Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thomas Sowell On Bean Counters & The Race Card

A few days ago, the NY Times ran an article on race in baseball. What concerned the NYT?

Among baseball’s 30 teams, only 23 percent of the third-base coaches are members of minorities, compared with 67 percent of its first-base coaches. The disparity has existed for decades but it is now about twice as large as it was in 1990, based on an analysis by The New York Times.

The question is why.

It is more than a mysterious quirk: the third-base coaching position carries greater prestige, the pay is better and the position is often a steppingstone to a managerial job. . . .

This was all too much for Thomas Sowell, who notes that this race based obsession is not only ridiculous, but additionally has already severely harmed our nation by leading to our current economic mess:

. . . This may seem to be just another passing piece of silliness. But it is part of a more general bean-counting mentality that turns statistical differences into grievances. The time is long overdue to throw this race card out of the deck and start seeing it for the gross fallacy that it is.

At the heart of such statistics is the implicit assumption that different races, sexes, and other subdivisions of the human species would be proportionately represented in institutions, occupations, and income brackets if there were not something strange or sinister going on.

Although this notion has been repeated by all sorts of people, from local loudmouths on the street to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States, there is not one speck of evidence behind it and a mountain of evidence against it.

Ask the bean-counters: Where in this wide world have different groups been proportionally represented? They can’t tell you. In other words, something that nobody can demonstrate is taken as a norm, and any deviation from that norm is somebody’s fault!

. . . At our leading engineering schools — M.I.T., CalTech, etc. — whites are underrepresented and Asians overrepresented. Is this anti-white racism or pro-Asian racism? Or are different groups just different?

. . . In countries around the world, all sorts of groups differ from each other in all sorts of ways, from rates of alcoholism to infant mortality, education, and virtually everything that can be measured, as well as in some things that cannot be quantified. If black and white Americans were the same, they would be the only two groups on this planet who are the same.

One of the things that got us started on heavy-handed government regulation of the housing market were statistics showing that blacks were turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites. The bean-counters in the media went ballistic. It had to be racism, to hear them tell it.

What they didn’t tell you was that whites were turned down more often than Asians. What they also didn’t tell you was that black-owned banks also turned down blacks more often than whites. Nor did they tell you that credit scores differed from group to group. Instead, the media, the politicians, and the regulators grabbed some statistics and ran with them.

The bean-counters are everywhere, pushing the idea that differences show injustices committed by society. As long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it — and the polarization they create will sell this country down the river.


I would also note that this type of bean counting is, in the context of discrimination, known as the disparate impact theory. It has done untold damage to our nation since it was introduced - the subprime housing bubble and the destruction of our methods of determining credit ratings being the seminal examples. The Supreme Court went a long way to putting a stake in the heart of this theory in the Ricci decision last year, at least in as much as it pertains to civil rights laws. But it is still alive and well in our financial sector - and indeed, Obama and the far left have strengthened it. It is madness that must be stopped.

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