- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

An editorial in a recent National Geographic “Traveler” magazine complained that kayakers in Maine found “residential development” near national parks and urged its readers to use their “influence” to prevent such things. “You are the stakeholders in our national parks,” it said.

Really? What stake do kayakers and others of like mind have that is not also a stake held by people who build the vacation homes that offend the kayaking set? Homeowners are citizens and taxpayers as much as kayakers are, and are even entitled to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment.

The essence of bigotry is denying others the rights you claim for yourself. Green bigots are a classic example.

The idea that government should make your desires override the desires of other citizens has spread from the green bigots to other groups who claim privileges in the name of rights.

In California, a group of golfers in wheelchairs are suing a hotel chain for not providing them special carts so they can navigate the golf course more comfortably and play the game better.

According to a newspaper account, the kinds of carts the golfers in wheelchairs want “have rotating seats so a golfer can swing and strike a ball from the tee, the fairway and on the green without getting out of the vehicle.” If golfers want this kind of cart, nothing stops them from buying one — except they would rather see other people forced to pay for it.

One golfer in this lawsuit has been confined to a wheelchair by a diving accident and another from a gunshot wound. Apparently the hotel had nothing to do with either.

There was a time when people would have said the hotel is not responsible for these golfers being in wheelchairs and therefore is not obliged to spend more money for special carts to help their scores on the links. But that was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, under which the hotel is being sued.

If the government wanted to do something for the disabled or the handicapped, it could have spent its own tax money doing so. Instead, it passed the ADA, which created a right to sue private institutions, to force them to spend money to solve the problems of individuals with special problems or special desires, whether serious or frivolous.

It was a lawyer’s full-employment act, creating another legally recognized victim group, empowered to claim special privileges, at other people’s expense, in the name of equal rights. Nor could such legislation make the usual claim it was defending the poor and the downtrodden. Golf courses are not the natural habitat of the poor and the downtrodden.

One plaintiff in the golf-course lawsuit is a former managing partner in a large law firm. He says, “I just want the same opportunity as everyone else” to “get out and play 18 holes with my friends and colleagues.” Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies or how much fashionable rhetoric equate the two.

An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: “A ticket to bias,” bitterly recalling a time before the ADA, when a woman in a wheelchair bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but could not see the performers when people around her stood. This was equated with “bias” on the part of the arena management.

Even now, decades after, the woman in the wheelchair declares, “True equality remains a dream out of reach.” Apparently only equality of results is “true” equality.

A recent American Historical Association publications shows this same confusion when it says doors “are largely closed” to people who want to become historians if they didn’t graduate from a top-tier college. In other words, unequal results proves bias closed the doors, according to this rhetoric.

Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many sorts of spoiled brat politics.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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