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June 11, 2006


Mike Huben

"Affirmative action means that an employer takes race or sex into account in hiring decisions."

No: that definition fits outright discrimination as well. A proper description is here.

"a private employer will balance any benefits against the costs"

Benefits and costs to himself only, by the sort of simplistic theory which ignores game-theoretic strategy. Discrimination was never economically efficient.

"Governments can and do impose it without regard to the costs it might impose."

OK: cite some costs. Explain how they're higher than the costs of discrimination.

"Government-mandated affirmative action tends to be one size fits all, imposing the same rules on large and small firms, on different parts of the country, on different industries, and so on."

Not according to the description I linked to.

"And private affirmative action addresses these differentials to some degree, without the polarizing effects."

Considering your definition includes the most blatant discrimination, I'd say that it does have polarizing effects.


Miron writes: "Affirmative action means that an employer takes race or sex into account in hiring decisions."

Huben claims "No: ..." (Ellipsis replaces irrelevant material. Whatever else JM's words might also describe in addition to A.A. doesn't say anything about whether or not those words actually describe A.A.)

From the site Huben links to: "Their goal -- that is, the percentage of minorities and women they are seeking to hire..."

Huben, do you read the stuff you link to?

Either A.A. means the employer takes race or sex into account when hiring, or it doesn't. How one earth could any employer actively seek to hire minorities and women and simultaneously not take sex and race into account?

Mike Huben

Well, James, it's about time you learned something about probability.

Assume for a moment that I'm hiring, and I flip a coin for each applicant. I'm bigoted about heads, and so I reject applicants who turn up heads.

Now assume I'm not bigoted. Without even looking at the flip results, I'll get 50% heads and 50% tails (for large enough sample sizes.)

I don't have to take the flip results into account. I may want to, if I suspect that the coin is biased, or to measure if my people doing the hiring are bigoted.



I suspect your analogy fails on the grounds that according to that link you posted, A.A. involves seeking to do something. You didn't specify a goal to be sought in your analogy. We could discuss the merits of your analogy but I suspect any such discussion will be less than useful, so here's an idea: Answer the question I originally put to you.

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