Blogs > Liberty and Power > Gonzales in a Dress (Miers and Racial Preferences)

Oct 6, 2005 10:32 am

Gonzales in a Dress (Miers and Racial Preferences)

According to David Frum (admittedly not my favorite source), Miers has suspect views on racial preferences. This is not surprising given Bush's appointment of Alberto Gonzales who pushed, energetically, and successfully, for the wrong side in the infamous University of Michigan preferences case.

If true, will this rile conservatives enough to actually sink the Miers nomination? I doubt it. Conservative movers and shakers have so closely tied themselves to Bush because of the Iraq war that there is probably no turning back. I suspect that they will rally around him in his hour of need (as they always have).

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David T. Beito - 10/13/2005

I agree that conservatives will not turn against Miers on this issue. Few conservatives cared about Gonzales' support for aa last year when he became AG.

Speaking for myself, I regard (and I suspect Connerly does to) the expression "color blind society" as a canard.

Such a goal would be utopian in any context, at least
as long as human beings walk the earth. For me, the question is this: should we have a color-blind constitution? This is what Harlan argued for in 1896 and his position is still the right one.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 10/12/2005

Depending on how the issue is framed, most Republicans are mildly in favor of continuing affirmative action when it comes to school admissions, though opposed when the question is turned to quotas for hiring. (Of course non-black students are strenuously opposed to preferences at schools. These are not questions like lower taxes, however, which 90% of the GOP favor. Ward Connerly has a very tough job gaining a majority for his colorblind society. George W. Bush and his AG have sided with the result in the U. of Michigan cases, i.e., they think "giving it another 25 years," as did with Sandra Day O'Connor, is about right. The president, apparently, has made the calculation that his Supreme Court nominees must be anti-abortion, but need have no other targets so hot. The number of conservatives who turn against Miers (and Bush) because of affirmative action will not be large--especially publicly. However, it will only take about 10 or 12 conservative Senators to join with about 40 Democrats to defeat Miers. Specter and Chafee might flip, too. I expect the Democrats will be united in response to their abortion lobby, except for a few facing reelection battles.

Anthony Gregory - 10/7/2005

No, it wouldn't make sense.

David T. Beito - 10/7/2005

Government spending money on such matters is wrong per se but would it make sense for it spend more money the students who get lower grades and score lower on admission?

Anthony Gregory - 10/6/2005

Well, it's just that the whole idea of the government spending more on the students who get better grades and do better on admissions tests (in the form of paying their college tuition) is not particularly "fair."

David T. Beito - 10/6/2005

Most schools only give preference to out of state residents because they can charge these students more. This makes some sense from the simple standpoint of economics. It also makes sense to charge out of state folks (who don't pay the taxes) a higher rate.

Basing admissions policy on the category of simple skin color, or perhaps the "one drop rule?" however, strikes me as having no remotely logical basis. It does not even make sense from the standpoint of promoting "diversity." Middle class blacks from the North, for example, probably have more in common with Middle Class whites in the North than they do with rural blacks in Alabama or in the projects or, for that matter, Africa. Skin color is a very poor guide to anything (income, merit, common interests, etc).

Basing univeristy admissions policy on skin color strikes me as no less illogical than having the police respond to calls on the same basis.

Now, Anthony, has a point too. I agree that we need to abolish public education. That doesn't mean, however, is that we should throw all concepts of fairness and merit out the window in the meantime. I don't see that there is anything "elitist" about that.

Anthony Gregory - 10/6/2005

Well, Mr. Long has made very good points here. To the extent that government-funded schooling can be done more or less fairly, I would agree with him that grading is different from admissions. But I would go so far as to say that forcing people to fund a system that grades people on the basis of merit is not necessarily less unjust that forcing them to pay for a system that grades people on another basis. There are limits to this purist way of looking at it. But I think that any defense of the traditional grading system in government schools runs the risk of defending a tax-funded elitism.

Anthony Gregory - 10/6/2005

I must agree with Mr. Long's basic point. According to libertarian principle, it is just as wrong for teachers to grade students on the basis of their skills as it is for them to grade them on any other basis. State-funded meritocracy is no more intrinsically libertarian than state-funded egalitarianism, or state-funded discrimination. Different uses of stolen money might offend our sense of justice more or less, but, so long as the money is not being used itself to fund more coercion -- such as for locking up or bombing innocents -- it is hard for me to see a libertarian case for one type of government spending over another.

So while it is "wrong for a [government] faculty member to grade students on the basis of race and gender" it is also wrong for a government faculty member to grade people at all. If we're just talking about the concept of discrimination per se, then Mr. Long's other point sticks: "Ideally they wouldn't be tax-funded at all and then such colleges could freely do whatever they like."

Stephan Kinsella has also argued on decentralist grounds that the feds shouldn't overturn state affirmative action. But that's opening up a whole different issue.

Roderick T. Long - 10/6/2005

Here's why they don't seem analogous to me:

a) There's (presumably?) nothing wrong with a state university's giving preference to state residents over out-of-state students when it comes to admissions. But there would certainly be something wrong with grading students differently depending on whether they were state residents or not.

b) There's (surely) nothing wrong with a private university admitting students depending on their ability to pay. But again there would certainly be something wrong with grading students differently depending on their ability to pay.

Those two examples encourage me in my beleif that the proper standards for admission and the proper standards for grading have very little to do with each other.

David T. Beito - 10/6/2005


Do you think it is wrong for a faculty member to grade students on the basis of race and gender? To me, the same principle is involved.

Roderick T. Long - 10/6/2005

> Alberto Gonzales who pushed,
> energetically, and successfully,
> for the wrong side in the
> infamous University of Michigan
> preferences case.

What was the right side? I mean, from a libertarian standpoint what is specially wrong with preferential treatment for minorities in tax-funded colleges?

Ideally they wouldn't be tax-funded at all and then such colleges could freely do whatever they like; but as long as they are tax-funded why is that way of spending the money more objectionable than anything else?

One might say that so long as these institutions are tax-funded they should at least represent all taxpayers equally and so not give preference to some groups over others. But then why isn't it objectionable to choose students with greater academic achievement over students with less? Why should C students who can't get into State U. be forced to pay taxes to support the education of A students?