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Archive for the ‘Discrimination’ Category

Regulatory policy has been one of the bright spots of the Trump Administration (along with tax policy).

But it’s not a perfect record.

In a column for Townhall, Steve Sherman describes how the Labor Department launched a regulatory attack against Oracle in the final days of the Obama Administration.

President Obama was not a good president, but he was really good at issuing midnight regulations… Obama’s army of left-wing lawyers were also busy writing up last minute lawsuits… President Obama’s administration went after the tech companies Palantir, Google, then Oracle by alleging discrimination using statistics gathered as part of routine audits of these government contractors. In all of these suits, no actual evidence of discrimination was presented, merely statistics gathered that claimed to prove discrimination. This type of evidence would be tossed out in a real court, but with these suits, they were handled administratively and internally at the Department of Labor. …Oracle was so outraged by continued harassment that they fought back and sued the federal government for violating the Constitution’s separation of powers arguing that the lawsuits statutory authority.

So why am I criticizing the Trump Administration for regulatory harassment that was launched under Obama?

For the simple reason that some of Trump’s appointees have allowed the assault to continue, as former Congressman Bob Barr explained for the Daily Caller.

The Trump administration has performed admirably in reducing the regulatory red tape that has strangled American businesses… But for reasons not entirely clear, the Department of Labor has lagged behind other agencies in this regard. One clear example is the way the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has continued unnecessary and counterproductive Obama-era litigation against tech companies… In a 2017 study, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…set forth in extensive detail that the OFCCP in recent years had become enamored of faulty, statistics-based challenges to companies engaged in federal contracts… A number of lawsuits reflecting this abusive approach to regulatory enforcement were filed against large tech companies in the waning months of the Obama administration. …the Department of Labor sued…, just two days before President Trump was sworn in, Oracle. …the Labor Department instead has become…a regulatory bully searching for ways to punish companies. …Hopefully, …Donald Trump and Eugene Scalia…will step in and make sure that the small but powerful agency…gets on board the administration’s drive to actually reduce federal regulatory burdens

The Washington Post has some details on the dispute between Oracle and the federal government.

…the Labor Department…alleges Oracle, the database management company founded by billionaire Larry Ellison, paid some women as much as 20 percent less than their male peers, or $37,000, in 2016. The lawsuit was filed by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which audits companies with government contracts worth more than $100 million a year. …The hearing in San Francisco has broad significance for the tech industry because the allegations against Oracle are similar to the department’s claims that other tech giants, including Google and Palantir, exercised systemic bias against minority and female employees in hiring, pay or promotion. …Oracle’s lawyer argued that the Labor Department’s expert witness compared employees based on broad job titles and failed to take into account that a software developer who worked on Oracle’s product PeopleSoft is valued differently in the market than developers who work on the artificial intelligence of machine learning. …The department claims Oracle’s college recruiting program hired 500 graduates between 2013 and 2016 for product development roles at its Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters, 90 percent of whom were Asian. During the same period, Oracle only hired six black people through the recruitment program. …The agency argues that pay disparities stem from Oracle’s practice of…relying on prior salaries to set their pay at Oracle.

The key thing to understand is that the federal government is unable to find any victims of actual discrimination.

As the Wall street Journal opines, bureaucrats are relying on statistical differences.

Protecting the constitutional separation of powers is back in political fashion as more businesses challenge abuses of administrative agencies. One case worth watching is Oracle’s lawsuit arguing that the Labor Department has usurped the federal judiciary and other executive agencies. Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) filed a discrimination complaint against Oracle in the waning days of the Obama Administration. During a routine audit, the OFCCP in 2014 conducted a statistical analysis of Oracle’s workforce. And what do you know? The agency says it discovered disparities based on race and sex that it claimed were prima facie evidence of discrimination. …In sum, the agency said Oracle discriminated against every class of worker in one way or another. It demanded that Oracle lose current and forgo future federal contracts plus pay up to $400 million in restitution to its alleged victims. Yet its case all but collapsed at an administrative trial this month. The Labor office presented no evidence of intentional discrimination or even witnesses who claimed as much. …Oracle is suing the OFCCP for violating the Administrative Procedure Act and separation of powers. …the agency investigates, prosecutes, tries and punishes businesses even though it has no legislative authority to do so.

I’ll close by citing Thomas Sowell’s column for Jewish World Review on how “disparate impact” is basically a scam.

“Disparate impact” statistics have for decades been used, in many different contexts, to claim that discrimination was the reason why different groups are not equally represented as employees or in desirable positions… The implicit assumption is that such statistics about particular outcomes would normally reflect the percentage of people in the population. But, no matter how plausible this might seem on the surface, it is seldom found in real life… Blacks are far more statistically “over-represented” among basketball stars in the NBA… Hispanics are similarly far more “over-represented” among baseball stars than in the general population. Asian Americans are likewise far more “over-represented” among students at leading engineering schools like M.I.T. and Cal Tech than in the population as a whole. None of this is peculiar to the United States. You can find innumerable examples of such group disparities in countries around the world and throughout recorded history.

Sowell isn’t just theorizing.

He wrote a thoroughly researched book on exactly this issue.

The bottom line is that groups – on average – sometimes have different interests and aptitudes.

Walter Williams observed about ten years ago that, “Not every choice based on race represents racism and if you think so, you risk misidentifying and confusing human behavior.”

And there’s no evidence that Oracle even made decisions based on race to begin with.

So the bureaucrats at the Department of Labor are using bad methodology to harass and extort a company.

Left-leaning administrations have a track record of pushing bad policies on their way out of office, so I’m not surprised the Obama Administration launched the attack on Oracle. But I am surprised that the Trump Administration has allowed the legal assault against the company to continue.

P.S. While I normally don’t think the federal government should have any power to interfere with regards to market outcomes for hiring, pay, promotion, and association, it’s legitimate for Uncle Sam to put conditions on companies that bid on federal contracts. I just wish they would fight actual examples of bias, not mere statistical differences.

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I’ve previously argued that “freedom of association” is the best way of dealing with thorny social issues such as baking cakes for gay weddings and transgender bathroom usage.

Simply stated, people should have the freedom to do business with each other – or not do business with each other – based on their personal preferences.

I may disapprove of how various people exercise those preferences, but I wouldn’t ask a politician or bureaucrat to intervene.

Which brings us to today’s topic. Here are some excerpts from a New York Post story about a not-quite-women-only business.

The Wing was supposed to be the ultimate sanctuary for women: decidedly feminine in design, with walls and furniture in shades of millennial pink and a thermometer set at a women’s-clothing-friendly 72 degrees. …It offers perks that other co-working spaces can’t match — showers stocked with high-end beauty products…the company’s expansion and popularity has brought up a completely different issue…men wanting to come in and hang out. …it’s not against the rules for men to be at the lady lair, which costs anywhere from $185 to $250 a month in the US to join. But that’s only because legally the company can’t ban men. …The problem, multiple members have told The Post, is that the men physically take up too much space with their bigger bodies… While they aren’t using the members-only changing rooms and showers (yet), they are in the guest bathrooms. …The Wing…never had a membership policy, because, reps say, they didn’t think they’d need one. Instead, they simply billed themselves as a women’s co-working space and social club. …the New York City Commission on Human Rights…in 2018 opened an investigation into the company. The Wing’s large membership — more than 11,000 worldwide, according to reps — meant it couldn’t pass as a “social club,” and therefore can’t discriminate based on gender.

My reaction is that the New York City Commission on Human Rights should mind its own business.

If women want a female-only place to interact and do business, it’s not the job of government to interfere.

Yes, that means discrimination against men. Maybe that’s wrong, at least on some level, but not everything that’s wrong should be illegal.

Here’s another example, though the discrimination is based on politics rather than gender. As reported by the Hill, a California restaurant wants freedom not to associate with overt Trump supporters.

A restaurant owner and award-winning author in California tweeted that he will no longer serve customers who wear “Make America Great Again” hats at his eatery. “It hasn’t happened yet, but if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren’t getting served…”Some diners told The Associated Press on Thursday that they understand the restaurant owner’s position but added that they have mixed feelings about the ban. …“I see where he’s coming from, but I don’t think you should just keep people out because of a hat,” Jamie Hwang, a San Mateo resident, told the news agency. Another diner, Esther Shek, told the publication that she believes the hats have “come to represent racism, intolerance, exclusivity” but also added that López-Alt’s choice to refuse supporters of the president might spell trouble later.

In this case, I definitely think the restaurant owner is being petty. But I also recognize that it’s his restaurant. It’s his money and it’s his property.

By the way, it’s worth noting that freedom of association is a two-way street.

It means private businesses can refuse customers, but it also means customers can reject businesses.

A black couple in Georgia turned away a white repairman who showed up to their house while flying a large Confederate flag, leaving the couple in utter “disbelief” before saying he wasn’t welcome. …After a polite conversation with the contractor, Brown said, he was in “disbelief” that the man he hired from Facebook’s local marketplace would think the flag was acceptable to fly during house calls. Brown’s wife then came outside and bluntly turned the man away, video shows. …The repairman offered to remove the flag, but the damage was already done. He later reached out to the couple on Facebook to say he didn’t mean to offend them, Zeke Brown told ABC News. Brown replied to the contractor, explaining that the flag is “extremely offensive” to people of color while urging him to do some research.

Incidentally, I may be a bit of a Pollyanna on these issues, but I’m glad that the contractor reached out to the couple with an apology.

Having spent many years in Georgia and having interacted occasionally with people who displayed confederate flags, I concluded that very few of them were motivated by racial animus. It was more a form of social signalling about being rural, or being a hell raiser (a la Dukes of Hazard).

That being said, they obviously were not sensitive to the fact that blacks had a much more jaundiced view of what the flag represents.

Which is why I hope many of them eventually had the kind of epiphany that led a Texas man to get rid of his rebel flag tattoo. Simply stated, we should care about the feelings of others.

But I’m digressing.

Let’s conclude by addressing the negative aspect of freedom of association, which is that some bad people will discriminate for odious reasons.

The stereotypical example is a business in Alabama in 1958 that refused to serve black customers. This is partly inaccurate because much of the discrimination during that era was the result of government policies that mandated segregation (a.k.a., the Jim Crow laws).

But I’m sure there was also plenty of genuinely private discrimination.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that such discrimination generally is punished by market forces.

And the best news is that our society is now increasingly vigilant against bias.

For instance, the Washington Post reported about a bakery that gained customers for being welcoming to everyone.

Nino Barbalace…opened a bakery and cafe in Dorchester, Mass. …He affixed a tiny pride flag to his restaurant’s window for the pride parade in June, and it has remained there since. Then came the Yelp review.“Well, that flag says all when you delve deeper and see the real customer base here, it’s clearly geared and catered ONLY to those who rally behind the rainbow flag.” That alarmed Barbalace, who posted an image of the one-star review on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “All are welcome at Zia Gianna, even this gentleman. We’d love to show him some kindness…” Barbalace wrote in his post on Aug. 13. …Customers rallied in response. Tiffany Andrade told Fox 25 that she dropped by the cafe on Friday to offer support. …“We love your place, and love your love for everyone no matter what,” one customer said. Another said: “Haven’t been in to your restaurant before, but now I’m putting it on my must-visit list. Love is love is love. Keep flying that flag!”

Kudos to Mr. Barbalace, by the way, for reaching out to the unfriendly reviewer.

The United States has made great progress and is one of the most tolerant places in the world.

But there’s always room for more progress and you’re far more likely to change hearts and minds with outreach – Daryl Davis and Matthew Stevenson are role models – rather than demonization.

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Last year, I wrote a column that investigated why the left is fixated on the unequal distribution of income and wealth, yet doesn’t seem to care at all about unequal distribution of attractiveness.

The question becomes even more intriguing when you consider that attractiveness is oftentimes nothing more than luck, simply a matter of winning the genetic lottery.

People with lots of income and wealth, by contrast, generally work very hard to offer goods and services of value to society, so they actually earn their riches.

Let’s review some additional evidence about good luck for people with good looks.

The Economist shares data from a new book about the advantages enjoyed by attractive people.

Just why are pedestrians likelier (three times as likely, according to one study) to defy traffic laws to follow a man across the road when he is wearing a suit than the same man dressed in denim? Similarly motorists stuck at a traffic light are slower to honk their horn if the car in front has a prestige brand. …A further piece of research cited by the authors involved undergraduates who were shown photos of 50 chief executives from the Fortune 1000 list of big firms. Half of these bosses were from the most profitable groups and half from the least profitable. The undergraduates were asked to judge, on looks alone, which executives had qualities such as competence and dominance. Remarkably, the students tended to pick out those executives who led the most successful companies. …it seems more probable that people with a certain type of appearance are likely to get promoted than it is to believe they are innately more competent than everyone else. …When participants in a study were shown pictures of male employees of a business consultancy, with similar clothes and masked faces, they perceived the taller men more positively in terms of team leadership skills. Indeed, research has shown that taller and more attractive men earn more than their shorter and plainer colleagues. …Physical characteristics also affect recruitment at lower levels. A group of Italian researchers sent CVs to a range of employers, some with photos and some without. Applicants deemed attractive by independent scorers were 20% more likely to get an interview than the same application without a photo.

Being attractive doesn’t just help people get better jobs and earn more income.

Here’s some data that may be even more important to a lot of people.

This study was conducted to quantify the Tinder socio-economic prospects for males based on the percentage of females that will “like” them. Female Tinder usage data was collected and statistically analyzed to determine the inequality in the Tinder economy. It was determined that the bottom 80% of men (in terms of attractiveness) are competing for the bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are competing for the top 20% of men. The Gini coefficient for the Tinder economy based on “like” percentages was calculated to be 0.58. This means that the Tinder economy has more inequality than 95.1% of all the world’s national economies. In addition, it was determined that a man of average attractiveness would be “liked” by approximately 0.87% (1 in 115) of women on Tinder.

Here’s a chart showing that only the most attractive men have an advantage on the hook-up site.

Here’s an explanation of the chart, as well as some discussion of how the system is wildly unequal.

The area in blue represents the situations where women are more likely to “like” the men. The area in pink represents the situations where men are more likely to “like” women. The curve doesn’t go down linearly, but instead drops quickly after the top 20% of men. Comparing the blue area and the pink area we can see that for a random female/male Tinder interaction the male is likely to “like” the female 6.2 times more often than the female “likes” the male. …the wealth distribution for males in the Tinder economy is quite large. Most females only “like” the most attractive guys. …Figure 3 compares the income Gini coefficient distribution for 162 nations and adds the Tinder economy to the list. …The Tinder economy has a higher Gini coefficient than 95.1% of the countries in the world.

And here’s the chart from the article showing how Tinder inequality compares to economic inequality among nations.

Regular guys don’t do very well and unattractive guys get the short end of the stick.

…the most attractive men will be liked by only approximately 20% of all the females on Tinder. …Unfortunately, this percentage decreases rapidly as you go down the attractiveness scale. According to this analysis a man of average attractiveness can only expect to be liked by slightly less than 1% of females (0.87%). This equates to 1 “like” for every 115 females. …The bad news is that if you aren’t in the very upper echelons of Tinder wealth (i.e. attractiveness) you aren’t likely to have much success.

Whether your goal is income/wealth or sex/relationships, the bottom line is that it helps to be attractive.

And being attractive is largely the result of luck. Which brings us back to the issue of why leftists don’t try to address this very meaningful form of inequality. Where are their plans to prevent discrimination against those of us who didn’t win the looks lottery? And to imposes taxes on those who wound up with favorable genes?

P.S. Libertarians are sometimes accused of being autistic dorks, and you don’t find many females at libertarian events, all of which presumably means male libertarians might benefit from government redistribution of dating partners. But we are moral and don’t favor government coercion and intervention, even when we might gain an advantage.

P.P.S. Here’s what would happen if Elizabeth Warren applied her class-warfare approach to dating.

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While capitalism is the only system to produce mass prosperity, I actually support free enterprise more because it is a moral system based on voluntary exchange. The various forms of statism, by contrast, are based on government coercion.

But non-coercion is not the only moral reason to support capitalism. I also applaud that free markets penalize racism and sexism. Simply stated, narrow-minded people are going to lose business to ethical competitors and forego income if they make choices based on animus rather than what makes economic sense.

This doesn’t mean an end to racism and sexism, but it certainly suggests that systemic and pervasive discrimination is very unlikely without government intervention (such as the Jim Crow laws that created government-enforced racism).

This is why I’m naturally suspicious of the claim that there’s a gender pay gap.

Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute summarize the issue, pointing out that wage differences reflect personal choices and economic realities

…the 20% gender wage gap is actually a tiresome statistical myth that persists in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. …The reality is that men and women make very different career and work choices, and frequently play very different family roles, especially for families with children. While gender discrimination undoubtedly occurs, it is individuals’ choice – not discrimination – which accounts for the vast majority of gender differences in earnings. …Compensating wage differentials are differences in pay that are designed to attract employees to jobs that otherwise would be undesirable. …The undesirable aspects of certain jobs can range from the mundane to the gruesome. For instance, men have longer average commute times to their jobs than women. In the U.S., the average male spends 33 more hours commuting to work each year. How much extra pay would you demand to spend the equivalent of four additional eight-hour days sitting in traffic or on a bus riding to work? …men are also much more likely to be injured or killed on the job. Economists have long found that, all else equal, more dangerous jobs pay higher average wages than safer jobs. And the 20 jobs with the highest occupational fatality rates are on average 94% male and 92.5% of workplace fatalities overall are men.

Writing for the Hill, Christina Hoff Summers of AEI issues a challenge that left-feminists are unable to answer. They never even try.

Everywhere we hear that for the same work, women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Think about that. If it were true, why wouldn’t businesses only hire women? Wages are the biggest expense for most businesses. So, hiring only women would reduce costs by nearly a quarter — and that would go right to the bottom line.

She points out that academic research repeatedly had debunked the claim that there is systemic discrimination that requires government intervention.

…this claim has been debunked over and over again. …The 23-cent gender pay gap we often hear about is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women who work full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When economists account for these relevant factors, the wage gap narrows to a few cents. By now, even feminist wage gap activists agree — at least when pressed.

Speaking of academic evidence, the Wall Street Journal opines about some recent research from Harvard economists.

Progressives claim that the pay difference between men and women is caused by sexism that government must redress. But a new study offers compelling evidence that the choices and priorities of women account for much of the disparity. The study examined data from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority because it is a union shop with uniform hourly wages in which men and women adhere to the same rules and enjoy the same benefits. Workers are promoted based on seniority, not performance. Male and female workers of the same seniority have the same options for scheduling, routes, vacation and overtime. Under such rigid work rules, even a sexist boss or manager would have little ability to give men preferential treatment. Yet even at the Transportation Authority, female train and bus operators earned less than men. To explain why, Harvard economists Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel looked at time cards and scheduling from 2011 to 2017, also factoring in sex, age, date of hire, tenure, and whether an employee was married or had dependents. They found that male train and bus operators worked about 83% more overtime hours than their female colleagues and were twice as likely to accept an overtime shift on short notice. …The study ratifies the common-sense observation that men and women often have different priorities, and the best way to accommodate them is through the marketplace, not the untender mercies of government.

Notwithstanding all this evidence, some journalists are willing to publicize nonsensical numbers. Here are some excerpts from a column by Annie Lowrey in the Atlantic.

Do women earn…a shocking 49 cents on the dollar, as calculated by the social scientists Stephen Rose and Heidi Hartmann in a new analysis published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research? …According to Rose, …the most accurate way to compare women’s and men’s earnings is to take the career-long view. “When you look at all women versus all men over time, the gap is 51 cents,” he said, referring to the 15-year figure. …What might help close this wide, long earnings chasm? Rose and Hartmann suggest…paid family leave and child-care subsidies…public-policy changes would give women more control over their working lives, and would help foster a more equitable workplace. And that would be good for everybody.

I’m guessing Ms Lowrey knows this study is tripe because she seeks to preserve her credibility by noting that pay gaps basically disappear when using honest numbers.

The most common way to measure the gender earnings gap is to look at how much women working full-time and year-round make, and compare it with what men working full-time and year-round make. …That number has some significant shortcomings, researchers have long argued. Women work different kinds of jobs than men do and have different levels of work experience, too. …Comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, women earn close to what men earn: Women in similar workplaces with similar titles and similar credentials make pretty much what their male peers do, whether they are fast-food employees making close to the minimum wage or corporate executives making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

But she doesn’t explain why the study is garbage.

To understand that, we’ll turn to Carrie Lukas, who debunks the IWPR numbers for National Review.

The study claims that the wage gap has been woefully understated, and that in reality women “earn just 49 cents to the typical men’s dollar, much less than the 80 cents usually reported.” How did they come to this jaw-dropping conclusion? Simple. They have redefined the “gender wage gap.” They are no longer looking at full-time workers, or even at consistent part-time workers. Rather, they are comparing the earnings of all women and all men who worked at any point during a 15-year period. More than four out of every ten women took more than a year out of the work force during that period, which was nearly twice the rate of men. As a result, women, on average, earned a lot less. That’s hardly a shock. …IWPR is misleading readers with the suggestion that the “wage gap” is really 49 cents on the dollar. …those who care about women’s economic advancement should seek to build an awareness of the very real consequences of the choices women make they decide what to study, which fields to enter, and how to plan their work lives so they can make informed choices.

Let’s close with this video from Ms. Sommers, which includes some rather amusing information about hypocrisy in the Obama White House.

P.S. Since I mentioned the previous administration, it’s worth noting that one of Obama’s appointees to the Council of Economic Advisers refused to defend the White House’s absurd claim that women only got 77 cents for doing the same work as men.

P.P.S. Given its track record of shoddy and biased output, is anyone surprised that the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is pushing dishonest gender pay data?

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There’s a big controversy about whether business owners with traditional religious beliefs should be coerced by government into doing business with gay couples who want to get married.

Back in 2015, I explained that the real issue is freedom of association, not whether gay marriage is right or wrong (I’ve always wondered why government should have any role in marriage, but that’s a separate topic).

It’s time to revisit this issue now that the Supreme Court has released its decision on the case involving a Colorado baker who didn’t want to decorate a cake for a gay wedding. The Wall Street Journal opines that the decision was in favor of the baker, but on very narrow grounds.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday for a baker who refused to custom-bake a cake for a same-sex wedding out of sincere religious belief. …this apparent victory for religious freedom may be short-lived. …While seven Justices on the High Court held for Mr. Phillips, the majority decision could have gone the other way had some facts been different. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy notes that Mr. Phillips was “entitled to a neutral decision-maker.” …As is his wont, Justice Kennedy strains to avoid a clear and decisive ruling. While “religious and philosophical objections [to same-sex marriage] are protected, it is a general rule that such objections” don’t allow the denial of services “under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law,” he writes. Perhaps the best that can be said is that florists, make-up artists, photographers and other people of faith have lived to fight another day. A ruling against Mr. Phillips would have been catastrophic for religious liberty, but the majority’s muddle provides only gossamer protection. …The message is that governments can punish religious beliefs as long as they keep their animus toward religion in the closet.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I’m not sure what to think about the Court’s contorted decision.

But as a libertarian, I think the government should not be involved.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe understands what the issue is all about. Here’s some of what he wrote shortly before Trump’s inauguration.

Freedom of association is a vital human right. …I support…the singers who refuse to sing for Trump, the fashion designers who refuse to design, the landlords who refuse to rent, the dancers who refuse to dance. No one should be forced to play a role in a celebration they want nothing to do with, or to hire themselves out to clients they would prefer not to serve. …if a caterer turns down a request to prepare the meals for Trump’s inauguration? Or a florist declines to provide the floral arrangements? Or a calligrapher says “thanks but no thanks” to addressing the invitations? I’d back them, too, and for reasons having nothing to do with Trump or Republicans or inaugurations — and everything to do with freedom of association. The right to discriminate — to choose with whom we will and won’t associate — is vital to human liberty. A dressmaker who can’t say no to a commission to design a gown isn’t free, and it doesn’t matter whether the gown is for a first lady or for the brides in a lesbian wedding. A liberal baker who declines to create a lavish cake decorated with the words “Congratulations, President Trump” is entitled to as much deference as a black baker who declines to decorate a cake with the Confederate flag, or a Muslim baker who declines to decorate a cake with the message “No Muslim Immigrants.” …Tolerance and pluralism are important values in a free society. So are choice and association. Your choices may not be mine; my preferred associations may not be yours. In a diverse, live-and-let-live culture, our differences are manageable — as long as government doesn’t interfere.

This controversy should have nothing to do with sexual preference. One of my former interns is gay, but does not want to force others to associate with him.

Being a gay libertarian…you are a pariah among your peers. …So-called civil rights groups like the American Civil Rights Union…say…that “when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone.” …Well, folks, I am gay myself – I am even married – and I stand by Philipps’ right to discriminate against whoever he wants. That, of course, makes me a traitor, a turkey voting for Thanksgiving – and if I were African American, it would also make me an Uncle Tom. …many liberals stand by the ACLU’s faulty reasoning… Faulty because it implies that, once you start selling a product or service, you automatically lose your right to freely and voluntarily interact with other people. It’s opened to the public, so it suddenly becomes public “property”… Following that logic, a Muslim baker would be forced to make a cake with Mohammed’s face on it – an unspeakable moral crime in Islam – Hooters would have to hire anyone as a server and gay bathhouses would have to welcome female patrons. …the infamous Jim Crow laws not only maintained an apartheid-like state for African Americans, but they also dictated how private businesses needed to interact with these people. …instead of having government force businesses to serve anyone, I want it to let them discriminate in the open. This way, I know exactly where not to do business. Because even if I were heterosexual, I would very likely boycott businesses that discriminate on arbitrary traits like sexual orientation or skin color. It’s not a crime – no one’s life or property is endangered by this refusal of doing business – but it goes against my moral standards of treating every human being as an equal.

Excellent analysis. Indeed, I’d like to take partial credit. Except Pierre already was a solid libertarian when he started working for me.

Here’s another column with the same perspective, which appeared in the Federalist.

…it should be simple to appreciate why religious people who deeply oppose socially changing marriage to include same-sex couples would not wish to endorse or participate in a same-sex wedding. …Masterpiece Cakeshop, as with many caterers, florists, and photographers, has merely declined to participate in an event or associate their brand with that event. Why do LGBT activists perceive this as a direct attack on the validation of their relationships? …I would not seek employment or request a table at a Planned Parenthood event and expect them to accommodate me. Why would I help them raise money or support their business model? If I encountered an individual morally uncomfortable with participating in an activity with me and my boyfriend, such as couple photos or planning a party, it would be uncomfortable for me to force her. …I would be taken aback by a rejection, I would feel it is my responsibility to choose another photographer rather than force another person to violate her faith for my satisfaction.

Interestingly, some folks on the left openly express their affinity for discrimination. Here’s Michael Moore exercising his right not to do business with theaters in North Carolina, along with a comment by someone who wants Moore to be philosophically consistent.

Ouch, that retort had to leave a mark. Though Moore isn’t bothered by hypocrisy, so he probably doesn’t care.

And speaking of hypocrisy, I wonder what my friends on the left think of the following examples of discrimination.

Here’s freedom of association in action, as reported by the Washington Times.

A boy whose letter to President Trump made national headlines last month reportedly wanted a pro-Trump cake for his birthday party, but his mother was unable to find a baker willing to fulfill the order. …his mother “made him one herself, because she couldn’t find a bakery willing and able to do it.” Michael P. Farris is president, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, …wondered why bakers are allowed to decline to make birthday cakes supporting Mr. Trump, but not wedding cakes supporting same-sex marriage. …“The fact is that these cake shops have freedom of speech,” he continued. “They have the right to decline to use their artistic talents to celebrate events or promote messages that violate their beliefs, even if it offends a nice little kid.”

Kudos to Mr. Farris. He wants sauce for the goose to be sauce for the gander. But more important, he wants the right sauce, i.e., nobody should be coerced by government to associate with others.

The New York Post highlights another example of how freedom of association works.

Bartenders at a West Village hot spot served up discrimination — with a liberal twist — refusing to serve a customer because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, according to a lawsuit. …Greg Piatek, 30, an accountant from Philadelphia, claims he was snubbed…by workers at The Happiest Hour on West 10th Street over his conservative fashion statement… “Anyone who supports Trump — or believes what you believe — is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!” Piatek claims he was told as he was shown the door by a manager. …Piatek’s lawyer Paul Liggieri called the incident “humiliating,” saying it was his client’s “saddest hour.”

I think Mr. Piatek is being a snowflake. If some establishment didn’t want to serve me because of my libertarian values, I would shrug my shoulders and find a place that did value my cash.

I just wish folks on the left had the same perspective. Moreover, I wonder if they’ve considered the implication of their approach. This humorous item from Libertarian Reddit could become reality if the government had the power to force all of us to do business with each other.

And here’s another story showing how people choose to discriminate.

Brian Ashworth…was in the office when one of his employees walked back to tell him that a woman and four or five men…were in the dining room of Ace Biscuit & Barbecue… One wore a “Make America Great Again” shirt, and another had a shirt promoting the British white nationalist punk band, Skrewdriver. A third man sported a shirt that said, “Pinochet Helicopter Company,” a reference to former right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, accused of tossing Communists and other political opponents from aircraft. …the group was behaving, minding its own business. …”One employee said to me, ‘Brian, be cool. Let them eat,'” the restaurant owner recalled. …Suddenly, the young man in the Skrewdriver shirt threw up a Nazi salute, which the others reciprocated, he said. “That was it. Oh my God, are you kidding me? ‘Get out of here. You’ve got to go,'” Ashworth told them, admittedly in unkind words. …They countered that they had rights, and Ashworth conceded they had rights but said, as a business owner, …he reserves the right to deny service to other groups. His employees don’t have to serve them, he said.

Amen.

I imagine most of my leftist friends will agree with the restaurant owner’s decision, but there’s part of the story that may cause them heartburn.

“I got a round of applause from the customers who saw me throw them out,” he said. “A round of applause is good, but it doesn’t keep anybody safe.” …He decided to close for the day, for the safety of his staff and customers. …Ashworth brought his two .45-caliber pistols to work… He supposes he’ll keep bringing them to work until he feels safe again.

Last but not least, Marissa Mayer explains for FEE how she doesn’t think government should get involved solely because someone does not want to do business with her.

This week I was denied a service because the company’s values are at odds with the values that Alliance Defending Freedom stands for — values I personally hold. And guess what? I’m okay with that. …Using my work information, I signed up for an online course created by Moceanic, a team of talented fundraisers who have created a coaching and training business to help writers better connect with donors. …What I didn’t know when I signed up for the course, however, is that Moceanic does a lot of work with organizations such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and LGBT activist organizations. …ADF and these organizations don’t exactly share the same values. …I received an email notifying me that they had refunded the cost of the course with no explanation as to why. I was a little perplexed by the email… That’s when I starting digging deeper into the brains behind Moceanic, and it didn’t take long for me to discover the values statement on their website. …”we reserve the right to choose not to train people working directly for, or on behalf of, organisations whose missions or values do not align with ours.” …I get it… Moceanic shouldn’t be forced to coach me on how to speak in a way that generates excitement and engagement for a cause that they disagree with any more than Jack should have to create a cake celebrating a marriage that conflicts with his beliefs.

Marissa is intellectually consistent and practices tolerance.

Too bad the same can’t be said for many other people.

I’ll close by noting that we all discriminate. We discriminate in the foods we buy, the friends we choose, the people we love, and the businesses we patronize. And I don’t think the government should coerce us to make different choices.

That being said, we also should recognize that some choices are fine and some choices are bad.

Because I have the taste buds of a child, I discriminate against restaurants with spicy food. Plenty of my friends tease me for my limited tastes, but I can’t imagine anyone (other than my mother when I was a kid) wanting to force me to eat foods I don’t like.

But what if I wanted to discriminate against people simply because of their race or religion? In that case, I would hope my friends would cease to be my friends and instead would upbraid me for my moral failings (I also hope some of them would be like Daryl Davis or Matthew Stevenson and try to rescue me from such odious forms of collectivism).

However, I wouldn’t want them to enlist government coercion. Believing in free speech also means allowing reprehensible forms of free speech. Believing in a free press also means allowing awful viewpoints. Believing in freedom of association means allowing disgusting forms of discrimination.

So bake a cake or don’t bake a cake. But if you have a bad reason for not baking a cake, you won’t be getting my business (even if your discrimination is economically rational).

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I’m currently in Monaco, which is a remarkable place for two reasons.

  • First, it is has an unusual economic model. There is no income tax, and you won’t be surprised to learn that I think this helps to explain why it is the world’s richest jurisdiction. Makes me wish we could reverse that terrible day in 1913 when the income tax was imposed in the United States.
  • Second, there are a lot of beautiful people in this small nation, especially relative to the small overall population.

With one exception, I’ve never commented on the looks of a population for the simple reason that it has nothing to do with public policy.

But that may be changing, in part because some ostensibly unattractive young men (known as “incels” because they are involuntarily celibate) are dealing with their frustration by killing others.

That strikes me a crazy reaction. I’ve endured many periods of involuntary celibacy in my life and it never occurred to me to murder anyone.

But let’s deal seriously with this issue. There’s no question that some people are lucky because they won the genetic lottery. If you’re naturally attractive, you have many more relationship options, whether you’re looking for one-night stands or marriage. And it’s not just sex and relationships. Being physically attractive makes life easier in all sorts of ways.

That’s not fair. But does that unfairness justify intervention?

Professor Robin Hanson of George Mason University doesn’t think so, but he wonders why people concerned about income equality aren’t similarly concerned about access-to-sex equality.

I’ve long puzzled over the fact that most of the concern I hear expressed on inequality is about…income inequality… many seem to be trying hard to inform those who rank low of their low status. Their purpose seems to be to induce envy, to induce political action to increase redistribution. …They remind the poor that they could consider revolting, and remind everyone else that a revolt might happen. This strengthens an implicit threat of violence should redistribution be insufficient. …One might plausibly argue that those with much less access to sex suffer to a similar degree as those with low income, and might similarly hope to gain from organizing around this identity, to lobby for redistribution along this axis and to at least implicitly threaten violence if their demands are not met. …personally I’m not very attracted to non-insurance-based redistribution policies of any sort, though I do like to study what causes others to be so attracted.

Hanson’s column generated a lot of response.

Ross Douthat addressed the topic in a column for the New York Times.

…it brings me to the case of Robin Hanson, a George Mason economist, libertarian and noted brilliant weirdo. Commenting on the recent terrorist violence in Toronto, in which a self-identified “incel” — that is, involuntary celibate — man sought retribution against women and society for denying him the fornication he felt that he deserved, Hanson offered this provocation: If we are concerned about the just distribution of property and money, why do we assume that the desire for some sort of sexual redistribution is inherently ridiculous? …Hanson’s post made me immediately think of a recent essay in The London Review of Books by Amia Srinivasan, “Does Anyone Have the Right To Sex?” Srinivasan, an Oxford philosophy professor, covered similar ground (starting with an earlier “incel” killer) but expanded the argument well beyond the realm of male chauvinists to consider groups with whom The London Review’s left-leaning and feminist readers would have more natural sympathy — the overweight and disabled, minority groups treated as unattractive by the majority, trans women unable to find partners and other victims… Srinivasan ultimately answered her title question in the negative: “There is no entitlement to sex, and everyone is entitled to want what they want.” But her negative answer was a qualified one. …like other forms of neoliberal deregulation the sexual revolution created new winners and losers, new hierarchies to replace the old ones, privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.

Writing for Slate, Jordan Weissmann had a very sour reaction to Hanson’s column.

If you’ve ever heard of George Mason University economist Robin Hanson, there’s a good chance it was because he wrote something creepy. …Last week, Hanson was back at it again. In a post that left many readers agog, he decided to use a heinous incident of misogynistic violence as an opportunity to contemplate the concept of “redistributing” sex to men who have trouble getting laid. …His brief post is more or less a lame attempt to compare people who worry about income inequality with incels who worry about “sexual inequality,” and suggest that they’re maybe not so different. …Some people have read Hanson’s piece and concluded that he believes women should be forced to have sex with men who strike out on Tinder, like some sort of giant socialized harem. I don’t think that’s the case. The professor, again, leans libertarian and, as he clarified on Twitter, opposes all sorts of government redistribution, including in this case.

By the way, I can’t resist commenting on the absurdity of Weissmann stating that he doesn’t “think” that Hanson believes in coerced sex redistribution.

Of course he knows that Hanson is opposed to that route. But since Weissmann presumably believes in coerced income redistribution, he wants to lash out at Hanson for pointing out that there’s an unseemly link between the two ideas.

I’ll close by pointing out that attractiveness helps with income as well as sex. And Omar Al-Ubaydli of the Mercatus Center asks, in a column for the Washington Examiner, whether that justifies redistribution.

Do attractive workers get paid more than unattractive ones? Some labor economists think so, having clearly demonstrated the existence of the “beauty premium,” which shows attractive workers have higher wages and more job opportunities. So, should we look to implement a “ridiculously good looking” tax? …what truly leads to higher wages for our photogenic friends. Is it because our beautiful colleagues are more effective at their jobs? Or is it because we are biased toward them… If physical attractiveness brings about superior productivity…then the beauty premium is morally justifiable. Employers pay for productivity… But if, on the other hand, earnings differences can be attributed to bigoted oppression of those blessed with less beauty, then there may be moral grounds for some positive discrimination and equal-pay legislation.

But if there’s a tax on beauty, what about other natural traits, like athletic skill?

If I deserved a subsidy from Gisele Bundchen for being less beautiful, would I deserve one from Lionel Messi for being a less capable soccer player?

Or a tax on height?

If the idea of a beauty tax seems strange or unlikely, then you may be surprised to learn that several respected economists have argued in favor of a height tax, whereby tall people are forced to subsidize the short.

As a libertarian, this isn’t a difficult issue. Like Robin Hanson, I don’t believe in coerced redistribution, whether for sex or money.

I have zero sympathy for violent “incels”, but I also recognize that life can be very unfair for people who lost the aforementioned genetic lottery. This is not a problem with a solution, but it’s one of the reasons I support legalized prostitution.

P.S. The U.K. actually has decided that some people have a right to sex, though fortunately there’s no coercion (other than the threats needed to collect taxes).

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An essential part of a free market economy is the price system. The competitive pricing of goods and services transmits information to producers and consumers and creates incentives for the efficient allocation of resources. Just as the circulatory system or nervous system enables our bodies to function.

And when you weaken or cripple markets with various forms government intervention (price controls, taxes, third-party payer, etc), that leads to distortions that reduce prosperity.

This is why “paycheck fairness” proposals to address the supposed “gender pay gap” are so risky for prosperity. It’s no exaggeration to say that these “comparable worth” schemes are designed to empower bureaucrats and politicians to override market forces.

What makes all this especially frustrating is there is no systemic discrimination against females in the workplace.

One of the leading scholars in this field is Christina Hoff Summers of the American Enterprise Institute. She has dissected the data and demonstrated that there is no pay gap once factors such as occupational choice and work hours are added to the equation. And now she has a must-watch video on the subject from Prager University.

All of her data is very compelling, but the most persuasive part of the video is at the beginning when she asks why profit-seeking businesses don’t fire men and hire women if there really is a wage gap.

Statists might respond that businesses are part of some evil patriarchy and that there’s some sort of oligopolistic conspiracy to forego income in order to oppress females. But if that’s what they really think, why don’t these leftists start their own businesses and take advantage of the supposed pay gap? Not only would they earn large profits, but they would also bankrupt existing firms that ostensibly are engaging in discrimination.

Sounds like a win-win, right?

And if they respond by saying that they don’t happen to have business skills because they chose to study more enlightened topics while in school, then ask them why progressive companies from France or Sweden aren’t entering the American market and earning lots of business?

Or are they part of the patriarchal conspiracy as well? Like almost all theories based on conspiracies, this is nonsense.

Let’s close with some wisdom on this issue from one of my colleagues at the Cato Institute. Vanessa Brown Calder cites a considerable amount of data on occupational choice, but also focuses on quality-of-life and family issues.

…women are considerably more likely to absorb more care-taker responsibilities within their families, and these roles demand associated career trade-offs. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In describes 43% of highly-qualified women with children as leaving their careers or off-ramping for a period of time. And a recent Harvard Business Review report describes women as being more likely than men to make decisions “to accommodate family responsibilities, such as limiting (work-related) travel, choosing a more flexible job, slowing down the pace of one’s career, making a lateral move, leaving a job, or declining to work toward a promotion.” It’s fair to assume that such interruptions impact long-term wages substantially. In fact, when researchers try to control for these differences, the wage gap virtually disappears. …It’s likely that other, more nuanced but documented differences, like spending fewer hours on paid work per week would explain some of the remaining five percent pay differential.

The philoso-raptor agrees.

P.S. Given its track record of shoddy and biased output, is anyone surprised that the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is pushing dishonest gender pay data?

P.P.S. Even the Obama-era Council of Economic Advisers had enough integrity to disavow the feminist pay-gap numbers.

P.P.P.S. On an amusing note, here are some news reports about my interaction with the feminist left during my college years.

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A few years ago, I put together an amusing collection of stories comparing truly bizarre examples of political correctness and bureaucratic idiocy in the United States and United Kingdom.

I was especially impressed (in a you-must-be-joking fashion) that a British job placement office got in trouble for discrimination because they sought “reliable” and “hard-working” applicants. Sounds impossible to believe, but consider the fact that the EEOC bureaucracy in the U.S. went after a trucking company because it didn’t want to employ drunk drivers.

And I’ve shared jaw-dropping reports of anti-gun political correctness in American schools, as well as a proposal to ban skinny models in Britain.

Let’s expand on this collection of horror stories.

Reason reports that some bureaucrats in New York City think that it is sexual harassment for a professor to base grades in part on effort and classroom behavior.

A professor at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College was ordered to make changes to his syllabus because it amounted to sexual harassment. The professor, David Seidemann has refused to comply, and for good reason. …a university administrator expressed three grievances about the syllabus. First, and most quizzically, the grading portion of the syllabus suggests sexual harassment. It reads, “Class deportment, effort etc……. 10% (applied only to select students when appropriate).” …Seidemann told me in an email that his department chair said “the 10% section could be construed as a prelude to sexual harassment,” and had to be changed at once. This order apparently came from the Director of Diversity Investigations and Title IX Enforcement. In the course of Seidemann’s interactions with the director, he realized something quite stunning: there was no record of anyone actually complaining about the syllabus. The university had apparently launched this investigation on its own. …The professor refused to meet with the Director of Diversity Investigations, preferring to talk via email so that the conversation could be documented. This eventually caused the director to abandon the investigation: the matter is now officially closed, according to Seidemann. The professor is pleased with the result, but little else.

If you read the entire story, it appears that the bureaucrats decided that “effort” could be interpreted as an invitation for female students to trade sex for higher grades. At least I think that’s the implication.

In which case, there must have been rampant sexual harassment when I was young because our report cards in elementary school always included our teachers’ assessment of our “effort.” And all the way through college, I periodically had classes in which grades were based in part on “participation.”

I guess I was so young and naive that I didn’t realize my teachers and professors were inviting me to offer sex for grades (my grades often were low enough that it was probably best I didn’t run the risk of having them go even lower).

More seriously, I’m glad the professor stood up against the absurd accusations put forth by the diversity bureaucrats. I especially like that he insisted on having everything occur via email so he couldn’t be victimized by the selective memory of some pencil pushers who probably try to justify their comfortable sinecures by claiming an occasional scalp.

Bureaucrats in Knoxville, Tennessee, also seem to be amazingly skilled at seeing sexual harassment where it doesn’t exist.

The student, Keaton Wahlbon, had to take a geology quiz featuring the following question: “What is your lab instructor’s name? (if you don’t remember, make something good up).” Wahlbon followed the instructions: he didn’t remember, so wrote down the first generic girl name that came to mind—Sarah Jackson. Unbeknowst to Wahlbon, Sarah Jackson is a real person: a pornographic model. Of course, there are hundreds (thousands?) of other Sarah Jacksons in the world, and Wahlbon had no idea that his lab instructor would interpret his answer in such a specific and malicious manner. His answer was marked “inappropriate” and he received a grade of zero on the quiz. Wahlbon appealed to his professor, Bill Deane, but Deane maintained that Wahlbon had committed sexual harassment. Wahlbon contacted the head of department because, well, that’s nonsense. …no resolution has been reached yet. But according to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the university is now investigating the matter as if a complaint had been filed—even though no one has taken such an action.

Wow, this is surreal. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Wahlbon was thinking of the pornographic model when he wrote “Sarah Jackson” on the quiz. How is this sexual harassment? I don’t claim to be an expert on such matters, but I’m under the impression that harassment occurs when someone with power in a relationship makes some sort of sexual advance (or even tells a dirty joke). So how can a student harass a teacher? Or even a teacher’s lab instructor?

You can say that Wahlbon is guilty of displaying bad taste, but then we get to the issue of whether he actually meant the Sarah Jackson. If it was a more uncommon name (such as Jenna Jameson, the famous Republican-supporting porn star), then you could safely assume (though not legally prove) that he intended to make a boorish joke. But is the Sarah Jackson so famous that it’s safe to think that’s who Wahlbon had in mind? For what it’s worth, I never heard of that Sarah Jackson (though I once dated a girl with that name).

By the way, the British have similarly brainless people in their nation.

Though they express their political correctness in non-sexual ways (what a surprise), such as the principal who has banned running on the playground.

The headmaster of Hillfort Primary School in Liskeard, Dr Tim Cook, introduced the ban to prevent the little blighters injuring themselves. Instead, kids at Hillfort can blow off steam at playtime by playing with Lego, Jenga, and even dancing, as part of the school’s plan to reduce ‘negative behaviours’. Cook has responded by reassuring parents that their children are not completely prohibited from running – they are just not allowed to run across the playground. Have the nippers been given a small area to run around instead? Getting dizzier and dizzier as they charge about in circles? …Arguing that the ban is for safety reasons is pathetic. It’s running, not sword-swallowing. Grazed knees are part of growing up, and do not, or at least should not, result in lawsuits.

Fortunately, British parents seem a bit more sensible than their bureaucratic overlords. They’re petitioning to allow their kids to…gasp…do more than walk on the playground during recess.

There’s also lunacy in Australia. And since I’m a parent, I’m especially horrified about what happened to a father who wanted to protect his stepdaughter from sexting.

A man who found out that his 15-year-old stepdaughter was sexting her boyfriend proceeded to download the evidence to bring it to the school and the police to ask them to intervene. …Intervene they did. Now the dad has been convicted on child pornography charges and placed on the sex offender registry. This, despite the judge understanding exactly why the man, Ashan Ortell, 57, held onto the images. “There is no suggestion of any exploitation of them by anybody,” ruled Judge Jane Patrick, over in Australia, which is becoming as daffy as the United States. “You made no attempt to conceal the images. In fact, you were so concerned that you contacted the authorities about the images.”

If you read the entire story, I’m guessing that the cops went after the dad because he was badgering them for not doing anything about his stepdaughter. And I sympathize with the cops for choosing not to make a big deal out of two teenagers sexting, but did they really have to go after the guy for having the images when nobody thinks he had any unsavory intent or motives?

Keep in mind that this took place in the nation that awarded workers compensation to a woman who injured herself while having sex and also threatened fines against companies that pointed out the downside of a carbon tax.

All that being said, Australia is still my top choice for where to go if (when?) America suffers a Greek-style fiscal and economic collapse.

P.S. I’ve come across lots of crazy government decisions in my time, so I’m not surprised by today’s material. Though since I mentioned Greece, that government deserves some sort of prize for subsidizing pedophiles and demanding stool samples before letting entrepreneurs set up online companies.

And let’s not forget that European courts that have ruled that there’s an entitlement to free soccer broadcasts and a right to satellite TV. About as nutty as the Finnish court that ruled there’s a right to broadband access, and as crazy as the Bolivian decision that there’s a human right to receive stolen property.

P.P.S. In his speech to the 2008 Democratic Convention, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said “Government, as Barney Frank likes to say, is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

If that’s true, then the above examples show that we “choose” to do some really foolish things. In reality, as Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit reminds us, we don’t choose. That’s why this poster contains a much more accurate assessment of what really happens when government gets involved.

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I thought it was a remarkable development last year when a columnist from the New York Times reported that supposedly pro-feminist policies actually backfire against women.

Maybe this would help readers recognize that there are adverse unintended consequences of government intervention. Bastiat would be very happy!

Now we have a new example from the academic world. Two economists, one from the University of Virginia and the other from the University of Oregon, conducted a study of “ban the box” laws that restrict employers from figuring out whether job applicants have criminal records.

The purpose of these laws almost surely is noble. Everyone presumably would like to help ex-convicts mainstream back into society. Especially since many of them are minorities who may already face discrimination and other challenges (and maybe they were thrown in jail for silly reasons, such as draconian drug laws).

So it sounds very compassionate to impose these laws, right? Who could object to helping ex-cons get in the door for interviews, at which point they can hopefully show potential employers that they have value.

Well, the study shows that these laws hurt more than they help. Here are some passages from the abstract.

Jurisdictions across the United States have adopted “ban the box” (BTB) policies preventing employers from conducting criminal background checks until late in the job application process. Their goal is to improve employment outcomes for those with criminal records, with a secondary goal of reducing racial disparities in employment. However, removing information about job applicants’ criminal histories could lead employers who don’t want to hire ex-offenders to try to guess who the ex-offenders are, and avoid interviewing them. In particular, employers might avoid interviewing young, low-skilled, black and Hispanic men when criminal records are not observable. This would worsen employment outcomes for these already-disadvantaged groups. In this paper, we use variation in the details and timing of state and local BTB policies to test BTB’s effects on employment for various demographic groups. We find that BTB policies decrease the probability of being employed by 3.4 percentage points (5.1%) for young, low-skilled black men, and by 2.3 percentage points (2.9%) for young, low-skilled Hispanic men. These findings support the hypothesis that when an applicant’s criminal history is unavailable, employers statistically discriminate against demographic groups that are likely to have a criminal record.

The most relevant bit of info from the abstract is that these laws reduce employment for young black men and young Hispanic men with low skill levels (and don’t forget these are groups that already are disadvantaged thanks to minimum wage laws).

And if you dig into the study, you can learn more about what’s really happening.

Figure 2 shows a local linear graph of the residuals from equation 1, for young, low-skilled black men. Time is recentered so that 0 is the effective date of a jurisdiction’s BTB policy. …Based on the pre-BTB period, the identifying assumption that BTB and non-BTB jurisdictions would evolve similarly in the absence of BTB…looks reasonable: the two lines follow each other closely before the date-zero threshold. After that date, however, the lines quickly diverge, with employment outcomes worsening in BTB-adopting places and improving slightly elsewhere. …it appears that BTB dramatically hurt employment outcomes for this group.

And here’s the accompany chart from the study.

Here’s another section that I found fascinating.

The laws restricting criminal background checks lead to more discrimination all across the nation, but the least amount of additional discrimination against African-Americans is in the south.

Given differences in racial composition and labor markets across the country, we might expect BTB to have different effects in different places. …young, low-skilled white men are not affected by BTB anywhere. However, the employment probabilities of their black peers are significantly reduced in three regions: the Northeast (7.4%), the Midwest (7.5%), and the West (8.8%). The negative effect on black men is much smaller (2.3%) and not statistically significant in the South… These results suggest that the larger the black or Hispanic population, the less likely employers are to use race/ethnicity as a proxy for criminality.

For what it’s worth, I also wonder if the South, on a person-to-person basis, actually is less racist.

Here’s another interesting – albeit discouraging – bit of information from the study. When the economy is weak, these laws are even more damaging for minorities.

…at all unemployment rates the effect of BTB on white men is near-zero and statistically insignificant. …the effect on black men…is more negative when unemployment is high, but now the estimated total effects are relatively large and negative even at low unemployment. The negative total effect becomes statistically significant at 7% or 8% unemployment, and at 9% unemployment the total effect of BTB on black men is over 3.6 percentage points and statistically significant.

The most logical interpretation of these results it that there’s more discrimination when employers have a buyer’s market, meaning lots of potential job applicants for each position.

Here’s the most depressing bit of data from the study. The effects of these laws last a long time.

BTB’s effect on black men is large and grows over time. BTB reduces employment for black men by 2.7 percentage points (not statistically significant) during the first year, 5.1 percentage points (p < 0.01) during the second year, 4.1 percentage points (p < 0.10) during the third year, 8.4 percentage points (p < 0.01) during the fourth year, and an average of 7.7 percentage points (p < 0.05) during the fifth and later years. This suggests that BTB has a permanent effect on employment for black men.

And here’s the man-bites-dog conclusion. Blacks and other minorities are hurt by the laws, so guess which group benefits?

BTB has a positive effect on white men with no high school diploma. On average, white men in this group are 3.9 percentage points (5.6%) more likely to be employed after BTB than before.

That may be the perfect (in a bad way) example of government in action: Good intentions leading to bad results. Just like the War on Drugs. And the War on Poverty. And licensing laws. And antitrust laws. And…oh, never mind. You get the idea.

No wonder this is my favorite poster.

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Normally I’m very happy to work for the Cato Institute, both because it is a principled and effective organization.

But I wondered about my career choices last night because I was stuck with the very unpleasant task of live-tweeting the Democrat presidential debate. Cleaning out septic tanks would have been a more enjoyable way to spend my time.

Of all the crazy things that were discussed (you can see my contemporaneous reactions on my Twitter feed), the Clinton-Sanders-O’Malley support for so-called Paycheck Fairness legislation would be at the top of my list.

Yes, I was irked by the myopic fixation on income inequality, the support for class-warfare taxation, and the reflexive advocacy for more government spending, but messing around with the price system – because of an assertion that women are paid 77 cents for every $1 received by men – is an entirely different level of foolishness.

Here’s some of what I wrote in 2012, for instance, when discussing proposals to give politicians power over wage levels.

…what’s really at stake is whether we want resources to be allocated by market forces instead of political edicts. This should be a no-brainer. If we look at the failure of central planning in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, a fundamental problem was that government officials – even assuming intelligence and good intentions – did not have the knowledge needed to make decisions on prices. And in the absence of a functioning price system, resources get misallocated and growth suffers. So you can imagine the potential damage of giving politicians, bureaucrats, and courts the ability to act as central planners for the wage system.

In other words, higher taxes and more spending will dampen growth, and that’s no good, but pervasive intervention in the price system can screw up an entire economy. Indeed, I suspect only bad monetary policy is capable of inflicting a greater level of damage.

Moreover, the left’s theory is based on the assumption that greedy businesses and investors are deliberately sacrificing profits by choosing to pay men more when they could hire equally qualified women for less money.

To use a highly technical economic phrase, that’s friggin’ nuts.

Yet our leftist friends want to replace market-based compensation with coercion-based wages.

Consider, for instance, a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts about initiatives on the state level.

…the California Legislature…sent Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a “pay equity” bill… California isn’t alone in acting. …the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, North Dakota and Oregon have signed equal pay laws this year. New York legislators unanimously passed a bill that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he will sign. And Massachusetts has two bills pending. Equal pay bills also were introduced in 21 other states.

The article cited my unflattering remarks on the issue.

…some critics, such as Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, said that the new legislation would put a “catastrophic burden” on businesses. “The notion that there’s some widespread discrimination in the marketplace, there’s just no real-world evidence for it,” Mitchell said. “They’re trying to give the government widespread authority to make very abstract judgments about the value of a job in the private sector.”

And I’m not the only critic.

Here are some excerpts from a recent column in the Wall Street Journal by Sarah Ketterer.

When it comes to economically foolish laws, California is second to none. A good example is the California Fair Pay Act… Like its national counterpart, it is an aggressive attempt to eradicate a wage gap between men and women that is allegedly due to discrimination in the workplace. But this wage gap is illusory, and the legislation will have unintended consequences, including for women.

She’s right. Policy that is bad when implemented by a state can cause widespread damage if imposed nationally.

Ms. Ketterer elaborates on why the proposal is misguided.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that its analysis of wages by gender does “not control for many factors that can be significant in explaining earnings differences.” What factors? Start with hours worked. …Men are significantly more likely than women to work longer hours, according to the BLS. And if we compare only people who work 40 hours a week, BLS data show that women then earn on average 90 cents for every dollar earned by men. Career choice is another factor. …Of the 10 lowest-paying majors—such as “drama and theater arts” and “counseling psychology”—only one, “theology and religious vocations,” is majority male. Conversely, of the 10 highest-paying majors—including “mathematics and computer science” and “petroleum engineering”—only one, “pharmacy sciences and administration,” is majority female. Eight of the remaining nine are more than 70% male. Other factors that account for earnings differences include marriage and children, both of which cause many women to leave the workforce for years.

And here’s the amazing part.

One of Obama’s top economic advisers, to maintain her academic credibility, admitted that the 77 cents number is fraudulent.

It’s unclear whether Clinton-Sanders-O’Malley know (or even care) that the number is garbage.  But what is clear is that legislation based on this dishonest data could cause massive economic distortions.

Though, to be fair, Ms. Ketterer points out that trial lawyers will enjoy more business.

What California’s Fair Pay Act will do, however, is make the state, already notorious for regulation and red tape, a more difficult place to do business. Companies must now ensure that every penny of wage differential between the men and women they employ is attributable to bona-fide differences in education, training, experience, quantity or quality of work, and so on. …even attempting to do so will only add to companies’ already substantial regulatory-compliance budgets. Some of these factors—quality of work, for instance—are inevitably subjective, yet trial lawyers will swoop in to turn every conceivable pay difference into a lawsuit.

A bunch of lawsuits would actually be the least-worst outcome.

What scares me far more is pervasive controls on wages, which is what our leftist friends ultimately prefer.

P.S. You probably won’t be surprised, given their history of mendacity, to learn that the left-wing bureaucrats at the Paris-based OECD also are peddling dishonest numbers to advance this ideological agenda.

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I realize it’s tax week and I should be condemning our convoluted tax code and oppressive IRS.

But I can’t resist getting diverted to another topic. It’s time to debunk the notion that there is rampant sexism in the private economy that causes women to by systematically underpaid.

I addressed the issue back in 2010, citing the solid work of Christina Hoff Summers. And I cited more of her work, as well as some analysis by Steve Chapman, when writing about the topic in 2012. The bottom line is that rigorous analysis finds that the so-called gender gap largely disappears once you consider factors such as occupational choice, hours worked, and education.

I’ll add my two cents to the discussion. For decades, I’ve been dealing with leftists who repeatedly tell me that business owners are consumed by greed and put profit above everything. Yet if women truly were making less money than men for doing equal work, then why aren’t these greed-filled business owners firing all their male employees and hiring women who will work for 80 percent of what it costs to employ men? Or 85 percent? Or 90 percent?

When I pose this question, my statist friends begin to mumble and stumble, but the clever ones eventually asset that business owners are not only soulless profiteers but also malign sexists. And the sexism apparently trumps the greed because they’re willing to employ men when equally competent women would work for less.

At that point, I usually ask them why entrepreneurs (presumably women and perhaps financed by rich leftists) don’t take advantage of a huge competitive opportunity by setting up rival businesses that could hire women for less money and lure customers away from the greedy sexist firms by charging lower prices.

I still haven’t received an answer to that question.

And that may explain why even one of President Obama’s top economic advisers basically admitted that equal-pay propaganda from the left is completely bogus.

Let’s dig into the data. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute does a very good job of explaining why Equal Pay Day is based on nonsensical numbers.

…the bogus feminist holiday event known as Equal Pay Day…is a statistical fairy tale because it’s based on the false assumption that women get paid 23% less than men for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity, etc. …The reality is that you can only find a 23% gender pay gap by comparing raw, aggregate, unadjusted full-time median salaries, i.e. when you control for NOTHING that would help explain gender differences in salaries… Most economic studies that control for all of those variables conclude that gender discrimination accounts for only a very small fraction of gender pay differences, and may not even be a statistically significant factor at all. …As the Department of Labor concluded in 2009, “The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” They also concluded that “the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.”

By the way, all this data and research doesn’t mean sexism doesn’t exist. I’m sure it does, and it probably goes both ways.

I’m simply saying that unjustified discrimination in a competitive market economy is expensive. People who put prejudice above profits suffer. Which is why there’s so little actual evidence to support the feminist position.

Now let’s enjoy a bit of fun. It’s always amusing to expose statist hypocrisy.

The Obama White House claims to believe in so-called equal pay for equal work. But apparently that’s only a rule for us peasants.

And Hillary Clinton doubtlessly will regale us with speeches about equal pay over the next several months. Yet she didn’t practice what she preaches.

Yes, I realize we’re all shocked that politicians like Hillary prevaricate and dissemble.

P.S. Since this is tax season, I suppose I should close with a couple of relevant items.

First, we have an update to the infamous chart on the number of pages in the tax code.

Second, we have a new video from Reason TV about the “best tax code.”

Sadly, I don’t think my tax videos will ever be that entertaining.

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When describing their view of government and public policy, libertarians and constitutional conservatives sometimes use a variation of this phrase: “Not everything that’s illegal is immoral, and not everything that’s immoral should be illegal.”

To put this in tangible terms, consider the fact that the EPA has penalized people who build ponds on their own property. Yet the property owners obviously haven’t engaged in any behavior that’s wrong. Indeed, it would be far more accurate to accuse the bureaucrats of behaving immorally. And Walter Williams, among others, has argued that “decent people should not obey immoral laws.”

By contrast, there are many things that we should consider immoral, such as cheating on a significant other by patronizing a prostitute, but we would argue that it’s not a proper role for government to criminalize caddish actions or victimless behavior.

This distinction between immoral and illegal is appropriate as we consider the nationwide controversy about what’s happened in Indiana.

Joining the federal government and many other states, politicians in Indiana recently passed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that’s based on the notion that there should be some limits to government actions that hinder the free exercise of religion.

But “some limits” is not the same as “no limits.” These laws all allow government to interfere if there is a “compelling state interest.” To cite an obvious example, a crazy environmentalist couple couldn’t sacrifice their child to appease Gaia.

Since all this sounds very reasonable, why has the adoption of the Indiana law turned into a huge kerfuffle?

The answer is simple. The Hoosier statute has become a proxy for the fight over freedom of association, which also implies a right to engage in private discrimination.

Here’s some of what my colleague Roger Pilon wrote on the topic.

We find those principles in the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence…: freedom and equality. Rightly understood, they hold that we’re all born free, with equal rights to remain free. That means—to cut to the chase—that we may associate with anyone who wishes to associate with us; but we are equally free to decline to associate with others, for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all. That right to discriminate is the very essence of freedom.

He then points out that the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, errs in a Washington Post column by seeking to use coercion to criminalize private immorality.

Cook turns those principles on their head. He says religious freedom bills “rationalize injustice” by, for example, allowing a baker to decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He would compel the baker to accept that request, by force of law. That’s the very opposite of the freedom of association—the right to be left alone—that the nation was founded on. …I’m as offended as Cook is by that kind of discrimination. But I’m even more offended by the belief that we can force people to conform to our values when they’re asking simply to be left alone to enjoy their right to pursue their values. And precisely there is the source of Cook’s confusion, his conflation of rights and values, two very different moral notions.

Roger’s key point is that some types of discrimination are wrong, in some cases grossly immoral, but that doesn’t justify intervention by the state.

Which means a baker or florist who doesn’t want to cater a gay wedding should have the freedom to reject that business. That business owner may be doing something immoral and intolerant, just as a bigot who doesn’t want to do business with minorities is behaving reprehensibly, but people making their own decision with their own property shouldn’t be forced to adhere to other people’s values.

Writing for National Review, Deroy Murdock asks whether there are any limits to government coercion of private behavior.

The only identifiable victim of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act is the First Amendment’s Freedom of Association clause. Like Joan of Arc, it has been burned at the stake. …What if you are an atheist who really objects to gay marriage? Must you still bake cakes for gay weddings, or will pro-shariah Muslim bakers be the only ones who can walk into court and ask to be excused from doing so? …Do we respect the Junior League’s right to choose to remain a female-only group, as it has been since 1901, or must they now accept male members? … Do we respect a gay baker’s right to choose not to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church with icing that reads God Hates Fags? …Do we respect a black jazz band’s choice not to perform at a Ku Klux Klan chapter’s “Negro Minstrel Show”?

Deroy poses these questions, because there are big implications depending on how people answer.

…it is crucial to remember that behind each of these scenarios lies something deadly serious: a gun. Government equals force. Its ultimate authority stems from its ability to use coercion or blunt force to deprive lawbreakers of their freedom. …So, the real question in each of these cases is: Do you support the government’s use of coercive police power — up to and including fines, arrest by armed police officers, and imprisonment — because you reject a woman’s right to choose not to bake a cake for a gay couple?

Here’s his bottom line.

In the public sector, the government must administer equal justice under the law and treat all Americans equally. …The private sector, such as it is, is something different. Private individuals on private property should be free to associate with whom and without whom they wish. Just because someone runs a business or is part of a private group or organization does not mean that she surrenders her rights or becomes a mere appendage of government. At least that’s what the First Amendment says — such as it is. Freed of most restraints against government action and populated by citizens increasingly oblivious to this nation’s founding principles, America is slouching into tyranny. Little by little. Day by day. This is incredibly depressing. And to see gay people lead this charge into bondage may be the saddest sight of all.

What’s both ironic and confusing about this issue is that government generally has been the source of discrimination and oppression against disfavored groups.

For a long time, government criminalized gay relationships. Heck, such laws are still on the books in some places, though thankfully they’re no longer enforced (though the thugs in Iran and similar places obviously haven’t taken this step in societal evolution).

And don’t forget that the infamous Jim Crow laws were government-imposed mandates, as Nick Gillespie explains for Reason.

From a libertarian perspective, belief in the freedom of association generally trumps belief in anti-discrimination actions by the state. …it’s typically the state (whether at the local, state, or federal) that historically was doing most of the discriminating. Jim Crow was ushered in by the Supreme Court’s vile “separate but equal” decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld a Louisiana state law barring railroad companies from selling first-class tickets to black customers. When businesses in the segregated South attempted to treat customers equally (often a good business strategy), they were typically hemmed in by specific laws preventing such things or by de facto laws enforced through brute force by various “citizen’s councils” and terror groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (which often included politicians and law enforcement). It was government at all levels, not local businesses, that disenfranchised blacks for decades.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner addresses the issue, pointing out that the cultural left now wants to coerce the traditional right.

On one side is the CEO of the world’s largest company, the president of the United States and a growing chunk of the Fortune 500. On the other side is a solo wedding photographer in New Mexico, a 70-year-old grandma florist in Washington and a few bakers. One side wants the state to conscript the religious businesswomen and men into participating in ceremonies that violate their beliefs. The other side wants to make it possible for religious people to live their own lives according to their consciences. …an emboldened and litigious cultural Left, unsated by its recent culture war victories, [is] trying now to conscript the defeated soldiers at gunpoint. …Tolerance isn’t the goal. Religious conservatives must atone for their heretical views with acts of contrition: Bake me a cake, photograph my wedding, pay for my abortion and my contraception. In Georgia, a Catholic school employed a gay teacher. When he announced he was marrying a man, the school said this violated the expectations of public behavior they demand of their teachers. They fired him. Now the Obama administration is coming after the school.

All of this is very frustrating for principled libertarians.

There are many gay libertarians, but they don’t want to coerce others into baking cakes or taking photos. They just want to live freely without excessive government coercion.

And there also are many libertarians who are traditional Christians, but they have no desire to oppress other people or to obtain coerced approval. They just want to live freely without excessive government coercion.

Unfortunately, libertarians are the exception. There are lots of other people in the world who think they should be able to impose their values on others. Oh, well, I never claimed it was easy to be libertarian.

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Although I play basketball (poorly), I’m not a fan of the NBA. As such, I don’t pretend to have much interest in the Donald Sterling controversy.

Some people have wondered whether his rights to free speech are being infringed, but I disagree. He obviously has the right to say whatever he wants, even if he makes himself look like an idiot.

But the National Basketball Association is an organization that has certain rules, and it presumably has the right – by virtue of the contract among team owners – to impose disciplinary measures.

In other words, Sterling has free speech, but that doesn’t mean he is free from consequences if he says something dumb. Just as I have free speech at the Cato Institute, but also would suffer consequences if I said something offensive about a particular group (or, for that matter, if I started supporting tax hikes, bigger government, and statism).

And that’s a good thing. As a libertarian, I don’t want the government policing speech, but there’s nothing wrong with private sector penalties on racists.

And that’s the topic of today’s column. The free market is a powerful and under-appreciated tool for punishing racism and rewarding color-blind behavior.

Here’s some of what Walter Williams wrote on the topic for the Washington Examiner. wew2010He starts by pointing out that Sterling certainly wasn’t racist when making decisions about what basketball players to employ.

Though Sterling might be a racist, there’s an important “so what?” Does he act in ways commonly attributed to racists? Let’s look at his employment policy. This season, Sterling paid his top three players salaries totaling over $46 million. His 20-person roster payroll totaled over $73 million. Here are a couple of questions for you: What race are the players whom racist Sterling paid the highest salaries? What race dominated the 20-man roster? The fact of business is that Sterling’s highest-paid players are black, and 85 percent of Clippers players are black.

Walter draws the obvious conclusions, and he cites the path-breaking research of the late Gary Becker on the economics of discrimination.

How does one explain this? …Let’s use a bit of simple economics… First, professional basketball is featured by considerable market competition. …There’s open competition in joining both high-school and college teams. You just sign up for tryouts in high school and get noticed by college scouts. Then there’s considerable competition among the NBA teams in the acquisition of the best college players. Minorities and less preferred people always do better when there are open markets instead of regulated markets. Recently deceased Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker pointed this phenomenon out some years ago in his path-breaking study “The Economics of Discrimination.” Many people think that it takes government to eliminate racial discrimination, but economic theory predicts the opposite. Market competition imposes inescapable profit penalties on for-profit enterprises when they make employment decisions on any basis other than worker productivity.

In other words, the free market pushes people to make decisions on the basis of ability rather than race.

The takeaway from the Sterling affair is that we should mount not a moral crusade but an economic liberty crusade. In other words, eliminate union restrictions, wage controls, occupational and business licensure, and other anti-free market restrictions. Make opportunity depend on one’s productivity.

And as you can imagine, Walter speaks with authority on these issues. And he’s right that the free market is a weapon against racism.

By contrast, when government gets involved with race issues, you often get nonsensical results, such as EEOC penalties against companies trying to weed out criminals, or legal harassment of financial institutions for trying to make sensible loans.

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I’ve already suggested that subsidies for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are the most wasteful and counterproductive item in the federal budget. At least on a per-dollar-spent basis.

But what about a similar exercise for government red tape?

How would we come up with the worst regulation or the most counterproductive regulatory agency?

Thanks to the IRS, I have a strong candidate for the worst regulation, but if I had to pick the worst agency, I’d probably choose the horribly mis-named Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

These bureaucrats are infamous for bone-headed initiatives, such as:

The EEOC making it hard for trucking companies to weed out drunk drivers.

The EEOC telling a coffee shop it had too many attractive waitresses.

The EEOC forcing companies to make special accommodations for “pee-shy” employees.

The EEOC trying to give special employment rights to crooks.

We now have another item for the list.

The bureaucrats apparently like forcing companies to hire people who are more likely to rip off customers, though sometimes they find judges that aren’t nearly so tolerant.

Let’s see what the Wall Street Journal had to say about the “hilariously caustic rebuke of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The EEOC had sued Kaplan, the for-profit education company, for using “the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses,” as Judge Raymond Kethledge cheekily put it in the first sentence of his ruling in EEOC v. Kaplan. Despite its own practices, the Obama EEOC has made a cause of suing private companies because it claims that credit and criminal background checks discriminate against minorities.

But so-called disparate impact doesn’t mean discrimination.

Judge Kethledge eviscerated the EEOC like a first-day law student, writing that Kaplan had good reason to conduct credit checks… As for proving disparate racial impact, Judge Kethledge noted that “the credit-check process is racially blind; the [credit-check] vendor does not report the applicant’s race with her other information.” …The unanimous opinion was joined by Damon Keith, one of the most liberal judges on the entire federal bench. If government officials were accountable, EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez would be fired for losing in such humiliating fashion.

But that’s just one crazy case.

The Wall Street Journal also opined about another strange example of EEOC quackery. The bureaucrats actually believe that stealing should be a protected disability.

Or, to be more technical, that stealing should be an acceptable behavior because of a supposed disability.

In September 2008, Walgreens employee Josefina Hernandez claims she had a hypoglycemia attack, grabbed a bag of potato chips off a shelf and ate them to boost her blood sugar. The drug-store company has a strict policy against “grazing” (i.e., stealing) and so a supervisor fired Ms. Hernandez, an 18-year veteran of the company. Three years later, the EEOC sued Walgreens for discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act and asked for punitive damages. …The ADA requires employees to request an accommodation for a medical condition, which Mrs. Hernandez never did. Nor does federal law sanction illegal activity—i.e., theft—under cover of a disability, as the Supreme Court made clear in 2003’s Raytheon v. Hernandez.

A green light for thievery from the EEOC

Seems like this should be an open-and-shut case. Which raises the interesting question of why the EEOC decided that the federal government should intervene on behalf of potato chip thievery.

So why pursue such a case in the first place? The EEOC’s lawyers probably figured they had nothing to lose. If they landed a sympathetic judge, they could set a new legal precedent. If they lost, taxpayers would pay for the case anyway. And sure enough, U.S. District Judge William Orrick, an Obama appointee, ruled against the store’s motion for summary judgment last week. The question now is whether Walgreens will continue to fight for the right to fire employees who steal from company shelves, or simply settle to get the EEOC’s lawyers to go away.

I hope all companies fight meddling and stupidity by the federal government.

I do understand that sometimes it makes sense to acquiesce to extortion, at least in the short run. The long-run costs of surrender, though, are very high.

Which is why companies should fight, but they should get support from Capitol Hill. The EEOC budget should be slashed to show that there are consequences to bureaucratic insanity.

P.S. I shared some political humor last year about a make-believe Obama Administration initiative called the “Americans with no Abilities Act.”

Anybody want to guess when that becomes official EEOC policy?

I’m only partially joking. It’s sort of happened already in the United Kingdom.

P.P.S. Don’t forget that EEOC regulation is just one straw of red tape on the camel’s back.

Americans spend 8.8 billion hours every year filling out government forms.

The economy-wide cost of regulation is now $1.75 trillion.

For every bureaucrat at a regulatory agency, 100 jobs are destroyed in the economy’s productive sector.

The Obama Administration added $236 billion of red tapein 2012.

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If you had to pick the most inane, pointless, and intrusive example of government stupidity, what would you pick?

We have lots of examples of regulators running amok.

But we also have really absurd examples of wasteful spending.

We even have examples of government stupidity that can be characterized as a combination of wasteful spending and foolish regulation, such as one part of the government squandering money on research about how to encourage condom use by providing prophylactics of different sizes while another part of the government has regulations preventing the private sector from providing prophylactics of different sizes.

Today’s post, however, could win a prize for the most profound and disturbing example of government stupidity. It mixes foolish red tape with over-the-top political correctness.

Here are some jaw-dropping details of the federal government running amok in Michigan.

A set of seating is being torn down outside the Plymouth Wildcats varsity boys’ baseball field, not long before the season begins, because the fields for boys’ and girls’ athletics must be equal. A group of parents raised money for a raised seating deck by the field, as it was hard to see the games through a chain-link fence. The parents even did the installation themselves, and also paid for a new scoreboard. But, after someone complained to the U.S Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, an investigated by the department determined the new addition was no longer equal to the girls’ softball field next door, which has old bleachers and an old scoreboard.

This is utterly absurd for several reasons, most notably that the federal government shouldn’t have any role in education, much less efforts to micro-manage high school sports facilities.

But even if one accepts that Washington bureaucrats should interfere in such matters, it’s important to understand that it is bureaucratic lunacy to interpret “Title IX requirements to offer equal athletic opportunities to both boys and girls” to somehow mean equal seating.

Sexist bleachers?!?

What happens if there are fewer people who want to watch female sports? Should there be a requirement to build bleachers that are mostly empty?

Or maybe we can blend Obamacare to Title IX and create a mandate that parents and others in the community have to attend female sporting events 50 percent of the time?

Actually, I shouldn’t even joke about such an idea, lest some bureaucrat think it’s a serious proposal.

P.S. The Keynesians will be happy. They like it when wealth and/or capital is destroyed since that supposedly forces “stimulative” rebuilding exercises.

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President Obama and many other leftist politicians are running around the nation claiming that supposedly greedy employers are deliberately choosing to reduce their profits.

They’re not actually making that specific claim, but that’s what they’re asserting, for all intents and purposes, when they claim that women are not getting equal pay for equal work.

Inaccurate, but nonetheless clever

If genuine and pervasive sexism existed, then non-discriminatory employers could dramatically reduce labor costs – and therefore dramatically increase profits – by getting rid of overpaid male workers and hiring women. Does anyone really think entrepreneurs and business owners are willing to sacrifice big profits simply because of anti-women animus?

That’s what Obama would like us to believe. And he wants the government to have the power to second-guess the decisions of private businesses. Heck, he probably would like to make America like Europe, where there are efforts to impose gender quotas.

And one of his chief economists tried to back up the President’s claims. Here’s some of what Ashe Schow wrote on the issue for the Washington Examiner.

While detailing executive actions President Obama plans to take Tuesday regarding equal pay for women, Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said very defiantly that…women… continue to make less than men. …“They’re stuck at 77 cents on the dollar, and that gender wage gap is seen very persistently across the income distribution, within occupations, across occupations, and we see it when men and women are working side by side doing identical work.” That sounds awfully specific. Stevenson certainly sounds like she’s saying men and women doing the exact same job are earning very different pay.

Ms. Stevenson certainly was trying to be a loyal employee.

But then something very unusual happened. A journalist actually asked a real question.

And Ms. Stevenson, who obviously didn’t want to make herself a laughingstock to her colleagues in the economics profession, was forced to admit that the President is peddling nonsense.

…as soon as Stevenson was actually questioned about the statistic by McClatchy reporter Lindsay Wise, the White House adviser crumbled, admitting her earlier comments were inaccurate. “If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,” Stevenson said. “So let me just apologize and say that I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that.” …Don’t expect Obama to admit any of this as he travels around the country continuing to claim that women don’t earn as much as men.

So why did Ms. Stevenson quickly back down? Well, perhaps she is familiar with the work of Christina Hoff Sommers, who has explained that men and women do get equal pay when you adjust for career choices, labor supply, and other factors.

There’s lots of evidence that the supposed sexist pay gap is a political weapon rather than economic reality.

Mary Perry and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute just wrote a very thorough debunking of the pay gap myth for the Wall Street Journal. Here are some of the key passages, starting with an explanation that the pay gap largely disappears when you make apples-to-apples comparisons.

…the numbers bandied about to make the claim of widespread discrimination are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical. …Men were almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week. Once that is taken into consideration, the pay gap begins to shrink. Women who worked a 40-hour week earned 88% of male earnings. Then there is the issue of marriage and children. The BLS reports that single women who have never married earned 96% of men’s earnings in 2012.

Wow. No wonder Steve Chapman wrote that the left’s pay-gap rhetoric is “a myth resting on a deception.”

But there’s more.

Risk is another factor. Nearly all the most dangerous occupations, such as loggers or iron workers, are majority male and 92% of work-related deaths in 2012 were to men. Dangerous jobs tend to pay higher salaries to attract workers. Also: Males are more likely to pursue occupations where compensation is risky from year to year, such as law and finance. Research shows that average pay in such jobs is higher to compensate for that risk.

Finally, Perry and Biggs seal the argument by pointing out that discrimination doesn’t make sense in a competitive market.

…gender-disparity claims are also economically illogical. If women were paid 77 cents on the dollar, a profit-oriented firm could dramatically cut labor costs by replacing male employees with females. Progressives assume that businesses nickel-and-dime suppliers, customers, consultants, anyone with whom they come into contact—yet ignore a great opportunity to reduce wages costs by 23%. They don’t ignore the opportunity because it doesn’t exist.

By the way, this does not mean that discrimination doesn’t exist.

I’m sure there are still some employers who let sex or race play a role in their decisions. But such people are not only immoral, but also stupid. They are giving up potential profits to indulge their own insecurities.

And other employers will take advantage of their foolishness.

In other words, the free market is the best way to fight discrimination, not government intervention.

P.S. Walter Williams explains that racial and sexual profiling sometimes makes sense.

P.P.S. I explain that anti-discrimination laws can boomerang against intended beneficiaries.

P.P.P.S. There is real evidence that tall people and attractive people are paid more, though I nonetheless argue that government is incapable of addressing this issue.

P.P.P.P.S. For those who are genuinely worried about discrimination, particularly against minorities, the real issues to address are Social Security and government schools.

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I recently wrote about the pinheads at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who are threatening legal action against companies that are leery about hiring people with criminal records.

Now some states and cities are making it illegal to discriminate against those that have been unemployed for a long period of time.

Unlike special legal status for ex-cons, this sounds reasonable. After all, we all would like to help the long-term unemployed break free of the chains of government dependency.

But sometimes good intentions generate undesirable effects. I explain in this Fox Business News debate that companies will do their best to avoid even interviewing the long-term unemployed if they have to worry about potential legal pitfalls whenever they make a hiring decision.

I also explain that businesses have no incentive to engage in unjustified discrimination. After all, that would imply a willingness to deliberately sacrifice profit in pursuit of some irrational bias.

But as Walter Williams has succinctly argued, some forms of discrimination make sense.

And if there are two applicants who otherwise seem to have equal qualifications for a certain job, but one has been out of work for more than 12 months, it’s only logical that the employer will think that a lengthy stint of sitting on a couch does not suggest great habits.

Which is why Obama’s policy of never-ending unemployment benefits is so misguided. People get lured into long-term unemployment and there is both anecdotal evidence (check out these stories from Michigan and Ohio) and empirical evidence (here, here, and here) showing this unfortunate impact.

Heck, even Paul Krugman and Larry Summers have admitted that you get more unemployment when you subsidize joblessness.

Ramirez Unemployment CartoonSo you won’t be surprised to know that I’ve dispensed some tough love on this topic as well.

P.S. This cartoon does a very effective job of showing the consequences of paying people not to work.

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As an economist with a boring personality (sorry to be redundant), I sometimes focus on numbers. And when contemplating the cost of regulation and red tape, there are some numbers that should frighten all of us.

But normal people are probably more likely to understand the cost of red tape when you share specific examples of absurd regulation.

Hooters GirlsAnd apparently that’s why we have an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC bureaucracy has become famous for ridiculous examples of red tape. It first became famous many years ago when it went after Hooters for hiring attractive young women instead of fat old men to serve as waitresses (and now the bureaucrats are going after a business in Rhode Island for the same reason).

In more recent years, the pinheads at the EEOC have harassed a trucking company for the supposed crime of discriminating against alcoholics and pushed multi-billion dollar regulations to accommodate “pee-shy” employees.

Now the clowns from the EEOC have jumped to the aid of a new “protected class.” Who are these unfortunate and mistreated people that the bureaucrats want to defend?

Get ready to pick your jaw off the floor. Jim Bovard has a column in the Wall Street Journal that seems like satire from The Onion.

Should it be a federal crime for businesses to refuse to hire ex-convicts? Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently released 20,000 convoluted words of regulatory “guidance” to direct businesses to hire more felons and other ex-offenders.

I’m sure employment lawyers are delighted at the thought of all the billable hours that will be required to peruse 20,000 words of bureaucratese, but what on earth is the EEOC thinking?

Well, it seems the bureaucrats have a long track record of seeking to “protect” the criminals amongst us.

…the EEOC began stretching Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue businesses for practically any hiring practice that adversely affected minorities. In 1989, the agency sued Carolina Freight Carrier Corp. of Hollywood, Fla., for refusing to hire as a truck driver a Hispanic man who had multiple arrests and had served 18 months in prison for larceny. The EEOC argued that the only legitimate qualification for the job was the ability to operate a tractor trailer. U.S. District Judge Jose Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., in ruling against the agency, said: “EEOC’s position that minorities should be held to lower standards is an insult to millions of honest Hispanics. Obviously a rule refusing honest employment to convicted applicants is going to have a disparate impact upon thieves.”

But even though the bureaucrats were slapped down by the courts, the EEOC continues to harass companies that seek to hire honest workers who aren’t a threat to the general public.

…the EEOC guidance frowns on such checks and creates new legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits. …If a background check discloses a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a company to do an intricate “individualized assessment” that will somehow prove that it has a “business necessity” not to hire the ex-offender (or that his offense disqualifies him for a specific job). …It is difficult to overstate the EEOC’s zealotry on this issue. The agency is demanding that one of Mr. Livingston’s clients—the Freeman Companies, a convention and corporate events planner—pay compensation to rejected job applicants who lied about their criminal records.

To understand the stupidity and venality of government, re-read the last sentence of that excerpt. The EEOC actually wants a business to give money to applicants who were rejected because they lied about their criminal records.

I’m at a loss for words.

Actually, just joking. I have a lot more words to write, particularly when I see that the bureaucrats at the EEOC also launched a legal attack against a firm that understandably didn’t want to hire crooks for sensitive jobs such as guarding nuclear power plants.

…businesses complying with state or local laws that require employee background checks can still be targeted for EEOC lawsuits. This is a key issue in a case the EEOC commenced in 2010 against G4S Secure Solutions after the company refused to hire a twice-convicted Pennsylvania thief as a security guard. G4S provides guards for nuclear power plants, chemical plants, government buildings and other sensitive sites, and it is prohibited by state law from hiring people with felony convictions as security officers. …The EEOC’s new regime leaves businesses in a Catch-22. As Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association recently warned: “State and federal courts will allow potentially devastating tort lawsuits against businesses that hire felons who commit crimes at the workplace or in customers’ homes. Yet the EEOC is threatening to launch lawsuits if they do not hire those same felons.”

Oh, by the way, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the EEOC refuses to say whether it conducts background checks on its own employees. Remember, the ruling class shouldn’t have to worry about all the laws imposed on you and me and the rest of the peasants.

…the EEOC is practically rewriting the law to add “criminal offender” to the list of protected groups under civil-rights statutes, [but] the agency refuses to disclose whether it uses criminal background checks for its own hiring. When EEOC Assistant Legal Counsel Carol Miaskoff was challenged on this point in a recent federal case in Maryland, the agency insisted that revealing its hiring policies would violate the “governmental deliberative process privilege.”

What’s particularly tragic about this farce is that it will almost certainly hurt the minorities that the EEOC supposedly is trying to help.

…studies published in the University of Chicago Legal Forum and the Journal of Law and Economics have found that businesses are much less likely to hire minority applicants when background checks are banned. As the majority of black and Hispanic job applicants have clean legal records, the new EEOC mandate may harm the very groups it purports to help.

Remarkable…and typical.

And if you want a few more examples of government stupidity:

Simply stated, government is a disaster waiting to happen – just as shown in this satirical poster.

P.S. If you didn’t get suicidally depressed after reading this post, Jim Bovard has a column about the Department of Housing and Urban Development that is equally mind-boggling.

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I don’t like discrimination by the government.

I’m even against government-sponsored discrimination when I’m the beneficiary.

It bothers me, for instance, that the Transportation Security Administration has special lines for people – like me – who have some sort of elite frequent-flyer status with one or more airlines.

I have no problem with United Airlines treating me well. I give them lots of money because they’re my main airline, so it’s good business practice for them to reward me with special treatment regarding boarding, seat assignments, and upgrades.

But the Transportation Security Administration has only one responsibility (don’t laugh), and that’s to make sure people don’t bring dangerous items on airplanes.

So why should I get VIP treatment from a government agency just because I fly a lot?

That might be justifiable if I paid extra, sort of like drivers who pay more to ride in H-O-T lanes.

It might be justifiable if I participated in some sort of pre-screening process that enabled me to bypass some or all of TSA’s pointless security apparatus – assuming, though, that the pre-screening process was open to everybody.

And maybe there are other examples where special treatment might be warranted, such as payments from the airlines to cover the costs of the VIP lanes.

But buying a first class ticket or being a frequent flyer should not be sufficient to get someone favoritism from the government.

P.S. This post does not imply I approve of the TSA’s performance. Indeed, I’ve commented on the TSA’s incompetence in previous posts. I’ve also shared some horror stories about TSA abuse. And I’ve posted many jokes about the Keystone Cops of airport security (for more laughs, see thisthisthis, and this).

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Europe is in shambles. Nations are going bankrupt. There are riots in the streets. So you would guess that the folks at the European Commission are focused on some big issues.

But you would be wrong.

The eurocrats in Brussels have much bigger fish to fry. They’re addressing the unmitigated horror of inadequate female representation in corporate boardrooms and contemplating continent-wide quotas.

I’m not kidding. Here are some excerpts from the New York Times report.

Frustrated that her previous efforts to get more women into the top echelons of European business have not yielded stronger results, Viviane Reding, the senior justice official in the European Union, was to announce a new effort Monday that could result in legislation requiring that women occupy up to 60 percent of the seats on corporate boards. …E.U.-wide rules were now needed, she said. “Personally, I don’t like quotas,” Ms. Reding said. “But I like what the quotas do. Quotas open the way to equality and they break through the glass ceiling.” Countries that have quotas “bring the results,” she said. Ms. Reding has long campaigned for major changes in European boardrooms and had given industry “a last chance” to improve its record on placing women in top management.

Isn’t that nice. She doesn’t like quotas, but she has no choice because she gave industry a “last chance” to engage in gender bean counting and they didn’t comply.

I wonder if it’s ever occurred to this über-bureaucrat that it’s not her job to tell private companies who to hire, fire, or promote?

"Nice business you have, shame if anything happened to it"

As an aside, the New York Times manages to demonstrate its bias by directly implying that “genuine equality” only exists if boardrooms have equal numbers of men and women.

Having now concluded that self-regulation has failed, Ms. Reding has set her sights on legislation that could, if enacted, drastically speed up a revolution in the position of women in the workplace that began many decades ago but has so far failed to deliver genuine equality in many areas of business.

Has it ever occurred to the reporter that “genuine equality” exists when everyone has an equal chance and government doesn’t put a thumb on the scale? But regardless of what he thinks, doesn’t good journalism mean keeping his opinions to himself?

Maybe I’m just too old fashioned.

Let’s return to the meat of the story and the actions of Ms. Reding. In this passage, I like how she blames “society” because companies didn’t kow-tow to her voluntary suggestions.

In the announcement to be made Monday, Ms. Reding will call for a new round of consultations with governments, trade unions, companies and civil groups. The move comes a year after she called on companies to take voluntary steps to increase the representation of women on boards to 30 percent by 2015 and to 40 percent by 2020, by replacing departing male directors. …Ms. Reding said that the severe economic downturn in Europe that has pressured companies to focus on their bottom lines was not responsible for the failure of her voluntary initiative. “It is really a question of society,” she said.

The story continues with discussion of the onerous plans being concocted by Ms. über-bureaucrat.

Ms. Reding said that the consultations, beginning Monday and ending on May 28, would determine the proportion of women that should be on boards under any E.U.-wide legislation; whether quotas should apply to state-owned companies as well as publicly listed ones; whether both executive and nonexecutive boards should be covered by the rules; and what sanctions should apply to companies that do not meet the objectives, and if there are circumstances where exceptions are necessary.

Unfortunately, the private sector in Europe has the same cringing approach as their counterparts in the United States. Instead of boldly saying that corporate boards are a private matter for shareholders to decide, representatives from big companies accept the intrusion and merely complain about implementation.

…the European Round Table of Industrialists, a forum for the chairmen and chief executives of major multinational companies, has warned that big divergences among sectors and national traditions meant any measures should remain voluntary. “Societal changes take time,” said Carlo Bozotti, the chief executive of STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor company, and the head of a group at the Round Table looking at the issue. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for industrial companies from multiple sectors, of various structures, and from diverse cultural backgrounds,” he said.

The article concludes with an assertion that “gender-diverse” boardrooms lead to better economic performance. That may very well be true, but it suggests that shareholders are deliberately sacrificing income and wealth in order to retain something akin to an old boys’ network. That seems rather implausible, to say the least.

There is plentiful evidence from business consulting firms including McKinsey & Co., and from Catalyst, a nonprofit research group, that companies with gender-diverse management teams experience higher growth in their share prices, better-than-average operating profits, and outperform their rivals in terms of sales, return on investment capital and return on equity, according to the report. That research showed that women asked more questions and made fewer reckless decisions, proving that “women are not a cost, women are a benefit,” Ms. Reding said.

I want to close with a semi-optimistic note. As crazy as it is for Ms. Reding to try to dictate the number of men and women in corporate boardrooms, at least she’s not complaining about discrimination based on looks or height and trying to get government involved in those areas. At least, not yet.

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While the case for minimal government is very strong, that doesn’t mean that there are easy answers for every question. For instance, we know that markets will – over time – penalize people who discriminate. A merchant or employer who deliberately shuns women, blacks, or some other group of people is being economically irrational and is going to incur higher costs and lose out compared to competitors.

But that doesn’t mean discrimination won’t exist, and that’s a challenge for libertarians. For all intents and purposes, a belief in private property and an aversion to government intervention leads to the conclusion that racists, sexists, and other unpleasant people have the right to be jackasses.

But that offends us as moral people, which is why libertarians have been wrestling with this quandary for decades, trying to figure out how to be against discrimination without giving government powers that inevitably will be abused.

I was reminded about these issues while reading about discrimination against unattractive people. Simply stated, life is better if you were lucky enough to be born with good looks, and life is not so much fun if you got the genetic short straw. And the discrimination goes well beyond who you can date. Here are some key segments of the article in New York magazine.

… attractive people make more money than unattractive people. A lot more money, in fact: $230,000 over the course of a lifetime, which holds true even in professions where looks wouldn’t seem to matter. Hamermesh found that fetching professors, for example, earn 6 percent more than their average-looking peers, while unattractive quarterbacks earn 12 percent less than their hunkier counterparts. Men, in fact, suffer the greater repulsiveness penalty in general: Unattractive women earn 3 percent less than average-looking women, while unattractive men’s take-home is reduced a whopping 22 percent. …Knowing the extent to which people are economically penalized (or rewarded) for their looks raises the question: Should the ill-favored be protected? And if so, how? Hamermesh, in the Über-cautious fashion of an economist, predicts that the most unsightly people will eventually receive the same kinds of legal protection extended to Americans with disabilities. Putting such statutes in place would require agreeing on a universal scale of attractiveness, and then having eligible people step forward to claim their protections. The financial incentive is obvious; the social and psychological costs, murkier. Would you be willing to petition the U.S. government for official recognition of your ugliness? Would you do it for $230,000?

I’m rather surprised, by the way, that ugly men suffer significantly harsher consequences than ugly women, but that’s just an aside. The real issue is whether this discrimination is real and whether it justifies government intervention.

I’ve actually written about this issue before, including a link to other research showing that tall people have an economic advantage over short people. So I don’t doubt that “lookism” exists. Heck, I try to engage in such discrimination in my personal life and I keep my fingers crossed that women won’t be similarly shallow.

But does that mean we should have some sort of government bureaucracy with the power to sue, fine, arrest, or otherwise harass based on whether people claim they didn’t get promotions because of their appearance?

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Walter Williams has pointed out on many occasions that many government programs and initiatives exist primarily for the benefit of the bureaucracy, and he coined the phrase “poverty pimps” to describe the folks who get comfortable government jobs to operate programs that don’t help – and often hurt – disadvantaged populations.

We may need a new term, “diversity pimps,” to describe the people who get plush appointments to oversee the array of government-imposed racial and sexual preferences. Heather McDonald has a story at the City Journal that exposes how this absurd scam is undermining college education in California.

Even as UC campuses jettison entire degree programs and lose faculty to competing universities, one fiefdom has remained virtually sacrosanct: the diversity machine. Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

But what’s really remarkable is how this new office will be just one of many that exist to provide jobs for the diversity pimps.

This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Not surprisingly, since resources are finite, all this fluff is causing collateral damage.

UC San Diego is adding diversity fat even as it snuffs out substantive academic programs. In March, the Academic Senate decided that the school would no longer offer a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering… At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. …This week, in light of a possible cut of $650 million in state financing, the University of California’s regents will likely raise tuition rates to $12,192. Though tuition at UC will remain a bargain compared with what you would pay at private colleges, the regents won’t be meeting their responsibility to California’s taxpayers if they pass over in silence the useless diversity infrastructure that sucks money away from the university’s real function: teaching students about the world outside their own limited selves. California’s budget crisis could have had a silver lining if it had resulted in the dismantling of that infrastructure—but the power of the diversity complex makes such an outcome unthinkable.

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Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute goes to town on the selective, discriminatory, and politically motivated dispensation of Obamacare waivers. I particularly like how he zings the left by asking why, if Obamacare is so wonderful, so many millions of people trying to escape the President’s new scheme. But the more important message in his article is how arbitrary application undermines the rule of law.

1,372 businesses, state and local governments, labor unions and insurers, covering 3,095,593 individuals or families,…have been granted a waiver from Obamacare by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. All of which raises another question: If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it? More specifically, why are more than half of those 3,095,593 in plans run by labor unions, which were among Obamacare’s biggest political supporters? Union members are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers. Just in April, Sebelius granted 38 waivers to restaurants, nightclubs, spas and hotels in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco congressional district. Pelosi’s office said she had nothing to do with it. On its website HHS pledges that the waiver process will be transparent. But it doesn’t list those whose requests for waivers have been denied. …One basic principle of the rule of law is that laws apply to everybody. If the sign says “No Parking,” you’re not supposed to park there even if you’re a pal of the alderman. Another principle of the rule of law is that government can’t make up new rules to help its cronies and hurt its adversaries except through due process, such as getting a legislature to pass a new law. …Punishing enemies and rewarding friends — politics Chicago style — seems to be the unifying principle that helps explain the Obamacare waivers, the NLRB action against Boeing and the IRS’ gift-tax assault on 501(c)(4) donors. They look like examples of crony capitalism, bailout favoritism and gangster government. One thing they don’t look like is the rule of law.

A few months ago, I had a post about cronyism and corruption crippling Argentina. Sadly, the same thing is now happening to America.

My contention is that this is the inevitable result of giving more power to Washington. And this gives me an excuse to reuse my video showing the link between big government and corruption.

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With his usual bluntness, Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University explains why profiling is not always a sign of racism or sexism. And it certainly doesn’t necessarily indicate animus. His column explains that rational profiling can lead to injustice for law-abiding young black men, but he hits the nail on the head by stating that any resulting anger should be directed at young black male criminals who make other people (of all colors) more likely to profile. The same could be said about young Muslim men who object to extra attention at airports. For the 99 percent-plus that just want to peaceably travel, it must be very irritating to deal with suspicion. But they should be angry at the radical Islamists who have created legitimate apprehension. I don’t know if there are any policy lessons, but Walter’s column (as always) is worth reading.

Prostate cancer is nearly twice as common among black men as white men. It would…be a best practice for a physician to be attentive to — even risk false positive PSAs — prostate cancer among his black patients. What about physicians who order routine mammograms for their 40-year and older female patients but not their male patients? …Because of a correlation between race, sex and disease, the physician is using a cheap-to-observe characteristic, such as race or sex, as an estimate for a more costly-to-observe characteristic, the presence of a disease. The physician is practicing both race and sex profiling. Does that make the physician a racist or sexist? Should he be brought up on charges of racial discrimination because he’s guessing that his black patients are more likely to suffer from prostate cancer? Should sex discrimination or malpractice suits be brought against physicians who prescribe routine mammograms for their female patients but not their male patients? …Is an individual’s race or sex useful for guessing about other unseen characteristics? Suppose gambling becomes legal for an Olympic event such as the 100-meter sprint. I wouldn’t place a bet on an Asian or white runner. Why? Blacks who trace their ancestry to West Africa, including black Americans, hold more than 95 percent of the top times in sprinting. That’s not to say an Asian or white can never win but I know the correlations and I’m playing the odds. If women were permitted to be in the sprint event with men, I’d still put my money on a black male. Does that make me a sexist as well as a racist? …Ten years ago, a black D.C. commissioner warned cabbies, most of whom are black, against picking up dangerous-looking passengers. She described dangerous-looking as a “young black guy … with shirttail hanging down longer than his coat, baggy pants, unlaced tennis shoes.” She also warned cabbies to stay away from low-income black neighborhoods. Cabbies themselves have developed other profiling criteria. There is no sense of justice or decency that a law-abiding black person should suffer the indignity being passed up. At the same time, a taxicab driver has a right to earn a living without being robbed, assaulted and possibly murdered. One of the methods to avoid victimization is to refuse to pick up certain passengers in certain neighborhoods or passengers thought to be destined for certain neighborhoods. Again, a black person is justifiably angered when refused service but that anger should be directed toward the criminals who prey on cabbies. Not every choice based on race represents racism and if you think so, you risk misidentifying and confusing human behavior. The Rev. Jesse Jackson once said, “There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

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