Sunday, May 29, 2016

Forcing People to Move Forwards is Moving Backwards

1. More Pro-Slavery than I Remember

Jon Stewart has said
When I say there should be a draft, I also think it should be noncompulsory military. There should be a draft where every young person has to do one year of something — military, public works — something so that we all feel invested in the same game, because that’s the part that we’ve lost.
I'm fond of The Skeptical Libertarian's response,
"Jon Stewart, more pro-slavery than I remember."
Apparently for Jon Stewart it isn't slavery if they can choose between at least two things. If we give people a choice; go to war or pick up garbage on the curb, it sounds to me like just forcing people to pick up garbage on the curb.

How about this? Pick cotton or go to jail? Yeah, that's non compulsory too because you have at least two choices.

2. Forcing people doesn't Change their Minds

What Jon Stewart thinks we're missing is the effect of, not the cause of, the attitude he wants back. The heart of civic servitude that I think he really wants doesn't come from forcing people to be invested in the same game, being invested in the same game comes from a heart of civic servitude.  What is great about the past he imagines is exactly this; you didn't have to force those people to invest in the same game. 

It's easy to imagine forcing people without that heart to pick up garbage on the side of the road inciting antagonization not persuasion. People don't like being forced to do what they don't want to do, and they often commit more strongly to their priors when they are.

When a kid says they hate broccoli and they're forced to try it, I never hear them say, "you know what? I change my mind!"

When I have to manage people, I have to persuade them. When I force them, they get into a threat state and double down in commitment to their priors.

3. Really so bad?

How realistic are Jon Stewart's views of the past anyway? I've learned not to trust my impressions. My impressions say that things are way more violent than they were 10 or 50 years ago, but Steven Pinker's book thoroughly and completely refutes that idea with a tremendous amount of data. Likewise, I wonder about data on the volunteer rate in America. I can find data showing a short term dip since 2002, but I don't think what Jon Stewart wants back a national attitude we had back in the Bush years.

So how about it? Place your bets. Did the volunteering rate go up or down since 1950?

4. Civil Bites (I don't know, it just popped into my head)

This reminds me of what may be one of the unstated costs of civil rights legislation. You can force an employer not to discriminate against minorities, but the problem with preference based employment discrimination isn't that minorities don't get jobs. If we are not discriminators ourselves and because we're concerned with outcomes of discrimination then we should be indifferent to whether the distribution of involuntary unemployment is 0% minority or 100%, So long as the total involuntary unemployment rate is the same, what's the difference?

The difference is in why they are unemployed. It is not because of outcomes, it is because of our disgust with what's going on in the employer's heart. Enter Civil Rights legislation. What does it do? It changes the outcomes of discrimination but doesn't deal with why it happened in the first place. And like I said, unprejudiced people should not care about the outcomes of discrimination so long as someone got the job. Discrimination is a sin to virtue ethics, not consequentialism.

What I'm saying puts civil rights legislation in even worse light as it relates to this post. It not only doesn't solve the problem, it antagonizes the discriminators. It might make you feel good to punish people by making them hire against their prejudices, but it doesn't purify the world of their intention, and it probably poisons it by irritating their attitude towards civil rights all the more. Civil Rights is a force being brought down on them, not a flowering idea they want their identities associated with.

5. A Few Caveats

Okay, yes preference based discrimination actually does have consequentialist based costs. If the best person suited to the job isn't hired for arbitrary reasons, there is a real cost to economic productivity. This is just not why people hate discrimination and find it so grotesque. And if it were, then we would have to scale down the severity with which discrimination is treated by a lot.

Another caveat is that some people actually do see diversity as a positive good. They would want to discriminate in order to bring diversity, as opposed to people who discriminate to bring uniformity or people who just don't discriminate based on arbitrary criteria. One quick way of dealing with those progressives who want to discriminate to bring about diversity is to bring up how arbitrary their form of diversity is. People are arbitrarily different in a million different ways, and these people have latched onto a couple ones and declared that these are the moral criterion for discrimination. They care about race or gender, but what about number of freckles, height, or whether you have an innie or outie belly button?

Aren't enough innies working in the office? We embrace diversity here! Lets bypass the selection process and hire some innies!