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  • Robert Farago

Affirmative Action Captain!

On the fourth of July - no less - the author argues for small government

A certain young lady and I were watching the post-George Floyd destruction of Minneapolis. “That is some serious looting,” I observed, watching mobs smash and grab whatever wasn’t nailed down from mom-and-pop and big box stores alike. At which point, someone set them on fire. “That’s not looting,” my companion corrected. “That’s affirmative shopping.”

Some might view that as racist. Is it? The young lady’s remark highlighted the obvious disconnect between protesting, and stealing and arson. How does taking a TV and/or burning a store to the ground tell the world that the police are racists murderers? What good does it do?

The media narrative on the riots was, if not supportive, “understanding.” The get-out-of-jail-free card: anger. The community was mad as hell at racist discrimination and they were going to take what they could get.

If the mob’s justifiable anger took the form of lawlessness, well, the cops shouldn’t have murdered Mr. Floyd. Society shouldn’t oppress the African American community. Get your shit together America!

I have sympathy for aggrieved Americans of any kind, sort or description. I fully support peaceful protest, no matter what the cause. If people want to protest illegally and accept the consequences of their actions, I get that too. But looting is a bridge WAY too far.

I mention this sad chapter in our history as a backdrop for examining the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on affirmative action: STUDENTS FOR FAIR ADMISSIONS, INC. v. PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

The argument for affirmative action comes from the same place as tolerance for the post-Floyd rioting: the African American community has been victimized by society.

To right the wrong, they deserve race-based special treatment, in the same way that we should “understand” rioting in light of historical and, some say, ongoing racism.

Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion argues against that argument when applied to university admissions.

must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual's identity is not challenges bested, skills built or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.

Roberts’ opinion reflects Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, that a man should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Or does it? The Court left an enormous loophole. CNN:

The ruling still allows colleges and universities to consider an applicant’s discussion of how race has affected their life as long as it is “concretely tied” to a “quality of character or unique ability” that the applicant can bring to the school.

How easy is it to “concretely tie” racial discrimination to an individual applicant’s “quality of character”? Easy enough. All the applicant has to say: they experienced racism and overcame it.

If you believe society is systemically racist, then all people of color experience racism one way or another. You could also say the fact that the minority applicant was smart enough to apply to college with reasonable grades and test scores is proof that they overcame systemic racism.

Dress it up with an anecdote or two and done! Count on Harvard and other colleges to thread that needle in the name of diversity.

As a white guy who went to a college with lots of white men and women, as a human being who celebrates differences in experience and perspective, I understand the advantages of diversity. What I don’t understand: why the government is involved in any of this.

According to, “There are currently 107 HBCUs serving more than 228,000 students throughout the country. While HBCUs historically only served Black students, nearly a quarter of students enrolled in HBCUs were non-Black as of 2019.”

Non-black meaning? Hispanic? Asian? Hispanic? White? Who cares? In the America I know and love, citizens are free to associate with whomever they wish. And yes, that means excluding whomever they wish.

I’m totally OK with HBCU’s admissions policies, unquestionably favoring African Americans over Caucasian students. For whatever reason. Just as I was OK with the all-black fraternity on Tufts’ campus.

Would I be OK with an all-white frat? No. Do I think the government should force a fraternity to diversify? No, but if I did, who’s to say what constitutes a sufficient level of diversity? Not me. And not Uncle Sam.

I don’t think Harvard University should be reserved exclusively or even mostly for the white sons and daughters of privilege. But if the government mandates diversity, or mandates against policies designed to increase diversity, they are interfering with the school’s freedom to educate whomever they choose.

The only reason the government can interfere with Harvard’s admissions process: the university accepts government money.

In 2019, taxpayers gave Harvard $1.8b in federal research grants (roughly 60 percent of their total research funding). That same year, HBCUs received $2.4b in federal funding. Does that mean…?

I doubt it. The broader point: when government gets involved in formerly private affairs like education, politics demands they find a way to fuck it up. Consider the President’s determination to forgive part or all of the student loans.

If private banks still controlled the student loan business, it would be subject to free market constraints (i.e., profit and loss).

If students emerged from college with degrees that failed to land them jobs that allowed them to repay their loans, the banks could say, well, we’re not loaning money for Sociology and Art History degrees.

Sorry not sorry. I’d rather have the free market shape education than politicians and academics.

The end result would be far superior to what we have today, with bloated tuition fees and millions of debt-ridden graduates unable to pay back my money, unprepared to become productive members of society and pay their “fair share.”

I have equally emphatic concerns about people who feel the government should be able to compel private companies to provide goods and services to the LGBTQ+ community.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not racist, anti-gay or anti-trans. My point: how is it OK for the government to compel people to do something?

If you’re forced to do something you don’t want to do, it’s a form of slavery. Yes, the government compels us to pay taxes. Yes, men can be compelled into military service. All at a point of a gun, I might add. But there are limits. The more of them the better.

A woman has to design a website for a gay wedding or the government will put her in jail? That’s bizarre.

The Supremes ruled against that specific possibility in 303 CREATIVE LLC ET AL. v. ELENIS ET AL. They did so on the basis that the woman’s right to free speech protected her from having to make “speech” she didn’t want to make. I oppose the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act as applied on the basis of freedom.

B-b-b-but without anti-discrimination laws, we’d never have defeated racists who wouldn’t let people of color eat at their lunch counter or stay in their hotel. We couldn’t have banned companies from choosing employees based on race, or landlords who did the same.

Is that true? Finer minds than mine have contemplated that question. Or not. Many decades ago, government fiats against private discrimination based on skin color, national origin, sexual orientation and anything else you can name were considered “settled science.” Society is better for it. So that’s OK, right?

Affirmative action was a logical byproduct of that cultural shift. And now the Supremes have kinda sorta ruled that race can’t be a deciding factor in positive discrimination.

Whatever you think about it, the decision affirms the principle of government intervention in more and more aspects of our private business. As always, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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