and subcultures gauge status in different ways. One can get many of the same psychological benefits of having high status, while not necessaries the benefit in a society. Much of our cultural activity is based on creating alternative ladders of status climbing in limited circles.

        Due to mind projection, a diversity of values probably creates more people who see themselves as higher status than they would otherwise. Also if differences are too apparent differing groups simply “other” each other. I don’t care what those Pastafarians say about my practice of sprinkling my Sundays with goat blood, our glorious lord Azathoth commands it!

        A simple way to redistribute status is thus simply to change what is valued. I think the shift from farmer to forager values has raised the status of most minorities (but probably slightly lowered the status of say Indian immigrants in the US or Asian Americans) and that was the reason policies of equalizing outcome or opportunity could be implemented, not the other way around.

        Also different people differ on how they respond to different levels of status. It is unreasonable to a priori assume that all of the measured intergroup differences in such attitude are strictly due to culture and not say genetics.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Status is a ranking in a social hierarchy. All rankings are zero sum. Raising one ranking necessarily lowers other rankings or the first ranking could not change. “Othering” people is to impute them with low status, and in the limit non-human status. That is the entire reason for “othering” people, to lower their status and in the limit to make it so low that they can be cheated, lied to, abused and killed.

        Differential status is about differential rights. The “other” doesn’t have the right to be treated as a human being. The compulsion to impute differential social status to genetics is because “othering” is fundamentally about damaging the reproductive success of the “other”.

      • Konkvistador

        “because “othering” is fundamentally about damaging the reproductive success of the “other”.”

        This is a very succinct and I think accurate way of putting it. But we are adaptation executers not fitness maximisers, upper class status games are mostly sterile exercise. How utterly misfiring intuitions about his are can easily be demonstrated by the fact that by not caring about about the availability of reliable birth control to women in say rural India you are enhancing their reproductive success.

        But I’m not sure if I was successful in getting my point across, status is subjective, and different groups use different ways to gauge and determine it.

        With a diversity of subcultures and cultures, you simply must have a disconnect with perceptions of social status between different groups and societies. Diversity of values is impossible without at least some othering of human beings as long as these values have anything at all to do with said human beings.

        A human mind can only comprehend so much status, our brains aren’t wired for modern mass society. Status seems zero sum. But it isn’t.

        A reasonably populous group X is homogeneous rigid hierarchical society. It has a top dog X1. He feels pretty swell.

        What happens if you split up group X into groups Y and Z who don’t care about each other. Now Y1 and Z1 feel as swell as X1 did before.

        This of course has material consequences because of economies of scale, but if X isn’t Malthusian (as ours temporarily isn’t) and the “conflict” between the two groups remains low intensity it dosen’t seem a clear cut that keeping them identifying as X is good at all if you care about overall welfare. If you completely isolate them from each other or make it systematically impossible for them to harm each other in meaningful ways I would venture to say the psychologically benefit of “more” status for the remaining individuals of each group clearly outweighs the material loss, especially since humans are social creatures.

        BTW The same analysis holds if X, Y and Z where unrealistically egalitarian with each member having exactly as much status as everyone else.

      • Konkvistador

        So status is still zero sum in groups X and Y and Z. But turning X into Y+Z seems to lead to an increase of overall status available to the individuals who used comprise X but now comprise Y and Z.

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  • http://www.philosophyetc.net Richard

    As I understand it, affirmative action is meant to help counter the distinctive harms caused by systemic discrimination, e.g. by providing role models and reducing implicit bias in the general population. I’m not aware of any corresponding research establishing implicit bias against white people, by contrast, so it’s unclear that there’s any serious social “problem” there that needs to be addressed…

    • roystgnr

      For corresponding research, I refer you to “Saltation Deficiency in Anglo-Saxon Males” by Snipes, Harrelson et. al.

  • Kevin

    We value ‘equality of opportunity,’ and aff. action is meant to remedy the fact that many urban and minority schools do not provide the same opportunity as suburban white schools.

    It is hard to make this argument with respect to basketball. Do we really think white players had less of an opportunity to practice or obtain skilled coaching? In fact suburban schools likely have more resources to devote to sports and the hiring of trainers. Players at these schools probably have better opportunities outside of basketball, which explains why they may be underrepresented on the court.

    To conclude, aff action in scholastics is intended to counteract a low level of opportunity in minority schools; there is no such lack of opportunity for white bball players in the suburbs, but they likely have better outside options.

    • Aaron

      I think it is arguable that black people do have more opportunity to become professional basketball players, there’s a more cultural support and probably a certain degree of “white men can’t jump” which probably deprives some non-black players of opportunities where they would get the best development.

      I think the analogy falls apart when we look at what’s being competed over, very few people play professional basketball and those who do are extremely high level and small differences in performance are extremely important. Any systemic discrimination white players might face is relatively inconsequential.

      The only place affirmative action would be comparable is if it was applied to the selection of CEOs and company boards. Now it may occur that a female or minority candidate might have an edge over a similarly qualified white male candidate, however in this case their female/minority characteristic is an asset in itself and not a case of affirmative action.

    • oldcrumb

      So, it seems like affirmative action is primarily about trying to rectify opportunity differences that result from wealth differences, and race is used because racial differences maps well to wealth disparity, right? That seems to be what Kevin is implying, which I agree with. But because race isn’t a perfect proxy for wealth, poor white people don’t get any help and rich minorities receive help they don’t need. To justify the continued use of such an imperfect system, I think some benchmark of its success in terms of lessening the cycle of poverty/missed opportunities for its recipients would have to be met. Has any research been done on this? Tracking income, success of children (grades, SAT scores, college acceptance, whatever), etc, of affirmative action recipients to see if there’s a marked improvement?

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    In many fields, success does not depend so much on personal ability, but whether or not other people work with you cooperatively. Sort of how Obama is having difficulty because the GOP won’t work with him on anything, even stuff they wanted before Obama was elected.

    One of the goals of affirmative action was to short-circuit the complete lack of minorities in certain fields. If there are at least some minority individuals in every field, then there is a chance that minorities who require expertise in that field can at least get some (even if it is of a lesser quality) than get zero because no one will work with them.

    If you need an accountant, but can’t get one because you are black, even a crappy accountant is better than no accountant.

    Compelling businesses to not discriminate is an attempt to limit the destructive force of discrimination. If businesses are free to discriminate, then a handful of essential services can enforce an absolute ban on any group. If grocers won’t sell food, and service stations won’t sell gasoline, and utilities won’t sell electricity, water or phone service, any group can be absolutely excluded at the whim of those few essential services. Couple that to police, fire and health care and you have a hint of what the US was like before the 1960’s.

    How many posters here could be successful if they couldn’t purchase food or transportation or phone service? Or an education?

    • http://crazybear.posterous.com Chris Stucchio

      If businesses are free to discriminate, then a handful of essential services can enforce an absolute ban on any group. If grocers won’t sell food, and service stations won’t sell gasoline, and utilities won’t sell electricity, water or phone service, any group can be absolutely excluded at the whim of those few essential services. Couple that to police, fire and health care and you have a hint of what the US was like before the 1960′s.

      This is incorrect. Jim Crow was a set of laws which demanded that businesses and government discriminate.

      In any cartel of the sort you describe, individuals have the incentive to defect and take advantage of the underserved market. Such a cartel can only survive if there are strong enforcement mechanisms – for example, Jim Crow laws.

      • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

        Bingo. Exactly.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        No, if the group that is denying the selling of food, gasoline and utilities denies those goods and services to all defectors, then they can enforce the policy in the absence of laws.

        People may have an incentive to defect, but they also have an incentive to not defect. Some may defect but many, perhaps most, won’t. Unless enough defect to make the denials of service ineffective, the denials will be effective at excluding those it is designed to exclude.

        Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity is now illegal, but it still happens. It doesn’t have to be 100% effective to still have large effects. Discrimination against gay people is still rampant even though there are no laws criminalizing the absence of discrimination against gay people.

      • anon

        “No, if the group that is denying the selling of food, gasoline and utilities denies those goods and services to all defectors, then they can enforce the policy in the absence of laws.”

        In other words, you are proposing that the discriminating group just go out of business entirely; this will certainly satisfy their preference of not serving disfavored groups. But this leaves minorities free to enter the field, even without affirmative action.

      • Cyan

        Such a cartel can only survive if there are strong enforcement mechanisms – for example, Jim Crow laws.

        Or, um, if they’re willing to harass and kill defectors…

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        anon, no, because there are barriers to entry. What kind of a business plan could a member of a minority put together?

        “I want a loan to start a business in this all white enclave where the businesses refuse to sell to blacks and where the police look the other way when blacks are harassed and their businesses firebombed.”

        What banker is going to say “that looks like a great business opportunity, I will be happy to loan you working capital to get started”.

        What banker is going to write the loan for the 11th business after the first 10 have been firebombed?

  • Mthson

    A good solution to tease out irrationalities on ethnicity seems to be to talk about Asian-Americans instead of White people.

    For example, it seems like most people are hesitant to advocate racist discrimination against over-performing Asian-Americans, even though their affirmative action beliefs dictate that Asians-Americans should continue to be officially discriminated against.

    http://videosift.com/poll/Is-discrimination-against-Asian-Americans-in-college-admissions-good-or-bad

  • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

    One big difference is that the goal of a sports team is pretty clear: win the games. The coach/owner can make all sorts of decisions, and the end evaluation is easy: did the decisions result in more games being won, or not?

    College admissions is a little different. It is not universally agreed what the point of a particular entering class is. How do you evaluate whether the admissions officers have done a “good job” or not? Sure, if kids flunk out or otherwise fail to graduate, I suppose you could criticize the admissions office then. But aside from these obvious cases, there is a lot of room to include other preferences.

    I suspect that some might argue that diversity is in fact a primary goal of college admissions (as opposed to sports teams), not a choice made in service of some more important goal.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      Yes, exactly. Diversity is a very important goal of college admissions. A diverse campus community helps everyone on the campus.

      The major cause of xenophobia is the inability to “connect” with “the other”. When you can’t understand someone, you default to xenophobia.

      http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

      A diverse college campus helps the students to not be intolerant xenophobic bigots. Of course if that is not the college’s goal, then it won’t want to use the tool of diversity to accomplish it.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Diversity helps everybody? Robert Putnam found that diversity makes people more distrustful of others and withdraw into their shells. He witheld from publishing his work for years, but had enough integrity as a social scientist to eventually reveal his results.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        TGGP, that is interesting. However, he is taking a snapshot of attitudes and diversity at a moment, not looking at changes over time, or what caused those changes. In his E Pluribus Unum paper, he does mention that people who experienced working with different ethnicities in the military have greater acceptance of diversity.

        “First, the United States Army today has become a relatively colour-blind institution. Systematic surveys have shown that the average American soldier has many closer inter-racial friendships than the average American civilian of the same age and social class (United States Department of Defense 1997; Moskos & Butler 1996).”

        It is my understanding that the US military is more diverse than the US national average and yet shows reduced intolerance. I think that is due to military leaders not tolerating ethnic intolerance. I think the problem in the US is due to politicians (and others) playing the race card and trying to foment racial animosity to further their agendas.

        I think the social capital that is needed to reduce intolerance is being liquidated to further the careers of politicians.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I couldn’t find the reference to politicians playing the race card in the paper. Since the military is a highly atypical institution, I don’t think it is a good idea to generalize from its example. Unless the entire nation gets conscripted to fight against external enemies, although that would likely be problematic for immigrants from enemy countries.

        Your theory sounds somewhat like the “contact theory” that is pretty resoundingly rejected in the paper. He thought the effect might be different for different age cohorts, but it wasn’t. In a footnote he compares “old” to “new” diversity and says “we have so far discovered no evidence that over a span of these two decades ‘older’ diversity has become any less likely to trigger the ‘hunkering’ reaction than more recent diversity”. Old diversity does not consist just of blacks (who have been in America for centuries), but also of Mexicans who have been in the southwest since before it was part of America. Sailer once compared Mexican & Jewish immigrants who came to the same cities at the same times, and of course have very different outcomes to this day. So I think his reliance on the example of previous immigration is shaky. A book on this is “Generations of Exclusion”, comparing up to four generations of Chicanos over time. Like Putnam, the researchers there were surprised and disappointed by the results, but to their credit published them anyways.

        I actually have an old post at my blog playing devil’s advocate for diversity. It’s defended precisely BECAUSE it lowers trust/social capital. But people sometimes tire of my repeated linking to my blog, so I’ll let you search for it.

  • Ilya Shpitser

    Robin, just because people can’t articulate an algorithm they use to decide something does not mean they aren’t using it (implicitly). Some of analytic philosophy seems to be trying to formalize such algorithms people use.

    • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

      If you can’t articulate your algorithms, you can’t justify them or demonstrate that they aren’t stupid, emotional or self-serving. Robin does not dispute that these irrational people don’t have any algorithms — he is saying that the algorithms are nonsensical, which is self-evidently true on the video.

      • Ilya Shpitser

        Maybe so, but many algorithms people use which are “kosher” from a rationalist point of view do not have a good explicit description (scientific/mathematical intuition, for example).

        The requirement to articulate precisely is too strong.

    • http://lesswrong.com/user/Jayson_Virissimo Jayson Virissimo

      Robin, just because people can’t articulate an algorithm they use to decide something does not mean they aren’t using it (implicitly).

      What’s the difference between a belief you can’t provide supporting evidence for and a prejudice?

  • Buck Farmer

    Are there any studies on pro-black discrimination in sports hiring?

    I’m trying to think of how to tease it out. Perhaps video tape performance-matched members of different ethnicities doing free throws, then ask coaches to evaluate them? Or decide which they would hire?

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing easy like randomizing resumes.

    • Buck Farmer

      Maybe randomize ethnic assignment to something like baseball records? Could something like this be thrown in?

      I don’t enough about the sports hiring process to find places where ethnicity can be isolated.

  • Shawn Brill

    I don’t really believe in “rights”; I take rights talk to really be complaints by a group about their roles and how they are treated.

    I figure the reason why people support affirmative action in some instances, is that they have heard complaints from the affected group. I don’t think most people want to enforce rights for a group who never asked for them.

  • Mercy

    “I suspect this all is more about status than discrimination. That is, people feel we have made a decision to raise (certain types of) status for certain groups. And while one way to raise such status is to reduce related unequal outcomes that disfavor those groups, another way to raise their status is to allow and even encourage unequal outcomes that favor those groups. So while we are happy to presume that disfavoring unequal outcomes are “discrimination” to be prevented and compensated, we are also happy to overlook unequal outcomes that favor the group whose status we are trying to raise.”

    This is pretty explicit in lots of “anti-racism” groups nowadays- the only racism is institutional racism built into society and “racist” means reinforcing the disparity between groups, not merely discriminating. It’s annoying, but pointing it out as some kind of gotcha moment is like pointing out that liberterians don’t believe healthcare is a right.

    • anon

      I suspect that “anti-racism” is more about defending the high status of “anti-racist” activists (most of whom are white and live in 95%-white/5% asian suburbs or exurbs) than any sort of genuine caring about the plight of disadvantaged minorities. It’s all based on projection and posturing.

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        anon, I think of it as gentrification of the moral highground. How precious a defended minority (which I think is a mix of natural advantage in telescopic framing -“Precious” the aptly name protagonist herself was a low income obese black woman- and natural advantage in charisma, which Mr. Steve Sailer has been recently arguing favors black americans of some other populations including mexican americans) is counts for more than some good faith measure of how marginalized they actually are.

      • Konkvistador

        Naturally. The class aspect is very relevant I think.

        Having politically correct beliefs usually signals you can afford to block out unpleasant side effects diversity and don’t need strict rules and limitations to make “good” choices (which you naturally don’t directly call them good, but still use to contrast to the behaviour of say lower class Whites, who call them good but don’t live up to them as well as you do).

        Politically incorrect beliefs also generally signals that you need additional memetic scaffolding to prevent downward social mobility of yourself or your children as well or that you are tone deaf to social signalling.

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  • MMX

    Robin said, “I suspect this all is more about status than discrimination.”

    MMX replies: I don’t know if my explanation is much different than yours, but I think it’s about signaling to minorities that the American Dream is attainable by them. We don’t want a readily identifiable underclass to know, with chilling certitude, that they can’t advance – because they’ll get very angry. So we signal our support of the American Dream, and of the ability of minorities to attain that Dream, for coldly (and unconsciously) practical reasons.

  • Robert Koslover

    Robin, you are entirely correct. But you are not politically correct. Fortunately: (1) your university is not typical; and (2) you have tenure.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    It seems so low brow to me (not just low status, but actively dumb) to go the basketball/white guy affirmative action argument route.

    There’s virtue in looking critically at race-based affirmative action, but this just seems to me to be dumb dumb conversation.

  • Lord

    I think redistribution is confusing and misleading to most people. If you want an objective measure you don’t want redistribution to obscure it, but a curve or sliding scale could be considered redistribution even though it doesn’t change cardinal order. But if you base other policies and treatment on those measures, the result could be very discriminatory. Meanwhile, many if not most believe the rich should pay more and even more than proportionally more, but while this is commonly referred to as redistribution, one should not necessarily consider it that. Just considering a basic level of living costs and income above that as the legitimate target for taxation leads to progressive taxation. Redistribution is just a word with bad connotations that opponents have adopted regardless of its applicability because they believe in what they associate as the result. Note that redistribution always refers to taking from the advantaged and giving to the disadvantaged even though it is equally possible to apply it to taking from the disadvantaged and giving to the advantaged. The former is called class warfare while the latter is called the natural order. The advantaged use language, words,and reason to enhance their position while disparaging other opinions as religion, but that is only another opinion.

    • oldoddjobs

      Anyone who earns more than your definition of “living costs” is to have their money taken from them and handed out to those less well-off by government angels. Yay! Congratulations, everyman.

  • http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com Mike Kenny

    i once did a little imagining about the US if it had historically been governed w/the aim to equalize wealth and status:

    http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com/2010/10/alternative-history-of-us-if-it-were.html

    i imagined if we randomly selected people to do jobs–so you have an equal chance of having a doctor who has a 115 iq as one who has an 85 iq–ditto for janitors or waiters. so being a doctor wouldn’t be a cognitive elite, and being a janitor wouldn’t be low status.

  • Eric Falkenstein

    The average African-American SAT score is about 300 points lower than the white for ivy league colleges. That’s a lot, hardly the ‘tie goes to the minority’ advantage many imply.

    • Jane

      Your inability to consider the factors might cause that make this argument completely moot. Unless you are genuinely arguing that black people are, as a group, less intelligent than white people. In which case, sally forth, my racist chum and enjoy your life.

      • oldoddjobs

        This P.C warrior’s moral-o-meter is going haywire! Quick, say the word racism again!

    • SG

      Did you manage to find any stats on the averages for time spent with professional tutors, SAT prep help from parents or older students, number of re-takes, availability of practice and prep materials/books…. etc… for black vs. white students?

      That information would lend the 300 pt difference some relevance.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ Floccina

    People do not want to admit it the only way AA makes sense is as a form of restitution (reparations). We should admit it because we can then eliminate AA for Mexican Americans and recent black immigrants.

    • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

      Floccina,
      I think of affirmative action as more of a heckler buy-out than as a redistribution.

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        Meant “reparation”, not “redistribution” in that last post.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        What’s the difference between buy-outs and redistribution?

    • Jane

      How do you figure that? Because racism is sooooo 1950s?

  • lemmy caution

    There is affirmative action for sports. Plenty of softball teams require a certain number of female players. They could easily require a certain number of white guys on each basketball team if they wanted to. Nobody wants to.

  • tony

    Regarding money vs GPA, note that GPA is a measure that supposedly correlates with a students intellectual capabilities. Giving GPA or taking GPA would completely defeat the purpose of having a GPA. Whereas capital is very well passive of redistribution. Note that I am note supporting capital redistribution, I am just stating that capital redistribution is note as damaging from a conceptual perspective. In fact, redistribution of GPA is more akin to redistribution of a government issued metric of ones capacity to make (or hold on) to capital. The only thing that this would achieve is pure misinformation.
    This takes me to the topic of this post. The affirmative action was created to stop racism, sexism, etc. Because, in those target situations though the victims had all the knowledge and skills they were rejected. Therefore, the affirmative action helped to ensure that people were good in what they did would get a job.
    While imposing an “affirmative action” in basketball would produce exactly the opposite results, since the people that will be put in the team will in essence be replacing better players, thus worsening it in the overall. Note that I would completely oppose an action to reduce the number of white athletes in the american Olympic swimming team (which would definitely favor afro-americans) because this would certainly hurt the team as a whole.

    • Konkvistador

      “Because, in those target situations though the victims had all the knowledge and skills they were rejected. Therefore, the affirmative action helped to ensure that people were good in what they did would get a job.”

      Citation needed. I’m not disputing This was the intention.

      However since all stereotypes are true, unmerited over promotion has probably taken place because of it. Some estimates of the economic cost of such policies are pretty high, but they are best taken with a grain of salt (as all estimates of policies are).

  • http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/04/natural-hypocrisy.html#comment-471407 Mal

    GPA and money should be treated differently because they are different:
    GPA’s are capped at 4, income is not capped. If you capped income, no one would argue for income redistribution.

    Academics and Sports are not treated differently. They are treated the same. There is no affirmative action.

    The video says that 9% of U.C. Riverside is black. Are 9% of valedictorians black? No. Are 9% of summa cum laudes black? No. Are 9% of A’s reserved for blacks? For that matter, are 9% of the spots on the debate team reserved for blacks? No.

    At U.C. Riverside, as with every other college in America, after you are admitted, where you end up – whether it is on a sports team or on a robotics team – is not based on race. No racial preferences.

    Plus, unlike George Mason, the U.C. system does not practice affirmative action, even in admissions.

  • http://denisbider.blogspot.com/ denis bider

    Robin, an awful lot of your material seems to follow this pattern:

    – Take phenomena that are fundamentally different in ways that people find hard to verbalize.

    – Since people can’t verbalize important differences, conclude that there aren’t any.

    – Expose the hypocrisy while self-congratulating on insightfulness.

    People don’t want folks to suffer physical hardship for their low status. Nowadays, that is considered cruel.

    However, that doesn’t mean people don’t want any variety in status. People want there to be lots of different ways to have status, whether it’s through GPA scores or through sports. People want higher status to be achieved through effort and not redistributed.

    It’s just that people prefer low-status individuals to be humiliated without making them suffer physically. It seems more… dignified.