12 November 2008

Against Diversity

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 10, 2008

The left often asserts that diversity is good for the U.S. The notion that diversity is good for the U.S. is an empirical claim and there is surprisingly little evidence for it. This is disturbing given that few slogans are more repeated in politics than “diversity is our strength” and given that schools and businesses spend large amounts of money and regularly sacrifice merit to promote diversity.

The argument against diversity is that when we look at ethnic, racial, and religious diversity, we find that it does not correlate with wealth, happiness, peace, or other indicators of human flourishing. As a result, even if diversity generates benefits, it is unclear whether they outweigh its costs.

Internationally, some of the richest countries have less diversity than their competitors. Examples of countries with less diversity include (in parentheses is their ranking in terms of per capita income): Norway (2), Ireland (4), Denmark (5), and Sweden (7). The same is true of two of the four richest Asian Countries: Japan (20) and South Korea (28). In more subjective terms, less diverse countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, and Norway have very happy people compared to the rest of the world (they are the 3rd, 5th, 9th, and 12th happiest respectively). This is measured in terms of life satisfaction, although genetic factors might explain a large part of the data. In terms of wealth and happiness, the U.S. has high numbers (10th in income and 11th in happiness). So while diversity does not appear to be necessary for wealth or happiness, it is not incompatible with it. My guess is that the U.S.’s wealth is probably due in large part to its free market.

Internationally, racial and ethnic diversity is a major source of violence. Jared Taylor, editor of the highly controversial American Renaissance, notes that a study by the United Nations found that between 1989 and 1992, there were 82 conflicts that had resulted in at least 1,000 deaths. Of these conflicts 96% (79) were ethnic or religious conflicts that took place within the borders of recognized states and only 3 were cross-border conflicts. Another researcher, Tatu Vanhanen of Finland, found a strong positive correlation between ethnic diversity and conflict. Intergroup violence in places like Yugoslavia and Iraq quickly spiraled out of control once the heavy hand that kept violence contained was lifted.

In the United States, diversity appears to have troubling results. For example, in 2007 Harvard professor Robert Putnam found that as racial diversity increase, levels of happiness decrease as does trust both within members of the same ethnic group and between members of different ones. Also, with the increase in diversity, people increasingly withdraw from community life. In short, Putnam found that as diversity increases people have less friends, less trust, and are less altruistic. When it comes to universities, the effects of diversity are also not obviously good. For example, a 2003 study by Stanley Rothman and fellow researchers found that there was an inverse relationship between the number of minorities on campus and how favorably students viewed their education.

Politically, the different races are worlds apart. In last week’s Presidential election, the Washington Post reported that 95% of blacks voted for Sen. Obama. The 95% support is not explained by political preference because plenty of blacks have economic and social views that are closer those of John McCain. For example, a majority of blacks in California supported Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. Rather, the preference is explained by racial identification and this was not limited to blacks. Nearly 20% of all voters said that the candidates’ race was a factor in their vote, although most said it was not the most important factor. A number of the most high-profile conservative blacks backed Obama, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Manhattan Institute member John McWhorter, and conservative radio host Armstrong Williams. It is hard to imagine that they would have supported Hillary Clinton had she won the nomination. This is not to say that such racial identification among voters is such a bad thing, but merely that it plays a more important role with a diverse population.

A clear example of racial identification in another context is the fact that until the 1994 Multiethnic Placement Act, the Association of Black Social Workers did what it could to reduce the adoption of black children by white families. In 1972, they publicly labeled the practice “cultural genocide.”

Patrick Buchanan points out that we are all familiar with some immigrants’ high profile acts of violence. He points out that the 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center and the 9-11 bombers were immigrants. The same is true of Colin Ferguson (the Jamaican who killed six and wounded eleven people on the Long Island Railroad), John Lee Malvo (the Caribbean immigrant who was the Beltway Sniper), and Chai Vang (the Hmong immigrant who shot six hunters to death in Wisconsin when they asked him to vacate their deer stand). And these are just the famous cases. Now, there are many benefits too to having a diverse population. Also, we all know people whose lives are immeasurably benefitted by particular immigrants (particularly spouses). Also, one thinks of Indian- and Chinese-Americans’ many contributions to high-tech industries and the medical field. All these stories point out is that anecdotes cut in both directions and do not constitute a strong reason to view diversity as either good or bad.

If we look at how people behave, they by and large avoid diversity. When given a chance, whether in church, school lunch tables, or prison yards, Americans appear to show a preference for their own kind and against diversity. To the extent that they know what is in their interest, there is at least some reason to wonder whether diversity is a good thing.

Now it may be that in a country as diverse as the U.S. is now, we have no choice but to learn how to make the best of it. However, to celebrate diversity and endlessly repeat that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread is, as far as I can tell, pure sentimentality.


The Objectivist said...

Note the argument is as follows.

(P1) There is no evidence that the benefits of ethnic and racial diversity equal or outweigh its costs.
(C1) Hence, we do not know whether diversity is good.
(P2) If we do not know whether something is good, then we ought not invest a lot of money and sacrifice merit to promote it.
(C2) Hence, we ought not invest a lot of money and sacrifice merit to promote diversity.

The Objectivist said...

To the crowd who claims that diversity is our strength, I wonder what they have to say about the Nordic countries and Japan. These countries are wealthy (at least the Nordic ones are) and happy.

Those damn elephants that keep hanging out in the room.

The Objectivist said...

Note I'm not sure what this says about diversity-related courses, except to say that if they are celebrating diversity then this needs justification as much as would celebrating homogeneity.

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