Saturday, June 21, 2014

SCOTUS "Affirmative Action" Decision is a Small Victory for Justice and Individual Rights

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan's constitutional amendment banning race as a consideration in college admissions, a NJ Star-Ledger letter writer called the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling a setback because the elimination of race-based affirmative action programs "reverts society to a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside":

People with access to education make more money, help their children do better in school and thus gain access to schools that are affordable for the family.

This letter writer apparently believes that the success of some comes at the expense of others, that educational advancement is a zero-sum game, and that the only way to "even the score" for the losers is to screw the winners; i.e., deny "access to education" for people who earn that access through merit in favor of those with the correct skin color:

Affirmative action programs may be imperfect, but their absence reverts society to a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside.
Only those deeply entrenched in, and benefiting from, the status quo could fail to see otherwise.

This is rubbish, of course. Affirmative action is government coercion. Removing affirmative action removes coercion. It does not shift the coercion in others’ favor. But his statement about "affirmative action for those already on the inside" rings true in a different context.

I left these comments:

Racial preferences, and the collectivist premise behind them, are racist, pure and simple. It's incredible to me that, in the 21st Century, there are still people who defend this primitive practice. The Michigan law that the Court upheld was a victory against racism. One would think the Court's decision would be universally applauded.

If you really want to fight back against "a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside," the place to start is with government policies that do just that.

Minimum wage laws benefit older, experienced workers at the expense of younger, less skilled, and less experienced individuals, for whom the lower rungs of the "economic ladder" are kicked out by killing the lower-paying jobs that would otherwise be available to them.

Occupational licensure laws create state-sanctioned cartels that deny otherwise qualified individuals from entering the licensed field. Currently, more than 1100 occupations across the nation require government licensure (permission) before a person can earn a living in one of those fields.

Compulsory unionization laws freeze out non-union individuals in numerous fields.

In each of these examples, an economic clique is "deeply entrenched" on the "inside", [legally shielded, at least partially] from competition by those legally frozen out.

The only truly affirmative action we can take is to increase the liberty of people to work, trade, and contract with others by removing these and other legal and regulatory roadblocks to economic advancement. Denying otherwise qualified individuals entrance to a college because of the color of his skin was always a step backwards, morally as well as legally. The SCOTUS decision, as narrow as it was, is a welcome victory for justice and individual rights.

The Michigan constitutional amendment applies only to "public"—government owned and funded—universities. Such universities should not exist, because they violate the rights of taxpayers not to fund these schools if they choose not to. Fully private universities would, of course be free to establish whatever criteria for entry they deem appropriate, even as outrageous as basing admission on skin color. 

But since taxpayers do fund these schools, they have a right to determine admission standards. The problem is, "the public" can only determine those standards by majority vote. This means that the rights of the voting minority who support race-based admissions policies, whose taxes also support these government universities, are being violated. Such conflicts of rights are inherent in government schools. In a fully free education market, where government and education are separate, no such conflicts could arise. 

Related Reading:

Education in a Free Society—C. Bradley Thompson

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