- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The social engineering of liberal policymakers often has the unintended consequences of making life more difficult for the people it is trying to help. They justify liberal policies by correctly highlighting real institutional barriers like racism and historical poverty that have historically held back the disadvantaged. However, instead of teaching the disadvantaged to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime, they merely give them a fish to eat.

Implicit in these liberal policies are condescending attitudes that minorities and poor people do not have the ability to help themselves. These liberals subconsciously believe that minorities lack the intelligence, hard work and ambition to succeed. They believe that only through government policies can the disadvantaged achieve an acceptable middle-class lifestyle. Only through lowering the bar can these people get into prestigious universities, law firms, business firms and prominent government positions. If they do not have the money to buy a house in a nice neighborhood, then the government must provide one.

Unfortunately, the liberal proponents of these policies do not recognize that they sap its intended beneficiaries of the ambition and confidence and create a victim mentality.

Anti-discrimination hiring laws adversely affect protected classes. Look at the case an employer looking to hire a person for a managerial job. There are two candidates with the same skills; a young white man and a disabled old black lesbian. The employer’s experience with job candidates is that one out of four candidates does not work out and will have to be let go. If he hires the young white man and fires him after six months, he has no anti-discrimination law to deal with. It cost him nothing to fire him so it is easy for him to take a chance on a marginal white man.

On the other hand if he hires the disabled black lesbian and then decides to fire her, he is faced with huge costs. He must first bring in expensive lawyers to deal with anti-discrimination laws regarding disability, race, gender and sexual orientation. Then there are huge costs of compliance - proper documentation, legal consultation, dealing with government agencies, and the potential of wrongful termination lawsuits and regulatory hearings. If the skill set of the two candidates is equal, there is no question that the rational employer will hire the young white man who is less costly to lay off.

Affirmative action has similar unintended consequences. At elite law schools such as Harvard and Yale, the implicit assumption by faculty and students is that black and Hispanic students have lower LSAT scores and college grades than their Asian and white classmates. The rebuttable presumption at these law schools is that these minority students are not as smart as their classmates. When minority law school students graduate, the prestigious law firms make the same assumptions. Consequently, minority students do not get the same job opportunities as their classmates.

Exhibit one to test this proposition is Justice Clarence Thomas. The liberal media questioned his intellectual and legal competence notwithstanding that he was a graduate of Yale Law School. They even pointed out the apparent irony that even though he did not support affirmative action, he would not have gotten into Yale without it. However, Justice Thomas was one of the few Yale Law graduates who did not get a prestigious law firm offer upon graduation. Justice Thomas, to his credit, opposed affirmative action because he recognized the insidious stigma that it puts on competent minorities who do not need a lower bar to succeed.

Exhibit two is Barack Obama. No other member of the Harvard Law Review ever made the national news upon his election as president of the law review. The liberal media at the time made a big deal of it, showing that it’s apparently news to the liberal media that there are smart blacks. Had Mr. Obama been Jewish or Asian, it would not have been news. Under the most benign interpretation, this attitude is condescending to smart American blacks.

Exhibit three speaks for itself. According to McClatchy Newspapers, “in just an hour, the court’s newest justice [Sonia Sotomayor] asked more questions than Justice Clarence Thomas has asked over the course of several years.” It was not coincidence that the first female Hispanic justice was compared favorably to the court’s only current black justice. But was it because Justice Thomas was black or conservative? Perhaps the real truth is that it is an anathema in the liberal media for a well-educated black man to be a conservative and not a slave to the liberal plantation ideology.

Social engineering in housing that goes beyond pure antidiscrimination policy also has unfortunate consequences. Most Americans agree that a person should be able to buy any house he or she can afford. However, when courts force communities to build affordable housing or low-income housing, it is not clear that this benefits the intended victims.

First, this type of house is generally clustered together and not fully integrated into the surrounding community. The Chicago South Side housing projects are perhaps the most egregious and failed example. Low-income residents, overwhelmingly minorities, are segregated into subsidized dysfunctional communities. These residents are subjected to gang warfare, poor schools, substandard shopping and inadequate maintenance. This liberal policy of subsides public housing results in segregation in its most virulent form.

These liberal policies of anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action laws, housing subsidy policies and many others not discussed in this commentary often lead to unintended consequences of harming the people they are trying to help. They are implemented with only the best of intentions. Unfortunately, we all know where the road to good intentions leads.

“The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast weeknights on XM Satellite’s Power 169 channel from 9 to 10 p.m.

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