403 Comments
deletedMay 7·edited May 7
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Someone not seeing X is actually evidence against X occurring. Otherwise one couldn’t estimate at all about an event that’s never been observed.

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>Hanania has an article about France, which forbids the collection of any government statistics on any of this. I found this interesting, because I’d always heard claims this was a left-wing plot to avoid having statistics on the racial balance of (eg) crime. But actually France just takes a principled stance against any race statistics! Wild!

I'm not sure why this would be phrased as "forbidding the collection of any government statistics" instead of just... government not collecting statistics on this. Which it can do completely by its own decision, indeed one could argue it's not even an action but rather a lack of one.

Presumably at least the more libertarian-minded would find it better for government to refrain to collect information on whatever instead of insisting on collecting that information, whatever that specific piece of information is.

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> I'm not sure why this would be phrased as "forbidding the collection of any government statistics" instead of just... government not collecting statistics on this.

Because this is the legislative branch forbidding the executive branch from collecting these data. It is a way stronger restriction than just having the executive branch choosing not to collect it.

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Still, it's the government (as a whole entity) choosing not to collect them.

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Within the French Consitution, the governement refers to (a part of) the executive branch. In that regard, it is correct to say that it is not allowed to collect racial data, because it is indeed prevented from doing so by laws enacted by the Parliament.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_Fifth_French_Republic_(amended,_2008)#Title_III:_The_Government

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“The government” is not usually one entity. In most countries, there are national governments, city governments, regional governments, legislatures, executives, courts, and often lots of things like transit agencies and electrical utilities that are separate from any of these. You could treat “the government” as one entity that makes a coherent choice, but this would be as misleading as saying that “humanity” made a choice that many individuals would like to go against but can’t.

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>Which it can do completely by its own decision

No it can't. There are far too many people involved in these things, someone out there is going to have the idea to collect this stuff and do it on their own, unless you expressly prohibit them from doing so.

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A lot of these comments seem like they're beating up a strawman where Hanania supposedly claimed that affirmative action kills merit-based hiring entirely, i.e. that any nonwhites hired would be utterly unqualified for the position they were hired for. Since that's not the case, they thereby assume that Hanania's entire argument is wrong. This is pretty goofy and isn't what Hanania is saying.

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I mean, it’s pretty clear that Hanania is engaged in some amount of Motte and Bailey-ing here. The question is just how much.

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May 7·edited May 7

Yes, as he points out above it's an explicitly political book. He's not trying to make airtight academic arguments, he's trying to make persuasive ones. I'm sure that means he elides some information to make concise arguments, meaning he doesn't go into detail about every caveat or counter-argument. Considering the genre, I don't think that should be interpreted as being intellectually dishonest as long as his points are directionally correct.

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Not really, I think maybe some people don't feel the visceral unfairness of being knocked down the totem pole because of the color of your skin but that seems like all that is required to be angry about AA.

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That seems like the sort of thing one would establish by quoting him.

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The argument Hanania puts forward is deliberately slippery. Some relevant questions that aren't addressed (per Scott's review). How much has affirmative action has reduced the meritoriousness of new hires? How meritorious was the system pre-civil rights? Why should we think things would be more meritorious if it was removed? And related, what is the value of employees having a recourse in cases of discrimination?

The on-its-face premise of the book is that we should care about the this, but even if you can prove that there's a non-zero effect on one dimension, you haven't proved that it matters or even shown the net effect is negative.

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Do you hold the pro-affirmative action side to this same standard of evidence, or is it assumed to be axiomatically worthwhile and only dissenters have to climb this hill?

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Why do you choose to write this fully general counterargument under only this comment? Why don't you hold the anti-affirmative action side to this same standard of scrutiny?

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Women are overrepresented in HR because HR departments started later than Operations or Finance or other parts of the business, and started at a time of increased female participation in the workforce.

And also at the same time as the gender diversity push. So, a company has 7 men in director level positions, and 21 experienced men one level down, but wants to have women in director level positions. Hey, look, we just created a new director position with no clear internal hires available... might as well hire a female.

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Also HR were created in many businesses as the anti-union, and unions tended (even more so then than now) to be very dominated by men.

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> Women are overrepresented in HR because HR departments started later than Operations or Finance or other parts of the business, and started at a time of increased female participation in the workforce.

No, women are most of HR because it is work that appeals to women. Recruiters are also mostly women. Recruiters are not a new thing.

Do you really believe that, in businesses founded after the 70s, women aren't overrepresented in HR?

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Yeah I would agree it is more a disposition sort of thing (and I also think partly political). HR is about being a busybody/gossip/school marm. About avoiding risks and scolding people.

All things that are a little more appealing to women generally.

As far as the political element, since one of the main things HR does is "enforce rules regarding the treatment of women", you can see where it would be more attractive to women than men.

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Also, as the old joke goes: why are all HR directors women? (Punchline: because you don’t have to pay them as much.)

The political valence of that joke is actually pretty illegible.

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"HR departments started later than Operations or Finance or other parts of the business"

When I entered the workforce (late 80s), HR departments were just starting. But they were simply another name for the Personnel departments. I never really understood the difference in terms.

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Possibly "Personnel" has "person" in it. "Human Resources" sounds so much more scientific and well, impersonal.

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There was an old joke from Dilbert or something about how "Human Resources" still made employees sound too valuable, so they were going to change to either "Livestock" or "Biomass".

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The PHB also once asked if it made them feel better to know that resources were their most valuable asset.

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"We said before that employees are our most valuable asset, but that was wrong. Money is our most valuable asset. Employees came in ninth."

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For the record, when I started a company, I made a promise with my business partner that we would always refer to it as "personnel".

Soylent green is a human resource.

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I rather like the line in a commentary about Stross's "The Fuller Memorandum" https://www.sffworld.com/2010/07/bookreview643/

>zombie servants (though they’re called Residual Human Resources here)

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> I don’t understand why this would happen on Fridays in particular.

That's funny, a Swedish person would immediately get why this could be a thing. Friday afternoons are *significantly* more casual here and not uncommonly involve alcohol; possibly this is an European phenomenon that doesn't exist in America?

E.g. wrapping up shortly after lunch, (maybe grab a beer from the office fridge as you finish up your work, depends on the workplace) then sit around to chat for a bit before leaving at 3 or something. Colleagues also commonly beeline directly to the nearby pub to drink together: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/afterwork

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May 7·edited May 7

Traditional in the UK as well, although becoming increasingly rarer. Some industries/companies do still do the "pint at Friday lunch followed by an hour or two of half hearted emails and then back to the pub" pattern. Journalists/parliamentary work often follows this pattern still from what I can tell. Slowly being killed off by a) increasing Americanisation ("professionalism") of corporate world, b) working from home on Fridays and c) "PC culture".

(I like the word "afterwork"- we'd usually call this 'after work drinks' in the UK but that'd apply more to Thursday evenings rather than Friday afternoons)

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This exists in at least some American companies too (but maybe not hospitals/doctor offices given the weird schedules, which would explain Scott not having encountered it).

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I would guess -- by which I mean, hope to God -- that "drink then back to work" is pretty uncommon with MDs.

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Yeah, I was surprised Scott was surprised. Friday is the end of the work week/start of the weekend. People probably have plans to go out and socialise after work, maybe with co-workers. So after lunch till clocking-off time, you're winding down and not really doing anything serious or too much. Finishing up things but not starting them. Getting ready to end the day and go home and enjoy the weekend.

Not everywhere, and the drinking culture isn't as strong as it used to be, but "Friday afternoons are the boys' club times" doesn't sound that unusual to me.

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America has had an odd relationship with alcohol, as well as being both much more casual about some things and more formal about others.

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The culture in the US has changed A LOT is my understanding. In the 90s I had employers where they would talk about how they used to keep alcohol and drink during the day in the staff/break rooms. This was in places a disparate as a car dealership and a university TA/Faculty departmental office.

It sounded like this was fairly normal even in the late 70s? But in the late 90s/early 00s it seemed very alien and not ok. Like if you had brought a beer and were drinking that in the TA/Faculty departmental office that would be frowned on.

I did work at a non-profit where we once or twice had the (very old) boss bring beer for everyone to share to a staff party. But even then it was like 6 beers for 15 people and it was seen as pretty out of the ordinary.

Going to the bar after work is a thing at many workplaces. Or having drinks at an evening company party. But not during the day.

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Depends not only on industry, but regional subculture and employment supply/demand dynamic. My anecdata:

-- large old-line defense contractor tech company, late 90s, upper Midwest: alcohol use during business hours absolutely prohibited, automatic firing offense, people occasionally rolled their eyes but nobody thought it was weird or worth challenging.

-- Big Tech back when it was cool, California, 2005-2015ish: alcohol flowed freely with more or less explicit official sanction. The coolest engineering subculture was known for their "Whiskey Thursdays," bottles of whiskey were standard thank-you gifts for co-workers who had gone above and beyond to help you out, and off-site events frequently featured unlimited open bars and people going around proactively offering you drinks as social bonding lubricant.

-- Big Tech post honeymoon, CA, 2015ish-2020: still somewhat alcohol tolerant but dialed way back, no more unlimited open bars or proactive offers. Partly this was concern about social discomfort caused to nondrinking employees, especially those in recovery; but mostly it was due to real and significant stories of alcohol fueled sexual harassment coming out, including one notorious case where a generally wonderful and responsible senior VP did something truly stupid while drunk at an off-site and was justifiably made to resign over it.

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I recall one tech company that repeatedly told me during interview/onboarding about "Beer Thirty" (similar to my first programming job), only to then send me an employee handbook claiming a very strict zero-tolerance policy toward alcohol which prohibited even having a beer during a business lunch.

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I recall reading a pamphlet from the 90s? Early 2000s? for some sort of professional nuclear conference where you could optionally sign up for the conference's pub crawl.

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Back when American companies still used to expect formal dress at work “casual Fridays” was a thing. And TGIF is a saying that predates the bar that opened in the 1970s.

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In the Netherlands it is also common to have drinks with colleagues to end the workday on Fridays (vrijmibo), and, depending on the company, to keep the drinks going later into the night :)

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Most American offices I have experience with have similar, if less pronounced, traditions. Usually not every week, but if it's a slow week or you just completed a major project, it's not uncommon for managers to take their teams to happy hour at like 3 or 4 on a Friday. People will also occasionally take off early on Friday without officially taking PTO without anyone caring because it's understood that very little productive is likely to get done after about noon. Then again, I've known offices (thankfully never worked in one) where Friday afternoons were dreaded as the time when managers pawned off work they didn't finish on their subordinates so they could take off for the weekend. YMMV.

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It definitely happens in the US too. After a whole week of work, people want to relax, and your coworkers are right there to relax with. At my old company, we would drink beer for the last couple hours on Friday afternoons.

It's pretty bizarre to me that Scott claims not to understand why people would drink on Friday afternoons. I guess he's a teetotaller but even teetotallers relax after work in some form, surely.

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Missed the window to comment on the original...I found myself confused about the implicit/explicit line between "you can't use quotas" and "nice business you have there, it'd be a shame if it wasn't diverse enough". Maybe the confusion is the point, in the same way the process is the punishment. Yet the regional-level management for [popular grocer] where I work...it's not literally quotas, but it's well-known and agreed upon by everyone that there's been a strong official-unofficial mandate to always privilege women and minorities in hiring*, promotion, and HR incidents for years now. (This also includes Don't Call Us, We'll Call You - diverse employees get approached more often by management about mentoring/maybe seeking promotion if they don't self-pursue, after controlling for ability. It's always kind of...surprising? when there's a new vanilla manager, unless there's just no other current candidates.)

Also weird is that this clear directionality coexists with an open contempt for diversity training and relatively lax codes of conduct around things like jokes and fraternization. So it's hardly an all-in position, we aren't staffed with True Believers and the culture isn't particularly PC. I keep comparing my workplace to the Sheetz case - which sounds way more towards "woke" than anything I deal with - and just come away puzzled about inconsistent standards. Civil rights law seems pretty complicated. Maybe it really is an Eye of Sauron pretext-type situation, and us being weirdly culturally popular is doing the actual bulk of CYA work. You don't actually have to be progressive as long as progressives shop with you anyways, or something...

*extra awkward to implement cause it's...a grocery store, it's not like we require resumes or use any sort of screening tests besides interviews. So there's weird kludge criteria like "are they passionate about shopping at [company] and specifically wanting to work for us more than competitors", which...seems to have as much correlation to the job as the FAA biographical questionnaire. Or definitely-disparate-impact stuff like (unstated) narrow effectively-mandatory availability windows. I often feel like half the existing veteran employees couldn't get rehired under the current regime...

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> Maybe the confusion is the point, in the same way the process is the punishment.

Yup.

> Yet the regional-level management for [popular grocer] where I work...it's not literally quotas, but it's well-known and agreed upon by everyone that there's been a strong official-unofficial mandate to always privilege women and minorities in hiring*, promotion, and HR incidents for years now.

See? It's working!

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I'm curious about why the company would *need* to privilege women in hiring and promotion. This isn't a tech company--gender differences in interests or aptitudes don't seem like they would be very relevant for work at a grocery store.

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I suspect it's partly because of the (unstated obviously) "every successful bar/restaurant has Attractive Women staff and/or clientele" thing which applies to many othe retail roles...and partly that it is, indeed, somewhat of a gendered difference. Automation and productivity enhancements come very slowly in my sector, but improvements in, like, inventory management don't help much with the "soft skills" feminine-coded Customer Service duties. The actual unloading trucks, breaking down pallets, putting stuff on shelves, that stuff gets easier and easier. It's dealing with increasingly high standards for service, needy/problematic customers, and being able to convincingly (pretend to) care about others that keeps us up at night. Hard to teach, too; if someone doesn't meet a certain baseline for Social And Friendly, they're rarely getting hired/promoted, no matter their skills or experience elsewise. Cf. anyone can eventually learn to run a register semi-efficiently. Actually, many customers don't notice how shitty the actual checkout is if the cashier's an empathetic sweet-talker, so maybe that's Feature Not Bug?

I guess it could just be a coincidence, but...it feels like there's a reason female managers choose to staff the customer service desk while male managers run the floor (a mutually beneficial state of affairs for both parties, I've often been told). Likewise for grunts - guys want to stay in the dairy fridge all day and never talk to anyone except the yogurts, girls want to work in the floral department or the food sample station. There's a balance to be struck, of course, but it feels like (the company believes that) the Pareto optimization of employee gender more heavily favours females. Enough that making it an implicit explicit preference is worth the hassle, anyway.

(The cynical third theory would be that it's all just a ploy to give the customers/staff/media what they demand, whether there's any particular merit or not, a gendered pound of CYA flesh. I have no idea how we compare to the industry average, but it's frankly shocking how much sexual harassment one witnesses on the regular. Perhaps that's the thinking - lopsided gender balance for safety in numbers + plausible deniability.)

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"[C]ould someone who’s annoyed at ballooning degree requirements (eg me) sue every company that requires a college degree, asking them to prove that it’s really necessary?"

No... but also yes.

No, You couldn't do the actual suing, because you don't have standing. US courts can only decide if there is a "case or controversy" (Constitution, Article III, Section 2, Clause 1) and you aren't yourself affected (because you hold a degree, and because you never applied for any of these jobs).

But also yes, you could fund a "test case" on this: an organisation will find a bunch of people who didn't hold a degree, were otherwise qualified for a job, applied and were rejected on the grounds they didn't have a degree. They'll then go through each case very carefully to make sure there's no other special factors (because they want to force the court to decide that the degree requirement isn't necessary, and the court will look to find some other reason to rule on the case so they can avoid making a broad ruling about degrees), and to make sure that this person was really good for the job; ideally, they should now be doing that job for a competitor and they should be successful. Also, if they're trying to prove disparate impact, the test case needs to be from the protected class (ie, they need to be black). You also have to be pretty confident that your test case won't settle the case: you need to actually go to court to get a ruling as a precedent.

But - almost by definition - the test case will not be able to afford to pay for the amount of lawyers needed to take this through the various levels of the courts and win at the Supreme Court. If the test case wins, then the next cases will be a lot simpler and cheaper, as they can use the test case as precedent.

And this is why some random local small business that refused to make a cake for a gay wedding ends up in front of the Supreme Court: because some organisation decided that Masterpiece Cakeshop was the perfect test case and paid for their lawyers.

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Also, you wouldn’t need to. A few dozen states and the federal government have already started trying to crack down on this, including ending degree requirements for many government jobs.

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One other thing is that companies often include an "or equivalent experience" clause in the job reqs. Occasionally they even act on it! I work as a programmer in an old-tech firm (we make things you can kick ... very expensive things you can kick) and have worked with an engineer who was a drama major in college and was part of an interview team that recommended hiring a high school (but nothing further) graduate with a few years experience that looked good.

Our *typical* hire has a BS and MS in computer science. But we have some folks who don't have CS degrees at all and then the occasional very odd background.

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True, but that seems like it's just kicking the can over to some other company. How are you supposed to get that "equivalent experience" in the first place with no degree? It seems like there are various possibilities, but none of them are good:

- (best case) start out long enough ago that they didn't care about degrees. But now that ladder has been pulled up.

- lie/exaggerate and get some sucker to hire you when you're really not qualified. "yeah I totally have a law degree from Columbia... " (not said- the country, not the university)

- get that first job through nepotism or someone randomly taking a flier on you "haha yeah it was pretty rough going there for the first few years... luckily they stuck with me and I eventually figured things out."

- get funding (from a rich family?) and launch your own startup, just for the experience. "we ran out of our runway, but I learned a lot along the way. Like, did you know that 'revenue' is really important?"

ideally we could pay for an internship/bootcamp, but it seems like that model is also going away.

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Companies don't care about kicking the can. In the case I'm discussing the companies just don't want to get sued by the DoJ -- they don't care about HOW the potential employee gets that experience. The magic phrase "or equivalent experience" helps the company here because it makes it clear that the company isn't requiring a degree. This is especially true if the company occassionally hires people without the default degree.

You are considering the quesiton: How does a candidate get the experience to get hired without jumping through the hoops of getting a degree. A valid question, but not one that companies are spending a lot of time on.

The *military* solves the problem by requiring folks to sign up for a 4-year stint (technically, 8-years, but you can go reserves after 4). This allows the military to justify spending money on training because the military doesn't have to worry that after spending a year training someone who will then go work for a competitor offering more pay. Hollywood studios used to work this way, too: actors/actresses would sign a long term contract and the studio would pay for acting classes, etc. Apprenticeships worked that way in the past.

As a society, the US decided that this was bad (except for the military and sports contracts) so employees can quit a job pretty much whenever they want but employees are now responsible for their own training.

The companies mostly just want to (a) find competent employees, and (b) not get sued while doing (a).

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There are other ways. A buddy of mine was a hobbyist, and ended up doing some very basic work for a seminary where he was taking classes. He got that gig because they knew him, and it started as "turn it off and turn it back on" level tech support, evolved into macros and (i think) some simple access and and then website stuff.

Then he moved up to Albany for his husband's work and he got on with a local consultancy on a try me basis, as their 20 or 30-somethingth employee. He worked out, and after three or six months they gave him a relatively real salary.

He's still there something like ten years later, making well below market rates while being one of their senior guys. I've been trying to get him to jump ship, or at least test the waters for a while now. I think he could probably double his salary.

Anyway, his company can't compete with top line employers on salary and they're not in a desirable destination, so they take chances. If you're looking to break in from a non-credentialed background, there are probably a lot of places like them.

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What I take away from both this discussion and my own experiences is that both sides have a correct narrative (and correctly observe lots of uncorrected harms) that seems to support their interpretation and it's a very difficult issue to make progress on because we lack any real way to either measure or even agree on a cost/benefit framework. This is especially true because people care both about the impact and symbolic import of these laws.

In particular, it seems like all of the following are true.

1) It's absolutely true that there are still instances of discrimination and that, in practice, it can be very hard to impossible for the victim to meaningfully get legal redress. Bringing lawsuits is very expensive and they are hard to win.

2) Big employers often have limited control over and ability to measure productivity in their employees and lawsuits have a substantial element of random chance to them so often will take action -- or uninformed employees with principle-agent issues will -- which is meant to reduce the risk of losing these lawsuits that isn't what anyone thinks they should be obliged to do.

3) Lots of employment deciscions involve pretty arbitrary and unconsidered rules (why do we want employees who do Y well?) and it's true that sometimes these absolutely impose disparate impacts.

At the same time, that's often how we want buisness to work -- the founder/executive has a hypothesis that running the biz this way not that will work better and tests it (that's how we get evidence) and race/gender correlates with almost everything so it's really hard to prevent even intentional disparate impact without limiting that freedom.

--

I don't really have a good solution to this issue but the best I've got is that the court system isn't the right way to deal with these kind of incentives given both the high costs of lawsuits and high variance in outcomes.

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>At the same time, that's often how we want buisness to work -- the founder/executive has a hypothesis that running the biz this way not that will work better and tests it (that's how we get evidence) and race/gender correlates with almost everything so it's really hard to prevent even intentional disparate impact without limiting that freedom.

This is really underdiscussed. It seems so harmless to suggest that people prove their tests work, but it effectively kills all market innovation in hiring (if you were consistent about it). Instead of trying whatever you believe, you have to get it to a point where you can convince a judge/expert witnesses. It would be almost centrally planned hiring.

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What notably nobody other than the civil rights lawyers reported observing is anyone discriminating against underrepresented/historically disadvantaged minorities or women, or anyone expressing a desire to discriminate against them if only it were legal. The only narratives people report are either colorblind treatment, or discrimination against whites/Asians/men. That's one piece of anecdata in the direction that civil rigts law has outlived its usefulness, that there is only uncorrected harm in one direction (at least in the skilled, white collar professions most readers work in).

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I dunno if you've met people but of course some people discriminate. Now you can ask whether that happens at a high rate or on net but I've certainly met people who feel they are 'compensating' for affirmative action. And there are certainly a certain fraction of people who are very much convinced that blacks are less intelligent, less trustworthy etc but of course don't call it discrimination. For instance, there are really quite compelling studies on traffic stops by cops showing they do target black drivers and treat them less respectfully (interestingly white and black cops do it about the same) despite the fact that no cops are are going to raise their hand and say they discriminate.

Of course people discriminate like crazy against other categories too like short men. So there is a question about whether it still makes sense to have a rule against but that gets to the point about the laws having both symbolic and practical aspects.

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I'm not even an American, so my experience is less relevant to the context. Maybe people discriminate (I take that you mean discriminate against disadvantaged-on-average groups), but it's not an "of course". Being convinced that blacks are less intelligent, trustworthy etc. isn't discrimination, discrimination is to treat people differently, not to think of them differently. Did the studies about traffic stops correct for driver behavior?

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"they do target black drivers and treat them less respectfully"

No - the studies say that cops talk more casually to black drivers because - guess what - the black drivers themselves talk more casually and cops are trained to talk like the people they're questioning to make them more comfortable.

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On HR and Unions (the Helen Andrews point), I can't speak for the US. In the UK, it simply isn't true that HR is in some sense balancing between employer and employee interest. It is clearly acting in the employer interest. That may involve things like trying to make good employees happy (hmmmm) and it may well mean saying to managers "you can't do that". But isn't some kind of neutral party.

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It's indirectly in the employee's interests, because HR will prevent management from breaking rules that protect employees, even if the basic aim is to protect management.

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HR is theoretically for the employer's interest, but I think in practice they've become their own interest center, with goals that neither align with the employer or with the employee.

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In my experience, it is either "HR is there to protect the owner(s)" or "HR is doing its own thing". When HR helps an employee (even if that's the majority of what they actually do), it is a value add to the department.

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(I didn't actually see the parallel with AI doom when I wrote it, so boy do I feel dumb.)

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I was once told to remember that:

"The HR department is there to protect the company from you, not you from the company."

Even in a good company with well meaning HR employees (like mine) this is almost self evidently true.

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Also, I feel like a hugely under considered point in this debate is the extent to which the ignorance of legal standards by non-lawyers plays in this whole area.

And I think this discussion here proves that at least many people believe there are legal risks for doing all sorts of things and I suspect that the average person running a buisness or working in HR is less informed than the readers here. And even when lawyers are involved it can be hard to translate that knowledge into something useable by the rest of the company without over correcting (it's the equivalent of telling someone who doesn't understand computers to never ever go to a website w/o a valid ask cert).

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Not too surprising. The lawyers don't have money at stake, they're getting paid regardless. Either they're billing hourly, or they're on contingency. If they're on, then they're running a bunch of cases at the same time.

Meanwhile, the defendant is betting his or her livelihood on their lawyer's theory holding up in court. Wouldn't you be (possibly overly) cautious about getting into this situation?

And yes, it's livelihood. Certainly it's the business being bet on, and if it goes belly up, what are the chances of being able to start again?

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Lawyer’s rule of thumb: if you’ve ended up in a courtroom, you’ve screwed up somewhere. Of course lawyers have something at stake: you want repeat business from the client, you have your reputation to protect - most underrated lawyer skill is taking complicated rules and translating them into “how can I make more money” practical advice.

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It's like eggs vs. bacon. The chicken loses something, but the pig loses a lot more.

Yes, if a lawyer loses, he's taken a hit to his reputation. But with an EEOC lawsuit, his client may be out of business, and certainly loses a lot of both money and reputation. Particularly if it's a long drawn out affair, which seems to be happening more these days.

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I’ll admit, I’m not from the states so have no great knowledge of the EEOC. I’m just sceptical because it’s so common for people to make big bold claims about the law, while the reality is a bit more complicated

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Are you actually a lawyer? Because that might be true re: individuals but is about as wrong as can be regarding big corporations. Indeed, part of what's wrong with certain areas of the law is that so much of it was developed by litigation of massive firms where the legal fees are just an expected cost of doing buisness (yes, under full information those cases should settle but full information isn't always the norm). For instance, copyright and patent law spring to mind.

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Nah, I quit to become a plasterer. Are you?

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Nope, I was just surprised a lawyer would say this in a way that included corporations. I mean how does Google stay out of court given how many subpoenas it will receive in any short period of time.

Or do you just mean this about people in their private capacity?

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Maybe I misinterpreted your original comment. You talked about bosses who don’t understand the law getting scared and over correcting - I interpreted that as being about SMEs, not corporate giants

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I agree that there is a lot of ignorance about this. This seems like the kind of topic that everyone has an opinion on regardless of how little they know about the topic.

During the past year I've read two different textbooks focused on preparing for HR certification exams (SPHR and SHRM-SCP, if you are curious). EEOC and the legal process around adverse impact was covered. I was amazed that so many parts of Scott's post (quoting the book) and the comments contained ideas that were either 1) completely inaccurate or 2) oversimplified to the point of being misleading. And I am not even an expert on this topic; I've only read a dozen or so pages about it from textbooks, so my own knowledge is quite superficial.

It was odd to read a post by Scott and to have the feeling that I know more about this topic that people who are speaking loudly on it.

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could you list some of the most significant mistakes?

could you also reference a concise resource elaborating these mistakes? (i feel like asking you to elaborate yourself would be asking too much)

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I'll give an attempt. Obvious caveats are that A) I'm not an expert, so I might be mis-remembering and you should confirm with reliable sources, and B) I might be mis-interpreting the intended meaning of what was written in various comments.

If you search Google and Google Scholar for "validity diversity dilemma" you should find some reliable resources. In brief, selection methods that tend to be more valid for predicting on-the-job performance tend to have higher levels of adverse impact. The other thing to look at is the

Uniform Guidelines On Employee Selection Procedures, which is about as dull of a document as I've ever read, but is official and widely referenced. This snippet on Wikipedia is also relevant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact#:~:text=An%20important%20thing,business%20necessity%20defense%22)

The general ideas that I've seen in posts or in comments (these are non-charitable summaries, sorry that I'm too lazy now for precise citations):

* The idea that a company's employees must perfectly match the demographic makeup of the general population.

* The idea that it is really easy to sue a company for discrimination, or that the EEOC is doing lots of suing.

* Not acknowledging or being aware of the shifting burden of proof (this is a little more complex: what I mean by this is that at first John Doe candidate has the burden to demonstrate that a hiring practice has disparate impact, at which point the burden of proof shifts to the company to proof either A} that is isn't discriminatory or B} that it is a valid predictor of job performance and thus is allowed even if it is discriminatory, at which point the burden of proof shifts back to John who can then prove that even if this selection method is a valid predictor of job performance, there are other methods that are equally valid and that have lower adverse impact.)

* Not acknowledging that there are specific measures/standards for adverse impact (such as the 80% rule, or the regression method). I haven't read this book, but if I was going to work professionally in this area I would: https://biddle.com/books-adverse-impact-and-test-validation.html This also looks good: https://rforhr.com/disparateimpact.html

* The idea that it is ridiculously expensive and complex to avoid getting sued. In reality, using structured interviews, documenting why decisions are made (especially adverse employment decisions), and making sure that the criteria for decisions are job-relevant are actually a pretty solid defense if you get sued for discrimination. Most employers don't need to do validation studies of their own (which would require more stats and psychology knowledge than the average manager has), but can instead rely on relatively standardized and widespread methods.

Sorry for giving a sloppy answer, but that's all I have energy/motivation/knowledge for. Hopefully this is enough so that you are able to explore more.

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thank you very much.

this is already much more than I hoped for.

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TBF to Scott, I didn't see any claims of the form "the law says you must do X"

What there were was a lot of claims of the form, people do X out of a belief it reduces their practical legal liability. Sometimes based on incorrect understanding but often based on the fact that the practical and theoretical aren't always the same.

And there are alot of things that the law doesn't facially require that absolutely are hugely important in limiting legal liability. For instance (to use an example from harassment law), no of course a single sexual joke or even proposition doesn't rise to the level of corporate liability under existing precedent on sexual harassment. But as a corporate executive you need to recognize that you may not actually be hearing the full situation. Maybe you got a report that Bob told one offensive joke but if it goes to court it will turn out that Bob is actually good friends with his direct superior who has been ignoring complaints because it's just Bob being bob and maybe the plantiff will find a bunch of other bad evidence and juries can be pretty random.

So if Bob is a low skilled employee (fry cook) putting Bob out on his ass might be the cheapest solution (you could investigate further but that's costly). I mean you don't actually care if employees can tell jokes (maybe you should pay more attention to working conditions but it's a common failure).

So I don't think it's all just confusion but this is part of what makes it such a contentious issue. One side says, don't be ridiculous that's not what the law requires and the other side says, but it's a causal effect of the law whether it's based on confusion or practical minimization of liability.

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Robert Ellickson's "Order Without Law" was in large part about a community not understanding what the law was and avoiding interacting with it. Those were Shasta County ranchers, but yes I'd expect it applies in offices too.

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There are several basic factual errors in the comments about the "Tumblr theory", of the "if one's chronology looks like this it's a shibboleth that one is wrong about something very fundamental" sort.

1. "Moving from Tumblr to Livejournal and Something Awful" is very, uh, 'the chronological sequence of events is my passion'. Livejournal was already dead in the Anglosphere by the 2010-2012ish point that Tumblr started really coalescing into "the social media site for eccentrics". As the other comment notes, a lot of this is "people moving from LJ to Tumblr" -- LJ was bought out by a Russian company that liked doing things like "randomly banning gay communities". There was absolutely no shortage of people moving to e.g. Dreamwidth, though, such that Tumblr's eccentricity was in large share its own thing. Something Awful was an entirely different pole of "social media sites for eccentrics" entirely, though shares an "internet equivalent of Velvet Underground" quality with Tumblr and to lesser degrees LJ and 4chan. "Teenagers on Tumblr seized control of Something Awful and this invented Wokeness" is approximately as accurate as the joke in Paranoia where the communist secret society is obsessed with the teachings of Groucho Marx.

2. Describing Tumblr as "a melange of content instead of a staid list of people the user chose to follow"...eh, I mean, maybe compared to journal-type sites? But it's very, very hard to make the case for in the broad spectrum of "what social media can look like". Certainly it was a far more curated site than e.g. forums. It was *far* more curated than the modern social media majors -- it's of the pre-algorithmic era in precisely the way that makes this claim weird. You saw on Tumblr ultimately what you chose to see on Tumblr, in the sense you saw the posts made by the people you actively followed, or in the tags you actively checked, which were two separate sections of the site and purely human-determined (rather than algorithmic). The "reblog" structure meant you might see posts by your followees you wouldn't personally choose to see, but presenting this as melange-type requires presenting forums as melange-type, given "posts in forum threads" work the same way.

3. People like ascribing "wokeness" to "mentally ill teenagers", which raises, as noted, the huge glaring question of "inasmuch as things people associate with 2012 Tumblr are now mainstream takes, how did that happen". Partially this is because no, fewer of them are mainstream takes than you think (I very consciously describe Tumblr as a "site for eccentrics" rather than applying any particular lens to it -- places like /r/tumblrinaction had hilariously dumb levels of outgroup homogeneity, and in particular assumed *far* more of the weird parts of Tumblr were specifically left-wing-political than they actually were). But also, the answer is "no, that's mostly not who was doing that". The biggest political accounts were mostly run by undergrads and grad students. This just loops you back into the "college movements became a big deal in the non-college world" phenomenon, which is much better understood.

(I specify "biggest political accounts" because, again, Tumblr was way more heterogeneous than generally presented, and a lot of stuff that was parsed by outsiders as political claims wasn't. The big-name-political-accounts, specifically, were mostly well-educated people in their 20s.)

Desertopa is pretty accurate, I think. By 2012ish, this had consolidated into a clearer "these are the positions people in this sphere tend to hold". The actual roots go back deeper.

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Insofar as I remember it, Something Awful forums culture taking a large step leftwards didn't have anything in particular to do with Tumblr, which was a separate development. Roughly speaking it happened due to... Ron Paul.

Well, not Ron Paul directly, but it was Ron Paul that initiated the following sequence of events:

1. Before 2008, SA had a very typical 90s-00s userbase - mostly young white male atheist/secular nerdy men, most commonly liberal in the 90s-00s sense (votes Democrats because GOP is associated with Christianity, nanny-state style censorship and Iraq War stuff), with a smattering of communists, libertarians and others

2. During the course of the 2008 election - a momentous election in most ways - the forums libertarians and some others get *very* excited about Ron Paul and start spamming other forums, chiefly D&D (SA's politics/current events discussion forum) with incessant propaganda

3. Lowtax/admins eventually tire of this and create Laissez's Fair subforum, ostensibly to quarantine the Ron Paul libertarians but also to create a "relaxed" shitposting adjunct forum for D&D

4. Commies and others also move to this board to troll libertarians, the admins accept this because it's funny

5. Eventually the Ron Paul stuff dies down, partly because Ron Paul, you know, doesn't get elected president, and also partly because a lot of libertarians participate in a "Permaban me if Ron Paul doesn't win" thread and get permabanned

6. The commies stay in LF, turning it effectively into a communist subforum

7. They then end up self-radicalizing to the "Maoist-Third-Worldist" position that claims that Western working class is fundamentally a capitalist-bribed labor aristocracy and any true revolution would start with Third World creating a communist state and then violently conquering the West - a suitable position for commie goons (there are more of these than previously due to Obama disappointment/burnout) since it means you can have an edgy "Fuck you, dad!" position without being a racist (which would get you banned for good) and share the revolutionary romanticism of communism without any need to appeal to Western working class that you don't really like that much, or having to do any actual organizing (since it's not your country the revolution's starting from anyway)

8. Eventually, after some years, a bunch of other forums drama happens and LF is temporarily shut down, causing a part of the subforum population to return to D&D to push the forums culture of that forum leftwards and a part to form independent forums (just like banned racists and others have found right-wing SA splinters)

LF has later been restored and continues to have a remarkably left-wing forums subculture even for SA, but its greater effect probably happened way earlier.

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>and then violently conquering the West

That's not Maoist-Third-Worldism at all.

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May 7·edited May 7

Totally agree and all of it stretches back to the "studies" departments through at least the 90s, and likely before, but definitely personally observed it back to then. "wokeness" was more or less the program there in say 1997, and was desperately trying to project out its norms/power into the rest of academia and the world. The surprising thing was that at the time I would have said it was failing at this, but the long term trend is that it was actually making slow and steady progress, especially in school admin.

I think it might really be so simple as:

*once you set yourselves up as the "experts" in racism/sexism you get to set the terms of those debates and their remedies*. It is simply a failure mode for academia where expertise is seen as king. If the experts are ideologues ideology becomes king.

You can use this status as the experts to pursue your political /religious agenda (this is largely a surrogate religion IMO).

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Harsh but fair!

I went back to actually check the dates and realized I'd muddled it up. LJ was bought by Russians in 2007, Racefail was in 2009, and LJ began its final swan dive around 2011, which is also when Tumblr was really coming into its own. Perhaps the two are different branches of the same tree, or that the infection spread from LJ to Tumblr instead of the other way around -- I recall Tumblr being relatively chill around that time. It was a while before it earned its reputation.

I maintain that the tag/reblog structure of Tumblr accelerated things, though, because following a tag instead of people means anything that gets into the tag and becomes popular gets spread to everyone following the tag. So when proto-wokeness got into the tags it was sent directly to millions of immature teenage girls alongside their SuperWhoLock memes.

I'll also leave this here regarding things starting on Tumblr (although interestingly, this suggests LiveJournal also gets the blame): https://archive.is/W4XRl

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"LJ was bought by Russians in 2007"

Prior to that, after it was taken over by SixApart, they had already been shopping it around, and forcing communities to clean up so they could monetise/sell it (there was a whole porn purge of its own which dragged in, for instance, breastfeeding or breast cancer groups on the clean-up of "no pictures of bare breasts"), so people were already starting to leave. The sale to the Russians just sealed the deal.

I wasn't there for Strikethrough but I did see the rest of it:

https://fanlore.org/wiki/Strikethrough_and_Boldthrough

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Oh, that's right! I'd completely forgotten about the porn ban/strikethrough. Tumblr had just been formed in February 2007 a few months earlier, I feel like this event sent a number of people there.

Apropos of nothing I was surprised to see Anil Dash's name there as a Livejournal executive at the time. God, that guy sucks.

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May 8·edited May 8

I flounced off LJ around that time, but it wasn't due to the porn bans (which I recognised were the same kind of "we need to clean up the site's image so we can tell advertisers it's family-friendly" manoeuvre Tumblr would later engage in), but rather because on one news thread an Official LiveJournal Staff Member assured everyone that no dirty rotten stinking pro-lifers would be let near the place dead, much less alive.

That engendered some comment, and I was one of those who shook the dust of the place off my sandals and left. What made it even more strange was that I wasn't engaging with communities that were fighting over pro-choice versus pro-life or anything to do with abortion, it was just Staffie taking the chance to loudly virtue-signal that they were the *right* sort of person with the *right* sort of views, that LJ was such a place for such people, and of course everyone was pro-choice and liberal and the rest of it.

And then a little while afterwards it ended up sold to the Russians who let the English-language site crater while they concentrated on the Russian one, and didn't give a flying fig about PC or any of the rest of it into the bargain.

Looking back, I imagine that such "no dirty Christians here" signalling was because of the porn purge and related matters (child porn allegations which also involved incest and if you know anything about certain fandoms, incest between characters was/is a big part of them) which seem to be blamed on/in part down to groups allegedly Christian or motivated by moral concerns, but at the time it seemed gratuitously offensive to those of us who just wanted to converse with others about our interests and who weren't marching around with banners demanding everyone take on our code of conduct.

The funny thing was, Tumblr was one of the places mentioned as "so if/when LJ goes down the drain, where do we all go?" but I actually only signed up there to follow my nephew's account. He's long finished with it, but I'm still hanging out with a few mutuals!

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> This does not mean the test isn't a good test in the sense that it doesn't measure job performance. See how there is no correlation between a players height in the NBA and how well they perform. This is because if there was a correlation then selectors would be leaving money on the table and they could improve their selection for the coming year by increasing the weighting on height (compared to everything else), which would in turn reduce the amount of correlation. Rinse and repeat until there is no correlation left.

This isn't quite right. When you run a test you have a threshold (you hire anyone who scores over X points) and then hire anyone who passes it. If your test is good, it should still have some people who passed with an 80 and some people who passed with a 100, and the people with a 100 should (in general) perform better.

Now this is weaker the stronger your selection is, since at the top end people are hard to differentiate by talent and test scores beyond that are mostly luck. If you had a test for the NBA (say some mix of height, athletic ability and a test game) you'd probably only hire the top 0.01% of performers and see no correlation left over. But for a normal company that hires, say, 25% of qualified applicants, you should expect to see some residual correlation above your threshold.

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I think 25% of qualified applicants is probably a very high estimate. Glassdoor claims [1] that, on average, a corporate position will recieve 250 applications. In order to get to 25%, you'd need 98.4% of applicants to either be unqualified or to find another position at the company. I don't know what number would be appropriate instead of 98.4%, but I'd roughly guess we're talking <5% of qualified applicants get hired. Still, 500x less selective than your number for the NBA

[1 ]https://www.glassdoor.com/employers/blog/50-hr-recruiting-stats-make-think/

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So this is hard to estimate. Part of the problem is that unqualified people are going to be applying to a whole lot of places - if you're willing to accept 25% of the qualified workforce (and since most people have jobs, the average employer is probably much more lenient than that), most of the people you'll accept are happy in their jobs and not actively interviewing. But you're still probably willing to accept anyone who does decent at your hiring test (not just the few who ace everything).

Another way to think about it - height isn't super predictive of success in the NBA, which is super selective, but I'm guessing it's pretty predictive at the high school basketball level (even though making the school basketball team is a nontrivial challenge - even Jake Berenson didn't make it in, and he saved the world from aliens).

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Is this how tests for choosing employees are actually used though? It isn't the way they would ideally be used in theory if there is other information available (e.g. subjective impressions from interviews, qualifications, experience) that is at least partially independent. If you plot a candidate's test score on one axis and everything-else score on the other axis and accept only the upper triangle who had a total score above some threshold, then that reduces the correlation between test score and performance among those actually accepted. If the very best are applying to other, more prestigious/better paying positions elsewhere instead, then the correlation drops even more.

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So if the employers are correctly weighing each feature (test performance, height, whatever) then the features would be anticorrelated with each other but they would still all be positively correlated with job performance. If the employer has more prestigious competitors so that it can only hire people in a band of competence (or of test performance) that will make the employees closer to each other in competence levels, but shouldn't weaken the correlation within the band the employer does hire (although it would make it harder to detect).

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>So if the employers are correctly weighing each feature (test performance, height, whatever) then the features would be anticorrelated with each other but they would still all be positively correlated with job performance.

I'd expect the features to be anticorrelated with each other _for the set of employees that all have the same overall weighted score_. ( For the case where the weighted score is the most accurate possible predictor of job performance, given the available information ) I'd expect the overall correlation of each of the features with job performance to, roughly speaking, depend on the _dispersion_ of the overall weighted score amongst the employees.

And, given how fast gaussians drop off, I agree with your point that highly selective organizations should wind up with less correlation with job performance - because they are trying to pick people from a rapidly diminishing tail, so we'd expect less dispersion in the overall weighted score than for less selective organizations (_if_ the distribution is gaussian, not something with fatter tails, or even multimodal).

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So they're anticorrelated for all employees, not just ones with the same overall score, because the employees are selected to be over a threshold (this is like the paradox where better looking actors are worse at acting - if you take two uncorrelated features and look at the subset of the population for which their sum is over a threshold, they will be anticorrelated within that subset)

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Many Thanks!

Something seems off. Consider the case where the threshold is very low, in fact below the lowest score in the whole population. Then the correlation of features in the group over that low threshold is just the correlation of features for the whole population.

Also, say we had two features, X and Y, and say we had a score which is just X+Y, and we have a threshold at zero and a population with:

low scorers: ( X = -1, Y = -1), (X = -2, Y = -2)

medium scorers, all with score = 1 : (X = 0, Y = 1), (X = 1, Y = 0)

high scorers, with score = 9 : (X = 4, Y = 5), (X = 5, Y = 4)

The slice with score = 1 has X and Y anticorrelated

The slice with score = 9 has X and Y anticorrelated

The total population above threshold has X and Y positively correlated

( I _think_ that this is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox )

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So the thing I was talking about is apparently called berkson's paradox - see here for more

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkson%27s_paradox?wprov=sfla1

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Why couldn't it be the case that scoring over X threshold is highly correlated with job performance, but scores above that don't make a significant difference? Like, reaching a minimal technical competency is absolutely required, were you literally can't do the job without that, but beyond that minimal technical competency other things such as conscientiousness, ambition, willingness to work overtime, etc are what determine job performance?

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This is possible (though unusual - usually skills don't have quickly diminishing returns, and this has been studied for general intelligence in particular), but it's a different phenomenon than height being uncorrelated with performance in the NBA (being seven feet tall is still more useful for basketball than being six and a half feet tall)

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I thought this too, but there is a good point made by Medieval Cat (https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/highlights-from-the-comments-on-the-cf9/comment/55779608): a firm that doesn't hire the cream of the crop has not only a lower threshold, but also a de facto upper threshold: potential employees who are better on a combination of various traits are poached away by more prestigious companies that value better combined aptitude more, and pay more. Then, within the slice of aptitude a company is hiring for a given position, there may indeed be very little correlation between test score and performance.

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Do you think it is possible that an explanatory factor here is range restriction (https://www.statology.org/restriction-of-range/)? I'm hypothesizing that if all the people who didn't make the cut for the NBA were considered, then we might see a much stronger correlation between height and performance.

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From the comment by gdanning:

> The evidence, however, shows that employees who have not completed high school or taken the tests have continued to perform satisfactorily and make progress in departments for which the high school and test criteria are now used.

So they can compare people employed at the company who did and didn't take the test. But this still isn't the same as comparing people who score above and below the threshold. (The argument works for high school completion, since we can compare people who did and didn't complete high school.)

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Much of this commentary seems to yearn for the 'good old days' when things were much more meroticratic and obvs white dudes got all the good jobs. In this context, the findings of Hsieh et al. (2019) seem relevant: they estimate that 20-40% of labour productivity growth from 1960-2010 can be attributed to reduced discrimination leading to better allocation of talent. (see https://web.stanford.edu/~chadj/HHJK.pdf).

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I’m not an economist, but by my read, that paper assumes that changes in employment and wages must be due to either reduced discrimination or changes in worker preferences, finds it isn’t changing preferences, and so concludes it must be reduced discrimination.

In a hypothetical world where the commenters you are arguing against were 100% correct, I think the model in the paper would still spit out the exact same result.

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This paper is the platonic ideal of "let's put the results I want already into the assumptions, and wow somehow it gets the results I want, funny how that works". The abstract already admits as much.

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As splendric has already mentioned, this kind of study design – though unfortunately all too common, especially in the social sciences – fundamentally lacks the power to tell us much of anything other than how much stock the author puts in their own assumptions. This kind of “assume A can only happen because of B or C, so if we prove B does not change than it must be C” analysis is exactly the fatal flaw that befell studies about lead impact on intelligence. It’s a product of magical thinking around the impact of artefactual error-term endogeneity, really. See Cremieux Recuiel on lead impact and Hill et al.’s 2021 paper “Endogeneity: A Review and Agenda…” for more.

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Friday because "Friday" is extrovert code for "alcohol"

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With regards to lawsuits, billion dollar companies get sued all the time. There's a reason why the GC is considered equal to a C-Level executive. An EEOC lawsuit is bad for PR reasons, but from a legal perspective it's one of a dozen legal actions they have to deal with every week. If it doesn't cause a big splash in the media the CEO probably won't even hear about it.

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I have to imagine a significantly non-zero number of regular, established commenters hesitated to report preferential hiring (or perhaps more importantly, *management*) of minority employees in their workplace. I know I sure did, and I have a doozy of an anecdote.

Edited to add: This comment has gotten a surprising number of likes (I know they're turned off on the site, but I think they're via email, I think?).

There might be quite a bit more to subtle chilling effects than is being accounted for, especially as self-censorship is pretty difficult to quantify.

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May 7·edited May 7

[joke, not actually a shakedown] That's a nice online identity you have there. Very respectable, lots of social links to other upstanding online identities.

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I am now curious as to how things will shake out in the future Ireland. We never had preferential hiring of minorities previously because, frankly, we hadn't enough minorities until you count the Poles/Eastern Europeans who came to the country to work during the Celtic Tiger era. Unless you count the Jewish population, or the Indian/Chinese people running the takeaways.

But now we're seeing a lot of Africans, to the point where I can see black people on the streets in my hometown. I've mentioned before that I've already, to my surprise, gotten the emails with "my pronouns are X/Xs" in the signature line, something I thought was safely confined to the USA. So will I see "preferential minority hiring" in jobs round here? Will that be brought in as a requirement where I work? I'll have to see!

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Reminds me of a few years back at The Motte when someone took a wackadoo's complaint seriously and calculated the mathematical impossibility of """fixing""" racism in Ireland the American way: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/jzbis2/culture_war_roundup_for_the_week_of_november_23/gdo0g7u/

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> So will I see "preferential minority hiring" in jobs round here?

I was under the impression, that many american tech firms are already in ireland (or at least in dublin). So I think it would only be a matter of time until their influence radiates out into the rest of the nation.

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Depends on whether the multinationals are looking for minority employees; a lot of the "foreign worker hiring" has been other European nationals for language etc. abilities. We're still too white to have a meaningful pool of "you must employ this percentage of Latinx/Black/Asian in line with the population" to draw from.

Where hiring is done from abroad, meaning outside the EU, there seem to be two ways to go about it:

(1) Employees can't/won't relocate to Ireland, so you hire them in their home country via an intermediary company to work for you

https://www.thejournal.ie/working-abroad-from-ireland-6143601-Aug2023/

(2) Outsourcing - I'm basing this on my own impression, from dealing with a pensions company for work. They went from "I can email the team in the Dublin office who all have recognisably Western names and if I have to, I can phone directly and get to talk to someone" to "The people emailing me have Indian/SE Asian names, I can't get a hold of them directly, and based on the time I phoned the head office and wasn't able to get through to anyone on that team, I'm guessing they all work in their home country and this is just one of several companies for which they do this outsourced work".

So the DEI requirements may or may not apply if you're an American company with its offices in Silicon Docks, and I'm sure they'd love to have staff photos of every shade of skin colour on the webpage, but like I said, we're just not at the stage of having enough black and brown people working here, native to here, or willing to move here *and* who can do tech/IT work as yet:

https://techxplore.com/news/2024-01-tech-companies-eyeing-expansion-luck.html

Give it another five to ten years when the kids of immigrants graduate from college and maybe, but right now not so much.

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I think not hiring Irish Catholics because of the historical benefit of “whiteness” would be highly ahistorical, and create more tension than even the US. After all didn’t the Irish leave the United Kingdom in part because of discrimination? Aren’t Catholics in Northern Ireland discriminated against?

I’m not Irish but it would make much more sense for Ireland to follow the French route here.

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Today I learned that I'm not the only SSC reader who goes by "gjm". I was super-confused to see "gjm wrote:" followed by something I could not possibly have written :-).

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I am now in a state of Cartesian doubt about which stuff I have previously noted as being “written by gjm” was by you or the other gjm.

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Only three letters makes collisions more likely. I've got 4, which is a multiple on top of that.

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Your confusion on the law is the biggest problem. You are more intelligent than the average hiring manager and spent more time researching this than nearly all of them, and yet, you are not certain what is or is not prohibited by the law. The Plaintiff side lawyers can correctly say that it is very hard to win a civil rights lawsuit and the only cases that win are egregious. The defense lawyers can feel good about winning the majority of their cases while billing their clients in the millions.

I am in HR, and as soon as a manager has been sued, they call me and ask to make sure it never happens again, win or lose. An EEO lawsuit is one of the most unpleasant things that can happen to a manager. They have to attend depositions, retrieve hundreds of emails, testify at court, be called a racist, and know that if they lose their case their career goes down the toilet. Regardless of what is good for the company, they now want to do everything they can to avoid further litigation. If rewriting policies, cracking down on jokes, and hiring less qualified applicants will prevent lawsuits, they will gladly do it.

I am actually fighting managers to tell them to not overreact, you won the lawsuit, there is no need to change everything and make it worse. I can usually convince the managers, but what do you think most HR people do when a supervisor comes to them begging them to do anything to avoid lawsuits? They happily enforce draconian measures. Confused managers are going to err on the side of caution, to the detriment of everyone else in all but the best functioning organizations.

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Thanks, this is part of how I was feeling reading the comments.

Sam B said they work in civil rights law and they sounded frustrated that companies easily win a lot of times. But they also seemed unconcerned about the impact of a company being sued in the first place.

I notice lawyers who spend all their time in courtrooms tend to be unafraid of courtrooms. But everyone else in the world who basically sees courtrooms as a black box where outcomes can seem random and life ruining dreads and fears courtrooms.

I'd be willing to do pay or do quite a lot to avoid courtrooms in my personal life. When considering whether I'd tank the productivity of a business I worked for to avoid a courtroom the answer is an easy "yes".

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> An EEO lawsuit is one of the most unpleasant things that can happen to a manager. They have to attend depositions, retrieve hundreds of emails, testify at court, be called a racist, and know that if they lose their case their career goes down the toilet. Regardless of what is good for the company, they now want to do everything they can to avoid further litigation. If rewriting policies, cracking down on jokes, and hiring less qualified applicants will prevent lawsuits, they will gladly do it.

> I am actually fighting managers to tell them to not overreact, you won the lawsuit, there is no need to change everything and make it worse.

The process is the punishment. Even if you win the case, you still lose because you got put through the wringer, putting tremendous stress on your business and your life.

This is largely by-design.

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I get where you're coming from, but also ... sometimes people actually get discriminated against, but probably fewer than would without EEO laws on the books?

So yes, frivolous lawsuits are bad, and having more laws that enable lawsuits means, at the margin, you probably get more frivolous lawsuits.

But that's not an argument against EEO laws. At best, it's half of one.

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I hear you, and I agree to some extent. I think the thing that's egregiously missing is a safe harbor. In various areas of law, where it's understood that there's a high potential for abusive lawsuits, there are provisions of law where a person being sued can say "I am doing XYZ, I am not doing ABC," and have the case thrown out without going through The Process. Sometimes, such as with anti-SLAPP laws, the dismissal includes requiring the plaintiff to pay their legal fees or even pay damages for wasting their time with malicious lawsuits.

As far as I'm aware, there are no safe harbors in EEO laws, which is how you end up in this situation where, no matter how utterly, obviously baseless the suit, you still get dragged through The Process.

Realistically speaking, these laws aren't going away. Adding some safe harbors to them would be a great way to mitigate the damage they do while retaining their more positive aspects.

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LIkewise, if you eliminate due process, presumption of innocence, and the appeals process, you get a lot more convictions and recidivism will drop near zero! Shame about all the innocent people going to jail and the explosion in the prison population, though.

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Ahh el Salvador one of those extremely uncomfortable places to talk about because they... did all that and also reduced crime to western nation levels.

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As I read about how the courts/government use companies' applicant-pool statistics against them, I remembered how during my last job search, the demographics forms always had a "prefer not to answer" option.

If more non-minority people started selecting that option, would that tilt things in their favor? It might not necessarily help any individual applicant much, but what if a significant fraction started doing so?

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This would only possibly tilt things in their favor if minority people also selected that option. But why would they? It removes any advantage being in a minority has.

I conclude that checking "prefer not to answer" is effectively the same as "caucasian/white" except in cases where there is no default, such as gender.

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Has anyone ever been refused employment because they refused to designate their 'gender'? It seems to me one can't be faulted for refusing to subscribe to a phantasm, an artificial construct. According to my personal data, I have a sex.

Some states log one's "gender" on driver licenses, without bothering to explain what that imaginary disease is.

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It probably won't help you get hired, but it might help weaken this law. Because although a hiring manager can guess you're probably white, the law probably can't. So if all the statistics say "10% white, 10% minority, 80% prefer not to answer" instead of "89% white 11% minority" it makes it a lot harder for them to do statistics and prove discrimination or disparate impact.

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Or just lie about not being white. Scott had a post on this sometime within the last year or so. You can't be asked to prove your race. HR might give you a dirty look for obviously lying, but they won't do anything about it.

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I sometimes consider this since I was actually born in Asia (though white), but never have stooped that low. I figured if called out saying "I was born in Asia and lived there until grade school" is some fairly strong argument I am "Asian".

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"I sometimes consider this since I was actually born in Asia (though white), but never have stooped that low."

A while back I pointed out to one of my Israeli co-workers that he WAS Asian if he wanted to be. Also Middle Eastern.

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There isn't anything "stooping low" about doing whatever to reduce discrimination against whites a tiny bit. May not work with "Asian" though.

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Per Dynomight, if employees pick the “prefer not to answer” option, the employers are required by the EEOC to guess at their race:

https://dynomight.net/2021/01/15/eeo/

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That sounds like it could turn ironically racist.

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I think commenter Mathues (or whatever it was too lazy to scroll back up) from Brazil is confused about both his own nation and the US, but I'll stick with the US part for now:

1.) Our Brazilian friend seems to believe the issue is something like "the 13%, blacks, vs the other 87%, which is uniformly white". No, it's not "just 13%" that the woke are concerned about, even discounting the "misogyny" element.

2.) *Even if it were* only that unofficial quotas were set for "just 13%", what happens when there aren't enough qualified applicants anyway? What has this commenter taken from e.g. the air traffic controller debacle...? Aside from the demonstrable issues this can certainly cause in and of itself (here, how about a ~1/10–1/5 chance your surgeon is unqualified next hospital visit; too small to matter, right?), consider also the runaway effect that can be caused when x companies/positions all need some share of only 0.5x candidates.

(In my own former company, we had to deny promotions and turn down qualified hires more than once due to leadership fears of not being diverse enough: "no, leave that open, Tim will be unofficial interim director until we can find a minority to stick on the website and in the position!" — it can sort of make you bitter, after a while.)

3.) Relatedly, check out what happens at the tails of a normal distribution when the center is moved 1 SD (or half of one, even) in either direction. That is, a comparatively insignificant difference in average results in much larger differences at the tails, such that while it may be easy to rustle up a quota-satisfying batch of our hypothetical 1-SD-lower group for "regular" jobs, it becomes increasingly more difficult to do so for the high-visibility and high-ability positions (i.e., the very ones that will get the most lawsuits and outrage &c.!).

4.) nvm I've run out of energy. l used to have so much more to say; but now... *slaps own face* c'mon wake up man WAKE UP–

-------------------------------------------------------

(note: have shown great forbearance in not responding to Tatu's "international theory" by saying "yeah, I shudder to imagine what would have become of us without the goodwill of the Congolese!" hahaha–... oh, no, I think this counts as doing it anyway, aw... hell!—)

(that's mostly a joke, although tbh I do wonder whether the African "man on the street" liking or not liking us reaaallly changes so much that it is the most significant element behind our own domestic policy...

...beyond that, though, it has not at all been my impression that the A.M.o.t.S. *does* look favorably upon the U.S.! I'm reminded of the African compilations about how crappy the U.S. and West as a whole are, when Black Panther came out, lol. we have held them back from becoming Wakanda, not shown that we're great by uplifting black celebrities...

...hey, hold on: black celebrities have just about 0 to do with affirmative action in the first place! this theory explains less and less!)

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My point was not that it's just *Africans* who cared about the treatment of blacks in the US during the Cold War, it was Third World peoples in general, who saw it as symbolic of the general treatment of non-white nations under Western imperialism.

The American current interest in Africa is obviously nonzero from how much there's been talk about Chinese influence in Africa and how to counter it.

> ...beyond that, though, it has not at all been my impression that the A.M.o.t.S. *does* look favorably upon the U.S.!

Polling says otherwise: https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2015/07/23/5-charts-on-americas-very-positive-image-in-africa/

>...hey, hold on: black celebrities have just about 0 to do with affirmative action in the first place! this theory explains less and less!)

Media obviously does not just indicate that there are black celebrities (and when I talk about American policy I'm not talking about just affirmative action but a wide range of sociocultural policies), but also offers at least some indication of how minorities, in general, live and are treated in America, in a way that is also visible to the rest of the world.

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That may have changed in the recent Middle East events. Egypt went from positive about the US to highly negative.

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The Middle East is a bit of an expection to the general dynamic for a variety of reasons. Even then, it would easily be possible for Middle East to be *even more fiercely* anti-American, so much so that it would genuinely threaten the stability of America's allied countries, chiefly the oil-producing ones.

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I doubt Arabs would care. From what I gather, they can be pretty damn racist against black people.

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The point isn't the status of Black Americans *as* Blacks. During the Cold War, there was a great amount of sympathy around the world for the African-American freedom struggle as a general example of a historically oppressed minority nation struggling for its rights at the so-called heart of the empire, with their specific race being a secondary question. Similar sympathy was extended to AIM and other Native American activists. In the Arab world you had examples like Algeria offering asylum to Black Panthers - of course North Africa is a bit distinct anyway, since there exists a certain idea of pan-African solidarity there.

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Egypt is a weird middle ground in that it hates the US and Israel officially while also relying on both to protect it from ISIS and similar groups.

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Would you say then that the effect is "sub-linear", instead of the "super-linear" as I suggested? Each additional point of underrepresented group with less-than-ideal labor skills, the harm of forcing equal representation is smaller? This doesn't fit with my priors.

I understand what you're saying about other groups, like latinos and veterans, or even women, but my intuition is that the effect is substantially smaller.

And anyway, my complain is (as it seems by the review) that Richard didn't qualify the size of the problem. You can complain as a matter of principle. Or you can present evidence that the problem is really big.

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"The part that seems mysterious to me is how the left defected from pre-existing norms so successfully - or rather, if defection gave such an obvious advantage, how the pre-existing norms had stayed in place before."

I think that David Chapman's Meaningness blog does a good job of providing a narrative for this. He actually read those continental/pomo academics, thought that some of them were not entirely full of shit, successfully collated and presented their (and some Buddhist) ideas in a readable form.

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>David Chapman's Meaningness blog

Do you have the post(s) in which he does this? I would be interested, but cannot obviously locate them on the blog, and it is hard to easily browse substack I find

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The one most directly related to that question:

https://meaningness.com/systems-crisis-breakdown

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thanks - I had not realised there was a non substack blog also!

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>"The part that seems mysterious to me is how the left defected from pre-existing norms so successfully - or rather, if defection gave such an obvious advantage, how the pre-existing norms had stayed in place before."

I don't think it's at all obvious that the defection did give an advantage. I don't think it accelerated the progression of actual social justice gains, but I think it did a lot to galvanize resistance. If I were more deeply versed in the academic roots, it's possible I'd think otherwise, but my impression is that this wasn't an inevitable response to incentives, but a specifically cultural transition, and very likely an own-goal from a pragmatic standpoint.

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deletedMay 8
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I consider writing books which advocate for departing from the mechanisms of liberalism in order to achieve policy goals to be a defection, in much the same way that I'd consider writing books advocating for pursuing policy goals through the use of violence.

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“I don’t understand why this would happen on Fridays in particular.”

A lot of corporate jobs treat Fridays as slack days. All the work that needs to be accomplished can be done in 4 days. All the client meetings are scheduled for those 4 days as well. Friday is there just in case a project is behind or something needs to be done urgently. You go in, check your emails, and if there is not anything urgent you BS with coworkers throughout the day. These places usually also have casual Friday and an hour long social event in the middle of the day. So once that social event is finished at 2:00. Work really never gets done, unless it has to be.

I also heard from a German coworker that drinks are served at the social events, so I can imagine that’s why the sexist jokes come out and the women go home. It’s why a lot of people are pushing for 4 day work weeks, or hybrid jobs. There is no need to actually work 5 days a week outside something like a hospital.

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I would like to hear more about the alternatives to civil rights laws that critics would prefer. Tweaks? “Everyone just be more reasonable?” “Let ‘er rip?” (i.e., just repeal the laws)

And how would we judge the alternatives against each other? Would this require utilitarian reasoning like we do with animal welfare arguments, where we have to grapple with number of animals suffering vs intensity of suffering? (To be clear, the analogue is amount of people subject to discrimination vs. intensity/outrageousness of discrimination faced by fewer people.)

I come away from all of this suspecting that the current system does a pretty good job if the goal is “everyone is able to get a job they are qualified for.” But people are noticing that this doesn’t accomplish a different goal, something like “I, personally, can get the specific job I want.” These are just two of many possible goals when evaluating civil rights laws.

Which goal would each of us pick under the Rawls’ “veil of ignorance?” Which one allocates talent best? Which one is morally less outrageous?

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I think removing the "if there's two equally qualified candidates the minority should get it" expectations (especially in civil service jobs), removing contracting laws set to advantage women and minority owned businesses, and making clearer criteria for cases where you can't be persecuted for discrimination (to avoid frog boiling due to reasonable people being worried about being sued) would be major steps that improve the balance. This doesn't require repealing all civil rights laws.

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I generally don't like when the government attempts to launder its social programs through the legal system.

If the voters want a particular social program in place then the government should pay for it out of its budget, and the full costs of it should be internalized to the government so voters can have an appropriate accounting of things.

In the case of discrimination there are two systems that the government could put in place:

1. They control the pipeline to the workforce, aka schools and to some extent universities. They should put in place metrics to figure out what they are doing wrong and try to fix it within the pipeline.

2. They can hold themselves accountable to how well they are doing by implementing a social security payroll subsidy for minorities that they are failing. Say race X is under-represented in the workforce and payscale by 10%. Cut the employer contributions to social security for race X by 10%.

The government is responsible for the pipeline of job candidates, and their failure if that pipeline still sucks. And the total cost of this program is a line item on the budget that voters can actually look at and say "is this worth it?"

Same should happen for disability. Right now private individuals can just sue others if there isn't enough disability stuff in place. Change the responsible party to the government. If something isn't accessible to disabled people the government can either subsidize the fix in its entirety, or pay the disabled person for not being able to subsidize a cheap fix. The entire costs of subsidizing disabled people should be a line item on the budget so voters can decide "is this worth it?"

In my opinion it is really slimy for the government or voters to say "hey we want this massive social program, but we want its costs to be entirely hidden, and for it to be unchallengeable if it turns out to be a bad idea"

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Everyone prefers that costs are hidden from them. People don’t want a carbon tax, they want “corporations” to “pay” to solve carbon emissions and clunky efficiency standards. People buy airline tickets with lower headline price and higher bullshit fees. People buy the lowest cost durable goods that break in 6 months, failing to do a basic lifecycle cost analysis.

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I tend to only want costs hidden when someone else is paying for something of mine. When I am paying for something I get very frustrated when costs are hidden and unclear. This is why I think its slimy for government programs to hide costs.

I don't buy that "everyone prefers that costs are hidden from them". Do you enjoy having costs hidden from you?

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I don’t think I prefer that, but the aggregate “revealed preference” of most people is that costs are hidden

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That is not really how "revealed preferences" work. Part of the whole idea behind revealed preferences is that two choices are presented in an equal way.

Otherwise you could run a very simple experiment and say people have a "revealed preference" for lying:

Walk up to someone on the street and offer them either $10 or $0. Most of them will prefer $10. But you were lying and always intended to give them $0.

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Perhaps “revealed preference” is a technical term that I am stretching too far. What I mean is “people disproportionately buy products from companies that attempt to hide costs from them.” And I t looks like people vote for candidates that pretend costs aren’t happening or are being paid by someone else. You are saying it ought not be that way, I am saying it is that way and likely always will be. I declare us not to be actually arguing against each other’s positions.

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There are revealed preferences for individual consumers, government policy is another story.

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I think "let 'er rip" is clearly the right answer here. At this point, outright racial discrimination is so taboo that you're absolutely not going to get a bunch of companies actively discriminating against people because of their race/sex even if they were legally allowed to. Plus, woke people love to say that diversity increases productivity. If that's true, then even totally selfish business will practice it, and we don't need civil rights law at all.

That's not to say that there wouldn't be a minor uptick in racial discrimination; there definitely would be. But at a certain point we have to ask: Is avoiding some small amount of discrimination worth the MASSIVE costs created by the current Civil Rights regime? Ask anyone who's worked for a judge or a discrimination-defense law firm, and they will tell you that the vast majority of civil rights cases are totally frivolous. Even those cases that are technically meritorious enough to survive a motion to dismiss or summary judgment and go to a jury are often things like, "Yeah, I guess a jury could maybe think that when your boss was mean to you in a facially non-racist way that was racist?" But resolving these frivolous lawsuits nonetheless takes a ton of resources: the cash to pay the lawyers, the time of the judges who must deal with them (which, remember, makes the legal system worse for everyone else), the time of the people involved (taking depositions, providing emails and other documents, etc.), the social costs to people who are unfairly accused of being racist, and the massive inefficiencies which companies must introduce to try and avoid future lawsuits (which Hanania's book and Scott's original post talk about). We would be far better off as a society avoiding all those costs while just accepting a slightly higher amount of real discrimination.

And remember too that all those woke firms would now be free to openly practice reverse-racial discrimination to their hearts' content! It might even be the case that newly legal preferential hiring of minorities might make up for any increased discrimination they might face.

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Yes, repealing the laws is the obvious answer. Children are being born today whose grandfathers were born after the passage of these laws. The laws were explicitly intended as temporary solutions to an acute problem. Groups that still haven’t achieved rough parity (the same rough parity enjoyed by the Chinese and the Irish and the Italians) three full generations later have something else going on that is not going to be fixed by anti-discrimination laws. And if the laws aren’t fixing the problem — if they’re failing to do what they were explicitly passed to do — then they should be repealed.

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It's curious that even people opposed to civil rights law adopt the progressive terminology of reserving "discrimination" for discrimination against groups that are less successful on average than the majority. Outright racial discrimination isn't taboo, outright racial discrimination against minorities is what's taboo.

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deletedMay 8
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Specifically organizing conferences, mentorship etc. for minorities that aren't available for whites, specifically recruiting minorities, all with the express purpose of increasing the proportion of minorities, is discrimination. And it is zero sum vs. organizing similar conferences, mentorship, outreach etc. in a race-blind manner. If a company organized mentorship etc. available to whites only, and made sure to interview a white candidate for every position, with the express purpose of maximizing the proportion of white employees, no one would argue that this isn't discrimination. It would also immediately get sued and lose.

My comment was addressed to a commenter who opposes civil rights law, and likely doesn't share your perspective that these are harmless, positive-sum actions that don't result in effective discrimination against whites, nor your apparent belief that the illegality of outright discrimination against whites (say, preferentially hiring minorities among the applicants) tends to be enforced even if it's behind a thin veil.

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Actual racial discrimination against whites is not nearly as taboo as the other direction, though you're right it is illegal [1]- that said, it's held to a considerably higher standard of proof than the other, at least in the Sixth Circuit [2].

Also, how much work is "actual" doing there?

[1]:https://www.reuters.com/legal/legalindustry/4th-circuit-backs-34-mln-award-white-ex-hospital-execs-bias-case-2024-03-12/

[2]:https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/sixth-circuit-requires-additional-5882289/

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"Plus, woke people love to say that diversity increases productivity. If that's true, then even totally selfish business will practice it, and we don't need civil rights law at all."

This seems false without some key additional assumptions. Like if you believe there's no discrimination to begin* with then you'd conclude economically rational actors will prefer to have more diversity, but this is essentially assuming the conclusion.

*more rigorously, if you assume there's no a) employer taste-based discrimination or consumer taste-based discrimination in eg the Becker model.

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/society-politics-law/economics/economics-explains-discrimination-the-labour-market/content-section-5.2

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You're right, that was a bit of a slapdash comment. It's true that if racial discrimination persists then there may be lots of businesses who irrationally discriminate. I was moving under the assumption, made earlier, that racial discrimination is so taboo now that relatively few businesses/consumers would irrationally discriminate.

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May 9·edited May 10

Thanks for engaging constructively! :) Maybe I'm just being overly cynical, but it's very easy for me to imagine situations where explicit/public racial discrimination is taboo but people's behavior are still somewhat driven by irrational discrimination.

Coincidentally I was reading about Orwell's writings on antisemitism in Britain. https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/antisemitism-in-britain/

Specifically he talks about how he thought public antisemitism was very taboo in Britain in the 1940s while private antisemitism/disliking jews was on the uptake, and that because of the public taboo, there was no real way to honestly discuss this.

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>I come away from all of this suspecting that the current system does a pretty good job if the goal is “everyone is able to get a job they are qualified for.”

Yeah and I suspect the main thing the people who disagree with you think is that this statement is wrong, or at least badly dumbing down the definition of "qualified". That you end up with a lot of mismatching between hires/promotions and who has what job specifically in part due to civil rights law.

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They can disagree, fine. But before radically changing the status quo, it seems like proponents should consider whether the current system might have some positive effects. And maybe go so far as to compare costs and benefits!

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founding

Mandate color-blindness instead of racial preferences. Drop “disparate impact” - you have to prove discrimination instead of inferring it based on outcomes.

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Agreed. In a nutshell, that sounds like the basic solution. And discrimination, _if present and meeting a bar for burden of proof_ , should be equally penalized against _any_ group.

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[tone=sarcastic] You're missing the point. The critics don't need to come up with solutions. All they have to do is reliably drive proponents into misery and despair, until some proponents comes up with an acceptable solution. How good is good enough? That the proponents' problem.

[tone=serious] If you have a problem with that tactic, maybe you could start there?

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Ideally, repeal the parts applying to private companies entirely.

More realistically (and also ideally w.r.t. government employment) keep anti-discrimination laws, but make it very explicit that the plaintiff must prove discriminatory intent, statistical disparities aren't evidence, discrimination against overrepresented or advantaged groups is just as illegal as discrimination against underrepresented or disadvantaged ones, discrimination attempting to correct for historical injustice is still illegal, verbal harassment isn't discrimination, and rulings involving some groups can be used as precedent in similar cases involving a different combination of groups, even if the analogous groups are underrepresented/disadvantaged in one case and overrepresented/advantaged in the other. All this should be written into the law in as much detail as possible to minimize the chance of left-wing bureaucrats and courts twisting it.

Repealing the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (which codified hostile workplace environment/harassment law and the disparate impact doctrine, not to be confused with the CRA of 1964) would be a good start, as would be striking down harassment law as a violation of the 1st Amendment, and various affirmative action-incentivizing applications of the laws as violations of the 14th.

I'm not a utilitarian or a Rawlsian, I'm a libertarian (which is why I want to get rid of anti-discrimination law applying to private entities altogether, albeit with a low priority), plus I regard freedom of speech and equality before the law as human rights as a terminal value (which is why I put a high priority on getting rid of harassment law and asymmetric applications of anti-discrimination law). But even from a Rawlsian point of view, I think I would choose one of the above options (get rid of it, or make it symmetric).

----

Everyone generally being able to get a job one is a very low bar, more-or-less measured by the unemployment rate, which basically any system that doesn't put especially onerous rules on laying off people (which in turn make companies cautious with hiring) accomplishes. Hell, even under Jim Crow, black people got menial jobs, which they were qualified for. Perhaps they would have been qualified for *better* jobs than they got, or could have been if they had been allowed better education, but what they got they were qualified for.

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Abolish all national governments and return to city states. These governments then only concern themselves with externalities. Unlikely to actually happen, but it's what I'd prefer.

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May 7·edited May 7

I appreciate that there are in fact people who go too for and are annoyingly uptight in the way they talk about social justice issues. But there is something deeply comical about trying to find a "patient zero" in like a tumblr blog in 2007. James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, W. E.B. Du Bois... there is such a rich history of deep thinkers who are the obvious antecedents of this discourse, and it is bizarre to not engage substantively with *their* thought which expending all this energy on their contemporary epigones.

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There is over a decade of conversation talking about these things from a variety of perspectives here.

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Edited my comment to make a more focused and less (but still somewhat) grouchy point. The problem with the concept of "woke" is that it is used to refer to any sort of reference to systemic racism, the phenomenology of marginalization, etc., everything from the stupid and counterproductive (corporate DEI, diversity statements) to the profound (Baldwin, Fanon, etc.). Even if the goal is to criticize a certain kind of shallow application of those ideas, it would be a lot more informative to engage at the roots that to write it all off with the "mentally ill teenagers on tumblr" theory that Scott endorses.

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Again: There is over a decade of conversation talking about these things. Go read those. This is a book review talking about a particular subject, and this is demanding that the conversation taking place here be about something else entirely - something which Scott has covered in-depth before the term "woke" arose as a popular term to describe this cluster of beliefs.

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Hanania would regard that as "idea-ism".

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The problem isn't necessarily with the obvious antecedents, but with the dumbed-down, stripped-of-any-nuance (if there was any to start with; I rather doubt it for Fanon but my reading of him is limited) version that spread much more virulently via the internet. Rebutting the deep history is useless when your interlocutor is instead based on some much more terrible version corrupted by the game of telephone.

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Wow! This summary makes me wish I had more time to read all the comments. I have two responses based on your summary (which I'll make separately).

First, on "Diversity" in corporate hiring, I have personal experience but no broad or deep data. I spent most of my career working for a large aerospace OEM. As you might expect, it was very engineering focused, but also very strongly influenced by finance/accounting. It was historically male-dominated, although there were some women managers and executives. People who didn't deliver results tended to get weeded out. Bottom line up front: Wokeness (DEI) got a lot more attention, and apparently a lot more effort, in the time I worked there (1993-2020).

One of the first presentations I attended (in 1993) was a group of young HR professionals working on establishing a process to identify candidates for training and promotion. The objective was to identify the best candidates for greater responsibility, so they could get extra training and mentoring. The proposed metrics were: (1) numbers of women and minorities selected for training, (2) percentages of women and minorities selected for training, (3) numbers of women and minorities completing training, (4) percentages of women and minorities completing training, and (5-8) the same things relative to promotion. I asked "How are the metrics related to the objectives?" After a short pause, the presenter said "They're not." I let it lie there.

Then, in 2002, I started noticing something odd. My boss, apropos of nothing, told my small group (all men) that it was important to bring foster different perspectives and thinking styles, because it led to more group creativity - he had seen this effect in other organizations where he worked. And women were a good example of different thinking styles. Shortly after that, a woman joined our group.

Later, there was a requirement from HR that "hiring slates" include at least 1/3 "diversity candidates", which were not publicly defined, but I assume meant Black, Hispanic, or female candidates.

Around 2005, I started seeing explicit company-wide justifications for Diversity. At first, it was "We need to have different thinking styles in order to be more effective problem solvers." This sounded nice, but I could not find any effort to identify different thinking styles. If you added a female MIT Mechanical Engineer to a group of male MIT Mechanical Engineers, did you get a different thinking style? Who exactly had these "different thinking styles," and why were demographic statistics the only relevant measurement? If you assume that different demographics have different thinking styles, doesn't this imply that some thinking styles (and therefore some demographics) are "better" for one position or another? And wouldn't that be unlawful discrimination, if we acted on it?

Around 2010, I saw a different justification for Diversity. Our customers were airlines (and to some extent governments) around the world, so we needed people with different cultural backgrounds to deal with our very diverse customers. (And suppliers.) This sounded reasonable, except that most of our employees had no dealings with people outside the company. Maybe 5% in sales and customer support, a few percent dealing with suppliers, a very few preparing external communications or representing the company in trade groups, conventions, government interactions, etc. So, it wasn't obviously relevant for most employees. And, for sales and customer support, the justification didn't seem to fit the implied goal of supporting hiring more US minorities: Should we assign Black employees to Africa? If so, that would be a good way to kill their careers, because the entire continent had less business than one large US airline. And why wouldn't we hire actual Indians to sell to (and support) Indian customers, or actual Mexicans to sell to (and support) Mexican customers? Would it be better to assign a Puerto Rican to a Mexican account, rather than a white? Shouldn't we avoid assigning women to deal with Latin Americans, who (supposedly) wouldn't take women seriously in high-level positions?

Around 2012, the President of the Commercial part of the company, in a presentation to managers, announced (apropos of very little) that we "will achieve gender parity" within two years. He did not explain what "gender parity" was, or how it would be achieved, or why it was an important goal. Later still, around 2017, a woman executive, in an "all-hands" meeting, proudly announced that women would be given preference in all hiring and promotion decisions. Both of these announcements were delivered as if they were applause lines, but they got no applause.

My interpretation from these items, and from reading more broadly, was that these initiatives were driven mainly by HR convincing the company's senior leadership, based on two things:

(1) As a very large company (Fortune 50) and major government contractor, we had risk of legal liability if we didn't have "enough" of the right demographic groups in the right levels of the company.

(2) Polling indicated that social justice considerations were very important to college students, especially at the elite universities where we wanted to recruit, so we needed to have a robust DEI program to get the new hires we wanted.

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Thank you for sharing these specific experiences. A lot of the people in this thread don’t seem to believe this stuff really happens.

> If you assume that different demographics have different thinking styles, doesn't this imply that some thinking styles (and therefore some demographics) are "better" for one position or another? And wouldn't that be unlawful discrimination, if we acted on it?

Yes, exactly. I am always amazed how few people seem to understand how stereotypes work — even when they subscribe to sociological frameworks that describe it quite accurately! Namely: stereotypes ascribe traits to their targets, and those traits exist within a matrix that defines them in contrast to each other. This, if whites are effete and uptight and nerdy, then blacks are brutish and careless and stupid. And if blacks are creative and rhythmic and relaxed, then whites are analytical and deliberate and disciplined. In the US, racial and ethnic stereotypes are largely arranged along the black-white axis, with groups like Latinos placed somewhere in between, and groups like Asians and Jews being more “white” than whites. Of course, when the cultural traditions of these groups get invoked to deny the charge of ultra-whiteness, this just highlights a second axis: the “product of a culture”-“individual” axis, where whites are understood as individual persons with agency and free will, and non-whites are understood as automatons following the dictates of their culture (and of other environmental factors, like “systemic racism” or whatever).

Similarly, women are understood to be “intuitive” and “nurturing” to exactly the degree that men are understood to be rational and tough.

In other words: the idea that you can elevate a group (like women) using “positive” stereotypes, or denigrate a group (like whites or men) using “negative” stereotypes, is fundamentally false. All stereotypes simply limit your ability to think clearly and treat people as individuals.

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That was a satisfying AF read.

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This timeline is interesting, and predates the wider DEI/wokeness trends. Supports more of the civil rights movement as a primary driver.

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It would be helpful for people to define just what "woke" means. Some people use it to mean language: ever-changing rules on what words can be used, and which are anathema. Others use it to refer to ideas: "white privilege", "systemic racism", power dynamics and disparate treatment in the legal system.

Racial preferences in employment in the US go back at least to the early 1970s. Businesses were being sued, sometimes by the government, and sometimes by employees who weren't promoted or candidates who weren't hired. Businesses asked for some rules they could follow that would leave them protected against lawsuits. Nixon's labor department obliged by publishing guidelines, telling businesses how many people of different demographics they should have in each occupational group. These couldn't be called quotas, because quotas were illegal. Businesses couldn't hire to meet the targets, because that would mean quotas, which were illegal. But people knew what was wanted, and worked behind the curtain to do it.

This stuff is very institutionalized, in much the same way as in college admissions, without public acknowledgement. I also think it's essentially unconnected to discussions of white privilege, intersectionality, hierarchies of victimization, new terms like BIPOC, Latinx, or LGBTQIA+.

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I've been mulling over a new version of the origins of woke hypothesis, which isn't new so much as a different slant on the Tumbler / online teens theory.

I do believe that Woke ideas originated in academia. But academics can be blowhards with little follow through - as a commentor above notes, they mostly write books. This missing key here is that most people that have gained positions in highly competitive fields, like academics, have been sucked into Moloch, or, as some others might say, they have overoptimized to achieve and maintain their position, stripping out anything that doesn't support these goals. This leads a lot of academics (and other upper class folks) to have convenient ethics, which means they talk a lot about being good, because it benefits them and their position, but they largely don't follow through, because that also benefits their position.

But the middle class, and especially wide-eyed idealist middle class teenagers, don't know that. As the middle class has to sacrifice less to Moloch to attain and maintain their middle class jobs, they have the ability to retain the belief that ethics actual matter. That one should act in accordance with what one believes, and that beliefs are not just something to espouse when they benefit you, but are something to espouse even at a cost.

What happened is that the dominant, but smaller, class created a ideology it didn't actually, really mean, and the middle and working class (a much bigger group of people) got a hold of it and took it seriously. This had the weird effect of both empowering and elevating academics and other high level thought leaders (while Twitter was booming), while at the some time holding them accountable to all the radical crap they had been writing for decades.

What was the upper class to do, but run with it? They couldn't look like charlatans.

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Nice ACX-style theory!

Maybe there should be a generational component? That is, it might have started out with a handful of activists and professors, but in the next "generation" there were more of them, and a greater number of true believers, and in the next generation more, up until it reached a critical mass?

Also, it feels like there's something intensely Molochian about the zero-sum mentality behind the modern culture war, where scruples and principles are to be set aside if it leads to victory. It might even be traceable back through identity politics to Marxist class struggle, but that's probably out of scope for this theory.

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That doesn't fit in any way, shape, or form, my experience or voting/poll results. Middle class and working class people deeply, deeply hate wokeness. It's primarily a top-down enforcement from university-educated HR and management for them.

Academics, on the other hand, do in fact enforce it among each other. Also, it's the other way around in terms of competitive fields; Since academics are primarily socially judged through peer review, complaining about ethics is extremely useful to give yourself an edge.

My personal pet theory is this: Roughly since the enlightenment, science just kept winning. On the theoretic level, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, etc. greatly expanded our understanding of the world around us, in a way that was hard to argue against by traditional theology. In practical terms, large parts of our technological progress would not have been possible without the scientific groundwork. However, during this time being a scientist wasn't really beneficial; Almost every scientist was already independently rich or at least not poor, and they generally were constantly nagged by family & friends to stop this nonsense and earn money. This caused a strong selection for only people who really, really like science in itself (which doesn't mean they were without biases!).

This greatly increased the social standing of science over time, which led to the establishment and expansion of actual, reasonably paid scientific positions, and thus ultimately to more people entering university that aren't intrinsically interested in science itself, but who like the social idea of being a scientist who leads society forward. There is also a positive feedback loop from adding new scientific fields who have to have more vague & lower evidence standards by the nature of the topic, which also appealed to different people than the older fields with clearer and higher standards, which led to an increased establishment of new fields whic are even more vague, and so on.

After WW2, economic prosperity sped up this process, and it got turbo-charged once western societies realised that university is in a certain sense a natural progression of school. This was mediated as well by elite interests, as they could indirectly push education costs on the government or individual. Nowadays entering university is basically the default for the middle class and higher. You can outright stumble into a scientific career despite not having any special interest in it. Furthermore, it turned into a greater political-media-academia complex, where every politician and journalist is not only university-educated, but went to largely the same universities with the same culture, together with the people who also end up becoming top scientists.

Once you really internalize this development, it becomes a foregone conclusion that university will eventually end up being dominated by a vague political ideology that can be used and interpreted to serve whatever are the needs of the current elite. Wokeness is just really convenient; I haven't met a single privileged person who didn't find a way to either claim oppressed status for themselves or more commonly to claim to speak on behalf of the oppressed. It's in particular very effective to keep the middle class, the primary enemy of the upper class, down, since they aren't as experienced in the discourse while being sufficiently privileged to fall on the wrong side of the conflict.

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Some possible explanations: Of course academics "enforce" wokeness - it's how they take down their competitors. But if you peeled back their skull and could look inside their brain, I don't think you find a deep, emotional commitment to woke ideas. Oh yes, they can talk the talk very well, and make their neighbors accountable. But they don't actually care about their own behavior, just defending their own position. I think this is best illustrated by inconsistent application of woke values across different situations and domains.

Of course, there are academics that benefit more from this than others.

Well, as for the working and middle class - it depends. I would say that maybe the majority of these groups are against wokism, but for those that did adopt it, they did so very sincerely.

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The people spreading dumbed down versions of academic ideas outside academia are essentially just religious heretics: https://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com/2021/12/10/heresy/

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I think this is normal? I've seen it with RFCs and implementation guides for WWW technologies, and in house rules for tabletop RPGs (especially pre-3e D&D), and I bet there was a similar gap between the writings of Karl Marx and the actual operational behavior of the USSR. It's one thing to write up a theory, but another thing to have that theory brought into the real world and reshaped by passing through the minds of people who try to use it. Some parts are added, some parts are discarded, and the focus may drift away.

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There were lots of Communist leaders (like Lenin) who were both theorists and practitioners. Academia is a realm more of theory than practice, and there's a bigger divide between that world (particularly law schools not intended for undergrads) and kids on social media.

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> I don’t understand why this would happen on Fridays in particular.

Friday lunch drinks?

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May 7·edited May 7

"Lots of people wrote in to say that there was definitely unfair affirmative-action-style discrimination going on at their workplaces, and lots of other people wrote in to say there definitely wasn’t and they’d never seen anything like that in their whole career. Sometimes these people worked in the same industry, or even the same employer (eg the US civil service)!"

The US federal civil service (nonuniformed) is an enormous set, almost 3 million people. That's almost 1% of the US population!

It includes hundreds of agencies. It does an enormous number of quite different things. I suspect anything you can take away from examining it is about as much as you could take away from examining "humans" (except possibly children; I don't think there are any child employees but I could be wrong).

They do try to have uniform standards, but that works out about as well as you would think it would.

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I noticed in my five decades or so of work that civil service seemed to have a broader range of diversity in staff than the private sector. While most of my employment came after Johnson's administration, I think the opportunities for employment for a wider range of applicants opened up in the Truman administration -- a good decade before 'affirmative action'. I think it was Truman who mandated racial integration in the military.

In the 1960s and 1970s, cultural and ethnic diversity wasn't achieved by mandate, but by giving candidates equal opportunity to compete. Reliable and conservative minorities often worked decades fo