Time to scrap affirmative action

Governments should be colour-blind

ABOVE the entrance to America’s Supreme Court four words are carved: “Equal justice under law”. The court is pondering whether affirmative action breaks that promise. The justices recently accepted a case concerning a vote in Michigan that banned it, and will soon rule on whether the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions policies are lawful. The question in both cases is as simple as it is divisive: should government be colour-blind? America is one of many countries where the state gives a leg-up to members of certain racial, ethnic, or other groups by holding them to different standards. The details vary. In some countries, the policy applies only to areas under direct state control, such as public-works contracts or admission to public universities. In others, private firms are also obliged to take account of the race of their employees, contractors and even owners. But the effects are strikingly similar around the world.

The burden of history

Many of these policies were put in place with the best of intentions: to atone for past injustices and ameliorate their legacy. No one can deny that, for example, blacks in America or dalits in India (members of the caste once branded “untouchable”) have suffered grievous wrongs, and continue to suffer discrimination. Favouring members of these groups seems like a quick and effective way of making society fairer.

Most of these groups have made great progress. But establishing how much credit affirmative action can take is hard, when growth also brings progress and some of the good—for example the confidence-boosting effect of creating prominent role models for a benighted group—is intangible. And it is impossible to know how a targeted group would have got on without this special treatment. Malays are three times richer in Singapore, where they do not get preferences, than in next-door Malaysia, where they do. At the same time, the downside of affirmative action has become all too apparent.

Awarding university places to black students with lower test scores than whites sounds reasonable, given the legacy of segregation. But a study found that at some American universities, black applicants who scored 450 points (out of 1,600) worse than Asians on entrance tests were equally likely to win a place. That is neither fair on Asians, nor an incentive to blacks to study in high school.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21576662-governments-should-be-colour-blind-time-scrap-affirmative-action

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commented 2013-04-26 11:56:05 -0400 · Flag
T.M. writes:

I agree that Affirmative Action does disservice to many qualified individuals and deprive them of things they deserve.
Racial inequality can’t be addressed by diluting standards. Also, learning happens through gathering of the minds. A low caliber mind is a low caliber mind, period—whatever the potential could have been. Forcing that on a set of higher caliber mind will not help anyone. I am quite a dark skinned person, but I NEVER expect anyone to give me special treatment just because I am dark. All I ask is that if I am good enough for the ring, give me a fair chance to fight. Affirmative action is the WRONG way to create fairness. Closing the racial gap needs to happen at a different level, since it has to do with basic cultural elements of a society, in the midst of which one grows up and many such “ones” create mutually interactive worldviews. A poor white person from a deep rural section of America can get bumped by a lazy, middleclass black person of a large city just because he/she has the color as his/her prime ID. It’s not simply fair. It’s not to say that discrimination against does not exist. IT DOES EXIST. But affirmative action is the wrong track to search for the solution of this problem. It hurts meritocracy, reduces national competitiveness, reduces creativity and productivity under the pressure of political correctness. Yes, scrap it.