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Back You are here: Home Affirmative Action The High Costs (and Negligible Benefits) of Political Correctness

The High Costs (and Negligible Benefits) of Political Correctness

First news item from last week: “The Justice Department today announced it has reached an agreement with officials of the Colorado Judicial Department to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals seeking services throughout Colorado’s state court system will have access to timely and competent language assistance,” according to the Civil Rights Division’s press release here .

Now, the cited authority for this legal action is two federal statutes that “prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion by recipients of federal assistance.”  The statutes, that is, say nothing about language—but through the magic of “disparate impact” law, failing to translate English into foreign languages becomes “national origin” discrimination, since a higher proportion of non-English speakers in Colorado are Latino than non-Latino.  This is bad law and bad policy, distorting federal statutes and encouraging balkanization by discouraging English acquisition.  

  But alas it is also nothing new:  The critical executive order in this area was signed by President Clinton and President Bush left it in place.  Now, in this and many  other  areas , the use and abuse of disparate-impact law is being ramped up by the Obama administration.

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  Second news item from last week: According to The Atlantic Wire , “A 2005 report from the Defense Science Board warned that in buying weapon circuitry overseas, ‘trojan horse’ chips could find their way into American weapons, potentially prompting missiles to detonate early or computers to shut down in the event of an attack. Then, in 2008, an investigation by Business Week revealed that this was, in fact, happening — fake Chinese microchips were crashing American military networks.”  Among the causes:  Business Week “found that money and ‘affirmative-action goals’ steered government equipment buyers away from the most trusted manufacturers ….”

  As blogger John Rosenberg notes , “Many of us have long known that affirmative action undermines the fundamental American principle of treating all individuals without regard to their race, but who knew that it is also a threat to national security!” What the above two items both illustrate are yet other high costs to turning the civil-rights laws on their head. Everyone knows that it is costly to businesses when they hire someone other than the most qualified individual in order to meet some politically correct quota or “goal”; and it is also costly to taxpayers when the courts have to hire heaven-knows-how-many translators for heaven-knows-how-many foreign languages; and apparently it is costly to national security, too.

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  And what of the benefits of affirmative action? Well, the evidence continues to mount that they are overstated. Consider two more news items from last week. The first  is from The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The number of Latino students who intend to enroll in the University of California system this fall nearly equals the number of white students, the university reported ….” The voters in California, of course, banned admission preferences based on race, ethnicity, and sex some years ago. As I commented on the CHE website, “Well, so much for the fear that, without affirmative action, the UC system would be lily white (or, rather, lily white and Asian).”

  The second is a Wall Street Journal item that begins, “Police departments that have ended their affirmative-action programs see no erosion in the hiring of black policeman, a new study finds.” Well, what possible reason is there for not ending them, then?

  Just asking.