Affirmative Action Debate

 Posted by on 31 October 2007 at 9:00 am  Announcements
Oct 312007

On the evening of November 5th, the L.O.G.I.C. (the UCLA Objectivist Club) will be hosting a debate on affirmative action featuring Ward Connerly, Richard Sander, and Peter Schwartz. More details can be found on the club’s web site.

Update: Paul posted the following in the comments:

The affirmative action issue is a good example where a single person can create significant positive political and cultural change. Ward Connerly’s tireless efforts to eliminate race-based admissions in the University of California system seemed doomed to failure in the mid-1990s, especially given the liberal mindset of California in general and of the academicians in particular. And his initial efforts did fail. But he persisted, and as a result there have been significant changes in the university admissions policies in California, Texas, Florida, and Michigan. The battle is not over by any means, but a single person armed with clear rational convictions can and has made a tremendous difference in framing the terms of the debate and moving important parts of the culture in the right direction.

I like to cite this issue as an real-life example whenever I am faced with gloom-and-doom Objectivists who say that “socialized medicine is inevitable” or “this country is going to the sewer and there’s nothing we can do about it”. Of course it’s irrational to take a pollyanna-ish approach (e.g., “Objectivism is automatically going to win because the ideas are correct and in accordance with reality”), just as it’s irrational to take a doom-and-gloom approach (“Objectivism will never win because the forces of irrationality are too powerful”). But if Objectivists are willing to work in their self-interest to advocate good ideas in the appropriate time and fashion, then I believe there is reason for rational optimism.

In particular, I wholeheartedly agree with some of the folks at the ARI who think that Objectivists should be spending less time arguing minutia amongst themselves in internet Objectivist online forums and instead should be willing to go onto mainstream forums, blog comment boards, etc., and post their ideas to the wider world. Planting philosophical seeds in support of reason, ethical egoism, individual rights, and capitalism can bear fruit in surprising places. These comments don’t need to be long essays – just a couple of short polite sentences stating ones views (perhaps with links to more detailed arguments on the ARI or other Objectivist websites) could suffice, depending on one’s comfort level with writing.

This is not to disparage Objectivist online forums per se. Those can be good places to discuss ideas in a friendly setting. But what I am criticizing is the kind of person who spends disproportionate intellectual effort engaging in pointless discussions of Objectivist hair-splitting in an insular setting, rather than taking up the more significant challenge of advocating his ideas in a constructive fashion to the rest of the non-Objectivist world.

In that way, it’s no different from hearing someone at work saying, “Shouldn’t the government guarantee health care as a right for everyone?”, then being willing to respond with something like, “Actually that would be a terrible idea; that would turn doctors and nurses into slaves, and screw over honest, responsible patients as well.”

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