Via Ilkka, a post at L'Hote defending affirmative action:
[I]t's the same thing that Ward Connerly and other affirmative action foes want. A truly open and free and fair society, with neither preference or discrimination for those outside the norm. A high school, a culture, where difference really doesn't matter.
But life, I'm afraid, is not that simple. These old ways of discrimination have a way of outliving anyone who would openly endorse them. And the stark question remains: what if denying this preference really does ensure that these people will have no opportunity to excel at all? Affirmative action foes want to keep the conversation centered purely on principle. But what about the consequences? What if ending widespread affirmative action means that black college attendance rates become extremely low-- as evidence from the California public education system seems to suggest they might? Can't even the most hardened anti-AA warrior concede that there are practical public disadvantages to having college attendance-- and effectively, participation in the American middle class -- be drawn along racial lines? I know that many would say quite openly that they don't care if any black people at all go to college, as long as the selection is based on equitable and fair criteria. For myself, I think the existence of a permanent black underclass has been a major detriment to a just and secure American society, and I can't imagine a way in which ending affirmative action-- without some concurrent effort to ameliorate black poverty and joblessness-- could have a positive effect on that reality.
Freddie skips over a lot of detail here:
How much, and at what costs? Contra Freddie, a color-blind society would not exclude blacks from the middle class. It might focus them into fields in which they enjoy competitive advantages (marketing and sales) over those in which they do not (genome sequencing), but which still allow them to make middle-class money. It might also place them in schools (Cal State) where they stand a good chance of actually graduating with a degree in a substantive field, as opposed to schools (U.C.) where the odds are against completing any but the most worthless programs (i.e. "Black Studies").
But let's stipulate that, given the I.Q. distributions, and assuming that U.C. imposes an appropriate I.Q. cut-off (115, let's say), that the black share of seats in the U.C. system falls to 3.6%.* Even if we further stipulate that a U.C. seat automatically assures higher earnings than a Cal State seat, this scenario isn't exactly the exclusion of blacks from the middle class.
But what share is Freddie proposing? It's population quota of 13%? That is a non-trivial cost, not only in opportunity denied to whites (and Asians), but also in reduced performance, productivity, and competitiveness as the same affirmative action at U.C. percolates through the entire professional world.
Freddie may honestly think we can bear this cost; he should be given the chance to prove it. But having admitted the principle of racial quotas, does he honestly think we will limit them to blacks? Indeed, Hispanics are already standing in line to receive their "share" of the affirmative action pie, and if the census projections are to be believed, the beneficiaries of this pie will exceed 50% of the population in about 30 years. Let Freddie prove that cost to be non-trivial.
What is the distribution of costs and benefits? Affirmative action didn't keep Chelsea Clinton out of Columbia. On the contrary, affirmative action comes at the expense of the most vulnerable
whites members of the non-preferred races, those whose backgrounds do not include the money or connections that buy entrance to the Ivy League. Their talent and hard work are all they have. In contrast, affirmative action accrues to the benefit of the most well-placed blacks: Berkeley's quota would have done well at Riverside; Riverside's quota would have made it at Long Beach, etc. Contra Freddie, affirmative action does nothing for the black underclass.
Are the benefits real? Let's remove the stipulation of my first point. In the real world, the Berkeley admissions quota does NOT go on to graduate. We know from controlled studies that there is an optimum pace at which a student assimilates new material; exceed that pace, and the student doesn't learn more, he learns less. If the body of knowledge is cumulative, this puts quotas at a crippling disadvantage. And let's not pretend that "it is better to have tried and failed"; again, in the real world, the college drop-out is not only out the wages and work-experience that he missed while in college, but he's now encumbered with non-dischargeable education debt.
Whither the Law? Freddie is counting on some omnibenevolent entity that will approve of discrimination he likes, while squelching discrimination he doesn't like. But that is not what the Civil Rights Act summons forth. What it actually requires is NO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION in education and hiring! Never mind that this was not and is not the goal of the majority of Civil Rights activists; it was the goal that America actually bought. That Freddie wants to change that goal is certainly his right, but he must change the law.
Repeal the Civil Rights Act, Freddie! Allow firms and colleges to hire and admit by their own lights, whatever they are, and remove this intrusive federal oversight into private and state-level concerns. And sell it to the public.
Alternatively, let the law reflect your true intentions. Specify that it is okay to discriminate against whites (and Asians) in favor of blacks (and Hispanics) at Berkeley, but NOT okay to do the reverse at BJU.** Sell that to the public.
But your omnibenevolent entity doing that from which legislation shrinks is tyrannical, and in any case, the Supreme Court has signalled an end to its patience with willful violations of the law as written. So pick a course. But your time is running out.
*To the uninitiated, here is how I arrived at 3.6%: The mean black IQ is 85. the mean non-black IQ is 100 (it's probably lower given the increasing Hispanic share of the population, but let's assume worst case). The standard deviation of IQ for all races is 15 and the distributions are normal. Find a table of Z-scores on the internet, and discover that the percentage of blacks with an IQ over 115 is about 4% (with rounding), while the share of non-blacks with over-115 IQs is 16%.
Now we assume that the black share of the population is 13% (with rounding); ergo, the non-black share is 87%. Let's define our probabilities thus:
P(B) = Probability of being black = .13.
P(N) = Probability of being non-black = .87.
P(S|B) = Probability of being smart (IQ > 115) given being black = .04.
P(S|N) = Probability of being smart given being non-black = .16.
We can now apply the law of total probability and Bayes' Theorem to calculate the non-quota black fraction of U.C. admitees:
P(S) = Probability of being smart = P(S|B)P(B) + P(S|N)P(N) = (.13)(.04) + (.87)(.16) = .14.
P(B|S) = Probability of being black given being smart = P(S|B)P(B)/P(S) = (.13)(.04)/.14 = .036 = 3.6%.
**Yes, I know: Bob Jones University has abolished its racially discriminatory regulations. But you get my point.
UPDATE: In the comments, Bobvis links to a study showing that, indeed, the primary victims of affirmative action are Asians. I have corrected my above implication to the contrary.