Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

Why ‘affirmative action’ doesn’t work


This week’s truism: all top-down attempts at leftie social engineering end up causing rather more misery and injustice than the misery and injustice they were designed to alleviate. This is chiefly because they come up against that most un-leftie of things, reality – but also because liberals are incapable of looking at actual outcomes and are able only to wring their hands in despair and wish for stuff. The world is not an ideal place and attempts to pretend they can make it so are always misbegotten.

When you politicise a crime, all kinds of problems occur

The most obvious example of this is in that most explicitly iniquitous of things, affirmative action – or, as we call it over here, ‘positive discrimination’. The American media and our own, reliably stupid, BBC were beside themselves with fury when the US Supreme Court recently ordered that race should no longer play a part in deciding if a candidate should get into a decent university. Over the pond, the furore continues – but the truth is that it has been a long time coming, this re-reckoning. The obvious injustices occasioned by affirmative action have festered for decades. Back in 1996, the Stanford Magazine – house organ of one of the most liberal educational institutions in the country – printed an article by David Sacks and Peter Thiel which summed up the problem: ‘Originally conceived as a means to redress discrimination, racial preferences have instead promoted it. And rather than fostering harmony and integration, preferences have divided the campus. In no other area of public life is there a greater disparity between the rhetoric of preferences and the reality.’

Why should the under-qualified son of a black doctor or lawyer be given preferential treatment over the well-qualified daughter of a Vietnamese boat person, they asked – a question which the left can never answer, because it is unanswerable.

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