Thomas Sowell in the WSJ weekend interview:
…Or take “disparate impact,” the idea that different outcomes among different groups—say, that there are more male CEOs than female—is ipso facto evidence of discrimination. The Obama administration has used disparate impact to charge racism in housing, employment and other matters. In the absence of discrimination, the theory goes, people naturally would be dispersed more or less at random. Nonsense, Mr. Sowell says. “In various books I’ve given lists of all the great disparities all over the world, and I recently saw a column by Walter Williams in which he added that men are bitten by sharks several times as often as women.”
Differences in outcome is a matter that Mr. Sowell takes up in his new book, “Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective,” out Sept. 8. Its theme, he says, is that “in a sense, there was never any rational reason to believe that there would be this evenness that they presuppose.” Some continents have more navigable rivers and deep water harbors than others. Some cultures value education highly, and some don’t. Underwhelming as the conclusion might sound to those with the urge to reorder society, many disparities arise simply because people are different, and because they make different choices.
Another problem is that the “disparate impact” assumption misidentifies where group differences originate. He sets up an example: “If you have people in various groups in the country, and their kids are all raised differently, they all behave differently in school, they do differently in school. And now they’re grown up and they go to an employer, and you’re surprised to find that they’re not distributed randomly by income.” It’s “just madness,” he says, to assume “that because you collected the statistics there, that’s where the unfairness originated.”
“It is unjust—my God it’s unjust,” Mr. Sowell says. “And yet that doesn’t mean that you can locate somebody who has victimized somebody else.” In human affairs, happenstance reigns.
Why do we never seem to learn these economic lessons? “I think there’s a market for foolish things,” Mr. Sowell says—and vested interests, too. Once an organization such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is created to find discrimination, no one should be startled when it finds discrimination. “There’s never going to be a time when the EEOC will file a report saying, ‘All right folks, there’s really not enough discrimination around to be spending all this money,’ ” he says. “You’re going to have ever-more-elaborate definitions of discrimination. So now, if you don’t want to hire an ax murderer who has somehow gotten paroled, then that’s discrimination.”