The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The 1/32 Cherokee Elizabeth Warren

It is interesting that Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat trying to win back Edward Kennedy's old senate seat from Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, apparently got her Harvard Law School professorship because she was part-American Indian. (The politically correct term is “Native American,” but I will not use that term: anyone born in this country, including myself, is a native American, and so that's a misuse of the English language.) As Michael Barone puts it:

When she was hired, Harvard Law had just denied tenure to a woman teacher and was being criticized for not having enough minorities and females on its faculty.

Of course, Harvard and Warren say her claim to minority status had nothing to do with her being hired. And if it did, no one is going to say so. Nothing to see here; just move on.

And it is funny, up until her hiring, Warren had listed herself in various directories as minority, but more recently she has not. well, it's true that she has some claim of American Indian ancestry:

a researcher at the New England Historic Genealogical Society found that in a transcript of an 1894 marriage application, Warren's great-great-great-grandmother listed herself as Cherokee… That makes Warren one-thirty-second Native American.

Of course, is that enough to make someone a “minority”? More to the point, should that tenuous a claim to minority status convey a preference in hiring? Apparently, Rutgers Newark Law School, where Elizabeth Warren got her law degree, is considered such a low-status school that Harvard Law would normally not hire a person with Warren's background as a faculty member. (I don't mean to put down Rutgers in general: I taught there, though not at the Newark campus, in the 1970s. I'm talking specifically about its law school.) Would a male applicant without racial minority status have been hired by Harvard Law if he had Warren's educational background? I suspect not. Barone's comments are justified:

…the Warren story illustrates the rottenness of our system of racial quotas and preferences. Although the people in charge of administering them deny this, just about everyone with eyes to see knows that you're more likely to be hired and promoted if you have checked one of the non-Asian minority boxes: black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander.


People who classify themselves as approved minorities get into schools and get jobs that they wouldn't if they classified themselves as white. Not surprisingly, some people, perhaps including Warren, game this system.

The original justification was that this would overcome the disadvantages that American blacks endured during decades of slavery and segregation. That made sense to many people at the time. Those disadvantages were real, and most Americans wanted to be fair.

But the extension of minority status to other groups and the perpetuation of racial preferences for nearly half a century since the abolition of legal segregation mean that there is increasingly little correlation between membership in the favored categories and genuine disadvantage.

A note worth pondering.

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