I’m not as patient as Mike Brock

Mike Brock wrote a post earlier this month about “transistory libertarianism”, explaining why he supports the Human Rights Commissions – less the censorship article – for the time being.

I made a related and perhaps more radical argument that resembles progressive libertarianism way back called Will Alan Borovoy go all the way?

a system with the power to punish an employer for dismissing a person if it is supposed to have been done for discriminatory reasons damages the employment prospects of the very people it is supposed to protect. This dynamic is plainly demonstrated by the high unemployment rate in economies such as France where restrictive firing laws force employers to be very careful in whom they hire. This kind of system, “progressive” in intent, forces employers to discriminate against young and inexperienced people – and has a severe effect on new immigrant groups. Sarkozy’s government attempted to pass a law making it easier to fire young employees in order to increase the ability of employers to hire them. Imagine the consequense if French politicians passed laws to make it harder still to fire young people and immigrants instead. Yet this is exactly what our Human Rights Commisions are doing – in Canada the only people we discriminate against in this way are those named in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The basic problem with the commissions is that they assume that an employer or landlord will get rid of a minority or disabled person for discriminatory reasons after they’ve already hired or rented to them. How likely is that? What kind of person would hire someone with a disablility, find that they were capable of doing the job, and then fire them?

“Well James, I’m happy to say that I’m pleased with your work and the value it adds to my bidness. However that wasn’t why I hired you. That was just so I could then discriminatorily fire you and start my search for an employee over again. Now. HAHAHAHAHAHA! F-ing retard!”

It strikes me as unlikely. And the problem is that, as I argued in my excerpt above, the commissions are probably actually detrimental. The trick is not to ask what the intention of a law is, but the effect. I referenced in my original post a column by John Stossel about the actual effect of the American Disablilities Act on people with disabilities. Stossel cited a study that found lower employment after it came into effect and quoted someone involved with hiring who said that people with disabilities became lawsuit bombs – you couldn’t fire them for any reason. So they don’t hire them.

And that’s why I’m not as patient as Mike Brock. Liberals see the fact that disabled people are employed at a lower rate than others and because they have confused equality with sameness assume that this means there is discrimination. I grant that discrimination is possible in hiring – employers might not want to take a chance on someone different or actually discriminate on the basis of race. But I believe that the commissions make it worse by actually disincentivizing the hiring of the people who are supposedly protected. Instead of leaving the commissions until later, they should be replaced now. It will never be a winning issue to get rid of “Human Rights” commissions. It could be to replace them with something more effective – call them “Human Rights” incentives: a hiring bonus for disabled people that does something like estimate potential costs in employing that individual and possibly a general rent subsidy for low income people in order to mitigate potential discriminatory effects.

I am not so libertarian as Brock. But I want it now – in general, a reincentivizing of the welfare state to make it leaner and more effective which in the long run will make it less and less neccessary, politically or morally.


3 Responses to “I’m not as patient as Mike Brock”

  1. Mike Brock Says:

    I think you might have missed some of the nuance in my position. Fundamentally I have a philosophical target position, which is libertarianism. Practically I have a starting position, which is where we are now.

    The issue is not, in particular, whether or not the Human Rights Commissions provide a direct mechanism to fixing real and perceived social injustice, but rather, the fact they––at the very least––provide an acknowledgement for those who feel they are in such a position.

    This is important, because in the goal to achieve broader acceptance of liberty and a society which seeks the ideals of individual self-sufficiency, we must ingrain a sense of equality which permeates from the political, the legal, and most importantly, the cultural aspects of society.

    On the surface this seems counter-intuitive. Therefore, I’ll give you a practical example of what I’m saying:

    Take a population of say 1,000,000 people living in a country we’ll call Happyland. In Happyland, 250,000 people are orange skinned, 200,000 are purple skinned, and 550,000 people are grey skinned.

    Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that up until recent history, the people with orange and purple skin had no political rights. And as such, there is a large amount of cultural ghettoization and isolation within the orange and purple communities. Although the grey skinned majority has extended equal rights, the massive economic disparity continues.

    Now imagine that about 20% of the grey skinned people are socially progressive and seek more socialist solutions to these problems. And the balance of the grey skins are of largely conservative views.

    The problem you start to immediately face is that you exist in a situation where the cultural acceptance of a fend-for-yourself politics is completely unpalatable. The oranges and purples, not able to comprehend a world in which they can fend for themselves, will almost universally reject such politics. And the political divisions between the politically conservative and balance of the population will manifest themselves in further class and racial divisions.

    You are walking down a path where the underlying cultural problems are literally preventing the acceptance of such liberal views.

    It’s a serious practical problem that can’t just be moralized away.

  2. Dhanji R. Prasanna Says:

    “How likely is that? What kind of person would hire someone with a disablility, find that they were capable of doing the job, and then fire them?”

    This is a total straw man argument. This happens ALL the time, mostly because it’s not the same person doing the hiring and firing. Or the same department or there’s a change in policy or they suddenly realized [insert_minority_here] actually smells bad in the evenings.

    While I essentially agree with your point that society has no obligation to ensure equal rates of employment between minority and majority groups, and that to make any such law is tyrannical, it does not obviate the truth that these things actually do happen.

  3. da wolfe Says:

    @Dhanji – That’s true. I made my example specifically about people with a disability of some kind because I think it is very unlikely that somebody would fire that person discriminatorily after hiring them. That doesn’t quite go for [insert_minority_here] – for instance even an individual employer might hire someone when they need them but then unjustly fire them in favor of someone else when more people are looking for work. What I’m saying is that most discrimination would occur at the gates, and particularly that the commissions not only don’t help that, but very possibly make it worse overall. The example in the original post I linked to was the BC commission which fined a McDonalds for firing someone who developed a condition where they could not wash their hands. Among the comments several people said things like “solution: don’t expand into Canada and don’t hire disabled people”. A company or employer faces a potential lawsuit or tribunal as a consequence of hiring people the law is supposed to protect.

    @Mike: I partially recognized from your post that that was where you were coming from because it’s basically where I’m coming from. I actually first argued that a wholesale replacement of the commissions could include a hiring bonus not only for people with a disability but even for groups with lower employment levels. On second thought that would create racial divisions and resentment in a way that the Commissions don’t – they may be ineffective but treat people more individually than that. It’s a somewhat frustrating place to be because the reason I say don’t get rid of the tribunals but replace them is exactly the reason you say they are necessary for where we are at. I would agree with retaining the commissions if I thought they were effective, it’s because I think they are counterproductive that I want them replaced with something that actually has a positive effect and still sends the message for everyone to feel like they’re going to get a reasonably fair shake as a part of mainstream society.

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