Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy Initiative is distinctive for the quality of argumentation it has inspired on both sides of the issue. Jared Taylor's VDARE.COM response to my endorsement of RPI is a notable contribution to the anti-RPI case.
Mr. Taylor hopes that if the government keeps on publishing statistics documenting racial inequality, politicians will eventually publicly conclude that the cause of inequality is not discrimination, but is instead more fundamental differences among the races.
Perhaps. But this hasn't happened yet, and I'm not terribly sure it will ever happen.
Mr. Taylor and I aren't far apart on some things. He writes, "The solution is to abolish all anti-discrimination laws. Retain them, if at all, in the monopoly public sector." In 1996 I wrote a major article, "How Jackie Robinson Desegregated America," making the similar argument that we'd be better off letting the competitive marketplace punish discrimination, but that quotas might be justified in anti-competitive government and union sectors. (A year or two earlier, Richard Epstein and Dinesh D'Souza had both published books reaching this conclusion.)
I sat back and waited for the groundswell of enlightened public opinion that would inevitably follow my elucidation of the subject.
I'm still waiting.
I think it's safe to say now that even though the main cause of racial quotas is anti-discrimination laws, we aren't going to repeal the sainted 1964 Civil Rights Act in this decade or the next. In contrast, the Racial Privacy Initiative has a chance to pass next spring in California. It's currently leading 48-33 in the latest Field Poll. That's only a fair-to-middling level of support for an initiative this early in the campaign, before all those who make money off quotas start their ad campaigns. But I have to believe it's still a lot better than you'd find for repealing the Civil Rights Act.
The RPI isn't a panacea. But there aren't any silver bullets for solving the problems caused by racial inequality. The RPI is one way to throw a wrench into the gears of government racial preferences, so it's worth trying out in the state government of California. (It would not affect the much larger data collection operations of the federal government, so the direct impact of the RPI would be as more of a test case than as a major revolution in government affairs.)
I'm a California statistics addict, so the RPI would inconvenience me. Still, I'm impressed with the analogy that Ward Connerly draws to the ban on the Census Bureau collecting religious statistics.
The Bureau was planning to add checkboxes for religious affiliation to the 1960 Census, but Jewish organizations protested. Congress eventually wrote this ban into law, and most state governments follow it too.
Consider the impact. We have official statistics documenting to the decimal place the racial makeup of the freshman class at the University of Michigan. Fueled by this data, a great controversy has erupted over it, with scores of organizations filing friend of the court briefs demanding that the number of non-Asian minorities be maintained.
In contrast, there are no official statistics on the religious makeup of the University of Michigan freshman class. Data exist - Arthur Hu has collected a lot of it here - and it shows about what you'd expect. Just as average SAT scores differ by race, so there are also big differences by religion. Unitarians, Quakers, Jews, and Hindus, for example, score higher on average than Baptists or Muslims. Not surprisingly, therefore, the members of some religions, such as Judaism, are much more likely than others to be admitted to the University of Michigan.
But guess what? Without government data on the subject, nobody cares.
The college is free to admit individuals who have demonstrated the greatest potential for academic achievement … without regard for their religion.
As a supporter of individualism, meritocracy, and not wasting the taxpayer's money, I think this is a good thing.
Jared Taylor comments:
Steve Sailer and I agree in opposing the present regimen of racial preferences. Therefore, the first question to ask about the Racial Privacy Initiative is: Will it make it easier or harder for California institutions to practice racial preferences?
I believe it will make it easier. Any employer or university that wants to achieve what is now fashionably known as a "critical mass" of non-Asian minorities will not be the least bit inconvenienced if California suddenly stops providing precise racial statistics for every institution and jurisdiction in the state. On the contrary, institutions that wish to discriminate will be able to do so more blatantly than before because the evidence of their discrimination will be easier to hide.
If the state stops counting noses, we may never know how many underqualified non-Asian minorities have been admitted to California universities.
That is why Mr. Sailer's analogy to religion supports my view and not his. He argues that gentiles do not raise a stink about the large Jewish presence at elite universities because there are no statistics on their overrepresentation. (In fact, gentiles would be greatly inhibited about raising a stink about Jews no matter how much information was available.) [VDARE .COM NOTE: just look what happened to Pat Buchanan when he merely cited Ron Unz's November 16 1998 Wall Street Journal article reporting that "between a quarter and a third of Harvard students identify themselves as Jewish, while Jews also represent just 2% to 3% of the overall population"!] But is that not the very outcome the RPI would bring about - an overrepresentation of underqualified minorities, but one that was difficult to attack because it could not easily be quantified?
It is precisely the kind of information the RPI would deny us that flushes discrimination and overrepresentation out into the open.
The RPI would therefore make it easier to do the very thing it is designed to prevent.
Entirely aside from its effect on racial preferences, the other question we must ask about the RPI is whether there are other uses for the data that would no longer be collected. The answer is a resounding "yes." More information is almost always better than less information.
Racial differences in crime rates, for example, are extremely valuable, not only for people considering a move or choosing a school, but also for anyone who really wants to understand the controversy over "racial profiling."
A society less hysterical than ours would take group differences in crime rates into consideration in setting such policies as immigration and integration. By denying ourselves basic information, we wrap vital social questions in a deliberate and unnecessary fog.
Mr. Sailer himself will miss those very interesting and useful statistics.
Whether its sponsors see it this way or not, the RPI is part of an insidious campaign to promote a myth that is even more preposterous than the myth of racial equality in ability: the myth that race does not even exist.
Mr. Sailer shares my alarm at current attempts to deny biology. But the RPI will make it easier to deny biology.
By concealing the real, quantifiable social effects of race and ethnicity, the passage of RPI would merely make it easier for obscurantists to pretend that race and ethnicity are "social constructs."