Monday, December 17, 2007

Give Me Back Some of that Old-Time Discrimination

Most of us have at some time experienced discrimination in some form, especially in the formative childhood years: Children are one of the most discriminated-against groups in society. Children can't vote, can't drive, are rarely taken seriously, and are stereotyped as less intelligent and less capable than older people. Since we all are/were children at some point, it should be no surprise that voters in progressive societies tend to demand "fair" treatment for all types of minorities.

However, efforts to end discrimination are confusing at least as often as they are good. For example, affirmative action adds to the social rifts that it attempts to eliminate. Who can trust the achievements of racial minorities if these achievements have been subsidized by lower standards or extra financial support? What member of the racial-majority does not feel at least a twinge of jealousy or resentment towards racial minorities who have access to scholarships or services entirely based on their ethnicity or skin color?

Even anti-discrimination policies aimed at clear and present discrimination (rather than at inequalities resulting from the injustices of the distant past, as in the case of affirmative action) can have unexpected and profoundly negative consequences. As discussed previously, legislation against discrimination in the auto insurance industry can result in a higher auto accident rate.

Anti-discrimination discrimination in America takes many forms, most of which are not based on race. America tried to counter discrimination by the free market against the rapidly shrinking agricultural sector by offering costly agricultural subsidies to help farmers stay in business. Why wasn't a subsidy established for the shoe-polishing industry, which was shrinking at about the same time? NO FAIR! America tried to counter the poverty of old people by establishing social security. What about security for the 30 yrs old white male who appears fit and ready to work but has a bizarre mental disorder that makes him incapable of focusing on a task for more than five minutes at a time and therefore he ends up homeless? NO FAIR! America tried to counter the geographic discrimination imposed by nature upon New Orleans by pumping billions of dollars of federal aid into the city. Where was the federal aid for the city of Detroit, gutted by the storms of the free markets? And where is the federal aid for all the poor families in West Virginia who have lost their homes to termites? NO FAIR!

In summary, the expensive bureaucracy of governmental response to hardship in America is based on a confusing array of discriminatory anti-discrimination programs. In order to receive government aid, an individual must identify with some well-established need group. You get favorable treatment from the government only if you risk losing your job in the right industry (agriculture and a couple others), if your are part of the right ethnic minority (African American or Hispanic but probably not Jewish), if you are losing your home to a major national disaster (and not just a run-of-the-mill tornado or termite attack), if you are old and feeble with a long career behind you (but not if you were always too feeble to have a career), etc.

So what? Would it help if the government quit giving aid entirely? Absolutely not. (In fact, the exact level of government spending on aid, which arguably should be higher or lower, is completely unrelated to the issue at hand). But it would be nice to see an end to the blatant anti-discrimination discrimination. Here is the most important thing: EVERYBODY who undergoes poverty and hardship has an equally valid reason for it. One might claim that some people deserve the hardship they face, but this view is thankfully falling out of vogue as society becomes aware of the great extent to which upbringing and genetics shape our lives and personal decisions.

Therefore, as a rule of thumb, federal aid should be distributed approximately equally to everyone who is poor or in need. If your annual income is too low, the government should provide a subsidy on your earnings regardless of what sector you work in. If you are out of work, the government should pay you at least enough for you to survive at a uncomfortable level of subsistence, regardless of whether your inability/unwillingness to work is due to an obvious physical ailment or a mysteriously ailing mind. If you are sick and too poor for medicine, the government should offer you the same level of health care subsidy, regardless of your age or particular ailment.

Give me back some of that old-time discrimination, the kind that is created by forces of nature, the kind that is created by unlucky (or lucky) genetics, the kind that arises through free (and, arguably, the most "natural") market forces. Instead of fighting with nature by creating a never-complete and horribly loopy web of counter-discrimination measures aimed at every possible type of natural discrimination, we can set a foundation for an equitable society by offering equal aid to all our poor.


Anonymous CP said...

The Freakwenter for president! The Freakwenter for president!

5:25 PM  

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