Earlier this year I read Christopher Caldwells very striking book The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. Caldwell argued that the reforms of the 1960s, which seemed necessary and humane at the time to correct obvious injustices, had serious negative consequences, leading eventually to many of the issues that so divide and anger us today. A powerful and brilliant essay by political scientist Richard Hanania has just followed up on this insight.
Caldwell instanced the SCOTUS ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971). A core issue in the case, though not the only one: Could that North Carolina power plant give aptitude tests for purposes of hiring and promotion, given that blacks failed these tests at much higher rates than whites? The Supremes, with Chief Justice Burger (needless to say, a Nixon appointee) writing the majority opinion, ruled unanimously that they couldnt.
The Griggs decision made clear that the government was now authorized to act against racism even if there was no evidence of any racist intent. This was an opening to arbitrary power. And once arbitrary power is conferred, it matters little what it was conferred for.
The Griggs case duly features in Hananias essay:
An important watershed was the decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971), in which the Supreme Court ruled that intelligence tests, because they were not shown to be directly related to job performance, could not be used in hiring since blacks scored lower on them, and it did not matter whether there was any intent to discriminate. People act as if standardized tests are racist if they show disparities is some kind of new idea, but its basically been the law in the United States for 50 years, albeit inconsistently enforced.
Woke Institutions is Just Civil Rights Law: Why Conservatives Wont (and Cant) Fight for Influence, and What to Do About It.
Follow-up to Why is Everything Liberal? and 2016: The Turning Point, by Richard Hanania, Substack.com, June 1, 2021
Hananias essay is my Opinion Column of the Month, if not the year. He traces what we now call Wokeness back to the good intentions and resulting laws of the 1960smost obviously the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
That act was meant to combat intentional discrimination; but as the Griggs decision showed, the goalposts were easily shifted to cover any kind of unequal outcome, what todays Wokesters call inequity. Intent need not necessarily have anything to do with it. That, as Christopher Caldwell wrote, was an opening to arbitrary power. It meant Affirmative Action a.k.a. anti-white quotas.
The genius of Hananias essay is that it tracks the progress of that arbitrary power through first the courts, then government bureaucracies, all the way into the private sector.
The target of the enforcers hereof the judges, the regulatory bureaucrats, and the law firms hovering over private companies looking for noncomplianceis Disparate Impact: evidence that some one group, or a representative member of it, is at a disadvantage relative to another in some situation.
No proof of intent is required, only inequity, unequal outcomes.
Nor is the scope of the inequity limited to race. It was from the beginning understood to apply also to sex, so that women were a Designated Victim Group along with blacks.
Then sexual orientation was folded in; and more recently, transsexualism.
As the judges, the bureaucrats, and the law firms gathered more and more of that arbitrary power that Caldwell warned against, the concept of a hostile work environment came up, with lethal consequences for freedom of speech. If just one person in a workplace takes exception to something a coworker says, theres a big fat lawsuit right there.
If Richard Hananias essay is my is my Opinion Column of the Month, then my Chart of the Month is one reproduced in the essay that he has borrowed from a book titled Inventing Equal Opportunity by Harvard sociologist Frank Dobbin.
The chart concerns Personnel Managementthe dread Human Resources [HR] departments, how they grew through the last half of the 20th century (and how they tipped strongly female):
Click for Full Text!