Multiracial hands grip each other
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Government’s role in promoting tyranny and racism

Glenn Loury’s testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee earlier this month offers an interesting take on government efforts to fight disadvantages for black Americans.

First, two statements of principle:

(a) Persistent black disadvantage is an American tragedy—a national, not merely communal, disgrace.

(b) Wherever inequality is a problem, we should address it forthrightly. But we should do so on behalf of a program of human decency, not of racial equity. …

… Here is my final conclusion, after many years of studying this issue: The dogged pursuit of equal results between racial groups across all venues of human endeavor is a formula for tyranny and more racism.

For those who emphasize identity, groups are fundamental building blocks of society. Groups matter—their culture and heritage, the music they listen to, the food they eat, the books they read, the stories they tell their children. All these things matter, and they all vary significantly across groups.

On the other hand, group-egalitarians claim that, absent injustice, we should have equal representation of groups in every human enterprise. But how can that be? If groups matter, some people are going to bounce a basketball 100,000 times a month and other people are going to bounce it 10,000 times a month. If groups matter, their members will not do the same things, believe the same things, think the same things, or act and react in the same ways. Groups have their own integrity, expressing themselves in how they live their lives, raise their children, and spend their time. This will inevitably result in a different presence of groups across various human activities. They will not have similar occupational or professional profiles. They will not be present in the same proportions as members of the National Academy of Sciences, as tenured faculty members, as tech entrepreneurs, hedge-fund managers, small shopkeepers, single parents, or petty criminals.

It follows that respecting groups’ integrity while demanding group equality is simply a contradiction. Attempting to impose equality despite that contradiction will only lead to disappointment, tyranny, and more racism.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...