July 28, 2008
by Jim Kalb Source: Turnabout
Social policies promoting inclusiveness have great moral prestige and enjoy powerful political support, Nonetheless, some people oppose them. These questions and answers are intended to present reasons for opposition in a way that depends less on economic considerations than the usual libertarian arguments against coerced association. They concentrate instead on the social and cultural consequences of efforts to implement inclusiveness by force of law. The issues presented here can be discussed in our forum, and your participation is welcome.
- What is inclusiveness?
- What is wrong with inclusiveness?
- Isn’t the sort of equality referred to as “inclusiveness” a limited one?
- Why is coercion a necessary part of inclusiveness?
- Isn’t discrimination based on fear and hatred of “the other,” and inability to deal with difference?
- Isn’t discrimination based on overbroad stereotypes that it would be more intelligent to reject?
- How could discrimination on grounds forbidden by civil rights laws possibly be rational?
- But shouldn’t we all be judged as individuals?
- What is the connection between discrimination and community?
- Shouldn’t communities that define themselves by reference to ethnicity, religion, lifestyle and so on broaden themselves to reflect a fuller appreciation of the richness of humanity?
- Weren’t equal opportunity laws necessary to redress evils caused by discrimination?
- What specific problems have antidiscrimination rules caused?
- Why try to bring back obsolete prejudices?
- How would you like to be discriminated against?
- What happens to those excluded in a non-inclusive society?
- Whatever errors or excesses it may sometimes lead to, isn’t the ideal of inclusiveness a generous one?
- If exclusion is morally OK, why are so many conscientious people so very troubled by it?
- What is the overall political effect of antidiscrimination laws?
- Isn’t it divisive to oppose measures designed to promote inclusiveness?
- Doesn’t discrimination lead to Auschwitz?
- What about Bosnia, the Wars of Religion, and other communal conflicts?
- Would more exclusion and discrimination really make the world a better place?
What is inclusiveness?
“Inclusiveness”, like “access” and “equity”, is a way of talking about equality. Liberals believe as a matter of principle that the benefits of society should be equally available to all and that a basic task of government is to help make them so. As liberalism has developed so have the specific demands of that principle. Today it requires that persons of every race, ethnicity, religious background, sex, disability status and sexual orientation be able to participate equally in major social activities, with roughly equal receipt of status and rewards the test for equal ability to participate. This requirement of equal participation is referred to as “inclusiveness”.
What is wrong with inclusiveness?
The demand for inclusiveness is in effect a demand for comprehensive political, economic and social equality between groups, defined and administered by government. One objection to that demand is the usual objection to bureaucratic egalitarianism, that it requires comprehensive state control of social life restrained by neither popular control nor traditional limitations. It therefore leads to something not far from slavery that degrades the human spirit, destroys civil society, and has disastrous economic consequences. In the case of state socialism the legitimacy of such objections has finally been conceded. However, the spirit that gave us socialism keeps reappearing in new forms, of which inclusiveness ideology is one. The destruction and degradation therefore continue.
A more conceptual objection is that inclusiveness means that characteristics that define personal identity have no legitimate public role. If my specific identity–as a man, a member of a particular people, or whatever–affects how I am treated, then I am treated unequally because of who I am, contrary to inclusiveness. Since we are social beings, however, how we identify ourselves can not so easily be divorced from our place in the world. To say that what I am should have no effect on my position in the world is to say that I should have no essential connection to the social order of which I am part, and so to estrange me from that order. The progress of inclusiveness is therefore the progress of alienation. That alienation has political as well as individual and general social effects: a man becomes one thing, society quite another, and the bonds linking the two become wholly abstract. As a result, all grounds for loyalty disappear and free government becomes impossible as a practical matter.
Isn’t the sort of equality referred to as “inclusiveness” a limited one?
Not in the long run, since over time the circumstances thought to constitute exclusion multiply. Any inequality corresponds to a benefit from which some are excluded and so can be held to violate the principle of inclusiveness. No usable way of limiting the principle has been proposed.
In addition, the inequalities targeted by measures such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extremely stubborn, and any serious attempt to eradicate them quickly turns radical. Sex, religion and ethnicity have always and everywhere been fundamental principles of social organization, and to forbid “discrimination” is to attempt to eliminate them as such. The attempt is extraordinarily radical, and necessarily requires radical and intrusive measures. In particular, it requires “affirmative action”– quotas and equivalent measures–since the only way to counteract hidden motives and eliminate subtle structural inequalities is to look at results. Thought control–sensitivity training, the bowdlerization of language, speech codes and so on–is also necessary to any serious antidiscrimination program, since the purpose of such a program is to prevent people from making decisions in ways that will seem natural to them unless their ways of thinking are transformed.
The demands of inclusiveness thus become quite comprehensive and take on obsessive importance throughout social life. To focus discussion on basic issues, I will nonetheless concentrate on measures that are now non-controversial, such as the rules against race and sex discrimination in employment, and on defense of some of the conduct those measures forbid. The objections to more far-reaching measures such as “affirmative action” are all the stronger. To limit the discussion, I will not deal with the question of innate differences.
Why is coercion a necessary part of inclusiveness?
A particular organization may choose inclusiveness even in the absence of coercion. However, it is not likely that all would do so, certainly not to the extent proponents of inclusiveness demand. Intentional discrimination is often rational. Human beings differ, as do their affinities to each other. While many differences are purely individual, enough are related to characteristics such as sex and ethnicity for free dealings to lead to a degree of social segmentation even in the absence of intentional discrimination. Where such segmentation arises the habits and social expectations it engenders accentuate it. When those habits and expectations become self-aware they turn into full-fledged discrimination. Discrimination of a kind considered invidious by proponents of inclusiveness thus perpetually recreates itself if there is no comprehensive supervening force to forbid it.
Isn’t discrimination based on fear and hatred of “the other,” and inability to deal with difference?
No. Discrimination is simply dealing by preference with people of one sort rather than another, and typically is not based on fear or hatred. People who hire their relatives or join clubs for graduates of their own colleges usually do not hate and fear non-relatives or alumni of other colleges. Liberal professionals who make friends with other liberal professionals rather than Southern Baptist Republican used car salesmen may have no particular negative feelings regarding the latter. Employers who demand college degrees for non-technical entry-level positions need not loathe those who don’t have degrees even though they discriminate against them. It is unclear why discrimination relating to ethnicity, religion, sex and lifestyle should be different.
Rather, it is the demand for inclusiveness that indicates an inability to deal with difference. Both those who make inclusiveness an absolute and those who demand absolute separation demonstrate an inability to deal with differences that matter. The former deny the significance of difference and the latter deny the importance of what they share with those who differ. An intermediate view that accepts the reality of both things that unite and things that divide, and so accords with common sense and universal custom, rejects both strict separation and mandatory inclusiveness.
Isn’t discrimination based on overbroad stereotypes that it would be more intelligent to reject?
It is nondiscrimination that insists on the broadest stereotypes. Stereotypes are simply social expectations based on an understanding of what people are like and how the world should be. The stereotype for “good American,” for example, is someone who works for a living, votes, obeys the law, wants to better himself and provide for his family, believes in education, and so on. American law and public policy accept that stereotype and expect us to follow it. They wouldn’t work for 7th century B.C. Assyrians.
The nondiscrimination principle is the principle that the same expectations, and thus the same stereotype, should apply to everyone. It thus demands that the treatment of persons be based on the broadest and least illuminating stereotype possible. Thinking is impossible without the use of stereotypes or categories, and one might reasonably ask whether it is really more intelligent to have a single category for “human being” than (for example) separate categories for “man” and “woman.” Our society has officially demands the former, but it’s hard to make the decision stick in practice and its justification isn’t clear. It appears rather that requiring us all to ignore pervasive differences that on some level we can’t help but recognize is a recipe for irrationality.
How could discrimination on grounds forbidden by civil rights laws possibly be rational?
In many ways. One is that similarities of habits, standards and attitudes make it easier for people to associate productively with those of similar background. To take ethnicity and employment as an example, an ethnic culture is a system of habits, standards and attitudes that has grown up among people who have lived and worked together for a very long time. Those who share such things usually find it more pleasant and productive to work together, and so prefer to associate with each other for that purpose. An ethnic culture is in effect a system of social cooperation. If ethnic cohesiveness did not make cooperation easier, employee diversity would not be a major challenge requiring special training and sensitivity. It is therefore no less reasonable for an employer who wants to limit the complications with which he must deal to seek out a niche in the market for people he hires (that is, to engage in employment discrimination) than to look for a niche in the market for what he sells.
Other forbidden grounds include sex, which has always and everywhere been treated as fundamental to social organization. Respect for the universal consensus of mankind, tolerance for natural human inclinations, and consideration of the effects of increasingly ill-defined sex roles on family stability and the well-being of children suggest caution in attempts to create a sex-blind society and willingness to recognize differing roles in at least some settings. But if sex roles are accepted socially, men and women will be brought up differently and–quite apart from the question of whether they differ naturally–it will be no more irrational to discriminate between them in employment than to discriminate between candidates who differ in formal education.
Beyond issues relating to organizational function and effectiveness, forbidden grounds of discrimination such as ethnicity and religion help define communities. Since community is important for the conduct of life, things related to its definition are a reasonable basis for decisions as to affiliation. If a Mormon or Chinese wants to earn his living working with his like, the better to participate in a way of life that reflects Mormon or Chinese ways, he is not acting unreasonably in choosing to do so. Nor is it wrong for employers to accommodate workers who want that kind of work environment, or to have preferences in such matters themselves.
But shouldn’t we all be judged as individuals?
What can this mean? The kind of family I was raised in, and my sex, ethnicity and social class, have done at least as much to make me what I am as the schools I went to and whether I graduated or not. It’s not clear why looking at the latter but not the former constitutes “judging on individual qualities.” And if it is freedom and idiosyncrasy we value, employers and others who wish to establish connections with people should be free to choose the persons with whom they affiliate on grounds that seem sufficient to them. If someone wants to establish a law office in which all the lawyers are Mayflower descendents who like to talk about duck hunting and bring in business through their social connections, he will judge applicants in accordance with their contribution to that goal. From the standpoint of individualism, it is hard to see a problem.
“Inclusiveness” means all institutions have to be composed of the same sorts of people in the same general proportions. What’s so free and diverse about that? And in any event, an emphasis on judging people as individuals can be misplaced when the purpose is to enhance the well-being and productivity of an organization rather than (for example) determine moral merit or culpability. In human affairs the whole is never a simple sum of its parts. The all-star team does not necessarily win, and the same principle applies in settings that are more serious than sports. In addition to individual talents principles of cohesion and cooperation are necessary, and religion, ethnic culture and the like can foster such principles.
What is the connection between discrimination and community?
The good life requires community, and community requires discrimination. As social beings we all belong to networks of “people like us” by reference to whom we understand our lives, and with whom we prefer to deal because when we do we are in a setting we understand and trust. Family and friends are an obvious example, but we all belong to other networks as well.
Community membership defines what our lives are to us. It helps us give our goals coherence and stability and have confidence in their goodness. Many people want to be CEO, but very few would bother to do the things a CEO does in exchange for the material benefits of the position if they were marooned on a desert island and not allowed to communicate with others about anything except business matters. Without a community setting, the goal wouldn’t seem worth pursuing.
The communities within which we live are most often defined, at least in part, by class, ethnicity, history, geography and the like. They are never fully inclusive as to religion or lifestyle because they are based in part on beliefs about the world and the good life. They are rarely so as to ethnicity because communal ties typically include ingrained attitudes and habits and a sense of common history and destiny. Such things are the stuff of ethnicity, and are a necessary part of the setting for the cultural and moral life that make community possible and our existence more than crude impulse and instinct.
To try radically to separate the benefits of society from religion, lifestyle and ethnicity–the very purpose of laws promoting inclusiveness–is to try to remove those benefits from a community setting. To the extent such an attempt is successful it divorces material success from personal loyalties and from shared understandings of the use to be made of it. Those things find their home within particular communities, and when ambition is separated from them it dissipates or becomes self-sufficient and all-consuming.
People object to exclusionary conduct because they want to make the benefits of human society equal for everyone. Such wishes are impossible to realize because those benefits arise in idiosyncratic concrete settings rather than in accordance with a overall scheme that can be reconfigured at will to meet abstract standards such as equality. The benefits of a birthday party might be more fairly divided if an official supervised the guest list and activities to make sure everyone around had an equal opportunity to play an equal role in it. It would not be much of a party, however.
Shouldn’t communities that define themselves by reference to ethnicity, religion, lifestyle and so on broaden themselves to reflect a fuller appreciation of the richness of humanity?
Sometimes to some degree. Unlimited breadth is impossible because we are finite creatures. No single person or society can express all human possibilities, if only because of practical incompatibilities, so the particularity and diversity of human life can not be realized without social diversity and particularity. Inclusiveness denies that necessity since it attempts to create one social shoe (the inclusive society) that fits all equally.
The Vikings, the Abbasid Caliphate and Heian Japan all achieved splendid things, but it is unlikely that mixing the three societies and insisting that members of each be able to participate equally in all aspects of their common life would have created something that realized human capacities better than they did separately. Each might have profited in its own way by learning from the others, but not by reconstructing itself to become equally accessible to the other two. While Egil Skallagrimsson and Lady Murasaki were both great literary artists, it would have helped neither to force them to write a book together.
In such matters the world today is no different from what it was a thousand years ago, and particular organizations no different from whole societies or circles of friends. Some diversity is good, too much is bad, and dogmatic rules like the civil rights laws are worse than useless for dealing with the issue.
In addition, behind all differences mankind has an essential nature that some religions and lifestyles succeed in realizing better than others. To require each society to be equally open to all religions and lifestyles is to forbid social recognition of that essential nature and insist on a sort of official amorality. The requirement is even self-contradictory, since the principle of inclusiveness is itself a universal moral claim and as such cannot be asserted if there is no universal human nature that is better served by some moral rules than others.
Weren’t equal opportunity laws necessary to redress evils caused by discrimination?
Many evils have been attributed to discrimination, and it is impossible to discuss them all in these questions and answers. Since the position of black people is thought to present the strongest case for government intervention, commenting on it may serve as a partial answer.
Black people have problems, but statistics suggest that equal opportunity laws do not do much to solve them. To begin with economics: in 1994 as in 1959 blacks were about 3 times as likely as whites to be poor; a third of a century of antidiscrimination legislation and huge changes in public attitudes had done nothing to reduce the gap. (Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States.) Other measures of overall economic well-being confirm the overall failure of the civil rights laws to benefit black people economically. For example, in 1939 earnings of black male workers were 45% and black females 38% of those of whites. By 1960 the ratio had increased, to 67% for men and 70% for women. In 1990 the figures were 73% and 90%. Progress had not stopped after the Civil Rights Revolution, but it had became slower. (Source: A. Hacker, Two Nations, 101.)
Such statistics should not be surprising. Civil rights laws would never be enacted if bias were universal. However, bias against blacks could not have much effect on black economic success unless it is universal or coerced; otherwise employers whose greed is stronger than their bias would be able to make extraordinary profits by hiring capable blacks and paying them less, thus creating a bidding war among profit-motivated employers for black services that would bring black wages up close to parity. In addition, interference with markets hurts those most who have not yet established themselves. Both the black unemployment rate and the gap between rich and poor blacks rose strikingly after the civil rights revolution made it risky to hire blacks who had not already demonstrated their productivity and so might have to be fired. (Note: the foregoing arguments allow the possibility that in the mid-60s civil rights laws gave a one-time boost to blacks in parts of the South by breaking up a system of segregation coerced by law and threats of violence.)
Further, it appears that civil rights laws and changes in racial attitudes have if anything injured non-economic aspects of black people’s lives, which have grown increasingly chaotic. Between 1960 and 1993, for example, the percentage of black children living with both parents declined from 67% to 35.6% (source: www.census.gov), and from 1950 to 1970 the percentage of blacks among prison inmates rose from 29.7% to 35.8%, and then to 45.3% in 1986 (source: A. Hacker, Two Nations, 197).
It appears that some of the lack of progress and even retrogression can be attributed to the civil rights revolution. If blacks live in a prosperous free-market society and have ordinary liberty in economic, cultural and religious matters, most of what their lives are like will depend on their cultural condition, which will in turn depend on the state of black communities. The effect of the civil rights revolution has been to undermine community generally by making human relations more impersonal, and to lead blacks to put their hopes in white “society” –practically speaking, the government–rather than in each other and their own institutions and communities. Further, affirmative action requirements have led white organizations to bribe talented blacks away from black organizations, thus disrupting black community leadership. From that perspective, the decline of black institutions and communities is no surprise.
What specific problems have antidiscrimination rules caused?
It is difficult to separate the effects of antidiscrimination rules from those resulting from larger changes since the early ’60s in public policy and accepted morality. Nonetheless, certain changes for the worse are impossible to avoid if comprehensive antidiscrimination rules are taken seriously. Liberals often respond to nostalgia for the ’50s by pointing out that at that time discrimination was legal and widely practiced. Their point that the good aspects of the ’50s were connected to the legality of discrimination appears well-taken:
Antidiscrimination rules make community more difficult to achieve and so result in the loss of the goods it brings us. They make it harder to achieve the compatibility and cohesion needed for a happy and productive workforce. They also alienate people from their social surroundings, since they can no longer recognize in their surroundings the things that make them what they are.
If a connection between well-being and membership in a particular community is an evil to be extirpated there is no room for expectations of self-help based on any particular moral code, which of necessity would be that of a particular group of people, or for traditional systems of mutual assistance based on kinship, community and religion. Such beneficial arrangements make well-being connected to things that officially should not matter. The pervasive scheme of regulation the civil rights laws require attacks and weakens them in a thousand ways. The consequence is to weaken both individuals and communities and make them more reliant on government.
The abandonment of definite duties within the family implicit in the rejection of stereotypical sex roles and the attack on particular cultural understandings means fragmented and dysfunctional families and therefore badly reared–and sometimes abused–children. It means particular suffering for women. Non-discrimination is inconsistent, for example, with the expectation that men marry the mothers of their children and support their families, because such expectations place burdens on men that are not identical to those placed on women. The difficulties are compounded by official opposition to the view that birth into a group with shared moral standards (typically, an ethnic or religious group) creates obligations to which one should submit. That rejection leads schools and the broader society today to teach children to throw off parental authority, which typically upholds religious or ethnic standards that under antidiscrimination ideology must be treated as matters of individual taste.
Antidiscrimination rules lead to single-minded pursuit of private gain; those who complain about the Decade of Greed and also call for energetic civil rights enforcement haven’t thought things through. Public spirit exists in an environment of shared goals, understandings and expectations that grow up over time in particular settings. It therefore varies by community: WASP organizations are public-spirited in one style, Jewish organizations in another, and so on. If networks of shared understandings weaken within private organizations, as they will if they are not allowed to choose their members in accordance with felt affinities, trust dwindles, public spirit dissipates, and all that is left is struggle for individual advantage. Any residual altruism is likely to remain abstract and ineffectual.
Why try to bring back obsolete prejudices?
Why indeed? The way people live develops in accordance with current conditions and understandings. The argument is not that segregation should be reimposed or that all women should be kept in the kitchen, but that association should be based on mutual choice and the social understandings growing out of it. No supervening principle should prevent people from making the discriminations they find worth making or living by the social arrangements that accordingly grow up and become customary. For the foreseeable future, sex roles, ethnicity and the like will serve a legitimate and necessary function, and government efforts to eradicate their significance by denying freedom of association will remain ill-conceived and destructive. Just what role such things should play will be determined by what people find appropriate and satisfying. To the extent they no longer serve a function people will come to ignore them. Legislators, bureaucrats and judges have no special insight into such matters and should have no special part to play in deciding them.
How would you like to be discriminated against?
It might well be painful, in the same way rejection in courtship and any number of other things can be painful. Affirmative action, which discriminates against whites and men and then lies about it, is certainly annoying to its victims. On the other hand, the current situation, in which blacks and other members of protected classes spend their lives working with people who they suspect would rather have nothing to do with them, doesn’t make its beneficiaries happy either. (For details, see Ellis Cose’s Rage of a Privileged Class.) If there were no antidiscrimination laws people who wanted to work together would find each other; in the long run that would bring about more happiness than current arrangements.
What happens to those excluded in a non-inclusive society?
Someone excluded from one part of society will usually have better luck elsewhere; if I’m excluded by the Century Club I may be able to join the Shriners. A group excluded everywhere can develop its own institutions. The ease of communication and fluidity of life today makes self-organization far easier than in the past, and thus reduces many of the adverse consequences of exclusion.
Since self-organization requires some degree of separation, it is easier in a non-inclusive society than in an inclusive society that tries to establish a single social order to which everyone must belong. Ethnic minorities in a non-inclusive society are often able to thrive through some combination of adaptation and niche-finding, while in an inclusive society religious and social conservatives, and ethnics who consider their ethnicity important, are subjected to public policies designed to make their (and every other) religion, ethnic culture, and traditional moral outlook irrelevant to all matters of public concern and thus in substance to destroy them.
Whatever errors or excesses it may sometimes lead to, isn’t the ideal of inclusiveness a generous one?
The motives supporting anything that benefits some people at the expense of others are never limited to generosity and love of justice. The intended beneficiaries of inclusiveness may support it for reasons that have nothing to do with generosity.
In addition, inclusiveness serves powerful social interests that ostensibly are not intended beneficiaries at all. The issue of inclusiveness arises when society is viewed as a single actor following a single script, and to demand inclusiveness is to demand that the script be rewritten and a new one put into effect. Attempting to carry out such a demand requires an enormous grant of power to a small and cohesive group of social technologists. On the design side, the favored group includes social theoreticians, legal experts and social scientists, and on the implementation side civil servants, jurists, lawyers, educators, journalists and media people. Not surprisingly, the ideal of inclusiveness finds huge support among the people named, whose power it increases so much.
Inclusiveness also liberates us from the demands of the particular social groups to which we belong, because it denies the significance of our membership in such groups. For example, Christians who adopt inclusiveness as their standard are thereby freed from the specific demands of traditional Christian morality. Some may welcome such liberation because it enables them to do great things; others may have baser motives.
If exclusion is morally OK, why are so many conscientious people so very troubled by it?
For a variety of reasons:
People whose view of human society is based on technological rationality–which includes most educated and articulate people today–naturally find exclusion a moral outrage. If society is a system that dispenses benefits and detriments in accordance with an overall scheme, then the scheme should be designed to benefit all as much and as equally as possible. If some in fact do worse than others (that is, are excluded from some benefits) reform is required, and in a technological age it is assumed possible to redesign a system to achieve or at least progressively approximate specifications. Failure to do so seems unacceptable.
Unfortunately for this view, “society” can’t be conceived as an overall scheme because it is composed of myriad irreducibly independent agents. Things happening within society can’t be held to uniform standards as if they were the acts of a single person. To do so would eliminate all moral agency except that of the government, and in effect create a system of slavery to a universal bureaucracy.
Idealists often believe human relations should be direct rather than mediated by presumptions based on sex, race, class and so on. Further, forbidden grounds for discrimination usually have to do with accidents of birth and the like, and many feel it unjust for people to be treated differently on account of such things. Such feelings stem in part from a belief that all our actions should reflect universal rational principles in a straightforward way–if I choose to hire or associate with X I am (it is thought) implicitly judging X to be better and others worse, and should be able to justify the judgment on universally applicable grounds.
However, in social matters we can not be guided so simply by direct application of ideals and principles. The issue in politics is what fosters the best in human life as a practical matter. As one commentator has said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.” By that standard, it is legitimate to treat those differently to whom we have a particular connection arising from accidents of birth and the like. Such accidents are what give us special obligations to the persons who happen to be our parents, our children, and our fellow citizens. If we tried on principle to ignore such obligations we would be far worse off than at present. We would get not universal love but universal indifference sliding into universal aversion. The legal requirement that we ignore traditional roles and presumptions has on the whole made human relations worse; by making them more artificial it has undermined the ways in which we actually connect to others.
Another source of support for laws requiring inclusiveness is the romantic tendency to reject external rules in the name of subjective feeling; to be excluded is to be subordinated to someone else’s rules and so an offense to the ego. Also, people today feel isolated and at the mercy of large impersonal institutions, and want guarantees they will be treated well. In practice, however, antidiscrimination laws increase the pervasiveness of bureaucratic rules, the impersonality of institutions and the isolation of individuals, and so feed the alienation and insecurity from which they spring. It is better not to give into the temptation to adopt them.
Finally, much of what passes for moral opposition to exclusion serves the interests of particular social groups. Weakening of ethnic, family and religious cohesiveness strengthens the social and political groups now dominant, whose power is based on money and bureaucratic forms of social organization. The cohesion and power of those groups is enhanced by defining their opponents, those who prefer traditional forms of social organization that involve traditional distinctions, as “bigots” to whom all evil is attributed, and propagating that view through their control of education and communications.
What is the overall political effect of antidiscrimination laws?
One effect is radically to increase the power of government and markets at the expense of everything else. Inclusiveness doesn’t mean that PhDs, rich people or high-ranking officials have to be treated the same as everyone else. It means that men have to have the same as women, married people as unmarried people, blacks as Koreans. Its function is therefore to disrupt and destroy all social institutions other than those based on bureaucracy or money.
By attacking religious and ethnic particularism antidiscrimination laws weaken culture, community and family and in substitution increase the dependence of individuals on government and on what they can buy. The greatest gains go to government. Antidiscrimination laws entitle it to dictate things, such as procedures and standards regarding membership, that define the nature and character of private associations. To do so it must prescribe the permissible nature, purposes and procedures of associations. For example, to determine whether employment decisions are made for “legitimate business reasons,” what counts as such a reason must be fixed and private decisions formalized to make them susceptible to review. Every private organization thus becomes to some degree a branch of government. Within every organization such laws create a faction that depends for its position on victim status, further weakening the organization.
A free society requires a variety of institutions that are independent of government and capable of calling it to account. That variety is a source of social strength; what hurts some organizations benefits or provides opportunities to others, and society as a whole is held harmless. In the interests of “diversity,” antidiscrimination laws abolish both independence and actual diversity. The membership of every association must correspond to that of society at large. The requirement that every organization be as welcoming to members of protected groups as to others requires the internal culture of every organization to be forced into the same artificial mold. One becomes very much like another, and all must toe the government line and enforce it on their members. The practical restrictions on freedom of inquiry and discussion in universities and media organizations and the increasing uniformity of permitted views that have resulted from antidiscrimination laws provide and example of the inconsistency of those laws with a free and self-governing society.
Isn’t it divisive to oppose measures designed to promote inclusiveness?
Inclusiveness is intrinsically far more divisive than laissez-faire. Its effect when successful is to dissolve all particular connections among human beings so ideally their only serious connections would go through universal institutions like transnational bureaucracies and world markets. It therefore works by absolutely dividing all of us from each other and turning us into a mass of unconnected individuals.
Beyond that, measures to promote inclusiveness rely for legitimacy on a sense of grievance on the part of those they favor, so maintenance of ill will is necessary for continued support. Such measures are unlikely, especially in the long run, to seem fair to those burdened by them. Inclusiveness thus dramatically exacerbates and perpetuates divisions. The first task of its proponents has always been to raise consciousness: to use divisive rhetoric, to violate the law to demonstrate contempt for established order, and so on.
Opposition to inclusiveness does appear divisive to many people because for many years social peace has been bought by giving aggressive proponents of inclusiveness what they want. Opposition to their demands is therefore viewed as a breach of the social contract and virtual declaration of war. Nonetheless, whether a position is divisive can not be separated from its merits. Those who believe that a principle is fundamental to good social order find opposition to that principle divisive. If inclusiveness makes for a happier and more peaceful society, then opposition to it is divisive, but the same is true for freedom of association.
Doesn’t discrimination lead to Auschwitz?
No. Racial discrimination and the like have no special connection with political disaster or radical evil. The Nazis were actively “racist,” “sexist” and “homophobic,” but so were the armies that defeated them. Auschwitz was an exceptional event and needs to be explained by reference to something unusual. Discrimination of some sort is ingrained in all societies, since all social institutions have to differentiate persons and cases to exist at all. Ethnic culture is a normal part of social functioning, so ethnic discrimination has generally been frankly accepted. Why think that just by remaining what it has always been it suddenly caused Auschwitz?
Indeed, the member of the anti-Nazi alliance most opposed ideologically to ethnic and other particularisms was more murderous than even the Nazi regime. What repeatedly led to the murder of millions of innocents in the 20th century was not toleration of particularist loyalties as one of the principles of social order but the determined attempt to make some one thing the sole foundation of human society and eliminate other influences. The attempt to make race an absolute that trumped all other considerations led to Auschwitz, but the attempt to extirpate human acquisitiveness and particularism as social principles has led to the murder of far more innocents than died in the Holocaust. The intolerant utopianism of the civil rights movement has much in common with the things that led to the political catastrophes of recent times. Evil is multiform, and cannot be defeated by extremist projects like the extirpation of ethnic and sexual distinctions.
What about Bosnia, the Wars of Religion, and other communal conflicts?
What about bloody and tyrannical attempts to establish unity? On the face of it, the desire to be separate is is less aggressive than the imperialistic desire to suppress small-scale systems in the interests of a universal homogeneous order.
In general, it promotes peace to let men live the way they find natural. To the extent clannishness is destructive it is safest to let it diffuse itself among a variety of affiliations, so that loyalties are based on a combination of family, religion, ethnicity, locality, occupation, class, and so on, without any one becoming overriding and therefore divisive. The effect of civil rights laws is to create legal entitlements based on a very few affiliations, primarily race, and so to heighten divisions and make race-based politics inevitable and permanent. If such laws were abolished, things such as race would have only a degree of importance corresponding to actual attitudes that in the long run are usually based on daily experience and practicality.
Proposals for social changes as radical as the eradication of sexism and ethnocentrism raise questions as to the degree of force needed to establish and maintain the new form of society, and whether coercion can ultimately be successful or will only destroy existing arrangements without being able to replace them. If men are clannish by nature, arrangements that deny expression to their inclinations are likely to be more oppressive and less stable than arrangements that give those inclinations a definite role. In this century attempts to eradicate economic distinctions have led to catastrophe, as have fascist and National Socialist attempts to achieve a totally unified national society. It is not clear why efforts to abolish our own divisions by extirpating racism, sexism and so on, if carried on with equal determination and equal readiness to overturn whatever stands in the way, should turn out better.
It can of course be very messy when societies unravel that aimed at greater inclusiveness and universality than realities permitted. The bloody collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, British India and medieval Catholic Christendom are examples. However, the separation of Norway from Sweden and Slovakia from the Czech Republic show that disengagement can be a peaceful process even when it leads to political independence. Most often it need not do so. The principles of decentralization and voluntary affiliation can usually prevent extremes, allowing diversity within a common legal order and so avoiding the necessity of political dissolution. Switzerland, which devolves power and multiplies political divisions that correspond to ethnic and religious differences, is a better model for peace in a diverse society than more centralizing systems.
Would more exclusion and discrimination really make the world a better place?
The point is not that in themselves they are goods that should be multiplied as much as possible, but that they have a function and attempting to eliminate them necessarily destroys good things. Like armies, prisons and economic inequality, their destructive side is easily visible. Nonetheless, they are necessary for the existence of reasonably cohesive societies with common standards. Accordingly, attempts to extirpate them soon become destructive.
Of course, in itself the repeal of civil rights laws and similar measures might do very little good; such measures are no less a symptom than a cause of our current disorders. There are many institutions today, such as the welfare state, the mass media, and the modern educational system, that tend to destroy the social cohesion needed for human flourishing. Nonetheless, repeal is a necessary reform that should be carried out, even though other things may also be necessary. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
(Note: Source site has notes and many valuable links, in addition to many more penetrating essays)